Monday, March 2, 2015

Map on Monday: JAPAN

Stratfor - short for Strategic Forecasting, Inc. - is a private global intelligence company that offers geopolitical insight into the interplay of nations. Stratfor has developed an excellent series of short (~2-4 minute) videos which provide the viewer with a specific nation, along with its basic history, geography, culture, and geopolitical allies and adversaries. In the following video, they present the geographic challenges facing Japan.



                                                  PHYSICAL ECOLOGY OF JAPAN:
         HIGH DENSITY, FEW NATURAL RESOURCES, TOUGH NEIGHBORHOOD
                                                             by A. Joseph Lynch

With 871 people per square mile, Japan is one of the most densely populated nations in the world, ranked fourth behind Bangladesh (2,840), India (999), and the Philippines (873) among nations with populations above 100 million - and for context at the other end of the spectrum are the United States (84.5), Brazil (62), and Russia (22). In addition to its issues of population density, however, Japan faces another demographic problem: an aging population. Over one quarter of Japan's population is over the age of 65 and sales of adult diapers in Japan are eclipsing those of infants.

Japan's physical geography generally orients its four main islands of Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu towards the Korean peninsula and Russia to the west and north (which taken together forms a perimeter around the Sea of Japan), and the Pacific Ocean to the east and south. Geopolitically speaking, this brings Japan into potentially confrontational contact with North Korea and Russia. While much media attention is given to North Korea, the dispute of the Kuril Islands (see map below) has kept Japan and Russia from signing a peace treaty since the end of World War II. A 2012 poll of Japanese revealed that, with a 72% unfavorable view of Russia, Japan was the most Russophobic nation surveyed at the time.

With its forested and mountainous terrain, only 12% of Japan is suitable for agriculture. Its geography also places Japan into close geopolitical proximity to Russia, the Korean peninsula, and China.

Japan's past history with South Korea and China, particularly during the days of Imperial Japan, leave her in poor standing with both today. The rise of China, however, has led South Korea and Japan to move more closely towards military pacts (both have security agreements with the United States). Where the Japanese islands - numbering 6,852 in total - face China are in Kyushu and the Ryukyu islands (of which Okinawa forms the southernmost bastion). These islands play a key defensive role in containing any potential Chinese military aggression while also denying Chinese fleets entry into the Pacific. As Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to bolster Japan's armed forces, a defensive strategy such as this is one of his options.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, February 28

by David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch

WHY MEN FIGHT AND WHY THEY DON'T

Men and nations fight wars to protect their homelands and their shipping lanes. Just as often they fight to protect allies and punish old foes. But men fight often to protect their honor as a people and the sacred goods around which they are congregated as a nation. For Sunni Muslims of the Mideast, it does matter how any set of fighters are aligned in the Sunni-Shia divide. For Turks who are Sunni Muslims, they are willing to fight for ancestral tombs, to keep the Kurds in their national borders, and to weaken any Shiite state in the neighborhood - particularly Assad of Syria. They are much less interested in taking on Sunni ISIS, though they are one force large enough to do so.    

According to Global Firepower (GFP) Turkey with a population of 82 million and 41 million men of fighting age has 3,800 tanks, 7,500 Armed Field Vehicles, 500 helicopters and 410,000 men in active duty. The numbers for ISIS are hard to get at. Two estimates by the CIA put their forces at 20-30,000 in September 2014 and 11-18,000 more recently. In a Senate hearing with Secretary of State Kerry, the number 40,000 was stated by a senator and not contradicted by Kerry. This is an important assessment needed in the debate. Men fight for what is sacred to them. The non-Arab Turks have not spent many troops on the ISIS front, right on their western border, but they did send men and tanks to save the graves of their fathers. As America seems less and less united by shared sacred goods, it is good to remember what George Orwell said about Mein Kampf.


