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January 10, 2006

Lance Corporal Sensing turns 20 today

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Lance corporal Stephen Sensing in Fallujah, November 2005. USMC photo.


As I have written before, my eldest son, Stephen, is a US Marine who has been serving in Iraq since September. Today is his 20th birthday.

If you have a mind to, please leave a comment of birthday wishes and I will copy them to send to him via Motomail.

His unit deployed from their base camp in Fallujah on operations about the 20th of December or so and will remain in the field for several weeks. He got to call us on New Years Day on a satellite phone. I asked him where he was while he talked to us. “Manning the .50-caliber machine gun in the turret,” he answered.

His Christmas day was spent taking part in raids on al Qaeda strongpoints. They captured a number of prisoners, including some highly-sought al Qaeda senior leaders. Stephen said they carried some of them to the collection point in the back of his track while he covered them with a shotgun.

Twenty years . . . it seems like an eyeblink of time. Every time I start to get worried about him in combat in Iraq – and those moments do come, believe me – I find that the pride and gratitude I have for him outweighs my worry.

Semper fi, son, and thank you for your service.


Posted @ 7:04 am. Filed under Marine news

The Forever Jihad, part five

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In the previous four parts of “The Forever Jihad” (all found here),” I wrote about Islamism’s strategic goals, the distinction between Islamism and jihadism, asked whether suicide bombers are the new high priests of Islam, and explored where the riots in France last fall fit in to Islamic expansionism.

As a short review, here are the four goals of Islamism.

1. Expel America’s armed forces from Saudi Arabia, emplace Islamist regimes and sociopolitical order there and expel all non-Muslims of any sort,

2. Emplace Islamism in the other countries of the Persian Gulf,

3. Then reclaim Islamic rule of all lands that were ever under Islamic control and emplace Islamism there,

4. Convert the rest of the world to Islamism.

The distinction I drew between Islamists and jihadists is that while all jihadists are Islamists, not all Islamists are jihadists. Yesterday Dan Darling at Winds of Change pointed out that “al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s most [recent] statement … that included yet another denunciation of the Muslim Brotherhood’s” – Islamism Central, they – “participation in Egyptian politics.” Islamists are willing to achieve their goals without violence, although they don’t shrink from violence per se in achieving their goals. Pacifists they are not. Jihadists, on the other hand, reply almost exclusively on violence and make it their primary, if not only tool.

While jihadism is more lethal now, Islamism is more pernicious and more dangerous to the West in the long term. It’s important to remember that Islamism and jihadism are two sides of the same coin. They are each examples of extreme Islamic triumphalism. In addressing the riots last fall, I observed,

But Islamism is like a fog that enfolds itself within and around, over and through a society. Western countries have a long tradition of religious freedom, but this freedom is predicated on the presumption that religious freedom will not threaten the political nature and autonomy of the state. This is true even in Europe, where the “separation of church and state” took a very long time and no little blood to be gained. It is not complete there, of course; France is still officially a Catholic country, for example. But on the whole, Europe’s countries do not rely on religion to order their polity or the political orientations of their citizens.

The entry of large Muslim populations into this system, whether entry by immigration or conversion, is a deep challenge to Westernism’s survival. It simply remains to be seen whether Islam itself can be politically pluralist in countries where it holds sway. Islamism, of course, does not even pretend to pluralism.

Now comes Mark Steyn’s invaluable essay in The New Criterion, “It’s the demography, stupid.” He answers my question rather forthrightly up front:

Much of what we loosely call the western world will not survive this century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most western European countries. There’ll probably still be a geographical area on the map marked as Italy or the Netherlands— probably—just as in Istanbul there’s still a building called St. Sophia’s Cathedral. But it’s not a cathedral; it’s merely a designation for a piece of real estate. Likewise, Italy and the Netherlands will merely be designations for real estate. The challenge for those who reckon western civilization is on balance better than the alternatives is to figure out a way to save at least some parts of the west.

This is a grim forecast, no doubt. Steyn’s arguments are daunting to rebut. Without excerpting them at length, he basically points out the demographic doomsday looming over Europe. Baldly put: ethnic Europeans are not having enough children. For 100 men and women (we no longer really say “husbands and wives,” do we?) of Europe to replace themselves in the next generation, they need to give birth to 105 children. That’s 2.1 children per woman. But they’re not.

Ireland is 1.87, New Zealand 1.79, Australia 1.76. But Canada’s fertility rate is down to 1.5, well below replacement rate; Germany and Austria are at 1.3, the brink of the death spiral; Russia and Italy are at 1.2; Spain 1.1, about half replacement rate. That’s to say, Spain’s population is halving every generation. By 2050, Italy’s population will have fallen by 22 percent, Bulgaria’s by 36 percent, Estonia’s by 52 percent.

