A conversation with James Pinkerton

(Note: Many readers’ comments follow my exchange with Mr. Pinkerton. Also, he has written to me clarifying that “My idea for a Council of the West does NOT include Islam. The Council of the West is a synonym for a Council of Christendom. From there, the CoW can deal with others.”)

A few days ago I wrote to James Pinkerton:

I just finished your article, “The Once & Future Christendom.” Very impressive. This is exactly the kind of thing that is needed—the vision of a renewed West and renewed Christendom. Of course, the big question is, a revival of Christendom as a political concept would require (1) a revival of Christianity, and (2) the return of Christianity to being the dominant fact of the West, which is what Christendom means. But you’re not exactly calling for that, you’re calling for “a revival, or at least a remembrance, of Europe’s cultural heritage.” Whether there can be a revival of Christian heritage or culture without actual Christianity seems unlikely. But these are exactly the things that need to be talked about and this is the right direction to move in. This is inspiring.

Your idea of a Council of the West in the context of the Shire strategy is very good. We can ally, say, with African Christians, but that’s not the same as saying let’s join with them in one society, which is the only way modern liberals and conservatives can conceive of any kind of commonality—it must be a merging, through the export of our political and economic system to them and the import of their people to us.

And while you don’t discuss Muslim immigration, you are definitely a Separationist! Radical changes in immigration are clearly implied in your separatism.

Mr. Pinkerton replied:

We can’t make people faithful, full stop, nor should we even try, or want to try. Such attempts to control others are just another example of Ring-grabbing.

But we can use religious history as a sort of an organizing principle—that’s what Christians do, that’s what Jews do. They say to marginal members of their respective tribe, “Look, you may or may not believe any of this stuff, but at least show up at Easter, or Christmas, or the High Holy Days—you know you sort of want to, anyway—and see if the Spirit moves you further along.” There’s much practical wisdom in such gentle “positioning,” because there’s a little bit of “moral muscle memory” in all of us, waiting to be flexed.

And the same for countries. If countries get used to thinking of themselves as being part of the Christian House, (“domus” being shortened to “dom”), then other things will follow. Including the realization, that we don’t have a choice, really, other than to defend the Holy Sites in Rome, and Jerusalem. We can’t let Ahmadinejad nuke them, we can’t let the Taliban demolish or whitewash them.

And once we make that realization, we have to act—we have to convene the Council.

And once we see things in a pro-West way—borrowing the motto of the U.S. Army, “This we’ll defend”—then we will think more wisely about immigration.

Within Christendom, there are many mansions. And every people ought to have their own mansion—and stay there. There’s good practical wisdom in that, too—we need to rediscover the value of alliances and federations, as distinct from political unions and superstates.

LA replies:

This is very interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this argument made before. Normally, you see the following: secular conservatives urge Christianity on society for its utiliarian benefits without believing in the religion, while more serious Christians question this. I’ve also corresponded with some Europeans who call themselves cultural Christians. But I don’t remember seeing anyone positively defending the “Christian culture sans religion” argument, that urging Christian culture and identity (not necessarily with Christian religion), can be the way to a revival of the religion too. I think it’s an original thought.

May I post our exchange at my site?

Mr. Pinkerton replies:

Stipulating that I am a Christian who believes that Jesus Christ died on the Cross for humanity, was resurrected from the dead and now sits in Heaven at the Right Hand of God, you are certainly free to publish the earlier exchange, plus what I am writing here, which speaks to a political plan, based on my decades of amateur history and professional political practitioning of one kind or another, inspired—I pray Inspired—by faith. I like to think that the political smarts I have been blessed with can be used to some truly constructive purpose.

What really impelled me to write this piece was the vision of the Muslims dynamiting the Vatican, as I read about 30 plus years ago in Jean Raspail’s The Camp of the Saints—and I’ve had plenty of occasion to think to myself that Raspail was not wrong about where current trends are headed.[LA note: See Mr. Pinkerton’s 2005 article in TAC, “National Suicide.”] I am Protestant, not Catholic, but still. And once I thought about that, and prayed on that, it became clear to me that if the Muslims overran Europe, Christendom would never recover—at least not here on earth. To use a Tolkien analogy that I don’t think made it into the final draft, it would be as if all Christians were wounded by the Blade of Morgul. Frodo was so wounded, and never recovered—the books end happily, but that can’t really be said for Frodo himself. By contrast, if it’s merely the atheists and secularists who overrun Europe, then the Continent can be won back, or at least preserved, allowing the Remnant to exist, and Europe to find its way, hopefully, eventually, without being conquered from without.

And as I got to thinking further, it occurred to me that it would be even more catastrophic if Jerusalem were taken over and destroyed, with the Christian and Jewish sites desecrated, either on purpose, as with the Wahabbis, or as the byproduct of some general conflagration. That would be an even worse Morgul Wound. And so it further came to me that’s the course we’re on now: The neocons, the Bush Doctrineers, the Likudniks—they all talk a good game, but it’s a failing game in the era of WMD and particle-ized combatants and open borders. It doesn’t do Israel, or, for that matter, America, much good if one or both countries were to incinerate X number of Arabs or Iranians or Muslims if the country itself is irradiated, overrun, or destroyed. (And for reasons spelled out in the piece, I reject any sort of large scale first strike as both impractical and immoral. It’s one thing to preempt a dangerous site here and there, it’s another thing to seek to preempt a country.

