Recently I posted a piece in this blog entitled, ‘On the Existential Threat to Israel.’ In it, I discussed the manifold, deadly threats confronting the Jewish State and how many of them eventually, and perhaps imminently, could prove lethal. I also located the threats in the context of three portentous developments in the world:
- A worldwide resurgence of Islam, much of it in a radical and deadly mode;
- A worldwide resurgence of virulent Anti-Semitism, much of it cloaked as anti-Zionism, but in reality nothing more than old-fashioned Jew hatred;
- The steep decline within Western Civilization of self-esteem.
Finally, I pointed out how each of these developments also posed a mortal danger to the nations of the West (specifically in Europe and North America). It was easy to justify the latter claim for numbers 1 and 3; the justification for number 2 was somewhat subtle and restricted to Europe.
In this article I will look more closely at these ‘existential threats as they apply to the United States. While alarmingly present in Europe, number 2 above is, thankfully, not really pertinent in the US — but its place in the list is taken ably by another malignant threat to our nation, our gargantuan federal government. Thus, with some revision to the first and third to make them more applicable to the US as opposed to the entire West, the threat list now reads:
- The rise of Islamist fundamentalism, or Islamism or Islamo-fascism as some prefer to call it — is it as much of a threat to the US as it obviously is to Europe?
- An increasingly powerful, coercive, unresponsive, irresponsible and repressive federal government.
- The sharp decline among the American public of faith in American exceptionalism, esteem for the historic culture of America and Western Civilization, respect for and adherence to the Constitution, and public displays of virtue as this would have been understood by the Founding Fathers.
Now the majority of the threats to Israel’s existence are physical —should they be fulfilled, it would likely result in the actual destruction of the State: the slaughter or expulsion of its people, the annihilation of its cities and towns, the total loss of sovereignty — that is, the physical extinction of the State in any corporal sense. (It makes my blood curl just to write that sentence.)
The threat to the US is more political, cultural and economic than it is physical. Even though one could imagine an attack or attacks on US soil by Islamists with WMD, it is not possible to foresee the Iranian Revolutionary Guard occupying the US, declaring an Islamist totalitarian state, and killing or forcibly converting those Americans who resist. Rather, the envisioned consequence, especially of the latter two threats to the US, should either reach a cataclysmic stage, is that our beloved republic would cease to exist in any sense in which our Founders understood it. Our people, our towns, our industry,our farms, our infrastructure, even our armed forces might remain intact. But: liberty would no longer be our most sacred value; our freedoms would vanish; our Constitutional rights would be replaced by the ‘bounty’ we receive from the State; a phony tolerance for all cultures would supersede our Judeo-Christian heritage; our morals would be defined by the government and its lackey media,not by religious principles; our economy would be directed by the government and entrepreneurs would not exist; our standard of living would sink precipitously; our military would atrophy and we would cease to be a great power; and the concept of American exceptionalism would be relegated to the dustbin of history as we take our place as just another cowardly, Euro-socialist, crippled nation watching as the might of China, India, Islam or whomever grows and supplants us as the most powerful force on Earth. America has been a beacon of freedom and a force for good in the world for nearly a quarter millennium. Will that be true of our successor if we fall?
How real are these threats and, if they are, what can we do to forestall them? They are very real. First, the end of the Cold War has seen the emergence of a virulent, fanatical and apocalyptic brand of Islam. It has always been there, just in decline and/or slumbering for the last few hundred years. But now ‘Islamic Civilization’ is displaying some traits that seem to be disappearing in the West — namely, self-confidence, religious fervor, ample foot soldiers willing to die for the cause and a bold vision of the future. The ascendant forces in the Islamic world would seem intent on restoring the caliphate and extending Muslim hegemony over vast stretches of the planet, commensurate with their reach a millennium or more ago. They see Europe, and increasingly the United States, as soft, retreating, lacking faith and morale,and ripe for the plucking. It would be the height of folly for the US to ignore the goals of the Islamists, and thus fall prey to the malevolent harm they intend to inflict (and to some extent have already inflicted) on our society.
With the prior assessment of the first threat, I suspect a significant portion, perhaps a majority, of my fellow citizens might agree. But I doubt any such agreement is forthcoming on the second threat.
The ranks of conservative, republican (small ‘r’) patriots have been thinning rapidly since Ronald Reagan passed from the scene. I venture that no more than 20-25% of the US citizenry is aware of the century-long degradation of our Constitutional republic that has occurred. From Teddy Roosevelt, through Wilson, then FDR, Johnson, Carter and now Obama we have seen a near constant retreat from the original liberty-focused, market-oriented, limited form of republican government that our Founders established, and a concurrent march toward the egalitarian, government-controlled, Constitution-ignoring, business-bashing, soft tyranny that our system has become. If Obama wins on either cap and trade or nationalized health insurance, we might pass the point of no return and the Republic will be lost forever.
