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Jewish World Review
Nov. 20, 2006
/ 29 Mar-Cheshvan, 5767
Free to lose isn't good philosophy for the right wing
If Milton Friedman had to die, then a week after the defeat of a Republican Congress that had apparently forgotten every lesson Friedman taught in "Free To Choose" is eerily apt timing. As it happens, had ill health not intervened, Professor Friedman would have been disembarking round about now from a National Review post-election cruise with yours truly and various other pundits and commentators.
Instead, we were obliged to sail without him, and in the days that followed I found myself wondering what the great man would have made of the most salient feature of our deliberations: On the one hand, there are those conservatives for whom the war trumps everything and peripheral piffle like "No Child Left Behind" can be argued over when the jihad's been seen off. On the other, there are those conservatives for whom the war is peripheral and, insofar as it exists, it doesn't begin to mitigate the abandonment of Friedmanite principles on public spending, education and much else. There is a huge gulf between these two forces, to the point where the War Party and the Small Government Party seem as mutually hostile as the Sunni and Shia on their worst days. If the Republicans can't reunite these two wings before 2008, they'll lose again and keep on losing.
Take, for example, Ward Connerly, whose Michigan ballot proposition against racial quotas was one of the few victories conservatives won on Election Day. (Needless to say, most GOP bigwigs, including washed-up gubernatorial loser Dick DeVos, opposed it.) In a discussion of conservative core values, Connerly suggested it wasn't the role of the federal government to impose democracy on the entire planet. And put like that, he has a point. However, I support the Bush Doctrine on two grounds first, for "utopian" reasons: If the Middle East becomes a region of free states, it will have been the right thing to do and the option most consistent with American values (unlike the stability fetishists' preference for sticking with Mubarak, the House of Saud and the other thugs and autocrats). But, second, it also makes sense from a cynical realpolitik perspective: Promoting liberty and democracy, even if they ultimately fail, is still a good way of messing with the thugs' heads. It's one of the few real points of pressure America and its allies can bring to bear against rogue nations, and in the case of Iran, the one with the clearest shot at being effective. In other words, even if it ultimately flops, seriously promoting liberty and democracy could cause all kinds of headaches for the mullahs, Assad, Mubarak and the rest of the gang. However it turns out, it's the "realist" option.
The president doesn't frame it like that, alas. Instead, he says stuff like: "Freedom is the desire of every human heart." Really? It's unclear whether that's the case in Gaza and the Sunni Triangle. But it's absolutely certain that it's not the case in Berlin and Paris, Stockholm and London, Toronto and New Orleans. The story of the Western world since 1945 is that, invited to choose between freedom and government "security," large numbers of people vote to dump freedom the freedom to make your own decisions about health care, education, property rights, seat belts and a ton of other stuff. I would welcome the president using "Freedom is the desire of every human heart" in Chicago and Dallas, and, if it catches on there, then applying it to Ramadi and Tikrit.
Meanwhile, from the War Party's point of view, the Bush Doctrine is beginning to accumulate way too many opt-outs. For example, a couple of weeks back, U.S. forces in Baghdad captured a death squad commander of Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army only to be forced to release him on the orders of the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. When I had the honor of discussing the war with the president recently, he was at pains to emphasize that Iraq was "sovereign." That may be. But, at a time when a gazillion free-lance militias are running around the joint ignoring the sovereign government, it seems a mite pedantic to insist that the sole militia in the country that has to obey every last memo from Prime Minister Maliki is the U.S. armed forces. Muqtada al-Sadr is an emblem not of democracy's flowering but of the arid soil in which it's expected to grow. America would have been better off capturing and executing him two years ago.
That's not the worst mistake, alas. The crucial missed opportunity (as some of us pointed out at the time) occurred five years ago, back when the president still had his post-9/11 approval ratings. You can't hold them forever, obviously, but, while he had them, George W. Bush could have used them for a "teaching moment." As we can see in Europe every day of the week, Big Government is a national security issue for all the reasons Milton Friedman understood: In diminishing individual liberty, it transforms free-born citizens into nanny-state charges to the point where it imperils the existence of the nation. If ever there was a time for not introducing a new prescription drug entitlement, wartime is it. Yet the president and Congress apparently decided that they could fight a long existential struggle abroad while Big Government continued to swell and bloat at home.
It has been strange for me in these days since the election to spend so much time with so many figures I admire and to find that each group barely recognizes each other's concerns. The War Party is the War Party, the Small Government Party is the Small Government Party, and ne'er the twain shall meet, apparently. That way lies disaster: You can't be in favor of assertive American foreign policy overseas and increasing Europeanization domestically; likewise, you can't take a reductively libertarian view while the rest of the planet goes to pieces. Someone in the GOP needs to do what Ronald Reagan did so brilliantly a quarter-century ago:reconcile the big challenges abroad with a small-government philosophy at home. The House and the Senate will not return to Republican hands until they do.
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"America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It"
It's the end of the world as we know itů
Someday soon, you might wake up to the call to prayer from a muezzin. Europeans already are.
And liberals will still tell you that "diversity is our strength"while Talibanic enforcers cruise Greenwich Village burning books and barber shops, the Supreme Court decides sharia law doesn't violate the "separation of church and state," and the Hollywood Left decides to give up on gay rights in favor of the much safer charms of polygamy.
If you think this can't happen, you haven't been paying attention, as the hilarious, provocative, and brilliant Mark Steynthe most popular conservative columnist in the English-speaking worldshows to devastating effect in this, his first and eagerly awaited new book on American and global politics.
The future, as Steyn shows, belongs to the fecund and the confident. And the Islamists are both, while the Westwedded to a multiculturalism that undercuts its own confidence, a welfare state that nudges it toward sloth and self-indulgence, and a childlessness that consigns it to oblivionis looking ever more like the ruins of a civilization.
Europe, laments Steyn, is almost certainly a goner. The future, if the West has one, belongs to America alonewith maybe its cousins in brave Australia. But America can survive, prosper, and defend its freedom only if it continues to believe in itself, in the sturdier virtues of self-reliance (not government), in the centrality of family, and in the conviction that our country really is the world's last best hope.
Steyn argues that, contra the liberal cultural relativists, America should proclaim the obvious: we do have a better government, religion, and culture than our enemies, and we should spread America's influence around the worldfor our own sake as well as theirs.
Mark Steyn's America Alone is laugh-out-loud funnybut it will also change the way you look at the world. It is sure to be the most talked-about book of the year.
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JWR contributor Mark Steyn is North American Editor of The (London) Spectator. Comment by clicking here.
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