Eisenhower's last year as president. As America headed into the 1960s, it was still the "Happy Days" of Middle America. Social attentions were mostly local rather than national ... and family, church and school life seemed safe and secure. The broadest issues of the day might have seemed to most people: who was going to win the up-coming football game or what Lucy would be up to on her TV program I Love Lucy. And for the young generation of "Silents" (much younger than the Vets but older than the Boomers coming up behind them) their major concern (besides the football game and sock hop afterwards) was learning the latest dance steps shown on the TV program American Bandstand.
Eisenhower was hoping to finish out his presidency, leaving a huge legacy of peace behind him. But things did not go well that last year (1960), with a U-2 spy plane shot down over Russia just two weeks prior to a big-power conference scheduled for mid-May, an obvious effort of Soviet Russian President Khrushchev to shoot down not only the plane but also the peace conference as well (U-2 flights had actually been going on for some time – not a novelty – though shooting one down at that point was ... thus clearly a political decision).
Then there was this matter of the recent revolution in Cuba, in which Fidel Castro had taken control of the island nation and was cleaning out the corruption – but also the huge place that American business played in the Cuban economy as well, replacing American influence with Soviet influence. This was shocking to the Americans, for this move of Castro's positioned Soviet Russian influence just offshore from Florida. That was not acceptable. Eisenhower thus put together a plan for Cuban "patriots" to overthrow the Castro government, although the actual event would not be ready to get underway until a couple of months after Eisenhower left office in 1961.
Then there was also the turmoil in the Congo, as the Belgians, along with the British and French, were abandoning their imperial positions on that continent towards the end of the 1950s. Needless to say, a rising Africa would stir the interests of the chief Cold Warriors Russia and America and bring that continent into the heart of the Cold War. In fact the same was holding true of Latin America (as in Cuba) and Asia, with Mao trying to lead the rising world of Asia, Africa and Latin America or the "Third World" in revolutionary thought and behavior. The Third World was made up of a huge group of neutral or "non-aligned" nations of those continents, who claimed that they would never become protectorates of either the Americans or the Soviet Russians (though always glad to get help from either). But Russia and America were too suspicious of the other power so as to not find some way or other to get deeply involved in this rising Third World. Thus Cuba. Thus the Congo.
Kennedy. Then in November of 1960, America elected the youthful and handsome John Kennedy (and his beautiful and sophisticated wife, Jackie) to the White House. For the first time ever, America seemed to present as socially-culturally sophisticated a picture to the Europeans as the Europeans once had presented to the Americans.
And Kennedy had a highly idealized challenge to offer America, especially its very patriotic Silent generation of American youth – for whom all the anti-authoritarian indoctrination of America's youth in the course of the 1950s had not sunk in as deeply as it certainly did for the younger Boomers. Immediately upon assuming office Kennedy put together the Peace Corps Program, calling on America's recent college graduates to take up the challenge of going, like "warriors of peace," out into the villages of the Third World for a couple of years, offering their services teaching English, raising chickens, or just doing "community development" – as a means of fighting the Cold War peacefully. The goal was to win the hearts and souls of the rising Third World nations as a new approach to the Cold War – which anyway had by that time shifted its primary focus from Europe to the rising nations of the Third World.
But Kennedy was also barely in office when he had to make a decision about this pending invasion of anti-Castro Cubans that was immediately set to go. He couldn't just call off this effort to get rid of the Castro nuisance ... but to support the effort would also make a lie of his "new look" in American diplomacy. Thus he wavered in his support once the event got underway (April 1961), leaving the Cuban "patriots" defenseless against Castro's forces. And America's hand in the plot was quite apparent to all. So Kennedy came away from the event looking rather incompetent as a presidential leader.
Soon thereafter, in order to probe Kennedy further as a Cold Warrior, Khrushchev made a move to isolate pro-American West Berlin – by building a wall around that portion of the city (August 1961) ... and waiting to see what Kennedy would do in response. Ultimately Kennedy did nothing.
This then led Khrushchev to up the pressure on America, by building launch sites in Cuba where nuclear-tipped rockets could be stationed and aimed at America's cities, putting the American nation under huge Soviet pressure in this ongoing ideological war. But Kennedy knew he had to block the move, even if it meant war – horrible, nuclear war. He chose simply to place the U.S. navy around Cuba and then dare Khrushchev to try to bring those missiles past the blockade (October 1962). This time it was Khrushchev who blinked first ... and not only backed down, but agreed to dismantle the launch sites (infuriating Castro, who as frequently the case with dictators, would have been willing to see Cuba destroyed in a nuclear holocaust if it also brought down America!). So Kennedy came away from that episode finally looking very presidential.
Then there was the matter of Vietnam, with Buddhist priests protesting against the pro-West (strongly Catholic) ally Ngo Dinh Diem, one even burning himself in the streets of the capital city, Saigon (June 1963). Kennedy (just two weeks before he himself was assassinated (November 1963) arranged with the South Vietnamese military to overthrow the Diem government – making the persistent (and always wrong) assumption that with the dictator taken down, democracy would automatically spring forth in that country. Indeed, with Diem gone, social order crumbled extensively in South Vietnam ... advancing greatly the ability of the Communist partisans to pull huge sections of that country under their control.
The Supreme Court. Another huge political development in the early 1960s was the way the Supreme Court stepped into the middle of America's cultural debate in order to take sides – and thus help immensely to deepen a split between the very traditional Christian Vets and the rising "progressive" voice of the ideological "Left" on the American political spectrum. These justices clearly aligned themselves with the same political "Left" ... made up of Democratic Party politicians, Washington bureaucrats, and the intellectuals in the fields of academics and journalism. Indeed, these justices began to reshape the very fundamentals of American constitutional law on that Left-leaning ideological basis.
As with all social revolutionaries, the Supreme Court justices aimed their "reforms" at the culture's youth (much as Mao was doing in China at the same time), dictating what could and could not be presented to the next generation as their fundamental worldview. That was understood to be the best way to dismantle the Christian worldview (something that American intellectuals had been wanting to do for a very long time), the worldview that had been the spiritual grounding of the country since its founding in the early 1600s.
Leading the assault on the Christian world view was the ever-Leftist American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), whose idea of "civil liberties" was to force its atheistic worldview on society – not through the democratic process of getting America's representatives in Congress to move in its ideological direction (that simply was not going to happen and the ACLU thus did not waste its time going down that road) – but instead taking its case to the Federal courts where it could get a handful of judges to decree a deep change in the laws of the land. Very authoritarian ... and ironically always done in the name of "civil rights!"
Thus it was that the ACLU drove its Engle v. Vitale case all the way to the Supreme Court (from its start in 1959 until the Court's decision in 1962) to get the Court to shut down a rather inclusive prayer that the New York Regents wanted New York teachers to start their days with:
Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country. Amen.
The Court ruled that the prayer violated the Constitutional principle of the "separation of church and state." This was an innovative way of reinterpreting the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment – which simply states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ...
Clearly the First Amendment intended to keep "Congress" (which represented the voice of the "state" at the time of the Constitution's creation, the Framers of 1787 having no idea that the Supreme Court would soon come to announce itself – and not Congress – as the supreme legal authority of the land) out of the business of deciding what part of the people's religion was permissible and which part was not. This 1962 Court decision was in total violation of the clear intent of the First Amendment ... especially the part about "prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
The following year the ACLU had another Supreme Court decision go in its favor in the Abington Township School District v. Schempp (1963) case, in which the Court ruled that the reading of the Bible in school was also prohibited by the Constitutional principle of the "separation of church and state." In short, the First Amendment was from now on clearly to be read (as the ACLU distinctly wanted it to be read) not as the freedom of religion, but instead as the freedom from religion ... especially in the shaping of the worldview of America's children and youth!
There was an immediate reaction in Congress in the form of a proposed constitutional amendment (the "Becker Amendment") designed to make it very clear to the Supreme Court justices that they could not block prayers in the schools. But the bill was not released from the House Judiciary Committee by Emanuel Celler, its Jewish chairman – who intended to kill the momentum of the movement. And when he did finally hold hearings (at a time when other congressmen were distracted by the coming 1964 national elections) he brought in only denominational church leaders who had previously made it clear that their understanding was that the Supreme Court decisions served to protect religion – not prevent it – and thus the amendment was frivolous ... and even dangerous. Thus Celler killed the amendment.
Tragically, these voices of the mainline churches taking a position opposing such a new amendment were most unprophetic (Catholics and Evangelicals, however, were strongly in support of the new amendment proposal). These leaders simply chose not to understand where the social dynamics pushed by the ACLU and the Court were headed.
This would mark the time of the very peak of Christian church attendance ... and the gradual, but unbroken, decline of those very same once-great denominations with the rising generations – who purposely had been "freed from religious indoctrination" by the ACLU. Secularism (with its purely mechanical or atheistic worldview) would begin its steady rise in contest with Christianity as the foundational worldview of American society. Tragically, the leading voices of the mainline churches had simply refused to see this coming their way – and thus offered the Christian (and thus truly "democratic") world no real leadership in the cultural war that was beginning to emerge in the 1960s.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. advances greatly the Black civil rights cause. Since the mid-1950s, American Blacks had become (cautiously) more affirmative of their rights long-denied them as American citizens. And with such incidents as Eisenhower's 1957 ordering of troops to Little Rock to oppose Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus's attempts to block efforts by a small group of Blacks to enter the all-White Central High School ... political America was beginning to awaken to the problems that Blacks faced in Middle America – especially in the American South (at the same time blinded by the problems right there in their own Northern inner-cities).
But it finally was the call of the Rev. Dr. King to bring the issue before the Federal Government with a huge march on the nation's capital (March 1963) that something finally caused a huge shift in favor of the American Black community. His appeal was simple – and powerful. How could America present itself to the world as a model nation to the newly rising nations of Africa, Asia and Latin America ... if it still had such racial blemishes at home. Indeed, Dr. King had a dream ... a dream that someday soon everyone in America, Black or White, could truly share as equals the wonderful blessings of America. By the time he had finished his speech, most all of America recognized the truth, the power, of his challenge. Things would finally start shifting in the direction of support for Blacks in their quest for full equality. A social revolution was now underway.
Johnson. With Kennedy's assassination in November of 1963, his vice president, Lyndon Johnson, took over the White House.
The Americans were shocked not only to see their glamorous president taken from them, it seemed that fate had put a Southern "good-old-boy" in the White House. Admittedly, Johnson had none of the public polish of Kennedy. But he was an experienced Washington politician (had headed up the Democratic Party majority in the Senate before becoming vice president) and in so many ways could get things done in Washington that Kennedy could never even dream of. Johnson was a man of enormous political will and power ... and determined to leave an even bigger impression on America than had Kennedy.
One of Johnson's political goals was to "perfect" America as the only proper showpiece to the world of real "democracy." America and Russia were engaged in an intense battle to impress the rising Third World nations – and to win that battle, America was going to have to clean up its blemishes, especially the matters of race relations, poverty and illiteracy. It was going to have to become the "Great Society (first outlined by Johnson in May of 1964)."
And Johnson would dedicate himself fully to the development of this Great Society in America ... by reshaping American society "from above" – to the benefit, he assured America, to those occupying the social positions furthest "below" in American society (the poor-Whites and the majority of the Black community). Under his direction, Washington would engage a war on poverty, on racism, on all sorts of social injustices, passing law after law to advance the cause of those who had been left behind in life's competitive game. Combating these social evils through Federal programs put into place by Congressional law would be the way he would construct the Great Society.
Johnson was not a "charismatic" individual finding it easy to simply direct an appeal to the American people ... to join him in this "perfecting" of America (like Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King had done). He was a powerful behind-the-scenes Washington political operator, a highly skilled wielder of Washington power who knew how to get things done the Washington way. He would thus not need to mobilize the American people to get his program moving ahead.
He was also a person greatly impressed with the abilities of technical experts (that is, intellectuals!) to devise, develop and direct efficient social plans, ones able "scientifically" to put into operation his Great Society. Thus Johnson would develop a huge (and hugely expensive!) Washington bureaucracy of technocratic professionals to preside over his Great Society program. Again ... he would not need to call on the American people themselves for their support in putting his Great Society program in place.
A deepening Democrat-Republican Party divide. To swing the legislative support from Congress that Johnson would need to put this massive bureaucratic program into place, he disciplined his Democratic Party into a powerful tool willing to support this shifting of the powers of government to a massive Washington D.C. "Establishment." This was not exactly a new thing for the Democrats – nor for Johnson, who got his start in politics as a New Deal official back in the 1930s – because the Democrats had been the major support group for Roosevelt's New Deal" ... which Johnson himself was modeling his political agenda on.
Some saw this as "democracy by the enlightened ones" or what I also like to term as "democracy from above." Some were so bold as to identify it in fact as "socialism" – such as the Humanists of the 1930s who in their Humanist Manifesto were proud to proclaim themselves to be in full support of socialism – a political philosophy supposedly (back in the 1930s) better able than failed capitalism to get the nation back to work. Roosevelt had recruited heavily from America's Secular-Humanist intellectuals as designers and managers of his various New Deal programs. And thus pretty much since then, American intellectuals had come to view the Democratic Party as their natural political base. And almost all urban bosses who had offered a similar "caretaker" program of jobs and favors to immigrants coming to their cities (in exchange for their support for these bosses when elections rolled around) were Democrats. The mentality was much the same for both groups.
