by CJ Clark, Columnist & Featured Contributor
[su_dropcap style=”flat”]I’VE[/su_dropcap] CHANGED MY reading habits over the last 10 years. I’m not exactly sure why, but I’ve moved away from the crime novels that I can’t remember a week after I finish them, to non-fiction in the realm of history and politics. Anyone who knew me 20 years ago would laugh; I had no time for anything “intellectual.”
Perhaps it is the time in history in which I find myself. Twenty years ago, I never gave thought to the concept of America not being here as a beacon of freedom and opportunity into perpetuity. Twenty years ago, I hadn’t been hardened by interactions with people who cared only for their own interests, and smashed mine to pieces. Maybe the cynicism is getting so loud, I need to better understand people, and why they think and do as they think and do.
My first foray was The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Somehow the concept of dictatorship seemed more real than fiction. I wanted to know more. Scary how so many intelligent people just watched. Just watched.
The most recent is Charles Krauthammer’s Things that Matter: Three decades of passions, pastimes and politics. A sense of kindred spirit has grown since I began watching him on Fox’s Special Report. He makes his points so succinctly and logically that I kept asking myself, “why doesn’t everyone just watch him and learn?” So I bought the book.
The book is a collection of his articles and essays over the past 30 years, and give a unique insight into the author: author, speaker, husband, father, brother, physician, Jew, and most amazingly, he is an oracle. He is prescient. He sees the future. He predicts how the human race and its political environment will unfold.
April 29, 2002, essay in The New Republic…”On The Ethics of Embryonic Research.” The difference between reproductive cloning (make a copy) and research cloning (grow to an embryo and mine for stem cells.) As he describes the “slippery slope” from research cloning to reproductive cloning, he says “we would all be revolted if a living infant or developed fetus were carved up for parts.” He predicts that, by starting down the slippery slope, we become desensitized to such things.
May 11, 1998, essay in The Weekly Standard…”Zionism and the fate of the Jews.” “Israel is the only small country – the only country, period – whose neighbors publicly declare its very existence an affront to law, morality and religion and make its extinction an explicit, paramount, national goal. Nor is the goal merely declarative. Iran, Libya and Iraq conduct foreign policies designed for the killing of Israelis and the destruction of their state. They choose their allies (Hamas, Hezbollah) and develop their weapons (suicide bombs, poison gas, anthrax, nuclear missiles) accordingly.” This was in 1998.
Winter 1990/1991, essay in Foreign Affairs…”Three essays on America and the World.” In discussing America’s role as a world power, he postulates that even though the US is helping/funding/supporting a global audience, that is not what is depleting our coffers. He forecasts “America’s low savings rate, poor educational system, stagnant productivity, declining work habits, rising demand for welfare-state entitlements and new taste for ecological luxuries have nothing at all to do with engagement in Europe, Central America or the Middle East. Over that last 30 years, while taxes remained almost fixed (rising from 18.3% to 19.6%) and defense spending declined, domestic entitlements in American history is not foreign adventures but the low tax ideology of the 1980s coupled with America’s insatiable desire for yet higher standards of living without paying any of the cost.” That last clause says it all.
August 15, 1983, article in Time Magazine…”The Mirror-Image Fallacy.” In this piece, Krauthammer muses about the tendency of we humans to look at other humans as if they were a mirror image of us – they thought alike, their values were shared, and deep cultural meaning was identical. He says, “At only the most trivial level can it be said that people want the same things. Take peace. The North Vietnamese want it, but apparently they wanted to conquer all of Indochina first. The Salvadoran right and left both want it, but only after making a desert of the other.” He goes on to say, “for the mirror image fantasy derives above all from the coziness of middle-class life. The more settled and ordered one’s life – and in particular one’s communal life – the easier it becomes for one’s imagination to fail….Brutality and fanaticism beyond one’s ken must be made to remain there; thus, for example, when evidence mounts of biological warfare in faraway places, the most fanciful theories may be produced to banish the possibility.” Remember, this was 1983.
