Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Problem with Islam Is Aggressive Scripture, Not Aggressive ‘Traditionalism’

By Andrew C. McCarthy — January 16, 2016

On the Corner this week, the eminent Jim Talent touted (with some reservations) an essay about “moderate Islam” by Cheryl Bernard. A Rand Institute researcher, she is also a novelist, a defender of war-ravaged cultures, and the wife of Zalmay Khalilzad, the former U.S. ambassador to post-Taliban (or is it pre-Taliban?) Afghanistan. With due respect to Dr. Bernard, who does much heroic work, I believe the essay highlights what is wrong with Western academic analysis of Islam.

The problem comes into focus in the very title of Senator Talent’s post, “Aggressive Traditionalism.” That is the attribute of Islamic societies that Dr. Bernard blames for the frustration of her high hopes for “moderate Islam.” In truth, however, the challenge Islam poses for moderation is not its tradition; it is Islamic doctrine — the scriptural support for traditional sharia and Islamic supremacist ideology.

I give Bernard credit. She is the unusual strategist who is willing to admit failure — in this instance, of the strategy of promoting “moderate Islam” as the antidote to “radical Islam.” But even this concession goes off the rails: She maintains that the strategy was somehow “basically sensible” despite being “off track in two critical ways.” The real problem, though, is not the two errors she identifies but the fatal flaw she fails to address: The happenstance that there are many moderate Muslims in the world does not imply the existence of a coherent “moderate Islam.” Try as she might, Bernard cannot surmount this doctrinal hurdle by blithely ignoring the centrality of doctrine to a belief system — without it, there is nothing to believe.

But let’s start with the two critical problems she does cite. The first is the matter of defining what a “moderate” is. Bernard concedes that she and other thinkers adopted a definition that was “too simplistic” — meaning, too broad. It made “violence and terrorism” the litmus test for “moderation.” This enabled what she labels “aggressive traditionalists” to masquerade as moderates.

Who are the “aggressive traditionalists”? Muslims who, though nonviolent themselves, “harbor attitudes of hostility and alienation” against non-Muslims. The failure to account for the challenge that “aggressive traditionalism” poses for moderation led to the second flaw Bernard admits: the undermining of “integration” — a reference to Muslim assimilation (or the lack thereof) in the West.

This is fine as far as it goes. In fact, Bernard is quite correct about the main challenge posed by hostile, alienated, integration-resistant Muslims: Even if they are personally nonviolent, the communities they create become “the breeding ground for extremism and the safe harbor for extremists.”

But “extremism” about what? This is the salient question, and it is one Bernard studiously ducks. The error is implicit from the very start of her essay (my italics):
Over the past decade, the prevailing thinking has been that radical Islam is most effectively countered by moderate Islam. The goal was to find religious leaders and scholars and community ‘influencers’ — to use the lingo of the counter-radicalization specialists — who could explain to their followers and to any misguided young people that Islam is a religion of peace, that the term jihad refers mainly to the individual’s personal struggle against temptation and for moral betterment, and that tolerance and interfaith cooperation should prevail.
Plainly, the “prevailing thinking” casually assumes “facts” not only unproven but highly dubious. Bernard takes it as a given not only that there is an easily identifiable “moderate Islam,” but also that this . . . what? . . . doctrine? . . . attitude? . . . is the most effective counter to “radical Islam.”

But what is moderate Islam? She doesn’t say. She maintains that there are countless moderate Muslims who, by her telling, embrace “Western values, modern life and integration.” In fact, she assumes there are so many such Muslims that they constitute the “mainstream” of Islam. Yet, that proposition is not necessarily true even in the West, where Muslims are a minority who might be expected to assimilate into the dominant, non-Muslim culture; and it most certainly is not true in the Muslim-majority countries of the Middle East.

Even worse is Bernard’s assertion — uncritical, and without a hint that there may be a counter-case — “that Islam is a religion of peace, [and] that the term jihad refers mainly to the individual’s personal struggle against temptation and for moral betterment.”

As is the wont of Islam’s Western apologists, Bernard is attempting to shield from examination what most needs examining. Her reliance on the potential of “moderate Islam” to quell “radical Islam” is entirely premised on the conceit that Islam is, in fact, moderate and peaceful. Her assumption that the vast majority of Muslims can be won over (indeed, have already been won over, she seems to say) to Western values is premised on the conceit that those values are universal and, hence, locatable in the core of Islam — such that “tolerance and interfaith cooperation should prevail” because Islam is all for them.

