http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/spengler/ I Depart from the Masthead of First Things Monday, February 14, 2011, 12:07 PM David P. Goldman As of February 28, my position as Senior Editor at First Things will end. Such is the publishing world: the challenge of producing a well-printed book of nearly a hundred pages in a world of sound-bites and digital images compels the journal to undertake major economies. I¶ve been invited to contributed free-lance in the future and plan to do so. I¶ve been on leave since Thanksgiving writing a book which, God willing, should be out this summer. Many thanks to all the many contributors to this forum. One response in the forum | Add your response

Cardinal Koch: ³Israel Remains the Chosen People´ Thursday, November 18, 2010, 5:02 PM David P. Goldman Kurt Cardinal Koch is the new Vatican head of ecumenical relations, responsible among other things for relations with the Jews. The Swiss cleric replaces Walter Cardinal Kasper, whom I praised for his frankness and sincerity on this site earlier this year. The acid test issue for Jewish-Christian relations, in my view, is the Election of Israel. And in an October 29 issue with the German newspaper Die Welt, Cardinal Koch had this to say (I translate) DIE WELT: Now St. Paul was a Jew and was quite close to the synagogue. Koch: That¶s right. Everywhere he went on his journeys, he made the synagogue his first stop and preached to the Jews, and only afterwards did he go to the pagans. In his Letters to the Romans he later described why the Gospel went its own way. He understood the deeper meaning of the rejection of the Gospel by the majority of Jews, so that thereby the


message of Jesus would then be brought to the entire world. It is a great mystery that Israel remains the chosen people even though it rejects the Messiah. That is the great question that occupies him. It is a great mystery. As I wrote in an essay entitled ³Zionism for Christians´ in 2008, Ultimately, Jews and Christians must remain a mystery to each other. Christians cannot help but recognize that Providence has sustained the Jews through their long exile, yet they cannot explain why Jews do not recognize Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of their prophecy. Jews cannot help but recognize that Christians are inspired by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, yet they cannot explain Christian belief in the divinity of Jesus, except to dismiss it as a ³world-historical fiction´ (in Franz Rosenzweig¶s words). This is a place for Cardinal Koch to start. I look forward to hearing more from him. 165 responses in the forum | Add your response

Note to Ramesh Ponnuru: Listen to Bernanke Wednesday, November 17, 2010, 1:40 PM David P. Goldman Ramesh Ponnuru, one of the smartest conservative commentators, finds some of the arguments for a second round of quantitative easing ³persuasive.´ A 2% inflation rate wouldn¶t be so bad if the Fed could achieve it, he observes today at the NRO site. But read what Bernanke actually said: Stock prices rose and long-term interest rates fell when investors began to anticipate this additional [quantitative easing] action. Easier financial conditions will promote economic growth. For example, lower mortgage rates will make housing more affordable and allow more homeowners to refinance. Lower corporate bond rates will encourage investment. And higher stock prices will boost consumer wealth and help increase confidence, which can also spur spending. Increased spending will lead to higher incomes and profits that, in a virtuous circle, will further support economic expansion.


Just the opposite occurred: Stock prices since have tanked and long-term interest rates have risen. That began in earnest at last week¶s G20 meeting in Asia, when some of America¶s biggest creditors (the ones who have been buying US Treasuries at a $900 billion annual rate this year) said they might impose exchange controls to keep out the septic tide of dollars. Bernanke (and the economists Ramesh is reading) think in terms of a closed-economy, one-period model: force a negative rate of return on cash and investors will shift their portfolios into stocks and long-term bonds, creating the wealth effect of which Bernanke wrote. But this is NOT, NOT a closed economy. The US is part of the world economy and the dollar is the world¶s reserve currency. Shoving more and more money into the world market±increasing the dosage of amphetamines because the patient remains unresponsive±has consequences. These might include exchange controls and severe damage to free markets. When investors see that sort of thing happening, they decide to accept a small negative return on cash in order to avoid a big negative return on risk assets. And that¶s what we saw when the world refused to foot the bill for QE2±also known as Titanic One, as I said last night on CNBC¶s The Kudlow Report. 16 responses in the forum | Two Points of View on ³Success´ In Iraq Monday, November 15, 2010, 4:14 PM David P. Goldman The Iraq ³surge´ required Iranian forbearance in order to keep US casualty rates down and make the Bush administration look good. Republican salvation history portrays the ³surge´ as the Bush administration¶s greatest accomplishment. The trouble is that Iran now has the upper hand in Iraq, having waited out America. Here¶s Michael Barone at National Review Online, on George W. Bush and Iraq: Bush says that he decided to fire Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the spring of 2006, but waited until after the November election and after recruiting Robert Gates. And, he writes, this president who had been Add your response


reluctant to interact with generals had a recommendation to Gates for the new commander in Iraq: Gen. David Petraeus. The surge was announced in January 2007, eight or nine months after Bush decided the previous strategy was failing. Bush argues that if he had acted more quickly, there would have been divisions in the government that would have led Congress to cut off war funding. ³The strategic consequences of defeat would have been horrific,´ Bush says. ³Embolden Iran ² shudders through the Mideast ² al-Qaida triumphant.´ But now he¶s optimistic about Iraq and about democracy in the region. As the sun pours in, it¶s hard not to shiver at how narrowly we avoided disaster and achieved success. And here¶s Debka.com today on Iran¶s takeover of Iraq: Iraqi power-sharing is dead. Iyad Allawi, whose Al Iraqiya party, won Iraq¶s general election last April but last week lost the premiership to the pro-Iranian incumbent Nouri Al-Malaki, was forced to admit Friday, Nov. 12 that ³the concept of power-sharing in Iraq was dead now. For Iraq´ he said, ³there will be tensions and violence, probably.´ That day, too, DEBKAfile¶s sources report, Hassan Nasrallah told a closed meeting of his Lebanese Hizballah activists that what happened in Baghdad is destined for Beirut. He was underlining the new reality in the Middle East where Iran and its allies are beating the West out in one crisis after another, forcing pro-US and pro-Saudi political forces to come to terms with antagonists sponsored by Tehran and serving its interests rather than those of Washington. No one in the region buys the proposition that the Obama administration can count as a successful feat the Baghdad power-sharing deal. It may terminate the eight-month stalemate during which Iraq had no government, but it also brought into the Al Maliki administration the anti-American radical Shiite Sadrists, whose affairs are run from a party headquarters in Iran. Snip


It is an open secret in Iraq that Maliki himself, whom parliament Friday awarded a month to form a government, is completely under the thumb of the Sadrists and their Iranian masters and in no position to set about healing the deep dissent afflicting the Iraqi people. The next ton of bricks about to fall on Barack Obama¶s head now comes from Lebanon and the Palestinians, both of whom are falling ever deeper into Syria¶s clutches. As one well-informed American put it his week: ³As Iraq goes, So Goes the Middle East.´ Bush failed to scotch the Persian snake; after deposing Rumsfeld and muzzling Dick Cheney, he brought in Robert Gates, who has been arguing since 2004 that the US needs to allow Iran a role as a major regional power. When Dick Cheney argued that Israel should be given the green light to crush Iran¶s proxy Hezbollah in August 2006, Condi Rice opposed him, Bush reports in his new book, saying that if the US did that, it ³would be dead in the Middle East.´ The Bush legacy is a brewing catastrophe in the region. Obama, to be sure, is making things worse, and doing things (such as blackmailing Israel) that Bush probably would not have done. That doesn¶t let Bush off the hook. It¶s better to admit errors and move on than to post them on every billboard. 4 responses in the forum | Add your response Junk Arguments from Fr. Schrott Wednesday, November 10, 2010, 11:38 AM David P. Goldman The German word Schrott means ³junk;´ the serendipitously-named Fr. Raymond A. Schroth S.J., offers junk arguments for the dissolution of the State of Israel. Writing Nov. 15 on the website of America magazine, he proposes the dissolution of the Jewish State in favor of a single entity in which Jews would form a minority beholden to Palestinian Arabs: A nation state built around one religion might have worked in the unique, post-Holocaust context of the years after World War II; but today Israelis must ask, Has the idea of an ethnic state become an anachronism? «


Once there was a ³Christian Europe.´ But today¶s great Western cities² London, New York, Paris, Geneva²teem with Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus: people of every land and color. Israel¶s self-definition as a onereligion state sealed off by a 28-foot-high wall, a network of settlements and segregated highways, projects an image that is disturbing to many, including younger generations of American Jews alienated by Israel¶s policies«. A plan for a single-state solution might include the following: (1) With Belgium and Switzerland as models, a new constitution would set up either a binational state or one unified with a one-person-one-vote structure.. Never mind that Britain, Denmark, Malta, Greece and other European nations have state churches; never mind that Germany and other European countries offer citizenship to the descendants of their ethnic kin; never mind that America requires new citizens to swear a loyalty oath far more restrictive than the one Israel has proposed. And never mind that Israel faces Hamas and Hizbollah on its southern and northern borders, entities that have sworn to eradicate Israel with weapons provided by Iran, which also has sworn to destroy Israel, or that the security wall has reduced terrorist acts against Israeli civilians to nearly zero. Of all this, Fr. Junk, S.J., makes nary a mention, nor does he mention that almost all of Israel¶s neighbors are Islamic states, something that does not seem to bother him. He does not mention that Israel is the only Middle Eastern state where Muslim women can vote. There are too many lies, distortions and omissions to merit a detailed refutation; if a self-appointed mediator in a dispute mentions everything except the fact that the other fellow has a knife at your throat and has sworn a terrible oath to bathe in your blood, parsing the text is pointless. Jews recall that Benedict XVI assured Jewish leaders in Rome this month that when efforts arise to de-legitimize the Jewish State, ³I will be there´ on Israel¶s side. We also recall the words last May of Walter Cardinal Kasper, then head of the Pontifical Commission for Relations with the Jews, who declared that the Church ³weakened itself´ by ³cutting itself off from its Jewish roots for centuries.´ Israel is the center of the life of the Jewish people, and to propose to junk it is a call for the ruin of the Jewish people. Catholics have learned that their welfare is inextricably tied to that of the Jewish people. In the 2008 essay


reprinted below, I argue that the national life of the Jews, the People of God in the flesh, is indispensable for the Catholic Church. Zionism for Christians David P. Goldman Israel always matters. Biblical scholars have devoted endless pages to ancient Israel as a religious idea, and pundits have penned endless newspaper columns about modern Israel as a geopolitical entity. The deeper implications, however, have received less attention than they deserve in recent years, overshadowed by the exigencies of Middle Eastern politics. Indeed, real questions remain: What does the sheer existence of the modern state of Israel mean for theology²particularly for Christian theology? And what does that theology mean for the continuing existence of Israel? ³Hardly anybody will dispute that the foundation of this state had something to do with the biblical prophecy,´ Christoph Cardinal Schönborn said in 1996, ³even if that something is hard to define.´ At present, the major Christian denominations are kindly disposed toward Judaism, and many Christians²especially American evangelicals²strongly support the State of Israel. And yet not all Christians agree with the mainstream Jewish view that modern Jewish life requires the existence of a Jewish state. Indeed, it seems counterintuitive to expect Christians to support an explicitly Jewish state in an age in which Christians have mostly abandoned the idea of explicitly Christian states. There may be good theological reasons for this general Christian retreat from the notion of religious governments and national churches. The Christian concept of the People of God is supranational by nature, for Christians are called out of their respective nations to become a new people. The Jews, however, understand themselves to be a unique nation formed by God for his service, and they can be the People of God only as a nation. Jewish leaders tend to view Christian relations with the State of Israel through the prism of Jewish security after the Holocaust. That is understandable, but it does not address the issue of what Israel represents for Christian life. A sad measure of Jewish insularity is the fact that evangelical Christians seeking to help the State of Israel have encountered suspicion and hostility from many Jewish organizations. Nor is the Holocaust exclusively a Jewish concern. The Second World War taught parallel, if opposite, lessons to Jews and Catholics. Many Jews²observant Jews, most of all²opposed Zionism before the rise of the Nazis, but later


they learned that the continuation of Jewish life requires full national existence. Catholics, who had tolerated a degree of ethnocentrism within the Church, learned from Hitler that national idolatry was Christendom¶s deadliest foe. Perhaps, these two lessons in fact are the same: Ethnocentric perversion of the concept of divine election destroyed both the Jewish communities of Europe and the influence of the Church. Think of it this way: Ultimately, Jews and Christians must remain a mystery to each other. Christians cannot help but recognize that Providence has sustained the Jews through their long exile, yet they cannot explain why Jews do not recognize Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of their prophecy. Jews cannot help but recognize that Christians are inspired by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, yet they cannot explain Christian belief in the divinity of Jesus, except to dismiss it as a ³world-historical fiction´ (in Franz Rosenzweig¶s words). Nonetheless, their respective concepts of what it means to be the People of God are mutually supportive. For Christians, the Jewish nation stands as a living reproach to Gentile nations:They reject Christian universality by desiring election in their own flesh. For the Jews, Christianity signifies that only as individuals can Gentiles enter the people of God, and that no other ethnicity may covet their election in the flesh. Jews cannot affirm salvation through Christ, and Christians cannot affirm salvation without Christ. But the mystery of enduring Jewish election negates the ethnocentrism that poses an existential threat to both Judaism and Christianity. Jews have little to fear from Christian universality; the mortal danger to their existence stems rather from the jealousy of Gentile nations who covet election. This reading of Israel differs from the secular Zionism of Theodor Herzl, who believed that the need for a Jewish state arose from the hostility of Christian nations to Jewish communities. Just the opposite is true today: Israel¶s prospects for survival against neighbors committed to her destruction depends in part on the Christian sympathy for the Jewish people, whether they live in Israel or in the Diaspora. The most Christian among the industrial nations, the United States, evinces the greatest sympathy for Israel as well as the greatest security for its own Jewish population. Moreover, this reading differs just as strongly from Franz Rosenzweig¶s vision of an encysted, quietist Jewish community existing as an inspiration to the Gentile world. As it happens, the Catholic Church has sometimes drawn close to Rosenzweig¶s view. No Catholic leader today doubts that the continued existence of the Jewish people and the observance of the Jewish religion is a blessing for Christians. But the foundation of the State

of Israel²a state with a specifically Jewish and to some extent theocratic character²presents a problem of a different order. Officially, the Catholic Church instructs, ³The existence of the State of Israel and its political options should be envisaged not in a perspective which is in itself religious, but in their reference to the common principles of international law,´ in the formula given in ³Notes on the Correct Way to Present the Jews and Judaism in Preaching and Catechesis in the Roman Catholic Church´ (1985). Yet the next sentence of the 1985 document quotes John Paul II: ³The permanence of Israel (while so many ancient peoples have disappeared without trace) is a historic fact and a sign to be interpreted within God¶s design. . . . It remains a chosen people, µthe pure olive on which were grafted the branches of the wild olive which are the gentiles.¶´ The problem from the vantage point of the Church can be put this way: Jewish life is not necessarily identical with the existence of the State of Israel. Catholics do not have to live under a Catholic state in order to sustain their life as a People of God. At the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church renounced the exercise of secular power. Why should Jewish religious life require the existence of a Jewish state when Christian life does not? Many practical concerns, including the safety of Middle Eastern Christians, the interest of the Church in the holy places of Jerusalem, and the issue of war and peace in the region, have colored the Catholic attitude toward the State of Israel, but the theological concern ultimately overrides the temporal issues. The State of Israel was founded with at least some theocratic elements²at exactly a point in history when the Catholic Church was renouncing theocracy and withdrawing from secular governance. Catholics, along with many Protestant and Orthodox Christians, view with disquiet the revival of a religiously defined political state just when religiously defined states were disappearing as a factor in Christian life. Although the theocratic elements in Israeli law are ad hoc rather than systemic, they are nonetheless integral to Israel¶s character (the Right of Return for Jews, for example). So why should Christians renounce a Christian theocracy while embracing a Jewish theocracy? The answer flows from the distinction between the People of God of the flesh and the People of God in the Spirit. The Jewish theologian Michael Wyschogrod has observed that, uniquely among the peoples of the world, the Jews are the People of God as a nationality, whereas Christians must be dual citizens of the People of God and their nationality of birth. For that reason alone, a Jewish state must have at least



some theocratic elements, although in other respects it is subject to the same international law that applies to all states. Wyschogrod explains: As understood by Christianity, a model of dual loyalty develops. The individual belongs both to a nation and to a religion. He is a Frenchman and a Christian or a German and a Christian. As Frenchman or German, he is a member of a national community with territorial and linguistic boundaries. But he is also a member of the supra-national church which has no national boundaries. . . . The church is a spiritual fellowship into which men bring their national identities because they possess these identities but not because such identities play a role in the church. The church thus understands itself as having universalized the national election of Israel by opening it to all men who, in entering the church, enter a spiritualized, universalized new Israel. In one sense, Israel is beyond the ³laws´ of history. It is not subject to the rise and fall of all other peoples and empires, a fact which causes angry philosophers of history whose schemes Israel undermines to refer to it as a fossil not subject to historic destruction. But at the same time, Israel does not abandon the domain of history. It refuses to exchange its historical and national messianism for a doctrine of individual salvation. Israel refuses to invent the idea of a church which forces men to live in two jurisdictions and to assume two identities: a member of a nation and a member of a church. When such a bifurcated existence is decreed for human life, European wars in which Christian fights Christian, not as Christian but as German, Frenchman or Pole, become possible. That such a church-sanctioned conflict was the rule rather than the exception in the history of Europe was not simply the result of a failure of Christianity. Once religion and nationality are separated, the historical order in which national destinies are realized is almost inevitably de-Christianized. Through Jesus Christ, as Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger once wrote, ³the pagan nations accede to the election of Israel and share in its grace.´ But the election of Israel and the election of the Gentiles who answer the call to the Church of Jesus Christ take radically different forms: Jews are called as a nation, while Gentiles are called away from their nations, as individuals. By affirming that the Jews are still called as a nation, the Church affirms that no other nation is elected in the flesh. This is a distinction of inestimable importance, for the residual paganism of Christianized nations has invariably expressed itself in the idolatrous desire to be a chosen people²to be a nation like Israel. That is the secret of so-


called Christian anti-Semitism: It is not Christian at all but rather expresses pagan resentment against Israel and jealousy of its unique form of election. ³It is said in St. Matthew that the Kingdom µshall be given to a people bringing forth the fruits thereof,¶´ as Henri de Lubac explained, not ³to the gentiles´ but ³to a new people´ of God: To St. Paul the Church is the People of the New Covenant. Israel according to the Spirit takes the place of Israel according to the flesh; but it is not a collection of many individuals, it is still a nation albeit recruited now from the ends of the earth, ³the tribe of Christians,´ says Eusebius, for instance, ³the race of those who honor God.´ Just as the Jews put their trust for so long not in an individual reward beyond the grave but in their common destiny as a race and in the glory of their earthly Jerusalem, so for the Christian all his hopes must be bent on the coming of the Kingdom and the glory of the one Jerusalem; and as YHWH bestowed adoption on no individual as such, but only insofar as he bestowed universal adoption on the people of the Jews, so the Christian obtains adoption only in proportion as he is a member of that social structure brought to life by the Spirit of Christ. To say that Christians must renew their conversion daily is to say that the People of God must fight daily for the affiliation of its Gentile members, who remain dual citizens of God¶s people as well as of their own ethnicity. This has been the doctrine of the Church from its earliest years, as De Lubac documents, but it is not necessarily the way by which the peoples of Europe came to Christianity. From the Gothic invasion of Italy in A.D. 401 to the defeat of the Magyars at Lech in 955 and the conversion of St. Vladimir in 1015, the barbarians often entered Christian life not as individuals joining the new People of God but as tribes brought into Christendom through conquest or alliance. Christian universalism triumphed over the ethnocentric impulses of the converted tribes through a supranational political model, from Constantine to Charlemagne and finally until the time of Charles V (when Christian polity broke up in the Reformation and Wars of Religion). Because Christians are a new people called out of the nations, Christian theocracy must be supranational in character. The various political states of Europe were fostered by the Church, which furnished them with language and culture; but those states were subordinated, in some sense, to a Latinspeaking supranational Church that was senior partner to a universal empire. No Christian thinker from Augustine through Thomas Aquinas doubted this. Never has the Church taught that the destiny of each ethnic group must be


realized independently. On the contrary, Christianity can only flourish within a political model that transcends nationality such that the Christian¶s citizenship in the People of God takes precedence over citizenship in a Gentile nation. As a citizen of a universal empire, the individual Christian was subject to a supranational political authority that stood above the Gentile nation and suppressed its ethnocentrism. Apart from this European model of universal empire, only one other political form has appeared that fosters Christian universality. That is the nonethnic state embodied in the United States of America. Americans, too, belong to no single ethnicity. If a special grace accords to America, then it is by design rather than accident that America is both the most Christian of all industrial countries and home to the largest Jewish population outside the State of Israel. Despite the thousand-year reign of Christian universal empire, the ethnocentric impulses of the converted tribes never disappeared. Indeed, Christianity gave them a new and in some ways more pernicious morphology. As Franz Rosenzweig observed, once the Gentile nations embraced Christianity, they abandoned their ancient fatalism regarding the inevitable extinction of their tribe. It is the God of Israel who first offers eternal life to humankind, and Christianity extended Israel¶s promise to all. But the nations that adhered to Christendom as tribes rather than as individuals never forswore their love for their own ethnicity. On the contrary, they longed for eternal life in their own Gentile skin rather than in the Kingdom of God promised by Jesus Christ. After Christianity taught them the election of Israel, the Gentiles coveted election for themselves and desired their own people to be the chosen people. That set ethnocentric nationalism in conflict both with the Jews²the descendents of Abraham in the flesh²and with the Church, which holds itself to be the new People of God. As Rosenzweig put it, ³Precisely through Christianity the idea of Election has gone out amongst the individual nations, and along with it a concomitant claim upon eternity. It is not that the case that such a claim upon eternity conditioned the entire life of these peoples; one hardly can speak of this. The idea of Election, upon which such a claim [upon eternity] uniquely can be based, becomes conscious for the peoples only in certain exalted moments, and in any case is more of a festive costume than their workaday dress. . . . Still, there sleeps upon the foundation of one¶s love for one¶s own people the presentiment that someday in the distant future it no longer will be, and this gives this love a sweetly painful gravity.´


Rosenzweig understated the significance of his insight, for the Gentile nations too often turned what he called the ³festive costume´ of ethnocentric election into a military uniform. With the hindsight of the twentieth century¶s terrible events, we should look less benignly on the Gentile nations¶ longing for divine election. There is a fine but definite line, to be sure, between the Gentiles¶ identification with Israel and their idolatrous desire for election in place of Israel. It is one thing for the Puritans to speak metaphorically of a new chosen people in a new promised land, and quite another for Joseph Smith to rewrite Scripture in order to place Jesus Christ on American soil. African Americans saw themselves as suffering Israel in Egypt, and their emancipation as a new exodus; that is not the same as James Cone¶s eccentric 1969 claim that Jesus was black and that blacks are the chosen people. In his 1996 address, Cardinal Schönborn mentions that a notion of France as the ³new Israel´ began to appear as early as the thirteenth century. By the seventeenth century, this impulse had grown into a nationalistic school of religious mysticism led by the great French statesman Cardinal Richelieu and his Grey Eminence, the Capuchin priest Joseph du Tremblay. To further French ambitions, Richelieu prolonged the Thirty Years¶ War until both the Protestant and Catholic contenders were exhausted and perhaps two-fifths of the German-speaking population was dead. In the impassioned belief that France was the surrogate for Christendom, Richelieu created the nationalist model, and the Peace of Westphalia imposed it on Europe² which suggests that it was not the Reformation but rather the Francophile mysticism of Richelieu and Joseph du Tremblay that delivered the death blow to Christian universal empire. Most of the great European nations at some time styled themselves the chosen people. Russia declared itself a Third Rome from the reign of Ivan the Great (1440-1505), and Dostoyevsky still wrote of Russia as a unique ³God-bearing´ people during the nineteenth century. England¶s schism from Catholicism under the Tudors portrayed the British as the chosen people and their monarch as a new King David. Germany was a latecomer to selfelection, but in the twentieth century the Germans embraced ethnic idolatry in its most toxic form. There have been a few modern places²Poland, Ireland, Quebec²where a nationalist impulse reinforced a Catholic identity. But, for the most part, nationalism has been the antagonist of Christendom from its first expression in the early-modern period. After nationalism brought down the supranational principal of governance, the Catholic Church had to abandon


secular power or, at least, accept its expulsion from power by nationalists. Because the Christian People of God is of no ethnicity, Gentile nationalism necessarily undermines citizenship in the People of God. Jewish nationalism, however, does not, for the Jewish religion is grounded in nationhood. Jews are not only permitted but divinely commanded to be nationalistic, in a certain way. That does not imply that any particular political arrangement²the exact borders of the State of Israel or a given form of government²is ordained by divine command. But it is hard to argue that the Jewish nation does not require its own state in order to be a nation, given the long and terrible history of persecution of the Jews, as well as endemic anti-Semitism in the Muslim world. In their rebellion against Christianity, the nations of Europe have exhausted and demoralized themselves. After the catastrophes of the past century, they are neither Christian nor nationalist. But Christianity is still expanding. In fact, it is growing faster than at any time in its history²mostly through converts in the Global South, where, for instance, four hundred million Africans have become Christians. Unfortunately, most of them still strongly identify with their tribes. In Rwanda, the Catholic Church could do nothing to mitigate the genocide of the Tutsis; in some cases, clergy participated. Nationalism destroyed Christian life in Europe, and tribalism may well reverse the enormous gains of evangelization in Africa. All the more reason, then, that theologians should draw a sharp distinction between ethnic identity and membership in the People of God; the living Jewish commonwealth in the modern State of Israel establishes this distinction as an existential matter rather than as a mere point of doctrine. In Jewish accounts, the Vatican¶s often unsympathetic view of Zionism appears as a manifestation of anti-Semitism. Most often cited is Pius X¶s 1904 declaration to Theodor Herzl that ³the Jews have not recognized our Lord, therefore we cannot recognize the Jewish people,´ according to Herzl¶s notes of the meeting. It is easy to find instances of ecclesiastical anti-Semitism in the early twentieth century, in the form of arguments to the effect that the Jews must remain despised wanderers on the earth as punishment for their sins. Until the Holy See exchanged ambassadors with the State of Israel in 1993, Jewish leaders viewed the diplomatic position of the Catholic Church through the lens of the prior ecclesiastical anti-Semitism. In fact, the Vatican throughout has reacted to, rather than guided, events in the Middle East. It delayed recognizing Israel mainly out of concern for the safety of


Christians in Arab countries, and it changed its position only once the Oslo Process got underway, in order to secure a place at the table. The historical record does not reveal a consistent theological stance toward the projected or actual Jewish state on the part of the Church. Many things influenced the Church¶s view of the State of Israel, among which theology appears to have been the least important. Though in 1917 Benedict XV seemed sympathetic, he later turned sharply against Zionism. According to Sergio Minerbi¶s account in The Vatican and Zionism, practical rather than religious concerns reversed the pope¶s original sympathy. One of these concerns was the disposition of the holy places. Christians had ruled Jerusalem for the three centuries between the conversion of Constantine and the Muslim conquest in 638, and for another century after the First Crusade took the city in 1099. The Zionists saw the Christian holy places as buildings rather than as territory. Under other circumstances, this matter might have been negotiated, but the 1919 British Mandate in Palestine put the Vatican on the defensive. The Church feared that the British authorities would favor Protestant organizations in Palestine over the established Catholic community. Moreover, the Vatican¶s pastoral relation to Christian Arabs appeared at risk. After 1948, the safety of Christian Arab minorities in the Middle East dominated the concern of the Holy See. The danger was not imagined: In 1965, during the Second Vatican Council, threats of reprisals against Middle Eastern Christians greeted the first drafts of Nostra Aetate, the Vatican II document that expressed the Church¶s modern view of the Jews. With the delicate position of Arab Christians in mind, Augustin Cardinal Bea, charged with drafting the document, was at pains to separate Jewish religion from the State of Israel. As he told the council: Since we are here treating a purely religious question, there is obviously no danger that the Council will get entangled in those difficult questions regarding the relations between the Arab nations and the State of Israel, or regarding so-called Zionism. . . . As regards the Jewish people, it must again and again be made clear that the question is in no sense political, but is purely religious. We are not talking about Zionism, or the political State of Israel, but about the followers of the Mosaic religion, wherever in the world they may dwell. The issues that preoccupied Vatican diplomacy before 1993 have become moot. The Christian communities of the Middle East have almost disappeared in the face of growing hostility from the Muslim majority. Although the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem continues to voice Arab hostility toward the State of Israel, the winnowing of its flock has reduced its


importance. A small but active presence of Hebrew-speaking Catholics in the State of Israel is growing in relative importance. The Vatican is building a Catholic community in Israel both to accommodate the growing number of Christian citizens of Israel as well as to strengthen the Christian presence in the Holy Land. Under the 1993 and subsequent agreements with the Vatican, Israel has given Catholic institutions in Israel full legal status. The Israeli conquest of East Jerusalem in 1967, meanwhile, has made Israeli protection of the territory surrounding the holy places of Jerusalem the only practical solution. Officially, the Catholic Church might prefer Jerusalem to be an international city, but in practice Israel offers the best guarantee of Christian interests. The State of Israel no longer has to go to modern Rome to repair what ancient Rome destroyed, as Benedict XV suggested in 1917. Nonetheless, the living Rome and the restored Jerusalem remain what Franz Rosenzweig called ³laborers at the same task.´ The survival of fifteen million Jews in a dangerous world depends in good measure on the sympathy of two billion Christians. In turn, the People of God of the flesh stand surety for the People of God in the spirit, not only as witnesses to scriptural promise but as the living root of the Church. As Christians see it, God taught the idea of a People of God through the Jews, and the Jews¶ continuing existence is both a perpetual reminder of that lesson and a guarantee that God keeps his promises. Precisely because Christian conversion entails adoption into the People of God, the theological case for a Christian Zionism seems profound and strong. It would enrich the life of the Church to acknowledge that the ³something of providence´ of which Cardinal Schönborn spoke is the national life of God¶s People in the State of Israel. 23 responses in the forum | Add your response Robert Zoellick is Magnificently Right Monday, November 8, 2010, 3:35 PM David P. Goldman (Crossposted from blog.atimes.net) The World Bank president got it exactly right: HONG KONG (MarketWatch) ±- The president of the World Bank said in a newspaper editorial Monday that the Group of 20 leading economies


should consider adopting a global reserve currency based on gold as part of structural reforms to the world¶s foreign-exchange regime. World Bank chief Robert Zoellick said in an article the Financial Times that leading economies should consider ³employing gold as an international reference point of market expectations about inflation, deflation and future currency values.´ Zoellick made the proposal as part of reforms to be considered at this week¶s G-20 meeting in Seoul. ³Although textbooks may view gold as the old money, markets are using gold as an alternative monetary asset today,´ said Zoellick. He said such a reform would reflect economic realities and should be considered as a successor to the existing global currency paradigm known as ³Bretton Woods II.´ Bretton Woods II refers to the system which began in 1971, when U.S. President Nixon ended the dollar¶s link to gold as established under the Bretton Woods agreement. Zoellick said a return to some sort of currency link to gold would be ³practical and feasible, not radical.´ ³This new system is likely to need to involve the dollar, the euro, the yen, the pound and a renminbi that moves towards internationalization and then an open capital account,´ he said. A currency agreement combining structural reforms, currency stabilization and a convertible Chinese yuan were the key proposals that Francesco Sisci and I made in Asia Times exactly two years ago, and Reuven Brenner and I offered in First Things a year ago (subscription required). Adding the dimension of a gold reference point is brilliant. During the late 1980s, we supply-siders promulgated a ³Ricardian´ gold standard, in which central banks would buy and sell currencies in order to stabilize the gold price in each currency (they wouldn¶t have to own a great deal of gold to do this). It is not a gold fractional reserve system, in which claims on the banking system are payable in bullion, but a gold price reference, as Zoellick indicates. We used to argue that gold was a good long-term indicator of the price level and that a stable gold price portended price stability. That is a naive view I abandoned fifteen years ago. If that were true, then we should have


experienced a great deflation as gold fell from $800 at Christmas 1979 to well under $300 an ounce between 2000 and 2002. Gold, I argued in a 1996 paper for Laffer Associates, should be thought of as a put option on the currency; the opportunity cost of holding gold instead of interest-bearing assets (plus storage costs) are the option premium. If central banks managed their currencies well, gold would trade at its commodity value, that is, around the marginal cost of production, which is now $600 to $700 for the largest mining companies. But if there is a risk that paper currencies will devalue by some extreme margin, it is worth holding gold as a hedge. We cannot price the option using the usual BlackScholes formula or its variants because we do not know the volatility of a currency over the long term; this is a political matter and inherently uncertain. But if we think that monetary policy is headed to a disaster (QE2 will end up like the Titanic, in short), we will pay more for gold. Effectively, Zoellick¶s proposal to use gold as a reference would require central banks to manage the tail risk of monetary outcomes. The value of money depends on more than the short-term interest rate set by a central bank; it depends on the expected return to assets priced in that money. The entire range of policy instruments come into play. As Zoellick writes in his Financial Times op-ed, When the G7 experimented with economic co-ordination in the 1980s, the Plaza and Louvre Accords focused attention on exchange rates. Yet the policy underpinnings ran deeper. The Reagan administration, guided by James Baker, the then Treasury secretary, wanted to resist a protectionist upsurge from Congress, like the one we see today. It therefore combined currency co-ordination with the launch of the Uruguay Round that created the World Trade Organisation and a push for free trade that led to agreements with Canada and Mexico. International leadership worked with domestic policies to boost competitiveness. As part of this ³package approach´, G7 countries were supposed to address the fundamentals of growth ± today¶s structural reform agenda. For example, the 1986 Tax Reform Act broadened the revenue base while slashing marginal income tax rates. Mr Baker worked with his G7 colleagues and central bankers to orchestrate international co-operation to build private-sector confidence. Simply put, a central bank can afford a looser monetary policy if the economy is growing and demand for money increases. He proposes:


What might such an approach look like today? First, to focus on fundamentals, a key group of G20 countries should agree on parallel agendas of structural reforms, not just to rebalance demand but to spur growth. For example, China¶s next five-year plan is supposed to transfer attention from export industries to new domestic businesses, and the service sector, provide more social services and shift financing from oligopolistic state-owned enterprises to ventures that will boost productivity and domestic demand. With a new Congress, the US will need to address structural spending and ballooning debt that will tax future growth. President Barack Obama has also spoken of plans to boost competitiveness and revive free-trade agreements. The US and China could agree on specific, mutually reinforcing steps to boost growth. Based on this, the two might also agree on a course for renminbi appreciation, or a move to wide bands for exchange rates. The US, in turn, could commit to resist tit-for-tat trade actions; or better, to advance agreements to open markets. Second, other major economies, starting with the G7, should agree to forego currency intervention, except in rare circumstances agreed to by others. Other G7 countries may wish to boost confidence by committing to structural growth plans as well. Third, these steps would assist emerging economies to adjust to asymmetries in recoveries by relying on flexible exchange rates and independent monetary policies. Some may need tools to cope with shortterm hot money flows. The G20 could develop norms to guide these measures. Fourth, the G20 should support growth by focusing on supply-side bottlenecks in developing countries. These economies are already contributing to half of global growth, and their import demand is rising twice as fast as that of advanced economies. The G20 should give special support to infrastructure, agriculture and developing healthy, skilled labour forces. The World Bank Group and the regional development banks could be the instruments of building multiple poles of future growth based on private sector development.


Fifth, the G20 should complement this growth recovery programme with a plan to build a co-operative monetary system that reflects emerging economic conditions. This new system is likely to need to involve the dollar, the euro, the yen, the pound and a renminbi that moves towards internationalisation and then an open capital account. This is the first really sensible plan to emerge from any of the major governments or international institutions since the crisis began. Zoellick, who was a senior official of the elder and younger Bush administrations, is one of the brighter lights in the Republican establishment. I hope the speech means that he¶s running for Treasury Secretary in the next Republican administration. It¶s the first real sign that someone on the Republican side has gotten the big economic picture right. 14 responses in the forum | Add your response J Street: With Friends Like That, Who Needs Ben-Amis? Friday, November 5, 2010, 3:39 PM David P. Goldman Shabbat Shalom. 2 responses in the forum | Barack Obama is NOT a Muslim Friday, November 5, 2010, 10:03 AM David P. Goldman Rumors keep surfacing on the fringe of American politics that President Obama is a secret Muslim, including a recent video that has gone viral on Youtube. It involves an Israeli author, Avi Lipkin, who claims that his wife (who supposedly monitors Arab-language broadcasts professionally) heard a Nile TV news program in which the Egyptian Foreign Minister stated that Obama had personally told him that he was a Muslim. I checked with friends who do monitor Egyptian TV broadcasts professionally. The story is a hoax. Mrs. Lipkin has been asked about her allegations and can¶t quite remember when the broadcast took place. Noone else has seen it. No-one will accuse me of harboring warm and fuzzy sentiments about Barack Obama. The estimable John Podhoretz denounced me for crossing Add your response


the line of decency in attacking him not along ago (we¶ll let that pass). More than two years ago I published a ³Spengler´ essay arguing that the thencandidate identified profoundly with the America-hating, fellow-traveling, anthropologist mother who dumped him on his grandparents in Hawaii while she set off to save the Muslim craftsmen of Indonesia against globalization. And I haven¶t been shy about elaborating on this view since. We have the first President in history who thinks that the United States is part of the problem rather than part of the solution in the world, and it¶s a disaster. But all the nonsense about secret Muslim affiliation, missing birth certificates, and so forth, is an annoying distraction. This last report like the many before it is a hoax. Sure, it¶s funny when Jay Leno says: ³What¶s the difference between Obama and Bo? Bo has papers.´ The President¶s character and ideology are fair game. But let¶s stick to facts. Obama has written and said enough to make his views clear. He has a deep personal sympathy for Islam and the Muslim world, the sort of bond that arises from abandonment by father, stepfather and mother. He is a dreadful president, possibly the worst in American history. But there¶s no evidence of any kind that he is a secret Muslim, a foreign national, a space alien, or a cyborg. 18 responses in the forum | Leo Strauss, Destroyer of Judaism Friday, October 22, 2010, 7:53 AM David P. Goldman Suzanne Klingenstein of MIT reports on a new cache of Leo Strauss letters today in the Weekly Standard website. They confirm what I always have assumed, that Strauss¶ work on Maimonides was intended to prove that the great Jewish legal scholar and commentator was a secret atheist. She writes: On February 16, 1938, Strauss wrote to his longtime friend Jacob Klein: ³One misunderstands Maimonides simply because one does not reckon with the possibility that he was an µAverroist.¶ ´ Strauss knew, of course, that ³to pull Maimonides out of Judaism is to pull out its foundation,´ but his recent insights into Maimonides¶s Guide for the Perplexed had led him to the ³determination that Maimonides in his beliefs was absolutely no Jew´ because he was a philosopher. Strauss had long maintained, as he wrote Add your response


to Klein, ³the incompatibility in principle of philosophy and Judaism.´ Eight years earlier in Berlin, he had argued heatedly with Julius Guttmann that ³Jewish philosophy´ was a contradiction in terms. But he had never overtly proven the claim for a major Jewish figure, and now he was getting ready to do so. ³When I explode this bomb,´ Strauss wrote to Klein, ³a great battle will be kindled.´ To argue that Jewish religion and reason are incompatible, I believe, is an act of hysteria; man seeks God through reason and God seeks man through Revelation, in Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik¶s formulation. There are serious problems in Maimonides¶ philosophy (on which see Michael Wyschogrod¶s ³The One God of Abraham´ in Abraham¶s Promise). Strauss seized on these problems in order to twist Maimonides into his own atheist mold. What a faker, a fool, a posturer, a rogue Strauss was! The damage he has done to American intellectual life is inestimable. As I wrote some years ago, he played the Gypsy Melchiades to the Macondo of American universities, teaching classics to students who had never read them, knew nothing of Jewish or Christian readings of them, and were generally inclined towards atheism to begin with. The fact that Americans learned Strauss rather than Rosenzweig is perhaps the greatest intellectual disaster to befall the conservative wing of American thinking after World War II. As Klingenstein reports, the great scholar of Jewish mysticism Gershom Sholem had this to say about Strauss¶ book on Maimonides: Very soon, Schocken . . . is publishing a book by Leo Strauss (whom I tried very hard to get appointed in Jerusalem). The book begins²with admirable courage given that everyone will understand this to be the book of a candidate for Jerusalem²with an unfeigned and copiously (if madly) argued affirmation of atheism as the most important Jewish watchword. . . . I admire the moral courage and regret the obviously consciously and deliberately provoked suicide of such a capable mind. Klingenstein excerpts letters from Strauss to the Jewish scholar Nahum Glatzer (whose popularization of Rosenzweig made English-speaking readers aware of him) in which Strauss begs Glatzer not to denounce him


as an apostate, atheist, and saboteur of Judaism. Sadly, Glatzer kept his mouth shut; he should have blown the whistle on Strauss. The idea that faith and reason are incompatible has a grain of truth±they are quite different±but the idea that the human personality can live without both of them is pernicious. For what it¶s worth, here¶s my summary of the problem (from a recent review-essay on Rebecca Goldstein): Why, indeed, would anyone try to prove that God exists? The religious don¶t need to, and the atheists don¶t want to. ³Does the loving bride in the embrace of her beloved ask for proof that he is alive and well? Must the prayerful soul clinging in passionate love and ecstasy to her Beloved demonstrate that he exists?´ asked Joseph Soloveitchik, quoting Søren Kierkegaard. But even the most enraptured lovers pause between sighs to ask whether it is true love or infatuation, and whether the beloved will wax fat as her mother, and whether the lover¶s domestic inclination and career prospects make him marriageable. Some things really must be decided by faith, Augustine said, such as, ³Who is your father?´ DNA testing has transferred that question to science, but we still must take as a matter of faith the answer to the most important question we are likely to ask: Do we really love the object of our affections, or do we love a projection of ourselves on an object of convenience? Lovers never really will be sure whether they adore a particular human being or an idealized image, for all earthly love contains a bit of both. Every lover has a bit of Pygmalion as well as Paris. Anyone who has loved knows the dizzying alternation of ³sky-high jubilation´ and the ³deathly gloom´ of doubt, as Goethe¶s Klärchen sang. That is why love does not suppress reason; on the contrary, with desperate appeal, it summons to its service all of reason¶s instruments of torture, the better to test the beloved. Precisely because lovers do not trust their passion and resort to reason, lovers¶ misunderstandings have been the stuff of comedy (and sometimes tragedy) since Menander. Those who most love God turn to reason in similar fashion. Reason is a purifying fire. For those who have had a conversion experience, a sense of the divine presence, how can they be quite sure that what they felt was an intimation of God rather than a psychotic delusion? Not for nothing did the


prophets inveigh against the ancient Hebrews¶ whoring after foreign gods. As the Tanya states, sin is proof of idolatry, for if we actually believed the First Commandment²that the Lord is God²we never would sin. The risk in attempting to approach a God who is wholly other is that we may worship a projection of ourselves. That is why people of faith emulate human lovers, subjecting their love to trial by reason²not because reason can replace faith but because reason demands to know, ³faith in whom?´ 23 responses in the forum | Who Needs Denominations, Indeed? Wednesday, October 20, 2010, 7:14 AM David P. Goldman A friend points out that the rate of attrition of American Jews is much higher than the standard estimates suggest. After a million Russian Jewish immigrants and perhaps half that number of Israelis, the numbers of American Jews remain static ² which implies that a comparable number of American Jews have fallen off the radar. The sociologists employed by the American Jewish organizations, for all their pessimism, have not caught up with the implosion of the liberal wings of American Judaism. Orthodoxy (both Modern and haredi) is flourishing, but little else. There still is a lot of wishful thinking out there. Today¶s Jewish Ideas Daily leads with a defense of non-denominational Judaism, under the rubric, ³Who Needs Denominations?´ Author Yehudah Mirsky wonders whether the Reform and Conservative denominational structure makes sense in today¶s world: If one feature of modern life is the ascendance of reason and science as sources of knowledge and authority, another is expressiveness, the conviction that the truth is to be found in one¶s own subjectivity and in the recesses of one¶s own experience and passions. This impulse, helped along by new technologies and forms of organization that make for more diffuse structures of authority and belief, and by currents like feminism that link the expressive ideal with the demand for equality, has powerfully reworked all of contemporary religion. In Western societies today, even the Add your response


most stringent form of traditionalism is chosen; if it does not find an echo in the subjective experience of the individual, it will not long endure. In short, Rabbi Mirsky thinks that in the modern world every Jew will make up her or her own Judaism to suit ³the subjective experience of the individual,´ in a free-form sort of organization that allows for such things. That is substantially what the Reform movement has been doing for years, as I wrote in the Feb. 2010 First Things. The Reform movement has lost a third of its members in the past decade. If you are looking for something the validates your subjective experience, there are lots of other things besides Judaism that will accommodate you. The founder of the ultra-liberal Jewish denomination of Reconstructionism, Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan, was himself a Jew of traditional habits, who did not believe in God. The synagogue, he said, is where we say kaddish (act as mourners) for the religion of our fathers. An older generation of Jews felt obligation without believing; their children and grandchildren fall away from Judaism altogether. Rabbi Mirsky adds, Today¶s American Jewish denominations are very much the products of their time and place and of the specific circumstances of American religious life as a whole, heavily shaped as that life has been by essentially Protestant nomenclature and modes of organization. Interestingly, the denominational structure is dramatically different from that prevailing in Israel or other places in the world. No less interestingly, the denomination registering the greatest current growth, or at least the greatest internal retention rate, is the one with the least centralized structure and the most thoroughgoing demands on the faithful²namely, Orthodoxy. Jewish denomination structure does indeed derive from Protestant nomenclature, because the liberal denominations are a response to liberal Protestantism in the first place. The founding premise of Reform Judaism is the abandonment of Election and the consequent messianic hope of restoration of the Temple. Conservative Judaism emerged from the German society ³Wissenschaft des Judentums´ (Science of Judaism) which wanted to keep the outer form of observance with a rationalist inner core. Both are shaped by Christian culture. And that is why neither has any purchase in Israel, where there are few Christians to whom to


accommodate. For Israelis, the synagogue is simply normative, traditional Judaism; you go, or you don¶t. Why Does Reuel Marc Gerecht Defend Sharia? Tuesday, October 19, 2010, 10:40 PM David P. Goldman The former CIA agent turned pundit, Reuel Marc Gerecht, offers a rambling defense of Sharia (sort of) in the New Republic website. He doesn¶t like what his conservative colleagues say about Sharia (which he keeps calling ³The Holy Law´), but he doesn¶t say what it is. Kant said something about one man milking a he-goat while another held a sieve. I don¶t want to think about what Gerecht might be milking. His conclusion: Contrary to what one regularly reads on conservative websites, we are not yet losing this war. Iran¶s pursuit of a nuclear weapon and the determined proselytizing of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East and among Muslim immigrants in the West are efforts to turn back the tide. But modernity is relentless. The traumatic Westernization of Islam continues. That Westernization led to the Islamic revolution in Iran and to Osama bin Laden, but it also leads, even more powerfully, to a world where Muslims² especially Muslim women²aspire to a more prosperous and democratic way of life. We have reasons to hope that Islam¶s passage will be less bloody than our own, though we should prepare, as Gingrich constantly and wisely warns us, for its being worse. But we shouldn¶t see enemies where they are not. The Holy Law is, as it¶s always been, what Muslims make of it. In the titanic struggle within Islam between those who fear modernity and those who embrace it, we would do well not to make the clergy our foes. They will go, as they always have done, where the majority of Muslims take them. Like Ayatollah Khomeini before him, bin Laden once thought that most Muslims would rise up to defend his cause. Both gentlemen were wrong. Westerners and most Muslims may not (yet) share with the same intensity and priority that many values, but we share enough to provide considerable hope that the ³clash of civilizations´ will end, as Grand Ayatollah Sistani no doubt wants it to, in a suspicious, at times tense, but peaceful and prosperous co-existence.


He objects in particular to Newt Gingrich and his warning about sharia: «.we still ought to be concerned when prominent American conservatives²and here I¶m thinking first and foremost of Newt Gingrich² blur the line between militant Muslims and the everyday faithful. When Gingrich, whom I¶ve long admired and had the pleasure of working with, gave a much-noted speech at the American Enterprise Institute in which he stated, ³I believe Sharia is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it. « I think it¶s that straightforward and that real,´ I could only say in response, ³String Theory is dangerous´: Gingrich was looking for an explanation for the Islamic terrorist threat, but, like many on the right, looking in the wrong places. Neatly tying it all together, Gingrich and others have alighted upon the Muslim Holy Law, the Sharia, as the source of all that bedevils the Middle East, and us. But what is Sharia, and what distinguishes it from Jewish Halakha, or English Common Law, or Church Canon Law? One only has to listen to what Muslim legal scholars have to say about Sharia to make clear why it is incompatible with what we might call society founded on covenant, a concept that embraces both Jewish law and the Social Contract theory of the Enlightenment±that is, the sort of society in which democracy has a chance to flourish. I reviewed Islamic jurisprudence (including what American Muslim legal scholars say on the topic) recently with regard to the issue of wife beating in a recent Spengler essay: More than the Koran¶s sanction of wife-beating, the legal grounds on which the Koran sanctions it reveals an impassable gulf between Islamic and Western law. The sovereign grants inalienable rights to every individual in Western society, of which protection from violence is foremost. Every individual stands in direct relation to the state, which wields a monopoly of violence. Islam¶s legal system is radically different: the father is a ³governor´ or ³administrator´ of the family, that is, a little sovereign within his domestic realm, with the right to employ violence to control his wife and children. That is the self-understanding of modern Islam spelled out by Muslim-American scholars ± and it is incompatible with the Western concept of human rights.


