Ponnuru calls conservatives anti-homosexual bigots

In my article on Ramesh Ponnuru’s distressing and defeatist cover article in National Review in which he told conservatives that the battle against homosexual marriage is all but lost, I noted: “[Ponnuru] says there are no good arguments against homosexual marriage, telling us over and over that conservatives who reject homosexual rights are bigots and haters.” Mr. Ponnuru, a gentleman who has written kindly about this website at NRO’s The Corner, protested to me that he did not say “again and again” that social conservatives have been hateful, but that he only said it “once.” He also denied that he had claimed that the social conservatives have no valid arguments on the issue.

My reply is to quote several excerpts from the article. As the reader will see, Mr. Ponnuru repeatedly stated that conservatives are perceived as—and indeed are—bigoted and persecutorial on the single-sex marriage issue, and, further, that they have no good arguments.

Coming Out Ahead: Why gay marriage is on the way
Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review, July 28, 2003

Excerpt One:

Another shift in public sentiment is less easily captured in poll numbers: the rise of what one might call an “anti-anti-gay” bloc. People in this group may have qualms about homosexuality and may not support gay marriage. But they are at least as uncomfortable with anything that strikes them as hostile to gay people, with rhetoric that singles them out for criticism, with political figures who seem to spend too much time worrying about them. It is this group—more than gays themselves or even unequivocal supporters of gay rights—that has caused the Bush White House to take a moderate line on gay issues.

Excerpt Two:

The logic of the argument against homosexuality now implicates the behavior of a lot of heterosexuals. If the argument is made openly, and cast as a case for traditional sexual morals in general, a large part of the public will flinch. If the argument is made so as to single out gays, the logic vanishes. Social conservatives begin to look as though they are motivated not by principle but by the desire to persecute a minority. If no effective public argument can be made, the prohibition on gay marriage must survive based on tradition and unarticulated reasons. These are weak defenses in a rationalistic and sexually liberated era.

Excerpt three:

At the same time that social conservatives were reaching this dead end, the agenda of gay-rights organizations was changing, too. What, after all, have been gays’ great demands in recent years? They have asked for the opportunity to serve in the armed forces, to lead Boy Scout troops, to marry and adopt. Social-conservative rhetoric on homosexuality remained stuck in the 1970s, presenting gays as sexual radicals. Social conservatives were really the last squares.

Excerpt four:

Justice Scalia’s recent attempt to maintain the distinction, to say that a ban on gays’ sexual behavior does not discriminate against people on the basis of their (putative innate desires, was widely regarded as both hair-splitting and demeaning.

Excerpt five:

It was perhaps impossible for social conservatives to resist a tide so strong But their failure was partly of their own making. They were simultaneously too loving and too hateful. For the reasons outlined above, persuasive social-conservative rhetoric on gay rights is difficult to devise But the rhetoric the social Right actually adopted had the additional burden of lending itself to easy caricature as spiteful, harsh, and obsessive—in part because it was not infrequently all of those things.

Excerpt Six:

I suspect that even conservative Catholics who oppose gay marriage are especially sensitive to rhetoric that seems intolerant toward gays as persons.

Excerpt Seven:

After Massachusetts, will Republicans find a way to object forcefully to gay marriage and to push for the marriage amendment, without looking intolerant? That would be a tall order even for people who thought deeply about these matters. Social conservatives have not yet lost this battle, and their defeat is not quite inevitable. But that is the way to bet.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 06, 2003 03:27 PM | Send

Ramesh Ponneru wrote:
“People in this group may have qualms about homosexuality and may not support gay marriage. But they are at least as uncomfortable with anything that strikes them as hostile to gay people, with rhetoric that singles them out for criticism, with political figures who seem to spend too much time worrying about them. It is this groupómore than gays themselves or even unequivocal supporters of gay rightsóthat has caused the Bush White House to take a moderate line on gay issues.”

In other words, it isn’t the partisans but the default-liberals who are driving the issue leftward. Cha cha cha!

“I suspect that even conservative Catholics who oppose gay marriage are especially sensitive to rhetoric that seems intolerant toward gays as persons.”

Exactly. Even “conservative” Catholics are liberals-by-default.

A liberal is someone who by default will assert politcal freedom and equal rights when he doesn’t care about an issue or wishes it would just go away. This now includes just about everyone, everywhere in the West.

The only escape from self-destruction is unequivocal repentance.

Posted by: Matt on August 6, 2003 4:07 PM

Ramesh Ponnuru just e-mailed me this reply:


Thanks. You can quote the following on your site:

Let me try this one more time.

In excerpt one, I’m saying that some conservative rhetoric strikes some voters as intolerant, etc. I’m not saying that they are right to view this rhetoric this way. Hence the words “strikes them” and “seems to.”

In excerpt two, the words “look as though” do the same work. I’m talking about how a substantial portion of the public reacts to the argument, not about the soundness of the argument.

Excerpt three you’ve slightly miscopied, but in any case I don’t think it imputes bigotry to anyone.

Excerpt four: I’m not endorsing the widespread negative reaction to Justice Scalia’s opinion in Lawrence. In truth, I do not at all agree with it. I wrote two defenses of that opinion online.

Excerpt five is your strongest point. I do indeed think that some social-conservative rhetoric has been nasty and unpleasant. Again, this doesn’t mean all social conservatives are bigots or that their arguments are all bigoted or unsound. (I do not believe those things.)

Excerpt six: Again, I’m describing the view of people rather than endorsing it. Again, note the “seems”.

Excerpt seven: Note the “looking.”

If noting that many people regard social conservatives as intolerant and that this perception has political consequences is offensive, I’m afraid that a sober political analysis of the situation is quite impossible.

[end of e-mail]

To me, it is clear that Mr. Ponnuru was not just saying that conservatives look bigoted, but that people are correct in thinking that they ARE bigoted. Nowhere in his article does he attempt to REFUTE the assumption that people have grounds for thinking that conservatives are bigoted, nor, after shooting down every single social conservative argument, does he present any arguments of his own that he thinks might be more effective.

Since Mr. Ponnuru seems set on denying the obvious drift and tenor of his article, it may be necessary for me to subject it to a point by point analysis.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on August 6, 2003 4:16 PM

1) The use of “moderate” for liberal usually tells you all you need to know about where a writer is coming from. Take this quote from the first excerpt: It’s the “anti-anti-gays,” says Ponnuru, who have “caused the Bush White House to take a moderate line on gay issues.”

