Gideon's Blog

In direct contravention of my wife's explicit instructions, herewith I inaugurate my first blog. Long may it prosper.

For some reason, I think I have something to say to you. You think you have something to say to me? Email me at: gideonsblogger -at- yahoo -dot- com

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Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Oh, look, Eli Lehrer agrees, too.

Which brings me to the following question: why shouldn't parimutuel betting on everything be legal?

I have written in the past against the extraordinary explosion in gambling in America, which I think is a clear index of social decline. But parimutuel betting is different from casino gambling in that the gambler is not betting against the house. There's an obvious conflict of interest in casino gambling. The casino is trying to induce you to do a negative-expected-value trade, on which you can have no possible information edge (with the exception of some card games like black-jack, and casinos are very vigilant about throwing out card-counters). The only way to do this successfully is to mislead you: get you drunk, disorient you with sights and sounds, create an environment that encourages poor decisionmaking. Markets - and parimutuel betting schemes are types of markets - are completely different. They are mechanisms for processing information, and by doing so they produce a real social benefit. How beneficial depends on what information is being processed. If it's the value of companies, the information is enormously valuable, as it assures to the best of our ability the efficient allocation of scarce capital to maximize total value. If it's the relative value of race-horses, well, that information is of somewhat more limited social utility. Weather markets, natural-disaster markets, political markets and, for good measure, terrorism markets fall somewhere in between. But why should the government have to approve the establishment of these markets? Why shouldn't the private sector be able to create these markets whenever there is demand for the information output they produce?

I think casinos, slot machines, and the lottery are pernicious and evil, taxes on the stupid, weak and gullible - just the people society should protect rather than prey on. They produce no direct social benefit and feed a number of direct social evils. But parimutuel and other market-like betting schemes can produce real, direct social benefits, which I strongly suspect would more than balance the evils that any gambling brings. Why is the one increasingly legal, the other largely forbidden? Beats me.

By the way, I thought the whole terrorism-market idea was fabulous. John Poindexter sure is smoking out all the Luddites, isn't he? Anyhow, Jane Galt basically agrees, though she worries more than I do that terrorists (or terrorist copycats?) would actually plan attacks to benefit from their trades on the market. My view: if you don't allow anonymous trading, a terrorist would have to be crazy to place their bets in the one place where the government is guaranteed to be looking very closely at what they do. Trading in the public markets is far safer from a law-enforcement perspective, and offers the chance of a bigger payoff. Anyhow, it would have been fun, in a sick way, to trade there, and I'm sorry the idea was killed for essentially public-relations reasons. But it'll probably be back, with less fanfare, some time down the road.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003
Stanley Kurtz does his usual best to rest the case against gay marriage on the connection with monogamy and stable family formation. As usual, I think he rests his case too narrowly, and as a result he does not finally close the sale.

Kurtz relies almost entirely on the slippery slope to make his case. But there is a simple answer to all slippery-slope arguments: stop sliding. If polyamory is bad, oppose polyamory. If some advocates of gay marriage support polyamory as well, oppose them, and make "conservative" advocates of gay marriage come out of the closet on their views of the matter. If a slippery-slope argument is to have force, it is not enough to identify a trend and the next point on it. It is necessary to articulate the deep structure, in logic, law and culture, that will *force* us down the slope.

My own thinking on this topic has gotten, if anything, more conservative over time, and this disturbs me. I have a number of close gay friends; I know gay parents whose kids are wonderful, extremely well-adjusted people. I have no reason to believe that gay couples would be unable to form stable families. I'm convinced that for an irreducible core of individuals, homosexuality is not a choice but a destiny, and I think it is cruel to say to such people that they must hide who they are from shame. Believing all this, I should be an advocate of gay marriage. And I was, until fairly recently.

What changed my thinking had nothing to do with the nature of gay people or my sense of what was fair and just. What changed my view was thinking hard about the meaning of marriage, how that meaning has been debased, and how the case for gay marriage as currently articulated makes it extraordinarily difficult to restore what is essential about marriage; how it will, in fact, close the door on the possibility of restoration of what has been lost.

Here are some of the propositions that I believe to be deeply true about marriage that have been badly undermined by the sexual revolution, and that will finally be destroyed, and marriage along with it, by gay marriage.

1. To endure, marriage cannot be merely one lifestyle choice among many. It must be a social norm.

Our age is the age of choice: we move at will across borders, across careers, and, increasingly, between romantic relationships without censure. For the most part, this is a good thing; when people freely choose something, they value it more, and on the whole the society should be richer and most of us should be happier when we can trade that which we want less (whether we're talking about goods or jobs or homes) for that which we want more with someone whose preferences run the opposite way.

But some things we cannot choose. We cannot choose when or how we are born, or to whom. We cannot choose how we will be reared. We cannot choose how and when we will die. And we cannot choose to undo that which we have done, to relive our lives after we have lived them. Once some choices are made, they are made forever.

A woman who chooses to spend her 20s and 30s in pursuit of sexual satisfaction will very likely have difficulty having children. The likelihood of her contracting a sexually transmitted disease that impairs fertility is very high, and the natural drop off in fertility in a woman's 30s is extremely steep. But to be prepared to marry in her 20s, and have children in her early 30s at the latest, requires cultural preparation. Marriage and childbearing are difficult goods; they require the abandonment of easy goods like casual sex and late-night partying. And people have to be educated to seek difficult goods rather than easy ones.

We (conservatives, anyhow) understand this principle in every other aspect of education: you have to learn grammar, arithmetic, and scales by rote before you can read poetry, do advanced mathematics or play a concerto. And it will not be obvious to most children that being stuck in a room learning these things by rote is preferable to going outside and playing in the mud. Similarly, it will not be obvious to a 16-year-old girl that she needs to be preparing for marriage unless someone makes her do so. Her preference will be to follow her heart through relationships of varying passion and satisfaction, until she wakes up, older, more jaded, and quite probably less able to adjust to the idea of subordinating herself to a marriage that she now wants for reasons that have little to do with sexual desire or romance. For a boy, it will be even less obvious that he should in any way organize his life around getting married as a young man and being a good father; the penalties for failure to do so are far less, and the opportunities to make up for lost time in his 40s are far greater than for a woman.

Because marriage is a difficult good, we cannot count on young people to choose it on the merits. The principal way that a culture increases the short-term value of a difficult good, making it much more attractive to pursue, is by according it status. This is especially important for young men. If young men get the message that the highest status accrues to the male who has the longest list of sexual conquests, many, many young men will pursue that grail - and, more important, those who cannot, by temperament or for whatever reason, will be ashamed. And this evident shame will make these young men far less attractive to women, hence further reducing the collective prospects for marriage. By contrast, if married men who stick with their wives and children through the inevitable frictions of marriage are accorded high status, the prospects for a high rate of marriage are much greater.

This cultural message is not conveyed by highlighting married men for special praise; after all, marriage is a condition to which most men can aspire, and which most people through history have managed, more or less, to sustain through a lifetime. And most people don't think they are especially virtuous; if only the exceptional can manage a marriage, then one who fails to do so is hardly to be blamed. No, the way the culture sends the message that to be married is to achieve status is by saying that marriage is *normal* and that people who fail to marry are, in some sense less than whole people. Marriage is articulated not as an achievement, but as a stage in life that everyone, more or less, is expected to achieve; like learning to walk, learning to read, getting a driver's license, graduating high school, getting a job. Sure, some people will never learn to drive and some people will never marry. But they will be understood by all to be exceptions, in some sense, to a general rule.

And this is where gay marriage comes in. Stanley Kurtz worries that gay (male) couples will be fully accepting of sex outside of marriage, and that this will erode an ethic of monogamy already badly undermined by no-fault divorce and a norm of premarital sex and cohabitation. Andrew Sullivan rightly retorts that there are plenty of straights who break this norm of monogamy, so why should gays be singled out? So long as they are held to the same standards as straights - as Sullivan has consistently called for - why should gay marriage change things?

It will change things because, if what we observe about gay sexuality is at all representative of essential natures (as I believe it is in part) then most gay men will not choose to marry. More to the point: those who marry will do so because they *chose* to, not because they understood it was *expected* of them.

I made the following analogy once, and I still think it is a good one: assuming that gay marriage really is taken seriously (and I give gays sufficient credit that this will be the case), gay male couples are likely to consider marriage in roughly the way that people consider entering the clergy. Marriage will be recognized as a meritorious lifestyle, one to be admired - one superior, perhaps, to the footloose ways more gays will follow. But there will, of course, be no censure for *not* marrying, any more than there is censure for *not* becoming a priest or minister. Even if the conservative case for gay marriage is fulfilled, and gay marriages are as stable as straight ones, and the existence of gay marriage as an institution makes such marriages more common and exerts a stabilizing influence on gay life generally, it seems very unlikely to me that marriage will ever become a *norm* among gay men. That, it seems to me, is to predict too much - more than, I suspect, even Jonathan Rauch would confidently predict.

If I'm right about this, and if gay marriage is understood - legally and culturally - as no different from heterosexual marriage, then *even if* the net effect of gay marriage is to reduce gay promiscuity, and *even if* it doesn't have any impact on the cultural association of marriage with monogamy, gay marriage will nonetheless further current trends away from marriage and towards more casual relationships. Straights will learn from gays that while marriage may be rewarding for some, it requires extraordinary sacrifice and discipline, and really isn't for everyone - or at least, it isn't for most people until they have gotten into their 40s or 50s, and are too old to enjoy the dating life any longer.