So that’s when it came to me that what’s needed to prevent all this is a Deal, which everyone signs on to. Why would the West sign on? Because they are Christians, or because they fall into the category of “moral muscle memory” Christians.

Why would the Muslims sign on? Because, confronted with a truly united West, a West that was nonetheless willing to make concessions to achieve a final settlement, the vast bulk of the Muslim populations, that do not wish to be nuked, would assert themselves. And of course, for everyone to sign on to it, everyone has to get something, including the Palestinians. Surely it’s a good chunk of territory, plus a huge payment—I mean many billions, or hundreds of billions. I mean, really big, enough to persuade ‘em. And at the same time, since we are uniting Christendom in my scenario, the Pope, the top Protestants, and the top figures in Orthodoxy, plus others all get together and issue a statement, saying, “We all unite to protect the agreed upon Holy Land sites, in their complicated division, and we will commit to sending Y number of pilgrims as human shields, etc. Whatever it takes. I believe that even the likes of Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chavez would eventually sign on to this, not because they necessarily like Israel, but because their Christian constituents would make them agree to something that was obviously and palpably fair to all concerned.

Absent this Council of the West, the Pope snubs Condi Rice, with most of the world hoping that America fails in its diplomatic mission, just to teach George W. Bush a lesson for Iraq, and just to keep America from scoring a big success. When things get to the point—and I think that they have—that current Bush policy is the obstacle to a settlement, well, then, the course is obvious.

Meanwhile, of course, since this plan is not foolproof,—some terrorist band could slip through even a globally agreed-to security regime—we need to strengthen our own “Shire.” To borrow a well-known term from chess, we need to “overprotect our position.” That means border security, missile defense, energy independence, and a no-nonsense look at the immigration and internal-security policies that are appropriate for a long term Huntingtonian struggle.

So there you have it: a political plan, based on faith. Isn’t that the way it used to be, in the West, during the centuries when the West was strong and confident. The pol in me thinks that what’s needed is a “neo-Con”—a neo Constantine.

LA replies:

A global Council including Islam assumes Muslims can make agreements with non-Muslims and keep them. Not possible. Muslims are commanded by their religion to operate in bad faith with infidels, and that’s not going to change. Further, any such Council implies equality between the West and Islam and respectful recognition of Muslim claims. But to meet Muslims half way means a half-Islamized world. It makes little sense to work toward a renewed West—and then have that renewed West negotiating No, with its mortal enemy instead of acting in its own behalf to create an acceptable world for itself. Also, since you base your geopolitical principles on Tolkien, did the Men of the West hold a Council with Sauron and the Orks? Of course not, they waged war against them.
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Jack S. writes:

I read with interest your exchange with Pinkerton. I had earlier read his article discussing the Lord of the Rings and was unimpressed. First of all, it has always struck me as somewhat silly to try to find deep meaning in popular culture. The LOTR is an exceptional book of fantasy, period. Secondly, Pinkerton doesn’t really understand the books at all. For the most part, the heroes in the book mow down their enemies with all the concern they would give to exterminating roaches. When we Men of the West start doing the same with the religion of peace then we will truly be like Tolkie’s heroes. Judging from your exchange he doesn’t understand Islam in the “Auster-Fitzgerald” sense either, as you yourself point out. There is no such thing as the “Palestinian” people; for Pinkerton to trot out the tired argument that peace between the West and Islam hinges on the Palestinian question show how little he knows. No agreement with Muslims will ever be honored, except temporarily. I prefer by far your ideas of separation and containment.

Simon N. writes:

Re your conversation with Pinkerton, as a “cultural Christian” (brought up by factual-atheists who believed in the moral value of Christian religion, Protestantism especially), I agree with him on the value of “religious history as a sort of an organizing principle”—although for most people some degree of actual belief is necessary, but that belief is still there in Europe, it’s just dormant. The rise of the obvious Muslim threat combined with the beginnings of government persecution of Christians has already caused a rebirth of Christian identity, and this will continue.

However, I agree with you that a “global Council” cannot succeed if it proceeds from a position that Islam is a good-faith negotiating partner. The scorpion can’t help being a scorpion, and there was no representative of Mordor at the Council of Elrond, for very good reasons.

If we look at it in Huntingtonian terms, we can see that there are a group of civilisations with a vital joint interest in the containment of the Islamic civilisation, which threatens them all, and which can form the core of a Council. These are—the West, Christian/Animist Africa, the Orthodox world led by Russia, and Buddhist/South-East Asian civilisation on the bloody eastern border of Islam, including Thailand and the Christian Philippines. If Islamic power continues to increase China could eventually become part of this group, but currently China’s rational calculation is that she gains more from alliance with Islam. Japan is a West-friendly civilisation not threatened by Islam, while Latin America is not severely threatened by Islam yet and sees itself more in opposition to the USA, so is likely to remain neutral unless Islam makes significant inroads into the Americas.

