Saturday, July 22, 2017

Review: The Foreign Policy of Self-Interest: A Moral Ideal for America, by Peter Schwartz. Ayn Rand Institute Press, 2004, 2014

The seventy-two page pamphlet presents itself as the application of Ayn Rand's philosophy to foreign policy. Peter Schwartz's effort is largely a failure. His failure stems from his inability to apply Rand's methodology to this, or any other, topic, and his ignorance of the subject matter. 

Schwartz's thesis is that American foreign policy is dominated by altruism and needs to adopt an ethic of rational self-interest. He explains how the only purpose of a proper government is the protection of its citizens individual rights. These first few chapters are written in his standard Objectivish boilerplate, which is Schwartz's only discernible talent. It is a barrage of floating abstractions that will fail to convince anyone not already in agreement. 

The author states that, "Since the concept of self-interest pertains fundamentally to the individual, the idea of a nation's self-interest refers only to the political precondition of a person's living rationally in a social setting, which means freedom" (pg. 14). This is all very well. However in his argument, "fundamentally" becomes "only" and the cultural preconditions for political liberty are completely ignored. 

One glaring example of Schwartz's inability to apply abstract concepts to reality is his treatment of "nationalism." According to the author, "nationalism" is always based on collectivism and requires tyranny:

This individualist approach to foreign policy disavows any form of nationalism. Nationalism is a collectivist idea, which regards the nation as the primary unit of life and which holds that the citizen is obligated to devote his energies to the glorification of whatever state happens to declare him its subject. (pg. 19)
This characterization of "nationalism" is based on one discredited definition for the concept. Schwartz cannot distinguish Prussian nationalism from legitimate patriotism. Nor, does he have any inkling of how and why "nationalism" and the nation-state developed from earlier types of medieval polities. The creation of the sovereign nation-state was in response to Europe's endless religious wars. It came to be understood that the "nation" preceded the "state." The "nation" being an identifiable people who share certain cultural traits that makes them distinctive from all others. Generally, the people of a nation developed a regard and loyalty to one another that is not necessarily bad or "collectivistic." That people like Schwartz are incapable of feeling such a sense of comradery with their fellow Americans is their loss. 

In fact, nationalism has often been an vital, if not central, component in fighting tyranny. Napoleon sought to impose an EU style empire upon Europe. His ceaseless military campaigns cost millions of lives. In large part, nationalism from Spain to Russia is what defeated him. President Trump in his magnificent speech earlier this month in Warsaw explained how Polish nationalism and national identity has defeated many tyrants over the centuries. 

One root cause of Schwartz's failure to properly define nationalism is that he doesn't define "nation." Throughout the pamphlet he indulges in formal equivocation with the terms "nation," "government" and "state." "National self-interest" is anathema to Schwartz. Hence, the work's title.

Another aspect of Schwartz's ideological blinders is his refusal to identify the greatest threat to the USA and Western Civilization's security and freedom. Needless to say, this threat is the ongoing 1400 year jihad against Christendom (and everyone else). In this short pamphlet there are no less that twenty references to "totalitarian Islam." Schwartz is so clueless that he characterizes the jihad as a "new threat" that was recently concocted by al-Qaeda and the Ayatollah Khomeini (pg. 24). 

Schwartz will not identity the enemy, his nature or threat doctrine. So, he's spectacularly unable to devise a policy that has some basis in reality and some promise of success. His policy recommendation is that of the "neo-cons" on steroids. He thinks "taking out" the Iranian regime (with which he is obsessed) will end the jihad. He provides no evidence for this bizarre contention. More likely, the Sunnis would just throw a party and move to fill the vacuum. When that happens, Schwartz would have us carpet bomb various Sunni countries. Decades, if not centuries, of European occupation did not end the jihad. The colonial powers were forever engaging in punitive operations to put down jihad based rebellions. 

One glaring omission in this work is the issue of immigration. Or, in this case, the importation of the umma and jihad into the West. Schwartz, and his ilk, are too dense to see that most of the USA's jihad problem stems from the mass immigration of Moslems. The same truth is all too evident in Europe. Near the end of his essay, Schwartz stumbles upon the self-evident:  "The appropriate policy towards such nations is the opposite of engagment: ostracism. Let these nation [sic] stand - or, more accurately, fall - on their own" (pg. 61). 

All too obviously, containment is the best policy for dealing with the dar al-Islam. But, a consistent policy of containment would conflict with Schwartz's (and the Ayn Rand Institute's) no-borders fetish. So, he will not even consider it. Nor, will he distinguish between violent and "peaceful" jihad. How can a poisonous ideology be contained when the West has a Kantian moral imperative to import millions of its adherents? These adherents build mosques and recruit the weak, stupid and vulnerable of the invaded society. These adherents become politically active in order to subvert our government and other institutions. This "stealth jihad" is more insidious and dangerous than the violent kind. Carpet bombing Tehran will only encourage such efforts. 

At root, Schwartz's problem is his profound rationalism (meaning his thinking in terms of floating abstractions). The history of Islam and nationalism is of no interest to him. The jihad on American and European soil is not his concern. He takes a few fundamental moral principles and then just plugs them into the issue at hand without knowledge or understanding. Proof? Much of this pamphlet was written in the early 1980s and its thesis was then directed at the Soviet Union. This earlier work has been conveniently stuffed down the Memory Hole. I cannot find a single copy or even reference to it online. Unfortunately for Schwartz, I clearly remember reading it in 1986. All he has done is replace "Soviet Union" with "totalitarian Islam" in much of this essay. It's as extreme a case of rationalism as one will find from ARI. 

