Monday, May 30, 2005

Happy Birthday Mr. Chesterton!

Well I maybe a day late, but yesterday was the birthday of the famous English writer and Catholic Distributist Gilbert Keith Chesterton. He was born on May 29, 1874. So if he was alive today, he'd be 131 years old!

Dale Ahlquist, who is President of the American Chesterton Society, offers an interesting introduction to the man and his works at his website. Chesterton truly was one interesting fellow.

However as much as I admire Chesterton, the main object of my admiration however goes to his Distributist compatriot Hilaire Belloc, whose 135th birthday I look forward to honouring this July 27th. I'll make sure there is a post ready for that occasion!

Is the American military really unbeatable?

In my post dealing with the analysis of Ralph Peters on the issue of globalization, I made mention of the fact that his works concerning military affairs are of little value since they spout much of the same Pentagon-style jargon about how the American military can defeat anybody and everybody at any moment. Well William Lind has recently taken a shot at this notion. You may remember when I commented on another of Lind's article concerning Iraqi militias. Unlike most military analysts these days, William Lind approaches warfare with intelligence and not just jingoistic rhetoric.

Lind makes his point clear, "the idea that the U.S. military cannot be defeated is disconnected from reality." Indeed it is. Lind goes on to compare the mentality of America's top brass to the Spanish in the 17th century, when Spain was at the height of its geo-political power and it's military had not been defeated in a hundred years. That is until they faced the French at the Battle of Rocroi in 1643. It's only a matter of time before the American army meets its own Rocroi, according to Lind.

Lind probably did not intend to, but he also touched on the issue of what's wrong with most discussions on the nature of future warfare. He notes that "you cannot predict the outcome of a war just by counting up the stuff on either side and seeing who has more. Such "metrics" leave out strategy and stratagem, pre-emption and trickery, generalship and luck. They leave out John Boyd's all-important mental and moral levels."

And indeed that's the very problem with most "analysis" put forth concerning the nature of future warfare. It largely focuses on the material aspects, especially technology, and leaves out the other and often more important elements. Very little if anything is mentioned of political and cultural factors, which are absolutely key to victory. Not much is mentioned about tactics and strategy, except how it will relate to the use of the newest technology; nevermind the fact that the relationship of strategy and tactics with technology is twofold, each influences the other. Strategy and tactics do not always revolve around technology, in fact it often plays an important role in determining not only how technology will be used on the battlefield, but even what kinds of technology will be developed.

And the supposed technology of the future is presented in a silver-bullet fashion, as to make it appear invincible and without any flaws or weaknesses. This of course is bogus. Interesting enough, much of the technology proposed doesn't even conform to reality, as the Pentagon itself had to admit. And course the new technology will supposedly "revoluntionize warfare", so its advocates claim. Well it might, but then again maybe not. We don't know for sure right now. But technology alone does not revolutionize warfare, in fact it's usually political and social factors that dramatically change warfare. This point is very well articulated in the book The Dynamics of Military Revolution, 1300-2050 edited by MacGregor Knox.

So yes the American military is not invincible, but good luck getting this simple point into the thick skulls operating at the Pentagon and their countless mouth-pieces writing about military affairs in numerous newspapers, magazines, and/or books. Sad really, since being aware of this simple fact may lead the Pentagon into using more common sense. But thankfully there are some voices of sanity out there. Keep the good work up Lind!

France rejects the EU

Well the French people have spoken and they have rejected the E.U. constitution. Good for them to finally assert their national soverignty. Interesting an odd coalition of Communists and right-wing parties joined in rejecting the constitution. Politics does make strange bed-fellows it seems.

