Morning Report: August 20, 2007

In the news, an American ally ponders a new level of defensive weapons.

Israel Air Force may buy new Patriot system. Jerusalem Post: 'The Israel Air Force is deliberating whether to buy an improved model of the US-made Patriot missile defense system. Lockheed Martin offered the system, know as the PAC-3, to the IDF for the relatively low price of under $50 million, defense industry sources said. ...' Full article at the link.

And your humble blogger was there. Pajamas Media links to some of the bloggers who attended Blog Fest West here in San Francisco Saturday night. Cinnamon Stillwell posts a complete blogroster. Cinnamon adds: 'Billed as "The Right Side of the Left Coast," the event was an opportunity for those with right-leaning politics here in California to enjoy some likeminded company for a change. Even so, I'd have to say that it was a pretty eclectic crowd. No political litmus tests for us.' Roger Simon was there, and so was Jeremayakovka, who wrote: 'The affable event afforded a few dozen of California's more linearly critical thinkers an occasion to match a face to a url, to swap stories old and new, and to float ideas and visions. The fleshy forms of over 20 web sites attended, with all told over 40 attendees. True to form, when bloggers gathered in person, despite the tasty food and tempting drink appetite for conversation proved the strongest.'

Briefly noted. Or Does It Explode remembers the Yezidi victims of the recent terrorist bombing in Iraq.

Commentary. We've got some first-rate analysis on the feed reader this morning. There's an Iraq SitRep at The Middle Ground, with several items sharing the common theme of increasing cooperation and effectiveness of Iraqi and Coalition forces. Kat then provides a view of the French officials' visit to Iraq:
Chirac had been attempting to position France as a leader among the European Union nations and create a separate economic and strategic sphere from the US. Multiple problems arose to challenge his plans including French unemployment and economic stagnations as well as the other European nations not being too keen on France being the center of the European universe. Another flag appeared last winter when the Russian's flexed their muscle, cutting off natural gas to the Ukraine, thus, European nations. It became very obvious that, despite the end of the Cold War, Russia was not adverse to making its power in Europe known. The Europeans could do nothing about it except complain mightily.

With France being dependent on Russian and Iranian oil and natural gas, Iraq becomes a pivotal point where Sarkozy believes that they need to become more active to insure Iraq is stabilized. Particularly as Iran continues to meddle there and the US rhetoric is ratcheting up step by step proving the Iranians have been attacking US forces. If this continues, France may well lose its influence in Iran and be totally shut out if the US decides that war is necessary.

Also, insights on Baghdad-Tehran relations and Sadr's latest maneuvers. Don't forget to bookmark The Middle Ground on your browser.

Ocean Guy offers some insights into the value of studying military history, especially in light of the infantile anti-war slogan that "war never solved anything".
Appeasement leads to more violent wars, it does not prevent them… it never has, it never will. Appeasement leads either to war or to surrender and defeat of the appeaser. We learn that through history. Those who ignore military history learn that violence is bad… always bad… and that mutual understanding is paramount. Those who ignore history will lead us into another war, and the longer they put it off the more violent and deadly it will be.

The Belmont Club cites articles by Peter Leeson at Cato Unbound and Mark Lilla at the New York Times. Leeson's contention, in a nutshell:
Given a choice between a bad State and a state of nature, go with nature.

Lilla's article discusses the legacy of Thomas Hobbes' 1651 work Leviathan which set forth a new way of looking at religion and the state - one that, in Lilla's words,
would set its sights lower than Christian political theology had, but secure what mattered most, which was peace.

But this created new problems. As Fernandez explains,
The shadow of separation from God -- the Hobbes problem, as Lilla puts it -- haunted Rosseau who felt that while it was necessary to banish God from political life it was simultaneously necessary not to completely forget Him.

... At first humanity's traditional habituation to God provided assurance that man would never be left wholly alone with his inner temptations. Some guideposts would surely remain. "Religion is simply too entwined with our moral experience ever to be disentangled from it, and morality is inseparable from politics." But that underrated the ambition of the ideologues. Once God had left the room the stakes went too high: and God's vacant throne glittered irresistibly before them. The natural impulse of demagogues was not, as Rousseau might have thought, to retain God as an absent, but beneficent Constitutional Monarch in whose extended absence Parliament ruled. For ambitious men the goal was to supplant the Creator altogether the better to rule on earth as gods. God's death not only became politically expedient, but necessary for the attainment of unlimited power -- the ground on which the 20th century unfolded as it did.

And so we got
faiths whose missionaries would proselytize everywhere and make converts as far afield as Vietnam and China. Faiths under whose banners structures greater than cathedrals would be filled with chanting adherents; faiths whose patriarchs greater than Popes would rule; pitiless religions where not thousands, but hundreds of millions would be burned at the proverbial stake.

Which brings us to where we are now:
In the end, Europe emerged exhausted from the carnage wrought by her intellectual products; faithless, and incredulous to see Islam glaring at it from the Other Shore; full of the very certitudes they had recently forsaken. Lilla says Westerners do not understand Muslims; but only because they have forgotten what it is like to be them: to slay or be slain for one's belief.

Fernandez concludes:
America has wisely learned that some debates are better left unresolved; that imperfection is sometimes a virtue; and that all faith is dangerous unless accompanied by a large bucket of fried chicken and six-pack of beer; and the tabloid the necessary antidote to the intellectual political journal.
One of the great founding principles of America was that nobody had the answers; that a frontier was needful as a place where you could hide both from the busybodies in town and from the idea of God Himself; because too perfect an order was a dangerous thing: a touch of anarchy as the Will of God because it is freedom by another name.

Read. The. Whole. Thing.

A couple of years ago I wrote an paper for an undergraduate course in American Literature, in which I observed of Frederick Douglass' Narrative:
One of the most striking features about Douglass’s narrative is the regularity with which his insights into the nature of oppression and freedom are followed by moments of spiritual enlightenment, expressed in spiritual language.

In another essay, I wrote:
But if, as Jonathan Edwards believed, we are all in imminent danger of destruction, then our exile in the wilderness also gives us the liberty to find the spiritual materials of our own salvation. We must do this for ourselves; it will not be handed to us. Every one of us, from the moment we're thrust screaming into this world until the moment we're taken from it, faces this same exile. And every one of us faces the same task.

Why should man respect nature, if nature will not respect man? Ask instead how humankind may best show respect for the Power that lies beyond nature, and that lies inside each of us as well. ...

As The Belmont Club so ably demonstrates, and events in the Middle East attest, the ugly fact of human oppression drives us to continue seeking new answers; but this motion is not, as was once believed, a linear movement away from the church and all it represents. Rather, it is a cyclical process of growth, in which we can - if we will it - come to ever deeper understandings of human nature, which is the reflection of Divine nature.