There it is: a bright line that divides Islamic from Western law. As I explained, Decisive in the above analysis of Surah 4:32[which establishes the legal basis for wife-beating in Islam] is the analogy between the husband and the head of a political subdivision or organization. The state in traditional society devolves its authority to the cells from which it is composed, starting with the family, which is a state in miniature, whose patriarch is a ³governor´ or ³administrator´. Traditional society is organized like a nested set of Russian

dolls: the clan is the family writ large, the tribe is an extension of the clan, the state is an alliance of the tribes, and the relationship of citizen and sovereign is reproduced at each level. That is why traditional society is incompatible organically with the first principal of law in modern liberal democracy, namely that the state wields the monopoly of violence. Sharia in principle cannot be adapted to the laws of modern democratic states, for it is founded on the deeply-ingrained notion that the family is the state in miniature and that the head of family may employ violent compulsion just as does the state. In other words, wife-beating (and by extension honor killings and so forth) derive from fundamental legal principles in Muslim, the pillars upon which Sharia stands. They are not leftovers of traditional society that can be jettisoned in an updated version. Remove them, and there is no reason for Sharia to exist in the first place. What on earth is Gerecht talking about? Without addressing how Muslims understand Sharia, this sort of discussion becomes ill-informed opinionmongering. 6 responses in the forum | Add your response

³The Most Consequential Blow Israel Has Sustained in the Past Decade´: Turkey Monday, October 18, 2010, 12:53 PM David P. Goldman


My friends at The Tablet, a Jewish-interest webzine, are running a weeklong series on Turkey¶s ominous shift to Islamism. The editors write: The transformation of Turkey from close military and strategic ally to bitter public enemy may be the most consequential blow Israel has sustained in the past decade: Unlike the Second Lebanon war, Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, or last summer¶s flotilla incident, the recent shift in foreign relations is not just a public relations disaster but a fundamental change in the regional order, which has turned a powerful friend into a determined enemy. 8 responses in the forum | ³Why Not Call It µPetraeus Village¶´? Monday, October 18, 2010, 6:56 AM David P. Goldman Add your response

Extracts from today¶s Spengler essay at Asia Times Online: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LJ19Ak01.html Why call not it a µPetraeus Village¶? By Spengler ³May his name be blotted out!´ declares the most terrible Hebrew curse. History has devised a curse more terrible still, that is, to have one¶s memory blotted out, all except for a name that popular usage links to disaster. Schoolchildren no longer learn about King Pyrrhus of Epirus, who won battles against Rome at such heavy cost that he lost the war, but everyone knows that a ³Pyrrhic victory´ is to be avoided. Few remember Grigory Potyomkin (1739-1791), Catherine the Great¶s statesman and lover, but everyone knows the idiom ³Potemkin Village´, a facade constructed to deceive passing inspection. Why not call it ³Petraeus village´? General David Petraeus, now America¶s commander in Afghanistan, pacified Iraq by putting 100,000 fighters for the country¶s Sunni minority on the American payroll. Now that America has withdrawn combat troops from Iraq and the Shi¶ite-majority


government in Baghdad has embraced Iran¶s military arm, the Sunni fighters are quitting by the thousand, and joining the anti-government guerrilla movement associated with al-Qaeda. This we learn from the October 17 New York Times: Although there are no firm figures, security and political officials say hundreds of the well-disciplined fighters ± many of whom have gained extensive knowledge about the American military ± appear to have rejoined al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Beyond that, officials say that even many of the Awakening fighters still on the Iraqi government payroll, possibly thousands of them, covertly aid the insurgency. The defections have been driven in part by frustration with the Shi¶ite-led government, which Awakening members say is intent on destroying them, as well as by pressure from al-Qaeda. The exodus has accelerated since Iraq¶s inconclusive parliamentary elections in March, which have left Sunnis uncertain of retaining what little political influence they have and which appear to have provided al-Qaeda new opportunities to lure back fighters. On September 27, the Washington Post reported that the Iraqi government had fired Sunni police officers in Anbar province. When Petraeus held the Iraq command, he put over 100,000 Sunni gunmen on the American payroll, offering them money and weapons to lie low for the interim. That arrangement lasted until the government of Nuri alMaliki invited the Iranian-backed party of Shi¶ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to join his government ± the same Muqtada whose Mahdi Army battled American forces for control of Sadr City in 2004. News reports on October 15 cited unnamed Washington sources saying that the Obama administration would end its support for Maliki if he allied with Muqtada, although it is not clear what that might entail. Sectarian war is playing out in the predictable way, and America will have nothing to show for a trillion dollars¶ worth of ³nation-building´ and several thousand dead soldiers except a civil war much bloodier than might have occurred without America¶s provision of money and guns to the Sunni Awakening. In May, I reviewed this likelihood in an essay titled General Petraeus¶ Thirty Years War (Asia Times Online, May 4, 2010.) The ³surge´ turns out to be the facade of a Potemkin ± or perhaps we should say Petraeus ± village, a facade like the old Hollywood Western


sets, behind which prospective combatants oil their weapons and refill their magazines. «.. Organizations exist in order to protect their members from the consequences of error, and that is as true of the organs of the conservative movement as any other. Collectively and individually, the Republicans cannot easily admit that the whole business of nation-building was a gigantic blunder, not after a trillion dollars and four thousand dead. The right-wing social engineers who planted the idea into the impressionable mind of Bush have their reputations to defend, and they will circle the wagons and fight to the death. Academics, journalists and thinktankers live hand to mouth, and have nothing to justify their next paycheck except for their street cred. No matter what the outcome, and no matter how deep the accumulation of facts, they will not admit error. If only Obama had continued the Bush policy, they insist, we would have triumphed in Iraq. No one has excoriated Obama¶s foreign policy more than I (Life and premature death of Pax Obamicana Asia Times Online, December 24, 2009). But it seems self-serving to blame the present administration for the vast expansion of Iran¶s power. Last week Iran¶s President Mahmud Ahmadinejad toured Lebanon like a triumphant overlord and threatened Israel with destruction. How did Lebanon turn into an Iranian protectorate? The Bush administration bears a great deal of responsibility for promoting the delusion that Hezbollah could be enticed into Lebanon¶s parliamentary system. Bush personally offered the idiotic thought that once Hezbollah officials had to fix potholes they would abandon their declared ambition to turn the Middle East into an Iranian-led Islamic Republic. On March 16, 2006, Bush told the press: Our policy is this: We want there to be a thriving democracy in Lebanon. We believe that there will be a thriving democracy, but only if ± but only if ± Syria withdraws « her troops completely out of Lebanon « I like the idea of people running for office. There¶s a positive effect when you run for office. Maybe some will run for office and say, vote for me, I look forward to blowing up America. I don¶t know, I don¶t know if that will be their platform or not. But it¶s ± I don¶t think so. I think people who generally run for office


say, vote for me, I¶m looking forward to fixing your potholes, or making sure you got bread on the table. The Bush administration failed to scotch the Persian serpent when the costs of doing so would have been limited. These costs, though, would have been borne first of all by American troops in Iraq in constant contact with a hostile population. If attacked, Iran ± just as Mullen explained ± would have used such proxies as Muqtada¶s Mahdi Army to kill Americans. The Bush administration would have paid for it at the polls, which it did, despite the Potemkin, er, Petraeus Village success of the ³surge´. To dig Iran out of Lebanon today would require drastic action. It will be ugly, and to some extent it will be the fault of the Bush administration. American voters are in a mood to blame Obama, and rightly so; his economic policy has failed miserably and he has no cards left to play. Republicans will blame him for strategic disaster as well, and Obama surely deserves his share of the blame. After the mid-term elections, though, and the likely loss of a Democratic majority in both Houses of Congress, Obama will demand of the Republicans: ³What would you do?´ The Republican answer cannot be to send American combat troops back to Iraq. They will try to blame Obama for the failure of a war that he inherited, and it will not wash with the voters. At some point, the Republicans, if they wish to govern, will have to explain to the American public that America needs to fight fire with fire, asymmetric warfare against asymmetric warfare. There are many ways to do this, ranging from cyber-war to promotion of competing Islamic heresies, as I suggested in a September 14, 2010 essay (Terry Jones, asymmetrical warrior). Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman, senior editor at First Things magazine. 11 responses in the forum | What Can Iran Do Without Computers? Tuesday, October 12, 2010, 9:53 AM David P. Goldman The short answer is: Pelt Israel with unguided missiles from southern Lebanon. In today¶s Spengler essay at Asia Times Online, I evaluate Iran¶s Add your response


susceptibility to cyberwar. The Islamic Republic pirates virtually all its software and almost all of its competent software engineers have emigrated, which suggests that the mullahs do not even have the capacity to distinguish sabotage from mere incompetence. Iran has so few skilled programmers that it could be that the security services do not have the capacity to distinguish sabotage from incompetence. That may explain why Tehran blames foreign intelligence services for a recent succession of economic reverses, including the nearcollapse of the local markets for gold and foreign exchange. Iran¶s economy has teetered towards disaster since early 2008, as I reported at the time (Worst of times for Iran Asia Times Online, June 24, 2008). Official data at the time reported that Iranian households spent 10% more per month than they earned, a rough gauge of the size of the underground economy (smuggled consumer goods, alcohol, opium, prostitution and so forth). Iranians coped with inflation in the 20% range by fiddling. Tehran¶s decision to lift fuel subsidies last month will put poorer households under water, and Iranian authorities have warned of possible riots. A run by foreignexchange dealers on the Iranian rial reportedly led to street fighting between currency traders and police last week. After refusing to sell dollars to the market, Iranian banks on October 10 flooded the market with foreign currency to break the run. How much of the country¶s economic and financial chaos is due to incompetence and theft, and how much reflects economic sabotage, may never be known, if the Cold War is any guide. That makes the Lebanese border ² which Ahmadinejad is scheduled to visit this month ² even more of a prospective flashpoint, for Iran likely will go with what it knows it has. 18 responses in the forum | Add your response

Who Lost Iraq? We Never Had It In the FIrst Place Monday, October 4, 2010, 12:11 PM David P. Goldman


The purpose of organizations and associations is to protect insiders from the consequences of incompetence, which is why socialism is worse than big business, and the one-party system is worse than the two-party system. One of the drawbacks of the two-party system, though, is that once one of the parties commits itself to defending obvious stupidity, it cannot back itself out of the trap without sacrificing the reputation of some prominent members. It took the Republicans twenty years to recover from their commitment to Herbert Hoover¶s stupid economics, and it took the Democrats twelve years to recover from Jimmy Carter¶s defeatism. The obvious, stupid error from which the Republicans cannot recover is the presumption that America could determine the political evolution of Iraq. Now that the Iranian-backed Sadrists have pushed their way into the Maliki government, American influence has fallen to a seven-year nadir. My friends at the National Review are alarmed at this, and want to blame the Obama administration for failing to take advantage of the wonderful position established by the last administration. It¶s the sort of bloviating that the late William F. Buckley used to puncture with one pointed word. NRO writes today: If President Obama is ³out of Afghanistan psychologically,´ as Bob Woodward reports in his new book, one can only imagine how thoroughly detached he is from Iraq. He should start paying some attention. The news last week that the Sadrists have thrown their weight behind Iraqi prime minister Nouri alMaliki, putting him on the verge of securing a governing coalition, isclose to the worst possible outcome of the Iraqi election and the aftermath. First, it would marginalize Iraqiya, the party that won a plurality and has the most appeal to the Sunnis we want to feel vested in the new Iraqi state, lest they return to insurgency and al-Qaeda. Worse, it would do it on the strength of the support of Moqtada al-Sadr, a rabidly anti-American cleric closely allied with Iran, whose price for supporting Maliki is likely to include control of key ministries in the next government. The last time the Sadrists were given a measure of control over the instruments of state, they transformed them into tools to wage sectarian war against the Sunnis. ³There are obviously limits to our control of Iraqi politics,´ NRO¶s editors concede, ´but we should be using every possible instrument of persuasion


to forestall the creation of a government that could be the predicate for renewed ethnic conflict.´ I began writing the ³Spengler´ columns at Asia Times Online because my conservative friends were locked into a sort of right-wing social engineering, and authentically believed that Iraq could be transformed into a pro-American democracy. After a trillion dollars and 4,000 lives, it is difficult for conservatives to concede that the whole exercise was ill-advised to begin with. Better, they believe, to blame the outcome on Obama, on whose watch the ugly denouement will proceed. I doubt the voters will take this seriously; they voted for Obama in the first place in part because they didn¶t believe in the Bush administration¶s effort. As my friend Daniel Pipes has argued for years, the best approach to contentious and threatening Muslim countries is containment. Shut them off. Control the movement of goods, money and people carefully (with a fraction of the resources required for occupation) and if they do something truly threatening, use military power±but without taking ownership of their political mess. 14 responses in the forum | Add your response

Cyber-Sabotage of the Iranian Nuclear Program? It¶s Been Done Before Tuesday, September 28, 2010, 11:02 AM David P. Goldman Except for one established fact ² that it¶s been done before ² I wouldn¶t touch the Iranian cyberwar story with a barge pole. Lies, half-truths and misinformation surround live intelligence operations like nested hedgerows, and to ask anyone truly in the know about such things is the equivalent of saying, ³Lie to me.´ The Israeli spook site Debka (entirely unreliable) reports that the damage to Iranian industrial controls from the ³Stuxnet´ worm is serious, citing Iranian media threats that Iran will wage a ³long-term war´ on Israel and the United States±the presumed malefactors±in retaliation. Iran admitted Monday, Sept. 27 it was under full-scale cyber terror attack. The official IRNA news agency quoted Hamid Alipour, deputy head of Iran¶s government Information Technology Company, as saying that the Stuxnet


computer worm ³is mutating and wreaking further havoc on computerized industrial equipment.´ Stuxnet was no normal worm, he said: ³The attack is still ongoing and new versions of this virus are spreading.´ Revolutionary Guards deputy commander Hossein Salami declared his force had all the defensive structures for fighting a long-term war against ³the biggest and most powerful enemies´ and was ready to defend the revolution with more advanced weapons than the past. He stressed that defense systems have been designed for all points of the country, and a special plan devised for the Bushehr nuclear power plant. DEBKAfile¶s military sources report that this indicates that the plant ± and probably other nuclear facilities too ± had been infected, although Iranian officials have insisted it has not, only the personal computers of its staff. The first documented large-scale cyber attack produced one of America¶s most stunning covert victories of the Cold War. In mid-1982, a Siberian natural gas pumping station exploded with the force of three kilotons of TNT. My old boss, Norman A. Bailey, was then head of plans at the Reagan National Security Council, and deeply involved in the operation: The pipeline, as planned, would have a level of complexity that would require advanced automated control software (SCADA). The pipeline utilized plans for a sophisticated control system and its software that had been stolen from a Canadian firm by the KGB. The CIA allegedly had the company insert a logic bomb in the program for sabotage purposes, eventually resulting in an explosion with the power of three kilotons of TNT [1] . The CIA was tipped off to the Soviet intentions to steal the control system plans in documents in the Farewell Dossier and, seeking to derail their efforts, CIA directorWilliam J. Casey followed the counsel of economist Gus Weiss and a disinformation strategy was initiated to sell the Soviets deliberately flawed designs for stealth technology and space defense. The operation proceeded to deny the Soviets the technology they desired to purchase to automate the pipeline management, then, a KGB operation to steal the software from a Canadian company was anticipated, and, in June 1982, flaws in the stolen software led to a massive explosion of part of the pipeline.


At the time, I wasn¶t near the loop, let alone in it; I was scampering around Germany with a business card from Lyndon LaRouche¶s Executive Intelligence Review (which had just fired me as economics editor for disagreeing with LaRouche but kept me on as a stringer), sounding German politicians and business leaders for defeatist sympathies. Bailey told me about the affair a decade later; most of the published accounts credit Dr. Gus Weiss, an economist on NSC staff, for the scheme. The story sounds plausible, and it¶s been done before. The US allowed the Russians to ³steal´ a number of pieces of technology, including a satellite camera that the technicians at Zeiss in East Germany couldn¶t quite get to work properly. No doubt there is an element of psy-ops. Computer controls are finicky at best, and if the Iranian systems are compromised in some way, they cannot know how many ³logic bombs´ will go off in the future, or which of their IT people might be wandering about with a USB drive containing additional worms. I have no way of sorting truth from psywar. How cool would it be if the story checked out? 34 responses in the forum | The Qur¶an and historical criticism Friday, September 17, 2010, 7:33 PM David Layman In response to a well-known examination of the historical problems of The Koran, written before 9-11 by Toby Lester in The Atlantic, Seyyed Hossein Nasr said The acceptance of the Koran as the word of God suggests that the socalled historical and textual study of the Koran is tantamount to questioning the historical existence of Jesus Christ, as some people in the West have claimed. The rules of biblical criticism do not apply to the Koran as God¶s revelation, because what corresponds to the Bible is the hadith collection, which comprises the words and deeds of the Prophet of Islam as the Bible comprises the words and deeds of Jesus Christ. Both the hadith books and the Bible were compiled after the revelation, whereas the Koran has existed in its present form from the very beginning of Islamic revelation. To claim that the so-called history of the Koran undermines or casts doubt on Add your response


its being a divine revelation is not only to misunderstand the nature of the Koran but also to go against the historical evidence. Even if it is true that the Qur¶an in Islam is the very reality of revelation, analogous to Christ in Christianity, it does not follow that this immediate revelation is not open to historical criticism. ³Christ´ as a dogmatic symbol has a history. From the opening transformation of Jesus from Jewish messiah to the Christos of Pauline doctrine, to the complex theological formulations of the later ecumenical creeds, we can analyze the development of the symbol and root it in specific spiritual, liturgical, social, and political forces. The historian of Christian dogma, who is himself a Christian, can undertake this analysis without compromising his faith in the dogmatic symbol as fully and truly expressive of what is, for him, the ³very reality of revelation.´ In the same manner, the belief that the Qur¶an is the ³very reality of revelation´ does not protect it from critical historical examination of how that revelation entered into human experience. As it affirms again and again, it enters experience as a book (al-kitab), and precisely as a book it can be analyzed even while (for a Muslim) maintaining its revelatory status. (more«) 4 responses in the forum | Add your response

How Michael Wyschogrod Taught Me To Eat Like a Jew Tuesday, September 14, 2010, 9:10 AM David P. Goldman My essay on Michael Wyschogrod, the great Orthodox Jewish theologian whose work has graced the pages of First Things twice this year. It is an honor to honor Michael at any time, but especially during the Yomim Tovim. An extract: Wo es sich christelt, da judelt es sich auch, in Heinrich Heine¶s word-play: It says more or less, ³Where Christians do something, Jews do the same,´ but with the onomatopoetic sense in German of ³tinkling´ (christeln) versus ³doodling´ (judeln). A rationalized rather than a lived Judaism comes down to doodling. Judaism that emphasizes ³ethical monotheism´ against ³ritual


observance,´ and rejects or qualifies the chosenness of Israel, really is mainline Protestantism with a tallis. Judaism without commandments never made sense to me. If you observe the injunction to ³love thy neighbor as thyself´ because it comes from God, why not also observe the commandment in the next verse not to wear cloth woven of two kinds of material? And if these don¶t come from God, where do they come from? No surviving school of philosophy claims to derive any system of ethics²let alone ³love thy neighbor´²from reason. Even if we think that ethics can be deduced from reason, why do we need the Torah? Or if we believe that altruism is an evolutionary adaptation, why should ethics have anything to do with Judaism? If ³love thy neighbor´ is not a divine commandment, and if it is not a logical deduction, then what is it? For semi-affiliated Jews, it¶s the residue of a faith to which formerly observant Jews of an older generation have a sentimental attachment. There is a great gulf fixed between ³ethical monotheism´ and traditional Jewish observance, which demands that we accept God¶s will rather than our own criteria of judgment. As Wyschogrod notes, just that was the sin of Eve and Adam, who ate the forbidden fruit in order to acquire autonomous knowledge of good and evil. Such knowledge is what the philosophers promised from Plato to Kant, but failed to deliver; philosophy walked out on ethics in the 19th century and never looked back. The trouble is that Jews who grew up surrounded by Christian culture do not know any way to act except according to their own autonomous criteria of judgment, yet the exercise of autonomous choice undermines the spirit of Jewish observance. How do we get there from here? Read the essay and find out. 61 responses in the forum | Practical Theology Monday, September 13, 2010, 9:04 PM David P. Goldman Theologians for the most part are a placid and contemplative tribe. That is a shame, for practical theology can be exhilirating. No-one allow me into a PhD program in theology, one academic friend warns, much less give me a teaching position at any reputable (or even disreputable) institution of Add your response


higher learning. That¶s probably for the best. I probably would do things like this: ³Class, your final assignment for the semester is: Devise a heresy for someone else¶s religion.´ In today¶s Spengler essay at Asia Times Online, I suggest ² just for purposes of argument, mind you ² that certain intelligence services might have an interest in devising Islamic heresies. Asymmetrical warfare was supposed to benefit the insurgents. For the price of a few flying lessons a gang of jihadis brought down the World Trade Center, a terrorist with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and powdered Tang can blow up an airplane, and a few pounds of plutonium can cripple a major city. Meet the Reverend Terry Jones, asymmetrical warrior. It appears that pinpricks can produce chain reactions in the Islamic world. The threat may be termed asymmetrical because Islam is more vulnerable to theological war than Christianity (or for that matter Judaism). [snip] Instead of trying to stabilize the Islamic world, suppose ± just for the sake of argument ± that one or two world powers set out to throw it into chaos. I am not advocating such a strategy, only evaluating its effectiveness. [snip] I cite a few candidate for instigators (including Russia and Turkey) and offer some examples of prospective heresies. Not that I am actually proposing to do this ² as Richard Nixon said to the tape recorder, ³We could do this, but it would be wrong.´ 16 responses in the forum | Where Does It Stop, Gen. Petraeus? Tuesday, September 7, 2010, 3:05 PM David P. Goldman Burning the Koran (or any book) is a bad thing, and the Rev. Terry Jones of something called the Dove World Outreach Center will violate basic Add your response


standards of decency when he sets fire to the Muslim holy book on Sept. 11. But it is Constitutionally-protected free speech. Last year a North Carolina church observed Halloween by burning Bible translations it considered heretical, to nary a peep from the national media. Blasphemous treatment of Christian religious symbols is commonplace, from Andre Serrano¶s crucifix-in-urine construction to Chris Ofili¶s elephant dung Madonna. Where does Gen. David Petraeus get off telling American civilians how to express their opinions? Serving American military officers are not supposed to poke their noses into such matters. Petraeus well may be correct that ³extremists´ will use the burning of the Koran to stir up anti-American sentiments. If an American commander finds it inconvenient when Americans express antipathy towards Islam, where will it end? If the obnoxious and misguided Rev. Jones can be bullied into silence, who else will be told to shut up? ³Extremists´ well may express outrage when an American writer cites the opinion of the great German-Jewish theologian Franz Rosenzweig concerning Islam, namely that it is a ³parody´ of Judaism and Christianity, a ³monistic paganism´ in which Allah represents ³the whole colorful panlopy of Olympus rolled up into one.´ Petraeus says that the planned Koran-burning ³is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems ² not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community.´ What about Americans who don¶t believe that the US should be ³engaged with the Islamic community?´ What about the Rev. Pat Robertson, who has said for years that Allah is a pagan moon-god? Will Petraeus demand that he shut up? Petraeus this year addressed the annual dinners of the American Enterprise Institute, Commentary Magazine, and the Hudson Institute. Are these organizations planning to suppress negative comments about Islam? Unlike some of my conservative colleagues, I take a skeptical view of Petraeus success in the 2008 ³surge´ in Iraq. As I wrote last April in the Tablet webzine, the Potemkin village of stability in Iraq required a handsoff policy towards Iran, which had the capability all along to make a dog¶s breakfast of American efforts to stabilize the situation on the ground:


Iran has gained political ascendancy in Iraq through intensive subversion efforts. According to senior military sources cited by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius on February 25, ³The Iranians allegedly are pumping $9 million a month in covert aid to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a Shiite party that has the most seats in the Iraqi parliament, and $8 million a month to the militant Shiite movement headed by Moqtada alSadr.´ Petraeus¶s opinions about the Middle East carry less weight than those of his boss, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen, who has been warning against an Israeli strike against Iran¶s nuclear capability for the past year. In a March 16, 2009, interview with Charlie Rose, Mullen said: ³What I worry about in terms of an attack on Iran is, in addition to the immediate effect, the effect of the attack, it¶s the unintended consequences. It¶s the further destabilization in the region. It¶s how they would respond. We have lots of Americans who live in that region who are under the threat envelope right now [because of the] capability that Iran has across the Gulf. So, I worry about their responses and I worry about it escalating in ways that we couldn¶t predict.´ A rough translation of Mullen¶s remarks into civilian political language is that the quixotic notion of building democracy in the Middle East led the United States into an Iranian trap. Petraeus put about 100,000 Sunni fighters on the payroll of the American army, a good way to postpone sectarian conflict until American troops are gone. His supposed ³success´ sets up a prospective Thirty Years War in the region. Whatever criticisms I might have of Petraeus¶ actions as a serving officer are beside the point, though. His intervention into civilian issues of free speech is outrageous. Islam does not demand equal treatment with other religions, which had to take their share of lumps from a hostile secular environment. Muslims are demanding special treatment. They have no right to do so, and Petraeus has no business demanding that Americans give special treatment to Muslims. The President¶s Pastoral Emails Thursday, September 2, 2010, 2:19 PM


David P. Goldman Why do between a fifth and a quarter of Americans think that Barack Obama is a Muslim? I was interviewed this morning by one new outlet on this topic. Perhaps 10% of the population listens to the talk-radio conspiracy theorists who actually believe that Obama is a covert Muslim, which of course is wrong; as I wrote elsewhere, he is not even a Muslim. Nonetheless, the fact that Obama prominently and incessantly praises Islam while showing no interest in Christianity easily might lead the casual observer to believe that he is a Muslim. Unlike past presidents who professed Christianity, he does not attend church. Earlier this year NBC¶s Matt Lauer asked Obama why he has not chosen a church to attend. Obama said that his presence might distract other parishioners±a compunction not shared by his predecessors. Instead, he makes do with a daily devotional email from a group of pastors. Christianity by Blackberry, one might call it. No wonder folks are confused. 18 responses in the forum | Add your response

Flash! Economists Make Cynical Pundits Redundant! Thursday, September 2, 2010, 9:40 AM David P. Goldman I have nothing to say about the valedictory remarks of Christina Romer, the departing chair of President Obama¶s Council of Economic Advisors: She had no idea how bad the economic collapse would be. She still doesn¶t understand exactly why it was so bad. The response to the collapse was inadequate. And she doesn¶t have much of an idea about how to fix things. What she did have was a binder full of scary descriptions and warnings, offered with a perma-smile and singsong delivery: ³Terrible recession. . . . Incredibly searing. . . . Dramatically below trend. . . . Suffering terribly. . . . Risk of making high unemployment permanent. . . . Economic nightmare.´ Satire herself (as Trotsky wrote in another context somewhere in his History of the Russian Revolution) stands mute. 8 responses in the forum | Add your response


It¶s 1940 in the Middle East Wednesday, September 1, 2010, 2:01 PM David P. Goldman Between the Anglo-French declaration of war against Germany in September 1939 and the German invasion of France in May 1940, the world had eight months of ³phony war´ or Sitzkrieg (³sitting war´). Sitzkrieg continued on the Eastern front until June 1941, when Hitler at length invaded Russia. The question in 1940 was Germany¶s aggressive intentions; the question today is Iran¶s. Now that the last American combat brigades have left Iraq, the conservative commentariat is unanimous in its self-congratulation for having fought the good fight in Iraq. John Podhoretz¶ column today is entitled ³Barack the Neocon,´ and the editors of National Review boast that ´we have transformed Iraq from a hostile, terrorist-supporting dictatorship destabilizing the region into a ramshackle democracy that is an ally in the war on terror.´ They add: ³Any strategy for containing Iran makes no sense unless a stable, U.S-allied Iraq is a bulwark against it.´ Sounds a bit like the Maginot Line. On the contrary: the reason that Iraq appears stable is that the Persians, who invented chess, well understand Aron Nimzovich¶s maxim, ³The threat is mighter than the execution.´ Tehran has used its capacity to turn Iraq into a bloodbath as an instrument of blackmail against the United States: bomb our nuclear facilities, and we will turn Iraq into living hell. It pains me to point this out, but left-wing commentators are stating the obvious truth that my conservative friends wish to suppress: it is up to Iran to determine how stable Iraq shall be. The odious Tony Karon, for example, wrote today on the Time website: ³[The] political power vacuum is being ably filled by Iran. Saddam¶s Iraq was a brutal dictatorship that privileged Sunnis over Shi¶ites and Arabs over Kurds, but it also functioned as a bulwark and battering ram against Iran on behalf of neighbors like Saudi Arabia, which funded Iraq¶s war against the Islamic Republic. By inverting the domestic power equation ² putting Shi¶ites in charge, making the Kurds into kingmakers and marginalizing the Sunnis ² the U.S. invasion also inverted the regional power equation. Iran, via its long-standing ties to the main Shi¶ite parties, emerged as the


dominant outside influence in Baghdad¶s politics. U.S. officials routinely grumble about Iranian meddling in Iraqi politics, but there¶s little they can do, because the vehicles for such meddling are, in fact, popularly elected Iraqi politicians. And Iran recognizes that if it can¶t impose a friendly government next door, the next best thing might be a weak government unable to threaten it in the way that Saddam did. As I wrote in the Tablet webzine last April: Iran has gained political ascendancy in Iraq through intensive subversion efforts. According to senior military sources cited by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius on February 25, ³The Iranians allegedly are pumping $9 million a month in covert aid to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a Shiite party that has the most seats in the Iraqi parliament, and $8 million a month to the militant Shiite movement headed by Moqtada alSadr.´ Petraeus¶s opinions about the Middle East carry less weight than those of his boss, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen, who has been warning against an Israeli strike against Iran¶s nuclear capability for the past year. In a March 16, 2009, interview with Charlie Rose, Mullen said: ³What I worry about in terms of an attack on Iran is, in addition to the immediate effect, the effect of the attack, it¶s the unintended consequences. It¶s the further destabilization in the region. It¶s how they would respond. We have lots of Americans who live in that region who are under the threat envelope right now [because of the] capability that Iran has across the Gulf. So, I worry about their responses and I worry about it escalating in ways that we couldn¶t predict.´ A rough translation of Mullen¶s remarks into civilian political language is that the quixotic notion of building democracy in the Middle East led the United States into an Iranian trap. The neoconservatives never appear to have noticed that the Iranian leadership was just as keen on building democracy in Iraq as they were. When the American occupation forces held the constitutional referendum in late 2005 that is the putative foundation of Iraqi democracy, Iran¶s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei hailed it as ³a great and blessed job´ in an October 21, 2005, sermon. ³The next important step in Iraq after the referendum is the general elections on which the occupiers are planning right now,´ he


said. Khamenei called for a truce in the sectarian war between Shi¶ites and Sunnis, intoning, ³These elements [extremists] are neither Sunni nor Shi¶ite but are the enemies of both and Islam.´ Iran retained the capacity to inflict high levels of casualties on the United States throughout the Iraqi democratization campaign but chose not to use it. Instead, it withdrew some of its most exposed and volatile assets, including Muqtada al-Sadr, to Iran. The Iranians counted on the fact that the Americans would soon be gone²and that their proximity, staying power, and affinity with Iraq¶s Shi¶ite majority would allow the Islamic Republic to emerge as the dominant player in the country. It is utter and complete folly to attempt to stabilize the plaster and drywall around Iran. To prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, the West will have to suffer the consequences that Iran has been preparing for the better part of the decade that Washington wasted in its Mesopotamian distraction. These include civil war in Iraq, interdiction of Persian Gulf shipping through surface-to-sea missiles, rocket attacks on Israel from Lebanon and Gaza, as well as terror attacks all over the world. Lancing the boil now will be painful and messy. The grand vulnerability of the West is fear of chaos. The grand advantage of Iran and Islamic radicals generally is their willingness to place the burden of uncertainty upon the enemy by threatening chaos. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it will be free to subvert its neighbors and perpetrate acts of terrorism under a nuclear umbrella, and the world will change drastically for the worse. To prevent this from happening the West must attack Iran¶s capacity to make nuclear weapons, and do it soon. Just how much time we have before Iran makes a deliverable bomb, I do not know and cannot find out. Operational estimates of this sort are dicey at best; if some intelligence agency has a definitive estimate, no-one will tell me. My view on timing is: Why take chances? Get it over with now. That probably means a prolonged civil war in Iraq between the Shi¶ite forces funded and trained by Iran and the 100,000-strong Sunni Awakening funded and trained by General Petraeus during the so-called surge. It may mean a replay of the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, but as a civil war in Iraq, spilling over into several other venues, notably Pakistan. It may involve


casualties an order of magnitude larger than the million dead in the IranIraq conflict. And that is the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is a nuclearized Middle East and an inevitable nuclear exchange among several players, with casualties two orders of magnitude larger than the Iran-Iraq war±a hundred million dead or more. It is questionable whether the State of Israel could survive such a conflict. When all was lost, Hitler and Goebbels hoped to burn on the funeral pyre of civilization and take everything down with them. Tehran may do the same. We are going to have something very much like the Thirty Years War in the Middle East. We cannot avoid it; we should consider how to win it. The winner of the last Thirty Years War was Cardinal Richelieu, and I highly recommend close study of his methods. 10 responses in the forum | Add your response

Cross Posted from Asia Times: ³You Should Be So Lucky´ Monday, August 30, 2010, 11:55 AM David P. Goldman

Japan-Style Stagnation? You Should Be So Lucky
August 29th, 2010 By David


Last week some old comrades-in-arms from the financial industry turned up in New York from their present haunts in Europe and Asia; at the end of the week we all found ourselves on the deck of a beach house in the Hamptons, watching a nearly-full moon and a luminescent Venus migrate together slowly from left to right across the Atlantic. The question we discussed was not whether America would suffer a ³Japan-style stagnation,´ but whether America would be lucky enough to sustain a Japanese style stagnation. We¶ve been taking about the comparison to Japan for quite some time. During Japan¶s ³lost decade´ of the 1990s, everyone was working,


everyone kept their homes, everyone maintained their lifestyle (minus some shopping trips to Paris), and life carried on more or less the same. America enters the second decade of the millennium with un- and underemployment around 20%. Japan went through its great retirement wave in the 1990s, just as America must during the 2010s. But the Japanese for years had saved massively, and exported massively in order to do so. If a country¶s population ages rapidly, the soon-to-retire cohort will shift from consumption into savings. Japan had insufficient young people to absorb the investment requirements of the 40- and 50-year-olds, and therefore had to invest overseas. Japan¶s industrial genius made it the world¶s premier exporter, and Japan was able to save successfully to fund the retirement wave±even though consumption remained weak and real estate prices fell and the stock market fell to a third of late 1980s peak. How are Americans going to save? They can¶t buy home mortgages; they could buy US Treasuries at 2.5% for a 10-year maturity; they can buy the junk bonds now flooding the market; or they can leave their money in cash at a fraction of a percent. As aging American shift from consumption to saving, they must do so by reducing domestic purchases. The Japanese could save by exporting and remain close to full employment. American¶s savings requirement cannot be met in the same way, because Americans have forgotten how to export. There aren¶t enough soybeans and corn to make much of a difference; with a few exceptions, America has lost its edge in capital goods as well as consumer goods, excepting commercial aircraft and a few other pockets of strength. As Reuven Brenner and I wrote in First Things in December 2009 Today, America is coming out of a decade without savings and years of borrowing from the world instead of lending to it. Rather than exporting and saving, America is vacuuming capital out of the rest of the world and going further into debt. Once we exclude the option of admitting a few million skilled, entrepreneurial young immigrants²as Israel did from Russia two decades ago²the present crisis can be solved only by opening the world to American exports and restructuring the American economy to create the necessary export capacity.


We proposed a number of measures to accomplish this, none of which has much chance of adoption. That leaves Americans fighting for a dwindling supply of available savings instruments (in effect, old people fighting for the few young people available to support them). And that drives down the level of returns across the board. Pension funds will have umpty-zillion-dollar deficits once they recalculate their liabilities at a 3% rate of return rather than the fictional 8.5% return assumed by most of the defined-benefit plans during the 2000s. The equity risk premium will remain depressed for a generation. The banks can¶t make money after the short-lived boom in distressed assets because demand for yield has flattened the curve to the point that their old trades are less economical. Hedge funds can¶t make money because they are behind the banks in the queue for assets. Perhaps the only thing that would get the US pumping again would be an infusion of 10 or 20 million Chinese or Indians with doctorates in quantitative subjects. The Chinese and Indians, though, do not need to come to America, as they did only a dozen years ago, and if they do, they do not need to stay here. And with the economy and markets in the miserable condition they appear, why should they? There are more opportunities to build wealth in Shanghai and Mumbai than in America. We opened yet another bottle of Pinot Noir and congratulated ourselves for having been clever enough to be born in time to catch the last wave of wealth accumulation. And we laughed at the miseries of the liberal establishment. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke seems authentically perplexed; he followed the instructions to the letter, mixing the eye of newt with the tongue of bat, and adding $2 trillion in securities to the witches¶ brew±but nothing seems to have happened. He sits up night in his tower studying ancient manuscripts: was it a she-goat or a he-goat that he is supposed to sacrifice on a moonless night? And we felt some sympathy for the Tea Party types who want to march on Frankenstein¶s castle and burn it down. If they ever have the misfortune to get into power, they will discover how much of the problem stems from the sloth, complacency, ignorance and incompetence of ordinary Americans. We¶ve had the financial ride of our lives during the past fifteen years courtesy of the rest of the world, and now it¶s over. We have to learn how to export again±and that is not going to be easy.


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Is the Qur¶an Analogous to Christ? Friday, August 27, 2010, 7:51 AM David Layman One of the central tropes of Islamic responses to Christianity is that the Qur¶an is not the Muslim equivalent of the Christian scriptures, but of Christ. Thus Mahmoud A. Ayoub says: The Qur¶an is, for Muslims, the literal and timeless divine Word which entered our time. It became a book which Muslims write down, memorize, recite, and live by. The Qur¶an is therefore analogous to Christ in Christianity, who is the eternal Logos that was made flesh and dwelt among us (John 1: 14). But already, one must observe that Ayoub is consolidating disparate elements. True, theologically aware Christians understand that Jesus Christ is the divine Word, and the Christian Scriptures only approximate the eternal Logos in their inscripturated mode. But Christians do not ³write down, memorize, recite´ the Logos. Many Protestants, especially in the fundamentalist Protestant and evangelical traditions do ³write down, memorize, recite´ their Scriptures, just as Ayoub says Muslims do with the Qur¶an. So already the analogy begins to break down. So perhaps we can say that the Qur¶an is analogous to Christ in being the eternal Word of Christians, but analogous to the Bible of biblicistic evangelicals in being a transcendental text, whose content must ritually internalized (through memorization and repetition) and lived out. Moreover, Ayoub immediately observes another significant difference: Christ is God¶s self-revelation or disclosure through incarnation. Hence, the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1: 1). The Qur¶an, on the other hand, is the revelation of God¶s will and purpose for humanity. Although the Qur¶an shares in divine transcendence, God remains the wholly other, absolutely transcendent lord over his entire creation. Christian theologians can quibble with the first part of Ayoub¶s presentation, since ³divine µself-revelation¶´ appears to be specifically Barthian. Still, most Christian theologians would agree that Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, directly and fully reveals the nature of his heavenly Father.


Thus, the difference observed by Ayoub is between a revelation of God in a supernatural being, and a revelation of God in a text. I once saw a Christian missionary, experienced in Christian-Muslim dialog, illustrate the Muslim view of Qur¶anic revelation this way: he hid behind the podium, while extending a text to our view. The Qur¶an does not reveal God himself. God remains ³wholly other,´ utterly wrapped in the transcendental mystery of his being. All that the Muslim knows is«God has revealed this text. In contrast, even a biblicist Protestant who memorizes the Bible, who finds a solution to every problem or question in some text, no matter how obscure, and moreover can locate Philippians 4:12 in 3 seconds flat, believes that both Old and New Testaments is the revelation of the God who is known through Jesus Christ. He knows that the God of the Bible is his Father, because he has a relationship with Jesus Christ, his Son. So the analogy breaks down further. The content of the Christian Bible can be understood in a variety of ways: biblicists would say something like, the story of God¶s people, both in Old and New Testaments; someone more historically inclined might say, the history of God¶s revelation in the history of the Israelites, and the mission and fate of Jesus, and interpretation of Jesus¶s death and resurrection in the first generation of his followers; someone familiar with canonical criticism would simply say: the content of the Bible is Christ himself. What all these views have in common is a sense of ³salvation-history´ (even if critically unsophisticated), and the location of the hermeneutical center of that history in ³Jesus Christ,´ as a transformative, ³saving´ presence and power. In comparing this with the Qur¶an, the first problem is that the Qur¶an is historically flat. It simply consists of a series of sermons, stories, religious proclamations, harangues by some unknown authority within the community. To make sense of those sermons, stories and proclamations requires a subsidiary history, created by the later Muslim tradition. A naive reader could pull a dusty Bible as an utterly obscure text off the shelves of an antiquarian library and discover a ³history,´ with apparent narrative continuity from beginning to end. A more sophisticated reader with some consciousness of the text¶s canonical complexity could read the separate components±the Hebrew Scriptures, the Gospels, or Acts


together with the Epistles± directly without any intermediary apparatus, and get some sense of the ³story´ they purport to tell. One cannot do that with the Qur¶an. The familiar stories associated with events supposedly at Mecca and Medina cannot be directly connected to the Qur¶anic texts. (They can be read into those texts±which is what traditional Islamic history does±but they cannot be read out of the texts.) When one does read the Qur¶an directly, the first thing one observes is its self-referential textuality. It is aware of being a book: After Surah 1, which acts as an ³Opening´ or ³Exordium,´ Surah 2 begins with ³This is a Book, wherein is no doubt,«.´ and Surah 3, ³He has sent down upon thee the Book,«.´ The word for ³Book´ is not qur¶an, which means ³recitation,´ but kitab. The Qur¶an is spoken and written in a world of authoritative religious texts, and claims to partake of that authority: 3:3 continues, ³«the Book,/ with the truth, confirming what was before it«.´ (All translations are from The Koran Interpreted, by A. J. Arberry, although I will use traditional versification, which Arberry does not strictly follow.) The opening surahs contain very little of a traditional religious proclamation. Rather, they are primarily summons to acceptance of the ³book¶s´ authority and obedience of its directives. In short, it summons various groups of people to islam: submission. Surah 3 primarily appeals to the Jews (³Israelites´), Surah 4 includes some references to Christians. But by the end of Surah 5, the spokesman has given up on both groups: Jews will receive ³degradation / in this world; and in the world to come awaits them a mighty chastisement (5.41)´; and Christians who continue to insist that ³µGod is the Messiah, Mary¶s son,¶´ are condemned as ³unbelievers´ (5.17) or, in another translation, ³blasphemers´. Now that the putative author/prophet has given up on the Jews and Christians as possible allies and participants in the new Muslim community, he turns to the pagans in Surah 6. He tries to convince them that nature is the manifestation of a single deity. And what is his evidence? It is God who splits the grain and the date-stone, / brings forth the living from the dead; He / brings forth the dead too from the living. / So that then is God; then how are you perverted? / He splits the sky into dawn, / and has made the night for a response, / and the sun and moon for a reckoning. / That is the ordaining of the All-mighty, the All-knowing. / It is He who has appointed for you the stars, that / by them you might be guided in / the


shadows of land and sea. / We have distinguished the signs for a people who know. / It is He who produced you from one living soul, / and then a lodging place, / and then a repository. / We have distinguished the signs for a people who understand. / It is He who sent down out of heaven water, and / thereby We have brought forth / the shoot of every plant, / and then We have brought forth the green leaf of it, / bringing forth from it / closecompounded grain, / and out of the palm-tree, from the spathe of it, / dates thick-clustered, / ready to the hand, and / gardens of vines,/ olives, pomegranates, / like each to each, and / each unlike to each. / Look upon their fruits when they fructify and ripen! / Surely, in all this are signs for a people who do believe. (vv. 95-99) Pagans had always known these things. But they had never experienced the multifarious phenomena of life as signs for a singular divine power. No wonder that his pagan listeners ³cried it lies´ (v. 66, see vv. 25-34). The spokesman assumes a posture of revelation, without giving any evidence that revelation is the means for knowing about this ostensibly unitary divine power. The concept of revelation assumed in the Qur¶an, borrowed from Judaism and Christianity, is simply alien to a pagan. Jews and Christians rejected the authority of the Qur¶an because it claimed to replace the authority Jews and Christians already had in their scriptures and traditions. Pagans rejected it because they did not understand the authority of revelation itself. The Qur¶anic text is not only historically flat, but narratively flat. The narratives±many of them odd retellings of biblical accounts or Jewish or Christian fairy tales±are not really narratives at all, but simply accounts with moments of wonder and awe. Surah 18 is an interesting example. It consists of several separate anecdotes. The first is a middle eastern version of the story that Americans know as ³Rip Van Winkle´: a group of men fall asleep in a cave for many years, waking up to a changed world. There is general agreement that the legend is based on ´the seven sleepers of Ephesus,´ a apocryphal Christian story that developed sometime after the fifth century. The Qur¶an¶s point is that it is ³among our signs / a wonder (v. 9).´ It draws no moral from the story, other than it is a ripping good tale. (The Christian purpose for the tale seems to be a defense of the the dogma of the resurrection of the body.) So the Qur¶an expropriates a Christian fairy-tale as evidence of its own authority, simply because it can tell the story.


This characteristic is even clearer in the next anecdote: a story about Moses and his ³page´ (traditionally translated ³servant´). Moses gets wanderlust: ³I will not give up until I reach / the meeting of the two seas,« (v. 60)´ The journey has no goal, other than to get to the next anecdote. They forget a fish, and it slips away ³burrowing´ ³into the sea´. Only a verse later do we learn that the fish was intended for a meal.(v. 62). When Moses asks for the fish, the page responds: What thinkest thou? When we / took refuge in the rock, then I /forgot the fish±and it was Satan / himself that made me forget / so that I should not remember it± / and so it took its way into the sea in manner marvellous.¶ Said he, ³This is what we were / seeking!¶ And so they returned / upon their tracks, retracing them. (18.63-64). The anecdotes, both the specific story, as well as its components, have no narrative continuity. The story nowhere tells us about Moses and his page taking ³refuge in the rock,´ so we cannot know how that act contributed to the plot. It is introduced out of thin air, and just as directly disappears. The servant¶s memory lapse has no explanation than, literally, ³the devil made me do it,´ and the missing fish does not change the story or alter its outcome. The missing fish in no way advances the story or enables the plot. It is told, apparently, for the sheer joy of the telling. It is told because it is ³marvellous.´ I asked earlier what is the content of the Qur¶an? The answer is that its content is the mere act of telling. It is a ³marvellous´ proclamation and ³a wonder,´ a ³sign´ that demands submission, ³islam´. That is why to this day the central expression of Qur¶anic piety is its ³recitation,´ as illustrated here. The apparent similarities of the Qur¶an with Christ and a biblicistic view of scripture only exist at the most general level of abstraction. Yes, the Qur¶an is believed to be the very word of God, just as Christ is the Logos. Yes, Muslims ritually incorporate the Qur¶an into their religious lives in ways similar to biblicistic Protestants. But the internal content, both of Christ-theWord, and of an internalized Bible, remains incommensurate. 10 responses in the forum | Add your response

A 1600th Anniversary Question: Why Did Rome Fall?


Wednesday, August 25, 2010, 10:52 AM David P. Goldman Although it lingered another sixty years, the Sack of Rome by Alaric the Visigoth in 410 marked the downfall of the empire. Gustav Niebuhr, writing in the Washington Post, finds hope in the fact that the Christian religion survived the destruction of its first state sponsor. That, says Niebuhr, shows why Americans should allow the Ground Zero Islamic Center to proceed: The empire, since the conversion of Emperor Constantine nearly a century earlier, had gradually been bringing its official might to bear in support of Christianity, the very faith its rulers once persecuted. The old, pagan religions suffered greatly. And then, in 410, that remarkable Roman state suffered a mortal wound. At the time, Christians expressed enormous fear for the future. But their faith would not only survive, but also grow, vastly (well before subsequent European states emerged again to support it). Is there evidence here for the benefit of keeping religion separate from government power±for the good of both±so that neither meddles in the other¶s affairs, such that no religionist tells a political leader what to say, and no political leader tells religionists where they might and might not build their houses of worship? One might so argue. Bringing up the Sack of Rome in the context of the attack on the World Trade Center is not a reassuring argument. After all, that is what barbarians do when they sack imperial capitals: they destroy important symbols of power. Alaric¶s men did not rape and murder and random, but desecrated public buildings and imperial mausoleums in particular. A more interesting question is: why did a small number of barbarian invaders bring down the densely-populated Roman Empire? As Brian Ward-Perkins reports in his superb book on the Fall of Rome, ³A large Germanic group probably numbered a few tens of thousands, while regions like Italy and Roman Africa had populations of several millions,´ supporting a standing army of 600,000 during the 4th century.


But Rome was a slave empire. A contemporary source reported that when Alaric besieged the city, ´Almost all the slaves who were in Rome, poured out of the city to join the barbarians.´ Ward-Perkins adds, ³Even as early as 376-8 discontents and fortuneseekers were swelling Gothic ranks soon after they had crossed into the empire ± the historian Ammianus Marcellinus tells us that their numbers were increased significantly, not only by fleeing Gothic slaves, but also by miners escaping the harsh conditions of the state¶s gold mines and by people oppressed by the burden of imperial taxation.´ Rome, in short, was a state very similar to what Hitler would have built had he conquered Europe: incorporate some nations into the empire (e.g., Northern Europeans), enslave others, and exterminate yet others. The Gothic invasion by itself would not have brought Rome down without the slave revolt that it helped to trigger. I am very glad that Christianity survived the Fall of Rome. But the lesson to be drawn from the 1600th anniversary of the Sack of 410 C.E. is that predatory empires premised on conquest will get what they deserve. And that thought makes me consider the proposed monument to Muslim triumphalism in a different light. 11 responses in the forum | ³It¶s pronounced, µFrankensteen¶!´ Tuesday, August 24, 2010, 3:07 PM David P. Goldman DNA samples from several dozen relatives of Adolf Hitler indicate that the monster of the 20th century very likely had some Jewish ancestry, reports the Jerusalem Post. The newspaper explains, ³His father, Alois, was thought by some to have been the illegitimate offspring of a maid called Maria Schickelgruber and a 19-year-old Jewish man with the family name of Frankenberger.´ 3 responses in the forum | Add your response Add your response

³Demographics and Depression´ Becomes the Theme Du Jour Tuesday, August 24, 2010, 11:25 AM David P. Goldman


In a May 2009 essay entitled ³Demographics and Depression,´ I warned First Things readers that the great economic headwind of our time was demographic: Our children are our wealth. Too few of them are seated around America¶s common table, and it is their absence that makes us poor. Not only the absolute count of children, to be sure, but also the shrinking proportion of children raised with the moral material advantages of two-parent families diminishes our prospects. The capital markets have reduced the value of homeowners¶ equity by $8 trillion and of stocks by $7 trillion. Households with a provider aged 45 to 54 have lost half their net worth between 2004 and 2009, according to Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. There are ways to ameliorate the financial crisis, but none of them will replace the lives that should have been part of America and now are missed«. In the industrial world, there are more than 400 million people in their peak savings years, 40 to 64 years of age, and the number is growing. There are fewer than 350 million young earners in the 19-to-40-year bracket, and their number is shrinking. If savers in Japan can¶t find enough young people to lend to, they will lend to the young people of other countries. Japan¶s median age will rise above 60 by mid-century, and Europe¶s will rise to the mid-50s. America is slightly better off. Countries with aging and shrinking populations must export and invest the proceeds. Japan¶s households have hoarded $14 trillion in savings, which they will spend on geriatric care provided by Indonesian and Filipino nurses, as the country¶s population falls to just 90 million in 2050 from 127 million today. The graying of the industrial world creates an inexhaustible supply of savings and demand for assets in which to invest them±which is to say, for young people able to borrow and pay loans with interest. The tragedy is that most of the world¶s young people live in countries without capital markets, enforcement of property rights, or reliable governments. Japanese investors will not buy mortgages from Africa or Latin America, or even China. A rich Chinese won¶t lend money to a poor Chinese unless, of course, the poor Chinese first moves to the United States.


That the aging world population needs to save for retirement, and an imbalance of savings with respect to investment opportunities reduces returns in capital markets, finally has dawned on the commentariat. Goldman Sachs just issued a report on demographics and the stock market, noting, ³The rise in µprime age¶ savers globally may also have played an important role in the story of the µsavings glut¶, putting downward pressure on global real interest rates. Here too, the demographic underpinnings of that story could intensify in the next 10-15 years.´ There have been similar articles in the financial press and the client notes of Wall Street economists. If you subscribed to First Things, you knew about this a year and a half ago. 2 responses in the forum | Add your response

³That¶s All We Needed±A Druidish Princess!´ Monday, August 23, 2010, 3:52 PM David P. Goldman Where is Mel Brooks when we need him? The creator of ³Spaceballs´ is the right person to deal with this item from the Jewish webzine The Tablet: This month, 12 students were initiated into a class of women studying to become kohanot, or Hebrew priestesses, at a retreat center in rural Connecticut. The ordination process they¶ll go through²loosely modeled on the threefold anointing of priests described inLeviticus and invoking the Shekhinah²came to Holly Shere, a folklorist, in a ³dream vision´ that she shared with Rabbi Jill Hammer, her co-director at Kohenet, the Hebrew Priestess Institute, which was founded in 2006. Kohenet is part of a growing, grassroots Jewish movement to reclaim the divine feminine²female aspects of God represented in Jewish texts²and reintroduce earth-based traditions to Jewish spiritual seekers. Hell hath no fury like a Druish Princess. One response in the forum | Is ³Islamophobia´ the new anti-Semitism? Monday, August 23, 2010, 11:05 AM Add your response


David P. Goldman Daniel Luban argued last week in the Tablet webzine that the old antiSemitism has transmogrified into Islamophobia: «many of the tropes of classic anti-Semitism have been revived and given new force on the American right. Once again jingoistic politicians and commentators posit a religious conspiracy breeding within Western society, pledging allegiance to an alien power, conspiring with allies at the highest levels of government to overturn the existing order. Because the propagators of these conspiracy theories are not anti-Semitic but militantly pro-Israel, and because their targets are not Jews but Muslims, the ADL and other Jewish groups have had little to say about them. But since the election of President Barack Obama, this Islamophobic discourse has rapidly intensified. The trouble with this analysis is that the group of Americans who have the least favorable opinion of Islam±evangelical Christians±also have the most favorable opinion of Jews. By a margin of 57-24, evangelicals have an unfavorable opinion of Muslims. I reviewed these results in a recent Asia Times Online ³Spengler´ column. Enlightened opinion, to be sure, no longer peddles racist slurs against the Jews, just blood libels against the State of Israel. The constituencies most hostile to the State of Israel also are the most Islamophilic. Liberal Democrats have a favorable opinion of Islam by a 66-17 margin, for example, and mainline Protestants (whose organizations seem to think that divestment from Israel is the most important thing to do between now and the Apocalypse) have a favorable opinion by a margin of 51 to 30. Curious, these liberals. The allegedly misogynistic and homophobic evangelicals don¶t like the most misogynistic and homophobic societies on earth, while the feminist-and LGT-supporting liberals like them. Maybe the kingdom¶s coming, or the Year of Jubilo. It seems misguided, though, to sound the alarm about anti-Semitic impulses lurking behind Islamophobia when the most pro-Israel segment of the American population is the least friendly to Islam.