I think therefore the first step for the West is to form friendly links with Africa, Russia/Orthodoxy and South-East Asian civilisations as part of developing a containment strategy, while discouraging China from overt alliance with Islam, retaining Japan in the Western camp, and discouraging any moves by Latin America to join with Islam against the West.

We want to avoid:

1. A demographic takeover of the West by Islam.
2. Loss of other civilisations to Islam—the Orthodox world, Africa and South-East Asia are also vulnerable.
3. An alliance of “challenger” civilisations against the West.

The policies of the current U.S. administration risk #3. In a worst-case scenario, the USA is perceived as a greater threat than Islam, with Latin America and China allied with Islam against the West, and Russia alternately siding with either group, possibly even moving into the Islamic axis. It’s not impossible that the West itself could be “isolated and contained.”

Kristor L. has previously discussed his idea for a war of destruction against Islam here. Also, I ask readers to remember the difference between a comment and an article.

Kristor L. writes

Pinkerton is correct that the formal exercise of ritual pieties can awaken true piety, just as a forced smile can make a person happier, or willed charity engender genuine compassion. All that one need do to end a saint is begin to take the faith seriously, in any way whatsoever; the Holy Spirit can take it from there.

And Lawrence is correct about a Council with the Enemy. As Chamberlain amply demonstrated, one can’t do it. The only possible resolution of a Council of the West that could eventuate in a secure Christendom is a determination to mount a long-term Crusade to recover all the former Christian lands from Islam, and then kill it.

If we truly are in a Huntingtonian struggle—and after 1400 years, how can we possibly argue that this is not so?—then the only way we will ever finally have peace is to finish it, once and for all. Islam must simply be destroyed. The inherent logic of Muslim doctrine leaves us no choice in this. Sooner or later, one way or another, we will have to get it over with.

Thus unless the Council of the West issues in a policy of fighting to the death, its pronouncements will be moot, and bootless, another pathetic mealy-mouthed laughingstock, another pack of lies. The Council must be a council of war. If this really is war, as our Enemy says it is, then let’s cut to the chase, shall we? My guess is that the instant we showed some bitter, deadly, relentless resolve, the Muslims would crumble before us the way they always have. I mean, look at Israel versus her neighbours. What more do we need to learn about the steadfastness of our Enemy?

It is hard now to remember it, but in the aftermath of our victory over Iraq, the Muslim world was wholly cowed for quite a few months. Those were the months when Libya gave up nukes and Lebanon revolted against Syria. We destroyed the fourth largest military power on the planet in three weeks, on the far side of the Earth, using only conventional weapons, and only a fraction of our forces, and the help of only one ally. Would that we had gone on like Sherman into Syria, and destroyed it, too, and then turned inexorably and destroyed Iran. We could have, too, for we were then still convinced of the righteousness of our wrath, and our tremendous victory had for the moment shattered the Enemy’s faith in their own righteousness. Their pathetic fantasy was revealed for what it was: a great lie.[…]

Pinkerton is of course correct that most Muslims just want to get on with life. Only when they see that if they suffer their radicals any longer, they and their families will be destroyed, will their knives come out after the radicals. This can only happen if the Muslims perceive that we really are prepared to destroy them, root and branch, and that they have not so very much time left to prevent us, that our patience is at an end.

None of this entails that we must be inhumane, or ruthless; but we must be prepared and willing to be inhumane and ruthless, if that is what is called for; and that willingness must be obvious, and sincere, and repeatedly demonstrated. It’s war, right? Not patty cakes?[…]

BTW, who today is Saruman? Who among the wise today has given himself over to the counsels of the Enemy, and is so deluded by his own fantasies that he does not even realize it? Who has already surrendered to the Enemy, and become his willing lackey, by following his own logic, captive to fear, untethered to concrete reality? Is not the answer obvious? Saruman is the Liberal. Tolkien might even have had Chamberlain in mind when he wrote that part into his book. The heart of Saruman’s practical program is the improvement of man; he does this by breeding men with monsters, thus destroying their offspring’s human nature and creating better monsters. Sound familiar? Liberals are like Saruman exemplary victims of the fallacy of misplaced concreteness. They have confused their ideology for the real world, exaggerated a truth and applied it beyond its proper domain. For surely they are right that all men desire peace, freedom and righteousness; but they have forgot that all men desire other, evil things, too; and that, therefore, the heart of righteousness and the price of peace is the courage to ride out freely against the Enemy, screaming “Death!” and willing with your whole heart to meet it.

But, of course, unless one is convinced that there is something vastly better and greater than one’s own life, to which it is wholly owed, one cannot understand why anyone would want to do such a thing (even though one’s heart were strangely stirred by the Rohirrim in their hopeless valiant charge). Liberals don’t really believe there is anything other or larger than this life; nothing concrete, anyway. That is why they are afraid, and weak.

