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Michael Ubaldi, September 8, 2006.

Can we agree that former President Bill Clinton, during his eight-year tenure, did not realize how a military retreat from Somalia and a statutory response to bombing attacks would invite Near East terrorists to broaden their catastrophic enterprise? No, Mr. Clinton protests, and was last heard condemning the decision of Disney chief Robert Iger to air The Path to 9/11, a miniseries deprecative of his efforts as federal steward, after a phone exchange could not foreclose. What about the failure of those under Clinton to follow the commander-in-chief's implicit orders — secretaries, professionals, careerists? Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has been joined by Clinton's advisors on national security and counterterrorism, Sandy Berger and Richard Clarke, to insist that they have been defamed.

At the very least, is it OK for ABC to broadcast historical fiction, even if the historical figures are contemporary and they don't care for the fiction? In fact, signatures from a Democratic senatorial quintet were at the bottom of a letter to the network expressing the opinion that the public interest as defined by the Communications Act of 1934 involves limiting editorial content to that which no one can factually dispute; which means, one guesses, that Peter Jennings ought to check his mail, too.

With free expression there is the expectation and the allowance for one public personality to tell another to stop, or shut up. This becomes unseemly and unconstitutional when the first party ignores the second's right to do what the first doesn't like. That is where some on the left appear to be going, and the general public may well find the miniseries not nearly as fissiparous. For the right, advice: first, sit back and marvel; second, do not fault the former president for not having done the impossible, to prevent an attack like that on September 11th or halt the growth of terrorism simply by curtailing the leadership of al Qaeda with a button-push. Bill Clinton's goose is George W. Bush's gander.

Michael Ubaldi, September 7, 2006.

Mario Loyola got some trouble for his comparison of statements from Michael Moore and Nazi propagandists but his defense — "[America's detractors] don't realize that half their talking points are straight out of the propaganda of the people they most hate" — is solid.

In his derisive "Antwort" rebuttal to a diplomatic telegram from President Franklin Roosevelt, very nearly a stage performance to the Reichstag in late April 1939, Adolf Hitler disparaged the founding of America with lines that — if placed before a reader unaware of its origins — could readily be mistaken as tu quoque objections employed by those whom former Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick in 1984 named the Blame America First Crowd. Hitler's prevaricating appeal for equal judgment, noted by William Shirer in his classic The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, is as follows:

The freedom of North America was not achieved at the conference table any more than the conflict between the North and the South was decided there. I will not mention the innumerable struggles which finally led to the subjugation of the North American Continent as a whole. ...[Germans] had held out with infinite heroism against a whole world for four years in the struggle for its liberty and independence. They were subjected to even greater degradation than can ever have been inflicted on the chieftains of Sioux tribes.

Isn't this familiar? Emphasizing a liberal society's failures and diminishing its self-corrections is a counter to moral arguments so typical of Kirkpatrick's accused as to be reflexive. Lost in recrimination is the independent value of human dignity, as if a violation of one kind at one time excuses that of another in the present; out of a benefit of the doubt, therefore, do we assume Moore et al. believe they are working at cross-purposes to fascism.

A Time magazine account of Hitler's burlesque, written ten days after, exhibits two antiquities of mainstream American reportage: direct references to a dictator as a dictator; and evident disapproval and distrust not only of Hitler but also Benito Mussolini. Poignant is, then, to the right of the article for the time being, an advertisement for the latest edition of Time wherein the fifth anniversary of September 11th is to be marked by a cover story on America's posited "overreaction" to 3,000 dead.

Michael Ubaldi, September 6, 2006.

Iain Murray has printed a letter from a British Conservative friend of his that is, to put it mildly, critical of American maintenance of the "special relationship" between London and Washington. The White House, writes the friend in one magmatic passage, is "willing to see us sold down the river to a bunch of cod-socialist Euro fanatics." Murray turns to readers: what do Americans take from this?

Well. Murray's friend's lamentation comes off like that of a typical postmodernist, to wit, "What's in it for us?" Her charge of diminution is curious, considering the documented volume of Tory contempt for policies of the American right, notably martial assertion in the war and democratization. Most tendentious is the depiction of the prime minister as a "toady." Which wing of the alliance was it, Anglo or American, that insisted on hanging in for a final, vain round of Security Council negotiations in early 2003, paring the indictment of Saddam Hussein for the sake of votes from Ba'athist Baghdad's most loyal Franco-Russo trade partners? Which wing had the power to refuse to go along, but instead deferred to the other out of respect?

The friend means well, I am sure, but we have here a backbencher screed and little else.

Related thought: America is an earnest belle, broad-faced and winsome. England is her cleverly waspish savant friend who plays foil when the suitors come.

Michael Ubaldi, September 5, 2006.

