Saturday, December 26, 2015

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, December 26

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


THE SYNOD ON THE FAMILY --  ENGLISH TRANSLATION: Read the article; read the document. Over 250 Bishops from all over the world agreed to this summation. The beautiful reflection is from a brotherhood of fathers united in prayer to the Father of all mercies, and listening to what He has revealed through His Son. The more the brotherhood can come together in person, engaging one another as a whole church, the more the errors of certain wealthy national episcopacies can be confronted. The cabals flourish in the dark. Light begets courage. This is the Pope Francis Synod strategy.

Some quotes from the final document --

On restoring man and woman to primal unity (from the Introduction):
Pope Francis recalled this in opening the final phase of this synodal journey dedicated to the family: "God did not create us to live in sorrow or to be alone. He made men and women for happiness, to share their journey with someone who complements them [...]. It is the same plan which Jesus presents [...] summarized with these words: ‘From the beginning of creation [God] made them male and female; for this reason a man will leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife and they become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh’ (Mk 10:6-8; cf. Gen 1:27; 2:24)."  God "joins the hearts of two people who love one another, he who joins them in unity and indissolubility. This shows us that the goal of conjugal life is not simply to live together for life, but to love one another for life! In this way Jesus re-establishes the order which was present from the beginning [...] only in the light of the folly of the gratuitousness of Jesus’ paschal love will the folly of the gratuitousness of an exclusive and life-long conjugal love make sense" (Homily at the Opening Mass of the Synod, 4 October 2015).

An apostolic event of prayer - the spiritual reality of synod:
The Holy Father called the Synod of Bishops to reflect on the reality of the family. "The convenire in unum around the Bishop of Rome is indeed an event of grace, in which episcopal collegiality is made manifest in a path of spiritual and pastoral discernment." (Francis, Address at the Prayer Vigil in preparation for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, 3 October 2014).
God made us male and female so we could participate in the unique form of love which is Marriage -- let us give thanks:
God consecrates the love of a husband and a wife and confirms the indissoluble character of their love, offering them the grace to live in faithfulness, mutual integration, and openness to life. Let us thank God for marriage because, through the community of life and love, Christian spouses know happiness and experience that God loves them personally, with feelings of warmth and tenderness. The man and the woman, individually and as a couple — recalls Pope Francis — "are the image of God." Their difference "is not meant to stand in opposition, or to subordinate, but is for the sake of communion and generation, always in the image and likeness of God."
Is this clear enough on the demonic oxymoron of gay marriage?:
Regarding proposals to place unions of homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, "there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family"(ibid). In every way, the Synod maintains as completely unacceptable that local Churches be subjected to pressure in this matter. and that international bodies link financial aid to poor countries to the introduction of laws to establish "marriage" between people of the same sex.

What Really Happened at Synod by Weigel

At First Things magazine, this article by George Weigel shows how tone-deaf conservative intellectuals are in understanding events of spiritual fraternity. Mr. Weigel had details of inside baseball (less about what really happened) with his happy news that an Eastern European (Cardinal Erdo of Hungary) beat the Western European (Cardinal Kasper of Germany) in theological arguments. He gave a very good summary of Erdo's address with quotations. If the article was called Opening Machinations and a Cardinal's Response, it would be good reporting. There was no quoting from the final document, which probably had not yet been translated into English. That seems a revealing deficit, as if Mr. Weigel's analysis rather than the bishops' document is "what really happened" amidst the Church Fathers. It is also peculiar that the dynamics of different episcopal cultures were not appreciated, whether it be the sumptuous extravagance of German entertaining or the role of language in fostering meetings of bishops of different countries. Certain kinds of men rise to leadership in forums such as these. Other kinds of men, who are magnified beyond their true proportion by their access to media outlets, are shrunken by face to face, man to man encounters. (Walter Kasper and Raymond Burke are two such men).

Unbelievably, the twin demons of the Apocalypse intervention by Cardinal Sarah is not mentioned. In fact, the southern-hemisphere Catholics are lectured: "The American experience of the past four decades is still not sufficiently 'in play' in the deliberations of the world church." Mr. Weigel apparently feels the American propensity for "theology of the body" talks has been an antidote to the still deeply compromised, unexposed, and unrepentant homosexual clergy who preen as moral authorities in American public life.

The great deficiency in Catholic teaching on sexuality is not in understanding male-female marriage. This synod shows we have that, quite universally and beautifully, in hand. It is the theology of the corporate body of men in patriarchal fraternity that we haven't reformed or even explained. The Americans and Mr. Weigel and the conservative intellectuals at First Things would do well to listen to Pope Francis and Cardinal Sarah to better appreciate the spiritual fruit that is coming from these apostolic gatherings called Synods.

CATHOLICS AND JEWS: On the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate the Vatican released a commemorative document. The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. It is not dogma the authors are quick to say, but a reflection. We must hold two truths together: 1) the Covenant with Abraham as the sealing of Israel on Sinai still stands; and 2) Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Covenant - in nature and in history.

The death of a great Jewish theologian. He rejected secular American intellectual Jews who were more interested in "Manhattan salons" than Judaism. He said Israel was the favored Son as was Joseph -- who, loving his father, reconciled with all his brothers. Election and universal brotherhood, more than philosophical treatises, were the motifs of the great Michael Wyschogrod.


CATHOLIC CARDINALS AND US GAY AMBASSADOR: This South American cardinal apparently is not too awestruck by the gay gringo from the North. The American fad of appointing homosexual ambassadors is considered an insult against most nations who retain ancient traditions of national honor.

American cardinals are not so straight-forward in dealing with the demonic death cult of sodomy. The primary practical reason the American and European priesthood has not yet repented for the abuse scandal is the continuing presence of a significant homosexual cohort among bishops and chanceries. Until this cult desecrating our purity codes of brotherhood is exposed and punished, the milieu of deceit and depravity will keep producing bizarre tales like those from New York.

SOUTH AMERICA: AFTER THE LEFTISTS, WILL CATHOLIC NATIONS EMERGE? We have seen the leftists. We have seen the feminist careerists. We have not yet seen Christian men leading their nations in a new drive for "land, labor, and lodging" as the Latin bishops and the pope have put it. The Parliament ousts the Chavismo. But what happens next? A new President - the end of the Kirchner power couple. The death of the Latin Left presents a great opportunity for Christianity and the nations to untie the atheistic knot of capitalism vs communism, and propose a true Christian public program.


RUMBLINGS WITHIN US MILITARY: ALLY WITH RUSSIA, CHINA AND SYRIA -- FIGHT ISIS: EXPOSE TURKEY: This excellent reportage by Seymour Hersh concerning US military-to-military relations with Russia which led many US military men to advocate our joining the Russians with Syria's Assad to fight ISIS. He also shows the interests of China in supporting the Syrian government and opposing the pan-Turkish Islamic designs of Erdogan of Turkey. China's western province of Xinjiang (population 22 million) has 45 percent Islamic Turkish language Ughyers.

See our 'Monday Map' on the lands of the Turkic people to understand how the communal bonds of language and religion inspire Erdogan's peculiar Ottoman empire/caliphate dreams. In China the Hui Muslims are ethnically Han, and have much more religious liberty than the Uyghurs who are often suspected of separatism based on their Turkish ethnicity as much as their Islamic religion.

