Saturday, June 24, 2017

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, June 24

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch

                                                               THE WEEKLY BRIEF

In Korea, we should remember the end game: to reunite an ancient people. The Koreans suffered terribly in the last century. They are still divided as were Germany, Vietnam, and mainland China through the Cold War. We should not forget that both North Korea (25 million) and South Korea (50 million) believe reunited Korea surrounded by superpowers who have colonized them in the past have a "right" to a nuclear weapon to defend themselves. The US lives very far away to be too dogmatic about that argument. We should also remember that our ships and military bases, not California, are the targets most at risk if there are hostilities. All Asian countries think of the last 200 years as a time in which their different cultures were occupied by white foreigners. If North Korea bombed foreign troops or US warships, that would be a popular move to more than the Chinese and Vietnamese. There are South Koreans and Japanese who do not consider American bases in their homelands as a force for peace. In Mr. Trump's early campaign, he was asking these very questions. They may be put to President Trump again in a more consequential and dangerous manner. Does the presence of our troops and our encircling navy help bring the Asian countries to peace?

This week the US State Department called into question the allegations from Saudi Arabia against Qatar.  This shows Washington may not rubber-stamp this incredibly aggressive move by the new Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MbS) against his smaller Sunni neighbor.  He is now demanding that Qatar close their news service al Jazeera, that they cut all ties with Iran, and that they  tell their ally Turkey to withdraw military troops. These are untenable requests. The 31-year-old bin Salman is the architect of the war against the Shiites of Yemen (he has not been aggressive against the Sunni al Qaeda radicals in Yemen who have grown stronger because of the war against the Houthis). Could he engineer an incident to implicate Qatar in an anti-Israeli move to win American support for a hostile takeover? The strong statement by the State Department is a good warning that we might not follow the young Prince into his next battle. This is a different message than President Trump sent in his first communication about the isolation of Qatar. Hopefully, the president will heed the mature voice of his Secretary of State in this matter. We have never seen such a clear rejection of Saudi initiatives as this statement from State. It is a real crisis that the fate of so many countries should  be in the hands of this young, bellicose, and pampered prince. The US had as recently as February 2017 shown a clear preference for Muhammad bin Nayef, his 57 year old predecessor. The new Crown Prince  is mindful of "Little Marco" Rubio who displayed the same petulant adolescent personality in presenting himself as a war leader for an office beyond his competence. Rubio shrunk from the presidential stage when confronted by an adult male personality who exposed his charade simply by conversing with him. (To compare Saudi Arabia and Qatar see AOA profile of The Gulf States).

Our alliance with the next generation of Saudi keepers of the Wahabbi flame is strategically untenable. Israel has been in a de facto alliance with them for years as an ally in their war against Iran. President Trump's willingness to act is eliciting a much needed discussion about US overall strategy that the press and antiwar left were remiss in bringing forth in the Obama years.

In Afghanistan we need Iran, India, China, and Russia to help us settle the porous border problem between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Much more than a troop infusion we need a big power consortium. Our alliances with the Saudis and the UAE in the Mideast and our reliance on Pakistan in South Asia have entangled us in unwinnable wars. Our alliance with Israel has kept us close to a power that does not consider our confusion as all bad. It keeps us in the region and closer to their side. They say, "Welcome to our world." The problem in US strategy is not that we haven't "unleashed our military." President Trump is "unleashing " the military. Now, a statesman from the State Department or Senate has to play the Kissinger role and propose a grand new strategy. The tip of the spear is sharpened; but who are we pointing at?


SLOTH, TOLERANCE, DESPAIR: "The sixth Deadly Sin is named by the Church Acedia or Sloth. In the world it calls itself Tolerance; but in hell it is called Despair." — Dorothy Sayers

A RUSSIAN ON THE BENEDICT OPTION: The Benedict Option is nothing more than a person’s self-alienation from the affairs of the surrounding society, a refusal to strive for victory within this society. It is something more like heroic pessimism in the spirit of Max Weber: the world is dying, so let us be the courageous witnesses of its last days, not sharing in hopes for its miraculous salvation. In the aesthetic sense, this position is even very appealing. And yet it provokes questions along ethical lines.

A NEW LOOK AT LUTHER: Bishop Barron on the insights about Luther, love, and grace in a new History of Protestantism and the Modern World.

SOUTHERN BAPTISTS AND GENDER NEUTRAL TRANSLATIONSSome slippage. Jesus Christ the Son of God has been incorporated into humanity as the Head of the Body of Christ. This is the predestined communal form of humanity as we will exist for all time. Representing humanity by the male pronoun is a grammatical genuflection to the primacy of Christ. No matter atheists and feminists hate such speech - but why Baptists?


SUPPORTING QATAR: Iraq - the country the US liberated - knows that Saudi Arabia, not Qatar, has been undermining them. How did tiny but resourceful Qatar (2.2 mill pop; 300,000 citizens) became independent from the Saudis (33 million pop; 27million citizens ) - natural gas and making separate alliances is key including a military alliance with the US. Iran (80 mill), Turkey (80 mill), and Egypt (90 mill) are the giants, Iraq (36 mill) Saudi Arabia (33mill) and Syria (19 mill) intermediate. 30% of liquid natural gas is exported by Qatar. Their Arab neighbors are a tiny part of a market centered on Asian countries. They share their natural gas field with Iran. Exxon plays a role in the extraction. A small amount of LNG is shipped to UAE by pipeline but the majority of the market is moved by shipping tankers.

QATAR AND THE SAUDIS DEMOCRACY AND TRIBAL MONARCHIES: The real feud about press freedom and popular movements vs. old monarchs that led to the isolation of Qatar.

THE SUCCESSION IS MADE FORMAL - THE KING'S 31 Y/O SON IS NOW CROWN PRINCE: We have argued that the war in Yemen and the isolation of Qatar are both initiatives of the King's son to curry favor with clerics and solidify his claim to command of the Kingdom when his father dies. The line of succession is now formalized. The former Crown Prince, 57 year old Muhammad bin Nayef, has also lost more of his security portfolio which goes to another member of the next generation considered loyal to Muhammad bin Salman al Saud. The new young Crown Prince talks of a new Saudi Arabia for the gullible American media but his ties deepen the links of his part of the royal family and Wahabbi clerics. Maybe there will be a breaking news story for the Americans that women are about to sell cosmetics in a department store. Senators like John McCain  talk about "our allies" the reforming Saudis while the religious noose around Shiite necks grows tighter everyday.

ON SAUDI ARABIA - DEVELOPING A NEW OPPOSITION: A closer vote on arming the Saudis - there is now a huge Democrat opposition.


AFGHANISTAN - MORE TROOPS BUT STILL NO STRATEGYThe troops pay because the political elite has no plan.

CHINA HAS A STRATEGY AND IT INCLUDES PAKISTANA military base in nuclear-armed Pakistan where China is building a road to the sea.


AN INTERVIEW WITH CAMILLE PAGLIA: She is especially insightful in her description of the physical world of Trump - of aluminum and steel and copper. It is a great misfortune of our culture that deeply confused people like Camille Paglia and Milo Yiannopoulos have become truth-sayers for a certain brand of conservatives. They have pithy sayings and insights because they reject the usual feminist group think. But both of these sexually-disoriented Catholics are metaphysical catastrophes.