What overwhelmingly connected for me though, was the logic of conservative principles as explained in “Democratic Realism,” a 2004 article in The AEI Press. I “get” it intuitively, but I never heard it quite articulated as Krauthammer does in this article. He takes us back to December 26, 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, leaving the US as a unipolar power, which is the (in my words) crux of the conundrum we find ourselves in today.
Krauthammer offers four schools of thought as to where this can go – from isolationism to democratic globalism.
[message type=”custom” width=”100%” start_color=”#F0F0F0 ” end_color=”#F0F0F0 ” border=”#BBBBBB” color=”#333333″]Isolationism. Why intervene in squabbles outside our borders? We have everything we need right here, so let’s just hunker down and enjoy it. Really? “It is so obviously inappropriate to the world of today – a world of export-driven economies, of massive population flows and of 9/11.” Our world view, originating with economic trade to provide what doesn’t come naturally, had to protect the avenues of trade – the seas. If others lay claim to property we require for trade, we cannot let that happen. If we do, we run the risk of living a life of “want,” instead of “have,” as we do today. There is a basic and fundamental reason that we have intervened outside our borders, even though time has certainly added reasons beyond trade.
Liberal internationalism. He describes 1990s intervention decisions. Enter Kosovo? Absolutely. It was a humanitarian rationale. Enter Kuwait? Nope. That is pure national self-interest, “shaping the international environment by projecting power abroad to secure economic, political and strategic goods. Intervening militarily for that kind of national interest, liberal internationalism finds unholy and unsupportable.” So we have a decade of treaties and alliances that look good on paper.
Realism. Here, “the ‘international community’ is a fiction. It is not a community, it is a cacophony – of straining ambitions, disparate values and contending power.” Looking at the world realistically, recognizing that the demonstration of strength is a powerful deterrent to hostile actions against our country, we present a united front saying “don’t come over here or we’ll respond.” Krauthammer says though, “for most Americans, will to power might be a correct description of the world – of what motivates other countries – but it cannot be a prescription for America. It cannot be our purpose…Our foreign policy must be driven by something beyond power.”
Enter Democratic Globalism. Instead of aspiring to power, we aspire to help the world attain the freedoms that we enjoy. A noble purpose and mission.[/message]
Dr. Krauthammer proposes another way – democratic realism. “We will support democracy everywhere, but we will commit blood and treasure only in places where there is a strategic necessity – meaning, places central to the larger war against the existential enemy, the enemy that poses a global mortal threat to freedom.”
His conclusion. “In October 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, we came to the edge of the abyss. Then, accompanied by our equally shaken adversary, we both deliberately drew back. On September 11, 2001, we saw the face of Armageddon again, but this time with an enemy that does not draw back. This time the enemy knows no reason. Were that the only difference between now and then, our situation would be hopeless. But there is a second difference between now and then: the uniqueness of our power, unrivaled, not just today but ever. That evens the odds. The rationality of the enemy is something beyond our control. But the use of our power is within our control. And if that power is used wisely, constrained not by illusions and fictions but only by the limits of our missions – which is to bring a modicum of freedom as an antidote to nihilism – we can prevail.”
Is Krauthammer an oracle? Probably not. He is, however, a student of human nature, a historical and political scholar, and a very bright man. His writing in the 1980s and 1990s predicted the future because of his ability to incorporate history, human behavior and logical thinking into a frame of reference.
I must say that all of this is frightening, and I don’t understand why those people who enjoy the freedom of our country cannot see that we are, again, standing on the abyss as we become more and more irrelevant on the world stage. Let’s hope that falling into the abyss because we have allowed our power to diminish, does not come to pass.
I cannot do the book justice, but felt compelled to try to influence anyone who has a sincere interest in our country to read the book. It is compelling, chilling and wise.