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Bruce S. Thornton - Contributor

Bruce Thornton is a professor of Classics at Cal State Fresno and co-author of Bonfire of the Humanities: Rescuing the Classics in an Impoverished Age and author of Greek Ways: How the Greeks Created Western Civilization (Encounter Books). His most recent book is Searching for Joaquin: Myth, Murieta, and History in California (Encounter Books). [go to Thornton index]

New Realities - New Year
The world has changed...lessons learned
[Bruce S. Thornton] 12/29/03

The events of the last few years from 9/11 to the capture of Saddam Hussein have exposed just how radically our world has changed since the end of the Cold War and the rise of Islamo-fascism. There are lessons here to be learned, and whether we heed them or not will determine just how secure will be our place in the world in the ensuing decades. On the brink of a new year, we would do well to contemplate the new realities our nation must confront:

Lesson 1. The UN is finished.

The past few years have proven that the UN and its Security Council are 20th-century relics useless for deterring aggression and keeping the peace in the 21st century, a lesson we should have learned in Bosnia and Rwanda, where thousands were slaughtered while the UN blue-helmets watched. The reasons are not hard to see: every member state is driven first and foremost by its own national interests, and uses the UN as a mechanism for pursuing those aims under the camouflage of ideals such as "peace" and the resolution of conflict through talk rather than force. Now that the US is so overwhelmingly dominant militarily and economically, those aims include thwarting America's pursuit of its national interests. Stopping a murderous dictator who would, if left alone, develop WMD's and give them to terrorists is not as important as clipping the US's wings, particularly for those like the French, who are still under the delusion that they are a major world power rather than a glorified Belgium.

By participating in the UN, then, the US is like a Gulliver allowing himself to be tied down by two-inch-high Lilliputians, those nations who will not commit their blood and treasure to enforcing their own proclaimed ideals. What else explains the surreal absurdity of the Security Council's refusal this year to sanction the US's attempts to enforce the UN's own resolutions, a dozen of which Hussein had violated in as many years? By refusing to sanction the overthrow of Hussein, the UN thwarted its chance at gaining any credibility for its pretensions to being a global enforcer of the peace, and on that count alone has demonstrated its irrelevancy.

It's time to dissolve the Security Council and relegate the UN to being a global social work institution. Then we will be spared the spectacle of the Secretary of State of the most powerful country in the history of mankind wheedling military pygmies like Chile and Cameroon for their support. And we will no longer be hampered by the nakedly self-interested behavior of the veto-bearing French, Chinese and Russians. For too long we have born the brunt of financing and enforcing the ideals espoused by nations who refuse to put their money where their multi-lateralist, internationalist mouths are. If we are to risk our sons and daughters, our blood and treasure, then we American citizens will decide when, under what conditions, and for what cause to do so.

Lesson 2. "Old" Europe is finished.

Western Europe today reminds me of the Eloi in H.G. Wells' Time Machine. Civilized, cultured, sophisticated, and waiting to be devoured by the Morlocks, those aggressive, hungry "others" who despise "tolerance" and "cosmopolitanism"-- and the moral relativism both signify---as signs of weakness to be exploited. And they have a point. Many in Europe today no longer truly believe in the Western ideals that have created the freest and richest civilizations in history. Long protected from the Soviet bear by American missiles and troops, Europeans have forgotten that those ideals require diligent protection, and this defense in turn requires a financial and moral commitment to the military, as well as a willingness to use force and accept risks in defense of those ideals.

Moreover, these ideals need the public assertion of their rightness and superiority. Yet mired in a cheap "tolerance" and noble-savage Third-Worldism, many in Europe have become cultural relativists who seemingly assume that the goods they enjoy can endure without a fervent belief in them proven by action. Even as Europeans enjoy expensive social services that underwrite their material affluence, their borders are being invaded by those who do fervently believe that their own way of life is superior, enough so to justify violence in the furtherance of those values. History shows that peoples who no longer believe in their values and principles--and who no longer prove that belief by taking action and risks-- are vulnerable to those who do believe in theirs.

Thus we must disentangle ourselves from NATO and end the automatic assumption that a decaying Old Europe is our friend. Remove our troops from Germany and Greece, form ad hoc alliances as needed, and support the young democracies such as India, Mexico, and those in Eastern Europe who know how rare and precious freedom and prosperity are, and how much blood, sweat, and tears are required to keep both.

Lesson 3. Leftist "dissent" in this country is bankrupt.

Dissent is invaluable in a democracy, but true dissent is based on coherent principle, reasoned argument, and empirical evidence. What we have witnessed the last few years in the protests against war with the Taliban and Iraq is something else altogether: the unthinking display of stale leftist orthodoxies long discredited by history.

The driving force behind the "peace" demonstrations comprises, of course, the communist remnants that are programmatically anti-American, in fealty to an ideology as bizarre as alchemy or phrenology. Their irrational hatred of America drove them to support a fascist dictator who used to embody everything the left presumably was fighting against. The lesson we should learn as we watch their antics is that communism is not a coherent political and economic ideology but rather a fanatic cult, its "dissent" a ritualistic incantation.

Also disturbing are the more numerous fellow travelers who brandish their equally incoherent "dissent" as a fashion sign and emblem of class superiority. A classic example in the build up to war in Iraq this year was the "protest" of the war staged by the poets who refused a White House invitation. This orthodox behavior of course was trumpeted by the media as "dissent," when in fact such behavior in the poetry industry is utterly predictable, for it reflects the prejudices of the universities of which American poetry is a subsidiary, and flatters the poets' pretensions that they are more humane and sensitive than the taxpaying dolts who ignore their work. True dissent usually carries some price, but no poet risked a single thing by insulting a Republican president: no editor will look askance at his submissions, no faculty committee will question his promotion, no foundation will trash his application for free money because he is "anti-war." This is how bad it's gotten in America: rigid orthodoxy in service to a worn-out ideology is considered "dissent."

What we should learn, then, is that the old marxist and marxiste dogmas are useless, a form of petulant self-loathing of service to no one other than those who want to destroy us, and so will only hamper us in our attempts to protect our freedom and interests.


The months and years to come will demonstrate whether we learn these lessons. If we recover our belief in the superiority and rightness of our values and act with the confidence that such belief inspires, we will eventually see a world increasingly freer and more secure than the one we inhabit today. But if we remained chained by outmoded institutions, if we allow the weak and self-doubting to compromise our actions, if we continue to take seriously the incoherent "dissent" of the malicious and the smug, then we too will become more and more like the Eloi, sleek and civilized and ready to be devoured.

copyright 2003 Bruce S. Thornton

Searching for Joaquin
by Bruce S. Thornton

Greek Ways
by Bruce S. Thornton

Bonfire of the Humanities
by Victor Davis Hanson, John Heath, Bruce S. Thornton

Plagues of the Mind
by Bruce S. Thornton

Eros: The Myth of Ancient Greek Sexuality

by Bruce S. Thornton





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