If you seek knowledge about the current threats to America, and how to rationally respond, this work will be of no help to you.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Review: Sahara (1943) dir. Zoltan Korda

Sahara is one of the best wartime "propaganda" films made during World War II. It combines elements of Beau Geste and countless westerns. In June 1942 Rommel's forces are driving the British back into Egypt. An American M3 Lee tank commanded by Master Sergeant Joe Gunn (Humphrey Bogart) has become separated from its parent unit. Gunn, and his two remaining crew members, decide to head south through the Libyan desert in an attempt to reach Allied lines. Their escape turns into an odyssey.

Bogart with Lulu Belle

Soon after heading south, Sgt. Gunn encounters a bombed out British field hospital. He takes along several British Empire soldiers (one portrayed by Lloyd Bridges), the doctor and a Free French soldier. They also pick up a Sudanese soldier Sergeant Major Tambul (Rex Ingram) and his Italian prisoner. With the guidance of Tambul, this microcosm of the Allied war effort makes their way to a ruin that boasts a well with a trickle of water. 

As Sgt. Gunn and company collect all the water available, a lost German battalion makes an appearance. The Germans are in desperate need of water. Gunn gives a rousing speech on why they should stand and fight to delay the German column. They do just that. I don't want to give away too much. Watch the movie and enjoy one of the most memorable endings produced during Hollywood's Golden Age. 

This film reiterates the theme of the more well-known Casablanca and Life Boat. In these films a heterogeneous group representing the Allies must learn how to cooperate to defeat the common enemy. In these films the German/Nazi characters are irredeemably evil and have to be fought to the death (with or without rounding up the usual suspects). Sahara adds an interesting twist to this theme. The Italian prisoner ultimately repudiates Mussolini and redeems himself. It's a rather prescient part of the plot. Around the time of this film's release, the Italians had overthrown Mussolini and were welcomed to the Allied cause. 

Sahara adds something else to the usual Allied mixture. Sgt. Tambul is both black and Moslem. He's one of the best soldiers in the movie and is instrumental in the group's survival, as mentioned above. In one scene, he explains to an American solder why Moslems are allowed to have four wives. The American finds the explanation interesting and quips, "we can learn from each other." The Free French and British forces had significant numbers of Moslem soldiers enlisted. So, the inclusion of Sgt. Tumbul is not unrealistic. What's illustrative is that he was included and is so positively depicted. By the way, Ingram's performance is top-notch. Contrary to current whining of Moslem victimhood, Hollywood has always portrayed Moslems in a positive light. In part, this was the result of the Studio Code. There was also the lack of knowledge about Islam by film makers and much romanticism was involved. 

The black and white cinematography is most effective for this desert epic. The cascading sand dunes are memorizing. The theme of isolation and having to depend on one's own resources was used by Hitchcock the following year in Life Boat. The pacing is excellent. The first half of the film is devoted to character and plot development. The viewer knows all he needs for the climatic battle for the well. Therefore, the characters' actions make sense and don't require much explanation. This is how it's done. Contemporary movie makers should take note. One problem with overblown special effects extravaganzas is their god awful pacing.

Sahara was filmed in Southern California near the Salton Sea. Happily, the US Army's Desert Training Center established by General George Patton was nearby. All of the military equipment used for the film was "donated" by the 4th Armored Division that was in training at the time. Even 100 US Army soldiers were used as extras to depict the Germans. 

I highly recommend this film for anyone who enjoys a great action/war movie. It's also an interesting time capsule of the early period of the war from an American perspective.  


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Review: China & the Vietnam Wars, 1950-1975 by Qiang Zhai, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000

The author’s purpose for writing this book is to record the “rise and fall” of the alliance between Red China and North Vietnam during the early Cold War. This alliance was largely military in nature, and it was Chinese assistance that allowed Hanoi to first defeat the French and then outlast the Americans. Zhai states that there were several issues that affected China’s policy towards North Vietnam: geopolitics and Chinese security, ideology, domestic economic concerns, internal politics, and the personal relations between Chinese and Vietnamese leaders. Of these various factors, the author cites geopolitics and national security as the most important. The book argues that the ultimate determining issue in Chinese policy for providing military support to North Vietnam was the balance of power between the United States, the Soviet Union, and China. Mao Tse-tung’s primary security concern during this period was the perceived threat of encirclement. 

These threats were manifest. During the nineteenth century, Russia had replaced the Mongols as China’s chief security worry on the northern frontier. There was also increasing tension between the two powers along their common border in Manchuria. In 1969, at Zhenbao Island, an armed confrontation occurred during which both sides took casualties. To the east, Mao was anxious of American-dominated Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Accordingly, Mao’s goal in supporting not only North Vietnam but also the Communists in Cambodia and Laos was to create secure southern states that would acknowledge China as their “older brother.” However, China would remain interested in ensuring that neither Cambodia nor Laos would become puppets of Hanoi. China paid a high price for its intervention in the Korean War. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) suffered huge numbers of casualties in a war they were unprepared for. Mao was also forced to delay his murderous domestic agenda in order to fight in Korea. On the crucial question of whether China would have directly intervened in the event of an American invasion of North Vietnam, Zhai is ambivalent. China sent signals to that effect, which President Johnson believed. Whether this threat would have been made good is impossible to determine.