Sullivan might object that we are already there, that marriage is already considered optional, that illegitimacy is at something like 30% in a number of Western countries so how is this an excuse to keep gays out of the institution of marriage? And he has a point. But my response is: to what extent does he *approve* of what has happened to marriage, and, if he does not, to what extent does he want to *restore* what has been lost? I'm open to a dialogue with gay marriage advocates who *also* favor legal or cultural changes to shore up marriage and its status privileges over alternative social arrangements. I'm open to a dialogue with gay marriage advocates who *also* think divorce law needs reforming, who are willing not only to say that gay marriage won't lead to legalized polyamory but who *condemn* polyamory explicitly, as plenty of gay rights advocates are eager to *condemn* organizations like NAMBLA that advocate pederasty. But that isn't the way the discussion usually goes. Gay marriage is discussed as a *right*, part of the right to freedom of sexual expression and equality of treatment. And if those are the terms of its acceptance, then I don't see how we can ever go back to talking about marriage as a norm.

2. (Yes, 2. This is a long post.) The sexes are equal, but not identical.

The constitutional argument under which gay marriage has advanced in Canada and the United States is precisely the one that Phyllis Schlafly used against the ERA. She argued that the Equal Rights Amendment would inevitably lead to gay marriage, because it would open the door to a judge forbidding the state from discriminating against a woman who wanted to marry a woman, while allowing her to marry a man. And this is precisely the argument now being made: that to prevent someone from marrying a person of whichever sex he or she prefers is a form of sexual discrimination.

Now, this is not *really* the argument for gay marriage; the real argument is that gay people are themselves a distinct "gender" who deserve equal "protection" under the laws. But as a matter of law, the argument is advancing under the banner of equal treatment of the sexes - in other words, under the banner of legal androgyny. And as a cultural matter, gay marriage will significantly advance and, again, preserve against subsequent reversal the cultural trend towards androgyny. Effectively, I'm making Schlafly's argument in reverse: that gay marriage will make it impossible to reexamine some of the more ridiculous execrescences of feminism.

I do want to be clear here: I'm not some troglodyte trying to force women back into the kitchen. My wife is a doctor; my mother works and worked all her adult life. I think a world in which women compete actively with men in the economy and in politics is a better world by far than the world of a century ago. While I think the discrimination police go overboard (women now outnumber men in universities, for example, so they certainly shouldn't be getting any special treatment academically), this is not something I obsess about.

What I do obsess about is relations between the sexes, and the degree to which they have been impaired by a frank refusal to accept that woman and men are psychologically (and physiologically) different. And I think this refusal does real damage to man and woman alike, if in different ways.

For women, more than anything I worry about the scenario I outlined above: the woman who, convinced she can have it all, and that no habits need be acquired to acclimate to marriage, wakes up at 35 wanting to marry and have kids, having been misled about her biological destiny (it will be much harder now) and having little idea of how to be married. Enough about her. For men, I worry about something rather different. I worry that boys, for deep psychological reasons, need to learn how to be *men* and not just abstract responsible adults. They need to be taught what manhood means. Masculinity is not instinctive; only its caricature, all aggressive ego and slovenliness is. And a culture that refuses to talk about men and women as distinct types will be unable to talk to boys about becoming men - with a consequence that these boys will grow up to be precisely the adolescent caricatures of men that we least want them to be.

So what does this have to do with gay marriage? Well, deep in the structure of marriage is the assumption of the complementarity of man and woman. It's front and center in Genesis, to give just one example. Gay people tend to read this subject as essentially exclusionary: that the only reason to point to such a story is to exclude them. This reaction is a perfect illustration of how little gay people understand straights. It is *not obvious* that men and women should live together as life partners. It is *difficult*. We are very different creatures; we like different things; we smell different. We try to dominate each other in ways that drive us crazy. It is far easier for a man to take his pleasure and go than to stay and build a nest; it is, in some sense, more *natural*. Telling him that men and women were *made* to live together in marriage is a way of getting him to stay by teaching him that this is part of *manhood.*

Now, how on earth do you communicate that in a culture that embraces the notion that marriage is the love-union of any two individuals who desire it? Love is, after all, such a feminine thing. How do you explain to an ordinary straight 14 year-old - not explain; how do you build it into his deep assumptions about the world, such that it is second-nature - that he will fully become a man not when he beds his first woman but when he weds her, if we can no longer talk about weddings in terms of men and women, but only in terms of people in love?

And this brings me to my third point.

3. Marriage is not all about love.

I had a friend over for brunch a few months ago who told me a story. A rabbi he knew was trying to convince this friend to allow him to make a shidduch - to fix him up with a likely marriage prospect. (This friend is not especially religious.) The friend asked the rabbi how this would work. The rabbi said: you'll come to my house, she'll come, you'll have a meal, you'll take a walk, and if you suit each other, we'll make an arrangement. Don't worry, the rabbi said, I don't invite a man over unless he's really ready to get married. And if he's really ready, I always have success.

My friend was intrigued. How, he asked the rabbi, do you - how do I - know after one meeting like this that I've found my destined bride. The rabbi looked at him. Listen, he said, when a man is *really* ready to get married, any uterus will do.

This answer offended my friend a bit, and he didn't go to the rabbi. Instead, a couple of years later, he met a woman through a computer dating service and, after a brief courtship, they married. Unless my friend ascribed miraculous powers to the computer that he would not attribute to the rabbi, I can only conclude that what offended him was mostly the unexpected shock of the honest truth.

Fool that I am, I myself married for love. I consider myself blessed for that, and I chalk it up not only to God's goodness but to my comparative innocence at the time I met my destined bride (I was 21 when we began dating). But many, many people I know did not marry for "love" in the sense that you see in the movies. They married because they were ready to get married. If they were in a "relationship" of one sort or another, they proposed to their girlfriend - or, in one case, ditched her and quickly found someone more marriageable. If they were not, they actively sought out the right sort of man or woman - the sort they could imagine living with even after they grew wrinkled or fat - and, if the other party was willing, married them.

What does "ready" mean? It means I'm lonely too much, and I don't want to get so used to being lonely that I miss my chance to have companionship. It means I want to have children, if only to comfort me with some notion of continuity when death approaches, and I want them now, before I am too old to enjoy them. It means I'm tired of the dating scene, tired of change, of getting to know new people and having to impress them, of having to pretend to be somebody more interesting than I am. It means I'm no longer waiting for perfection. It means I know I'm not fully grown yet, and I want to be.

This is the unromantic perspective that marriage is made of, far more than of love, sex or romance - far more, even, than of friendship, which is a different thing; also precious, and one's wife or husband really ought to be one's friend, but not the same at all.

But this is not how the advocates of gay marriage talk about marriage, and there's a reason: this is not how gays will approach marriage. (At least not gay men; it's quite possible lesbians will very closely approximate this script.) Rather, they will look at marriage as a validation of existing relationships that have stood the test of time, a wedding as, effectively, the prize for having developed a love and a friendship of enduring power and depth. This is a beautiful thing, and perhaps it deserves a wedding as its reward. But it is not a plausible route to marriage for most people.

As with everything before, the assumption that marriage is fundamentally about love (with the corollary that if love fades, presumably so should the marriage - after all, there might still be time to actualize oneself through another, yet more thrilling love!) does not originate with the campaign for gay marriage; far from it. But again, acceptance of gay marriage entails explicitly understanding marriage in this way, and therefore bars the way back to a more realistic appraisal.

I'll make an analogy that may be a bit abstruse for some readers, but bear with me. The traditional rule in Judaism for "who is a Jew" is that of matrilineal descent: if your mother was Jewish, you are Jewish; if she wasn't, even if your father was, you aren't, unless you undergo conversion (which is, of course, open to someone without any Jewish parentage at all). Now this rule can be applied more or less strictly. Someone can have a mother who converted to Judaism, and a rabbi could decide either to investigate the details of the conversion or simply assume the best. A rabbi could look into a bloodline for several generations or stop with the person's mother or grandmother. (The context in which this sort of thing usually comes up, by the way, is impending marriage.) But stretching the rule, or applying it more leniently, is not changing it fundamentally.

Reform Judaism has repudiated this rule, and replaced it with what is usually called a patrilineal or egalitarian rule. Reform Jews were troubled by the inequality implied by saying that Judaism can't pass through the male line as well as the female, and so they got rid of the female-line rule. But they could not simply say "anyone with a Jewish father *or* mother is Jewish" for simple mathematical reasons. If Judaism is "transmitted" on both lines, then after a few dozen generations even with a small percentage of intermarriage the entire population of the world would be Jewish, an obviously absurd outcome. So what they really did, by saying that patrilineal descent was valid, was eliminate descent *entirely* as the basis for determining who is a Jew. Rather, the new basis is: if you are *raised* Jewish, you are Jewish. The new Reform Jewish rule, therefore, l would *exclude* from Judaism (logically) someone with two Jewish parents who had no religious education (though I doubt they would demand a conversion in practice in such an instance). By making the rule more egalitarian, Reform Judaism actually destroyed the rule, replacing it with an entirely different rule with very different implications for the nature of Judaism.

I think something similar is true of gay marriage. By opening up the institution to new groups with a perfectly reasonable argument for entry, the nature of marriage will be changed - no longer essentially a stage in life, part of a life narrative, part of how the culture domesticates men and teaches them the meaning of civilized manhood, marriage will have been redefined as, essentially, a story one tells oneself and one's love about the love you share. In medieval days, the cult of Courtly Love explicitly opposed love to marriage, and celebrated adulterous devotion for that reason. In modern times, we have tried to assert the opposite: that true love can only truly be consummated in marriage. This has sufficiently raised the stakes for marriage that we came to believe that marriage was about nothing but love. Now we dissolve marriages that have hit a rocky patch without concern; once the love is gone (how do we know it is gone for good?), the marriage is dead in all but name, so why not recognize its death? With gay marriage, the process of transformation will be complete.


