The Weekend Web


The Weekend Web

Catholicizing Britain, paganizing Christmas and lawyerizing life; plus, following Iran’s courageous lead, America shelves nukes!

One of the most stunning trends in modern times we often point to is that of America losing the pride in its prodigious power. Tragically, the mightiest military in history is proving to be remarkably ineffective in achieving its larger objectives. It spends it strength “in vain,” as Leviticus 26:20 reads. The reasons for this unfolding defeat are important to study, and military historian Victor Davis Hanson highlights a couple of the reasons in a remarkable essay in the Claremont Review of Books. It is, in large part, a matter of the critics of American military policy being shockingly near-sighted in their condemnations of the present war effort:

“Iraq,” swears Al Gore, “was the single worst strategic mistake in American history.” Senate majority leader Harry Reid agrees that the war he voted to authorize is “the worst foreign-policy mistake in U.S. history,” and indeed is already “lost.” Many of our historically minded politicians and commanders have weighed in with similar superlatives. Retired General William Odom calls Iraq “the greatest strategic disaster in United States history.” … Jimmy Carter takes, as usual, the loftiest view: the Iraq War, and Great Britain’s acquiescence in it, constitute “a major tragedy for the world,” and prove that the Bush administration “has been the worst in history.”

Is it true? As common as this argument has become in liberal circles, Hanson expertly exposes its outright fallaciousness.

Preoccupied with the daily news from Baghdad, we seem to think our generation is unique in experiencing the heartbreak of an error-plagued war. We forget that victory in every war goes to the side that commits fewer mistakes—and learns more from them in less time—not to the side that makes no mistakes. A perfect military in a flawless war never existed ….

He then details a number of far worse failures made in America’s victorious past wars. But several weaknesses peculiar to modern American life are ensuring that our mistakes today are doing far more to undermine our will to persist:

We care less about correcting problems than assessing blame—in postmodern America it is defeat that has a thousand fathers, while the notion of victory is an orphan. … An affluent, leisured society has adopted a therapeutic and managerial rather than tragic view of human experience—as if war should be controllable through proper counseling or a sound business plan. We take for granted our ability to talk on cell phones to someone in Cameroon or select from 500 cable channels; so too we expect Saddam instantly gone, Jeffersonian democracy up and running reliably, and the Iraqi economy growing like Dubai’s in a few seasons. If not, then someone must be blamed for ignorance, malfeasance, or inhumanity.

The insight that Hanson provides by contrasting America’s past resolute will and commitment to victory, and the present weakness of will, is well worth contemplating. His conclusion—describing the importance of understanding present troubles in a grand historical perspective—is absolutely true, as is his understanding of the fact that “our morale is as important as our material advantages.” When the will of the people falters—as it is today, under the relentless assault of so many of our politicians and so much of our press—victory in warfare becomes impossible.

Now That Iran Shelved Nukes, Everything’s Good

In yet another sign that the Bush administration no longer believes there is an “axis of evil” longing for a world without America, Secretary Condoleezza Rice said on Friday, “The United States doesn’t have permanent enemies. We’re too great a country for that.”

Last Tuesday, msnbc reported that President Bush agreed to significantly reduce America’s nuclear weapons stockpile, “cutting it to less than one-quarter its size at the end of the Cold War.

The same day that was reported, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad joined hundreds of thousands of devout Muslims on the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, where they chanted, “Death to Israel” and “Death to America.” Meanwhile, Iran’s first nuclear power plant will be operational by March, providing Iran’s electrical power grid with energy by summertime. Good thing Tehran doesn’t want to build a nuclear bomb.

Fatah and Hamas Inch Closer Together

Fatah’s strongman, Mohammed Dahlan, indicated in an interview today that resolving the dispute with Hamas might be possible even if the latter retains control of Gaza. To this point President Mahmoud Abbas has called for Hamas to relinquish its control in Gaza first before the two sides might reconcile. On the Hamas side, Stratfor reported this on Friday:

Hamas is making a serious attempt to get out of the doghouse it has been in since its June takeover of the Gaza Strip. The November Annapolis, Md., conference instilled fears into the Hamas leadership that it will become sidelined by Israel and Fatah (and even Saudi Arabia) unless it revitalizes efforts to form a new power-sharing agreement with its Fatah rivals.

A Crisis of Our Own Making

Conditions in the Balkans today are “uncannily similar” to the conditions that made World War i inevitable in summer 1914 writes Neil Clark. “The present crisis in Kosovo has been caused not so much by Serbian intransigence, but by the West’s policy of intervention in the internal affairs of sovereign states.” Ten years ago Kosovo was at relative peace with Serbia, and pro-independence supporters channeled their demands for independence through the peaceful Democratic League Party. Not until the West, particularly Germany, got involved, says Clark, did Kosavar militia groups gain traction as vehicles to pursue, oftentimes violently, independence from Serbia.

As late as November 1997, the kla, officially classified by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, could, it has been estimated, call on the services of only 200 men. Then, in a policy shift whose repercussions we are witnessing today, the West started to interfere big time. The U.S., Germany and Britain increasingly saw the kla as a proxy force which could help them achieve their goal of destabilizing and eventually removing from power the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, which showed no inclination to join Euro-Atlantic structures.

Don’t let that last statement slip by: America, Britain and Germany pummeled Milosevic because he lacked the desire to integrate Serbia into European “structures.”

Over the following year, the kla underwent a drastic makeover. The group was taken off the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist organizations …. Large-scale assistance was given to the kla by Western security forces. Britain organized secret training camps in northern Albania. The German secret service provided uniforms, weapons and instructors.