Islam, however, is not a religion of peace. It is a religion of conquest that was spread by the sword. Moreover, it is not only untrue that jihad refers “mainly” to the individual’s internal struggle to live morally; it is also untrue that the Islamic ideal of the moral life is indistinguishable from the Western conception.

To be clear, this is not to say that Islam could not conceivably become peaceful. Nor is it to say that jihad could not be reinterpreted such that a decisive majority of Muslims would accept that its actual primary meaning — namely, holy war to establish Islam’s dominance — has been superseded by the quest for personal betterment. To pull that off, though, will require a huge fight. It cannot be done by inhabiting an alternative universe where it has already been done.

That fight would be over doctrine, the stark omission in Bernard’s analysis. I do not think the omission is an oversight. Note her labeling of faux moderates as “aggressive traditionalists.” Citing “tradition” implies that the backwardness and anti-Western hostility she detects, to her great dismay, is a function of cultural inhibitions. But what she never tells you, and hopes you’ll never ask, is where Islamic culture and traditions come from.

Alas, they are direct consequences of Islamic scripture and sharia, the law derived from scripture. She can’t go there. She wants Islam to be moderate, but its scriptures won’t cooperate. She must rely on tradition and culture because traditions and cultures can and do evolve. Scripture, by contrast, does not — not in Islam as taught by over a millennium’s worth of scholars and accepted by untold millions of Muslims. Mainstream Islam holds that scripture is immutable. The Koran, the center of Islamic life, is deemed the “uncreated word of Allah,” eternal. (See, e.g., Sura 6:115: “The Word of thy Lord doth find its fulfillment in truth and justice: None can change His Words: For He is the one Who heareth and knoweth all.”)

Bernard must blame aggressive traditionalism because if the problem is aggressive doctrine rooted in aggressive scripture, then it’s not changing any time soon — or maybe ever. Moreover, she is not in a position to challenge doctrine and scripture without deeply offending the believers to whom she is appealing. They are taught that any departure from centuries-old scholarly consensus is blasphemy.

The story Dr. Bernard tells of Islamic intransigence in her own Northern Virginia neighborhood is instructive. A Muslim-American friend of hers is a social worker who finds jobs for Muslim immigrants. He lands openings for a group of Somali women in a hospital laundry service; but the women first tell him they must check with their imam, then they turn down the jobs because they will not be allowed to wear their hijabs. The social worker and Bernard are exasperated: Why don’t the women and their adviser grasp that because hijabs could get caught in the machinery and cause injury, there is a “pragmatic reason” for departing from the traditional Islamic norm?

Notice: Bernard never considers, or at least never acknowledges, that there is doctrinal support for every decision the Somalis make: The scriptures instruct Muslims to consult authorities knowledgeable in sharia before embarking on a questionable course of conduct; they instruct Muslim women to wear the veil (particularly in any setting where they will be exposed to men who are not their husbands or close relatives). And while pragmatism suggests to the rational Dr. Bernard and her moderate, Westernized social-worker friend an obvious exception to Islam’s usual clothing rule, mainstream Islam in the Middle East and Somalia admonishes that Western reliance on reason and pragmatism is a form of corruption, a pretext for ignoring religious duty.

Doctrine is the answer to virtually every immoderate instance of aggressive “traditionalism” Bernard complains about: the separation of men from women in the mosque, and the decidedly poorer accommodations (“often unacceptable and even insulting,” as Bernard describes them) to which women are consigned; the separation of the sexes in work and social settings; the instructions not to trust or befriend “unbelievers”; the admonitions to resist adopting Western habits and developing loyalty to Western institutions. There is scriptural support for every one of these injunctions.

From the fact that she has moderate, “modernized” Muslim friends, who do not comport themselves in such “traditional” fashion, Bernard extravagantly deduces that tradition is the problem. She never comes close to grappling with doctrine — i.e., the thing that most devout Muslims believe is what makes them Muslims. The closest she comes is the fleeting observation that her moderate social-worker friend “is a scholar [presumably of Islam] and a professor who emigrated from a conservative Muslim country.” The obvious suggestion is that if he is not troubled by the flouting of traditional Islamic mores, surely there must not be any credible scriptural objection. But if it is relevant that her friend is a scholar, is it not also relevant that there are thousands of other scholars — scholars who actually do Islamic jurisprudence rather than social work for a living — who would opine that sharia requires these traditional behaviors and that it is the social worker who is out of touch?