VIOLENCE AND GUNS: A look at other nations and mass shootings.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

'It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth'

"Let us, then, joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time."   
                          (from Saint Augustine on the feast of Christmas)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, December 19

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


PRESIDENT OBAMA TO THE NATION: President Obama's speech. The President asks Congress to have a debate on a war strategy. Mr Trump says stop all Muslim immigration "until our country's representatives can figure out what's going on." That is not so outlandish as it sounds. What is outlandish is that our deliberative institutions -- the Senate and the House of Representatives -- have not put together a clear strategic definition of who we are fighting and why. They owe this to our nation and our military. President Obama is right not to make some major military strategic change because of a single terror attack in California. He is right to say that we cannot be in a "war between Islam and America," He has also said: "It is the responsibility of all Americans - of every faith - to reject discrimination... It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country. It's our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim-Americans should somehow be treated differently."

But the way not to fight all of Islam is to delineate the particular Muslims we are fighting. You might call that an act of discrimination, which is exactly what we have not had enough of in this conflict. He could not be more mistaken in saying we cannot discriminate against Muslims. Mr Trump is exactly right when he says: "Where this hatred comes from and why, we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life." Trump is saying, quite correctly, that fifteen years after the Twin Towers, we don't understand the danger facing us. Like the president, he calls on Congress to debate and figure this out.

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S RELIGION: Reading this interview with his favorite female theologian-novelist, Marilynne Robinson and the President is a good way to understand President Obama's approach to Christianity. There are no public claims about Christ, history and the Church but there is an abiding sense of the dignity of every human soul (when the soul begins is not addressed). In a strange way, it is an anthropology for libertarians.

THE MASCULINE PROTECTIVE BOND - OUR HISTORIC NATIONAL STRATEGY UNDER ATTACK: Reducing the Civil Rights Movement to an effort to end all discrimination has broken down the fundamental anthropological bonds which rest on sexual distinctions and bind the human species into families and nations. The male-female bond of marriage and the all-male bond of territorial protection are bonds which are fatally undermined by losing their sexual character.

This Marine study on unit performance sees the male-female integration plan as an historic mistake.

When Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that the Pentagon was opening up combat jobs to women, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford was not present. When Dunford was the Marine commandant, he requested exemption for the Marines from the Secretary of the Navy's ruling to open all combat positions to women. President Obama understands the fidelity of soldiers to the military chain of command will help him use this warrior's integrity for the policy of sexual disruption.

The Defense Department seeks an opinion from Justice department to reevaluate the male-only draft registration policy. This setting aside of all American men, ages 18-26, is the remnant of our traditional protective sex roles. We have argued at AOA that the male territorial protective group is as fundamental a communal unit as the male-female character of marriage. Most men in special ops seem to agree.

OBAMA'S STRATEGY: An unfolding strategy is better than a hasty attack. This is the plus side to the president's overall temperament which will allow a true change in alliances in the future.

The Paris agreement on fossil fuels: hype as hope. How to measure and regulate climate costs -- India asks for justice in an already murky field of study.

WHY THE MEDIA HATES MR. TRUMP: Pat Buchanan on the Fourth Estate and the long battle of the silent majority with the elite media.


MEN AND MAPS: A look inside Putin's War Room. This is how men learn about the world, from the viewpoint of their own nation.

RUSSIA'S CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE: After the downing of a Russian plane by Turkish forces for a minor violation of airspace, the Russians propose a goodwill gesture: Return the Hagia Sophia.


RELIGIOUS WAR IN YEMEN: The US is aiding the purge of Shiites by air attack. Mindful of the British strategy toward the Boers: "If you can't beat their men, make them homeless." One way to see the world through the eyes of Shia is to look at SHIAPAC. A large Shia protest in Washington D.C. shows a voice we have not heard from. We should not ban all Muslims from the US. We must ban some Muslims, however, and we will best learn who they are and how to fight them from other Muslims who are our allies in fighting our common enemies.

TERRORISM IN PAKISTAN: Forty-four Muslims killed on a bus in Pakistan - no provocation. The headline names an ethnic group as victims but guess who shot and who got shot if you distinguish Sunni and Shiite? From the 'Times of India,' in three paragraphs, we are told about the shooters and the war we are in. It is a war that India has been waging for decades. See this good primer from West Point on Deobandi Islam (south Asia's form of Wahhabi Islam). In Naming the Enemy, 'American Conservative' offers the clearest take yet on the enemy within Islam -- not Shia, but Salafist Sunnis. The 'NY Times' offers a good profile of the San Bernardino female shooter: a Saudi girl in Pakistan.

MIDDLE EAST INSTITUTE - DANIEL PIPES: This site has a lot of good information. It very much takes the Likud position on all things Israeli, and then assumes this must be best for America. America owes to our ally Israel that we do not become entwined in their deadly embrace with Saudi Arabia. Their fixation with Iran is part of this party line approach, which I think some day will change very suddenly. Then all the neoconservative Mideast experts will suddenly see Iran in a longer perspective, and look again into the deadly eyes of the Saudi royal kingdom and the real nuclear danger in the area: Pakistan.

TERRORISM IN CHINA: A four-part series on the nature of the terrorist threat facing China.

Monday, December 14, 2015




by A. Joseph Lynch

The map, above, roughly depicts the areas of Shiite Muslim predominance in the Mideast and Central Asia. By tying this to a map of Persian languages (see map below), we come to appreciate Iran's place in the Islamic world. Recent events have proven that what concerns Saudi Arabia (and many US foreign policy experts) more than ISIS or Al Qaeda is Shia Islam. Despite the fact that Shiites make up only 10-15% of Islam, ten Sunni Arab states (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Morocco, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and the former Yemeni government in exile) with US support have begun battling Shiites in Yemen, while Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula takes hold of the eastern half of the nation. Meanwhile, Iraq and Syria continue to be overrun by the Islamic State; and General Petraeus has declared: "I would argue that the foremost threat to Iraq's long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium is not the Islamic State; rather, it is Shiite militias." 

The Saudi-led attack on the Shiites of Yemen is better understood, given the map above. Saudi Arabia fears a Shiite-controlled region inYemen. No one seriously thinks the Houthi could control all of Yemen which appears now to be permanently fractured like Syria and Iraq. The idea that the Houthi as Houthi or as an agent of Iran are a threat to Saudi Arabia's sovereignty is a smokescreen. The House of Saud sees them correctly as one of many enemies: Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria to the north; Iran across the Persian Gulf to its east and Bahrain on its own side of the Persian Gulf.  Saudi Arabia, with its low population and heavy Shia majority in its own oil-rich eastern Gulf coast, is certainly insecure.  Shiite Iran (and other Shiite governments in Iraq and Syria) are well aware of Sunni designs to topple their governments. They also know Israel and America favor regime change in Syria and Iran. That Saudi Arabia was able to gather a quick league of nations to assault the poorest Shiites in the region. The bombings and blockades smell of religious violence more than a restoration of political authority for the discredited ex-President Hadi. The Saudi-escalated involvement against the Shia government of Syria -- and the lack of Sunni Arab vigor in combating the Islamic State and Al Qaeda (both Sunni terror groups) -- are further signs that the Arab Spring has now morphed into the Salafist-Shia religious war.