FINDING OUT THE REAL NEWS ON WHO SAVED THE DAY BY SHOOTING JAMES HODGKINSON: The shooter has been analyzed and profiled post-mortem on the internet. That is fortunate because the FBI seems perplexed after their investigation. It is not clear to them why this man who voted for Bernie Sanders and hated Donald Trump shot "Republicans." Their inability to come up with a plausible motive reminds us of the John Kennedy assassination in 1963. The Marxist assassin steeped in the dominating worldwide ideology of communism was treated as a lone wolf loser. Though the official report is no help, it is fairly easy to put together the thinking of the killer from multiple sources. It is less clear exactly how and by whom the shooter was killed. One would think that real reporters would be mildly interested in the basic facts of the lifesaving swift police work that saved lives. There were three capitol police officers and three Alexandria officers who responded. Each played different roles. It is peculiar that a week after the shooting a simple narrative of how Hodgkinson was killed and the role of the various protectors has not emerged. This is not a hunt for conspiracy but a request for a narrative we can learn from.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The fate of Peng Dehuai (d. 1974)

 Peng Dehuai was a prominent military leader who served as China's defense minister in the late 1950s. Both he and Mao [pictured] were born in the province of Hunan.

He was the leader of the Chinese forces in the Korean War -- and was the one who informed the Chairman that his 28-year-old son, Mao Anying, had been killed in a U.S. air strike.

Later, "appalled by the suffering caused by the failed Great Leap Forward campaign [1958-1962] and other radical policies, Peng came into conflict with Chairman Mao and this led to his eventual downfall."

From a book about the Cultural Revolution by Dutch historian Frank Dikotter:
"In December 1966, Peng Dehuai, the marshal who had confronted the Chairman over the famine at the Lushan Conference in 1959, was hunted down in Sichuan and brought back to Beijing by a team of Red Guards acting on orders from Jiang Qing [the wife of Mao].
Peng's ordeal was predictable... [H]e was dragged out of prison to face interminable struggle meetings. One bystander remembers seeing him in an open lorry, surrounded by Red Guards. He was attempting to keep his head defiantly high, but a puny student kept on hitting him on the neck, trying to force him to bow in submission. 
'I watched with horror. Here was a man who had fought all his life for the revolution, a man whom everyone in China knew, almost as a legend. If even he had no protection in this anarchy, then what of us ordinary people? I felt myself choking and I wanted to cry.' "

Peng Dehuai was sentenced to life in prison, where he died a couple years before Mao. Later, when Deng Xiaoping came to power, he rehabilitated the general's reputation. Today, this statue stands in Peng's hometown.


The longtime personal physician to Chairman Mao -- Li Zhisui -- summed up Peng Dehuai: "He was the frankest, most honest man on the politburo, the only top leader who consistently dared to confront Mao. He accused him of behaving like an emperor, with a harem of three thousand concubines..."

[Li had a very different verdict on China's longtime premier: "I realized that Zhou Enlai was Mao's slave, absolutely, obsequiously obedient."]

Stamps issued recently by Mali (NW of Nigeria).
General Lin Biao was Mao's designated successor until his death
in a suspicious 1971 plane crash in Mongolia.

UPDATE: Another of the billion-and-one sad tales of Maoist China:
"[In the late 1940s] the chief of protocol had suggested that Chairman Mao conform to international convention and wear a dark suit and black leather shoes. He was fired. He subsequently committed suicide during the Cultural Revolution."

Mao joins the 70th birthday celebration for Joseph Stalin
[Nikita Khrushchev, whom the Chinese chairman came to detest for his "revisionism," is on the right]

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, June 17

                                               by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch

                                                             THE WEEKLY BRIEF

The Senate's 98-2 vote to tighten sanctions on Iran and Russia, and remove presidential ability to change these policies was opposed only by Senators Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders. President Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson are in a distinct minority as they attempt to restore normal relations between the US and Russia. Maybe it is a blessing they will have to make their arguments to Congress. It is an argument long overdue. The neoconservative Republican war hawks led by John McCain in the Senate and Fox News in the media have opposed Trump's notion that Russia is not our enemy since his early candidacy. They now have many allies to revenge how the outsider walked through the lot of them in the Republican primaries. There are some men on the left like Oliver Stone and some at the Nation magazine who oppose the anti-Russian hysteria as part of a new Cold War. There are many others on the sexual left who understand that a nationalist Christian Russia is not a friend to their globalist individualist agenda. They are as viscerally anti-Putin as they are viscerally anti-Trump. As of yet there is no articulate Christian voice to fight for a new alliance of nations in a consort for peace.
A vote not to approve the huge arms sales to Saudi Arabia had 43 Democrats and four Republicans almost blocking the sale. Five Democrats joined the Republican majority. Only 27 Senators voted to block the last big Saudi arms sale under President Obama. There is now a majority Democrat vote available whenever an anti-Trump policy is suggested. This could even foster a real debate in Congress about our relationship to Saudi Arabia. When it was Hillary Clinton and John McCain carrying their water, there was very little action by the foreign policy establishment against "our friends"guarding the clerics of Wahhabi Islam. President Trump has not opposed the Saudis as some of us thought he might. He is mobilizing what McCain and Clinton favored. This will now lead to the reemergence of an antiwar left, just because it is Trump who is befriending the Saudis. One redeeming  feature of the Obama presidency was that he understood we were trapped by our Saudi alliance. He had run against and beaten both McCain and Clinton. He was no darling of the foreign policy elite when he opened relations with Iran. Obama was, however, ambivalent. He never embraced the Saudis but he armed then at an unprecedented level until Trump made a bigger deal. A long overdue strategic debate by Congress can help us learn from the insights that President Obama and Ben Rhodes shared in their last foreign policy interviews.
Catholics who believe this 100th anniversary of Fatima may be a crucial year in a re-conversion of Russia to Christianity need to lead a spiritual reform of our own country's foreign policy. Why shouldn't America reach out as a brother nation to Holy Russia after their atheistic nightmare of the 20th century?  Let us pray we might shed the atheist cataract that has blocked our own nation from formulating a foreign policy based on a Christian worldview of men and nations rather than the social Darwinism of atheist academics.  


POPE FRANCIS ON NOSTALGIA: "I am convinced that his (Don Luigi Giussani's) thought is profoundly human and reaches man’s innermost longings. I dare say that this is a most profound, and at the same time understandable, phenomenology of nostalgia as a transcendental fact. There is a phenomenology of nostalgia, nóstos algos, feeling called home, the experience of feeling attracted to what is most proper for us, most consonant with our being. In the context of Fr. Giussani’s reflections, we encounter instances of a real phenomenology of nostalgia." —Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, April 27, 2001, at the Buenos Aires International Book Fair, the largest in South America, presenting the Spanish edition of L’attrattiva Gesù (The Attraction That Is Jesus).
[Ed: In St Augustine's comparison of the three faculties of the soul with the Trinity, he associated the Father with memory. When man is reconstituted by grace he cultivates a primal memory of being called into existence by the Love of God. This metaphysical certitude about the gift and goodness of one's being reminds us of the initial status of Adam and Eve. The source of our transcendental nostalgia is that all human beings were imagined originally as part of the Body of Christ-our final destiny and original purpose.  Such nostalgia sure beats self-affirmation classes].


IN AFRICA - HOW TO TRANSCEND THE TRIBEA Nigerian dispute and the Pope.

THE AFRICAN MARTYRS OF UGANDA - REMEMBERED EACH YEAR IN JUNE: From his homily at their 1964 canonization by Pope Paul VI:
"Who could have predicted to the famous African confessors and martyrs such as Cyprian, Felicity, Perpetua and – the greatest of all – Augustine, that we would one day add names so dear to us as Charles Lwanga and Matthias Mulumba Kalemba and their 20 companions? Nor must we forget those members of the Anglican Church who also died for the name of Christ. These African martyrs herald the dawn of a new age... a rebirth of Christianity and civilization!