When Dr. Bernard’s husband, Ambassador Khalilzad, served in Kabul, he midwifed the new Afghan constitution that purported to safeguard Western notions of liberty while simultaneously installing Islam as the state religion and sharia as fundamental law. In short order, Afghanistan put former Muslims who had publicly renounced Islam on capital trial for apostasy. Dr. Khalilzad, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and other Western officials and intellectuals pronounced themselves duly shocked and appalled — notwithstanding that anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of Islamic scripture knows that it calls for public apostates to be killed.

To great American embarrassment, the apostates had to be whisked out of the country lest the incompatibility of civil rights and sharia become even more painfully apparent. It is worth acknowledging, however, that what chased them out of Afghanistan was not aggressive traditionalism. It was Islamic doctrine, which simply is not moderate. Looked at doctrinally, the challenge for “moderate Islam” is . . . Islam.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is as senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The state of the presidency: spent

January 14, 2016
President Obama waved after finishing his final State of the Union address. Credit: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
President Obama’s Tuesday night address to Congress was less about the state of the union than the state of the presidency. And the state of this presidency is spent.
The signs of intellectual exhaustion were everywhere. Consider just three. After taking credit for success in Syria, raising American stature abroad and prevailing against the Islamic State — one claim more surreal than the next — Obama was forced to repair to his most well-worn talking point: “If you doubt America’s commitment — or mine — to see that justice is done, just ask Osama bin Laden.”
Really? Five years later, that’s all you’ve got?
Indeed, it is. What else can Obama say? Talk about Crimea? Cite Yemen, Libya, Iraq, the South China Sea, the return of the Taliban?
“Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office,” Obama boasted. Surveys, mind you. As if superpower influence is a Miss Universe contest. As if the world doesn’t see our allies adrift, our enemies on the march and our sailors kneeling, hands behind their heads, in front of armed Iranians, then forced to apologize on camera. (And our secretary of state expressing appreciation to Iran after their subsequent release.)
On the domestic side, Obama’s agenda was fairly short, in keeping with his lame-duck status. It was still startling when he worked up a passion for a great “new moonshot”: curing cancer.
Is there a more hackneyed national-greatness cliche than the idea that if we can walk on the moon . . . ? Or a more hackneyed facsimile of vision than being “the country that cures cancer”? Do Obama’s speechwriters not know that it was Richard Nixon who first declared a war on cancer — in 1971?
But to see just how bare is the cupboard of ideas of the nation’s most vaunted liberal visionary, we had to wait for the stunning anachronism that was the speech finale. It was designed for inspiration and uplift. And for some liberal observers, it actually worked. They were thrilled by the soaring tones as Obama called for, yes, a new politics — a post-partisan spirit of mutual understanding, rational discourse and respect for one’s opponents.
Why, it was hope and change all over again. You’d have thought we were back in 2008 with Obama’s moving, stirring promise of a new and higher politics that had young people swooning in the aisles and a TV anchor thrilling up the leg — and gave Obama the White House.
Or even further back to 2004, when Obama electrified the nation with hisDemocratic convention speech: “There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.”
Tuesday night, Obama did an undisguised, almost phrase-for-phrase reprise of that old promise. Earnestly, he urged us to “see ourselves not, first and foremost, as black or white, or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native-born, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans first.”
On cue, various commentators were moved by this sermon summoning our better angels. Good grief. I can understand falling for this 12 years ago. But now? A cheap self-quotation, a rhetorical mulligan, from a man who had two presidential terms to act on that transformative vision and instead gave us the most divisive, partisan, tendentious presidency since Nixon.
Rational discourse and respect for one’s opponents? This is a man who campaigned up and down the country throughout 2011 and 2012 saying that he cares about posterity, Republicans only about power.
The man who accused opponents of his Iran treaty of “making common cause” with Iranians “chanting death to America.”
The man who, after Paul Ryan proposed a courageous, controversial entitlement reform, gave a presidential address — with Ryan, invited by the White House, seated in the first row — calling his ideas un-American.
In a final touch of irony, Obama included in his wistful rediscovery of a more elevated politics an expression of reverence for, of all things, how “our founders distributed power between . . . branches of government.” This after years of repeatedly usurping Congress’ legislative power with unilateral executive orders and regulations on everything from criminal justice to climate change to immigration (already halted by the courts).
There is wisdom to the 22nd Amendment. After two terms, presidents are spent. Nothing shows it like a State of the Union valedictory repeating the hollow promises of the yesteryear candidate — as if the intervening presidency had never occurred.