I hope this is a conclusion. I hope I've said my peace on the subject. I really want to "move on" as they say. But I keep coming back. I feel like we're headed for a cultural train-wreck, that I'm going to lose friends over an issue that is of very distant consequence to my actual life, that I will be forced to choose sides in a matter where once a choice of sides is forced, the battle is already lost.

Is all this inevitable? Is there no way to reconcile the legitimate demands of gay couples with the need to preserve the essential nature of companionate marriage? I want to believe there is a way. But what I think it will take is a recognition on the part of advocates for gay marriage that however much they may know about their own lives, their own sexuality, their own culture, and however ignorant the straight world may be of their joys, triumphs and sufferings, their insights are of little utility to straights. They do *not* know anything essential about us, about our world, of which marriage is a pillar. Yes, we could learn some things from each other, and enrich each others lives - but only if we recognize that we are different first. Marriage is an essential institution of the civilized (overwhelmingly straight) world. If its essential nature excludes gay people from its ambit, then perhaps the just solution to the very real problem of that exclusion is to erect another institution specifically for gay people. And if its essential nature does *not* exclude gay people - which is the only thing advocates of gay marriage can honestly mean by their advocacy, otherwise they are essentially acting in bad faith - then the burden is on the advocates to explain *why* and *how* it does not exclude them. And to do so in the terms I'm using, terms of the soul, of culture and its myths.

Monday, July 28, 2003
In a follow up to yesterday's post, how might we characterize America's key foreign policy challenges and key bilateral or multilateral relationships, with a particular eye to the intrinsic strength or weakness of our potential allies?

I should note up-front a few propositions, most if not all of which are subject to challenge, that undergird my analysis.

First: it is better to have strong allies and weak enemies than weak allies and strong enemies. The preference for weak enemies is probably unexceptionable, but many disagree that it is better to have strong allies than weak. Strong allies, after all, may demand a greater share of the spoil, and may make demands that cut against our own interests. Is it not better in some ways to have weak allies who cannot make independent demands? Perhaps it is useful to have some of these, but my sense is that frequently weak allies are more a net drain on resources than a net addition. And it is not true that the weak cannot make demands; precisely because they are weak, they can demand protection, they can demand "understanding" - they can demand, in various ways, that we not demand too much of them. In which case, how useful are they, really? Compare, in this regard, America's Cold War alliances with those of the Soviet Union. America's alliances were genuinely cooperative, and while America bore the largest share of the military burden, the economic and military benefits to genuine cooperation were enormous. By contrast, the Soviet Union had only satellites, and its efforts to expand its sphere of influence were enormously expensive. Its "allies" were more drains on the Soviet economy and military than they were additions to its power, and the overextension of Soviet power in the 1970s probably hastened the evil empire's ultimate collapse.

Second: America does need allies to defend and promote our interests and values. There are certainly those who take exception to this point. America is, after all, the overwhelmingly dominant military power of our era, and the gap between #1 and #2 is growing, not shrinking. Moreover, as the Iraqi and Afghan campaigns proved, due to technological developments America is less dependent on regional support for basing than ever before. Why, then, do we need allies? The simple answer is: even if we don't need allies to win wars, we need allies to govern in the peace. And, given that many of our current challenges arise from areas of chaos, the need to govern, and the manpower that requires, are not trivially related to protecting our own security. The more complicated answer is: allies that may not be enormously useful to us can be very useful to our enemies. Take Northeast Asia as an example. It is argued that America's alliance with South Korea constrains our action against North Korea, and therefore harms our national security. But disregard of the interests of South Korea with regard to North Korea would do far more harm to our interests, as it would push much of the region into the arms of China as the better guarantor of collective security, and China is a far more dangerous rival long-term than North Korea is. And further: because our manpower needs (for peacekeeping, particularly) will necessarily outstrip our ability to supply them long-term from domestic manpower reserves, if we lack an alliance system to provide this additional manpower from allied states we will end up relying on the United Nations for this manpower. And this will necessarily entail a surrender of sovereignty considerably greater than the negotiated compromises entailed by an alliance system.

Third: a preponderance of power is better than a balance of power. This would seem to cut against the last two points, but it doesn't, really. Preponderance of power does not mean monopoly of power or imperial dominion. It just means being vastly stronger than all rivals. A preponderance of power is preferable to a balance of power because balances of power are inherently unstable, difficult to police, and create serious collateral negative dynamics. "Balance of power" characterized British policy towards Continental Europe from the 18th century through the 20th, the period in which Britain was the dominant power. At various points, Britain fought with France, Russia and Germany to restrain whomever Britain considered most dangerous at a given point in time. But as these countries variously and severally grew in absolute power, and as each pursued its own national interest at the expense of others while Britain alone pursued a goal of balance, the cost of that balancing grew to the point where Britain could not possibly shoulder the burden alone. At which point, Britain inevitably got drawn into alliance with the weaker powers of Europe against a rising Germany in a devastating war that, for all practical purposes, ended the British Empire. To balance the world today would require a united and militarily rising Europe, a resurgent Russia, and a nuclear Japan, as well as the already evident rise of China and India. How such a multi-polar world would serve U.S. interests is unclear to me. Far better to face any potential rival as an overwhelming power united with a number of strong, but smaller powers, such that the rival sees the risk of challenging America as too great to be worth it.

The present challenges to American interests and security spring primarily from the Islamic world and from East Asia. In the world of Islam, the great threat is the radical Islamism that we are fighting in our war on al-Qaeda, which seeks to unite the Muslim world into a powerful hostile bloc and which uses terrorism against the U.S. as one means of recruitment and to create the chaos and disorder that they feed upon (as well as because, well, terrorism is what they do, being terrorists). Since this enemy force feeds on chaos, disorder and repression, these are our enemies as well in this region of the world.

In East Asia, the great threat is a rising China transitioning not from Communism to democracy but from Communism to Fascism. Since the massacres of 1989, the hand of the PLA within China has been greatly strengthened, and the regime has become more repressive and more nationalistic. Its ultimate objective is the ejection of the United States from the western Pacific and the Finlandization of its near neighbors, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, etc. China also likely harbors territorial ambitions to seize the Soviet Far East, along with its well-advertized ambitions to conquer Taiwan and Mongolia. China is a much more traditional enemy than the one we are currently fighting, and so much more amenable to traditional strategies of deterrence.

In confronting these enemies, what kinds of allies do we need, and what are the best places to look for these allies?

As noted, our preference is to have allies, to have strong allies rather than weak, and to have a preponderance of power over our enemies (and our allies) rather than forming changing coalitions to keep a balance of power among potential rivals.

In that regard, it's worth noting that two of our key allies in the war on Islamist terrorism - Saudi Arabia and Pakistan - are decidedly thin reeds to lean upon. Each is chronically unstable and has a high likelihood of ceasing to exist as a country within the next 20 years; the likelihood of their ceasing to be allies has to be reckoned higher. We have eliminated a weak but dangerous enemy - Iraq - but as a consequence we have bitten of a large job of occupation and reconstruction that will not be completed in a year or two. And we still face one strong state-based enemy in the region: Iran. The focus of our efforts in the Middle East, then, should be: to change the character of the regime in Iran, eliminating our most dangerous enemy; to develop "back up plans" in the event of significant instability in Saudi Arabia and/or Pakistan; and to determine how best to leverage our relationships with our strongest friends in the region (Egypt and Turkey).

There are a number of small countries for whom it is more or less difficult to say whether our relationship is more of a cost or a benefit. These are: Taiwan, South Korea, Israel, Jordan and the Gulf states. America has been sufficiently clear about our intention to oppose any attempt by China to seize Taiwan that, were we to reneg on that commitment, the consequences for American power would be devastating. But America's position is considerably strengthened if it appears reasonably likely that the Taiwanese themselves would be able to repel a Chinese invasion. Right now, that capacity is in question. South Korea, similarly, needs to be induced to understand the risks to the continuance of the North Korean regime, and not just the risks of its demise, and to understand that the U.S. cannot be played off against China in this or any other matter. In the Middle East, Israel has proven both a substantial asset and a liability. The U.S.
needs to get more value and less risk out of this relationship: more value by encouraging the growth of collective security arrangements that include Israel (such as has begun between Israel and Turkey); less liability by effectively mandating an end to the ongoing crisis in the territories. This does not primarily mean putting pressure on either Israel or the Palestinians; it means primarily putting pressure on Jordan, because the policing of the Palestinian territories - whether they are ultimately called a state or not - must be done by someone, and if it isn't going to be Israel it will have to be Jordan. The Gulf states need to be induced to lend their considerable wealth to the ideological campaign America is waging against our terrorist enemies; if Saudi Arabia is going to bankroll Islamic militancy, the time has come for Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait to bankroll Islamic liberalism (and it does exist, in pockets throughout the Muslim world, crushed between government censorship and Saudi-financed extremism).