While Sunni Arab states run generally westward from the Arabian peninsula throughout north Africa, Shia Iran and its Persian language is oriented eastward from the borders of Iraq, across Iran, and into Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. Each of these nations -- along with the Kurds -- speak a Persian-derived tongue. It is estimated that 150-200 million people speak one of 86 Iranian languages (e.g., Persian, Kurdish, and Pashto). Although Pakistan's dominant Sunni Islam puts it into the Arab Sunni camp in its relations to Iran, around 20% of Pakistan is Shiite, thus making it the second largest Shiite nation in the world after Iran with upwards of 30 million Shiites. (The Shiites of India have about the same number). Afghanistan is around 10%-15% Shiite, and Iran helped them and the US in toppling the Sunni-extremist Taliban government in 2001-2002.

Shia Iran is a gateway to central Asia and to its eastern Islamic neighbors. Given that Iran alone has access to the energy resources around both the Caspian and Persian Gulf -- as well as the fact that it could become an export hub for resources in landlocked Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan -- Iran should be cultivated as an ally in the region.

In the seventh century, the Christian Byzantines and Zoroastrian Sasanian Persian dynasty fought a long series of wars that left both exhausted and vulnerable. The two depleted cultures fell to Arab Islamic conquest. As we recall the Arab-Sunni-Wahhabi faction that struck us on 9/11 (which Iran condemned), let us not repeat that seventh-century foreign policy mistake in our own era.

In our third and final part we turn  to the Turkic people of the steppe lands stretching across Anatolia to western China. Use the following link to read part one of this series.

This article first appeared on Anthropology of Accord on May 4, 2015.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday BookReview: Pakistan - A Doubtful Friend in Asia

by Dr. David Pence

Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military
by Husain Haqqani (2005)

Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding
by Husain Haqqani (2013)

The Shadow of the Great Game: The Untold Story of India's Partition
by Narendra Singh Sarila (2005)

The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014
by Carlotta Gall (2014)

Indonesia (205 million), Pakistan (200 million), India (180 million), and Bangladesh (150 million) have the largest Muslim populations in the world. None of them are in the Mideast and none of them are linguistically or ethnically Arabic. Just as Americans must examine our long-term ally Saudi Arabia in the Mideast to find the roots of the 9/11 attack, so we must understand our long-term ally Pakistan in South Asia to see the nature of our enemy there. The U.S. alliance with Pakistan had largely been formed in terms of Pakistan’s anti-Soviet role during the Cold War, and then as an ally in fighting the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan after 9/11. We were not the first to think of Pakistan as an obvious cultural enemy of the godless Soviets, and thus a possible geostrategic ally. The Untold Story of India's Partition argues that "once the British realized that the Indian nationalists who would rule India after its independence would deny them military cooperation… they settled for those willing to do so by using religion for their purpose." While the founding father of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was quite secular, the rationale for the state was "to protect Muslims." What belies this rationale is a simple geographic fact. The states where Muslims were in the majority and didn’t need special protection became Pakistan; while areas with substantial minority Muslim populations which would be more vulnerable were left under Hindu majority rule in the new India. In the 1947 partition, one million Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs were killed; and fifteen million were displaced to the new states. Author Narendra Singh Sarila was aide-de-camp for Lord Mountbatten, viceroy of India, before independence and governor general until 1948. He was in the Indian Foreign Service from 1948-1985. He argues that the United States was more an advocate of Indian unity and independence than Indian public opinion has acknowledged. The U.S. under Roosevelt -- much more than Britain under Churchill -- believed the text of the Atlantic Charter (August 1941) "respecting the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live" actually applied to the nations of Asia as well as Europe. Roosevelt was vehemently opposed by Churchill who thought Americans did not understand the rule of coloreds. Churchill and others who opposed Indian independence favored partition as a fallback position and used "the protection of Muslims" as a rationale that would appeal to the gullible Americans. Mr. Sarila concedes that the US has continued the British policy of "using religion to achieve strategic objectives" in Pakistan, but along with many Indian geostrategic thinkers, he encourages a new hope in "the improvement of US-India relations" because  "Western policies of exploiting political Islam to pressurize India have run their course."

Husain Haqqani was Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States from 2008-2011. His book Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military is a devastating critique of the "state within a state" formed by Pakistan military and intelligence services. He argues convincingly (and dangerously for himself) that from the beginning the Islamist identity and foreign policy initiatives of Pakistan have been rooted in "institutions and the state." This is not an aberration of particular military heads of state. Since the beginning the "obsession with India" has driven all Pakistani military policy with its western neighbor in Afghanistan and its northeastern dispute with Kashmir.  His history is a clear narrative and yet full of nuances that only an insider can relate. Much of the purification ideology of Pakistan is a Salafist type of Sunni Islam associated with the Deobandi school. They have become a significant force in the nation’s educational system. Religious ideology could not hold together East and West Pakistan (separated by a thousand miles of India). The ethnic Bengalis of the East resented the governmental dominance by ethnic Punjabs and laws making “Urdu and only Urdu” the official language of the new Pakistani State. In a December 1970 election the Bengali East, and two non-Punjab areas of Balochistan and the mostly Pashtun Northwest Provinces, won enough seats to control the National Assembly. Yahya Khan, the military dictator who had allowed the elections, announced in March 1971 the indefinite postponement of the National Assembly. A bloody attack on East Pakistan led to Bengali resistance and Indian intervention. East Pakistan declared itself as the new nation of Bangladesh in December 1971.

The muted response of the United States to the Pakistani military rampage in the East was attributed to the role of the Pakistan military in arranging the secret Kissinger visit to China (summer 1971). That preceded the Nixon breakthrough in February 1972. All of this history, as well as the development of the "Islamic bomb" by A.Q. Kahn, is explained with even greater detail and clarity in Haqqani’s second book Magnificent Delusions. He wrote this book after serving as ambassador for the assassinated Benazir Bhutto. Haqqani had to leave Pakistan several months after the American raid in Abbottabad [about 70 miles north of Pakistani capital] which killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011. His second book is much more detailed about the nuclear physicist Kahn. (An excellent documentary on the development of the real Islamic nuclear weapons of mass destruction is here.)

Mrs. Bhutto was killed by a bomb in late 2007
There were three primary strategic goals of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies. These were not always shared by the various civilian governments. They were: a) developing a nuclear arsenal; b) achieving "strategic depth" in Afghanistan which means having a salafist-type Sunni government in Afghanistan that would never consider an alliance with Hindu India or cultivate cross-border ethnic nationalisms of Pashtunistan and Balochistan; and c) cultivating an Islamic identity in Kashmir to break from Indian rule and realign with Pakistan. (Though Kashmir has an overwhelming Muslim population, the province stayed with India at the time of partition.) Long before the US supported muhajadeen in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet invasion of 1979, the Pakistan military was developing Taliban-like forces in Afghanistan to insure national development by their neighbor which would preclude an alliance with India. This is what they called "strategic depth" in Afghanistan. When the US attacked the Taliban after the 2001 World Trade Center bombings, only three countries had recognized the jihadist regime as a legitimate state: Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates. Ambassador Haqqani tells the story how occasional strikes against Al Qaeda operatives by the Pakistan government kept the US off balance in properly assessing the situation. Haqqani writes: "There was a huge gap in the Bush Administration’s knowledge about Pakistan. Condoleezza Rice was surprised when Russian President Vladimir Putin brought up the subject of Pakistan during his meeting with Bush at the G-8 Summit meeting in Genoa in July 2001. "He excoriated the Perez Musharraf regime for its support of extremists and for the connections of the Pakistani intelligence services and military to the Taliban and al Qaeda," she wrote in her memoir. Putin said that the extremists "were all being funded by Saudi Arabia" and that it would only be a matter of time until it resulted in a major catastrophe. "We of course knew the connection between Pakistan and the Taliban. But I was taken aback by Putin’s alarm and vehemence, and chalked it up to Russian bitterness toward Pakistan for supporting Afghan Mujahideen who had defeated the Soviets in the 1980’s. Pakistan’s relationship with the Taliban would become one of our gravest problems. Putin never let us forget it, bringing up the conversation time and time again."

