We Are Israel

September 8, 2014

“We don’t thrive on military acts. We do them because we have to, and thank God we are efficient.”  – Golda Meir

Almost every news report on the latest Palestinian war leads with comparative casualties; Israeli victims number in the tens while Arabs number in the hundreds. Such stories never fail to report on the percent of women and children injured as if Hamas tactics played no role in the predictable collateral damage of urban warfare.

Back in the day when Communism was a Soviet monopoly, Joseph Stalin is alleged to have said; “One death is a tragedy; a million is just a statistic.” Stalin was, if nothing else, a realist. He knew that numbers, like much statistical evidence, are just as malleable as anecdotal evidence. Objectivity, like truth, is also peculiar to the eye of the beholder. Military disciplines and sciences are no exception.  All wars produce statistics, yet for the most part, battle numbers are most useful as propaganda. Take comparative casualties, the full metal jacket of statistics, a weaponized statistic if there ever were one.

Somehow, for Media apologists, Palestinians terrorists firing from population shields should be immune from counter-battery fire. We are lead to believe that the “disproportionate” number of Palestinian dead or wounded is evidence somehow that Israeli defensive reactions are “excessive.”  Israel is thought to have forfeited the moral high ground. Jews protecting their homes are yet again portrayed as villains.

Never mind the tortured history of Israeli patience or what Jewish casualties might have been if Israel did not maintain a competent defense. If Israel could not defend itself, the price to be paid is another holocaust. Just such a prophesy is part of the Hamas charter.

And never mind that Gaza was given back to the Arabs in what turns out to be naïve quest for peace.  Never mind that Hamas uses hospitals, mosques, and residential neighborhoods as weapons depots, launch pads, and entry points for infiltration tunnels. Never mind that Hamas has used the aid and good will of NGO’s and naïve western supporters to purchase those rockets and fund those tunnels. Never mind that Israeli doctors and hospitals frequently treat Muslim victims in wars that Israel does not initiate. And never mind that Fatah and Hamas are just the most recent examples of the many local and global terrorist organizations with a Palestinian lineage. Let’s leave these facts aside for the moment and speak just about comparative competence.

Jews anywhere, Israelis in particular, are very good at what they do. Indeed, global Jewry is arguably the most successful ethnic/religious minority on the planet. Where Jews live, they make enormous contributions to commerce, literature, science, music, art, and education. Muslims, in contrast, one fourth of the world’s citizens, desiccate in a kind of cultural desert that has persisted since Roman times. Beheading is again one of the faces of Islam. Contemporary achievement and cultural gaps that separate Muslim from Jew are vast by any measure.

And now, of necessity, Jews are also very adept at the world’s oldest profession. The stereotype about Jews being good at everything but contact sports has been laid to rest, yet again in Gaza. Since 1947, Jews have proven themselves to be able soldiers in what, if statistics like population matter, has always been a lopsided conflict, David versus Goliath if you will.

Israeli military efficiency in concert with Arab incompetence alone accounts for disproportionate casualties today, yesterday, and for the indefinite future. There has never been any moral equivalence between the way the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) fight and the abject savagery of historical Jihadists or contemporary Islamists. The Jewish David is every bit the moral superior of the Muslim Goliath.

Indeed, while Israel defends itself yet again, the Muslim world writhes in the anguish of medieval religious genocide – in East Africa, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Indeed, Islamism is advancing globally.

Press and politician alike whine and anguish over mice in Gaza while Jihadist elephants rampage. Any fair observer need only load the word “beheading” or “crucifixion” into their search engine to know the gulf between contemporary Jewish culture and bestial Islamic imperialism.

Horrid videos and ‘selfies’ now taunt the West, a clinical forecast of what awaits Jews, infidels, apostates – Americans and Europeans. Muslims may represent a sixth of humanity, but at the same time Islam seems to sport 90% of humanity’s dysfunction.

In Europe, the traditional hubs of anti-Semitism (France, Spain, Germany, Ireland, and Scandinavia) are now energized too by Muslim immigrants and Islamism.  Jewish victims in Europe, a world away, are blamed for a global social pathology that has nothing to do with Jews, least of all Israel.