But America's Middle Class held strongly to the view that the nation's citizens should find their own personal, private path to success – and not depend on some political agency from "above" to deliver them life's benefits. It was part of America's great Christian tradition – that Americans were to take on the challenges of life (often very fierce challenges) on their own and depend only on God (and each other) for any extra support. They were not to depend on the support of some special group of political benefactors, who eventually – through the kind of sin that power invites – would use their positions of authority to put the rest of the citizens in a state of political and social dependency. This was simply how "authoritarianism" was understood to work ... and the Vets wanted no part of such a development to ever find its way into their America.
But at first, in the early days of Johnson's Great Society, even (for a short while, anyway) the Vets seemed to support Johnson's vision (not yet understanding its political implications). Improving American society so as to present the very best possible face to the world during the Cold War seemed like a perfectly logical idea. But they would soon (the later 1960s) come to see the dangers in all this "progressivism from above."
Vietnam. On yet another front, that of South Vietnam, Johnson had a mess to deal with, resulting from the downfall of the Diem regime. Here too, Johnson's intentions were to deal with this issue directly, much as he was handling the Great Society program: he planned simply to service democracy "professionally" in Vietnam by sending well-trained U.S. troops to South Vietnam ... to clean up the mess that the Vietnamese themselves were incapable of clearing up on their own.
But 1964 was an election year, and he had to tread softly on the matter – and not get ahead of the American people in what they were willing to do. In fact he had been attacking his Republican presidential opponent Barry Goldwater as a war-crazed bomb-wielding individual ready to drag the country into an atomic war – because he once had answered "yes" when the press asked the politically leading question of Goldwater – if he would actually ever use atomic weapons. Was Goldwater supposed to say "no"?
In fact Johnson himself was planning to drag America into war at that same time. He cleverly exploited the opportunity of an incident that occurred when an American ship was fired on by the Communist North Vietnamese at the Bay of Tonkin. Johnson played the event in such a way (not honestly either) to get Congress to give him (August 1964) whatever powers he might deem necessary to respond to future threats from the Communists in Vietnam. Thus Johnson had the authority to secure the victory in this contest with Communism in the region, a victory that (along with his Great Society) would give him the greatness that wartime presidents typically are accorded.
The plan was to unload soldiers at various points along the South Vietnamese coast and then slowly fan out from these bases into the South Vietnamese interior, securing such control little by little until they had completely pushed the Communists out of the country. This then would finally allow the Americans to turn the country over to the Vietnamese. In this way democracy (secured "from above" by way of American action) – not Communism – would finally come to South Vietnam.
Unfortunately not a bit of this worked. The Vietnamese enemy wore no uniforms and thus could not be distinguished from the population the Americans were trying to save. Thus there never was an identifiable line of battle ... because as the American troops passed through the smiling villages in the search for the enemy, they had no idea that many of those waving them on were the enemy. Furthermore the Buddhist protests that had been so dramatic (for instance, the priest burning himself in downtown Saigon) had never been about securing Western-style democracy for Vietnam ... but instead about getting the foreigners, both Communists and Westerners,to go away and leave them alone.
Thus it was that the Americans were never quite able to secure any particular areas of Vietnam, except where the troops themselves were based (and surrounded!). Johnson poured in more troops – and more and more troops – not realizing that this was not going to change the dynamics of the situation. And his generals, who were not used to this kind of warfare, had no answers either. Finally it just became a matter of killing more of the Vietnamese than the Vietnamese killed of the Americans. But this strategy was destined to go nowhere. Indeed, it merely deepened the frustration of the America troops serving in Vietnam – as well as the Americans back home. They became increasingly upset watching their sons and brothers being killed ... to no great purpose. Things were not looking good for Johnson.
The world goes on without Johnson's involvement. So deeply was Johnson caught up in the Vietnam mess that on a number of other key fronts, in which America as leader of the Free World, should have played a role in pacifying or resolving, Johnson did nothing. For instance, Charles De Gaulle, who hated the Anglo-Saxon world (mostly Britain and America) because he was not given the respect during World War Two he thought he was due, did everything possible to undercut America – step by step withdrawing French support for and involvement in NATO, hoping to draw other Europeans with him in his retreat from the organization (no one joined him, however). Perhaps there was little that Johnson could have done with De Gaulle's program. But the world will never know, because Johnson really never responded seriously to De Gaulle's challenge.
Then in 1968 the Czechs rose up in revolt against the Soviet Russian tyranny over their land. The Czechs were certainly hoping for support from the West when they made it clear that they intended to back out of the Soviet military camp. But here too, there was little by way of a response that ever came from Johnson over the matter. And, with a huge Soviet and Soviet-allied military intervention in October, the Czechs were forced back into subjugation – remaining in that miserable condition until the collapse of the Soviet Empire two decades later.
The American press, however, goes crusading abroad. Another event which drew no serious response from Johnson – but did get a huge reaction from the American press – was the blowup between the Arabs and the Israelis in the 1967 June (or Six Days) War. Although the Egyptian Arabs basically started the conflict, it would be the Palestinian Arabs who would once again come out of the conflict as huge losers. Up until this event, America had been fairly neutral in the struggle between the Jewish refugees pouring into Palestine after World War Two, and the struggle of the Arab inhabitants of the area to hold off the Jewish takeover of their homes, farms, and towns. However, in the 1967 June War, the American media presented a strongly one-sided pro-Israeli perspective on the struggle between those groups. But what was surprising, so did American Christians – especially the Evangelicals – never really aware that a large portion of the Arab Palestinians were Christians ... descendants of Christian ancestors reaching back to the origins of the Christian religion itself. The Christian component of the Palestinian struggle to hold off the Jewish invasion of their lands was never mentioned in the media ... for obvious reasons. Thus Christian Americans cheered on the Israeli Jews (who, understandably, had no interest whatsoever in seeing the Christian gospel maintained, much less spread, in that part of the world) – as the Jews took over the rest of the Palestinian homeland. Again, Johnson himself had little to say or do in the matter.
Growing problems on the home front. Meanwhile, back in America, Johnson's Great Society had unleashed a "revolution of rising expectations" ... particularly among the Blacks, who were expecting to see immediate social rewards come their way because of the Johnson initiatives. But their new political freedoms were not producing the immediate economic and social blessings they believed would be coming their way. Quickly-mounting Black frustration was easily exploited by the young and politically ambitious "Black Power" advocates, directing fellow Blacks to take to the city streets of the North, ultimately not to conduct "peaceful" political protest, but to sack and pillage their neighborhoods as they cursed the evil White world.
At the same time, resistance to the war among the rising Boomer generation also was starting to have an impact. Egged on by the usually younger, more "progressive" campus professors, colleges became the stages for a growing anti-war protest movement. And thus in late 1967, masses of Boomers from all around the country gathered at the Pentagon to protest the war.
1968 – the "horrible year." But all of this Black power and anti-war protesting would be mild in comparison to what erupted in 1968.
The year began horribly with the Viet Cong enemy invading the cities of South Vietnam, even the capital Saigon, even the American embassy ... and had to be driven step by step out of their new positions. To nearly all American observers, it made a complete mockery of the idea that all this effort (over a half-million American troops in South Vietnam) had achieved anything at all. It was time for America to go home.
Then in March, at the end of a TV broadcast, Johnson surprised everyone by announcing that he would not be running for reelection that fall. He was quitting.
Then in April some deranged White guy shot and killed Dr. King – and all hell broke loose as Blacks, to the refrain of "Burn, baby, burn" pillaged and torched one American city after another (again, basically in the North). The military finally had to be called in to get things back in order.
Then in May Boomer youth shut down Columbia University in protest against the university's insensitivity to Blacks by clearing gardens the Blacks had been allowed to use in order to erect a new facility on what was always university land. It seemed mostly just to be a protest for the sake of protesting. But remember, this was supposed to be the very path that Boomers were expected to follow as social heroes.
Then in June, Bobby Kennedy (John's brother – and at that point the most likely Democratic Party presidential candidate for the 1968 elections) was gunned down by a young Iranian, whose motives were never really understood. Upset Whites did not follow the Black example of burning America down. But it certainly left the country dazed.
Then in August, Boomer youth, led by the Yippie leaders of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), descended on Chicago in order to bring total chaos to the Democratic National Convention, called to nominate a presidential candidate. And the Chicago police were willing to respond in kind. Thus indeed, pure chaos reigned.
By this point America seemed to have lost all sensibleness.
Nixon and Realpolitik. The 1968 election brought Richard Nixon to the White House, the champion of the "Silent Majority" (the Vets basically) as Nixon himself termed his support group. And he had his hands full. The biggie was the Vietnam mess. He announced that he intended in stages to pull U.S. troops out of Vietnam ... but in a way that left behind some kind of pro-Western political legacy that had been very expensively put in place since the toppling of the Diem regime.
And how was he going to do that? Nixon was full of surprises. He appointed Harvard professor Henry Kissinger, an advocate of old-fashioned Realpolitik (a tough political "Realism" ... detailed in the section below, "Excerpts from Volume 3") which was very careful in applying the precise amount of power needed to advance authentic "national interest." It avoided emotional crusading (which nearly always leads people down the road to disaster) and instead employed a cool-headed approach which calls on a skillful use of diplomacy, economic leverage and, if necessary, carefully-measured military engagement to advance the national interest.
Thus he sent Kissinger off to China to investigate diplomatically China's possible interest in improved relations with America (the Communist label was not really a factor for Nixon as it had been for Johnson) as "linkage" in getting the Chinese to be more cooperative with America as Nixon's underwent a military pullback, obviously something that was going to produce a shift the nature of the international balance of power in Vietnam ... and the entire Southeast Asia region. He didn't want China playing into that shift. Thus improved relations with America was the bribery offered to make China stay of the the coming shift. Nixon himself then traveled to China to let the world know that new things were happening in Washington. Then, just to keep things in balance, Nixon and Kissinger flew off to Moscow, starting negotiations on a nuclear arms limitation agreement (China and Russia at that time, though both "Communist" were in fact experiencing a bitter difference in actual national interests). Then with this game of "linkage" in place, Nixon began to withdraw American troops by tens of thousands in various stages of removal.
To get both South and North Vietnam to understand that Nixon was putting the region under a new, more defensible political status quo, he had to get both sides to come to a mutual understanding of what this meant. They needed to finally sign a peace accord, something that could be enforceable by American power, though of a different character than just a half-million ground troops running around shooting up the country and ultimately achieving nothing (as had been the case under Johnson). Nixon was going to use the power tool that gave America immense advantage: air power. Both sides did not believe that he would actually use such drastic power. Actually Johnson had been sending the U.S. air force to bomb North Vietnam ... but it had been selective, and ultimately ineffectual. And Johnson had done nothing to shut off the huge trail (the Ho Chi Minh Trail) of supplies the North had been sending through "neutral" Cambodia to the Viet Cong guerrillas. Johnson was afraid of widening the war by taking "drastic" actions that might upset the other world powers. But that's why Nixon had headed off to both China and Russia ... to neutralize that factor. And thus Nixon proceeded to throw full force into his Vietnam program, first invading not-so-neutral Cambodia and shutting down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. And then he proceeded to bomb both North Vietnam's capital Hanoi and its chief port Haiphong ... to shut down North Vietnam's ability to import more military supplies, and in fact to undercut deeply the North Vietnamese economy – and thus its capacity to wage war. And indeed, finally (January 1973) both North and South Vietnam signed a peace agreement after years of haggling but no willingness to get serious about peace. Now things were serious, very serious. That was Realpolitik in action!
Of course, Americans, especially those on the Left – as well as America's idealistic Boomer youth – understood none of this approach to international power ... and proceeded to conduct a series of protests (actually riots in some cases) in anger at "American imperialism." But the Vets understood, and helped to reelect Nixon in November of 1972 with the fourth largest majority in any of America's presidential elections. The Democrats were humiliated.
Watergate. But the Democrats were by no means down and out. In fact they had strong majorities in both houses of Congress. And they were thus able to make their counter-move against Nixon when zealous Nixon campaign workers were caught trying to bug the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate Apartment complex ... and equally zealous young Washington Post reporters decided to see if the trail of conspiracy didn't lead all the way back to the White House (actually Nixon had played no role in the event itself initially, but would be drawn into the affair with his attempt to throw a protective cover over his office and staff afterwards). This coverup would give the Democrats (and the very active media) hopefully grounds to chase Nixon from the White House.
"Democracy" needed to be saved from the imperialist White House (with "Chappaquiddick Ted" Kennedy leading the moral cleansing process from behind the scenes). But even before they could succeed in the new impeachment process (not attempted in over a century), they also cut back Nixon's presidential powers that he had used to restrain wild government spending (he was cutting out "pork barrel" spending that Congressmen used to get votes back home ... irritating the Congressmen deeply). Then even worse, to undo his obvious diplomatic success abroad (where Johnson had failed miserably) Congress took away the war powers they had granted Johnson – now making it illegal to bomb the North, the very thing that had brought North Vietnam to finally agree to a peace proposal. Also, to further humiliate Nixon, they even cut out financial support of the South Vietnamese government ... all in the name of "anti-imperialism."
They obviously had no idea of what that would do to Vietnam – or just didn't care, because they wanted to undo Nixon and his political legacy so badly.
In the end, they did "get Nixon." But they also brought down the political status quo in Indochina. With American power crippled in the region, North Vietnam was now able to invade the South, take over, imprison and execute thousands of former American allies among the Vietnamese – and bring the South Vietnamese economy to collapse (in typical Communist style) in taking over the property rights of the South Vietnamese.
But even worse, this also led to a Communist takeover next door in Cambodia ... in which hundreds of thousands of individuals were executed – in order to complete the installation of the Communist dictatorship of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge group.