Four countries are positioned to be friendly to the US in either a confrontation with China or in our ongoing war against Islamist terrorism: Russia, India, the Philippines and Indonesia. All four have significant Muslim terrorist threats of their own (from Chechnya, Kashmir, Mindanao and the Moluccas), and all four are threatened by China (by China's hunger for the Russian Far East, by China's support of Pakistan and of Maoist rebels in the Himalayan kingdoms, and by Chinese aims to make the South China Sea a Chinese lake). But each of these poses a problem as a potential ally. Russia's and America's interests dovetail extremely well at present. But Russia is on the one hand something of a weak horse (and therefore a risky bet) and on the other hand its ultimate ambitions (e.g. to reabsorb lost Soviet territories) may bring it into conflict with America. India is even riskier. Although likely to emerge as a real regional superpower in the next decade, India is still threatened by internal instability. Moreover, its interests do not dovetail perfectly with America's; India would likely benefit from the destruction of the Pakistani state, while for America this would raise at least as many problems as it would solve. India and Russia are each likely too large to join in any enterprise of collective security, and are therefore less than ideal partners in confronting our common enemies. America is vastly stronger than either, but their presence in any coalition would unbalance it, and America would lack the overwhelming preponderance of power that we consider desireable.

Both the Philippines and Indonesia suffer from acute internal threats, and neither has a stable system of government. These are significant challenges to their ability to serve as important pillars of an American-centered alliance system. But both are ultimately promising targets for joining any American enterprise of collective security, the Philippines especially because of our long historic relationship. Our objective in Asia should be to construct a collective security architecture similar to that which kept the peace in Europe for half a century in the face of the Soviet threat, where currently we have only bilateral relationships. Such an architecture would embrace Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Australia to begin with, would implicitly embrace Taiwan and would have important links with Indonesia (whose stability the alliance would effectively underwrite) and, further afield, with India. One additional country that it would be very valuable to add to any Pacific alliance system is Vietnam. While a lower priority than regime change in Iran, tipping Vietnam into the pro-American column would once again add a substantial mid-sized regional power with a strong national identity to the American list.

One advantage of a collective-security architecture for the Pacific is that it would enable America to get more out of its relationship with Japan. Currently, America is constrained by Japanese military weakness and by other Asian countries' fear of any emerging Japanese military strength. Within the context of a real arrangement for collective security, and under American command, it might be more possible for Japan to take a role more commensurate with its own natural strength. I understand the objections to trying to create a "Pacific NATO" and they are considerable: the countries in question do not have a common culture, language, religion or history, have fought each other more often than they have fought alongside one another, and have little in the way of common interests (unless China become so threatening that they feel their very existence as independent states depends on collective security). All true. But this still strikes me as an instance where there is little to be lost by trying and much to be gained by success: the creation of a bloc of states whose greatest interest is in the maintenance of a collective architecture of defense, whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts and whose security is ultimately tied to their relationship with the United States. And the lack of common ground (other than the American connection) may work to the advantage of architects of the system at least as much as to their detriment; after all, bilateral relationships with America are more likely to bring the charge of American imperial domination than a collective instrument of self-defense, and the lack of other common cultural glue and pervasive mutual mistrust makes it more plausible that they would welcome America (rather than China) as their common security guarantor.

The great virtue of NATO in the post-Cold-War world is that it binds America and Europe together. As insurance against Russian expansion, NATO is probably more expensive than it needs to be, but it is still a vehicle to hold together natural allies with many common interests who can act collectively both within and outside their theater to protect their collective interests. Should our NATO allies fail to rise to the challenges of collective security in the new world (and so far many of them are failing), the structure will still be useful so long as parts of the alliance - the British, the Poles, perhaps the Spanish - continue to support the concept of collective security. That nations like, say, Belgium thereby get a free ride should trouble us more than the comparable free ride that, say, residents of Berkeley get only if these nations actively try to disrupt the functioning of the alliance. But NATO will not be sufficient to provide for our global security needs; it won't provide the manpower, for one thing, and it doesn't have the global representation. We need to leverage our common interests with other mid-sized and small states into a real collective security architecture elsewhere in the world. The Pacific offers the greatest opportunities for this; the Middle East is far too unstable and divided for now. But looking longer term, we should be thinking about similar templates for that region, for Africa, etc. A success in Iraq would provide a major downpayment on such a vision.

Investing in successful states with which we have common interests, binding them together with other successful states who might otherwise be rivals in a common security architecture held together by interest, is the best way, I think, to leverage American power. And certainly better than the alternatives: submission to a UN-led architecture (which has demonstrably failed), return to 19th-century-style balance-of-power politics (with its dangerous instability), or an attempt to impose a unilateral American imperium (which will quickly overextend American commitments and sap American power).

Sunday, July 27, 2003
One of the strange things about the post-1991 world is the sense of the contingency of countries and borders. This is really something new; since 1945, the world has been governed in such a fashion as to make it nearly inconceivable that states should cease to exist. There was a period of decolonization, when new states were brought into being out of old empires, but there was no sense in which the creation of an independent Nigeria or Angola was the end of Britain or Portugal. After WWII, there was a palpable sense that if no other evil could be eradicated, at least "aggression" could be outlawed; at least current states and borders could be preserved, and thereby a modicum of international stability assured.

The world is different now. The Soviet Union is no more. Yugoslavia is no more. And there are many other states, large and small, that just might not make it, that might collapse into their constituent parts, violently or no. And this prospect has to have an impact on our foreign policy as we look out at the world for friends and potential problems, or enemies. Here's a short list of states that may not survive for another generation, by region.


Canada is one of the most successful states in the world: healthy, wealthy, peaceful, and largely free. It's been growing faster than its larger neighbor to the south of late, and it has done a much better job of integrating a much larger immigration (mostly South and East Asian) than any European state has done. And though all these developments have moderated the drive for Quebecois secession, they have not ended it. That Canada is perpetually one crisis away from dissolution has considerable bearing on that nation's international posture. It cannot, as Australia has, wholeheartedly join an Anglo coalition, since it has staked its own stability - the resolution of Anglo-French tension - on expanding its multiculturalism to include large new minorities. I have no doubt that Canada will remain a friendly country to the United States indefinitely. But its ability to be a useful country is far more doubtful, and that doubt has everything to do with the difficulty and precarious nature of Canadian national identity.

Belgium, home to the capital of the new European federal order, is itself barely a country. Every election, the Vlaams Blok gains ground in Flanders. Belgium is now, in effect, three countries: the poorer Walloon south, the wealthier Dutch-speaking north, and Brussels, capital of the EU, a city whose main industry is international institutions (the EU, NATO, etc.) and some 30% of whose population is foreign-born. The centrifugal forces pulling Belgium apart are both exacerbated and moderated by the centripetal forces pulling the EU into a more federal structure: under the larger umbrella of the EU, the costs of breaking up a country like Belgium diminish, and the significance of that breakup diminishes as well. Belgium is therefore a good microcosm of Europe as a whole, where the increasing importance of Brussels as a central government is giving increased legitimacy to movements to break up numerous member states (Italy, Spain, Germany) into their pre-national constituents. (France is the big exception in this regard, at least so far.)

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, meanwhile, has managed to accelerate the process of breaking up into its pre-national constituents without assenting to the new European political order. Under the Blair government, Scotland and Wales have got their own Parliaments, and the desire on Blair's part to be rid of Northern Ireland is palpable. Peter Hitchens has described this process as the "abolition of Britain," and the description seems apt. While in Europe, the centralization in the EU seems likely to encourage the breakup of existing states, Britain seems likely to get it coming or going, whether they join the EU or no. Thatcher's strident nationalism did much to encourage the growth of the SNP, and it seems clear that if London pulls away from Brussels (as the British population generally would like it to do) then separatist elements will have yet another grievance (since, evaluated on their own and not as part of Britain, they would likely receive a subsidy from the EU). But ceding sovereignty to the EU would, of course, only make it easier for separatists to make their case. "Anglosphere" fantasists like to imagine an emerging world order where America, Britain, Canada and Australia jointly police the less-orderly regions of the globe, but this is not likely to happen if British nationalism continues to wane.

I'm unsure whether to include Russia in "The West" or not, but if I don't I'll have to give it its own section, so I will. I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Russia has decisively bottomed, and that this country is going to be expanding, not contracting, its power, influence and, potentially, territory in the future. Whether I am right depends on whether Putin can successfully consolidate central authority; whether the law becomes sufficiently stable to allow for a sustained economic recovery; and whether Russia can reverse its quite severe demographic problems. The first is the most likely; however questionable were the methods by which Putin achieved power, he has done a great deal already to establish that power and ensure it against potential rivals. The second is basically a bet on Putin's objectives, and it seems that these are overwhelmingly in favor of economic integration with the West, which is very positive. But the third is highly problematic. Russia is suffering from a one-two punch of birth dearth and rising death rates. The country is predicted to shrink faster than any other developed country in the next quarter century for that reason (countries with even lower birth rates - like Italy or Japan - also have much lower death rates). Particularly if an economic renaissance is limited to its European territories, Russia faces the dangerous prospect of depopulation in its southern and eastern regions. As these regions border on other states that have been active exporters of population - China and North Korea in the east, and the Muslim states of Central and Southwest Asia to the south - these regions may increasingly be colonized by foreigners. The question is whether these foreigners will have any real incentive to break away from Russia, and that in turn depends on Russia's ability to preserve law and order and to protect these migrants from external threats. British Columbia has only benefitted from the massive influx of immigrants from Hong Kong. Russia could potentially benefit from migrants from North Korea and Manchuria, but is more likely to be threatened as these immigrant populations become a justification for Chinese intervention in the Soviet far east. An economic recovery in Russia, however, could result in two other positive demographic trends. First would be migration of ethnic Russians from other former Soviet republics (particularly Ukraine and Kazakhstan) to Russia, a trend that is already in evidence and that would accelerate under these circumstances. Second would be a recovery in the Russian birth rate. This would not be unprecedented. America suffered a birth-dearth after the baby boom which, if projected in a straight-line fashion, would have given us a significantly negative population growth rate today. But in fact the 1980s saw the beginning of a baby-boom echo, driven by the combination of the maturation of the baby-boomers themselves, immigration (immigrants tend to have more children), and the general improvement in the American economic situation. Russia had something of a baby boom during the mid-1980s, and there is reason to believe that an improving economic and political situation could lead to a significant uptick in the marriage and birth rates. As I said, I'm going out on a limb here, because projecting recent trends means predicting the death of Russia, with its far eastern regions breaking away to join an expanding Chinese empire, its south collapsing in the face of a Muslim onslaught, reducing Russia to a rump European state. But I think those trend lines have extended themselves as far as they are going to go, and Russia will not further contract. Indeed, I think states like Belarus and Ukraine are going to have a far more difficult time maintaining their territorial and national integrity in the face of a resurgent Russia in 20 years.