2) “Caused”? Things have causes; people have reasons. Evidently the Bush White House has no will of its own.

3) Homosexuals have by now made it impossible for the other 97% of us to use the word “gay” in its normal way. Ponnuru sees nothing wrong with this.

These three instances of verbal pollution exemplify the fact that the destruction of our culture is furthered and accompanied by the destruction of our language. Conservatives ought to be more protective of our language than we tend to be.

Posted by: frieda on August 6, 2003 4:17 PM

Frieda writes:
“Conservatives ought to be more protective of our language than we tend to be.”

Amen to that! The correspondence of our language to what is true ought to be one of our best assets. Deconstruction is a two-edged sword, dangerous in Frieda’s capable hands.

(That is why I won’t give ground when e.g. I say that objectively the Nazis are a form of liberal modern. No amount of linguistic slight of hand can make what is true become not true.)

Posted by: Matt on August 6, 2003 4:28 PM

Mr. Auster wrote:
“Since Mr. Ponnuru seems set on denying the obvious drift and tenor of his article, it may be necessary for me to subject it to a point by point analysis.”

I take his article to be confirmation of a common theme at VFR: there is no longer (if there ever was) such a thing as a moderate political position. Probably most people would like to be moderate, but in pretending to political moderation they instead provide a necessary base of support for radical leftism. Without all of the moderation that Mr. Ponneru dispassionately observes liberalism would collapse in its own contradictions. But nobody really wants that, do they?

Posted by: Matt on August 6, 2003 4:40 PM

I was going to post a comment saying that it appears to me from the posted excerpts that Mr. Ponnuru is describing a situation more than he is defending it. I notice, however, that he has already replied to that effect. I agree with him in each of the places where he is quoted, while at the same time bemoaning the disaster that is homosexual marriage. If there are many who want to give up the fight simply because of Mr. Ponnuruís pessimistic appraisal of its chances, then I feel that we would stand little chance with or without him.

(Note that I have only read the excerpted portions of the article.)

Posted by: Thrasymachus on August 6, 2003 4:44 PM

It is silly to suggest that I am implying that we should give up the fight because of Ponnuru’s defeatism. Quite the opposite. I am criticizing him for his obvious attempt to disarm and demoralize any opposition to homosexual marriage. To stand against Ponnuru’s urgings of surrender is to stand against the left to whom he is urging us to surrender.

I reject Thrasy’s inference that Ponnuru is merely “describing” the situation. When Ambassador Joseph Kennedy said in 1939-40, “There’s nothing to be done against the Nazis; Fascism is the coming ideology of our time; any resistance we offer will only increase the damage we will suffer,” that could have been characterized as a mere “description” of the situation. But of course, Kennedy wasn’t merely describing; he was making statements aimed at convincing the West to make peace with Hitler. Ponnuru’s article is unquestionably of the same nature.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on August 6, 2003 5:01 PM

Mr. Auster,

Again, I am at a disadvantage for not having read the article. But what I see above is an honest appraisal and not defeatism. Though unquestionable, I’ll have to question where Mr. Ponnuru is wrong on public opinion, and where exactly Mr. Auster sees the state of public opinion on the matter. I am very much persuaded of the existence and importance of the so-called “anti-anti-gays.”

There are few arguments against homosexual marriage on which the mainstream can hang their hats. The opposition as it exists now is for the most part a skin-deep reaction to yet another alien idea. The people who are pushing for homosexual marriage are completely committed.

It is the logic of the sexual revolution that is at work here. Mainstream culture has already surrendered to it. Now it would truly be perverse to accept the tenants of the sexual revolution and at the same time oppose homosexual marriage. So we have on one side the majority who are already permissive towards sex outside of marriage, and who are motivated by simple fairness to allow homosexual marriage. On the other side are those who defend a traditional concept of sexual relationships, a life-style that the majority of Americans are unwilling to see enshrined into law.

Posted by: Thrasymachus on August 6, 2003 5:51 PM

We have to consider one of the things Mr. Ponnuru is saying _in part_, in that it is necessary for us to understand the public sentiment he is expressing in order to devise a strategy for counteracting the homosexual agenda. But that is the ONLY legitimate reason to make such assertions.

For that reason alone, I think Mr. Auster is correct in asserting that this his article (and defense thereof) step further over that line, as Mr. Ponnuru is clearly not offering these ‘observations’ with a view toward delineating any tactics to correcting what he observes. They are made in a defeatist tone.

Mr. Auster’s use of the Joseph Kennedy illustration was on point, (though Mr. Kennedy was more blunt, or perhaps more honest, in articulating his view.) If you read Ann Coulter’s column of today, and keep that Kennedy quote in mind, you might get a good laugh out of it.

The one thing that Mr. Ponnuru and the rest of the ‘conservative’ defeatists just don’t seem to understand is where their loser attitude is going to lead. We need only look north, where in Canada a man faced legal sanction merely for having taken an ad out in the paper with Bible verses (only the references, NOT THE TEXT) that condemn homosexuality: http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=31080

Dr. James Dobson has noted that when he speaks against homosexuality in his radio show, it has to be edited in order to play in Canada. It is illegal to speak against homosexuality on the airwaves.

How foolish to think that the homosexuals will stop short of removing even our freedom to express our opinion against that lifestyle. By effectively throwing in the towel on this issue, Mr. Ponnuru is handing them their Sudetenland.

Posted by: Joel on August 6, 2003 7:38 PM


I think we might all agree with Mr. Ponnuru that our position is weakened by the fact that many of those opposing gay marriage are comfortable with other aspects of the sexual revolution, like contraception and divorce. Giving in on hose issues certainly makes it harder for conservatives to explain our opposition to gay marriage. Regardless, Ponnuru’s article is pure defeatism, and indicative of sad decline of a once-great magazine.

P.S. Have any of you recently read Derbyshire’s posts at the Corner. The poor guy needs some consuling…

Posted by: Brendan Kenny on August 6, 2003 7:47 PM

Joel wrote:

“We have to consider one of the things Mr. Ponnuru is saying _in part_, in that it is necessary for us to understand the public sentiment he is expressing in order to devise a strategy for counteracting the homosexual agenda. But that is the ONLY legitimate reason to make such assertions.”