Europe’s socialist economy is ungodly expensive to maintain and no one, no one, there is willing to cut back on the governmental or government-mandated financial entitlements that have grown up since the end of World War II. Steyn is no Nostradamus about Europe; many others have pointed out the demographic bombs awaiting Europe. “Bombs” plural I say because the decline of the birth rate at the low end of the age scale always means that the populations gets grayer at the high end. As I pointed out almost three years ago, demography is a double-sprung trap. Right now the median age of Americans is in the mid-30s, with most of Europe a little higher. But American adults are barely replacing themselves while Europeans are not, so by mid-century our median age will rise a tick and the Europeans’ will rocket by 15 years to the low 50s.

So who is going to pay for all those luscious European retirement benefits, especially since right now more than half of men across Europe stop working between age 55-65? And there’s a financial paradox to be faced even if European governments and elites suddenly decided to encourage birthin’ more babies:

They need more births, but that takes women out of the work force – and for longer than it does here, because of Europe’s generally very generous labor-welfare rules. But taking women from the work force also decreases the tax revenue the state needs to continue propping up its welfare system.

Let us assume for argument’s sake that the welfare-near-crisis states achieved a substantial jump in birth rates starting next year. They will probably go broke sooner than they will now because it will be basically 20 years before next year’s babies become taxpayers and for those two decades they simply increase the welfare load by using government-provided services.

Can Europe bail water faster than the gunwales will go awash? I don’t think so, but I hope I’m wrong.

Guess who the gap filler is. Steyn again:

Between 1970 and 2000, the developed world declined from just under 30 percent of the world’s population to just over 20 percent, the Muslim nations increased from about 15 percent to 20 percent. ...

Europe is significantly more Islamic, having taken in during that period some 20 million Muslims (officially)—or the equivalents of the populations of four European Union countries (Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, and Estonia). Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the west: in the UK, more Muslims than Christians attend religious services each week.

Because Europeans are not having children anywhere close to the rate needed to maintain their own economies, much less their cultural civilization, they are importing Africans, Near Easterners and some Asians and Indians to do it for them. By far these immigrants are Muslim. And unlike ethnic Europeans, Muslims are having baby Muslims at breakneck speed.

Consider Israel. I wrote about its demographic challenge as a beginning blogger in April 2002 in “The Palestinian population bomb” (all figures from 2002):

There are six million Israelis. Only 4.8 million are Jewish. Fifteen percent of Israel’s citizens are Muslim Arabs, 900,000 people. They are Israeli Palestinians. They are, or are descended from, persons who did not become refugee in Israel’s war for independence in 1947-1948. (The other five percent of Israelis are neither Muslim nor Jewish.)

There are more than three million Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Right now there are four million Muslims in Israel/West Bank/Gaza. Jews outnumber them by a mere 800,000. At current growth rates of each, in 14 years the ratio will be reversed: 6.7 million Muslims and 6 million Jews. ...

The only effective thing that Israel can do, militarily, is create conditions that force the Palestinians to abandon violence so that socio-political agreements may be reached. But even if this happens, the Muslim population bomb will keep ticking.

Maybe these data compelled Ariel Sharon to make the breathtaking concessions to the Palestinians.

So there is an enormous, if not actually massive, population shift going on between Europe and its southern and easter littorals. Except it’s not “between,” it’s one way. While the commentati lament the lack of economic integration of European societies for the North African and Middle Eastern immigrants, not altogether without justification, they may want to consider the population pressures that impel such large numbers of Muslims to move there. The Middle East itself is not exactly a land of brimming opportunity.

Europe long ago shed its Christian heritage. Church attendance in western Europe is generally less than 10 percent, often much less. I remember getting an email from a Norwegian pastor a few years ago in which he said that Sunday services were practically deserted; no one came to church except for weddings or funerals. When I lived in Germany in the mid-1980s, attendance was just under five percent. The result is not that for ethnic Europeans another religion has supplanted Christianity but that nothing has. Christian dynamism has been ejected from European society and has been replaced with . . . nihilism.

As modern men and women—to the degree that we are modern—we believe in nothing. This is not to say, I hasten to add, that we do not believe in anything; I mean, rather, that we hold an unshakable, if often unconscious, faith in the nothing, or in nothingness as such. It is this in which we place our trust, upon which we venture our souls, and onto which we project the values by which we measure the meaningfulness of our lives. Or, to phrase the matter more simply and starkly, our religion is one of very comfortable nihilism.

... We live in an age whose chief moral value has been determined, by overwhelming consensus, to be the absolute liberty of personal volition, the power of each of us to choose what he or she believes, wants, needs, or must possess; our culturally most persuasive models of human freedom are unambiguously voluntarist and, in a rather debased and degraded way, Promethean; the will, we believe, is sovereign because unpremised, free because spontaneous, and this is the highest good. And a society that believes this must, at least implicitly, embrace and subtly advocate a very particular moral metaphysics: the unreality of any “value” higher than choice, or of any transcendent Good ordering desire towards a higher end.