Africa has been washed by the blood of these latest martyrs, the first of this new age. The infamous crime by which these young men were put to death was so unspeakable and so expressive of the times. It shows us clearly that a new people needs a moral foundation, needs new spiritual customs firmly planted, to be handed down to posterity. Symbolically, this crime also reveals that a simple and rough way of life ... must give way to a more civilized life."
King Mwanga of Uganda was rebuffed by several Christian male pages who would not perform sexual acts on His Majesty. They saw the acts as a sacrilege. He saw their disobedience as a sacrilege against his royal personage. The protectors of the pages including Charles Lwanga and Joseph Mukusa who were burnt to death with at least 20 other African men in 1886 for their insolence. This dramatic story of purity and courage defying the perversion of the powerful is a many day celebration in Uganda. It is interesting that the story at Crux about this huge feast day sets the context as "the scramble for Africa." The nasty imperialists got a gratuitous kick while the King's peculiar crime was not mentioned.

Christian nations of Africa never did understand the obsessive identification of homosexual acts with human rights by the Obama administration (2008-2016). Fighting Salafist jihadists was often treated as a secondary concern in an American foreign policy dominated by the gender ideologists. The use of the weak by the mighty for desacralized sexual gratification is an old story. One century the villain is a powerful black king. A century later the rich white Americans demand sexual license as homage to their social dominance. In the name of human rights the privileged demand that abominations like sodomy and abortion not jut be allowed but be hallowed. Pope Francis calls this imposition on the nations of the global south an "ideological colonization".

GREGORIAN CHANT AND THE PSALMS SUNG BY JESUS - A COMMENTARY AND STORY FROM FR. JOSEPH FESSIO, SJ: From Fr. Fessio's two-part essay on the Mass of Vatican II from a talk in 1999:
"The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, issued on December 4, 1963, by the Second Vatican Council is one of the most important documents of the Council, one that has been the least understood and, I believe, has wrought the most havoc - not by having been fulfilled - but by having been ignored or misinterpreted...

Paragraph 114 adds: "The treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care." Then in paragraph 116 we find another shocker: "The Church acknowledges Gregorian Chant as specially suited to the Roman Liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services." That's what the Council actually said. If you are in a parish which prides itself on living the spirit of Vatican II, then you should be singing Gregorian chant at your parish. And if you're not singing the Gregorian Chant, you're not following the specific mandate of the Second Vatican Council.

Now, just a little footnote on the Gregorian Chant. In reflecting on these things about Church music, I began to think about the Psalms a few years back. And a very obvious idea suddenly struck me. Why it didn't come earlier I don't know, but the fact is that the Psalms are songs. Every one of the 150 Psalms is meant to be sung; and was sung by the Jews. When this thought came to me, I immediately called a friend, a rabbi in San Francisco who runs the Hebrew School, and I asked, "Do you sing the Psalms at your synagogue?" "Well, no, we recite them," he said. "Do you know what they sounded like when they were sung in the Old Testament times and the time of Jesus and the Apostles?" I asked. He said, "No, but why don't you call this company in Upstate New York. They publish Hebrew music, and they may know."

So, I called the company and they said, "We don't know; call 1-800-JUDAISM." So I did. And I got an information center for Jewish traditions, and they didn't know either. But they said, "You call this music teacher in Manhattan. He will know." So, I called this wonderful rabbi in Manhattan and we had a long conversation. At the end, I said, "I want to bring some focus to this, can you give me any idea what it sounded like when Jesus and his Apostles sang the Psalms?" He said, "Of course, Father. It sounded like Gregorian Chant. You got it from us."

I was amazed. I called Professor William Mart, a Professor of Music at Stanford University and a friend. I said, "Bill, is this true?" He said, "Yes. The Psalm tones have their roots in ancient Jewish hymnody and psalmody." So, you know something? If you sing the Psalms at Mass with the Gregorian tones, you are as close as you can get to praying with Jesus and Mary. They sang the Psalms in tones that have come down to us today in Gregorian Chant.

So, the Council isn't calling us back to some medieval practice, those "horrible" medieval times, the "terrible" Middle Ages, when they knew so little about liturgy that all they could do was build a Chartres Cathedral. (When I see cathedrals and churches built that have a tenth of the beauty of Notre Dame de Paris, then I will say that the liturgists have the right to speak. Until then, they have no right to speak about beauty in the liturgy.) But my point is that at the time of Notre Dame de Paris in the 13th century, the Psalms tones were already over a thousand years old. They are called Gregorian after Pope Gregory I, who reigned from 590 to 604. But they were already a thousand years old when he reigned. He didn't invent Gregorian chant; he reorganized and codified it and helped to establish musical schools to sing it and teach it. It was a reform; it wasn't an invention. Thus, the Council really calls us back to an unbroken tradition of truly sacred music and gives such music pride of place."


SAUDIS, THE MIDEAST, QATAR: Fareed Zakaria is right about the Saudis. Jerusalem Post on why Israel wants Qatar isolated. Ishaan Tharoor of Washington Post explains his understanding of Qatar. Qatar's alternative Salafism.

Qatar has been criticized in a unanimous letter from the 200 living male descendants of ibn And al-Wahhabi. They are not truly of the purified Salafi form of the religion. This language allows killing them as non-Muslims. While Qatar has been part of the Wahhabi tradition they have always been much less prone to condemn all Shiites including Iran, and the Houthis of Yemen. The Qataris treated  the widespread popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood as a legitimate form of Islamic political activity. Egypt's military government established by a coup against the elected Brotherhood candidate and the Saudi monarchy do not appreciate the more populist reporting from al Jazeera based in Qatar. It is interesting to remember that Osama bin Laden was generally against the anti-Shiite turning taken by al Qaeda in 2006. (He was killed in 2011). Both Turkey and Iran have been clear in their support of Qatar with Turkey promising to deploy more troops to the Turkish base established there since 2014.  The coordinated campaign against Qatar does not have the blessings of the US Secretary of State. This action like the war against the Houthis in Yemen has the fingerprints of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al Saud. He has had serious rivalry with the young much more accomplished leader of Qatar-- 37 yo Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.  Deputy Crown Prince bin Salman is trying to build his case within the Kingdom so he can leapfrog a much more experienced Crown Prince to succeed his father as King of Saudi Arabia. His war in Yemen and now this Wahhabi cleric backed attack on Qatar is a display of his willingness to pursue aggressive purification campaigns favored by the clerics.  
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince 57 yo Muhammad bin Nayef (who US officials awarded a CIA medal for counterterrorism in Feb 2017) is quite assuredly not in favor of this abrupt move against Qatar. For now he bides his time as the King must indulge his son.

THE REEMERGENCE OF ISLAM: A Bernard Lewis essay from 2001. Some 15 years later, this historical writing is even more explanatory.




TWO SENATORS - ONE COHERENT AND FULL OF RELIGIOUS ANIMUS, ONE INCOHERENT AND FULL OF HIMSELF: Last week the argument for draining the swamp of two Senate elders was made eloquently by their own performances. Bernie Sanders in his opposition to Russell Vought for Deputy Director of the OMB quoted the evangelical Christian's remarks that Muslims are condemned because they do not accept Christ as their Savior. "Are the Jews condemned too?" asked Sanders. Now Bernie Sanders does not believe anyone is going to be condemned at some fairy tale trial known as the Last Judgment. He doesn't believe there is a Judge and he certainly doesn't think there is a Last Judgment. But the fact that an accountant held the traditional Christian formula for no salvation apart from Christ was proof to Senator Sanders that this man should not hold government office. The liberal but reasonable Atlantic Monthly sees this for what it is. Sanders was erecting a clear religious test for office. Watching the video clip, I saw Uncle Bernie suddenly morph into the Soviet commissar executing Orthodox priests in 1920 and then a Spanish Communist murdering Spanish priests and burning convents a decade later. The hatred that invigorates political atheism is very real. In recent years it has been hidden. This is a tape worth watching and pondering.