‘The Big Short’ is a lot of Hollywood bull about the 2008 financial crisis

December 6, 2015
Being funny is not the same thing as being unserious, but in trying to be the former, the guy who made the movie version of “The Big Short” has proven merely that he is the latter.
In the movie, fortune smiles on an ambitious young Wall Streeter when another moneyman accidentally leaves him a briefcase full of tasty secret information. An actor turns to the camera and explains that it didn’t happen this way in reality, but who cares? This way, we are told, it makes for a better story.
That’s a strange tactic when your movie bills itself as a true story: What else, the audience will wonder, is made up?
So it goes with the financial crisis of 2008. Few of the people talking about it, from President Obama on down, show the slightest interest in understanding what actually happened and how to prevent it from happening again. The story is everything, and that story is: Evil bankers in an unregulated Wild West of capitalist depravity crippled the economy, cost us taxpayers billions of dollars in bailouts and carried on in a lawless spree that should have resulted in jail time for everybody.
To say the least, it’s an imprecise view, which raises the question: When it’s time to make a movie dealing in complex material about contemporary financial instruments, is the guy who brought us “Anchorman 2” really the best available option?

Distracted yet?

Longtime Will Ferrell collaborator, former “SNL” head writer and director Adam McKay, whose work usually isn’t even on the smart end of the comedy spectrum, co-wrote and directed “The Big Short,” an inept and frequently idiotic take on Michael Lewis’ deeply engaging book, and it will largely be remembered for three things: bad haircuts, overacting and Margot Robbie in a bubble bath.
Robbie (along with Selena Gomez and Anthony Bourdain) is one of the celebrities whom McKay throws onstage at random intervals to explain various aspects of the meltdown in silly ways calculated to dumb things down to make the film play better with an audience that won’t be showing up at a film like this in the first place — financial illiterates, teens, the easily bored and those recovering from very recent brain surgery.
In other words, McKay finds all this stuff so boring that he thinks the only way to juice it up is to keep interrupting himself with strange sketch-comedy bits like having Robbie (the blond vixen from “The Wolf of Wall Street”) sipping champagne and lounging in the tub as she explains it all for us.
Cutting to her isn’t something you’d do if you actually hoped to persuade people with the power of your words.
Later, McKay brings in Bourdain to explain that collateralized debt obligations are like a stew into which you throw all your worst fish. It’s not particularly entertaining, but it’s also just wrong. CDOs — packages of loans — aren’t necessarily rotten any more than a mortgage necessarily is.
The brilliance of Lewis’ book is in how elegantly and simply it explains the many such terms involved when mortgages were bundled, sold and sliced up. The non-brilliance of McKay’s movie is how it trades Lewis’ restless curiosity — his need to understand — for cheap gags.
McKay introduces the bond-rating agencies — which gave AAA ratings to packages of mortgages that included a lot of subprime loans of the kind traders call “dogs–t” — in the form of a little old lady complaining she can’t see anything and wearing impenetrable black sunglasses. Get it? Standard & Poor’s mis-rated the bonds because they’re blind.
This isn’t even pie-in-the-face comedy but rather the on-the-nose variety, and while a sense of the absurd can be a useful approach in satire, even when dealing in the realm of the dark or dire, McKay’s style is witless, clunky, sophomoric. The preachy, hectoring tone he takes at the end of the film is not only discordant, it’s also hugely misleading.
McKay thinks one of the main takeaways from the crisis is this: The banks “blamed poor people.” No one blamed poor people, but McKay seems unaware of the major role the federal government played in nudging poor people to buy houses they couldn’t afford.
The relentless push for subprime loans simply doesn’t happen in, say, Canada. (The subprime mortgage rate there is about 5 percent; at the peak of the financial crisis in the US, it was 24 percent. Any questions about why our economy tanked and Canada’s did not?) This wasn’t “predatory lending” either: Banks lose hugely when they are forced to foreclose. Banks don’t actually want to lose money.
At the end, McKay runs all the statistics that seemed so frightening seven years ago — all the trillions in wealth destroyed, all the billions in bailouts, all the crimes unpunished.
Except the wealth wasn’t so much “destroyed” as it was sidelined for a few years. (If you ever declared, as Christopher Hitchens did with his dying breath, “Capitalism . . . downfall,” you’ve been proven a fool. The crisis turned out to be a massive buying opportunity for bargain hunters.) As for the hundreds of billions we supposedly lost in the bank bailouts, it was all repaid, and then some: The government made a $25 billion profit on them.
There are sound philosophical reasons for opposing the bank bailouts, but “because they cost us a lot of money” isn’t one of them. You’d be hard pressed to name a more successful Washington program — how often does a gigantic federal spending bill result in Washington actually being paid back, with interest? (Certainly not the Detroit bailout: That cost us $9.5 billion, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced at the same press conference last December at which he announced the final score for the bank bailouts.)
Stopping a nationwide financial panic at a cost of zero seems like a bargain, but doing so at a profit of $25 billion kinda looks like the single brightest thing the government has done this century. And no, despite the liberal rhetoric, it wasn’t a new Depression: The meltdown was in September and the economy was growing again by the following June. Did we need to rethink the entire economic system to make that happen, or did it turn out to be the right idea to more or less do nothing except stabilize the banks?
If you want to be outraged by taxpayer dollars being shoveled into the furnace solely to warm the hearts of groups that bought off the government, take a look at Head Start: Fifty years, $180 billion of your money gone, zero results, deep-pocketed teachers unions delighted. (The NEA and the AFT are the fourth- and sixth-largest political donors over the last dozen years, according to, with Goldman Sachs lagging way back at No. 15.)

