Thursday, January 31, 2013

Libya, Benghazi, and Mrs. Clinton

From a columnist’s description of the Secretary of State’s recent appearance before Congress:
The most dramatic moment came early, when Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson tried to get Clinton to explain why the State Department blamed the September 11 terrorist attacks in Benghazi on an impromptu protest over an anti-Muslim video. In a rehearsed moment of spontaneous outrage, Clinton yelled back, “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided to kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?”

Doc Pence says the senator should have been ready with a response such as the following:

Mrs. Clinton,

You are right that it really wouldn’t make any difference if it was "guys on a walk who just wanted to kill Americans" or spontaneous demonstrators.  There would, however, be a very significant difference if the attack was planned by a group which is actively organizing a military movement in Libya to be the core of a new government. It would make a very big difference if this attack is evidence that there is a well-organized armed group that controls the streets of Benghazi at night, and used the anniversary of 9/11 as a time to show that control.

If this is evidence of an al-Qaeda like movement perched to bid for control of the Libyan government based in Benghazi… If this means that the primary organized opposition which overthrew Muammar Ghaddafi is not a democratic populist movement… If the killing at Benghazi was planned by an Eastern Libyan group who are the true heirs of the US-aided victory over Ghaddafi… then that makes a very big difference indeed.

The attackers are neither spontaneous demonstrators nor “guys walking by wanting to kill Americans.” We can all agree: that distinction would make no difference. The Benghazi attack is the tip of a very dangerous iceberg; not the culmination of a single day’s passion. Understanding this makes a big difference – not just in Libya, but throughout the region.

The victors of the Egyptian revolt are the Muslim Brotherhood, not ‘yuppie’ pro-American tweeters. They have formed a very different government with a very different strategic goal than the government of President Mubarak. No matter how much we identified with the 2011 demonstrations in Tahrir Square, the new controlling element in Egyptian politics is part of the Sunni purification movement that is going to hurt liberty in general and Christians, Shiite Muslims, and the State of Israel in particular. These kind of differences must be attended to as we decide to send advanced military equipment to the new Mohamed Morsi government.

Everywhere men are arming in the Mideast. We must admit that the one coherent ideology which will organize these armed men is the jihadist Sunni purification movement associated with the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood. Even the Tuareg guard of Ghaddafi have returned to their homeland and joined with US-trained troops in Mali to form a military group to rule that emerging nation. What is their ideology?  It is not an existentialist spontaneity – it is a return to purified Islam.

Does it make a difference if the best organized groups of the Arab spring are going to be religious jihadists replacing the secular dictators of the last half century?  Did it make a difference that the Russians who overthrew the Czar were Bolsheviks and not liberal democrats?

Many of us thought that this killing was not about a video. We saw it as planned; as clear evidence that the best organized forces in Libya are not planning democracy, but some kind of sharia-based purification of the nation. Understanding this makes all the difference in the world, and it is precisely what some of us think you as Secretary of State have not understood throughout your tenure. To be honest, we have to say that we as Republicans have not been as articulate in demanding a more comprehensive national strategy which puts these events in context.

The problem in the Mideast is that armed groups of men are re-positioning themselves to rule nations from Turkey to Libya to Syria to Egypt. Armed men do not fight simply because they have testosterone. They fight for reasons and causes which must be understood.

Your "issues" have been the empowerment of women and internationalization of homosexual rights.  You organized your department so that those kind of concerns reached your desk, while the ongoing mobilization of armed men was deemed historically less significant. A few weeks after you were too emotionally exhausted to publicly explain what happened in Benghazi, and a few months before you were too sick to testify to Congress, you found the time and energy for a trip to Peru for an Empowering Women Conference.

We all see the world in certain categories, and organize our priorities through those lenses. Your set of priorities has led to a deep confusion about the goals and strategy of our country in dealing with the religious and military landscape of the Mideast. Even your emphasis on finding the particular killers at Benghazi belies the fundamental impoverishment of your tenure as Secretary of State. After Pearl Harbor, did we try to hunt down the particular pilots who bombed our ships?  No, we put up a map of the Pacific and started outlining our friends and enemies, and the territories we would have to concede and the islands we would take. That is what we must do now. Our failure to do this has been a bipartisan failure. Republicans have talked about Iran and nuclear weapons but seldom mentioned how that Persian nation comprises the largest organized Shia resistance to purified Sunni Islam. And let us not forget it is the Sunni purification movement that has driven the jihadists.