In the 1950s, China was confident of its fraternal relationship with the Soviets. The ideological sympathy of both nations made their common front against Western “imperialism” possible. Zhao contends that, as relations with the Soviet Union cooled, Mao altered his ideology to suit the new circumstances. Mao’s ideological gymnastics required some fancy footwork. He wanted to play the United States off against the Soviet Union. By the mid 1960s the Soviets were providing Hanoi with large amounts of military hardware. Mao had to walk a tightrope to develop relations with the United States and still maintain influence with Hanoi. He failed due to his policy of d├ętente and Vietnam’s historical suspicions of Chinese intentions.  

Zhai’s main argument that geopolitical issues dominated China’s policy towards Vietnam is well documented and presented. The book’s only shortcoming is the author’s bias towards American intervention in Southeast Asia. For example, chapter six is titled “Confronting U.S. Escalation, 1964-1965.” This reviewer lost count of how many times America’s attempts to prevent the Communists from spreading Nacht und Nebel throughout the region were characterized as “escalation.” Despite the author’s standard “liberal” view on America’s intervention in Vietnam, this book is a valuable addition to the literature. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Review: The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

The Poseidon Adventure is one of my all time favorite movies. Some call it the best "bad" movie ever made. I disagree. There is nothing bad about this film. The special affects hold up after forty-five years - no mean feat. It features a stellar cast including Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Stella Stevens, Shelly Winters, Leslie Nielsen and Roddy McDowall among others. Contemporary film makers must envy Irwin Allen's ability to form such an ensemble of real movie stars

The actors are all top shelf. The script by Sterling Silliphant (In the Heat of the Night) and Wendell Mayes (Death Wish, Anatomy of a Murder) is first rate. Some could criticize the dialogue as being "cheesy" in places. But, it's no worse, and often much better, than that of many odious "superhero" comic book based movies. The film's pacing is flawless. The characters are introduced before disaster strikes. You know them and, therefore, subsequent actions make sense and are consistent with their character. 

I assume the most readers are familiar with the film's plot. So briefly, it's about a luxury liner that is capsized by a rogue wave while traveling across the Mediterranean. Roddy McDowall plays a British crew member. However, the passengers portrayed are all presumably American. For example, Shelly Winters and Jack Albertson are an older American couple on their way to visit family in Israel. Parenthetically, one nice thing about this 1972 film is the lack of politics and minimal amount of liberal messaging. In the year of the Munich Olympics there are no gratuitous slams of Israel. The word "occupation" is not in the script. 

This is Gene Hackman's film. He dominates it. His only challenge in that regard is from Ernest Borgnine and Shelly Winters. They have many great scenes together. I believe that one reason for this movie's enduring popularity is Hackman's brilliant portrayal of an "active man." There are not really that many who are so well done in any movie. Such characters are largely absent from current movies. According to Hollywood halfwits, heroes must either be literally bullet proof (but, filled with Hamlet levels of inner conflict) or a minority fighting the historic crimes of the White Devil. 

I use the term "active man" as he was described by Ayn Rand in one of her earliest political essays, "The Only Path to Tomorrow (1944):  

The Active Man is the producer, the creator, the originator, the individualist. His basic need is independence - in order to think and work. He neither needs nor seeks power over other men - nor can he be made to work under any form of compulsion ... The Passive Man is found on every level of society, in mansions and in slums, and his identification mark is his dread of independence. He is a parasite who expects to be taken care of by others ....
It's almost as if Irwin Allen read these lines and then used a natural disaster to most dramatically illustrate these two antipodes. Hackman's Reverend Frank Scott is on his way to Africa, "I had to find the country on a map." His independent streak and unconventional sermons have led to his banishment. He's very happy. "The church has blessed me to find God in my own way." In his sermon given on the ship, he says that Christians need to get "off their knees" and act to help themselves. It's easy to see how his "Muscular Christianity" doesn't sit well with fully consistent practitioners of altruism. Scott's ongoing debate with Reverend John (Arthur O'Connell) solidifies the movie's theme. 

When it comes to Passive Men, Allen gleefully slaughters them wholesale. Everyone foolish enough to blindly follow authorities such as the idiotic Purser or Dr. Caravello drown like rats. Early in the film, Red Buttons is pleading with people to join in climbing out of the ship. He, and Scott, explain endlessly that help will not reach them. They have to make their escape through the bottom of the ship. "Can't you see the logic?" Those who don't, or refuse to think, pay with their lives. 

Some of the Active Men don't make it. There are no guarantees. Some do live to see daylight again. This is a great, classic action film that has an important and intelligent theme. The less said about the remake, the better. Contemporary Hollywood hollowed out the story's meaning and turned it into just another pointless big budget special effects showcase. Instead, rent the the original and enjoy a real "they don't make them like this anymore" classic. 

Movie Stars at Work

Thursday, July 6, 2017

President Trump's Warsaw Speech

This is a great speech. It's equal to any given by Ronald Reagan. It should be widely read. THIS is what an American president sounds like. It's been much too long.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. That's so nice.

The United States has many great diplomats, but there is truly no better ambassador for our country than our beautiful first lady, Melania.

Thank you, Melania. That was very nice.

We've come to your nation to deliver a very important message: America loves Poland and America loves the Polish people. Thank you.