New ³Spengler´ Essay at Asia Times: Are Muslims Less Rational Than Christians? Monday, August 23, 2010, 7:21 AM David P. Goldman Robert Reilly¶s new book The Closing of the Muslim Mind rehashes the Muslim turn away from Greek philosophy with al-Ghazali, and argues that doctrinal irrationality is the source of all the problems in the Muslim world. There is of course something to this argument, and al-Ghazali¶s importance (and destructive influence) hardly can be underestimated ² but Reilly¶s account is problematic. I discuss it in a new review essay this morning at Asia Times Online. To make sense of what a religion teaches and what the faithful actually believe, we must both understand theology objectively ± as a statement about God and the world ± as well as existentially, that is, as the faith community lives its religion in ordinary life. There is a deep identity between al-Ghazali¶s rejection of rationality and the deterioration of Muslim life, but it is not as simple or direct as Reilly appears to think. The doctrines taught by religious authorities may or may not penetrate into the life of that religion¶s adherents. The Catholic Church teaches that all Christians are reborn into the People of God, and that this new spiritual allegiance takes precedence over their gentile origin. Nonetheless, the Christians of Europe slaughtered each other during the 20th century while the Church watched helplessly. Muslims well might retort that whatever their deficiencies, they never created a comparable disaster. Christian civilization survived the world wars and the expansion of communism only because America defeated first Nazism and then communism. Yet American Christianity does not quite fit the Hellenistic model that Reilly offers as the alternative to Islam. Although Catholicism has become the largest American Christian denomination, in part due to Hispanic immigration, America¶s religious character remains Protestant, scriptural and enthusiastic rather than Catholic and philosophical. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is beside the point. The point is that a charismatic Biblical literalist in rural America has a great deal in common with an American Catholic like Robert Reilly, but neither has much in common with Muslims.


A rationalist (by which Reilly means a Thomistic and Aristotelian) approach to theology is not what distinguishes Massachusetts from Mecca. The Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded by radical Protestants who poured contempt on ³Popish Authors (Jesuites especially)´ who ³strain their wits to defend their Pagan Master Aristotle´, in the words of the Puritan leader Increase Mather (1639-1723). American evangelicals, the most devout segment of the Christian population, tend to be fideist rather than philosophical. What is it that unites Catholic Thomists and evangelical fideists (as well as observant Jews), but divides all of them from Muslims? It is the Biblical belief that God loves his creatures. Heavenly bodies are not deities, but rather lamps and clocks for human benefit. That is a dogmatic assertion on the strength of Biblical revelation, not a logical conclusion. A loving God, in the Biblical view, places man in a world that he can comprehend, which is to say that God establishes order in the universe out of love for humankind. We live in the best of all possible worlds (that is, a comprehensible one), Leibniz argued, because a good God would not maroon us in the secondbest version. This implies that if God were not good, the world might not be as hospitable to humans as it is. This is unimaginable to Christians or Jews, but not to Muslims, who think that Allah can make any sort of world he wants, or indeed a different world from one day to the next. The doctrinal assertion that God loves his creatures cannot be defended on rational grounds, which means that it is wrong to argue that Christians or Jews are more rational than Muslims, objectively speaking. But that is not the whole story. Whether it is demonstrable or not, the Judeo-Christian notion of divine love is what makes possible the rational ordering of human existence. Whether al-Ghazali was a bad philosopher compared to Aquinas is beside the point: Muslim life is irrational because it is founded on the arbitrary exercise of will, whereas Judeo-Christian civilization is at least capable of rationality because of concept of divine love is expressed in the covenant between God and man. Existential rationality, the rationality of ordinary life, proceeds from the Biblical concept of covenant. 37 responses in the forum | Deflation and the Equity Risk Premium Add your response


Friday, August 20, 2010, 1:09 PM David P. Goldman

I posted this piece earlier today at the Asia Times ³Inner Workings´ blog. Normally I don¶t double post, but this is a cool piece of analysis. Pardon me for repeating myself. In the crudest version of the dividend discount model, the stock price P is a function of earnings and the discount rate, such that P = E/r. That this is an inadequate model goes without saying, but it is not entirely misleading for comparative statistics in a short time horizon. Below I present a simple analysis indicating that the shrinking equity risk premium is due largely to disinflation or prospective deflation. The S&P 500 has fallen by a bit over 12% from its April peak. But the 10year Treasury yield, the usual proxy for the discount rate in the equation,


has fallen much father, from 3.85% to 2.57%. Plugging this into the model, the equation tells us that expected earnings have fallen by 42% between April and August. Of course, I don¶t take that number at face value, but it seems intuitively clear that with the implosion of Treasury yields, stocks have become more attractive. The fact that stocks have fallen so far despite the decreasing attraction of alternative investments suggests that earnings expectations have fallen a good deal farther than the S&P index. Something else is happening, though, to the relative attractiveness of stocks and bonds. This explains one of the reasons not to take the dividend discount model at face value. In the chart below, the blue line is the difference between the corporate Baa yield and the dividend yield on the S&P 500. The red line is the annual inflation rate over the preceding five years.

More than half of the change in the stock-bond relationship can be explained by inflation. I have kicked the econometric tires on this relationship, and it holds up under close scrutiny. Inflation is bad both for stocks and bonds, but it is much worse for bonds, because even though inflation introduces inefficiencies into the economy, corporate earnings have a chance to keep up with inflation and fixed interest payments do not. If we actually move into deflation, as in the 1930s, we observe periods in which the dividend yield on equities exceeds the yield on bonds (which makes sense; why buy physical assets when they are likely to be cheaper next year?). If we enter into a period of deflation, or extremely low inflation, the huge advantage of stocks over bonds may disappear; companies may have to pay a dividend yield comparable to their bond yield in order to keep equity investors in the game. And that would portend a prolonged period of low equity valuations. In short, two things changed between April and August: lower earnings expectations, and the fear of deflation. There simply is no way to parse the data closely enough to quantify which of these two effects was more


important for the stock market. The point is that neither of them are good, and neither point to a particularly rosy outlook for stocks going forward. 5 responses in the forum | President Obama Is Not Even A Muslim Thursday, August 19, 2010, 10:15 AM David P. Goldman Today¶s Google News leads with a new poll showing that 18% of Americans think that Barack Hussein Obama is a Muslim. Only 34% of Americans think he is a Christian, down from 48% a year ago. And 43% gave the correct answer: they don¶t know what he is. The great physicist Wolfgang Pauli once said of a colleague¶s work, ³It isn¶t even wrong,´ and one might say about Obama that he isn¶t even a Muslim. The fact that he was registered as a Muslim at an Indonesian school by his Muslim stepfather does not make him a Muslim; he attended a notionally Christian church pastored by Jeremiah Wright, whose ³black liberation´ theology teaches that blacks are the chosen people. Whether Wright is a Christian, of course, is a question to be answered by Christian theologians and not by this Jewish journalist. But a nasty streak of ethnic idolatry is hard to miss in the published views of Wright¶s mentor James Cone. All that is beside the point. That Obama has a deep personal sympathy for Islam is beyond doubt. The President takes every opportunity to emphasize it. But he is not a Muslim, only the thrice-abandoned child and step-child of Muslims and an anthropologist mother who deeply sympathized with the struggle of Muslims to resist globalization. He has a deep antipathy to the American view of things, insisting that ³American exceptionalism´ is no different than ³Greek exceptionalism.´ He belongs neither to the United States, nor to the Muslim world; he is a gifted outsider with a talent for persuasion who profiled Americans the way anthropologist profile primitive tribes, and in a variant of the old adventure-movie script, made himself our king. Ultimately he belongs nowhere. He is not even a Muslim. Add your response


105 responses in the forum | The Heidegger Puzzle Wednesday, August 18, 2010, 3:44 PM David P. Goldman

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The recent publication of transcripts of Martin Heidegger¶s 1934 Freiburg seminars on Being, the People and the State simply adds to the confusion over the philosopher¶s relationship to Nazism. Michael Wyschogrod reviewed Emanuel Faye¶s widely-read book on Heidegger in the March 2010 issue of First Things (sorry, subscription required), noting that despite Heidegger¶s open association with the Nazi regime, he refrained from antiSemitic statements in his published remarks. It won¶t do, Wyschogrod argued, to equate Heidegger with the likes of Nazi official philosopher Alfred Rosenberg; he was a Nazi scoundrel, but a complex one. It is a tragedy for anyone to be a Nazi, and a double tragedy for a great philosopher to be a Nazi. Heidegger, in Wyschogrod¶s view, learned a great deal from Kierkegaard, but ³betrayed Kierkegaard¶s program´ by substituting the non-theistic concept of Being for God. Emanuel Faye had claimed that the 1934 seminars hinted at exterminations to come. But there is no evidence of this in the transcripts: The significantly smaller circle of addressees was one reason why the seminar remained almost occult. The incomprehensibility of the first six sessions in particular, flummoxing many a note-scribbling student, did the rest. Heidegger¶s plan was to examine the mutual intricacies of the three concepts evoked in the title. He would regularly reach for a piece of chalk to illustrate his point. The simple chalk was a ³being at hand´ whose ³whatness´ is not determined by its visible white-ness but by its invisible chalkness. It follows that there is an essential difference between being and beings, an ³abyss, immense and dangerous but indispensable for the one who asks.´ Truly abysmal were the seventh to tenth sessions in February 1934 dealing with the being of the people, and thus also of the state then in power. According to Heidegger, every people felt the ³drive to the state³, which is why it loved the state as ³its way of being a people´. As such, the state


order is borne by the ³free, pure will to allegiance and leadership and therefore to struggle and loyalty´. People and state, beings and being, can therefore no more be separated than the people and their Führer. ³The will of the Führer first and foremost makes followers of the others´, and ³the Führer-state as we have it is the consummation of historical development: the realisation of the people in the Führer.´ In her analysis of the seminar, Marion Heinz very rightly points to the ³Hegelian-like figure of the union of essence and objectivity´. For Heidegger, being alone lends legitimacy to the Führer and the Führer-state. For Heinz such ³collective decisionism´ is embarrassingly lofty. Similarly, Heinz sees Nietzsche and his Übermensch as partly responsible for Heidegger¶s brute ³flight to the factual´. Nevertheless she takes objection to Emmanuel Faye¶s polemics, maintaining that Heidegger¶s arguments are ³entirely the result of his own approach as a thinker´, and that there can be no question of his merely following or intellectually elevating the Nazi party programme. Zaborowksi shows that for all its many unappetizing turns, Heidegger¶s arguments are neither racist nor anti-Semitic. Faye¶s thesis that Heidegger was paving a philosophical legitimisation for the ³extermination of the Jews´ in the East is untenable. Heidegger never mentions Jews or extermination. According to the notes, he refers to the ³Semitic nomads´ whose ³specific knowledge´ has engendered in them a different relationship with the nature of their land than ³a Slavic people´, say, or the German people. The conclusion that Slavs or Semites should therefore be expelled or exterminated is Faye¶s invention. In Zaborowksi¶s analysis, ³Heidegger was much more interested in the difference between the sedentary and nomadic ways of life.´ 10 responses in the forum | Misunderstood Jezebel Wednesday, August 18, 2010, 7:12 AM David P. Goldman Poor Queen Jezebel, the misunderstood Phoenician feminist who fought for pluralism and Middle East peace against the narrow nationalists of her time. Or so writes Janet Howe Gaines of the University of New Mexico in Add your response


the Biblical Archaeology Review, linked to this morning by Jewish Ideas Daily. «the Torah shows the Israelites to be an ethnocentric, xenophobic people. In biblical narratives, foreigners are sometimes unwelcome, and prejudice against intermarriage is seen since the day Abraham sought a woman from his own people to marry his son Isaac (Genesis 24:4). In contrast to the familiar gods and goddesses that Jezebel is accustomed to petitioning, Israel is home to a state religion featuring a lone, masculine deity. Perhaps Jezebel optimistically believes that she can encourage religious tolerance and give legitimacy to the worship habits of those Baalites who already reside in Israel. Perhaps Jezebel sees herself as an ambassador who could help unite the two lands and bring about cultural pluralism, regional peace and economic prosperity. So intolerant, these Jews. If only the ancient Hebrews had shown a bit of understanding for the cult of Baal and Astarte, we might have child sacrifice and Temple prostitution today, instead of shabby substitutes like abortionon-demand and hooking up. 2 responses in the forum | How Are You Pronouncing ³Pyrrhic´? Monday, August 16, 2010, 10:00 AM David P. Goldman A degree of resignation over the gay marriage issue is evident from the conservative camp, marked by Matthew Lee Anderson¶s exchange with Ross Douthat over how supporters of traditional marriage should respond. It seems likely that our side will lose, but in my view we should fight tooth and nail such that our defeat±if, God forbid, it comes to that±will be a bitter and indelible memory. The memory part is important, for we will win eventually. If gay marriage succeeds, it will be a Pyrrhic victory. People who don¶t want traditional marriage, who consider a fetus a career inconvenience or children a drag on entertainment options, tend to have small families, or none at all. People of faith tend to have lots of children. A number of analysts have noticed this, including the popular writer Phillip Longman who wrote in 2004, ³This much is sure: The uneducated have far more children than the educated, and the religiously minded generally have Add your response


bigger families than do secularists. In the United States, for example, fully 47% of people who attend church weekly say that the ideal family size is three or more children, as opposed to only 27% of those who seldom attend church.´ We see this in the microcosm of the Jewish community, where an Orthodox majority seems likely in two generations. The Modern Orthodox have three or four children, the ultra-Orthodox seven or eight, while liberal and secular Jews have one or two, and half of those intermarry. The diversity of American Christianity makes it harder to find numbers, but the principle is the same, as Longman indicated. Life will triumph so long as enough people believe in life. I have little fear for America, although Europe may be lost. One minor quibble with Douthat: He seems to think that divorce is just as bad as gay marriage. The goal should be a world where the struggle to defend marriage is understood primarily as a struggle against divorce and out-of-wedlock births and premarital promiscuity, and not just a world where the law offers a particular distinction to Newt Gingrich¶s third marriage that it doesn¶t afford Ellen DeGeneres and Portia DeRossi. And if all that social conservatives can ever hope to accomplish is to keep homosexual couples from getting marriage licenses, then there¶s a case to be made for living with the public redefinition of the institution, taking the older ideal private, and trying to rebuild a thicker culture of marriage from the ground up. I agree with Ross that no-default divorce laws hurt family life and that divorce should be discouraged. If the core of the Western view of these matters derives from the Bible, though, it must be noted that there is no Biblical proscription against divorce. On the contrary, the Bible (which Catholics as well as Jews considered to be revealed truth) contains detailed laws of divorce. By contrast, the Bible everywhere considers homosexuality an abomination. Divorce may be a bad thing, and Christian denominations may forbid their members to divorce. But it should not be put on the same level as gay marriage. This bears on a broader issue: Most people practiced religion in the past under the communal constraint of traditional society. Eastern European rabbis tended to discourage Jewish emigration to America a century ago


because they knew that most Jews would give up observance once they got here. By the same token, mass attendance and birth rates have plunged in Quebec and other Catholic countries after the intrusion of modernity. Orthodox Jews comprise just 10% of the notionally-Jewish population in the US; there are some members of Conservative synagogues who are observant, but it is hard to know how many. I don¶t know what proportion of American Catholics may be considered orthodox by rigorous Catholic standards, but it must be a minority. A quarter of Americans consider themselves evangelical Christians. People of traditional faith may or may not be a minority in America, but even if we are, we are self-regenerating and growing. The culture of death consumes itself. We will win, first of all because we will be the majority before long. 50 responses in the forum | Add your response

At Asia Time Online: ³Why Americans Don¶t Like Muslims´ Monday, August 16, 2010, 6:37 AM David P. Goldman Here¶s an elaboration of an earlier post in the form of a new Spengler essay. It also answers the question, ³Where are the war brides?´ http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LH17Ak01.html 13 responses in the forum | David Malpass¶ Senate Campaign Thursday, August 12, 2010, 4:02 PM David P. Goldman I¶ve known David Malpass for more than twenty years. He was a comradein-arms in the supply-side wing of the Republican party as an official at the Reagan Treasury Department, and later a colleague at Bear, Stearns (he was chief economist while I was fixed-income strategist). He¶s one of a handful of people in politics who really understands what the Reagan administration accomplished, because he helped make it happen. Add your response


Now he¶s running for Senate in the Republican primary in New York. Needless to say, he has my support. I append below a note I just received from his campaign. I want to call his work to your attention, and hope you¶ll take the time to follow his efforts.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Jessica Proud (212) 938-0836 MALPASS RELEASES NEW WEB VIDEO While New Yorkers are Losing Jobs, Gillibrand Parties at the Plaza with Embattled Congressman, Big-Government Friends New York- August 12, 2010« U.S. Senate Candidate David R. Malpass (R-NY), a nationally-recognized fiscal conservative and a former Reagan-Bush 41 Treasury and State Department official today released a new web video slamming unelected Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for celebrating Congressman Rangel¶s birthday fundraiser at the Plaza Hotel last night while struggling New Yorkers are suffering from the highest unemployment rate in decades. You can view the web video on YouTube here. ³Senator Gillibrand¶s priorities are seriously out of whack,´ said Mr. Malpass. ³New Yorkers are suffering due to Washington¶s massive tax and spend policies that are killing jobs, yet our senator is more concerned with attending fundraisers at the Plaza with her biggovernment friends. She has refused to answer my call to donate the $29,000 she has received from Congressman Rangel, but she will have to answer to the voters in November. I don¶t know if she¶s done much talking with New Yorkers these days, but this is exactly the kind of behavior they are fed up with.´

3 responses in the forum | The Great Muslim Disconnect Thursday, August 12, 2010, 8:57 AM David P. Goldman

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My old business partner and mentor in supply-side economics, the late Jude Wanniski, used to say that the electorate is like a diamond: it looks cloudy, but if you cut it just right, all becomes clear. Think of ³wedge´ issues as a diamond-cutter¶s chisel. Americans are tolerant people and slow to get roused (or even interested) in most foreign policy issues, but the passions ignited by the Ground Zero Mosque issue tell us that a great gap has opened between the machinations of the elites and the sentiments of the public.


The latest CNN poll shows a 70%/29% margin of opposition to the proposed monument to Muslim triumphalism. ³Mosque´ is the wrong term; it is not a house of worship to accommodate local Muslims and tourists but a statement of Muslim presence. Nonetheless, President Obama continues to fawn over Muslims in a creepilyk obsequious fashion: The White House Office of the Press Secretary For Immediate Release August 11, 2010 Statement by the President on the Occasion of Ramadan On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I want to extend our best wishes to Muslims in America and around the world. Ramadan Kareem. Ramadan is a time when Muslims around the world reflect upon the wisdom and guidance that comes with faith, and the responsibility that human beings have to one another, and to God. This is a time when families gather, friends host iftars, and meals are shared. But Ramadan is also a time of intense devotion and reflection ± a time when Muslims fast during the day and pray during the night; when Muslims provide support to others to advance opportunity and prosperity for people everywhere. For all of us must remember that the world we want to build ± and the changes that we want to make ± must begin in our own hearts, and our own communities. These rituals remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam¶s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings . Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity and racial equality. And here in the United States, Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been part of America and that American Muslims have made extraordinary contributions to our country. And today, I want to extend my best wishes to the 1.5 billion Muslims around the


world ± and your families and friends ± as you welcome the beginning of Ramadan. I look forward to hosting an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan here at the White House later this week, and wish you a blessed month. May God¶s peace be upon you. It has not been the practice of American presidents to go about making judgments on religion; if George W. Bush had made precisely the same remarks about Christianity it would have caused scandal. Americans don¶t know why they don¶t like Islam, but they can detect a radical difference in outlook between a religion that emphasizes collective identity and obedience, and their own civic religion founded on the Jewish and Christian belief in the sanctity of the individual. For all the relativizing tilt of the news media, they have seen enough of Muslim anger at America to realize that most Muslims don¶t really like us. The Stan Greenberg polling organizations show 57% of Americans pro-Israel and only 7% proPalestinian. Nor should we discount the information gleaned by well over a million Americans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Where are the war brides? Fraternization with the locals after World War II helped cement the bond between America and Europe; most Americans perceive the locals at somewhere between homicidal and hostile. How many American soldiers have come home with an impression that squares with the President¶s Ramadan greeting? The mainstream of the Democratic Party is restive. Andrew Cuomo¶s gubernatorial running-mate, John Duffy, echoed New York Governor David Patterson¶s call for the Ground Zero Islamic Center to find another location farther from the site. All this is excellent and shows that the American people have not lost their healthy common sense. What Angelo Codevilla calls ³the country party´ has drawn a line in the sand next to Ground Zero. Let the liberal elites tremble in their ivory towers. 31 responses in the forum | Add your response


Cherchez la Femme Tuesday, August 10, 2010, 11:32 AM David P. Goldman A Google search turns up 75,000 hits for the search term ³Michelle Antoinette.´ That¶s sub-viral, but still noteworthy. At the Huffington Post, one pundit denounces New York Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman for a ³hit piece on First Lady Michelle Obama,´ referring to the ³modern-day Marie Antoinette´ moniker for Mrs. Obama in an August 4 column by Andrea Tantaros. Mrs. Obama¶s sense of timing was poor, and the Marbella trip was a political mistake, but what one makes of these things always is a matter of context. The context is that Obama¶s foreign and domestic policies both have blown up in his face. The economy looks terrible, as I said it would all along, with over a fifth of the workforce un- or underemployment, and a fifth of houses worth less than their mortgages. And after a year of trying to bash Israel into a peace deal with the Palestinians, Obama only has succeeded in strengthening Hamas and Hizbollah at the expense of both Israel and the Palestinian authority±in part because of his mishandling of Turkey¶s overreaching Islamist prime minister Tayyip Erdogan. And that¶s not counting the disaster that is Afghanistan, and the disaster that Iraq is about to become. The Democratic Party is toast in the mid-term elections. And the center of the Democratic Party is having a bad case of buyer¶s remorse about their standard-bearer. Marty Peretz, the ³Spine´ columnist at the New Republic, famously dubbed the President a ³narcissist´ last year. Narcissists do not do well in a corner. As I pointed out in response, Peretz is on the right track, but he has not gotten to the heart of the matter yet« If Obama has a personality disorder²and I believe he does²it doesn¶t quite fit the clinical description of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Narcissists do not empathize easily, but all the evidence suggests that Obama exudes empathy. That is why so many clever people²Peretz for example²convinced themselves he was on their side. A narcissist would have written his own autobiography; Obama turned tapes and documents over to the former Weatherman terrorist Bill Ayers, now a professor of education in Chicago, and let Ayers write Dreams of My


Father for him. Long rumored, this is confirmed by celebrity journalist Christopher Anderson in his new book, Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage«. The problem may not be NPD, but something related. The standard psychiatric reference manual, the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) ³divides personality disorders into three clusters based on symptom similarities,´ in the Wikipedia summary. ³This clustering categorizes the narcissistic personality disorder as a cluster B personality disorder, those personality disorders having in common an excessive sense of self importance. Also in that cluster are the borderline personality disorder, the histrionic personality disorder and the antisocial personality disorder.´ Antisocial personality disorder, to quote DSM-IV, was ³previously known as both psychopathic and Sociopathic personality disorder. Like most personality disorders, there are many factors that may contribute to the development of symptoms. Because the symptoms are long lasting, the idea that symptoms begin to emerge in childhood or at least adolescence is well accepted. The negative consequences of such symptoms, however, may not show themselves until adulthood.´ Sociopaths and narcissists, in short, belong to the same cluster of personality disorders arising from ³an excessive sense of self importance,´ but there is a key difference: narcissists are so preoccupied with themselves that they cannot empathize; sociopaths willfully ³disregard the rights of others,´ according to DSM-IV. Typical is ³a history of deceitfulness where the individual attempts to con people or use trickery for personal profit.´ For the sociopath, the thrill lies in the deception and the sense of power it brings. This is a question, not an answer: no man can look into another man¶s soul. But we are dealing with a man who was abandoned by three parents±dad, stepdad, and mom±to be raised by his grandparents. Neglected children, if they are clever, become adept at manipulating those around them, while at the same time searching for surrogates for the parents who dumped them. In a Feb. 26, 2008 ³Spengler´ essay, I conjectured that Barack Obama was deeply dependent on Michelle. Obama the candidate brought to mind Tyrone Power¶s carnival mentalist in the 1947 noire film ³Nightmare Alley.´ Power¶s character ended up as the geek.


How much failure can Obama tolerate? Until now he spent his entire life climbing the ladder of power without being called to account. The Republicans are too gentlemanly to probe; not so his fellow Democrats. If DSM-IV does in fact provide insights into Obama¶s character, the way to find out is to go after the strong woman in his life. That is why the ridicule of the First Lady may have broader significance. The American political system has a brutal but thorough way of uncovering the character of a leader. Sometimes character flaws stay hidden until stress forces them out, in the case of Richard Nixon, for example. The hounds are nipping at Obama¶s heels; in fact, they have sunk their teeth into Michelle¶s. ³Hebrew Catholics Association´ in St. Louis: A Source of Sin? Friday, August 6, 2010, 10:20 AM David P. Goldman The website CatholicCulture.org reports upset by Jewish leaders in St. Louis over the local Archdiocese¶ support for a ³Hebrew Catholics´ association: Local Jewish leaders are disturbed by the Archdiocese of St. Louis¶s support for the Association of Hebrew Catholics, an organization that works to preserve the identity and heritage of Catholics of Jewish origin within the Church. The association was welcomed into the archdiocese by Archbishop Raymond Burke in 2006; Auxiliary Bishop Robert Hermann and the rector of the cathedral basilica will offer Mass at the group¶s October conference. ³One of the things that the Jewish community knows, or should know, with confidence is that the Catholic church does not proselytize, particularly to Jews,´ said Karen Aroesty, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. Ms. Aroesty¶s comment illustrates the ambiguity of the word ³proselytism´ in interreligious and ecumenical relations. While the term is commonly a synonym for any missionary activity, the Church¶s Magisterium distinguishes evangelization± the proclamation of the Gospel± from proselytism, defined as the proclamation of the Gospel by unworthy means.


This is mutually dangerous ground. Jews cannot really expect Christians not to want to convert everyone around them, including Jews, for Christianity is a continuous conversion. As Franz Rosenzweig explained so clearly, the Christian never quite gets rid of an inner Gentile, or (in Michael Wyschogrod¶s felicitous term) ³dual citizenship´ in what Christians believe to be the People of God, i.e. the Church, and the ethnicity of the Christian¶s origin. When Christians talk about the need to convert one¶s self every day, that is what they mean; how could they not want to convert others? The existence of the ³old Israel´ of the flesh±the physical descendants of Abraham and Sarah±also constitutes what for Catholics appears to be a schism in Israel. The first post on this blog, entitled ³Impassioned Dialogue, reported on a controversial article by the Catholic bioethicist Robert Spaemann (Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung, April 20, 2009), arguing that the Catholic Church should actively go out and try to convert Jews. Better minds in the Church take the view of Walter Cardinal Ksspar, who makes clear that the issue of the conversion of the Jews should be left to End Times (which is where we leave the actualization of Zechariah¶s prophecy that the whole world will call on ³One God with one name´). If a Jew converts to Christianity, as a handful do, he or she nonetheless is obligated to perform the commandments of the Torah, including dietary and marital-purity laws, Sabbath observance, phylacteries and so forth. For a Jew not to perform these commandments is to be in a state of grievous sin. The Torah states that anyone who rejects God¶s commandments ³with a high hand,´ that is, wittingly and deliberately, ³shall be cut off from his people.´ There is no retroactive exemption from the mitzvot. This remains an issue between us and Jewish converts to Christianity. Michael Wyschogrod write an open letter to the late Cardinal Lustiger of Paris, perhaps the most prominent Jewish convert in the Catholic hierarchy, informing him that he was required to perform the mitzvot. (Wyschogrod addresses these issues in essays in the collection Abraham¶s Promise). Gentiles of course are not required to perform the mitzvot, except for the basic rules of behavior grouped under the so-called Noahide laws. St. Paul argued that Gentiles should be exempt from the mitzvot, but never once did he argue that he himself, who was born a Jew, should stop performing the mitzvot.


From the Jewish theological reading, by acknowledging an Association of Hebrew Catholics without encouraging its members to remain Torahobedient, the Church is reinforcing sinfulness in its ranks. That is why observant Jews must feel profoundly uncomfortable with the action of the St. Louis Archdiocese. Proselytism, schmoselytism±we know that Catholics would prefer that everybody convert. But all Jews have a responsibility to discourage other Jews from sinning. 46 responses in the forum | The Public Employment Disaster Friday, August 6, 2010, 8:24 AM David P. Goldman The most important data point in this morning¶s employment release±both for economics and politics±is the loss of 48,000 state and local government jobs. That almost wipes out the 71,000 increase in private employment. Because of the layoff of Census temporary workers, the headline payroll number fell by 131,000. I¶ve been warning since February that the most vulnerable sector of employment is municipal, for a number of reasons. 1) State and particularly local government employment road the real estate bubble and collapse with it. 2) The federal government can and will raise taxes. Localities that rely on real estate taxes may not be able to even if they want to, and states cannot raise taxes without driving out prospective residents and businesses. People might move from California to Nevada to ecape higher taxes; fewer people will move from Chicago to, say, Hong Kong. 3) State governments cannot borrow to fund deficits (they can arrange certain amount of chicanery among their accounts, but there are natural limits to that). 4) Most of the stimulus package Obama forced through last year subsidized deficit-ridden state and local governments and delayed layoffs. Congress will not do that a second time (and surely will not do so after the November massacre of Democrats). This has deepgoing political effects. The patronage machines of state parties will be shredded. The great public employees¶ unions, which Add your response


replaced the industrial unions in membership and political influence, will decline. Some cities will become nearly unliveable. As I wrote in an On the Square analysis two weeks ago, unemployment is concentrated among the less educated, among men, and among African-Americans. Longterm joblessness among minority men, combined with a sharp reduction in local employment and social services, is an explosive combination. 12 responses in the forum | Bloomberg and the Clerical D-List Wednesday, August 4, 2010, 9:05 PM David P. Goldman For multibillionaire celebrity political honcho, New York¶s Mayor Bloomberg is not doing terribly well with the clergy of his city. At a press conference yesterday morning with the Statue of Liberty in the background, called to support the Ground Zero Islamic center, Bloomberg appeared with a D-list of clerics whom he would be mortified to encounter at a dinner party. The only Catholic in attendance was a lone Franciscan, Rev. Brian Jordan of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi; the Archdiocese was conspicuously absent. Not a single rabbi from any of New York¶s major synagogues turned up, but a certain Rabbi Irwin Kula from the Center for Learning and Advanced Leadership was in the photo-op. Known as ³Rabbi Cool,´ the man is something of a joke; he recentlytold a fundraiser, ³³Rather than use Judaism to make Jews Jewish we are using thh e spirit of Judaism to enhance the ethical culture of America.´ A couple of bureaucrats from the United Jewish Appeal and the Jewish Community Relations Council turned up, but not a single Jewish leader of standing. Bloomberg did manage to rope in one evangelical pastor, Rev. Les Mullings of the Church of the Nazarene, but he had to come in from Far Rockaway (the extreme eastern corner of Brooklyn). There was no-one from any of the major African-American Churches. The Russian Orthodox archiocese did turn up, for reasons that are unclear. All in all, a pathetic turnout, and a strong indication that even traditional liberals in New York don¶t want anything to do with the proposed monument Add your response


to Muslim triumphalism 500 feet from Ground Zero. That is a result I would not have expected. It¶s nonetheless encouraging. 4 responses in the forum | Add your response

War, peace, and the quest for a Christian politics Saturday, July 24, 2010, 7:37 PM David Layman In James Davison Hunter¶s To Change the World, Stanley Hauerwas is quoted as follows: It is alleged that by definition a pacifist must withdraw from political involvement. «I refuse to accept such a characterization because it implies that all politics is finally but a cover for violence. That seems to be not only empirically unsupportable, but normatively a view that no Christian can accept. Rather than disavowing politics, the pacifist must be the most political of animals exactly because politics understood as the process of discovering the good we have in common is the only alternative to violence. What the pacifist must deny, however, is the common assumption that genuine politics is determined by state coercion. (Essay II, Ch. 7, Ft. 12 =Kindle Ed., Location 4610) Let¶s go to the ³empirical´ question first. Again, my standard source for this is Azar Gat¶s War in Human Civilization. All social and political interaction is about the acquisition of goods. For most of human history, most of the the time war was the preferred strategy for such acquisition. Only recently, with the rise of capitalism and the world economy, has peace become the preferred strategy for gaining the desired goods of existence. But the core fact remains: politics, whether done by war or peace, is about ³getting the goodies.´ That is ³the good´ all humans ³have in common´. Aristotle, at the beginning of Politics, put the foundation of the state in the family, and says: ³The family is the association established by nature for the supply of men¶s everyday wants,«.´ And the only way of allocating those ³goodies´ is by ³coercion,´ sometimes by violence, sometimes by law, sometimes by the harsh regimen of ³the ways things are´. Even traditional pacifists understood the underlying continuity, as documented in the Oxford English Dictionary. The first use of ³pacifism´ is recorded in 1902. A use in 1935 says: ³Pacifism does not renounce the


struggle, but carries it on with the more effective weapons of non-violence´. Two years later, ³Pacifism is not simply a negative policy of refusing to fight. It is a constructive policy of showing that there are more powerful and better ways of opposing your enemies.´ So pacifism does not renounce the political struggle±a struggle intrinsically about the acquisition of the goods of life±but claims a new, a more ³constructive policy´ of fulfilling that task. This fundamental insight is confirmed by Gat, as well as other analysts, such as Geoffrey Blainey in The Causes of War: ³War and peace are not separate compartments. Peace depends on threats and force; often peace is the crystallisation of past force (p. 173, see also pp. 287-8, 293, inter alia).´ Peace is simply another way of achieving what war attempts to achieve. The choice between peace and war is a question of means, not ends. Now to Hauerwas¶ claim that ³no Christian can accept´ the assumption that all politics is about violence or coercion. Let me anticipate the argument that coercion can be separated from violence. What makes violence coercive is that it attempts to compel someone else to participate in one¶s own quest for goods. For most of human history, violence has been the preferred means to this goal. Therefore, even if coercion is nonviolent, because it is about getting these goods, it remains political, and politics remains about goods and the power to acquire those goods. Gandhi was nonviolent, but only because he used psychological coercion, by using the Christian morality of the British occupiers against them. His actions, and the moralized reading of the Bhavagad Gita he used to justify it, remained about getting the goods. So how could Hauerwas claim that there is a normative Christian claim that ³politics [is properly] « the process of discovering the good we have in common´; and without this normative understanding of politics, there is no ³alternative to violence´? What is his evidence, either that this is how Christianity views politics, or that this view has normative power? More fundamentally, how did Hauerwas know that there is an alternative in ³the good we have in common´ to violence, which therefore gives us another option? Very strangely, given his reputation and alleged theological posture, he does not refer to a specific Christian theologism, but a generic human good.


Hauerwas¶ move here is similar to that of Kant¶s claim that humans have absolute worth, which I analyze here. Kant said that humans must have absolute worth, because otherwise nothing has absolute worth. However, he failed to show that something must have absolute worth. Likewise, Hauerwas assumes that there must be an alternative to violence, without demonstrating±either empirically or normatively±that such an alternative exists. Nor can Hauerwas claim that Christianity offers such an alternative, which therefore requires a positive assessment of ³politics understood the process of discovering the good we have in common.´ Human existence is about getting the goods. We are enslaved to these biological, psychological, and sociological imperatives. Whether violence is employed or not, there is politics, and politics is about coercion. Christianity claims to transcend these imperatives. But this transcendent is eschatological: the Christian hope is that the victory anticipated in the resurrection of Jesus will usher in a new heaven and a new earth. This eschatological change is rooted in the death and resurrection of Jesus, which Paul claimed makes the fundamental forces of existence subservient to Christ. In Galatians 4:9, he warns the Galatians against returning to the slavery of the ³the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world´ (ESV). In Colossians 2:8, Paul (or a disciple) seems to have a similar idea in mind when he warns against ³philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world.´ Christ ³disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (v. 15).´ Christians are now being led in the ³triumphal procession´ with Christ, like soldiers following their general in a victory parade (2 Corinthians 2:14 ESV). So the imperatives have been brought to heel. They have been humbled. But no where does Paul suggest that Christ has put a new politics in their place. These imperatives are politics, and if Christians are not be to mastered by them, they must master them±in Eucharist, Word, sacraments, ³spiritual disciplines´ and ³spiritual gifts;´ in short, the ³elementary principles´ and ³elemental spirits´ of existence can only be mastered in the sacramental, liturgical, and moral practice of the faithful community. 8 responses in the forum | Add your response


The Shape of Servitude Saturday, July 10, 2010, 9:21 AM David Layman Is it the teaching of Christianity that man has dignity? I outlined my problem with this claim from a philosophical perspective here. Then I was rereading Philippians 2: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (vv. 5-7, ESV) So Jesus Christ, who had the shape (morphe) of God, took on the shape (morphen) of man, and that shape was the shape of a slave (doulou). Human beings are always slaves to others. This is exactly what evolutionary psychology (Azar Gat¶s preferred term for ³sociobiology´) teaches us: We do not live in freedom. We live for others. The child lives for the parents, the wife lives for the husband, the parents live for the children, the husband lives for a master, the master lives for his mastery. His being, the reason for his existence is to master life by mastering others. But this mastery is as illusion, for he also is mastered. He is just as enslaved as his lowest servant. He is dominated by, controlled by, his own genetic imperative. At the extreme, he seeks possession of the ³garden of desire,´ the position where every biological urgency can be fulfilled, and is willing to bet his very existence on the quest. (Think Tiger Woods or Mark Sanford, but in a world where losing meant losing one¶s life.) The Christian kerygma agrees: when Jesus Christ took on the form of a man, he took on the form of a slave. That is what it means to be a human being. So how or why or when did this rhetoric of ³human dignity´ ever enter our religious conversation? Certainly Kant¶s arguments had something to do with it. We have a dignity that is derived from our status as rational beings. We make a law for ourselves, and that law is to act as every rational being ought to act. However, this dignity is the dignity of an autonomous being±one who is under the authority of no other being, except as the authority of the law of reason is embedded in a person acting as the universal legislator. The moral and spiritual status of the Christian in the Philippian hymn is certainly not the dignity of Kantian man. A second source of ³dignity´ is the American experiment in liberty. In all pre-modern cultures, including Europe through the early modern period, ³dignity´ was owned by the aristocracy. It signified the aristocratic authority


to use all other men as means±servants, menial laborers, whores (whether prostitutes or mistresses), cannon-fodder. They were there to meet the needs of the aristocracy, to permit the lords and ladies to live leisurely, to exist as their own ends. But the lord was as much as means as his lowliest servant. He was enslaved to his own psycho-biological drives. These compelling needs owned him, forced him to serve their imperatives. However, there was one aspect of this aristocratic dignity that was not an illusion. Around 1100, the thugs of European feudalism (otherwise known as ³chevaliers,´ knights), were slowly being Christianized. The church set limits on their thuggery in such institutions as the ³Peace of God´ and the ³Truce of God´ (both developed around the beginning of the 11th century). It gradually inculcated Christian and moral responsibilities: uphold the church, take care of widows, orphans, and the poor, protect women. The dignity formed by these ideals was real because it was morally concrete. It was a specific vision rooted in existentially vital spiritual practices. The difference between moral abstractions and spiritual vitality can be detected in the chivalric code. Along side of the obligation to care for the weak was the responsibility to never reject a challenge from an equal. This combination makes no sense to us. It cannot be explained by any argument from natural law. A man may have both a right and duty to defend his existence, but what is wrong with turning one¶s back on an offer to engage in a ³fair fight´? If this chivalric duty was grounded in moral norms, then why did all western nations abolish the right to duel (which was a vestige of this chivalric duty)? The unity of these two obligations does not lie in an abstract universal moral norm. It can only be explained by an existential synthesis of Christian morality and the warrior¶s code of honor. It lay in the spiritual unity of the Christian knight¶s life. He united these practices in his own being, in the moral horizon that defined his existence and justified his life. Chilvaric norms died with the knights. Against the backdrop of aristocratic manners, American liberty thought to seize the dignity of the nobles and apply it to everyman. My summary of the chivalric code illuminates the central category mistake of American political philosophy: it confuses the dignity that flourishes in a community of ritual and moral norms, with a dignity available to all men. American freedom emerged out of a centuries-long struggle of a community informed by Christian moral practices and thought to find their freedom. It thought it could have the dignity in the universal power of reason and the ability to make moral choices, apart from the community that shaped the choices and disclosed the reasons.


Take these excerpts from a 1787 sermon by Nathanael Emmons: The dignity of man appears from his bearing the image of his Maker. After God had created the heavens and the earth, and furnished the world with a rich profusion of vegetive and sensitive natures, he was pleased to form a more noble and intelligent creature, to bear his image, and to be the lord of this lower creation. Emmons admits the Christian dogma of the fall of man, but immediately ignores it and eviscerates its implications: His soul is a transcript of the natural perfections of the Deity. God is a spirit, and so is the soul of man; God is intelligence and activity, and so is the soul of man. In a word, man is the living image of the living God, in whom is displayed more of the divine nature and glory, than in all the works and creatures of God upon earth. Emmons¶ second argument for man¶s dignity is his ³immortal existence.´ But here Emmons¶ arguments are primarily from the purportedly intrinsic spirituality of man. At the end, he gives token recognition of an immortality that is beyond a final judgment, but nonetheless concludes: ³Hence immortality appears to be the common property and dignity of the human kind.´ To which a Christian at least must respond: most emphatically not. The resurrection of the body, warranted in both Hebrew and Christian scriptures, by the God who raises the dead, is not the same as a natural human condition of immortality. Next Emmons surveys the brevity of existence, but claims that humanity has a higher dignity. We « shall survive all these ruins and ravages of time, and live the constant spectators of the successive scenes of eternity. And this renders us infinitely superior, in point of dignity and importance, to all the objects and creatures, whose existence expires with time. It doesn¶t occur to Emmons that he is mistakenly conflating natural mortality (to which humans are as much subject as birds and bees) and supernatural life. He gets around to the central theological argument, but misinterprets it: By the incarnation of Christ, our nature was united with the divine, and the dignity of man with the dignity of Christ. Hence all the sufferings, which Christ hath endured on earth, and all the honours, which he hath received in heaven, have displayed the dignity of man. And for the same reason, the dignity of man will be eternally rising, with the rising honour and dignity of Christ. Quite to the contrary. Christ¶s sufferings exposes human depravity, since all humanity, the highest institutions of learning and rectitude, is implicated in


the crucifixion of Jesus. Christ¶s glorification does not display man¶s dignity, but highlights, by radical contrast, the radical inadequacy of all human efforts to reach divinity. Finally, the apparent spread of Christian beliefs (³love your neighbor,´ nonjudgmentalism) has led not to the millennial bliss anticipated by many Christians. In fact, the core moral beliefs of Christianity are under assault, precisely by people who claim to have appropriated its core intuitions. In short, then, Emmons took the supernatural dignity of Christian man, and misappropriated it for the natural powers of human improvement. Both scientific anthropology and Christian scripture contradict Emmons. Evolutionary psychology shows us that rational and moral judgment is always enslaved to the imperative of survival. We no longer need to detect ripe fruit, but we still crave sugared food. Communities no longer live on the edge of reduction by famine or plague, and it would take an extraterrestrial threat to eliminate the species, yet the genetic imperatives will not release us, ³will not repent, nor cancel life, nor free man from anguish/ For many ages to come.´ St. Paul agrees. According to Romans 1:12-25, human thought is ³futile,´ (emataiothesan: ³fruitless´ or ³idle´) our ³hearts´ are ³darkened.´ Since humans have become ³fools,´ ³God gave them up´±surrendered them into the powers of ³the lusts of their hearts to impurity.´ (ESV) Romans 8:20-25 extends futility (mataioteti: ³emptiness´, ³purposelessness´) to creation itself, which ³groan[s] together´ with the ³children of God´ as they wait for redemption. It is rather difficult to connect these texts with a philosophical doctrine of the fundamental ³dignity´ of man. The dignity of ³the children of God´ is eschatological. Like Moses, ³natural´ man cannot take possession of the ³dignity´ he espies. He may climb the high mountain of human wisdom and view the whole landscape, but the promised land itself he will never enter. From its beginning, American Christianity has confused viewing the promised land with entering it. (Thus, antebellum evangelical Christians were predominately post-millennial: Christ will return after we have created the millennial kingdom in America.) Having been freed from political and social inferiority, they thought to transcend every other reminder of bondage to the ³creation which groans together.´ Seventh-Day Adventism and Christian Science worked towards a freedom from illness, the latter simply through the power of the mind. Spiritualism sought transcendence of mortality. The Shakers tried to sublimate sexual aggression in a spiritual ³shaking´ dance. The Oneida Community imagined that the marriage of all with all would eliminate


romantic and sexual tension. Various communes attempted a revolutionary reordering of material possessions. But the power of the bonds have always reasserted themselves. We remain in bondage. The dignity of man is not found in the natural horizon of his existence. Indeed, there is no horizon of nature. Nature impels man to endless conflict, the ceaseless struggle for survival, personal and genetic. Only revelation, by setting bounds, can give an horizon. 9 responses in the forum | Add your response ³Americans Who Will Never Work Again´ Thursday, July 8, 2010, 10:46 AM David P. Goldman I am now writing a regular column On the Square; today¶s installment about permanent unemployment is up this morning. No responses yet in the forum | New Spengler at Asia Times Monday, June 14, 2010, 10:29 AM David Layman Since Mr. Goldman has not done so, I¶ll simply call everyone¶s attention to a new Spengler column at http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LF15Ak01.html (for some reason dated June 15). Another entry in the long-running ³Ask Spengler´ series. D. Layman 10 responses in the forum | Aquinas on Conscience Wednesday, June 9, 2010, 5:58 PM David Layman I was planning to followup my critique of Kant with a parallel commentary on utilitarianism, but was waylaid by picking up some unread material sitting in my bookcase: an anthology of Aquinas¶ thought On Law, Morality, Add your response Add your response


and Politics, Hackett Press, Second Edition. (I¶ll quote from this volume, which I¶ll shorten to LMP, and note the online equivalents below.) The first section deals with conscience (see ST I, Question 79, A. 12). A. 12 discusses synderesis as ³principles about practical matters, principles implanted in us by nature [which]«belong[s] to « a characteristic disposition from nature´ (LMP, p. 2). This disposition is distinct from conscience, which he examines in Article 13. Synderesis is the natural (in Aquinas¶ sense of that word, derived from Aristotle) orientation toward good action. As he says several times, ³synderesis always tends to the good´ (LMP, pp. 1, 2; A. 12, Obj. 2 and on the contrary). Already, Aquinas¶ analysis is puzzling. I presume synderesis to be related to the Koine Greek suneidesis, translated ³conscience´ in the New Testament (e.g., Acts 23:1; Acts 24:16; Romans 2:15; Romans 9:1; Romans 13:5; 1 Corinthians 8:7-12; 1 Corinthians 10:25-29; etc.). What is Aquinas¶ justification for creating a technical category for some ³disposition´ separate from conscience? Do humans have a universal disposition toward the good? Aquinas knows that his attempted distinction is problematic: in A. 13, I answer that... (very end), he says: ³Nevertheless, because characteristic dispositions are the sources of acts, we sometimes apply the word conscience to the initial characteristic dispositions from nature, namely, synderesis.´ He then gives cites Jerome, Basil, and Damascene as examples of this use of conscience, and concludes: ³we customarily designate causes and effects by one another.´ (LMP, p. 4) Aquinas¶ traditional sources do not support his own analysis. They equate synderesis and conscience. And indeed, so they ought. Conscience is a collection of specific moral perceptions integrated into the fabric of a person¶s and community¶s spiritual life. All the examples from the New Testament bear witness to the emergence of a new moral consciousness, grounded in the presence and transforming power of the risen Jesus. (Romans 2:15 does not contradict this, since the conscience of the Gentiles, in which the law written in their hearts either excuses or accuses, is an eschatological event, in which Jesus Christ is to be fully revealed as the judge of all.) E. g., the problem in 1 Corinthians 8 and 10 is the conflict between those whose conscience allowed them to eat meat sold in the marketplace (which might have previously been dedicated to idols), and


those conscience, being undeveloped, felt that such meat was ³contaminated´ by the idolatrous practices. Paul agreed with the former: the ³idols´ had been desacralized; it had been manifested that there was only one true God; Christ has ³decontaminated´ the meat. This new moral insight freed the believer to partake of anything provided in the marketplace or in another¶s home, assuming it was received in a spirit of thanksgiving toward the true God (1 Timothy 4:13). At the same time, Christians who still feared the possible ³contamination´ had to be respected. Their consciences were ³weak´(1 Cor. 8:7)±they didn¶t fully understand the moral and spiritual consequences of the new way of life in Jesus Christ. Conscience was only recognized as such because of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. But Aquinas¶ move here is not the only puzzling part of his interpretation of conscience. In ST I-II, Question 19, Fifth Article , Aquinas addresses the question: ³Is the Will Evil if It Wills Contrary to Erroneous Reason?´ Suppose I believe, based on what I think are rational grounds, that my life is no longer living, and I ought to seek out assistance in committing suicide. According to Aquinas, (On the contrary), ³conscience simply applies one¶s knowledge to actions,«. And knowledge belongs to the power of reason. Therefore the will that wills contrary to erroneous reason wills contrary to conscience. But every such willing is evil«.´ (LMP, p. 5) In this scenario (if I understand Aquinas correctly), if I believe in my conscience that I ought to commit suicide, not to commit suicide is evil. (In the Fifth and Sixth Article, there are further specifications as to what manner of erring conscience is excusable and what is not.) However, what is most provocative in this analysis is what immediately follows in the text quoted above. I pick it up in the sentence ended by the ellipsis: ³But every such willing is evil, for Rom 14:23 says µEverything not of faith,¶ that is, everything contrary to conscience, µis sin. Therefore the will is evil if it wills contrary to erroneous reason.¶´ Remember that for Aquinas, conscience is an ³act´ arising out of the ³disposition,´ synderesis (ST I, Q 79, A. 13). This disposition is an universal ordering of all humans to the good. According to the glossary in LMP, conscience is ³the dictate of reason that one should or should not do something.´ If that is true, then how can Aquinas equate an evil ³conscience´ with the Pauline phrase ³everything not of faith?´ If a human can know the dictate of


reason, ³I ought not commit suicide´, through reason±apart from faith±then how can an evil conscience be the absence of faith? The dictate of conscience (according to the Aquinas) does not arise either within faith or apart from faith. It arises from practical reason, determined by synderesis, the disposition (again quoting the glossary of LMP) that all humans ³should seek the good proper to their human nature«.´ But the absence or presence of faith does not bear on this issue. I do not see how Aquinas can properly cite the apostolic text as authority for his claim. In other words, ³conscience´ in Paul (and the entire New Testament canon) is a state of moral knowledge known in and through the living (in technical terms, ³existential´) reality of a specific community that enacts and expresses a new experience of life and moral reasoning. Aquinas reappropriates this concept and redefines it as a state of moral knowledge known by, and accessible to all humans, apart from that new life. Consider further the specific text Aquinas invokes. Romans 14 is dealing with the same problem being considered in 1 Corinthians 8 and 10. There were some Christians, delighted with their new spiritual and moral freedom, who declared that all foods were permitted, all days were holy (Rom. 14:2, 5). Paul¶s response is threefold: 1. everything is indeed clean (v. 14); 2. but if a Christian is conscientiously convinced that something is unclean, then it becomes unclean for him; 3. don¶t violate another¶s conscience through the exercise of one¶s spiritual freedom. Therefore, when Paul says ´ whatever is not of faith´, he means an action in which a person violates his own conscience as to what God-in-Christ wants him to do. But this assumes that the person is in the community of believers, the body of Christ, committed to being morally shaped by the presence of the risen Christ. Paul is not talking about non-believers, who are in any case not capable of ³faith´ in the present instance, who are not responsible to the community of believers. 12 responses in the forum | Add your response Kant Can¶t (explain human dignity) Tuesday, June 1, 2010, 11:07 AM David Layman N.B. please note the change in by-line for this posting. It has always been a most curious matter. As an advocate of traditional Christian practices of respect for human dignity, I have always called the


attention of my ethics students to Immanuel Kant¶s argument for this dignity. Traditionally labeled as the ³second formulation´ of Kant¶s ³Categorical Imperative,´ it says: ³Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means to an end´ (Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, p. 36). A person is not (³merely´ or only) a tool for achieving some other goal. One is an end, a moral legislator worthy of respect, and thus one who gives respect to all other persons, who are equally such legislators. Therefore, in one famous argument, he argues against deterrence in the justice system. The law should not punish one person so as to deter another person from committing a crime. That makes the first person a tool to influencing the behavior of the second. A person should only be punished in accordance with what he deserves. He receives what he has ³legislated´; he earns what he has done. In Lectures on Ethics, Kant makes clear that ³making a person a tool´ is just as wrong when one does it to one¶s self, as when one ³uses´ another. Indeed, it is more so, since one¶s fundamental moral duty is to be this ideal universal moral legislator. (This principle is expressed in the ³first version´ of the Categorical Imperative: ³Act in such a way that the maxim of your action could become a universal law of nature.´) He gives some practical examples: prostitution is wrong because the prostitute debases his body, and hence his person. Then we have the example of a man who goes into a bar, and fights for ³a few pints´. According to Kant, the small-time pugilist ³throws himself away.´ Much of his argument is obscure. My effort at explanation goes something like this: the prostitute turns his person, his sexual availability, into money, into sheer material well-being. Moreover, he becomes the sexual slave of the client: he wants the money, and must provide whatever services the client wishes. The pugilist wants a µburger and a beer, and compromises his physical well-being to get it. But why is either act wrong? My students±young minds ³full of mush´±are never persuaded. What is the difference between that pugilist±who only earns a ³few pints´±and a prize fighter who earns 10 million dollars? Why should the former, but not the latter, earn our disapprobation? Certainly the amount of money has no bearing on the morality, since the value of the


person is supposedly ³infinite.´ If the act is wrong, it is wrong whether one earns a µburger and a beer, or $10 million. For the person who sniffs in moral superiority at prize-fighting, what about a pro football player, who shortens his expected life-span by 10 to 20 years? Has he not turned his own existence into a means for fortune, fame, and ³self-fulfillment´? Are not all the fans who eagerly and lustily cheer him on equally culpable for turning his person into that means? I always have a difficult time ³closing the deal,´ or even knowing if I ought to try. Do not we all use our bodies, our persons, as means to the ends of physical existence, of economic survival? This past semester, a fellow professor was disabled and I was asked to fill in for one of his classes. I did not have the time±I was already teaching 8 classes at 3 schools±and did not need the money. In agreeing to take on the ninth course, I lost all freedom to give my other classes the due time and attention each deserved. Did I not thereby become a tool to the needs of the institution, so that I would continue to be ³used´? Furthermore, Kant¶s basic argument for the ³absolute worth´ of these ´objective ends´ never quite convinced me: These, therefore, are not merely subjective ends whose existence has a worth for us as an effect of our action, but objective ends, that is, things whose existence is an end in itself; an end moreover for which no other can be substituted, which they should subserve merely as means, for otherwise nothing whatever would possess absolute worth; but if all worth were conditioned and therefore contingent, then there would be no supreme practical principle of reason whatever. (Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals, etext here) As least as I construct the syllogism, this is Kant¶s argument:
y y y

Something must have absolute worth If man does not have absolute worth, then nothing has absolute worth. Therefore, man has absolute worth.