Dysgenics makes the clerisy giggle, and so it is with talk of a movie on the subject that jokes about intelligence and affluence are swapped. One family, broken, two boys, comes to mind: the mother with an IQ below average and the biological father, now long gone, a thoroughgoing man of the underclass. The mother, nearing sixty now, is warm-hearted but still mostly careless; one son means well but is lowbrow and aimless. The other son, however, is motivated and articulate, determined to enter a career that will, in all likelihood, mean his transcendence of unpromising beginnings. He's the one who moved away with good reason, who decided that he could do better than drudgery. From a few hundred miles away, he looks after his mother.

Odds are against success to be had by those of lesser faculties and fortunes but they can be beaten, and done so through character — inspired by something other than blood or books — absent from the smart and disdainful.

Michael Ubaldi, September 4, 2006.

National Review editor Rich Lowry cites an article by Jackson Diehl, who reports that Iraqi leaders are building their country assiduously but deliberately, and not — as is the political mandate in Washington — expeditiously. A corresponding reader of Lowry's, whose letter Lowry reproduced on the Corner three weeks ago, emphasized the axiom that neither success nor failure are complete, ever. From early 2003 there has been a notion in the West that the liberation and strenuous rebirth of Iraq are plot devices in a story; every month, every day taken with the constant expectation of peripety. This is faulty and dangerous thinking.

Michael Ubaldi, September 1, 2006.

A couple of days after a friend of mine waved off the fourteen-day weather forecast in front of me, explaining that he took meteorology to be a "soft science," he attributed the canicular heat wave to "global warming" as one might rust to oxidation. Now, my friend is no fool but he does hold some positions for reasons more preferential than rational. This would be one. Identifying a trend is a matter of observation and correlation; projecting the same without a full account of variables and their mutability is conjecture. Scientific prognoses of this kind are often the most exponential, with all the predictive authority of proposing that a Toyota Tercel moving forward from standstill on green just after midnight, New Year's Day, shall, sixty-three years later, reach the speed of light in time for the Thanksgiving travel rush.

Certainly when, in some quarters, Hurricane Katrina is spoken of George W. Bush is, too — more precisely, the president's name is taken in vain. Since September of last year, however, a second subject of apostrophe has been "global warming" itself, as if it were Mother Nature corporeal. Rain, wind, snow — all expositive of a thing, a force, effecting them by causation that surpasses reason, except for academic consensus and computer models. Orson Scott Card, I learned yesterday, has also been watching as surety supplants method.

Michael Ubaldi, September 1, 2006.

Jonah Goldberg proposes "Bin Ladenism" as a substitute for "Islamist fascism." "We used Marxism and Leninism pretty efficiently for a long time and Bin Laden's ideology is pretty well spelled out," he writes, so "why not do the same with him?"

It would be a mistake because Osama bin Laden rose as an exponent of the latest strain of authoritarianism to come from the Near East, and neither a founder of conquest styled after Islam nor a practically central figure in it. Were bin Laden confirmed dead and the West to take no other military or political action beyond that, the state of things would remain the same; the point indisputable if bin Laden were to be confirmed having been dead for years.

Some insist otherwise. The most memorable expression of the belief that terrorism is wholly centripetal came from Senator John Kerry when he in 2004 characterized the putative escape of bin Laden from Tora Bora as a missed opportunity to end the war, as if the Saudi lunatic were a sorcerer holding Islamists in thrall to an enchantment. President Bush finally challenged the senator on this in the third presidential debate and, by virtue of his present office, won that particular argument.

Islamist fascists are unique in their use of technology as an international deployment and delivery system (requiring state support but not national identity or dominion), and of religion as a conductive element (establishing cultural footholds in liberal countries). They are indistinguishable from any other organized group of thugs in their shared desire for supremacy and totalism and carnage. If "Marxism" and "Leninism" were efficient they were also exclusive, and with the last decade of the Twentieth Century as historical record, words that by constriction led to the pronouncement of Soviet communism's defeat as the end of history — presaging the senescence and expiration of evil. Evil did not retire. While clarity is to be sought, the authoritarian fundament of an ideology should not be lost in denotation.

Michael Ubaldi, August 31, 2006.

On the left, no change: Senators Jack Reed and Chuck Schumer are two of several national Democrats who have chosen to publicize, on the cusp of an election season, agnosticism towards the nature of the enemy known as Islamist fascism, a term recently used by President Bush. The term isn't without flaws but it is practical, and anyway Schumer and Reed were less interested in discerning religious motives of non-state authoritarians from cultural ones than they were to deny terrorists' affirmed capital intentions and pronounce the movement dangerous but categorically diffuse.