THE GAYS GET AN ENVOY. THE CHRISTIAN NATIONS RECEDE, AND THE CHRISTIAN ASSYRIANS ARE ABDUCTED

The State Department now has an envoy to defend and promote homosexuals. Meanwhile the notion that Christian America has some fraternal duty to fellow Christians is considered a deep breach of Church-State separation. While Israel debates defining itself as a Jewish State and multiple Muslim countries define themselves as such, the nations of Christendom can barely say there is a God in public civic actions. CNN sponsored the right debate between Alabama Judge Moore and CNN host Chris Cuomo (son of Mario, brother of Andrew - both baptized Catholics and New York governors). A nation of men or a nation under God.              
                                      
ISIS is losing territory to the Kurds in the northeast part of Syria but that has not prevented them from an abduction of Christians. Christians will need states, militias and allies to defend them from the aggression of the jihadists as Christians and their art is meant to be effaced. The Lebanese Christians are watching. They are not part of the anti-Hezbollah lobby. Hezbollah is a fighting Shiite force despised by Israel and targeted by ISIS. But for the Maronite Christians of Lebanon, the fighting Shiites will be important allies against any move of ISIS to the west.


BACKGROUND OF US RUSSIAN ENMITY FOLLOWING THE COLLAPSE OF THE BERLIN WALL

One state that has acknowledged a special duty to defend Christians is Russia. Present polices agreed upon by both parties are driving us to war with one of our most natural allies in the religious-political theater which faces us. Here is a good review of the US dealing with Russia since the end of the Cold War by Professor Stephen Cohen on Russia-US relations.                                              

The Jewish migration from Soviet Union in the 1970s followed the Soviet opposition to Israel in the 1967 Six Day War. With the fall of Soviet ideology, there were fears of many secular Jews that Russian nationalism(especially grounded in a Christian Orthodox communal identity) might lead to a resurgence of anti-Semitism.  This is not the case for President Putin.  Putin is a certain kind of nationalist. Another author who has a strong dislike for Putin explains that even a "nice Putin" would defend policies of a Russian nationalist.


EUROPE,  UKRAINE AND IRAN: AN OVERVIEW

A calm look at three intersecting crises by analysts from Stratfor.                                                


 IF ISIS IS ATTACKED AND FALLS WHO WOULD RULE?
THE CLAIM OF JORDAN

Any war against ISIS to remove all semblance of territorial authority from their control must answer the question: "Who will govern after?" The U.S. actually had a better answer for that in Iraq and Afghanistan than Libya. We would advocate a Sunni alliance led by Jordan with some kind of Sunni National Guard emerging as the local men who fought for the new state and thus won the soldier's right to governance. Jordan and Egypt are true alternatives to Saudi Arabian leadership. Turkey is an established Sunni state adjacent to the contested territory. However the Turks are not Arabs and their real goals are the fall of President Assad of Syria and blocking the emergence of a Kurdish republic which would make claims on the loyalty of their own Kurdish population. Egyptian military leaders have made a frontal assault on ISIS ideology within Islam but they still have a serious problem winning the loyalty of their own people after coming to power by overthrowing an elected government. The multiple executions of Muslim Brotherhood members leaves a legacy not resolved. Jordan has provided a different kind of leadership and may be the Sunni authority needed to organize a Sunni State after the demolition of ISIS. Their president and ministers have also been the clearest in declaring: "This is our war not the West's - we are the tip of the spear."

 IRAN VS SAUDI ARABIA

                                               
Underlying all strategic considerations is the Iran-Saudi Arabia conflict. This is particularly true in Yemen.



RELIGIOUS ARGUMENTS WORTH NOTING

The January 2015 speech by President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi of Egypt calling for a very different revolution in Islamic thought is the beginning of the deeper level discussion needed in this crisis.

Here is Fr. Robert Barron's take on the atheist complaint against the suffering of the innocent .

For all those worried about the Pope's upcoming encyclical on "climate change" it might be helpful to consider that his underlying approach will be about creation and the ecology of man. Pope Benedict spoke of this as well. Pope Francis asserts there is an order in creation and human nature is a given within that deeper order. Speaking of Pope Francis, this is the best talk on his biography by the author Austen Ivereigh: The Great Reformer. The "best" written review of the book is to be found on AOA earlier this week.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday BookReview -- The Great Reformer: Pope Francis

 
by David Pence


                                   


Ignatius, Peter, and Peron: Untying the Knot of Pope Francis

In every papacy, a man and an office meet in the cultural environments shaped by the interplay of Church and nations in that era of human history. Great papal narratives set man and office in their moment of history. George Weigel’s Witness to Hope situated the philosophically personalist Pope John Paul II on the bi-polar historical world stage where the Polish world actor took the side of Church, nation, and man against the depersonalized tyranny of Communist atheism. Vittorio Messori’s Ratzinger Report pitted an intellectually and liturgically formed scholar cardinal, in the conversational tone of biblical personalism, against the turbulent confusion following the holy ferment of Vatican II. 