But is the major premise valid? Why (logically) must something have absolute worth? My students can be brought to understand that a world in which all beings possessed only conditional worth is a world in which everyone can be ³used´ by everyone else. If worth exists only in the worth


that one being has for another, then all beings are tools. It would be a world in which all were slaves to the desires and needs of the other. However undesirable such a world would be, that does not prove that such a world is not the one we live in. Such was the state of my reflection at the beginning of the summer. As the hectic semester wound down, I began reading in preparation for a revision of a course I teach in ³Peace and Conflict.´ The work was the magisterial analysis by Azar Gat, War in Human Civilization. As I read Gat, warfare originates in the evolutionary imperatives of survival: food, protection from the elements, and propagation through sex. War was an ³adaptation´ of early humans that enabled them to maximize acquisition of these essential resources. Gat¶s analysis implies all humans everywhere have treated themselves as only possessing conditional worth. Females were valued as subjects of (often forced) sexual relations. An attractive female was far more likely to gain a rich or powerful husband (and thus a mate who could provide essential resources of food, protection, and safety) than an unattractive one. Thus women quickly learned to use sexual appeal as a means to gaining the goods of life±as they do to this very day. A client of a warlord or chieftain was valued only insofar as he contributed to the defense of the power and military prowess of his lord. The lord in turn was valued only for his ability to keep the goods of life flowing to his clients. A weak lord was very soon a dead one±whether at the hands of an enemy or an ambitious underling. My ³eureka!´ moment came when reading Gat¶s description of the ³highstake²high-risk²high gain affair´ of the competition for imperial authority: ³it was in defence of the supreme commanding position over the garden of pleasures that people reached out or fought for, killed and got killed.´ Even in purportedly Christian Byzantium, more than 60 percent of the emperors (64 out of 107) were deposed or killed. That is only slightly better than the 70 percent of the rulers of the earlier Roman Empire who died violently. In the heyday of the Ottoman Empire, prior to the establishment of a formal succession, the conflicts between the sons of the caliph were lethal, leading to a ³µsecurity dilemma¶´ in which brothers and half-brothers struck out against each other, lest they be struck down first. (pp. 419-421) The implications leaped out at me: even those people (usually men, of course) at the summit of human power and possession, people who should


be able to live with ³dignity´ and honor, without any need to struggle for more, will struggle. They are compelled to do so by the imperatives of existence. They wager, not merely their health or happiness, but their very existence, in all-or-nothing game of acquisition. Their being is a means to gaining the ³gardens of pleasure´ that only the supreme ruler can enter. They would sooner forfeit life itself than surrender their ticket to the garden. In conclusion, Kant was quite wrong. Neither nature nor reason demonstrates that humans have absolute worth. Hinduism does not believe in the absolute worth of the person, rather it believes that ³Brahman is Atman,´ that a person¶s ³self´ is identical to the universal essence of the cosmos. Buddhism, with its doctrine of anatta (³anatman,´ an-atman, ³noself´) says that the self has no ultimate reality. Why did Kant think otherwise? Because a millennium of Christian culture taught him that it was possible to see human individuals as having infinite worth. However, Kant thought he could strip that revelation of its supernatural basis and shift the grounds of human dignity to reason. For the reasons stated above, I argue that he did not succeed. 6 responses in the forum | Meanwhile, thinking about Hizbollah« Monday, May 31, 2010, 3:14 PM David P. Goldman An oldie-but-goodie. Add your response

Jul 25, 2006

Fight a democracy, kill the people By Spengler Conventional armies can defeat guerrilla forces with broad popular support, for it is perfectly feasible to dismantle a people, destroy its morale, and if need be expel them. It has happened in history on occasions


beyond count. The British did it to the Scots Highlanders after the 1745 rising, and to the Acadians of Canada after the Seven Years¶ War; Ataturk did it to the Greeks of Asia Minor in 1922; and the Czechs did it to the Sudeten Germans after 1945. It seems to be happening again, as half or more of Lebanon¶s 1.2 million Shi¶ites flee their homes. To de-fang Hezbollah implies the effective dissolution of the Shi¶ite community, a third of whom live within Katyusha range of Israel. A real war ± that is, a war that is fought to a decisive conclusion ± finally may have begun in the Middle East. To the extent Israel¶s campaign succeeds, it will have knock-on effects throughout the region, starting with another accident-prone multi-ethnic patchwork, namely Syria, with grave implications for Iraq. It is easy to say that the present war has unleashed chaos, but the question is: Upon whom? The collapse of Lebanon¶s Shi¶ite community opens the prospect of chaos in the region, but to Israel¶s advantage. Iran will face the humiliation of seeing dissolved a Shi¶ite community it armed and nurtured, at the same time that Western powers demand the abandonment of its nuclear-weapons program. This will be too great for Tehran to bear; ultimately the West will have to take on Iran directly, for Iran has other means at its disposal to make life miserable for the West, including the so-called


oil weapon. ³Fight a dictatorship, and you must kill the regime; fight a democracy, and you must kill the people,´ I warned on January 31 (No true Scotsman starts a war), meaning that one turns a proud and militant folk into a deracinated rabble. Sometimes it is not necessary to kill a single individual to crush an entire people. When a warlike people rather would fight, eg the Chechens, the result is butchery. Blame George W Bush for this grim necessity in Lebanon, where the refugee count already has reached 15-30% of the total population. In the name of Lebanese democracy, Washington brought Hezbollah into mainstream politics, and the newly legitimized Hezbollah in turn became the focus of life for Lebanon¶s 1.2 million Shi¶ites. To uproot Hezbollah, one has to uproot the Shi¶ite community. One has to evaluate with caution reports trickling in from the battlefield, but it appears that Hezbollah undertook vast works of military engineering under the guidance of Iranian advisers. Who dug the honeycombs of bunkers underneath Shi¶ite villages south of the Litani River and in the Bekaa Valley? Hezbollah¶s fortifications must have provided the lion¶s share of the livelihood of numerous Shi¶ite villages. Given that Hezbollah emplaced its rocketry in Shi¶ite civilian neighborhoods, Israel must reduce civilian areas to stop rocket attacks. The fact that casualties number in the hundreds rather than the tens of thousands


shows that Israel has been meticulous about creating refugees rather than corpses. Nonetheless, Israel has forced the burden of uncertainty on its enemies, including by implication Syria and eventually Iran. At least 200,000, and perhaps twice that number of refugees, have descended on Syria, joining half a million displaced Iraqis and perhaps 300,000 Palestinian refugees. Refugee streams clog the few undamaged routes between Syria and Lebanon. Evidently Syria fears destabilization; Information Minister Mohsen Bilal linked his July 23 threat of military action against Israel to the ³evacuation´ of Lebanon. He told the Spanish daily ABC: It is unjustifiable that the superpower [ie, the US] does not work for a quick ceasefire. What is it waiting for ± for Israel to destroy all of Lebanon so that it has to be evacuated completely? But Israel is not the only player in this region. I repeat: If Israel stages a ground invasion of Lebanon and comes close to us, Syria will not remain with its arms crossed. It will enter the conflict. [1] Bilal¶s outburst is all the more extraordinary given that Israel¶s most hawkish defense analysts, eg Michael Oren in the July 17 New Republic Online, badly want to draw Syria into the war. It is hard for Israel to root Hezbollah out of its nest, but easy to destroy Syrian armor and air capability. The fact that Israel has not done so already is due to Washington¶s horror of further instability in Mesopotamia. The destabilization of Syria would produce more chaos in Iraq, as numerous commentators aver. [2]


Washington still hopes that it can drive a wedge between Syria and Iran, which must be the second-silliest idea (after ³Lebanese democracy´) to possess the United States in years. What, then, provoked Mohsen Bilal to offer to jump headlong into an Israeli trap? Contrary to Washington¶s hopes, the Bashar al-Assad regime may not be viable after the destruction of Hezbollah. The flood of refugees is painful to absorb. In addition, Syria¶s economy depends on Lebanon. Syrian workers in Lebanon remit US$4 billion a year, double Syria¶s reported exports. [3] The Assad regime and its supporters draw substantial income from Lebanon¶s black market, which Syria continues to dominate despite the removal of Syrian troops last year. US as well as Israeli analysts assume that the Syrian regime will do anything to survive, but in the wake of Hezbollah¶s collapse and the breakdown of Lebanon¶s Shi¶ite community, it may not be obvious to Bashar Assad how he may accomplish this. Without the skim from Lebanon¶s black market and the remittances from Syrian workers in Lebanon, the regime¶s purse will shrivel and its hold on the reins will slacken. Double-crossing its allies in Tehran at just that moment might not be the wisest move, particularly with remnants of Hezbollah fleeing into Syria. Peaceful outcomes are possible when people have peaceable things to do. Lebanon¶s Shi¶ites, the country¶s resentful underclass, have little stake in the tourism industry and other objects of Saudi investment in their country. Their livelihood is a function of war,


of Iranian subsidies in particular. The fortification of southern Lebanon was not intended as a public-works project but, like Adolf Hitler¶s autobahn, it kept people employed. If Hezbollah is destroyed and the flow of Iranian largess stops, much of the Shi¶ite population will lose its economic viability, and the Shi¶ite community never will reconstitute itself in anything resembling its form prior to July 12. Syria, in turn, may lose a great deal of economic viability if Lebanon is cut off. When chaos is inevitable, it¶s best to learn to like it, as I advised on March 14 (How I learned to stop worrying and love chaos). Ultimately the chaos in the Middle East plays to US advantage. In the meantime, it would not hurt to print gasoline ration cards. ³The Political Equivalent of a Sociopath´ Blows Up the Middle East Monday, May 31, 2010, 2:50 PM David P. Goldman Every analyst I know is baffled by the Obama administration. The Israeli government is baffled; the Arab governments of the Middle East are baffled; European foreign ministries are baffled; and the journalists and thinktankers and camp-followers are baffled. One hears different things from source one consults; the more authoritative the source, the more confusing the result. Many conjectures as to this state of affairs are possible. My best working hypothesis is that the administration is the simple reflection of the operating style of the president, whom I qualified as ³the political equivalent of a sociopath´ in a Feb. 26, 2008 analysis. That might work for a campaign, but not for a government. Things are blowing up in Washington¶s face, and will do so in an ever-more alarming fashion.


Israeli army video of the raid on the ³Free Gaza Flotilla´ should eliminate doubts that the commandos who boarded the Gaza-bound ships walked into a hornet¶s nest. No matter how many live videos, empty pistol magazine, bloody knives, photographs of bullet wounds suffered by Israeli personnel, or other evidence that the Israelis might assemble, however, will not change matters. The fact remains that Turkey Islamist regime invited Hamas representatives to prepare a provocation precisely in order to charge Israel with a ³war crime,´ as Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan did earlier today. There is a nearly inexhaustible pool of young Muslims who are willing to die to bring about an end to the Jewish State, whether by provocations that call into question Israel¶s right to defend itself, or by suicide bombings, or other means. Just how will the White House deal with this mess? President Obama set the stage for such problems by making Israel the cuprit for war in the Middle East, first by blaming Israeli apartment construction in Jerusalem (as it happened in the no-man¶s land of Ramat Shlomo which would remain in Israeli hands under any conceivable partition of the city), but most egregiously by voting for a UN resolution demanding that Israel open its nuclear facilities to international inspection.The US took the position that Israel rather than Iran is the nuclear offender in the Middle East, as a matter of black-and-white official results. The administration¶s behavior at the UN last week is baffling in its duplicity and incompetence. According to the Washington Times account, On Friday, a U.S. delegation in New York voted to endorse a consensus document ending the 2010 review conference for the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that calls for a conference in 2012 to discuss a weapons-ofmass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East. The final document of the monthlong review conference calls on Israel to join the treaty, a move that would require Israel to disclose and then give up its undeclared nuclear arsenal. The document does not, however, make mention of Iran¶s failure to comply with the demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency to stop the enrichment of uranium.


Because these diplomatic documents require a consensus of all nations at the conference, the United States, like any other NPT signatory, had an effective veto over the measure. A statement issued late Friday evening from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu¶s office in Jerusalem said the resolution calling for a 2012 conference was ³deeply flawed and hypocritical.´ ³It singles out Israel, the Middle East¶s only true democracy and the only country threatened with annihilation,´ the statement goes on to say. ³Yet the terrorist regime in Iran, which is racing to develop nuclear weapons and which openly threatens to wipe Israel off the map, is not even mentioned in the resolution.´ Just as astonishing is that once having voted for the offensive resolution, President Obama ³deplored it´ in a statement late Friday afternoon: But later Friday, the White House issued separate statements from President Obama and National Security Adviser James L. Jones deploring the section of the agreement it said ³singled out Israel.´ ³The United States will not permit a conference or actions that could jeopardize Israel¶s national security. We will not accept any approach that singles out Israel or sets unrealistic expectations. The United States¶ longstanding position on Middle East peace and security remains unchanged, including its unshakeable commitment to Israel¶s security,´ Mr. Jones said. ³In this respect, the United States deplores the decision to single out Israel in the Middle East section of the NPT document,´ he added. What in Wonderland are Obama and Jones talking about? They voted for a resolution that they ³deplore´? Even sillier is the State Department claim that it fought hard to keep Israel out of the resolution, but failed to do so: The U.S. delegation, led by Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher, initially opposed singling out Israel. A senior State Department official told The Times, ³We did fight hard to get that language out of the final document.´


An Arab diplomat who worked on the language on the 2012 conference told The Times that the U.S. delegation sought to tie the conference to a concession from the conference to Iran. ³They did fight hard,´ this diplomat said. ³They were trying to have a balance between the language on Israel and the language on Iran. They were initially trying to link the two. The problem is that their case was weak. The language they were opposing for Israel was in the 2000 review conference.´ Why not vote against it, as the Bush administration did? Off the record, the State Department is saying that Obama has given Israel ³unprecedented guarantees´ of some sort or other, according to Israel¶s Ynet news: State officials are trying to send calming messages following the US¶s endorsement of a nuclear-free Middle East resolution advanced by the NPT conference, which named Israel as a country whose facilities must be placed under inspection. ³Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has received unequivocal guarantees from Obama for the State of Israel¶s preservation of strategic and deterring abilities,´ a senior State official said. ³These assurances include a significant upgrade in the history of US-Israel relations in the line of strategic understandings.´ President Obama seems to believe that he cut Israel off the knees in public and then take it all back in a ³deploring´ statement while making private assurances that will make everybody happy. It is a bit like Yassir Arafat giving one speech in English and another in Arabic. Obama seems to believe that he can curry favor in the Muslim world by voting for anti-Israel UN resolutions, while reassuring American Jews that he really is on Israel¶s side, after all. Rahm Emanual was wheeled out earlier this month along with Middle East advisor Dennis Ross to stroke a group of rabbis assembled for this purpose, without, however, convincing anyone. Rahm Emanuel already is making private apologies for the behavior of his boss; after all, if he wants to get another job after leaving the White House, he cannot burn bridges with the Jewish political community whence he came. It isn¶t working with American Jews; it surely


isn¶t working in the Arab world, where Obama¶s approval numbers are dismal, according to Gallup results summarized by Daniel Pipes. By every available yardstick Obama has failed to persuade Muslims of his bona fides, but he has persuaded them of American weakness. Turkey, a former American ally, not only conspires with Russia to sabotage sanctions against Iran, but positions itself as the patron of Hamas in order to compete with Iran. Evidently the Ankara Islamists, with their nostalgia for the old Ottoman Caliphate, feel obliged to compete with Iran from leadership of radical Islam. My two-year-old characterization of Obama still appears the best conjecture to explain the administration¶s flailing: Barack Obama is a clever fellow who imbibed hatred of America with his mother¶s milk, but worked his way up the elite ladder of education and career. He shares the resentment of Muslims against the encroachment of American culture, although not their religion. He has the empathetic skill set of an anthropologist who lives with his subjects, learns their language, and elicits their hopes and fears while remaining at emotional distance. That is, he is the political equivalent of a sociopath. The difference is that he is practicing not on a primitive tribe but on the population of the United States. There is nothing mysterious about Obama¶s methods. ³A demagogue tries to sound as stupid as his audience so that they will think they are as clever as he is,´ wrote Karl Krauss. Americans are the world¶s biggest suckers, and laugh at this weakness in their popular culture. Listening to Obama speak, Sinclair Lewis¶ cynical tent-revivalist Elmer Gantry comes to mind, or, even better, Tyrone Power¶s portrayal of a carnival mentalist in the 1947 film noire Nightmare Alley. The latter is available for instant viewing at Netflix, and highly recommended as an antidote to having felt uplifted by an Obama speech. America has set the world on autopilot for a geopolitical catastrophe. Patriotic Americans should hope that Israel has the wherewithal and will to kneecap Iran before it acquires nuclear weapons and makes all of Western Asia unmanageable.

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Facts and Lies About West Bank Settlements Thursday, May 27, 2010, 4:01 PM David P. Goldman Earlier this month I spoke at a conference on the theme of intellectuals and terrorism at Ariel University, Israel¶s major center of higher education in Samaria±that is, across the so-called Green Line demarcated by the 1967 borders. Ariel trains many Arab students in Israel; the campus was full of young women in Muslim headscarves. Close by is an industrial park employing more than 3,000 local Arab workers in some of the 150 manufacturing plants on site, paying Israeli wages with Israeli benefits± which is to say five times more than the same workers would earn in plants on Palestinian Authority territory. David Ha¶Iviri, the executive director of the liaison office for Israeli settlers in Samaria, spent some time with me after my talk at Ariel. He¶s now visiting New York, and explained to me over lunch that the Jewish settlers created their own volunteer emergency units, initially in response to terrorist attacks. As the attacks abated, the volunteer organizations kept expanding. Now they spend most of their time rescuing Arab victims of road accidents. The Western press seizes upon the rare incidents of settler violence against Arabs, but is silent about the hundreds of Arab lives that settler-volunteers save. Jews build schools, plant gardens, start businesses wherever they are. The Samarian settlements are an exemplar of high-tech organic agriculture with a minimum environmental footprint, blended with light manufacturing. With sweat and ingenuity, and very little support from Jewish institutions, the settlers have managed to do more to educate and employ and otherwise better the lives of Samarian Arabs than the feckless and corrupt institutions of the Palestinian Authority in the region. It is a terrific story for any journalist willing to spend a few days with open eyes and without prejudice± but I doubt that the mainstream media will touch it. To acknowledge that the settlers do good for their Arab neighbors is to admit that the Palestine Authority, despite the billions shoveled into the sieve of its finances by Western and Arab donors, is incapable of creating a civil society. It speaks volumes that the accomplishment about which Washington brags the most±General Keith Dayton¶s little Palestinian


military force±is yet another gang of young men with guns. On this see Daniel Pipes¶ NRO commentary. Where are the school boards, the hospital committees, the volunteer rescue squads, the whole apparatus of subsdiarity (we Jews call it tzedekah, or ³righteousness´) that holds a society together? I have long been on record in support of the settlers. If you believe in ³Land for Peace´ (and it takes a mystical trance to sustain that belief after Israel¶s withdraw from Gaza), then it follows that you should believe in less land for less peace. As I wrote earlier this year: Settlement represents the only logical riposte to the so-called Palestinian refugee problem. When Ariel Sharon talked of creating ³facts on the ground,´ he was responding to the most important fact on the ground, namely the maintenance of the only third-and-fourth-generation ³refugee´ population in the world as a weapon against the Jewish state. In the aftermath of independence a roughly equal number of Jews came to Israel and Arabs left, in one of many 20th-century population exchanges (and one of the least bloody, as a matter of fact). That should have been the end of it, except that the United Nations and the Arab world kept the refugees corralled in ³camps´ (settlements with much better amenities than their previous homes). The Arab demand for right of return, which has accompanied every so-called Arab peace plan, proposes to liquidate the Jewish state. Against this, the setttlements crea te a countervailing set of facts on the ground: refuse to make peace, they tell the Arabs, and you lose territory. The more settlements, the better. Short of killing people, seizing land is the best way to give the Arab side an incentive to make peace sooner rather than alter. There is a comfortable illusion among American Jews, for example the distinguished defender of Israel Alan Dershowitz, that Israel can obtain peace and security by throwing the settlers under the bus. The vast majority of American Jews, according to the American Jewish Committee¶s most recent yearly survey, oppose any compromise of Israeli jurisdiction over Jerusalem (61% vs 35%). But 56% would dismantle some, and 34% would dismantle all West Bank settlements ³as part of a permanent settlement with the Palestinians.´


That is delusional. In some hypothetical world it might be possible to force out the West Bank settlers, as Ariel Sharon forced out the Gaza settlers, in the context of a peace settlement, but it is not the world that we live in. With only 20% of the Arab world willing to tolerate a Jewish State in Israel under any circumstances, there will be no compromise in which Israel keeps Jerusalem and gives up Judea and Samaria. The only settlement Israel could obtain under present circumstances would be a far worse version of what Ehud Barak offered Arafat in 2000. Until a reasonably large portion the Palestinians and the Arab public generally are willing to live next to a Jewish state, there will be no settlement. Any land conceded by Israel will turn into rocket platforms. In the meantime, the best thing you can do for West Bank Arabs is to keep the settlers there to give them access to world-class university education, jobs at Western salaries, and other benefits of living in a civil society cultivated by Jews. 3 responses in the forum | Add your response

Et tu, Assad? It doesn¶t get more humiliating than this Monday, May 24, 2010, 8:19 AM David P. Goldman My friend Tony Badran, who writes the superb Across the Bay blog, points out the following item this morning: The US has lost its influence in the Middle East peace process despite the hopes raised by US President Barack Obama, Syrian President Bashar alAssad said in an interview published Monday by Italian daily La Repubblica. Assad added that a new era has begun in the Middle East, including an understanding between its major powers that was reshaping the region. He pointed to a similar phenomenon throughout the world, with countries such as China and Brazil refusing to wait for Washington to ³hand out roles´ and noting that Russia was trying to rebuild its own role in the region. On relations with Israel, the Syrian leader said that if Tel Aviv was ready to return the Golan Heights to Syria, then ³we would not be able to say no to a peace treaty.´ However, he added that any deal would have to include a


complete solution of the Palestinian issue, saying that he thought Israel was ³not ready for an accord at the moment.´ Even Basher Assad has contempt for Obama and displays it openly. What happened? It didn¶t used to be embarrassing to be an American. 5 responses in the forum | The World¶s Contempt for Obama Sunday, May 23, 2010, 8:31 AM David P. Goldman Iran openly supports terrorists±Hamas in Gaza, Hizbollah in Lebanon, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and sundry suicide squads in Iraq±and is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons. North Korea demonstrated what a terrorist state can do with nuclear weapons, namely, whatever it wants. How will the world respond to North Korea¶s unprovoked sinking of a South Korean naval vessel? Not at all. What will Iran do once it has nuclear weapons? Use your imagination. And the president of the United States yesterday told West Point¶s graduating class that terrorism is on the decline because al-Qaeda has less capacity for training. This would be a gaffe if it appeared in the Daily Kos. Coming from the president, it is an outrage. Here is what Obama said: Our campaign to disrupt, dismantle, and to defeat al Qaeda is part of an international effort that is necessary and just. But this is a different kind of war. There will be no simple moment of surrender to mark the journey¶s end ² no armistice, no banner headline. Though we have had more success in eliminating al Qaeda leaders in recent months than in recent years, they will continue to recruit, and plot, and exploit our open society. We see that in bombs that go off in Kabul and Karachi. We see it in attempts to blow up an airliner over Detroit or an SUV in Times Square, even as these failed attacks show that pressure on networks like al Qaeda is forcing them to rely on terrorists with less time and space to train. We see the potential duration of this struggle in al Qaeda¶s gross distortions of Islam, their disrespect for human life, and their attempt to prey upon fear and hatred and prejudice. Add your response


So the threat will not go away soon, but let¶s be clear: Al Qaeda and its affiliates are small men on the wrong side of history. They lead no nation. They lead no religion. We need not give in to fear every time a terrorist tries to scare us. We should not discard our freedoms because extremists try to exploit them. We cannot succumb to division because others try to drive us apart. We are the United States of America. The operative phrase is, ³they lead no nation,´ which is to imply that no nation is involved in terrorism. But nations are involved in terrorism on the grand scale: Iran, Syria, and North Korea in the most egregious way, and others by way of protection payments. The world looks on and snickers. Brazil¶s socialist president Lula has decided to cock a snook at the United States by allying with the odious Tayyip Erdogan, the ³moderate´ Muslim now transforming Turkey into an Islamist dictatorship through extralegal terror against domestic political opponents, with the encouragement of Russia. Why? Because they can. America is handing Iran regional hegemony on a silver platter, and all the scavengers, resentniks, used-to-be¶s and wannabe¶s are gathering around the kill like hyenas laughing at a sick lion. Not since President James Buchanan left American open to secession and civil war in the late 1850s has America suffered a leader so determined to undermine our fundamental interests. 3 responses in the forum | Rima Fakih and the Fragility of Islam Tuesday, May 18, 2010, 8:25 AM David P. Goldman Add your response

³A nation is never really beaten until it sells its women,´ I wrote in a 2006 ³Spengler´ essay about Iranian prostitution. ³The French sold their women to the German occupiers in 1940, and the Germans and Japanese sold their women to the Americans after World War II. The women of the former Soviet Union are still selling themselves in huge numbers. Hundreds of thousands of female Ukrainian ³tourists´ entered Germany after the thenforeign minister Joschka Fischer loosened visa standards in 1999.´


It is a cultural marker of inestimable importance that the one Arab whose name every American knows is Rima Fakih, the new Miss America, pictures of whom wearing a bra stuffed with dollar bills stare out from computer screens at half the men in the United States. Miss Fakih, to be sure, hardly represents Muslim women; she is the child of a secularized family of Lebanese immigrants, with Christian as well as Muslim antecedants. But that is not how her victory in the Miss America pageant was received in the Arab world, where the press celebrated the ArabAmerican celebration over this landmark. However un-Islamic it was for Miss Fakih to appear on a bikini, let alone to pole-dance for a 2007 contest at a Detroit radio station, the Arab press seems more worried about the possibility that she may lose her title over the earlier incident. A few hours after the victory of Rima beauty contest, published pictures of her on internet sites during the dance competition is dramatically on the stage and around the promoters. The London-based Arab-language electronic newspaper Elaph defended the contestant¶s behavior this morning, observing, ³Rima was not obliged to take off her clothes during the competition, she won numerous prizes including jewelry, cards, financial, and sexual games for adults.´ I should explain that this rendering is provided by Google Translate and may vary slightly from the intent of the original. A Google search of the Arabic press, however, finds not a single report of an Islamic authority denouncing Miss Fakih for public indecency, although Elaph mentions in passing that conservative Arabs in America were not pleased with the spectacle. One way or another, Miss Fakih has become an Arab role model, a person of note who has succeeded by Western standards. And therein lies a lesson. The strictures of traditional society are a flimsy defense against modernity. The moment that members of traditional society cease to live under a regime of compulsion, they tend to adopt the habits of the ambient culture. The most dramatic expression of this trend is the collapse of Muslim birth rates, especially among Muslims who have emigrated to the West. As Martin Walker wrote in the Woodrow Wilson Center Quarterly in 1999, ³the birthrates of Muslim women in Europe²and around the world²have been falling significantly for some time. Data on birthrates among different religious groups in Europe are scarce, but they point in a clear direction. Between 1990 and 2005, for example, the fertility rate in the Netherlands


for Moroccan-born women fell from 4.9 to 2.9, and for Turkish-born women from 3.2 to 1.9. In 1970, Turkish-born women in Germany had on average two children more than German-born women. By 1996, the difference had fallen to one child, and it has now dropped to half that number.´ There is a straight-line correlation between literacy and birth rates in the Muslim world, as I documented here, which suggests that the moment that Muslims enter modernity, for example, through reading, the habits of traditional society die quickly. Islam is fragile, and that helps explain why radical Islam is so aggressive. 12 responses in the forum | Hag Shavuot Sameach to Jewish Readers Monday, May 17, 2010, 3:44 PM David P. Goldman I will be out for observance of the feast of Shavuot until after sundown Thursday. Hag Sameach to all our Jewish readers. 2 responses in the forum | Add your response Add your response

Europe Is No Longer A Power: The Implications Monday, May 17, 2010, 10:17 AM David P. Goldman No personage stands closer to the center of the American foreign policy establishment than the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and it is something of a milestone when the current holder of this office, Richard Haas, writes in the May 12 Financial Times, ³Goodbye to Europe as a highranking power.´ The European project is foundering.Greece is the most pronounced problem, one brought about by its own profligacy and a weak EU leadership that permitted it to live beyond its means and violate the terms under which the euro was established. But the crisis was made worse by German dithering, and initially timid responses from European institutions and governments. The euro could be one of the casualties. SNIP


Time and demographics will not improve the situation. Europe¶s population has levelled off at about 500m and is rapidly ageing. By mid-century the percentage of Europe¶s adults who are older than 65 is projected to double. Fewer will be of military age; a smaller number will be working to support the retired. SNIP The combination of structural economic flaws, political parochialism and military limits will accelerate this transatlantic drift. A weaker Europe will possess a smaller voice and role. Nato will no longer be the default partner for American foreign policy. Instead, the US will forge coalitions of the willing to deal with specific challenges. These clusters will sometimes include European countries, but rarely, if ever, will the US look to either Nato or the EU as a whole. Even before it began, Europe¶s moment as a major world power in the 21st century looks to be over. That has a number of implications, for example, in the Middle East, where Europe±in part to appease its growing Muslim population±has been the strongest proponent of enforcing a settlement on the Israelis and Palestinians. As Haass wrote last week in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal [subscription only], trying to formulate the ³contours of a final settlement is a distraction that would benefit neither the U.S. nor Israel, given an Iranian threat that is close at hand and a promise of peace that is distant.´ Haass ridiculed the ³linkage´ idea promoted by President Obama and his team, including CENTCOM Commander Gen. David Petraeus: But it is easy to exaggerate how central the Israel-Palestinian issue is and how much the U.S. pays for the current state of affairs. There are times one could be forgiven for thinking that solving the Palestinian problem would take care of every global challenge from climate change to the flu. But would it? The short answer is no. It matters, but both less and in a different way than people tend to think. Take Iraq, the biggest American investment in the Greater Middle East over the past decade. That country¶s Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds are divided over the composition of the new government, how to share oil revenues, and where to draw the border between the Kurdish and Arab areas. The


emergence of a Palestinian state would not affect any of these power struggles. Soon to surpass Iraq as the largest U.S. involvement in the region is Afghanistan. Here the U.S. finds itself working against, as much as with, a weak and corrupt president who frustrates American efforts to build up a government that is both willing and able to take on the Taliban. Again, the emergence of a Palestinian state would have no effect on prospects for U.S. policy in Afghanistan or on Afghanistan itself. What about Iran? The greatest concern is Iran¶s push for nuclear weapons. But what motivates this pursuit is less a desire to offset Israel¶s nuclear weapons than a fear of conventional military attack by the U.S. Iran¶s nuclear bid is also closely tied to its desire for regional primacy. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians would not weaken Iran¶s nuclear aspirations. It could even reinforce them. Iran and the groups it backs (notably Hamas and Hezbollah) would be sidelined by the region¶s embrace of a Palestinian state and acceptance of Israel, perhaps causing Tehran to look to nuclear weapons to compensate for its loss of standing and influence. Were Obama to attempt to impose a settlement on Israel, the Europeans would be his instrument of choice, Israeli officials observe, as I wrote on an On The Square column last week. The perception in the American establishment of Europe¶s decline makes Europe¶s diplomacy far less credible. 4 responses in the forum | Add your response

Has the National Security Establishment Forced Obama to Backed Down Over Israel? Monday, May 17, 2010, 7:54 AM David P. Goldman Jewish leaders remain unpersuaded by chief of staff Rahm Emanuel¶s mea culpa for ³screwed up messaging´ about Israel: The Obama administration has ³screwed up the messaging´ about its support for Israel over the past 14 months, and it will take ³more than one month to make up for 14 months,´ White House chief of staff Rahm


Emanuel said on Thursday to a group of rabbis called together for a meeting in the White House. ³During the elections there were doubts about President Obama¶s support for Israel, and now they have resurfaced,´ Emanuel said, according to one of those who participated in the meeting. ³But concerning policy, we have done everything that we can that is in Israel¶s security ± and long-range interests. Watch what the administration does.´ One prominent rabbi±whose congregation was represented at the Rahm Emanuel meetings±said that Jews would have to wait and see whether President Obama was the man who stood in Sderot to say that he would do anything possible stop missile attacks, or the man who sat for twenty years in Jeremiah Wright¶s congregation listening to the Chicago pastor spew hatred against America and Israel. But the shift in tone may be accompanied by a change in policy. DEBKA, the hawkish Israeli news site, claims that the US has done a turnabout, and not only because Obama is concerned about Jewish support in the coming mid-term elections: Our sources add that under new White House guidelines, US Middle East envoy George Mitchell should not try and extract from Israel more concessions that it is willing to offer, when he leads the proximity talks with the Palestinians starting this week. The Obama U-turn dashes Palestinian hopes of the US president holding his own solution ready to impose on Israel in the event of the talks foundering or winding down in September without progress. Political and Jewish circles see the change as an attempt win back Jewish voter support for the Democrats, eroded over the downturn in US-Israel relations, for the forthcoming midterm elections. debkafile¶s Washington sources stress that the context is a lot wider. The US president knows the time has come to count his assets in the face of the dramatic big power realignment in the Middle East and the diplomatic impasse over Iran¶s drive for a nuclear bomb. After fourteen months in the White House, Barack Obama has suddenly discovered that he has no other strategic ally in the region to rely on except for Israel. Netanyahu may be justified in crowing over his critics at home. His decision to stand up to the US president¶s cold shoulder, insults and pressure, has


been vindicated, whereas defense minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Tzipi Liivni have been confounded in their dire warnings that refusal to surrender in a big way to the Palestinians would gravely jeopardize USIsrael relations. A senior source in Washington told debkafile Sunday, May 16, that the Israeli prime minister has chalked up an impressive achievement; he can expect warmth and friendship from the administration in the foreseeable future in place of the coolness hitherto. This does not mean Obama has given up on his objective of a two-state solution of the conflict with the Palestinians, but the arm-twisting tactics have been set aside for now. Obama¶s new look on Israel was manifested in the words of Rahm Emanuel, when he met a carefully selected group of 15 rabbis from across the United States Thursday, May 13 along with fellow White House officials, including Dennis Ross, senior presidential adviser on Iran and Dan Shapiro, head of Middle East desk at the National Security Council. Emanuel was the most outspoken when he said the Obama administration had ³screwed up the messaging´ about his support for Israel over the past 14 months. He promised the White House would work to undo the damage, but said it would take ³more than one month to make up for 14 months.´ Whether or not the Netanyahu government will be satisfied with this crudely-worded White House ³apology´ -addressed to American Jewish rabbis rather than Jerusalem ± remains to be seen. Much will depend on the actions the Obama administration takes to undo the damage to which it has now owned up. In Jerusalem last week, senior Israeli officials emphasized that they would go out of their way to demonstrate to the American national security establishment that Israel was a reliable ally. And the concerns of the national security establishment may be an important factor in the administration¶s calculation. The official administration line, articulated by Defense Secretary Gates and CENTCOM commander Gen. Petraeus, is that Israel should cut a deal with the Palestinians to make America¶s job easier elsewhere in the region. That is a rhetorical stance that has little real content, for the fact is that perceived Israeli weakness is most likely to encourage Iran¶s proxies in the region.


The fact is that America¶s strategic position in the region is crumbling: 1) Turkey no longer can be considered an American ally; the Islamist government of Tayyip Erdogan has aligned Turkey with Iran against the United States, and is prominently undermining American efforts to impose sanctions on Iran; 2) Iran will probably exercise de facto hegemony over Iraq after American troops leave; and 3) America¶s Afghan campaign is going very badly. The massive investment of blood and treasure in Iraq with a view towards creating a stable, democratic American ally has failed. Turkey, for two generations the pillar of NATO in the Middle East, is off the rails and probably irretrievable as an American ally. That leaves Israel as America¶s last ally in the region with real muscle. And given Iran¶s efforts to dominate the region, including America¶s Arab allies± Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the Gulf States±America needs Israel more than ever. The fact is that Israel needs the United States. There has been a lot of loose talk, for example by Walter Russell Mead (about Israel shifting economic and defense relationships to India) as well as this writer (about Israel acting independently as a regional superpower). But Israelis are keenly aware of their dependency on American hardware and military cooperation. Despite the bullying from the White House, Israeli-American military coooperation is doing quite well, according to sources on both sides. Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum notes that when Turkey last November expelled Israel from scheduled NATO exercises, the US refused to participate. President Obama has deep personal sympathies for the Muslim world, as I have written on many occasions, and remains±to paraphrase the rabbi quoted above±the man who sat in Rev. Wright¶s congregation for twenty years (and the man who wrote lovingly about the traditional roots of the Muslim poor in the markets of Indonesia, as opposed to the rootless anomie of the residents of Chicago housing projects).


But in the American system, the President is not the only player. The errors of the Bush as well as the Obama adminstration have left the US in a weakened position in the Middle East, and that makes Israel all the more important an ally. It is possible that American national security interests will prevail for the time being over Obama¶s emotional affinities. One response in the forum | Eternal Jerusalem Wednesday, May 12, 2010, 8:07 AM David P. Goldman Why a hilltop fortress taken by King David three thousand years ago should occasion so much turmoil in world politics is a source of wonder, and wondering about it helps makes sense of politics as they really are, and not as the Enlightenment presented them to us. Today on the Hebrew calendar is the 28th of Iyar, a minor religious holiday proclaimed by the Israeli rabbinate after the unification of Jerusalem in 1967. Jerusalem is a beautiful city, not least because the British Mandate had the aesthetic sense to insist that all construction employ Jerusalem stone, a pinkish granite that in the sunset produces the tones of gold and copper celebrated in the city¶s famous anthem. What is most beautiful about Jerusalem is the people of Jerusalem who have returned after so many years. It is a religious city, quieter and more modest than raucous Tel Aviv, but with a glow and intensity that I have seen nowhere else. States are not founded on social contracts, protection of the individual, or any such idiocy handed down from Hobbes; they are founded upon congregations, as Augustine explained in the City of God. It is not common interest but common love that defines states. We do not have a ³self´ interest as such; our ³self´ belongs to our ancestors and our children, unless, of course, we are contemporary Europeans, who despise our ancestors and have no children, and hope to pass into extinction with the minimum of bother. From Jerusalem came the most persuasive promise humankind had ever heard, namely the promise of eternal life±not the fragile immortality of the pagan gods, whose doom already was sealed by fate in the myths of all the peoples, but life with God past the dissolution of the physical world. The Add your response


world will wear out and God will discard it like a cloak, Psalm 102 sings, but the Lord will establish his servants forever. The history of Israel is the history of the world, said Franz Rosenzweig, for as soon as the peoples learned that the God of the Jews had promised them eternal life, they considered how they, too, might become part of this covenant. The Christians emulate us and the Muslims parody us. I use the word ³emulation´ with respect: as Jacob Neusner observes (and Benedict XVI quotes him), when Jesus declares himself to be Lord of the Sabbath in Matthew, he in effect proposes to make Temple and Sabbath accessible to non-Jews. The truth of this proposition or its ultimate efficacy is another matter, but there is no doubt in my mind that orthodox Christians seek the loving Creator God of the Jews. Islam is a different issue: it maintains outward forms similar to Judaism which enclose an inner pagan content, in Franz Rosenzweig¶s view, which I have presented in detail elsewhere. The passions that rage over Jerusalem reveal the desire for immortality that underlies all of politics. Humankind does not want safety, security, sustenance as much as it wants to cheat death. Islam¶s claim to credibility is that it represents the final prophecy, which has corrected falsified and distorted Scriptures prepared by those sneaky Jews and Christians. It does not want to appropriate the Bible, but rather loot it and leave the discredited shell behind. As my friend Daniel Pipes wrote years ago: What about Muslims? Where does Jerusalem fit in Islam and Muslim history? It is not the place to which they pray, is not once mentioned by name in prayers, and it is connected to no mundane events in Muhammad¶s life. The city never served as capital of a sovereign Muslim state, and it never became a cultural or scholarly center. Little of political import by Muslims was initiated there. One comparison makes this point most clearly: Jerusalem appears in the Jewish Bible 669 times and Zion (which usually means Jerusalem, sometimes the Land of Israel) 154 times, or 823 times in all. The Christian Bible mentions Jerusalem 154 times and Zion 7 times. In contrast, the columnist Moshe Kohn notes, Jerusalem and Zion appear as frequently in the Qur¶an ³as they do in the Hindu Bhagavad-Gita, the Taoist Tao-Te


Ching, the Buddhist Dhamapada and the Zoroastrian Zend Avesta´²which is to say, not once. As Dr. Pipes explains in the linked article, Muslim interest in Jerusalem rose with political need; otherwise the city was neglected. Under the Ottomans Jerusalem dwindled to a town of 9,000 residents in 1809. During the two decades of Jordanian rule of Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967, an Arab couldn¶t renew a driver¶s license or get a bank loan in Jerusalem. Jerusalem had served as the British administrative capital, but now all government offices there (save tourism) were shut down; Jerusalem no longer had authority even over other parts of the West Bank. The Jordanians also closed some local institutions (e.g., the Arab Higher Committee, the Supreme Muslim Council) and moved others to Amman (the treasury of the waqf, or religious endowment). Jerusalem, in short, is only important to Muslims because allowing others to have it would undermine the credibility of Islam as the final prophecy. To have the Jews as despised dhimmi among them assured Muslims that Allah favored them; to have the Jews in control of their capital after an absence of two millennia calls this into question. The Shekhinah went into exile with the Jewish people and with them it has returned to Jerusalem. I do not mean to sound a messianic note; the Temple only can be rebuilt by the heir of King David by the will of God. But something of this enormous and unique holiness still pervades the city, an echo of the future, perhaps. 49 responses in the forum | Add your response

Links to my Kudlow Report appearance this evening Tuesday, May 11, 2010, 9:05 PM David P. Goldman Here are the links to the two segments of the Kudlow Report on which I appeared earlier this evening: http://www.cnbc.com/id/15840232?video=1491362234&play=1 http://www.cnbc.com/id/15840232?video=1491361367&play=1


³General Petraeus¶ Thirty Years War´ Monday, May 3, 2010, 6:59 AM David P. Goldman Over at Asia Times Online, I posted a new Spengler essay this morning: Memo to heads of state: beware the clever general who turns up at a tough moment, and says ³Leave it to me: I can fix it for you.´ Two examples come to mind. The great field marshal of the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648, Albrecht von Wallenstein, taught armies to live off the land, and succeeded so well that nearly half the people of Central Europe starved to death during the conflict. General David Petraeus, who heads America¶s Central Command (CENTCOM), taught the land to live off him. Petraeus¶ putative success in the Iraq ³surge´ of 2007-2008 is one of the weirder cases of Karl Marx¶s quip of history repeating itself first as tragedy second as farce. The consequences will be similar, that is, hideous. Wallenstein put 100,000 men into the field, an army of terrifying size for the times, by turning the imperial army into a parasite that consumed the livelihood of the empire¶s home provinces. The Austrian Empire fired him in 1629 after five years of depredation, but pressed him back into service in 1631. Those who were left alive joined the army, in a self-feeding spiral of destruction on a scale not seen in Europe since the 8th century. Wallenstein¶s power grew with the implosion of civil society, and the Austrian emperor had him murdered in 1634. Petraeus accomplished the same thing with (literally) bags of money. Starting with Iraq, the American military has militarized large parts of the Middle East and Central Asia in the name of pacification. And now America is engaged in a grand strategic withdrawal from responsibility in the region, leaving behind men with weapons and excellent reason to use them. Petraeus¶ ³surge´ of 2007-2008 drastically reduced the level of violence in Iraq by absorbing most of the available Sunni fighters into an Americanfinanced militia, the ³Sons of Iraq,´ or Sunni Awakening. With American money, weapons and training, the remnants of Saddam Hussein¶s regime have turned into a fighting force far more effective than the defunct dictator¶s state police. And now the American military is doing the same


thing in Afghanistan, and, under General Keith Dayton, in Palestine. America is pouring money ± which is to say weapons ± into disputed areas of Afghanistan, and building the core of a Palestinian army. The latter¶s mission is to impose a pro-Western Palestinian government on a population of whom two-thirds oppose the two-state solution. It more likely will end up fighting Israel. Petraeus created a balance of power between Sunnis and Shi¶ites by reconstructing the former¶s fighting capacity, while persuading pro-Iranian militants to bide their time. To achieve this balance of power, though, he built up Sunni military power to the point that ± for the first time in Iraq¶s history ± Sunnis and Shi¶ites are capable of fighting a full-dress civil war with professional armed forces. ³Nation-building´ in Iraq failed to construct any function feature of civil society ± a concept hitherto unknown to Mesopotamia ± except, of course, for the best-functioning organized groups of killers that Iraq ever has had. [snip] Having armed all sides of the conflict and kept them apart by the threat of arms, the United States now expects to depart leaving in place governments of national reconciliation that will persuade well-armed and well-organized militias to play by the rules. It is perhaps the silliest thing an imperial power ever has done. The British played at divide and conquer, whereas the Americans propose to divide and disappear. At some point the whole sorry structure will collapse, and no-one knows it better than Petraeus. There are many possible triggers. The Iraqi government might collapse, leaving the political agenda to the men with guns. Iran might acquire a deliverable bomb and turn its dogs lose in Iraq after the Americans withdraw. Iran and Pakistan might come to blows over the fractious province of Balochistan on their mutual border, or over Iran¶s covert support for Pakistan¶s Shi¶ites, who comprise a fifth of the country¶s population. Or the Israelis might strike Iran¶s nuclear program, or Syria, or the Hezbollah clients of Syrian and Iran in Lebanon. Petraeus made his reputation on the surge, and needs someone to blame for its prospective failure. His choice is Israel. 31 responses in the forum | Add your response


South Park Takes on [Censored] Thursday, April 22, 2010, 2:02 PM David P. Goldman ³South Park´ is disgusting, blasphemous, and occasionally hilarious out of all bounds. In the past it has taken on the Catholic Church, the Jews, evangelicals, Mormons, Scientology, Christmas, and virtually every institution and value and public figure one might mention. It took an extra measure of chutzpah, not to mention physical courage, to lampoon the one major religion that the series has avoided, namely [censored], in the person of the Prophet [censored]. As the Times Online reported today: An American television network has blocked global internet broadcasts of an episode of South Park featuring the Prophet [censored] after death threats from a radical [censored] group. The 201st edition of the satirical animation was aired on Comedy Central last night but only after the channel had introduced a slew of audio and visual obfuscations in addition to the self-censorship applied by the programme¶s makers. A spokesman confirmed that the network had not granted permission to play the episode online and that producers had edited the programme before it was broadcast. Trey Stone and Matt Parker, the cartoon¶s creators, were warned this week that they would be killed if they were seen to continue mocking the Prophet after an episode broadcast last Wednesday . It included a character representing [censored], who spoke from inside a giant bear suit to prevent the illustrators having to depict him ² a blasphemous act according to some [censored]. A message on the site reads: ³We apologise that South Park Studios cannot stream episode 201 at this time. After we delivered the show and prior to broadcast, Comedy Central placed numerous additional audio bleeps throughout the episode. We do not have network approval to stream the original version of the show.´


The dispute comes after a little-known American group calling itself ³Revolution [censored]´ posted a message on its website warning Stone and Parker ³that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show´. The warning was accompanied by a disturbing image of Van Gogh, a Dutch film-maker who was murdered by an [censored] militant in 2004 after making a film that was seen to criticise [censored]. I do not normally watch the show, but prior news coverage peaked my interest. The plot involves a nefarious scheme concocted by Tom Cruise to kidnap the Prophet [censored] and transmogrify into his identity, so that noone will make fun of him any more (because no-one dare make fun of [censored] for fear of winding up like Theo van Gogh]. The League of Super Best Friends (Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Joseph Smith, et. al.) ally with the kids of South Park to foil Cruise¶s scheme. Also in for a drubbing were Pope Benedict XVI (who expresses the wish that no-one would make fun of him, either), Barbara Streisand (presented as a Godzilla-like monster), and other notables. We are living under censorship by terrorists. Even South Park can¶t make fun of [censored], and I can¶t say anything about the fact that [censored] had a father and stepfather who were both [censored], not to mention offer comments about [censored]µs mother. 11 responses in the forum | The Greecey Skids Thursday, April 22, 2010, 10:49 AM David P. Goldman If you eliminate corruption in Greece, I said recently on CNBC¶s ³The Kudlow Report,´ you destroy the social fabric. Greek society is a scam funded by foreign creditors in which virtually all social strata participate. And now it¶s coming to a crashing close. Goldman, Sachs¶ chief European economist predicted today that Greece would restructure its debt (delay or reduce interest payments to creditors) some time over the next few months, the first time that a first-world country will have done so since the Second World War. I am told that Greece will do this as a ³voluntary´ measure so as not to trigger payment on Add your response


outstanding credit default swaps, insurance contracts that pay off in the case of a specified credit event. A general strike today has shut down Greek public services, including hospitals, and the price of Greek bonds is falling: In Athens, more than 500,000 workers were called on to strike today, according to the unions organizing the walkout. With Greek folk music blaring over Constitution Square in Athens, the PAME Hellas union set up a stage for speakers across from the parliament with a banner demanding ³no more sacrifices´ from the Greek people. Members of PAME Hellas, which is affiliated with the Greek Communist Party, blockaded entry to the port of Piraeus yesterday, preventing ferries from sailing. Others picketed luxury hotels in the city center, including at least one where IMF negotiators are staying. ³We must dare, otherwise we will be led like lambs to the slaughter,´ said Aleka Papariga, head of the Communist Party of Greece, the third-largest parliamentary party. ³Working people aren¶t about to be used to allow passage of policies that will bring the worst barbarity we¶ve seen in the past 35 years.´ As numerous financial commentators observe, this puts the whole group of so-called PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain) under the gun: a debt restructuring for a European Community state would cross a Rubicon to a place investors don¶t want to go. More broadly, it calls attention to the limits of government bailouts. The government bailed out the banks, and the banks in turn are buying government debt, financing in America¶s case about two-thirds of its $1.6 trillion deficit through pure balance-sheet leverage. It is Japan in the 1990s all over again±except that back in the 1990s Japan also had a 20% savings rate, enough to absorb a great deal of government debt. America is trying to finance a deficit equal to 13% of GDP with a savings rate of 3%. If the savings rate were to jump 10 points to equal the government deficit, the economy would shut down. I don¶t think that the US government bond market will collapse any time soon, but there¶s a lot to worry about. The IMF wants to claw back from the banks some of the profits they are generating by leveraging up government debt, by taxing balance sheets ² skimming the skim of the skim. But all of


it is a bubble, and arguing about how to redistribute the bubble isn¶t a solution. 10 responses in the forum | What the Goldman, Sachs scandal is about Wednesday, April 21, 2010, 1:26 PM David P. Goldman In the new corporatism, where governments bail out banks and banks bail out the government, the question continuously arises: who¶s the senior partner in the merger? The government bailed out the banks, of course. The banks are now financing the deficits of governments. As I¶ve documented elsewhere, the banks now are financing the government deficit. Give the banks free money and a steep yield curve, and they will borrow at close to zero and buy 2year Treasury notes paying around 1% all day. The banks made the mistake of thinking their financial genius was the source of their profit; governments remind them that profits of this ilk are a gift from the government. That is the nub of the latest flashes of genius from the International Monetary Fund: April 21 (Bloomberg) ² The International Monetary Fund is recommending the Group of 20 nations tax financial institutions¶ non-deposit liabilities and the sum of profit and compensation to help pay for future bailouts of the industry. The two levies, with those on liabilities taking priority, are part of a preliminary report the G-20 requested last year to review how the financial industry can help pay for government efforts to repair the banking system. While the IMF will deliver a final report to heads of state and government in June, France and the U.K. have already backed the idea of a tax on banks. And: Rising government debt has replaced stress in the financial industry as the biggest threat to the global economy, the IMF said in its Global Financial Stability Report yesterday. Greece and Portugal, and Spain and Italy µµto a Add your response


lesser extent,´ became the ³main contributors to inter-sovereign risk transfer,´ according to the report. Governments need ³credible, mediumterm´ plans to reduce deficits and some nations need to do more to revive the flow of credit and boost growth, the IMF said. Now, let me see±do I have enough fingers and toes to work this one out?± the governments are issuing gigantic amounts of debt to bail out the banks. The banks are making money levering up this debt, so it looks like there¶s no more problem in the financial system. So to reduce the debt of governments, we should tax the banks¶ balance sheet, which have ballooned as the banks bought government debt with zero-interest financing from the government, and made lots of profits« Seems a cumbersome way to proceed. Why pay all these people to sit on a trading floor? It would be simpler to have the Treasury and Fed buy government securities back and forth from eath other at higher prices each time, booking a profit on the trade at each turn. In a few months, they would have so much profits that they could pay back the whole federal debt! 4 responses in the forum | Add your response

Shocked ² SHOCKED ² to find Goldman going on in this establishment Wednesday, April 21, 2010, 11:06 AM David P. Goldman Overnight the Republicans have discovered that the Goldman Sachs fraud case is not only a club that Obama can use to beat them into submission over regulatory reform, but also a club that the Republicans can use to beat Obama for turning his administration over to the Giant Vampire Squid. Yesterday¶s New York Post featured a Page 6 cartoon showing a clown in the anteroom to the office of Goldman Sachs¶ CEO Lloyd Blankfein, with his secretary announcing, ³The SEC is here to see you.´ Goldman Sachs, according to the serried ranks of Post columnists, was the victim of a nefarious Washington plot to destroy free markets. Today, the Page 6 cartoon shows Goldman Sachs as a grinning poker dealer with aces tumbling out of his sleeves, saying ³What a surprise! The house wins again!´ And the columnists observe that Goldman Sachs is all over the Obama administration like white on rice.