This is a problem much bigger than you. I hope that you take none of these remarks as implying you are solely responsible for the strategic confusion that besets our nation. The confusion preceded you. You came, you traveled, you were praised as a woman pioneer, and now you are leaving.

Hopefully, with the new team at State – and a new Congress – we will all start thinking in the broader geographic and historical terms that are necessary to establish public policy. I wish you well in private life.    

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Moses, Joshua, and Barack

by Dr. David Pence 

Moses led the Israelites through a parted Red Sea, out of slavery in Egypt some 2500 years ago. He received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai to bind the people in a covenant with the living God of History. Because he doubted once, he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. That was left for Joshua – who honored the primacy of God by sending the priests with the Ark of the Covenant to first enter the Jordan River. The Jordan, too, was parted by the God of Nature; and the sons of Israel entered the Promised Land. In preparing to fight the battle for Jericho, Joshua encountered the sacred and removed his sandals. He bound the men together by ordering that they submit to the sacrificial sign of the covenant: circumcision. They fought as one, and the walls of Jericho came tumbling down.  

President Barack Obama has referred to himself as the Joshua of a new generation. He refers to Martin Luther King as his Moses. Reverend King himself, in a sermon shortly before his assassination, said he had been to the mountaintop and seen the Promised Land but he knew he might not be allowed to go there.  King really was a Moses figure, but President Obama cannot be confused with Joshua.  Better to recall another leader of the Israelites – his namesake Barak.

Joshua united the men for battle. He did not squander a legacy or betray it. He took on the next necessary task.  President Obama has done nothing distinctly for young black men as men. They still leave our high schools too early and enter our jails too often. He has no heart for the men who will make their living by labor, not college. He has never tried to unite the men of the country as brothers, as fellow men with common duties as social protectors and fathers. In his inaugural address, the masculine pronoun never appeared.  As American men are murdered in cities at home and deserts abroad, he does not inspire the fraternal love of American men by binding us in a common circumcision of duty and protective sacrifice. He cannot call us fellow soldiers and policemen and citizens and fathers and brothers. Calling forth his countrymen, as countrymen, would be too sexist. It is not a strategy he has rejected. It is a formulation that is not conceivable in his thought patterns, which have replaced the Fatherhood of God with the feminist implant. The biblical cadence of Martin Luther King does not shape his tongue. The masculine patriotism of John F. Kennedy does not square his shoulders. The heart of Joshua does not fill his chest.

He sings of little girls, and parrots the whining of amply-paid college females. He is his mother’s son. The only male union he exalts is a private one that Joshua would abhor. He hitched those braking baggage cars of Seneca Falls (feminism) and Stonewall (a homosexual bar) to the freedom train of Selma.  Just when Christian souls of the religious civil rights movement rose from their graves to cry “sacrilege,” his soaring rhetoric listed another task for his generation: to make sure no one has to wait in a voting line for more than an hour.  That quieted those angry righteous souls who were prepared to shake the monuments with their screams. They receded… to let the text condemn itself with concerns not ready for monuments. They saw – this is definitely Barak, not Joshua – and they let him be.

The Israelite leader Barak would not go to battle without Deborah as his cover, and because he endangered and hid behind women in a time of battle, he was deprived of the honor of killing the enemy chieftain. Deborah told him, “The journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honor.” The glory went instead to a woman who found the chieftain in a tent (see Judges 4; the movie ‘Zero Dark Thirty’; or the Hillary Clinton retirement parties for details).

Certainly the men of our country know what has not been mentioned at Barak’s inaugural address or Deborah’s retirement interviews. We are not ending a decade of war. We are entering another century of conflict. We do this with little agreed-upon assessment of the strategic relations of the countries who may be our allies or enemies. Empowering women may be a great theme for conferences uniting three female 'baby boomer' secretaries of state, but it has not given our Senate or the public any sense of our geo-strategic alternatives in a game with a lot of players on the board.  We look out on this changing religious and military landscape, with offenses against God in our midst that some would perpetuate and extend as the natural heirs of the civil rights movement. Exalting these offenses bears a cost.  Re-configuring the nature of love and duty undermines our spiritual task of perfecting the Union and deprives us of the moral grammar necessary to shape a just peace among the nations.  The men of our country will fight again as one, but we cannot be one if we do not seek firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right. If we forsake God, there will be no brotherhood.

“My fellow countrymen” is a form of address we wait to hear.  Joshua will know how to speak to us when his time shall come.        