The result? Steyn again:

[T]he political platforms of at least one party in the United States and pretty much all parties in the rest of the west are largely about what one would call the secondary impulses of society—government health care, government day care (which Canada’s thinking of introducing), government paternity leave (which Britain’s just introduced). We’ve prioritized the secondary impulse over the primary ones: national defense, family, faith, and, most basic of all, reproductive activity—“Go forth and multiply,” because if you don’t you won’t be able to afford all those secondary-impulse issues, like cradle-to-grave welfare. Americans sometimes don’t understand how far gone most of the rest of the developed world is down this path… .

Into this demographic and religious vacuum has stepped political Islam. Islam has in the last 35 years or so become deeply expansionist in general, not just in its Islamist fringe. While giving only lip service to the idea of economic integration into their countries, the Europeans, except the British, have shunned the idea of socio-cultural-political integration of the masses of Muslim immigrants. The second and third generations of the first wave of immigrants on the 1960s have basically renounced the whole integrationist enterprise altogther. New immigrants now need have no expectation or even use for integration; there are ready-made Muslim ghettoes awaiting them across the continent, bought and paid for by the socialist, entitlement-as-an-entitlement governments and societies who need their labor more than their integration.

But the Europe-dwelling Muslims won’t accept nihilism. It may be true that last fall’s rioters were not rebelling from a very Muslim basis – this time. But the disenfranchised, immigrant populations of Europe are where Islamist evangelists are having their greatest successes, especially among those who have run afoul of the law. They offer order, structure and discipline to strangers living in a strange land, and for certain Old Europe is no longer offering any of them. Unlike Old European churches, mosques promise righteousness can be attained in this world and heaven in the next.

Mark Steyn writes that,

... the EU will need to import so many workers from North Africa and the Middle East that it will be well on its way to majority Muslim by 2035. As things stand, Muslims are already the primary source of population growth in English cities. Can a society become increasingly Islamic in its demographic character without becoming increasingly Islamic in its political character?

For all the concern and countermeasures that jihadism commands for us now, it is non-violent Islamism that poses the greatest threat to the survival of the West as the West. Europe has simply abandoned the playing field. America is still on it, but only barely.


Posted @ 6:28 am. Filed under War on terror, Religion, Analysis, Europe & NATO, Trends

January 7, 2006

US Army gets on the blog train

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Interesting discussion at Instapundit about the MSM, blogs and the military. The Bill Roggio-Washington Post kerfuffle is still alive and well. But here I comment upon an email from an Army colonel Glenn Reynolds quotes. Writes the colonel,

The Department of Defense and the services are not keeping abreast of changing times and are therefore failing the strategic communications mission. By failing to engage “blogs” they are not reaching an outlet that itself has millions of “hits” a year. ...

I think DoD and the services should include bloggers as part of their distribution lists and include them in the regular press conferences and press releases. ...

I advocated this idea while serving in Iraq, but the people who were in charge of the Strategic Communications did not understand the impact that bloggers have. Or they immediately said we cannot do that, but could not explain why. I agree that the Army does not understand the impact of blogs and they are “blowing it with bloggers,” and they need to analyze the issue further and think forwardly.

Either someone heard him or someone else had the same idea. Late this week I received this email:

From: “Charlie Kondek”
Sent: Friday, January 06, 2006 3:17 PM
Subject: Exclusive Contact from the Army

Hi, Donald. I’m writing from a PR firm on behalf of the U.S. Army. We’re contacting a few bloggers to test a new outlet for public information. The Army believes that military blogs are a valuable medium for reaching out to soldiers. To that end, the Army plans to offer you and selected bloggers exclusive editorial content on a few issues you’re likely to be interested in. If you do decide you are interested in receiving this material, whether you choose to write about what we send you is, of course, entirely up to you. (I notice you’ve been on a blog sabbatical for a while so am not sure where you stand there.)

Like I said, we’re only contacting a handful of bloggers at this time. If you are interested, please let me know, and we’ll send you further information as it becomes available. Either way, thanks for your time.
____________
Charlie Kondek
Account Executive
Web Producer
Hass MS&L

My response was, “Count me in.” I spent long enough in Army Public Affairs to know when I’m being fed baloney. But the colonel who emailed Glenn is right – this is long overdue. And I predict the Post and others of the dinosaur media will scream bloody murder. I don’t care. They’ll say we are biased, as if they are not. As Glenn wrote, “I’m glad that the folks at the Times and the Post are “true believers” in objective reporting. Now if they’d just become true practitioners thereof… .”