Michelle Malkin offers: While President Obama assails the culture of greed and recklessness practiced by the men of Goldman Sachs, his administration is infested with them. The White House can no more disown Government Sachs than Obama can disown Chicago politics. Obama is headed to Wall Street tomorrow to demand ³financial regulatory reform´ ² just as the US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil suit against Goldman Sachs for mortgage-related fraud. Question the timing? Darn tootin¶. As the New York Post reported Tuesday, the Democratic National Committee immediately bought sponsored Internet ads on Google that direct Web surfers who type in ³Goldman Sachs SEC´ to Obama¶s fundraising site«. Democrats are silent on the $994,795 in Goldman Sachs campaign cash that Obama bagged in the 2008 presidential race. The class-warfare Dems are also mum on all the president¶s Goldman men sitting in the catbird¶s seat: * Goldman Sachs partner Gary Gensler is Obama¶s Commodity Futures Trading Commission head. He was confirmed despite heated congressional grilling over his role, as Reuters described it, ³as a high-level Treasury official in a 2000 law that exempted the $58 trillion credit default swap market from oversight. The financial instruments have been blamed for amplifying global financial turmoil.´ Gensler said he was sorry ² hey, it worked for tax cheat Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner ² and was quickly installed to guard the henhouse. * Goldman kept White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel on a $3,000 monthly retainer while he worked as presidential candidate Bill Clinton¶s chief fund-raiser, as first reported by Washington Examiner columnist Tim Carney. The financial titans threw in another $50,000 to become the Clinton primary campaign¶s top funder.


Emanuel received nearly $80,000 in campaign contributions from Goldman during his four terms in Congress ± investments that have reaped untold rewards, as Emanuel assumed a leading role championing the trillion-dollar TARP banking bailout law. * Former Goldman lobbyist Mark Patterson serves under Geithner as his top deputy and overseer of TARP bailout ² $10 billion of which went to Goldman Sachs. The Post also reports that Republicans demand that Obama return $1 million of campaign contributions from the Squid. ³I say, is this newspaper honest?´ ³Az ze day iz long.´ 17 responses in the forum | Leviathan Eats the Giant Vampire Squid Monday, April 19, 2010, 2:20 PM David P. Goldman Bloomberg News just reported that the SEC voted 3-2 to sue Goldman Sachs for fraud: April 19 (Bloomberg) ² The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission split 3-2 along party lines to approve an enforcement case against Goldman Sachs Group Inc., according to two people with knowledge of the vote. SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro sided with Democrats Luis Aguilar and Elisse Walter to approve the case, said the people, who declined to be identified because the vote wasn¶t public. Republican commissioners Kathleen Casey and Troy Paredesvoted against suing, the person said. It¶s clever: President Obama gets to run against the Giant Vampire Squid in November with the Republicans floundering in a defense of a rather tarnished free market. On the heels of the SEC announcement, Obama intoned in his Saturday radio address: ³´Every day we don¶t act, the same system that led to bailouts remains in place, with the exact same loopholes Add your response


and the exact same liabilities. And if we don¶t change what led to the crisis, we¶ll doom ourselves to repeat it.´ The widespread accusation that the financial industry has undue influence over the government,repeated prominently in the Atlantic Magazine by former IMF chief economist Simon Johnson, appears refuted. If, as I suspect, the GS case is the thin end of the wedge, the administration will silence its critics on the left, ram through regulatory reform, and demonstrate that it isn¶t the financial industry that¶s taken over the government ² it¶s the government that¶s taken over the financial industry. Simon Johnson wrote in the linked article: But there¶s a deeper and more disturbing similarity [between the US and emerging markets]: elite business interests²financiers, in the case of the U.S.²played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them. It doesn¶t seem likely that the financial industry will put up a successful resistance to regulatory reform now. The Senate Republicans unanimously oppose the administration¶s plan to increase regulation of the financial industry, especially of over-the-counter derivatives. But they are throwing themselves in front of the barn door long after the horses have bolted. Mortgage securitization was a critical ingredient in the Reagan recovery mix back in the 1980s: not only did it promote home ownership, but it made it possible for entrepreneurs to turn their homes into working capital. Of course, it also made it easier for households to take the levered bets on home prices that went sour in 2007. The housing market is down for the duration. As I wrote in the May 2009 edition of First Things: In 1973, the United States had 36 million housing units with three or more bedrooms, not many more than the number of two-parent families with children±which means that the supply of family homes was roughly in line with the number of families. By 2005, the number of housing units with


three or more bedrooms had doubled to 72 million, though America had the same number of two-parent families with children. Americans had a financial incentive (tax breaks and low interest rates) to buy more house than they needed. It will take years to work off the excess, and some regions will be filled with derelict developments for a generation. Asset-backed securities spurred the expansion of auto loans and credit cards, but consumer credit is shrinking at the fastest pace since World War II.

There is one other major sector in the Collateralized Debt Obligation market, namely credit: investment banks package lower-rated, risky credits into CDO¶s which distribute default risk to investors with varying risk appetites in different tranches. The main purpose of the credit-backed CDO market was to finance Leveraged Buy-Outs (LBOs), geared up the balance sheets of US corporations. All this is moot. The US is financing a federal deficit equal to 12%-13% of GDP with a saving rate of just 3%, because the banking system is absorbing the flood of Treasury debt issuance. Banks borrow at next to nothing and buy 2-year Treasury notes at around 1% interest, and lever the trade as much as the regulators will let them. Foreign banks (which might be offshore subsidiaries of US banks) have been buying $50 to $60 billion a month of US Treasury securities. Nothing like this ever has been seen int he US, although we saw it in Japan during the ³lost decade´ of the 1990s. Banks can make decent money with zero percent financing from the central bank and a steep yield curve (they get paid a lot for lending a little longer than they borrow). That is to say that banks can make as much money as the Federal Reserve permits them to make. Meanwhile bank loan books are shrinking at a staggering 20% annual rate, again the fastest in history:

Small business is doing terribly, with the National Federation of Independent Business and Discover Small Business Watch indices at their lowest level in many months. There¶s no money for small business. Neither is there any money for enterpreneurs.


The first quarter of 2010 saw the lowest commitments to venture capital since 1993, says the National Venture Capital Association: Though rising numbers from the final quarter for 2009 had many hopeful that 2010 would see a rebound of venture capital funds, new data from the Nation Venture Capital Association (NVCA) is bound to disappoint as Q1 2010 saw the lowest first quarter numbers (PDF) in 17 years. According to the NVCA, just $3.6 billion has been raised so far this year by VCs compared to $5.2 billion in 2009 and $7.1 billion 2008. Back in January, we postulated that the uptake in fundraising by VCs during the final quarter of 2009 could lead to increased VC spending in 2010. The first quarter did see record breaking merger and acquisition numbers, but as NVCA president Mark Heesen points out, the IPO market continued to struggle ± a fact he says may have contributed to the new low numbers for VC funds. And the global IPO market was down 19% during the first quarter compared to the fourth quarter of 2009. The Giant Vampire Squid has been eaten by Leviathan: an allencompassing Hobbesian state that centralizes credit in the hands of the federal government. We will have Japan, in a nutshell. What¶s the alternative? Financial regulation is not the issue: the damage already has been done. More CDO¶s aren¶t going to fix the problem. There won¶t be much of a mortgage CDO market for years to come in any case, and the credit CDO market only helped force air into corporate balance sheets. What the US needs is free market financing for entrepreneurs. And that¶s best achieved through the tax system. To avoid sinking into a European or Japanese profile of permanent stagnation and permanently high unemployment, America should eliminate all taxes on capital income and replace the lost revenue by taxing consumption (I personally like a big hydrocarbons tax). Forget double taxation of dividends and the tax advantages of debt (which accounts for the explosion of debt as opposed to new equity offerings). Get rid of ALL taxation of dividends and interest, as well as capital gains. Period. Give American entrepreneurs a chance to raise risk capital from the market.


8 responses in the forum | The Giant Vampire Squid and Leviathan Friday, April 16, 2010, 11:04 AM David P. Goldman

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Goldman Sachs, colloquially known as the Giant Vampire Squid, may meet the fate that our sages of antiquity predicted for the sea-monster Leviathan: Raba said in the name of R. Yochanan: The Holy One will make a feast for the righteous out of the flesh of Leviathan, and what is left will be portioned out and made available as merchandise in the marketplaces of Jerusalem. (Bava Batra 75a) Fried calamari isn¶t kosher, to be sure, but neither is the Giant Vampire Squid, according to the SEC. As I just blogged over at Asia Times: This is on the scale of the Enron case. Except that it could affect every firm involved in subprime securitization. I haven¶t read anything in years as racy as the SEC¶s complaint against Goldman Sachs for collusion with the Paulson hedge fund to cheat subprime investors out of $1 billion. A billion-dollar fraud is not a small matter. I¶m no lawyer, but the granularity of detail and documentation that the SEC has assembled appears extremely impressive. They have nailed a 32-year-old Goldman vice president who cobbled together the tainted structure, and he appears to be singing. Investment banks aren¶t like the mafia. No-one takes twenty-year sentences and keeps their mouth shut. This case very well might open up others. The issue, as the press has reported, is the selection of collateral in a Goldman Sachs synthetic CDO deal. As the SEC reports: In late 2006 and early 2007, Paulson performed an analysis of recentvintage Triple B RMBS and identified over 100 bonds it expected to experience credit events in the near future. Paulson¶s selection criteria favored RMBS that included a high percentage of adjustable rate mortgages, relatively low borrower FICO scores, and a high concentration of mortgages in states like Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada that had recently experienced high rates of home price appreciation. Paulson informed GS&Co that it wanted the reference portfolio for the contemplated


transaction to include the RMBS it identified or bonds with similar characteristics. GS then allegedly packaged Paulson¶s picked time bombs into a CDO that it sold to investors while selling protection on the portfolio to Paulson. He pocketed $1 billion, and the investors lost $1 billion. This opens Pandora¶s Box. Investors who lost a trillion dollars in subprime CDO¶s now will descend like Harpies upon the banks that packaged them, with subpoenas for every email and internal memorandum involved. The civil suits that could arise from this are potentially innumerable. 8 responses in the forum | Add your response

Bashing our best ally in favor of a failed Muslim state ² I mean India Friday, April 16, 2010, 9:27 AM David P. Goldman India lacks the sort of intense interest that Israel generates in American politics, so it is easy to overlook the damage that the Obama administration has done to our relations with a natural ally that is also the world¶s largest democracy, an economic giant and a burgeoning military power. A friend calls my attention to this op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by G. Parthasarathy, a former Indian ambassador to Pakistan. He writes: Very little was said publicly about U.S. President Barack Obama¶s meeting Sunday with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Blair House in Washington. That¶s probably because neither side wants to draw attention to just how strained this important bilateral relationship has become over the past year. One of the biggest sticking points is how to deal with Afghanistan. The Obama administration has promised to ³reconcile´ with the Taliban and talks openly about U.S. troop withdrawals, commencing in 2011. Both points deeply disturb New Delhi, whose long history of dealing with terrorism suggests the U.S. approach won¶t work. The U.S. has also shunned advance consultations on Afghanistan with its Indian partners. As a result, India is rethinking its approach, which it has long coordinated with Washington, and a review of Afghan policy is now underway. There are indications that New Delhi is going to hedge its bets and enhance


contacts and cooperation with Russia and Afghanistan¶s neighbors of Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, which share India¶s aversion for any return of the Taliban. Indian analysts have been warning about the consequences of handing India the bill for Washington¶s failed policy in Pakistan. I wrote about this in Asia Times at year-end: Western analysts are unanimous that Pakistan must not be allowed to become a failed state, for example, through a seizure of power on the part of Islamist elements in the military allied to the Taliban. Enlisting Pakistan in counter-insurgency against Pashtun rebels in Afghanistan, though, ensures this outcome. US policy, wrote Syed Saleem Shahzad on this site on October 23 (Where Pakistan¶s militants go to ground ), ³draws Pakistan, already mired in political and economic crises, into an ever-deepening quagmire. The country has become a playing field for operators of all shades. These include Iranian Balochi insurgents, over a dozen Pakistani militant groups linked with the Taliban or al-Qaeda, the US Central Intelligence Agency¶s network, securitycontractors associated with the American establishment, and last but not least, agents provocateurs. Pakistan, one of the booming economies of Asia just two years ago, seriously risks becoming a failed state.´ The US-sponsored frontier war amounts to Punjabis ± traditionally the core of the country¶s military - killing Pashtuns. The default view of area defense analysts has been that army operations against the Taliban may turn into a Punjabi-Pashtun ethnic conflict. But the cracks in the Pakistani state run in several directions. Punjabi Islamists allied to the Taliban, meanwhile, are in open revolt; Punjabi terrorists took part in the October siege of Pakistan¶s army headquarters in Rawalpindi. Pakistan is being ground between two millstones: the Afghan war and the global economic crisis. Half the country is illiterate, and half of Pakistanis live on less than US$1 a day. The country¶s respectable economic growth rate of 5% per annum during the late 2000s was fed by foreign credit, which allowed it to run a current-account deficit of 8.3% as of 2008. The country¶s finances collapsed in late 2008, forcing Islamabad to adopt an austerity program under the auspices of the International Monetary Fund. ³Pakistan is not yet a failed economy,´ wrote Santosh Kumar in The Hindu on November 24. ³But it can happen. This is not a prospect the


world, especially India, can view with equanimity, since the spillover will impact us badly.´ The credibility of secular government - with its promise of economic improvement ± is threadbare. The alternative is an Islamist regime committed to confronting India over Kashmir and suppressing the Shi¶ite minority that comprises 30% of Pakistan¶s population. The Islamist alternative has such appeal that Punjabi terrorists, as noted, are conducting suicide attacks against the Punjabi-dominated army. India might be compelled to respond to the victory of Islamist radicals in its nuclear-armed neighbor. Iran, for that matter, cannot maintain its credibility with its Shi¶ite allies around the region if it sits on its hands while Pakistan crushes its co-confessionalists. Iran¶s interest in obtaining nuclear weapons has several motivations. One is to establish a screen of deterrence behind which it can grab its neighbors¶ oil, as it proposed to do by sending a division of the Iranian army to surround an Iraqi oilfield last week. Another is to prepare for prospective conflict with Pakistan; if Pakistan fails, Iran will have a strong interest in interfering in Pakistan on behalf of the Shi¶ite minority. The Obama administration¶s response to the threat of Islamist takeover has been ³to pick a new fight with India on Kashmir´, as Indian analyst C Raja Mohan complained in the online edition of Forbes magazine on November 8: Obama has also sensed, rightly, that the US cannot stabilize Afghanistan unless it fixes Pakistan¶s profound insecurities and gets its army to level with the US and stop supporting America¶s enemies inAfghanistan. Few Indians disagree with Obama¶s reasoning that the threats to Pakistan¶s security are internal and do not come from India. But many are beginning to get anxious about the third step in Obama¶s logic: to get Pakistan to cooperate with the US in Afghanistan, Washington must actively seek to resolve Islamabad¶s problem with New Delhi over Kashmir. Put simply, the Indian fear is that they are being asked to pick up the political tab for America¶s failed policy in Afghanistan, and for the Pakistan Army¶s deliberate betrayal of US interests there.The Obama administration has antagonized India in the hope of mollifying Pakistani irredentism, just as it has antagonized Israel with the dubious argument that if Israel makes concessions to the divided, ineffectual Palestine Authority, it will be able to


mollifyIran. Nothing will assuage the Palestinians, who are failed before coming a state, nor the Pakistanis, whose failure is ineluctable. The collapse of what I called the ³Pax Obamicana´ may be a real catastrophe. 9 responses in the forum | The Jewish Tripwire Thursday, April 15, 2010, 10:10 AM David P. Goldman World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder blasts American policy towards Israel in a letter published today in major American newspapers. He writes: Mr. President, we are concerned about the dramatic deterioration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Israel. The Israeli housing bureaucracy made a poorly timed announcement and your Administration branded it an ³insult.´ This diplomatic faux pas was over the fourth stage of a seven stage planning permission process ± a plan to build homes years from now in a Jewish area of Jerusalem that under any peace agreement would remain an integral part of Israel. Our concern grows to alarm as we consider some disturbing questions. Why does the thrust of this Administration¶s Middle East rhetoric seem to blame Israel for the lack of movement on peace talks? After all, it is the Palestinians, not Israel, who refuse to negotiate«. And what are America¶s strategic ambitions in the broader Middle East? The Administration¶s desire to improve relations with the Muslim world is well known. But is friction with Israel part of this new strategy? Is it assumed worsening relations with Israel can improve relations with Muslims? History is clear on the matter: appeasement does not work. It can achieve the opposite of what is intended. Obama has run into a buzz saw among the mainstream Jewish organizations, including traditional Democratic Party donors. The mood among Jewish political contributors is explosive, to an extent I have never seen before. Privately I have heard personal comments about Obama, e.g. Add your response


³calling him a sociopath is too generous,´ from a number of prominent Jewish contributor to Democratic causes. This may help explain why Obama yesterday appeared to back off from reported plans to impose a settlement on Israel based on the 1967 borders. Ron Lauder asked in his letter, ³Is a new course being charted that would leave Israel with the indefensible borders that invited invasion prior to 1967?´ Jennifer Rubin at Commentary called Obama¶s desultory remarks about the difficulties of making parties to the conflict do more than they wanted to do ³the best news Israel and its supporters have had in weeks.´ American Jews have conflicting and contradictory views, as the American Jewish Committee¶s annual survey of Jewish opinion indicates. The poll was taken before the White House manufactured a diplomatic crisis. The headline number gave Obama a 57%-38% margin of approval among Jews, and a 55%-37% margin of approval on handling relations with Israel. It also gave Netanyahu a 57%-30% margin. If you tell a Jew, ³They can¶t both be right,´ the response will be: ³You¶re right, too!´ Digging into the numbers, the tripwire of Jewish sentiment is clear. By a 61% to 35% margin, American Jews oppose any ³compromise on the status of Jerusalem as a unified city under Israeli jurisdiction´ as part of any peace deal. Only 8% think Israel should dismantle all settlements to get a peace deal (56% are willing to dismantle some, while 34% would give up not one). 62% to 33% would back Israeli bombing of Iran¶s nuclear program. 94% think the Palestinians should be required to recognize Israel as a Jewish state in the context of any settlement. And 75% agree with the statement: ³The goal of the Arabs is not the return of occupied territories but rather the destruction of Israel.´ In short, American Jews±at the time of the survey±were thinking of the Obama of July 2008, who fired pro-Palestinian advisors, threw Zbigniew Brzezinski under the campaign bus, and assured Jewish voters that he was on their side. All those campaign assurances will blow up in his face if Jews are persuaded that Obama lied to them and is ready to put Jerusalem on the block, along with Israeli security. And whatever the sentiments of mainstream organization leaders, they will have to take a tough stand. Without further comment


Tuesday, April 13, 2010, 9:31 PM David P. Goldman John Podhoretz Michael Ledeen and me, here, here and here. ³Dergleichen zu widersprechen war ganz unter meiner Wuerde.´ 22 responses in the forum | This is Not a Drill ² This is the Real Thing Friday, April 9, 2010, 10:54 AM David P. Goldman Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu¶s regrets to Obama¶s nuclear disarmament summit next week marks a new phase in the Obamalypse. In fact, it isn¶t as new as it seems, for the Obama administration placed an embargo on the export of nuclear reactor parts to Israel from the beginning. This we learn from a dispatch last night in the Israeli daily Maariv. The United States has begun denying visas to Israel¶s nuclear scientists, according to the Hebrew-language daily Maariv. Workers at the reactor in Dimona told the paper that they had been treated poorly by US representatives, and had been told they could not travel to the States«. A former Dimona worker told Maariv that the problems between Israel and America went beyond denied visas. The US has also created a ³de-facto embargo´ on equipment needed in the Dimona reactor, he said. The refusal to sell Israel certain parts began after current US President Barack Obama took office, he said. When it comes to certain other pieces of equipment, he added, the US now permits sales only if Israeli officials explain exactly what the part will be used for. Add your response


³And yet, when it comes to those who manufacture nuclear terrorism, we hear a lenient approach, even though the entire world can see that Iran¶s leaders are making a joke out of the US,´ he said. As I wrote in The Tablet last week, the remnants of the Bush administration, along with many prominent conservative Jews, are still fighting the 2008 elections, and in a way that plays directly into Obama¶s hands. The deployment of 200,000 American soldiers amid civilian populations who are riddled with terrorists turns American ³nation-building´ forces into hostages. The Gates-Brzezinski argument of 2004 that Iran is the exit strategy from Iraq and Afghanistan is operating policy in the White House. Meanwhile the Republicans do not seem to understand that they already are in quicksand. On Wednesday, I heard Liz Cheney, the former VicePresident¶s daughter, tell a Hudson Institute luncheon that Obama shouldn¶t be attacking our ³vital ally´ President Karzai of Afghanistan. Jennifer Rubin at the Commentary blog wrote this up with enthusiasm. Karzai decided months ago to hitch his wagon to Iran for leverage against Pakistan, which continues to support the Taliban, as M.K. Bhadrakumar reported in Asia Times Online March 30. The Great Game has moved to an entirely different level of Afghanistan; Mrs. Cheney and Ms. Rubin are living in a fantasy world. Obama wants to remove Israel¶s nuclear capability while permitting Iran to acquire one. He told George Stephanopolous April 9 that the sanctions may fail to change Iranian behavior, just as they failed in the case of North Korea: If the question is do we have a guarantee as to the sanctions we are able to institute at this stage are automatically going to change Iranian behavior, of course we don¶t. The history of the Iranian regime, like the North Korean regime is that, you know, you apply international pressure on these countries, sometimes they choose to change behavior, sometimes they don¶t. We end up with a nuclear-armed Iran to which both Afghanistan and Iraq orient. It¶s astonishing. Why did America care about central Asian Muslims to begin with? We had an interest in Persian Gulf oil. Then we decided to ³democratize´ Iraq and Afghanistan and deployed hundreds of thousands


of soldiers. Now we supposedly have to appease Iran in order to protect the soldiers who were there to democratize Iraq because we had an interest in the oil ² and we end up with Iranian nuclear weapons controlling the Persian Gulf! It is as insane a progression as ever has been presented in political logic. I¶ve been screaming about this for more than two years: Obama is the loyal son of a left-wing anthropologist mother who sought to expiate her white guilt by going to bed with Muslim Third World men. He is a Third World anthropologist studying us, learning our culture and our customs the better to neutralize what he considers to be a malignant American influence in world affairs. 13 responses in the forum | Add your response

How Jewish Conservatives Blew It On Iraq and Iran Friday, April 2, 2010, 7:14 AM David P. Goldman This morning I posted an essay on the Jewish webzine Tablet explaining how my neo-conservative friends (and they are my friends) blew it on the Middle East. By promoting nation-building in the Middle East, the Jewish right wing left themselves vulnerable to the ³linkage argument´ ² to protect American lives in the Arab street, Israel has to accomodate the Palestinians. Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command and former commander of the multinational force in Iraq, next month will receive an award from the American Enterprise Institute named for Irving Kristol, the so-called godfather of the neo-conservatives. Petreaus made his name with the 2008 surge of U.S. forces in Iraq, for which the AEI takes some credit; the organization¶s website describes resident scholar Frederick W. Kagan as ³one of the intellectual architects of the successful µsurge¶ strategy in Iraq.´ As the general who appeared to validate the Bush Administration¶s ambitious nation-building scheme in Iraq, Petraeus earned the adulation of Jewish conservatives. ³It took Lincoln three years to find Sherman and Grant. It took George Bush three years to find Petraeus,´ Norman Podhoretz wrote in his bestselling book World War IV.


And so, it was perhaps not the best time for reports to emerge that Petraeus had blamed Israeli intransigence toward the Palestinians for endangering the lives of American servicemen in the Middle East²at a reported Pentagon briefing early in March and again in congressional testimony on March 16. Jewish conservatives²including Max Boot² quickly scampered to defend Obama¶s top Middle East commander. This is a grand miscalculation, I believe, on the part of the American Jewish community¶s conservative wing: While the Obama Administration works to prevent Israel from attacking Iran¶s nuclear capacity, Jewish conservatives are battling over whether they were right in 2005, when they urged the United States to take responsibility for Iraq¶s political future. 12 responses in the forum | A Blessed Easter to our Christian Readers Thursday, April 1, 2010, 7:07 PM David P. Goldman 13 responses in the forum | Add your response

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Thomas Friedman¶s Alice-in-Wonderland Logic Thursday, April 1, 2010, 8:11 AM David P. Goldman The perpetual purveyor of conventional wisdom, the New York Times¶ Thomas Friedman, argues that peace-making is now a necessity because of all the American soldiers ³walking the Arab street.´ Israel doesn¶t need or want a peace agreement with the rocketeers of Hamas, he allows: The collapse of the Oslo peace process, combined with the unilateral Israeli pullouts from Lebanon and Gaza ² which were followed not by peace but by rocket attacks by Hezbollah and Hamas on Israel ² decimated Israel¶s peace camp and the political parties aligned with it. Why a ³peace agreement´ that gives Hamas rocket-firing platforms within reach of Tel Aviv and Israel¶s main airport should turn out differently, Friedman does not say. And Israel is doing just fine without ³peace.´ At the same time, Israel¶s erecting of a wall around the West Bank to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from entering Israel (there have been


no successful attacks since 2006), along with the rise of the high-tech industry in Israel ² which does a great deal of business digitally and over the Internet and is largely impervious to the day-to-day conflict ² has meant that even without peace, Israel can enjoy a very peaceful existence and a rising standard of living. Nonetheless, Israel must put its existence in jeapordy, because« With U.S. soldiers literally walking the Arab street ² and, therefore, more in need than ever of Muslim good will to protect themselves and defeat Muslim extremists ² Israeli-Palestinian peace has gone from being a postcold-war hobby of U.S. diplomats to being a necessity. Kudos to Friedman for putting the argument in the starkest, stupidest, and most stentorian fashion possible. In reduced form, it sounds just as idiotic as it is. What are American soldiers doing ³waking the Arab street´? Why not get them out of the street? Keep Special Forces deployed where required, keep soldiers in protected firebases in key positions (eg, southern Iraq where Iran has send troops to occupy oil fields), and use air power and auxiliaries to destroy America¶s enemies. Daniel Pipes wrote March 30 in National Review: Iraq¶s recently-concluded, inconclusive elections will be followed in August by the pullout of American troops, making this a good time to ask what American taxpayers have achieved with the US$45 billion spent on reconstructing Iraq since 2003 and what steps to take next. That $45 billion includes no expenditures on the U.S. military itself but $21 billion for Iraqi security forces, $11 billion for Iraqi infrastructure, and $6 billion for various Iraqi government-related services. Sadly, this vast sum has largely been wasted. Firstly, because once coalition forces leave Iraq in August, the mullahs in Tehran will begin their takeover; second, because hubris and incompetence have riddled U.S. spending in Iraq. A number of analysts, including the estimable Pipes (and this writer), have attacked the nation-building fantasy from the beginning. And that fantasy


arose from the Bush administration and the neo-conservative camp. The ruin of the nation-building exercise±which Ariel Sharon foresaw at the outset±is now the excuse to demand that Israel tolerate Hamas rockets on the West Bank. 2 responses in the forum | Add your response

Pesach kosher v¶sameach to our Jewish readers Monday, March 29, 2010, 11:09 AM David P. Goldman 9 responses in the forum | Add your response Cultural Obamalypse: the Attack on the Pope Friday, March 26, 2010, 8:39 AM David P. Goldman The Obamalyptic mood in the White House seems to have infected the cultural left generally. Thirty-year-old news is dragged daily into the headlines to make it appear that some dreadful truth has been dragged out of the Vatican vaults, demonstrating Pope Benedict XVI¶s culpability in child abuse. It is hard to avoid the impression that the nihilists have a sense of empowerment as never before. There¶s something ugly in the air. The two central institutions of the West are the Throne of St. Peter and the Oval Office. That is not an exaggeration, for the Catholic model in Europe and the American model are the two modes of life that the West has developed. When Catholic universal empire failed with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, and was buried by Napoleon, the United States emerged as an alternative model; the non-ethnic nation founded on Christian principles albeit without an explicit tie to a particular Christian confession. For the first time in history the barbarians have breached the citadel; to have Barack Obama in the White House is the cultural equivalent of electing Madonna to the papacy. America, the source of a civil religion that held together the world¶s only remaining superpower, is committed to its own self-demolition. Nihilists around the world are in a triumphant mood and believe that it is time to mop up the remnants of their enemies everywhere.


93 responses in the forum | Who Is Barack Obama? Friday, March 26, 2010, 8:29 AM David P. Goldman

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I profiled Barack Obama on Feb. 26, 2008 in Asia Times Online. This essay caused more revulsion and anguish than all the rest of my ³Spengler´ writings put together. I stand by every word, and believe that subsequent events validate the analysis. Obama is a Third World anthropologist studying us who has cleverly infiltrated our culture. He is deeply and fiercely hostile to the American proposition. ³Cherchez la femme,´ advised Alexander Dumas in: ³When you want to uncover an unspecified secret, look for the woman.´ In the case of Barack Obama, we have two: his late mother, the went-native anthropologist Ann Dunham, and his rancorous wife Michelle. Obama¶s women reveal his secret: he hates America. We know less about Senator Obama than about any prospective president in American history. His uplifting rhetoric is empty, as Hillary Clinton helplessly protests. His career bears no trace of his own character, not an article for the Harvard Law Review he edited, or a single piece of legislation. He appears to be an empty vessel filled with the wishful thinking of those around him. But there is a real Barack Obama. No man ± least of all one abandoned in infancy by his father ± can conceal the imprint of an impassioned mother, or the influence of a brilliant wife. America is not the embodiment of hope, but the abandonment of one kind of hope in return for another. America is the spirit of creative destruction, selecting immigrants willing to turn their back on the tragedy of their own failing culture in return for a new start. Its creative success is so enormous that its global influence hastens the decline of other cultures. For those on the destruction side of the trade, America is a monster. Between half and nine-tenths of the world¶s 6,700 spoken languages will become extinct in the next century, and the anguish of dying peoples rises up in a global cry of despair. Some of those who listen to this cry become anthropologists, the curators of soon-to-be extinct cultures; anthropologists who really


identify with their subjects marry them. Obama¶s mother, the University of Hawaii anthropologist Ann Dunham, did so twice. Obama profiles Americans the way anthropologists interact with primitive peoples. He holds his own view in reserve and emphatically draws out the feelings of others; that is how friends and colleagues describe his modus operandi since his days at the Harvard Law Review, through his years as a community activist in Chicago, and in national politics. Anthropologists, though, proceed from resentment against the devouring culture of America and sympathy with the endangered cultures of the primitive world. Obama inverts the anthropological model: he applies the tools of cultural manipulation out of resentment against America. The probable next president of the United States is a mother¶s revenge against the America she despised. Ann Dunham died in 1995, and her character emerges piecemeal from the historical record, to which I will return below. But Michelle Obama is a living witness. Her February 18 comment that she felt proud of her country for the first time caused a minor scandal, and was hastily qualified. But she meant it, and more. The video footage of her remarks shows eyes hooded with rage as she declares: For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. And I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment. The desperation, frustration and disappointment visible on Michelle Obama¶s face are not new to the candidate¶s wife; as Steve Sailer, Rod Dreher and other commentators have noted, they were the theme of her undergraduate thesis, on the subject of ³blackness´ at Princeton University. No matter what the good intentions of Princeton, which founded her fortunes as a well-paid corporate lawyer, she wrote, ³My experiences at Princeton have made me far more aware of my µBlackness¶ than ever before. I have found that at Princeton no matter how liberal and openminded some of my White professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don¶t belong.´ Never underestimate the influence of a wife who bitch-slaps her husband in public. Early in Obama¶s campaign, Michelle Obama could not restrain herself from belittling the senator. ³I have some difficulty reconciling the two


images I have of Barack Obama. There¶s Barack Obama the phenomenon. He¶s an amazing orator, Harvard Law Review, or whatever it was, law professor, best-selling author, Grammy winner. Pretty amazing, right? And then there¶s the Barack Obama that lives with me in my house, and that guy¶s a little less impressive,´ she told a fundraiser in February 2007. ³For some reason this guy still can¶t manage to put the butter up when he makes toast, secure the bread so that it doesn¶t get stale, and his five-yearold is still better at making the bed than he is.´ New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd reported at the time, ³She added that the TV version of Barack Obama sounded really interesting and that she¶d like to meet him sometime.´ Her handlers have convinced her to be more tactful since then. ³Frustration´ and ³disappointment´ have dogged Michelle Obama these past 20 years, despite her US$300,000 a year salary and corporate board memberships. It is hard for the descendants of slaves not to resent America. They were not voluntary immigrants but kidnap victims, subjected to a century of second-class citizenship even after the Civil War ended slavery. Blackness is not the issue; General Colin Powell, whose parents chose to immigrate to America from the West Indies, saw America just as other immigrants do, as a land of opportunity. Obama¶s choice of wife is a failsafe indicator of his own sentiments. Spouses do not necessarily share their likes, but they must have their hatreds in common. Obama imbibed this hatred with his mother¶s milk. Michelle Obama speaks with greater warmth of her mother-in-law than of her husband. ³She was kind of a dreamer, his mother,´ Michelle Obama was quoted in the January 25 Boston Globe. ³She wanted the world to be open to her and her children. And as a result of her naivete, sometimes they lived on food stamps, because sometimes dreams don¶t pay the rent. But as a result of her naivete, Barack got to see the world like most of us don¶t in this country.´ How strong the ideological motivation must be of a mother to raise her children on the thin fair in pursuit of a political agenda. ³Naivete´ is a euphemism for Ann Dunham¶s motivation. Friends describe her as a ³fellow traveler´, that is, a communist sympathizer, from her youth, according to a March 27, 2007, Chicago Tribune report. Many Americans harbor leftist views, but not many marry into them, twice. Ann Dunham met and married the Kenyan economics student Barack Obama, Sr, at the University of Hawaii in 1960, and in 1967 married the Indonesian student


Lolo Soetero. It is unclear why Soetero¶s student visa was revoked in 1967 ± the fact but not the cause are noted in press accounts. But it is probable that the change in government in Indonesia in 1967, in which the leftist leader Sukarno was deposed, was the motivation. Soetero had been sponsored as a graduate student by one of the most radical of all Third World governments. Sukarno had founded the so-called Non-Aligned Movement as an anti-colonialist turn at the 1955 Bandung Conference in Indonesia. Before deposing him in 1967, Indonesia¶s military slaughtered 500,000 communists (or unfortunates who were mistaken for communists). When Ann Dunham chose to follow Lolo Soetero to Indonesia in 1967, she brought the six-year-old Barack into the kitchen of anti-colonialist outrage, immediate following one of the worst episodes of civil violence in post-war history. Dunham¶s experience in Indonesia provided the material for a doctoral dissertation celebrating the hardiness of local cultures against the encroaching metropolis. It was entitled, ³Peasant blacksmithing in Indonesia: surviving against all odds´. In this respect Dunham remained within the mainstream of her discipline. Anthropology broke into popular awareness with Margaret Mead¶s long-discredited Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), which offered a falsified ideal of sexual liberation in the South Pacific as an alternative to the supposedly repressive West. Mead¶s work was one of the founding documents of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and anthropology faculties stood at the left-wing fringe of American universities. In the Global South, anthropologists went into the field and took matters a step further. Peru¶s brutal Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerilla movement was the brainchild of the anthropologist Efrain Morote Best, who headed the University of San Cristobal of Huamanga in Ayacucho, Peru, between 1962 and 1968. Dunham¶s radicalism was more vicarious; she ended her career as an employee of international organizations. Barack Obama received at least some instruction in the Islamic faith of his father and went with him to the mosque, but the importance of this experience is vastly overstated by conservative commentators who seek to portray Obama as a Muslim of sorts. Radical anti-Americanism, rather than Islam, was the reigning faith in the Dunham household. In the Muslim world


of the 1960s, nationalism rather than radical Islam was the ideology of choice among the enraged. Radical Islam did not emerge as a major political force until the nationalism of a Gamal Abdel Nasser or a Sukarno failed. Barack Obama is a clever fellow who imbibed hatred of America with his mother¶s milk, but worked his way up the elite ladder of education and career. He shares the resentment of Muslims against the encroachment of American culture, although not their religion. He has the empathetic skill set of an anthropologist who lives with his subjects, learns their language, and elicits their hopes and fears while remaining at emotional distance. That is, he is the political equivalent of a sociopath. The difference is that he is practicing not on a primitive tribe but on the population of the United States. There is nothing mysterious about Obama¶s methods. ³A demagogue tries to sound as stupid as his audience so that they will think they are as clever as he is,´ wrote Karl Krauss. Americans are the world¶s biggest suckers, and laugh at this weakness in their popular culture. Listening to Obama speak, Sinclair Lewis¶ cynical tent-revivalist Elmer Gantry comes to mind, or, even better, Tyrone Power¶s portrayal of a carnival mentalist in the 1947 film noire Nightmare Alley. The latter is available for instant viewing at Netflix, and highly recommended as an antidote to having felt uplifted by an Obama speech. America has the great misfortune to have encountered Obama at the peak of his powers at its worst moment of vulnerability in a generation. With malice aforethought, he has sought out their sore point. Since the Ronald Reagan boom began in 1984, the year the American stock market doubled, Americans have enjoyed a quarter-century of rising wealth. Even the collapse of the Internet bubble in 2000 did not interrupt the upward trajectory of household assets, as the housing price boom eclipsed the effect of equity market weakness. America¶s success made it a magnet for the world¶s savings, and Americans came to believe that they were riding a boom that would last forever, as I wrote recently [1]. Americans regard upward mobility as a God-given right. America had a double founding, as David Hackett Fischer showed in his 1989 study, Albion¶s Seed . Two kinds of immigrants founded America: religious dissidents seeking a new Promised Land, and economic opportunists


looking to get rich quick. Both elements still are present, but the course of the past quarter-century has made wealth-creation the sine qua non of American life. Now for the first time in a generation Americans have become poorer, and many of them have become much poorer due to the collapse of home prices. Unlike the Reagan years, when cutting the top tax rate from a punitive 70% to a more tolerable 40% was sufficient to start an economic boom, no lever of economic policy is available to fix the problem. Americans have no choice but to work harder, retire later, save more and retrench. This reversal has provoked a national mood of existential crisis. In Europe, economic downturns do not inspire this kind of soul-searching, for richer are poorer, remain what they always have been. But Americans are what they make of themselves, and the slim makings of 2008 shake their sense of identity. Americans have no institutionalized culture to fall back on. Their national religion has consisted of waves of enthusiasm ± ³Great Awakenings´ ± every second generation or so, followed by an interim of apathy. In times of stress they have a baleful susceptibility to hucksters and conmen. Be afraid ± be very afraid. America is at a low point in its fortunes, and feeling sorry for itself. When Barack utters the word ³hope´, they instead hear, ³handout´. A cynic might translate the national motto, E pluribus unum, as ³something for nothing´. Now that the stock market and the housing market have failed to give Americans something for nothing, they want something for nothing from the government. The trouble is that he who gets something for nothing will earn every penny of it, twice over. The George W Bush administration has squandered a great strategic advantage in a sorry lampoon of nation-building in the Muslim world, and has made enemies out of countries that might have been friendly rivals, notably Russia. Americans question the premise of America¶s standing as a global superpower, and of the promise of upward mobility and wealthcreation. If elected, Barack Obama will do his utmost to destroy the dual premises of America¶s standing. It might take the country another generation to recover. ³Evil will oft evil mars´, J R R Tolkien wrote. It is conceivable that Barack Obama, if elected, will destroy himself before he destroys the country. Hatred is a toxic diet even for someone with as strong a stomach as


Obama. As he recalled in his 1995 autobiography, Dreams From My Father, Obama idealized the Kenyan economist who had married and dumped his mother, and was saddened to learn that Barack Hussein Obama, Sr, was a sullen, drunken polygamist. The elder Obama became a senior official of the government of Kenya after earning a PhD at Harvard. He was an abusive drunk and philanderer whose temper soured his career. The senior Obama died in a 1982 car crash. Kenyan government officials in those days normally spent their nights drinking themselves stupid at the Pan-Afrique Hotel. Two or three of them would be found with their Mercedes wrapped around a palm tree every morning. During the 1970s I came to know a number of them, mostly British-educated hollow men dying inside of their own hypocrisy and corruption. Both Obama and the American public should be very careful of what they wish for. As the horrible example of Obama¶s father shows, there is nothing worse for an embittered outsider manipulating the system from within than to achieve his goals ± and nothing can be more terrible for the system. Even those who despise America for its blunders of the past few years should ask themselves whether the world will be a safer place if America retreats into a self-pitying shell. 65 responses in the forum | Obamalypse for Israel Friday, March 26, 2010, 8:10 AM David P. Goldman There is an Obamalyptic tone at the White House. The president put the all the chips he owned in domestic politics on the table for a health care bill opposed by more than 60% of polled voters, and now he has thrown all his foreign policy chips into the pot in order to humiliate a close American ally for whom the American public has overwhelming sympathy. One has the sense that the Obamoids fear that their tenure in power will be brief and that they want to do the most to alter the world before the peasants march on the castle and burn them out. As Jackson Diehl put it in a now-viral meme on the Washington Post blog, the White House treated Netanyahu like an ³unsavory dictator who had to Add your response


be kept at arm¶s length.´ He was sneaked in the back door; there was no photo opportunity, and no final statement. Although the Israeli government has clamped a blackout on Prime Minister Netanyahu¶s meetings with President Obama and aides David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel, the content has leaked out through various channels. Israel will either stop housing construction in its capital city per Obama¶s orders, or the United States will offer a final version of a ³peace agreement´ between Israel and the Palestinians and shove it down Israel¶s throat. I have independently confirmed the substance of the following report from the Debka website: A high-ranking US official categorized the current crisis in US-Israeli relations as the most acute in 54 years, ever since 1956 when President Dwight Eisenhower gave David Ben-Gurion an ultimatum to pull Israeli forces out of Sinai ± certainly more serious than the impasse over the Madrid conference between the first President Bush and Yitzhak Shamir in 1992. A US presidential notice condemning Israel and predetermining the shape of an Israeli-Palestinian settlement would be tantamount to a US diktat and put the lid on negotiations, direct or indirect, because Israel would be dragged to the table in handcuffs to face an Arab partner who would accept nothing less than the terms Washington imposed in advance on Israel. Such a notice would put a clamp on the close dialogue which has historically characterized US-Israeli ties ± to the detriment of Israel¶s international standing. [Jackson Diehl in] The Washington Post laid the blame for the crisis squarely on President Obama, whom it accused of treating Netanyahu ³as if he were an unsavory Third World dictator, needed for strategic reasons but conspicuously held at arms length.´ The WP went on to say: ³Obama picked a fight over something that virtually all Israelis agree on, and before serious discussions have even begun. ´A new administration can be excused for making such a mistake in the treacherous and complex theater of Middle East diplomacy. That¶s why Obama was given a pass by many when he made exactly the same mistake last year. The second time around, the president doesn¶t look naive. He appears ideological ² and vindictive.´


What is the administration thinking? First of all, as I explained earlier this week, the administration envisions a strategic alliance with Iran to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, in which Iran will be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons ² just as Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Zbignew Brzezinski proposed in a 2004 report for the Council on Foreign Relations. Second, Rahm Emanuel ² who ushered the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to the infamous 1993 Rose Garden handshake with Yassir Arafat ² appears to think that he¶s doing Israel a favor by forcing a settlement. The American left is still stuck on the Oslo fantasy of the earl 1990s; the Israeli public, after having tried Oslo and gotten Intifada and terrorism, knows better. Obama¶s gamble is enormous. So far he has gotten a free pass on foreign policy as the inheritor of a mess left behind by the Bush administration, while domestic problems ² above all the 20% rate of under- and unemployment ² took precedence. But Israel is the single most emotional issue in foreign policy, and the Gallup Poll reports that American support for Israel is at the all-time high reached briefly during the First Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein¶s Scud rockets rained on Tel Aviv. ³[Former Secretary of State] James Baker said, µScrew the Jews, they don¶t vote for us,¶ and Obama is saying, µScrew the Jews, they¶ll vote for us anyway,´ a prominent American rabbi said this week. The mainstream Jewish organizations, who overwhelmingly supported Obama and share his domestic agenda, are in such a state of shock over the outcome of Netanyahu¶s visit that it will take them some days to begin to blink. The world is a radically different place than the liberal Jewish majority imagined it was, and Obama is a radically different man. It is quite possible that they will throw Israel under the bus for fear that an open attack on Obama at this time would contribute to a Democratic debacle in November. However Jews vote, they are less than 3% of the electorate, but a collapse of US relations with Israel would energize evangelical and other Christian voters against Obama. Netanyahu is in a bind: never since 1956 has the United States put a gun to the head of an Israeli government, and that was over the joint AngloFrench-Israeli occupation of Suez, not about urgent Israeli security


concerns. Creating a Hamastan within easy rocket range of Tel Aviv and Israel¶s major airports would threaten Israel¶s existence. Hamas rocketeers firing behind a human shield of civilians (just as Hamas has done in Gaza and Hizbollah in Southern Lebanon) would leave Israel the choice of reoccupying territory at the cost of many civilian casualties, or permitting ordinary life to become intolerate. That is precisely what Israel has said. As Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren told Charlie Rose March 19, ³Keep in mind the Israeli people are going to be asked to make extraordinary risks here. We withdrew from Lebanon. We withdrew from Gaza, we got rockets. To create peace with the Palestinian we`re going to have to withdraw from territory that is immediately adjacent to our major population state centers. We have to be assured that when we do that we`re not going to get Gaza again, we`re not going to get Lebanon again. We want to be assured that we`re going to have real peace.´ The future of Israel well may be fought out in the November elections. This is not a drill. This is the real thing. Obama is exposed and vulnerable. If the Democrats are not punished for shifting America¶s foreign-policy loyalties away from Israel and towards Iran, Israel¶s long-term security position will deteriorate. 38 responses in the forum | Obama¶s Alliance With Iran Wednesday, March 24, 2010, 10:09 AM David P. Goldman Ralph Peters¶ op-ed in today¶s New York Post shows that our putative allies in Afghanistan as well as Iraq are in bed with Iran. He argues that it¶s a blunder. It will be a blunder, but it¶s actually Obama¶s policy, and it was spelled out by now Defense Secretary Gates and Zbignew Brzezinski back in 2004. It¶s as bad as Peters says it is, and then some. ³It¶s wretched enough that our µfriend¶ Ahmed Chalabi has become Iran¶s point man in Iraq. Now µour man in Kabu,¶ President Hamid Karzai, is quietly shifting his loyalty to Tehran,´ Peters writes. Peters continues: Add your response


Beyond Iranian President Mahmud Ahmedinejad¶s recent chummy visit to Karzai ² reported by the media but played down by Washington ² Iran¶s been training Taliban forces to kill our troops more efficiently. Karzai hasn¶t complained. Nor has he objected to Tehran¶s expansion of its support for its clients in western Afghanistan. He wants that support for himself. Where I disagree with Peters is in the matter of the administration¶s intent. In a March 16 ³Spengler´ column for Asia Times Online, I quoted State Department officials¶ on-record invitation to Iran to play a major role in Afghanistan. Getting Iran involved IS the administration¶s ³exit strategy.´ Obama wants an ALLIANCE with Iran. And that¶s why he picked a fight with Netanyahu over the non-issue of apartment construction in a part of North Jerusalem that every draft piece plan agrees will remain Israeli. If Israel hits Iran¶s nuclear capacity, the deal is off. As I wrote March 16: Despite the enormous difference in outlook between the last administration and the present one, there is an underlying continuity in Washington¶s stance towards Iran, due to the facts on the ground put in place by Iran itself. I wrote on this site in October 2005, shortly after Ahmadinejad came to power: I do not believe any formal understanding is in place, but the probable outcome is that Washington will refrain from military action to forestall any Iranian nuclear arms developments, while Tehran will refrain from disrupting Washington¶s constitutional Potemkin Village in Iraq. Tehran thinks strategically, as befits a country with a government newly elected by an overwhelming majority, while Washington thinks politically. President George W Bush is struggling to persuade the American public of the wisdom of his nation-building scheme in Iraq, and badly wants the Iranians to keep their hands in their pockets. Iran is prepared to do so as long as America keeps its opposition to its nuclear program within the confines of the diplomatic cul-de-sac defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency. (See A Syriajevo in the making?, Asia Times Online, October 25, 2005) Nation-building in Iraq is the tar baby that has entrappedAmerican foreign policy. The notion that the United States should take responsibility for the


political evolution of a country cooked up by British cartographers with the explicit purpose of keeping Sunni Arabs, Shi¶ite Arabs and Kurds at each others¶ throats, ranks as one of the great political delusions of the past century. Since the American invasion in 2003, it always has been in Iran¶s power to make the country ungovernable. More important to Iran, though, is the potential acquisition of nuclear weapons. Should it become a nuclear power, Iran could set its cats¶ paws in Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan to whatever task it chose with far less fear of American retribution. The Obama administration¶s abortive opening to Iran always aimed at obtaining Iranian help in stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan, among other things by soliciting Tehran¶s good offices with the Shi¶ite Hazara minority in Afghanistan. Iran has ties both to the Hazara as well as to their mortal enemies, the Sunni Taliban, and keeps its options open. Its prospective influence in Afghanistan is potent enough to panic the US ± Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arrived in Kabul unannounced on March 8, the same day that Ahmadinejad was expected in the Afghan capital, prompting the Iranian president to postpone his trip by two days. Gates¶ unexpected trip was interpreted as a pre-emptive action against Iranian influence. Karzai embraced his Iranian counterpart as a friend and ally. As Asia Times Online¶s M K Bhadrakumar wrote on March 13: ³Karzai can hope to tap into Iran¶s influence with various Afghan groups, which traditionally focused on the Persian-speaking Tajiks and Hazara Shi¶ites but today also extends to segments of the Pashtun population. Significantly, Ahmedinejad was received on Wednesday at Kabul airport by the Northern Alliance leader Mohammed Fahim, who has become the first vice president in Karzai¶s new government despite strong opposition from the US and Britain.´ (See A titanic power struggle in Kabul, Asia Times Online, March 13) The United States responded to Ahmadinejad¶s Afghan visit by paying obeisance to Iran¶s influence. ³The future of Afghanistan has a regional dimension and we hope that Iran will play a more constructive role in Afghanistan in the future,´ said US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley. He added in the past, the US and Iran have ³cooperated constructively´ and hoped that they would do so again, given that Iran has ³a legitimate interest in the future of Afghanistan´.