The Poles have not only greatly enriched this region, but Polish- Americans have also greatly enriched the United States. And I was truly proud to have their support in the 2016 election.

It is a profound honor to stand in this city by this monument to the Warsaw uprising, and to address the Polish nation that so many generations have dreamed of, a Poland that is safe, strong and free.

President Duda and your wonderful first lady, Agata, have welcomed us with the tremendous warmth and kindness for which Poland is known around the world.

Thank you.

I sincere -- I mean sincerely -- thank both of them, and to Prime Minister Szydlo a very special thanks, also ... We are pleased that former President Lech Walesa, so famous for leading the Solidarity movement, has joined us today, also ... Thank you. Thank you.

On behalf of all Americans, let me also thank the entire Polish people for the generosity you have shown in welcoming our soldiers to your country. These soldiers are not only brave defenders of freedom, but also symbols of America's commitment to your security and your place in a strong and democratic Europe.

We are proudly joined on stage by American, Polish, British and Romanian soldiers. Thank you. Thank you. Great job.

President Duda and I have just come from an incredibly successful meeting with the leaders participating in the Three Seas Initiative.

To the citizens of this great region, America is eager to expand our partnership with you. We welcome stronger ties of trade and commerce as you grow your economies. And we are committed to securing your access to alternate sources of energy, so Poland and its neighbors are never again held hostage to a single supplier of energy.

Mr. President, I congratulate you, along with the president of Croatia, on your leadership of this historic Three Seas Initiative. Thank you.

This is my first visit to Central Europe as president, and I am thrilled that it could be right here, at this magnificent, beautiful piece of land. It is beautiful.

Poland is the geographic heart of Europe. But more importantly, in the Polish people, we see the soul of Europe.

Your nation is great because your spirit is great and your spirit is strong.

 For two centuries, Poland suffered constant and brutal attacks.

But while Poland could be invaded and occupied and its borders even erased from the map, it could never be erased from history or from your hearts. In those dark days, you have lost your land, but you never lost your pride.

So it is with true admiration I can say today, that from the farms and villages of your countryside, to the cathedrals and squares of your great cities, Poland lives, Poland prospers and Poland prevails.

Despite every effort to transform you, oppress you or destroy you, you endured and overcame.

You are the proud nation of Copernicus -- think of that..

Chopin, St. John Paul II. Poland is a land of great heroes.

And you are a people who know the true value of what you defend.

The triumph of the Polish spirit over centuries of hardship gives us all hope for a future in which good conquers evil and peace achieves victory over war.

For Americans, Poland has been a symbol of hope since the beginning of our nation. Polish heroes and American patriots fought side by side in our War of Independence and in many wars that followed. Our soldiers still serve together today in Afghanistan and Iraq, combating the enemies of all civilization.

For America's part, we have never given up on freedom and independence as the right and destiny of the Polish people. And we never, ever will.

Our two countries share a special bond forged by unique histories and national characters. It's a fellowship that exists only among people who have fought and bled and died for freedom.

The signs of this friendship stand in our nation's capital. Just steps from the White House, we've raised statues of men with names like Pulaski and Kosciuszko.

The same is true in Warsaw, where street signs carry the name of George Washington and a monument stands to one of the world's greatest heroes, Ronald Reagan.

And so, I am here today not just to visit an old ally, but to hold it up as an example for others who seek freedom and who wish to summon the courage and the will to defend our civilization.

The story of Poland is the story of a people who have never lost hope, who have never been broken and who have never, ever forgotten who they are.

AUDIENCE: Donald Trump! Donald Trump! Donald Trump!

TRUMP: Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you so much. Such a great honor.

This is a nation more than 1,000 years old. Your borders were erased for more than a century and only restored just one century ago.

In 1920, in the Miracle of Vistula, Poland stopped the Soviet Army bent on European conquest.

Then 19 years later, in 1938, you were invaded yet again; this time by Nazi Germany from the west and the Soviet Union from the east. That's trouble.

That's tough.

Under a double occupation, the Polish people endured evils beyond description: the Katyn Forest Massacre, the occupation, the Holocaust, the Warsaw Ghetto and the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, the destruction of this beautiful capital city, and the deaths of nearly one in five Polish people.

A vibrant Jewish population, the largest in Europe, was reduced to almost nothing after the Nazis systematically murdered millions of Poland's Jewish citizens, along with countless others during that brutal occupation.

In the summer of 1944, the Nazi and Soviet armies were preparing for a terrible and bloody battle right here in Warsaw. Amid that Hell on Earth, the citizens of Poland rose up to defend their homeland.

I am deeply honored to be joined on stage today by veterans and heroes of the Warsaw uprising.

What great spirit.

We salute your noble sacrifice and we pledge to always remember your fight for Poland and for freedom. Thank you. Thank you.

This monument reminds us that more than 150,000 Poles died during that desperate struggle to overthrow oppression.

From the other side of the river, the Soviet armed forces stopped and waited.

They watched as the Nazis ruthlessly destroyed the city, viciously murdering men, women and children.

They tried to destroy this nation forever by shattering its will to survive.

But there's a courage and a strength deep in the Polish character that no one could destroy.

The Polish martyr Bishop Michal Kozal said it well: ``More horrifying of a defeat of arms is a collapse of the human spirit.'' Through four decades of Communist rule, Poland and the other captive nations of Europe endured a brutal campaign to demolish freedom, your faith, your laws, your history, your identity; indeed, the very essence of your culture and your humanity.