Alas, the Obama administration and his uniquely inept national security and foreign policy teams have supported a cascade of regime changes in the Muslim world, from North Africa, to South Asia and now most perilously in the Levant. Imprudence and appeasement has liberated the dogs of Muslim hell.

The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) rampages through the created chaos in the Levant, a barbarian nightmare that has nothing to do with Jews and everything to do with American and European policy blunders. And now with the Arab and Muslim world aflame; a confederacy of the clueless in Washington and Brussels are picking a new fight with Russia too; a diversion to be sure.

Mister Obama may not be a Koran thumping zealot, yet surely he creates as much suffering as any rabid Islamist. And just as surely, the Obama national security team is a milquetoast ‘ally’ of Israel.

Nonetheless, America should send Bibi Netanyahu and the IDF a thank you note and a case of champagne sometime soon. Here’s what David has done to Goliath in the past few days.

The IDF has put a bullet through the ears of any ‘two-state’ solution. Hamas has been exposed as an unreliable partner for even the likes of Fatah, say nothing of Israel. The Palestinian unity and statehood chimera is the real collateral damage from recent fighting.

The generals in Cairo have been alienated too. Closure of the Israel border might be inconvenient. Closure of the Egyptian border could be fatal for Gaza. Egypt has decades of bad blood with the Muslim Brotherhood. General el-Sisi is not likely to tolerate an al ikhwan stepchild, a terrorist state, on Egypt’s northern border. Hamas may have done a lot more than shoot itself in the foot this time.

Hamas, Fatah, and global Islamism may still have friends in the Media, New York, Brussels, and Washington, but allies that count, local coreligionists, now including the most populous nation in Arabia, appear to be fed up with the idea of “Palestine.” Ins’allah!

The West has been on the wrong side of history since New York was attacked by a Saudi/Arab terror team. Clearly the tactical response of remote air strikes, small wars, and appeasement has failed. Islamists are on the march while free-world allies dither. Europe and America are now perilously close to being on the wrong side of civilization too.

Israel has thrown itself again into the breach, a solitary beacon of courage beset by a nest of vipers. Israel again rises to be the 21st Century metaphor for the Gates of Vienna. Would that America, Europe, and the rest of the civilized world see the example in the most recent Jewish struggle? Religious or political fascism cannot be appeased; it must be defeated in detail at the points of origin, those dark tunnels that riddle the Muslim body politic.

Sponsor states like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Turkey, and Iran must be confronted. Without external ideological/ material support and sanctuary, groups like al Qaeda, Hezzbollah, Hamas, and ISIS would be impossible. Terror is the symptom, cancerous religion abetted by fascist politics in the Ummah is the disease.

Barack Obama tells us that he is seeking a solution where there are “no victors and no vanquished.”  Hard to believe such vapidity coming from the mouth of a man who presumes to lead the civilized world. The historical and real-politic naiveté of such banalities defies explanation.

There is no substitute for victory.   We are with Israel – or we are done!


Colonel G. Murphy Donovan was the last Director of Research and Russian (nee Soviet) Studies at USAF Intelligence. He was also a former senior USAF research fellow at the RAND Corporation, Santa Monica. The author served in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive (1968) and the invasion of Cambodia (1970).







Amphibian Politics

June 6, 2011

“We forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy is men who are afraid of the light.” – Plato

Great political metaphors earn a long shelf life.  Plato coined one of the best, a thought probably lifted from Socrates. Plato likened the 1,500 some odd classical Greek settlements and city states arrayed around the Black and Mediterranean Seas to “frogs around a pond.” Greek culture had spread far and wide for its day, but it was still a small piece of the universe. Early philosophers were humbled by what they didn’t know about the larger world beyond Greece.

Nonetheless, poor and untimely communications may have nurtured the political pluralism and religious diversity that was the true glory of ancient Greek culture. For most Greeks, including Spartans, independence was more important than democracy. The variety of polities in Greek waters ran the gamut from chaotic egalitarianism to ham-fisted dictatorships; when neither worked, the vacuum was often filled by a tyrant. Yet, the individual city states were independent and free – and vulnerable. The cement that bound Greeks was language, art, and commerce – not politics. The enlightened, if not loose, Greek water world was always at risk; first to Persians and then to Romans.

