by Rebecca Bynum (March 1, 2006)
I came away from David Horowitz’s Restoration Weekend in Phoenix both heartened and discouraged. I was heartened by the good sense I found among the average people attending, but at the same time, I was mightily discouraged by most of the speakers, who reflected in their talks a sad paucity of understanding concerning Islam in all its aspects. It is not inconceivable at this juncture to hope a third political party might emerge. A third party could put together a coalition of the right and the left to deal with Islam in all its dimensions, both as a foreign policy and domestic policy problem. Unfortunately, the Republicans are discrediting themselves and I came away with real doubts as to the long-term viability of the party.
James Woolsey embodied the problem with his talk at our first breakfast in which he parsed groups of Muslims and gave little histories of each, so that the situation sounded very complex. He advanced the view that a tiny minority of Wahabbis and Salafis are the “bad guys” and we don't have to worry at all about "mainstream Islam." Just when I was to the point of pounding my head on the table in frustration, a questioner from the UK came to my rescue and asked the obvious, "but, Dr. Woolsey, isn't it all just jihad?"
This was a pattern repeated throughout the conference. The speakers were talking about some narrow, intricately defined problem, while the audience wanted to know only one thing: what to do about Islam as an ideology and Muslims as a people adhering to this ideology. That was the burning issue among the attendees I spoke with. The Republican establishment is in serious trouble because they have no answers and amazingly, don’t seem to feel the need to have answers.
Interestingly, the war in Iraq as part of an overall geo-political strategy was not addressed at all. We honored the troops and heard moving stories of heroism, but the larger context and purposes of the Iraq war were not spoken to directly from what I heard. Nor was the Islamization of Europe addressed, which was a big issue on everyone’s mind. Can Europe be saved? No answer. What to do in Iraq? No answer. Can Muslims be assimilated into the US? No answer.
Robert Spencer gave an excellent talk along with Daniel Pipes, Steve Emerson and Phyllis Chesler who were all on a panel together. From what I heard from the audience, this panel was one of the favorites. People felt like the issues were being opened up, but then as the conference went on and the discussion of Islam and all its attendant issues did not move forward, I sensed a mounting sense of frustration among the attendees. We wondered for example, did Woolsey lie to us, or is he really unaware of the truth? Either answer is horrifying.
On another panel, I must say I was quite disappointed in Ken Timmmerman's insistence that we must stand with the "people of Iran" against the Mullahs. Haven’t we done more that enough of that kind of thing in Iraq? Why does he think it would work in Iran? To me, that was one of the most curious and inexplicable positions taken.
Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA) spoke at a breakfast meeting and gave the most impressive and moving speech I heard there. He spoke of jihad in its world-wide totality and was the only speaker who seemed to connect the dots in a geo-political strategic fashion. After the attack in Beslan, he went with a congressional delegation to Russia in order to express solidarity with the Russian people against their Muslim insurgency. I couldn’t help but applaud this glimmer of common sense, which might have helped save the Bush Presidency from the rudderless drift it has taken over foreign policy.
Bush should have gone to Beslan. It would have given the people confidence in the President’s moral authority. Instead, the American people have been forced to watch helplessly as the red (communism) and the black (Islam) converge, creating a new and terrible axis. Perhaps this red / black alliance was inevitable in any case, but we should be doing everything in our power to prevent it and we are doing nothing. The common people see this and despair.
Secondly, anyone who knows anything about the rules of warfare knows that the first thing that must be done once war breaks out is to secure one's own position. Since this is a war by civilians on civilians, we must be prepared to defend our civilian population by whatever means necessary. The last session of this conference was specifically on immigration, where several issues come together and illuminate what it means to be an American.
Our speakers were Tamar Jacoby, of the Manhattan Institute, and Doug McIntyre, a former TV comedy writer turned talk radio host with KABC. Judging by their questions, the audience wanted to talk about national security and Muslim immigration, but neither panelist was prepared to speak to the issue. The focus instead was on the problem of illegal Mexican immigration only.
McIntyre put the number of illegal immigrants at 20 million, the size of the state of New York. He spoke passionately about how corporations no longer have the interests of the nation at heart and how they are not even expected to have the interests of the nation at heart anymore. The bottom line is everything and unfortunately too many Republicans see it as an end in itself: what’s good for the economy is assumed to be good for the country.