Soon, Vietnamese began fleeing the country by any means possible – creating a horrible scene of "boat people" lost at sea trying to get away ... and refugee camps in neighboring Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines filled with thousands of Vietnamese. And all of that simply because certain Americans were quite positive that by taking the actions they had (to undercut Nixon), they were saving the world from "American Imperialism." Tragically, those most responsible for this horror never acknowledged their hand in the disaster ... and probably never even recognized what it was that they themselves had done to put all those people in that horrible condition.
The Supreme Court's full assault on Christianity. In 1971, in the Lemon v. Kurtzman case, the Supreme Court made it official. Only a Secular approach to learning was now "constitutional." In other words, it was legal to teach America's youth only from the point of view that the universe is purely mechanical in operation ... that divine interventions and "miracles" were to be considered just concepts borne of unscientific or pre-modern minds – and had no place in the American classroom as fundamental truths. Religions might be taught, but only as cultural matters, and only in serving a distinctly Secular purpose. Any advancing of something of a religious nature was now forbidden by federal law ... the Supreme Court failing to recognize that the Secularism it was installing as the only worldview allowed to be taught America's children and youth was itself a religion – like any other.
Thus it was that finally, not getting Congress to overturn Christianity's traditional role as America's foundational worldview, the anti-Christian Humanists got the Supreme Court to do that for them. But they needed to quickly amend their 1933 Humanist Manifesto, which had made it clear that Secular-Humanism was in fact also a religion – a "new" or "modern" religion – and re-declare Humanism (the 1973 Humanist Manifesto II) simply as scientific fact!
Tragically, the Supreme Court was messing with the most fundamental item belonging to any people: its worldview or "religion" – the basic assumptions that a society is founded on, which then inform its people as to what should constitute right and wrong social decisions and deeds. Every society has a foundational religion. And the Constitution made it very clear that the Federal government was to stay out of the business of deciding for the American people what those religious foundations should be. It was neither to establish nor prohibit the free exercise of the people's religion. But on both counts the Supreme Court had violated its own constitution – in "establishing Secularism" as the foundational worldview or religion ... and "preventing the free exercise" of the people's Christian religion (or any other religion). It should have been none of the Supreme Court's business to get involved in such matters. But power, and the exercise of power, is a powerful drug for those with no known check on that power.
Crisis in the Middle-East (1973). In October of 1973, war again flared up in the Middle East, and again it started as a battle between Egypt and Israel – except this time, with the Egyptian air force fully intact, fighting in the open desert of Sinai left the Israelis unable to overrun the Egyptians as they had in 1967. Soon both sides in the conflict were running out of planes, tanks and ammunition – and a battle for resupply broke out as Soviet Russia moved to supply Egypt and America moved to supply Israel. Then the Arab world swung into action ... not doing well on the battlefield (Syria and Jordan – and finally an exhausted Egypt). But moving to cut off Arab oil sales to the West brought a very different outcome. America's European allies (which had remained largely neutral in the conflict anyway) were brought to their knees with the oil cutoff. And finally, with America itself experiencing massive fuel shortages, pressure was such that Nixon and Kissinger had to lean on Israel to back off – and respect UN resolutions that Israel had been ignoring since the 1967 war.
Another result in this conflict was the quadrupling of fuel prices – causing a massive flow of wealth to the Arab producers, and an equally massive inflation in America and the West as industries were forced to raise prices on their goods and make other financial adjustments, just to stay in business. For the West it was a very painful time.
But for the government of Iran's pro-American Shah, the results would ultimately prove disastrous. Sudden wealth (which oil-exporting Iran was experiencing right along with the Arabs) can be as destabilizing to a society as a fall into poverty. Tragically, in Iran all that oil wealth went to a small segment of Iran's industrial elite – but left the Iranian farmers struggling with inflated costs that did not cover the revenue from their farm products. Now anger against the Shah, a ruler that they once adored, became a growing sentiment in the country. Unlike the Arabs who spread their new wealth more widely, the Shah's failure to do the same would come to bite him badly in time.
Ford and Carter. The next two presidents (1974-1981)represented something of a step-away from the "imperialism" of the American presidency ... Gerald Ford, because he came to the White House without a single vote by the American public, and Jimmy Carter, because he believed (actually only at first) that the president was there to lead the country morally – not politically. Carter would soon change that position, although not until a lot of damage had been done to the world, complements of the initial American "step-back" globally.
Tragically, it would be Ford who would have to watch things dissolve in every way possible in Vietnam – and then Cambodia – and be able to do absolutely nothing about it ... because the American position in that part of the world had been so badly compromised by Congress's "anti-imperialist" measures, initially designed merely to undercut Nixon (and the American presidency). And it would be Carter, whose back and forth pressure – then support – of the Shah of Iran would throw Iran into such confusion that it collapsed the American ally ... and brought to power in that country an intensely Islamic regime dedicated to undoing all Westernization in Iran (and the rest of the Middle East if possible) – and bring "death to the Great Satan America." And the collapse of Iran's oil market also helped throw the West into a deep economic depression, one not seen since in Europe since the immediate post-World-War-Two period (1947-1952) or in America since the 1930s.
The term "helped" is important to note because part of that economic collapse resulted not just from the Iranian crisis, but because of a "monetarist" strategy put into effect by Paul Volcker's Federal Reserve Board ... which raised interest rates so high (22% at one point) that it made the financing of everything from car loans, to home mortgages, to industrial startups, to corporate operations, virtually impossible. The strategy was supposedly designed to curb inflation. In fact it merely produced economic stagnation ... while actually increasing inflation. In order to stay in business, a company was forced to increase product pricing to cover the huge hike in its production costs ... caused by the high interest rates Volcker put into effect. Thus stagnation plus inflation became termed "stagflation"! And stagflation would ultimately make Carter's presidency a single-term phenomenon.
The nation's spiritual depression. 1976 was the year of the nation's bi-centennial and thus supposedly a time of great celebration of the nation's development and accomplishments over those two centuries. But actually America was not in much of a mood to celebrate (the collapse in Southeast Asia had hit the American spirit hard).
Then in 1979 came the Iranian collapse, followed by economic collapse in America, only worsening things deeply.
But there were also deep cultural-moral changes – and thus spiritual changes – going on in America at the same time. The Boomers had come to full adulthood. And with that development came the idea of personal interests rather than social interests as being the primary focus in life. This new cultural mood registered itself in the way Boomers focused on profession rather than family as the primary ambition in life; in the sudden rise of the divorce rate; in the rise in the rate of (newly legal) abortion of unwanted babies; in the unrestricted sexual interests of the Boomers, ones headed in all sorts of directions. But most tellingly, this deep cultural-moral change registered itself in the rapid decline of the long-standing Christian churches or denominations, ones that had carried the country forward since the country's founding in the early 1600s.
Huge social change was underway – change in which the very idea of society itself was belittled in favor of the "rights of the individual" – a prevailing attitude among Boomers which moved virtually in opposition to society and its needs. This was definitely a "Fourth Generation" development ... not a good sign for America.
Reagan and Bush, Sr. (1981-1993). But the Vet generation would have one last hurrah before national life was turned over to the Boomers. In 1981 former movie star, but also former two-term California governor, Ronald Regan would put muscle back in the White House, in taking on the challenges facing America both at home and abroad. By taking a tough stance against the Cold War rival Soviet Russia, he not only revitalized the Vet's patriotic spirit ... he started the breakup of the Soviet Empire – and Russia's step back from Communism.
He could be bold ... in taking on a major American professional union when it wanted to start up a new round of inflationary wage increases – or in sending American soldiers to a Caribbean island to restore its elected government (thus preventing it from falling under Soviet influence). But he could be cautious ... in withdrawing American troops from Lebanon (placed there to support United Nations' peacekeeping operations in that country) when it became apparent that local political dynamics in no way supported this American effort to be helpful to that country. Under Reagan, there was going to be no repeat of a Vietnam dynamic of endless military efforts to fix a largely social-cultural crisis.
And he could be subtle ... in supporting Afghan mujahedin (Muslim warriors) by sending them sophisticate weapons to fight off Soviet efforts to extend the Soviet Empire into their country. And also, through this support, also block Soviet Russia's efforts to position itself strategically near the top of the Arabian Sea – through which the vital flow of oil out of the Middle East to the West occurred. Reagan was simply not going to let this happen.
But also, this American support of the mujahedin was instrumental in exhausting both the material and spiritual energies of the Soviet Empire itself ... playing a key part in its decline and collapse. And by doing this, this helped enormously, on the other hand, to restore the material and spiritual energies of America! Reagan thus found himself putting the country back in the business of being a global superpower.
Congress was not happy about all this Reagan success – and brought out the impeachment weapon again in an effort (the Iran-Contra Affair) to do to Reagan what the "anti-imperialist" Democratic Party had done to Nixon. But it became quickly apparent that the voting public was not in the mood for another presidential lynching. Thus Congress backed down – after a rather lame investigation report on the affair was published. Everyone then moved on to other matters.
Reagan's Vice President George Bush, Sr. was easily voted into office after Reagan finished his two terms. Americans expected – and received – a continuation of the Reagan agenda under Bush. Big in this matter was the final collapse of the Soviet empire in 1989 and then the disintegration of the Soviet Union itself immediately thereafter (1989-1991). Bush was not responsible for this development (Reagan actually got the ball rolling on this development), but Bush certainly gave cautious leadership to America during those times of great change in the Russian world.
The same held true for Communist China, which had actually been opening itself to Western (capitalist) ways, in a gradual process starting all the way back in Nixon's days, which picked up in Carter's days, and during the entire Reagan period had been advancing greatly in that agenda under China's leader Deng Xiaoping. But masses of Chinese students had supposed that the residue of Chinese Communism was about to experience the same fate as what was happening in Russia. But Deng was not willing to go that far – and crushed brutally the huge protest movement staged at Tiananmen Square in Beijing (1989). Bush voiced outrage over the event – but then quickly moved on to continue working with Deng and his reforms (coming under new Chinese leadership in the meantime, although the Chinese agenda remained unchanged).
It was over the confusing ambitions of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who thought he was merely laying ancient Iraqi claims of control over British-created Kuwait, that Bush showed himself to be an excellent diplomatic-military strategist. Such control over Kuwaiti (and possibly the Saudi) oil would have made Iraq a dictator of oil pricing and flow – something that Bush (and virtually every other world leader) was not about to let happen. Bush moved American military (in alliance with many other countries' militaries) into Kuwait, to throw Saddam out of Kuwait. Beyond that, he had no interest in going further against the Iraqi dictator, because to invade Iraq in order to do what Americans like to call "nation-building" would simply have produced another Vietnam, a social-cultural "quagmire" – as Bush's Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney would come to term the matter.
American cultural traditions continue to be toppled. Meanwhile, on the home front, social-cultural changes taking place in America – ones reaching back to the days of Johnson, but accelerating during the 1970s – continued to develop further during the Reagan-Bush 1980s. Feminism gathered momentum as it took the position that men were to be viewed as adversaries rather than as companions (not exactly an idea in strong support of the traditional institution of marriage, which was also losing ground in America).
And homosexuals, suffering a rampant disease caused by indiscriminate sexual activity, became a new "victim group" needing special social-political and even moral support.
At the same time, traditional Christian denominations continued their decline ... and an effort by Reagan to get an amendment to the Constitution permitting prayer in public schools fared no better than similar efforts back in the 1960s.
Evangelical and "independent/non-denominational" Christianity however seemed to be growing – although again, not at the same rate as the decline of the old denominations. As a big factor in their success, evangelicals were utilizing the powers of television to reach much of their growing "congregations." But a great danger accompanied this new development: the personal lives of newly celebrity preachers became quite public ... and then very embarrassing when some of these preachers were discovered to have fallen before the temptations of money and sex. This certainly crippled some of the "televangelist" momentum, though not fully. Evangelical Christianity would continue to grow, however – though more cautiously, and more locally than nationally.
Meanwhile the moral-spiritual contest between the traditional Christian world and the rising Secular or Humanist world merely intensified. Supposedly science had completely validated Darwinism: life proceeded forward from simplicity to complexity only through the natural competition of all creatures for their own survival and success. In short, all life – even creation itself – resulted from a purely mechanical or "Secular" process. There was no "Higher Hand" ("God" to the Christians) that directed any of this process.
Christians, of course, went at life from a different dynamic, seeing beyond and above life's "mechanics" a much higher world, of which the physical world around them was merely a by-product of that higher world. That is to say, the world as we know it came from Creation's own "Intelligent Design."
Actually, the scientific world of physics and chemistry itself witnesses not to Darwinian randomness but instead to incredible precision in design, such that could not have just evolved haphazardly into existence ... but was clearly laid out intelligently at the very foundation of the universe. Even secular scientists (the vast majority of the scientific community) had to admit that the laws of physics and chemistry were fully in place – in all their sophistication – at the very startup of existence itself. Those basic laws of science did not just stumble into existence or develop haphazardly over the eons in a Darwinian fashion. True, we are just now getting around to understanding those laws. But they have always been there, already in place – long before we "discovered" them.
This certainly gave evidence in favor of "Intelligent Design" (ID) to all of Creation itself. And where did such ID come from? For Christians that was an easy question to answer. For Secularists, despite efforts to come up with their own atheistic explanations, they never could find a good response.
But that did not stop the Supreme Court in its march down the Secularist road, striving to make the Darwinist religion the only one allowed to be taught in America's public schools. In a 7-2 decision in the Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) case, the Supreme Court ruled as "unconstitutional" (and thus highly illegal) a Louisiana law calling for the presentation of a "creationist" explanation of life (the Christian understanding) right alongside the Darwinist approach, which Secularists (including the Supreme Court) had previously forced on America's public schools. According to the Court it was constitutionally illegal to "advance religion" (unless that religion happened to be Secular-Humanism, of course!). Thus it was that Secularists were able to tighten even further the restrictions against any teaching of America's traditional Christian worldview (a long-held worldview that had actually carried the nation to greatness). America's rising generations were to be taught "Reality" only from an atheistic perspective – exactly as the Supreme Court itself dictated.