Clark’s reporting on Kosovo is refreshing and honest at a time when the bulk of the press is misreporting Kosovo. For more on this subject, check out the new column will post Monday morning.

Bank Credit Crunch to Worsen in 2008

Today’s Guardian reports, “Rumors were circulating in New York and London on Friday that Western banks face intense pain in the new year, with bad-debt provisions set to soar from $59 billion to more than $250 billion.”

Citigroup and Morgan Stanley already went cap in hand to foreign governments for bailouts. Now several brokers fear Merrill Lynch will be the next. In the UK, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Barklays could be seeking bailouts soon.

Britain Now Catholic Country

Britain’s Telegraph reports, “Roman Catholics have overtaken Anglicans as the country’s dominant religious group. More people attend Mass every Sunday than worship with the Church of England …. This means that the established church has lost its place as the nation’s most popular Christian denomination after more than four centuries of unrivaled influence following the Reformation.”

The trend of Protestants being reabsorbed into the Catholic Church is continuing as outlined in two recent articles, here and here.

It is highlighted by former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s official conversion to Catholicism over the weekend. Last year, Mr. Blair, who is now a Middle East peace envoy, said he had prayed to God when deciding whether or not to send UK troops into Iraq.

One of Mr. Blair’s final official trips while prime minister was a visit to the Vatican in June where he met Pope Benedict xvi.

Rule of Lawyers

At the Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick highlights the frightening trend of “lawyerizing” life in Israel.

The legal establishment’s ardor for the Second Lebanon War was exposed on Tuesday with the publication of the testimonies of Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz and Military Advocate-General Avichai Mandelblit before the Winograd Committee which the Olmert government established to research the war’s failures. In their testimonies both men shared their perception of the war as a great victory of lawyers in their campaign to “lawyerize”—or assert their control—over Israeli society.In his opening statement, Mazuz extolled the war as “the most ‘lawyerly’ in the history of the State of Israel, and perhaps ever.” He explained, “The process didn’t begin in Lebanon 2006. It … is a gradual process of ‘lawyerizing’ life in Israel.”

It’s even worse in America. Ten percent of the residents who live in Washington, D.C., are lawyers. Paul Johnson estimated that during the mid-1990s, lawyers made up 42 percent of the House of Representatives and 61 percent of the Senate.

Uneventful Year at Capitol Hill

In his column today, George Will summarizes the almost-invisible accomplishments of the first year of the Democrat-led House and Senate. This included bumping the minimum wage 70 cents—a move that helps half of one percentage point of the American workforce—and, oh yes, mandating a 12-year phaseout of incandescent light bulbs (discussed in grin-inducing detail in thisWeekly Standard piece). It also included shooting down a whole lot of initiatives because of conflicting interests.

Rep. John Campbell, a California Republican, notes that this year the House took many more votes (1,186) than ever but that only 146 bills became laws, and most of those named buildings or other things or extended existing laws.

Will’s wry conclusion: “Congress, and especially the Democratic majority, should be congratulated for this because a decrease in the quantity of legislation generally means an increase in the quality of life.”

Discovery Links Christmas to Paganism

Archaeologists in Italy have discovered a pagan shrine next door to the Church of St. Anastasia, where the December 25 observance of Christmas is believed to have started. According to the Associated Press,

In 325, [Constantine] convened the Council of Nicaea, which fixed the dates of important Christian festivals. It opted to mark Christmas, then celebrated at varying dates, on December 25 to coincide with the Roman festival celebrating the birth of the sun god, Andrea Carandini, a professor of archaeology at Rome’s La Sapienza University, told reporters Friday.The Basilica of St. Anastasia was built as soon as a year after the Nicaean Council. It probably was where Christmas was first marked on Dec. 25, part of broader efforts to link pagan practices to Christian celebrations in the early days of the new religion, Carandini said.

For more about the true origins of Christianity’s modern observance of Christmas, see what we wrote here.

Elsewhere on the Web

Time reports here on further evidence of Iran’s influence spreading in Iraq as the Iraqi Shiite-led government is about to disband Sunni security forces.

According to Memri’s economic blog, in terms of assets, “Islamic banks have been able to achieve high growth rates in 2006 and at speeds that exceeded the average growth in the banking sector in most countries of the world.”

I think it’s safe to assume that the latest torture chamber to be discovered in Iraq won’t be getting as much media attention as Abu Ghraib.

Garry Kasparov uncovers what it’s really like under the iron leadership of Time magazine’s “Man of the Year,” with the Putin administration demolishing the free press, rigging elections, jailing and beating dissidents and generally executing democracy.

Chrysler’s ceo says his company is “operationally” bankrupt. The automaker hopes to raise over $1 billion by selling assets including old factories and unused property. “The rush to raise capital comes amid constricting access to money as more banks and other lenders face heavy losses related to subprime mortgages,” cnn reports.

It’s been a tough year for Wall Street: the bottom fell out of the mortgage industry, the dollar plummeted, investor confidence wavered and the list of worries goes on. But that didn’t stop the bonus checks for Wall Street execs rising by an average of 14 percent.

And Finally …

Last week, we were quite surprised to read this in a report from a popular Middle East website based in Tehran:

Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry has predicted for over 13 years that Iran would be the king of the Middle East, and that we would witness an alliance take place between Iran and Egypt. “Daniel 11:42 implies that Egypt will be allied with the king of the south, or Iran. … This prophecy indicates that there would be a radical change in Egyptian politics.”

Upon closer review, however, we noticed that the Fars News Agency report was a lot like the article we had posted a few hours earlier.