The big question everyone should be asking themselves is how likely it is that China survives as a unitary state for the next 30 years. China's current borders are not ancient, and regions like Tibet, East Turkestan and Machuria have only been Chinese intermittently and occasionally over the past few centuries. And even the core "Han Chinese" regions have frequently been split up into northern and southern states over the millenia of Chinese history. Should China undergo a spectacular economic collapse, or should it lose a misguided war to reclaim Taiwan, there is little assurance that the Communist government would survive. What's harder to know is whether China would survive. Currently, the leading institution in China is the army, which is a unifying force and one specifically devoted to maintaining the integrity of the nation's borders. A major lost war could change that, though, and split the army. While it remains unlikely that China itself would disintegrate, it's not an off-the-charts possibility; and if it happened, it would radically change the region in every way imaginable.

Two other states with a higher likelihood of implosion are Indonesia and the Philippines. Both archipelagos are dominated by single islands that hold the majority of the population; both are culturally and religiously diverse; and both are relatively recent constructions as states go. Both suffer from separatist movements that have been around for decades and are extraordinarily violent, and which are connected with larger Islamist movements with which the US is at war. Both are located in strategically vital regions for shipping. America has a profound interest in stability in both countries, and that stability is unlikely in the absence of a strong national identity that is felt, not imposed by a central authority. I have no doubt that American and Australian forces will be occupied repeatedly in both nations for the next generation as these countries struggle out of an authoritarian past, and hopefully towards a more democratic and stable future.

Apart from these three countries, most countries in East Asia have fairly stable national identities based on a dominant ethnic group. Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, etc. - while these countries may experience more stable or more violent domestic politics, they seem unlikely candidates for ceasing to exist. Three countries, however, are acutely vulnerable to that fate, not through implosion but through absorption. They are: Taiwan, North Korea and Singapore.

The odds of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan in the next 20 years have to be reckoned very high. I happen to be a pessimist on the Chinese economic miracle; I think the low-hanging fruit has been plucked, and China is going to face all the troubles of crony capitalism that felled so much of East Asia in the past decade, and in China's case these troubles will be added to a country with a huge and angry mass of unemployed rural migrants. The odds of China evolving from a Communist Party state to a military dictatorship strike me as very high. And one thing military governments almost always do is engage in aggressive wars, because these wars lend them legitimacy that is otherwise unattainable. They often lose these wars, of course; Argentina lost the Falklands, Pakistan lost every conflict with India; the various Arab military regimes lost wars with Israel; etc. It is not obvious to me that China would easily win a war of conquest against Taiwan. Clearly it could obliterate Taiwan, but this would not serve its interests at all. If the objective were to conquer and hold the territory by force, it's not clear that even with its overwhelming numeric superiority it would win. But the odds of them trying have to be reckoned as high.

North Korea, meanwhile, seems destined to self-destruct, the only question being just how many people have to die before the state does. I have no doubt that the collapse of the North Korean state would result in the reunification of the penninsula, which in turn would result in dramatic turmoil and depression in the South. (It seems clear that South Koreans know this, and would like to prop up the North for as long as possible for that reason.)

Singapore, meanwhile, is remarkably stable given its ethnic diversity and vulnerability. In the context of a stable East Asian environment, there's no reason to think the country won't continue to be an authoritarian capitalist island, but in the context of major war in the region the country would be a tempting prize for China, Malaysia, Indonesia - whatever state was best positioned to seize it. The city-state is indefensible, after all, and therefore ultimately exists on the sufferance of the US Navy.


There are few countries in this region that are decidedly stable, but least stable of all must be Pakistan. A hodge-podge of different ethnic groups thrown together by partition and held together only by an Islamist ideology, Pakistan has never been a likely prospect and has only gotten less so with time. The Baluchis of the west and Pashtuns of the north of the country are perpetually restive, and America's war against al-Qaeda will only make them more so as the escapees from Afghanistan have largely fled to these regions. Pakistan has already fissured once, losing Bangladesh in 1971. The loss of another war with India - which could go nuclear - would likely spell the end of the country. That prospect should not hearten anyone; someone, after all, has to govern the 150 million people who live there. But it is far from clear how the country can be stabilized long-term. It's an economic basket-case, has no national identity to speak of, no history of stable government, and has raised a generation of fanatical terrorists who will no doubt turn on the central government should it ever seriously try to make peace with India and ends its claims to Kashmir. American reliance on Pakistan for assistance in its war on al-Qaeda is leaning on a thin reed, and however necessary it may be short-term, we have got to be thinking longer term as well if we don't want to be at war forever in the region.

India is not without centrifugal tendencies itself. As specifically Hindu nationalism grows as a force, inter-religious conflict within India becomes a bigger and bigger problem. However, India's Muslims are not a plausible separatist force because of their geographic distribution. Rather, the risk is that a major crisis - nuclear war with Pakistan, for instance - delegitimates the state and results in wholesale devolution of India into its regions constituent parts. The prospects for escalating civil strife in India are not low, but the likelihood of the breakup of the state itself are much lower.

It is hard to know what the ultimate disposition of the Central Asian states - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikstan, Kirghizstan and Afghanistan - will be. With the exception of the last, all are relatively new, but these all have the advantage of representing definite ethnic groups within the Central Asian region. The great danger in the region is ideological: that Taliban-style Islamism (espoused by the IMU, for example) will become a significant force, aiming at regional conquest and the formation of an Islamic Central-Asian super-state. America's aggressive presence in the region since the Afghan war will hopefully do something to reduce the likelihood of this outcome, but it cannot be discounted entirely.

Iran and Turkey are unquestionably the most stable states in the region, and the least likely to disappear as geopolitical entities. Between them lies a region of considerable uncertainty. The American presence in Iraq will serve to hold that country together, so long as it remains in place. But once we leave? It's anybody's guess. Everyone has reason to be heartened by the lack of organized anti-American violence outside of the "Sunni triangle" and by the willingness of the Kurds to cooperate in the creation of a functioning Iraqi state. But Iraq is going to be threatened from the east by Iran and from the west by Turkey, as this region has been for millenia, and someone is going to have to defend the state against these encroachments. Right now, that someone is the US Army (and the British, Polish and other allied forces). If the Iraqis are to take over this responsibility for themselves, it will require a considerably stronger armed forces than is currently contemplated. And any such standing army of considerable strength will be in a position to overbalance other central government forces, and become a threat to the stability of the government. This is the danger of all artificial, divided states like Iraq, and there's no easy way out of it. A state without an authentic national character will always be vulnerable to civil war or to military rule. The best hope, short-term, is that American troops remain for a generation - not as governors, but as guarantors of Iraq's freedom and independence. I'm doubtful they'll be permitted to stay that long. If not, I strongly suspect they'll be back.

West of Iraq are five more precarious states: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Lebanon and Syria. Jordan and Saudi Arabia are both artificial states ruled by a dominant tribe. In Jordan's case, the dominant tribe and its leadership are friendly and moderate; in Saudi Arabia's case, the dominant tribe is equivocal in its friendship and decidedly immoderate. Neither state can be called stable. Iraq has historically treated Jordan as something of a vassal state, and that relationship could easily reemerge in the context of a resurgent Iraq. Saudi Arabia could easy collapse into several mini states, and whether this would be good or bad for America depends on what one assumes would be the character of the new custodians of Saudi Arabia's chief assets: the world's largest oil fields and Islam's two holiest places. Syria, meanwhile, has an authentic ancient identity (as does Iraq) but no modern expression thereof. The country is a garrison state ruled by a religious and ethnic minority (the Alawites) under a system of hereditary presidency (like North Korea's and, possibly, Egypt's). While Syria has a centuries-long history of instability, however, it is not neatly divided along ethnic and religious lines as Iraq is, so it's harder to see how the inevitable turmoil there would result in the elimination of the state. Lebanon, by contrast, has descended once (a generation ago) into fratricidal civil war, and the odds of that happening again in the context of a Syrian disengagement have to be counted as high.