Another voice describing Pakistan during these turbulent years is Carlotta Gall, the New York Times correspondent to Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2001-2013. Her father, British journalist Sandy Gall, covered Afghanistan during the Russian Afghan war and bequeathed his love and knowledge of the country to his daughter. Mrs. Gall now writes from North Africa and, like Mr. Haqqani, would not be safe in Pakistan. The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan 2001-2014 is not a subtle title. Gall, however, is a very subdued and non-inflammatory writer. Yet her travels and countless interviews in Afghanistan (as well as many in Pakistan) leave her with a powerful and devastating conclusion. The epicenter of Islamic jihadism that expresses itself in the Taliban of Afghanistan is amidst the madrasses, intelligence services, and military of Pakistan. She concludes the book, "Until the Pakistan military ceases to use the Taliban as an instrument of its strategic aims, Afghanistan’s long war will continue." Just before that, she made one of her few policy recommendations: "The US should also force Gulf countries to curtail their funding of extremist groups and madrassas in Pakistan." The reference to Gulf countries means the UAE and (as Vladimir Putin pointed out 15 years ago) Saudi Arabia. Many of the reviews of her book have focused on her accusation that knowledge of Osama bin Laden hiding in Pakistan reached to the highest levels in the intelligence and military. Her critics ask for proof and more proof. (She demurs, telling her safely ensconced critics that her sources would be killed if she gives more details). It is mindful of a previous era of a crippling skepticism. When the US intelligence began late in the Bush presidency (2006-08) to focus on ties of the Taliban and Pakistan government, a diplomat said their findings were continually nitpicked by government officials "acting like stamp collectors."

Especially in the Pakistan city of Quetta, the ISI ties to Taliban were clear. One distinction was that the Taliban had Pakistani-Afghan roots, while Al Qaeda was more Yemeni-Saudi based. Half of the first 400 Al Qaeda members which the Pakistan government claimed to capture were Saudi or Yemeni. The Taliban movement was largely Pashtun, the large ethnic tribe that had been split in two by the Durand line drawn in 1893 by Mortimer Durand, the British Indian Foreign Secretary. The British strategy had been to establish an Afghanistan/Indian border which would break apart natural tribal loyalties that could become the basis of military resistance. There was no Pakistan at that time; but when Pakistan was established in 1947, they used the 1400-mile Durand Line as their western border. Pashtuns of Afghanistan proposed instead a Pashtunistan to reunite their ethnic and religious brothers. The Pakistan military has offered a strict super-ethnic purifying Islamic identity as a way to cement these cross-border loyalties in service of their larger military project aimed against India.

The progressive cultural radicalization of Pakistan society had eerie similarities with Saudi Arabia. Gall's reporting on the “Red Mosque” incident brings to mind the Saudi story. Just as the 1979 Siege in Mecca against the Saudi government was militarily suppressed, but then led to many concessions to Wahhabi Sunnis, the “Red Mosque” rebellion in Islamabad in 2007 ended with a similar government repression followed by ever deeper concessions to cultural salafists. (Salafist means 'ancestor' and refers to various Sunni purification movements like Wahhabi Islam in Saudi Arabia and the Deobandi school in Pakistan. ISIS, Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab in Somalia, and Boko Haram in Nigeria are all Salafist movements).

Again, in her low-keyed way, the author stresses that while there are many American projects for increased government services to win loyalties and increase democracy, she quotes tribal leaders who insist that providing stable long-term security is always the first and most fundamental requirement in securing political loyalty. Similar reasoning led to Afghan President Harmai Karzai proposals to call a "loya jirga" (a traditional tribal assembly) to develop a broadly representative societal agreement to protect. The Communists had always opposed this as unscientific tribalism, the mullahs were against it for substituting ethnic loyalties for religious purity, and the Americans were dismissive of any schemes of rule not based on 'one person, one vote.'

Hasain Haqqani, in explaining the Islamic transformation of the Pakistani educational system, said instead of studying geography, history, and civics, students studied a kind of "political science based on Islam." There is an eerily similar project in the erasure of American history, geography, and civics which have made us blind and deaf to the religious movements and national states who have declared us their enemy. The authors of the books reviewed here are teaching a clarifying mixture of history, biography, and geography. Remarkably, their stories comport well with the analysis of Bruce Riedel who chaired President Obama’s reappraisal of American strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Unlike the reluctance of major policy makers to name and face our foes in Saudi Arabia, it seems the secret about Pakistan is out of the bag. Maybe it was the Bin Laden compound in Abbottabad. President Obama sometimes speaks of 'AfPak' -- showing the two countries must be treated together in determining strategy. President Obama’s “tilt toward Asia” has improved our relations with India enough that we can now deepen our alliance with them against the Pakistani support of terror mostly directed against them. When we see Pakistan in terms of India, China, and South Asia we will clarify the real nature of our enemy in this theatre and begin to cultivate our necessary allies. Aesop said "a doubtful friend is worse than a certain enemy." There is a good reason that Haqqani’s book on the US-Pakistani "alliance" began with that reminder from the ancient sage.

This mosque in Lahore opened in 1673, and for centuries was the world's largest.

For more information on Pakistan, see our Map on Monday: PAKISTAN

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, December 5


WAR IN YEMEN - KILLING SHIA WITH COLUMBIANS: A very disturbing profile of paid mercenaries for UAE. The Sunni royals are better at organizing the kill than being in the hunt. The hired soldiers are from South America, especially Columbia.

MEMO TO OBAMA ON SAUDI ARABIA FROM A FAVORITE ADVISER: Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institute is a major advisor to President Obama on South Asia as well as the Mideast. His books and talks on Pakistan and India are full of authoritative insights which could help realign our alliances in South Asia. His views in this memorandum to President Obama about the necessity of our relationship to the House of Saud in the Mideast are quite conventional and thus troubling.

WHY DOES ISIS FIGHT: This recruitment video has enough truth in it to demand a true masculine Christian response.

JIHADIST POWER COUPLE - LINKS TO WHAT TWO COUNTRIES?: The more we have studied the roots of the 9/11 attack and the subsequent rise of modern-day jihadists, the more we come back to the Salafist religious teachings in two countries whom America has treated as allies for half a century. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan turn out to be our most deadly enemies, while Turkey may soon imitate their methods.

Hopefully, the San Bernardino shooters will help us consider the role of those two countries in the spread of jihad. What will explain the killings? A) Lack of gun control laws in California; B) workplace violence responding to a hostile bullying environment against a Muslim; or C) a couple living out the major directives of Wahhabi Islam taught in Saudi Arabia, and Deobandi Islam taught in Pakistan.
Do not be misdirected by claims of ISIS to be the source of their iniquity. ISIS, like our young couple, is a creature of a centuries-old religious reform movement. Look deeper at the established states where this religious movement has dug its deepest roots.