Clinton (1993-2001). With Bill Clinton's arrival in the White House, the Boomers had their first champion in place at the head of the nation. And at first he would fit perfectly into that Boomer mindset .. until things did not immediately work out for him and he backed away from that mindset – and took on attitudes that made him look like a very strong continuation of the Reagan-Bush legacy. Perhaps it was his Georgetown education ... or perhaps because he went through a similar process as Arkansas governor, of being the Boomer "progressive" forced ultimately to listen to the more conservative voice of the Arkansas voters if he were to remain in office. In any case, ultimately, in Clinton, America had another "Realist" in office.
No doubt a big part of his "move to Realism" came with the failure to put through a program of a federal national health care ... and the failure to get a "progressive" opening of the ranks of the military to visibly active homosexuals. The health care program went nowhere when the medical and insurance community lined up strongly against it ... and Clinton had to agree to a compromise on the homosexual issue with "don't ask, don't tell" – pretty much the policy it had always been in the military (keep such behavior hidden away).
But a big part of Clinton's political shift came from the challenge posed by Republican Congressional leader Newt Gingrich, who conducted a complete Republican "revolution" in Congress in 1994 – in support of his "Contract with America" program. Basically Gingrich called for a number of typically Republican policies concerning the slow-up of federal spending, the cutback in federal programming, the reduction of federal taxes – in short, the reduction in the size and weight of the federal government.
A battle between the two, Clinton and Gingrich, at first developed over the matter of the federal budget, with neither willing to back down – and a shutdown of the federal government resulting, which the national press (now nearly completely in the hands of Boomers and other "Liberals") casting the intractable Gingrich as the villain and the equally intractable Clinton as the hero ... a position that the press would never veer from during the remaining Clinton-Gingrich years (1995-2001)! In any case, in the end, Clinton agreed (even announced himself as the champion of this policy itself) of moving to put federal operations on more conservative foundations ... actually – in cooperation with Gingrich's Republican Congress – reducing the size of the national debt!
But it was in the area of foreign affairs that Clinton really stood out as an old-fashioned "Realist" ... much like Reagan and Bush before him. As with Reagan in his early years, Clinton experienced a sharp setback when he answered the United Nations' call for assistance in Somalia – only to find that the Somali political lords were not going to cooperate, and like Reagan, decided that the better part of wisdom was to pull his troops out and go home – something that Johnson was totally unable to do. That was very wise on Clinton's part and well appreciated by Americans. Likewise he withstood the attack of Liberals who waxed indignant when he refused to send troops to Rwanda to intervene in the very, very bloody civil war going on there.
However he was swift to act (like Reagan) to send troops to a Caribbean country (Haiti) when the elected government was overthrown ... forcing the new Haitian military lords to restore the elected government. And he cautiously (as Bush, working only in conjunction with a grand international coalition) used American air (some ground as well) power to force the Serbian government from continuing its program of ethnic cleansing in neighboring Bosnia. And he would be called on to do the same when the Serbs then turned their wrath on their Kosovar neighbors ... again forcing the Serbs to back off and agree to respect the independence of their neighbors. Clinton looked truly like the great leader of a superpower nation.
And Clinton would end his years in the White House fending off a Republican effort to use the now-common impeachment weapon against a popular president, when Clinton was revealed to have, over the years, had a long line of extramarital affairs, including a young White House intern (unfortunately not an uncommon program in Washington – and elsewhere in the high-status world). Ironically, the effort blew up in the face of the Republicans – who succeeded in gaining only a 50-50 conviction vote in the Senate, despite the Republican majority there. And the matter backfired on Gingrich, when it was revealed that he was engaged in similar activity at the same time. In the end, the Republicans suffered a significant electoral loss in 1998 from this misadventure, and Gingrich simply vacated his position in Congress ... but then began down a long road of personal spiritual development – still exercising strong national influence outside the halls of Congress, but now on behalf of a clearly Christian agenda. And Clinton would leave the White House with one of the most favorable ratings of any president at that point in his career. It's amazing how these things work out!
Bush, Jr. – the true Boomer president. Whereas Clinton, early in his first years in office, backed away from his Boomer agenda when he saw where it was taking him, the second Bush president (son of the first Bush) did not. He seemed totally unable to see past some kind of Boomer idealism. And he would, like Johnson, get actively involved in the kinds of "nation-building" that he had accused his Democratic Party opponent Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election of having practiced (which actually Clinton and his Vice President Gore did very little of during their previous eight years in power). Bush, Jr. would try to remake both Afghanistan and Iraq – at an enormous cost in men, matériel and money. And he did so without any serious understanding of both the complex uses – and serious limitations – of power, especially in a social setting so very different from America's. Consequently a grand disaster for America was the only result he gained from the effort – just like Johnson in Vietnam.
And he would double the national debt – one that Clinton and Gingrich had worked so hard to reduce – raising it from $5 trillion to $10 trillion in his eight years in office. And he would also leave the economy in a complete state of shambles – due to his very unwise messing with the federal rules and regulations that had helped guide the national economy since its crawl out of the 1930s Great Depression. Ultimately a collapsed world of American finance and business had to be bailed out at a huge expense by direct federal financial intervention – a major no-no in the Republican playbook. But whether Bush was much of a Republican or not never seemed to matter. He was after all, as a Boomer, a practitioner of "compassionate conservatism" – whatever that meant.
To a Boomer, social rules were entirely flexible – and could come to stand for "whatever" a Boomer might wish them to stand for ... as the need arose! In short there were no social rules to go by, at least ones observed by the Boomers ... just strongly held opinions instead.
And the Boomers would specialize in that approach to things, making even the national news services merely sounding boards for one or another Boomer opinion. And they would do it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It was entertaining after all. But it was a far cry from the types of news service that the old grey Lady, the New York Times or the Washington establishment's Washington Post, or the CBS evening news by Walter Cronkite or NBC's Chet Huntley and David Brinkley used to offer. Instead it was Boomer opinion, opinion, opinion ... all day and all night long! Under Boomer culture, truth and opinion had become one and the same!
Anyway Bush, Jr. started off his presidency with a strong federal push into the field of national education (a very non-Republican program!), putting the states under the federal mandate system (money offered states to put them in compliance with federal policy) to undertake a select federal testing program supposedly crucial in improving the level of the nation's education (Bush seemed to have no understanding that there are many other factors that go into successful educational programming).
But he didn't get far with his "No Child Left Behind" program ... when a group of Muslim crazies decided to destroy key American symbols: the New York Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and possibly either the White House or the Capital Building. America was shocked. So was the world (although many in the Muslim world thought that this was a perfectly wonderful event!). But from September 11th on (9/11) priorities would shift dramatically for America. The hunt for the perpetrators (Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda group) would supposedly at this point become the major preoccupation of the Bush Administration.
... Well almost. Actually Bush became greatly distracted from this hunt when he decided not merely to go after al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan – but to remake Afghanistan in the process (Bush's first plunge into "nation-building"). He did so in the name of his new "Bush Doctrine," which stated that any country that harbored al-Qaeda would find itself on the American enemy list ... and that America would go after any al-Qaeda operations occurring in any country, whether that country liked it or not.
Actually those were bold – but meaningless – words because the one country which hosted the bulk of al-Qaeda's training sites (and which bin Laden soon escaped to) was Pakistan. That was one country Bush dared not touch, not only because it was a quasi-ally but because it was also a nuclear-armed country. So the Bush Doctrine did not actually apply in the one country where most of al-Qaeda's activities actually took place! Ironic ... or just ignorant on the part of Bush?
Iraq. Anyway, Bush got this burning desire to prove himself further (things were not going all that well in Afghanistan) by taking out Iraq's dictator. In short, he planned to go further than his father in doing "the right thing" ... what, to prove himself to be an even greater person that his father who had "failed" to do that? First of all, Bush tried very hard to connect Saddam to 9/11. But no one outside his cabinet circle of the "willing" bought that idea (as well as some even inside his circle). Then he tried to tie Saddam to the illegal manufacture of "weapons of mass destruction" (WMDs). But here too he could not find evidence convincing enough to bring the rest of the world (except Britain – which would pay a huge political price for joining Bush in this act of folly) in support of his "get-Saddam" program. Ultimately he simply went ahead anyway, and in March of 2003 unleashed hell and fury on Iraq ... plunging America even more deeply into the "quagmire" of Iraqi nation-building. It was Vietnam all over again. And his chief counselor, Vice President Cheney, knew better (having already admitted to do so would be to fall into a quagmire!). But Cheney was serving a different president! Ah politics!
And once inside of Iraq (with Saddam nowhere to be found) America then proceeded to do the stupidest things, the new American administrator Jerry Bremer forbidding anyone connected with Saddam's old Ba'athist Party from continuing their work in the system (virtually every professional in the country, doctors, professors, engineers, etc.). They would now be unemployed. But who then would keep Iraqi society moving ahead? At the same time Bremer went on to fire all the Iraqi soldiers (who had been working with the US military in keeping some semblance of order), at that point creating massive unemployment among hundreds of thousands of young men with guns – who knew how to use them.
At this point the American occupiers found themselves under attack from all sides (and almost all of the American military command in Iraq decided to "retire"!). Even the Shiites, the huge Muslim community that had suffered under Saddam and the Muslim Sunnis, attacked the Americans, hoping now to seize control of the highly confused country.
Americans finally got an Iraqi constitution written and elections held. But the American troops could not go home ... because all of this "democracy" merely gave each of the hostile Iraqi subgroups the opportunity to go at each other. Thus under "democracy," the violence simply got worse.
Bush finally figured out the problem and sent more troops to Iraq to go after the Iraqi warriors (Bush's military "surge"), which did settle things down a bit ... just before Bush finished his last months in the White House ... and just as the American economy found itself collapsing everywhere.
The Christian worldview under further attack. Meanwhile, the assault on America's traditional (Christian) social-intellectual-moral standards did not slow up any during the Bush years. The undercutting of the Christian worldview – making it highly illegal to pass that on to America's rising generation of youth through the normal educational process (public education) – was strongly underscored in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case. A short four-paragraph statement the Dover School Board wanted to be read at the beginning of the school year – inviting the students to look, on their own, beyond the Darwinist perspective – was challenged in a federal district court, and decreed by the federal judge to be in total violation of the nation's laws. The judge imposed a $1 million dollar fine on the school board – to make it very clear that the Darwinist alternative ("Intelligent Design") was so illegal that it could not even be brought up for consideration in the training of the rising generation. And once again, it was the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that served as one of the major plaintiffs, making it clear that "civil liberties" did not include any discussion or even consideration whatsoever of this all-important worldview issue.
Economic catastrophe. Sadly, the great economic expansion that had occurred during the Clinton years ground to a halt in the Bush, Jr. years. And Bush got the bright idea of removing some of the long-standing investment restraints, hoping to kick-start the economy again – and getting the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates down to even under 1% (a far cry from Volcker's 22%!). All of this did re-energize the economy ... sort of. But mostly this "freeing up" of the investment world created a huge bubble of financial speculation, most notably in the housing market – as bank loans were now fantastically cheaper, and no longer under the old restrictions that required a borrower to be able to demonstrate some degree of ability to repay the loans (that's why they were classed as "sub-prime" mortgages).
What instead was now driving the financial world was the mania of speculation ... people buying houses they could not afford, afraid that if they waited any further they would never be able to buy a house – but also going ahead on this matter with the understanding that if they could not continue to meet bank payments, they could always sell their houses in a rising housing market – and at least come away with a profit in the process. But that's just pure speculation.
But thus it was that America headed into the same wildly speculative conditions that had prevailed in late 1920s America ... and ultimately suffered the same consequences when the speculative bubble burst and the whole thing came crashing down.
It all started with the mania of contractors jumping into the home-construction industry, with the expectations to come away with huge profits ... only finding after while that they had built more houses than what even the bubble could bring remaining purchaser into. This is called "market saturation." So then finally to move housing inventory from a new standstill, they would have to lower their prices ... again, and again. Suddenly the value of the housing market fell away – now in a panic mode – to a point where house values now found themselves way below the level that the banks had invested in such property (home loans to customers). And there was no way the banks were going to get their investments back. Owners could no longer sell the houses anywhere near the value of the mortgages ... and simply walked away from these obligations, leaving the banks holding abandoned homes – ones that now the banks had no way to sell off either. At this point banks began to fail ... multitudes of banks, and big banks, even the biggest of the big, most notably the biggest holders of home mortgages, Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac (actually "private" mortgage companies set up by the federal government to ensure that mortgages would always be available to the American citizenry). Then the major Wall Street companies began to tumble – such as Lehman Brothers, which collapsed completely. And the automobile manufactures were likewise hit – because, despite the low interest rates on car loans, American customers were feeling the deep economic pinch personally, and just held off buying that new model they had been looking at. Now the "Big Three" auto companies, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler also found themselves in deep trouble.
At this point Bush got a terrified Congress to vote fundings for a federal "buyout" of troubled companies, going against everything his Republican Party stood for. But at this point there seemed to be no alternative path to saving the American economy from complete collapse.
And thus it was that Bush Jr. finished out the last few months of his eight years in the White House ... leaving behind him a huge mess for his successor to deal with – both at home and abroad.
Obama seeks to "change" Middle America. In the November 2008 national elections, the Republicans, being the party in power – and identified as the president's party (which it really was not) – took a major thrashing. The Democrats reaped a huge Congressional victory ... as well as bring to the White House a young "Gen Xer," Barak Obama, who would undertake to "change" (dismantle) everything possible about Middle-American society and the way it had long worked.
