Dear Weekend Jolter,
If the Gregorian calendar still holds, the French national holiday falls this coming week, and while Francophiles may celebrate with baguettes and ratatouille and a bottle of Bordeaux with a Cointreau chaser, it’s worth remembering that the original Bastille Day triggered events and enormous bloodshed — never mind the crazed changes of calendars (today is the tridi of the third décade of “Messidor,” just a few jours away from “Thermidor”) and clocks (decimal time!) — and a revolution, quite unlike the American one. No surprise then that it inspired Marxism and other wicked ideologies that place murder and mayhem atop Page One of the S.O.P. manual.
The Terror’s echo has been heard throughout the centuries, and here and now in the Land of the Free, whose destruction is the stuff of Antifa dreams. And practices. Since our last missive, it seems President Trump may have found some footing and launched a counterattack to the madness: His Mount Rushmore speech has been judged a triumph by Our Esteemed Editor. Mr. Lowry’s column had this to say in part:
It would be difficult to get a more textbook expression of the American civic religion than the speech at Rushmore. It would be difficult to get a more wide-ranging appreciation of the warriors, inventors, adventurers, reformers, entertainers, and athletes who have made the country what it is. It’d be difficult to get a more affirming account of the greatness of America and its meaning to the world.
And, yet, the speech was tested and found wanting.
Trump’s attacks on what he called “a new far-left fascism” and a cultural revolution “designed to overthrow the American Revolution” were indeed hard-edged, but who can doubt the basic truth of the claims?
There’s a fear afoot in the land, as a merciless authoritarian spirit informs a spate of firings and cancellations. The day before Trump’s speech, a Boeing executive resigned over something he had written . . . in 1987.
To be found below: more on America’s current troubles and their French influences. And praise for Editor Phil, who leaves us this week. And before we engorge ourselves on the smorgasbord of wisdom awaiting, let us note that our colleague Ramesh Ponnuru realized this Thursday past that it was the 25th anniversary of his joining the NR staff. Here’s betting he will register another 25. Kudos comrade.
Now . . . on with the WJ!
1. A Hosanna for Independence Day. From the editorial:
Today, Adams’s augury is in jeopardy — but not from pedants and quibblers obsessed with dates, but from unreconstructed Jacobins who have taken square aim at the Founding itself. Abraham Lincoln believed that alongside its contingent grievances the Declaration of Independence contained an “abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times,” and served as “a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression.” America’s 21st-century skeptics contend, on the other hand, that the American Revolution was, at best, superfluous, and, at worst, a malicious lie. In this telling, Jefferson’s magisterial words are little more than a dazzling awning that obfuscates and distracts from the rotten ground below. July 2nd, 1776? July 4th, 1776? Who cares? For them, the crucial moment came a century and a half earlier, when the first slave ship arrived. If we are to reflect upon any date “Time forward forever more,” they insist that it should be from then.
We firmly reject this view, which is built upon falsehood, elision, and misunderstanding, and which represents the very opposite of a healthy historical review. Despite the most ardent hopes of Thomas Paine, the American Revolution did not “begin the world over again” and return man to Eden. But it did represent an extraordinary step forward — a step that crystallized into a handful of crisp sentences the unalienable rights of man; a step that prompted a reevaluation of the sin of slavery, which had marred man’s virtue since he first stepped out of the caves; a step that led to the crafting of the most ingenious Constitution yet devised; a step that inspired George Washington, the man who could have been king, to relinquish his power not once but twice and, thereby, to set a world-changing example of the primacy of law over ambition. Unlike their counterparts in France, whose project descended swiftly into terror, dictatorship, and then various flavors of monarchy, the American Founders understood that they could not reset the clock to zero, but do as much as was open to them and leave the rest to the future.
That future would, of course, be bitterly contested. But, ultimately, the spirit that animated the Founding would prevail. Faced by a movement that sought openly to reject the Revolution and the Constitution, Abraham Lincoln concluded in 1859 that “it is now no child’s play to save the principles of Jefferson from total overthrow in this nation.” Child’s play it most certainly was not, but the principles were saved, just as, a century later, they were vindicated again by a man who held them aloft as the “promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.” The “bank of justice,” Martin Luther King insisted, was not “bankrupt” and should not be assumed to be.
2. Sometimes having principles means you have to do things such as . . . defend contemptuous blowhards like Matt Ygelsias. From the editorial:
We can think of a dozen reasons to criticize Yglesias, but the Vox writer currently is under fire for signing a letter critical of “cancel culture.” For criticizing cancel culture, Yglesias might very well end up being canceled.
It begins, as these things do, with a tiny little voice squeaking about being made unsafe by the expression of contrary opinions. Emily (formerly Todd) VanDerWerff, a critic at Vox, is incensed that Yglesias would sign his name alongside that of such great monsters of our time as Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling and other “prominent anti-trans voices,” a letter that allegedly contains “many dog whistles towards anti-trans positions.” Such an outrage, VanDerWerff wrote, “makes me feel less safe at Vox.” What else? “I don’t want Matt to be reprimanded or fired” — Mr. Chekhov gently lays down his revolver — but “I do want to make clear that those beliefs cost him nothing.”
This is, of course, dishonest drivel. VanDerWerff no more felt threatened by Yglesias’s name on a letter than Amy Cooper felt threatened by that Ivy League bird-watcher in Central Park. This is simply the weaponization of victim status by vindictive, sophomoric busybodies who cannot bear the fact that someone else sees the world in a different way.
“Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial,” the letter begins. “Powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform, along with wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society, not least in higher education, journalism, philanthropy, and the arts. But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity.” It is very difficult to credit the honesty of someone who claims to be threatened by such sentiments.
Final Call for Applications for NR Institute Regional Fellows in Dallas, San Francisco, and Chicago
Procrastinators have been warned: National Review Institute has announced the last call for applications for its Fall 2020 Regional Fellowship Programs in Dallas, San Francisco, and Chicago. We urge you to apply.
“You?” Who is this you who should apply? Glad you asked: The ideal applicant for the program — which helps participants develop a deeper understanding of the foundations of conservative thought — will be a mid-career professional (ages 35-50ish), with an interest, but not professional experience, in policy or journalism. Past fellows have represented diverse industries and professions ranging from oil and gas, finance, real estate, medicine, sporting industries, law enforcement, education, nonprofits, and the arts.
The program takes place over eight moderated dinner discussions. The 2020 class will run from September to November. Moderators include popular NR writers and leading academics at local universities. The rewards of participating are plentiful and will last a lifetime. The deadline to apply is July 15 — which is coming at us like a freight train — so we encourage interested conservatives, libertarians, and the curious to apply right now. Because yes, in a few days, it will indeed be too late.
You’ll find more information about the Program here. What if you don’t live in one of the three program cities, but know folks who do and who might be NRI fellow material? Go ahead and please share with them this link. Many thanks.
Nearly a Score of Exceptional Articles that Storm the Bastille of Leftism to Free the Captives of Ideology
1. Victor Davis Hanson reminds us that cultural revolutions, like the French version of 1793, seem to alter time and history, yearning for a Year Zero. From the essay:
In the exhilaration of exercising power ruthlessly and unchecked, the cultural revolutionists soon turn on their own: poor Trump-hating Dan Abrams losing his cop reality show, the two liberal trial lawyers armed on their mansion lawn in St. Louis terrified of the mob entering their gated estate community, bewildered CHOP activists wondering where the police were once mayhem and death were among them, the inner city of Chicago or New York in the age of police drawbacks wondering how high the daily murder rate will climb once shooters fathom that there are no police, and inner-city communities furious that the ER is too crowded with shooting victims to properly treat COVID-19 arrivals.
Do we now really expect that the Wilson Center in Washington will be cancelled, the Washington Monument cut down to size, and Princeton, Yale, and Stanford renamed?