“Mr. Ponnuru is clearly not offering these Ďobservationsí with a view toward delineating any tactics to correcting what he observes. They are made in a defeatist tone.”


“Mr. Austerís use of the Joseph Kennedy illustration was on point, (though Mr. Kennedy was more blunt, or perhaps more honest, in articulating his view.)”

Sorry if I gave the impression that that was a direct quote. I was just generally paraphrasing his position at that time.

Now, Mr. Kenny writes:

“I think we might all agree with Mr. Ponnuru that our position is weakened by the fact that many of those opposing gay marriage are comfortable with other aspects of the sexual revolution, like contraception and divorce. Giving in on those issues certainly makes it harder for conservatives to explain our opposition to gay marriage.”

Of course it’s a valid point, it’s an ESSENTIAL point, as I have argued here and elsewhere: http://www.counterrevolution.net/vfr/archives/001559.html. But note once again that Ponnuru does not raise this point in order to say, “Now I see that the homosexualization of society is a result of the sexual revolution. If we are to have any chance of winning this battle over homosexual marriage, we’ve got to question the sexual revolution itself.” No. Instead, he says, “Gee, we can’t challenge the sexual revolution, because we can’t challenge popular opinion, or at least what the pollsters tell us is popular opinion. After all, the only basis of deciding what we believe in politically is what the pollsters tell us. And since we can’t challenge the sexual revolution, we can’t challenge the homosexual revolution either.” End of story. Irrevelance. Extinction.

“Regardless, Ponnuruís article is pure defeatism, and indicative of sad decline of a once-great magazine.”


Posted by: Lawrence Auster on August 6, 2003 8:24 PM

The sexual revolution does not justify homosexuality, but it seems true that many think it might. Many and maybe most in the sexual revolution do not accept promiscuity, and certainly a large majority do not accept promiscuity in their children’s lives. Homosexuality is not about “mere” promiscuity but about debauchery. A few homosexuals desirous and capable of lifelong companionships does not wag the dog of homosexuality.

Homosexual marriage will not reduce debauchery but will serve to justify it. Parents will be unable to tell their boy to refrain from petting with little Bob or little Sam because Bob, Sr., and Sam, Sr., will lawfully insist it is their right and giggle when they see it while chaperoning a grade school party. So parents who do not send their children to such parties or allow their children to mingle with homosexuals are unfair becaues they had sex with two or three people before they were married?

The sexual revolutionists might be hypocrites, as we all are to one degree or the other, but that does not make them unfair here. The sexual revolutionaries have principles that conflict with the principles of homosexuals. Homosexuals and their bewildered allies do not want to accept that fact because it is troublesome to them. It takes relentless hard work to maintain principles just as it takes to maintain a strong military. Because the political situation is as it is at this point in time, homosexuals have substantial power. This is mainly about politics and not about fairness.

(Once open borders end, there is a good chance acceptance of homosexuality will end. The recent immigrants seem to be tipping the scales in favor of homosexuals.)

Posted by: P Murgos on August 6, 2003 9:09 PM

I understand what Mr. Murgos is getting at. I once shared his view. At first glance it seems odd and off-putting to say that a certain loosening of sexual morals, the idea that people might have some affairs and experiences before they get married, makes it impossible for society to resist something as radical and destructive as homosexual liberation.

But here’s where I think his notion may be wrong. Obviously a certain degree of non-marital sex can and will occur in a society that is basically traditional, as a variance from or falling short of the general ideal and standard of monogamy; I think this is the kind situation that Mr. Murgos is actually thinking of. But that situation is very different from that of a society that explicitly claims sexual freedom as a principle and a right. The first type of society, which remains essentially traditional, could still resist homosexual liberation. The second type of society, as a practical matter, will move very quickly toward homosexual liberation, or, in any case, find itself unable to resist it once it appears.

Take South Africa, one of the most straightlaced societies in the world prior to the end of Apartheit. But as soon as the new government was installed in 1994 and removed the old Calvinist restrictions on sexual behavior, it legitimiized homosexual conduct as well.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on August 6, 2003 9:28 PM

As a footnote to what Messrs. Murgos and Auster are discussing, the following point may have some relevance.

My understanding of the mores expressed in the Great Rebellion, (i.e. the Sixties,) was that homosexuality was problematic, but bi-sexuality was ‘cool.’ The reason was that in the first case, it meant that a man couldn’t have a relationship with a woman, and this was considered to be a ‘problem.’ But bi-sexuality was cool because it mean the person was _decadent_.

It was ‘cool’ to be going _beyond_ what was ‘normal,’ consciously defying the natural order, (as opposed to being limited to the unnatural behavior.) This was considered a sort of liberation. But from there, an acceptance of homosexuality sort of devolves as an afterthought. So by example, a openly bi-sexual David Bowie or Mick Jagger (per the rumours,) would be glorified for their behavior, which would open the way for acceptance of a celebrity who was openly and exclusively homosexual.

I’m not sure if this relates, or if it’s even an accurate assessment of the process of cultural degradation, but I offer it whatever it might be worth.

Posted by: Joel on August 6, 2003 10:17 PM

The acceptance of homosexual bishops in a Christian religion is fantastic but should not be surprising in retrospect. One or more Popes behaved awfully as well (even if it might not have involved homosexuality). What is surprising is it is happening in a well-informed society unlike the days when education and information were hard to come by. People could say, “Aw get outta here man,” when told a fantastic story about a Pope’s misdeeds. To imply ontologically that Christ or the Blessed Virgin behaved or could have behaved in a manner consistent with this homosexual bishop seems a lie that has no historical justification. But then there is a self-proclaimed Christian sect in the Middle East that includes smoking pot in its rituals. So what is the theological basis for this idea that took 2003 years to discover hidden in both the New Testament and the Old Testament? I’m sure the U.S. Supreme Court could find the basis in a week or less, but where do relatively helpless theologians find it? Maybe this is just one of the ancient heresies.