It pains me, of course, to include Israel on this list of precarious states. I do not think it is highly likely that Israel will cease to exist in the next generation. But it is not impossible. Israel's Jewish majority is more cohesive than it has been for many years, a cohesion forged in the teeth of terrorist warfare waged against it by the Palestinians of the territories. But this cohesion is not necessarily going to last forever, and it may not be enough in any event to prevail. Israel needs to get rid of the Palestinian population of the territories to ensure its own survival. It can do this only three ways: expelling it, which is immoral and practically impossible; giving the territory away to a neighbor, presumably Jordan, who shows no signs of being willing to take it; or negotiating a division of historic Israel/Palestine into two states, one Jewish, one Palestinian Arab. Israel has been pursuing the last option for the past ten years, without success, and the reason is that structurally such a negotiation favors the Palestinians, since Israel *needs* an agreement more than they do (assuming they don't care about how much they suffer from lack of an agreement). Israel is currently in the process of building a security fence to cordon off the territories from Israel. Major Jewish settlements - including Ariel, which is deep into Samaria - will be included on the Israeli side of the fence. This is, effectively, Israel's unilateral option: withdrawal to defensible lines and the imposition of a division of the territory by fiat. Whether or not Israel pursues this option to its logical conclusion, the fact that it is pursuing it this far is an index of how little faith Israel has that the other side has accepted the two-state solution. And even if Israel can survive another 50 years behind a wall - and I think it can - it has its own internal divisions to deal with. I think Israel deserves good odds for long-term survival. But the threats to that survival are not trivial.

As for the rest of the region, all the small states of the Gulf - Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait - exist on the sufferance of the US military, and are vulnerable to conquest by larger neighbors. Egypt has a relatively robust national identity, but is certainly vulnerable to serious domestic disturbance; the same is true of Algeria. The Sudan has suffered a decades-long religious civil war that has claimed millions of lives; the odds for the ultimate division of that country, following the prior example of Ethiopia/Eritrea, are not negligible. The region as a whole, then, is characterized by instability. Only a handful of states - India, Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Iran, maybe Morocco - have strong national identities. Several states - Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan - are deeply divided and highly unstable, vulnerable to a complete crack-up. A number of other states - Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gulf monarchies, the post-Soviet Central Asian states - either have narrow tribal leaderships, are practically indefensible, have little history or experience as independent states, or are under active external threat. It seems overwhelmingly likely that, given the geopolitical importance of the region and its endemic instability, American and other foreign interventions in the region will be a fact of life for many, many years. The architects of American foreign policy should be asking themselves to what extent and how we can anchor our presence in the region more stably, to avoid a situation where the American occupation of Iraq becomes the template for how the entire region is to be policed, a situation which is going to be fiscally and militarily untenable if extended to its logical conclusion.


In terms of borders, Latin America has remained remarkably stable for generations. Even chronically failed states like Argentina or Peru have never faced serious risk of dissolution. There's no reason to think that the future will be any different from the past in this regard. Mexico might conceivably lose control over its Mayan states, Venezuela might fight a war with Colombia, but no Latin American state is likely to cease to exist in the next generation, nor is there any plausible supra-national ideology (certainly not Chavez's Bolivarian revolution) likely to sweep the region and turn it into something more unified than a collection of rival states. America has a strong interest in the success of the major countries of the region - Mexico especially, but also Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela - but while the risks in the region are bounded.

Africa is another story entirely. It probably better to try to count the number of countries that are likely to endure for a generation than those that are not. It is difficult even to predict the future of Africa's borders, because if it becomes acceptable to change them by force then there is virtually no state that is secure. The two major countries of the continent - Nigeria and South Africa - suffer from serious ethnic and religious divisions. South Africa has managed to avoid civil war since the end of white rule, but that is a relatively short time, and the country has not yet suffered a major crisis of legitimacy. A South African Lebanon is still very possible. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the very heart of Africa, is currently divided between the armies of several neighboring states: Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola, Zimbabwe, Chad and Namibia. Zimbabwe's government is currently waging war on its white minority; the prospects for similar conflict between the governments of Tanzania and Kenya and their ethnic minorities (white, Arab and Indian) are significant. And the bloodly line between Christian and Muslim communities, which has so devastated Sudan and Nigeria, runs through the whole continent. Successful countries like Uganda or Ghana are relatively recent and precarious success stories. Between the the twin epidemics of AIDS and chronic warfare, Africa is suffering today worse than Europe did in the 14th century; perhaps the 5th century is a better comparison. I take an optimistic view of Russia in spite of the very negative trend lines, and a pessimistic view of China in spite of very visible successes there (though I certainly don't predict China's breakup). In Africa, I think even the optimistic case still has to predict a very high likelihood of further inter-state conflict, the breakup of existing states and the creation of new ones. The United States has more of an interest in the region than we like to admit; it is, among other things, an excellent place for our terrorist enemies to hide, train and achieve financing through illicit trade. And the potential of the region, with its natural bounty and young populations, is huge. Of late, the American tendency has been to bet on "winners" - spending time and energy on countries like Uganda that seem to be doing better than average - and encouraging stronger states to take a leading role in policing smaller and less-stable neighbors. In other words, we're encouraging Africa to divide itself into blocs: a Nigerian bloc, a Ugandan bloc, a South African bloc, etc. We'll see if that is any more effective than previous strategies towards the continent.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Speaking of the latest TNR, why is there so much confusion about who Howard Dean is? His supporters and his opponents alike seem to think he's George McGovern: a down-the-line lefty. A few centrists who remember that he was a tightwad as governor and that he's pro-gun, and who are impressed by his grass-roots support, think he's John McCain. But he's neither of these guys. He's Jimmy Carter. He's obscure, self-righteous and mean-spirited, he was given no chance to win the nomination and is now a real contender, but he is profiting from a weak field and from his own genuine political skills. Dean has significant grass-roots support not because he's the only lefty in the race (Dick Gephardt?) nor because he's the only liberal in the race (John Kerry?) but because he's the only person anyone could possibly get excited about. Kerry is Al Gore without the charm; Gephardt is a retread; Edwards is a bimbo; Lieberman is your rabbi; and Graham is a loonie.

I still say Kerry gets the nomination because he's the only one in this race everyone in the party can live with. He has to screw up massively to lose. Gephardt has failed so many times in the last 15 years that failing has become part of his personality. Edwards is ridiculous; I can't believe he's still running. Lieberman is running a terrible campaign and will always be perceived as too right-wing for the party. I don't even know why I mention Graham. Kerry is distant, rich, condescending and a waffler. But Dean is a loose cannon who blacks, Latinos and union-members are not supporting. Peronality-wise and in terms of his positioning, he's Jimmy Carter, but his issues platform and natural base make him look more like Paul Tsongas or Dick Lamm: socially liberal (gay rights and abortion), fiscally conservative, pro-death (capital punishment and abortion) - he's an eat-your-vegetables candidate more than anything. They don't win, generally.

Iowa is a Dean-Kerry-Gephardt contest. New Hampshire is mostly Dean-Kerry; Lieberman will have to make an impression to stay in the game, but he's waiting for the Southern states to make his big move (a longer shot as his black support drains away). If Dean wins both Iowa and New Hampshire, and Kerry doesn't win a bunch on Feb 3 (South Carolina, Missouri, Arizona, Washington), then I agree, Kerry has a problem and Dean's the front-runner. But New Hampshire should be close either way, and Dean should have huge problems in South Carolina and Missouri with his tiny black support. If Lieberman continues to crumble, Kerry becomes clearly most-likely to win South Carolina and Arizona, with Missouri as a contest between Kerry and Gephardt (assuming he's still in), which leaves Washington as Dean's strongest state to make a play for. If he wins New Hampshire and Washington, this is a bit of a race. I mean, maybe I overestimate Kerry, but I think he's a tough campaigner, he's won a bunch of elections including against the smart and popular Governor Weld, he's got a strong team, he's raising money, he's solid in the polls . . . His only problem is that nobody actually wants him to be the nominee, much less President. But nobody wanted Bob Dole to be the nominee either; nobody wanted Michael Dukakis. Sometimes the only guy who can win the nomination wins it, even though nobody wants him to. Sorry, Mickey K.

Boy, I bet the Democrats'll be thrilled to have a long, drawn out primary battle between two liberal New Englanders defining their party for the next year.

Okay, I haven't blogged about Iraq lately, and the latest issue of The New Republic gives me my excuse to do so. (I'd love to blog something gloating about the dispatch of Uday and Qusay Hussein - the first of the deck to actually be killed, rather than captured, by the way - but I'm saving that for the Ace of Spades.)

I've been a little frustrated with the state of pro-war commentary on the whole yellowcake bruhaha. It's pretty obvious what happened, and while it isn't terrible, it isn't wonderful either. It does reflect badly on the Administration, and I don't think saying "nothing to see here; let's move on" is a very useful response. But I'm even more annoyed with The New Republic for their new jihad against the Bush Administration for pursuing a war that TNR supported consistently and enthusiastically, and for all the reasons articulated by the Bush Administration in the run-up to war.

The Administration decided to go to war with Iraq probably in October of 2001. There were dozens of good reasons to go to war. There were also two distinct legal justifications for war that could legitimately have been used, without any new provocation and without any dance at the UN. Saddam Hussein attempted to assassinate a former President of the USA. That's an act of war in my book, and fully justifies an invasion of his country with a specific mandate to capture him and bring him to justice. Let's put it this way: it's worse than anything Noreiga did, and we didn't ask anyone's permission before taking him out. And Saddam Hussein threw the UN's arms inspectors out of his country, in clear violation of his commitments under the 1991 cease fire. Which was, after all a cease fire; there was no peace after the first Gulf War, and if the cease fire was violated the US had every right to declare as much and retaliate, no further justifications or UN resolutions needed.

The problem, of course, is that these events happened in 1993 and 1998 respectively. And while there is no statute of limitations per se, it would look rather odd for the US to initiate a massive military campaign against Iraq in 2002 or 2003 in retaliation for Iraqi actions taken 5 or 10 years earlier. Inasmuch as these matters are generally tried in the court of public and international opinion, we would not have the strongest defense.