Falsehood is weak; truth immensely strong. And that is why Lawrence is right that you can’t have efficacious Christendom without efficacious Christianity.

RG writes from Dearbornistan:

I’ve been reading James Pinkerton’s columns for about three years now; he often writes on our out of control immigration mess and he usually makes good sense. I’ve never seen him write such a long, complex piece as he did last week and while I found it fascinating and agree with much of it, I was nevertheless stunned by the serious deep tone of it.

He’s basically a good guy, he’s occasionally on Fox News, usually Saturday mornings, debating some silly leftist-liberal over current events. But his views on immigration and Mexico are often his best stuff.

Tom S. writes:

Thanks for posting this article by Mr. Pinkerton. I had not seen it, seeing as how I tend to avoid the “American Conservative” these days. Wow, a united West INCLUDING ISRAEL!?! How did that get by McConnell?

Mr. Pinkerton’s plan is the best comprehensive plan I’ve yet seen. It would certainly work—if we can only summon up the will and self-confidence to do it. Mr. Pinkerton is 95 percent there—but he still needs to drop the last of those illusions. A Global Council with Muslims sitting on it? Pay off the Palestinians? Those measures just won’t work, they have in a sense been tried already. But Pinkerton’s plan is the best I’ve seen …

Christendom+Seperationism = Survival of the West

It can happen.

Alan Roebuck writes:

Fascinating vision put forth by Pinkerton. He’s speaking our language of civilizational renewal poetically and romantically, and capturing men’s imaginations is one of the things it’ll take to save us.

But one must also be practical. I recently sent Pinkerton an email in which I outlined my vision of the need for a renewed movement of conservative apologetics, because even the bravest and most aggressive warriors will not win a war unless they are organized into units, trained, and led into battle. As I see it, conservatism now is disorganized both intellectually and in terms of its personnel and activities.

I have not received a response from Pinkerton, probably because he doesn’t see things my way. I would just like to comment on one thing he said at VFR:

“We can’t make people faithful, full stop, nor should we even try, or want to try. Such attempts to control others are just another example of Ring-grabbing.”

This is a misunderstanding. Conservative apologetics is concerned with the ordering of society, not (directly, at any rate) with what individuals believe. The dominance of liberalism in a society where few people consciously and fully subscribe to it is an example of my point. One-on-one evangelism will continue to be necessary for the defense of the West, but the main arena of combat is over the ideas that will rule society. This is where we need to organize and get to work.

Steven Warshawsky writes:

Your latest post sort of beat to me to the punch. Here are my thoughts for your consideration, if you intend to devote a string to this article.

I just read Pinkerton’s piece, The Once & Future Christendom. Although it appears to offer an attractive message based on the stirring and heroic narrative of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, upon closer inspection it is little more than romantic, and dangerous, nonsense.

Pinkerton begins by defining the problem facing the Christian West in the most dire of terms. He accepts that “the danger of Europe falling within dar al-Islam is real” and predicts that if Eurabia indeed comes to pass “the glory of Europe as the hub of Greco-Roman and Christian civilization would be extinguished forever.” Further, he argues that the consequences of such a Muslimization of Europe “would be catastrophic for Americans as well.” The stakes could not be higher. I completely agree with him on this point.

But Pinkerton apparently prefers the poetry of literature to the harsh realities of human conflict, because the rest of his piece conspicuously fails to pursue the logic of his analysis to the obvious conclusion: That Europeans and Americans not only must separate themselves from the Islamic world, but must bar Muslims from our countries, and destroy the ability of Islamic nations and terror groups to threaten our existence.

True, Pinkerton writes that Tolkien “counsels robust self-defense in one’s own area.” Yet Pinkerton’s notion of a world-wide counsel of Christian nations, besides being completely unrealistic, would take decades to achieve, even if such an alliance were possible. We don’t have decades to wait before we start dealing firmly with the Islamic world. Furthermore, Pinkerton’s belief that we will be able to reach an acceptable accommodation with the Muslims through a “grand summit” is nothing more than wishful thinking.

Pinkerton writes that “the dragon, red in tooth and crescent, is lurking” and “cannot be ignored.” Yet he argues that pre-emptive military action against Muslim nations would be a “hubristic” mistake. He writes that we also cannot ignore “the painful reality of a genuine fifth column in the West.” Yet he does not discuss the immigration issue, let alone acknowledge the need to expel from our countries Muslims who advocate jihad, sharia, or any other political or religious doctrine that is incompatible with our culture.

He writes that “Israel must survive” (a welcome position for a writer at the American Conservative). Yet he predicts that Israel “likely” will be destroyed. (Unfortunately, I tend to agree with this prediction.) So what is he saying? Does he propose that the West “guarantee” Israel’s national existence (along with the preservation of Christian holy sites)? His ambiguity on the “Israel Question” is remarkably thorough. Nevertheless, it would be inconsistent with Pinkerton’s overall argument to ascribe to him the belief that the West should go to war with the Muslim world over Israel. So I guess his position is that we will just have to feel sadness and loss when Israel ultimately is destroyed?