The answer to the question: ³What is Obama¶s exit strategy from Afghanistan?´ ± is a Great Gamelet in which Iran and Pakistan work out a power-sharing arrangement in Afghanistan and establish a miniature balance of power between Sunnis and Shi¶ites. All that is missing is Johnny Depp in Mad Hatter makeup replacing Richard Holbrooke as AfPak czar, distributing 3-D glasses to the diplomatic corps. Outrageous, but true. Solution to the next mystery: Why is General Petraeus going around saying that Israeli intransigence is putting American lives at risk in the Middle East? In order to make Iraq look better than it was and to make Petraeus surge look like a success, the Bush administration made a conscious decision to treat Iran carefully ² Bush was as emphatic as Obama in dissuading the Israelis from striking Iranian nuclear capability. Petraeus made his reputation with the surge knowing perfectly well that if Iran wanted to jack up the list of US casualties, it could. When he says that Israel is endangering American lives, the question is ² how? Who is going to kill Americans? The Egyptians are virtually allied with Israel now ² they let Israeli subs and missile boats through the Suez Canal. The only possible answer is: the Iranians, via their proxies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Provoke Iran, and Americans will die. JCS Chief Admiral Mullen has been saying the same thing for some time. These are officers whose careers advanced on the strength of a de facto deal with the Iranians and now they are stuck with it. And that¶s why they are dumping on Israel: if Israel hits Iran, the whole American ³exit strategy´ (based on a silly balance of power game involving Iran) falls apart. Peters does a very good job of explaining why it will fall apart in any event: Coming perhaps as early as this year (certainly within the next few years), the Karzai Compromise will at first look like this:
y y y

Karzai remains the titular head of the Kabul regime. Iran ³owns´ Western Afghanistan. Pakistan replaces the United States as the Kabul government¶s security guarantor.


y y y

y y

y y

y y

NATO grabs the excuse of ³national reconcilation´ to head for home. The United States won¶t be far behind NATO, although we¶ll continue to pour in aid to ³avoid destabilizing the situation.´«.. The Iranians and Pakistanis will struggle for influence. The next phase of the endless Afghan civil war will be a proxy fight between Tehran and Islamabad (alongside the internal factional warfare). Al Qaeda will align with Pakistan, gaining clandestine sponsorship. Karzai will be replaced by a tougher ruler backed by Pakistan, while the Iranian side elevates its own contender for power based in Herat. India will side with Iran. China will support Pakistan. Pakistan will find itself unable to control its Afghan proxies, after all. Another military regime will take power in Islamabad, as Pakistan finds itself bogged down in an Afghan morass and violence spreads at home. The Taliban will outfight and outlast everybody. As our troops surge slowly into Afghanistan to save the inept Karzai government, they may already be irrelevant. We¶re no longer in on the deal. Everybody knows it but us.

The last sentence, though, is quite wrong, in my judgment. ³We´ have known it all along. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and former Carter National Security Advisor Zbignew Brzezinski proposed to enlist Iran¶s help in stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan in a 2004 report for the Council on Foreign Relations: From the perspective of U.S.interests,one particular issue area appears particularly ripe for U.S.-Iranian engagement:the future of Iraq and Afghanistan.The United States has a direct and compelling interest in ensuring both countries¶security and the success of their post-conflict governments.Iran has demonstrated its ability and readiness to use its influence constructively in these two countries, but also its capacity for making trouble.The United States should work with Tehran to capitalize on Iran¶s influence to advance the stability and consolidation of its neighbors. This could commence via a resumption and expansion of the Geneva track discussions with Tehran on post-conflict Afghanistan and Iraq. Such a dialogue should be structured to obtain constructive Iranian involvement in


the process of consolidating authority within the central governments and rebuilding the economies of both Iraq and Afghanistan.Regular contact with Iran would also provide a channel to address concerns that have arisen about its activities and relationships with competing power centers in both countries. These discussions should incorporate other regional power brokers,as well as Europe and Russia²much like the ³Six Plus Two´negotiations on Afghanistan that took place in the years before the Taliban were ousted. A multilateral forum on the future of Iraq and Afghanistan would help cultivate confidence and would build political and economic relationships essential to the long-term durability of the new governments in Baghdad and Kabul (p. 45). Obama is following Gates¶ and Brzezinski¶s recommendation to the letter, but also the point of absurdity. It is the stupidest, most reckless, and most destructive foreign policy action the United States has taken in my lifetime. Post-Apocalyptic Zombie Finance Monday, March 22, 2010, 9:59 AM David P. Goldman That¶s the title of this morning¶s ³Spengler´ essay at Asia Times. I¶ve never seen anything quite like this, except, of course, in Japan during the 1990s± but not on a global scale, and not with the world¶s main reserve currency. The global banking system is financing the US deficit via the carry trade (borrowing cheap money from central banks directly or indirectly and lending it back to the US government). It¶s not the Asian central banks±it¶s the banks themselves. We need a new word in the English language, something like the present word ³bubble´ but without the connotation of permanence and stability. Here are the numbers:


Between November and January, the last month for which Treasury data are available, foreign private investors (overwhelmingly banks) bought $60 billion a month of Treasury notes and bonds ± an annual rate of $720 billion, or about half the total annualized borrowing requirement of the US government. Note that the central banks of the world have not increased their holdings of US government securities to a significant extent. Their net purchases are running at a modest $20 billion a month, or an annual rate of $240 billion. I¶m trying to work out the implications. This sort of zombie equilibrium persisted for two decades in Japan¶s moribund economy; in theory, the US Treasury and the financial system could keep it going indefinitely. But there are a hundred ways in which this arrangement could go wrong. Weaker governments like Greece and Spain, or even the United Kingdom, could snap the chain. A shift out of US dollars in response to monetary inflation could force the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates. An attempt by investors to ease out of thecarry trade could provoke a stampede for the exits. Japan has managed to keep its bubble going for 20 years. But Japan did so on the strength of its domestic banking system under the supervision of the Bank of Japan; the United States depends on the reserve status of


the dollar, which makes less and less sense when the Treasury is flooding the world with US liabilities. We have never seen anything quite like this before, and one hesitates to make forecasts about an arrangement so absurd and unstable that the list of potential break-points is endless. Now that the whole world is buying US government debt on borrowed money, it makes no sense to own it. It will end badly ± but it is too early to specify just how and when. 6 responses in the forum | Add your response

Obama Is in More Trouble Over Iran Than Israel Monday, March 15, 2010, 7:41 AM David P. Goldman Trouble in US-Israeli relations is real, but is misrepresented in the press accounts. No-one±really, no-one±cares about the Palestinians. The tiff centers on Israel¶s plans to attack Iran. And Obama may be in more trouble than Netanyahu. This week¶s Spengler essay at Asia Times Online digs into the story behind the story. The chess-masters of Tehran have played a single combination for the past five years: threaten America¶s flanks in Iraq and Afghanistan in order to gain control of the center of the board, that is, by pushing on with a nuclear program that many suspect is designed to acquire nuclear weapons. [the "many suspect" was added by an editor--I have requested its removal]. Iran will succeed, unless another player kicks over the chessboard. Israeli officials report that American officials are visiting Jerusalem ± including Vice President Joseph Biden last week ± to warn Israel against launching an attack on Iran. ³They¶re not talking about the Palestinians, they¶re only talking about Iran,´ commented the head of one Israeli political party. That explains the exceptionally harsh, even adversarial tone that Washington has taken towards Israel, supposedly in response to last week¶s go-ahead for 1,600 apartments in East Jerusalem, but evidently in anticipation of an Israeli attack on Iran.


Reuters quoted an unnamed American official warning that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu¶s position was ³perilous´ because of alleged divisions in his government over negotiating with the Palestinians. United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton¶s March 12 statement seemed disproportionate that the East Jerusalem construction was ³a deeply negative signal about Israel¶s approach to the bilateral relationship and counter to the spirit of the vice president¶s trip´. And the Israeli news site Debka.com, which frequently carries intelligence community leaks, reports that Washington is threatening to withhold weapons from the Israelis. Considering that Obama faces congressional elections in five months and well may lose control of both houses, the lady may protest too much. Obama may be in a lot more trouble than Netanyahu. The Obama administration¶s shrill tone towards Israel reflects its domestic political weakness as much as its strategic problems. According to a March 7 poll by The Israel Project, Americans take the Israeli side against the Palestinians by a margin of 57% to 7%, with the rest neutral. A Gallup Poll released February 28 gives the margin at 63% to 15%, with 23% neutral. Only 30% of respondents told Gallup that they expect a peace agreement between Israel and the Arab states. More to the point, 60% of respondents in a March 2 Fox News poll said they believed force would be required to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, while only 25% believe that diplomacy and sanctions will work. Fifty-one percent of Democrats and 75% of Republicans polled favored the use of force. Obama¶s job approval for handling Iran was at only 41%, with 42% disapproving. An Israeli strike against Iran¶s nuclear facilities would polarize American opinion. And if the Obama administration attempted to punish Israel for doing what most Americans seemingly want to do in any event, the balance of American sentiment ± if available polling data are any guide ± would shift away from Obama and to Israel. Obama¶s party would pay at the polls in November. 40 responses in the forum | How about a self-portrait? Friday, March 12, 2010, 7:52 AM David P. Goldman Add your response


Damien Hirst¶s bisected pig in formaldehyde is on sale at a Christie¶s gallery in London for $12 million: Hirst¶s 1996 taxidermy-in-formaldehyde piece, µµThis Little Piggy Went to Market, This Little Piggy Stayed at Home,´ consisting of a pig sliced in half in two vitrines, one of which slides backward and forward, attracted crowds of wine-quaffing browsers to the booth of London-based dealers Haunch of Venison. The sculpture, which was included in the ³Sensation´ show at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1997, was acquired directly from the artist by the gallery, a wholly owned subsidiary of Christie¶s International, and priced at $12 million. ³We¶re having serious conversations about the piece with a private collector and an institution but it isn¶t formally reserved,´ said gallery co-founder Harry Blain. I am taking up a collection to commission Mr. Hirst to execute a self-portrait in the same medium. 20 responses in the forum | Tell That to the Nigerians Friday, March 12, 2010, 7:48 AM David P. Goldman Yesterday¶s New York Times carried an horrific account of the slaughter of five hundred Christians by Muslim nomads March 7. It begins: JOS, Nigeria ² Dispassionately, the baby-faced young man recounted his killings: two women and one man, first beaten senseless with a stick, then stabbed to death with a short knife. The man, Dahiru Adamu, 25, was crouching on the floor in the sprawling police headquarters here, summoned to give an accounting of the terrible night of March 7, when, he said, he and dozens of other herdsmen descended on a slumbering village just south of here and slaughtered hundreds with machetes, knives and cutlasses in a brutal act of sectarian retribution. Add your response


Meanwhile it was tea and cookies in Germany, where Christian and Muslim theologians met last week to discuss mutual respect under the byword, ³Testimony, Yes ² Proselytizing, No!´
Muslims and Christians alike find themselves confronted with the difficulty on the one hand to spread the message of their faith, and to recognize the other, the inexorable right to free exercise of religion and theological legitimacy of the other. ³Testimony, yes ² active proselytizing, no!´ - That was the conclusion of the meeting. Both religions have developed theological approaches that can appreciate the inherent value of the other confession as an enrichment, without relativizng one¶s own religious truth. ´Today, to be religious means to be inter-religious!´ - So said the Jesuit scholar of Islam, [Papal advisor Fr.] Christian Troll. Conversions possibly could be brought about by God, but not by human effort or strategies.

Doesn¶t that give you a warm and fuzzy feeling? The only problem is that there aren¶t any Christians left in Germany. If Muslims wished to convert to Christianity, they would have to rebuild the faith from scratch. There are plenty of Christians in Nigeria, though±71 million by the official count. That¶s almost as many as the population of Germany (81 million). Only 4.1% of German Catholics and 1.2% of German Protestants turn up in church on an average Sunday. Maybe the German theologians should hold their next interfaith dialogue in Nigeria. Ich kann nicht so viel fressen, als ich kotzen moechte ± I can¶t eat enough to puke as much as I would like to. 37 responses in the forum | Presbydrearians Thursday, March 11, 2010, 5:46 PM David P. Goldman The Anti-Defamation League of B¶Nai B¶rith calls the Presbyterian Church to account for yet another display of leftist knee-jerk hostility to the State of Israel: ADL: PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH USA REPORT ³OFFENSIVE ATTACK ON JUDAISM AND ISRAEL´ New York, NY, March 11, 2010 « The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today called a new report from the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) on Add your response


the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ³a toxic mix of bad history, politically motivated distortions and offensive attacks on Judaism and Israel.´ The 172-page report, titled ³Breaking Down the Walls,´ was produced by PCUSA¶s Middle East Study Committee. The document will be offered for adoption as church policy at the Presbyterian Church¶s General Assembly meeting in July. ³The Presbyterian Church USA, despite their resolution two years ago to take an even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has gone back on its word with this offensive and biased report,´ said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. ³Rather than take a neutral or balanced approach, the Presbyterian Church committee has offered up a toxic mix of bad history, politically motivated distortions and offensive attacks on Judaism and Israel.´ The League noted that in preparing their report, the Presbyterian study committee failed to meet with mainstream American Jewish organizations, limiting its contact to a handful of small Jewish and Israeli left-of-center activist groups and a retired Israeli rabbi, among others. Among its most troubling sections, the ³Breaking Down the Walls´ report: Legitimizes doubts about Israel¶s right to exist; Calls on the United States government to consider withholding military aid to Israel; Endorses the recent Kairos Palestine document, called ³A Moment of Truth´ which excuses Palestinian terrorism and fully blames Israel for any and all Palestinian violence; Calls on the U.S. government to repent of its ³sinful behavior´ vis-à-vis the Middle East; Misrepresents both the history of Israel and Jewish religious faith, in particular by attacking fundamental aspects of Jewish religious identity, such as God¶s covenant with the Jewish people and the promise of the land; Argues that Iranian and Israeli nuclear weapons would pose a similar threat to the region. ³Two years ago we publicly welcomed PCUSA¶s adoption of a


resolution calling for an even-handed approach toward the IsraeliPalestinian conflict,´ said Mr. Foxman. ³We said then that we looked forward to working with the church to enhance our dialogue. But this Presbyterian committee ignored our outstretched hand of friendship, as well as the church¶s mandate for balance and fairness. It is an affront to Americans, the Jewish people, Israel, and raises serious questions about PCUSA¶s credibility as a partner in interfaith dialogue with the Jewish community.´ ADL called on Presbyterians of good conscience to reject the unfair, unbalanced, and wrong assertions made in the report and vote against ³Breaking Down the Walls´ when it is presented for adoption at the PCUSA¶s 219th General Assembly in July in Minneapolis. There seems to be a natural affinity between the existentially-challenged mainline Protestants, who have disappeared as a major force in American religion over the past generation and will disappear even as a remnant in the next generation, and the Palestinian Arabs, a failed people in search of a failed state ² and a concomitant hatred borne of jealousy of the thriving Jewish state and the flourishing Jewish people. Yemach shemam (may their names be erased) ² and that¶s not asking for much given how fast they are disappearing. 18 responses in the forum | Add your response

I will be on Larry Kudlow¶s 7 PM CNBC show tonight (First Segment) Thursday, March 11, 2010, 3:25 PM David P. Goldman One response in the forum | Add your response Christianity and Myth: Why There¶s No Jewish ³Narnia´ Friday, March 5, 2010, 1:49 PM David P. Goldman Somewhere in Tolkien¶s letters he makes clear that the Dwarves of Middle Earth are his Jews. The Dwarvish language of which a few short examples are given is obviously derived from Semitic sources, just as High-Elven stems from Finnish and other Northern European roots. The Dwarves were created before the Elves in the Silmarillion, Tolkien¶s posthumously-


published compendium of the myths underlying the Lord of the Rings trilogy±but they were created rather by accident, and the whole business had to be done again from scratch to get it right. Thus Tolkien acknowledges in allegorical fashion the precedence of the Jews and their positive qualities (apart from the fact that they are clannish, like to spend their lives digging for wealth, and their women have beards). The Dwarvish alliance with Elves and Men against the Dark Lord makes clear Tolkien¶s view that the Jews have their hearts in the right place, and the friendship of Legolas and Gimli is downright ecumenical. Thus a Catholic author has no difficulty inventing a mythological parallel for the Jews, and treating them rather decently. Why don¶t Jews invent myths for themselves? That is the question raised by Michael Weingrad in an article i the new Jewish Review of Books, entitled, ³Why There Is No Jewish Narnia.´ There is plenty of what critics later came to call el real maravilloso (the ³miraculous real´ of Alejo Carpentier or Gabriel Garcia Marquez, usually mistranslated as ³magical realism.´ But there is nothing like Tolkien or C.S.Lewis. ³Indeed, one wonders why, amidst all the initiatives to solve the crisis in Jewish continuity, no one has yet proposed commissioning a Jewish fantasy series that might plumb the theological depths like Lewis or at least thrill Jewish preteens with tales of Potterish derring-do,´ Weingrad asks. The question, I believe, is not why Jews don¶t write fantasy literature, but why Christians do. His rather limp explanation is: It is not only that Jews are ambivalent about a return to an imaginary feudal past. It is even more accurate to say that most Jews have been deeply and passionately invested in modernity, and that history, rather than otherworldliness, has been the very ground of the radical and transformative projects of the modern Jewish experience. This goes some way towards explaining the Jewish enthusiasm for science fiction over fantasy (from Asimov to Silverberg to Weinbaum there is no dearth of Jewish science fiction writers). That is a hard position to defend: what about Jewish devotion to Kabbala? Weingrad comes closest to an explanation by referring to Christian interest in the pagan past:


Christianity has a much more vivid memory and even appreciation of the pagan worlds which preceded it than does Judaism. Neither Canaanite nor Egyptian civilizations exercise much fascination for the Jewish imagination, and certainly not as a place of enchantment or escape. In contrast, the Christian imagination found in Lewis and Tolkien often moves, like Beowulf or Sir Gawain, through an older pagan world in which spirits of place and mythical beings are still potent. Nor is this limited to fauns and elves. This anterior world can be dark and frighteningly alien, as Tolkien has Gandalf indicate in The Two Towers. ³Far, far below the deepest delvings of the Dwarves,´ the wizard says, ³the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not.´ Lewis sounds the same note in Perelandra when, far below the surface of the planet Venus, his protagonist catches an unsettling glimpse of alien creatures, and wonders if there might be ³some way to renew the old Pagan practice of propitiating the local gods of unknown places in such fashion that it was no offence to God Himself but only a prudent and courteous apology for trespass.´ Contrast this with the treatment of the great and symbolic monster of ancient Judaism²the sea-creature Leviathan, whose terrifying pagan majesty as the personification of the watery depths the rabbis were determined to strip away: Raba said in the name of R. Yochanan: The Holy One will make a feast for the righteous out of the flesh of Leviathan, and what is left will be portioned out and made available as merchandise in the marketplaces of Jerusalem. (Bava Batra 75a) To subject the primal abyss to the forces of commerce is to demythologize with a vengeance²and to do it wholesale at that. And he observes, ³Tolkien had famously converted his friend and fellow Oxford don from skepticism to Christianity through a series of conversations that led Lewis to the realization that µthe story of Christ is simply a true myth.¶ Tolkien¶s concern was to purify the myths of the pagan past to make them more amenable to Christianity. As I wrote in a review of Tolkien¶s wonderful posthumous prequel to TLOR:


In The Children of Hurin, a tragedy set some 6,000 years before the tales recounted in The Lord of the Rings, we see clearly why it was that Tolkien sought to give the English-speaking peoples a new pre-Christian mythology. It is a commonplace of Tolkien scholarship that the writer, the leading Anglo-Saxon scholar of his generation, sought to restore to the English their lost mythology. In this respect the standard critical sources (for example Edmund Wainwright) mistake Tolkien¶s profoundly Christian motive. In place of the heroes Siegfried and Beowulf, the exemplars ofGerman and Anglo-Saxon pagan myth, we have the accursed warrior Turin, whose pride of blood and loyalty to tribe leave him vulnerable to manipulation by the forces of evil. Tolkien¶s popular Ring trilogy, I have attempted to show, sought to undermine and supplant Richard Wagner¶s operatic Ringcycle, which had offered so much inspiration for Nazism. [1] With the reconstruction of the young Tolkien¶s prehistory of Middle-earth, we discern a far broader purpose: to recast as tragedy the heroic myths of pre-Christian peoples, in which the tragic flaw is the pagan¶s tribal identity. Tolkien saw his generation decimated, and his circle of friends exterminated, by the nationalist compulsions of World War I; he saw the cult of Siegfried replace the cult of Christ during World War II. His life¶s work was to attack the pagan flaw at the foundation of the West. It is too simple to consider Tolkien¶s protagonist Turin as a conflation of Siegfried and Beowulf, but the defining moments in Turin¶s bitter life refer clearly to the older myths, with a crucial difference: the same qualities that make Siegfried and Beowulf exemplars to the pagans instead make Turin a victim of dark forces, and a menace to all who love him. Tolkien was the anti-Wagner, and Turin is the anti-Siegfried, the anti-Beowulf. Tolkien reconstructed a mythology for the English not (as Wainwright and other suggest) because he thought it might make them proud of themselves, but rather because he believed that the actual pagan mythology was not good enough to be a predecessor to Christianity. Christianity proposes to transform and ennoble the pagan without, however, erasing his pagan origin. To make Englishmen into better Christians, Tolkien therefore believed that he had to first make them into better pagans, by purifying the pagan myths that preceded the ³true myth.´ The pagan only can understand myth, that is, a story by which the divine intrudes into the world and takes shape among men.


There is an interesting parallel between Tolkien and Rene Girard, who believes that ritual sacrifice stems from ³mimetic violence´ in which primitive peoples choose an arbitrary victim in order to control their common impulse towards violence. That is the origin of ritual sacrifice as a repetition of this event, and myth as recollection of this event. Christianity thus is the anti-myth, the ³true myth´ by which the ancient cycle of mimetic violence is put aside for ever by the ultimate sacrifice, namely God¶s selfsacrifice. As a matter of pure anthropology I don¶t think there¶s a shred of historical evidence to support Girard¶s account. Sacrifice has an entirely different origin in Judaism and Christianity; the standard account is Jon Levenson¶s Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son. A few of the ancient Canaanite and Babylonian myths do peek through Jewish Scripture, such as the Leviathan mentioned by Weingrad. But Judaism has no need of myth; on the contrary, it is hostile to it. There are of course mythological elements attached to the first chapters of Genesis, but Genesis mainly is a family history. The miracles of Exodus have a mythological quality, but it is not a necessary one: what occurred, Jews believe, was miracle, not myth. Most remarkable in Jewish scripture is that the entire account of the House of David and the subsequent exile and redemption of Israel over the first six hundred years of the first millennium B.C.E. contains very few supernatural elements at all: the lightning igniting Elijah¶s sacrifice and his assumption into heaven, Elisha¶s reviving of the Shunnamite woman¶s son, Saul¶s interrogation of ghost of Samuel, for example. Compare this to the contemporary of the authors of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles, e.g. Homer, who lived in a god-infested world. I do not mean to deprecate the Christian treatment of myth. As I wrote about Tolkien¶s Hurin volume, Tolkien is a writer of greater theological depth than his Oxford colleague C S Lewis, in my judgment. Lewis is a felicitous writer and a diligent apologist, but mere allegory along the lines of the Narnia series can do no more than restate Christian doctrine; it cannot really expand our experience of it. Tolkien takes us to the dark frontier of a world that is not yet Christian, and therefore is tragic, but has the capacity to become Christian. It is the world of the Dark Ages, in which barbarians first encounter the light. It is not fantasy, but rather a distillation of the spiritual history of the West.


Whereas C S Lewis tries to make us comfortable in what we already believe by dressing up the story as a children¶s masquerade, Tolkien makes us profoundly uncomfortable. Our people, our culture, our language, our toehold upon this shifting and uncertain Earth are no more secure than those of a thousand extinct tribes of the Dark Ages; and a greater hope than that of the work of our hands and the hone of our swords must avail us. Nor do I mean to suggest that Jews are less prone to idolatry than Christians. As the Tanya, the Kabbalistic treatise by the first Lubovitcher Rebbe, puts it, all of us are idolaters, for if we believed the First Commandment ² that Hashem is our God ² we never would sin. But Jews and Christians are different, in a way that Michael Weingrad does not quite appreciated. He wants more Jewish fantasy fiction, and write: We will probably see more Jewish writers producing fantasy, as younger Israeli writers seek to follow global trends, and as younger American Jewish writers shed older instinctive hesitations about the genre. But we will have to wait some time, if not forever, for a genuinely Jewish fantasy work to appear. It may not be impossible, but it will take some audacity and may require more literary stimulation than any anthology of forgotten Jewish mythic materials, such as Schwartz and Dagan have given us, is likely to provide. It would require at least a Jewish education equivalent to the philological and medievalist backgrounds of the Oxford and Cambridge dons Tolkien and Lewis. Perhaps there is some Jewish Studies professor or yeshiva student even now scribbling in a notebook. Why? Christians like Lewis and (even more) Tolkien have an existential need to address myth, which we do not. There is nothing wrong with Jews reading and enjoying Tolkien, whom I have called the most Catholic author of the past century±any more than it is wrong for Jews to listen to Bach¶s St. Matthew Passion or Mozart¶s Requiem. But this genre has uniquely Christian characteristics, which Jews should understand±and admire. 77 responses in the forum | Welcome to the Jewish Review of Books Tuesday, March 2, 2010, 11:50 AM David P. Goldman Add your response


David Klinghoffer, the ³Kingdom of Priests´ blogger at Beliefnet, was telling me the other day about the Orthodox shul in Seattle at which he davens. Very few members of the synagogue (the rabbi excepted) were raised in Orthodox homes. Almost all are Jews who embraced Orthodoxy as adults, including converts within mixed marriages and various degrees of baalei tshuvah (Jewish returnees to observance). His perception is that this phenomenon is common in the American provinces. The demographers appear far behind the facts: there appears to be a great resurgence of observant Jewish practice. Not only the fertility of Orthodox familes (3 to 4 children in Modern Orthodox families and 6 to 7 among the Haredi), but the attraction of Orthodoxy, is swelling the numbers of what until recently was America¶s smallest Jewish denomination. A sign of the spiritual stirring among American Jews is the number of new publications devoted to Jewish matters, including the website Tablet and now the Jewish Review of Books, whose maiden issue came in yesterday¶s mail. The JRB¶s format looks a bit like the New York Review of Books, except that it is quarterly rather than bi-weekly (I hope reader interest will elicit a higher frequency of publication). Its publisher, Eric Cohen, is a member of the Institution for Religion and Public Life¶s board of directors, and an editorial board member, Prof. J.H.H. Weiler, will give this year¶s Erasmus Lecture next week. JRB adopts as its motto Franz Rosenzweig¶s twist on Terence (³nothing Jewish is alien to me´), citing the great German-Jewish theologian¶s observation that ³not everything Jewish was worthy of celebration, only that it was worthy of understanding.´ The first issue correspondingly has an air of ³Here comes everybody (Jewish).´ From the Orthodox side, Shalom Carmy, the distinguished head of bible studies at Yeshiva University, offers a review of a book on bio-ethics by former First Things editor Gilbert Meilander, and the leading Bible scholar, Prof. Jon Levenson of Harvard, has a lucid critique of the perfervid idea of ³Abrahamic religions.´ Secular and reform Jews are included as well. Hillel Halkin, a frequent contributor to Commentary, reviews Rabbi Lord Sacks¶ edition of the Koren Siddur (the Jewish prayer book). It is a uniquely Jewish study in contradiction: with what he describes as ³my snobbery,´ Halkin quibbles with details of Sacks¶ translation that might diminish the aesthetic pleasure of Hebrew prayer (he is something of a maven of Hebrew poetry, and the translations of medieval Hebrew verse included in his recent biography of


Yehuda Halevi are clever and well-crafted). He evinces the sensitivity of the Pea Princess to anything in the siddur that might detract from devotion. Yet he pulls back and observes: Nothing, however, can keep one focused on one¶s prayers when one loses faith in the God to whom one has been praying. This happened to me midway through adolescence. Although since then I have attended many synagogues services, I have never really been able to pray. A part of me still yearns for the days when I could«[I] feel like an imposter when I take part in a synagogue service today. Like anyone skilled at playing a role, I alone know I am playing it. Halkin is quite secular, but retains aesthetic sense of the Hebrew service. For those who do know know the morning (schaharit) prayer service, Halkin¶s article provides one of the best summaries available. And despite his own lack of faith, passages such as the one below doubtless will prompt not a few of his readers to stop by an Orthodox shul before work to pray: Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh: the prophet Isaiah¶s three ³holies´ are customarily exclaimed while rising with each on the balls of one¶s feet, as if the congregation were a throng of angels seeking to catch a glimpse of God¶s throne over the heads of those in front of it. It is, as Jonathan Sacks writes in his thoughtful introduction, a moment of ³astonishing drama.´ Angels and men in rabbinic midrash are often portrayed as rivals, men striving for the angels¶ closeness to God, angels jealous of God¶s fascination with men, and there is an undercurrent of this competition in the morning prayer, which describes [His] ministering angels, all of whom stand in the universe¶s heights, proclaiming together, in awe, aloud, the words of the living God, the eternal King. They are all beloved, all pure, all mighty, and all perform in awe and reverence the will of their Maker. All open their mouths in holiness and purity, With song and psalm, And bless, praise, glorify, revere, sanctify and declare the sovereignty of [God] What mortal can vie with such creatures of perfection? Yet in the kedusha, men and angels join together, serenading God with the same words. As it is above, so it is below. For a brief moment every morning, the universe is


unified as it was at the time of its creation, of which shacharit is a recurring commemoration. Jon Levenson¶s discussion of ³Abrahamic religions´ is the strongest piece in the inaugural issue. Carefully, but ruthlessly, he shows that the concept of Abraham and what he means in the context of God¶s election has different meanings for the three faith communities who cite the patriarch. The concept of ³election´ both unites and separates the Jewish and Christian understanding of Abraham, and lead to quite different readings of scripture they both embrace; the Muslim concept, in which election plays no role, is a different thing altogether. He concludes: The very claim that God has graciously singled out a particular people±the people of Israel or the Church±constitutes both a bond and a barrier between these continuing communities, one that they do not share with Islam. But even in the case of Jews and Christians, to speak of the Abrahamic legacy as only a bond, or as only a barrier, is to simplify matters to the point of falsification. In this instance, as in so many others, the challenge before Jews and Christians alike is to uphold with integrity both the connections and the divisions. Since today the pressure to uphold the connections is vastly greater than the pressure to uphold the divisions, this is, alas, no easy task. Prof. Weiler denounces the recent decision by the British courts to overturn as ³racist´ the Orthodox Jewish criteria for Jewish identity as applied to the selection of pupils for Orthodox day schools. His argument is very similar to mine in the January issue of FT. A Reform rabbi¶s review of Dana Evan Kaplan¶s book Prospects for American Judaism also caught my eye, as it reiterates themes I raised in my earlier review of the book. Rabbi Lance Sussman estimates that the Reform Movement has a lost a third of its members in the past decade and is in danger of extinction. He writes: Most perplexing is Kaplan¶s cursory and inadequate treatment of contemporary Orthodox Judaism in America. He does have a sub-chapter entitled ³The Surprising Survival and Revival of Orthodox Judaism.´ But is it really so very surprising, in view of the world-wide revival of old-fashioned religion, including the tremendous growth of American Protestant fundamentalism? What is truly surprising is the scant attention that he gives


to Orthodoxy, especially in view of his observation at the end of the book that ³relations between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews have been steadily deteriorating,´ and that the two groups are rapidly moving toward a complete schism. «. Closer to his (and my own) spiritual home, Kaplan also fails to critically examine Reform Judaism. Instead, he generally echoes the movement¶s own triumphalism. All in all, it is an auspicious beginning. One wonders, though, to which demographic the JRB is directed. Hillel Halkin is exemplary of an older generation of Jews raised in observance but long since alienated from faith, who nonetheless feel a deep loyalty to the Jewish people. Since it is old people who have the money to fund magazines, JRB seems to reflect this generational perspective. Yet is young Jews who constitute the backbone of Orthodoxy and portend a future Orthodox majority. Rabbi Ben Greenberg of Harvard observed in the February issue of FT: Not until the appearance of the National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) of 2000±2001 did the underlying strength of Orthodoxy register with the Jewish world at large. The year 2000 was also the year in which an Orthodox Jew ran for the vice presidency of the United States. The NJPS placed the percentage of American Jews who define themselves as Orthodox at 10 percent of the total Jewish population. In addition, another 21 percent of Jewish households belong to an Orthodox synagogue. What is perhaps most stunning is that 34 percent of Jews within the age bracket of 18±34 identify with Orthodoxy. The grandson remembers what the father never knew, states a Yiddish proverb. The 18-to-34 demographic has yet to find its own voice, and its own intellectual fora. 8 responses in the forum | Add your response

Hat Tip to the American Thinker (and to myself) Wednesday, February 24, 2010, 12:37 PM David P. Goldman Apparently the Cargo Cult meme already hit the Web before my last post, via the American Thinker, picked up by the Daily Kos as well.


In fact, I first used the term in January 2008 after Obama¶s surprise victory in the South Carolina primary: If Reagan offered ³voodoo economics´, as his opponents charged, Obama is selling Cargo Cult economics. After World War II, New Guinea aborigines build model airfields to entice the gods to bring them ³cargo´. They watched American soldiers build airstrips and land cargo planes, and sought to accomplish the same through sympathetic magic. Given the culture of the aborigines and their observations, anthropologists aver, making radios and observation towers out of straw and coconuts was a rational response. Something similar might be said of the position of the American middle class. No responses yet in the forum | The Ron Paul Tantrum Wednesday, February 24, 2010, 12:33 PM David P. Goldman Apropos of not knowing how squished they are: Attendees at the Conservative Political Action Committee annual conference chose Ron Paul (R.-Texas) as their favorite candidate in the CPAC straw poll. That¶s not a vote: it¶s a tantrum. Ron Paul is an idiot, on a good day. The vote bespeaks an hysterical nostalgia for simpler and easier times (that never existed in any case). Make big government go away, make the world go away, keep money sound, and leave everyone to their own devices, and all magically will be well. The Cargo Cult of Economic Recovery Wednesday, February 24, 2010, 12:27 PM David P. Goldman Like the New Guinea primitives who built straw airfields after the departure of American forces to bring ³cargo´ down from the heavens, Americans wait for the business cycle to turn. They will wait a long time. The Obama administration is administrating the economic equivalent of barbiturates to a near-comatose patient, as I wrote this morning over at the First Thoughts blog. Add your response


And my Top 10 Reasons to fade the recovery appeared yesterday on my ³Inner Workings´ blog at Asia Times: 10) There is no recovery at all in Europe. European growth ground to a halt during the fourth quarter and German busines confidence unexpectedly fell in February. 9) China won¶t collapse, but government efforts to stop overheatingby raising reserve requirements make clear that the world¶s second-largest economy can¶t be the locomotive for world growth. 8. Greece and its prospective rescuers in the European Community are at loggerheads over conditions for EC help. ³Greece faces several important challenges in the coming days, including an expected bond auction, a planned general strike on Wednesday, and a visit from European Union officials that began Monday, aimed at pushing the country to take tougher steps to rein in its budget deficit,´ WSJ reported today. 7. State fiscal crises continue to worsen. ³Doomsday is here for the state of Illinois,´ California¶s last set of cosmetic measures do little to address a $20 billion deficit, Baltimore has no idea how to close a $120 billion deficit. On top of this year¶s $200 billion deficit, states face a trillion-dollar shortfall in pension funds. 6) Commercial real estate is nowhere near bottom, with some sectors (e.g. hotels) at delinquency rates of nearly 10%. Credit Suisse says that delinquencies could reach $60 billion. 5) Regional banks continue to drop like flies, with 702 banks holding assets of $403 billion on the danger list. 4) Bank credit continues to shrink. Total bank credit is still falling at a 5% annual rate, an unprecedented decline:

3) What bank credit is available is funding the US Treasury deficit in the mother of all crowdings-out, replacing commercial loans on banks¶ balance sheets:


2) Industrial production has bounced of the bottom, but manufacturing is only 15% of US employment.

And Dave¶s top reason to fade the recovery is 1) Employment won¶t come back. Today¶s consumer confidence number is one more nail in the coffin of exaggerated hopes for a cyclical recovery. 11 responses in the forum | For this, they make a living? Tuesday, February 23, 2010, 8:01 PM David P. Goldman The Daily Telegraph reports on a breakthrough in brain science: For decades critics of modern classical music have been derided as philistines for failing to grasp the subtleties of the chaotic sounding compositions, but there may now be an explanation for why many audiences find them so difficult to listen to. A new book on how the human brain interprets music has revealed that listeners rely upon finding patterns within the sounds they receive in order to make sense of it and interpret it as a musical composition. While traditional classical music follows strict patterns and formula that allow the brain to make sense of the sound, modern symphonies by composers such as Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern simply confuse listeners¶ brains. Philip Ball, author of The Music Instinct, has drawn on the latest scientific findings from neuroscientists to show structure and patterns in music are a fundamental part of musical enjoyment. He said: ³Many people still seem to find modern classical music challenging. If that is the case, then they can relax as it is challenging for a good reason and it is not because they are in some way too musically stupid to appreciate it. Add your response


³The brain is a pattern seeking organ, so it looks for patterns in music to make sense of what we hear. The music of Bach, for example, embodies a lot of the pattern forming process. ³Some of the things that were done by those composers such as Schoenberg undermined this cognitive aid for making music easier to understand and follow. Schoenberg¶s music became fragmented which makes it harder for the brain to find structure. ³That isn¶t to say, of course, that it is impossible to listen to, it is just harder work. It would be wrong to dismiss such music as a racket.´ Mr Ball believes that many traditional composers such as Mozart, Bach and Beethoven subconsciously followed strict musical formula to produce music that was easy on the ear by ensuring it contained patterns that could be picked out by the brain. In the early twentieth century, however, composers led by Schoenberg began to rally against the traditional conventions of music to produce compositions which lack tonal centres, known as atonal music. Under their vision, which has been adopted by many subsequent classical musicians, music no longer needed to be confined to a home note or chord. But such atonal music has been badly received by audiences and critics who have found it difficult to follow. Professor David Huron, an expert on music cognition at Ohio State University, has studied some of the underlying reasons why listeners struggled with such modern classical pieces. He said: ³Much of what the brain does is to anticipate the future. Predicting what happens next has obvious survival value, and brains are remarkably adept at anticipating events. ³We measured the predictability of tone sequences in music by Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern and found the successive pitches were less predictable than random tone sequences. ³For listeners, this means that, every time you try to predict what happens next, you fail. The result is an overwhelming feeling of confusion, and the


constant failures to anticipate what will happen next means that there is no pleasure from accurate prediction.´ Dr Aniruddh Patel, a researcher at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, California, said that tonal music such as traditional classical music uses some of the same mechanisms needed for processing language. In this case language fails me. I¶m searching for a term like Doh, but without the deep layers of ambiguity. 14 responses in the forum | ³McStrategy´ over at Tablet Magazine Thursday, February 18, 2010, 8:41 AM David P. Goldman Tablet Magazine asked me for a profile of Stratfor¶s George Friedman, the great impresario of private intelligence; it appears in today¶s issue. I haven¶t had so much fun, as the Continental Op said, since the hogs ate my kid brother. Here¶s the conclusion: Stratfor¶s entrepreneurial success sheds valuable light on the failures of U.S. foreign policy. Americans really are incurious about the rest of the world; they do not learn foreign languages, absorb other cultures, or think much about world history. It was Barack Obama, our shining model of the intellectual as public servant, who recently told a Viennese audience that he did not know how to communicate in ³Austrian.´ American officials can absorb only so much information about the rest of the world, and we forgive our own dire ignorance with startling alacrity. The nuggets of McStrategy beamed to Stratfor subscribers really do resemble the briefings that senior officials get. And that explains a lot. 52 responses in the forum | The Case for an Israeli Strike Against Iran Wednesday, February 17, 2010, 7:11 AM David P. Goldman See today¶s Spengler column in Asia Times Online. Some extracts: Add your response Add your response


The fact that Ha¶aretz, Israel¶s left-leaning daily, found it necessary on February 17 to warn the Benjamin Netanyahu government not to attack Iran [1] strongly suggests that the option is on the table. It seems clear that the administration of US President Barack Obama never will use force against Iran, despite the Iranian regime¶s open contempt for Washington and the international community. US Secretary of State Clinton this week responded with a direct ³no´ ± not ³all options are on the table´ ± when asked if America was planning a military strike. Israel has a strategic problem broader than the immediate issue of Iran¶s possible acquisition of nuclear weapons: it is an American ally at a moment when America has effectively withdrawn from strategic leadership. That leaves Israel at a crossroads. It can act like an American client state, or a regional superpower. Either decision would have substantial costs. To remain in Washington¶s pocket is to show weakness and invite the contempt of its adversaries; to ignore Washington¶s demands would incur the wrath of its most important financier and arms suppliers and possibly result in a reduction of aid. The trouble is that Israel¶s strategic problem is usually presented in reductive terms: Iran (in the standard view) represents an existential threat to Israel in that it might get nuclear weapons; this would give it the capacity to destroy Israel, and therefore Israel must nip the existential threat in the bud. In this narrow framework, pushing back Iran¶s nuclear development by six to 18 months hardly seems worth the cost. Iran¶s perceived attempt to acquire nuclear weapons, though, is not Israel¶s problem as such; the problem is that Israel is the ally of a superpower that does not want to be a superpower, headed by a president with a profound emotional attachment to a nostalgic image of the Third World. If America were in fact acting like a superpower, the problem would not have arisen in the first place, for the United States would use its considerably greater resources to destroy Iran¶s nuclear program. Rather than focus on the second-order effect ± the consequences of Iran¶s possible acquisition of nuclear weapons ± Israeli analysts should consider the primary issue, namely the strategic zimzum [2] of the United States. The correct questions are: 1) can Israel act as a regional superpower independently of the United States, and 2) what would Israel do to establish its regional superpower status?


115 responses in the forum | Obama Can¶t Find a Moderate Muslim Tuesday, February 16, 2010, 2:06 PM David P. Goldman

Add your response

CNS news has the goods on Rashad Hussain, the 31-year-old IndianAmerican whom Obama just appointed as America¶s first ambassador to the Organization of Islamic States. A few years ago, Mr. Hussain was a vocal defender of an accused (and later confessed) funder of the Islamic Jihad, a terror organization that has killed 200 Israelis. And someone took the trouble to alter an Internet archive to excise this information. Rashad Hussain was quoted as telling a Muslim students¶ event in Chicago that if U.S. Muslims did not speak out against the injustices taking place in America, then everyone¶s rights would be in jeopardy. The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA) cited Hussain as making the remarks in connection with Sami al-Arian, a university professor and activist sentenced in 2006 to more than four years in prison (including time already spent in custody) after he had pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). The U.S. government designated the PIJ as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997, and in 2003, then Attorney-General John Ashcroft described it as ³one of the most violent terrorist organizations in the world.´ Palestinian Islamic Jihad has killed more than 100 Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks. Its victims include American citizens Alisa Flatow, a 20-year-old New Jersey college student killed in a 1995 suicide bombing in Gaza, and 16-year-old Shoshana Ben-Ishai, shot dead in a bus in Jerusalem in 2001. I very much doubt the Obama administration goes about trying to find defenders of terrorism to appoint to ambassador¶s jobs. The problem, rather, is that the pool of available candidates appears to be extremely narrow. Most American Muslims are economic immigrants and their children, who have come to America because their interest in the American dream outweighs religious and political concerns. The fact that Obama has


had to dredge up this character shows how hard it is to find the right sort of candidate. But surely he could have done better than this. 53 responses in the forum | Add your response

Jewish Theological Seminary Downsizes Its Cantorial School Friday, February 12, 2010, 2:13 PM David P. Goldman Jewish Theological Seminary Downsizes Its Cantorial School by David P. Goldman The Tablet (www.tabletmag.com) reported yesterday: As part of a major restructuring effort, the Jewish Theological Seminary announced last week that its cantorial school, traditionally separate from the rabbinical school, will be integrated into the rabbinical school. Henry Rosenblum, the well-regarded dean of the H.L. Miller Cantorial School, will be laid off. The move provoked an outcry from the seminary¶s cantorial students, who fear that the shift will mean an end to the automony that they and their school previously enjoyed. The shift comes at a delicate time for the institution and for the Conservative movement, for which it serves as spiritual incubator and intellectual home. The school is reportedly millions of dollars in debt. At the same time, the once-vibrant movement has seen a steady shrinking of its membership rolls and a parallel diminution in what sets it apart from Judaism¶s Reform movement. Cantorial preparation, the school thinks, simply isn¶t as important as it used to be. According to Marissa Brostoff¶s Feb. 11 note in The Tablet: These tensions come to the fore in the institution of the cantorate. In the immediate postwar years, most Reform and Conservative congregations boasted a charismatic, operatic cantor, who sometimes even eclipsed the rabbi. Reform Judaism began a move away from this model toward more participatory services in the 1960s and ¶70s. The Conservative movement has been caught in something of a bind: while it has more recently embraced the shift in an effort to lure a younger audience, doing so has served to further blur the line that divided it from the Reform movement.


Traditional chazzanut, or Jewish cantorial art, plays a crucial role in Orthodox liturgy, particularly in the Eastern European (Ashkenazic) tradition. It is perfectly acceptable to pray without the leadership of a cantor, or chazzan, but a skilled cantor adds a dimension to prayer. Conservative congregations are important more popular music into liturgy: Israeli folk music, pseudo-Hasidic melodies, and material derived from Hollywood. This suits the ³lightly affiliated´ Jews who make up the bulk of the membership at Conservative synagogues. To contemporary ears, traditional synagogue chant sounds jarring and anachronistic. ³Participatory services´ are about participating, not about praying. Having thrown out the bathwater, the Conservative movement now is throwing out the baby. It is a dreadful loss, in my opinion. How is it possible to repeat the same prayers every day and every Sabbath, and yet hear them in a fresh way? Yet that is what the rabbinical authorities require. The great 11th-century Torah commentator Rashi derives this injunction from Exodus 19:1; in in that chapter the Israelites gather below Mt. Sinai and hear the voice of God declare the Ten Commandments. The verse reads, ³ In the third month of the children of Israel¶s departure from Egypt, on this day they arrived in the desert of Sinai.´ Rashi asks, ³On the New Moon (Mechilta, Shab. 86b). It could have said only, µon that day.¶ What is the meaning of µon this day¶? That the words of the Torah shall be new to you, as if they were given just today.´ Judaism above all else is the recreation of the moment of revelation at Sinai in all of time, such that time itself dissolves into a single eternal moment. The reading of the Torah in its annual cycle and the study of Torah, which the rabbis called the most important of all obligations, is sacramental rather than scholarly: all Israel continues to stand before God at Sinai. In practice, to hear the Torah each time as if it were given just today, and to pray with all the devotion and concentration that the prayers require, is quite difficult. That is why chazzanut is of such signal importance: the cantor¶s melismatic improvisation during the repetition of the Eighteen Benedictions, the central prayer of Judaism, does in fact make the prayers new.


There is a great deal to be said about how Ashkenazic chant so beautifully enhances the Hebrew liturgy, which I hope to have time to say before long. In the meantime, suffice it to say that the downsizing of the cantorial program at JTS is bad news for Judaism. 7 responses in the forum | Greece as Political Time Bomb Friday, February 12, 2010, 11:11 AM David P. Goldman Although Greece is an EC member, its finances and political system have the character of a banana republic. EC membership, though, enabled Greece to borrow far more money than any banana republic, such that the country¶s debt-to-GDP ratio is about triple that of Argentina just before the latter¶s bankruptcy in 2000. And because Greece is an EC member, the size and adumbrations of a bankruptcy would be much, much larger than that of any Latin American country. Earlier I had assumed that we were watching a negotiation: Brussels would shout ³Never!,´ the Greeks would throw tantrums, and eventually some compromise would be reached and the situation would be stabilized. Closer examination of the political situation in Greece makes me less optimistic. Greece may be suffering from an inoperable cancer, in the form of a degree of corruption that make a resolution without bankruptcy very difficult to implement. Here are some comments by a political observe in Athens who has written to me privately: Corruption in Greece has been systematically cultivated by all governments and parties. Everyone has relatives living off the public sector in cushy, donothing jobs. They get paid through various funding sources that successive governments have created so even though the nominal wage is low the actual take home and all benefits are quite high. Another important dimension to the public participation in corruption is that the rich by and large do not pay any taxes. The only people who pay are those who can¶t escape the clutches of the state: pensioners and civil servants i.e., sectors where the salaries can be accounted for. According to the President of the National Bank of Greece, 30% of the budget of the last administration was Add your response


unaccounted for²yes, just disappeared into the coffers of their families and well-wishers, and I would guess the other 70% was never audited. The common psychological traits of the corruption are what the ancients called alazoneia (brash presumption of knowledge by the ignorant) and anaischuntia (shamelessness). All public institutions have one purpose: Suck money from the EU (or via loans) and redistribute it through an inverted pyramid of chicanery with the the loaf going to the top, the crumbs to the bottom. Most people in their little niches of decay are ³expert´ at this. They ³know´ the ropes. As the country psychologically devolves there are no lines demarcating the ³good from the ³bad´, ³responsibility´ from irresponsibility´. No one ever goes to jail; no one gets punished. The Europeans know the state of affairs in the country (which they contributed to for a variety of reasons). They know that no Greek government can implement reforms through a political process of consensus. The people are waiting for their doles; the students are waiting for their payback (cushy jobs somewhere), the unions, the coops are all poised to demand their due from the machines that serve them. Meanwhile the rich are sending money out of the country (Switzerland and Cyprus) in the billions out of fear that the government may have no recourse but to grab part of their accounts in the future. Hence it seems to me that the only game in town is to put Greece under complete receivership with all orders coming from abroad for fiscal cutbacks and the like. Since the EU has no machinery for doing this and the Greek government could never have a consensus for such a program, these measures will be accomplished through fear. Greeks will be left dangling at the mercy of speculators and others, yet at the same time tacitly supported, so that with each assault the Greek government will be implementing (in a climate of panic and fear) some new unpopular measure to mollify the rating agencies and bondholders. The Greeks have not yet woken up to this new reality. They still think EU is Santa Claus or that someone will bail them out (maybe the Chinese!). The lollipops are being taken away and whatever sweets are left will probably go to prop up the banks. There are two ways in which this scenario may fail: (1) the growing resentment of the German public especially and their unwillingness to bail out Greece. This raises the possibility that at some critical point the EU


(due to populist outrage) may not be able to act decisively to stave off a run on the Greek banks. (2) Slide into anarchy in Greece itself. There is always the possibility that the combustible parts of the corrupt machinery start to ignite patches of fires here and there with hard-to-predict possibilities for touching off more general conflagrations. For now the scenario is working. But nothing really has yet happened in the country. For the man on the street all of this talk about austerity is still just future legislation, measures in the pipeline, at worst manageable cutbacks that reflect the government¶s rosy projections. If all goes according to plan Greece will be ruled by the bankers from abroad with successive waves of crises leading to new cutback-measures and ³reforms´. The road will be bumpy and the ride dangerous but manageable. But one should not discount the possibility that psychological despair and irrationality (fueled with desires to live the good life on a dole) may not spark suicidal actions along the way. Keep in mind that the youth have been completely alienated (corrupted and µconsumerized¶ by their parents) and their despair adds another factor of instability. The country is sliding into psychological despair within a cocoon of unrequited desires that have been inflamed and legitimized over the years. Anger is rampant. Yesterday on the bus a student gave his ticket to a lady, telling her that she should use his ticket because he was getting off. Someone called out that this was shameful ³thievery´ to which the youngster responded: ³I am stealing 50 cents but the government and the banks have stolen 50 billion!´ Many nodded in approval. Prime Minister Papandreou was on television last night, white as a ghost. He was telling the Greek press that he was thankful that the IMF was ³offering´ their technical expertise (technognosia) to Greece. Yes money is not coming, but how sweet of the IMF to be sending its experts to dictate terms over the next few weeks. It seems that someone in Europe gave him the unexpected news that the party is over. This reality has not yet even remotely begun to set in here. The media are giving the message that ³the Europeans can¶t afford to let Greece go under«.that Europe stands to lose too much«.that Merkel and those stuffy Northerners will have to come to Greece¶s aid.´ When the reality does start seeping in²hold on to your hats«.