The logic of the revolution says yes, but the liberal appeasers of it are growing uneasy. They are realizing that their own elite status and referents are now in the crosshairs. And so they are on the verge of becoming Thermidors.
And what will the new icons be under our new revolutionary premises?
Will we say the old statues were bad because they were not perfect, but the new replacements are perfect despite being a tad bad in places? Will we dedicate more memorials to Martin Luther King Jr., the great advocate of the civil-rights movement, or do we focus instead on his plagiarism, his often poor treatment of women, and his reckless promiscuity? Gandhi is gone, but who replaces him, Subhas Chandra Bose? Will Princeton rename their school of diplomacy in honor of the martyred Malcom X, slain by the black nationalist Nation of Islam? Malcom may now become ubiquitous, but he said things about white people that would have made what Wilson said about black people look tame.
2. Red China’s loan-shark diplomacy in the South Pacific needs to be countered by the US, writes Therese Shaheen. From the analysis:
President Xi’s Jingping’s regime uses debt and related pressure to trap a range of low-income countries into doing its bidding. The main vehicle for this tactic is Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative, a trillion-dollar program meant to project Chinese influence through a string of investments abroad. The basic idea is to invest loads of Chinese cash in countries that can’t afford to turn it down, and then leverage the resulting debt to secure control of strategically important infrastructure in those countries. It has worked swimmingly in Sri Lanka, where China now controls a major strategic port, and in Djibouti, where it now controls a port and a military installation.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is currently attempting to repeat the same pattern in the South Pacific. Take Tonga, a Polynesian nation of 106,000 that spans an archipelago of nearly 170 islands in the South Pacific, only one in five of which is populated. In 2018, the country’s GDP was about $450 million, or roughly what Texas A&M spent to renovate its football stadium a few years ago. It is a tiny, impoverished nation. It is also one of several countries caught in the PRC’s diplomatic debt trap: It owes China about $125 million, a little over a quarter of that GDP total.
Tonga’s plight is instructive. In 2006, anti-government, pro-democracy riots nearly destroyed the capital, Nuku‘alofa. The riots capped years of internal frustration with the Tongan royal family and its crony-capitalist government. After the unrest died down, Beijing stepped in to “help.” Between refinancing and interest, an initial $65 million loan had nearly doubled in cost by 2018, when Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva organized several other South Pacific nations to seek debt relief from Beijing. By then, eight South Pacific nations had accumulated more than a billion dollars in debt to China over the prior decade.
At the time, Pohiva expressed concerns that debt forgiveness would come at the cost of strategic assets, as it had in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. Yet he had no choice: Tonga ended up joining the Belt and Road Initiative in exchange for a five-year deferment of the debt. China has its hooks in his country, and there’s no telling what concessions it could extract in the future.
3. Red China’s refusal to engage with the U.S. in arms talks raises concerns, writes Rebeccah Heinrichs, that Beijing might be planning to supersize its nuclear arsenal. From the analysis:
We know that China maintains the most diverse missile force on the planet. And we know that China has a nuclear-weapons program that it claims is purely for defensive purposes. We also now know that the Chinese are growing their nuclear stockpile.
At the Hudson Institute in May 2019, Lieutenant General Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said publicly what had until that point been highly classified. He stated: “Over the next decade, China will likely at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile in the course of implementing the most rapid expansion and diversification of its nuclear arsenal in China’s history.”
Of course the DIA director was unable to explain how he knew that, lest he reveal his sources and methods. But his inability to say more frustrated and downright angered some people determined to keep their heads firmly fixed in the sand. It is less taxing and more pleasant, after all, to choose to believe that the nation with the second largest economy on the planet has no intention to threaten the United States with the worst kind of weapon man has invented.
Some analysts and commentators insist that even if it’s true that China might one day grow its arsenal, its supposedly relatively small number of nuclear weapons and delivery systems that can carry them to the U.S. mainland are not menacing. The insistence is not an argument, nor is it compelling on its face.
The size of the Chinese economic engine and its nuclear program’s opacity should cause us to conclude that if the CCP decides to dramatically expand its nuclear forces, it certainly could without warning. Indeed, in May of this year the Global Times, a propagandist megaphone for the CCP, stridently said: “China needs to expand the number of its nuclear warheads to 1,000 in a relatively short time. It needs to have at least 100 Dongfeng-41 strategic missiles.” That isn’t exactly undermining General Ashley’s public assessment about the direction of the CCP’s program.
4. More ChiCommie Stuff: Joseph Sullivan charts the staggering amount of Peking’s intellectual-property theft. From the piece:
But how much, really, does Chinese theft of American intellectual property amount to? The question matters. If the actual number is relatively small, the U.S. should not be willing to incur too many costs in an attempt to sort this matter out. If, on the other hand, the costs of the larcenous status quo are large, the U.S. should be willing to go to considerable expense to remedy the problem.
One answer, based on information from a 2017 report by the U.S. Intellectual Property Commission, is between 0.87 and 2.61 percent of annual U.S. GDP. The commission estimates that IP theft worldwide costs the U.S. between 1 and 3 percent of its annual GDP. The report, citing data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, also indicates that 87 percent of the counterfeit goods seized by customs officials come from China (including Hong Kong). If you then assume that China’s share of seized counterfeit products (87 percent) corresponds to its share of the economic cost to the U.S. from IP theft, this range provides upper and lower bounds for China’s share of these costs.
This assumption leads, if anything, to an understatement of China’s share of the cost. As Director Wray laid out, China’s “diverse and multi-layered approach” to IP theft utilizes a plethora of tactics, from “outright physical theft” to cyberhacking. China’s true share of the damages is therefore likely to be, if anything, higher than its footprint in the market specifically for brick-and-mortar counterfeit goods.
5. The media is waging a war on words. David Harsanyi is calling out the bull doodles. From the article:
The recent assaults on the English language have consisted largely of euphemisms and pseudoscientific gibberish meant to obscure objective truths — “cisgender,” “heteronormativity,” and so on. Now we’re at the stage of the revolution where completely inoffensive and serviceable words are branded problematic.
CNN recently pulled together its own list of words and phrases with racist connotations that have helped bolster systemic racism in America. Unsuspecting citizens, the piece explains, may not even be aware they are engaging in this linguistic bigotry, because most words are “so entrenched that Americans don’t think twice about using them. But some of these terms are directly rooted in the nation’s history with chattel slavery. Others now evoke racist notions about Black people.” Or, in other words, the meaning of these phrases and words are so obscured by history that the average person wouldn’t even know to be offended if it weren’t for CNN.
The term “peanut gallery” — as in “please, no comment from the peanut gallery” — is racist because it harkens back to the days when poor and black Americans were relegated to back sections of theaters. Now, I hate to be pedantic, but “peanut gallery” isn’t “directly rooted” in the nation’s history of “chattel slavery.” As CNN’s own double-bylined story points out, the cliché wasn’t used until after the Civil War. For that matter, few of the words and phrases that CNN alleges are problematic are rooted, even in the most tenuous sense, in the transatlantic slave trade.
6. What can a president do to quell violence permitted by reckless local officials? Andy McCarthy looks at the options. From the piece:
That kind of enforcement approach can make a difference. And to give the president’s point its due, while the feds do not need to be invited in, things work a lot better for the public when there is cooperation between the Justice Department and the locals.
With non-drug street crimes, it is not as easy for the feds to make an impact. The FBI investigates lots of murders and violent crimes attributable to organized crime groups (which commonly traffic in illegal drugs, too). But what federalizes these groups is their tendency to be interstate “enterprises” (to borrow the salient term in racketeering law). Mafia “families,” to take the best example, operate throughout the country. It is rarely much of a challenge for prosecutors to show an effect on interstate or even foreign commerce, the jurisdictional hook that justifies federal prosecution.