Ultimately, Pinkerton’s article consistently demonstrates his inability to stomach what fighting back against the Islamic world actually will require. While Pinkerton does not argue in favor of multicultural surrender, he is just as desperate as the most decadent liberal to avoid the necessity of armed conflict and mass killing. Pinkerton plainly lacks the courage and conviction of the men he offers as heroes worthy of emulation: Leonidas, Aetius, Charles Martel, Don Juan of Austria, Sobieski.

Yes, Pinkerton’s piece is a delightful and well-written. But as historical and political analysis, it is pure fantasy.

LA replies

I still intend to write a longer response to Pinkerton’s article, but here are just a few points in response to the above comments.

I did feel there was too much about Tolkien in the first half of the article, and that such a discussion risks being seen as silly. As a general matter I agree that you can’t derive principles of politics and government from a work of fiction. Yet I think Pinkerton, for the most part, pulls it off, when, in the second half of the article, he leaves LOTR itself behind and employs a handful of principles he has abstracted from it. And these happen to be excellent, especially his Shire idea, in which each people/civilization preserves itself, and must even on occasion go abroad to defend itself, but has no global imperial ambitions; and his notion of an alliance of peoples/civilizations that nevertheless remain distinct, with no notion of combining into single “humanity.” There is nothing wrong with clothing political concepts in myth and poetry, such as Pinkerton does here; that can capture the imagination.

Interestingly, his one outstandingly bad idea occurs when he departs from the Tolkien vision, turning the Council of Elrond into a Council of Elrond-Mordor-Saruman-Orks. Also, I think readers are correct when they note a contradiction between Pinkerton’s thoughts on the mortal danger posed by Islam, and his relatively mild proposals. Given the danger presented by Islam, it seems to me that there are only two approaches that make logical sense: the total, and forcible, containment of Islam, as called for by the separationist strategy, or the destruction of Islam, as Kristor calls for.

Also, Pinkerton dismisses a war to the death with Islam as imperialistic and un-Tolkienien. But doesn’t LOTR culminate in the utter destruction of Sauron’s capital?

In reply to Steven W., I think that the cessation and reversal of Muslim immigration are implied in Pinkerton’s for civilization separation, which he affirmed in his reply to me. But that raises the question why he didn’t make this point explicit in the article itself. Is Pinkerton not ready to advocate radical changes in immigration policy? I believe he has touched on this subject in other, and much shorter articles. Why not here?

On the question of Israel, I was about to say that I do not see the ambivalence that Steven W. sees: I thought that Pinkerton said that Israel should be placed under the protective umbrella of the West. However, that would be contradicted by his call to settle the Palestinian question. The only way the Palestinian question can be settled, from the point of view of the Muslims, is through the establishment of a Muslim state where Israel now exists.

Simon N. writes:

Kristor writes: “If we truly are in a Huntingtonian struggle—and after 1400 years, how can we possibly argue that this is not so?—then the only way we will ever finally have peace is to finish it, once and for all.”

This is the neocon message—that we Must Be Safe, and to be safe We Must Destroy Them. This is the exact opposite of Huntington’s message in The Clash of Civilisations, which is that inter-civilisational conflict is natural but should be minimised through separation/containment, not maximised through pre-emptive wars. I get the same message from Pinkerton.

We can never be wholly safe. Total safety is not something anyone should be aiming for. What can be aimed for is the survival of the West, within its own borders, its ‘Shire’.

Pinkerton errs by drawing back from his LoTR analogy to propose a peaceful settlement with Mordor. Kristor errs in advocating the neocon hubris of thinking unlimited violence is the solution, that we can attack and destroy them without destroying ourselves—that we can take up the Ring of Power without being corrupted or destroyed. Tolkien’s work warns against both fallacies.

LA replies:

Very good.

I would add, however, that separation/containment is not a mere passive process of sitting back and avoiding troublesome entanglements; it requires the active political, military, and demographic containment and isolation of Islam, which must go on permanently.

I suppose a more hopeful idea, which was proposed recently at VFR (I forget at the moment who proposed it) is Separationism plus Conversion, in which the Muslims, cut off from the rest of the world and deprived of any opportunity to spread their religion, lose faith in Islam and convert en masse to other religions. But as I’ve said many times, that is not something that we can make happen. What we must do is take away Islam’s ability to have any effect on us.

Alan Roebuck writes:

As every VFR reader knows, the West should be defending itself, but is not. And so we call on the West to begin doing so.

But what is the specific, immediate, concrete reason why we are not defending ourselves? It isn’t because we are physically weak: it would be physically easy to expel the overtly hostile foreigners and to reduce immigration drastically. And it would probably be entirely within our current military means physically to defeat many of our terrorist enemies, or at least keep them at bay. So why don’t we defend ourselves?

Because the West is spiritually and intellectually weak. Until we take concrete steps to begin correcting this situation, none of the good proposals we offer will ever see the light of day.