STRATEGY, HISTORY, ANALOGY: What Kissinger understood.

RUSSIA AND TURKEY: A good history lesson. Pat Buchanan asks if we want Turkey to lead us into war with Russia.

INDIA AND NEPAL: A good primer.


I have never seen any kind of talk by previous popes, faced with the same facts, even remotely as critical as this from Pope Francis to the German bishops.  Pope Francis has been willing to criticize clerics and he does it to their faces. When he speaks of mercy in the Church, he says it comes through the confessional. These are traits of the Pope seldom noted by the growing ranks of his conservative intellectual critics.

The German bishops' website explains the inadequacy of African Catholics in dealing with complexities. Americans tend to yell 'racism' too quickly, but it may be the best explanation of this dismissive attitude toward the Cardinal Lion of Africa by his soft critics in the German Episcopacy.


PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, RUBIO, ON HIS FAITH CATHOLIC:  A convincing testimony for Senator Rubio.

'ALL COMBAT POSITIONS FOR WOMEN' ANNOUNCES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CARTER - A DEAFENING SILENCE FROM CONSERVATIVES: After appointing a homosexual man as Secretary of the Army, the Pentagon has now announced all combat positions will be integrated male and female. It is clear that neither Leon Panetta nor Ash Carter could have been appointed as Secretary od Defense if they were not fully prepared to implement this sea change in American protective culture. It is similar to the kind of personnel decisions made in Catholic seminaries as acceptance of homosexual priests and collaborative ministries with female liturgical directors became a litmus test for hiring faculty and ordaining candidates. This sexual revolution corrupted the fraternal character of the apostolic priesthood as surely as American protective culture in the military and police departments is now being eroded in the name of gender ideology. If gay marriage is the spear, this is its shield.

Studies by the US Marines showing that units with female members are less effective than all-male troops were brushed aside. If it takes a village to raise a child, maybe it takes a brotherhood to protect a city and guard a nation. Let's see which religious or political leader can talk communal identity and masculine citizen bonds as the heart of our military and civil-defense culture rather than the technocratic "competent individuals" of the new volunteer and outsourcing Defense Department.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday BookReview: Remi Brague on the Structure of the World & the Purpose of Man

by Dr. David Pence

Remi Brague (b. 1947) is a French professor of philosophy at the Sorbonne and at the University of Munich. He is an expert in Islamic medieval thought and philology. I read his The Law of God, a comparative historical theological reflection on law in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity; and then turned to The Wisdom of the World: The Human Experience of the Universe in Western Thought.

I teach an integrated four-year Catholic science curriculum which begins with An Introduction to the Physical World and ends senior year with a study of The Human Organism. Brague described his project as "attempting something like a history of beings-in-the-world." How men describe the universe ('worldly wisdom') determines how man understands human nature. As Brague explains in his introduction: "[What] enables man to achieve the fullness of his humanity was conceived at least in a dominant tradition of thought to be linked to cosmology." Uncoupling this linkage between the workings of the universe and the purpose of man is a mark of modernity.

No reviewer can simplify and order Professor Brague. One must describe a symphony, and then marvel at the philology interludes. So, instead of a summary, I will briefly describe two historical traditions of integrated cosmology/anthropology and two ruptures of the synthesis.

"The cosmology of the Middle Ages lies between Timaeus and Abraham." The Timaeus dialogue by Plato (360 B.C.) is concerned with the nature of the physical world and man's place in the larger reality. Timaeus proposes that the unregulated motion of the heavenly bodies is the divine order that is to be imitated by man. Man is an upright animal with a neck that bends so he can gaze at the heavens from their rising to setting. These perfect spheres and perfect circular movements present man with a transcendent portion of a hierarchical universe which he can imitate. This allows man to seek what is above, ordering his soul over his chest and his chest over his loins. (The soul commands the heart. The heart obeys the soul and commands the passions. The disordered man -- who becomes more bestial than the animals -- allows the passions to command and is out of harmony with the Universe. He is unto himself -- the literal meaning of idios -- an idiot. Brague mocks "silly Promethean tirades" as he labels disobedient man, not a hero, but a deficient man).

These formulations are not all in the Timaeus dialogue itself, but they all spring from its basic sensibility. For many ancients, the stars were animate beings possessing higher souls than man. The celestial bodies were not commanded, but self-regulated. Man found his place in the command structure by "studying the sky" (or "contemplating the heavens.") This was a fundamental cosmological/anthropological synthesis.
Da Vinci's "Vitruvian Man" (c. 1490)

Brague presents both Aristotle and Socrates as dissenters from this synthesis. Aristotle built human morality around phronesis -- a practical wisdom needed in ethical and political life. This kind of wisdom owed little to the larger "wisdom of the world." Aristotle had much to say about the structure of the world, but his moral arguments about ethics and politics did not rest on the structure of the world. In this, he was like Socrates and unlike Plato. Socrates was dismissive of the skies as a template for human happiness and morality. The study of good and evil was not to be found in physics (the study of nature), but in the polis where man learns about being man with his brothers. Brague writes: "For us viewing physical things as axiologically neutral has been a given for a very long time. We no longer see that such a conclusion had to be taken by force... (that was) the 'Socratic revolution.'" This is not a compliment. Here we have a subtle hint why so many anthropocentric humanists and boosters of 'Western Civilization' idolize Socrates, while downplaying the larger narrative and metaphysical actors of Christianity.

The monotheistic religions all postulate a radical connection between the nature of the cosmos and the meaning of man. The "excesses of Abraham" include: 1) God alone is the Creator with nothing limiting his free will; 2) the world had a beginning in time; 3) the creation of our visible world was preceded by that of an invisible world of forms or angels who are intermediaries of a continuing creation; and 4) the visible world is ruled by a teleology focusing on man that recapitulates all of creation in sin, but also of the resurrection of the body ultimately focusing everything on God alone.

Brague says that after Abraham the way the world manifests God is authentic but "nature is no longer how God reveals himself the best. The Revealed Law (for the Jews) and the Word Incarnate (for the Christians) say much more about God than does the world."

Brague calls Saint Augustine a "cosmoclast" because he held it was not necessary to know the structure of the world as long as one knows the Creator of it. The study of the world was not prohibited but it "loses a good part of its interest." (This tendency is alive and well in Catholic philosophy and theology departments at our universities which are staffed by men abysmally, often invincibly, ignorant of basic physical sciences.)

The introduction of the Creator, utterly apart from creation, dethroned the stars from their lofty, often divine, spot in classical cosmology. The Incarnation reconfigured the stars beginning at Bethlehem. The stars were de-animated by Albertus Magnus (teacher of St Thomas Aquinas) who said the celestial bodies are "deaf and mute."

Much earlier, Moses warned: "And beware, lest you lift up your eyes to heaven and when you see the Sun, the moon and stars, all the host of heaven you be drawn away and worship them and serve them, things which the Lord has allotted to all peoples."

Just as crucial as dethroning the stars in space was the religious revolution in concepts that would be played out two millenia later in the twentieth century as the Belgian Jesuit, Georges Lemaitre, argued for a beginning of matter (the Big Bang) against the steady-state infinite Universe concept of materialist physicists Hoyle, Einstein, and Hubble. Brague emphasizes what can easily be ignored: "The concept of world, until revealed religions, belonged in the realm of nature. With those religions it entered into the realm of history." A change in vocabulary is a sign of this. The world can also be referred to by a temporal name -- saeculum -- the age.