Yet through it all, you never lost that spirit.

Your oppressors tried to break you, but Poland could not be broken.

And when the day came on June 2nd, 1979, and 1 million Poles gathered around Victory Square for their very first mass with their Polish pope, that day every Communist in Warsaw must have known that their oppressive system would soon come crashing down.

They must have known it at the exact moment during Pope John Paul II's sermon when a million Polish men, women and children suddenly raised their voices in a single prayer.

A million Polish people did not ask for wealth. They did not ask for privilege. Instead, 1 million Poles saying three simple words: ``We want God.'' In those words, the Polish people recalled the promise of a better future.

They found new courage to face down their oppressors. And they found the words to declare that Poland would be Poland once again.

As I stand here today before this incredible crowd, this faithful nation, we can still hear those voices that echo through history. Their message is as true today as ever. The people of Poland, the people of America and the people of Europe still cry out, ``We want God.'' Together with Pope John Paul II, the Poles reasserted their identity as a nation devoted to God. And with that powerful declaration of who you are, you came to understand what to do and how to live.

You stood in solidarity against oppression, against a lawless secret police, against a cruel and wicked system that impoverished your cities and your souls, and you won. Poland prevailed. Poland will always prevail.

AUDIENCE: Donald Trump! Donald Trump! Donald Trump!

TRUMP: Thank you.

You were supported in that victory over communism by a strong alliance of free nations in the West that defied tyranny. Now among the most committed members of the NATO alliance, Poland has resumed its place as a leading nation of a Europe that is strong, whole and free. A strong Poland is a blessing to the nations of Europe and they know that. A strong Europe is a blessing to the West, and to the world.

One hundred years after the entry of American forces into World War I, the transatlantic bond between the United States and Europe is as strong as ever and maybe, in many ways, even stronger.

This continent no longer confronts the specter of communism. But today, we're in the West, and we have to say, there are dire threats to our security and to our way of life.

You see what's happening out there. They are threats. We will confront them.

We will win. But they are threats.

AUDIENCE: Donald Trump! Donald Trump! Donald Trump!

TRUMP: We are confronted by another oppressive ideology, one that seeks to export terrorism and extremism all around the globe.

America and others have suffered one terror attack after another. We're going to get it to stop.

During a historic gathering in Saudi Arabia, I called on the leaders of more than 50 Muslim nations to join together to drive out this menace which threatens all of humanity. We must stand united against these shared enemies to strip them of their territory and their funding and their networks and any form of ideological support that they may have.

While we will always welcome new citizens who share our values and love our people, our borders will always be closed to terrorism and extremism of any kind.

AUDIENCE: Donald Trump! Donald Trump! Donald Trump!

TRUMP: We are fighting hard against radical Islamic terrorism.

And we will prevail.

We cannot accept those who reject our values and who use hatred to justify violence against the innocent.

Today, the West is also confronted by the powers that seek to test our will, undermine our confidence and challenge our interests.

To meet new forms of aggression, including propaganda, financial crimes and cyber warfare, we must adapt our alliance to compete effectively in new ways and on all new battlefields.

We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and its support for hostile regimes, including Syria and Iran, and to instead join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defense of civilization itself.

Finally, on both sides of the Atlantic, our citizens are confronted by yet another danger, one firmly within our control. This danger is invisible to some but familiar to the Poles: the steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and wealth of the people.

The West became great, not because of paperwork and regulations, but because people were allowed to chase their dreams and pursue their destinies.

Americans, Poles and nations of Europe value freedom and sovereignty. We must work together to confront forces, whether they come inside or out, from the south or the east, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are.

If left unchecked, these forces will undermine our courage, sap our spirit and weaken our will to defend ourselves and our societies

But just as our adversaries and enemies of the past learned here in Poland, we know that these forces, too, are doomed to fail if we want them to fail. And we do indeed want them to fail.

They are doomed not only because our alliance is strong, our countries are resilient and our power is unmatched. To all of that, you have to say, everything is true.

Our adversaries, however, are doomed because we will never forget who we are.

And if we don't forget who we are, we just can't be beaten.

Americans will never forget. The nations of Europe will never forget.

We are the fastest and the greatest community. There is nothing like our community of nations. The world has never known anything like our community of nations.

We write symphonies. We pursue innovation. We celebrate our ancient heroes, embrace our timeless traditions and customs, and always seek to explore and discover brand-new frontiers.

We reward brilliance, we strive for excellence, and cherish inspiring works of art that honor God. We treasure the rule of law and protect the right to free speech and free expression.

We empower women as pillars of our society and of our success.

We put faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, at the center of our lives.

And we debate everything. We challenge everything. We seek to know everything, so that we can better know ourselves.

And above all, we value the dignity of every human life, protect the rights of every person and share the hope of every soul to live in freedom.

That is who we are. Those are the priceless ties that bind us together as nations, as allies and as a civilization.

What we have, what we inherited from our -- and -- and you know this better than anybody and you see it today, with this incredible group of people -- what we've inherited from our ancestors has never existed to this extent before. And if we fail to preserve it, it will never, ever exist again. So we cannot fail.

This great community of nations has something else in common. In every one of them, it is the people, not the powerful, who have always formed the foundation of freedom and the cornerstone of our defense.

The people have been that foundation here in Poland, as they were right here in Warsaw. And they were the foundation from the very, very beginning in America.