So the Administration set out to find another defense - another justification for war that would be persuasive internationally and domestically. Now there were numerous reasons to go to war, but many of them were not, let's say "in bounds" in the sense of being valid reasons to go to war by generally accepted just-war principles. Saddam Hussein was a Bad Man, ruler of one of the five or six most odious regimes on the planet. He was much worse than Slobodan Milosevic, much worse than Manuel Noreiga, to name two dictators at random. Capturing or killing him and removing his government would be a Good Thing. But it's not clear that this is generally accepted justification for going to war. More to the point, great powers are inclined to cut one another a certain amount of slack on this kind of question when the Bad Man in question is doing his Bad Things in what is clearly one power's sphere of influence. America did not ask permission to initiate Operation Just Cause (the war in Panama) nor to liberate Grenada 1983. NATO acted without UN approval in responding to Serbian attacks on Kossovo in 1999. But these actions were taken in America's and Europe's back yards. Were America to simply have said "Saddam's bad; time for him to go; here we come" this would have been understood as a bold attempt to declare that the Persian Gulf was now an exclusive American sphere of influence. Which was not the message we were trying to convey.

Another major reason to go to war was that it would get us out of a difficult diplomatic and military box. Several times in the 1990s, the United States had tried, in a half-hearted way, to eliminate Saddam's regime by proxy, and failed utterly each time. The sanctions regime, always leaky, was starting to break down; it was not plausible to maintain, indefinitely, an economic stranglehold on Iraq. (It wasn't very moral to do so either; the Iraqi people suffered more than usual under Saddam's tyranny during the sanctions regime, with no end in sight, while under the American military campaign their suffering was, relatively speaking, brief and contained.) Very soon, French, Chinese and Russian eagerness to trade with Iraq and end the ongoing standoff was going to overwhelm American determination to contain Iraq, the sanctions regime would end, and Saddam would be out of his box, having successfully waited out the USA. Moreover, so long as the sanctions regime and the no-fly zones and other aspects of the containment regime were in place, the United States was obliged to maintain a significant troop presence in Saudi Arabia, and periodically engage in damaging mini-wars with Iraq such as took place in 1998, all of which caused significant damage to our relationships with countries in the region and around the world. The US was losing the cold war we were waging with Iraq, and would could not simply give up. The obvious solution was to escalate to a hot war.

Yet another reason, though highly speculative, was the hope that a successful war in Iraq would be transformative upon the region in four ways. First, it would dramatically demonstrate American power and resolve. Saddam Hussein was the most prominent Arab and Muslim leader to defy the United States. His unequivocal defeat would send a clear message: America will not be so defied. Those inclined to be friendly to America would be heartened by this message, and more willing to rely on our help; those inclined to be hostile would be given pause, at a minimum. Second, it would give America the opportunity to help Iraqis build a functioning society and state that would show the Arab world the power of freedom and the ultimate good will of America towards them, and that could serve as a model for other Arab regimes to emulate. Moreover, it would remove a key source of pressure on more pro-American Arab regimes like Egypt and Jordan. Third, it would enable the United States to focus on the twin problems of Iran and Saudi Arabia, both of which were far more difficult to confront because of the need to contain Iraq. And fourth, it would open up the possibility of a renewed effort to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians by removing one threat to Israel (and Jordan) from the east (thus improving their geopolitical situation) and removing a significant sponsor and underwriter of Palestinian Arab terrorist groups.

All these reasons were good, substantive reasons to go to war. All of them were voiced by various members of the Bush Administration at one time or another, though some of them were never voiced by the President himself (which is appropriate; some of them are not the sorts of things Presidents ought to say). And all of them, as an aside, were voiced by The New Republic at one time or another as part of its campaign in favor of war. But none of them were "in bounds" justifications for war. We do not have carte blanche from our allies, much less our rivals and the great mass of unaligned nations, to do away with any regime we consider sufficiently odious. There is no recognized right to go to war because one is losing a confrontation short of war, nor is there a right to go to war with country A in order to make it possible to more effectively confront country B. (These are the sorts of points that Britain used to justify its entry into WWI, after all: Germany had illegally invaded Belgium, a neutral under British protection, in order to better wage war against France.) Nor do we have the right, by divine fiat or other, to go around attacking countries in order to show how serious and tough we are, nor how much we want to help them, really.

There were, in the end, only two in-bounds arguments for war that would have clearly been persuasive. One: that Iraq's regime was involved with al-Qaeda and September 11th, which would make war retaliatory. Two: that Iraq's regime posed an imminent danger because of its growing capacity to develop and deploy nuclear and biological weapons (and, to a far lesser extent, chemical weapons), which would mean Iraq's continued stonewalling of the UN inspections regime was no longer tolerable, and had to be terminated through war.

Some supportive intelligence existed for both claims. Iraq had trucked with terrorists in the past, and had worked with avowed enemies in Iran against the United States; there is no reason to think they would not work with al-Qaeda. Some low-level al-Qaeda operatives had fled to Iraq, and there was a camp in northern Iraq for training terrorists of an al-Qaeda-affiliated group. And there were persistent reports from Czechia that Mohammad Atta had met with Iraqi intelligence in Prague. (There have even been suggestions of Iraqi involvement in Oklahoma City and in the first WTC bombind.) But none of this was deemed solid enough to use as a primary justification for war. There was no smoking gun.

WMD seemed far more promising. The UN, the Clinton Administration, even the French all agreed that Iraq had had large stockpiles of chemical and biological arms at the end of the first Gulf War; all agreed that Iraq had been actively pursuing nuclear weapons before the Osirak strike in 1981 and before the first Gulf War in 1991, and that it was sensible to assume that Saddam continued his quest; and all agreed that the Iraqi regime had not revealed what it had done with all the forbidden weapons it was known to possess. It was reasonable to conclude that Iraq retained these weapons, continued to pursue nuclear weapons, and might be far further along than conservative estimates would assume (those estimates having proved inaccurate before, in 1991). Such debate as there was was over how much Saddam really could do to pursue these ambitions under the sanctions regime, and whether any of what all agreed he must have was actually *proven* to be in his possession.

Turns out, Saddam was bluffing us. There are no significant WMD in Iraq. It seems very unlikely to me that Saddam could have successfully moved major stockpiles out of the country before the war, as he did with his airforce in 1991. It seems even less likely to me that the weapons are somehow hidden in-country. The most likely explanation for what we know to be the case is that Saddam had no significant active WMD programs on the eve of the second Gulf War. We thought he did, and we were wrong. And the most likely explanation for why we thought he did is: he wanted us to think he did. He was trying to deter us from attacking him. He was bluffing.

So why do I think the yellowcake story is worth more than conservative scoffers give credit? Because the Administration's supporters of war clearly hyped every piece of evidence they could get their hands on to make the case for war. They did this because while the substantive reasons for war were strong, the official justifications for war were less strong, and these justifications were all that mattered to countries not inclined to support us in our endeavor. And if you were against the war - or were ambivalent about it - this, in retrospect, makes it looks like your worst fears are true: the whole thing was a lie, and clearly a lie for nefarious purposes.

Did the Administration lie? It looks like they technically didn't, but technical non-lies were the specialty of the last Administration; it's unseemly to see the folks at NRO resort to Clintonian excuses (and even more unseemly for them to turn to Clinton himself, as they did today) to justify the rhetoric. Domestically, Bush closed the sale on the case for war on September 11, 2001; the sale was closed for him by the attacks, and all he really had to do was deliver victory. (Which he did. Spectacularly.) Internationally, the sale was more difficult, and Bush didn't close it. And in the attempts to close it, he, and the supporters of war in his Administration, pushed intelligence beyond the limits of what it could reveal. Perhaps it should have been convincing enough to say: Saddam probably has WMD of various kinds, is likely trying to develop nuclear weapons as he has in the past, will never be completely defeated by a sanctions regime that can't last forever anyhow, and is a horrible, evil man. That's enough for me. But it was not enough for much of the world, and so the threat level was pumped up higher, rhetorically. *Estimating* a higher threat level - assuming the worst rather than the best - was the *right* course of action post-September 11. But *asserting* a higher threat level has exposed America somewhat, given that, in retrospect, the short-term threat was lower than estimated. I wouldn't make too much of the story; it isn't going to bring down the Bush Presidency. But it's not a phony story.

So why am I made at The New Republic for jumping all over it? Because they supported the damned war! Because they read Ken Pollack's book, too, and thought Iraq was an imminent threat. Because they know full well that uranium from Niger was not the be-all and end-all of the Administration's case for war, and they were not criticizing Bush in the run-up to war for making WMD an important part of the case. Because they haven't explained exactly how Bush *should* have handled the marketing of the war, how Bush was supposed to convince the rest of the world to go to war on the basis of the more cautious CIA assessments. Because they supported the damned war!

There are times I think TNR has no sense of reality. Bush made a judgement call, and it may have been a bad call. War supporters in the Administration clearly pushed for the most aggressive assessment of the Iraqi threat, and those assessments were broadcast as part of the Administration's case for war. Key parts of those assessments turn out to have been false. But unless TNR disagrees with my assessment above that there were many good reasons to go to war, but a narrower list of justifications - and they haven't shown any clear sign that they do - then I don't know why they think the Niger business is a scandal as opposed to a mistake. Eisenhower's lie about the U2 was a mistake, not a scandal. This is in that category.

Actually, of course, I do know why TNR is on the warpath over yellowcake. Because they are partisan Democrats. But I expect better from them, because they often deliver better.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Speaking as an adoptive father, this turns my stomach. Leave aside, for a moment, her callous disregard for the welfare of the boy. What, precisely, did she think she was going to tell her daughter some day? That she never had a brother? That she had, but he was too much trouble, so she gave him away, and who knows what happened to him? What kind of monster is she? What kind of monster did she want her adopted daughter to know her to be?