In so many ways Obama was very representative of his (Gen-X) generation: divorced parents (married only a couple of years) and being raised in a "family" largely devoid of male guidance (his grandfather helped somewhat). On top of that he was bi-racial – raised by a White mother and grandmother but ultimately (in his college years) coming to identify himself as "Black" ... and idealizing an African father that he actually never knew. And choosing to see himself as belonging in America's "minority" category as he advanced professionally in the world of social dynamics, he would form strong political-moral alliances with the other major "minority" groups in America, groups who actually shared very little in common ... except that they were strongly determined to join forces in order to bring down "majority" Middle America any way they could.
Thus it was that Obama would take the country back to the condition it found itself in during the late 1960s – when Johnson also tried to remake American society along newer, supposedly more "progressive" lines ... and succeeded only in leaving behind him a thoroughly confused and angry society.
In dealing with the huge economic mess left behind by the Bush Jr. world, Obama immediately took the country in his new direction of "change" – not just lending to troubled companies as Bush had done, but requiring their reorganization (such as bankrupt Chrysler) and reassignment of ownership (stocks and shares) not only to companies invited to come in and take gradual ownership of the companies, but also in redistributing a good portion of that ownership to his Labor supporters – leaving the previous owners completely out of the deal. They lost everything (that included a lot of "majority" Middle Class American families who had invested in those companies through the American stock market).
Then he quickly tried to move to full government health coverage (something Hillary had not been able to carry off successfully when her husband was first president). Ultimately he had to back down a bit and offer partial government programming of America's health industry. In the end, health care would be subsidized for the poor by taking on massive government debt (in his eight years in office Obama would also double the federal debt, from $10 trillion to over $20 trillion!). The health insurance market place was placed under a number of government restrictions ... and almost immediately the health insurance premiums paid by working Middle Class families jumped terribly, doubling once – and then once again. Much of the cost of health care had been simply shifted to "majority" America as Obama took care of America's minorities. Many Americans were very unhappy, but there was little they could do at the time with a strong Democratic Party control of Congress.
But in the next round of Congressional elections (November 2010) the American voters overturned dramatically this Democratic Party position in the House (and reduced significantly the Party's position in the Senate).
But before this new Republican Party majority could be seated in January, Obama moved quickly to throw favors to another of his supporting "minorities" ... the gay community. He simply used the "lame duck" Congress (full of Democrats just voted out of power) to approve the removal of restrictions against active homosexuality in the military – in other words, moved swiftly to overturn the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" legislation put in place back in 1994. With this move, the open practice of homosexuality would no longer face any restrictions. Indeed, soon this pro-homosexuality trend would even go so far as to make any opposition to homosexuality now itself a hate crime, one deeply punishable under Obama's 2009 law.
And when Obama appointed two unmarried/childless women to the Supreme Court, this clearly pointed to a future weakening of the political-cultural position of the traditional American family – not only the mainstay of Middle America, but of all America since its very founding four centuries earlier. Thus the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – passed by a huge majority in both houses of Congress in 1996 and signed into law by President Clinton – was now clearly destined for a typical Supreme Court rewriting of the nation's most important social-legal standard since the passing of the laws ending slavery in the country in the 1860s. Indeed, by two narrow votes of five against four Supreme Court justices – the two new female appointees forming part of the tiny majority – DOMA was undercut in the 2013 United States v. Windsor case ... and then completely set aside in the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case.
The very idea of a compelling social standard – one passed by Congress in order to affirm that the traditional family, headed by a married man and woman, was to remain the social mainstay of American society – had fallen victim to the Boomer (and Gen-X) logic which affirms that real "freedom" comes from having no social standards whatsoever (except the one absolute standard, which is to not have any standards!). And the Boomers (joined by the Gen-Xers) had the Supreme Court, as always, to legislate that perspective into law by fiat and decree – something that otherwise would have never had a chance of coming into being through the more democratic process of a vote in Congress by the representatives of the American people themselves.
But the attack on traditional marriage did not stop there. In 2015 an Oregon administrative court imposed a $135,000 fine on a couple owning a small bakery ... when that couple answered the request of a (regular) customer by confessing that they, by all Christian conscience, could not bake her and her female partner a wedding cake. She would have to go elsewhere for that. The woman then sued, won the decision, and destroyed the bakery ... citing her own hurt feelings over being "discriminated" against. The ultimate point of the Oregon public authorities was that it was a grand offense to fail to adjust to the new sexual standards that the Supreme Court itself was directing the country toward. There now could be no discussion, no debate, no opposition on this matter. And backing up this new sense of "justice" was ruinous punishment for anyone not in step with the new morality.
Then the American police force (supposedly representative only of "majority" America) came under attack, even at times from the Obama White House itself ... as in the Ferguson Missouri incident. This event needlessly turned very ugly ... in some part due to Obama's own intervention. The president himself came out publicly against the policeman involved – before any actual evidence was looked into ... playing on the racial sensitivities of those involved – as well as the nation itself.
American police, of course, have long been busy simply trying to hold together local communities, ones that seemingly find themselves dangerously close to being swallowed up by criminal gangs and drug addiction ... communities that seem to have no ability to support themselves (too much dependence on support and management by political officialdom). Tragically, these communities seem to lack skilled political and cultural leadership of their own, leaders able to direct these communities to authentic social self-deliverance. Instead, it simply has been a whole lot easier for local (and national) leaders to turn the people's frustration on the police ... in anger over the violence that plagues life in these communities.
In the field of foreign policy, Obama would also run his foreign policy along political-social-cultural lines calling for "change" ... change directed abroad against various dictatorships. In this he was merely following the program of "nation-building" that had so engrossed the Bush Jr. Administration before him ... in fact also the Johnson presidency (1963-1969) and the Woodrow Wilson presidency (1913-1921) even before that. And the results would consistently turn out to be the same. "Progress" abroad was viewed as a matter of taking down dictators – with the full expectation that this would automatically open the doors for a newly "liberated" people then to come to full democracy. But of course, horribly disappointing results were guaranteed to happen. But "progress" never pays much attention to the historical record.
Thus Obama would join Europe in taking down the Libyan dictator Gaddafi. This would (unsurprisingly) throw Libya into a state of very bloody civil war – not blissful democracy. And the situation for Obama would look even more scandalous when, a year later, the American Ambassador to Libya was himself (and other Americans) killed – by militants claiming to represent the side of the Libyan civil war that America and the Europeans had been supporting. Ironic ... and tragic.
And Obama would attempt to do the same "democratizing" with respect to the autocratic Syrian president Assad. Syria, like Libya and many other Middle Eastern societies was experiencing the violence of the "Arab Spring" (2011), that is, had fallen into in a state of civil war as newly "freed" Syrian sectarian groups set out to destroy each other. In watching Assad attempt to bring Syria back under order, Obama threatened Assad that if he should use any illegal weapons in his efforts, Assad would have to deal with harsh American consequences. But when Assad employed those weapons anyway, it became obvious that Obama's threats were entirely empty. Obama then shifted assistance to one of the Syrian groups trying to take advantage politically of the social chaos. Ultimately Obama's Syrian policy not only failed to bring Assad under some kind of American moral direction, it helped greatly to push Syria ever-deeper into its horrible condition of very, very bloody civil war.
Then Obama's humiliation was heightened when his new "friend," Russian President Putin, offered to come in and straighten up Obama's diplomatic mess. As it turned out, Putin's intervention was actually designed to put Russia in a position of strong influence in Syria – and the Eastern Mediterranean region ... at the same time that Obama's intervention had d reduced greatly American influence in Syria – and undermined it deeply in the rest of the region.
In watching Obama waxing indignant over Assad's measures to force Syria back into order, I wondered what Obama might have thought about the horrible things that Lincoln was required to do to similarly force American society back into a unified social order (minus slavery). Clearly Obama (like so many Americans) really did not understand social power – its messiness, but also its absolute necessity.
That same lack of understanding of international power politics showed up in Obama's non-response, when Chinese dictator Xi Jinping moved to claim as "Chinese territory" the international waters of the South China Sea (bordering on numerous East Asian countries – nations totally dependent on the free access of their commercial fleets through that strategic body of water. Obama did nothing. [How about building an American naval air station on a dredged island – one close to the dredged island that China had just created in order to enforce its claim?]. Nothing – absolutely nothing of any real significance – came from Obama in his response to Xi's bold and highly strategic advance in East Asia.
And the same thing occurred when Putin's "little green men" (Russian military with no identifying items on them) grabbed the strategic Sevastopol naval air station that was supposed to be shared with Russia's neighbor Ukraine. Obama threatened and blustered a lot. But again did nothing of any real consequences in forcing Putin to undo this aggressive act. Perhaps there was nothing he could realistically have done to help Ukraine in this matter. But then better not to have threatened and blustered in the first place. Appearances matter deeply in the world of international politics. And looking foolish and weak does not advance anyone's position in the game.
America was not looking much like a superpower any more. Was this the beginning of America's decline into insignificance – in following Britain, France, the Dutch, Russia, Spain and other once-great Western powers into insignificance? China's dictator Xi certainly believes so. And Putin is more than willing to help in this American decline. And needless to say, so is much of the Islamic Middle East.
Trump tries to "Make America Great Again." With Donald Trump's election to the presidency, America was once again under the leadership of an individual who was very much a Boomer. [He and the other two Boomer presidents – Bush Jr and Clinton – were, in fact, all born at about the same time: June, July or August of 1946!] This is to say that, as Boomers, they did not pay much attention to "group think," but instead shaped their decisions in life in their own unique or very personal ways. Thus it was hard to say exactly where they fell on the American political spectrum. Almost anything was possible coming from them.
Much anti-Trump scorn has been heaped on him because he got a $1 million startup from his father as he set out on his own to develop his own construction business. But that was a very small matter in terms of what he was able, over many years of hard work – and some grand disappointments along the way – to build up into the $ multi-billion category. In this he was a very strong, self-made man.
His highly ambitious personality then took him into the world of entertainment where he hosted (for fourteen seasons ... and while he was still hard at the world of high-level building construction) a television program involving contestants competing for the honor of apprenticing with Trump in his various business enterprises – later changed to charity awards when celebrities became the contestants. Unfortunately the logo for the show would be the phrase "you're fired" ... because there was a bit of zealousness in the way contestants were removed one by one until a winner was finally selected. This logo would seem to follow Trump right into the White House.
Having a "White, male, Anglo, straight, Christian" gain the White House was not what "minority" America was expecting – and certainly not wanting. Action to have the election nullified began immediately upon Trump's election. Street protests ("He's Not My President") broke out not only across America but across the world. And Democrats in Congress began to talk of impeachment, even before Trump had a chance to enter the White House.
There was an eerily familiar feel to what was developing ... for that is how elections are conducted (when conducted at all) in Third World countries: if you do not like the results of an election you immediately move to have the results overturned. This was an entirely new political-cultural development in America ... demonstrating how far indeed Obama had succeeded in moving America from its long-standing social-moral order. The "change" Obama had brought to America was indeed deep – very deep.
But Trump himself was no help in getting America settled down and moving forward. He seemed to delight in the ideological battle that now consumed not just Washington but also the world of 24-7 entertainment posing as "news." And using lavishly his Twitter account and also his public appearances as president, he seemed to delight in insulting everyone that did not swing in full support of him ... even cutting down those people who were trying to bring him that support.
Being a supposed "Republican," he just assumed Republican support, but did little to actually earn that support. In fact he foolishly made quite a few enemies – powerful individuals – within "his" party. And the turnover of personnel in his presidential cabinet was unprecedented and scandalous.
Trump seemed to have (not untypical of Boomers) no real ability to see beyond his immediate, personal interests. True, all of his years in the tough world of American and international business, Trump was a very powerful negotiator and could get things done. That's how he built up his personal empire. But the White House was not the head office of a personal empire. To be a truly effective president, he needed to find the way to bring the American people alongside him on his ventures. Thus his personal success was not automatically translating itself into social success. No matter how good the "deals" for America that he was able to pull off here and there, he just could not bring his national approval ratings out of the negative category.
A big part of the problem (besides being a Boomer) was that he had no experience serving in a public office before assuming the presidency. He thus had no aptitude in dealing with people where carefully cultivated political alliances – and not just a lot of money to throw around – were required to advance government programs and policies. Would he learn? And if so, how long would it take him to figure out that industrial-financial strategies that worked so well in his business world were not at all like the political-governmental strategies required in getting things done in Washington (and abroad)?
Very early in his presidency, those powers of leadership would be tested deeply with his various appointments to federal judicial posts, especially over his two appointments to the Supreme Court. It was clear that Trump intended to shut down the process by which self-proclaimed "Progressives" could use the powers of equally Progressive members of the Supreme Court to bypass Congress and put their own legislation into effect through simple judicial decree. Democrats fought bitterly Trump's appointment to the Supreme Court of two "originalists," judges who (supposedly) believe that their role is to adjudicate actual applications of the law, rather than rewrite the law according to their own ideological perspectives – as many federal judges have done since the early 1960s ... because highly-educated judges are supposedly so much more enlightened than Middle America and its representatives in Congress. This judicial pathway had been the one Progressives (most notably the ACLU) had gone down in order to put into law their various ideological interests. And now Trump was daring to close down that pathway by appointing judicial conservatives to those federal posts. Progressive Democrats (and media celebrities) were furious. But there was little they could do to stop Trump's appointments ... with the Republicans – who traditionally support the idea of a very restrained government operating at the heart of the nation – holding a strong majority in the Senate, the only part of Congress that confirms presidential appointments.