Some may be content to wait for the West’s spiritual and intellectual condition to improve “spontaneously,” that is, through an organic development. And some are already arguing effectively against liberalism. But the proper course of action seems clear to me:

We must begin a deliberate campaign to argue against the ruling ideas of liberalism, in the arena of public intellectual combat. Until we begin doing so, we are not serious about defending our civilization.

I have some ideas about how to do this, but I certainly cannot spearhead the effort. I’m trying to get others to recognize what must be done, but without much success so far. But I keep trying, because so much is at stake.

LA replies:

Other than writing articles critiquing liberalism, what can be done? What do you want people to do?

Jason S. writes:

Kudos to you on your conversation with James Pinkerton, but to be honest with you articles such as Pinkerton’s nearly always wind up making my teeth ache. Their authors inevitably wind their way around to statements such as this: “It doesn’t do Israel, or, for that matter, America, much good if one or both countries were to incinerate X number of Arabs or Iranians or Muslims if … ”

It doesn’t even matter what follows the “if”: the antecedent statement renders the article itself pointless, another academic exercise in the power of positive thinking.

The fact of the matter is that a credible threat of “incineration”—credible in the sense that either the U.S. or Israel actually nukes an Islamic city or two in retaliation for a major terrorist event—would do very much good very quickly in convincing the Muslim world that our current patty-cake and playtime way of waging “war” was over, at least as far as America and/or Israel were concerned. What they did with that new realization would be up to them.

I am also bemused at the quaint notion that we can “persuade ‘em” with a “Council of the West” that does a lot of sweet talking and hands out big chunks of land and “many billions or hundreds of billions” of dollars—which basically means just what we’ve been doing all along, but writ large.

All due respect to Mr. Pinkerton, but a Muslim who would sign off on such a deal with the West would be a bad Muslim. Oh, he would listen to the talk, take the land and for sure he would pocket the billions all right. And when the next large group of infidels was blown to bits by suicide bombers, their Imams would solemnly lecture the West on what it had done this time to deserve such an atrocity—and the “Arab street” would erupt in rapturous joy just as it did on 9/11.

No, the biggest problem we face in the world right now is that there are too many “good” Muslims and too many weak Christians. “Good” Muslims don’t compromise with evil infidels; they fervently believe the fanatical scribblings in their holy book, and those scribblings lead the devout in that troublesome religion to one inescapable conclusion: the West must eventually convert, or die. The Christian world, on the other hand, is plagued with doubt, misplaced guilt, and cringing cowardice; like the battered wife, they are constantly looking in the mirror at the black eyes and swollen jaw and wondering aloud “why did I make him do that to me?”

I, too, am a practicing Christian, but I’ve got to tell you there are times when, contemplating the relentless assault of Islam upon the West, I mourn the passing of pagan Rome, and the ruthlessness of her legions who worshipped at the altar of Mars.

LA replies:

I support the idea of telling the Muslim world that the result of a major terrorist attack against us will be the destruction of Mecca and Medinah. I also support the idea that no Islamic country can be allowed to possess nuclear weapons. That means destroying such a regime or destroying its nuclear capacity, as we must do to Iran.

N. writes:

Is it not significant that the only times we’ve seen any degree of humanization of Islam in the last 200 or so years, it’s been when Islam was in a position of inferiority? When the Western powers finally ended the threat of Moslem piracy in the seas around Europe, the white slave sources were cut off along with the ransoms they could yield. The sea routes to India and China gradually robbed the Middle Eastern Moslems (Turkish, Egyptian, etc.) of their source of income as the middlemen between Europe and the East. British invasion and occupation of India rendered another source of income moot.

Lo, and behold, the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century seems to have produced some of those “second thoughts” works in some parts of the Moslem world. Only when Islam was deprived of its traditional sources of money (ransoming of slaves, middlemen of trade) did this happen. The discovery of petroleum in parts of the Moslem world, unhappily, have undone much of this.

The liberals insist that the West must somehow “help the Moslem world to change.” But in therapeutic terms, this is like the family of an alcoholic “helping him to change” when he doesn’t want to; it is doomed to failure. Only when the alcoholic hits rock bottom, and desperately wants to stop living in squalor, is change possible. Similarly, it appears that only when the Moslem world is thrown onto its own devices, with little to no help from the rest of humanity, is there any serious reconsideration of Islam.

So long as the Moslem world can get money or other needed resources from the rest of humanity, whether by trading or raiding, there is no need to admit to any problem within Islam at all. Since the first step to change is to admit a problem, separationism appears to be the ONLY way to actually “help the Moslem world to change.” Therefore all liberals who truly desire this outcome should embrace separationism!

M. Mason writes:

Re quote from Kristor L:

“And that is why Lawrence is right that you can’t have efficacious Christendom without efficacious Christianity.”

Which is exactly why I believe the idea of pinning one’s hopes on some sort of Council of Western Christendom to be the catalyst that suddenly jump-starts the counter-movement against Islam is unfortunately misplaced, notwithstanding its romantic and inspirational appeal, Pope Benedict XVI has already gone out of his way to express his “…profound respect in particular for the Moslems, who “adore the one God” and with whom we are engaged in “defending and promoting together, for all men, social justice, moral values, peace and freedom.” Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, many of the older Protestant denominations are neck-deep in their own sentimental, ego-satisfying multicultural delusions as well, and all this has happened because the poison of liberalism has spewed itself everywhere. So, from what official quarter, a reasonable person would ask, is a significant quantity of “efficacious Christianity” going to come from at this point—especially in Europe?

