Sunday, 1/19/14

    1. Just 60 pregnant words
    2. Vainglory
    3. The King of I
    4. Whom the gods would destroy
    5. Must Burkeans be gradual about everything?
    6. European outlier
    7. Briefly noted
    8. When cyberspace gets real


Written in the frenzied, emotional days after 9/11, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force was intended to give President Bush the ability to retaliate against whoever orchestrated the attacks. But more than 12 years later, this sentence remains the primary legal justification for nearly every covert operation around the world. Here’s how it came to be, and what it’s since come to mean.

By the end of the meeting, it was clear that this was the resolution, a single sentence and 60 words:

That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

That was it. After more than a day of negotiations between the White House and Congress, Republicans and Democrats, this is what had emerged. Congress could take it or leave it. There would be no going back to the drawing board.

(60 Words And A War Without End: The Untold Story Of The Most Dangerous Sentence In U.S. History, emphasis in original)

Among other things, I’ve confirmed my vague memory that Dubya once pledged something even crazier than than “ending tyranny in our world” (second inaugural address). Here’s what he said at the National Cathedral, hours before the House voted on the AUMF, joining those whipping up war sentiment more than remembering the dead:

Just three days removed from these events, Americans do not yet have the distance of history. But our responsibility to history is already clear: To answer these attacks and rid the world of evil.

(Emphasis added) I did not clearly recall these words, and I did not snap and abandon support of Dubya until the second inaugural address, but these words from our “Christian” President, who some of my friends supported because he was a “good Christian,”  demonstrate how debased that term has come.

This article, by the way, is what they call “long-form journalism,” which tends to sound offputting. Don’t be put off.


The sun shines on all alike, and vainglory beams on all activities. For instance, I am vainglorious when I fast; and when I relax the fast in order to be unnoticed, I am again vainglorious over my prudence. When well-dressed I am quite overcome by vainglory, and when I put on poor clothes I am vainglorious again. When I talk I am defeated, and when I am silent I am again defeated by it. However I throw this prickly pear, a spike stands upright.

(Saint John Climacus, Ladder of Divine Ascent, quoted here)


Which gets us, inevitably, to the King of I, who unselfconsciously claims ownership of . . . everything. “My military,” “my White House,” “my cabinet,” “my secretary.” The president does first person singular more than Mr. Christie does. But his actions are so much more consequential, because they’re national and because they play out in the area of policy.

The president’s health-insurance reform had to be breathtaking, mind-bending, historic. It had to be a Democratic Party initiative only. It required a few major lies to gain passage, but what the heck.

It was political selfishness that blew up the American health-care system.

(Peggy Noonan) Note that segué: “Which gets us … to.” Noonan has already noted the role of selfishness in Chris Christie’s political persona. And I’ve already quoted St. John Climacus.


Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad. I think the gods are out to get the Death Penalty. First this, now this. Not to mention the savagery of its defenders.

I’m on the side of the gods, by the way.


“Reflections on the Revolution in France” was surely nothing if not an argument that France was headed in the wrong direction and needed to reverse course: It did not end with a coda in which Burke explained that the foregoing notwithstanding, he was committed to supporting the revolutionary government because rolling it back would be too radical.

(Ross Douthat) The question was whether there are any Burkeans in America today, and Douthat was responding to someone who thought Reagan and other “conservatives” today are impatient radicals.


The New York Times is alarmed that there’s one party in one country in Europe – Europe, of all places! – that still thinks abortion actually, not just nominally, is an evil. Bring the smelling salts!


Briefly noted:



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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.