Posted by: P Murgos on August 6, 2003 11:25 PM

I was too young to know for certain what adults were thinking in the 1960’s, but no teenager I ever heard of thought homosexuality was cool or thought Jagger was cool because of it. His bisexuality was just a rumor even then. Teenagers uniformly thought homosexuality or bisexuality was awful. Maybe some Hippies pretended or thought it was cool. There were not many Hippies, just a lot of kids that dressed like Hippies. I suppose it is possible Hippies were moving on by the time all the kids started dressing like them and imitating them. All male teenagers thought Mick Jagger was just plain ugly; in fact, age might have improved his looks. Age cannot make him look worse. Many thought his music was cool, as did I. My friends and I thought the Stones looked ridiculous and behaved ridiculously, but we sure liked their music. It still amazes me how rock musicians dress and behave outlandishly. Those things were always distractions to me, if I am recalling accurately.

Posted by: P Murgos on August 7, 2003 12:03 AM

I was growing up in the 70’s and was blissfully unaware of the extent of the depravity of society, and again I can’t say for sure how accurate my understanding is. I had just understood that a ‘star’ who had bi-sexual tendencies but was nevertheless popular with women seemed to have an ‘in’ at the first that helped lead to a more ready acceptance of homosexuality.

As to that pot-smoking Christian sect, (possibly the Ethiopian Zionist Coptic sect that has branches in the U.S., a very weird bunch,) well, I was recently handed a copy of a book called “The Sacred Mushroom And The Cross” by the late John Marco Allegro, one-time lecturer in Old Testament and Intertestamental Studies at the University of Manchester. He was the first British representative on an international editing team that worked preparing the Dead Sea Scrolls for publication. His book on the Scrolls was translated into 8 languages and sold over a quarter million copies.

Dr. Allegro’s thesis, drawn from his expertise in several ancient languages including Sumerian, is that there was no person named Jesus or any apostles or Jewish prophets. They were all legends created by an underground Pagan fertility cult as personifications of the hallucinogenic amanita muscaria mushroom.

No, I am not kidding. And this man was no back woods hippie or Third World mystic; he was a well-educated intellectual who enjoyed an international reputation as a scholar.

Nothing shocks me anymore.

Posted by: Joel on August 7, 2003 12:26 AM

Zmirak has an article on the front page of Vdare.com that adds to this discussion. http://www.vdare.com/ NeoCons - Or Vichy Cons? Fun read. Mr. Ponnuru is discussed, as well as Goldberg’s surrender on “the gay issue.” Be warned that this link isn’t the permanent one and will decay.

Posted by: Thrasmachus on August 7, 2003 2:34 AM

A good article by Zmirak, lacking his usual silly references to himself, and criticizing the neoconservatives in a rational way, not the crazed resentful way that most paleocons adopt. However, the article is ruined at the end when he says, does real conservatism have a leader? And then he says, yes, Buchanan.

Zmirak can’t see or doesn’t want to see that Buchanan has become a twisted man, bent out of shape by his own animosities. Even back in the days when Buchanan was less bent, when I supported him, he was no trustworthy leader but a self-involved maverick. But now he’s completely unfit for leadership, except to lead people for whom the meaning of life is to hate Israel and neoconservatives.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on August 7, 2003 3:09 AM

Addendum to earlier posts by Messrs. Auster and Murgos:

Yes, there’s a crucial difference between earlier generations’ grudging toleration of sexual misconduct and the current demand for its legitimation. That difference is the existence vs. nonexistence of moral stigma.

Victorian England had its sexual subcultures, which existed more or less comfortably with the legitimate culture’s condemnation of them. That everyone knew about it is precisely what made the system work. The deviants acknowledged that they were deviant; their public hypocrisy paid necessary tribute to proper morality and hence supported it. Also, children born out of wedlock bore the stigma of illegitimacy, which, although painful for those children, supported legitimacy. The deviants did not justify their deviancies; they acknowledged a sort of pact with society: you tolerate us and we’ll accept your standards as the right ones.

In short, what the public proclaims as its ideal, even as its violations are well known, retains its crucial role in maintaining the society’s moral code.

That’s why the turning point in the legitimation of homosexuality was the homosexuals’ emerging from the closet. Everyone knew about the homosexual subculture of Greenwich Village, but it wasn’t until its denizens claimed respectability that we started on the road to where we are now. It wasn’t until the stigma attached to illegitimacy was abolished that the epidemic of teenage pregnancies began.

If the revolution is reversible, it will have to be by our finding a way to reinstate the public moral stigma.

Posted by: frieda on August 7, 2003 9:13 AM

As Frieda very well states, it’s the public moral approval that is the key problem. I always find the story of Sodom emblematical of that. The entire city was not just committing the sin, but their behavior indicated that this was the public expression of the city _as_ a city, and that was its doom.

Sin or vice is one thing. Approval of sin or vice is worse. Public, official approval of sin or vice is the worst.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on August 7, 2003 9:35 AM

Now, I haven’t exactly read every word that Buchanan has written on Israel, but what I have read I agree with.

As a non-Jewish resident of the United States I feel no special ties to Israel. I see no reason why we should be involved in what is going on over there. And certainly the Palestinian conflict is fueling Saudi radicalism. Our funding of Israel is one of the main reasons that anger is directed towards the United States (I’m willing to back this up).

I certainly understand people’s feelings towards Israel. Were I Jewish, I’d support it in every way possible. But I’m not. There is nothing that persuades me that being involved over there is anything but a bad deal for us.

I am surprised that Israel is a make or break issue for a lot of people (well, not surprised really). I think the white South Africans, my own race, are having worse troubles, but I certainly don’t choose my politicians based on their South Africa policy. I expect my fellow Americans to share my allegiance to America, and beyond that I’ll understand if we differ.

Posted by: Thrasymachus on August 7, 2003 10:26 AM

I’d like to offer some thoughts on Thrasymachus’s statements.

I would not impute any bad intent to what you’ve said, but I think your focus on Arab sentiments is misplaced. Israel stands at hub of a conflict that would affect us whether or not there were an Israel. And I would argue that we cannot be ‘neutral’ in this without compromising our interests and security.

I think we have to keep in mind that the Mohammedan Arabs have a history of conquest and belligerence — they came dangerously close to conquering Europeans in centuries past. This had nothing to do with the Jews, and Israel didn’t exist. They were stopped by Charles Martel, by Ferdinand and Isabella, and in other cases by apparent good fortune. Their ambitions were thrown after Britain invaded Egypt, and were they too weak thereafter to threaten us. But there’s another factor that has changed the dynamics, and that is the Western world’s dependence on oil.