Austen Ivereigh’s The Great Reformer is the story of a man called from a nation at “the ends of the earth” to put on the shoes of the fisherman and lead the Church out into the periphery where she might be mother as well as teacher in showing the mercy of God to the sobrantes (the left-over people) at the margins. Mr. Ivereigh wrote his Oxford thesis on the "Church and Politics in Argentina" and his account is rich in history—of Argentina, of the Latin American Church after Vatican II, and of the Jesuits after the Council. But he discovers an even more radical historical formulation presented by the distinctively Latin American Church. The Church is being drawn from a decaying monarchical form to bypass the modernism of libertine atheism (the decayed form of the Enlightenment) and return to the collegial fraternity of apostles. Only this true fruit of the worldwide Second Vatican Council can counter the delusion of self-reliance afflicting modern man and the spiritual worldiness weighing down the self-referential Curia and careerist clergy.

Moving the encounter of the Church and the world to the margins seemed for many faithful Catholics an abandonment of the intellectual battle lines they had so carefully constructed and suffered for in conscious allegiance to the popes before Francis. And just when many Catholic businessmen and economists rejoiced that free markets as creators of wealth were finally being recognized by chastened Communists and modern pontiffs, the new pope predicted only ruin if we trust the organization of society to “the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation.” They condescended, “What could one expect from a son of Latin America and a grandson of old Europe? What could he know of the Oikos nomos -- the economy -- the ordering of the household? A Jesuit from Latin America stuck in the quasi-Marxism of liberation theology -- didn’t this movie come and go two decades ago?”

But as they looked across the old ideological lines expecting to find a pope against them instead of their ally, he was nowhere to be found. This, too, was not his hill for battle. Communism and Capitalism tug at one another and the rope is knotted. Abortion and Homosexuality are obsessions of their advocates; and those who speak too often in opposition find themselves talking about evils which most of humanity shuns by not mentioning the taboo. The sacrament of humanity -- the Church -- cannot define herself by obsessions or opposition to obsessions.
  
In rhetoric the locus of an argument is called the line of stasis. The contested issues of the European Church and the international demarcations of the bipolar Cold War are being left behind for a new line of stasis pitting the Spirit of Mercy against the Evil One. The pope is wildly popular, said a bishop, because he seems new by reminding people of someone they heard about long ago. He, too, was cheered and greeted with psalms and hosannas. 

The first pope from the New World is returning to be bishop of the capital of his grandfather’s country and his father’s birthplace. Rome cannot consider him a stranger. His papacy, as well, is not so confusing nor is he “running from the issues.” He seeks, with both John Paul II and Benedict XVI, a return to a deeper encounter between man and God. He arranges that encounter not with the huge crowd or in intellectual disputations. His strategies are different from the popes before him, but he is a loyal son of the Church as surely as he is a grandson of Rome. 

G.K. Chesterton said that what St. Benedict had stored in barns like grain, St. Francis spread in the world like seed. Mr. Ivereigh contends that the same relationship holds today, though the critics most hampering the pope within the Church today are  Benedict XVI devotees who mask their opposition to him in their pained confusions and half-hearted loyalty pledges. The fifth chapter of the book, "The Leader Expelled (1980-82)," is about the rejection of Bergoglio by the progressive Jesuit intellectuals who then ruled the Order. Today it is not progressives but the “orthodox” who are disappointed in his ways. He has always been opposed by intellectuals.  

All true reform, says Ivereigh quoting Congar and channeling Chesterton, is the return to some original form. Pope Francis is a Jesuit—his spiritual life is shaped by the exercises of Saint Ignatius. Each of his days is marked by the Office, the Rosary, the Mass, and Eucharistic Adoration. He is a big heart open to God but also a discerning soul allowing situations to mature before acting. Is this action an act of compassion and good, or is the Evil One posing as a spirit of light? The Ignatian Pope asks these kinds of questions. Discerning spirits -- a continual awareness of the reality and machinations of Satan, while resting in the mercy of God is the best description of his approach to governance. He has certainly known the definitive call of the Holy Spirit. He was called to the priesthood as definitively “as being knocked from a horse” after confession when he was sixteen. And like Peter at the home of Cornelius, he has recognized the Holy Spirit in those not of the fold in his remarkable ecumenism of prayer with Evangelicals in Argentina.  