Meanwhile the baffling confusion of John McCain in his questioning of FBI director James Comey should serve as a wake up call for citizens who believe that for decades our foreign policy experts in the US Senate have been engaged in a role playing charade that is strategically incoherent. John McCain and Lindsey Graham have become the liberal media's favorite Republicans because of their anti-Trump bias. They played that role for the conservative media during the Obama years with their "Obama is weak." "Putin is a bully."  "Don't upset the Saudis."  trifecta of nightly news quotes.  This clip might give serious conservatives some pause in their trust of the leading Republican war hawk. His next day explanation was that his line of questioning "went over the heads " of his confused listeners.


WHITE RACISTS, MALE HOMOSEXUALS, AND THE MANOSPHERE: This fellow is confused but he is observing a very real phenomenon which reminds us of the huge role of Ernst Rohm and male homosexuals in the SA-Hitler's military arm in his rise to power. This perversion must be answered by a religious masculine national loyalty disciplined by Christianity. Hitler stepped into the void left by a divided Christianity facing the coalescing worldwide movement of atheistic Marxism.

CHINA - RELIGIOUS REVIVAL AFTER MAO: Outstanding growth (NY Review).

KHRUSHCHEV AND THE 20th PARTY CONFERENCE - THE FIRST THAW IN 1956: Mikhail Gorbachev thought of himself as a "child of the 20th Conference" when Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin. The "Thaw generation" of idealist communists were dedicated to social justice, altruism, and honest labor. A review of the book on this pivotal event.

INTERVIEWING PUTIN: Megyn Kelly was "persistent" in her obsession about Russian hacking. A world at war, grand geopolitical strategy, Russia's view of history, perspectives on the Mideast and the war on terror were all quite secondary to Kelly's belief she had to show she was a "tough journalist" asking the "tough questions" repeatedly.

On the other hand - taking a much longer view, Oliver Stone has rejected the anti-Russia phobia of the left and suggests we take this country, this civilization, seriously. His work may be a key in breaking the cultural logjam which is preventing Americans from taking advantage of the Trump presidency in reformulating a true post-Cold War foreign policy. Stone will have a four-part series at Showtime of interviews he conducted over a two year period with President Putin.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Catholic Sociobiology: Feasts of Communio -- Trinity and Corpus Christi

[first published May 24, 2016]

by David Pence

In the weeks after Pentecost, the Church meditates on the great communions at the heart of Catholic Sociobiology. The Octave of Pentecost, the Sunday after Pentecost, she meditates on Trinity Sunday. The Thursday after Trinity Sunday she considers the Body of Christ in the Feast of Corpus Christi. This day was chosen to recall the Last Supper on Holy Thursday. Thursdays were also often designated by parishes as the special day for short periods of Eucharistic Adoration.

Over the last century the practice of reception of Communion by Catholics at daily Mass in the local parish has become a trademark communal prayer where Catholics "think cosmically and act locally" by uniting themselves in the Living Organism of the Body of Christ through the Liturgy.
Priest in Nigeria

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, June 10

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


The natural enemies of the resurgence of religious and national loyalties are the metropolitan elites who staff the globalist institutions and propagate the atheistic modernist worldview. In America that elite continues their frenzied resistance against President Trump. They are aided by "conservative intellectuals" who are champions of global free trade in the name of democracy and human rights. But democracy is turning up nationalists or religious movements as the winners of elections while Western human rights has morphed into what Pope Francis calls the new "colonization of gender ideology." A consistent theme of the conservative "never Trumpers" is their deep antipathy toward Russia. Thus the cosmopolitan elites can safely rely on John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Charles Krauthammer  to continue to undermine the President, especially in his most important foreign policy initiative of trying to bring an end to the cold war between Orthodox Russia and Protestant America.

South Korea under their new president is refusing a sophisticated US warning and air shield. China was against this deployment as well. They saw this technology as part of US encirclement more likely to be used against them than North Koreans. South Koreans understand that American bases are more likely targets than South Korean cities of a North Korean military initiative. The North Koreans are not stupid or crazy. They know the presence of western troops and dominance is a 200-year-old grievance that all Asian nations share.  Are they aiming at the cities of their countrymen or the military bases of the imperialists?  The South Koreans understand they may not need to protect their cities as much as we need to protect our bases. Our troops serve in Korea, as in so many places around the world, much more as a trip-wire than an effective deterrent. If our goal is Korean unification and true peace with China, we need a major rethinking of eastern theater strategy and military deployment for the United States.

The isolation of Qatar by the Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Arabs and the condemnation of them by the 200 living male descendants of ibn Wahhabi splits the Sunni coalition aligned by President Trump and King Salman against Iran. It is Qatar's refusal to join an all-out war against Shiites and Iran that has earned them the Saudi expulsion. Qatar has always had an English side and an Arabic side. Qatar (pop. 300,000 -- but over a million foreign workers) is home to the bilingual media powerhouse Al Jazeera. They house CENTCOM's major airstrip in the Mideast and thousands of US troops.  They are an Islamist Sunni voice without being as radically Wahhabi as the Saudi religious establishment. They have reported about repression of Shiites in the eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia and by the Sunni king of Shiite Bahrain. They have supported a more populist form of the Islamic revival and with their media voice presented a challenge to the Saudi ruling family. They supported Hamas in the Gaza Strip and earned Israel's enmity. ( Qatar has expelled leading Hamas figures from their country in the last week as a concession.)  Qatar supported the Muslim Brotherhood against the military coup of President al Sisi.  They have many friends in Egypt but few in the ruling government. Here is a good comparative map and profile of the Gulf states. Turkey has assigned troops in Qatar to act as a tripwire against the Saudis. The Persian/Ottoman/ Arabic triangle is back with a deep Sunni-Shia divide in the background. But the deepest divide should be the Salafist jihadist Sunnis against other Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Qatar's openess to Shiites especially Iran does not make them worse than the Saudis. Quite the contrary--they could possibly stop the intra Islamic war against Shiites being waged in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.   The opposition to Russia from our foreign policy elite, our crippling association with Saudi Arabia, and the 38-year-old Israeli/Iran war are preventing us from forming the right coalition to isolate the real enemy and consolidate as allies the civilized nations against the jihadists.

The ISIS attack on Iran reminds us of the allies (Christian nations, Shiite nations and non-Wahhabi Sunni states) we think make most sense in this religious war. Our president and Defense Department don't see it that way. At least they are clear about how they see it. Here is a Brit who thinks it is time to stop demonizing Iran and build a coalition.


THE SUPERIOR GENERAL OF THE JESUITS - FR. ARTURO SOSA ASCOBAL - ON THE DEVIL: Before we discuss homosexuality, abortion, contraception, or communion rules let us correctly present the cast of characters in the Divine drama. The disbelief in the reality of the Devil is a much more fundamental error than disputes over the "ISSUES". Is the Devil a real being or a symbolic construct? Before people call for this man's removal as head of the Jesuits, let's get a show of hands (please take names) amidst the Jesuits how many of them agree with their superior. Get the big stuff out in the open so we understand how deep the reform must go. Right now there are a lot of priests and nuns who think the reality of Satan, as well as our single set of human parents, are issues already settled against Church teaching by modernist and scientific consensus. Many conservative intellectuals were shocked when Pope Francis said we cannot reduce the message of the Gospel to debates about homosexuality and abortion. But he never has failed to remind us that there is a much deeper  dividing line that exists between the mercy of God and the perfidy of Satan. Pope Francis wants the Church to be the sign of God's mercy to humanity. This clarifies for the Church and mankind our common perpetual enemy. There are a lot of clergy including the head of the Jesuits who don't see this fundamental struggle because they cannot see the fundamental foe. If we could agree as a Church on this basic reality, a lot of other "issues" might be clarified as well.

