Events and currents overwhelm, and much has happened since the last issue, so here’s a quick survey of a few that caught my attention:
The War: The Iraq Study Group report was nearly worthless as a strategy document, an embarrassment, but the situation on the ground there combined with the unfortunate condition of attitudes at home dictate bold and decisive moves. Let’s face it, there are only two choices: (1) commit the forces necessary to completely dominate the enemy in Iraq and prepare for a 10-year occupation, or (2) begin immediate withdrawal and abandon the country to a civil war that will likely be regional in scope and prepare to pick up the pieces and deal as a weakened superpower with the consequences of a Middle East dominated by a nuclear-armed Iran. And remember, regardless of the fate of the Bush Doctrine and no matter who is the next President, he or she will be the President of a nation at war.
The Duke Lacrosse Case: So the rape charges have been dropped. First question—what took so long? This case dissolved months ago. More important question—where is the outrage from Duke leadership that was so quick to pass judgment on the accused, from the Durham political and community leadership, from mainstream media other than Greta Van Susteren of Fox News, and from the North Carolina legal community that has surely known that this case has been a prosecutorial fraud almost from the outset? All of them should be ashamed at this travesty.
Milton Friedman, RIP: His former student, Thomas Sowell, called him “freedom man”, and his intellectual leadership on the principles of free people and free markets no doubt was the single greatest achievement in economics of the last century, rescuing public policy from the government-driven Keynesian ideology that had dominated since the Great Depression. A favorite quote, among many—“A society that puts equality ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom.”
The Pope in Turkey: While we fight the war against Islamofacsism on the ground in the Middle East and on the home front, Pope Benedict XVI is doing his part to restore the moral clarity of the West while challenging the mainstream Muslim world to face up to its responsibilities for leadership on human rights. His November visit to Turkey was timely on both points. This is a man on a mission, not as charismatic as his predecessor, but every bit as grounded and committed, and with arguably a more difficult task on earth, but, as Tony Blankley has noted, he is not “naïve about either the nature of radical Islam or the secular humanism of late Western man”.
Civil Rights Victory in Michigan: A very bright spot in the November election was the victory in Michigan of an amendment to the state constitution banning racial preferences in public education, employment, and contracting, thereby negating a 2003 Supreme Court decision upholding those preferences in college admissions. The vote was a decisive 58-42, and is another big win for Ward Connerly to go with previous such wins in California and Washington, against substantially the entire Michigan political establishment and business community and despite being outspent by 8-1. He is doing great work here in restoring civil rights as properly understood in our Constitution.
Jeane Kirkpatrick, RIP: One of the best recruiting jobs by Ronald Reagan was to lure her from the Democratic Party to serve as his U. N. Ambassador, from where she helped him transform the world. Her classic essay, “Dictatorships and Double Standards”, later converted into a book which I highly recommend, was the definitive treatment of the distinction between authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, and helped shape policy that made sense out of the choices we made to justify defending some of the former and opposing the latter in the late stages of the Cold War. Her thesis has been proven correct in every instance, and is playing out today in both Russia and Iraq. I had the great fortune to meet and spend some time with her in the 1980’s, and she was fascinating.
Speaking of Russia: “The debate is over. Russia is not a democracy.” So say Michael McFaul of Stanford and James Goldgeier of George Washington University. And yet President Bush hasn’t given up hope for Russia or Vladimir Putin. He has much more patience than is warranted. Clearly, autocratic control has been well re-established, and the recent trail of mysterious political assassinations is eerily reminiscent of the days of Stalin. Moreover, Russia is obviously at cross-purposes with U. S. interests in the Middle East and duplicitous in the extreme in her dealings there. Jeane Kirkpatrick was instructive here in her assertion that post-totalitarian societies (of which Russia is the best example) would be too dysfunctional, as a result of the attempt to create a new social order, to return to a normal civilization or democracy under the rule of law. One possible corrective might be the capital flight that is now underway. Milton Friedman taught us that capital goes where it is welcome and stays where it is well-treated, and currently neither condition is attractive in Russia, where foreign direct investment has steadily declined since 2003. So if nothing else works, the market may get Putin’s attention.
The NCAA on Defense: It will be very interesting to see what disposition is made of the pre-election request by Bill Thomas, then the Republican Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, essentially asking a number of tough question revolving around how major college athletic programs further the purposes for which educational institutions are granted tax-exempt status for the billions of revenue that are generated by them. His questions echo the concerns of the Knight Commission, on which I have commented previously, that the commercialization of college sports is totally out of control. I happen to share many of these sentiments, although my alma mater happens to have the second largest athletic budget in the nation. I certainly don’t support unilateral disarmament, but I hope the NCAA response to Thomas’s letter gets the visibility it deserves.
John Bolton Departs the U. N.: Only one thing to say here—a political establishment that fires a John Bolton as U. N. Ambassador can’t be one that truly wants hard-nosed realism in representing America’s interests.
Borrowed Resolutions: Finally, I hope my friend John Andrews of BackboneAmerica, www.BackboneAmerica.net, won’t mind my borrowing the suggested resolutions for conservative leaders sent along with his New Year greeting, as follows: (1) be as devout as Washington in understanding America as a nation under God; (2) be as forceful as Lincoln in upholding the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as the political religion of the nation; (3) be as implacable as Churchill in defending the great heritage of Western civilization and the English-speaking peoples; (4) be as resolute as Reagan in pursuing victory over the Islamofascist enemy in World War III until, in his words, “we win and they lose”; and (5) fight fiercely, cheerfully, and relentlessly for our convictions and against our enemies, with one focus each morning: “What can we do to them today?”.