Am I overstating the danger posed by our overgrown government? Recently, a financial adviser speaking to me about the economy and the stock market, acknowledged the grave dangers that Obama’s and the radical leftists in Congress’ programs portend for the economy. But then he asserted that historically, the market has factored in the constraints caused by the introduction of the income tax, Social Security, Medicare, Sarbanes-Oxley and myriad other government laws and regulations that have hampered American business; and then continued its inexorable, if uneven, march forward. Well then, he continued, the market will just factor in Obama’s monstrosities as well and continue as in the past. I would sum up that stance in the words: we’ve been alright in the past despite stupid and self-destructive moves, so we shall be alright in the future, despite stupid and self-destructive moves. I’m not so sure! As Thomas Sowell has said, there is a tipping point and I fear we are getting mighty close to it.
Yet, I doubt there is widespread agreement with my fear of an existential danger posed by the federal government. Some folks believe, like my colleague, that we’ll withstand the government’s latest assaults and continue our march forward. I suspect an even greater proportion of the populace doesn’t acknowledge the threat at all. They cherish all the ‘security’ and goodies that big government provides for them and ignore the wisdom of Reagan, who said that Government is never more dangerous than when our desire to have it help us blinds us to its great power to harm us.
Finally, the third threat — loss of self esteem — poses, in my mind, the gravest threat of the three. History reveals that great civilizations more often die by suicide than by conquest. The nations of Western Europe, having lost their faith in the cultural, political and economic principles that sustained them for centuries, are playing the death scene right now. The US is manifesting the same symptoms, albeit at an earlier stage. And yet again, I think there is even less support for my belief in this threat than there is for the previous, I sense that the vast majority of my fellow citizens do not recognize that the egalitarian, anti-religious, anti-patriotic, anti-free market, anti-family, big government, unconstitutional and basically anti-American program that is being thrust on them — and to which they appear increasingly receptive — is a recipe for the death of the United States as a free republic. People say reflexively that America is still the greatest country in the world. But because of the brainwashing to which they have been subjected for many decades at the hands of the media, government schools, the higher education establishment and all the other liberal-dominated, opinion-forming organs of American society, those naively optimistic folks have little understanding of how much the US has changed in the last century and where it is headed sans a conservative course correction.
So what is to be done? As I outlined in a previous article, ‘Different Visions,’ while there is definitely a political and economic component to the struggle, the effort to recapture the nation and preserve the structure bequeathed to us by the Founders must be primarily cultural. Repeating part of the argument there, ‘We need to have conservative philosophers and cultural icons that state the case for and epitomize the worth of traditional Western culture. More mundanely, we need to nurture conservative film makers, fund conservative law schools, build conservative foundations (like Heritage, but more of them), defend and expand talk radio, establish conservative newspapers (like the Washington Times, but more of them), concoct an organization to counter the NEA in the minds of the country’s teachers, abandon the mainline churches and support religious institutions that champion traditional values, etc. It might take a hundred years to achieve success; after all it took the Left a century to reach the dominance it currently enjoys. If we don’t do this, then the America that we have loved and which has proven to be such a boon to the peoples of the world will surely – perhaps slowly, but maybe not so slowly – wither into one more Euro-socialist State. Then the light from mankind’s last best hope will have gone out.’
To summarize, I believe the US will cope with the first threat. We took care of the Nazis and the Communists; we’ll defeat the Islamists as well — provided we don’t succumb to one of the latter two threats first. As for the second threat, I don’t believe we can meet it without successfully overcoming the third. If we continue to lose self-esteem, that is lose faith in our heritage, pride in our achievements, trust in free markets and respect for the system established by the Founders, then surely the government will continue to grow into a republic-destroying monster that will make our current soft tyranny seem tame in relation to the much harder tyranny we shall experience.
On the other hand, if there is a resurgence of patriotic spirit, cultural pride, renewed faith in American exceptionalism and respect for our historic, republican, Constitutional heritage, then the people will be ready to tame the government beast. America has faced grave crises previously: the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Depression, Fascism, and Communism. In every instance, we managed to prevail. But with diminishing self-esteem prevalent, it is easy to be pessimistic about our prevailing again. And yet we have ammunition in this battle that Europe lacks — such as, God-fearing people, a formidable military, guns in the closet, talk radio and of course our Constitution. What we lack is another Reagan, or — recognizing that the battle is cultural more than political — a Martin Luther King who will inspire the people to reconnect with their liberty, rediscover their heritage and overcome the forces of tyranny that are dragging us down.