Nothing changes

McKay does get one thing right at the end, though: Despite the 2008 election of a Democratic president, Democratic Senate and Democratic Congress, all of whom screamingly blamed the crisis on Republicans, there’s no reason a similar crisis can’t happen again.
So we can finally all agree that George W. Bush had nothing to do with causing the crisis, which could have happened on anybody’s watch. If the next one occurs while a Republican happens to be in the White House, don’t be fooled.
Dodd-Frank is signed by President Obama. | AP Photo
Dodd-Frank is signed by President Obama (AP)
The major achievement of the Dodd-Frank bill is that it made it almost impossible for small banks to launch amid the new regulatory requirements, which essentially amount to a newly fortified protective fence built around the existing large banks.
So don’t be taken in by anyone who tells you Democrats don’t do favors for big business, either.
In fact, it is longstanding Democratic party policies that are the principal reason we’re at risk of another bubble, or even another meltdown: One of the cherished agendas of the progressive-administrative state that has come to dominate federal agencies to such a degree that no chief executive is likely to be able to roll it back is encouraging bad loans in the name of “diversity” or “fairness.”
The Department of Housing and Urban Development pressures Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to underwrite more loans to low-income borrowers — in 1992, Fannie and Freddie were required to make 30 percent of the mortgages they bought from those who were at or below the median income for their areas.
Then Andrew Cuomo, as HUD secretary in the Clinton administration, raised that requirement to 50 percent. The only way to do that was to push the system toward more subprime mortgages, and by 2008, fully 56 percent of all of Fan and Fred’s mortgages were subprime. Two-thirds of these risky loans were on the books of entities sponsored or controlled by the government.
It’s as if a car insurance company tasked with the urgent political directive of “keg-party outreach” was required to search every kegger in the country for drunken teens and beg to insure them as though they posed barely any additional risk.
Under longtime CEO James Johnson, a longtime Democratic Party stalwart, “Fannie Mae led the way in encouraging loose lending practices among banks whose loans the company bought. . . . Johnson led both the private and public sectors down a path that led directly to the financial crisis of 2008,” wrote New York Times business reporter Gretchen Morgenson and financial analyst Josh Rosner in their book “Reckless Endangerment.”
Far more important than CDOs and tranches to the story of the crash is the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, which directed banks to be more aggressive about serving the poor and minority communities with mortgages.
That such people would be better off simply renting their homes than forced into a situation likely to lead to foreclosure, bankruptcy, the destruction of their credit rating and/or homelessness doesn’t bother the administrative state.
If a law can be framed as “doing something” for the poor and minorities, even if that something is counterproductive for the people it is intended to help, that is all it takes to push it through.

