There are many bits transmitted (ink isn’t really spilled much these days) over the issue of whether to treat international terrorism as an act of war or as criminal action that should be dealt with in civil courts.   Heretofore I’ve been staunchly in the ‘war’ category, but I’m beginning to rethink that proposition.

Obviously there are differences between a terrorist act of the international sort (particularly the Radical Islam variety) and what we typically consider to be criminal acts, and I’ll come to those shortly (I’m hoping to keep this whole post brief).  However, I think there are also enough significant differences between “terrorism” and “war” that I’m no longer certain that they should be treated in the same way.  Most importantly, with a traditional war, there is a discrete endpoint at which violence no longer persists.  It ends and peace ensues.  Perhaps not an easy or prosperous peace, but peace.  The end of violence is one of the primary goals of a real war, if not the only goal.

Our “War on Terror” cannot be seen in those terms, much like a “War on Drugs” (in fact, this post by Andy McCarthy, of whom I think highly, is what triggered mine).  It has a potential for being everlasting, and the goal is not particularly war-like: you may never have real peace as such, but rather a sort of tolerable containment.  Of course, in some abstract sense, it is possible that we could kill every person on the planet that has designs for violence against America and her people, but it doesn’t seem like a practical goal to me.  I’ve said otherwise in conversations, but at this moment, I don’t think so.  I’m certainly no progressive (I have a rather strong antipathy to progressivism, as anyone who’s read much of my writing could attest), but I do think it is prudent to try and understand some basic things about the motives of the enemy in this case.  I don’t claim to be the expert on this, but I think there are a few things we can reasonably observe:

  • Radical Islam hates the West and America in particular as an existential matter, not because of something it did.  Some believe this to be a hatred of something in the essence of the West, and others believe it to be mere scapegoating of the West whereby it’s easier to say “they did it” than to face honestly the failures of one’s own civilization.  The latter seems like the best explanation to me.
  • Radical Islam wants to establish an Islamic empire

Here we have actors with very war-like aims, but manifest their tactics and strategy in a way that the methods of war don’t seem to be particularly well-suited to handle.

Anyway, the point is that the aims of these enemies are unlike those of criminals, who seem to be to be more focused on material gain and less willing to sacrifice their lives to some larger goal or movement.  Traditional law enforcement institutions are suitable for this kind of criminal.  Individual rights of the criminals themselves are honored to avoid abuse of the innocent and justice is the primary goal because peace was never in jeopardy.  Punishment is meted out in the interest of justice, establishing a broad deterrent, and secondarily with the goal of rehabilitation (if everything works out just perfectly).   Little of this sort of criminal justice approach applies.  Firstly, the goal isn’t to contain what we can and achieve some sort of post-facto justice for what we can’t like we do in civilized society – the point is to prevent harmful acts in the first place.  As in a traditional war, the goal is peace.  The enemy in this case won’t be deterred by punishment, and won’t be rehabilitated (the most recent near-successful attempts at terror attacks were perpetrated by educated, middle class, Westernized Muslims).

These aren’t anything like new conclusions, if you can call them that. I think the Bush administration, through the wisdom of some sharp military thinkers, came to recognize this in the latter stages of the war in Iraq and shifted its military strategy accordingly and prevented the invasion and subsequent occupation there from being as bad for the Iraqi people (and us) as it could have been. I also think the approach of using military tribunals is probably a pretty good idea, and a good way to protect some core human rights for the enemy combatants without allowing them access to privileges they have no claim to or allowing them to take advantage of opportunities for abuse that our system so readily presents. Effective counter-terrorism campaigns and military tribunals really don’t address the issue of peace. I think the things we’ve been doing up to this point (trying to freeze financial assets, international law enforcement and intelligence agency cooperation along with targeted combat, all of which is aimed at destroying the ability of the enemy to make war) represents the best approach we’ve been able to come up with, and after thinking through as many of the issues as is practical for a guy with a day job, I’m not sure I have anything better to offer.


† I tend to agree with Jonah Goldberg’s thinking about these things in many ways. The above observations bear resemblance to fascism, properly understood.