Our citizens did not win freedom together, did not survive horrors together, did not face down evil together only to lose our freedom to a lack of pride and confidence in our values. We did not and we will not. We will never back down.

AUDIENCE: Donald Trump! Donald Trump! Donald Trump!

TRUMP: As long as we know our history, we will know how to build our future.

Americans know that a strong alliance of free, sovereign and independent nations is the best defense for our freedoms and for our interests. That is why my administration has demanded that all members of NATO finally meet their full and fair financial obligation. As a result of this insistence, billions of dollars more have begun to pour into NATO. In fact, people are shocked. But billions and billions of dollars more coming in from countries that, in my opinion, would not have been paying so quickly.

To those who would criticize our tough stance, I would point out that the United States has demonstrated not merely with words but with its actions that we stand firmly behind Article V, the mutual defense commitment.

Words are easy but actions are what matters. And for its own protection -- and you know this, everybody knows this, everybody has to know this -- Europe must do more. Europe must demonstrate that it believes in its future by investing its money to secure that future.

That is why we applaud Poland for its decision to move forward this week on acquiring from the United States the battle-tested Patriot air and missile defense system, the best anywhere in the world.

That is also why we salute the Polish people for being one of the NATO countries that has actually achieved the benchmark for investment in our common defense.

Thank you. Thank you, Poland. I must tell you the example you set is truly magnificent and we applaud Poland. Thank you.

We have to remember that our defense is not just a commitment of money, it is a commitment of will. Because as the Polish experience reminds us, the defense of the West ultimately rests not only on means, but also on the will of its people to prevail and be successful and get what you have to have.

The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it? We can have the largest economies and the most lethal weapons anywhere on Earth, but if we do not have strong families and strong values, then we will be weak and we will not survive.

If anyone forgets the critical importance of these things, let them come to one country that never has, let them come to Poland... and let them come here to Warsaw and learn the story of the Warsaw Uprising.

When they do, they should learn about Jerusalem Avenue.

In August of 1944, Jerusalem Avenue was one of the main roads running east and west through this city, just as it is today. Control of that road was crucially important to both sides in the battle for Warsaw. The German military wanted it as their most direct route to move troops and to form a very strong front. And for the Polish home army, the ability to pass north and south across that street was critical to keep the center of the city and the uprising itself from being split apart and destroyed.

Every night the Poles put up sandbags amid machine-gun fire -- and it was horrendous fire -- to protect a narrow passage across Jerusalem Avenue. Every day, the enemy forces knocked them down, again and again and again.

Then the Poles dug a trench. Finally, they built a barricade.

And the brave Polish fighters began to flow across Jerusalem Avenue.

That narrow passageway, just a few feet wide, was the fragile link that kept the uprising alive. Between its walls, a constant stream of citizens and freedom fighters made their perilous -- just perilous -- sprints. They ran across that street, they ran through that street, they ran under that street, all to defend the city.

The far side was several yards away, recalled one young Polish woman ... That mortality and that life was so important to her. In fact, she said the mortally dangerous sector of the street was soaked in blood.

It was the blood of messengers, liaison girls and couriers. Nazi snipers shot at anybody who crossed; anybody who crossed, they were being shot at. Their soldiers burned every building on the street and they used the Poles as human shields for their tanks in their effort to capture Jerusalem Avenue.

The enemy never ceased its relentless assault on that small outpost of civilization. And the Poles never ceased its defense. The Jerusalem Avenue passage required constant protection, repair and reinforcement.

But the will of its defenders did not waver even in the face of death.

And to the last days of the uprising, the fragile crossing never, ever failed.

It was never, ever forgotten. It was kept open by the Polish people.

The memories of those who perished in the Warsaw Uprising cry out across the decades. And few are clearer than the memories of those who died to build and defend the Jerusalem Avenue crossing.

Those heroes remind us that the West was saved with the blood of patriots, that each generation must rise up and play their part in its defense and that every foot of ground and every last inch of civilization is worth defending with your life.

Our own fight for the West does not begin on the battlefield. It begins with our minds, our wills and our souls. Today, the ties that unite our civilization are no less vital and demand no less defense than that bare shred of land on which the hope of Poland once totally rested.

Our freedom, our civilization and our survival depend on these bonds of history, culture and memory. And today, as ever, Poland is in our heart, and its people are in that fight.

Just as Poland could not be broken, I declare today for the world to hear that the West will never, ever be broken. Our values will prevail, our people will thrive, and our civilization will triumph.

AUDIENCE: Donald Trump! Donald Trump! Donald Trump!

TRUMP: Thank you.

So together let us all fight like the Poles, for family, for freedom, for country and for God.

Thank you. God bless you, God bless the Polish people, God bless our allies, and God bless the United States of America.

Thank you. God bless you. Thank you very much.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Review: Pride, Prejudice and Politics: Roosevelt versus Recovery, 1933-1938 by Gary Dean Best, Praeger 1991

In the last few decades several excellent books have been published documenting the New Deal's failure. Amity Shlaes The Forgotten Man (2007) was a milestone because of its popularity. It's now impossible for anyone to state that the "New Deal got the country out of the Depression" with a straight face. Even "court" academic historian Alan Brinkley in his The End of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War (1995) had to admit that the New Deal's commitment to "reform" over recovery caused immense hardship and damage to the country. Nevertheless, Brinkley remains a True Believer of modern "liberalism." 