Of course the long-term effects of this are yet to be seen. Many say this vote has thrown the E.U. into disarray, but Brussels seems to disagree. Well for now, some celebration is in order.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Farce that is Globalization

USA Today had an interesting piece concerning the many myths surrounding Globalization. What's possibly most interesting are not exactly the arguments being made, but who is making these arguments. It's none other than Ralph Peters, a man not usually known for intelligent discussion. His book Fighting for the Future is of little value in terms of military analysis, and largely is a rehash of overly jingoistic rhetoric about how America will defeat anybody and everybody. To be fair, this is quite a common theme among much of the literature dealing with military affairs (pathetic if you ask me), but somehow Peters manages to be that much more annoying. Even David Icke is able to give a well thought out critique of his essay "The New Warrior Class", in which Peters outlines the potential future enemies of the United States (it should be noted that "Patriots" are mentioned among them). For those who don't know, David Icke is a conspiracy theorist who believes the world is ruled by a secret caste of alien reptilian-human hybrids, and that doesn't even include his Dan Brown style rants about Catholicism and Christianity in general. This certainly should tell you something.

Well anyways, this time around Peters manages to get things right. His two main arguments are 1) Globalization is not new and 2) it does not bring perpetual world peace. Bingo!

The notion of a cosmopolitan world order goes all the way back to the days of Alexander the Great. As his phalanxes marched across the then known world, Greek culture followed in their path, giving rise to the Hellenistic age. The same can be said of the Roman Empire, when the legions helped spread Latin culture far and wide (the Pax Romana). Likewise today, American pop culture has followed the Marine Corps into Iraq. Although it certainly can be debated if the spread of the latter will be as beneficial as the spread of Greek and Latin cultures were.

It's often argued that Globalization will be bring world peace. Well one would only have to look at the outbreak of World War I in 1914 to prove this assertion wrong. As Charles A. Kupchan argues:
"Trade and investments inside Europe were, in relation to the size of national economies, greater one hundred years ago than they are today. Germany was Britain's second-most-important trading partner (after the United States), and Britain was the top market for German exports...Borders in the early 1900s were permeable. Europeans moved freely from country to country, without passports and without having to bother with border controls. Such intense levels of interdependence, however, did not avert Europe's rapid descent into World War I."
-- The End of the American Era: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-First Century page. 103
So despite all the rhetoric from the media and politicians, Globalization is not new and it does not bring peace. It's really sad how much the establishment seems addicted to this farce!

Monday, May 23, 2005

Spreading the good news

Due to many time constraints in my schedule, I most likely will not be able to update this blog on any regular basis for the time being. I'm sure people may have noticed this with the irregular timing of many of my posts. It takes me quite a lot of time and energy to make fairly decent posts, qualities I've lately found to be lacking. But no need to despair, for I have good news as well.

Finally, Third Position Review has been getting noticed lately. For a while, this blog largely floated among small circles. I admit that was largely because of me, since I wanted to concentrate on getting this project off to a decent start. What's the point of promoting your blog if there isn't much to promote in the first place?

I have established contact with many fellow Catholic bloggers. Among these are David, who runs the la nouvelle theƩologie blog. He listed this blog under his links and vice versa. I even sent him an e-mail, and hopefully we'll be able to stay in contact with each other. Another blogger I've also come into contact with is ConcernedCatholic, who runs Catholicism, Culture, and Politics. If you remember from my post "Europe and the Popes", I critiqued his position concerning the possibility of a Third World pope. He posted his own comments concerning my remarks. Thankfully, he didn't interpret what I said as being malicious(which they weren't, I was respectfully disagreeing with him). I've added ConcernedCatholic's blog to my links, and hopefully he'll get around to placing this blog in his.

Speaking of which, there was a discussion about my post over at Turnabout. MD gave some interesting arguments. Although it quickly got diverted into a general discussion about liberal Catholicism and Mysterious Stranger made a knee-jerk response about how my arguments were void(although he seems to have the reputation of being a troll there).

I've also come into contact with A Wandering Thomist of Liberty, Order, and Tradition. He seems to appreciate my comments on his blog and hopefully in the near future our contacts will increase. Gens over at ChesterBelloc Mandate mentioned how he's looking to establish contact with other Third Way blogs so as to possibly pull their talents together into one major blog, so I've offered help in that endeavor. Sadly, I have not received a reply yet, but I'm hopeful. In fact it's quite ironic that I've been looking into the possibility of having other commentators here(so as to keep things lively), and that this blog is devoted to Third Way politics.

