Friday, August 04, 2006

1938 Redux?

Several commentators at National Review have written recently that what they see happening in the world resembles nothing so much as the 1930s.

In the 1930s Britain and France appeased Hitler. Anything to prevent the horrors of what they called The Great War, they said. The United States stood on the sidelines, naively thinking we were secure in our isolationist policies. The elite mocked Churchill as a drunkard alarmist.

Today many in the West so no danger from Iran or the various terrorist groups that cannot be negotiated away. The elite today mock George Bush and Tony Blair.

First up is Michael Ledeen, who points out that although "9/11 was supposed to have been the wakeup call," "we are again asleep". The problem now, he says, is that we fail to recognize that it's not just about fighing "insurgents" in Iraq, or Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran and Syria are behind much or most of it, and behind that is a virulent form of radical Islam. Although I still say that going into Iraq put us on the strategic offensive, Ledeen points out that since the invasion we have been playing defense.
Meanwhile, a collection of frauds, writing in places like Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and Mother Jones, continuously recycles a story saying that a neocon (code for “Jewish”) conspiracy duped Bush into going to war in Iraq, and is now arranging the invasion of Iran.
For those that forget, President Roosevelt was treated to the same sort of nonsense from the likes of people like Father Coughlin, who accused the president of "leaning toward international socialism or sovietism on the Spanish question." Indeed, as Ledeen says
It is the Thirties again. Many of the statements above apply to Franklin Roosevelt’s first two administrations, and to the political atmosphere of those dreadful years. Then, too, the mounting power of what became the Axis was ignored. As my father often reminded me, a few months before Pearl Harbor, at a time when Nazi armies were long since on the march, the draft passed by a single vote. Apologists for Hitler and Mussolini were legion, and some of our leading intellectuals were saying that American democratic capitalism was a failure, and we would do well to emulate the European totalitarians.
Continuing this same theme, Victor Davis Hanson reviews some of the apologists of that era
...nevertheless it is still surreal to reread the fantasies of Chamberlain, Daladier, and Pope Pius, or the stump speeches by Charles Lindbergh (“Their [the Jews’] greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government”) or Father Coughlin (“Many people are beginning to wonder whom they should fear most — the Roosevelt-Churchill combination or the Hitler-Mussolini combination.”) — and baffling to consider that such men ever had any influence.
Tell me, what is the difference between any of the above cited men and Michael Moore or Markos "Screw them" Moulitsas? Or Pat Buchanan, for that matter?

And how are our "allies" In Europe responding to all this? Hanson continues
There is no need to mention Europe, an entire continent now returning to the cowardice of the 1930s. Its cartoonists are terrified of offending Muslim sensibilities, so they now portray the Jews as Nazis, secure that no offended Israeli terrorist might chop off their heads. The French foreign minister meets with the Iranians to show solidarity with the terrorists who promise to wipe Israel off the map (“In the region there is of course a country such as Iran — a great country, a great people and a great civilization which is respected and which plays a stabilizing role in the region”) — and manages to outdo Chamberlain at Munich.
Our enemy, as I mentioned, is not just a few Taliban remnants, or "insurgents" in Iraq, it is Islaofascism (or whatever you want to call it) in general. Principal among the villans is the government of Iran. And before we congratulate ourselves, Barbara Lerner says that far from confronting Iran,
...we have yet to admit that Iran is at war with us, or to seriously consider striking back at her, and, in speaking of our own war aims, we never dare use the v-word — victory — anymore. Instead, we make head-in-the-sand happy-talk about “peace,” “democracy,” and “ceasefires,” rejecting any military action against Iran for fear of “widening the war” — as if Iran were not already at war with us — and rely on the U.N. and “the international community” to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions and to prevent her proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, from continuing to bring death and destruction to our smallest, truest, and most vulnerable ally, Israel.

Worse, we meet the jackals halfway by endlessly apologizing for sins our soldiers and guards are falsely accused of, in Iraq and Guantanamo, and by urging “restraint” on Israel — as if she weren’t employing near-suicidal restraint already. Then, we congratulate ourselves for our “courage” in standing up to international pressure by not forcing Israel to stop fighting for her life immediately, and promising, in return, to “protect” her with a “peace-keeping” force of enemies, led by the reborn Vichy France of Jacques Chirac and Phillipe Douste-Blazy — the French foreign minister who just called Iran “a stabilizing force.”
So is this were we are, again on the brink of the precipice? After 9/11 we said "never again", but even a casual reading of any newspaper reveals a large segment of opinion-makers who believe that George W Bush and Tony Blair are the greatest threats to world peace. Sorry, but I don't buy the notion that all would be well if only we hadn't invaded Iraq.

It also doesn't explain current attitudes on the left towards Iran. This article at Mother Jones typifies the "what me worry?" attitude the left has towards Iran: "The confrontation with Iran has very little to do with nukes—and a lot with the agenda of empire".

The good news is that the Bush Administration is letting Israel have a go at destroying Hezbollah. The bad news is that we are not serious about dealing with Iran or Syria. Barbara Lerner, in her article linked to above, has some good ideas for dealing with Iran. All too many of our elites, however, seem mired in the attitudes of the 1930s. And we all know what that got us.

The Dream Palace of the Arabs

I am currently reading "The Dream Palace of the Arabs," a book by Fouad Ajami. Ajami was born in Lebanon and moved to the United States in 1963, when he was 18 years old. Here's an excerpt from page 120 where Ajami presents the life of Arab literary critic Adonis:
[Adonis's] uncluttered prose and haunting poetry secured him a preeminent place in the literary life of [Beirut]. In his boyhood, he had been tutored by his father in the Quran and Islamic mysticism and history, but he had a deep interest in Christian symbolism and thought as well, and Lebanon was an ideal place for him. He made his way to St. Joseph University in East Beirut, an educational institution established by the Jesuits in 1875. (This university was the Jesuits' and Francophiles' answer to the American University of Beirut and its blend of Anglo-Saxon education and Arab nationalism.) From there, a scholorship took him to Sorbonne, where he indulged his passion for French letters and culture. He saw no contradiction between his lifelong interest in Islamic sources and tradition and his love of French culture. He had never been biased against Western thought, he was to write in a literary autobiography. He dismissed "race and blood" as the defining forces in Arab and Islamic history and as the sources of Arab identity. He was a child of the catacombs, a minoritarian; he would not indulge a narrow, radical definition of home, culture, and hearth.
Fouad Ajami has written a book about Iraq titled, "The Foreigner's Gift," which was published just last month.