But local street gangs are a challenge for the feds. The so-called Hobbs Act makes it a federal crime to commit an extortion or robbery; but there must be proof beyond a reasonable doubt of a real effect on interstate commerce. This can be difficult to establish if the violent-crime victim is not a thriving business (whether legal or illegal). For example, it is not enough for prosecutors to show that stolen money had to have been minted in another state. The courts have made it clear that the Commerce Clause is not so elastic that every push-in robbery becomes a federal crime.
Congress has found federal interests in firearms, particularly their interstate trafficking and possession by prohibited persons (e.g., felons). Their use or possession in connection with violent crimes is criminalized . . . but only if the violent crime is one over which there is already federal jurisdiction (e.g., drug or racketeering crimes). A similar jurisdictional problem has hampered Congress’s effort to criminalize street gangs. Unless prosecutors can establish an effect on interstate commerce and the commission of federal crimes (that’s essentially redundant), there is no federal case.
7. Robert Doar explains why denying progress in the areas of civil rights and poverty reduction is central to the Left. From the essay:
Too often, the new voices taking over our national discussion decline to acknowledge how much America has changed since 1960. The work of the anti-racist progressives is full of false comparisons of America’s present with its past. “The popular narrative that emphasizes the death of slavery,” writes Michelle Alexander in The New Jim Crow, “is dangerously misguided.” In his 2015 memoir, Ta-Nehisi Coates describes “police forces transformed into armies,” and “the long war against the black body.” Robin DiAngelo even suggests that “racism’s [modern] adaptations over time are more sinister than concrete rules such as Jim Crow.”
The radical culture’s rejection of the facts about change in our country is most pervasive in two important aspects of American life: civil rights and the fight to reduce poverty. In rejecting the current state of America, radical leaders don’t recognize the progress we have made in securing voting rights, improving educational opportunities, and promoting economic advancement for black and minority Americans. They likewise deny that the enactment and implementation of a long series of large and costly federal and state programs, combined with the employment offered by a thriving free-market economy, have led to a dramatic decline in poverty.
Given how our schools teach American history and what is contained in our mainstream media and culture, it is not surprising that young people buy into this rejection of history. The story of America’s racist past is just so simplified, so compelling in its portrayal of good vs. evil, that it has been adopted as the story of America’s racist present.
That is why the awful actions of individual police officers are so compelling for the Left. Regardless of their infrequency in the context of policing, these terrible incidents are a perfect fit for the misperceptions and political ambitions of activists. The story becomes not about police abuse in liberal Minneapolis (how did that happen?) but racism in conservative America.
8. George Weigel excoriates the U.S. Navy for banning personnel from attending religious services, and then hiding from the calls of a Catholic bishop. From the article:
Word of this has not, it seems, reached the high echelons of the United States Navy, for many naval commands recently issued orders prohibiting the participation of Navy personnel in religious services off base. Both enlisted personnel and officers are required to sign affidavits that they have received those orders and that they know they will be held accountable for disobeying them. Checks have been instituted to ensure compliance, and Big Brother is watching: One Catholic naval aviator who attended an off-base Mass was asked if he had done so, answered honestly, and was immediately quarantined, his naval future in jeopardy.
Weirdly, these orders were also extended to “civilian personnel, including families,” who were “discouraged from” attending indoor church services. As Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, pointed out in an Independence Day weekend statement, this was simply bizarre: “Of course, the Navy cannot legally prohibit family members from frequenting religious services off base. Those family members return home where the military member lives. What is the protective effect of the prohibition for the Navy personnel? Zero.”
The prohibition on naval personnel attending religious services off base, which seems to rest on an assumption of probable irresponsibility by men and women who are otherwise assumed to be responsible in handling nuclear-powered ships, high-performance aircraft, and all manner of lethal weapons, strikes at every believer in the Navy. It has, however, a particularly harsh effect on Catholics. Navy parsimony has pared religious-affairs budgets to the bone. Three on-base Catholic chapels at West Coast naval installations are closing, which will intensify an already serious problem: For many Navy Catholics, on-base Masses are simply not available, and the only recourse is to attend Mass off base. Now these patriots, sworn to protect the Constitution with their lives if necessary, are being forbidden to exercise their constitutional right to the free exercise of religion, on pain of disciplinary action or an end to their service careers.
9. Fred Bauer explains why e pluribus unum is fingernails on the chalkboard of the Wokeatariat. From the article:
Yet men and women are not merely blank tokens in some war of ideas — that was one of the great delusions of the mass ideological movements that transfixed the 20th century (most notably Communism). Politics involves not only intellectual debates but also the cultivation of character and attention to the lived circumstances of everyday life. Faced with grave constitutional challenges, the Founders of the American republic did not rest content with an affirmation of principles but instead worked to create a certain structure of government that would help promote the institutions and practices of a more perfect union. They undertook certain measures to promote certain ends for the public welfare — from infrastructure policies to trade efforts to building a military to securing the federal debt. The success of the American republic would depend on the building of certain institutional capital. Again, the Civil War is instructive here. The ideals of the Union played an important role in securing victory and ending slavery, but railways, cannon, and the smoke-streaming factories of the North gave a crude force to those animating principles.
American policymakers long recognized the importance that these lived resources had for liberty. However, whirl of globalization obscured that understanding. The free movement of people, goods, and capital across the globe seemed an eschaton close to immanentization. The tensions and displacements of globalization then grew increasingly obvious. A string of debacles — in foreign affairs, in the economy, and so forth — and successive waves of populist backlash were testament to an increasingly strained paradigm. Yet more than a few policymakers hoped that a sufficient eloquence on behalf of certain ideas of the “open society” and in condemning various deplorable ideologies (whether populism or nationalism or some other horrible) could overcome the lived disruptions. Rhetorical ornamentation alone could create the conditions for a robust democratic regime.
10. Mark Mills finds that “green” energy suffers from a serious case of overseas dependence. And a lot of it is pretty creepy. From the analysis:
But now House Democrats propose that green-energy subsidies must be a key feature in any infrastructure stimulus — and they’ve recently been seriously considering a $1.5 trillion version of such a bill. That legislation seems unlikely to pass the Senate, or a presidential veto, but we can be sure the idea won’t go away. Ironically, this comes on the heels of the coronavirus crisis exposing supply-chain vulnerabilities that have triggered a push to on-shore many industries, not just medical manufacturing.
America imports some 80 percent of the electrical components (i.e., the key stuff other than the concrete, steel, and fiberglass) used in wind turbines. About 90 percent of our solar panels are imported. And even if solar cells were fabricated here, the U.S. produces only 10 percent of the world’s essential underlying silicon material. China produces half.
But the bigger story is in the staggering quantities of materials needed to fabricate green hardware, many of them “critical minerals,” from cobalt and lithium, to neodymium and dysprosium. Replacing machines fueled by hydrocarbons with green machines entails, on average, using ten times more primary materials for the same energy output.
For a sense of what this implies in material dependencies, consider that wind and solar, which supply less than 4 percent of America’s energy, will have to expand exponentially to replace the hydrocarbons that supply 80 percent. And while essentially all hydrocarbons we use are produced domestically, nearly all of the green “energy materials” are produced overseas. And many of those critical minerals are sourced from problematic or troubled places such as Russia, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines. Chile, recently rocked by citizen uprisings, has the world’s greatest lithium resources.
11. David Seminara is worried about the decline of American patriotism From the article:
We tend to take our beautiful country for granted, focusing on its problems rather than its blessings, but millions of aspiring migrants around the world understand what a comparatively excellent place to live America is. In 2018, more than 23 million foreign nationals applied to take part in our green-card lottery. Every country has its problems, and we certainly have our fair share. Freedom of speech is under attack here like never before. Discrimination is still a problem. But these are issues that are by no means unique to us.
Mark Twain once defined patriotism as “supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it.” Americans have historically come together during times of crisis, but this isn’t happening now, in part because many on the left don’t subscribe to Twain’s maxim. Some are still so outraged that 62 million Americans voted for Donald Trump that they now view our country as an irredeemably tarnished place.