Then there was the matter of the process by which his Washington (and press) enemies tried to have Trump himself thrown from office: impeachment. The process was not only lame ... it was very, very bad national politics. Based largely on a document that Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign had generated during the 2016 presidential campaign, attempting to tie Trump to Russian intervention in that campaign, an expensive and lengthy confidential investigation was put into action – with the expectations of the Democrats (and the press) that this process would dig up information sufficient to have Trump impeached. Ultimately after two years of effort, the investigation could come up with nothing impeachable. Then, after the 2018 Congressional elections – with the Democrats now possessing a majority in the House of Representatives ... though suffering a big setback in the Senate where the Republican majority was actually increased – the Democrats tried again, finding something impeachable in a request Trump made to investigate the activities in a very corrupt Ukrainian business world ... involving also the son of the Democratic Party leader Joe Biden. But in the end, there was not enough to incriminate Trump on this Ukranian-conection. Besides, a thorough investigation on this matter would likely also have drawn the Bidens, father and son, into the controversy, so it was dropped. So instead, the House simply impeached Trump because he would not answer to a House summons ... and thus was interfering in a House investigation. Wow! All of this – much like Watergate, the Iran-Contra Affair, and Monicagate – undertaken largely to make sure that nothing much was accomplished by a greatly besieged president.
And thus it was that impeachment for "high crimes and misdemeanors" had reached a new low as a political tool ... a Congressional majority going after the President (of an opposing party) merely because he would not submit to Congressional political badgering. This was a very bad political pathway to develop as a new "normal" in Washington politics. These were also early signs of a nation in deep internal distress.
But, in any case, the Republican-dominated Senate, where a presidential trial actually takes place, quickly threw out the Democrat-backed bill of impeachment when it was presented to that body. Still ... the hunger for impeachment did not die in the House, even with the Senate rebuke ... with the House still searching for grounds to bring down the President.
But just as bad, Trump actually seemed to find such attacks personally very stimulating. Through all this, he remained constantly busy on Twitter answering every gross insult hurled at him ... with equally gross insults hurled back at his attackers. All this succeeded in doing ultimately was to leave the nation itself confused and frustrated, with not much to hang its sense of social loyalties onto.
Such crude Washington politics (on the part of everyone) brought nothing but tragedy to the American nation ... at a time when there were other matters of even greater importance challenging the nation: a national debt totally out of control; the corona-virus tearing through the country; the continuing challenge of a rising China; ... and American kids rampaging through the streets of the American North (the South amazingly quiet) in protest of this or that matter (or just protesting for the sake of protesting).
In the field of foreign relations, Trump was a bit more effective (though not in developing international loyalties), employing his business strategy of going in tough ... and then negotiating a "compromise"(like buying a fancy clay pot in a Mexican open market or a hand-woven rug in an Afghan rug market!). He shocked America's European allies with his rough language – designed to get America's NATO partners to come up with serious financial support on their part for NATO. He renegotiated the trade deals with Canada and Mexico, claiming that circumstances had changes (which, indeed they had) and that the older trade agreement needed to be revised. He leaned heavily on the Mexican government to help put a stop to the flood of Central Americans (and others) streaming through Mexico in an effort to sneak across the US border and disappear into American society. Trump's actions of course infuriated Democrats – who see in this multitude a huge increase in their "minority" ranks, potential votes needed to unseat "majority" Middle America from its place of cultural-linguistic dominance in America.
Trump also liked to work privately, behind the scenes (out of sight of the media) with the heads of other states, especially intriguing in his relations with North Korean dictator Kim, Chinese dictator Xi and Russian President-for-Life Putin. What those leader-to-leaders private talks amounted to was never clear to the American public – because here too, Trump liked to keep American policy very personal. Consequently, America itself was never quite sure of where things stood in the nation's relations with other key countries.
A two-fold path that runs through all human life, a path that requires every person on this planet to choose which direction they are going to go at life itself, has presented man with a deep challenge ... ever since the dawn of human history itself. Man is not like the other creatures on this planet operating largely out of deep biological instinct. We do have our instincts, of course, But we also have the awesome power of human Reason.
Reason has been given us by our Creator to allow us to choose freely which path to take – and to adjust our lives to that choice accordingly. This requires a rather constant adjustment because the way life actually presents itself to us, our particular "Reality" that we face always being contextual. Successful reasoning depends on our ability to take into account the time and ever-changing circumstances that we are living in. There is no fixed universe with fixed solutions for us to follow. We have to take life step by step as it comes to us.
But it is easy to simply tire of having to constantly encounter life's ongoing challenges, ones that require a continuing, sometimes exhausting (but also sometimes exhilarating) attention. It is understandable that we might want to simply take ourselves to our desks and design a more "progressive" universe, one that supposedly will bring all of life's dynamics under full human mastery. The latter path, of course, is a huge temptation. But, tragically, it ends up forcing us to live a great lie.
Deciding on this matter as to which direction to take in life is the most fundamental of the many choices we will ever have to make in life. Little wonder that the Hebrew narrative (the Christian Old Testament) begins with the story of how Adam and Eve so easily chose to leave the path of living in some kind of natural harmony with life – as God himself designed it – and instead chose to take up the deceptive path of living with a grand half-truth (the most dangerous of all lies). As the Deceiver or Šatan (man's natural "Adversary") put forward matters to Adam and Eve, eating from the fruit of this tree would seemingly give us full knowledge of good and evil, thereby making us like God. But actually it would only make us "like God" in our own eyes ... and thus make us the most dangerous of all creatures inhabiting this planet.
The "mechanical" approach to life. Human history is full of examples of "more enlightened" individuals who believe that they do not need the counsel of some "god" greater than themselves – because they believe (religiously) that they have come to understand all the perfect "mechanics" of life. They supposedly, like Adam and Eve, possess the full powers that come from having eaten the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They have come into the "scientific" knowledge of the absolute rules or "mechanics" that guide all existence – and thus supposedly know how to use such mechanics to redesign life ... in order to bring it to perfection. They have labored greatly to bring all existence into conformity with a perfect program for life – a "utopia" (actually a grand "nowhere" ... not a "good place" as in eutopia!). Based on the half-truth that life works entirely according to these mechanics, utopian social planners have attempted to bring life under full human mastery – their own personal mastery of course.
But they are developing a grand lie – because life does not readily submit itself to such design. And when their utopian plans begin to show early signs of failure – as they will, sooner or later – they simply harden up in their determination to make them work ... at all costs. And thus utopia easily turns itself into a cruel prison or dangerous war zone.
Time and again we have seen the tragic results of such social engineering: the French Revolutionaries' efforts to create the perfect Republic; Wilson's military endeavor to make the world safe for democracy; Mussolini's, Stalin's and Hitler's efforts to create the greatest socialist societies in Europe; Johnson's Great Society in America; Mao's, Pol Pot's, Kim's and now seemingly Xi Jinping's efforts to create their own socialist utopias in Asia; Carter's more "moral" universe; Bush Jr's efforts to democratize Afghanistan and Iraq, and Obama's similar efforts to help bring democracy to the Muslim world of Egypt, Libya and Syria ... not to mention his efforts to have America's minorities redesign or "change" American middle-class society according to their respective minority interests – rather than adapt themselves to that middle-class society as previous minorities have done (and, like the Irish and Italians, quite successfully so).
And if such utopian social engineering does succeed (always temporarily, however), it puts human life under complete authoritarian control. Such rationally-designed utopias inevitably convert themselves into societal prisons, ones that the little people no longer have any say in life and its decisions ... because they have the "masters" of the utopian bubble making those decisions for them. Such utopias (Fascism, Communism, Socialism) dreamed up by social authorities ultimately become oppressive and dangerous living hells ... especially when "criminal" individuals, out of sheer frustration, simply start attacking the immediate world around them. Perfect social orders easily become horrible war zones. We saw how quickly Johnson's Great Society turned American cities into communities with rapidly rising crime rates – and then scenes of massive looting and burning ... and killing.
The mystical approach to life. Despite the efforts of Secular science – supported by the Federal courts – to officially outlaw the idea that there is a Higher Power that presides over all existence, the fact remains that all life is merely the grand expression of the very will of God himself. The sheer precision of what science has discovered in its inquiry into the realms of physics, chemistry, and biology – a precision that has been in place since the very creation of the universe itself – should dispel any notion that all of this just happened into existence through historical accident. Such precise scientific rules undergirding all existence should necessitate on the part of any honest observer an appreciation of the reality or "existence" of a Power much greater than man. Man indeed does exercise great power within creation – a power to observe and react to existence. But he does not have the power to bring it into its very existence. Nor does he – as we have seen repeatedly in this study – have the power to bring it to perfection. That power belongs to God and God alone. And when man tries to assume that power for himself, bloody tragedy always results.
The "mystic" – as opposed to the proverbial "social engineer" – understands that life is to be accommodated, not controlled. The mystic understands that like a mighty river, life is simply a flow of events ... and while we do not have mastery over those events, we do have mastery over how we respond to those events. Some manipulation of that flow of reality is possible. But overall, the most successful approach to life is learning to enter that flow and simply "experience" life as it comes to us. We can build our houses, tend our fields or shops, teach our children, and conduct our celebrations together. But these do not "control" life. They are creative ways of adapting to its wonderful possibilities.
In taking up such "adaptation" we are actually moving along the path that God himself designed for us. We are actually working in mystical harmony with him ... enjoying even the special powers that come from such a union with God himself. We are becoming one with him in "spirit" ... so that his spirit becomes an integral part of our human empowerment. Christianity understands that ... and always has since this was first taught and exemplified by Jesus Christ himself.
I have summed these two paths as 1) the path of "mysticism" or compassion, or just loving interface with the world (and the very present author and director of that world, God himself) – and 2) the other path of "materialism" or domination, in which we attempt to gain control over a mechanically-operating world, one that supposedly works impersonally according to an array of precise rules, ones that we can then manipulate in order to bring the world under our domination.
The chart below is a quick summary of the key differences between those two paths:
|Other labels||Christianity - in particular the variety that strives to be more than a mere nominal version of Christianity and instead truly to follow Christ||Secularism ...
or its subcategories,
Humanism ("man is naturally good")
Darwinism ("man is naturally a
|Vision of life||... life as a network of vital inter- personal relationships encouraged and supported by a loving God||.. life as a perfect mechanical order of material things (including humans) functioning precisely according to natural design|
|The reach of life||... as far or high as human thought / dreams / imagination can go||... the visible world of material things|
|Life’s goal||... harmonization with life ... through love and the quest for partnership with both God and fellow man||... dominance over life ... through the mechanical control of both man and his material environment|
|Path to the goal||... mystic union with the Supreme Source (God) of all life, which offers man the power to embrace life fully, even in the face of hardship and opposition||... scientific and technological know- ledge, which ideally offers man (as his own God!) the power to control life and even eliminate hardship and opposition|
|Society||... a cooperative community (demo- cracy of equals) founded on well understood or "traditional" values shared widely by all||a chain-of-command system (status hierarchy) operating according to the utopian or "progressive" plans and programs of a ruling elite|
|Leader||a prophet or teacher; a person who teaches and inspires right behavior in others||a governor or manager; a person who commands and enforces right behavior in others|
|U.S. examples||Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who appealed to Americans to do what they well knew was "the right thing" – to get past our prejudices and open up our middle class democracy to all alike, regardless of skin color||President Lyndon Johnson, who created a new "Great Society" program directed by Washington experts, not trusting Americans – especially fellow Southerners – to do "the right thing" on their own|
|"Extreme" examples||Jesus Christ, whose teachings and example led the way to a sense of compassionate unity with God and fellow man||Josef Stalin, whose brutal dictatorship imposed socialist industrialism on Russia ... executing and starving millions of Russians in the process|
|Personal goal||to find ways to fit in; to find ways to contribute to the life of the community ("keeping up with the Joneses")||to find ways to achieve elite status; to find ways to climb to the top of the social order ("getting ahead of the Joneses")|
|Preparing for success||Studying,
learning in order to gain the
knowledge vital to being the best possible contributor to the well-being
of the world
|Studying, learning in order to qualify for entrance into the elite institutions (such as colleges and professions) that lead to power, fame and wealth|
|Social reward||the joy of belonging||the joy of owning, directing, control- ling, dominating|
|Greatest fear||isolation||losing possession or control|
Society is simply an idea. Societies don't actually exist outside of the world of human perception. Since the rise of the age of nationalism in the 1800s, we have been able to place on world maps a huge variety of nations. But ultimately it is not their physical borders or even their placement on the map that define them – although certainly those two factors do contribute to the forces that define a society. But ultimately what defines a society is the very idea of that society itself, an idea held in the hearts and minds of its people – about who they are and what they stand for.
Most fundamental of all ideas held in the understanding of a group of people is the worldview shared by that people, their most essential beliefs about the world and how it works – and their society's place in that dynamic. In short, the most powerful of all social ideas is its basic religion – that is, what a people believe to be true about life and their role in that life. This is the one factor that has the greatest power to define a people.
And being so powerful, it is the one social item that is fought over most. People's ideas about life can vary widely, even find those ideas in conflict with the ideas held by their neighbors, fellow members of their own society. And those conflicts can become quite bitter. It is this single factor that gives us the world of political variety, of economic rivalry, of religious debate. It can also give us war – both civil and international.
In any case, America has long prided itself in the fact that it is the people themselves – and not just some self-chosen "enlightened ones" – who get to determine exactly what that worldview, that religion, the very thing that defines them (and their offspring), happens to be. But of late, judicial "experts" have taken much of that responsibility away from the American people, their families, the local communities that these families support directly, and placed that all-powerful responsibility in their own hands – hands of a small group of lawyers in black robes that assume that they know better than the people themselves what is good for that people. This is a very dangerous development for a free people – and in total violation of the First Amendment.