One of the delusions is that there is a moral kernel in the country that we can turn to for consolation and renewal. There is no such thing. The corruption went too deep. The country is completely unprotected on the cultural and moral front. This too has not seeped in. And yet when people become desperate; when their world starts to crumble around them and all their delusions about themselves and their good life not only collapse, but do so without any legacy to fall back on and no dream to look forward to, then beware. We are in unchartered territory where Furies and Ate pilot the ship.

39 responses in the forum | Greece: A National Suicide Pact? Thursday, February 11, 2010, 11:44 AM David P. Goldman

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A general strike has paralyzed Greece in protest over rather timid austerity measures by the Papandreou government. With a budget deficit at about 13 percent of GDP, markets fear national bankruptcy. Were that to occur the Greek economy would collapse, Greek banks would be unable to roll over short-term loans, the government would be unable to borrow, and life in the Hellenic Republic would change drastically for the worse. In return for financial help from the European Union, the government has proposed to freeze (not reduce) government salaries and to cut spending a number of areas. If the Greek public were rational, they would grab this deal and the attached EC aid with both hands. But it appears otherwise. The country is paralyzed: The public sector strike brought services to a standstill in Greece, with the airport being shut and hospitals only accepting ³emergency cases,´ world media reported. The government¶s decision to freeze public sector salaries, trim armed forces spending and reduce government agencies, to cut on public spending as well as raise the retirement age have been interpreted by Greek trade unions as a ³declaration of war.´


The latest to join the protests were the taxi unions in the country. Taxis in the capital were to go on a general strike on February 11, after the association of Attica taxi drivers (SATA) declared a 24-hour strike starting at 5am, Greek daily Kathimerini said on February 11 2020. Taxis in other major cities and towns nationwide were expected to follow the actions from their colleagues in the capital, the report said. Taxi drivers were up in arms against the impact of the new tax reforms announced by the government. SATA denounced the Government measures, saying that they they ³would create a series of new problems and make our occupation more difficult, if not impossible.´ Taxi drivers were considering further strike action in the following week. Meanwhile, Greek farmers who have been up in arms against the government decisions, staged blockades along the Bulgarian ± Greek border for the fourth week running, while 18 blockades were manned at major arteries and junctions in the north of the country. Markets worldwide rose Tuesday in a relief rally when news leaked that the German government would support a bailout. The Germans, it appears, have round heels±despite repeated warnings that they never would fund a bailout of their profligate southern neighbor, they have reached for their checkbook. One reason may be that European banks (mainly German and Austrian) own the bulk of Eastern Europe¶s $1.4 trillion in external debt. Were Greece to fail, all the weaker sovereigns would be in trouble, including the so-called PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain) as well as Hungary, Ukraine, and so on. But the Greek public might not accept even a rather mild austerity program. Initially I considered this merely a negotiation: the Greek unions would noise, the Germans would shake their fingers, and ultimately a deal would be cut. But there is a nasty air of Nihilism to this. With nearly 30 percent youth unemployment, Greece is a political tinderbox. It erupted in December 2008 with youth riots that shut the country down for a week. The riots began with the shooting of a young man, but escalated in to a national general strike on Dec. 8, 2008. Wikipedia observes,


The shooting happened during a period where the Greek society faced a variety of difficulties in the midst of a worldwide economic slump. In a survey conducted shortly after the events for the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, 60% of the respondents considered them to be part of a wider ³social uprising´.[156][157] Many people were concerned with corruption scandals, most of which involved mishandling of public money, the spread of poverty, the increasing rate of unemployment amongst young graduates[158] and the slowing economy as the effects of the global economic crisis began to show.[7] The local student community² which formed the main body of protesters²had also been in significant turmoil since 2006, being opposed to a series of proposed laws regarding the reform of the country¶s education system.[6] Many of the student demonstrations in relation to these laws in early 2007 turned violent and resulted in clashes with the police,[159] though the perpetrators of the incidents of violence and vandalism, then as in December 2008, should not be necessarily identified with the students.[160] As in many other countries, young people are faced with expensive studies[161][162][163][164] and are especially affected by unemployment. However, in terms of unemployment Greece is comparable with France, Germany, or Portugal; has a lower unemployment than Spain or Slovakia; and has more unemployment than Italy, Bulgaria, or Cyprus.[165] Similarly, young people also represent a declining demographic group, compared to baby boomers, resulting in a weaker impact of the youth vote in political life, though this is also not particular to Greece. Greece, sadly, suffers from an extreme case of Euro-sclerosis. Its fertility is in the 1.3 to 1.4 range, which means that its elderly dependency ratio will rise from 27% at present to 64% in 2050. Unlike most of its EC partners, Greece has no industry of importance. Due to declining family size and emigration, the average Greek family has acquired several properties by inheritance, and the country rode a real estate boom in vacation properties. Taxi drivers took three-month seaside vacations. Problems that seemed postponable for a couple of decades have leapt into the present as a result of the Great Recession, and Greeks have the choice of becoming noticeably poorer, or catastrophically poorer while taking down a good part of the financial world with them. The old game is over, and the national tantrum might take Greece over the edge.


Where is the Simonides to write the country¶s epitaph? It might read something like: Passerby, tell them in Brussels We didn¶t pay our bills. 19 responses in the forum | Tonight on Kudlow Tuesday, February 9, 2010, 5:02 PM David P. Goldman I will be on Larry Kudlow¶s CNBC show tonight circa 7:00 p.m. 6 responses in the forum | Follow Your Bris Monday, February 1, 2010, 3:41 PM David P. Goldman ³Follow your bliss´ was the watchword of the late Joseph Campbell, the cultural anthropologist who popularized the idea of the universal ³hero¶s journey´ and the ³spiritual quest.´ Campbell was also an anti-Semite The controversy surrounding the ritual role of women at the Kotel (the western wall of the Jerusalem Temple) peaked in the last several days with the arrest of women for adopting male roles (specifically, carrying the Torah scrolls during a prayer service last week). I do not propose to evaluate charges that the Israeli police overreacted, much less to address the difficult issue of women¶s ritual leadership in Jewish worship. But the statement issued January 27 by the Conservative movement¶s Jewish Theological Seminary made me want to go out and buy a black hat: By permitting ultra-Orthodox extremists to control public life and block other caring and devoted Jews from fully realizing their spiritual quest, intentionally or not you send a message that Israel is not committed to democratic principles. Quest, schmest. Who cares if anyone realizes their ³spiritual quest´? That, if you will pardon the term is not goyische naches (a deprecatory Yiddish Add your response Add your response


term referring to something that would give satisfaction to a Gentile) but pagan naches. It bespeaks Campbell¶s New Age, narcissistic search for self-realization, not the fearful and ecstatic encounter with the creator of the universe. The God who loved Abraham stands beyond all hymns and praises of which humanity is capable, states our most frequently-recited prayer, the Kaddish. How is it possible to approach this transcendent and omnipotent God? Judaism¶s answer (and in a different way, Christianity¶s) is that God himself has given us the means to approach him, through the Temple service of which ritual prayer is the successor, through Torah study, and through imitation of God in the form of works of lovingkindness. It is not a quest that we cook up for ourselves: it is a path not too difficult for our foot to tread. Whether Judaism should change millennial tradition to accord women a ritual role long reserved for men is a agonizing question for the observant community. Last October our On the Square blog published opposing arguments by two prominent young Orthodox Rabbis Gil Student and Ben Greenberg, taking opposing sides of the issue. My innate sympathies run toward ordaining female Orthodox clergy±rabbis have a teaching rather than a sacerdotal function±but I appreciate the delicacy of the problem, and do not have the depth of understanding of Jewish law to defend a strong opinion. But I find it disappointing that the Conservative movement chooses to argue its position in terms of New Age spiritualizing rather than Jewish theology, law and tradition. It wasn¶t always this way. A dozen years ago, Rabbi David Lincoln, then the senior rabbi at the Conservative movement¶s flagship congregation Park Avenue Synagogue, commented on the efforts of liberal Jews to remove the barrier (mechitza) separating male and female worshippers. The Ottomans and the British had refused to allow a mechitza precisely in order to undermine Jewish services, in which men and women traditionally pray separately. Jews had to fight for a mechitza against hostile foreign authorities; not until the Israeli Army took East Jerusalem back in 1967 was it possible for traditional worship to prevail. ³The Orthodox have a passion for prayer,´ Rabbi Lincoln explained, and it was fitting for the services at the Kotel to proceed under traditional rules.


Whether the Israeli religious establishment is justified in setting the strictest interpretation of rules for prayer at Judaism¶s holiest site is a profound and bitter debate. I hope to publish a comment before long from a qualified writer. But Rabbi Lincoln (since retired), despite his own liberal opinions, nonetheless cautioned his congregation from the pulpit to respect the Orthodox position. The Conservative movement has come a long way, and in the wrong direction, when it pouts about how the Orthodox interfere with its ³spiritual quest.´ Did You Hear About the Polish Anti-Semite? He Liked Jews Friday, January 29, 2010, 1:57 PM David P. Goldman That, of course, is a variant of a Polish joke that decency prevents me from citing here. Considerable ink has spilled over the proposition that Poland¶s Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek is an anti-Semite, following remarks about Jewish exploitation about the Holocaust, already posted in this site¶s forum. Holocaust was a Jewish invention, says top Polish bishop Created: Monday, January 25 2010 UPDATE ± Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, one of Poland¶s most prominent religious figures, is reported to have told an Italian Catholic news web site that the Holocaust was a ³Jewish invention´. The bishop says his remarks were ³taken out of context´ however. ³The Holocaust, as such, is a Jewish invention [invenzione ebraica]. We could just as well establish a day of remembrance to the numerous victims of communism, when Catholics and Christians were persecuted,´ he told the Pontifex.Roma web site on Sunday. In remarks that will outrage Jews the world over, Bishop Pieronek said that in his opinion the memory of the Holocaust is often used as a ³propaganda weapon´ by Israel. The Krakow-based bishop said: ³Undoubtedly, the majority of those who died in the concentration camps were Jews, but also on the list were Poles, Gypsies, Italians and Catholics. So do not steal this tragedy in the name of propaganda.´


³But they, the Jews, have a good press, because the powerful have the financial resources ± extremely powerful with the unconditional support of the United States. And this promotes a kind of arrogance, which I consider to be unbearable,´ Bishop Pieronek continued. The complication is that the good bishop seems to like Jews. From his Wikipedia entry: In 2008, Pieronek received the Jan Karski Eagle Award to honour Pieronek¶s combat for tolerance and his efforts to fight against the ³extremism´ and alleged ³antisemitic tendencies´ of Radio Maryja, led by Redemptorist Father Tadeusz Rydzyk C.Ss.R. In recent years, Pieronek has supported the social project of the Children¶s Hospice ÄFather Józef Tischner´ in the city of Cracow. Bishop Pieronek supports the work of the Open Society Institute of George Soros. One has to cut the Poles a bit of slack. The Jewish Holocaust belongs to the past, while Poland¶s is ongoing. During the next forty years, Poland¶s population will fall by over 20%:
Year 2005 2010 2015 2020 2025 2030 2035 2040 2045 2050 Population 38 198 38 038 37 431 36 630 35 552 34 302 32 897 31 356 29 700 27 958

and 60% of its population will be elderly dependents:
Year 2005 2010 2015 2020 2025 2030 2035 2040 2045 2050 Total 42 39 41 45 48 49 50 55 63 75 Child 23 21 19 18 16 14 13 13 14 15 Old-age 19 19 22 27 32 35 37 41 49 60


Why shouldn¶t the Poles feel sorry for themselves? They are dying of national anomie. Israel, by contrast, has the highest fertility rate in the industrial world, at nearly 3 children per woman, vs. only 1.29 for Poland. Let them mourn their terrible fate. The Jewish victims of Auschwitz could pray for divine retribution; not so those who become extinct through lack of interest. 18 responses in the forum | Draft Paul Volcker as Fed Chairman! Wednesday, January 27, 2010, 12:02 PM David P. Goldman I posted this proposal at the ³Inner Workings´ blog but believe the issue is important enough to reiterate here: Today¶s lead Bloomberg News report that the French banks were willing to accept a haircut on their AIG swaps suggests that the New York Fed lied about the controversial (read: scandalous) decision to pay off Goldman Sachs et. al. at par for their derivatives contracts with the failing insurer: France¶s regulator was ³open to further negotiations´ to discuss the possibility of concessions by AIG counterparties Societe Generale SA and Credit Agricole SA¶s Calyon unit, in November 2008, Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the Treasury Department¶s Troubled Asset Relief Program, said in prepared remarks for a House oversight committee hearing today. New York Fed General Counsel Thomas Baxter wrote to Barofsky last year that the regulator declined to demand concessions from U.S. banks partly because ³it would not have been appropriate´ when rivals in other nations were unwilling or ³legally barred´ from giving discounts. Baxter, Barofsky and Treasury SecretaryTimothy F. Geithner, who was New York Fed president during the rescue, are scheduled to testify today before the House panel reviewing the $182.3 billion bailout. The appropriate authorities should pursue the matter ruthlessly. What laws might have been broken is a matter for the relevant investigators and, ultimately, juries to decide. But the credibility of the Federal Reserve has been damaged to the point that drastic measures are required. Add your response


Add to this the New York Times story this morning that two members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, Donald Kohn and Kevin M. Warsh, warned that the 100-cents-on-the-dollar payment to Goldman Sachs and other banks ³might be a gift´ to AIG¶s trading partners. Fed Chairman Bernanke, who rubber-stamped the New York Fed decision, as well as Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who was president of the New York Fed when the payments are made, are compromised. First of all the Fed needs spotless hands. Whether or not actual wrongdoing occurred, the Fed is guilty of miscommunication so egregious that it smells of coverup. Drastic steps are required to restore credibility and confidence. 1) Ben Bernanke should withdraw from consideration for a second term as Fed Chairman. President Obama should appoint former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker in his place. If Volcker, who is 82 years old, feels unable to accept the nomination for a full term, he should serve as Interim Chairman and head a search committee including bipartisan Congressional representation to find a permanent successor. If Bernanke insists on pursuing a second term, the Senate should vote him out. 2) Treasury Secretary Geithner should resign. Whether or not he engaged in wrongdoing, his capacity to execute his office is damaged beyond repair. I took issue with Paul Volcker¶s proposal to ban bank proprietary trading, but that is a minor issue. Volcker¶s distinguished career and unimpeachable integrity make him the man of the hour. I¶ll take Volcker¶s worst moments over Bernanke¶s best. This is not a partisan issue. The alleged malfeasance occurred under the previous administration, and Volcker became Fed Chairman under the Carter Administration. America can¶t afford to heap onto the present economic crisis yet another crisis ± of integrity.

12 responses in the forum | The Looming Iran Problem Friday, January 22, 2010, 2:25 PM

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David P. Goldman Asia Times Online today has a disturbing report on Iranian efforts to hijack the electoral process in Iraq: The kerfuffle triggered in Iraq by a government panel¶s recent disqualification of over 500 candidates from the parliamentary elections in March has engendered a new crisis that threatens to unravel delicate national reconciliation and stabilization goals. Despite the immediate intervention of United States Vice President Joseph Biden with a peacemaking solution that would allow all the candidates under the scanner to contest the elections and narrow the investigation to victorious ones after the results, the bad blood from the 2005 elections lends a foul air to the whole fracas. SNIP The latest disqualification drama has focused light on the mysterious figure of Ali Faisal al-Lami, Chalabi¶s deputy on the AJC and a friend-turned-foe of the Americans in Iraq. The recriminations that flew back and forth after Iraq¶s election commission released the list of 511 candidates for alleged links to the Ba¶ath Party have centered on Lami¶s perceived extremist Shi¶ite ties and biased background. Once an honored guest at the George W Bush White House in Washington, along with his boss, Chalabi, Lami was arrested by American forces in August 2008 on grounds that he was involved with Shi¶ite terrorist groups and Iran¶s intelligence apparatus. Held and tortured for close to one year in different jails, including what he claims was a secret US-run prison facility, Lami was so high-profile a captive that he recounts being directly advised to ³cooperate´ by General David Petraeus, the top commander of American forces in Iraq at that time. Lami makes no secret of his role as a ³liaison´ between the followers of radical Shi¶ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr¶s Mahdi Army (now inactive) and Chalabi¶s INC. He also admits to having forged a ³close friendship´ with the Asa¶ib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous) militia, which is a splinter faction of the Mahdi Army and a militant movement that continues Muqtada¶s resistance agenda of driving Western occupiers out of Iraq.


All the circumstantial evidence thus points to Iranian blessings for the AJC¶s bombshell on Iraq¶s Sunni politicians, further complicating the US¶s goal of phased withdrawal following the March elections. If Iraq¶s sectarian divide settles down into an ominous and lengthy shadow over the postelection state¶s make-up, the Barack Obama administration¶s timetable of winding up combat operations and exiting the scene by August 2010 might leave behind a status quo that strategically benefits Iran the most. Iran flaunted its territorial aims in southern Iraq earlier this month by sending regular troops to occupy an oilfield on the Iraqi side of the border. If Iran gets nuclear weapons, it will be very difficult to discourage. Bush¶s foreign policy was self-defeating; Obama¶s is self-destructive. 105 responses in the forum | Add your response

Obama Overrules Homeland Security for Tariq Ramadan Friday, January 22, 2010, 11:47 AM David P. Goldman Daniel Pipes posted this evaluation of the State Department¶s decision (dictated by Obama) to overrule a longstanding ban on permitting the Islamist academic Tariq Ramadan to enter the US: Jan. 20, 2010 update: From today¶s Associated Press: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has signed orders enabling the re-entry of professors Tariq Ramadan of Oxford University in England and Adam Habib of the University of Johannesburg in South Africa once they obtain required admittance documents, department spokesman Darby Holladay said. Clinton ³has chosen to exercise her exemption authority for the benefit of Tariq Ramadan and Adam Habib,´ Holladay said. ³We¶ll let that action speak for itself.´ In a prepared statement, Holladay noted the change in U.S. posture since both professors, who are frequently invited to the United States to lecture, were denied admittance after making statements counter to U.S. foreign policy. Both the president and the secretary of state have made it clear that the U.S. government is pursuing a new relationship with Muslim communities based on mutual interest and mutual respect.´


Comments: (1) I always expected this outcome, that Ramadan would be allowed in, because so many forces were aligned in his favor. That the exclusion lasted over five years was impressive. (2) Note that this change was ordered from the very top, specifically invoking Obama. (3) Note also the sleaziness of the State Department spokesman, ascribing Ramadan¶s exclusion to his ³making statements counter to U.S. foreign policy.´ No, the reason was explicitly his having provided funds to a terrorist-related organization. Why the gratuitous lie, State Department? (4) The Obama administration puts this case into the context of ³pursuing a new relationship with Muslim communities based on mutual interest and mutual respect.´ But it¶s always been a terrorism case, with no connection to issues of Islam. What amateurs. (5) Note the term ³mutual respect,´ the hackneyed phrase repeatedly applied to the U.S. government and Muslims ± so much so that I have devoted a whole blog to Obama¶s use of these words. (6) So, fellow Americans, how many of you feel safer with the prospect of Tariq Ramadan present in person to talk to our Islamists? Paul Berman, whose superb 30,000 word expose on Ramadan in the New Republic showed how the Swiss-born Islamist terrorizes journalists with the threat of violence, had this comment in Tablet magazine today: Tariq Ramadan is coming to America. Is it a mistake for the Obama administration to let him in? It¶s a good move for the U.S. to encourage freedom of speech and open debate. It¶s a mistake, however, to imagine that he has positive contributions to make. Ramadan has no deep, important thoughts we need to hear? I do think it¶s worth the trouble to look into his deep thoughts, and to notice how problematic they are. He can say something attractive at the level of a slogan; but when you examine it more closely it turns out to have unexpected meanings. He opposes terrorism but he does it with a series of


asterisks. If you read the footnote in tiny print you discover some troubling aspects regarding terrorism, and this is borne out by the fact that he did donate money to a Hamas charity. To do so was not illegal at the time, and he has himself argued he didn¶t know where his money was going. But if you read Ramadan carefully you would not be surprised to learn he donates money to such groups. In my book I have more to say about Ramadan¶s own philosophical ideas, which I find pretty appalling and obscurantist. How can so many Western intellectuals, like Buruma and Garton Ash, just to name two, be so wrong about Ramadan? The main reason they are attracted to Ramadan¶s ideas is because of a bias against Muslims that leads many people to think the Muslim world, which contains 1.5 billion people, is incapable of producing genuinely attractive thinkers. Of course this is untrue, but because so many people believe it, they turn to Tariq Ramadan. Another reason is that there is a Western fantasy that some messianic Muslim figure will step forward and resolve all the outstanding problems between Islam and the West. There¶s a search for the great Muslim hope. Ramadan is put into that role, and he puts himself into it. To imagine that such a figure will step forward also reflects a bias against the Muslim world, since it suggests there is such a thing as the Muslim world²when in fact there is not any such thing. Islam has 10,000 sects and heresies and 100,000 episodes in its history, on the one hand. On the other hand, there are 56 states in the Organization of the Islamic Conference, each of which has its own history. So we¶re talking about 1.5 billion people resting on 1,400 years of history. It¶s absurd to think of this as constituting a single unit. The idea that it does constitute a single unit is a doctrine of the Islamist movement²with a single movement you have a single leader, like the caliph. The defense of Tariq Ramadan in intellectual circles reflects a series of unexamined and in some cases very unattractive assumptions. I have expressed myself on this and will be doing so again at length, with gusto. 6 responses in the forum | Bank Trading: Obama Just Doesn¶t Get It Add your response


Friday, January 22, 2010, 10:42 AM David P. Goldman I have boundless regard for Paul Volcker, but the proposed restrictions on bank proprietary trading are, well, fixing the barn¶s roof after the horse has bolted. The Obama administration really,really doesn¶t get the joke. The banks went bankrupt by loading up on supposedly ultra-safe, AAA-rated assets, spawned out of the derivatives hatcheries with the collusion of corrupt rating agencies (who made most of their money rubber-stamping these time bombs). They did NOT, NOT, NOT blow up taking risky proprietary bets. Yet the rating agencies (who claim no liability for misjudgments on the grounds that they are exercising the same Constitutionally-protected free speech as a newspaper editorialist!) are in charge of rating credit quality. The credit crunch keeps crunching along: 1) Commercial and industrial loans at US banks are down 20% year on year; 2) Consumer credit fell in November by the largest amount on record, and has fallen year-on-year by the largest proportion since World War II:

3) Commercial paper outstanding has fallen by half What we have is a Japanese-style banking system in which the banks do nothing but borrow money at close to 0% from the federal government and lend it back at 1% for two years. And that means a ³lost decade´ along the lines of Japan during the 1990s. There are huge problems in the banking system but this is not the way to fix them. Proprietary trading is what SAVED the banking system earlier this year. I laid this out in advance exactly a year ago ² on Jan. 23, 2008 ² in an essay for Asia Times entitled, ³Fixing the bank crisis is the easy part.´ I wrote: Today¶s problem is far worse than the previous two system insolvencies, to be sure. It is so large that nationalization the banking system very well might crush the credit of the United States. But with close to zero-percent


funding from the Federal Reserve, American banks can acquire cheap assets that pay yields of 15%-20%. The cash flow available on non-agency mortgage bonds, credit card bonds, structured bonds backed by corporate loans, and other high-yielding assets is big enough to provide banks with positive cash flow despite mounting losses on real estate, mortgages and consumer loans. At that point credit markets had broken down, as I observed: What has happened, rather, is that the market¶s willingness to buy creditsensitive American bonds has collapsed. Between the first quarter of 2007 and the third quarter of 2008, mortgage-backed securities issuance dropped by roughly half, corporate bond issuance by three-quarters, and asset-backed issuance by more than nine-tenths. $US bn Q107 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q108 Q2 Q3 Municipal Treasury 107.6 123.6 93.4 104.7 85.0 144.5 89.6 188.5 184.4 171.1 208.3 203.8 219.8 244.8 Mortgage Related 540.4 628.2 485.4 396.3 391.5 437.8 286.6 Corporate Agency 305.6 345.8 239.4 236.7 213.1 333.3 82.6 265.4 234.1 185.8 256.5 432.4 387.9 198.8 Asset Backed 323.2 329.1 139.3 110.0 59.7 69.7 23.5

The banks earned outsized cash flows by stripping the dead on the battlefield through an enormous proprietary bet. If they hadn¶t done so, the economy would be in far worse shape than it is now. The banks have government support and deep pockets, and can afford to step in when everyone else is in full-tilt panic. If you want to limit proprietary risk, there are several obvious things to do: 1) Limit the amount of risk banks can take on their books (through Value at Risk and similar models)


2) Take into account the embedded leverage in derivatives as well as actual balance-sheet leverages. This requires modeling, but there are thousands of unemployed hedge fund risk managers who know how to do this, and the models are fairly generic 3) Fix the ratings system. This is an area in which the enormous Fed staff of academics might do a better job than Moody¶s, S&P and Fitch, who have lost a great deal of credibility. The Federal Reserve allowed the banks to put on massive off-balancesheet leverage during the lead-up to the banking crisis, through Special Investment Vehicles and such like. The regulators simply can take a more conservative approach to leverage. All this is sensible. But the idea that one can separate proprietary from customer trading is silly to begin with, and undesirable in the extreme. When there¶s panic, you want the banks to take proprietary risk as the buyer of last resort. One response in the forum | Add your response

Seminar At First Things Office on ³Song of Songs´ Wednesday, January 20, 2010, 1:17 PM David P. Goldman Note: attendance is by invitation. If you would like to attend please send a request to events@firstthings.com Christian and Jewish Song of Songs Exegesis First Things is pleased to host a seminar on Christian and Jewish exegesis of the Song of Songs featuring two distinguished scholars: Prof. Shalom Carmy head of Bible Studies and Jewish Philosophy at Yeshiva University and Prof. Paul Griffiths Warren Professor of Theology at Duke University and author of the Song of Songs volume of the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible discussion moderated by David P. Goldman


senior editor of First Things Date: Tuesday, February 2, 2010 Time: Seminar 6:30-8:00 p.m. Wine and Cheese Reception to follow. Place: First Things editorial offices, 35 East 21st Street, Sixth Floor, New York, NY 10010 Contact: events@firstthings.com RSVP is required to attend. Please RSVP by January 27 to events@firstthings.com Space is limited. The Song of Songs has a central role in Jewish as well as Christian self-understanding with respect to God¶s relationship to his people. In Catholic theology, the post-conciliar emphasis on the nuptial relationship between God and the Church has given enhanced important to this biblical work. In Orthodox Judaism, the Song of Songs plays a central role in Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik¶s account of the dialectic of love and fear in the relationship of God and the Jewish people. The degree to which Christian and Jewish accounts of the Song of Songs coincide and diverge in light of the heightened attention given to this work in the past several decades is not clear. We hope that this collaborative exercise in exegesis by two of the most qualified scholars in the field will provide new insight into the central role of this text. 7 responses in the forum | The pope¶s Mideast problem Tuesday, January 19, 2010, 4:56 PM David P. Goldman The Vatican released Jan. 19 a discussion document in preparation for a synod of Mideast bishops next Oct. 10-24. I haven¶t been able to locate the full text yet, but news reports indicate that it is really awful. I¶ll believe it when I get the official text, but snippets quoted in the wire services suggest that the Catholic bishops of the Middle East are taking an awfully soft position on terrorism: It criticized the Israeli ³occupation´ of Palestinian lands, saying it had made life difficult both for daily life and religious life since access to holy places are restricted. Add your response


Citing both the Israeli-Palestinian and Iraqi conflicts, it said: ³The solution to conflicts rests in the hands of the stronger country in its occupying and inflicting wars on another country.´ ³Violence is in the hands of the strong and weak alike, the latter resorting to whatever violence is within reach in order to be free,´ it said. Benedict XVI has a serious problem on his hands. Arab Christians act like German Jews circa 1914: in order to survive amidst a hostile Muslim majority, they are more Arab than the Arabs. Arab nationalism (starting with the Ba¶ath party) is largely a Christian phenomenon, a means by which Christians found a way to take a leading role in local politics without associating with Islam. The pope, I am reliably informed, believes that Middle Eastern Christians somehow will be the social leaven that enlightens Arab society, and has a deep and mystical attachment to this disappearing minority. I hate to take issue with a man I deeply admire, but in this case His Holiness is dreadfully mistaken. I reviewed the issue at length in an Asia Times Online essay (August 11, 2009) entitled ³The Closing of the Christian Womb.´ In a nutshell: Turkey exterminated or expelled an Orthodox Christian population that comprised a fifth of the Anatolian population before World War I. After the destruction of Orthodox Christian life, the Maronites of Lebanon were left as the last substantial Christian community in the Levant. The Vatican sponsored them and France carved out the nation of Lebanon as a Christian enclave. The French designed Lebanon¶s constitution on the strength of a 1932 census showing a Christian majority, guaranteeing a slight Christian advantage in political representation. With the Christian population at barely 30% of the total and 23% of the population under 20 ± Lebanon¶s government refuses to take a census ± Lebanon long since has lost its viability. The closing of the Christian womb has ensured eventual Muslim dominance. Precise data are unobtainable, for demographics is politics in Lebanon, but Lebanon¶s Christians became as infertile as their European counterparts. Muslims, particularly the impoverished and marginalized Shi¶ites, had more babies. In 1971, the Shi¶ite fertility rate was 3.8 babies per female, against


only 2 for Maronite Christians, or just below replacement. Precise data are not available, but Christian fertility is well below replacement today. Even before the 1975 Lebanese Civil War, infertility undermined the position of Lebanon¶s Christians . The civil war itself arose from the demographic shift towards Muslims, who saw the Christian-leaning constitution as unfair. Christianity in the Levant ultimately failed for the same reason that it failed in Europe: populations that are nominally Christian did not trouble to reproduce. Lebanon was a Catholic project from the outset, and the Vatican¶s thinking about the region is colored nostalgia for a dying Christian community and a searing sense of regret for what might have been. If only the State of Israel hadn¶t spoiled everything, many Arab Christians think, the Christian minority would have wielded enormous influence in the Arab world. It is true that in many Arab countries, Christians comprised a disproportionate share of merchants and intellectuals. But the same was true of the 130,000 Jews of Iraq before 1947, who owned half the businesses in Baghdad. Infertility and emigration have reduced the Maronites to a vulnerable minority, which Hizbollah could mop up at leisure. What remains of their community constitutes a body of hostages under Iranian guns. A leading advisor to the pope (and the author of some very good analysis of Islam), Father Samir Khalil Samir, articulated the Vatican¶s hopes for a Christian revival in the Middle East as follows: Previously, the Nahdah, the Arab renaissance that took place between the 19th century and the first part of the 20th century was essentially produced by the Christians. Now once again, a century later, the same thing is happening, although the Christians are in the minority in Arab countries. Today the ³new´ elements in Arab thinking are coming from Lebanon, where the interaction between Christians and Muslims is the most lively. Here there are five Catholic universities, in addition to the Islamic and state institutions. « Today, the cultural impact of the Christians in the Middle East takes place through the means of communication « Many Muslims, including authoritative leaders, in both Lebanon and Jordan, but also in Saudi Arabia, have stated this publicly: we do not want the Christians to leave our countries, because they are an essential part of our societies. In the cited Asia Times essay, I ridiculed this view:


It sounds a bit like Mortimer Duke in the 1983 comedy Trading Places, shouting, ³Now, you listen to me! I want trading reopened right now. Get those brokers back in here! Turn those machines back on!´ Samir hopes that Arab Christians will provide the leaven to lift up Arab society in general; on the contrary, as Arab society sags, it squeezes the Arab Christians out. Sadly, it is may be too late for Lebanon¶s Christians. ³The process began at the turn of the century and it has intensified in recent years « There are 12 million Christians in the Middle East. If the current trend continues, there will be fewer than 6 million by 2025,´ Hilal Khashan, political science chair at the American University of Beirut told the Beirut Star on June 10, 2007. It will do no good at all to try to revive a dying community. The unintended consequence of the Vatican¶s emphasis on Lebanon¶s Maronites and associated Arab Christian communities is to give Iran more leverage in the region. 75 responses in the forum | Pope Benedict at the Synagogue of Rome Tuesday, January 19, 2010, 3:31 PM David P. Goldman The Italian Vatican-watcher Sandro Magister, whom authoritative sources characterize as an authoritative source, provides an important perspective on Benedict XVI¶s visit yesterday to the Rome Synagogue. His report includes a complete translation of the pope¶s remarks. Although Benedict did not break new ground, the world (as the late Fr. John Neuhaus was wont to say) is more in need of reminding than instruction. Like his great predecessor John Paul II, Benedict believes that the Jews are ³the people of the covenant´ that remains in effect between God and his chosen nation. The day before the pope¶s visit, the Italian-Jewish historian Anna Foa published a commentary in L¶Osservatore Romano, the Vatican¶s official daily, emphasizing that Israeli identity was founded upon a Zionism that pre-dated the Holocaust. Israel should not be defined in terms of an ³original sin´ of its creation±the misleading narrative that the Great Powers created the State of Israel in response to the Holocaust±but in terms of the enduring aspirations of the Jewish people. Add your response


In the article, Anna Foa endorses the ideas of one of the leading scholars of Zionism, Georges Bensoussan. In the opinion of both, the state of Israel was not born as´redemption´ from the extermination of the Jews carried out by Hitler. The real force behind the state was Zionism, already during the British mandate, with the settlement of that land by Jews who wanted to create a new man. The idea of the Holocaust as the foundation of the state of Israel gained strength only much later, after the Eichmann trial and especially after the war of Yom Kippur, in recent decades. [SNIP] Interpreted this way, the birth of the state of Israel is no longer that ³original sin´ which even today many of its friends and enemies ascribe to it. The latter of these include many Catholics, first among them the Arabs living in the region. The most authoritative of these, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, was also in the synagogue of Rome yesterday, at the pope¶s arrival. According to this ³vulgate,´ the state of Israel was created by the great powers in order to remedy the previous extermination in Europe of six million Jews, which meant that one injustice was compensated by committing another against the local Arab population. In 1964, when Paul VI went to the Holy Land, the Church of Rome had not yet accepted the existence of the new state. And when three decades later, in 1993, the Holy See finally recognized the state of Israel and established diplomatic relations with it, the Arab Christians took this act as a betrayal. But on the part of John Paul II, and now of Benedict XVI, the recognition of Israel no longer has any reservation. I do not know the work of Georges Bensoussan, but he probably is a distant relation; part of my family bore the name ³Shushan.´ By coincidence, I published an essay in First Things entitled ³Zionism for Christians´ under the name ³David Shushon´ (prior to emerging into the public light). Jewish self-understanding, I argued here and in other locations that it is pernicious to define Jewish identity in terms of the Holocaust: We have found it expedient to teach the Holocaust rather than holiness to our young people²and too many of them have concluded that Jewish election, if it is not a megalomaniacal conceit in an egalitarian age, must be


a dangerous and undesirable thing. Election makes us uncomfortable; Conservative as well as Reform Jewish prayer books relativize the issue. We have turned away from holiness, but it has not profited us, for American Jewish youth think far less than their elders about the State of Israel and Jewish survival. Here I follow Michael Wyschogrod¶s emphatic rejection of ³Holocaust theology.´ Unfortunately, the prospective canonization of Pope Pius XII overshadowed the pope¶s gesture to the Jewish people in Rome yesterday. What is the point of the rancor? If the Church says that it will canonize the wartime pope in part because he did his best to save Jews from extermination, it is making a statement that the Church believes that its leaders should do their utmost to save Jewish lives. Do we really want to discourage this line of thinking? There are some arguments you don¶t want to win. The definitive issue is the recognition by the present and previous shepherd of the Catholic Church that the Jewish people are holy by virtue of their covenant with creator of the world. And here the words of Benedict XVI are eloquent and unambiguous: The teaching of the Second Vatican Council has represented for Catholics a clear landmark to which constant reference is made in our attitude and our relations with the Jewish people, marking a new and significant stage. The Council gave a strong impetus to our irrevocable commitment to pursue the path of dialogue, fraternity and friendship, a journey which has been deepened and developed in the last forty years, through important steps and significant gestures. Among them, I should mention once again the historic visit by my Venerable Predecessor to this Synagogue on 13 April 1986, the numerous meetings he had with Jewish representatives, both here in Rome and during his Apostolic Visits throughout the world, the Jubilee Pilgrimage which he made to the Holy Land in the year 2000, the various documents of the Holy See which, following the Second Vatican Council¶s Declaration ³Nostra aetate´, have made helpful contributions to the increasingly close relations between Catholics and Jews. I too, in the course of my Pontificate, have wanted to demonstrate my closeness to and my affection for the people of the Covenant. I cherish in my heart each moment of the pilgrimage that I had the joy of making to the Holy Land in May of last year, along with the memories of numerous meetings with


Jewish Communities and Organizations, in particular my visits to the Synagogues of Cologne and New York. Furthermore, the Church has not failed to deplore the failings of her sons and daughters, begging forgiveness for all that could in any way have contributed to the scourge of anti- Semitism and anti-Judaism (cf. Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, ³We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah,´ 16 March 1998). May these wounds be healed forever! The heartfelt prayer which Pope John Paul II offered at the Western Wall on 26 March 2000 comes back to my mind, and it calls forth a profound echo in our hearts: ³God of our Fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring your Name to the nations: we are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant.´ 2 responses in the forum | The electorate is a hedgehog Tuesday, January 19, 2010, 1:01 PM David P. Goldman In this morning¶s Asia Times Online, I discuss the implications of a Republican victory in Massachusetts. The electorate is like Archilochus¶ hedgehog, which knows one big thing, rather than the fox, which knows many things, in the classical aphorism cited by Russian-British philosopher and historian, Sir Isaiah Berlin. In 2008, the voters knew that thecapital gains and home equity cushion gleaned during the Ronald Reagan boom were at risk, and that the likes of presidential candidate John McCain as well as former candidate, now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, would not make things different. A vote for Obama under these circumstances had no downside from the vantage point of the ordinary household, and they held out the hope that Obama actually might have a magic wand up his sleeve. The voters were not entirely misguided, for the current economic situation almost certainly would have been just as bad under a McCain administration. Add your response


The big thing that the American electorate has learned during 2009 is that Obama is all talk. There are many little things that annoy voters: special treatment for trade-union health plans, a Treasury secretary who seems to have given special treatment to Goldman Sachs in the rescue of the insurance giant AIG, and a confusing foreign policy. But the idling of one-fifth of the population overwhelms every other issue. Tens of millions of families that only two years ago felt affluent and secure are now anxious and impoverished. And Obama can do nothing about it. Memo to Republicans: Careful what you wish for. It¶s not enough to chant, ³Win one for the Gipper.´ America is the world¶s most successful state, and the one with the greatest longevity in its present constitutional form. But neither of the major parties is presently capable of governing it. The Republicans have been hoping that rage against Obama¶s failed economic policies would carry the party through the November congressional elections. But it is entirely conceivable that the Obama presidency will implode as quickly as the Obama campaign metastasized during the 2008 primaries, and that the electorate will call the Republicans¶ bluff. There is no quick or easy fix to today¶s economic disaster. When Reagan took office in 1981, the baby boomers were in their 20s and 30s, America had a 10% savings rate, the current account was in surplus, and America was the world¶s largest netcreditor nation. Reagan was able to cut taxes and finance an enormous budget deficit because the world¶s demand for US Treasury securities was correspondingly large. In 2010, the baby boomers are in their 50s and 60s, America has saved nothing for a decade, the current account remains in severe deficit and the world is choking on the existing supply of Treasury securities. Cutting taxes to stimulate the economy is not as simple this time round. Professor Reuven Brenner and I argued in the December 2009 issue of First Things that fundamental changes in American economic policy are required to emerge from the Great Recession. We proposed that the United States fix the dollar to the Chinese yuan and other currencies in order to reorient trade flows to the developing world. We added, ³We have been borrowing in order to consume; we need now to save in order to invest. We need to shift the tax burden, moving it away from savings


and investment and toward consumption. We should replace individual and corporate income taxes with consumption-based taxes.´ Americans need to be told that they will need to invest before they can consume, and that the cure will take years rather than months to take effect. It¶s not a happy message, and no one in politics is willing to deliver it ± if indeed anyone in politics understands it. 50 responses in the forum | Add your response

I am scheduled to be on Larry Kudlow¶s CNBC show tonight around 7:20 pm Thursday, January 14, 2010, 5:07 PM David P. Goldman The Unemployment Disaster and the 2010 Elections Thursday, January 14, 2010, 11:00 AM David P. Goldman A month ago, when I debated Deutsche Bank¶s chief economist on Larry Kudlow¶s CNBC show, the consensus held that a rapid recovery in employment would ensue during 2010. This expectation crashed and burned with last Friday¶s employment report for December, showing that more than 600,000 ³discouraged workers´ had left the labor force. Today we have an unexpected rise in initial claims for December on top of an unexpected drop in December retail sales. It has dawned on the financial press that the jobs that were lost in the Great Recession never will come back, and the US economy¶s previous source of employment recovery±small business±is as crushed as were the kulaks under Stalin. A website called Shadow Government Statistics does a public service by un-adjusting the govermnent¶s data, for example, to include ³discouraged´ as well as ³long-term discouraged´ workers in the unemployment rolls. By that measure US unemployment is at 22 percent, an astonishing number.


Here is what I wrote over at the ³Inner Workings´ blog Dec. 18: My disagreement with Deutsche Bank chief economist Joe Lavorgna over future job creation±which we debated last week on Larry Kudlow¶s CNBC show±lies in the crucial role of small business in job creation. The process of job destruction (from big companies) and job creation (from small companies) are two sides of entrepreneurial ³creative destruction.´ The problem today is that we have the destruction without the creation. Companies with less than 50 employees predominated in job creation during the great economic expansion that ended in 2007. In the chart below drawn from a recent study by the Census Bureau and the University of Maryland, the really tall bars (reflecting net creation of new jobs) come from new and small companies.


What¶s happening to small business today? As I noted, the Discover Small Business Watch collapsed in November to an index level of 76 from 88, with 52% of respondents reporting cash flow constraints. Every other available measure of small business performance looks utterly miserable. The National Federation of Independent Business Optimism Index is crawling along the bottom, as reported last week in the Atlantic¶s business blog:


Small business sales show no recovery at all, according to the NFIB:

Joe¶s argument in favor of a snapback in hiring stems from the historical relationship between inventory change and employment. As I calculate this (using GDP inventory data), the long-term regression coefficient is 57%, not bad for quarterly changes. But there¶s a trick: it is very, very big in downturns, but not in recoveries. That is, layoffs correlate heavily with


inventory liquidation. But job creation DOES NOT correlate with inventory rebuilding. That is because most of the jobs (I presume) are created by start-ups rather than big companies who hire and fire on the basis of inventories. Structurally, a very large percentage of job losses during recessions reflect creative destruction: big companies who lay off workers in recessions downsize permanently. The jobs are not replaced at the same companies; the old jobs go away forever, and new jobs are created at the grass roots of the economy. That¶s why we have to look to small business for continued job growth, and why the prospects are grimmer than the market seems to believe. Visually, the relationship between changes in payrolls and changes in inventories appears quite strong: Quarter-on-Quarter Change in Inventories (GDP Basis) Vs. Payrolls (Establishment Survey)

But closer examination shows that the relationship is quite one-sided: the correlation is very high in recessions, but practically nil in recoveries. Correlation (over 12 quarters) Between Inventory and Payroll Change vs. Payroll Change


The one-sidedness of the correlation is consistent with the fact that the vast majority of new jobs during recoveries are created by new, small businesses. The inventory cycle is largely a function of big firms. They shrink in recessions and their job losses often are permanent. The old jobs are replaced by new entrepreneurs. Given the miserable situation of entrepreneurs, there is little reason to expect that future job growth wil be correlated with any recovery of inventories. 121 responses in the forum | Add your response

Why America Is Losing the Intelligence War, Redux Tuesday, January 5, 2010, 1:51 PM David P. Goldman CNN reports that a senior US military intelligence officer, Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, condemns as incompetent the American intelligence-gathering effort in Afghanistan. Washington (CNN) ² U.S. spies ³can do little but shrug´ when commanders ask for the information they need to fight the Taliban insurgency, the top U.S. military intelligence officer in Afghanistan said in a blistering report. U.S. military intelligence officers in Afghanistan spend too much time focusing on enemy groups and tactics and not enough on trying to


understand Afghanistan¶s culture, people and networks, Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn wrote in a report published Monday. American military intelligence gathering is ³ignorant of local economics and landowners, hazy about who the powerbrokers are and how they might be influenced, incurious about the correlations between various development projects and levels of cooperation among villagers, and disengaged from people in the best position to find answers,´ Flynn wrote. The double-agent suicide bombing last week in Afghanistan last recalls the 1993 ³Blackhawk Down´ catastrophe in Mogadishu, when American Rangers walked into a trap set by a local warlord through supposed informants. The Abu Ghraib catastrophe in Iraq, in which the US military used intimidation en masse of Iraqi suspects in lieu of targeted intelligence work, was a sad gauge of American incompetence. Intelligence work of the required kind is simply alien to the American character. The British ran the Raj in India with barely 5,000 regular officers, but many of them had earned a First in Oriental languages at Oxford or Cambridge; they spoke the local languages, wore native dress, and played the ethnic loyalties of local troops like a pipe-organ. I wrote about the problem in Asia Times in November 2003: It is already clear that America is losing the intelligence war in Iraq, for the same reasons it lost in Somalia. The rocket attack on the al-Rashid hotel while Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was present, the downing of a Chinook helicopter with 16 deaths, and related incidents suggest that the Iraqi resistance has infiltrated the American command. That should be no surprise, given that the occupiers depend on local sources for information, and have little capacity to distinguish a repentant Ba¶athist from a saboteur. The trouble stems from a deep American aversion to foreign languages. In the intelligence war, Islamists have a distinct advantage. Among the ranks of Islamist radicals are thousands who have studied in the United States, speak serviceable English, and can move with ease in American society. How many field agents of American intelligence can move at ease in the Islamist milieu? German and British universities once produced spies who could speak half a dozen Arab dialects and recite the Koran from


memory. Today¶s only superpower cannot recruit enough Arabic translators to handle routine intercepts. Precisely why the US cannot find Arabic translators (let alone Arabicspeaking field agents) deserves a moment¶s attention. Conservative critics of the American intelligence establishment, such as Reuel Marc Gerecht of the American Enterprise Institute, ridicule the Central Intelligence Agency¶s (CIA¶s) lack of language ability, and blame the previous (Democratic) administration for failing to spend enough money on the requisite skills. All that is somewhat unfair. During the 1990s, the CIA under Admiral James Woolsey and then under George Tenet cast its net wide for speakers of foreign languages, particularly Middle Eastern and South Asian dialects, with disappointing results. The pool of qualified applicants was too small, and within this pool, too few applicants met the agency¶s security standards. Particularly in the case of Arabic and Persian, too many of the candidates were first and second generation immigrants who failed the screening criteria, that is, they were deemed too likely to sympathize with their subjects. The Guantanamo allegations suggest that the CIA¶s security concerns were not ill placed. By contrast, Israeli intelligence can draw on a pool of first and second generation immigrants who speak foreign languages (among which Arabic is most common) as natives, but feel no loyalty whatever, but rather hostility, to their native culture. During the Cold War, European intelligence services could find native speakers of all varieties ± German-speaking Bohemians from the Austrian Empire, Polish-speaking Ukrainians, Russian-speaking Poles, Italian-speaking Austrians ± who despised the cultures in which they were educated and were happy to subvert them. The average Hungarian headwaiter had a greater command of languages than today¶s doctoral students in comparative literature at American universities. This, I argued, stems from the fact that Americans left the Old World precisely in order to get away from their own cultures: In terms of linguistic and cultural capacity, the US today commands what may be the lowest-quality clandestine service of any great power in history. Why don¶t more Americans learn foreign languages? Turn the question around: why do they forget the languages they already know? The children of immigrants almost invariably lose the native language of their ancestors.


One finds German festivals in Wisconsin with lederhosen-wearing brass bands, Weissbier and bratwurst, but no one who can form a single German sentence. Italian-Americans march through the streets in what they imagine to be native costume to honor the birthday of Columbus, without knowing more than a few obscenities in a southern dialect. Folk came to America precisely in order to shed their culture. More precisely, they fled the tragic destiny of their cultures. Immigrants to America were the poor or the rebels. Not the Milanese but the Calabrians, not the Berliners but the Bavarians, not the assimilated Jews of Germany but the persecuted Jews of Russia made their way westward. These had little stake in their own cultures and no connection to the high culture of the countries they abandoned. There are a few exceptions, eg, the German political exiles of 1848, but these are few. What did the Irish immigrants care for Shakespeare, or Russian-Jewish immigrants for Leo Tolstoy? They shed their old culture almost as fast as their traveling-clothes. Sadly, Afghanistan is the sort of war that America is ill-equipped to fight, even if it were the right war, and even if we had a clear idea of what our objectives are ² which we do not. The solution? Get someone else to do the dirty work who understands how to fight tribal war. In my year-end ³Spengler´ column at Asia Times I recommended inviting the Indians in. That is more complicated than it sounds, but nonetheless possible. Of course, if I had been running the CIA rather than the fixed income research department at Bank of America, things would have been different. 61 responses in the forum | Cicero vs. Augustine on the Republic Monday, January 4, 2010, 10:39 AM David P. Goldman Mary Ann Glendon¶s essay ³Cicero Superstar´ leads the January issue of First Things, now available on our website. Prof. Glendon writes: More rare than athletes who have played both baseball and football in the major leagues are individuals who have achieved great distinction in both politics and philosophy, the vocations that Aristotle deemed most Add your response


choiceworthy. Marcus Tullius Cicero, however, would hold a place of honor on any list of political and philosophical superstars. If he had never risen to eminence as a Roman orator, senator, and consul, he still would be remembered for his contributions to the great Greco-Roman synthesis at the base of Western civilization. And if he had never written on philosophy, he still would be honored for his courageous efforts to preserve the rule of law in the last years of the Roman Republic. Cicero, of course, lost his battle to preserve the Roman Republic. He briefly allied with Mark Antony against the assassins of Caesar (whom he opposed), but Antony turned on him and displayed Cicero¶s severed head. That Cicero is an honorable man is not in doubt, but whether he was a wise man is another matter. In St. Augustine¶s view Cicero misunderstood the nature of a republic to begin with. In July 2008 I reviewed Jean Bethke Elshtain¶s excellent book on sovereignty, which cites Augustine¶s critique of Cicero, who defined a republic as an assemblage of people of common interests. Augustine [Book XIX, Chapter 23) makes the more unsettling claim that without faith in the true God, there can be neither republic nor people: God rules the obedient city according to His grace, so that it sacrifices to none but Him, and whereby, in all the citizens of this obedient city, the soul consequently rules the body and reason the vices in the rightful order, so that, as the individual just man, so also the community and people of the just, live by faith, which works by love, that love whereby man loves God as He ought to be loved, and his neighbor as himself - there, I say, there is not an assemblage associated by a common acknowledgment of right, and by a community of interests. But if there is not this, there is not a people, if our definition be true, and therefore there is no republic; for where there is no people there can be no republic [emphasis added].No people, no republic: for Augustine the congregation comes first, then the people, and only afterwards its political life. But does Augustine intend to say that a people that does not recognize God is not a people to begin with? He means, I think, what Kevin Madigan and Jon Levenson wrote of the Biblical view of peoplehood in their book Resurrection, which I reviewed several weeks ago (Life and death in the Bible Asia Times Online, May 28, 2008). A people that foresees its own extinction experiences death in life, but God¶s People, which believes it will endure forever, trusts in life beyond death.


