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By: sebastianjer , 11:36 AM GMT on May 04, 2012



BY: Matthew Continetti

One of President Obama’s most annoying habits is his tendency to mistake the 300 million people of the United States for soldiers in an army charged with national reconstruction. He, of course, is the general.

The tic is often barely perceptible, revealed subtly in those moments when Obama decries partisan politics for interfering with his plans; when he speaks of coming together for the common purpose of redistributing private income to—sorry, “investing” taxpayer dollars in—Democratic client groups; and during the rare occasions when he feels it necessary to address the nation on matters of national security and war.

Here is the president in August 2010, announcing the end of combat operations in Iraq: “And so at this moment, as we wind down the war in Iraq, we must tackle those challenges at home with as much energy, and grit, and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform who have served abroad.”

The way to “honor” American heroes who serve overseas, Obama said, is “by coming together, all of us, and working to secure the dream that so many generations have fought for—the dream that a better life awaits anyone who is willing to work for it and reach for it.”

What does “coming together” mean? Why, silly, it means passing Obama’s domestic agenda: more money for education and job training and to “jumpstart industries that create jobs, and end our dependence on foreign oil,” and just happen to be owned by donors to the president’s campaigns. Missing from the 2010 speech was a line saying the path to heroism is through support for the Buffett Rule, probably because David Axelrod hadn’t yet come up with that particular gimmick.

The nation-as-army metaphor reemerged, dramatically, as the 2012 campaign began. Jonah Goldberg was justifiably disgusted at the message of this year’s State of the Union Address, in which the president suggested that Americans as a whole might take their cues from uniformed soldiers who are “not consumed with personal ambition,” “don’t obsess over their differences,” “focus on the mission at hand,” and “work together.”

Obama finds inspiration in the most hierarchical and selfless elements of military life. “Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example,” he said. We imagine all of us would have to buy health insurance. Taxes and spending would be high. A new Volt would sit in every driveway.

The commander-in-chief issued additional orders in recent days. When he unveiled his latest campaign slogan Monday, he told his supporters, and presumably the rest of the country, that it is time to march “Forward,” lemming-like, off a cliff.

And on Tuesday, in the televised address at the close of his targeted Afghan night raid, Obama challenged his audience to “summon that same sense of common purpose” one finds in “our soldiers, our sailors, our airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and civilians in Afghanistan,” and “redouble our efforts to build a nation worthy of their sacrifice.”

Obama’s social militarism inverts civil-military relations in a democratic republic. Traditionally—and one suspects that this is still the case for practically all servicemen—men and women join the Armed Forces because they believe America is worthy of their duty and protection. But Obama seems to suggest that, sorry, we are not quite there yet. The America that actually is “worthy of their sacrifice” has not come into existence. It exists “forward,” somewhere in the future. We must bring it into being by emulating the self-sacrificing troops, by suppressing our ambition and disagreement and differences, by “focusing on the mission” of building our country on a New Foundation.

The problems with this mindset are obvious. Obama has it totally backwards. The greatness of our troops derives from the fact that they sacrifice so the American people can enjoy their constitutionally protected liberty to pursue happiness in manifold ways. What the soldiers are protecting—and what the president swears to uphold and defend—does not exist in the future but was ratified more than 200 years in the past: The Constitution of the United States, whose separation of powers, federalism, and checks and balances protect the liberties defined as self-evident in the Declaration of Independence. These documents may be old and sometimes “confusing,” but they have served our country admirably and are the reason America is exceptional in a way that England and Greece are not.

Nor is a continent-spanning economy something that you command like an army, especially if it is a more-free-market-than-not economy with established property rights and the rule of law. Free economies fuel prosperity by relying on the inspiration, innovation, investment, consumption, labor, and trial and error of hundreds of millions of individuals making independent decisions, not all of which conform with what liberals in the press and politics currently view as “rational.”

A nation, a free nation, is not an army. The citizens of a free nation do not always share consumer preferences or a sense of common purpose. Like a good jobs czar, GE’s Jeff Immelt may want all American to “root” for his company and do what they can to help it succeed, but Americans still have every right to take their business elsewhere. There is something undemocratic in thinking that one should stop squabbling, strap on their boots, and get to work for Obama. One would do that only if the questions surrounding public life and public policy are settled. But they are not settled—not at all. Obama acknowledges as much when he laments he is not president of China or when he says that bypassing Congress and changing the laws “on my own is very tempting.”

In his likening of the nation to an army, Obama once again reduces the conflict between conservatism and liberalism to its core. The goal of modern liberalism, wrote Leo Strauss, “may be said to be the universal and classless society or, to use the correction proposed by Kojève, the universal and homogenous state of which every adult human being is a full member.” That sounds very much like membership in a battalion.

Against this, modern conservatives propose the goal of a constitutional federal republic, where the equal protection of natural rights necessarily will result in inequalities of property or achievement simply because men have different skills and talents. “Conservatives look with greater sympathy than liberals on the particular or particularist and the heterogeneous,” Strauss wrote. We are more likely to wish to preserve our differences, in the knowledge that the liberal project of uniformity is undesirable and unfeasible. We are the conscientious objectors to Obama’s forward march. And we are not alone.

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"A constitution is not an act of government, but of the people constituting a government, and a government without a constitution is power without right."

Thomas Paine

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3. PurpleDrank
8:31 PM GMT on May 04, 2012
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2. latitude25
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1. sebastianjer
12:08 PM GMT on May 04, 2012

The New Face of Terrorism

By William Tucker

Who are those five young men who wanted to blow up a bridge in Cleveland?