Social dynamics. Societies come in all shapes and sizes. The family is the most fundamental or foundational of all societies. It is the most intimate, the most determinative of how (even whether or not) people will find effective and successful placement in the larger social world. It is also most powerful in shaping the social effectiveness of the rising generation, of its children.
And there are also other very strong local loyalties that define this social world: schools, religious communities, social clubs, sports teams, local businesses, the town or local community itself, etc. And at one point in American history the identity as Virginian, Georgian, Vermonter, Pennsylvanian, New Yorker, etc. – that is, the "state" around which the American federal union was first built – was a powerful social definer.
Today these states are viewed simply as administrative subsets to a very complex social organization ultimately centering on the national capital at Washington, D.C. This seat of the American "nation" holds enormous power in defining who and what the Americans will be, what they will believe to be true about life, and what they ultimately intend to do in life. That's a lot of dominating social power – and a fairly new arrival in America's four-century history.
Here's where social leadership becomes so very important to a society. A great leader has the ability to integrate all those varieties, to build a broader social order around loftier ideas that produce a true spirit of social unity, of mutual compassion among a people – even as varied at they may be socially at more local levels.
But not all people who find their way to leadership take that path. Many will build up their power by identifying and villainizing some group "out there" that wants to harm or destroy the inner circle that this rising leader claims to best represent. And certainly having a common enemy is well-known to bring a people together in strong unity.
But that is a weak foundation on which to build a social union – for it depends entirely on the existence of that outside threat to offer sufficient cause to produce social unity. If a people cannot find among themselves some greater cause for unity somewhere along the way, then when the enemy disappears (defeated in war or just finally revealed to be a fraud as a threat) the society that the leader has assembled will simply collapse into confusion – and possibly even into civil war.
Franklin Roosevelt truly believed that the wonderful cooperation he had experienced with Stalin would continue right on into the age of the United Nations, even after Hitler had been destroyed. But indeed, with the destruction of Hitler's Reich, the dynamic upholding the American alliance with Stalin's Russia merely collapsed. In fact, the two powers quickly became bitter rivals. There was no larger, more global, interest on the part of Stalin to see things the way Americans did, and to act accordingly.
And Wilson before him never figured that out either. He had believed that by allying America militarily with "democratic" Britain and France in the "Great War," this would most certainly result in destroying the autocracies of the world – Germany, Austria and Turkey (the Russian autocracy having just collapsed of its own accord) – and bring the world itself to full democracy ... and thus also some kind of perpetual global peace. But instead, all that resulted from this alliance was the assistance America gave Britain and France in their dedication to crush their European enemies – and build up their empires in the Middle East. This not only disappointed Wilson deeply, but angered the American people, who felt that they had been betrayed by both their president and their "democratic" European allies.
Compassion – not dominance – as the key to power. Compassion such as what Christ taught and exemplified – and what Puritan America attempted to build a middle-class Christian society on – has proven to be a much more durable way to lay out the foundations for a strong society. And those early Puritan leaders, Winthrop as a notable example, led their social world to stability and prosperity on the basis of such sincere compassion. True, they had their detractors, individuals with very ambitious egos. But even there they handled the dynamics quite graciously, especially given the level of danger such egotistical attacks posed to the community.
Truman exemplified that same spirit of compassion when instead of beating up defeated Germany and Japan, he moved to rebuild them – around the loftier (Christian) social ideals that America itself at the time sought to represent to the larger world. And this brought lasting success to both Germany and Japan – as well as much of the rest of war-torn Europe, at least in the West where Stalin had no power to block such American charity.
Other American presidents chose to go down the road of compassion rather than dominance – not always perfectly, but in general taking up that path. We see that notably in the cases of Reagan, Bush Sr. and Clinton, who in the 1980s and 1990s helped bring America out of the state of perpetual conflict it seemed to find itself in since the mid-1960s.
Bush Jr. did not divide America internally as much as he helped deepen the social divisions in the larger world with his democratic crusading in Iraq and Afghanistan. In this, his program was definitely one of dominance rather than compassionate understanding of the dynamics and cultural instincts by which the people of that part of the world understood life to operate.
And Obama largely continued down that same path of dominance in his attempt to bring down Middle America – rather than help direct Blacks and others into that world. And thus he left the presidency with the country deeply divided internally – both sides blaming the other for the horrible social division that at that point tore at the country. Compassion, not political dominance, would have left the country in much better shape.
And Trump simply chose to take up the cause of the other side of this deep division, posing as the champion of Middle America. But Trump's world also sought no path of compassion in dealing with the other half of society – only a path of biting adversity. So America's tragic social division has simply remained in place, even deepened in the process.
Moving ahead under God's Covenant. And there is where America finds itself today, deeply divided into very antagonistic social subdivisions – at a time that a distracted America seems to have little to say or do about what is happening abroad with domineering China, ambitious Russia, the very hostile world of militant Islam, chaotic Central America, and a distancing Europe.
America needs God's help. There seems to be no human program, no leading personality, able to put American unity back in place. Only God in Jesus Christ can heal the wounds of a deeply divided society.
True, there is a long-standing Covenant somewhere out there, a Covenant with God that America has enjoyed over many generations. But even Winthrop warned what might happen to the society he was putting in place if it wandered too far from that Covenant – and tried to do things on its own, trying to be its own god. Grand social failure, such as we are seeing today, would come upon the nation.
Hopefully it is not too late to bring that Covenant back into full play in the life of this beautiful country. Hopefully God will once again intervene and bring to America a new spiritual Awakening. So many of us are praying for just that to come to our beloved country. So we not only call on God to come to our aid. We call on our fellow Americans to wake up ... and get about the Father's business. Let us all pray that God comes quickly to our rescue, before the social chaos simply gets worse.
May our Lord come! Maranatha!!!
The Peace Corps (excerpt from page 11). Kennedy had been in office only a little over a month when on March 1st, in pursuit of the ideals declared in his inaugural address, he issued an Executive Order calling for the creation of a new program (actually thought up by Senator Hubert Humphrey) challenging America, in particular its youth, to help spread the understanding of “The American Way” around the world, by volunteering as members of a new Peace Corps. University-educated Peace Corps volunteers were to take their places in the ranks as patriotic Cold Warriors, not as soldiers, but as cultural missionaries sent out to show villagers the world around what America was like up close, to go and live among the people of the Third World, showing them personally how American ideals worked to make for a better life.
This would not become a massive, expensive government program. No huge Washington bureaucracy would provide the muscle for this program. Instead it would rest on the support of the thousands of young volunteers who answered the call (they did receive the equivalent of army basic pay, which indeed was truly “basic.”)
It was typical of the way that Americans felt at that time that the nation should go about its business, challenging the average American to do the right thing, to volunteer to take up the national cause, just as the nation should inspire (not dictate to) the world to do the right thing. The Washington government’s job was simply to organize the opportunities for Americans to do the right thing, nothing more. Washington itself wasn’t expected (not yet, anyway) to do the right thing for the people.
9/11 and the search for Osama Bin Laden (excerpt from pages 206-212)
Going after al-Qaeda. Since 1993, the CIA had been watching al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and had developed a plan to go after the leadership of this enemy organization. Ironically, this plan was more or less finalized just prior to 9/11, but not in time to put the Cabinet on alert to the dangers posed directly to the country by the activities of al-Qaeda. Certainly however, the CIA recognized immediately the al-Qaeda character of the attacks when they occurred on that fateful day of 9/11.
The world stood in sympathy with the United States. And quickly a large international coalition (from 42 different countries, most of them from NATO, and within NATO, mostly the British) indicated a readiness to join with the Americans in conducting an anti-terrorist drive into Afghanistan to destroy the terrorists and their camps.
On September 20th, Bush went before a joint session of Congress to announce to the Taliban authorities governing Afghanistan that they must surrender up the al-Qaeda operatives or America (and much of the world) would do the job on its own. But the Taliban refused to cooperate.
The “Bush Doctrine.” With this (expected) refusal of the Taliban, the narrowly-defined surgical operation of taking out bin Laden and the al-Qaeda organization took on a broader goal: to knock out the Afghan Taliban as well, or any other regime giving sanctuary or aiding in any way to such terrorists. According to what would eventually be termed the “Bush Doctrine,” going after the perpetrators of the 9/11 hit was now expanded to liberating all of Afghanistan from the tyranny of all Muslim fanatics, including the Taliban, who had tried to pull the country back into the Middle Ages.
This of course would make the venture something more than just an exercise in enacting justice on the criminal perpetrators of the 9/11 tragedy. The Bush Doctrine would draw America into the much, much larger challenge of nation-building (at first just Afghanistan), the very thing of which Bush had been so critical of the Clinton Administration. And Afghanistan, as wildly diverse and as hostile as the various groups making up the country happened to be, would make nation-building a virtually impossible task – as every government working out of Kabul had long known the matter to be. Afghanistan was not a nation, had never been a nation, and would never become a nation any time soon.
The move to reconstruct Afghanistan. However, almost without giving it a second thought, Bush began immediately to set the larger American goal in Afghanistan as bringing national democracy to the country. Presumably this loftier, more Idealistic goal would ennoble the American efforts in Afghanistan. What he seemed not to realize was that this would also open up much larger questions concerning not only American relations with Afghanistan and the surrounding nations, but also the entire Muslim world. It would hit the country with huge diplomatic questions that would trouble the rest of Bush’s presidency.
CIA chief Tenet was ready to go immediately (presuming the operation to be merely taking out bin Laden and his associates). The CIA began to pay off local Afghan supporters to help them locate bin Laden so that CIA operatives could do their job. But as the operation began to expand its reach from taking out the criminal perpetrators of 9/11, to taking out all of the many al-Qaeda training camps around the country, to taking out the entire Taliban government, Tenet realized that the CIA needed the U.S. military’s help in carrying out its responsibilities.
Rumsfeld's Defense Department takes over the task. When asked to support the CIA, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld balked, refusing such support unless Tenet and the CIA operations were put under Rumsfeld’s Department of Defense (DOD). Furthermore, the taking down of bin Laden and al-Qaeda would have to wait until the Taliban had been defeated through the DOD’s military operations. Tenet was forced to yield, part of the frequent tension that would characterize relationships within the Bush cabinet.
But the DOD had no immediate plans for an Afghan operation. That would take time to develop. And the military would not move until they were fully ready. Also any such plans required a lot of diplomatic preparation, especially in getting things organized so that America’s military operations were coordinated with the local Afghan troops of the Northern Alliance. This larger operation took time to get itself ready for action.
Eventually (October 7th, almost a month later) America was finally ready to go. There was a huge American and British attack from the air on al-Qaeda training sites and Taliban strongholds, while at the same time the Northern Alliance provided ground troops (also assisted by U.S. special forces, mostly as liaison personnel coordinating ground and air action), which invaded south into Taliban territory.
But the Northern Alliance would not be led by the highly respected Massoud, for he had been assassinated in a well-planned operation just two days before 9/11. This had caught the attention of CIA analysts who had been watching Afghanistan and who sensed that something big was about to happen when Massoud was assassinated. But they were not able to get their concerns passed on quickly enough to put the nation’s leaders on alert. Even then there was probably no way anyone could have expected that these events in distant Afghanistan pointed to what happened two days later on 9/11 – just as Americans in 1941 were on to the fact that the Japanese were planning something big, though it never occurred to them that it would be an attack all the way across the Pacific to Pearl Harbor. [Americans should never underestimate the abilities of their enemies to reach deeply into their national existence to try to break them.]
Nonetheless, the Northern Alliance managed to hold together despite the loss of its leader. And with the help of American and NATO air power, they were able to begin driving back the Taliban. On November the 9th, they captured Mazar-i-Sharif, with its key airport in the north of the country, enabling them to fly in not only military supplies but also food for a desperately hungry Afghanistan. Three days later they took the capital Kabul after the Taliban fled ahead of advancing Northern Alliance forces.
With the fall of Kabul, celebrations broke out in Washington and across America. Laura Bush, the Presidents’ wife, delivered an address to the nation describing how the Taliban was in fast retreat and how the Afghans were rejoicing, especially the Afghan women. “The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women.” So it was clear. What America was involved in was in fact the much larger goal of ridding the world of terrorism and bringing new rights and dignity to the people of the world.
Many of the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters retreated into the mountains and caves of Tora Bora, which Americans bombed heavily on the 16th of November. Finally, CIA operatives and Army Special Forces moved into the area. But they had hardly enough troops to cover this huge area sufficiently. Many Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters (including presumably bin Laden and his colleague al-Zawahiri) escaped across the border into Pakistan. Other Taliban retreated south to dig in around their political center, Kandahar, where they were joined by more Taliban pouring in from Pakistan to join the Taliban defense of the Pashtun south.
The clash of East-West cultures. Once again American Idealism and the hard realities of a complex world would clash violently. Just the case of “freeing” the women in fundamentalist Afghanistan provides a vivid example of the complexities. Certainly equal education and equal professional opportunities for women are well-acknowledged rights of every woman in Western culture. But in traditional Muslim culture such personal rights do not exist. In fact the whole Western idea of personal rights itself is not the point of Islamic culture, which instead teaches submission as the primary directive in life. Everything, from children up through families, through local clans and tribes, through anointed rulers, to Allah himself, is a construction of correct submission. To talk of personal rights throws the whole sense of Islamic order into confusion. In fact it is one of the major points in the hostility of traditional Muslims against the invasion of their culture by Western values. When Muslims hear of Westerners crusading in their lands to bring individual rights, this touches the nerves of devout Muslims, not just in Afghanistan but also in other parts of the Muslim world. And in many cases, it merely makes them all the more deliberate in their sense of opposition to the Westernizing of their culture.
