The Problem of Good


In the comments section of a recent Belmont Club post, just before the tsunami disaster in South Asia, a discussion began concerning Kevin Sites. Responding to one of the commenters, Wretchard wrote:

If Mr. Sites has been deleting critical comments, I would be very disappointed in him. Belmont Club is exhibit A in the policy of giving every opinion, short of incitement, the freedom of the site. Yes, even DoubleStandard. Paradoxically, I think criticism sharpens the quest for truth. What should anyone fear except error?

The real value of this blog is that it encourages readers to contribute their opinions. The process of thinking through a situation, writing out an opinion and then discovering that it is no worse and frequently better than the stuff dished out by talking heads is a powerfully liberating experience. It is the process, not necessarily the result that is really subversive.

The longer it goes on the more dangerous the revolution becomes. Someone compared the rise of the Internet to the invention of the printing press. When books were the province of a few you could only come to knowledge through someone else. When books became common, people could learn for themselves, which put quite a few mediocrities out of business. Doubtless there will be those, as happens with people who interpret scripture do-it-yourself, who will get it all cockeyed. But on the whole mass produced books were a good thing.

There are some who are shocked, shocked at the act of a private person musing out loud about what seems like a staged photograph. ‘How dare you, how dare you raise these questions’. Yet to those who grew up on the Internet, this attitude is puzzling in the extreme. It’s a natural as breathing, a wholly different tradition. There must be hundreds of sites out there saying I’m a jerk. So what? This blog is just a meme, that’s all. I am nothing. I don’t even have a name. There must be zillions out there who disagree with my ideas. But so what? If my ideas are wrong they’ll die. If they are right, not even I can stop them. Scary when you think of it.

But I forget that people out there in the old media have got a consciousness of status which they value. Some may subconsciously think of yours miserably truly as a one of them wannabe. I can’t even aspire to what I don’t understand. Merry Christmas everybody.

Buddy Larsen then responded to Wretchard:

Merry Christmas to you, too, Wretchard. You’ve fought the good fight all along, but on this, you alone looked twice at that pic, and asked the right questions. The rest of us had already looked at it, registered it as hellish stuff, and moved on, a little sickened. Just as we were supposed to as always sheepishly do. What you did with your “Whoaaa, hold on a minute” was to give a real gift to the world. Pretty good work for a mere meme, a nameless entity in cyberspace.

Wretchard’s response was:


The one thing Saddam left out of reckoning was the existence of people who wouldn’t go along. When you think of it, the Problem of Evil is the dual of the Problem of Good. The chief problem with accepting the existence of God is the fact that evil exists. Yet the mirror problem afflicts those which would deny God. Why does beauty, why does superfluity of good exist? Against the ichneumon wasp there is the problem of accounting for a Francis of Assisi.

And so it is here. Men of good will are the problem from a certain point of view. They are the obstacle which must be removed at all costs. A little more money, intimidation and corruption should do it. But the bad guys are left scratching their heads in wonderment at why victory is denied them.

But they are part of the scenery; a curse, if you will. “For the Shadow was only a passing thing and Frodo knew there would always be truth and high beauty beyond its power to corrupt.”

Pure goodness is always a surprise when it appears in the world. To cite a recent example:

A man walked into a homeless shelter in Denver last night and handed out 35-thousand dollars to the residents.

He gave five-thousand dollars to a family of six for housing. He passed out 100-dollar bills to 300 people.

One man who’s been at the shelter since last month says, “It was like seeing Santa Claus and God all at once.”

Or look at the way Western Civilization has responded to the tragedy wrought by the tsunami: relief efforts, spearheaded by Australian aid agencies, are entering the Indonesian province of Aceh on the island of Sumatra to begin the process of aiding the injured, bringing food, water, and clothing to the displaced, and stemming the inevitable onslaught of epidemics. As it happens, Aceh is a hotbed of Islamist activity, home to the Free Aceh Movement, which aims to create an independent Islamic state. This region has been a refuge for some of the terrorists belonging to groups that planned and executed the Bali bombing which killed so many Australians.

So how does Australia respond? By coming to the aid of Indonesia, even at the risk of giving possible succor to some of its enemies.

Another quote from The Lord of the Rings is apropos: Frodo says, “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” Gandalf responds, “So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

King of America?


