Monday, August 21, 2006

Do We Believe in Ourselves?

Reading Livy's history of Rome, I'm struck with the attitude that Livy gives the early Romans, an attitude that I'm sure he shared. The Romans, as they conquered the Italian peninusula over the course of many years and many generations, believed that they were entitled to it. They had faith in their strength and their right to conquer others. They saw themselves as the rightful rulers of those around them. Later, they carried this attitude to a large portion of Europe, Northern Africa, and parts of Asia. They believed that they had something special to offer those cities and populations that they conquered. Their competitors may have thought the same of themselves, but they couldn't stand up to Rome's might. And Rome did have something to offer the world. We benefit today from Roman jurisprudence, philosophers, political ideas, and translations of Greek literature that carried it past the twilight of Greece so that at least some of it survives to this day.

Other conquerers also believed they had a right to rule. Genghis Khan believed. The Western imperialists whom so many in the West now despised, believed in themselves and their mission to bring their civilization to those whom they veiwed as backward and in need of the civilizing influence. As they gradually stopped believing in this mission, they packed up and left the countries they had conquered.

Today, it is the Muslims who believe that they have the right and the perscription to fix what ails our world. It doesn't matter to them that part of what ails our world springs directly from Islam. It doesn't matter to them that every Muslim nation is technologically backward compared to Western nations, nor that those Muslims who are pushing the hardest for the worldwide Ummah, are trying to send us all back to the seventh century. They don't care that they can't even build the weapons that they are using to promote jihad. They have to buy their cell phones and other bomb making equipment from the West. They don't care that even among Muslims, many would just like to get on with their lives. They don't care that rather than take responsibility for the problems in the Muslim world, they scapegoat the West and the Jews. In fact, the scapegoating actually feeds into their superiority complex. Islam can't do anything bad, all of the ills of Islam must come from the outside. Other totalitarians, like Nazis, Communists, Fascists held similiar beliefs.

On the other hand, it appears that we in the West have given up. This thriving civilization that was built and defended over centuries by our ancestors means nothing to us. Muslims are willing to sacrifice themselves and their children while we are in distress if our favorite TV show is interrupted. Ever since 9/11, we in the West have been apologizing for every Islamic attack against us. In the mean time, Islamic leaders proclaim that theirs is a religion of peace, the terrorists are misusing Islam, and if we try and battle the terrorists, we will only create more terrorists. And some idiots accept that.

I keep thinking that with each new episode of intolerance or violence, the West will finally admit that it has to battle the Islamic jihad. And I'm disappointed every time. The cartoon jihad didn't do it. The bus attacks in London didn't do it. Terror cells broken up in Great Britian and Canada haven't done it. The attack by Hezbollah on Israel hasn't done it. The Western press went out of its way and continues to go out of its way to present Lebanon as the victim of Israel, rather than the victim of Hezbollah, as they truly are. The Western press seems to be suicidal.

These words of Ben Stein expressing the same sentiment, are haunting in their truthfulness.
And that’s the essence. The other side considers it a privilege to fight and die for its beliefs. Those on the other side cannot wait to line up to blow themselves up for their vision of heaven. On our side, it’s: “Let the other poor sap do it. I’ve got to make money.” How can we fight this fight with the brightest and best educated rushing off and working night and day to do private equity deals and derivatives trading? How can we fight this fight with the ruling class absent by its own sweet leave?

I keep thinking, again, that if Israel, with its back to the sea, cannot muster the will to fight in a big way, then the fat, faraway U.S.A. will never be able to do it. I keep saying this and it terrifies me.

We’re in a war with people who want to kill us all and wreck our civilization. They’re taking it very seriously. We, on the other hand, are worrying about leveraged buyouts and special dividends and how much junk debt the newly formed private entity can support before we sell it to the ultimate sucker, the public shareholder.

We’re worrying whether Hollywood will forgive Mel Gibson and what the next move is for big homes in East Hampton. We’re rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The terrorists are the iceberg.

WHAT stands between us and the iceberg are the miraculously brave men and women of the armed forces. They’re heroes and saints as far as I’m concerned. But can they do it without the rest of us? Can they do it while we’re all working on our tans and trying to have our taxes lowered again? How can we leave them out there all alone to die for us when we treat the war to save civilization as something we can just wish away?

If we don’t win this war against the terrorists, there’s not going to be business as usual ever again. If the terrorists get to their goal, there’s not going to be a stock exchange or hedge funds or Bain Capital or the Carlyle Group or even Goldman Sachs. If the terrorists get their way — and so far, they’re getting their way — there’s not going to be business, period.

Everyone with the really big money at stake is — again — bidding for the best deck chairs as the iceberg looms, not so far, any longer, under the surface, and very large and very cold and very solid.
Read the whole thing. It's sobering.

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