There is something very disconcerting about the faces of the five young men arrested in Cleveland last week for planning to blow up a bridge on a federal highway. Ordinarily we're accustomed to seeing the faces of bearded Middle Easterners with some kind of turban on their heads and malevolence in their eyes. Instead, these were home-grown Americans. Granted one had a weird hairdo and they all looked pretty scruffy, but it wasn't anything you wouldn't encounter in your average grunge band.

If this is the new face of terrorism, we're in big trouble. And it seems very likely. You see lots of the same type among the crowd at Occupy Wall Street crowd or in those fanatical environmental groups that chain themselves to a grove of trees or burn down a luxury condominium. (In fact, these five were first tailed by police after talking anarchist violence at Occupy Cleveland.) There's a kind of helpless fanaticism to all these young men, as if the world is stacked against them and only the wildest act of desperation can have any impact.

America seems to be producing a lot more of these types today. My guess is that most of them have grown up without fathers and seem to have no connection with any adult male. The world of Father Knows Best is unknown to them. They're angry at not having role models but they've also incorporated their divorced mothers' jaundiced view of the world of men. In terms of personal and social roles, they have nowhere to go.

Ordinarily you would hope such wayward youth would eventually find themselves, settle down, get married and raise a family. But we no longer live in that kind of world. We've already had one Fight Club generation, "raised by women" as the Brad Pitt character put it, and it looks like we're headed for another by default. These young men are not very good marriage material. Television watching and video games are their major vocation. They haven't done well in school -- but then most boys never did. In the old days, however, there was always a factory job or outdoor work that offered the possibility of making a living. These jobs no longer exist. Unless they have a father or an uncle who's in some father-and-son labor union, they're out of luck. They're the kind of whom their girlfriends will say, when they finally gets pregnant and decide they don't want to get married, "it would be like having another child."

Meanwhile, those girlfriends are already doing better in school and are marching into the job market, for whatever that's worth. This pattern cuts across racial and ethnic lines. As the young Cambodian girl tells Clint Eastwood in Grand Torino, "in this neighborhood, the girls go to college and the boys go to jail." There are already more women than men in college and the gap keeps widening. Just last week the Gallup poll found for the first time that young women have more career ambitions than young men. It's not surprising to find that when they reach the point of family formation, many of these women will decide they have better options -- either the welfare system or their own resources.

All this illustrates what Charles Murray says is happening throughout blue-collar America. Cultural norms are breaking down and nothing is taking their place -- except perhaps the system where everybody becomes a ward of the state. There's the usual nattering about men staying home to raise children while their wives go out to be breadwinners but that's limited to a slice of the population barely big enough to give some CNN reporter the idea that she's got a story. In the vast reach of an increasingly undereducated America, young men raised in homes dominated by women find no appeal in putting themselves in the hands of another woman. Better to hang out with the boys and get high. And so the cycle continues.

So far there's very little pushback against this gathering calamity. The dogma of women's liberation says that anything women do to gain their "independence" is heroic, even if it means becoming a single mother with five illegitimate children and going on welfare. When black sports stars revert to the old African custom of collecting as many wives as possible, the press can only gape in admiration. (Reported BBC-CNN last week: "As he celebrates his 28th birthday today New York Jets cornerback, Antonio Cromartie, has another reason to raise a glass -- he now fathers 10 children… from a total of eight women across the country.") When Hollywood decides to investigate Mormons, it doesn't concentrate on the highly moral and successful majority that plays a central role in the Boy Scouts, but concentrates on the few remaining polygamous cults and gives us Big Love.

No wonder that, when confronted with a breadwinning family man married to the same women for forty years with a healthy brood of children and grandchildren, the Obama Administration immediately responds by branding Mitt Romney as "weird."

THERE IS, HOWEVER, a glimmer of hope. Deep in the bowels of academia, a handful of scholars are beginning to acknowledge that there may be something worth salvaging in Western culture.

In a paper published by the Royal Society last January entitled "The Puzzle of Monogamous Marriage," three scholars -- Joseph Henrich, of the University of British Columbia, Robert Boyd of UCLA and Peter Richerson of UC Davis -- have done the unthinkable: offered an anthropological/sociological/psychological defense of the Western monogamous tradition.

Why monogamy, sexual fidelity and fatherhood ever emerged in human culture, they admit, is a bit of a mystery. Physiologically, we are probably better suited to polygamy. In fact 85 percent of all human societies have allowed men to have multiple wives. The only exceptions have been: 1) hunter-gatherers, who deal with their challenging environment by practicing a fierce egalitarianism, and 2) "some of history's largest and most successful… societies," i.e., the West plus China, Japan and India, which have now adopted its mores.

What is the particularly salubrious about monogamy is that it "shrinks the size of the pool of low-status, risk-oriented, unmarried men, " Otherwise, "[f]aced with… little chance of obtaining even one long-term mate, unmarried, low-status men will heavily discount the future and more readily engage in risky status-elevating and sex-seeking behavior. This will result in higher rates of murder, theft, rape, [and] social disruption." Only by giving undereducated men a meaningful role in life will their energies be harnessed to the greater social good.

The five footloose, forlorn young men who decided that blowing up a bridge in Cleveland would trigger anarchistic rebellion across the country are probably only the vanguard of a cohort that has been marginalized by the economics of welfare, the feminization of education, and the cultural bend for celebrating everything women do over anything that men do short of winning the Super Bowl. Western society owes its success to assuring that even the lowest status male is given the opportunity to participate in fostering institutions and fathering the next generation. As these norms break down, the peace and prosperity they have produced is likely to erode as well.
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