Wednesday, 8/3/16

  1. Have we lost our minds?
  2. Inviting cultural catastrophe
  3. Elevating sex to its preeminent place
  4. Two kinds of Trump voters
  5. PEG on neo-conservatism
  6. “Thou shalt erect solar panels upon thy temples”
  7. Take a brick out of Leviathan

1

In 1991, President Bush told Ukrainians that any declaration of independence from Moscow would be an act of “suicidal nationalism.”

Today, Beltway hawks want to bring Ukraine into NATO. This would mean that America would go to war with Russia, if necessary, to preserve an independence Bush I regarded as “suicidal.”

Have we lost our minds?

The first NATO supreme commander, General Eisenhower, said that if U.S. troops were still in Europe in 10 years, NATO would be a failure. In 1961, he urged JFK to start pulling U.S. troops out, lest Europeans become military dependencies of the United States.

Was Ike not right? Even Barack Obama today riffs about the “free riders” on America’s defense.

In 1997, geostrategist George Kennan warned that moving NATO into Eastern Europe “would be the most fateful error of American policy in the post-Cold War era.” He predicted a fierce nationalistic Russian response.

Was Kennan not right? NATO and Russia are today building up forces in the eastern Baltic where no vital U.S. interests exist, and where we have never fought before — for that very reason.

There is no evidence Russia intends to march into Estonia, and no reason for her to do so. But if she did, how would NATO expel Russian troops without air and missile strikes that would devastate that tiny country?

And if we killed Russians inside Russia, are we confident Moscow would not resort to tactical atomic weapons to prevail? After all, Russia cannot back up any further. We are right in her face.

How long are we to be committed to go to war to defend the tiny Baltic republics against a Russia that could overrun them in 72 hours?

When, if ever, does our obligation end? If it is eternal, is not a clash with a revanchist and anti-American Russia inevitable?

Are U.S. war guarantees in the Baltic republics even credible?

(Pat Buchanan, pro-Trump asides elided) You don’t have to be in the tank for Trump, or agree with how Trump has recklessly talked about European commitments, to acknowledge that there’s something wrong with this picture.

2

We invite catastrophe by falling for an ideological representation of the world such as the one that is ours today. We invite catastrophe by sincerely believing that the religious affiliation of a citizen has no political bearing or effect. We invite catastrophe by excluding from authorized debate on Turkey’s possible joining the European Union the fact that Turkey is a massively Muslim country. We invite catastrophe when we confuse the obligation to rescue a person who is drowning with that person’s right to become a citizen of our country. We invite catastrophe when, in the name of charity or mercy, we require old Christian nations to open their borders to all who wish to enter.

(Pierre Manent, Does French Culture Have a Future?)

3

In his Inaugural Address, President Obama declared that he would “restore science to its rightful place” when making federal government policy. Weeks later, on March 9, 2009, he reversed Bush’s restrictive rules governing embryonic stem cell research. At that time, Obama promised that his administration would henceforth rely upon “facts,” not “ideology,” whenever scientific knowledge was relevant to his government’s actions. He even issued an executive order to institutionalize the integrity of his administration’s reliance upon scientific research.

… [I]n one of the areas he listed—children’s health—he has surely reneged on his promise. Unfortunately for America’s children, consistently promoting their genuine well-being would interfere with the president’s ideological war on traditional sexual morality.

(Gerard V. Bradley, President Obama’s Sex-Driven War on Science)

4

I’m not saying much about Trump today. My opinion of him hasn’t changed, but my thoughts about his supporters have.

Those who soberly, thoughtfully and with an appropriate sense of tragedy plan on voting for him are, unsurprisingly, pretty quiet about it. Rod Dreher imagines himself in those shoes:

I accept that there’s the possibility that something might happen between now and Election Day that might cause me to vote for one or the other candidates, though I honestly cannot imagine what that thing might be. In either case, it would be fear of the Other Candidate taking office. I would cast my vote with immeasurable disgust, and never tell a soul for whom I voted.

Seeking out such reluctant Trump voters to argue with them seems sadistic.

Those who are vocal and (real or fake) enthusiastic are seemingly incorrigible and proud of it. Arguing with them is worse than futile.

I suppose I will let out some primal screams between now and election day, but I’m under little illusion that they will change minds.

God forbid my fair state should be “in play” as Election Day approaches: “Lead us not into temptation ….”

5

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry offers his (eccentric?) description of “neo-conservatism”:

All of this comes as no surprise to neoconservatives like myself. But before we go any further, let me first explain what that term, which mostly gets hurled as an insult these days, refers to in the world of geopolitics.

Neoconservatives are usually contrasted with so-called realists. Realists believe in nothing but power politics: Countries will (and should) act according to their naked self-interest. Beliefs don’t matter, only interests.

Neoconservatives, on the other hand, believe that both beliefs and interests should dictate foreign policy. America shouldn’t just try to advance its narrow interests; it should promote human rights and democracy around the globe — with force, if necessary. Neoconservatives believe this serves America’s long-term interests because democratic countries tend to be friendlier to one another — and authoritarian countries tend to band together to frustrate America.

Ideas really do have consequences. And whatever the track record of specific decisions, all American presidential administrations since Ronald Reagan have tried some sort of mix of realism and neoconservatism.

6

RLUIPA Defense blog reported last week on a suit filed in late June in Massachusetts by a Unitarian church seeking to install solar panels on its building in an Historic District. The complaint (full text) in First Parish in Bedford, Unitarian Universalist v. Historic District Commission of the Town of Bedford, (MA Superior Ct., filed 6/27/2016), contends that the denial of a certificate of appropriateness to install solar panels on the roof of its Meetinghouse infringes church members’ free exercise of religion in violation of the Massachusetts and U.S. Constitutions. The complaint alleges that:

Unitarian Universalists … believe that their religion necessarily involves taking action on a personal, congregational and community level to confront and mitigate mankind’s role in causing and exacerbating global warming.

(Religion Clause) I do not understand Unitarian-Universalism. I don’t really understand why so seemingly secular an outlook insists on the trappings of religion. But in a sense, I find it strangely comforting that it does, confirming something innate in human persons.

I also don’t understand (I haven’t worked on this one very long) how a religion comes up with so specific and timely a belief as that requiring solar panels to confront and mitigate man’s role in global warming. Maybe I’d have to be a U-U to get that.

But despite skepticism, if they’re not punking us and trying to undermine RLUIPA — i.e., if they prove up their belief moderately well (I suppose that means “likelier than not”) — I hope they win. Religious freedom means religious freedom for all.

7

One way to start demolishing Leviathan and restoring civil society is to stop calling Leviathan on 911 for every petty annoyance or trivial violation (noise ordinance, a whiff of weed, etc.) That’s not what the author of Good Neighboring in an Age of Police Brutality says, nor does it contradict her. It’s just what was on my mind after the Mosaic article I so admired.

Be it noted that were it not for Leviathan, a Church wouldn’t have to get a permit to put a solar collector on its temple.

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.