‡ Let me add here that I don’t necessarily approve of or endorse every tactic or government activity employed in the course of dealing with the enemy in our “war” against Islamofacism. Those are topics for another day. For example: in my opinion, the Patriot Act goes too far and our foreign policy objectives don’t define our “interests” narrowly enough. “Torture” is a minefield because our language and thinking about it is very muddled. Definitely deserves its own entry.

Jonah Goldberg, one of my favorite writers posted this on The Corner @ NRO, answering this question:

What is the difference between the anti-ideology stance of the pragmatic left and the “practical” right?

This is interesting to me, and Jonah’s answer is interesting if you follow the political and intellectual history of the 20th century.

Regardless, I would say the differences between the right’s anti-ideologism (what an awful word!) and the left’s are pretty profound. As I’ve been shouting around here for a very long time, Dewey’s pragmatism was not non-ideological. It was in fact profoundly ideological. The great con of the Pragmatic progressives is that they claimed they were opposed to ideology when in fact they were seeking to replace the dominant laissez-faire ideology with their own collectivist one. They claimed they merely cared about “what works” but that was, quite simply, a huge lie (or, to be more charitable, a massive example of self-delusion).

The core of the Deweyan position was the individual, or a few dedicated experts working closely together, could have all the knowledge they’d ever need to run vast swaths of society. Indeed, these experts would know better how to run things from some far away command center than would the individuals on the ground. The fact that the experts didn’t have a personal stake in their decisions was supposed to be a sign they were more qualified to make important decisions, rather than less qualified. Centralized economic planning? No problem! Just trim away the fat of ideological thinking and let the wonks collect their data and apply their knowledge and everything will work out fine.

The right’s anti-ideologism is entirely different. Whether you want to call it Burkean or Hayekian, the basic idea is that experts can never have enough knowledge to successfully plan societies, save in the crudest and (hopefully) most temporary ways (such as during war mobilization or natural disasters). It’s not merely a question of whether people can be smart enough, it’s that they can never know enough. The accumulated wisdom in institutions, rules, traditions, customs is much greater and more complex than anything a single person or small group of persons can comprehend, never mind master. Von Mises and Hayek demonstrated this point numerous times when it came to things like pricing. Prices seem very simple, but are astoundingly complex. Soviet planners certainly had the brainpower to set prices, and they had plenty of data. And, as an added bonus,  they had the ability  to imprison or kill people if they didn’t play along. And yet, they were still very, very bad at setting prices.

In short anti-ideological conservatives like Kirk put their faith in the ability of society to take care of itself. Meanwhile, capital P pragmatists like Dewey had contempt for any society left on autopilot. The Deweyans believed in “mastery” over mere “drift.” Mastery, in turn,  requires “experimentation” as Dewey (and FDR put it) which means letting social engineers experiment with the lives and livelihoods of citizens.

The conservative position may have its flaws and force us to, in Burke’s words, “bear with infirmities until they fester into crimes.” But it is a position of true humility. The Deweyan view is one of astounding arrogance. Indeed, it holds that  it’s okay for social engineers to commit the occasional experimental crime in the name of ameliorating some trivial  infirmity. (emphasis mine)

It’s a little lengthy and heavy on the intellectual-historical references (one can safely replace “progressive” – or given the modern politcal context, just “liberal” – for “Deweyan”), but this is a succinct explanation one of the core reasons (there are probably 3-4) that I think a libertarian-leaning, conservative political philosophy is a best-fit for gospel lenses.  Of course, by the light of the gospel it is just as wayward to “put [your] faith in the ability of society to take care of itself” as it is to arrogantly “believe in mastery”, but like Jonah says, the former is a position of humility.  It is far easier to translate a “faith in society to take care of itself” into a faith in the sovereign God of the universe.  There are certainly legitimate criticisms that that gospel can make of the Burkean/Hayekian political tradition, but it leaves the most room for correction and the most room for community.  Like I said….best fit.

Comments welcome.  I plan to expound on this point in coming posts.  I’ve been meaning to write about this, but I keep ending up with an effort to write a super-almost-book-essay.  Blurting it out in piecemeal fashion would probably work better anyway.

