National Security & Defense

Our fallen in a twilight struggle, &c.

Seventh Special Forces Group (Airborne) Green Berets train at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in 2012. (Photo: Pfc. Steven Young)
On casualties in Niger, a surprised Nobelist, the ‘British dream,’ a Russian teenager, Charlottesville ‘truthers,’ flipping the bird in church, and more

News came on Wednesday that three of our Green Berets were killed in Niger, and two wounded. (For a story, go here.) What were they doing in Niger? They were fighting al-Qaeda — the Jihad, as I refer to it. You can call it the “War on Terror,” as the administration of George W. Bush used to.

It doesn’t really matter. We know what we’re talking about.

Reading about the Green Berets, I thought of something that Rick Brookhiser said on 9/11: This is another “twilight struggle,” like the Cold War. I also thought of something that the chief of the Australian army, Peter Leahy, said: This is another hundred-years war.

Yes. I am grateful for those Green Berets, and all who have served before them, and all who will serve after them.

‐An American scientist, Jeffrey C. Hall, shared in a Nobel prize. When the committee called to give him the news, he said, “Is this a prank?” (Story here.)

That is a common reaction. I always enjoy hearing about it.

‐I have always been grateful to be an American, I have always been in awe of our Founders and Framers, and I have always marveled at our system. But, you know? I think I am more appreciative than ever. Those people were geniuses, they really were.

Yesterday, our president tweeted, “Why Isn’t the Senate Intel Committee looking into the Fake News Networks in OUR country to see why so much of our news is just made up-FAKE!”

The highest executive official in the land can only do so much. His power is great — but also greatly constrained.

They were geniuses, these guys, and I believe our Constitution is very rugged.

‐The phrase “American dream” is very familiar. Frankly, I had never heard “British dream” — ever. But, in her recent big speech, Prime Minister May said that “the British dream,” for many, “feels increasingly out of reach.”

‐After the massacre in Las Vegas, a CBS legal executive said that she could not sympathize with the victims: They were country-music fans, and country-music fans are often Republican gun-toters. (For a story, go here.)

CBS promptly fired the woman. Good. But here is a truth that people on the liberal side ought to know: When conservatives have nightmares, they imagine that people such as that woman populate the major media. And these imaginings sometimes turn out to be right.

‐Putin’s Kremlin has never stopped persecuting Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his comrades — the democrats of Open Russia. They are at it again, as you can see here. Why does the Kremlin do this? They’re scared, that’s why. They know they have no legitimacy. This is why they lash out.

The Kremlin tells you how popular Putin is, and people such as Trump echo this propaganda. But Putin and his men: They know it’s not true.

‐This is also why Alexei Navalny is once more in jail. (For a report, go here.) Navalny is the leading opposition leader. The Kremlin does not want him attending rallies. Why? What do they have to fear? Plenty. They know they have no legitimacy. They know they don’t have the consent of the governed. That’s why they must crush, physically, anyone who would step forward and oppose them.

‐I loved reading about Almaz Imamov, a 17-year-old college student. He joined a pro-Navalny group online. For this, he is in trouble with the administration of his college. He asked, “And what about the constitution?”

So sweet, so innocent. That constitution does indeed afford Russian citizens rights. But what does the Kremlin care about those rights, and that constitution?

Imamov bad-mouthed the government. An administrator said to him, “They used to shoot people for that! Stood them right up and shot them, you understand? Nothing changes, except now they don’t shoot you.”

Well, sometimes they do …

‐Back to America: Here is the opening sentence of a story at the beginning of this week: “President Donald Trump welcomed Thailand’s junta leader to the White House on Monday — a rare instance of a military ruler being feted in Washington before even a nominal return to civilian rule.” That is unnecessary.

‐In my experience, the word “truther” is applied to someone who thinks that 9/11 was an “inside job” — perpetrated by the U.S. government itself. Do you know there is such a thing as Sandy Hook truthers? It’s true. These are people who believe that “crisis actors” staged the 2012 massacre at that school in Connecticut, in order to discredit gun rights.