THE WITNESS OF THE COPTSNational Catholic Register editors.


A PLEA TO CONSERVATIVES TO IMPROVE DISCOURSE ABOUT ISLAM: David Rahimi of Texas at Witherspoon - an excellent lament naming the limited sources that are constricting Catholic internet discourse on Islam.

AN ARAB NATO: Friends of Israel never like the sound of that.

AFTER TRUMP VISIT - THE SUNNIS ARE SPLITTING, NOT UNIFYING: Qatar and Pakistan do not want an anti-Shiite alliance. The Wahhabi clerics speak as one and blast Qatar.

ARE WAHHABIS DISOWNING QATAR? The family which represents the clerical establishment in Saudi Arabia takes a stand against the home of Al Jazeera.


SHIITES IN BAHRAIN: IRANIAN PROXIES, GLOBAL TERRORISTS, OR AN OPPRESSED PEOPLE? Trump administration seems to have picked a side in the Saudi war against Shiites.


IN THE SINAI - BEDOUIN TRIBES VS. ISIS: Largest tribe fights back.

IRAN - A GOOD RECAPby Christopher Hill.


SENSELESS VIOLENCE OR SHIITE EXTERMINATION BY SALAFIST JIHADISTS? An ice cream shop with women and children blown up in Baghdad. Sounds like just more violence in the "endless cycle of violence." Not really. We must wake up. There is no Shia cry, "Kill all the Sunnis!" Most of the Sunni traditions do not cry, "Kill all the Shiites." But ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Wahhabi Salafists of Saudi Arabia advocate a purification of Islamic lands by ridding them of Shia Muslims, then Jews, and then Christians. This is the religious dimension of the war. This is the Sunni group that both Sunnis and Shia must defeat. This is who we must urge them to DRIVE OUT.

Can we blame Shia from Iran for helping the Shia of Iraq in defending their government from sabotage and their people from genocide? Can we blame the Shia anywhere for trying to stop the Wahhabi Saudi type of Islam from ruling their fellow Muslims? For all the welcome honest talk by the Trump administration, there are still things to be said that will make this conflict much more understandable and winnable. We are not with the Sunni against the Shia. We are with the Shia and the civilized Sunni against the Salafist jihadists - those evil losers are mostly Sunni from the Hanbali tradition taught in Saudi Arabia. Why are we killing Shia? The American left (especially the Nation magazine) has understood the brutality and nature of the Saudi religious cleansing in Yemen better than most conservatives. It is embarrassing that conservative Christians who honestly believe in religious liberty cannot learn enough about Islam to see the asymmetry in the Wahhabi vs Shia fight. It feels a lot like black on black violence in the inner city -- no time or effort to make crucial distinctions needed to side with the victims against the criminals.


MALE PROTECTORS KILLED WHILE DEFENDING WOMEN FROM PREDATOR: A Catholic military man and a good-hearted peacenik from Reed College: both did their duty. They are dead. The women are safe. This instinctual male readiness to protect, and the virtuous habit of overcoming fear. is the basic military bond that makes us a nation from sea to shining sea in every hamlet and village, on a transit train in Oregon and on an airplane in the skies of Pennsylvania.

TWO MALE EX-WHITE HOUSE STAFFERS WED BY JOE BIDEN: Another picture of male agreement blessed by the highest ranking Catholic official since John Kennedy. What was the cultural goal of the Obama administration? How deep is the acceptance of male homosexuality in that strange mix of Catholic urban culture mixing Democratic politicians, Chancery officials, Catholic Charities and social justice agencies?


RUSSIA AND INDIA: Short recap on their relations in terms of geopolitics of South Asia. A joint statement on nuclear power sharing.

ON RUSSIA: An outstanding essay by Eugene Vodolazkin at First Things. A few excerpts:
"He argues that men in the Middle Ages, compared to men in the modern age, were less individualistic, yet had much stronger and more stable personalities. In fact there is no contradiction. The modern age has promoted the development of distinct personal qualities and encouraged us to see ourselves as individuals rather than roles, but has isolated us from the truths that supply us with energy and rivet the mind. These were of course religious truths—they represent vertical connections."

"Celebrity marks an important instance. It is a status won by horizontal acclaim. The Middle Ages, by contrast, exalted sanctity, which flows from the vertical connection to God, not horizontal connections to others."

"The important point for our purposes is the following: A national leader, any national leader, does not appear accidentally, and when he does, he is called on to solve specific problems. At the same time, it is obvious that the problems, say, Charles de Gaulle faced were very different from those François ­Hollande faced. The example of Hollande testifies to the fact that the generation of faceless leaders is on the way out. The majority of those who are in leadership today serve as the final paladins of a departing historical cycle. What is coming will require a leader who is a reformer or even a revolutionary. As an epoch ends and a new one begins, such a leader is unlikely to exhibit the expected attributes of a responsible political actor. He comes to prominence because he manifests in the most vivid fashion the changes the majority has been waiting for. Perhaps this explains Donald Trump."

"But as often happens with phenomena that are not sufficiently grounded in reality, the ideas associated with globalism—peace through trade, world citizenship, an “international community”—took on a life of their own.

Where the Marxist utopia in Russia gave birth to terror, the globalist utopia in the West inspired “democratizing” wars and so-called “color revolutions.” This has been the subject of a great deal of discussion that I will not repeat. Leaving aside the damage inflicted on the countries subjected to “democratization”—a large number of direct and indirect victims, the replacement of traditional social structures by chaos—we can see the problems the globalist utopia creates in the West."

"Western Europe, Russia, and the United States represent various branches of a single tree. The basic systemic feature of this civilization is Christianity, both as a religious practice and as a specific kind of culture. If European civilization is fated to survive, it will require a rediscovery of Christianity. And that will take place both on the level of nation-states and at a pan-European level."
Finally on the article's theme of concentration:
"This age of concentration will also have a social dimension and expression. It will consist of the restoration of nation-states as the form for the existence of peoples. In comparison to the global frame of reference that was emphasized in the last half century, the national level will have priority.

One of the manifestations of the age of concentration will be the final rejection of any attempts to realize utopias such as communism in Russia and globalism in the West."

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Lincoln and Grant -- diamonds in the rough

Richard Henry Dana Jr. (1815-1882) was a member of one of the old blue blood families of Cambridge, Massachusetts. An author and lawyer who prided himself on his compassion for the common man and his anti-slavery work, Dana [pictured] was one of those who -- when he came face to face with the wartime president and the top Union general -- could see nothing beyond their rebarbative edges.

