Saturday Sounds

…and color, for the First World War:

I didn’t get to see this film during its brief time in theaters late last month, but look forward to seeing it on home video.  It’s amazing what adding color and sound does to make the events of a century ago “more real.”

Advertisements

Some reflections

Most of the government is shut down today, in an homage to the late President George H.W. Bush.  Americans have been encouraged to reflect on his life.  So I will.  But first, a keen observation by another that mirrors my own thoughts:

It is in no way to insult George H. W. Bush — or any other president, for that matter — to ask whether the retooling of their calendars is an appropriate way for the people of a republic to respond to the death of an elected representative. Tomorrow, the press reports, is to be a “day of mourning” — a day on which the stock market will be closed, on which the federal government will shut down, on which the House of Representatives will begin a week-long break, on which various universities will cancel classes, on which the Postal Service will halt deliveries, on which the Supreme Court will adjourn, and on which major American newspapers will postpone events that they had previously planned to hold. Across the U.S., flags will be flown at half-staff for a month.

Why? Irrespective of whether he was a great man or a poor one, George H. W. Bush was a public employee. He was not a king. He was not a pope. He did not found or save or design the republic. To shut down our civil society for a day in order to mark his peaceful passing is to invert the appropriate relationship between the citizen and the state, and to take yet another step toward the fetishization of an executive branch whose role is supposed to be more bureaucratic than spiritual, but that has come of late to resemble Caesar more than to resemble Coolidge.

Well said, Mr. Cooke.  I’d also add that the current practice of naming $1 billion warships after presidents has the same effect.  (Why not return to naming carriers after famous battles/events in U.S. history?  Honor the many who fought – not the ones who gave the orders from a fortress in D.C.)  Presidents do have an impact on the course of history, and their lives are worth remembering and examining.  But in a Republic, they should not be revered.

So what about Mr. Bush?  Politics aside, I submit his greatest legacy and example is in the 73-year marriage he shared with Barbara — the longest marriage of any president.  This marriage survived the death of a child, issues of depression, and the rough and tumble of political life.  Our nation could use many more such examples of love and commitment.

I have mixed feelings about Bush’s presidential legacy.  Clearly he had a successful foreign policy run.  Desert Storm restored a large measure of faith in the U.S. armed forces that had been missing since Vietnam.  Almost 30 years later, though, one could argue America fell inappropriately in love with its high-tech military, to the point of misapplying it to problems that are not intrinsically solvable by force of arms.  Where Bush’s legacy is likely greatest, though, is in his handling of the end of the Cold War.  As the Soviet Union collapsed, and with it the Warsaw Pact empire, it was by no means a foregone conclusion the great transition would be a peaceful one.  The Bush administration navigated a failed coup against Gorbachev, Yeltsin’s populist revolt, and the thorny question of what to do with Germany after the Berlin Wall fell.  It was not an amateur’s hour, and the nation was fortunate to have at the helm what might have been one of the best-prepared presidents for such a time.

Despite such impactful success on the international stage, Bush was unable to translate the political capital from it to impact issues at home.  Exiting the Gulf War with an approval rating of almost 90 percent, within months his inability to articulate “the vision thing” as he put it, cost him support in an America facing economic turmoil and uncertainty in a post-Cold War world.  As the 1992 election cycle began, six words came back to haunt him: “Read my lips.  No new taxes.”  Only 18 months into his presidency, Bush relented on that pledge as part of a deal that was supposed to include spending cuts.  Predictably, the taxes rose.  The cuts never came.  Once again, the Democrats’ Lucy had yanked the ball away from Charlie Brown, and Bush looked foolish for having trusted his political opponents, who gloated over the misstep.  Coupled with his reference to a “new world order” in the wake of the Cold War, the tax issue cost him dearly among fiscal conservatives and those wary of international entanglements.  This opened the door for the challenge by Ross Perot, who pulled enough support away (including, I regret to say, my own vote) that Bill Clinton was elected president.  Comparing the two men’s resumes, it’s laughable to think America would reject Bush in favor of “the man from Hope, Arkansas.”  But as I’ve pointed out on this blog, critical decisions are made more often on emotion than reason, and in this case Clinton connected with people in a way Bush did not.  And so it was that two of the most conniving political creatures America has ever produced — Bubba Bill and Her Hillariness — entered the White House, beginning a three-decade-long spree of influence peddling and assorted other nefarious activities.