The English word “king” is derived from the Old English cyning, which in turn is derived from the Germanic stem cyn, meaning “kind” or “people”, and cognate with the word “kin”, the German könig, and the Latin gens (this last is related to “generate” and “gentile”). The suffix ‑ing means “representative or exemplar of”. Thus the original sense of the word would have been “he who represents the people”. The king stood as an exemplar of his kind, the leading avatar of his kindred.

The first king of England is considered to be Alfred the Great, during whose ninth-century reign the Anglo-Saxon regions of England united for the first time, in defense against the Danes. One of the characteristic strengths of the English was their unusual ability to unite against a common threat, something which their Celtic neighbors in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland found hard to do.

But if the English found unity against their enemies, they remained an individualistic people with a suspicion of central authority. From the time of the Magna Carta, through the early parliaments and the height of the British Empire, England was a constitutional monarchy in which restraints were placed on the power of the king by both law and custom. It is through this tradition, with its emphasis on the freeborn yeoman and the common law, that parliamentary democracy came into the world, the great gift of the English to Western civilization.

The English carried the tradition of their “ancient liberties” to the New World, and in the United States, with the monarchy removed, the first constitutional republic was formed. However, in America, the culture of the English was mixed and merged with another one, that of the Celts.

In his book Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America , James Webb describes the effect on America of the great Celtic migrations. After the initial English settlements, waves of Scots and Irish came to the English colonies in North America, possibly comprising more than half of the influx of new arrivals in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Irish were fleeing oppression, the Scots were fleeing marginalization, and all were fleeing poverty. They brought with them a fierce individualism, a warrior spirit, and a deep-seated distrust of all authority. They spread through the Appalachians and later moved west, bearing a strong religious sense and an ethic of hardy self-reliance that has become a major thread in the American cultural fabric.

The marriage of the English system of law and government with the temperament of the Celts has produced the modern American character. It gives us on the one hand a genius for organization and an impetus to unity against outside threats, while on the other hand we are fractious, doubtful of authority, and ready to fight when confronted.

So, if it were possible to have a king of this hybrid race, who would it be? He would have to represent us, to be one of our kind. He must be an individualist, with a fighting spirit and a fierce loyalty to his own people. He would have a rock-solid religious faith, one that can withstand the challenges and pitfalls that life places before him. He would believe in the rights inherent in a free citizen, as opposed to the dictates of the state. And he would stand as a pillar of strength against all threats to his kin.

Thus, if America could have a king, it would be George W. Bush, for surely he represents us. People who hate him do so for that reason: he holds up a mirror to reveal the American character, and they do not like what they see. Perhaps they want an America that is more nuanced, more sophisticated, more erudite and European. But that is not who we are; we are simple folk with an ingenuous open-handedness, a nation of hayseeds and rubes who stormed the beaches of Normandy, raised the flag at Iwo Jima, and made the march up to Baghdad, a fierce, indomitable, and untiring folk. President Bush is the exemplar of our kind, the one who best represents the qualities which make us what we are.

The Anglic Reach, Part III

The Kaiser’s Jihad

When the First World War broke out in August 1914, one of Britain’s war aims was to secure the Suez canal and its access to the oilfields of Mesopotamia. The British had a long history of cultivating contacts among the natives in the populations they ruled, and of fielding men who became immersed in the local culture. During the war they benefited from this policy, since they already had a number of experienced Arabic speakers in place in the Arab world, the most notable among them being T. E. Lawrence.

The Kaiser also had his eye on the same strategic area, and, at the opening of the war encouraged his Turkish allies to raise a jihad against the British and French. The Turkish sultan, Enver Pasha, followed the German advice, and the Turks rallied to the call, fighting successfully with ferocious Islamic zeal against the British and Australians in the Gallipoli campaign in 1915.

But the Ottoman Empire consisted of more than just Turkey, and the Arab provinces were not the sultan’s to command. Despite all their pre-war espionage and intrigue, the Germans miscalculated the behavior of the Arabs. Donald M. McKale writes:

During the war, while the conflict between Constantinople and the sharif intensified, Berlin eagerly pushed the Turks to allow German contact with Husayn and even direct involvement in Hijaz, the region bordering the Red Sea in Arabia which he ruled. German objectives were confused and their policies toward the sharif were incoherent. At times Germany solicited the sharif’s support, but in other instances it sought to use Hijaz to pursue its imperial interests in Africa.