Proud of themselves

A question McKay does not ask himself (because he’s not interested in knowing the answer) is this: Why were so many of the smartest people in the country unaware of what was happening in 2007 — that the housing market was about to crash because so many people were holding mortgages they could never pay back?
“They were crooks who rigged the market!” isn’t an answer. Goldman Sachs would have been happy to sell kerosene while the world burned. Instead, it was (for a while) on the wrong end of those deals.
Far from having paid off the referees, it had no idea what was about to happen. (It was forced to turn to Warren Buffett for $5 billion of emergency funding to stay in the game. Buffett wound up making more than $1 billion in the deal.)
McKay’s movie essentially tells us that the big banks like Goldman had ensured that the fix was in — they had criminally rigged the system. How so? You can hardly yell “People should have gone to jail” when you can’t point to a single individual and explain what crime he committed. Betting that AAA-rated securities are in fact sound investments may sometimes be stupid, but dumb isn’t the same as fraudulent.
And justice isn’t supposed to work on lynch-mob principles in which anger and a noose are all you need to deliver a satisfying conclusion.
“The Big Short” is already getting praise in Hollywood for its “powerful message.” Critics and award voters won’t care that it doesn’t tell the whole story. They’d rather be righteous than right.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Iran’s Capture of a Female American Sailor Reveals Feminism’s Foolish Double Standard

By Heather Mac Donald — January 14, 2016

Iran 703x422
A handout picture released on January 13, 2016, by the news website and public relations arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Sepah News, shows US sailors under detention in the Farsi Island by Iran's Revolutionary Guards. (Credit: AFP) 

As cable news chewed over Iran’s capture of ten American sailors in the Persian Gulf just hours before President Obama’s final State of the Union address on Tuesday night, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews pointedly observed that one of the captured Americans was female.

Now, perhaps Matthews was just being comprehensive in his reporting. But the all but unmistakable implication of the hostage situation was: The situation was all the more urgent.

Now why should that be so? Feminists declare that men and women are equal. They petulantly decry any atavistic male courtesy towards females as a relic of a still oppressive patriarchal culture. According to feminist ideology, it should be of no greater concern if a female soldier falls into enemy hands, including those of Islamic terrorists, than if a male does.

As the Pentagon moves inexorably to put females into combat units, let’s hope for the sake of our military capabilities that this abstract ideology holds firm. But it almost surely won’t. The enemy capture of female soldiers during a hot war will in fact provoke even greater than usual political pressure to quickly rescue them, if necessary overriding sounder but more time-consuming strategies. The prospect of a female soldier being raped by her captors or, say, “merely” being beheaded will override all other military considerations. If two platoons are captured, the one with females in it will undoubtedly take precedence in any rescue effort, thus jeopardizing unit morale and cohesiveness and combat effectiveness.

And don’t expect feminists to object to this military double standard. They revive traditional norms of chivalry on a moment’s notice in order to play the victim and sexism cards. Indeed, it was feminists who screamed the loudest at Donald Trump’s scuffle with Fox News’s Megyn Kelly during the first Republican debate. Kelly had accused Trump of being a misogynist because of his nasty comments about various celebrity women, most infamously Rosie O’Donnell. But Trump was not being a misogynist in those earlier insults, he was being a feminist: treating men and women with an equal degree of tastelessness. Typical of all feminists, including Republican ones, Kelly wanted it both ways: decrying as sexist a man who publicly derides a woman, while purporting to stand for female equality. But if women are equal to men, they should be equally the target of male boorishness, not granted some special protected status. Trump rightly brushed off Kelly’s sanctimonious hectoring. But his refusal to apologize to Kelly for his alleged past sins of sexism only subjected him to more feminist criticism for not treating his female interlocutor with a politeness utterly lacking in his treatment of men. (The outcry over Trump’s nasty comments about Carly Fiorina, no worse than his usual fare, was similarly hypocritical.)

And so it will be in the military. The feminists have browbeaten our armed services into a suicidal attack on combat readiness, mostly out of careerist self-interest (combat service is a prerequisite for the highest reaches of the Pentagon hierarchy) but also out of a preening, fictional ideology. They insist, against all evidence, that males and females are equally physically prepared for the grueling, skeletally punishing ordeal of long military sorties. And they deny the inevitable destructive force of eros in integrated combat units. But it will be the feminists who push the hardest to protect female soldiers from any risk of rape or other uniquely female abuse, a prospect all the more real in America’s future theaters of combat: the Third World and Islamic territories.