Those folks would do well to recognize that America is a lot bigger than the presidency. Elections matter, but presidents come and go; our country endures. As the 19th century House speaker and secretary of state James Blaine once said, “There is no ‘Republican,’ no ‘Democrat,’ on the Fourth of July — all are Americans. All feel that their country is greater than party.”
I never appreciated our country more than when I was serving it as a diplomat overseas. When you visit other countries, they’re novel and appealing in some ways. But the more time you spend, particularly in dysfunctional global hot spots, of which there are unfortunately many, the more you realize that our problems are comparatively quite manageable.
12. Bernice Lerner tells the maddening and powerful story of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen death camp, and its survivors’ plight. From the piece:
Upon entering Bergen-Belsen, Glyn Hughes found himself responsible for an unprecedented situation: Nothing had been done to accommodate hordes of inmates, most of whom had long suffered terror and depredations. With no habitable housing, no sanitary facilities, no food and no water, the camp was, in the words of a survivor, the “worst of the worst.” In his vast experience of war, Hughes had seen “nothing to touch it.”
One year earlier, Hughes, as DDMS of Britain’s 8 Corps, was preparing for the evacuation and treatment of battle casualties. From Operation Overlord (D- Day) to the fighting in Normandy, to ensuing battles in the Netherlands and finally, in Germany, he oversaw the work of medical units, commandeered hospitals, coordinated with military leaders, and tackled problems — including “exhaustion,” the World War II version of shell shock. Facing Germany’s Waffen-SS divisions — fighters who would go to the limits of endurance for the Volk, Führer, and Fatherland — inexperienced British soldiers met booby traps, surprise attacks, and the enemy’s powerful, dreaded weapons.
Beyond the battlefield, Hughes encountered horrific scenes — asylums in Venraij, Holland, where hundreds had been kept in bunkers without any provisions for hygiene; stalag (POW) and oflag (officer) camps in Germany. But nothing would compare to the concentration camp that Heinrich Himmler would — defying Hitler’s orders — formally turn over to the approaching Allied forces, ridding the Germans of a situation that threatened the local population (diseased inmates might escape), that had gotten out of control.
On the afternoon of April 15, Hughes conducted a reconnaissance of Bergen-Belsen. He estimated that of the sick and dying, he and his men would be unable to save 14,000. Wondering how to begin the rescue operation, he despaired. Second Army divisions were still engaged in battle; he had few available medical units to call upon. Feeding the starved, disinfecting and evacuating dying patients to a yet-to-be-readied hospital, and burying thousands of dead posed enormous logistical challenges.
13. Greg Weiner considers great men, flawed men, to-be-cancelled men. From the piece:
Which brings us to the nearly surreal, yet pending, cancelation of Abraham Lincoln. After the toppling of General Grant in Golden Gate Park, I predicted in this space that Lincoln’s turn in the dock would come. That was rhetorical. But if any one trend characterizes our era, it is the convergence of satire and reality. So Lincoln’s time is upon us.
The Freedmen’s Memorial, financed by formerly enslaved people and dedicated by Frederick Douglass, shows Lincoln in too physically superior a position. Lincoln signed off on the hangings of 38 Dakota warriors convicted of atrocities, including two convicted of rape. One doubts that those warriors were tried fairly, but the cancelers are not much on due process anyway: Accusation suffices for conviction. Lincoln gave clemency to more than 250 other Dakota who had been sentenced to death, a nuance that inhibits fixation on the alleged sin.
And then there are the Lincoln–Douglas debates, in which Lincoln said he did not favor full social equality for African Americans. And his famous letter to Horace Greeley stating that his priority was winning the war, not freeing the slaves.
Accused, ergo convicted: Lincoln was a racist. There is no record, to my knowledge, of him ever having treated any African-American with whom he came into contact with anything less than total dignity. He first met Frederick Douglass when the former slave showed up unannounced at the White House to upbraid Lincoln for, among other things, the Union’s inaction on retaliatory Confederate executions of African-American soldiers. Douglass left with some but not all of what he sought and pronounced himself “not entirely satisfied with [Lincoln’s] views” but “well satisfied with the man.” Receiving Douglass at the White House after his second inauguration, Lincoln told him that “there is no man in the country whose opinion I value more than yours.”
But for the new moralists, there is no man to be taken all in all, much less one upon whose like we shall not look again. Nor is there context: If Lincoln had not equivocated on equality, he would have had no political future. If he had not won the presidency and preserved the union, slavery would have persisted, perhaps for decades longer, in an independent Confederacy. His first meeting with Douglass took place amid a constant battle to placate border states including Missouri and Kentucky as well as northern Copperheads who would, in a moment, have cut the Confederacy loose and doomed millions to indefinite servitude.
14. Carlo J.V. Caro contends that the U.S. needs a small force in Central Asia as a check on Russian expansion. From the piece:
From 1917 onward, Moscow’s aim has been to offer the nations of the world an alternative to Western-style liberal democracy. Political and economic power are the main currency on the international stage. Moscow has always had a weak economy, so it’s been forced to pursue that aim militarily. Under Vladimir Putin, aggressive expansionism has been central to Russian foreign policy.
Afghanistan is an instructive example. For Moscow, the Central Asian republics are of vital strategic importance. Initially, the dissolution of the Soviet Union was not received with much enthusiasm by Central Asian elites, who owed their political status to the Soviet system. Suddenly faced with the possibility of their own obsolescence, these elites adopted nationalist rhetoric to stay in power. Because the Central Asian republics remained under the control of Moscow’s former clients, their relationship with Russia continued after the fall of the U.S.S.R., but the Kremlin had still taken a big hit: It no longer had claim over the republics’ vast reserves of important natural resources. One big aim of Russian foreign policy ever since has been to conserve a monopoly on the export and transportation of hydrocarbons within the post-Soviet sphere.
The independence of the Central Asian republics had another consequence: It gave the United States an opening to assert its influence in Moscow’s backyard. The republics took advantage of the new political boundaries in the region, seeking to decrease their dependency on Moscow while remaining on good terms with both sides of the geopolitical conflict. Western oil companies wanted to take advantage of the regional market and Turkmenistan wanted a pipeline built through Afghanistan to Pakistan. Washington pressured Turkmenistan to give U.S. multinational Unocal the responsibility of building the pipeline. It then took the appropriate measures to begin negotiations with Afghanistan and Pakistan. The geopolitical stakes of the gambit were high: If it succeeded, Washington would shore up its relations with Pakistan, an old ally, and maybe even gain a new, unlikely friend in Afghanistan, which had never been part of its sphere of influence. The exploitation of gas fields in Turkmenistan by an American business giant also favored the establishment of a harmonious relationship between the United States and the Central Asian republics of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
15. Amidst the chaos, Dmitri Solzhenitsyn keeps an eye on global religious persecution, and finds that the oppressed are not an afterthought for the Trump administration. From the article:
The constitutions of moderate Muslim nations hopefully suggest that there is no inherent incompatibility between strong Islamic values and respect for religious minorities. Yet clearly the religious persecution of Jews and Christians in Muslim-majority nations is a persistent evil that must be addressed. The United States Commission on Religious Freedom finds that 18 of the top 28 religiously oppressive countries are Muslim-majority, another five are Communist (these are perhaps the most impenetrable bastions of persecution, afflicting Muslims as well as Christians and those of other religions), and only three are Christian-majority (of which Eritrea and the Central African Republic nevertheless have Christians as the most widely persecuted group). The eighteen Muslim-majority culprit nations, in some cases, use the death penalty on those who convert to Christianity or Judaism. They also create structural barriers to free worship, economic opportunity, and political standing for their religious minorities. Moreover, a recent U.K.-commissioned report finds that “millions of Christians in [the Middle East] have been uprooted from their homes, and many have been killed, kidnapped, imprisoned and discriminated against” and that “the overwhelming majority (80 percent) of persecuted religious believers [in the Middle East] are Christians.”