It’s worth noting, however, the letter Bubba found in the Oval Office from his predecessor:

Jan 20, 1993
Dear Bill,
When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too.
I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness some Presidents have described.
There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course.
You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.
Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.
Good luck — George

That last line should serve as a model in our electoral system, which has devolved into political total war against those who disagree.  Since that transition in 1993, both Republicans and Democrats have been guilty of wanting to see a president from “the other side” fail, seeking political opportunity regardless the cost to the country.  We need to relearn the ability to stand firmly on principle while still extending an open hand to those of good will and honorable intentions.

We also need to regain the discernment to tell those honorable opponents from charlatans and snake oil salesmen.

Politically, I’m even less of a Bush family fan than I was in 1992, in large part due to what I believe to have been wrongheaded policy by Bush the Younger after 9/11.  Despite all that, I offer my humble condolences to that family on the passing of a man who, regardless any political faults, was clearly a devoted husband and father.  May our nation be blessed to have many more such men.  And may we continue to remember that even when they occupy the highest office in the land, they are still just that: men.

When the guns fell silent

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the guns fell silent across a traumatized Europe. “Christendom” was also a casualty of the war. After the horrific fratricide between the European peoples, Western Civilization would never be the same.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

by John McCrae (1872-1918)

TOL_location-shot

In 2014, the Tower of London placed 888,246 ceramic poppies — one for each British servicemember who died in World War I — in the moat around the Tower.  In all, an estimated 10 million soldiers perished in the war — an average of about 6,000 each day.  Another 10 million civilians were killed, either as a result of military action, or the effects of famine, disease and social breakdown.  A generation later, a Second World War would more than triple the human cost of the First. 

War is a tragic part of humanity’s fallen nature, and we will never be free of it this side of Eternity.  But let us be thankful the world has yet to revisit such wholesale slaughter. 

longform-original-15820-1415275865-17

The morning after

In an unsurprising (but disappointing all the same) development, Americans have handed control of the House of Representatives to the Democrats for the next two years.  Republicans, however, have tightened their grip on the Senate, picking up seats there.  My initial thoughts:

  • Pelosi, Waters and their crew will use their restored subpoena power to make the administration as miserable as possible until 2021.  Buckle up for the ugliness.  That said, Democrats are probably regretting the precedents Obama’s administration set of ignoring such requests from Congress.  Trump won’t have forgotten that.  What goes around…
  • Retaining control of the Senate means the administration can continue building what may be Trump’s most enduring legacy: resetting the Judiciary by appointing judges who view the Constitution through an ‘originalist’ lens and are less likely to engage in policy direction by judicial fiat.  The impact of these appointments will be felt for decades.
  • There will be no funding for a border wall any time soon, unless Trump tries to coopt Defense Department money through Executive direction.  At the same time, the Senate will be able to prevent Democrats from undoing very much of the last two years (tax cuts, deregulation, etc).
  • There are still strong rumors (especially from the “Q” quarter) that ongoing investigations into prominent Democrats may soon yield indictments and the full declassification of the FISA court shenanigans.  One theory is that Trump held off pulling the trigger on these so as to avoid accusations of politicizing the investigations during an election cycle.  If true, that’s likely a wise move.  It also means the Democrats may soon be more on the defensive than their win of the House would normally indicate.
  • It will be instructive to see what independent counsel Robert Mueller’s next move is.  He, too, is said to have held back during the election season.  With that over, I suspect he’ll be under increasing pressure from both sides to show his hand and “put up or shut up.”