The World was one with Nature, but with revealed religions the cosmos is placed in time. The historicizing of the cosmos will feature the act of creation, the fall and subsequent incompleteness of man in the world, and the redemption culminating in the final tribulation and resolution ending the world as we know it. The world can still be studied and contemplated but now it receives its totality as an act of God's Will.

"It is indispensable to consider all beings as they really are," said the Jewish philosopher Maimonides. "Astronomy and natural sciences -- those are matters necessary for the apprehension of God's governance as this relation is in truth not just imaginings."

The idea of imitation of the world is no longer seeking to imitate the regular and perfect movement of the celestial spheres, but to obey the Will of God who created and ordered the movement of those spheres for a purpose with tiny man as a major teleological actor.

While Catholic and Jewish thinkers may have de-emphasized the study of the world for higher pursuits, they never sundered their understanding of the cosmos from their description of man. That becomes a very different story for post-Reformation Christianity -- a development not dealt with by Mr. Brague. (See 'Karl Barth's Failure' by Matthew Rose and The Unintended Reformation by Brad Gregory).

The sundering of the cosmos from anthropology by atheistic moderns is the subject of Brague's final chapters. Modern man can see that the stars are not a perfect set of spheres in perfect order. They are nuclear furnaces, dissipating, forming elements while dealing death. Every particle of matter is obeying physical laws but the laws are leading to cold and isolation. This cannot be imitated or we must quit on life. So the modern world posits a cosmos that is, at best, ethically indifferent and in most instances actually hostile to life. The perfect movement of perfect spheres is untenable as multiple phenomena in outer space, forever inaccessible, are occurring. The "sky died" as it was shown to be governed by the same physical laws as the earth. The falling apple explained the revolution of the earth around the sun. The imitation "of Nature known too well" becomes "shocking for the Moderns."

The seemingly more accurate view of the animal world as a battleground presented by Hobbes and Darwin, as well as Sade and Marx, was a model for criminality and competition -- not communion and transcendence. The new rebels of the biological, political, and psychological arenas wrote as if God did not exist. But they also ran from the whole cosmos. They shielded their eyes from astronomy and causality in the pre-human physical world as they formulated their new "world" visions. Their mini-Socratic revolutions made man the creator of a new material world with an embarrassingly limited picture of matter. Their worlds were no longer real totalities. It is one thing to have to suffer the foibles of Darwinistic evolution, Marxist history, and Freudian psychology. But to suggest these men see a larger world than a peasant kneeling in prayer says more about the loss of nerve among Christian intellectuals than any deficiency in Christian metaphysics. Remi Brague suffers no such loss of nerve. He has that large soul (the meaning of 'magnanimous') which distinguishes man as the creature who can observe and participate in the deepest manner in the totality of being.

There is a solution, says Brague. God, man, and the world must all be accounted for. The subjective world of the minds that we enter into contains both "our cradles and the galaxies." Above all, the world is not limited to the physical mass weighing upon us. The world must embrace a totality; and the mass in the universe is an awful lot of expanding matter but it is not a totality. "Forming a relationship between an idea of the world and anthropology does not consist in rejecting the infiniteness of the universe for the warm intimacy of environment." A cosmological anthropology or an anthropological cosmology can be reasserted in "an even tighter bond."

Professor Brague does not conclude by explicitly coupling Christian metaphysics with modern astronomy and biology as the source of "a dual reformulation of world and man conceived in their reciprocal relationship." He has left that proposal to his reviewers and fellow educators.

UPDATE: Check out this interview with Mr. Brague, conducted in the spring of 2016.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, November 28

by David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


A working English translation from the original Italian (by Bishop Michael G. Campbell, OSA of the Catholic Diocese of Lancaster, England, on 7 November 2015) Bishops' document ('Relatio') for the October 2015 Synod on the Family.

No ifs, ands, or buts. Read the Document of the Synod. Marriage is between a male and female. It is indissoluble and that characteristic is a gift from Christ Himself as part of His great mercy which brings us back to "the beginning" and the natural order of things. The mercy of God is not just a characteristic in relation to our sins. Creation itself is an act of mercy. The male-female indissoluble capacity for lifetime unity and love is a delightful feature of God's favorite creature. The natural distinction of male and female is an essential fact in nature -- an ecological truth in the lexicon of Pope Francis. This truth about the created order is proclaimed by the fraternity of bishops acting as a synod. The Devil can twist Scripture and he can twist this document. As St. Peter said about the writings of Paul: "There are certain passages in them...the ignorant and the unstable distort them (just as they do with Scriptures) to their own ruin." When the Deceiver or his minions turn one phrase this way and twist another that way, faithful sons of the Church should not serve as a megaphone for distortion and distrust. We will see if this bracing teaching of the Synod receives a fraction of the CATHOLIC press that the skeptical splicing of 3 or 4 quickly translated secondary paragraphs did.

A talk on Crisis in Conservative Catholicism by Ross Douthat of the New York Times. This 35-minute talk is a masterpiece of Catholic erudition, good sense, good humor, and explanatory power. The author is witty, humble, intelligent, and faithful. He is so articulate in making his case that he deserves a serious extended response. He is quite right about a) conservative miscalculations about the "resiliency" of the progressive project -- especially their control of a huge job and patronage system and the land and buildings of wealthy institutions; b) the conservative tendency toward "papalotry" during the reign of the conservatives' good pontiffs, John Paul II and Benedict XVI; c) the failure to respond adequately to "the hierarchy of truths" objection to conservative apologetic and moral emphases, and d) the collapse of the "reform by biology" scheme whereby corrupted clergy and religious who needed exposure, metanoia, and punishment were going to fade away and be allowed to die out in retirement.

Mr. Douthat is quite wrong, however, in a) his "conservative" narrative of what the Council was about; b) his own ranking of a hierarchy of truths in which the restrictions at the communion rail are inviolate but the ordination of females to the diaconate is a possibility; c) the notion another Council may have to clean up the essential "failure of Vatican II"; d) his hyper-attentiveness to the Walter Kaspers of the Synod and his seeming blind eye to the Robert Sarahs.

Mr. Douthat gave an entertaining talk. He demonstrates the shortcomings of emphasis and perspective in conservative Catholicism which Pope Francis seeks to transcend. A faithful bishop, priest, or seminarian should answer Mr. Douthat and show him that the global fraternity ignited at Vatican II is just starting to pick up the wind of the Holy Spirit in the synods. One answer to the concerns of Mr. Douthat and many other Catholic conservatives is a more theocentric, spiritual, and episcopal reading of Vatican II. There was a Pentecostal event for the Fathers as the successor of the Apostles from across the globe prayed to God in front of a world that was growing farther away from the Lord of Heaven. The Council was first an act of apostolic prayer and liturgy centered on the Living God who is present to humanity in the Person of Jesus Christ. The documents and debates came later. Getting the news out is still going on. There is a very different view of the Council found in the Pope's biography (The Great Reformer) and Cardinal Sarah's God or Nothing. The Spirit of the Council is still at work, and He is not an agent of conspiracy nor a hijacker of doctrine. Let's hope  First Things magazine counters the Council of the Media, even if this time it was delivered by a good Catholic conservative who works at the New York Times.