The Trump administration understands that it would be misguided to assume that fundamentalist regimes will change their ways in the absence of external pressures, or to hope that this issue can be resolved in a vacuum. Trump has been unequivocal in his demand that “all nations . . . join [the United States] in this urgent moral duty [of curbing religious persecution].” This directive has been taken up quite seriously by the members of the Trump administration and has even extended to many international summits and global initiatives. Indeed, historian William Inboden remarks that President Trump “may be the most visible and active on [the issue of religious persecution] of any president since Ronald Reagan.” This is supported by recent events. Just last month, Trump issued an executive order directing top diplomatic officials to home in on religious freedom and earmarking $50 million in foreign assistance for organizations working on the cause.
16. Tom Hanks is a necessity. Kyle Smith said so. From the reflection and review:
Why do we still like this guy who tries so hard to be likeable? I think Hanks serves a role akin to America’s town clergyman: We want him to be good. We need him to be good. It’s been decades since actors really were role models, but Hanks actually wants to be one, and his striving is admirable.
I think he takes these parts out of a kind of patriotic duty, a need to give us someone in whom we can invest our ideals about how an American man should be: kind, wise, brave, resourceful but humble. He doesn’t quite have the holy glow of Henry Fonda or the folksy magnetism of Jimmy Stewart but he carries on with their mission to personify American goodness. If WWII had happened while he was young, I think he would have answered the call of duty, as Stewart and Fonda did.
Greyhound finds our Tom having yet another rough day at the office. Putting on a captain’s hat for the fifth time, he helms the titular destroyer in a protective convoy guarding merchant ships crossing the Atlantic in 1942. Hanks’s Captain Krause is in command for the very first time, and the German U-boat commanders, who call themselves the Wolfpack, are licking their chops.
Greyhound, which Hanks also wrote from C. S. Forester’s novel The Good Shepherd, is a $75 million picture that is being released on the Apple TV+ streaming service, because COVID zapped a planned theatrical release. It’s a serviceable but unspectacular 90-minute exercise in chasing, running, and gunning that, despite its fairly generous budget, mostly has the feel of a TV movie. The director Aaron Schneider, whose only previous credit is the 2009 indie Get Low, relies heavily on an overbearing but hollow musical score, loaded with timpani, that suggests a Steven Segal–saves-the-world picture.
17. Alexandra DeSanctis defends saints and statues. From the piece:
Consider the recent case of Father Junipero Serra, a Roman Catholic saint and a Franciscan friar who, as a missionary, founded the first nine Spanish missions in 18th-century California, teaching local tribes about Christianity and helping them to farm using modernized forms of agriculture.
Last month, during a riot in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, several hundred people knocked over a statue of Serra, along with monuments to Ulysses S. Grant and Francis Scott Key, before moving on to deface a bust of author Miguel Cervantes. On the same day, rioters in Los Angeles destroyed another statue of the saint.
On the Fourth of July, rioters in Sacramento attacked a third statue of Serra, burning its face before ripping down the monument and striking it with a sledgehammer while chanting “Rise up, my people, rise up” and dancing atop it.
These acts of pointless vandalism were later justified as having been carried out in the name of justice for the genocide of indigenous peoples — a genocide in which, thus far, no one has been able to implicate Father Serra.
But that hasn’t stopped leaders from hastily acquiescing to public pressure, getting the job done in places where the long arm of the mob had not yet reached. In Ventura, Calif., the city council is mulling formally removing a statue of Serra near city hall that had been deemed “toxic” by progressive brigades. The other three devastated statues of the saint have yet to be restored to their rightful places, and it seems rather unlikely that we’ll see them standing again anytime soon.
18. Armond White takes the new Catherine Deneuve flick, La Verite, and applies it to the trans-hounded and -capitulated Halle Berry (“applies” as in with a two-by-four). From the review:
Catherine Deneuve’s varied film career from sweet ingénue (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Young Girls of Rochefort) to tormented bourgeoise (Repulsion, Belle de Jour, Tristana), femme fatale (Mississippi Mermaid) to refined lady (her American sojourn in The April Fools, Hustle, her Oscar nomination for Indochine), and then, in her richest stage, a figurehead of contemporary moral crisis (especially those extraordinary André Téchiné films Hotel d’Amérique, Scene of the Crime, My Favorite Season, and Les Voleurs) is all prelude to her commanding presence in the new French import The Truth (La Vérité). Deneuve plays legendary actress Fabienne Dangeville, who, as the privilege of beauty and age, lords her mystique over everyone. The payoff comes when she makes this casually devastating declaration:
When actresses start getting lost in charity and politics, they lose vis-à-vis the profession. They’ve lost the battle on screen, so they dive into reality. They pretend to fight against reality, it’s not the contrary. I’ve always won that battle. That’s why I can withstand solitude.
We’re unlikely to witness such brutal honesty about the clash of art and politics in any other movie this year. Bette Davis’s lovelorn French Provincial furniture speech in All About Eve (“without that, you’re not a ‘woman’”) wasn’t nearly so tough. Fabienne/Deneuve (who boasts “I’ve never apologized to a man”) swans her way through the pretenses and shallow principles displayed by today’s crusading actresses.
That “lost the battle” speech particularly applies to the circumstances of Halle Berry’s caving in to the social-justice mobs this week with her obsequious apology for being “a cisgender female.” She prostrated herself for merely considering the role of a trans woman for an unmade film project. Critic Gregory Solman quipped, “Berry apologized for being an actress but not for her acting.” Berry’s career shift from bimbo to serious thespian happened with her degrading characterization in Monsters Ball. I recall an early 2002 screening of that film and the stunned consensus among black media folk: “What was she thinking?” (After winning a congratulatory Oscar for debasing herself, everyone suddenly decided that the movie and performance were just dandy.)
19. Brian Allen shares his Independence Day thoughts on a tour of the paintings in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. From the reflection:
The Capitol Rotunda paintings in Washington are famous for their giant — 12 by 18 feet — scenes of the Surrender of General Burgoyne, the Surrender of Lord Cornwallis, the Declaration of Independence, and General George Washington Resigning His Commission, all by John Trumbull (1756–1843), the dean of American history painting.
Less known but also in the Rotunda are John Chapman’s Baptism of Pocahontas (1839), Robert Weir’s Embarkation of the Pilgrims (1843), John Vanderlyn’s Landing of Columbus (1847), and William Powell’s Discovery of the Mississippi by De Soto (1853).
At some point, probably around Columbus Day, I’ll write about Vanderlyn’s picture, since Christopher Columbus is about as big a scalp for left-wingers as Robert E. Lee. Columbus is, among the early explorers, in a class by himself. Suffice to say we commemorate him as a symbol of risk-taking, adventure, and discovery, against all odds and certainly against settled science and bloated, entitled elites. He’s anathema to those who want us all to shelter in place in perpetuity, masked, supine, and quiescent.
No one gives much thought to the other three paintings. They’re good and were prize commissions. Congress wanted the work of American, not European artists, as a point of national pride, decorating the Rotunda. Trumbull had finished his Revolutionary-era scenes by 1824, when the Rotunda was finished, but they filled only half the space. Old and half blind, he wasn’t up to finishing the job.
This Truth Is Self-Evident: The New Issue of National Review is a Spectacular Defense of America
It is now off the presses, printed and on its postal way to those who love ink and paper, and electronically accessible right this very moment on the National Review website, in toto to those who are NRPLUS members, not so for those who are not such. We speak now of the July 27, 2020, issue of National Review, designated by Editor Lowry as a special issue, which indeed it is — a 17-article collection that makes a broad and wise defense of this More Perfect Union. Here is the Lowry introduction:
The last couple of months have been profoundly dispiriting. We’ve gone from the George Floyd case and a discussion of some potentially worthwhile police reforms to, in many influential precincts of our culture and in the streets, a wholesale rejection of the police and a poisonous critique of America at its roots. We’ve gone from a debate about the status of Confederate statues to the toppling, defacing, and removal of statues of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt. We’ve gone from the 1619 Project’s appearing in an issue of The New York Times Magazine to its becoming the dominant narrative of America in many quarters. In recent weeks, demands that would have been considered preposterous a short time ago – the band the Dixie Chicks must change its name, the Florida Gators must abandon their chant – instantly became reality. It is in this context that we’ve devoted our current issue to a defense of America. The pieces range from history to data about racism to culture, and all are devoted to the idea that, despite out current tribulations, we still live in the last best hope of earth.