Pat Caddell had spoken earlier about how corruption in government is a sickness that will destroy the nation if nothing is done. I have never seen conservatives so profoundly disturbed and deeply concerned about corruption before. I longed to hear someone speak to the issue of Saudi influence peddling, which could easily be purged from government and education, but nothing was said. Another soon-to-be-lost opportunity, I’m afraid.
What bothered me most about Tamar Jacoby's talk was her essential reduction of human beings to units of production and consumption. She seems to worship the god of the ever-expanding economy. No matter what, we must always “do what's best for the economy.” What she described, however, was the creation of an Anglo-American "upper culture" built upon the backs of a Mexican-American "lower culture" and yet the implications of this arrangement didn't seem to bother her at all.
The tide of cheap labor flowing in over the border today will irrevocably alter, if not rend, our social fabric and change the very nature of our society forever, but Jacoby never once addressed the question of culture or what it takes to make a culture cohere. In her world-view, Homo economicus must sacrifice all to the god of the infinitely expanding economy, including our most basic right and responsibility to steer the course of our civilization.
There was a definite split in the ranks between the “pro-business” Republicans from the west, who are quite comfortable having Mexican maids and gardeners, and everybody else. One man told me about how his maid speaks Spanish to her son, but the son speaks English back to her. To him, that was proof positive of pending assimilation. The crowd, however, wasn’t buying.
In fact, the audience had reached the boiling point, when Jacoby was asked about Muslim immigration by a grandmotherly Christian woman who said, “I work to help settle Muslim immigrants through my Church. We help them get assistance, give them food, give them clothing, help them get subsidized housing, and they turn right around and call us “kafir.” And the Koran tells me infidels can be killed! There are prayer rooms for Muslims in our public schools in Illinois and yet Christian children are barred from prayer or even meeting after class! What’s wrong with us?! Why this hostility to Christianity and this fear of Islam?!”
She received an enthusiastic standing ovation for the crowd. Finally, someone had said what we were all thinking. Jacoby, thoughtless, and in a tone dripping with condescension said, “Muslims are less than three million, they're like the shavings of a fingernail, they're so small. They're not a problem."
The room erupted! Absolutely erupted! The mood in that room was incredibly hostile toward Jacoby, and one had a sense of some history between her and some of the attendees, possibly of the “I knew you at your father’s knee” variety. One man stood up, shaking with rage and said, “I’m going to try to be civil with you Tamar,” talked about the people being put our of work by illegals and ended with, “but you worked for the New York Times, and that’s all we need to know.” There were murmurs from the pro-business Republicans, about his last comment being “out of line.” I thought it was spot on.
Then another woman from the audience spoke about her experience visiting Germany recently and about their Muslim immigrant problem. Jacoby responded with the same tired line we heard so often during the Paris riots about how Europe is lousy on assimilation, but how "it's what we Americans do best." Groans for the audience, and another man pointed out how Germany had loyalty oaths and language tests and the whole nine yards and still, Muslims didn't assimilate. No response.
The audience, and McIntyre to a large extent, wanted to talk about the reality and specifics of our situation, while Jacoby continually retreated into statistics and generalities. She kept returning to the subject of Mexican immigrants “fighting and dying in Iraq,” trying to sway the crowd with emotion. No dice.
There was a definite sense of disconnect between the people and the many of the speakers. "That's above my paygrade" is a term one hears constantly from Republicans and Bush people in particular. I even heard John Ashcroft say it the other night at the conference and cringed.
What is that person actually saying? I think he means to say, "I'm not qualified to speak to the issue," but what he is really saying is, "My responsibility is defined by these specific, narrow parameters and so if I do those well, I may abdicate my responsibility to my fellow man by not bothering to learn about or to think about the essential issues of our day, and I may do this with an absolutely clear conscience because ‘ it’s above my paygrade’.”
Could modern fragmentation and alienation be any better defined? Everyone is a “specialist” without perspective and without responsibility for connecting to the whole. No one wants to define obvious divisions due to the mistaken notion that defining those divisions creates them. So we must live in a world at war in which both ideological sides are deliberately obscured, so that we needn’t go through the painful process of moral decision-making along with the “divisions” attending it. We are subjected to a constant barrage of platitudes promoting a vision of the world in which we can all work against “terror” and for “peace and prosperity,” and no one need oppose anything or anybody. This is the reasoning of children.
Fear of war is, of course, worse than war. And in the end, the delay of war brought on by fear always causes warfare to be more destructive than it needed be when finally war comes in all its inevitable fury.
The people are preparing themselves. The politicians are about to be swept aside along with the irrelevance they themselves have created.