Part of Berlin’s difficulty resulted from its failure to understand the sharif, his tense relations with the Turks over his rule in Hijaz, and his political goals. In June 1916, Husayn revolted against the Ottoman government after it refused to guarantee him a hereditary, autonomous amirate (territory under the jurisdiction of an Islamic prince) in Hijaz. The sharif wished to secure his position not only against Turkish interference but also against such rival Arab chieftains as Ibn Saud in northeastern Arabia. The Germans, like the Turks and the British, believed Husayn had greater ambitions. They thought that he sought to acquire the caliphate from the Ottoman sultan and to break completely from Turkish political and religious suzerainty.

Lawrence’s invaluable contribution was to see the strategic possibilities inherent in Arab nationalism. His understanding of the Arab character allowed him live amongst the Arabs and influence their decisions. An Ottoman assault on the Suez canal failed, at least in part, because the Arabs would not come to the Turks’ support. In Mesopotamia, on the other hand, the British were able to persuade the Arab tribes to revolt against their Turkish masters. Later in the war Lawrence and his Arab allies retook Baghdad, entered Jerusalem, and eventually pushed the Turks out of the Hijaz. The Germans were never able to threaten British access to the oilfields.

But the Law of Unintended Consequences had the last laugh. The Germans raised a jihad; the British raised an Arab revolt to counter it. In later years, as the Arab states became ungovernable from a colonial standpoint, they also became sinkholes of despotism under their local rulers, creating a fertile seedbed for the Great Jihad which has emerged to confront all of us in the West. Awakening the slumbering monster of Arab nationalism led inexorably to the Mufti of Jerusalem, Gamel Abdul Nasser, Yasser Arafat, Hafez Assad, Muammar Qaddafi, Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti, and Osama bin Laden.

The Anglic Reach, Part II

The Alipore Bombing

The British Empire governed its dominions loosely. Imperial India originated as a commercial operation, and when the East India Company was disbanded and reorganized as a Crown Colony, the rulers of India continued to run the colony in a way that facilitated profitable commerce.

To this end Britain delegated a relative autonomy to its local representatives, and organized the education and advancement of natives of India so as to make them capable functioning in a modern state. The schools, government, and cultural institutions of India today still reflect the enormous influence Britain exerted for more than two centuries.

As India became a modern industrial state with a relatively well-educated elite, it took part in the awakening nationalism that emerged in Europe and other parts of the world in the late 19th century. In the birth of the Congress Party, India embarked upon the course that led eventually to its independence in 1947.

As the members of native elite became educated, they also became restive under their colonial masters. In 1905 the Viceroy, Lord Curzon, announced that Bengal would be divided into two province. Ostensibly this was for administrative reasons, but its intended effect was to impede Indian nationalism.

Indians objected strongly to Curzon’s decision, and in 1908, after strikes and boycotts, the situation came to a head:

…the unrest also manifested itself in a series of terrorist attacks on British officials, culminating in a bomb attack on a British judge on 30 April 1908 that misfired and killed two British women. There was a police crackdown, and investigators found out that the terrorists were not mere disaffected lowlife thugs, but prominent Bengali officials, the Indian elite. The investigation led to the arrest of 26 young men, all of them highly educated and of elite backgrounds. One, Aurobindo Ghose, had gone through the university system back in Britain and achieved stellar honors.

The 26 were put on trial in Alipore. The trial demonstrated the way the British mind was becoming more and more conflicted over colonialism. As mentioned earlier in this series, in some ways the British Empire was the “wrong empire”, based on colonial dominance and not on the British system of rights and democracy. In fact, even the wrong empire couldn’t shut out those ideals completely, and instead of a quick sham trial leading to swift executions, the Alipore trial dragged out for almost seven months. Aurobindo Ghose was acquitted, and even though the ringleader of the group, Aurobindo Ghose’s brother Barendra Kumar Ghose, was sentenced to death, the sentence was later commuted.

The Ghoses could be seen as early 20th century versions of Mohammed Atta. They was not a poverty-stricken victims of imperialist oppression, driven by despair and anomie to strike out at their white oppressors, but the children of privilege, whose families benefited enormously from British rule.

Unlike the September 11th hijackers, the Ghose brothers acted not primarily from religious motives, though Hinduism played a large part in the nationalist movement in India. Nationalism itself was the issue; having learned the concept of human rights from the British, they wished it to be applied to their own people.