Greece is associated with democracy today because of Athens, a democratic experiment which reached an ironic climax with the trial of Socrates. The formal charges against Socrates were impiety and pedagogic corruption. Socrates drank the hemlock to score one last debating point; suggesting that democracy might be its own worst enemy. A jury of Athenian citizens helped Socrates stage his last teaching moment.

The trial was not about freedom of speech; it was about opposition to democracy. Socrates opposed the Athenian brand of polis and several hundred free men voted to silence his voice of dissent. Wisdom of crowds, indeed!

Neither Socrates, nor Plato, nor Aristotle were great friends of democracy.  Aristotle became tutor to Alexander, the boy general who ended the Athenian experiment with government “of the people and by the people.”

The Roman culture that superseded that of Greece was symbiotic.  An educated Roman was one that spoke Greek. The irredentism which became the Dark Ages did not start with the fall of Rome; it began with fall of Athens. The Roman Empire may have lasted for two millennia, but it was always an avatar of an earlier civilization. And when that empire fell, first on the Tiber, then on the Bosporus, the vacuum was filled by lower forms still; rodents, fleas, disease, and ignorance – a civic and ideological night that lasted for a thousand years.

All of the world’s great waters are surrounded today by noisy frogs; and the political hubris that subverted early democracy is with us still.  Emboldened by the fall of National Socialism and Communism, America and Europe celebrate a universal democratic norm; a mythic idiom, a political silver bullet that Utopians believe to be the closet aspiration of all rational men. Never mind that the world’s most populous nation, China, is still warmed by the fires of Marxism. And never mind that another fourth of the world’s population, dar al Islam, is energized by the Hira of a 7th Century religious zealot.

Three fatal flaws, or toxic assumptions, are usually associated with democracy; universality, determinism, and vendibility.

Idealists assume that democracy is a model with universal application. Little historical evidence supports this view. Beginning with the Greek experience, most examples of egalitarian political forms failed or devolved to republics; and the republican exemplar flourished only briefly during the Roman era. Indeed, the declaratory and constitutional boilerplate associated with the American experiment does not mention “democracy.” And constitutional provisions, like the separation of powers, are daily reminders that the founding fathers did not believe in the wisdom of crowds. “Of the people, by the people, and for the people” might make for a memorable speech, but such sentiments have little to do with political reality – especially in Lincoln’s day.

A second flawed predicate is one that assumes that democratic institutions represent an evolved political consciousness. Such political Darwinism confuses history, or the passage of time, with progress. History is a two-way street; irredentism is as likely as improvement. Historical phenomena like the Dark Ages, National Socialism, and contemporary Islamism are all cautionary tales about the twin vectors of human history.

History is not wishful thinking; it is not deterministic; it does not move only from right to left; and if evidence and science matters, human politics are as likely to regress as advance. Irredentism and stasis are not simply options; they may be the preferred historic choices. Apathy is often the loudest voice in the public square.

The agent of regression is ignorance. And ignorance, now the science of Agnotology, is at the heart of the vendibility problem. Celebrated facilitators like the internet and social networks are as likely to spread falsehoods as truth. And like history, communication, no matter the technology, is a two-way street. The internet makes it possible, as Mark Twain forecast, to get “a lie halfway round the world before truth gets its pants on.” Demagogues, like the Muslim Brotherhood’s Yusuf Qaradawi, with the assistance of al Jazeera, reach an audience of 60 million Muslims a week – in Arabia alone. Repetition is the mother of convention.

Expectations about the internet and democracy are misguided, if not implausible. Republicanism is a fragile commodity, a bottom up phenomenon. Even in America, the republic gained its sea legs in fits and starts, as much a product of imperial neglect and religious reform as premeditated design. Democracy is not always fungible. It’s just one unlikely branch of political evolution; and surely not the most persuasive.

Democracy and theocracy seem to represent the poles of modern political possibilities.  The two camps are similar, like frogs trapped in different wells, to the extent that each is afflicted with tunnel vision. Neo-conservatives and liberals see only the blue skies of democracy; and Muslim theocrats see only the dark clouds of jihad. The neo-conservative right believes that democracy is a kind of shotgun wedding; the progressive left thinks democracy is a logical consequence of bloody revolution. More pragmatic Islamists believe they can exploit the naiveté of both.