Oil in fact was the biggest factor in the way Britain mishandled the Palestinian Mandate, and essentially stabbed the Jews in the back. It is the only reason why they have wealth, and why they are any kind of factor at all in world politics.

To understand why this is so significant, I would refer to Dr. Serge Trifkovik’s book, “The Sword Of The Prophet,” a must-read on Mohammedanism. Dr. Trifkovik cites the World Bank figures that apart from fossil fuels, the TOTAL exports of all Arab countries combined is less than the exports of _Finland_. There are 50 Arabs for every Finn.

Mohammedan countries have never been able to form sustainable economies. They do not bring the necessary preconditions for sound economic development, any more than the old communist countries. The have in the past relied on plundering countries they invaded, and have always been dependent on other countries in any case.

Egypt used to be the bread-basket of lower Europe, as the Ukraine was for much of western Russia. Today both countries must import their food.

The presence of the Zionist in the Holy Land in fact attracted impoverished Arabs from the surrounding countries. The Jewish land reclamation and economic revitalization of the area created jobs. Today, the economy of the so-called Palestinians still very dependent on Israel.

If Israel were to be taken out, the Palestinians would languish in even worse poverty than before. There’s no oil there. (There is in the Sinai, but Israel gave that back to Egypt.) The Mohammedans can never accept that their problems are their own fault — or more specifically the fault of their dysfunctional religion. It’s always somebody else that’s to blame.

The Arab dictators use the state-controlled press to inflame against Israel (and the U.S.), and the West in general, to cover their own corruption, tyranny, ineptitude, and stupidity. Listening to any Arab gathering, it’s always “Is-rye-el this” and “Is-rye-el that,” as if all their problems would disappear if only Israel would cease to exist.

But their problems wouldn’t go away, and without Israel to blame, as the Palestinians languish in deeper poverty than before, who would be left? Well, there was the Great Satan, (that’s us,) and the Little Satan. But the Little Satan being gone …

Running our policy based on fear of Arab rage is like conducting our internal racial policies based on fear of black riots. It lead to incoherent decision-making generating from a sort of blackmail.

But let’s assume we complied with every Arab demand — do you think that would mean that the terrorist here would just up and leave? And that CAIR and other groups would then cease trying Islamicize our country? Of course not. They would be as intent on imposing their way of life on us as they are now, only they would be even MORE energized.

They would not see what we did as an act of goodwill that deserved reciprocation; they would say, “See how great Allah is in making the Great Satan doing what we want.” They would see it as a sign of weakness, and it would no more bring an end to their designs than handing the Sudenland to Hitler.

And they DO intend to Islamicize us, according to specified plans. See for instance http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=33898
And considering how complacent Americans have become — just note the non-response to the recent Supreme Court decisions, and how quietly we are accepting the Hispanicization of our country!

It would be foolhardy not to take this seriously. By conversion, immigration, and birthrates, the Mohammedans are increasing their presence here at an alarming rate. Estimates have predicted that certain of our major cities will have majority Mohammedan populations in as few as 20 years. When this happens it will be trouble.

There is an advantage to having Israel where she is. Since her presence as a Jewish state, (even though she only exists on 1/6 of 1% of what is careless thought of as the Arab land base,) represents a direct affront to the Mohammedan religion. Because of this Israel takes up a disproportionate degree of Arab attentions.

Good for us. If Israel weren’t there, we’d be the ones left for them to focus on with even more intensity. Is that to our advantage? Of course, Israel is not going to be defeated even if we turned our back on her. If her hand were forced, she would cause unimaginable damage to the invading countries — and WE would feel the fallout here for this economically and diplomatically.

And the Arabs would still find a way to lay the blame on us.

Posted by: Joel on August 7, 2003 4:05 PM


(Thatís actually my name when Iím not pretending to be an ancient dead Greek sophist.)

I agree with nearly all of what you have to say. Your characterization of Arab countries is quite accurate. There are other factors than religion, but Islam is certainly the biggest reason for the failure of modernism in that area of the world.

Israel is used, as you say, as a method for the state-controlled media to funnel their peopleís discontent away from their own incompetent governments. Israel is also the reason, as you point out, for even the small measure of economic prosperity that the Palestinians now enjoy. In fact, I believe that one of the largest objections to the security wall currently being built in Israel is that Palestinians wish to go into Israel to work.

Despite all that, itís important not to underestimate the effects of Israeli violence, however justified, when presented on television to the Arab world. Those images are a propagandistís dream come true Ė propaganda isnít easy work, after all. And again, US support of Israel is very much part of that propaganda.

International terrorism is a business that takes a lot of determination and support. Itís not something that appears out of a vacuum. The total failure of Islamic civilization is a necessary condition, of course, but not a sufficient one. I do think that American support of Israel, together with our military escapades in the Middle-East (the latter being far more important in my view), are increasing our risks a great deal. Without the aggravating factors of foreign enemies, much of the terrorist anger would probably turn inwards. Individual terrorists usually have a little bit more concrete justification than just Ďhating someoneís way of life.í (Iím not advocating an end to Israel. As I said before, my position is one of not wanting to be involved, and leaving Israel to handle that anger itself. As you say, Israel is not going to be defeated if we turn our backs.)

I donít advocate surrender to terrorists. But at the same time, I have to call people foolish when they advocate ignoring the situation which lead to terrorism in the first place. Our existence, in and of itself Ė despite the silly statements Bush made at the SOTU Ė is not enough to draw in terrorists. It takes actual action on our part, which we have certainly provided.

The demographic threat, however, is real, and the facts are substantially as you say. Your solution, however, does not strike me as well-reasoned. You say that ďIsrael takes up a disproportionate degree of Arab attentions…. If Israel werenít there, weíd be the ones left for them to focus on with even more intensity.Ē Israel takes up none of the Middle-Eastís demographic drive. The constant stream into Western nations will continue with or without Israel. It does, however, provide one more rallying point for what would otherwise be a more politically diverse flood.

A far better response to the demographic threat than the Israeli distraction ploy, however, is immigration reform. And Buchanan is the only major US politician to be pushing for it. If the demographic threat is as real as you say, I donít think we should let minor foreign policy issues like Israel distract from our unity.