In short, while disappointing, I don’t yet see last night’s results as a full-blown disaster.  As many pundits noted, the President’s party usually loses seats in Congress during his first midterm election.  There is one ominous thing to point out, however.  Overall the Democrats ran a much more openly leftist/globalist agenda this cycle… and they still picked up considerable support.  That a candidate like Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke could challenge Ted Cruz so strongly in Texas is not a good long-term signal.  Nor is having Florida’s gubernatorial and Senate races within a percent of each other.  (Related note: the vast majority of Beto’s funding came from outside Texas, something that in my mind should be prohibited.  Residents of one State have no business trying to buy elections in another one.)  We are a deeply divided nation with two incompatible worldviews vying for dominance through government force.

Demography and the long-term effects of leftist indoctrination in our education system are having the intended effects.  That’s why this Trump period is so important.  So far it has been the only successful push back against the Left’s “long march” of the past three decades.  But unless traditional Americans break the lock the globalists have on the education of the next generation, it’s only a matter of time before an ignorant population rejects the birthright their ancestors worked so hard to achieve.

“When an opponent declares, “I will not come over to your side,” I calmly say, “Your child belongs to us already… What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.”  Adolph Hitler, May 1937

Another step in the right direction

Yesterday I made note of President Trump’s decision to deploy 5,000 military personnel to support the Border Patrol as an increasing number of crowds of migrants head toward our frontier.  It’s worth noting the latest group to storm across the Guatemala-Mexico border, headed north, appears to be armed:

The second migrant caravan, believed to be armed with bombs and guns, crossed into Mexico on Monday despite a huge police presence.

Hundreds of migrants following in the footsteps of the first caravan heading to the U.S. border crossed a river from Guatemala.

The second group back at the Guatemalan frontier has been more unruly than the first that crossed. Guatemala’s Interior Ministry said Guatemalan police officers were injured when the migrant group broke through border barriers on Guatemala’s side of the bridge.

Mexico authorities said migrants attacked its agents with rocks, glass bottles and fireworks when they broke through a gate on the Mexican end but were pushed back, and some allegedly carried guns and firebombs.

More Americans need to be asking how these groups of hundreds and thousands are making a trek of more than 1,000 miles to “El Norte.”  Anyone familiar with military movement knows such a mass of humanity requires considerable logistics support.  Who is paying for all of thisWhy aren’t they being identified and pressured to stop?

Here’s what’s going to happen: when this wave of people reaches the U.S. border, they will be abandoned by their enablers.  Whoever is behind this is not going to fund returning these people to their countries of origin.  They will expect the situation to cause migrants to try desperately to get across the border by force, or else form huge squalid camps of squatters.  Either way, they expect video that will play on heartstrings to get their way.  Again.  The question is whether our nation has the will to say “no means no.”

It appears at least the President may.  Word is that he plans to attack one of the main motivations for these groups: “birthright citizenship:”

President Trump plans to sign an executive order that would remove the right to citizenship for babies of non-citizens and unauthorized immigrants born on U.S. soil, he said yesterday…

John Eastman, a constitutional scholar and director of Chapman University’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, told “Axios on HBO” that the Constitution has been misapplied over the past 40 or so years. He says the line “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” originally referred to people with full, political allegiance to the U.S. — green card holders and citizens.

The Supreme Court has already ruled that children born to immigrants who are legal permanent residents have citizenship. But those who claim the 14th Amendment should not apply to everyone point to the fact that there has been no ruling on a case specifically involving undocumented immigrants or those with temporary legal status.

If Trump follows through on the executive order, “the courts would have to weigh in in a way they haven’t,” Eastman said.

And that is a legal fight well worth picking.  I fully agree with Eastman that the 14th Amendment has been misapplied — abused, really — to twist our legal system into knots over a number of issues.  Historical context clearly shows the citizenship clause was designed to clarify the status of former slaves after the Civil War.  Virtually no other country in the world has a system where a pregnant woman can illegally enter the country, have a baby that’s automatically a citizen, then use that “anchor” baby’s status to sponsor scores of relatives into said country.  That’s demographic invasion by stealth, which is precisely what’s been going on the last half century.

I’ve said before that we give away citizenship and the privileges of voting far too cheaply.  Our current system provides huge incentive for people to make the hazardous journey to enter our country illegally.  If birthright citizenship were properly abolished, it’s likely few people would continue to pay large sums to shady “coyotes” to be smuggled across the border, often to be abandoned to die in the desert on the other side.