From Grant Takes Command by Bruce Catton:
"Some men looked at Ulysses S. Grant and to their dismay saw in him no trace of breeding or gentility... [After meeting Grant at Willard's Hotel one day] Richard Henry Dana concluded sadly that the man was no gentleman; he 'had no gait, no station, no manner'; he was smoking a cigar, he had 'rather the look of a man who did, or once did, take a little too much to drink,' and altogether he seemed to be an 'ordinary, scrubby looking man with a slightly seedy look, as if he was out of office on half pay.' 
A week or so later Dana visited the White House, saw Lincoln, found him no better, and wrote to his father: 'Such a shapeless mass of writhing ugliness as slouched about in the President's chair you never saw or imagined.' "

Mr. Dana -- who wrote the popular Two Years Before the Mast on his adventures as a sailor from Boston to California -- "lamented that Lincoln 'does not act or talk or feel like the ruler of a great empire in a great crisis.' What bothered Dana the most was that the president resorted to parables where principles were needed: 'He likes rather to talk and tell stories with all sorts of persons who come to him for all sorts of purposes than to give his mind to the noble and manly duties of his great post.' "


UPDATE: Take a couple minutes to look at this video on the essence of Ulysses Grant by Jean Edward Smith.

Here is how Mr. Smith begins the preface to his biography (2001):
When I was ten or so, my father took me and several of my cousins to Shiloh battlefield. We toured the site and as young Southern boys are wont to do, speculated enthusiastically how the Confederates could have won if only they had done this or that. My father, who was not an educated man, listened attentively and then in his soft Mississippi drawl cautioned us about what we were saying. It was bad for us to have lost, he admitted, but it would have been worse if we had won. The United States would not exist if the South had prevailed, and we should thank our lucky stars General Grant was in command that terrible Sunday in 1862. Grant never lost a battle, my father said, and he never ran from a fight. He held his surprised and battered army together at Shiloh, and when the smoke cleared it was the rebels who withdrew, leaving Mississippi open to the Union's advance. Grant saved the United States, my father said, and we should be "damn glad" he did. I had scarcely heard of General Grant before then, but from that day on I was hooked.


Bruce Catton relates how one of Lincoln's secretaries, William Stoddard, asked about Grant's capacity as a general --
The President said: "Stoddard, Grant is the first general I've had! He's a general!" Stoddard asked what he meant by this, and Lincoln explained: 
"I'll tell you what I mean. You know how it's been with all the rest. As soon as I put a man in command of the army he'd come to me with a plan of campaign and about  as much as say, 'Now, I don't believe I can do it, but if you say so I'll try it on,' and so put the responsibility of success or failure on me. They all wanted me to be the general. It isn't so with Grant. He hasn't told me what his plans are. I don't know, and I don't want to know. I'm glad to find a man who can go ahead without me." 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Map on Monday: THE GULF STATES

An Introduction to the Religious, Ethnic, and Geopolitical Makeup of the Persian Gulf Region
By A. Joseph Lynch 

The map above depicts the eight nations surrounding the Persian Gulf: Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, and Iran. Over 1/2 the world's oil reserves and 1/3 of the natural gas reserves are in this Islamic region marked by deep ethnic loyalties and religious divisions. Seven of the eight Gulf states have an Arab majority, but the largest state (Iran) is Persian. There are five Arab-majority Sunni states while Iraq, Bahrain, and Iran are mostly Shiite. Any military conflict in the region threatens world energy supplies. Consider the Strait of Hormuz at the eastern end of the Persian Gulf. Approximately 23% of the world's oil traded by sea passes through the Strait, which at its narrowest point is only 21 nautical miles across (see map below). Ships from the Persian Gulf travel through the Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf of Oman, before taking to the open seas.

The Strait of Hormuz: Twenty-four miles across at its narrowest where Iran and an Oman-controlled peninsular tip face each other across the strait.

Click to enlarge
Examining the region clockwise beginning with Oman (population 3.6 million), we find that Oman's main geographical orientation faces the Arabian Sea to the east and the Gulf of Oman to the north, with the capital of Muscat strategically located roughly in between each. Oman also owns the strategic "Gibraltar of the Gulf" -- a peninsular enclave (Musandam Peninsula) facing Iran across the Strait of Hormuz and separated from mainland Oman by  the UAE.  Oman's absolute monarchy has been led by Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said since 1970, making him the longest reigning ruler in the region. Oman has a long-standing moderate foreign policy with a cordial relationship with Iran. The majority religion is Ibadi Islam which predates the Sunni/Shia split. It is highly puritanical in theology but more moderate in relations with other Muslims than the Wahhabis. Unlike its Yemeni neighbors, Oman is a relatively peaceful nation, protected by a 25,000-man army, 36 combat aircraft, and a navy with ten surface warships.

The United Arab Emirates (population 9.3 million) is, as its name suggests, a union of seven separate Arab emirates (an emirate is a principality ruled by an emir) with the Emirate of Abu Dhabi serving as its capital. Each emirate is itself ruled by an absolute monarch and one of these monarchs is selected to act as president of the nation. The U.A.E. boasts the fourth largest oil supply in the world, giving it an important place in world affairs despite its small landmass. It has a strong, Sunni Islam-oriented foreign policy and was, until September 11, 2001, one of the only three nations (Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are the others) to recognize Taliban rule in Afghanistan. The UAE were major financial backers of  General Abdel el-Sisi and the Egyptian military coup against President Mohammed Morsi and the elected Muslim Brotherhood. In the Sunni republican-populist vs monarchy movements, the U.A.E. is monarchical. The U.A.E. has a 65,000-man army and is rapidly expanding its military.

Click to enlarge
Qatar (population 2.2 million, 300,000 citizens) and Bahrain (population 1.3 million) are the two smallest and often-overlooked Gulf states. While Qatar sits on a peninsula jutting into the Gulf, Bahrain is an island nation within the Gulf itself located northwest of Qatar. Bahrain is, however, physically connected to mainland Saudi Arabia via the King Faud Causeway. Qatar's capital of Doha sits on its east coast; while Bahrain's capital of Manama is found on the north coast. How tiny Qatar became independent from the Saudis is about --natural gas and making separate alliances  including with the US. 30% of the world market in liquid natural gas is exported by Qatar. Their Arab neighbors receive a tiny part of the market which is  centered on Asian countries and the UK. Qatar shares their natural gas field with Iran and thus they are not as viscerally anti Shiite as the Saudis.  A small amount of LNG is shipped to UAE by pipeline but the majority is by shipping tankers.      

Qatar strongly backs Sunni religious groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and it has given arms to Syrian rebels (both moderate and extreme brands). Qatar has the worst record in the region for fighting terrorism, and most Qataris follow a Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. Despite this, the United States has strong ties with the Qataris, maintaining CENTCOM's forward regional headquarters at Qatar's Al Udeid Air Base. Qatar's government funds the most influential venture in Arab television: Al Jazeera Network. Qatar is a force inside the Wahhabi movement that is often at odds with the Saudi monarchs. Their support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and more populous forms of Salafism ultimately threatens the hereditary rulers of the House of Saud. This is the real source of conflict between the new young Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and the young leaders of Qatar. Since President Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia in May 2017, relations have soured between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Maldives, Sunni-controlled Bahrain, and Sunni-controlled Yemen. As of June 2017, all six states cut diplomatic ties with Qatar due to its continued support of certain Salafist organizations seen as threats to the Salafist monarchies in Saudi Arabia and UAE and military rule in Egypt.

Bahrain is one of the three Gulf States to have a Shiite majority. A Sunni king, however, rules the nation and put down a 2011 "Arab Spring" Shiite uprising with the help of 1,000 troops from Saudi Arabia and another 500 from the United Arab Emirates. Some 80 civilians died in the uprising and 65% of those arrested reported being tortured. Like Qatar, Bahrain has strong U.S. ties, hosting the U.S. 5th Fleet at Manama.