Again, my position is that I am sympathetic to the plight of the Israelis. But not sympathetic enough to want to waste more tax dollars or American blood on the Middle-East. Your last statement about Israel causing unimaginable damage to the invading countries and causing problems for us here is also unrealistic. Israel at present enjoys conventional superiority, and there is no threat of invasion. However within the decade, those conventional arms will become obsolete any as countries in the region acquire nuclear weapons and the delivery systems required (perhaps with necessary decoys to fool missile defense systems). At that point, all that will matter will be demographics and how crazy you can convince the other side you are. The demographic battle has already been lost. I donít want America to have any part beyond peace-broker in the rest of the battle.

Posted by: Thrasymachus on August 8, 2003 1:19 PM

Our positions are close enough in most respects, so we can focus on the narrower points of difference which may not be that great anyway. We should draw a distinction between our intervention in the Mid-East conflict and our relationship with Israel in terms of military and financial aid.

I agree that President Bush’s explanations of the cause of terror are absurd, PC nonsense. But he’s not doing that to justify our Israel policy; he’s doing it to avoid offending Mohammedans. Another thing to note is that the terrorists love to point to some external justification for their actions, but it’s really just posturing. For instance, we were told that the latest conflict was ‘sparked’ due to Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount. Later, people in Arafat’s circle acknowledged that Arafat himself had planned the terror campaign months earlier, starting almost from the day he walked out of the the 2000 Camp David meeting. Sharon’s visit was used as mere pretense — after having approved in advance by the Muslim Waqf!

You make a good point that without continuous propagandizing by Arab dictators, the rage of the street would turn ‘inward.’ But that’s only half the story, as when the Shah of Iran was overthrown. The other half is what Iran has been doing in the 24 years since — exporting terrorism in so many parts of the world.

What we can’t bring ourselves to say is that this really is a clash of civilizations that is religious in nature. Of course WE don’t want to say that, but that’s what the other side believes. When one side believes it, then it effectively IS a religious war.

You also mention the effect that TV images of Israeli violence (no matter whether that violence is an appropriate reaction in a given circumstance) has on Arab viewers. But here we get into another question, which is where I’ll mention my own disagreement with U.S. policy. Our constant staying of Israel’s hand at so many stages, (especially in Lebanon when Arafat and his goons were nearly taken out,) is what really has prolonged this conflict and made it such a miserable, bloody mess.

Israel should have moved in the Gaze Strip and everywhere else where terrorists are based, and denazified it long ago. Her failure to do this, (due to restraints imposed by us,) has only meant even more dead, and more of those images you’re rightly concerned about.

So in a sense I agree that our involvement, in the diplomatic sense, is problematic. By trying to please all sides, we’ve made things worse for all sides. But I cannot agree that we shouldn’t take a definite side when we consider that the stakes really are over Israel’s very existence. It would not be enough merely to cut aid to Israel. If we had any dealings with her at all, indeed, by even maintaining diplomatic relations with her, we are affirming her right to exist. This puts us in hardly any different position than if we continue providing finacial and military aid. Mohammedan demands only intensify when they are placated.

We really have no choice but to take the side that affirms her continued existence. To do otherwise would be to hand a victory to those who would still press for our destruction, and it is just not realistic to assume that Arab hatred of the West would wane as a result.

There’s a more complex subtext to all this. If we’re talking about just withdrawing all assistance to Israel, what about the nations around her? Speaking of Egypt we provide financial assist to that country annually don’t we? In fact, on any given year we’ve provided the vast majority of material aid to the so-called Palestinian refugees! We have also provided arms to Israel’s enemies. Should this continue if we abandon Israel?

I still maintain that to do so in any case would only embolden Mohammedan attempts to Islamicize this country rather than short-circuit them. You and I agree 100% on immigration, but just as you counsel on a need for realism in assessing the shifting military balance of the Middle-East, so we must recognize reality on the immigration question as it currently stands, (and most likely will for some years.)

That we have mishandled our involvement in the Arab-Israeli conflict I do not dispute. That our involvement has made Arabs angry I don’t dispute. What I argue is that we will be no safer if we abandon Israel, and may stand to lose even more. The peace of the world increasingly depends on the peace of the Middle-East. We can try to run from this, but it will catch up to us sooner or later.

And as a footnote to that,if we’re really to be concerned over Mohammedan anger then President Bush is right to use the PC terms he does. Nothing would make them madder than hearing our leadership tell the truth about their religion.

Again, I don’t interpret any bad intent in anything you’ve said. I do not detect any trace of Anti-Semitism in your words. In a way it makes the discussion rather refreshing, since we can just debate the merits alone. I am not willing to assume this of Mr. Buchanan however. He goes much further, to the point where he really seems to side with the Arab view.

If you haven’t read Mr. Auster’s Open Letter to Mr. Buchanan, it’s worth a look:


Posted by: Joel on August 8, 2003 3:16 PM

Regarding the Zmirak article on the “Vichy-cons,” Richard Brookhiser had a funny comeback at The Corner:

RAMESH & PALEOS [Rick Brookhiser]
When Vdare compared WFB to Petain, was it a compliment?

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on August 9, 2003 12:29 AM


I also agree that Bushís PC statements were necessary. I worry a little that some of his advisors believe them, but I think that there are enough who do not.

I think that the United States using its aid to leverage Israel without having the same sort of leverage on the other side probably has an overall negative effect on the region, especially when our foreign policy is so motivated by public opinion. On the other hand, Iím not sure that a military solution is in Israelís best interests. European funding for anti-Israel terrorist organizations should be Israelís greatest fear. So far they have been lucky that Arafat has apparently pocketed the great majority of ĎPalestinian Aid.í The amount of money moving around is enough to fund some highly destructive ventures and make the current situation seem quite peaceful.

You mention going into the areas where terrorists are based and Ďdenazifying them.í Iím not convinced that such a program would work in the long (or even medium) term without installing a working government for the Palestinians. And if good government were something you could put in a box and gift wrap, I think our problems would have been solved long ago. Some sort of colonial administration is the best I could imagine. Israel (or somebody else, though I canít think of who) would have to actually run everything for the Palestinians. They would have all the problems of an occupying power, would be one, in fact, but theyíd have a bit more leverage on terrorism. They would be able to control anti-Israeli media and schoolbooks for example. Itís either that or expelling the population to Jordan.