However galling such a double standard is, it would be worse for Western civilization if males actually took feminists at their word and snuffed out any last vestige of chivalry in themselves. A proper respect for female difference is one of the great civilizing disciplines; a society that truly treated males and females as equal, interchangeable parts would be not worth living in.

 Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

The Humiliation

By Mark Steyn
January 13, 2016

U.S. sailors held by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards
U.S. sailors held by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Persian Gulf.  APIRIB News Agency via AP

There's no point pretending the illegal seizure and release of America's sailors is anything other a huge propaganda victory for Iran - and a humiliation for the United States. Insofar as there was a strategic calculation behind Obama's outreach to the mullahs, it was that the nuclear deal and the lifting of sanctions would incentivize the Islamic Republic to start behaving like any other house-trained member of the community of nations. In other words, they'd stop pulling this stuff.

As it was, Joe Biden and John Kerry could not resist bragging that the swift resolution of this situation was testament to the new hunky-dory Washington-Teheran relationship. Vice-President Biden:
They released them, like ordinary nations would do. That's the way nations should deal with one another. That's why it's important to have channels open.
Secretary Kerry:
I'm appreciative for the quick and appropriate response of the Iranian authorities... and I think we can all imagine how a similar situation might have played out three or four years ago.
We don't have to imagine how a similar situation might have played out, you botoxicated buffoon, because it's played out before, with mind-numbing regularity. This time round they seized ten US sailors. Nine years ago they seized 15 Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines. One of the Brits was of the female persuasion. Here's what I wrote in 2007:
The token gal was dressed up as an Islamic woman...
Does that sound familiar? Why, golly, here we are in 2016, and this time round the token US gal was also made to wear a hijab.

The Royal Navy guys were put on camera and interviewed about what great hosts the Iranians are - even though forcing your captives to participate in a photo-op is, as I wrote, "a breach of the increasingly one-way Geneva Conventions".

Does that also sound familiar? Well, whaddaya know? This week the Iranians broke the same Geneva Conventions with the same impunity. Why? Well, again from that 2007 column:
Power is only as great as the perception of power. The Iranians understand that they can't beat America or Britain in tank battles or air strikes so they choose other battlefields on which to hit them. That's why the behaviour of the captives gives great cause for concern: There's no point training guys to be tough fighting men of the Royal Marines when you're in a bloody little scrap in Sierra Leone (as they were a couple of years ago) if you allow them to crumple on TV in front of the entire world.
That goes for the US Navy, too. All day long Iranian TV has been broadcasting video of one of their captives, in apparent breach of the US military's code of conduct, apologizing, very generously:
"It was a mistake that was our fault and we apologize for our mistake," said the U.S sailor, who was identified by Iran's Press TV as the commander... "The Iranian behavior was fantastic while we were here. We thank you very much for your hospitality and your assistance."
I wonder what other videos Iran took. With the British hostages, I recall they mocked one of the lads because he reminded them of Mister Bean. I'm not sure that's specifically mentioned in the Geneva Conventions, but I reiterate my point: The ayatollahs can't - yet - beat our tanks and planes, so they pick battlefields where they can win, very easily. We should know that by now, and train our guys to act accordingly.

Let's go back even further - to an earlier hijacking of naval personnel. Here's me in The Daily Telegraphback in 2004:
Six Royal Marines and two Royal Navy sailors were intercepted in Iraqi waters, forcibly escorted to Iranian waters, arrested, paraded on TV blindfold, obliged to confess wrongs and recite apologies, and eventually released.
But don't worry about any of that Geneva Conventions stuff:
If pictures had been unearthed of some over-zealous Guantanamo guards doing to our plucky young West Midlands jihadi what the Iranian government did on TV to those Royal Marines, two thirds of Fleet Street (including many of my Spectator and Telegraph colleagues) would be frothing non-stop.
Instead, they seem to have accepted the British spin that there's been no breach of the Geneva Convention because the Marines and sailors weren't official prisoners of war, just freelance kidnap victims you can have what sport you wish with.
Which is marginally less insane than the Biden-Kerry line that illegally seizing foreign sailors, forcing them to their knees and to submit to the dress codes of someone else's religion, using them for propaganda videos and making them issue public apologies testifies to how the new Iranian-American friendship is just peachy and going gangbusters.

In fact, the Iranians are doing exactly what they've always done. They got their nuclear deal, and it's business as usual. The only difference is that, a decade ago, they did it to America's allies but they never quite dared to do it to America itself.