I would rather wager that a true sea change in public attitude about this issue (if it comes) will be the result of a movement that begins not among the sheltered elites (religious or otherwise) nor from liberal idealogues but mostly with the common man (ostensibly liberal though he may be) once his own self-interests have become sufficiently threatened by Islam’s many and varied provocations in his cultural and personal life. In other words, it will be a popular front that gathers momentum and builds from the bottom up, not from the top down. Should this eventually culminate in an official “Council of the West” that simply ratifies already growing sentiment by that time, well then, so much the better.

Separation (with all its attendant military ramifications already spelled out by Mr. Auster) plus Conversion seems to me the most promising and realistic strategy for now, while we wait to see if major stress cracks begin to appear in liberalism itself with regard to its attitude toward Islam because of increasingly intense and unbearable pressure from that threat in the years to come.

LA replies:

M. Mason makes an important point which some of us, including me, may have lost sight of in our response to the romantic appeal of Pinkerton’s article. A Council of the West could not take place until after a total radical change had occurred in the West, the defeat of liberalism and the growth of new elites with a pro-Western consciousness.

All we can do is start from where we are, urging the truths we believe in, while more and more people renounce liberalism and adopt a traditional, national, Western, Christian position. Then a new politics, and institutions reflecting it, will begin to appear. The Council of the West would only be the last stage of that transformation, reflecting the fact that a non-liberal view had become dominant at the highest level of the Western and Christian countries.

* * *

April 21, 2009

LA writes:

I never finished the review of Pinkerton’s article that I intended to write in September 2007, but here is the opening paragraph of that unfinished review, which I just came upon in my files:

Just as no one could have predicted that Frodo, that unprepossessing Hobbit, would be the one to save Middle Earth, no one could have predicted that James Pinkerton, whom I used to think of as a liberal-leaning conservative and certainly not traditionalist or religious, would be the person to write “The Once and Future Christendom,” a call for Western renewal and defense inspired by the values and principles enunciated in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Life is full of surprises.

Also, here are highlights from Pinkerton’s long article, with a couple of comment by me in brackets.

The Once & Future Christendom
From death of the West—to knights of the West
by James P. Pinkerton
The Call of Duty—and Destiny

[Highlights from article]

Maybe there’s a lesson here. The people of Europe might not be so eager, after all, to declare that they are “united in diversity.” What does that phrase mean, anyway? How about trying to find something that unites Europeans in unity? How about a revival of Christendom as a concept—as a political concept? A revival, or at least a remembrance, of Europe’s cultural heritage could be the healing force that Europe needs.

Some will smile at the thought that Christianity might be part of the solution to the problems of the Third Millennium. Admittedly, there’s an element of faith in the idea of trying to revive the idea of Christian unity. But Christendom is the Shire Strategy, applied.

To keep the peace, we must separate our civilizations. We must start with a political principle, that the West shall stay the West, while the East can do as it wishes on its side of the frontier, and only on its side. The classical political maxim cuius regio, eius religio (“whose region, his religion”) makes sense. To be sure, it has been unfashionable to talk this way in the West, but Muslims are avidly applying it as they set about martyring the remaining Christian populations of Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt. So we of the West can build walls, as needed, and as physically imposing as need be. Going further, we can finally recognize the need for an energy-independence embargo, so that we no longer finance those who wish to conquer or kill us.

And so the question: can we, the people of the West, be brought to failure despite our enormous cultural and spiritual legacy? Three thousand years of history look down upon us: does this generation wish to be remembered for not having had the strength to look danger squarely in the eye? For having failed to harness our latent strength in our own defense?

What if, in the coming century, we lose that clash—and the source of our civilization? What if Muslims take over Europe? What if “Eurabia” indeed comes to pass? Would Islamic invaders demolish the Vatican, as the Taliban dynamited Afghanistan’s Buddhas of Bamyan in 2001? Or would they settle merely for stripping the great cathedrals of Europe of all their Christian adornment, rendering them into mosques? And what if the surviving non-Muslim population of Europe is reduced to subservient “dhimmitude”?

In other words, if present trends continue, the green flag of Islam—bearing the shahada, the declaration of faith, “There is no god but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God”—could be fluttering above Athens and Rotterdam in the lifespan of a youngster today. If so, then the glory of Europe as the hub of Greco-Roman and Christian civilization would be extinguished forever.

If this Muslimization befalls Europe, the consequences would be catastrophic for Americans as well. Although some neoconservatives, bitter at Old European “surrender monkeys,” might be quietly pleased at the prospect, the fact is that a Salafist Surge into the heart of Europe—destroying the civilization that bequeathed to us Aesop and Aristotle, Voltaire and the Victorians—would be a psychic wound that would never heal, not across the great sward of America, not even in the carpeted think-warrens of the American Enterprise Institute. A dolorous bell would toll for all of us, scattered as we might be in the European Diaspora.