THREE SUNNI STATES SUPPORTING SALAFIST SUNNIS: It is done in different ways in different theaters. In Turkey it is a double-dealing including very open borders for ISIS and a military campaign against effective enemies - the Kurds. In Saudi Arabia it is financing the ideology worldwide while keeping a familial dynasty free of revolution at home. In Pakistan there is a state within a state  with the intelligence and military institutions in the Salafist camp. The Salfist Sunnis in Pakistan are associated with Deobandi Islam. They are manifested by the Muslim movement against Kashmir, bombings in India, and the support of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California is Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Asia, and Emerging Threats. He calls for new strategy in defining friends and enemies in the Mideast. Forget Assad and Russia - go after ISIS.

TURKEY - DOES A SUNNI ISLAMIC POLITICAL CULTURE HAVE TO BE SALAFIST?: The slow, long religious revival in Turkey's public life against the oppressive but effective secularization national policies of Kemal Ataturk (President 1923-1938) has been led by the Justice and Development Party (AKP). This has been most successful in a well-organized effort to build education on Islam. Turkish AKP men like Recep Erdogan, the President of Turkey, and Abdullah Gull desire that their cultures be neither secular nor Salafist. It is not clear what middle road they can forge. What is clear is that Turkey does not consider their neighbor -- ISIS which is opposed to Shiite Iraq, Shiite Iran and the independent Kurds -- as an enemy to their own national interests. Erdogan once said. "Islam is Islam. To speak of a moderate Islam is very ugly. It is offensive and it is an insult to our religion." Or as St Augustine put it: "Be moderate in all things but your love of God." We are looking for an Islam that is radical in its love of God while being ready to create and live in the fraternity of civilizations in which all men are not Muslims.

CHINA JOINS THE WAR ON ISIS: Here is why they declared war on ISIS. China has a domestic Islamic threat in the western province of Xinxiang. Its foreign policy is built on extensive infrastructure projects abroad. The men killed in the Mali attack in Africa were railroad executives. China understands that Islam in South Asia is centered in Pakistan and is trying to buttress the most stable elements of Pakistan through massive infrastructure investments. This is called a foreign policy.

DEMOCRATIC OFFICIALS AND REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES AND A STRATEGIC IMPASSE: Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, in a short interview with NBC, outlined a strategy to fight ISIS which he says worked in Libya. He proposes a NATO alliance (treating the Paris killings as an act of war against the whole alliance) and Arab allies. He doesn't trust Iran or Russia but is more open to Russia. He calls Assad an international criminal. He says we must use ground forces to take territory from ISIS. Who will help us along with NATO? Panetta answers: "OUR MODERATE ALLIES - led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE." This thinking demonstrates the confusion which has caused our strategic problem. It is shared by most Republican candidates as well as Leon Panetta and Hillary Clinton.


PARIS BOMBING - A SACRED STRATEGY OR THE NIHILISM OF A DEATH CULT: An Anglican minister corrects the religious illiteracy of European elites. Scott Atran at the Guardian has a good description of ISIS strategy and there is nothing nihilist about it. The ISIS recruiters know that young people want a religion that has meaning not moderation. A lot of secular European Union globalists haven't got the memo. The empathy gap between American reactions to the bombing in Lebanon and the killing in Paris is understandable. What is dangerously inexcusable is the strategic gap in failing to see that the front line facing ISIS are the "Shiite apostates" -- Muslims being killed for their religion.

BOKO HARAM - THE AFRICAN FRONT OF A WORLD-WIDE RELIGIOUS WAR: No terrorist group killed more people in 2015 than Boko Haram.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, November 21

by David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


WAHHABIS IN FRANCE: A Belgian neighborhood where one of the French terrorists lived is searched. A man on the street says that Muslim youth there are being radicalized by a form of Sunni Islam called Wahhabism in mosques primarily funded by Saudi Arabia. In this balanced piece of journalism, a Belgian "political scientist" is found who assures us it can't be that simple.

PUTIN - ALLY, NOT ENEMY: The French may be the first to say clearly that Russia is our ally and, a bit later, that Saudi Arabia is an enemy. Commentator Doug Tice at the StarTribune breaks the news gently that Putin may be the man.

PROBLEMS WITH THE PRESIDENTIAL RIGHT: Pat Buchanan takes apart the Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush plans to fight the wrong enemy. They criticize President Obama for no winning strategy against ISIS. They fail the same test. And as Russia has a plane taken down by ISIS and joins France in attacking them, Republican candidates Chris Christie and Ben Carson show their toughness by assuring listeners that Russian planes in a no-fly zone in Syria will get shot down. All the Republican candidates are ready to fight, but whom we should be shooting still needs to be worked out by cooler, more experienced, men than they.

IN THE PRESS: The 'American Conservative' magazine has been hands off IN THE BATTLE AGAINST ISIS but here they accept the necessity for war and realistically name allies that will define the shape of the battle.

UKRAINE, EUROPE, AND THE GAY LITMUS TEST: The author here declares the values of Europe and asserts Ukraine is not ready for the brave new world of atheism, abortion, and sodomy. The foreign policy establishment in the media and our State Department have drunk heavily of the Kool-Aid of the sexual left. To them, to accept modernity (European or Western values) is to reject traditional Christianity, Islam, and Judaism as well as the patriarchal structure of all the major eastern civilizations. This is not a clash among civilizations, but a clash of religious and ethnic civilizations of humanity against the technological prowess of Western nihilism.


SAUDIS LOSING GROUND AS GULF STATES LOOK FOR OTHER ALLIES: Last week we cited the beginning of talks between Qatar and Iran. This week we note Oman looking East. Oman has a population of three million. The majority are neither Sunni or Shia but Ibadi Muslim. They provided the site for the Iran - USA nuclear talks. Saudi Arabia seems stuck in Yemen where many more people have died this week from the hand of religious terrorists than in France.

THE SALAFIST SUNNI WAR COMES ALSO FROM THE PAKISTANI TALIBAN: You see a horrible headline that a nine-year-old girl is beheaded in Afghanistan. You hear she is a Hazari. Ask what that means. She might have been Houthi in Yemen. Why was she killed? It takes a while for the article to tell you, but remember violence is only senseless for those who have not developed deeper sensibilities. This is more evidence of the least discussed part of the religious war in both the Mideast and South Asia - the war of Salafist Sunnis against Shiites. In South Asia the source of that movement is in Pakistan. There is a strong anti-Salafist movement in Pakistan but it cannot be too loud. The most powerful forces who have fought and named this enemy are Afghanistan and India. The Pakistan military has always feared that those two countries could form an encircling alliance against them. China too wants to support the anti-Taliban parts of the Pakistan government and they are investing heavily in infrastructure there. As US policy attests, it is not always easy to know who you are helping and who you are fighting.

ISRAEL AND THE SAUDIS: Israel has always been forced to make allies with countries in the Mideast who have denied their right to existence and in public sought their destruction. Their present strategy of linking with Saudi Arabia may have run its course as some begin to ask if a shift to the Shia might be in order.