Iin answer to David Frum's question: the woman should at minimum have run the risk of having her adopted daughter taken away from her for doing what she did.

We are moving, as a matter of law, in the direction of viewing children as property. Abortion on demand, surrogate motherhood, joint custody in divorce settlements and certain aspects of the adoption "industry" - the context in which all these cultural developments are taking place is the redefinition of children as property and parents as owners. This is the central moral horror of the contemporary West.

No one has the right to adopt. NO ONE. There are, unfortunately, children all over the world who lack parents, who lack parents who are minimally competent to care for them, or who have been abandoned by their parents. When the state gives custody of these children to other adults, it places on their shoulders an extraordinary responsibility. That responsibility must be proved, it must be earned, and it can be lost.

The natural family is an institution ontologically prior to the state. It is therefore naturally immune to state interference except under extraordinary circumstances of violence and abuse. For the state to, through an act of law, admit someone to that immunity implies extraordinary trust. That trust is no one's right.

If a woman has children for someone else under contract, that woman, and her contractors, should come under enormous presumptive suspicion, because the contract's very existence implies a dangerous corruption of the concept of parenthood and family. If a couple with children divorce, the should both come under suspicion, because their actions imply a willingness to place their own individual interests above the interests of their children, and of the family as an organic unit. These presumptions of suspicion could, of course, be overcome in any given instance. I am advocating bias, not prejudgement. But there should be no equality in matters of such grave responsibility, and no suggestion that these matters are matters of rights. For we can only have rights to that which we control, that which we own, and children must never, never be placed in that category.

Sunday, July 13, 2003
Thanks to all the folks in The Corner who made various links to this blog on Thursday and Friday. I'll attempt to produce new material over the next few days, but I don't want to promise too much because I'm currently on my way out the door to the airport to go to London on business for a week.

Thursday, July 10, 2003
I am on record as supporting some kind of civil unions legislation exclusive to gay couples to allow them to live lives with comparable social support to that offered married couples.

I am on record as supporting smicha (ordination) for gay rabbis, which puts me at the "left" wing of organized Judaism, and certainly the left wing of Conservative Judaism.

I am on record as saying that the closet is "a dark and lonely place" and that it is a matter of "basic mental health" for gay people to be out to themselves, and that I assume that once one is out to oneself one naturally would want to be out to close friends and family at a minimum.

I am on record as saying that "no one is born a Nazarite" and therefore it is unreasonable to say that some people, who constitutionally cannot be happily intimate with someone of the opposite sex, but could be with someone like-minded of the same sex, must be condemned to a life of celibacy for the sake of social cohesion. There has to be a better way, and I believe I can (and have) articulated at least a rough draft of what that better way is.

Why, then am I about to defend this piece by John Derbyshire against this fisking by Andrew Sullivan?

Derbyshire goes out of his way to make it clear that he has no animus against gay people, no desire to see them suffer, no desire, even, to see them removed from positions of power and influence. He has made it clear that he thinks they can be marvelous teachers and preachers, better, in many cases, than their straight colleagues, and has no desire to see them hounded out of such positions. He believes, in his words, that God not only loves gay people but has a purpose for them - i.e. that He made them gay for a purpose, and not the purpose of providing straights with an object of ridicule. In the past he has made it clear that he doesn't care what gays do behind closed doors and he has declined to, for example, defend sodomy laws. I don't think he likes gay people much, but I suspect they don't like him much either. His enthusiasm for archaic terms of abuse for those with whom he disagrees I chalk up to his curmudgeonly nature and his obstinacy.

What Derbyshire objects to, quite clearly, is the notion of public homosexuality, the notion that it is important for gay people to be open and articulate about their sexual orientation, and the lifestyle that they lead as a consequence. This is what he considers dangerous and subversive, and he explains why.

Now, I happen to differ with him on this matter. I think it is possible to be openly gay and not subject your employer to obnoxious display, possible to be openly gay and not rampantly promiscuous, possible to be openly gay and raise healthy, strong, responsible children, even possible to be openly gay and not deny that there is a natural sexual order among humanity that needs to be protected and nurtured. The last may be a vain hope, but for the others I have plenty of examples of personal acquaintance to offer as evidence.

But our disagreement is not my point. His position is defensible. It is not equivalent to fear or hatred of gay people. As he himself says, "the problem is not homosexuals or homosexuality . . . [t]he problem is hedonism." More to the point, it is the logical position for any conservative to hold; it is someone in my position who has the difficult job of explaining how we could institutionalize a quite radical change without the dire consequences that Derb and his ilk predict.

Sullivan refuses to see the distinction, and he refuses because he has an interest, because of his own lifestyle choices, not merely in legal equality for people who are by nature homosexual but in a radical cultural libertarianism and sexual antinomianism. He needs to conflate gay identity with the sexual revolution, and he needs to ignore or suppress evidence that he is doing that (for example, he ignores that one of the clerics in question is not celibate, as I believe he is bound to be by the dictates of his church, and that the man appears to have lied about this fact, both items that appear in the article by Derbyshire that Sullivan subjects to his fisking).

If Sullivan would come out of the closet as such an antinomian libertarian, and simply say there is no such thing as sexual morality, only sexual responsibility; if he would simply say that man has no destiny, that marriage, children, and so forth are nothing more than choices, with costs and benefits, and we should all spend our lives figuring out what choices suit us and, if our preferences change, make new choices to the extent we can afford them; if he would simply say that the problem is not that gays cannot marry but that straights can, that some relationships get state approval and others don't; then I would say at least that he has the courage of his convictions. He could join Peter Singer and Richard Posner and other apostles of preference-utilitarianism taken to its logical conclusion.

But he is not so honest. He brushes off claims that gay marriage will lead to legalized polyamory by saying that gay people don't want the right to marry anybody, they want the right to marry somebody. How is this an argument? Fine, that's what gay people want. Polyamorists do want the right to marry anybody. Why should they be denied it? What is magic about the number 2? He vigorously attacks those who conflate homosexuality with pedophilia, and as vigorously attacks those who claim that the Church scandals have anything to do with homosexuality because the incidents involved minors, and hence constitute pedophilia. Well and good. What is his argument against those who would lower the age of consent? In many states, a girl can marry before she is 18. What does he think should be the age of consent for boys? If a 14 year-old girl can marry in Louisiana, why is it wrong for a 50 year-old priest to have consensual sex with a 14-year-old boy? Because the law forbids it? The law in Texas forbid homosexual acts of any kind until a few weeks ago!

So far as I can tell, the only reason Sullivan thinks that his antinomian exertions will be limited in effect to his own cause is that he only wants x, y and z, and what other people want, what the logical consequences of his arguments are, is of no effect.

Sullivan would like to be called a conservative. If that is the case, then John Derbyshire is part of his ideological family. How does one argue with family whom one thinks is badly mistaken? Thankfully, we have an example of how to do it. One John Derbyshire recently wrote a piece in the American Conservative reviewing Kevin MacDonald's Culture of Critique, a broadside socio-biological attack on the position of Jews in gentile societies. I don't know whether MacDonald specifically deserved the kind treatment he receives at Derb's hands, but I can say this: Derbyshire provides, in this piece, a model for how to handle someone with whom one is, to some extent, ideologically allied but whom one thinks is badly mistaken, and mistaken because of animus. Compare that effort to persuade with Sullivan's effort to write Derbyshire out of the family.

A few words, finally, about the crux of Sullivan's analogy of Derbism to anti-Semitism. Compare the following statements:

- Individually, gays may be lovely people, and their presence among us is a blessing in many ways. But because of their lifestyle, they seem to find it necessary to agitate against any public affirmation of sexual morality of any kind. Rather, they incline, overwhelmingly, toward the notion that it is discriminatory for the government or even private but officially non-sectarian organizations to condemn any sexual behavior that is not obviously and directly predatory. This is a real problem for those who are committed to the notion that gays should be allowed to be - nay, deserve to be - open about their lifestyle, and have full equality in our society, and it is their burden to explain how they will preserve the notion of sexual morality from being fatally undermined by their initiatives.

- Individually, Jews may be lovely people, and their presence among us is a blessing in many ways. But because of their religion, they seem to find it necessary to agitate against any public affirmation of Christianity of any kind. Rather, they incline, overwhelmingly, toward the notion that it is discriminatory for government or even private but officially non-sectarian organizations to be other than atheistic in their character. This is a real problem for those who are committed to the notion that Jews should be allowed to be - nay, deserve to be - open about their religion, and have full equality in our society, and it is their burden to explain how they will preserve the vaguely but unquestionably Christian character of our national identity from being undermined by their initiatives.

The former paragraph is not a perfect paraphrase of Derbyshire's central point, but I think it's pretty close to what his point is, and pretty consonant with his opinions. In any event, I think anyone would agree that the second paragraph is quite strictly parallel with the first. And I don't think it is anti-Semitic. It may not be the most trusting or friendly statement towards Jews, but it expresses no animus towards Jews or Judaism, no assumption of evil intent. It is a fair topic for discussion, for the problem is real and the only question is where the onus lies for solving it, on those who would seek change for the sake or justice or on those who profit by the existing order. Many Jewish conservatives have grappled with the question it raises - Irving Kristol and Elliot Abrams most notably.

I will revise my opinion of Andrew Sullivan's style of argument, and my opinion that he is not a conservative, when he approaches their level of honest introspection about the place of a minority in our culture.