This is where Mohammed Atta was different. The culture of the West contributed to his education and economic well-being, but, as he became aware of the principles and ideals inherent in Western civilization, it was global Islamofascist ideology, rather than nationalism, that caused him to reject those principles and ideals emphatically.

Standing Together for the Jews


In a the comments section on Belmont Club, a regular commenter, Buddy Larsen, responded to an anti-Zionist commenter with the following post, which is worth reproducing in its entirety:

Cedarford, I’m not gonna ignore you; you are no dummy, and you’re trying hard to present an alternate Israel narrative. So let me be blunt. I don’t give a rat’s ass if Israel has stepped on toes. Birth is not a pretty process. If Sharon and Bush are licking each other’s boots and they make a little room on the side somewhere, I’ll crawl up and lick boots, too.

I Like Israel. I like Jews. They’re smarter than anyone else except maybe Chinese Nukuler Fizzassists, and their women are gorgeous. Jews and Blacks make almost [all] the fun and wit and music in America. Us honkies just watch, and Thank Jesus we have more than Ingmar Bergman and Monty Python.

Israel is a bona fide Heroic Saga, the only modern story that harks back to our mythic heroic western cultural birth. It is a heroic archteypal little nation that has held its shit together surrounded by 500 million ravening death demons and a corrupted old whore of a U.N. so soaked in Jew-hatred that it squishes bile everytime it lifts a flabby ass-cheek to fart at America and her friends.

And yet still, still, Israel holds optimism up and and keeps the faith, so that the best part of the world has an example of the indomitable nature of the human spirit.

So, I don’t care that much about your case. You may be right, but I don’t care. I need, I personally need, for Israel to thrive. The Israel story to me is a strong validation of the triumph of good over evil. Should Israel fall, that to me would be a signal of the final fall of mankind.

Do you see what I mean, Cedarford? Israel is SPIRITUALLY correct, so it doesn’t matter a flying fig to people like me whether or not she is politically correct.

And, thank you for clarifying my feelings for me. Never would’ve drilled into it this deeply, without your comments. But, I can’t understand your position. You might as well be from Mars as far as I’m concerned. What would YOU like to see happen to Israel, Cedarford? And you still haven’t discussed the ‘Protocols’.

The Anglic Reach, Part I

The Magdala Hostages

For two centuries before the advent of American hegemony, the British Empire was the greatest power in the world. At its height it encompassed more than a quarter of the world’s land surface and governed approximately the same proportion of the world’s inhabitants. The British ruled their colonial peoples with a light hand, and, though they were often cynical and brutal in maintaining their rule, their dominion was incomparably more liberal and enlightened than any alternative form of governance during the same period.

It was through the British diaspora that the concepts of the rule of law, individual rights, and democracy were spread to the extent that they are known today. The atrocities and excesses of British rule were always exposed and decried not by other nations, but by dissenting groups in Britain itself. This process of self-doubt and moral debate culminated in the dissolution of the Empire in the 20th century.

It is natural for United States to have continued this process. After all, the American revolution sought to reclaim the “ancient liberties” which the colonists knew to be their natural rights as British subjects. The common culture of the English-speaking nations includes shared concepts of political economy and governance. This collection of nations is referred to here as the Anglic Reach, and includes non-white heirs of the British Empire, such as India and Singapore; after centuries of British rule, the latter countries have evolved and developed their own versions of the same political ideas.

Because it is the pre-eminent power of the Anglic Reach, it falls to the United States to perform the functions that the imperial center in Britain performed in earlier times. The American imperium is different from the British, since it declines to govern, seeking only to create the conditions in which commerce and ideas may flow freely among nations. Nevertheless, some of the parallels between the British Empire and the current struggle against the Great Islamic Jihad are striking.

The Magdala hostage incident has a resonance for modern America:

In 1866, the “mild Hindoo” (and his Sikh and Muslim brethren) were sent overseas to deal with a crisis. The Emperor Theodore (Tewodros) of Abyssinia had written the British government to request diplomatic recognition. The British Colonial Office didn’t even bother to reply, and Theodore, though justly angry at the snub, went off the deep end by arresting all the Europeans in his country and locking them up in his remote mountain fortress at Magdala. A diplomatic mission was sent to try to resolve the crisis peacefully, but ended up prisoners as well… In April 1867, Queen Victoria sent a request to the Emperor Theodore for the release of the prisoners. It wasn’t answered, and so the orders went out over the telegraph cables to create a plan for a rescue mission.