One of the best deconstructions of the New Deal is Burton Folsom's New Deal or Raw Deal: How FDR's Economic Legacy has Damaged America (2008). Folsom ably goes through the militant irrationality of most major New Deal programs. After his thorough demolition job, there's little left of New Deal pretensions. It's a highly readable book that is infuriating in what it documents. In his acknowledgements, Folsom has the grace to note, "My starting point is Gary Dean Best. His books, his insights, and his knowledge of primary sources were very helpful to me at different points in my research." Other scholars on the New Deal have been rather churlish on their refusal to acknowledge Best's pioneering work. 

"The Roosevelt Recovery"

One of the best works on the New Deal is Best's Pride, Prejudice, and Politics. Gary was chairman of the University of Hawaii-Hilo's history department for many years. He is well remembered for his "regulation" tan shorts and black shirt. I met him a few times at local watering holes after he had retired from UHH. When I asked him for recommendations on good books on the cause of the Great Depression, he gave me a copy of Murray Rothbard's book America's Great Depression. He was a gentleman and scholar and is missed. 

In a nutshell, Best's thesis is that Roosevelt's hostility to and ignorance about business needlessly prolonged the Depression for years. If Roosevelt cared about or felt any guilt for inflicting massive amounts of hardship upon the American people, there is no historical record of it. His thesis is amply demonstrated by the use of primary documents. Most of the book's sources are from contemporary documents that illustrate the desperate straits business was pushed into by Roosevelt's policies. One investment banker testifying before Congress in 1935 on a particularly odious bill asked:

Is it the wish of the Government in Washington to advance recovery; to ease those who are seeing their income and their savings shrinking, to quiet fears that retard all progress, to do the utmost possible to help us out of this depression? Or is the desire to increase confusion and difficulties; to take advantage of opportunities to press its social theories and to distort the whole concept of American business? If the former, this Bill seems a mistake; if the latter - and all the indications of this Bill suggest it - then it is a success. (p. 87)

Best proves beyond all reasonable doubt that the banker's "latter" alternative is the correct one. Roosevelt's main goal appears to be the centralization of governmental power in the presidency. I say "appear" because the purpose of the power was to impose longstanding Progressive policies. In the election of 1920, the nation thoroughly repudiated the Progressives. Roosevelt was a Progressive who had served in the Wilson administration. Like his far more corrupt and evil political descendants, Roosevelt wasn't going to let a crisis go to waste. 

In 1932, Roosevelt ran as a moderate against the toxic Herbert Hoover. He even came out in favor of ending the Progressive hangover of Prohibition. Once in office, he tried to "fundamentally transform" the United States into Mussolini's Italy. In that endeavor, he had some successes and some notorious failures such as the NIRA. Roosevelt essentially bought the 1936 with a massive barrage of "targeted" federal spending while running against a hapless "me-tooing" Republican. The bill came due with the crash of late1937. 

Some historians, such as Alan Brinkley, have argued that the 1937 debacle forced Roosevelt to face reality and endorse a recovery/full employment policy. Best argues different. He documents how Roosevelt responded in 1938 with a anti-trust pogrom that certainly did not help business recovery. In fact, it was only large Republican gains in the 1938 Congressional races that forced Roosevelt's hand. What the suffering of millions of Americans couldn't do, the loss of some seats in Congress did. As Best observed: 

The war on business was ended, an international war was increasingly a prospect, and the Roosevelt administration quickly filled with advocates of recovery and preparedness, many of them from the business and financial world. (215)

This is an excellent and often brilliant work that belongs on the bookshelf of anyone interested in its topic or economic history in general. Unfortunately, Praeger's editions are very expensive. However, any decent university or public library system should have a copy. If not, tell them to get one on order!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Ayn Rand, Culture and Immigration

Ayn Rand did not comment much on the cultural underpinnings of Western Civilization and its greatest creation, the United States of America. In general, she focused on the philosophical foundation of liberty such as reason, rational self-interest, individualism and individual rights. There are, of course, some very important exceptions in her writing on the topic of culture.

In The Fountainhead she illustrates the use of nihilism to undermine a culture and people's ability to recognize achievement. The villain's aim is to render his victims incapable of recognizing or even holding personal values by undercutting all cultural values. With the character of Ellsworth Toohey, Rand dramatized the soul, methods and intentions of the Cultural Marxists

For all its evil, Marxism exists within the Western intellectual tradition. In the cultural conflict of individualism versus collectivism, Rand wrote within that context of what was a schism or civil war within the West. Her early political writings were addressed to Americans concerned about the nation's future. In both "Textbook of Americanism" (1946) and "The Only Path to Tomorrow" (1944) her main focus was on "The greatest threat to mankind and civilization [which] is the spread of the totalitarian philosophy." In these essays it's clear that she is referring to totalitarian philosophies derived from the German Romanticism of Kant and Hegel.

Rand viewed the conflict as between reason and post-Enlightenment irrationalism and the resulting conflict between egoism and altruism. As she wrote in "The Only Path to Tomorrow":

The rise of the United States to a degree of achievement unequaled in history - by the grace of the individual freedom and independence which our Constitution gave each citizen against the collective.

Of course, Rand understood that the creation of the United States was not the result of a handful of political philosophers' writings or speeches. Leaders are vital. But, leaders require a receptive audience to affect real change. The American Revolution had leaders, but not "followers" in the usual meaning. The message of life, liberty and property found resonance in America. Why? Rand's answer was that the unique "American sense of life."

