Tuesday, December 12, 2006

On Augusto Pinochet and Double Standards

As a collegian I gave an oral presentation in an international relations course defending American actions in Chile during the 1970’s. In particular, I noted that Washington’s alliance with strongman Augusto Pinochet served as a necessary check to curb a burgeoning Marxist movement in Latin America.

Naturally, my presentation was greeted by guffaws from the assembled mob of lefties who were incapable of unfurrowing their brows and unable to speak without stammering in righteous indignation. They could muster little more than to sputter the dreaded F-bomb—“Fascist.”

At that moment, I realized that the university is full of some of the most ignorant and blind people on the face of planet earth.

In the narrative constructed by simple-minds, running the gamut from The Nation to the august op-ed page of the NY Times, comes the establishment line that Pinochet overturned a peace-loving, popular, progressive Allende government, plunging Chile into darkness and murderous thuggery.

Given the penchant of leftist fellow-travelers such as Times correspondent Walter Duranty to shill for the likes of Uncle Joe Stalin and shield his crimes from the light of truth, one can only cringe when his modern-day progeny dress themselves royally in gowns of moral clarity to condemn a patriotic man who saved his country from a similar outcome.

In 1970, Salvador Allende was elected with a mere 36% of the vote. The anti-socialist vote had been split by multiple parties, and because of Allende's small margin of victory, Chile’s Christian Democrats agreed to let him go forward only after he promised to accept a "Statute of Guarantees" supporting the rule of law.

Allende quickly moved to the left, in part to satisfy his divided and part-revolutionary constituency. He began a program of systematic property expropriation while his more militant supporters began seizing farms and occupying factories.

His economic policies proved catastrophic. Inflation, which had been “under control” at a 23% clip when he assumed power, rocketed to 190% by 1973. Chile reneged on its foreign debts, effectively declaring national bankruptcy and her currency collapsed.

Eventually, the middle class turned against Allende and his revolutionary brigands, but by that time the Left was moving to infiltrate the military. According to Paul Johnson, their militias had more weapons than the army itself. Moreover, Allende's unconstitutional power-grabs were challenged by the democratically elected Congress, which affirmed by a vote of 81 to 47 that Allende was acting illegally and called upon the armed forces to ensure his compliance with the Constitution.

Pinochet led a united military effort to depose the government and restore order. Most of the resistance to Pinochet came from 13,000 non-Chilean political refugees. In the process, around 2,800 people lost their lives.

Not to minimize the unseemly things that occurred in Chile during Pinochet’s reign, but where is the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Left to draw up arrest warrants for Soviet commissars and Chinese cultural revolutionaries? Why do they not bray like mules about Argentine generals, Ethiopian colonels, and Jewish terrorists? Why do they so hate this man?

The reason the Left hates Pinochet is not for his failures, but because of his success. Until his departure from power, Pinochet rebuilt his shattered country and willingly gave up power when he lost a plebiscite in 1990. Moreover, he succeeded without resorting to the statist prescriptions of socialists. In short, Pinochet left a nation that was free and prosperous, the envy of its neighbors, not to mention pro-American. Meanwhile Castro-lovers and Pol Pot groupies want to break out their tie-die shirts and re-live the good ole days by continuing to flog him endlessly.

For Christians, Pinochet’s death raises some interesting questions, too. How can you apply moral and biblical principles in the foreign policy arena? In a fallen world, it is occasionally prudent, and I dare say morally necessary, to make choices that might induce a bit of queasiness.

Was Rahab morally justified in lying to her inquisitors, protecting Jewish spies from certain death? I think God provides the answer in Hebrews 11: “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.”

How about Obadiah (see I Kings 18)? He was serving in Ahab’s government and simultaneously supplying God’s prophets with food and material sustenance. Our current crop of Evangelical pastors would almost certainly cite Romans 13 or I Peter 2 to condemn his actions.

The Bible does NOT call for perfectionism, and biblical universalism—that we are all sinners in need of the saving grace and atoning death of Christ—is a far cry from the ridiculous humanistic universalism (i.e., God wants every nation in the world to be “free and democratic” practitioners of universal human rights) spouted by politicians like George Bush and endorsed by Christian “ethicists” like Richard Land, both of whom issue their proclamations and dictates while claiming Biblical authority.