The commander entrusted with the rescue mission, Sir Robert Napier, went about his task in a way reminiscent of the 21st century American military. A huge expeditionary force in India was created, and in November 1867 the immense logistical task of equipping, provisioning, and moving it to Africa was begun.

It took a few more months of getting the details together before the expedition could set out. By modern standards, such delays would be intolerable, but things moved more slowly in such times and in fact the expedition was a monster undertaking. There were 13,000 British and Native troops, backed by 26,000 support personnel, mostly coolies, with tens of thousands of animals, including 44 elephants. Napier’s kit even included a prefabricated harbor with a lighthouse, and all the parts for setting up a rail line to keep his force supplied.

It took the British three tough months to march to Magdala. In another element of the story that has a modern feel to it, the fight for the fortress turned out to be appallingly one-sided: the British force inflicted 1,900 casualties on the Abyssinians, with only 20 Britishers wounded in return. The hostages were rescued; the Emperor Theodore committed suicide rather than be hauled off in chains. The troops sang “God Save The Queen” as the fortress went up in flames, to be wracked by a enormous explosion when the fires reached its magazines. British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli received the Emperor’s necklace.

This story strongly resembles the first Persian Gulf War or the recent war in Iraq: a technologically advanced nation projects massive power halfway across the world, engineering an enormously complex logistical feat to do so, and conducts an asymmetrical war against a militarily inferior foe, taking almost no casualties in the process. Abyssinia was a Christian empire, however, so the parallel is not exact.

In the 20th century Britain stood resolute under the onslaught of a succession of empires far more brutal and barbaric than its own. In the process its strength was exhausted, and it relinquished its empire peacefully after the Second World War. Its heirs in the Anglic Reach have much to learn from it.

A Sheik Spreads the "Franklin Prophecy" Hoax


MEMRI reports today on a sermon given by Sheik Abd Al-Jalil Al-Karouri on November 19th from the Al-Shahid Mosque in Khartoum. An excerpt from the transcript:

“What is America’s interest in this mess [i.e. Falluja]? Many Americans, after their president won a second term, opened a small window toward Canada: The electronic escape window [sic] to Canada has become increasingly popular because they want to escape the land of freedom and democracy. If America wants to preserve the country it has established, it must listen to [Benjamin] Franklin’s advice, who warned them against the Jews. Now the Jews are leading them into these battles and this mess.

“Franklin’s advice” is a reference to a supposed speech made in 1787, a transcript of which somehow evaded the notice of historians until the 1930’s. Along with The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the blood libel, and innumerable other anti-Semitic hoaxes, it entered the arsenal of propaganda used by hate groups to smear the Jews, from the Nazis down to the present day.

In 1954 the Anti-Defamation League investigated and debunked the hoax:

The late Carl Van Doren, a biographer of Benjamin Franklin made this report:

“The speech against the Jews which Benjamin Franklin is alleged to have made [at] the Constitutional Convention of 1787 is a forgery, produced within the past five years [1933-38]. The forger, whoever he was, claims that the speech was taken down by Charles Pinckney of South Carolina and preserved in his Journal. The forger presumably knew that, in a letter to John Quincy Adams dated December 30, 1818, Pinckney said he had kept a Journal of the proceedings at the Convention. But this Journal, if it ever existed, has never been found. The forger claims that Pinckney ‘published’ the Journal ‘for private distribution among his friends’ with the title Chit-Chat Around the Table During Intermissions. No copy of any such printed Journal has come to light. Not content with these two claims, the forger has further asserted that the original manuscript of Franklin’s speech, apparently from Pinckney’s Journal, is in the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia. The Franklin Institute does not possess the manuscript.

The forger’s authority for his document is nearly as mythical as could be imagined. He cites a manuscript which does not exist, a printed book or pamphlet which nobody has seen, a Journal which has been lost for more than a hundred years. There is no evidence of the slightest value that Franklin ever made the alleged speech or ever said or thought anything of the kind about the Jews.”

A level of Jew-hatred found only on the outermost fringes in the West is part of the mainstream in the Muslim world. In the Middle East the Middle Ages never ended: the sneaky conniving Jews still skulk around eating children, poisoning wells, and, despite their miniscule numbers, contriving to influence events and leaders by some form of infernal mind control. If only America had heeded Franklin’s warning!

Göbbels would be proud.