I really enjoy visiting with my parents in a way that I couldn’t have imagined before become a fully self-sufficient adult with my own family and concerns (I don’t mean with respect to the Gospel or in any kind of absolute sense – just that I don’t live with them or depend on their resources).  I get to see them regularly once a week when I take the kids over and I usually stick around for a bit to talk to mom around the kitchen counter and get caught up.  Dad usually has to leave before we get much chance to talk.

I just had lunch with my dad today.  I enjoy my mother as well, but this time it was just me and dad.  While we’re sitting there, and afterwards while reflecting on the conversation, I realized on a deeper level than I have before that young people don’t know much.  I’ve always known it, but you don’t always really comprehend what you know.  I’m almost 30 years old and I walk this earth as though I’ve got it all figured out, even though I know I don’t.

We were sitting there talking shop, and he was telling me a story about his corporate days, and I realized later that the insights that he was casually recounting could only have come from one who really knew their business and the people around him and one that possesses the experience to grasp the consequences of various events and circumstances.  In my typical way, I was interjecting and guessing what he would say next, and I went oh-for in that conversation.  I usually rationalize it away as “active listening”, but in truth I’m fully aware that this is one of my sharp edges that hasn’t yet been smoothed by sanctification.  Anyway, the point is that my best insights were completely irrelevant in this instance.  How many other circumstances fly by in which I have confidence in my own understanding and never take time to seek deeper insights and assume a position of humility?  How much wisdom has just passed me by because of my own arrogance?

It’s a sobering thought.

Here we go again.

This method has been researched for a long time, but due to suppression of this idea from the big corporations, the plans for building a free energy generator which could change the world have never been out on the open. We finally succeeded in creating a web site which offers the Do-It-Yourself instructions for building such a device, and it is considered that this device will be able to solve the energy crisis.

Consumers, I have some advice for you: if you ever see anything like “this amazing device would dominate the market if it weren’t for the big corporations suppressing it!!!”, run — don’t walk — for the hills.  I mean it.

But wait!  There’s more!

A Zero point magnetic power generator is basically a Free Energy Generator. It uses magnets, and magnetic force to induce perpetual motion. It runs by itself, indefinitely without stopping, thus creating completely free electrical energy, which can fully power your home for free. A Perpetual motion device refers to a machine that runs perpetually i.e. indefinitely, and produces a larger amount of energy than it consumes. Thus, it produces free energy indefinitely, runs by itself, without having to need a third-party device or resource to power it.

No.  No it doesn’t.  We’ve known for hundreds of years that a device like this could never exist in the real world, and that hasn’t changed.  People have tried to scam these things for almost as long as we’ve known that they can’t exist, so this isn’t even a clever scam; it’s a centuries old rehash.

In case the point hasn’t been made clearly enough: Magniwork is a scam!

I often observe conservatives (particularly of the “social conservative” strain) charging into the drug legalization battles.  It’s a common position in my circles of influence that drugs should be illegal all over the country, and that our national anti-drug regime should be maintained as such.  I’ve had brief debates with some of them about this issue, and I tend to be more mellow about this particular one than I usually am because I’m simply less worked up about it.  However, I’m not necessarily an advocate of “legalization” as some would understand it.  I’ve tried to express my thinking here in a way that clarifies the nuance without demonizing either side.

I can’t help but think that we’re so caught up in the emotion and debate over whether or not pot is bad that we aren’t seeing the forest for the trees: the debate that conservatives should be having isn’t whether or not pot is bad and who gets to decide how bad and what the moral imposition upon the people should be. The debate for us to be having, at a national scale, is by what right is the federal government telling us all how to live? That is a question that conservatives should be able to answer with unity.

I have absolutely no quarrel with those saying that pot is so bad that it must be illegal. Ok, fine. If the people of Illinois or Virginia or Florida want to proscribe pot consumption and possession and expend the resources enough to enforce the law – if it’s that important to them – then you’ll hear no complaint from me. I’m involved in the lives of people who have been utterly destroyed by drugs and all kinds of other habits and hangups (through a Christian ministry called Celebrate Recovery), and I totally get how bad they are, and how good it would be for many people if it were simply outlawed. I get it. However, it’s simply not in the federal government’s purview to do that. The feds can rightly police interstate trafficking and import/export rules, but the remainder of the anti-drug regime in this country should be left to the states in its entirety. Period, full stop.