I've recently joined St. Blog's Parish, which is a webring for Catholic bloggers. This most certainly should bring more visitors to this place. I have also proposed the creation of a separate webring for websites with themes dealing with Catholic Social Doctrine over at the Distributism Forum.

So yes, not only am I very busy in terms of work and studies, but also in many personal affairs. So don't lose heart, hopefully things will be able to pick up here pretty soon.

Ratzinger and Europe

Here's an extraordinary commentary by Reverend James V. Schall about the deep love and affection that Cardinal Raztinger(now Pope Benedict XVI) has for the heritage of Europe. According to Schall, Ratzinger is upset with the fact that Europe has chosen to reject its rich spiritual heritage and that in turn has lead the continent to its possible destruction. The only possible road to salvation open for Europe is for its people to return to their roots and proudly proclaim their heritage.

Ratzinger clearly agrees with the views expressed by Hilaire Belloc in his 1921 book Europe and the Faith. Belloc went to great lengths explaining how the Catholic Church contributed immeasurably to the development of European civilization. And as I stated in my previous post recent scholarly investigations has confirmed this viewpoint. Yet Belloc's work was not just about how the Catholic faith was key to European developments of the past, it also argued that it was the key to Europe's future survival. As he stated, "Europe will return to the Faith, or she will perish."

Ratzinger most certainly is in full agreement with that statement. There is little doubt that Ratzinger also agrees with Belloc's other famous statement that "The Faith is Europe. And Europe is the Faith." But what does that mean exactly? Well Schall himself gave an interesting explanation elsewhere:
"The fact is that without Christianity, Europe is not Europe. In fact, with the rapid decline of its birthrates, with large-scale Muslim immigration and with a secularized Euro-elite, it is rapidly becoming something else."

That is exactly what Ratzinger appears to be so concerned about; that by rejecting the Christian faith, Europe is not only killing itself morally but physically as well!

I find it reassuring that we now have a Pope that who is devoted to the preservation of Europe's heritage from the onslaughts of multi-culturalism. Hopefully Robert Spencer was absolutely correct when he stated "In choosing Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to succeed Pope John Paul II as Pope Benedict XVI, the Catholic Church has cast a vote for the survival of Europe and the West."

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Catholicism and Western Civilization

Thomas E. Woods, Jr. gives an interesting outline of his new and exciting book How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization over at The main thesis of his book, as its title suggests, is about how the Catholic faith was the driving force behind the development of what we consider today Western Civilization. As he states, "From the role of the monks (they did much more than just copy manuscripts) to art and architecture, from the university to Western law, from science to charitable work, from international law to economics, the book delves into just how indebted we are as a civilization to the Catholic Church, whether we realize it or not."

Yet sadly, as he explains in the beginning of his book, the contributions of the faith to our civilization are often ignored in the popular imagination and even among many Catholics. Hopefully this book will bring to light this now neglected aspect of historical truth.

Not only does he explain the great contributions of Catholicism to Western civilization, Woods goes to great length to refute the many myths about how the faith supposedly hindered its development. In particular, he takes on the age-old myths concerning the relationship between Catholicism and science. Contrary to popular view, according to Woods, Catholicism was a not an enemy of science but rather its greatest patron. All this despite the whole Galileo incident, which is so often cited as proof that the Catholic Church hindered scientific advancement(and indeed Woods deals with the many myths concerning this as well).

One possible problem I have found with Woods' book is how he tries to connect the development of modern-day theories of free-market economics(particularly the theories of the Austrian School) to the teachings of the Scholastics of the Middle Ages. Ray Moore of the Distributist Review took a critical view of this notion.