But I am biased, I freely admit (another difference between bloggers and the MSM is we admit we have a point of view. They do, too, but pretend they don’t). I wrote in May 2004 that the cause of the vituperation was our dueling biases of the war.

Both sides proceed from pre-existing biases. But are all biases equally objectionable or comparable? I don’t think so. Discriminating among choices with moral import and deciding which to choose is the fundamental problem. ...

There are only four basic outcomes of this war:

1. Over time, the United States engenders deep-rooted reformist impulses in the Islamic lands, leading their societies away from the self- and other-destructive patterns they now exhibit. It is almost certainly too much to ask that the societies become principally democratic as we conceive democracy (at least not for a very long time), but we can (and must) work to help them remit radical Islamofascism from their cultures so that terrorism does not threaten.

2. The Islamofascists achieve their goals of Islamicization of the entire Middle East (at the minimum), the ejection of all non-Muslims from Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Persian Gulf, the destruction of Israel, and the deaths of countless numbers of Americans.

3. Absent achieving the goals stated just above, al Qaeda successfully unleashes a mass-destructive, mass-casualty attack against the United States and total war erupts between the US and several Islamic countries.

4. None of the above happen, so the conflict sputters along for decades more with no real changes: we send our troops into combat intermittently, suffer non-catastrophic attacks intermittently, and neither side possesses all of the will, the means and the opportunity to achieve decisive victory. The war becomes the Forever War.

So the question for us commentati, whether based on the web or in traditional media, is simply: which of these outcomes is best? Which will be most favorable to human flourishing?

As for me, I choose the first, and have no qualms admitting I am heavily biased in favor thereof. And that bias certainly shapes my blogging!

Hopefully, all the services will begin to engage bloggers a lot more.


Posted @ 3:17 pm. Filed under War on terror, Military, Blogging

December 27, 2005

This time I really mean it!

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Yes, I do! Really!


Posted @ 7:00 am. Filed under Blogging

December 26, 2005

Christmas and Hanukkah links

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In the calendar of the Church it is the season of Christmas, which began Christmas Eve and ends January 5. Beginning Jan. 6 is the season of Epiphany.

In the Jewish calendar it is early in Hanukkah. CANN Anglican has a huge linkfest to sites related to Christmas and Hanukkah. I’ll mention two of them for Hanukkah because they would be easy to overlook on the list. One is written by my friend Gerard Van Der Leun, entitled, “Hanukkah Candles on Christmas Eve.” Gerard is one of the most literate people I know; he is a far superior writer than I. As compelling as his prose is, his poems excel even that. This is one of those times.

See also, “The real meaning of Hanukah,” by Ed Lasky at The American Thinker.


Posted @ 9:35 pm. Filed under Religion

December 25, 2005

Beginning at sundown

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At this hour where I live, Christmas is nearly over. It’s a single day of celebration and worship for Christian people, now come and gone. But for the people of our mother covenant of Abraham, Moses and Jeremiah, the eight days of Hanukkah have just begun.

So I extend to all people of the Torah warm greetings and and best wishes for rich days of spiritual celebration!

Joe Katzman commemorates the beginning of the festival with, “‘Twas the Night Before Hanukkah.”

Then there’s this story from The Braden Files.

The two beggars

Two beggars are sitting side by side on a street in Rome. One has a cross in front of him; the other one the Star of David. Many people go by and look at both beggars, but only put money into the hat of the beggar sitting behind the cross.

A priest comes by, stops and watches throngs of people giving money to the beggar behind the cross, but none give to the beggar behind the Star of David.

Finally, the priest goes over to the beggar behind the Star of David and says,

“My poor fellow, don’t you understand? This is a Catholic country, this city is the seat of Catholicism. People aren’t going to give you money if you sit there with a Star of David in front of you, especially when you’re sitting beside a beggar who has a cross. In fact, they would probably give to him just out of spite.”

The beggar behind the Star of David listened to the priest, turned to the other beggar with the cross and said: “Moishe, look who’s trying to teach the Goldstein brothers about marketing.”


Posted @ 9:57 pm. Filed under Religion

Prayer for Christmas Day

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O God our Father, you have brought us again to the glad season
.....when we celebrate the birth of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Grant that his Spirit may be born anew in our hearts this day
.....and that we may joyfully welcome him to reign over us.
Open our ears that we may hear again the angelic chorus of old.
Open our lips that we, too, may sing with uplifted hearts.
Glory to God in the highest,
.....and on earth, peace, goodwill toward all;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The United Methodist Book of Worship, no. 276.


Posted @ 7:41 am. Filed under Religion

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Islamism’s war against the West
Three fuses that lit 9/11's explosion, and a history of Arab terrorism. 52 pages, PDF.

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