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Why Sunday Football beats out Sunday Mass

Pence writes:

Why will so many men be watching the NFL playoffs this Sabbath?

Those games will manifest some natural communal truth which stokes an essential masculine emotion that the domesticated liturgy of Father Steve, his altar girls, and that older female lector can’t quite elicit.  Masculine hierarchical communities of loyalty in contest – this is the fundamental public form of mankind.

Men are meant to love one another as well-ordered public bodies in conflict with an Enemy, as surely as we are meant to be joined in an intimate union with a woman to generate new life. That’s why the quarterback of the winning male group gets the beauty queen, and we begrudge that natural justice. That’s why Brent Musburger is a master teacher of anthropology and Fr. Steve hasn’t got a clue.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Antithesis of the measured wisdom of Tocqueville

“Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”  

Leave it to Il Duce to sum up the chasm between extremism – of both the Left and Right – and the moderate realism of Alexis de Tocqueville (d. 1859):
“What good does it do me, after all, if an ever-watchful authority keeps an eye out to ensure that my pleasures will be tranquil and races ahead of me to ward off all danger, sparing me the need even to think about such things, if that authority, even as it removes the smallest thorns from my path, is also absolute master of my liberty and my life; if it monopolizes vitality and existence to such a degree that when it languishes, everything around it must also languish; when it sleeps, everything must also sleep; and when it dies, everything must also perish?”


Monday, January 14, 2013

“Rage blazed in Sam’s heart to a sudden fury”

In The Return of the King Sam Gamgee is trying to discover where the orcs have imprisoned Mr. Frodo:
“Sam heard a bolt drawn back.  Then he heard the hideous voice speaking again.
‘You lie quiet, or you’ll pay for it!  You’ve not got long to live in peace, I guess; but if you don’t want the fun to begin right now, keep your trap shut, see?  There’s a reminder for you!’  There was a sound like the crack of a whip.
At that rage blazed in Sam’s heart to a sudden fury.  He sprang up, ran, and went up the ladder like a cat.  His head came out in the middle of the floor of a large round chamber.  A red lamp hung from its roof; the westward window-slit was high and dark.  Something was lying on the floor by the wall under the window, but over it a black orc-shape was straddled.  It raised a whip a second time, but the blow never fell.
With a cry Sam leapt across the floor, Sting in hand.  The orc wheeled round, but before it could make a move Sam slashed its whip-hand from its arm.  Howling with pain and fear but desperate the orc charged head-down at him.  Sam’s next blow went wide, and thrown off his balance he fell backwards, clutching at the orc as it stumbled over him.  Before he could scramble up he heard a cry and a thud.  The orc in its wild haste had tripped on the ladder-head and fallen through the open trap-door.  Sam gave no more thought to it.  He ran to the figure huddled on the floor.  It was Frodo.”

In this modern era of road rage and anger-management classes, we men – when confronted by true vileness such as Penn State coach Sandusky – too often fail to react in righteous revenge like Samwise the Brave.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Movie directors & orchestra conductors quietly live out traditional gender roles

Gender differences are complementary.  It would certainly clear away some societal confusion if our artistic elites ever preached what they practice!
(They know in their hearts that sex roles are neither noxious nor antediluvian but, rather, the foundation of a vibrant culture.)

I looked up a dozen symphony orchestras: Chicago, LA, Philadelphia, NY, Cleveland, Boston, San Francisco, and Minnesota – plus London, Berlin, Vienna, and St. Petersburg.  Each and every one of them employs a man as music director.


Hollywood has been handing out Oscars for nearly nine decades.  Every year the award for Best Director goes to a man.
(The sole exception was three years ago when the director of “The Hurt Locker” – the Iraq War movie about a bomb disposal team – won the Academy Award).

Maybe busting up all-male West Point, or declaring illegal every fraternal civic group such as the Jaycees, was not such a forward-looking idea after all...

UPDATE: Conservative columnist Peggy Noonan is gaga over the fact that the Senate is now twenty percent female:
In an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, they spoke of the difference they feel they make. Susan Collins (R., Maine) said that "with all due deference to our male colleagues . . . women's styles tend to be more collaborative." Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) said women in politics are "less confrontational." Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) said they are more supportive of each other. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) suggested women have less "ego." Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) said they're effective because "we're less on testosterone."
It was refreshing to see so much agreement…

Thank you, ladies, for making it clear that if we only neuter all the men, the path to sunny uplands will be less steep.
Senator Feinstein makes the perfect Sherpa guide: “Cash for guns – and a whopper bonus for gonads!”