This binary world is reinforced by amoral communications. If numbers matter, pornography, not politics, is the more likely utility for cyberspace; although, as time goes by, the two may become indistinguishable (see Anthony Weiner, D-NY). Clerical demagogues and asabiyya (clan loyalty) are unlikely to be replaced by elected or appointed Muslim parliaments – or blackberry toting, English speaking nerds now posturing on al Jazeera.

When European and American politicians agitate for regime change, giving Arab autocrats, like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Syria’s Bashar al Assad, the bum’s rush; the busybodies do not facilitate political freedom so much as open the door to religious tyranny – a  pathology that has stalked humanity since the 7th Century.

No Western ideology or political institution is liable to save Islam from itself. The prerequisites for modern democracy are radical religious and cultural reform. Such change is hardly inevitable and unlikely to be imposed. The major targets of internal Islamic politics are rapidly shifting from   infidels to apostates. Secular Muslim government is the enemy, not the goal of Islamic insurrections.

And for Western spectators, there is no “right” or “wrong” side of  history. History is history, merely the immutable past; subject to interpretation, but changeless nonetheless. If political eras or politicians were tested by morality, neither would pass. Human history is like a Greek tragedy, a litany of foibles punctuated by tedious political hubris, fleeting moments of levity, and the incessant chatter of myopic* frogs.

* (Frogs are naturally near-sighted. They see no further than they can jump.)


This essay appeared in the  5 June 11 edition of American Thinker .

What Arab Awakening?

May 1, 2011


“Revolution is a transfer of power; reform is the correction of abuses.”  Lytton

First it was the “Jasmine Revolution” and then it was the “Arab Spring.” The “Arab Awakening” is latest euphemism for internecine mayhem in Muslim world. These fragrant purisms are invariably accompanied by the adjectives “peaceful’ and “democratic.” As the body bags accumulate, such circumlocutions are harder to digest. The principal purveyor of such pretense is al Jazerra, global network propagandist for the Arab Emirates. American and European reporters, indolent or inept,  are quick to take their cues from al Jazerra, but the latest attempt to mask the mayhem of Muslim civil wars offers a special insult to American history.

The “awakenings’ of American history were religious reforms. The carnage in the Arab world is a lot of things, but religious reform isn’t one of them. Indeed, the images from Arab television (chanting mobs of burkas, green banners of jihad, and contorted faces of clerics like al Yusuf al Qaradawi); reveal an Arabia that is not so much awakening as sleep walking back through history.

It is religious reform and tolerance, not political revolution that makes democracy and republicanism possible. Islam does not, nor has it ever, recognized a distinction between church and state. Indeed, contemporary Islamic clerics and scholars hold that religious/secular distinctions create a “hideous schizophrenia” in the West – the source of all European and Americadegeneracy. Such dogma offers few prospects for renewal, internal or external to dar al Islam.

With the European Reformation, the ink had hardly dried on Luther and Calvin’s absolutism, notions of predestination and fatalism, when a thousand apostates bloomed. Early the next century, many Christian free thinkers fled from the intolerance and religious wars ofEuropeto the relative freedom of the British and French colonies inAmerica. Once there, the Protestant varieties of Christianity continued to multiply, many of them restoring Catholic values that Luther had rejected. Prominent among these were free will, redemption, clergy, and good works.

It was left to Americans to fire the forge of democratic ecumenicism; a furnace where freedom, republicanism, and the best common law traditions of Judaism and Christianity would be alloyed.

The story of how the American “awakenings” changed Puritan thinking was best told by Nathanial Hawthorne (1850) in the fictional Scarlet Letter.

Hester Prynne is not simply the story of a fallen angel redeemed. The back story is even more fascinating. Hawthornewas writing in midst of the Yankee critique of Luther and Calvin. In the process of trying to reform Catholicism, Puritan zealots had rejected beliefs in free will, penance, and good works. Hawthorne, a writer with Puritan roots, and his fictional adulterers, helped to restore these core values to American variants of Christianity. In the end, Hester’s scarlet letter becomes: a red badge of courage, an affront to clerical hypocrisy, a symbol of personal responsibility for moral choices, and ultimately, an icon of good works; the path to redemption – in this world, if not the next:

“…the scarlet letter had the effect of the cross on a nun’s bosom. It imparted to the wearer a kind of sacredness                   which enabled her to walk securely amid all peril.”