As is the custom here, we suggest four articles, which is a shame, as all 17 are brilliant.
1. Richard Brookhiser extols the brilliance of what Jefferson & Co. drafted to found and then improve upon this Great Experiment. From the piece:
This half paragraph affirms American liberties in the most sweeping manner. Self-rule gets mentioned (“Governments . . . deriv[e]their just powers from the consent of the governed”), as do “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Perhaps its most startling word is “among” (“among these [rights] are . . .”). The Declaration is not a bill of rights, because it won’t presume to make an exhaustive list.
The source of American liberty is the “Creator” (“endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”). Jefferson’s language can be as elusive as it is ringing. Though he esteemed Jesus as a moralist, he was personally no more religious than Ricky Gervais. But while he and Congress were perhaps fudging a theological point, settling on a formula that would embrace both him and a Calvinist nurtured in the Great Awakening such as Sam Adams, they were making a vital political point: The rights Americans enjoy come from outside history, and outside mankind. Thomas Jefferson did not confer them; neither did Congress. As no one made them, so no one can efface them. Rulers can trample them, of course (as Congress believed George III was then doing). But they are as much a part of us as arteries or imagination.
The great half paragraph begins with a clause, the first of its self-evident truths, that is as practical as it is philosophical: “all men are created equal.” This is the Declaration’s balance wheel, the limit that it places on everyone’s liberty. No man’s power may justly annihilate another’s, because no man belongs to a different, superior order of being than any other. The one-man–one-vote practice of the Jamestown General Assembly is rewritten in gold.
The new Constitution, written eleven years later to replace the Articles of Confederation, confirmed the point. Like the Declaration, it had a skillful draftsman—Gouverneur Morris, the peg-legged ladies’ man from the Bronx. (No prole he—Morris was a wealthy elitist, and proud of it.) But the Constitution was a collective document, argued into shape by 55 men over four months and then debated nationwide for a year. Four provisions and one silence established equality in America’s fundamental law.
2. Myron Magnet takes the passed baton and offers a sterling defense of Jefferson. From the reflection:
Jefferson trusted to the advance of Enlightenment to end an institution that had existed in America for more than a century before the Revolution and that the Founding Fathers couldn’t abolish at a stroke if they wanted their new nation to comprise all 13 colonies. But they blocked its spread with the Northwest Ordinance; they set a date to end the slave trade; and they foresaw that tobacco’s exhaustion of the soil would make slave plantations uneconomical and slavery unviable. But then came the cotton gin and the 1820 Missouri Compromise, extending slavery westward and giving it renewed life. “Like a fire bell in the night,” Jefferson wrote, the compromise “filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union.” It would have to be exterminating thunder, after all. In the midst of the Civil War’s bloodshed, it was to Jefferson’s immortal words that Lincoln turned to proclaim America’s new birth of freedom.
Finally: “Rapist.” The sans-culotte with the spray paint doubtless meant Jefferson’s slave Sally Hemings, the half-sister of his beloved wife, who left him a widower when he was 39. Begotten by Jefferson’s father-in-law upon a slave woman whose own father was an English sea captain, Sally was threequarters white and, according to one contemporary, “decidedly good-looking.” A teenager in Jefferson’s household when he was the American minister in Paris, she was pregnant when he was to return to the United States and, because she was free under revolutionary France’s law, would agree to come back with him only on his promise to free her baby and any others she might have when they turned 21, a promise he kept, as her son, Madison, recounted the whole story in 1873. Of other women in the normally hot-blooded Jefferson’s life after this we hear nothing. What DNA evidence exists is inconclusive. Historians have spun fantasies—that she looked like her half-sister, that he felt, . . . that she felt . . . But more we do not know.
Freedom of thought and speech; all men equal in rights, including the right to the pursuit of their own happiness in their own way; a meritocratic society: We need Jefferson’s seminal ideas, the ideas that formed the core of our American identity, now more than ever.
3. Dan McLaughlin reminds us of the history-confounding precedent America set. From the article:
America at its founding was republican, in the sense of having no king; democratic, in the sense of grounding all political power ultimately in the consent of the people; liberal, in the sense of protecting the individual, natural-law rights of the people; and constitutional, in the sense that political powers and rights were set down in a written instrument binding on the state. None of these were entirely new ideas in 1776 or 1787, but all of them had failed more often than not in the past. Trying them meant explaining why they would work this time, a question very much in doubt— then, and for a century thereafter. What was true in George Washington’s time was still largely true in Abraham Lincoln’s: Nobody had ever tried republicanism, democracy, liberalism, and constitutionalism at the same time.
Not only was this experiment novel; it was tried on an unprecedented scale. France was then the dominant power on the European continent; the original 13 states, spanning the Eastern Seaboard, covered an area a third larger than France. The Northwest Territory, ceded by Britain in 1783, expanded the new nation by a third; the 1803 Louisiana Purchase then doubled it. After Florida was acquired from Spain in 1819, the Mexican War and the settlement of the Oregon Territory between 1846 and 1848 expanded the country by a third yet again. Seventy-two years after independence, the United States was still the world’s only republican, democratic, liberal, and constitutional state, and it spanned the width of a continent. There was nothing like it on earth.
The young United States was, as Alexis de Tocqueville observed, unlike the Old World in that the building of its civilization could still be observed, rather than recalled from ancient texts and stones. Much of the nation’s westward expansion took place over land that had never been settled in the European sense, either because the Native American population was sparse in places or because the tribes eschewed European-style permanent agricultural settlements and cities. When the Spanish arrived in the San Francisco Bay area in 1769, for example, it was home to 17,000 people grouped in communities of 50 to 400, where over 7 million people live today. By the time of the American conquest 80 years later, the population of California had dropped in half again. And the non-Native populations of the territories acquired from France and Mexico were far smaller than the Native populations.
The Founding generation was painfully aware of the historical weight against it. The brief effort to remake England into a republic in the mid-17th century had been a bloody, illiberal fiasco. France’s revolution would soon provide its own grisly example. The Federalist Papers are shot through with explanations of how the new Constitution was designed to avoid the pitfalls that had felled past republics and democracies. Madison devoted three consecutive essays to discussing ancient Greek confederacies, the election of Holy Roman emperors, the Polish republic (which was then in the process of being dismantled by its neighbors), the Swiss cantons, and the Dutch republics. The corruption of the Roman republic into an empire weighed heavily on the Founders. Washington and other key Founders were devoted to Joseph Addison’s tragedy Cato, about the republican hero Cato the Younger’s failed opposition to Julius Caesar’s dictatorship.
4. Armond White finds the US of A to be the only place a Motown could have existed. From the beginning of the piece:
America’s best defense is its best export, whether material or ideological, and even a pop-culture critic specializing in film might have to admit that the foremost representative of America’s exports is its popular music—particularly the variety that issued from Detroit, beginning in 1959 and into the 1980s, by way of the Motown Record Corporation.
Beloved by and ingrained in listeners throughout the world, Motown music (the term derived from Detroit’s renown as the Motor City, the automobile-production capital of the world) still transmits American thought, language, and identity. Motown, with its distinctive rhythms and variety of local voices, uniquely personifies America by virtue of its powerfully ingratiating aesthetic substance as well as its history. The record company’s founder, Berry Gordy Jr., a descendant of slaves, came to Detroit when his parents relocated from Georgia as part of the Great Migration of job- and freedom-seeking blacks. Motown continued the course of black achievements, from Emancipation to the blues to urban sophistication, that always pointed upward.