Many states would then outlaw pot (and various other drugs). Others would entertain a greater level of licentiousness. The laws wouldn’t be the same in every state, and each would have to deal with the consequences of their decisions. And peace would reign throughout the land, and we could stop spending so much money on powerful federal agencies that fight an endless “war on drugs” (not to mention the added benefit of taking away a potential crisis for convenient use by nascent liberal fascists!).

I watched zefrank’s “the show” back in 2006-2007 when he was going it. It was hysterical. On it, he made an offhand comment on the show that I found wildly mistaken (albeit an easy mistake to make, I think). He said:

The courts, the underpinning of American society,…

Aaargh! The problem is, this is what many (possibly the majority) believe. The courts were never intended to be any kind of government baby-sitter, it wasn’t intended to be superior to the other branches of government (if anything, it’s supposed to be the weakest branch, if the Federalist Papers have anything to say about it), and it certainly wasn’t intended to make broad, sweeping rulings on cultural issues.

No. The underpinning of American society are the strength if its families and the character and values of the people therein. The underpinning of the American government, then, is the representation of that character and those values by elected representatives at all levels of government, from local to federal.

I have rather strong feelings about homeowner’s associations; specifically, that I am against them.

I found this a couple years ago and just happened to think of it today:

The Renegade Elected

I can only hope that this was true. It’s just too good. I would pay good money for this to happen in my neighborhood, which is in a “conservation district” (not as restrictive as an HOA or Historical District, but still encourages the busybodies out there to be way too worried about the length of their neighbors’ grass, etc.).

My favorite part:

I’m having a non-running, rusty, 25-year-old pickup truck hauled in even as I speak. That sumbitch is going to sit in my backyard until I get around to it, and all of you are going to like it.

The images below pretty much speak for themselves.

smart03

Not

Did I just find out where the Stargate writers got the idea for naming the forcibly-sterilizing, world-conquering, industrial farming race called the “Ashen” in Stargate SG-1? (season 4&5, I thnk)?

In his book Dominion, author Mathew Scully calls “factory farming” an “obvious moral evil so sickening and horrendous it would leave us ashen.”  (hat-tip: Blake Hurst @ The American)

11ALYCYEQxL._SL160_I’m currently reading Liberal Facism by Jonah Goldberg.  I’m about halfway through, so I can’t quite do a full review yet, but I’m really loving it.  It’s a great book on its own, but it really brings in to focus some ideas I’ve been stewing on myself for years and years and was never able to bring them together in a coherent way like he has.

An excerpt that I think is a pretty good thesis:

…the point is that the edifice of contemporary liberalism stands on a foundation of assumptions and ideas integral to the larger fascist moment.  Contemporary liberals, who may be the kindest and most racially tolerant people in the world, nonetheless choose to live in a house of distinctly fascist architecture.  Liberal ignorance of this fact renders this fascist foundation neither intangible nor irrelevant.  Rather, it underscores the success of these ideas, precisely because they go unquestioned.

The greatest asset liberalism has in arguments about racism, sexism, and the role of government generally is the implicit assumption that liberalism’s intentions are better and more high-minded than conservatism’s.  LIberals think with their hearts, conservatives with their heads, goes the cliché.  But if you take liberalism’s history into account, it’s clear this is an unfair advantage, an intellectual stolen base.  Liberals may be right or wrong about a given policy, but the assumption that they are automatically arguing from the more virtuous position is rubbish.

What is today called liberalism stands, domestically, on three legs: support for the wellfare state, abortion, and identity politics.  Obviously, this is a crude formulation…But I don’t think any fair-minded reader would dispute that these three categories nearly cover the vast bulk of the liberal agenda — or at least describe the core of liberal passions — today.

So far as I’ve read, Jonah (all bloggers are on first-name bases, as you might know) has done a magnificent job of braiding together the loose strands of political movements that I find repulsive and has given them a common theme, a family name, and a philosophical underpinning that brings modern politics and religion into much clearer focus.

P.S. – much, much more on a religious perspective of the arc of 20th-century fascist movements and modern liberalism in another post.  Reading this book from a Christian, little-r republican perspective is an entirely enlightening thing.