Friday, May 16, 2008

Jolie on Iraq

I have endured a fair amount of good natured ridicule for my assertion that Angelina Jolie has a good head on her shoulders. I acknowledge that her other body parts are generally more remarkable, but I have always been impressed that she stands apart from the typical Hollywood liberal. For one thing she does her homework and appeals to common sense and intelligence, even when an emotional appeoal would seem perfectly natural. For another, she takes her various charitable and humanitarian efforts seriously and actually works to find solutions rather than wave her hands at the problems and stand by to accept the accolades.

Case in point: this rather old article in the Washington Post:

The request is familiar to American ears: "Bring them home."

But in Iraq, where I've just met with American and Iraqi leaders, the phrase carries a different meaning. It does not refer to the departure of U.S. troops, but to the return of the millions of innocent Iraqis who have been driven out of their homes and, in many cases, out of the country.


The Iraqi families I've met on my trips to the region are proud and resilient. They don't want anything from us other than the chance to return to their homes -- or, where those homes have been bombed to the ground or occupied by squatters, to build new ones and get back to their lives. One thing is certain: It will be quite a while before Iraq is ready to absorb more than 4 million refugees and displaced people. But it is not too early to start working on solutions. And last week, there were signs of progress.

In Baghdad, I spoke with Army Gen. David Petraeus about UNHCR's need for security information and protection for its staff as they re-enter Iraq, and I am pleased that he has offered that support. General Petraeus also told me he would support new efforts to address the humanitarian crisis "to the maximum extent possible" -- which leaves me hopeful that more progress can be made.

UNHCR is certainly committed to that. Last week while in Iraq, High Commissioner Antonio Guterres pledged to increase UNHCR's presence there and to work closely with the Iraqi government, both in assessing the conditions required for return and in providing humanitarian relief.

During my trip I also met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has announced the creation of a new committee to oversee issues related to internally displaced people, and a pledge of $40 million to support the effort.


As for the question of whether the surge is working, I can only state what I witnessed: U.N. staff and those of non-governmental organizations seem to feel they have the right set of circumstances to attempt to scale up their programs. And when I asked the troops if they wanted to go home as soon as possible, they said that they miss home but feel invested in Iraq. They have lost many friends and want to be a part of the humanitarian progress they now feel is possible.

It seems to me that now is the moment to address the humanitarian side of this situation. Without the right support, we could miss an opportunity to do some of the good we always stated we intended to do.

I think she is a little naive in the assumption that signs of UN involvement are necessarily signs of progress. The UN is frequently part of the problem in any international crisis and has more than once managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But Jolie's general point is solid: if humanitarian organizations are now begining to show interest in returning to Iraq, that is testament to the growing stability and order which is the first prerequisite of a return to civilization. I also like the fact that she acknowledges the sincerity of the early hawkish arguments that deposing Saddam and his jihadist allies would be a long-term gain for the Iraqis themselves and is holding us accountable to follow through on those promises.

I still don't think she is the right physical type to play Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged, but I continue to be impressed with her intellectual seriousness.

(Via Instapundit)

Friday, May 09, 2008

Gov. Lamm and American Suicide

I got this via email:

We know Dick Lamm as the former Governor of Colorado. In that context his thoughts are particularly poignant. Last week there was an immigration overpopulation conference in Washington , DC , filled to capacity by many of America's finest minds and leaders.

'If you believe that America is too smug, too self-satisfied, too rich, then let's destroy America . It is not that hard to do. No nation in history has survived the ravages of time. Arnold Toynbee observed that
all great civilizations rise and fall and that 'An autopsy of history would show that all great nations commit suicide.''

Here is how they do it,' Lamm said:
First, to destroy America , turn America into a bilingual or multi-lingual and bicultural country.
Second, to destroy America, invent 'multiculturalism' and encourage immigrants to maintain their culture.
Third, we could make the United States an 'Hispanic Quebec' without much effort. The key is to celebrate diversity rather than unity.
Fourth, I would make our fastest growing demographic group the least educated. I would add a second underclass, unassimilated, undereducated, and antagonistic to our population.
My fifth point for destroying America would be to get big foundations and business to give these efforts lots of money. I would invest in ethnic identity, and I would establish the cult of 'Victimology.' I would get all minorities to think that their lack of success was the fault of the majority.
My sixth plan for America's downfall would include dual citizenship, and promote divided loyalties. I would celebrate diversity over unity.

Yada, yada, yada. There is lots more, but you get the drift. Evidently, this email has been drifting around the internet for a couple of years, but the event it describes is real and the speech fairly accurate, according to Snopes. I have elided a great part, but you can read the rest there, if you are interested. Here is my response to the emailer, which I reproduce here in the hope that others may benefit.