The early American colonies were unique in two respects. The choice of government, if not governors, was a bottom-up phenomenon. And religious tolerance was not so much a choice, as a necessity. The young American democracy developed in tandem with two religious “awakenings,” in fact a serial American religious reformation which produced a diversity of Christian sects inAmerica that Luther and Calvin could never have imagined. The spires of Christianity and Mogen Davids of Judaism, the American religious mosaic, are still visible today in every town from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Europe took its “democratic” cues fromAmericafrom that point forward.  Historians seldom note that the US Constitution never mentions democracy. American founding fathers had little faith in the wisdom of crowds. Subsequent, political and commercial success inEuropeandAmericawas made possible, not by the decline of religion, but by the rise of reform; republican reforms that released the constructive energies of true political and spiritual diversity.

Europe might well take credit for social “democrats” as these were linear descendents of Luther, Calvin, Hegel, Marx, and Lenin. Ecumenical Judeo/Christian republicanism, however, was a product of the American experiment, and the wellspring of Yankee exceptionalism. The Civil War wasAmerica’s great secular transformation; it was made possible by religious reforms movements that insisted on social justice. The abolitionist movement, Lincoln’s Republican Party, and the Underground Railroad  all began and were sustained by the conscience of congregants.

Short of radical reform, utopian Islamism is doomed to ruinous failure. Monocultures, religious or secular, are impossible in this world – and possibly the next. Islam has never allowed itself to evolve or repair the depredations of orthodoxy.

The sacred texts of Judaism and Christianity were written by many hands; insuring degrees of observance and a rich diversity of interpretations. The holy texts of Islam come from a solitary source – or at least that’s the claim.  The genius of Talmudic and New Testament commentary is the daily effort to make religion relevant to a developed world. Republican democracy is impossible without such religious pluralism and complementary political diversity.

The world is both enriched and bedeviled by spirituality. Religion is a basis for ethics in classical education and an ancient curb-level contributor to common law. Too frequently, Western scholars and politicians are uncomfortable with religion; unable to harness its power and unwilling to condemn its excess.

The European and American Enlightenment is a telling example. Academics wax eloquently about the political and scientific contributions of John Locke, Charles Darwin, Adam Smith, and Thomas Jefferson, but few are inclined to value the spiritual reforms of Desiderius Erasmus, Jonathan Edwards, Roger Williams, John Carroll, or Abraham Geiger.

Frontline recently ran a candid retrospective of the Muslim Brotherhood’s manipulations in Tahrir Square during the recent Egyptian revolt. The Frontline documentary reveals that al Ikwan was involved in the Egyptian insurrection from the beginning, and more importantly, with the assistance of al Jazerra, was instrumental in creating the “secular” facade reported by almost every foreign network. Then came the first Friday prayers after the Mubarak resignation, and the presiding cleric in Tahrir was none other than the Brotherhood’s most outspoken hate monger, Yusuf al Qaradawi. No small coincidence that al Ikwan spokesmen, such as Qaradawi,  and al Jazerra news anchors both find refuge and financing under the autocratic Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani in Qatar.

The alliance between clan chieftains, orthodox clerics, and kept journalists is not difficult to rationalize. Irredentist religious clerics probably see al Jazerra journalists as “useful idiots.”  The preferred model of governance in Arabia is theocratic tribalism, not democracy – Saudi Arabia being the baseline exemplar. The regimes under siege in the Arab League today are secular apostates; Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and Libya.

Bahrain is a simple case of Sunni sectarian repression. The Saudis would like to insure that the parochial religious poles, Shia for Sunni, are not reversed in Manama as they were in Baghdad and Beirut.

If European and American commercial imperialism was a crime against Muslim history, surely Islamic religious imperialism is a crime against the future. Freedom and democracy has always been impossible without religious reform.


 This essay appeared in the 1 May 11 edition of American Thinker.