But demographics are against all of the solutions I can think of. (And the problem of the Europeans and other Islamic states funding Palestinian terrorism will only get worse as Europe gets a larger Islamic population. America too, for that matter.) If the attitudes in the region are substantially unchanged fifty years from now, Israel will be in serious trouble. An Oslo-like peace process of graceful Israeli near-surrender simply to get the violence out of the news has clear long-term benefits. If it were possible for Israel to somehow leverage whatever Palestinian administration that exists into an overtly PC organization that tried to work against expressions of anti-Israeli hatred, even without any near-term effects on terrorism, it would probably be worth it in my view.

But thatís just my analysis of the situation. Iím certainly not there on the ground, either. And, as I said, Iím not interested in the U.S. leveraging Israel into doing what we want it to do. I think Israel certainly needs to decide what is in its own best interest, especially if it can act without sullying Americaís reputation with Israelís enemies.

As you point out, there is the matter of U.S. aid to the other countries in the region. I donít think that we could fund one side and remain neutral. On the other hand, Iím not advocating cutting all aid to Israel and its neighbors at once. That would destabilize the situation. Besides, Iím sure that some payments are related to treaties or promises that we have made. But I do think that neutrality would involve gradually withdrawing aid from all sides. (Overt aid at least. What the Arabs donít know canít hurt them is certainly a valid principle, if we could act with necessary care.)

You bring up the problem of recognizing Israel diplomatically. You say that we would have to side either with the Arabs or for Israel on that issue. I do not think that makes diplomatic neutrality impossible. The most important thing would be to proclaim a stance of neutrality. Individual concessions would have to be made to both sides, but I do think that proclaiming neutrality as well as adopting a course of military and aid withdrawal from the region would have positive consequences.

Nothing ever works out perfectly, of course. The Cold War forced our involvement in the Middle-East. We have a lot of old messes that remain to be cleaned up there (and some messes of more recent origin). The Iranian problem needs to be solved, certainly. A policy of withdrawal, however, would seem to be in our best interests.

I do agree that a clash of civilizations is going on Ė I have Huntingtonís book here on the desk Ė but I would like that clash to be on our terms.

Iíve read Mr. Austerís open letter that youíve linked to. He links to columns of Mr. Buchananís that he finds objectionable here: http://www.townhall.com/columnists/patbuchanan/pb20020408.shtml and here: http://www.townhall.com/columnists/patbuchanan/pb20020403.shtml. Now, I donít agree with all that Buchanan says here, but I donít side with Mr. Auster at all. I donít see Mr. Buchananís statements as ones of moral equivalence. Rather, he says that terrorism works against Western style democracies, and that ďSharonís warĒ isnít in our interests. The last paragraph of Mr. Austerís open letter is strikingly similar to what Mr. Buchanan writes about with fear in his last paragraph of the April 8th column (the mirror image statement). I agree with Mr. Buchanan when he calls that ďthe edge of the abyss.Ē For our own interestes, it is vitally important that we donít allow the Arab world to conflate America with Israel. I also believe that Mr. Buchanan is probably right when he talks about the importance of Americaís role as a peace broker.

Moreover, I have to say that I donít detect any anti-Semitism in what Mr. Buchanan had to say in either of those columns. I donít even detect a hint of him favoring the Palestinians over the Israelis, though he does say that their terrorism is likely to be successful. If there are instances where he does make actual anti-Semitic statements, that would be one thing. If he does not, however, I think we should be very careful about falling into the trap that the Left would like us to stumble into. They would like nothing more than to smear him as a Nazi for his immigration stand, no matter how much they might applaud what he says about Israel. And, in fact, his appraisal does not praise the Palestinians as brave warriors fighting oppression, as the Left would have it. Rather, he describes them far more neutrally as being radicalized by oppression (the oppression is real, if justified) and fighting with a tactic that has a good chance of succeeding. That simply seems like good sense to me.

Posted by: Thrasymachus on August 9, 2003 5:32 PM

I was admittedly slow in grasping the full implications of Thrasymachus’s proposal on the “Is Conservatism Finished?” thread. (http://www.counterrevolution.net/vfr/archives/001668.html#7873)

But after Mr. Auster had condensed it, and you had clarified it on your blog, I am beyond impressed. I think you’ve outlined the only proposal that would actually accomplish the goals of countering our immigration disaster, checks the Anti-Semitism of the right, AND opens the door to a renewed Conservatism that is anchored in its traditionalist roots.

If such a political alignment obtained among the respective groups, alot of what we were ‘debating’ would be rendered effectively moot. We were both trying to make arguments that appealed to practical reality, but what you suggest shows the way through no matter which side one is coming from.

I have appreciated this very profitable discussion. Your comments were thoughtful and the pragmatic basis of your arguments is strong. But now that you’ve taken things beyond particulars in articulating a concrete, and theoretically workable proposal, I think I’ll ride that wave. ;-)

As far as Mr. Buchanan, I’ve seen other statements of his aside from those linked to above that led me to believe that charge was justifiable. This is due to no personal animus; to the contrary, I would love nothing more than to believe that this charge is wrong. There are so many other ways in which he is right on. I read his latest book, “The Death Of The West,” and found it to be a great reference. But as it stands, I have doubts that he should be exhonerated.

Posted by: Joel on August 11, 2003 6:45 PM

Thrasy writes:

“Rather, he describes them far more neutrally as being radicalized by oppression (the oppression is real, if justified) and fighting with a tactic that has a good chance of succeeding.”

Thrasy has to decide what he believes about Israel. “Justified oppression” is a contradiction in terms. Oppression, by definition, is an _unjust_ use of power. If what the Israelis are doing to the Arabs is justified by the needs of self-defense against the Arabs’ own murderous acts against the Israelis, then it is not oppression. And therefore the Arabs have not been “radicalized” by some Israeli injustice; rather, they have been “radicalized” by their own evil intention against Israel, an intention that can’t be assuaged by anything Israel does. And therefore Buchanan’s attempt to say that the Israelis caused the Arab’s embrace of terror is a despicable exercise in moral equivalency.