On meeting the enemy, Senator Schumer either contradicted himself, cautioning that "you got to have a real policy" to "fight them," as if deployments in dozens of countries weren't, or was instead referring to a revolution in military strategy of his own intellectual labor to be announced. Senator Reed was disdainful of "a catchy slogan...more for political consumption" and faulted President Bush and his advocates for failing "to do the hard work of digging into the facts" and ending up with a paralogism. The fascists of the Pact of Steel, said Reed, came to power through democratic elections. He corrected himself — he was certain that the Nazis, at least, did.

What Reed didn't say, perhaps because his own hard work was elsewhere, is that had General Kurt von Schleicher not etiolated Germany's Weimar polity for his own manipulative ends, affording the Nazis whatever legitimacy that could not be got from electoral gains and terrorist acts, Adolf Hitler's appointment to Chancellor would have been by no means inevitable. Von Schleicher contrived and helped sunder two Reichstag governments, those of Heinrich Bruening and Franz von Papen, before trying to build a cabinet of his own. Mendacity, however, preceded him and von Schleicher's weak prospects led the doddering President Paul von Hindenburg to accept, from the embittered von Papen, a premise that ten years before would have been unthinkable: the National Socialists' seditionist leader as political intermediary. "Hitler was elected" is erroneous and, too, inimical to the understanding of self-determination in tenuously liberal societies, since it was undemocratic doings that exalted the Third Reich.

Michael Ubaldi, August 28, 2006.

National Review contributor Andrew McCarthy's criticism yesterday of press agency Reuters, in conjunction with an apparently independent gang in the Gaza Strip having released kidnapped journalists Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig, was probably well-deserved. Yet McCarthy went a step further and asked if "'mainstream' Muslim experts" will disavow the kidnappers' Saracenical conversion of Centanni and Wiig to Islam. The act, by itself, was coercive, accomplished through such liturgical devices as sleep deprivation and firearms leveled at point-blank range, and perhaps not amputative surgery only because both men were likely rid of the prepuce at birth.

Is there "no compulsion" in Muslim proselytizing, and is jihad "the inner struggle against sin"? — McCarthy's rhetorical question is his own answer in the negative. If this sentiment were to reflect the conservative right's focus on Islam — rather than authoritarian culture — as the catalyst for terrorism and non-state mayhem, it brings the traditionalists to an uncomfortable set of propositions. I wrote about the absurd logical ends of this argumentation a year ago and again just recently.

The first problem is one of definition. If a religious identity (in this case, Muslim) is legitimate by declaration alone, remaining unimpeachable regardless of behavior, then by consequence membership is of nominal value and by corollary the tenets of the faith are meaningless. McCarthy is suggesting that Muslims, even those at the Council for American-Islamic Relations who are reliably antipathetic to the West, must answer for every madman who can recite a verse from the Koran. This is casuistry, best dispatched by William F. Buckley, Jr. sixteen years ago when he challenged a European dignitary's imputation of crimes of South American missionaries to Christianity by asking "which of the Ten Commandments was responsible."

Accordingly, the second problem is in application. We can prove that not all Muslims, not even a sizable minority, are terrorists or religious enforcers. But McCarthy implies that the Gaza kidnappers are representative enough of Islam to render Muslims accountable. There are two permutations: a) most Muslims are bad Muslims, because they do not kidnap or murder or forcibly convert; or b) as figured above, heresy is not inherently or practically excommunicative. Apologists for thuggery are without an excuse, and all other parties should condemn them; but it is hard to understand how an average Muslim is culpable, and it is nearly impossible for McCarthy to have implied anything else. And still unresolved is how one is victorious in a religious war. Iniquity does not require the misappropriation of a covenant with God, and we do well to remember that the denial of God, cardinal to the Soviet state, was contemporarily embraced — just prior to the rise of virulent modern interpretations of Islam — by most of the Arab world.

Michael Ubaldi, August 25, 2006.

Although Michael Totten's report from Iraq's Kurdish north is mostly about the region's progressivity and its peoples' impatience with a slowly reforming south, the article offers anecdotal evidence for the enthusiasm for democracy where autocracy has been long thought endemic. Nevertheless, National Review's Andrew Stuttaford saw an opportunity to denigrate the country's Arab state and society, and did so. While Kurds have among them neither the foreign invaders nor the native instigators found in southern and especially central and western Iraq, they currently are not, as a culture, what Westerners identify as cosmopolitan, nor have they been immemorially prepared for the establishment of government by consent. It was one decade of the Anglo-American aegis, sparing Kurds the most oppressive and corrosive elements of Saddam Hussein's gangsterdom, in which Kurds — not yet with a generation having lived under free, electoral representation — still found cause to quarrel with and combat one another. Inurement to authoritarian culture is, per the Kurdish experience, feasible but requires time; which Arab Iraq has not been given. Are the Kurds an example of aberration or, with the whole of Iraq tens of millions of freely cast votes richer, auspication?