Leftists will accuse our country of heartlessness if we both secure the border and dismantle birthright citizenship.  In fact, we’ll be removing incentives that have led innumerable people to risk their lives — often losing — to cross our border.

These steps are long overdue.  The time is also right to ask the Supreme Court to finally rule on the issue, as there are two new members (Gorsuch and Kavanaugh) who respect the Constitution in its original context.  If Trump is successful in repelling the current invasion and getting a Supreme Court ruling abolishing the misguided concept of birthright citizenship for illegal aliens, he will have earned a spot in the pantheon of our greatest presidents.

Who’d have imagined it?

The long twilight struggle

Sometime late next year, a young man or woman who was not yet born on September 11, 2001, will raise their right hand and join the U.S. armed forces.  Given the tempo at which those forces have operated the past 17 years, that young person likely will be sent quickly to the Middle East in some capacity.

There, they will form part of the second consecutive generation to fight this “war.”  Unlike my uniformed cohort, they will have no memory of the events that led to them being there.  Nor will they have a concept of a time when the TSA didn’t exist, and the government didn’t conduct constant surveillance.  For them, America has always been at war.

The same will hold true of their contemporaries who stay in civilian life.

So what have we accomplished thus far, at the expense of nearly 7,000 dead and almost $3 trillion?  Very little, it would seem:

…Al Qaeda may be stronger than ever. Far from vanquishing the extremist group and its associated “franchises,” critics say, U.S. policies in the Mideast appear to have encouraged its spread.

What U.S. officials didn’t grasp, said Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intelligence Group, in a recent phone interview, is that Al Qaeda is more than a group of individuals. “It’s an idea, and an idea cannot be destroyed using sophisticated weapons and killing leaders and bombing training camps,” she said.

In fact, a good case can be made that the resilience of jihadi groups in the face of the most technologically sophisticated military force on the planet only underscores the righteousness of their ideas.  In swatting bees with sledgehammers, we’ve only increased the size of the swarm, with no vision of how this is supposed to end:

There is a stunning lack of strategic vision in America today. The range of foreign policy activities, beyond so-called “traditional diplomacy,” extend across military power and include everything from financial aid to information to exchanges of all kinds. These instruments are, however, seemingly applied without synchronization or thoughts about end states. The different bureaucracies often work together only on an ad hoc basis and rarely share collaborative requirements and communications with their respective oversight committees in the Congress.

Our few and feeble attempts to articulate vision have been badly flawed, and rarely considered the cultural and political realities of where we were fighting.  I was in Baghdad when the Bush administration declared our objectives there were a stable, unified, democratic Iraq.  A quick wit in our section soon had those diagrammed with a triangle on a marker board with the caption “pick any two.”

While pursuing this quixotic endeavor abroad, we have also failed to secure our own borders or effectively increase scrutiny of those entering our country.  The 9/11 hijackers covertly but legally entered the United States.  Now we have a veritable open fifth column of Islamists spreading the influence within the country.  Since many young Americans have been conditioned to believe their nation to be a blight on history, it’s difficult to mount an effective ideological defense.

Our continued thrashing about in the world only underscores our nation’s diminishment.  One measure of “just war” — a pillar of Western thought rarely referenced in the general public these days — is whether a conflict results in improved circumstances.  Can anyone say that Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen… or the United States are better off after a generation of warfare?  Is this likely to change when the sons and daughters of the original military force are the ones doing the fighting?

Seal the borders.  Deport the disloyal.  Bring our troops home.  That’s a coherent proposal, and at least has the benefit of not yet having been seriously tried.  Anything short of that is insanity — defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  That’s no way to honor the memory of those who died 17 years ago… or the tens of thousands of American servicemen dead or disabled since then.

tribute-in-light940x380

Saturday Sounds

September 12th marks the 335th anniversary of the Battle of Vienna, in which a normally fractured Christendom was able to unite forces to relieve the two-month siege of the Austrian capital by the Ottoman Turks. Over the succeeding decades, the Muslim influence in Eastern Europe would steadily be pushed back…

Because the Winged Hussars arrived.