Gordy’s advance from boxer, Korean War veteran, factory worker, and songwriter to eventual business tycoon exemplified personal initiative and entrepreneurship. And artistry. One of Gordy’s first songwriting credits was for Detroit R&B crooner Jackie Wilson, the ballad “To Be Loved,” which was much more thana romantic entreaty. (Gordy also used that title for his 1994 autobiography.) It combined a gospel appeal with a declaration of intent that defined the moral ambition of a people who struggled and overcame the hardships of Jim Crow segregation: “Someone to care, / Someone to share / Lonely hours / And moments of despair.”
That passion, welling up in Wilson’s vibrato, conveys a spiritual belief as well as a social faith, expressing the full humanity that mid-20th-century black Americans usually articulated through defiance—and the new energy of rock and roll. Gordy chose the openly dreamy elegance of pop-music vernacular, and that was his route to all-American—universal—triumph.
1. On The McCarthy Report, Rich and Andy discuss this week’s Supreme Court decisions. Listen here.
2. On The Editors (Episode 235), Rich, Charlie, and Big Jim G discuss Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech and the ensuing media outrage. Listen here.
3. And then on The Editors (Episode 236), Rich, Charlie, and Michael discuss the outrage surrounding the Harper’s letter and what America is doing about reopening schools this fall. Listen here.
4. On Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Kevin and Charlie discuss the Court’s 7–2 ruling in favor of the long-suffering Little Sisters of the Poor and talk about proper punctuation. Listen here.
5. On Radio Free California, Will and David talk about CA Democrats demanding a name change for Orange County’s John Wayne Airport, SCOTUS defending LA’s Catholic schools, Governor Gavin Newsom rewarding failing schools, and so much more. Listen here.
6. On The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast, VDH discusses how Joe Biden has fared now that he’s emerged from his basement, President Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech and his executive orders on monuments, universities hell-bent for obsolescence, and the Cultural Revolution’s Year Zero. Listen here.
7. On The Great Books, John J. Miller is joined by Jack Lynch of Rutgers University to discuss James Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson. Listen here.
8. Then on The Bookmonger, JJM is joined by Robert R. Reilly to discuss Reilly’s book, America on Trial. Listen here.
Let’s take the unusual step of introducing this section, done to draw attention to this fact: That the always informative and educative website, The Imaginative Conservative, marks its tenth anniversary. Its founder, the happy warrior and Hillsdale professor Bradley “Double B” Birzer, offered swell birthday wishes. Read them here. And do avail yourself, without our occasional prodding, to visit TIC. Here is the home page.
1. At University Bookman, Francis Sempa shares thoughts on the great James Burnham’s views on mid-century Pacific politics. From the analysis:
Burnham understood that communism was a global phenomenon, and he wrote frequently about the Far East—what we now call the Asia-Pacific. Those writings have historical value—they were an important part of the discussions and debates, especially on the conservative side of the political spectrum, during the Cold War. But Burnham’s writings transcend the Cold War era because some of the factors he analyzed—communism, geopolitics, and the way leaders use political power—are still very much relevant to current international politics, including the geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific.
Burnham first discussed Asian geopolitics in 1941 in The Managerial Revolution, where he envisioned a post–World War II world dominated by three “power centers” or “super-states,” including “the Asiatic Center.” He described the Asiatic Center as East and southwest Asia and the islands along the Pacific rim of East Asia. Those regions contained sufficient population and advanced industry to support power of global reach. The postwar world, he predicted, will see a “struggle among these strategic centers for world control.”
He described communism as a “managerial ideology” designed to enable a tiny vanguard or elite to rule over the masses and control them. Communism (and fascism) created a ruling class that monopolized privilege and power—a nomenklatura. This description perfectly describes the current leadership of China’s Communist Party.
Two years later, Burnham wrote what many of his admirers believe was his most important book, The Machiavellians, wherein he formulated a “science of power” to analyze political leaders and the exercise of political power. All Burnham’s subsequent writings manifested the “science of power” that he first explained in The Machiavellians.
In his first postwar book, The Struggle for the World (part of which was a declassified version of his 1944 OSS paper), Burnham wrote that the Cold War (which he called the “Third World War”) began in the waning months of the Second World War. In the Far East, China’s communist leaders supported by the Soviet Union renewed their struggle with the U.S.-supported Nationalist government under Chiang Kai-shek. “The armed skirmishes of a new war,” explained Burnham, “have started before the old war is finished.”
2. At Quillette, Michael Shellenberger apologizes for climate-scientists’ scare-mongering. From the beginning of the essay:
On behalf of environmentalists everywhere, I would like to formally apologize for the climate scare we created over the last 30 years. Climate change is happening. It’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem. I may seem like a strange person to be saying all of this. I have been a climate activist for 20 years and an environmentalist for 30.
But as an energy expert asked by Congress to provide objective expert testimony, and invited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to serve as expert reviewer of its next assessment report, I feel an obligation to apologize for how badly we environmentalists have misled the public.
Here are some facts few people know:
- Humans are not causing a “sixth mass extinction”
- The Amazon is not “the lungs of the world”
- Climate change is not making natural disasters worse
- Fires have declined 25 percent around the world since 2003
- The amount of land we use for meat—humankind’s biggest use of land—has declined by an area nearly as large as Alaska
- The build-up of wood fuel and more houses near forests, not climate change, explain why there are more, and more dangerous, fires in Australia and California
- Carbon emissions are declining in most rich nations and have been declining in Britain, Germany, and France since the mid-1970s
- The Netherlands became rich, not poor while adapting to life below sea level
- We produce 25 percent more food than we need and food surpluses will continue to rise as the world gets hotter
- Habitat loss and the direct killing of wild animals are bigger threats to species than climate change
- Wood fuel is far worse for people and wildlife than fossil fuels
- Preventing future pandemics requires more not less “industrial” agriculture.
I know that the above facts will sound like “climate denialism” to many people. But that just shows the power of climate alarmism.
In reality, the above facts come from the best-available scientific studies, including those conducted by or accepted by the IPCC, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and other leading scientific bodies.
3. If the Left had the cojones to attack slavery, they’d be sharing Giulio Meotti’s Gatestone Institute piece. From the article:
The United States abolished slavery 150 years ago, and has affirmative action for minorities. It is the country that elected a Black president, Barack Obama — twice! Yet, a new movement is toppling one historic monument after another one, as if the US is still enslaving African-Americans. Activists in Washington DC even targeted an Emancipation Memorial, depicting President Abraham Lincoln, who paid with his life for freeing slaves.
Today slavery still exists in many parts of Africa and Middle East, but the self-flagellating Western public is obsessively focused only on the Western past of African slavery rather than on real, ongoing slavery, which is alive and well — and ignored. For today’s slaves, there are no demonstrations in the streets, no international political pressure, and virtually no articles in the media.
“We must not forget that Arab-Muslims have been champions in this field,” Kamel Bencheikh, a Muslim poet, wrote in Le Matin d’Algerie.
“Emirs and sultans bought entire convoys of young black ephebes to make into eunuchs to guard their harems. And this continued with Ottoman emperors…. Even today, Mauritania and Saudi Arabia are still housing their own Ku Klux Klan. Slavery is still the order of the day in Nouakchott [Mauritania]. As for Riad, all you have to do is find out about young Asian girls that the potentates hire as maidservants”.
An investigation by BBC Arabic found that domestic workers in Saudi Arabia are even being sold online in a slave market that is booming.
4. At The American Conservative, Helen Andrews sees statue-toppling and debasement as a sign that society has lost an understanding of the sense of duty. From the beginning of the essay:
There once was a general who fought a war to protect slavery. That’s not how he would have described it. He would have said he was fighting to protect his way of life from a foreign invader. Whatever construction he put on it, his so-called way of life rested on the sweat wrung from forced labor on plantations and gold earned from buying and selling black flesh.