Gulf Cooperation Council states
Saudi Arabia (population 28.8 million) and Kuwait (population 3.4 million), together with Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Oman are the Gulf's Sunni Islam majority states, with Bahrain controlled by a Sunni government. Unsurprisingly, it is these six Gulf states that formed the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in 1981. Centered in Riyadh, these states today form a Saudi-led, anti-Iranian, anti-Shiite bloc in the region. Over the last two years,  there has been discussion of forming a "Gulf Union" of the six states, somewhat similar to the European Union. They have also created a NATO-like military organization called the Peninsula Shield Force (PSF). It was this military organization that put down the Shiite uprising in Bahrain -- and it appears to be playing another anti-Shiite role in Yemen today. While Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) controls much of Yemen, the Gulf Cooperation Council has labeled the Shiite takeover of the nation a "terrorist" act and has begun a military campaign, not against the Sunni-led Al Qaeda but against the Shiites who wish to fight Al Qaeda. This is considered an attempt by King Salman’s favorite son-30 yr old Mohammed bin Salman to curry favor with Wahhabi clerics in his upcoming succession fight. The Saudi fight against the Shiites has actually strengthened Yemen's AQAP the Salafist Sunni terror group most likely to be aiming at US and European targets.

Iraq (population 33.4 million) and Iran (population 77.5 million) together comprise (with Bahrain) the Shiite nations of the Gulf region. With more than double Saudi Arabia's population, Iran is clearly the largest Gulf state (for more information about Iran, see this previous Map on Monday post). Iraq (36% Shiite, 25% Sunni, and 39% of various religions with Christianity being the largest) has increasingly looked eastward to Shiite-Persian Iran in recent years. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the elected Shiite government has been attacked as illegitimate by radical Sunni forces from outside and inside the country. The Sunni north merging with the majority Sunnis of Syria are under the sway of ISIS while  the Kurdish (Sunni) northeast becomes increasingly independent of Baghdad. What remains under Iraqi control is the Shiite-dominated south. The dream of an undivided caliphate under radical Sunni rule has driven the Shiite states of Iraq and Iran (which has the longest coastline with the Persian Gulf) into an alliance with Assad's Syrian coastal state on the Mediterranean. Assad, like the Houthis of Yemen, practices a distant variant of Shiite Islam. They are united, not so much as fellow Shiites, as fellow enemies of the Sunni purification movement. For this reason, Iran and Iraq seek the destruction of ISIS, while Sunni Gulf States (along with Sunni Turkey) watch the fighting from a distance in hopes of seeing Shiite armies weakened in battle.

American military institutions are based in the midst of this growing conflict. Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, because of his understandable fear of Iran, is attempting to exploit the religious, historical, and geographic ignorance of American policymakers to draw us into war with Iran whom he see as an existential threat. But taking a step backward and seeing the Gulf as a whole and the Sunni salafist nature of the worldwide terrorist threat in Asia, Russia, and America, the strategic question for the United States remains. That is, in the Sunni/Shiite religious war: Whose side are we on?

(This article first appeared on Anthropology of Accord - April 13, 2015)

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, June 3

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


THE POPE AND THE PRESIDENT - TWO PEACEMAKERS WHO SEE RUSSIA AS BROTHER, NOT FOE: The Moynihan letters 25 and 26 provide a Church-wide view of international issues that mutually concern the president and pope. Global warming and specific immigration policies may not be at the top of their real agenda. Pope Francis is a pope of global Christianity and humanity. President Trump wants to bring peace and diplomacy back into international relations in a way neocon Republicans and liberal interventionist Democrats have opposed since the end of the Cold War. Both the pope and the president want to end the rupture with Russia that divides Christianity and the Christian nations. It is the big things that hysteria misses.

An excerpt from Robert Moynihan: "But we also know something else quite important -- that the Pope-Trump meeting was followed by a second meeting, a meeting that went longer, about 50 minutes. And the second meeting may very well have been more important, in some ways, than the first." The Americans met with the Vatican's two top diplomats.

PROFILES OF THE VATICAN DIPLOMATS (FROM MOYNIHAN LETTERS): Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State (below in the the Cortile San Damaso), and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.

Cardinal Parolin (above) is a 62-year-old Italian. He is a career Church diplomat and speaks native Italian, fluent English and French, and near-native Spanish. He is an expert on Nigeria (he served for three years in the Nunciature in Nigeria, where he became familiar with the problems in Christian-Muslim relations) and Mexico (he served another three years, 1989–1992, in the Nunciature of Mexico; during his time in Mexico he contributed to the final phase of the extensive work begun by Archbishop Girolamo Prigione which led to the legal recognition of the Catholic Church in 1992 and the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Mexico). He is also an expert in the process of negotiations for a global nuclear test ban treaty, and for eventual nuclear disarmament (Parolin was for years the Vatican's representative to the Vienna nuclear arms treaty talks). And he is an expert on Vietnam, and on Venezuela, where he was most recently the nuncio. Finally, and not least important, Parolin is so well-respected that some speak of him as a possible candidate to be... the next pope. So, in meeting with Parolin after meeting with Francis, Trump may have been meeting with the next pope, after meeting with the present pope...

And then there was Gallagher... Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher (above) is a 63-year-old British prelate from Liverpool. He is the Vatican's Secretary for Relations with States, which makes him more or less equivalent to the Vatican's "Foreign Minister." He has held posts in Tanzania, Uruguay, the Philippines, and at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. He is a calm, thoughtful man with a global vision - the type of man who might emerge one day as a... Vatican Secretary of State himself.

FOR THE AMERICANS: The Jesuit magazine, America, answered the question we were most interested in. Which Americans met with the diplomats profiled above: "After the papal audience, a Vatican official accompanied the president and his top advisors, Mr. McMaster, Secretary Tillerson and Mr. Kushner, for private talks with two of the pope’s most trusted senior collaborators: the Italian-born secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who is Francis’ right-hand man, and the secretary for relations with states, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the first Englishman ever to hold that post. They talked together behind closed doors for 50 minutes, suggesting they went into the issues in considerable depth."

CATHOLIC CONSERVATIVES REBUKE THEIR FATHER: The Literary Editor at First Things is a young man - Matthew Schmitz. When he is confused, he is considered nuanced. But about Pope Francis, his days of nuance are over. "Though Benedict is still living, Francis is trying to bury him." Catholic intellectuals of the English-speaking conservative stripe seem more and more removed from the Global Christianity and nationalist civic movements that mark our era. The American nationalist Trump and the Argentine Pope of the Global South apparently have no claims on their filial piety. These fathers seem to ignite a spirit of rebellion and disdain from "the public intellectuals."


THE MANCHESTER BOMBER: In Paradise or is his soul condemned? That is the question a thousand other potential bombers need to have answered. That strikes at the heart of the religious motivation. If you murder Shiites or People of the Cross are heaven and 72 virgins waiting? Or are you an evil loser who is headed for the lonely abyss of Hell? How those questions are answered will determine the rookie jihadist class of 2017. Here is a typical article about the bomber's Profile. There is a lot here that is helpful. What is missing? All his contacts are Salafist Sunnis - some fighting the Shia government of Iraq, others fighting in Libya. We're getting better at saying who we are fighting -but we're not there yet.

COPTIC CHRISTIANS KILLED - WHAT SHOULD WE PRAY FOR? Coptic Christians from Egypt were stopped on a bus going to pilgrimage and were summarily executed. Do we pray for an end to violence or the establishment of armed order? The Ordered Loves of Christianity and civilization include effective civil authorities that prevent murder.