Dick Lamm certainly knows a lot about suicide -- both the cultural and physician assisted varieties. Here are a few methods of destroying America that he seems, unfathomably, to have left out:

1. Promote abortion and population control:

In 1964-5, as a state legislator in Colorado, Lamm drafted one of the first laws in the country to legalize abortion nearly a decade before Roe v. Wade. Abortion as such can be argued to have a disastrous effect on the morals, psychological health and even economic prosperity (inasmuch as you are killing off potentially productive citizens) of a culture. But the reasons behind Lamm's support are particularly chilling. In the acknowledgments of his 1985 book, Megatraumas, he indicates that he has been influenced by Garrett Hardin who has written that "Only by making parenthood a privilege, to be enjoyed under specified conditions and to a specified extent, can society achieve population control." Abortion always has the effect of breaking the most fundamental human bond, between mother and child, but this philosophy views the bond itself as anathema, or at least expendable. Significantly, Blackmun's opinion in Roe v. Wade acknowledged "the influences of recent attitudinal change, of advancing medical knowledge and techniques, and of new thinking about an old issue" and the complicating factors of "population growth, pollution, poverty, and racial overtones" which is a very apt description of Lamm's own views.

2. Support euthanasia, assisted suicide and the "duty to die":

Lamm has not limited his anti-life policies to the unborn. In 1984, having left the legislator to become governor of Colorado, he sparked controversy by claiming that the elderly and anyone who has life artificially extended has "a duty to die and get out of the way with all of our machines and artificial hearts and everything else like that and let the other society, our kids, build a reasonable life." All stable societies are held together by passing the accumulated wisdom from one generation to the next and the reverence for the elderly comes directly after honoring God in the Ten Commandments. "Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land the Lord thy God giveth thee," was not a command merely given to children but to the adult leaders of Israel that stood before Mount Sinai. Further, care for "widows, orphans and strangers" is exhorted throughout Scripture and is one of the chief charges that the prophets bring against Israel and Judah, just before the destruction of their own society.

3. Ignore history, promote illiteracy and misquote your betters:

I have a certain amount of respect for Victor Davis Hanson and, though I disagree with him on some points, I think he has a good head on his shoulders. I have not read Mexifornia, but I have read many of his articles in The Economist, National Review and The Wall Street Journal. I didn't hear the speech referenced in the article below, but I am pretty sure it is a mischaracterization of his views. Hanson rightly diagnoses the problem as not merely one of immigration but of failure of immigrants to assimilate. He argues that America has essentially 4 options with regard to the immigration/assimilation dynamic:

"First we could 'continue de facto open-borders' but insist upon assimilation. Second we could vastly reduce immigration and assume that assimilation will take care of itself. Third -- Hanson’s choice -- we could combine greatly reduced immigration (both legal and illegal) with vigorous patriotic assimilation. The fourth path -- our present policy -- would lead to "a true Mexifornia," an "apartheid state" that "even the universal solvent of popular culture could not unite." (John Fonte, Huson Institute)

I actually prefer option 1 (the classic conservative position) to 3 (the post-9/11 conservative position) but it is clear that Hanson, though alarmist, is substantially more balanced than Gov. Lamm. Further, Hanson has been a long-time advocate of classical Western (ie Greco-Roman) values, which is the second best source of culture on the planet and a sharp contrast to Lamm's post-Enlightenment behaviorist/eugenicist approach.

4. Don't evangelize:

This is actually the best way to destroy America and it is particularly significant that neither Lamm, in his Screwtapian, nor Hanson in his more straightforward and scholarly writings manages to mention this factor. When Lamm left the Democratic party in the mid-90s he did not join the Republicans but made a bid for presidential candidate in the Reform Party. When asked why, he explained that the Republican party was dominated by the Christian Coalition. (If only!) Similarly Hanson describes the "only tool we possess to prevent racial separation and ethnic tribalism" as, not a common Christian faith but:

"the 'wholly amoral power of a new popular and global culture' offers a countervailing force to their consciously anti-assimilation actions, in a chapter that has caused some consternation among conservatives. Global popular culture—the new music, fast food, videos, MTV, boorish entertainment, crass magazines, slang speech, unisex clothes, defiant youth attitudes—is a revolutionary egalitarian development smashing old hierarchies, authorities, and standards—trumping family, ethnicity, race, gender, class, religion, and government. It indiscriminately levels both outmoded snobbery and good taste. It undermines the multicultural race agitator as well as the earnest teacher." (John Fonte, Huson Institute)

To be fair, Hanson does acknowledge that this pop culture is "perhaps deleterious to the long-term moral health of the United States".

But the Christian church has, from its earliest days, existed as a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic culture. Admittedly, it is not a nation in the sense we are talking about here, but, being patterned after heaven, it is the model for all earthly nations: "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Pet 2:9) "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth." (Rev 5:9-10)

Underlying all of Lamm's alarmism is an inherent hatred of humanity which views people (rather than sin) as the problem until they prove themselves otherwise. It would be hard to imagine a worldview more antithetical to Christianity. While the immigration problem is a thorny one, and he does make some valid points about assimilation vs. multi-culturalism, we need to be careful who we consider our friends.