I would ask my fellow Christians, who have and often continue to support a wicked and unjust war in the Middle East, the following: Is the anarchy on display in Iraq preferable to the rule of an authoritarian henchman? The road to hell in Iraq has been paved with good intentions, and fundamental “human rights.” Might things not be better if an Iraqi Pinochet rises like a Phoenix from the flames? At this point, they might even win one of those “free elections.”

Merry Christmas, Daddy

Kathy sent me these and all I could do was smile. Fathers out there will understand.

From left to right: Josh, Jack, Andrew

From left to right: Andrew, Josh, and Jack

From left to right: Andrew, Josh, and Jack

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Williamson on the Election

Chronicles book editor Chilton Williamson writes a monthly column for Middle American News. In the December issue, Williamson dissects the recent mid-term elections. He writes:

What Democrats, and liberals generally, fail to recognize in their time of triumph this fall is that the vote against President Bush--his war, his deficit, his security state, his imperial presidency, his immigration policy--was in no sense a liberal, but rather a conservative, one. They are prevented from understanding this by their misunderstanding of American populism, which they-together with Republicans and movement conservatives-misconstrue as being of a leftist persuasion. The election of 2006 was, among other things, a vigorous protest against the global economy, free trade, the transfer of manufacturing plant and jobs overseas, outsourcing, corporate greed and corruption, and the unaffordability of health care. Had not liberals and "conservatives" long ago determined to ignore whatever paleoconservatives have to say, they would have recognized all of these concerns as, in fact, pedigreed conservative ones.

While Williamson and paleos generally have proven prophetic regarding Iraq, he argues forcefully that the nation faces a greater peril from unchecked immigration than the occasionally foolish foreign intervention:

The Iraq War is indisputably a disaster, yet it hardly amounts to national catastrophe on the scale of legalizing 20 million-and perhaps, according to revised estimates, many more than that-illegal immigrants, at the expense of an estimated $127 billion, assuming the official "count" of around 12 million. Wars, and rumors of wars, are perennial occurences, after all; the invasion, facilitated by its so-called leaders, of a sovereign nation by tens and scores of more or less hostile and poverty-stricken aliens by contrast is something new under the sun. A country that will not tolerate the deaths of less than 3000 of its volunteer combatants-hardly more than the toll of a skirmish in, say, the War Between the States-over a period of three and a half years probably has no business fielding an army at all. On the other hand, a nation that refuses to defend itself against hordes of aggressive invaders on a scale that dwarfs the invasion of the Roman Empire by the German barbarians no longer deserves to be called a country, in any acceptable sense of the word.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Headline: "Pot Calls Kettle Black"

America's chief virtue-monger, Bill Bennett, relegated these days to a radio show that no one listens to, pontificates on the Iraq Study Group: "In all my time in Washington I've never seen such smugness, arrogance, or such insufferable moral superiority. Self-congratulatory. Full of itself. Horrible."

This Isn't Your Father's Civil War

Andrew Bacevich has proven to be an astute observer of the Middle East, and a thoughtful right-leaning critic of American foreign policy.

Here, he criticizes the hubris of American elites, who continue to ignore realities in Iraq that make a favorable resolution to the "war" impossible. Tinkering around the edges, revising "strategy," moving troops here and there, working to create a functional Iraqi army, etc., amount to spitting on a bonfire, says Bacevich:

Gauging the reality of present-day Iraq requires a taste for interlocking conundrums. We should see it as a civil war coupled to an insurgency exacerbated by rampant criminality. For good measure, call it a front in President Bush's global crusade against "Islamofascism" as well.

But even this will not suffice. Grasping the nature of this sectarian-struggle-cum-"resistance"-and-crime-wave becomes impossible without an appreciation of the political, historical, and cultural context from which this bloodletting springs...

Those still determined to devise a single phrase to describe Iraq should try this one: Pandora's box.

In a remarkable display of recklessness laced with naiveté, President Bush imagined that he could lift the lid on that box and rearrange the contents, liberating Iraq and then remaking it in our own image. Alas, the president succeeded only in unleashing furies that have long since escaped his control.