THE VERY SORRY STATE OF CATHOLIC CONSERVATIVES ON ISLAM: At The Catholic Thing a Mr. Howard Kainz is given space for his peculiar message: Islam is just a cult - don't treat it as a religion. Are we supposed to consider this habitually anti-Pope Francis site as an authentic Catholic way? This piece is not hateful as others have been. It is historically infantile - an embarrassment in a dangerous world. The major voice about Islam on conservative Catholic websites is William Kilpatrick. Here is our review of his interesting flawed book on Islam, Atheism, and Christianity. Mr Kilpatrick is inherently hostile to Islam, and seems incapable of making distinctions about the schools of law or traditions within Islam. That this passes as Catholic intellectual life is befuddling. The Catholic universities with their watered down theology departments are certainly more sophisticated in their treatment of Islam than the "more orthodox than the pope" crowd at CrisisCatholic ThingEWTN, and Catholic World Report. There is a serious breakdown in public Catholic discourse as a repetitive perfectionist sexual ethic is asserted for the laity, a scandalous homosexual clerical culture is willfully ignored, and God's rule among the nations seems a subject beyond the pay grade.


TRUMP, MERKEL, AND NATOPat Buchanan's take.



THE DEATH OF ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: He was a major force in the defeat of the Soviet Union. His The Grand Chessboard is a rare American treatment of strategic thinking centered on the landmass of Eurasia. The Cold War bifurcated the allies of WWII into a bipolar world as enemies. The high-level strategic partnership of President Jimmy Carter and NSA director Zbigniew Brzezinski was crucial in the eventual demise of the atheist superstate. It was the supposed "weak and pusillanimous" Carter Administration which initiated the alliance in Afghanistan that delivered the military defeat of the Red Army needed to bring down Communism. We salute the American soldiers who held back Communist armies in Korea and Vietnam. We salute the Nixon-Kissinger China alliance. We salute the Ronald Reagan-Pope John Paul-Mikhail Gorbachev final act. We salute the Baker-Shevardnadze reunification of Germany. But let us remember none of this would have happened without the strategic insight of a group of old-style Democrats who made an ally of fighting Islam to beat the godless Communists. God bless Mr. Brzezinski. May he rest in peace. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God.



MEMORIAL DAY: Watch Secretary of Defense Mattis' brief remarks from this year's service at Arlington Cemetery. At bottom of entry on masculine publics and family weekends.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Friday BookReview: JAPAN -- "the first great modern Asian nation"

[first published March 13, 2015]


A century ago, Japan -- roughly equal in land area to today's third-largest state (California) -- "bestrode the narrow world like a Colossus."   

In the middle of the 1890s, this island nation's military had annihilated China -- and then a decade later, this time with far greater Japanese casualties, defeated Russia

How many other nations can boast of delivering such a massive one-two punch? This was followed 30 years later with the decision to attack the rising new superpower: America. Japan, of course, managed to go toe-to-toe with us, not for months but years, until finally being vanquished.

"In the august name of the Japanese emperor, the Imperial Army conquered, colonized, and enslaved Manchuria, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma, the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Taiwan, and as much of mainland China as they could reach."              


Sarah Paine, who teaches at the Naval War College in Rhode Island, does a good job of explaining the importance of this first war:
"It shattered Chinese hegemony and demonstrated to an astonished West that Japan had become a modern great power... [China was] hurtled on a long downward spiral. The war kicked the bottom out of their world."

One of the central battles of the war was at the mouth of the Yalu (the river border between northern Korea and China.) Some historians call it the most important naval battle since Horatio Nelson destroyed Bonaparte's fleet at Trafalgar in 1805.

The war was also pivotal for Korea on its very strategic peninsula. On the eve before fighting broke out -- Japan, China, and Russia were wrestling for control of Korea.

"First Japan ousted China from the Korean Peninsula (1894-95) with the Sino-Japanese War; in 1904-5 it expelled Russia during the Russo-Japanese War; and then in 1910 it formally annexed the Korean Peninsula, keeping it until 1945."

Prior to this war, Japanese relations with China had been cordial.
And the war caused Great Britain -- master of the Seven Seas -- to hurry to ramp up their navy, and to sign a formal alliance with Japan!

A few months into the war, Japan invaded Manchuria (in NE China); one of those who filed reports from the front was the flamboyant James Creelman.

[Just as the history of Britain and India cannot be understood apart from the role of the East India Company, the role of Manchuria in Japan/China relations cannot be understood apart from the Southern Manchurian Railways Company (see review of the excellent book on its history by Kiyofumi Kato). 

Founded in 1906, the 'Mantetsu' eventually organized employment for 250,000 Chinese and Russians, and many more Japanese. It organized scores of companies and extraction industries utilizing and transporting the natural resources of that region which the Chinese have never called Manchuria. Over a million Japanese settled in the area during its first forty years of existence when Manchuria was being developed as an autonomous region. The company, protected by a branch of the imperial army in alliance with a Chinese war lord, often acted as a rule unto themselves. Their autonomy led to the withdrawal of Japan from the League of Nations (in 1933) and an assertion of the military within Japan as political actors. The invasion and renaming of Manchuria by Japan in 1931 normalized the reality of loss of Chinese rule in the region. This industrially developed border region with Russia played an important role after the surrender of Japanese troops to Russia, and their subsequent aid to the Communist forces in the Chinese Civil War.]

It's interesting that both the defeated and the victorious dynasties of the Sino-Japanese War came to a close during the same year:
Qing dynasty (1644-1912): China's last dynasty -- the emperor (only six years old) abdicated in February 1912. [This was a Manchurian dynasty.]
Meiji Japan ("enlightened rule") 1868-1912 -- after a long reign, the emperor Meiji died in the summer of 1912 [he was succeeded by Hirohito's father].

Today, Japan has 127 million people -- the world's tenth most populous country (but 62nd in land area).

Tokyo is 650 miles from Vladivostok, Russia; and 700 miles from Seoul. The Japanese capital is 1100 miles from Shanghai (and 1300 from both Beijing and the capital of Taiwan).

For a fine introduction and summing up of the first Sino-Japanese War, check out this magazine essay.

In the treaty ending the war, what important island did China cede to the victors? Taiwan. 
Japan controlled it for the next 50 years

This is a postcard from the time of the Russo-Japanese War, or to use the more imaginative idiom: "The War of the Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear."

This 7-minute video describes the conflict, and the way that Teddy Roosevelt was able to utilize his daughter Alice in a bit of diplomatic "misdirection."

Russia had three times the population and endless natural resources -- but Japan countered by instilling in their soldiers a deep sense of Bushido, the code of honor of the samurai.
[The English analogy of this spiritual equalizer can be heard here.]

This article describes some of the costly battles of the 18-month war.

Japan was a nation which maintained its cohesion while facing completely foreign cultures which they studiously learned from. They developed a functioning state which could act for the communal group. They were the first of the modern nation-states which are now the principal political actors in Asia. The religious ethno-nationalism of “radical Shinto ultranationalism” created a social organism substantially different from the familial patriarchal models of European monarchies. Nor can Japan be explained as just another type of fascism /totalitarianism. It has taken over a half century to properly explain the spiritual and racial foundations of the organism that was 20th century Japan. Japan’s Holy War  by Walter Skya is the indispensable contribution to this understanding. 

UPDATE: Walter Russell Mead says it is foolish "to underestimate today's Japan."

[Simply look at the ground that the Japanese have made up. Ten years after the end of WWII, "Japan was still one of the poorest third-world countries." Even as late as 1975, Japan's per capita income "was about one-third the figure for the United States."

As T.R. Reid -- who served as Tokyo bureau chief for the Washington Post -- put it, "Japan's postwar miracle sprang mainly from its most important resource: Japanese people."]