The question is where that "sense of life" came from. And, is it now dying. Rand did not much address the first question, but she did comment on the second. On this topic today, self-appointed spokesmen for Objectivism are simply an embarrassment. As an answer to the first question, they provide some cartoon-like schematic ala, Aristotle ➔ Thomas Aquinas ➔ John Locke ➔ Thomas Jefferson ➔ the American Republic. Needless to say, historical causation involves more than that. David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed is an great place to start on this topic.

Rand's most well-known and extensive essay on the American sense of life is "Don't Let it Go," which is available in the anthology Philosophy: Who Needs It. She contrasts the United States with Europe thus:

It was a European who discovered America, but it was Americans who were the first nation [Emphasis added] to discover this earth and man's proper place in it, and man's potential for happiness, and the world which is man's to win. What they failed to discover is the words to name their achievement, the concepts to identify it, the principles to guide it, i.e., the appropriate philosophy and its consequence: an American culture.
 Ayn Rand's mission was to provide that philosophy. She succeeded brilliantly. She probably didn't have the time, interest or training to delve into the issue of where this American nation came from that predated the Revolution by a century. It should go without saying (but, I'll say it), that Rand's contemporary, self-appointed interpreters at the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) have no such excuse.  

At the beginning of her essay, Rand makes one definitional mistake. (Although, she deserves much praise for defining her terms.):

A "nation" is not a mystic or supernatural entity: it is a large number of individuals who live in the same geographical locality under the same political system.

This definition is clearly inadequate. Yugoslavia was never a nation. It was a state that housed several nations. Rand didn't dignify them as nations. In her essay "Global Balkanization," she referred to them as "tribes." This is both inaccurate and unfair to the Czech, Croatian or Serbian nations. For that matter, she couldn't be unaware of the fact that Russia had been long known as "the prison house of nations." This is a small error by Rand on a topic the was probably of no great interest to her. 

Rand understood the importance of the nation-state. It is clear that she knew Marxist inspired "globalism" would mean the death of freedom, much less prosperity:

Championed and propagated by "liberals" for many decades, internationalism is collectivism applied to the relationships of nations. Just as domestic collectivism holds that an individual's freedom and interests must be sacrificed to the "public interest" of society - so internationalism holds that a nation's sovereignty and interests must be sacrificed to the global community. (Ayn Rand, Los Angeles Times, November 4, 1962)
Read the above carefully. It is a position that Rand had consistently held for decades. She was an advocate of America First long before it was cool. As she observed in her Los Angeles Times column of October 21, 1962,

For decades, the "liberals" have regarded "nationalism" as an arch-evil of capitalism. They denounced national self-interest - they permitted no distinction between intelligent patriotism and blind, racist chauvinism, deliberately, lumping them together - they smeared all opponents of internationist doctrines as "reactionaries," "fascist" or "isolationists" - and they brought this country to the stage where expression such as "America First" become terms of opprobrium.

At the time she argued that the battle was over a pro-liberty domestic policy and not foreign policy. I doubt she ever conceived of that the West would ever allow the mass invasion of Europe and the USA by illiterate barbarians - it should go without saying that this is the issue of our time. I'm equally sure that she would be appalled at a "liberal" institution bearing her name.

Some readers may take offense at my use of the term "barbarians" above. Ayn Rand would not be one of those persons. She often used the term "savages" when discussing backwards people. For example, her characterization of Arabs in this clip:

The following audio is an excerpt of the Q and A in her guest lecture at West Point. At 9:24 she is asked a question on the Holy Trinity of America Hate: slavery, Indians and Japanese-American internment. Note that this litany hasn't changed in over forty years. The answer is worth a listen on her views on neo-lithic, and other backwards, people.

 After listening to the above two audio recordings, ask yourself if it is conceivable that the same women would approve of the mass invasion into the West by the most violent, barbaric and backwards people on the face of the earth.

If more proof is required, there is the following quote from her 1965 article "The Obliteration of Capitalism." Rand thought this statement was sufficiently important to quote it herself in her essay "The Age of Envy" from 1971:

It is to the Mohammedans, the Buddhists, and the cannibals - to the underdeveloped, the undeveloped, and the not-to-be-developed cultures - that the Capitalist United States of America is asked to apologize for her skyscrapers, her automobiles, her plumbing, and her smiling, confident, untortured, un-skinned alive young men!

It never occurred to Rand that the West's traitorous leaders, at their most depraved, would simply import Mohammedans and cannibals (that's a nice touch) to facilitate the skinning, torture and rape. Although, she knew full well that the elites' purpose was to permanently wipe the smiles from their own people's face. Nor would she have imagined an organization that bears he name would be one of the most vociferous cheerleaders for such depravity.

Fortunately, a growing number of individuals are rejecting "Official Objectivism" or, more accurately, "Obleftivism." Both, Ed Powell and Ed Mazlish have written excellent essays deconstructing ARI's deconstruction of the USA. Lindsey Perigo is usually overwrought and "over the top." However, his essay "Make Objectivism Great Again" is worth reading. In it, he correctly observes that "Trump Derangement Syndrome" is alive and well at ARI and in other such circles. Their antipathy to Trump does illustrate the snobbery of the "gated community" crowd. I don't see any cure soon for what ails them on the horizon.