It was the genius of the Church to create new peoples out of the chaos of Rome¶s decline, and it was the tragedy of the Church to fail to meld them into a People. To Thomas Aquinas, as Elsthain notes, Christian universality was the overarching principal of political organization to which nations were subordinate. Aquinas, in fact, prescribes political organization only in one location, but his views are unambiguous. Was the destruction of the Roman Republic inevitable? A widely-held interpretation attributes its collapse to the introduction of a slaved based economy: The Roman conquests of Carthage, Macedonia and Greece in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC altered what was once a luxury and privilege for the ruling elite into the predominant factor driving both social and economic policies for the Republic as a whole. The mass influx of slaves during this time period first was a sign of great wealth and power, but later destabilized an already fragile Roman class system. Farms originally run by small business families throughout Italy were soon gobbled up and replaced by enormous slave run plantations owned by the aristocratic elite. Cheap slave labor replaced work for the common man and the roles of the unemployed massive grew to epidemic proportions. These issues had a great destabilizing effect on the social system which had a direct role in the demise of the Republic. As the rift between Senatorial elite (optimates) and social reformers (populares) grew, the use of the unemployed, landless, yet citizen mobs were an overwhelming ploy grinding away at the ability of the Senate to govern. Though there are many factors involved in the Fall of the Republic, slavery and its effects rippled throughout every aspect of that turbulent time period. Not only did slavery help push the Roman lower classes into organized mobs, but the slaves themselves understandably revolted against oppression. The 3 servile wars in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC, with the rebellion of Spartacus in the 70 s BC the most notable, showed that the social system was dangerous and unhealthy. By the end of these civil wars and general social disorder, slaves were abundantly present in Rome. The slave population was at least equal to that of freedmen (non citizens), and has been estimated at anywhere from 25 to 40% of the population of the city as a whole. One such estimate suggests that the slave population in Rome circa 1 AD, may have been as much as 300,000 to 350,000 of the 900,000 total inhabitants.


Augustine¶s view that a people is founded upon a congregation bound together by love and right is most relevant here. A slave-state half of whose inhabitants live in unspeakable conditions is no such thing. Cicero bravely defended the indefensible. In a world of failed and failing states, it seems to me that Cicero¶s failures are more instructive than his virtues. 46 responses in the forum | Add your response

I will be on Larry Kudlow¶s CNBC show tonight circa 7:20 p.m. Monday, December 21, 2009, 4:41 PM David P. Goldman «discussing the dollar and interest rates. 2 responses in the forum | Charles Dickens, Call Your Office Monday, December 21, 2009, 3:49 PM David P. Goldman An esoteric branch of Jewish commentary, gematria, seeks meaning in the numerical value of names. This approach never has convinced me, for God is entirely capable of providing names that tell us exactly what to think about the associated material. For example: a review copy of a new book entitled The Price of Monotheism just came across my desk. It claims that it was ³the Moses of the Hebrew Bible who introduced the true-false distinction in a permanent and revolutionary form,´ adding «the price of this monotheistic revolution has been the exclusion, as paganism and heresy, of everything deemed incompatible with the truth it proclaims. This exclusion has exploded time and again into violence and persecution, with no end in sight. The author¶s name±corroborating my thesis that God assigns names in such a way as to make their meaning unmistakeable±is Jan Assman. 7 responses in the forum | Add your response Add your response


The Tragedy of Pius XII Monday, December 21, 2009, 12:30 PM David P. Goldman I haven¶t heard a single Jewish voice defending Pope Benedict XVI¶s decision Dec. 19 to declare that Pius XII lived ³a life of heroic virtue.´ The Jewish organizations all object; the State of Israel said that the question of Pius XII¶s prospective sainthood ³does not effect Israel,´ but called on the Vatican to open its World War II archives. I doubt the archives would condemn the wartime pope. Additional facts will not change what we know: Pius XII did his best to save Jews within the modest reach of the resources of the Church during the Nazi occupation of Italy. If he had excommunicated Hitler or instructed priests to refuse communion to soldiers or civilians engaged in genocide, he probably would have been martyred; the Nazis would have established a puppet pope and a puppet German Church. Pius did not speak out publicly against the mass murder of Polish priests, either, and for the same reasons. Would the situation of the Jews improved materially had Pius XII chosen martyrdom? I doubt it; the Church already had lost the battle for Europe¶s soul. The First World War, in which French priests blessed cannons to kill German Catholics and vice versa, killed Catholic universality, which had been waning since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. An open condemnation of Hitler would have assisted the Allied war effort by eroding German morale, I suppose. The Church made the same blunder as the European Orthodox rabbinate during the 1930s: it failed to foresee the magnitude of Nazi evil. Secular Zionists such as Vladimir Jabotinsky toured Europe during the pre-war years warning that Jews faced extermination, and the majority of Orthodox rabbis denounced Zionism and preached quietism. Some of Berlin¶s Orthodox rabbis wrote a letter to Hitler upon his seizure of power in 1933 hailing him as a prospective ally against Bolshevism±exactly what many in the Catholic Church believed. The whole story can be found in a 2003 book by Marc B. Shapiro.


Catholics who contend that pro-abortion politicians should be refused communion might consider whether the same ban should have applied to German soldiers or Ukrainian camp guards engaged in mass murder of Jews. But the sad fact is that the Church had very little power to influence events in Europe. And that is the astonishing fact of the matter. The largest institution in Europe, with the widest nominal loyalty among Europeans, collapsed like a house of cards in the face of fascism. The Church never has recovered in Europe. Weekly mass attendance among self-identified European Catholics ranges between 10% and 20%, but the numbers are deceptively large, for they reflect the residual loyalty of a rapidly-aging population. The younger generation is barely half the size of the last one, and the proportion of young people attending mass is tiny. Project this trend forward and European churches will be empty within a generation, resembling the Church of England today. Whatever the wartime leadership of the Catholic Church did, it failed to slow the extinction of Catholic life in Europe. The Church was not only powerless to save European Jewry; it was powerless to save itself. When was the die cast? Was it when the ³Churches of earthly power,´ as Russell Hittinger described them in a brilliant 2006 article for First Things, imported nationalism into the Church? Was it in 1648, when the Church responded to the victory of the French nation-state by delegating power to the Catholic dynasties of Europe (as Hittinger describes in a second essay)? Or could Pius XII still have done something to slow the slide, and save something for future generations? The deliberate use of horror by Hitler and Stalin, I argued in a recent essay for First Things, destroyed Europe¶s faith: The existence of horror is, generally, a weakness of Christian civilization, for such civilization stands, finally, as the rejection of the horrors that paganism always accepts and often embraces. How can a good God permit terrible things to happen? Voltaire used the most horrific event of the eighteenth century, the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, to ridicule the idea of a loving God. The neopagans of the twentieth century went Voltaire one better. Rather than wait for natural disaster, they staged scenes of horror greater than the civilized mind could fathom²as though the most effective assault on faith were to commit crimes beyond the imagination of the


observer. As Goebbels bragged in a 1943 broadcast, ³We will either go down in history as the greatest statesmen of all time, or the greatest criminals.´ How does one counter such evil, except by denouncing it as Satanic? Whatever we say after the fact, the score in Europe remains Gates of Hell 1, St. Peter 0. What shall we do when new Hitlers and Stalins wield the weapon of horror the next time around? 100 responses in the forum | It really is the 70s all over again Monday, December 21, 2009, 10:46 AM David Layman There¶ll be nowhere to run from the new world government ³There¶ll be no place to hide.´ It will come like ³A Thief in the Night.´ 4 responses in the forum | Add your response Add your response

Hanukkah, the Temple, the Jewish Home, and Eternal Life Friday, December 18, 2009, 10:18 AM David P. Goldman The following essay appears this morning on the First Thoughts blog. Extract: Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights commemorating the miraculous restoration of the Temple following the Hasmonean expulsion of the Greek occupiers from Jerusalem in 165 B.C., began this year on Friday evening, the beginning of the Sabbath. When the Hanukkah holiday begins on a Friday night, the eight days of celebration will end on Shabbat as well. The coincidence of two Shabbatot with the Festival of Lights is a matter of great moment, for both the celebration of Shabbat and the observance of Hanukkah constitute a direct link to the Temple, the dwelling-place of theShekhinah²God¶s indwelling on earth²and the wellspring of eternal life in the language of the Psalms. snip


The Sabbath is both a remembrance of Creation²whose purpose was to create the single Day that stands outside of temporality²and the Exodus from Egypt, the moment of creation of God¶s people²in the words of the Friday evening Kiddushchanted at the Sabbath table. It is also a continuation of the Temple itself. When Hanukkah falls on Sabbath, all the symbols of the Temple live and shine again inside the Jewish home. The Sabbath table with its two loaves of Challah (representing the two rows of showbread at the Temple) is an extension of the Temple altar. The head of household acts in place of the priest, blessing the children of the family by laying on of hands, and offering the benediction of Numbers 6:24: ³May the Lord bless you and keep you: May the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you: May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.´ The three Sabbath meals, an obligation of Jewish law, recalls the Jerusalem Temple and helps keep alive the belief that it will some day be restored. Hanukkah transplants another dimension of the holiness of the Temple into the Jewish home: the seven-branched Menorah, which can be seen on the Arch of Titus at the ancient Roman Forum, carted away by Roman soldiery. The eight-branch menorah of Hanukkah, once a year, is lit in continuity with the purloined Menorah²not as a remembrance, but as a living recreation of the eternal flame 10 responses in the forum | Add your response

From ³Inner Workings:´ Why I Don¶t Expect an Employment Recovery Wednesday, December 16, 2009, 11:12 PM David P. Goldman Over at the Inner Workings blog I analyze employment vs. inventory trends, taking off from an analysis by Joe Lavorgna, the chief economist at Deutsche Bank in New York. As we debated last week on Larry Kudlow¶s TV show, Joe believes that inventory rebuilding will be associated with employment recovery. My analysis shows that the apparent correlation between inventory change and payrolls change is deceptive. It is very strong on the way down (when big companies liquidate both jobs and inventories) but very weak on the way up (when new jobs are created by small start-ups to replace permanent job losses from large companies).


The miserable state of small business in the US, I believe, rules out strong employment recovery. 4 responses in the forum | Shame on Britain! Wednesday, December 16, 2009, 11:25 AM David P. Goldman The Times of London reports: The Jewish Free School has lost the hard-fought case on the criteria for admissions to this sought-after school. The next step might be to challenge equality legislation itself, as the admissions criteria, found to be racially discriminating, was based on the 3,500-year-old criteria for judging whether a person is Jewish or not, fundamentally by the religion of the mother. Add your response

The outline of the case is summed up well in the United Synagogue¶s own press release, which I reproduce her with a comment from the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks at the end. Narrowest of margins defeats JFS in the UK Supreme Court
London, 16th December 2009 The UK Supreme Court today, by the narrowest of margins, held that the admissions criteria of JFS, which gave preference in the event of oversubscription to children who are Jewish according to Orthodox Jewish law (either by descent or conversion), were in the definition of the 1976 Race Relations Act, directly racially discriminatory. JFS lost the case by the narrowest of margins ± with five Justices upholding the Court of Appeal¶s earlier ruling and four dissenting. However, all of the Justices went out of their way to make it clear that JFS¶s admission policy was not µracist¶ and took great care to make it clear that the Chief Rabbi, the United Synagogue and the governors of JFS acted with great sincerity and are entirely free from moral blame, Lord Kerr describing their motives as µunimpeachable¶.


The closeness of the Court¶s decision underlines the inherent difficulty in applying the complex modern law of discrimination to an ancient religion, particularly where the UK law of direct discrimination does not allow any breach to be justified, however legitimate the motive. A majority of the Justices expressed the view that the law may be wrong and Lady Hale signalled that an amendment to the Equality Bill should be investigated. Nevertheless, notwithstanding the sympathy of the Court, the finding that applying the test of Jewish status is directly discriminatory will have a significant and profound effect on Jewish schools and the whole of the Jewish community. This is why the United Synagogue has supported the School¶s case. Lord Rodger in his dissenting judgment said, ³The decision of the majority means that there can in future be no Jewish faith schools which give preference to children because they are Jewish according to Jewish religious law and belief«« Instead, Jewish schools will be forced to apply a concocted test for deciding who is to be admitted. That test might appeal to this secular court but it has no basis whatsoever in 3,500 years of Jewish law and teaching.´ He continued ³The majority¶s decision leads to such extraordinary results, and produces such manifest discrimination against Jewish schools in comparison with other faith schools, that one can¶t help feeling that something has gone wrong.´ Commenting on the decision, United Synagogue President Dr. Simon Hochhauser said, ³The United Synagogue is extremely disappointed with the Supreme Court ruling which interferes with the Torah-based imperative on us to educate Jewish children, regardless of their background. Practice tests are anathema to the United Synagogue, which for centuries has opened its institutions to all Jews, observant or not. These practice tests have no relevance under Jewish law and serve only to support the notion of a test of religion in the eyes of the English legal system. As Lord Brown noted, essentially we must now apply a ³non-Jewish definition of who is Jewish.´ So a Protestant, a Catholic, and a Muslim Go Into a Bar« Monday, December 14, 2009, 11:46 AM


David P. Goldman The Germans may have buried their sense of humor, but humor cries out from the grave and will be avenged. A recent release from the Evangelical Press Service was intended to be serious, but it follows the classic threepart form of a joke, and has a wicked punch line. I translate: Christians and Muslims should talk more about how to live together thana bout theology, according to the former president of the Hessen-Nassau Evangelical Church, Peter Steinacker. There can be no agreement about the different understandings of God in Islam and Christianity, he said. ³We just aren¶t going to agree about this,´ the evangelical theologian explained at a symposium sponsored by the City of Bonn and the churches as well as the Muslim Council« The Catholic theologian and Islamologist Christian Troll advised Christians to take an interest in people of other faiths, who want to serve God after their own fashion. ³The challenge today is to live together with Muslims in a society that in its majority does not believe at all.´ «German society should not let itself be influenced by fear of Islam, in the view of the Muslim theologian Hamideh Mohagheghi. Such fears are hyped up by politics and the media, said the Iranian-born theologian. When a Muslim becomes federal chancellor one day, she added, he should be judged by his qualifications and not by his faith. This is marvelous: Protestants and Catholics talk about mutual understanding, and the Muslim panelist talks about taking over. You can¶t make this sort of thing up. 12 responses in the forum | Mozart as Sitcom Sunday, December 13, 2009, 11:20 AM David P. Goldman Maybe I¶m getting old and grumpy, but I last night listened with barelyperceptible unease to the last ³Marriage of Figaro´ at the Metropolitan this season; this morning I had to play through half of the piano score to get µit out of my ears. And yet there was nothing really wrong with it. The was cast pretty enough to put in a sitcom. Unlike the obese and ungainly sopranos I Add your response


used to hear at the Met when I was a serious opera-goer (in my late teens), the Susanna, Danielle de Niesse, was a teen talent-show hostess from Los Angeles via Melbourne. She sings perfectly well (in fact, she studied at my favorite school, the Mannes College). And she has movie-star good looks. Nonetheless I missed Mozart¶s Susanna, whose character we get in whole form in the first thirty bars of the opera¶s opening duet. She has just a little vanity, a little humor, a little tolerance for Figaro (who is not nearly as clever as he thinks he is) and a little impatience: she is as real and complete a woman who ever tread the stage, and we are touched by the young woman on her wedding day who has made her own hat, and is trying to get her self-important, preoccupied bridegroom to notice. Mozart can write two lines of music for two individual characters doing two quite different things (on rare occasion, even three!), which nonetheless form a scene together and an integrated piece of music. No entrance in opera is more daunting than that of the Countess, who must appear in a set-piece aria and break our hearts. A lovely soprano from Munich sang Rosina last night, and did very well indeed: the picture of the young matron still beautiful and still desperate to keep her husband¶s love. Yet my mind goes back to the great Monserrat Caballe, who had no more stage mobility than Jabba the Hut, but acted with her voice in a far more vivid way. Caballe as the Countess The characters live in Mozart¶s phrasing; I missed them on the stage, but was relived to find them alive and well in the score. Sir Thomas Beecham famously said that people really don¶t like music; they just like the way it sounds. In the case of opera he might have added that they like the way it looks. The Metropolitan was notorious for casting an obese fifty-year-old to play a slip of a servant girl; it may have looked ridiculous, but Mozart¶s characters are an aural more than a visual phenomenon. When a singer gets one of the major Mozart arias right, there shouldn¶t be a dry seat in the house. And sometimes decades of experience are required to do what Mozart has in mind. What is most unique and most disturbting about Mozart is his ability to weave triviality, human frailty and genuine passion into a single dramatic fabric. This version of the Act II finale is not quite my favorite, but it will do


for the moment. Figaro is caught in one of the dozens of lies that pervade the comedy, and gamely tells his master the Count, ³My face may be lying, but I¶m not!´ (at 2:25). The musical phrase that is introduced with these inauspicious words has a special emphasis: a pedal point in the bass as well as imitative treamtent of the theme. A few dozen bars ater (at 3:15) the same music returns to support the plea of Figaro, Susanna and the Countess to allow the wedding to proceed (the Count wants to delay it in order to have Susanna first). The trivial and silly becomes touching and profound. This kind of vision is given only to a few. Heine observed that there are no minor characters in Shakespeare or Goethe, because (like a god) whenever the author glances at a character, that character becomes the most important person in the world±because it is the object of a god¶s attention. Mozart¶s glance is like this, but it is occulted in the score. It takes a bit of theogonic magic to bring it out. 9 responses in the forum | My Kudlow Report interview last night Thursday, December 10, 2009, 4:52 PM David P. Goldman In two segments: http://www.cnbc.com/id/15840232?video=1354763290&play=1 http://www.cnbc.com/id/15840232?video=1354755578&play=1 2 responses in the forum | Add your response Add your response

I will discuss unemployment on Larry Kudlow¶s 7 pm CNBC Show tonight Wednesday, December 9, 2009, 1:16 PM David P. Goldman 15 responses in the forum | Add your response Douthat Digs Himself in Deeper: ³Underwhelmed´ By Evidence Against Tariq Ramadan Tuesday, December 8, 2009, 4:40 PM David P. Goldman


Ross Douthat digs himself in deeper on the matter of Tariq Ramadan. Yesterday I took exception to his appalling comparison between St. Paul and Ramadan, whose terrorist ties prompted the Department of Homeland security to refuse him a visa to take up a faculty appointment at Notre Dame. He had written, ³Maybe a Tariq Ramadan-esque figure will emerge to play the Muslim Saint Paul to the E.U.¶s Roman Empire.´ Douthat responded in this blog entry today: Goldman adduces further evidence for my supposed flirtation withdhimmitude from the fact that back in 2007, I was underwhelmed by Paul Berman¶s 28,000-word takedown of Tariq Ramadan himself. I hold no brief for Ramadan (who does, in fact, seem to harbor ambitions of winning Europe to Islam), and Berman made many telling points against him. But as I said at the time, an essay of such extraordinary length and density needs to do more than ³raise troubling questions´ about its subject; it needs to ³demolish him´ completely, and there I thought that Berman came up short. And I stand by that opinion. Did Paul Berman ³come up short´? He concluded his 28,000 word study with a ³J¶Accuse´ warning that the threat of physical violence, not reasoned argument, convinces European journalists to treat the outrageous Mr. Ramadan with kid gloves. Berman¶s whole essay is available here, and I have no doubt that that anyone who takes the trouble to read it will wonder at Douthat¶s tepid response. Here is Berman¶s conclusion: When I met Hirsi Ali at a conference in Sweden last year, she was protected by no less than five bodyguards. Even in the United States she is protected by bodyguards. But this is no longer unusual. Buruma himself mentions in Murder in Amsterdam that the Dutch Social Democratic politician Ahmed Aboutaleb requires full-time bodyguards. At that same Swedish conference I happened to meet the British writer of immigrant background who has been obliged to adopt the pseudonym Ibn Warraq, out of fear that, in his case because of his Bertrand Russellinfluenced philosophical convictions, he might be singled out for assassination. I happened to attend a different conference in Italy a few days earlier and met the very brave Egyptian-Italian journalist Magdi Allam, who writes scathing criticisms of the new totalitarian wave in Il Corriere della Sera±and I discovered that Allam, too, was traveling with a full complement of five bodyguards. The Italian journalist Fiamma Nierenstein, because of her well-known sympathies for Israel, was accompanied by her own


bodyguards. Caroline Fourest, the author of the most important extended criticism of Ramadan, had to go under police protection for a while. The French philosophy professor Robert Redeker has had to go into hiding. I have no idea what security precautions have been taken by Flemming Rose, the cultural editor of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which published the Muhammad cartoons. And van Gogh«. So Salman Rushdie has metastasized into an entire social class, a subset of the European intelligentsia±its Muslim wing especially±who survive only because of their bodyguards and their own precautions. This is unprecedented in Western Europe during the last sixty years. And yet if someone like Pascal Bruckner mumbles a few words about the need for courage under these circumstances, the sneers begin±´Now where have we heard that kind of thing before?´±and onward to the litany about fascism. In the Times magazine, Buruma held back even from hinting obliquely about the fascist influences on Ramadan¶s grandfather, the founder of the modern cult of artistic death. Yet Bruckner, the liberal±here is somebody on the brink of fascism! And this, too, is something new. Eighteen years ago, when Rushdie came under threat, and one of his translators was killed and another was knifed and a couple of Norwegian bookstores were bombed and a British hotel was attacked by a suicide bomber, not to mention the more than fifty people killed in anti-Rushdie rioting around the world±at that terrible moment, when the dangers were obvious, a good many intellectuals in Western countries, people without any sort of Arab or Muslim background, rallied instinctively in Rushdie¶s defense. A good many reached out to their endangered Arab and Muslim counterparts and colleagues, and celebrated the courage of everyone who declined to be intimidated. My glance happens to rest just now on a dusty volume on my bookshelf, brought out in the course of the Rushdie affair, in 1993, by the French publishing house La Découverte, which contains statements of support for Rushdie by a solid one hundred Arab and Muslim intellectuals: a moving display of fraternal solidarity by the publisher and the contributors both. Leafing through, I stumble on the contribution of Orhan Pamuk, who nowadays goes about with his own detail of bodyguards, though in his case the danger comes from Turkish nationalists, not from Islamists. And here is the contribution of Antoine Sfeir, the Lebanese historian who criticized Tariq Ramadan some years ago in France and found himself facing a lawsuit (which, at least, he won).


Sfeir, in his 1993 essay, recalled that in Egypt the intellectual Farag Foda had recently been assassinated, and Naguib Mahfouz had been brutally assaulted, as part of the same wave of Islamist violence that was threatening Rushdie and his associates. Sfeir declared, ³We will never say it enough: to attack the Islamists, to denounce their actions and their lies, is not to attack Islam. To attack the Islamists is, on the contrary, to defend the Muslims themselves, the first though not the only victims of the Islamists.´ How times have changed! The Rushdies of today find themselves under criticism, compared unfavorably in the press with the Islamist philosopher who writes prefaces for the collected fatwas of Sheik al-Qaradawi, the theologian of the human bomb. Today the menace to society is declared to be Hirsi Ali and people of similar minds, of whom there are quite a few: John Stuart Mill¶s Muslim admirers, who are said to be just as fanatical as the fanatics. During the Rushdie affair, courage was saluted. Today it is likened to fascism. How did this happen? The equanimity on the part of some well-known intellectuals and journalists in the face of Islamist death threats so numerous as to constitute a campaign; the equanimity in regard to stoning women to death; the journalistic inability even to acknowledge that women¶s rights have been at stake in the debates over Islamism; the inability to recall the problems faced by Muslim women in European hospitals; the inability to acknowledge how large has been the role of a revived anti-Semitism; the striking number of errors of understanding and even of fact that have entered into the journalistic presentations of Tariq Ramadan and his ideas; the refusal to discuss with any frankness the role of Ramadan¶s family over the years; the accidental endorsement in the Guardian of the great-uncle who finds something admirable in the September 11 attacks±what can possibly account for this string of bumbles, timidities, gaffes, omissions, miscomprehensions, and slanders? Two developments account for it. The first development is the unimaginable rise of Islamism since the time of the Rushdie fatwa. The second is terrorism. Contrary to Douthat¶s demurral, Berman did not ³raise troubling questions,´ but stated point-blank that the European press won¶t go after Ramadan because they work under the continuous threat of physical violence. That¶s their excuse. What is Douthat¶s?


I cited Berman precisely because Berman is a secular liberal with no agenda except perhaps to preserve freedom of speech and journalist integrity. Many other writers, including my friend Daniel Pipes, have written devastating critiques of Ramadan. Numerous other reports, including this one by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, this in the American Thinker, as well as this comprehensive review of Ramadan¶s ³doublespeak´ by MEMRI, have exposed Ramadan¶s terror ties and Islamist triumphalism. Douthat is ³underwhelmed´ by the mass of evidence against this putative St. Paul of the Muslims±unlike the Department of Homeland Security, which refused to give Ramadan a visa to take a senior faculty position offered to him by Notre Dame. Pipes had this to say about the Homeland Security ban against Ramadan: Here are some reasons why Mr. Ramadan might have been kept out: He has praised the brutal Islamist policies of the Sudanese politician Hassan Al-Turabi. Mr. Turabi in turn called Mr. Ramadan the ³future of Islam.´ Mr. Ramadan was banned from entering France in 1996 on suspicion of having links with an Algerian Islamist who had recently initiated a terrorist campaign in Paris. Ahmed Brahim, an Algerian indicted for Al-Qaeda activities, had ³routine contacts´ with Mr. Ramadan, according to a Spanish judge (Baltasar Garzón) in 1999. Djamel Beghal, leader of a group accused of planning to attack the American embassy in Paris, stated in his 2001 trial that he had studied with Mr. Ramadan. Along with nearly all Islamists, Mr. Ramadan has denied that there is ³any certain proof´ that Bin Laden was behind 9/11. He publicly refers to the Islamist atrocities of 9/11, Bali, and Madrid as ³interventions,´ minimizing them to the point of near-endorsement. And here are other reasons, dug up by Jean-Charles Brisard, a former French intelligence officer doing work for some of the 9/11 families, as reported in Le Parisien: Intelligence agencies suspect that Mr. Ramadan (along with his brother Hani) coordinated a meeting at the Hôtel Penta in Geneva for Ayman alZawahiri, deputy head of Al-Qaeda, and Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheikh, now in a Minnesota prison.


Mr. Ramadan¶s address appears in a register of Al Taqwa Bank, an organization the State Department accuses of supporting Islamist terrorism.
Somehow, ³underwhelmed´ does not seem quite the appropriate response.

9 responses in the forum |

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Ross Douthat: Maybe Islam Will Save Us From Secularism Monday, December 7, 2009, 11:41 AM David P. Goldman Sad that the dumbest thing I¶ve read in the New York Times for years came from the blog of Ross Douthat, the Catholic conservative voice at the Gray Lady: Maybe the encounter with a post-Christian Europe will supply the Islam of recent immigrants with the cultural vigor that¶s been missing, for centuries now, in Baghdad and Cairo and Damascus. Maybe a kind of ³Euro-Islam´ is being forged that¶s capable of contending with secular liberalism for converts. Maybe a Tariq Ramadan-esque figure will emerge to play the Muslim Saint Paul to the E.U.¶s Roman Empire. I¶ll have more to say about this in a brief essay on the minarets issue tommorow in the On the Square, but the core of the problem is simple: the most important spiritual leader of Muslim provenance in Europe is Magdi Cristiano Allam, who was received by Pope Benedict XVI into the Catholic faith at the Easter Vigil in 2008, to the very vocal outrage of the Islamophiles in the Church. Allam, the deputy editor of Italy¶s leading newspaper Corriere della Sera, wrote at the moment of his conversion that the Church had sent a message of hope to innumerable Muslim converts to Christianity who dared not acknowledge their new faith for fear of physical violence. In fact, the message fell flat. Magdi Allam was hung out to dry, and other Muslim converts to Christianity±who cannot afford the full-time bodyguards who keep Mr. Allam alive±continue to live in terror of their lives. As for Tariq Ramadan: the redoubtable Paul Berman exposed the supposed Euro-Islamist as a terrorist supporter who uses the threat of violence to silence critics, in a 28,000 word essay for The New Republic. Ramadan, it should be remembered, is the grandson of the founder of the


original and still-thriving Islamist entity, the Muslim Brotherhood (of which Hamas is simply the Gaza chapter). I reviewed Berman¶s essay (which he is turning into a book, I am pleased to hear) in my ³Spengler´ column in 2007. As I reported then: Without spoiling Berman¶s story in The New Republic, a subscription site, I can report that he has placed Ramadan in the midst of a web of terrorist associations. He does not advocate terrorism, by any means, but he defends many who do. Berman¶s 30,000-word essay, really a condensed book, targets not only Ramadan, but the European and American journalists who admire him, for example Timothy Ash in The Guardian. What Berman dubs ³the intellectual establishment´ has decided, ³Better the 7th century than Nicolas Sarkozy,´ and attacks Muslim dissidents such as former Dutch Member of Parliament Hirsan Ali while cozying up to presentable Islamists like Ramadan. An especially revolting example is found in Ash¶s laudatory profile of Ramadan¶s great-uncle, the cleric Sheikh Gamal al-Banna. Ash contrasted the aged Egyptian mullah favorably with the hapless Hirsan Ali, as it happened on the same day that Banna¶s public endorsement of the World Trade Center attacks appeared on the MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) website. Comparing Banna to Hirsin Ali, the collaborator of murdered filmmaker Theo van Gogh, Ash wrote, ³Which do you think reveals a deeper historical knowledge of Islam? Which is more likely to encourage thoughtful Muslims in the view that they can be both good Muslims and good citizens of free societies?´ It happens that Banna had praised the ³extremely courageous´ action of the September 11, 2001, hijackers, which was ³dreadful and splendid´, in opposition to the ³barbaric capitalism´ of the United States. Willful blindness in the face of undisguised intentions to do violence to the West, Berman writes, requires explanation. The physical threats that follow journalists who attack Ramadan and his homicidal family, he concludes, have turned some of the more timid members of the fourth estate. Ross Douthat read the essay at the time, and stated coyly on his Atlantic blog that he was ³by no means certain which side of that debate I¶m on.´ Well, Douthat is flirting publicly with a very, very wrong side. Flirting is the correct word, for Douthat backs away from a conclusion:


But I¶m just not sure you can extrapolate that far from current trends. I think it¶s reasonable to look at Europe and see decadence ² demographic, cultural and otherwise. But even a decadent society can be stronger than its rivals, and capable of containing, assimilating, and outlasting them. In fact, Muslim immigrants to Europe tend to sink into the cultural swamp; there are some reports (fragmentary, because European governments studiously avoid providing data on the actual number of Muslim residents or their birth rates) that the fertility of Muslim women in Europe falls towards European levels. But intermixed in the demoralized, sullen mass of mostly poor, mostly marginalized immigrants are a large enough minority of hardcore jihadis. Europe¶s Christians not only have declined to evangelize the Muslims in their midst: they have backed away from helping Muslims who came to Christianity quite on their own, as Magdi Allam protested. Paul Berman is a secular liberal, but a consistent one, and came to the conclusion that Tariq Ramadan is a menace. Ross Douthat is a Catholic conservative, but an inconsistent one, and flirts with the idea that Tariq Ramadan might be part of Europe¶s spiritual re-awakening. Young Mr. Douthat should consider a brief Bildungsreise to Rome with Magdi Allam (and Mr. Allam¶s bodyguards); the presence of the bodyguards will teach him as much as whatever Mr. Allam might say. 267 responses in the forum | Bah Humbug, Bureau of Labor Statistics Monday, December 7, 2009, 8:27 AM David P. Goldman Over at Asia Times Online I posted a ³Spengler´ piece dissecting the Friday unemployment report. I hate to bother with such things, but someone has to do it. Here is a Top 10 of reasons to scrooge the BLS report: 10. « nearly 300,000 people disappeared from the labor force, yet the BLS reports no increase in ³discouraged workers´ or workers forced to take parttime jobs for economic reasons. Add your response


9. Private sector service jobs supposedly increased by 51,000, yet the National Institute of Purchasing Managers¶ (NIPM) survey shows that services employment fell during November. The unexpected drop in the NIPM report, which is a reasonably good advanced indicator of economic activity, doesn¶t square with the BLS report. 8. The reported improvement in services was driven by an 86,000 increase in temporary employees in ³administrative and support services´. There almost certainly is an element of truth in this report, but it is not necessarily good news. The biggest hiring boom stems from the huge backlog of home foreclosures. With one out of eight American homeowners behind on mortgage payments, the Wall Street Journal on November 19 reported, ³Mortgage restructuring for strapped homeowners has emerged as a rare growth area in the economy as companies in the field keep hiring. Four of the largest mortgages servicers ± Bank of America Corp, Citigroup Inc, JP Morgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co ± have collectively hired almost 17,000 people this year, mostly to work with financially ailing homeowners. With the number of defaults rising, many are planning to keep adding staff.´ 7. Goods-producing industries lost 69,000 jobs by the BLS count, about equally divided between manufacturing and construction ± yet the ³recovery´ supposedly is led by manufacturing. 6. ADP, America¶s largest processor of payroll information, publishes an independent survey of employment based on its own data. This is somewhat less comprehensive than the BLS data, but far more reliable. ADP reported a loss of 169,000 jobs, compared to only 11,000 for the BLS survey. 5.The correlation between changes in the BLS employment measure since 2000 is about 95%, and the discrepancy between the BLS number of 11,000 jobs lost in November versus the ADP number of 169,000 jobs lost lies at the extreme range of error for the two series. 4. The job losses reported by ADP are equally split between goodsproducing and services. It simply doesn¶t make sense for ADP to show nearly identical job losses for goods-producing and services, while BLS shows a big jump in services employment combined with a big drop in goods-producing employment.


3. One of the brightest spots in the BLS report was a 12,600 increase in health services employment. Yet a forward-looking indicator of demand for health-service employees, the monster.com online advertising index for health-care jobs, fell in November to an all-time low of 83 (from an October level of 96 and a year-earlier level of 111). 2. According to the Conference Board¶s monthly survey of consumer confidence, ³Consumers¶ assessment of the labor market deteriorated moderately. Those claiming jobs are µhard to get¶ increased to 49.8% from 49.4%, while those claiming jobs are µplentiful¶ decreased to 3.2% from 3.5%.´ And the top reason not to believe the BLS report is: 1. The level of un- and underemployment is so huge by historical standards as to make the usual sort of measurement questionable. With nearly 20% of the population unable to find proper work, there is a different sort of workforce. The vast majority of job creation in the US during the past two generations came from small businesses, which display only vaguely on the radar of government agencies as well as the bigger private surveys. The financial crisis killed small entrepreneurs as surely as Joseph Stalin killed the kulaks, and the roots of the economy are dead and dry. 5 responses in the forum | Add your response

Azure on ³Coming To Terms With Christianity´ Tuesday, December 1, 2009, 12:34 PM David P. Goldman The Jerusalem-based quarterly Azure (Techelet in Hebrew) has the unique virtue of appearing simultaneously in Hebrew and English. I have been a steady reader since its inception and strongly recommend it. In the Autumn 2009 issue, Azure¶s new editor-in-chief Assav Sagiv writes vividly about the need for Jews and Christians to cooperate on matters of urgent mutual concern. The magazine¶s website has a preview of Sagiv¶s editorial:

Pope Benedict XVI¶s visit to Israel this past May is not likely to be
remembered as a landmark event. Nor is it likely to be viewed as a turning point in the history of Jewish-Catholic relations. Sadly, however, it will be remembered as a decidedly less-than-pleasant affair. To be sure, feelings


were tense from the outset, with Israeli politicians on both the right and the left openly expressing their dissatisfaction at the pope¶s impending visit; Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin went so far as to boycott the official welcoming ceremony at Ben-Gurion Airport. The pope¶s much-anticipated speech at Yad Vashem, Israel¶s national Holocaust memorial, hardly improved matters, at least for those who sought an express apology for the Holocaust (and didn¶t get one). SNIP What was overlooked amidst all this animosity and mistrust, however, is the fact that Benedict XVI²the former Joseph Ratzinger²is actually one of the best friends the Jewish people has ever had in Vatican City. On the eve of the pope¶s visit, Aviad Kleinberg, a scholar of Christian history and a columnist for the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, attempted to remind his readers of this. Ratzinger, he explained, ³was the confidant of Pope John Paul II, and his immense theological authority was a critical aspect of the previous pope¶s moves«. John Paul and Ratzinger buried once and for all not only the accusation of the Jews¶ murdering the messiah, but the entire theological theory that the Christians replaced the Jews and are now the Chosen People and that the New Testament annuls the Old Testament. The Old Testament is still valid, declared the two, and the Jewish people is still God¶s chosen and beloved people.´ A few days later, in reaction to what he called an ³embarrassing demonstration of tactless and boorish behavior´ toward the pope, Kleinberg wrote, ³It is particularly obtuse of us to demand of others what we would never demand of ourselves. Try suggesting to any of our rabbis that they should declare what John Paul II and Benedict XVI have declared. For example, that Christians are our young and beloved brethren and that their covenant with the Lord is also intact²µExcuse me?¶ you say. µDid we understand you correctly? Give us a break!¶´ Indeed, while Catholic leaders of recent times have repeatedly expressed sorrow and even remorse for hundreds of years of antisemitism, the Jewish world has not yet shown a comparable willingness to reconsider its own perception of Christianity. No one, of course, has demanded this of Judaism, for understandable reasons. Ever since Christianity became the


official religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century c.e., it was the Jews, the so-called Christ-killers, who were persecuted by the Church, and not the other way around. Today, however, circumstances demand that all established religions reexamine their traditional attitudes toward each other. Christianity, in all of its various denominations, has generally risen to the occasion. Judaism, for its part, has not. (Emphasis added) In the Israeli national discourse, Sagiv¶s essay represents an extraordinary sort of tough-mindedness. Within the Jewish State, where the Catholic presence is tiny (a few hundred Israeli Catholics attend Hebrew-language Church services) and the Arab Christian posture tends towards the extreme fringe of anti-Zionism, self-righteous outrage over past Christian persecution is the path of least resistance. There is nothing to be gained tactically, moreover, by demanding that Jews acknowledge the good will of the Catholic Church, since the Vatican¶s Middle Eastern policy remains hostage to the small and vulnerable population of Lebanese Maronites. Encircled by Hizbollah, the much-diminished Maronites in communion with Rome could be wiped out any time Hizbollah¶s masters in Iran give the command. That makes Rome gunshy over the Iranian problem, which most Israelis view as the main existential threat to the State of Israel. Benedict¶s unprecedented efforts to draw near to Judaism as a religion were summarized by the Bonn University theologian Karl-Heinz Menke, who argues that His Holiness is the first pope since St. Peter to read the whole of the Gospels as a Jewish work. From a theological standpoint, the Jewish people have had no better friend in the Vatican since the founding of Christianity. There is quite gap between Benedict¶s theological labors, though, and his inability to get Vatican foreign policy out of a rut. What shines through the fog of peace±if that is the right phrase±is Benedict¶s whole-hearted embrace of the continuing Election of Israel. Christians who agree that we still are God¶s people, whatever our theological differences, are our friends, whatever other issues may arise. My views on the subject run parallel to Assaf Sagiv¶s, with some differences in emphasis±but to explain these, I would have to present material reserved for Azure subscribers.


Rather than nitpick Sagiv¶s presentation, I recommend that anyone concerned with the great issues of our time subscribe to his excellent quarterly. 67 responses in the forum | Add your response

Cleanliness and Purity in the Practice of Jesus Monday, November 30, 2009, 12:52 AM David Layman The congregation of which I am a part had completed the ritual of ³footwashing,´ Sunday morning . We were reflecting together on John 13:1-17, and puzzling over the reaction of Peter±´Jesus, if you are going to wash me, then wash my head and hands too,´±and Jesus¶ retort±´you are clean already, so you only have to have your feet washed.´ Of course, the standard explanation from a ³biblical customs´ point of view is that Israel or Palestine gets extraordinarily dry from May until October or November. Indeed, one person in attendance had served several years in the West Bank, and shared how computers and tape recorders must be covered up to protect them from the clinging dust that spreads everywhere. So Jesus was engaging in the servants¶ task of washing the guests¶ feet. But that does not seem to fully explain Peter¶s confusion. He seemed to be thinking, if I am going to be purified, then wash me properly. Apparently, as in Muslim practice for centuries, that seems to have included head, hands, and feet. Jesus¶ riposte seems to means, ³you don¶t to be cleaned, dummy.´ But then why did Jesus insist on washing the feet, when that did not appear to meet the minimal requirements for purification? What emerged from our discussion is that Jesus was redefining ³purity.´ The traditional religious notion, found everywhere from indigenous American religion to Hinduism and Shinto, has been that people must be cleansed of the taint of animality if they are to converse with the gods. ³Purity´ separated the community from the ³impure,´ those who for a variety of reasons are cursed with physical conditions that ³contaminate´ them. A Muslim woman who is menstruating will not engage in the five daily prayers. In traditional Hinduism, the Shudras and outcastes are for this present life cut off from the status of becoming ³twice-born,´ of taking on the task of spiritual development.


Jesus, followed by his early community of followers, transformed purity from a concern with social rank and spiritual superiority to service. Jesus washed the disciples¶ feet to say: purity is ministering to the neediest in the community, not distinguishing yourself from them. This revolutionized ancient religion. Its consequences were worldtransformative. As Rodney Stark points out in The Rise of Christianity, when the Roman Empire was hit with the plague, and everyone else ran away, the Christians stayed behind and ministered to the sick and dying. Thus, it began to grow exponentially. This implies that in the New Testament, ³impure´ becomes a synonym for ³selfish´ or ³self-serving´, as in Ephesians 5:5: ³No immoral, impure or greedy person²such a man is an idolater²has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God (NIV).´ Thus, the text covers three basic classes of actions excluded from the kingdom to be inaugurated by Jesus Christ: wrong actions in sexual behavior, social behavior, and economic behavior. Chaos and Non-Being in American Foreign Policy Monday, November 23, 2009, 7:59 AM David P. Goldman Asia Times Online this morning carries my report from the Halifax International Security Forum, sponsored by the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Two peculiar charadteristics of the Obama administration¶s foreign policy made the event a strange parade. The first is that Obama runs his administration out of the Blackberry in his vest pocket. The second is that everything that he has done in foreign policy has failed. The result is a poignant feeling of univeral failure, with no telephone number to call (except Obama¶s) to learn what to do next. United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates is the Mephistopheles of the Barack Obama administration ± not because of his gift for intrigue, which is slender, but because of his capacity to personify non-being. ³Everything that arises goes rightly to its ruin,´ said Goethe¶s devil to Faust, ³so it would be better for nothing to arise.´ In his November 20 keynote speech to the German Marshall Fund¶s (GMF¶s) International Security Forum on Friday in Halifax, Nova Scotia,


Gates portrayed the man who wasn¶t there. That is the secret of his longevity in public office. Several hundred attendees, including defense ministers and other senior officials of two dozen countries, waited for a hint about the Obama administration¶s intentions towards Afghanistan. But the previous week, Obama chose ³none of the above´ from a list of options assembled by the permanent bureaucracy, so Gates spoke about such pressing matters as a US$45 million grant for Caribbean security, Canada¶s counter-terrorism training program in Jamaica, and Guatemala¶s interception of a cocaineladen submersible craft ± in short, about nothing. Nothing is what American and allied officials had to say about items to which the GMF event held public sessions ± Iran¶s nuclear program, piracy, and the future role of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Cabinet officials, parliamentarians and senior military officers went through the motions of discussing policies to which they had no connection, like drones flying patrol after their beehive was burned. The US government lives in Obama¶s BlackBerry. When it goes silent, the orphan drones of the foreign policy establishment fly in aimless patterns. As a showcase for the foreign-policy thinking of Western governments, the GMF event looked like a Leonid Brezhnev-era butcher shop. There wasn¶t much in the glass cases, and what there was, did not seem especially appetizing. That is not the fault of GMF, one of the premier venues for policy vetting, but of its suppliers, the NATO governments. The GMF focuses on Atlantic issues (it is funded by the German government as a token of gratitude for America¶s Marshall Plan economic aid after World War II), but it reaches out to every part of the world that touches on Atlantic interests. A rough gauge of the declining prestige of American policy is the absence of Chinese (as well as Indian and Russian) officials. The conference organizers tried for months, without success, to persuade the Chinese government to send an official. The trouble is that ³nothing´ is not mere non-being. What stands against ³this something, this cloddish world´ is not emptiness, as Mephistopheles explained; it is chaos and corruption, rather, the will to pervert and destroy. When America removes itself from the world scene, chaos creeps back in, and it comes in the guise of corruption. For all its flaws, America is the only


world power capable of real altruism. In the absence of American leadership, the rest of the world waits dispiritedly for disaster, making sure to look out for the main chance. 51 responses in the forum | Polyphony at St. Peters Thursday, November 19, 2009, 4:34 PM David P. Goldman A Palestrina mass was sung t St. Peter¶s Cathedral in Rome this evening, reflecting Pope Benedict XVI¶s longstanding efforts to bring polyphony back into the liturgy, reports Sandro Magister in his authoritative chiesa.com website. Benedict has profound insights into sacred music and its importance in Christian religious life; I quoted him in my November essay, ³Sacred Music, Sacred Time.´ I have been following Benedict¶s statements on music for almost thirty years. They were the first reason for my deep interest in this remarkable thinker. ROME, November 16, 2009 ± Among the arts to be represented in the Sistine Chapel next Saturday, November 21, at the highly anticipated meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, music is perhaps the one that has suffered the most from the divorce that has taken place between artists and the Church. The distress in music has been the first to afflict the Church. Because while the masterpieces of Christian painting, sculpture, and architecture still remain accessible to all, even if they are ignored and misunderstood, great music literally disappears from the churches if no one performs it anymore. And one can effectively speak of an almost generalized disappearance when it comes to those treasures of Latin liturgical music that are Gregorian chant, polyphony, the organ. Fortunately, however, during the same days when pope Joseph Ratzinger will be seeking to reestablish a fruitful relationship with art, the organ and great polyphonic music will return to give the best of themselves in the basilicas of Rome. They will again be heard not only in the form of a concert, but also in the living environment of liturgical action. Add your response


The culmination will be on Thursday, November 19, at the hour of evening when the setting sun blazes through the apse of Saint Peter¶s. That evening, making his solemn return to the basilica to conduct a sung Mass, will be the greatest living interpreter of the Roman school of polyphony, the one that has come down from Giovanni Pierluigi of Palestrina ± whom Giuseppe Verdi called the ³everlasting father´ of Western music ± to our own day. This interpreter of undisputed greatness is Domenico Bartolucci, for decades the ³permanent maestro´ of the Sistine Chapel choir, the pope¶s choir, and now, at age 93, still a miraculously adept director of Palestrina. Bartolucci is a living witness of the elimination of liturgical music from the West, but also of its possible rebirth. The last time he conducted a complete Mass by Palestrina at Saint Peter¶s was all the way back in 1963. The last time he conducted the Sistine Chapel choir was in 1997. That year he was brutally dismissed, and without him the choir fell into a modest state. But now comes its return ± powerfully symbolic ± to the basilica built over the tomb of the prince of the apostles. Some of the musical choices are curious, though. The context within which Bartolucci will return to conduct a Mass at Saint Peter¶s is that of the International Festival of Sacred Music and Art, which is held each fall in the basilicas of Rome, and is marking its eighth edition this year. The program this year has two focal points: Roman polyphony, and organ music. The Wiener Philarmoniker is a constant presence at the Festival of Sacred Art and Music. Of all the major orchestras of the world, it is the one in which sacred and profane music are most closely intertwined. For the next edition of the festival, the Wiener Philarmoniker has already agreed to perform Bruckner¶s ninth symphony and a selection from Wagner¶s ³Tristan und Isolde´ in the Roman basilica of Saint Paul¶s Outside the Walls, on October 26, 2010.


Wagner¶s paean to sex and death is an overripe plum that I never have been able to listen to all the way through. It is one of those icons of art that (like Bergmann¶s ³The Seventh Seal´) are inferior to their later lampoons. Wagner¶s use of musical ambiguity in ³Tristan´ is masterful±witness the difficulty that theorists have had analyzing the so-called Tristan chord, which is not a chord at all but a freeze-frame of passing motion. But there is no major work of Western music that is more un-Christian, excepting some of Wagner¶s other operas. Why this would turn up on a Vatican-sponsored program at a Rome church is beyond my reckoning. Brahms and his circle abominated the ³New German Music´ of Wagner and Liszt, a view that informed the work of the great Viennese music theorist Heinrich Schenker. I argued briefly in the ³Sacred Music´ article that the use of time in Wagner undermines the teleological structure of classical music±which is precisely what makes it so appropriate to Christian worship. That¶s water under the bridge. If I ever have the opportunity to speak to Benedict XVI, I will talk to him not about Wagner, but about the First Morocco Crisis of 1905. 16 responses in the forum | Add your response

I¶ll be on Larry Kudlow¶s CNBC show tonight at 7 pm Monday, November 16, 2009, 3:55 PM David P. Goldman «discussing Bernanke, gold and the dollar. 18 responses in the forum | Krauthammer Nails It Monday, November 16, 2009, 3:12 PM David P. Goldman Charles Krauthammer was trained as a psychiatrist. I often took issue with his foreign policy reading during the Bush administration. But his column on medicalizing mass murder really nails it. Just in case you missed it: a classic. What a surprise ± that someone who shouts ³Allahu akbar´ (the ³God is great´ jihadist battle cry) as he is shooting up a room of American soldiers Add your response


might have Islamist motives. It certainly was a surprise to the mainstream media, which spent the weekend after the Fort Hood massacre downplaying Nidal Hasan¶s religious beliefs. ³I cringe that he¶s a Muslim« I think he¶s probably just a nut case,´ said Newsweekµs Evan Thomas. Some were more adamant. Timeµs Joe Klein decried ³odious attempts by Jewish extremists« to argue that the massacre perpetrated by Nidal Hasan was somehow a direct consequence of his Islamic beliefs.´ While none could match Klein¶s peculiar cherchez-le-juifmotif, the popular story line was of an army psychiatrist driven over the edge by terrible stories he had heard from soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. They suffered. He listened. He snapped. Really? What about the doctors and nurses, the counselors and physical therapists at Walter Reed Army Medical Center who every day hear and live with the pain and the suffering of returning soldiers? How many of them then picked up a gun and shot 51 innocents? And what about civilian psychiatrists ± not the Upper West Side therapist treating Woody Allen neurotics, but the thousands of doctors working with hospitalized psychotics ± who every day hear not just tales but cries of the most excruciating anguish, of the most unimaginable torment? How many of those doctors commit mass murder? IT¶S BEEN decades since I practiced psychiatry. Perhaps I missed the epidemic. 43 responses in the forum | Add your response

Europe¶s Epitaph: Friedrich Schiller¶s 250th BIrthday Monday, November 16, 2009, 8:26 AM David P. Goldman

From my ³Spengler´ essay at Asia Times this morning:


Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) wrote tragedies about Europe¶s wars of religion that serve as Europe¶s epitaph. ³History brought forth a great moment,´ the German poet, philosopher, historian and playwright wrote of the French Revolution, the defining event of his lifetime, ³but the moment found a mediocre people.´ The 250th anniversary of his birth came and went on November 10 with less attention than it deserved. Schiller created a new kind of tragedy, in which the flaw applies to the people as much as to the protagonists. The hand of destiny is revealed as the tramp of boots on the ground worn by human beings with real needs and passions. The Chorus itself becomes a tragic actor.The Weimar Classic of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Schiller, Johann Gottfried von Herder and Christoph Martin Wieland proposed to substitute art for religion long before the Victorian schoolmaster, Matthew Arnold. Victorian aesthetics, like Victorian parlor verse, is to a great extent second-hand Schiller. Schiller¶s aesthetic philosophy is a period curiosity ± academic scholarship treats it as a minor commentary on Immanuel Kant¶s Critique of Judgment. I am not sure whether this is correct, but I doubt it is worth the trouble to find out. The best reason to read it today is so as not to have to read Matthew Arnold. As a pedagogical insight, Schiller¶s notion of Spieltrieb, the play-impulse that unifies form and substance through artistic beauty, still has some influence through such currents as Waldorf education. Like Kant¶s categorical imperative and schemes for universal peace, Schiller¶s hopes for social improvement through aesthetic education seem quaint to us. Schiller the philosopher of art is much less interesting than Schiller the artist, though. His best work still convulses the heart, as Coleridge said. ³Only through the morning-gate of the Beautiful do you make your way into the land of cognition,´ Schiller wrote in one of his most famous (and worst) poems, The Artists (1789). As a playwright, though, Schiller felicitously ignored his own aesthetic doctrine, which advanced the conceit of the ³beautiful soul´, the perfected human personality who can integrate life through a Hellenistic appreciation of beauty. But the characters that still convulse the hearts of theater audiences are not ³beautiful souls´ but


desperately flawed human beings whose residual capacity for good makes their predicament tragic rather than sordid. Coleridge responded to the bandit Karl Moor in The Robbers, who took to a life of crime after calumny caused his disinheritance. The Catholic queen Mary Stuart, an adulteress and mariticide, becomes a figure of pathos and sympathy in his eponymous 1801 drama, which ran for months last year in London and New York in Peter Oswald¶s English version. There are few moments in theater more chilling than the concluding chorus sung in Wallenstein¶s Camp, the first of the Wallenstein trilogy by the Soldateska, the ³new people´ whom the imperial field-marshal of the Thirty Years¶ War has summoned together from every corner of Europe. A minor Bohemian noble, Wallenstein crushed the Protestant revolt against the Austrian empire by raising a mercenary army that was large enough to live off the land. But his success ruined civil society and turned the Thirty Years¶ War into a horror that killed more than a third of the population of Central Europe. In Chinese terms of reference, imagine that the emperor had elevated a bandit rebel to commander of all imperial forces in order to defeat a rival.

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