THE LEBANESE FRONT: The bombing of Shiites in Lebanon with no military objective other than killing Shiites was treated as a strike against Hezbollah in the press. We have all learned to hate Hezbollah as terrorists. Read this account of that bombing and a few chilling quotes about the religious extermination program against Shiites by ISIS. The next Mideast battleground is Lebanon. The Shiites (Hezbollah) and the Christian Maronites will be the primary targets (and natural allies) as ISIS and Al Qaeda battle to be the face of Sunni Islam. All who wish to defend Christian Maronites will accept an alliance with Hezbollah and other Shia as we search for Sunni states and coalitions to contend for the mantle of Sunni leadership. This will mean untying the bond with Saudi Arabia and condemning their bombing of Houthi Shia as one more front in their murderous campaign of Salafist purification.


BELGIUM VS NIGERIA: Guess which bishops embrace Christ and shun homosexuality? Guess which Church is growing and which is decaying?

WOMEN IN THE CHURCH: A Canadian Bishop says throw ladies a bone and make them deacons. A lady says let's elevate women and restore the order of virgins. I am pretty sure it is "inappropriate" to say I would like to hug this lady and give her a brotherly kiss, but what a beautiful article showing such a deeper wisdom than the stammering cleric. Pope Francis said that those who wish to give women Holy Orders do not understand the high nature of womanhood and are guilty of clericalism. Our heroine Jenna Cooper fleshes out his argument.

ECUMENISM OF FRANCIS: Meanwhile the Pope says what he thinks but cannot act upon in terms of communion for a Lutheran wife. He respects his office too much to give permission but he respects his conscience (a very prayer-filled one by the way) too much not to answer her honestly.

CHRISTIAN ECUMENISM: The Hall of Men - a great idea for men in Wichita.



POLITICAL TRIALS: Here are the most powerful New York liberals and legislators headed to jail for their peculiar take on cleaning up the environment. Keeping a bipartisan spirit the Republican State Senate boss and his son have a trial of their own.

BLACK LIVES MATTER: Black Lives Matter on Dartmouth campus takes a particularly virulent form.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday BookReview: G.M. Hopkins on CHRIST THE KING

"What a manly man is this chevalier!"

Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. (d. 1889) wrote this poem, 'The Windhover,' about the glory and majesty of the everlasting King of Kings. Take a listen.

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn
Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air,
and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! Then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend:
the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! And the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.


Mitchell Kalpakgian does a good job of explaining Father Hopkins' intent. An excerpt:
"Christ the King moves and acts in His dominion– all of Nature and Creation—with the same all-powerful, all-encompassing regality that the windhover’s flight encircles in the beautiful grace of its movements... 
"This 'brute beauty' of manliness that Christ the noble king, the chivalrous 'chevalier,' epitomizes is strength revealed in the form of love, service, sacrifice, and protection— the beauty of masculine goodness that is willing to die and shed blood for the ones it loves, to 'fall' and 'gall' and 'gash gold vermilion' in the ultimate act..."

And this from a reader review:
"When I was a freshman in college and completely out of my depth in Lit 1, the teacher assigned this among other works... I found my encounters with G.M. Hopkins to be the most profound. I wasn't religious and hadn't a clue about Catholicism, which informs his poetry, yet its intense, clotted rhyme schemes, the spikey spirituality and the way Hopkins invented terms to describe his method ('inscape' for one's interior psychological landscape) just clicked. 
"I recently met with a young Japanese national studying and working in Hawaii who had been given a copy of the same edition I had assigned to me in 1970. Her hands trembled as she opened the book to 'The Windhover.' She asked, in that way readers will, 'Have you ever read this?' I quoted the opening lines. Still magic."

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, November 14

by David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


SAUDIS AND TERRORISM: The Saudis and 911. Lots of fingerprints remain. The Saudis' war against the Shia according to British Security head Sir John Dearlove. "Thank God for the Saudis" according to John McCain. The Saudis and Israel in an anti-Iran coalition - an odd couple no more.

PAKISTAN AND TERRORISM: Fareed Zakaria writes how Pakistan is the real base for the Taliban in Afghanistan. What Pakistan knew about bin Laden by Carlotta Gall, NY TIMES reporter/author of The Wrong Enemy. Her book (to be reviewed by AOA soon) depicts Pakistan, not Afghanistan, as the root of terrorism in South Asia.

Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan from 2006-2014 used his farewell speech to blast US/Pakistan inaction in addressing the real source of Taliban violence in Afghanistan - the Pakistan policy of intelligence agencies and the military supporting Salafist Sunnis as part of their anti-India foreign policy. The new president, Ashraf Ghani (elected 2014), promised to take a softer line against his neighbors in Pakistan. Now he sounds like his predecessor Karzai.

REALIGNING THE MIDEAST: Qatar and Iran. From our Gulf States Map on Monday. "Most Qataris follow a Wahhabi interpretation of Islam but they have had differences with the monarchs of Saudi Arabia, especially in favoring the more populist Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The US CENTCOM regional headquarters are in Qatar at the Al Udeid Air Base. Qatar's government funds the most influential venture in Arab television - Al Jazeera Network."

CHRISTIAN REFUGEES - WHY SO FEW?: Our State Department has not yet addressed the situation in which Christians avoid the UN refugee camps for fear of continued persecution by fellow refugees. None dare mention the religious nature of this problem. though many recall the Christians Overboard tale of refugees crossing the Mediterranean in April 2015.


CANADA AND HER SIKHS: At the interaction of Islam and Hinduism arose the Sikhs. They are 4% of Canada's population but a much higher percentage of the diverse cabinet of newly elected Prime Minister Trudeau. The new defense minister got there the old-fashioned way - he fought.

BURMA (MYANMAR): Myanmar held elections on Nov 8, 2015, with the NLD party of Aung San Suu Kyi an overwhelming victor in the first open election in three decades. A short history for background explaining the role of her father in Burma's independence. She is barred from the Presidency because of a clause that says anyone with foreign children may not be president. That law was made with her in mind under the previous regime. She promises to rule from another perch than the presidency. Burma has 52 million people, 80% Buddhist, 7% Christian with ethnic dominance by Bamar 70% and Shan 10%. See Map on Monday (Southeast Asia).


WILL CHURCH FATHERS PUNISH THE GOMORRAH LOBBY: A new translation of Peter Damien's letter to the Pope on clerical depravity.

JEWS AND KEEPING SACRED SPACE: THE SEXUAL TABOO: The Rabbinical Council of Orthodox Jews has definitely stated there will be no female rabbis. A Yeshivat advocating female rabbis will keep graduating them to "change the facts on the ground."

NON-VIOLENCE AS RELIGION - THE DEATH OF RENE GIRARD: Rod Dreher at 'American Conservative' has a very good summary of the deceased philosopher's defining thesis concerning: 1) mimesis (the relation of the human drive to imitate and what we desire) and 2) sacral violence and scapegoating. Girard was controversial among secular academics because he claimed that Christianity was a "revealed religion" in exposing this fundamental human fault which leads to war and violence. He returned to the Catholic Church with his family, which is wonderful. His religious blindness, however, has misled many Catholic intellectuals who likewise are embarrassed by traditional notions of Satan and the Fall. Whenever I hear theologians talking about "non-violence as a biblical principle," I look for an inadequate description of Lucifer and an over-attachment to Girard as an "intellectual." Such theologians seeking intellectual credibility demonstrate their own misguided mimesis of a high status "great man." Sadly, the theologian mimics the anthropologist instead of correcting him. Rene Girard (1923 - 2015) R.I.P.

THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE: Trump and middle-aged white guys with rising death rate.