Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Mr.. President, Please Define "Victory" in Afghanistan

Our President is sending 30,000 more soldiers to the same dangerous deserts that Persian, Greek, Mongol, British and Russian Empires could not completely subdue.

The small number, coupled with a timeline for withdrawal will not secure freedom for Afghans or safety for the West.

What should our policy be?

Victory and vigilance.

We must strike a decisive blow and destroy the forces of terror and then be prepared to intervene if they attempt any kind of comeback.

We do not need to be a long-term occupier nor do we need to impose our culture.

We need to defeat our foes decisively, with military success and a treaty of surrender. Then we need to have our forces ready to strike at the first sign of violation.

The major mistakes in Obama's policy are the proposed timeline ending our involvement and the passive language about our aims. "Impeding momentum" is not total victory. Al-Queda and the Taliban only understand one language: brute force.

I respect the President for attempting to gather international support. The problem is that there is no clear goal and no consensus on process shared by NATO allies or any of the 43 nations involved.

It is also disconcerting to see the blatant politics of the timing of the first troop withdrawals: just before the 2012 elections. Obama is trying to position himself as a pragmatic moderate while winking to his hard left supporters. He can blunt conservative attacks by appearing martial and presidential while "ending" a war before the next votes are cast.

Mr. President - send in the troops with a mandate to win and we will celebrate with you their rapid return.

Mr. President, stop bowing to foreign royalty and stop apologizing for American uniqueness.

Mr. President, respect the brave State of Israel and stop marginalizing her. She is the only pluralistic democracy in the Middle East and as soon as Palestinian leaders guarantee her sovereignty, she will sign a real peace accord and welcome a second Palestinian State.

You can be an outdated ideologue or a statesman. i hope you choose the latter.

P.S. One more thing, Mr. President: End this health care fiasco and stop appropriating the resources of hard working Americans. Use your bully pulpit to empower municipalities, counties and states to find public-private partnership solutions to health care and other social challenges. Your legacy could really be amazing if your will unleash wealth creation and lessen federal control. Eschew your tired playbook from your university days, read some Tom Sowell columns on economics and watch our land flourish again.

P.P.S. Go to Copenhagen and tell the fear mongers and global governance folks to take their questionable science and go home.

Nothing to Fear

As a historian, my interest grows as I see commentary on the "New Atheism." The "Big Four" - Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens (sounds like British law firm) - have created a stir that stimulates skeptics to be more militant and religious apologists to fire up their debating skills.

There is absolutely NOTHING new about any of the ideas brought forward any of these or other atheists. They are part of a generational cycle of reaction against religion that characterizes the academic and chattering classes of the West. From the first "free thinkers" of the 17th century to today's militant atheists, hatred of religion will always have adherents and auditors, especially if there are a few juicy scandals among some religious groups.

There are four basic tactics of the anti-religious elites. Some are presented with honorable intent, while others cynically exploit ignorance or use the tools of propaganda to influence their hearers.

Tactic Number One: Vilify the awful things done in the name of religion in order to distort the beliefs of that religion. It is amazing how the same historical events come up, with no attempt to read multiple accounts of the same events.

For example: The Crusades of 1095 to 1291. The standard atheist screed is, "Look what religion does! It promulgates violence and intolerance and it merely the tool of the political elite."

Response: The Crusades were a complex series of geopolitical events that involved Christians, Muslims, Jews and above all, the economic and political concerns of competing civilizations. The losers were the pious of all faiths and the winners were the rich and powerful. None of these events "proves" or "disproves" the Divine.

The fact is that the new atheists are really out to destroy Christianity and hope Islam will go down in flames someday. The creator of the recent movie 2012 was happy to destroy the holy sites of Judaism and Christianity because he hates religion; however he did not want an Islamofascist fatwa on his head, so the Dome on the Rock and Mecca were spared!

Tactic Number Two: Create a huge divide between religion and science and assert that science represents intellectual and moral progress while religion is regressive and intellectually infantile. All the radical atheists consider their perspective the only tenable one for "fully informed and sane people." Obviously, only these "brights" should be in charge!

Response: The vast majority of scientists before 1900 were not atheists and even today most scientists argue that these are separate domains. Science does not aim to destroy religion and most religious adherents respect the hard work of the scientific community. The problem arises when a scientific theory (Darwinian Evolution) becomes more than an explanation of natural processes. In the hands of the impious and unscrupulous, it becomes an excuse to exclude God from Nature or to justify ethnic supremacy or other totalitarian ideas.

Most religious folks can live with a world older than Bishop Ussher's chronology. They will not, however, yield the ground of meaning and morality to chaotic, impersonal, random and violent forces.

Tactic Number Three: Question the validity of key Christian beliefs, especially the resurrection of Jesus. If met with intelligent responses, question the historicity and veracity of the Bible. To add a bit of spice, attempt to reduce Christianity and Judaism to an amalgamation of beliefs culled from other faiths and philosophies, with no need for any supernatural intervention. In fact, go back to science and roundly affirm the impossibility of verifying any miracles.

Response: Yes, there is a measure of faith for any theist. Yes, Christianity (along with Islam and Judaism) shares some ideas and moral precepts with other systems. But this is not the same as declaring the resurrection impossible, Jesus barely a historical figure or the growth of Christianity merely a natural phenomenon.

Jesus of Nazareth is a historical figure verified by multiple accounts, sacred and secular. His followers were transformed and became zealous missionaries because they believed in Jesus' literal resurrection. The growth of Christianity, accompanied by its ethical, social and spiritual good, is not possible if it is only an amalgamation of other belief systems.

Tactic Number Four: When all else fails, hold God hostage for not intervening to prevent evil in all circumstances and/or his (apparent) failure to talk to us like any other person.

Response: The problem of evil is vexing for anyone, skeptic or theist. The most passionate believer can not explain fully why a "sneer was found across the universe"(G.K. Chesterton). In an of itself, though, evil is not a proof or disproof of the Divine - it is a problem that God and humankind must face. Once again, the atheists miss the point. By holding God accountable to humans, we are missing the very definition of God that is part of Monotheism.

Theists must clarify their thinking, speak boldly and humbly, and above all, live lives of exemplary love and service. There is nothing to fear from the new brand of atheism - it is the old ideas repackaged for a gullible, narcissistic consumer culture. Atheism is the preserve of cultural elites.

There is no room for smugness. Real faith and the communities it creates must be renewed continually. We must be alert to the forces that seek destruction of the Divine in humanity. All this said, we have nothing to fear is we "do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God."