In his subtle way, Tolkien argues for a vision of individual and collective self-preservation that embraces a realistic view of human nature, including its limitations, even as it accepts difference and diversity. Moreover, Tolkien counsels robust self-defense in one’s own area—the homeland, which he calls the Shire—even as he advocates an overall modesty of heroic ambition. All in all, that’s not a bad approach for true conservatives, who appreciate the value of lumpy hodgepodge as opposed to artificially imposed universalisms.

So with Tolkien in mind, we might speak of the “Shire Strategy.” It’s simple: the Shire is ours, we want to keep it, and so we must defend it. Yet by the same principle, since others have their homelands and their rights, we should leave them alone, as long as they leave us alone. Live and let live. That’s not world-historical, merely practical. For us, after our recent spasm of universalism—the dogmatically narcissistic view that everyone, everywhere wants to be like us—it’s time for a healthy respite, moving toward an each-to-his-own particularism.

Only one threat endangers this yeasty diversity—the flowing tide of overweening universalism, emblemized by Sauron, who seeks to conquer the whole wide world, and everyone and everything in it.

[LA comments: Wow: he makes Sauron the symbol of neoconservatism!]

In the words of medieval historian Norman Cantor, “Frodo is not physically powerful, and his judgment is sometimes erratic. He wants not to bring about the golden era but to get rid of the Ring, to place it beyond the powers of evil; not to transform the world but to bring peace and quiet to the Shire.” Because of their innate modestly, only Hobbits have the hope of resisting the sorcery of the Ring. Frodo volunteers to carry the Ring to the lip of a volcano, Mt. Doom, there to cast it down and destroy it once and for all.

[LA comments: That’s overstating it. After Frodo comes to the Elve place, he sees that it is all Middle Earth that is threatened, not just the Shire.]

In his world, the Shire is Christendom, and Christendom is the Shire.

Only the Shire is Christendom, not the rest of Middle Earth including the lands of Men?

At the same time, at a level just below the UN, the vision of an ever-expanding European Union, to include all the states touching the Mediterranean, has happily collapsed. Now it seems certain that even Turkey will never be admitted. Increasingly, people see that in a world of transnational terrorism, the key issue is not figuring out a common agricultural policy that unites Denmark and Cyprus, but rather a common survival policy for Europa, from the Pillars of Hercules to the Ural Mountains.

[LA comments Really, what is evidence that EU vision has collapsed?]

The French have remembered “Charles the Hammer” ever since, even naming warships after him. Indeed, across 2,000 years, from Vercingetorix to Charlemagne (Martel’s grandson) to Napoleon, the French have showed plenty of fight, and usually much skill. That’s why there’s still a France. And now, despite their recent failures and cupidities, the French are showing renewed determination, as in the election of Nicolas Sarkozy, a man who based his campaign on restoring border security, as well as law and order, to his beleaguered nation.

[LA replies: He’s not aware of how leftist Sarkozy is; send him Galliawatch’s stuff on Sarko.]

Maybe there’s a lesson here. The people of Europe might not be so eager, after all, to declare that they are “united in diversity.” What does that phrase mean, anyway? How about trying to find something that unites Europeans in unity? How about a revival of Christendom as a concept—as a political concept? A revival, or at least a remembrance, of Europe’s cultural heritage could be the healing force that Europe needs.

Some will smile at the thought that Christianity might be part of the solution to the problems of the Third Millennium. Admittedly, there’s an element of faith in the idea of trying to revive the idea of Christian unity. But Christendom is the Shire Strategy, applied.

To keep the peace, we must separate our civilizations. We must start with a political principle, that the West shall stay the West, while the East can do as it wishes on its side of the frontier, and only on its side. The classical political maxim cuius regio, eius religio (“whose region, his religion”) makes sense. To be sure, it has been unfashionable to talk this way in the West, but Muslims are avidly applying it as they set about martyring the remaining Christian populations of Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt. So we of the West can build walls, as needed, and as physically imposing as need be. Going further, we can finally recognize the need for an energy-independence embargo, so that we no longer finance those who wish to conquer or kill us.

And what of other hard cases? What of Africa? The Christian countries of Africa are part of the Shire Strategy and need to be embraced with tough love. The immediate mission is to delineate a Christian Zone and a Muslim Zone, dividing countries if need be. All Christians, and all Muslims, have a stake in minimizing conflict; the obvious way is by separating the combatants. So a wall should go up between the warring faiths, and then a bigger wall, until the flashpoint risk of civilization clash goes away. Then, and only then, might we hope to find workable solutions within the Christian Zone.

That’s bad news, but there’s a silver lining: if Westerners, Russians, Africans, Hindus, and Chinese all feel threatened by Islam—and they all do—there’s plenty of opportunity for a larger encircling alliance, with an eye toward feasible strategies of containment, even quarantine. But not conquest, not occupation, not “liberation.”

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 21, 2007 01:45 AM | Send

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