If Buchanan had said such a despicable thing about any Western country other than Israel, his supporters would have been shocked out of their socks and would probably abandon him as some kind of weird supporter of third-world terrorists. But, because most of Buchanan’s supporters also harbor to a greater or lesser degree an animus against Israel, or, at the very least, a lack of sympathetic understanding for Israel’s plight, they don’t deign to notice the viciousness of what Buchanan is saying about her.

At the same time, what I’m saying doesn’t seem to apply to Thrasy, since he made that very positive proposal that Paleocons agree to support Israel in exchange for Jews agreeing to support immigration restrictions. So Thrasy is something of a puzzle.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on August 12, 2003 12:55 AM

“Buchananís attempt to say that the Israelis caused the Arabís embrace of terror is a despicable exercise in moral equivalency. If Buchanan had said such a despicable thing about any Western country other than Israel, his supporters would have been shocked out of their socks and would probably abandon him as some kind of weird supporter of third-world terrorists. But, because most of Buchananís supporters also harbor to a greater or lesser degree an animus against Israel, or, at the very least, a lack of sympathetic understanding for Israelís plight, they donít deign to notice the viciousness of what Buchanan is saying about her.”

This is hard to argue against.

I wish I could de-emphasize a bit the notion that perhaps lots of them are anti-Israel rather than being merely something like, “careless of the issues where Israel is concerned.” I suspect they’re just “not thinking,” most of them, rather than harboring an animus — though some of them might be harboring an animus (a few likely are harboring one, it’s probably true — for whatever reason).

Truly, it’s hard to imagine intelligent people who aren’t off their rocker in some way being what in this case would have to be anti-Semitic — at least, those would have to be who know what nationalism is and feel it, but try to deny to Israelis the legitimacy of that very sentiment they so strongly, unashamedly cherish within themselves.

They can oppose Israeli policy which is nationalistic if they deem it not to be in this country’s interest. But they cannot call it illegitimate or pin moral blame on it for all that’s going on over there — that’s wrong unless, like Joe Sobran and Prof. Chomsky, they never ever support nationalism for any country, their own included. Then, they can get away with criticizing the nationalism of certain Israelis because they’re not being hypocrites.

But Buchanan can’t get away with it: he’s not in that category. A commentator can’t know what nationalism is and approve it for some while denying it to others. Or, let him spell it out, then — in black and white — the basis on which he denies it to those others, so we can see what it is.

Posted by: Unadorned on August 12, 2003 2:17 AM

I will accept the Unadorned Addendum to the Auster Diatribe. :-) Many of them are “just not thinking” rather than harboring an animus.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on August 12, 2003 2:47 AM

I’m not a big enough of a friend or reader of Buchanan to defend him to the last, either. My own experience with him is mainly limited to reading The Death of the West and a few copies of his magazine, The American Conservative. So I’ll leave the argument to people with more experience with him.

I will defend my own comments, however. Oppression is always unjust, you are right, Mr. Auster. It is too bad that it is often necessary. Racial profiling in America is oppression. It is terribly unfair to take race into account when pulling someone over. At the same time, the black community in America commits so much crime that it is impossible to treat them like everybody else.

Roadblocks and curfews and such in Palestine are oppression, and far worse than what we do. They are inherently unjust because the innocent are lumped together with the guilty. If you factor in the actions of individual soldiers exercising simple cruelty, as always happens, it gets far worse. Is it justified? You bet. The Israelis are defending themselves. Is it just? Of course not, justice is not a luxury in the current situation.

Have the Israelis caused the current radicalization of the Palestinians? Certainly. Peoples only rarely give up and die, and it was obvious from the beginning of massive Jewish immigration to British Palestine that conflict was inevitable. The Jews, however, won the wars without imposing any final solution on the Palestinians and are left with the problem of the Palestinians. I do not say that the situation would be similar had the Arabs won and left a Jewish population, for the character of the Jewish people is quite different from the Palestinians, but the Jews would not have given up and died either.

Perhaps part of this boils down to an argument about definitions. I am using the words oppression, justice, and justified, as a descriptive words about state actions, not judgments on the states themselves. But rather than having an argument about the meaning of justice (though that would certainly be true to my namesake), I will instead lay out my moral feelings on the situation separately. You have asked me what I believe about Israel, and it is not something that I am confused about.

My own morality is not something that I have too many doubts about. I am not big on moral relativism. I cannot think of a more terrible crime, actually. I think that there is a specific way for a man to act.

And I believe that the only moral course for individual Israelis and for Israeli leaders is to do everything possible to defend their country and their people from attack. They are under no obligation to give up any portion of their security to be just to their enemies. Had I been born an Israeli, my only thought would be for the safety of my people.

Had I been born a Palestinian, however, or if I shared that race, I would do everything possible to destroy the nation of Israel and wipe the Jews from the land. I would do what was necessary, without consideration for my enemies. In fact, I cannot think of another moral course for the Palestinians. If there is a Palestinian a thousand years from now who forgets how his people’s land was taken, then he has betrayed his race.

That is not to say that I have any respect Palestinian actions or Palestinian leaders. For one, their leaders are corrupt and immoral, and ineffective at helping their people. Suicide bombing is not a helpful act in the current situation. Were I a Palestinian leader, I would have done what was necessary to secure a state and prosperity for my people, which is far more of a priority than any revenge on Israel. A prosperous people could then be in a far better position to deal with Israel anyway.

It is a matter to be thankful for that I was not born either a Palestinian or an Israeli. My concerns as an American are quite different. I do not wish to see American blood spilled because of the conflict in Israel. That means that I am very concerned about Palestinian terrorism. That sort of international lawlessness has already had terrible consequences. I am also concerned about Israeli espionage on America. Though it is less important than Palestinian terrorism, it is not at all unimportant.

Moreover, the concern that trumps either of those in my mind is a concern for American reputation. The world does not love us, and I am somewhat worried what the future consequences of that will be.

So how does that square with my suggestion on immigration? Well, I happen to believe that these issues of foreign policy are not terribly important in the current world situation. The Arab world simply is not wealthy enough to conduct effective international terrorism, and our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will probably leave the leaders scared as long as we go home soon enough. Immigration is far more important, and I am certainly prepared to support a minor state like Israel if we get something in return for it.

Posted by: Thrasymachus on August 12, 2003 3:31 PM
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