That general was Samori Touré. The West African chieftain is honored today by black nationalists for resisting French imperialism in the Mandingo Wars of the late nineteenth century, but thousands of Africans were enslaved by Samori’s raiders in the course of building up his empire. After his final defeat in 1898, for more than a decade, columns of refugees tramped into French Guinea to return to their home villages as they escaped or were liberated from Banamba or Bamako or wherever Samori’s men had sold them.
Ta-Nehisi Coates named his son Samori, after the great resister. That means that Between the World and Me, the best-selling anti-racist tract of the current century, which takes the form of letters from Coates to his son, is addressed to someone named after a prolific enslaver of black Africans.
History is complicated, isn’t it?
America is currently in the middle of one of its periodic orgies of tearing down memorials to the past. The iconoclasts always have an advantage in these fights, because their opponents have different breaking points. Some Americans were happy to conciliate the protestors until a mob in Portland defaced a statue of George Washington. Others reserved their indignation for when a mob in Golden Gate Park toppled Junípero Serra, Francis Scott Key, and (of all people) Ulysses S. Grant in one night. In New York, the city council is proposing to trash the city’s statue of Thomas Jefferson, which will at least be accomplished by an orderly vote rather than a howling crowd. Some people have persuaded themselves that that makes it all right.
5. More from The American Conservative: Peter Van Buren cautions — remember the Red Guard. From the piece:
The Cultural Revolution destroyed China’s economy and traditional culture, leaving behind a possible death toll ranging from one to 20 million. Nobody really knows. It was a war on the way people think. And it failed. One immediate consequence of the Revolution’s failure was the rise in power of the military after regular people decided they’d had enough and wanted order restored. China then became even more of a capitalist society than it had ever imagined in pre-Revolution days. Oh well.
I spoke with an elderly Chinese academic who had been forced from her classroom and made to sleep outside with the animals during the Revolution. She recalled forced self-criticism sessions that required her to guess at her crimes, as she’d done nothing more than teach literature, a kind of systematic revisionism in that it espoused beliefs her tormentors thought contributed to the rotten society. She also had to write out long apologies for being who she was. She was personally held responsible for 4,000 years of oppression of the masses. Our meeting was last year, before white guilt became a whole category on Netflix, but I wonder if she’d see now how similar it all is.
That’s probably a longer version of events than a column like this would usually feature. A tragedy on the scale of the Holocaust in terms of human lives, an attempt to destroy culture on a level that would embarrass the Taliban—this topic is not widely taught in American colleges, never mind in China.
It should be taught, because history rhymes. Chinese students are again outing teachers, sometimes via cellphone videos, for “improper speech,” teaching hurtful things from the past using the wrong vocabulary. Other Chinese intellectuals are harassed online for holding outlier positions, or lose their jobs for teaching novels with the wrong values. Once abhorred as anti-free speech, most UC Berkeley students would likely now agree that such steps are proper. In Minnesota, To Kill A Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn are banned because fictional characters use a racial slur.
6. At National Affairs, Ilya Shapiro contends that the War on Drugs has proven to be a War on the Constitution. From the beginning of the essay:
Can something be legal and illegal at the same time? That may sound impossible, but it has increasingly become reality for cannabis in the United States. As more and more states legalize marijuana while Congress stands pat and the executive branch works out enforcement complexities, people across the country are asking themselves: What is this magical Schrödinger’s weed?
The answer lies not in the nature of marijuana itself, but in America’s system of dual sovereignty, which divides powers between the federal and state governments. When two overlapping sovereigns have policymaking authority, their laws and enforcement policies are bound to clash at times. Indeed, marijuana regulation is not the only policy area where state and federal laws have come into conflict, either historically or in recent years. States today are increasingly reasserting sovereignty in areas as diverse as health care, gun control, and immigration. Given the near inevitability of separate sovereigns’ adopting contradictory laws, the real question is not whether conflicts will occur, but which law takes precedent when they do.
The Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which states that federal law trumps any state law to the contrary, appears to resolve the matter in favor of the federal government. Yet the answer is not so simple. The Supreme Court recognizes two limits on federal supremacy. First, the federal policy in question must have a valid constitutional basis, because the national government’s powers are enumerated and thus limited. And second, even in areas where Congress can properly enact law, the Tenth Amendment prevents the federal government from using the states as instruments of governance.
The Supreme Court reiterated this latter limit — known as the “anti-commandeering” principle — as recently as the 2018 case of Murphy v. NCAA, a challenge to New Jersey’s legalization of sports betting in the face of federal law that purported to stop states from taking such legislative action. Put simply, the doctrine asserts that Congress cannot compel the states to carry out federal law. In the marijuana context, a federal ban can only be implemented, practically speaking, through the greater law-enforcement resources of the states, as the federal government is responsible for just 1% of the 800,000 annual marijuana arrests. Meanwhile, an appropriations rider prevents the Justice Department from using federal funds to prosecute those who use medical marijuana in the 33 states (and the District of Columbia) where this activity is lawful. In any case, even in the shadow of the federal ban, state-level marijuana legalization has flourished, indicating that federal supremacy has its limits.
BONUS: At Religion Unplugged, Clement Lisi scopes out the possibility that the Catholic vote in four states might swing the elections this November. From the piece:
Ohio remains key. Over the last 20 years, the state has made a difference in who is elected president — with counties where predominantly Catholic voters live making the difference. In 2000, George W. Bush captured Ohio by just 166,000 votes. Four years later, Bush beat John Kerry, a non-practicing Catholic, by just 118,000 votes to clinch a second term.
In both 2008 and 2012, Obama lost the national Catholic vote, but fared well in the top 15 mostly-Catholic counties in Ohio, capturing six of them. Obama won despite lower turnout in both those elections, meaning that many Catholics decided to stay away from the polls.
Will they do the same come November? If so, Biden could very well win a plurality in those counties, riding that to the presidency. At the start of the year, Trump’s strategy was to court these voters. His campaign launched “Catholics for Trump” and Trump addressed participants at the annual March for Life, the largest gathering of anti-abortion advocates. Trump also recently visited the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C. to promote religious freedom and did a TV interview with EWTN.
The Trump campaign — in its zeal to defend “American values” and capitalize on the desecration of monuments across the country — also hopes to highlight traditional values to motivate devout Catholics to pull the lever for him again. Trump did just that on July 3 during a speech at Mount Rushmore to coincide with Independence Day.
While Biden has surged in several national polls in recent weeks, a February poll by EWTN News and RealClear Opinion Research showed Trump leading among Catholics who describe themselves as more active in their faith. That was before the events of the last few months and these Supreme Court decisions that left conservatives let down.
The author of this Saturday Missive first walked through the doors of NR’s venerable / storied / ancient headquarters at 150 East 35th Street in 1983. He has seen many a soul come and go. It’s not fun when they go; not for most anyway (truth be told, some departed in response to a clean-out-your-desk order from This Once-Empowered Has Been). Especially not in the case of Editor Phil DeVoe, who has fed and burped this weekly communication for a quite long time. The Inevitable Day comes next week — he leaves to get married and then to attend Georgetown Law School. From there, surely, SCOTUS. Oremus.
In the nearly four decades of National Reviewing, it would be difficult to find someone for whom Your Correspondent has fonder feelings, or will miss more deeply. Phil is as decent and honest as the day is long. His parents are surely proud to claim him as their son, and the fact is, anyone would be if they had the likes of this Phil in their brood.
No one ever truly leaves NR, where conservative Cosa Nostra rules apply. Those are the mildly comical thoughts we entertain as we attempt to minimize the tears at parting. So as Phil moves on, we pray that God goes with him (and to-be Mrs. Phil), and that our colleague takes with him our deep thanks.
With Prayerful Petitions of Redemptive Grace for Those Who Denigrate Our Country,
Jack Fowler, who will abide your insults, even if hurled en français, if emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.