Now they do.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Cologne Portent

In the spirit of Christian charity, Merkel has imported Muslim misogyny.



Among the hard lessons of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, surely one of them is that it’s foolish to expect that backward and often barbaric societies can be transformed into functioning liberal democracies. So why do liberals seem so surprised that so many people from these societies behave in barbaric ways after they’ve shoved their way into the West?
As I write, 516 criminal complaints have been filed in Germany against men of mainly North African or Arab origin who went on a New Year’s Eve sexual-assault rampage in the city of Cologne.
“Twenty or 30 men, foreign men, surrounded us and we couldn’t even move anymore,” a woman identified as Michelle told the BBC. “They just grabbed our arms and tried to tear us apart and pushed our clothes away and tried to get between our legs.”
Similar events also took place in Hamburg, Stuttgart and Berlin. In Sweden, a scandal erupted after it emerged that police had suppressed a report of mass groping by Middle East migrants at a festival last summer. In September, Soeren Kern of the Gatestone Institute chronicled some 30 cases of rape and sexual assault perpetrated by migrants against German and migrant women alike.
“In Bavaria, women and girls housed at a refugee shelter. . . are subject to rape and forced prostitution on a daily basis,” Mr. Kern writes, citing reports from women’s rights groups. “The price for sex with female asylum seekers is 10 euros.”
For anyone even minimally acquainted with Mideast mores, none of this is news. Mob sexual assaults in Egypt became notorious after the 2011 attack on reporter Lara Logan,but they have become a staple of Egyptian life. “Suddenly I was in the middle, surrounded by hundreds of men in a circle that was getting smaller and smaller around me,” one Egyptian woman wrote of a 2013 attack in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. “They were touching and groping me everywhere.”
The World Economic Forum publishes a Global Gender Gap Report, which ranks the status of women in 142 countries. Bottom of the list: Yemen, Pakistan, Chad, Syria, Mali and Iran, all Muslim-majority countries. A 2013 Pew survey of Muslim views on women’s rights found that only 22% of Egyptians and 14% of Iraqis thought that women should have a right to divorce their husbands, while fully 92% of Moroccans and 87% of Palestinians thought a wife must always obey her husband.
Put bluntly, there is a pronounced tendency among Middle Eastern men to view women either as chattel or as whores. This is not a pleasant reality to acknowledge, but it’s an even more dangerous thing to ignore. So why is it ignored?
Mr. Kern writes that police have remained silent about incidents of rape “because they do not want to give legitimacy to critics of mass migration.” That fits the pattern in Sweden, as it does with the Rotherham child sex-ring case, involving some 1,400 English girls abused over 16 years by men of Pakistani descent. In that case, police and social services ignored evidence of the abuse for fear of “giving oxygen to racist perspectives,” according to the Independent Inquiry into the case.
Or, as Denis MacShane, Rotherham’s former Labour MP and self-declared “Guardian-reading liberal leftie” put it, it was a matter of “not wanting to rock the multicultural community boat.”
That’s a telling admission. Multiculturalism is a liberal fetish that is also the antithesis of liberalism, classical or modern—a simultaneous belief in individual autonomy and cultural equality, irrespective of whether different cultures believe in individual rights or not.
Typically liberals have elided this incoherence by pretending, as President Obama often does, that Western cultures are no better than non-Western cultures in respecting human rights, or by demanding radical liberalism inside the West while supinely accepting violent anti-liberalism outside it.
But the events in Cologne make a nonsense of this. What was outside the West is now inside. In the spirit of Christian charity, Angela Merkel and other European leaders have imported a culture of Muslim misogyny. In the name of humanity, the benefactors are asked to close their eyes to the brutishness of so many of their beneficiaries.


At his State of the Union address Tuesday night, Mr. Obama is expected to make the case for opening our doors to Syrian refugees. As the son of a displaced person who arrived with her mother in the United States after World War II with seven dollars, I’m sympathetic to immigrants, particularly the lowliest among them. Whether their papers are in order doesn’t matter to me. It’s their intentions that count.
No amount of vetting is going to find all the bad apples in the new wave of Middle Eastern refugees. So here’s my modest proposal, for Mr. Obama and Ms. Merkel. Let’s open our doors wide to women, young children and the elderly. And let’s close it shut to the men. They have a mess to clean up in their own countries. And much to prove in the horrifying wake of Cologne.