To imagine at this late date that we retain any ability to tame those furies is nonsense.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Atheists on the March

Aggressive and militant materialist atheism is on the march and coming to a bookstore near you:

If Dennett and Harris are almost-scientists (Dennett runs a multidisciplinary scientific-philosophic program), the authors of half a dozen aggressively secular volumes are card carriers: In Moral Minds, Harvard biologist Marc Hauser explores the--nondivine--origins of our sense of right and wrong (September); in Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast (due in January) by self-described "atheist-reductionist-materialist" biologist Lewis Wolpert, religion is one of those impossible things; Victor Stenger, a physicist-astronomer, has a book coming out titled God: The Failed Hypothesis. Meanwhile, Ann Druyan, widow of archskeptical astrophysicist Carl Sagan, has edited Sagan's unpublished lectures on God and his absence into a book, The Varieties of Scientific Experience, out this month.

The popular press is picking up on this topic, too. For example, a writer from Wired spent some time yakking it up with Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris.

Meanwhile, Time recently devoted space to covering the "Evolution Wars" and also printed snippets of a debate between Dawkins and Francis Collins.

The most interesting thing from my vantage point is to see how starkly presuppositions shape the debate. They effectively talk past one another demonstrating that worldview commitments form and mold the ideas and convictions that govern talk about belief or disbelief in God.

A Plug

In light of my last post, I wanted to commend the work of Dave and Becky Black to you.

Since 2004 the Blacks have served as self-supporting missionaries to Ethiopia, bringing the Word and love of God to the people of that land. You can read about their efforts, and I would urge you to support them financially and in prayer.

Anti-Poverty Programs Don't Work

It turns out that statist/globalist anti-poverty programs are an abject failure:

Despite an intensified campaign against poverty, World Bank programs have failed to lift incomes in many poor countries over the past decade, leaving tens of millions of people suffering stagnating and even declining living standards, according to a report released Thursday by the bank's autonomous assessment arm.

Among 25 poor countries probed in detail by the bank's Independent Evaluation Group, only 11 saw reductions in poverty between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s, while the other 14 suffered the same or worse rates over that term. The group said the sample was representative of the global picture.

Perhaps the spread of Christianity throughout the southern hemisphere will positively impact the material prospects of those nations.

One reason for the lack of economic progress in much of the Third World is the ideology of paganism, described by economist P. T. Bauer as a:

Lack of interest in material advance combined with resignation in the face of poverty; lack of initiative, self-reliance and of a sense of personal responsibility for the economic fortune of oneself and one's family; high leisure preference, together with a lassitude often found in tropical climates; relatively high prestige of passive or contemplative life compared to active life...belief in perpetual reincarnation which reduces the significance of effort in the course of the present life; recognized status of beggary, together with a lack of stigma in the acceptance of charity...

The only way to achieve to broad-based wealth is by increasing productivity through capital investment, private property, stable money and a predictable legal order. However, to produce such fruit, a culture must first ingest principles of thrift and work based upon a future-orientation. In short, economic growth is a product of culture, and culture is a product of the religious presuppositions that under gird the culture. It is no accident that free-markets, capitalism and freedom constrained by law are largely confined to those parts of the world still borrowing off the spiritual capital accumulated by Christian ancestors.

In short, the answer to the problems of the Third World is not resignation, nor is it statism, but regeneration, and the application of biblical laws and precepts to all of life.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ending the Stability Problem

Pat Buchanan says that the Bushies have ended the stability problem in the Middle East:

"For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in … the Middle East, and we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all the people."

So Condi Rice hubristically declared in Cairo in 2005.

Since then, those elections that Rice demanded have advanced toward or into power the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the radical Shia in Iraq, and Ahmadinejad in Iran.

But at least Bush and Rice have solved the stability problem.

More Flim-Flam From Pastor Rick

Rick Warren knows that the way get some lovin' from Time Magazine and WAPO is to stop mentioning Christ's atoning death and invite a pro-abort and practicing homosexual to your pulpit to talk about AIDS.

By the way, Warren was praised by Richard Land. Dripping with typical condescension, Land said, "Rick is having a summit on AIDS, and Barack Obama has said some compelling things about the issue. I work all the time in coalition with people to the right and left of me, when we're in agreement on a specific issue. One of the markers of Evangelicals is the ability to walk and chew gum at the same time."

Maybe the two of them can get together at the next CFR gabfest.