To be sure, there are many, very many, in the Muslim world who find these Western values attractive. These are the people that Westerners are most likely to deal with in their contacts with the world of Islam. It is thus easy to get the impression on the basis of this personal sampling that pro-Western attitudes are much more prevalent in the Middle East than they actually are.
It is thus also hard, very hard, for Americans to understand how Muslims who have lived among us in America (as most of the 9/11 perpetrators had) could hate us as they do. Do they not see the good in what we stand for? The answer is obviously “no.” Contact with our culture has made them all the more committed to the idea that the evil ways of our culture must be destroyed – just as we Americans believe that the evil ways of their culture must be destroyed.
Thus it was that in Afghanistan, America became drawn into a much larger challenge, one that had been brewing for a while and was about to become monumental in size. The war on terrorism in Afghanistan was quickly to become a war of global cultures.
The attempt to "democratize" Afghanistan. In December a select group of Afghans met in Bonn, Germany, under U.N. sponsorship to put together an Agreement providing for a provisional authority and a constitution drafting committee. Hamid Karzai, of a well-respected Pashtun political and diplomatic family background, and backed personally by America, was selected to serve a 6-month term as chairman of a Transitional Administration. The Bonn Agreement also called for the convening of a loya jirga (grand council) which by Afghan tradition was required to select any Afghan leader. A loya jirga of June 2002 in Kabul reappointed Karzai as head (this time as its president) of the Transitional Administration for a term of two years. The title was mostly honorific since there was little direct government outside of the capital itself but only loose arrangements or alliances with the many Afghan warlords who were in fact the real leaders here and there around Afghanistan. But Karzai did an excellent job of keeping this rather traditional Afghan political system functioning fairly effectively (that had been the pattern by which the Afghan Shah had once “governed” the country).
There seemed little more that could be done against bin Laden, who had obviously slipped into Pakistan – where the Pakistani government refused to allow American or NATO troops into their country in pursuit of al-Qaeda. Pakistan allowed supplies for American and NATO troops to pass through its territory on its way to Afghanistan. But the Pakistanis were unbending in their refusal to allow U.S. troops on Pakistani soil. In fact, it seemed that at times elements of the Pakistani government, military, and intelligence agency (ISI) were still actively supporting the Taliban. There seemed to be no way to get either bin Laden or the remainder of al-Qaeda as long as Americans could not enter Pakistan – and as long as Pakistan played a confusing game of conflicting political and diplomatic loyalties.
In 2004 there were actually national elections held in Afghanistan, at least in the parts of the country not still under Taliban control. And Karzai was decisively elected over his 22 opponents, with victories in 21 of the 34 provinces. What America and the West understood as “democracy” had finally come to Afghanistan ... or so it appeared anyway.
But by this point, Bush had shifted his priority from Afghanistan to a matter of greater interest to the president: Iraq. For reasons known only to Bush, he had by this time taken on the goal of ridding the world of Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein – and bringing Iraq to “democracy” as his primary foreign policy goal. He would pour the bulk of America’s military assets into this new anti-Saddam campaign. This left the situation in Afghanistan now very problematic.
Thus with the shifting of the diplomatic focus west toward Iraq, the Taliban were clearly able to make a political comeback in Afghanistan – by 2006 able to once again take over villages that they had been chased from, terrorizing the local population back into submission.
At this point there just were not enough American and NATO soldiers in Afghanistan to protect the local population from a Taliban return. America and its allies would send out military missions to retake villages from the Taliban. Then after a short while these Western troops would have to withdraw because they were needed elsewhere. And then the Taliban would return – and execute any who had helped the Westerners. After a while the Afghans simply asked the Americans not to “help” them. This was Vietnam all over again – although even less likely to find any success as things now stood.
Recent wars have been whole peoples against other peoples, cultures against cultures, popular worldviews violently contending with other worldviews. Such struggles have been characterized not by the matching of uniformed armies against uniformed armies, but by the participation in one form or another of whole populations, men women and children, in the violence of war. Vietnam was a clear example of this problem – where American troops became easily visible targets at the same time that Americans were never sure who were the proper targets among the Vietnamese. Friendly smiles could turn into murderous design once the backs of American soldiers were turned. To be sure there were Vietnamese supporters of the American presence. But how could Americans tell the difference between sincere and faked friendliness? Mistakes were made – huge mistakes at times – especially when the frustration level of American troops turned explosive.
The American Department of Defense or Pentagon never really worked out a solution to this problem. Consequently, the problems in Afghanistan were presenting themselves in the same format as the Vietnam war. If the Taliban presented themselves in some kind of battle array, they were as good as dead in American gun sights. But when they instead moved in and out of the local population (terrorizing the locals to make sure that no locals identified these Taliban to the Western troops) it was very difficult to hit them militarily.
The basic principles of Political Realism or Realpolitik (excerpt from pages 75-78). Political Realism would have had no difficulty in finding acceptance from either the Founding Puritan Fathers or the Founding Fathers of the American Republic, for it is a political philosophy that arises from the basic premise that man instinctively engages the world around him most powerfully on the basis of what he understands "logically" as his own self-interest ... the source of what Christians identify as "original sin."
Political Realism is aware that man is a moral animal, in the sense that he feels compelled to justify his actions on the basis of some moral logic or moralizing of his own. But even this moralizing is simply another aspect of his pursuit of self-interest. Morality is simply the way a person logically justifies his pursuit of self-interest, to others–even to himself.
For instance, a Realist realizes that moralizing is simply a verbal cover the individual offers up in the hope of presenting a compelling reason for others to yield to that individual's set of interests (such as a lawyer before a jury, or a six-year old before a scolding parent). It may actually include a lot of lying or slick deception in the hope that such deceptive moralizing will shape more advantageously the behavior of others.
A Realist, in attempting to deal with others, however, must first be clear in his own mind about what, in any given situation, his self-interests truly are. He must be very careful not to confuse his own moralizing with his true self-interest, which is fairly easy to do, and which in fact is often done in history, usually with disastrous results (say for instance when Hitler himself truly began to believe the lie he put over on the rest of the German nation that he was a diplomatic and military genius).
It is also very important that the Realist try to understand the actual self-interest behind the moralizing of the others around him. He should study life’s challenges from their perspective, to try to understand how it is that others see things, and thus how they are likely to act in any particular situation on the basis of what they think they see. A Realist should also pay close attention to the moral arguments he hears from others, not to sit in judgment as to whether they are objectively right or wrong but because they give him a better insight into how others perceive their own self-interest. This is an important contributor to the Realist’s ability to understand and anticipate the behavior of others, and to his ability to respond to the logic that others will use to give moral cover to their behavior.
The Realist also understands that self-interest is shaped tremendously by power. Power is the amount of ability a person has to actually pursue his sense of self-interest. The more power a person has, the more a person’s sense of self-interest will expand. Little power enables only the most-humble pursuit of self-interest. Great power enables a wide ranging, domineering pursuit of self-interest.
But of course, power is a rather limited factor. No one, no nation, has total power. Everyone, every nation, has some power, and needs to know exactly how much that actually is.
Power in a social context is not a particular material quality, but is simply how strengths in oneself and in others are perceived. Power is highly symbolic in nature. Certainly there are material attributes that shape that perception: guns, bombs, size of armies, size of the industrial infrastructure, size and training of the population itself. But of equal and usually even of greater importance are such intangibles as a reputation for power, wisdom (or lack thereof), a sense of optimism (or conversely, pessimism), and simply bravery or an inner strength willing to take on risks. This latter element of power, bravery, is where a deep faith in or sense of higher connection with the One who controls all life becomes absolutely essential (although this idea does not play as central a role in classic Realism as it should, though most Realists do recognize the connection).
Modern Political Realism is ultimately about nations, their interests (the "national interest") and their power. A nation must have a very keen sense of its own national interest, as well as the national interest of the other nations playing at the “game board” of world diplomacy. A nation must also be very aware of the size and nature its own power, material and symbolic, as well as the power of others. In short, it (or at least its leaders) must know how to size up both itself and others.
Before a nation ventures into a new move on the game board it should do a very thorough cost-benefit analysis of the situation. How important is this particular move? What are the gains or benefits that will probably come from this move? How much is it going to cost the nation to make this move? How much of its limited resource of power is it going to take to put national muscle behind this move?
Failure to get this analysis right (or worse, failure to undertake this cost-benefit analysis altogether, which sadly is often what happens, especially to Idealistic America) can bring disaster, even total ruin to a nation. For instance, nations that exhaust themselves in a war that brings no offsetting gain have simply squandered needlessly, even foolishly, even tragically, their power. In doing this they have left themselves vulnerable to the aggressions of a nation of growing power that is willing to test the weakened nation to see how badly that nation got depleted by its political folly. Political nature will simply take out that nation that has self-inflicted wounds wrought through folly.
A wise nation moves cautiously in the international diplomatic/ military game. It attempts to join forces with other nations who are pursuing similar national interests in order to combine forces and not drastically expend its own power. Sometimes it has to ally with others simply because it does not have enough power to take on a challenge by itself. This is how Roosevelt’s America and Churchill’s Britain found themselves in alliance with Stalin’s Communist Russia during World War Two (1939-1945). Germany was so powerful that it necessitated this alliance to bring Germany to defeat. They allied not because they shared similar moral codes and political cultures (although of course Britain and America certainly did). It was simply that as long as Germany was running loose across Europe, they all shared a common national interest of defeating Germany. Period. But once Germany was defeated, that alliance broke down (the Cold War took its place), because principally America (with Britain in support) no longer shared a common interest with Russia. In fact at that point their national interests were in something of a natural conflict over Europe, and then soon over the entire world, as they were bound to be (as both Truman and Churchill were quick to understand after the war’s end in 1945).
As odd as this may sound, self-interest can lead to some of the most charitable acts in the world of diplomacy and international relations. For instance, after World War Two, Truman and his America expected Europe to simply put itself back together after the shooting stopped. But within two years the Europeans had exhausted what was left of their social assets in the effort to rebuild. Politically as well as economically they were bankrupt. Stalin saw great advantage to his Soviet Union in this situation and called on his Communist allies in the West to thoroughly disrupt what was left of the social order in the West – to give him, through his Stalinist agents, full control of Western society. Truman (and his Secretary of State George Marshall) immediately understood the danger this put not only Europe but also America in and moved to offer Europeans full economic assistance in rebuilding their societies. The offer was extended even to the Russians if they had wanted it – which of course would have been totally contrary to Stalin's Soviet self-interest, and therefore was refused in the East. But the "Marshall Plan" did the trick, settling things down both economically and politically in Western Europe. But it also gave America the task of using its factories and farms (and thus jobs for Americans as well) to supply much of Europe's needs for rebuilding. And both societies prospered enormously in the process! That was true charity – formulated out of a strong sense of political self-interest on the part of everyone (except Stalin)! That's also political Realism in action – in the very best of ways!
Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) (excerpt from pages 162-163). Indeed, the anti-Christian crusade of Secular America would only intensify in the years ahead, with the American Federal Courts continuing to serve as the key battlefields in which Liberal or "Progressive" attitudes could be more easily advanced against America’s traditional Christian cultural foundations.
In 1987 the Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 in the Edwards v. Aguillard case that a Louisiana law, which required that the theory of creationism be taught in the public schools alongside the theory of Darwinism, was unconstitutional because it was in total violation of the Lemon test requiring a purely Secular purpose to such acts of the State governments. The Court declared that creationism intended to advance a certain religious belief, that God exists as founder and presider over all existence, and thus failed to meet the standards of the Lemon Test which decreed that the government could prescribe an educational program only if it had a legitimate Secular purpose, that is, the belief that life operates solely on the basis of purely mechanical laws that brought forward all existence through a process of slow, competitive evolution. Any other approach in public education was in violation of the Constitution! (Just whose Constitution were they referring to?)
A large group of Secular scientists had been invited to file briefs with the court in which they pointed out that creationism was not a co-equal science, in fact was not science at all but simply a religious doctrine derived from the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis in the Judeo-Christian Bible. On the other hand, during the hearings there had been no serious opportunity given for scholars of an opposing viewpoint to present their views. Thus the outcome was fairly well predetermined by the way the hearings were shaped by the justices themselves.
Thus the Court decision pretty much settled the argument that had been raging since the early part of the century between the traditional Christian worldview and the Darwinist worldview. The clear policy now was that any idea that creation was the work of a Creator, because it originated not from the American scientific community but from the American religious community, could not be taught in America’s public schools. To do so would be to promote religion, not just a particular religion, but religion in general, which according to the Lemon Test was totally unconstitutional.
The Edwards v. Aguillard case made that very clear: the First Amendment was to be read not as the freedom of religion but as the freedom from religion. Anything that served to advance the cause of religion was forbidden in America’s public schools, and by potential inference for the possible future, also anywhere else in America’s public life as well.
The fears arising in the 1960s, ones that prompted the Becker and Dirksen amendments' failed attempts to offer protection from religious censure by the Federal courts, had just proved themselves to have been well justified. The opposition to those amendments put forward at that time by prominent mainline church leaders, who claimed that such religious prohibition was an event not likely ever to happen in America, just proved itself to have been totally unprophetic. By the 1987 decree of the Supreme Court, public America had officially become non-theistic (atheistic). And there was nothing that could be done about it, as there was (and still is) no political recourse the American public could take against a decision of the Supreme Court. Their rulings were the ultimate Law of the Land.