There are also Charlottesville truthers: people who believe, or say, that the Left arranged right-wing protests in that city — protests that turned murderous — in order to make the Right look bad. In order to “put our president on the spot.”

Those last words are from Dana Rohrabacher, the Republican congressman from California. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, he revealed himself to be a Charlottesville truther, claiming a “set-up” and a “total hoax.” Apparently, Rohrabacher’s public service — which includes support for Putin and Julian Assange — has become a total hoax itself.

‐In Egypt, the dictatorship of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is continuing its brutality, cracking down most recently on men suspected of homosexuality. (Article here.) They are “anally examining” these guys. That’s how they get their kicks and torture at the same time. A practice — an evil — as old as the hills.

‐The Washington Post published a highly interesting column. Did you see it? The heading: “I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise.”

‐In rapid succession, I read two stories about grandmothers — stories very different from each other. The first went, “A 106-year-old Afghan woman who made a perilous journey to Europe in 2015 that involved her son and grandson carrying her through mountains, deserts and forests has finally been granted temporary shelter in Sweden.” The second went, “Authorities say a West Virginia grandmother has joined her grandson in jail after being accused of smuggling drugs to him behind bars.”


‐A Romanian security brute, Iulian Vlad, has died at 86. I wish to share a couple of details from his obit:

His father was a professional church singer who was expelled from the Communist Party for his religious activities and for illegally cutting firewood on his former property, which had apparently been confiscated.

And this one:

Iulian, who had joined the party when he was 15, told officials that he had tried to persuade his father to leave the church. (Nonetheless, Petru Neghiu, a former military colleague, told the Romanian news media that General Vlad had received the last rites before his death.)

‐In a recent Impromptus, I quoted a player on the University of Michigan football team, Chase Winovich. Michigan had just played Air Force. Michigan beat them, but Air Force played really, really tough. Said Winovich, “I feel bad for the terrorists those guys are eventually going to go up against.”

Well, I wish to quote him again. In this profile of him, he says, “You gotta be a little crazy [in] your craft. And I believe I’m just that right amount of crazy.”

May we all be just the right amount of crazy, and no more. This applies with special urgency to those in high office, with things like nuclear codes.

‐Have another obit, from the New York Times — of Zuzana Ruzickova, “who survived Nazi concentration camps and a Communist dictatorship in the former Czechoslovakia to become one of the world’s most renowned harpsichordists.” What a woman, what a life, and what a write-up.

‐A little language? I was in a restaurant the other day — a barbecue joint. I ordered some things, and the waitress approved of my order. She gave her assent. She said, in effect, “Okay, cool. Will do.” What she said specifically was, “Rock and roll.”

I just love that.

‐For my “Salzburg Chronicle,” in the just-published New Criterion, go here. (This is a chronicle about music performances at the Salzburg Festival.)

‐Not every day do you see a monument to a journalist. I saw one in Milan earlier this year, noting it in a journal on this website. (For the relevant installment, go here.) The monument was to Indro Montanelli. I saw one in New York the other day — to Arthur Brisbane, 1864–1936. Here is the inscription:

American editor and patriot. He spread before all a panorama of the events of his times. He was the champion of work and peace before all mankind. He gave to the people a clear understanding of the history of all ages. He imparted to millions an appreciation and love of the literature, art and religion which have ennobled the world.


‐On the east side of Manhattan, I saw an Apple store that is so, so beautiful. Why? It’s an old bank, from the ’20s. A Beaux Arts building. Elegant, stunning.

‐Rest easy, Americans. The Constitution is intact. You can still flip the bird in church. I shall quote a news story:

Georgia’s highest court has reversed the conviction of a man who was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge after he held up his middle finger and shouted at his pastor during a service.

’murica. Later.



Impromptus: The curious case of the Commie cadet, &c.

Impromptus: Say it ain’t so, Kyrie, &c.

Impromptus: Without fear or favor, &c.

A word from the National Review Store: To get Digging In: Further Collected Writings of Jay Nordlinger, go here.


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