However, despite this flaw, Woods' book certainly is of great value to us Catholics who wish to learn about and take pride in their rich cultural heritage. It really is worthwhile reading material.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Rifkin's European Dream

Jeremy Rifkin has written a new book titled The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream. It certainly is a must read for those interested in geo-politics, political science, and sociology. Rifkin is convinced that a new vision of the world is being created in the European Union, one which stands in contrast to the vision of the world advocated by the United States.

There certainly are many positive aspects of the "European dream" as Rifkin outlines: sustainable economic and technological development, communitarian values, greater emphasis on quality over quanity, reasonable work hours and time for leisure("work to live" as opposed to "live to work"). I certainly agree with the European ideal of maintaining its cultural diversity as opposed to the American ideal of the melting pot(although my idea of "maintaining cultural diversity" most certainly differs from Rifkin's idea of it. I certainly do not support multi-culturalism but rather the preservation of Europe's historical ethnic heritages).

Despite many of its positive aspects, it has its negative spots. Mainly that the "European dream" that Rifkin not only outlines but openly advocates is one that is deeply entrenched in the welfare system that has engulfed Europe (the Servile State as Hilaire Belloc named it). Although it presents some advantages to American-style capitalism(and Belloc himself admitted this), nevertheless its still a form of the servile state.

Rifkin also tries to speak favorably of European secularism over American religious devotion, which is a common theme of polemics of Europe vs. America. Massimo Introvigne and Rodney Stark did a study refuting many of the notions of European secularism. T.R. Reid also questions how far Europe has become secularist in his book The United States Of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy(which makes arguments very similar to Rifkin's). Reid notes that large numbers of Europeans still travel to Vatican City and Lourdes for religious reasons and recordings of Gregorian chants are among the best sellers in parts of Europe. It's just that religion has become more an individual matter and now lacks its institutional vigour. Although not commenting on Rifkin's book per se, Stuart Reid addressed the relationship between the "European Dream" and the church in his article "Mr.Bush Goes to Europe" in the March 28 issue of American Conservative(sadly there's no link to the article):

"A residual Christianity - more specifically, Catholicism and its strong social tradition - governs much European thinking. In most practical senses, of course, it is absurd to call Europeans Christian. The EU is a thoroughly secular construct. Europeans, furthermore, are as every bit as intolerant as American secularists when confronted with Christian intransigence. All the same, most of the nations of Europe are nominally Catholic, and unlike the United States,those that are not at least have a Catholic past. The EU itself was created by Catholics, with an explicitly Catholic social agenda.The Church supports the European Dream. She does not, however support the American Dream and has consistently preached against what Bush calls freedom -essentially, liberal capitalism and radical individualism. Pius XI held that liberal capitalism and communism were united in their "satanic optimism." The present pontiff, John Paul II, is keenly aware of the perils of freedom. In his encyclical Veritatis Splendor he wrote, "Certain currents of modern thought have...exalted freedom to such an extent that it becomes an absolute..The individual conscience is accorded the status of supreme tribunal of moral judgment that hands down...infallible decision about good and evil...Claims of truth disappear, yielding their place to a criterion of sincerity, authenticity, and being at peace with oneself." In September 1993 John Paul traveled to Riga,where he troubled Wall Street by speaking of "Marxism's kernel of truth" and denouncing "the international imperialism of money."...[quoting from John Allen's "All the Pope's Men"] 'Key Vatican officials, especially Europeans from traditional Catholic cultures, have long worried about aspects of American society - its exaggerated individualism, its hyper-consumer spirit, its relagation of religion to the private sphere, its Calvinist ethos. A fortiori,they worry about a world in which America is in an unfettered position to impose this set of cultural values on everyone else.'"
So it's clear that Europe's Christian ideals still play a role in shaping the continent's vision of the world. Even Rfikin admits that the European dream is far more compatible with the teachings of the New Testament then the American dream(although he argues from a perverted notion of what the New Testament stands for and tries claiming the American dream is more in line with the Old Testament, hence continuing the old Marconite Old vs. New Testament polemic).

The European dream should more fully embrace its Christian heritage and entrench itself in the social doctrines of the faith. That would surely provide the world a true alternative to the American dream.