Francis is much more a man of prayer than a theologian (but let us not dimiss the theology of the knees). Like the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius he starts from the mercy of God, but then discerns the spirits. Before he will organize us around the “issues” he will ask us to reflect by “keeping silence, praying and humbling ourselves” as he wrote in Silencio y Palabra (Silence and Word). He especially understands the scourge of our day in which evil presents itself as good or “the bad spirit comes in the guise of an angel.” This kind of deceit and temptation appears sub angelo lucis. The way to deal with such Spirit is not to fight it head on, because only God can defeat such a Power. He tells us, "Be gentle! The evil ones will take that for weakness... The devil emboldened will show himself and his true intentions, no longer disguised as an angel of light but boldly and shamelessly.” Did this not happen at the extraordinary synod in October 2014 when the pope was much criticized by conservatives for not “speaking up” against falsehoods? He only spoke at the end reminding the free-speaking bishops they were both with Peter and under him. His disciplined silence allowed over the next few months that several prominent episcopal “angels of compassion and light “ were exposed by their own deeds and words to be thieves, liars, and racists. Francis brings the church back to the original underlying conflict with our original foe -- the father of lies, a murderer from the beginning, and he does it as a Jesuit conforming to the original spirituality of that warrior mystic Saint Ignatius.
                                              
The young Bergoglio

When the bishops of Latin America returned from the Vatican Council they were struck by its message about bishops and collegiality and the people of God. They were also struck by how the bishops of the continent with the most Catholics played such a small role in the give-and-take of that great spiritual event. Over the years, the Latin American bishops would form not a national conference but a continental conference: CELAM. Its first conference was in Rio de Janeiro in 1955, but after Vatican II it progressively developed a theology of "Church and the people" from Medellin (Columbia 1968) to Puebla (Mexico 1979) to Aparecida (Brazil 2007). This experience of collegially developing a theology of liberation and communio rooted in a matured understanding of God’s holy faithful people is a central experience in the life of Bergoglio. He understands himself as a brother priest and a brother bishop. Fraternity and collegiality, governing and learning through synods in which there is real dialogue and disagreement is central to this new Peter whose favorite papal title is Bishop of Rome. It is this trait, above all, which will allow him to do what his predecessors did poorly -- to govern, to rule. (A fascinating section of the book outlines meetings of bishops at St. Gallen in Switzerland, concerned that the local church/central church dynamic had gone too far central. While the theological concerns of prelates Martini, Kasper, Lehman, and Danneels were very different than those of the Latin American bishops, this was the common ground where they met the Argentine bishop who carried the concerns of the southern Church.)

The bishop of the poor will not leave the organization of governance to inertia. He knows how old he is and he knows the rot he has been called to expunge. Like Moses on the advice of his father-in-law, Pope Francis immediately appointed men to help him govern. Some of those men are not as pure as the pope. He, too, will have his Judas priests. Let us see who is washed out and who stays to govern. Mr. Ivereigh has said that if Pope John Paul II was a prophet and Pope Benedict a priest, then Francis will be king; he will rule. His ability to govern was well known among many, if not all, of his elector cardinals. Pope Francis has lived in patriarchal fraternity with the Jesuits. He experienced and shaped the most dynamic international bishops’ conference in the universal Church. He will govern as Peter, not Louis XVI. 

He will also talk more like Peter than a professor. That is not to disparage the professor popes which the Church needs at different times, especially in eras marked by confusion of doctrine. Peter was a net fisherman. The men of Galilee did not fish singly with a pole and a hook and a worm. They worked together on a large net in a rough sea, and when push came to shove they knew they were a body; and they had a leader who would assess the situation and make the decision needed in times of crisis. Francis returns the Church to its original communio of governance that Christ ordained: the patriarchal fraternity of the Apostles under Peter. 

Francis will not consider it clericalism to govern, pray, or relax in communio with his brother priests. He does not think masculine fraternity is a dirty word and he considers the art of politics to be the forging of bonds, not the slaking of ambition. He is a man who can lead while he shares a net with other fishermen. Like John Paul II -- and unlike Benedict and most popes of the last century -- he is a nation-man. He shares a communal masculine identity with countrymen tied to a particular soil. Unlike most Europeans and North Americans he has no feminist implant rewiring his brain to apologize for this fraternal aspect of his nature and the nature of political life.  

He may be a porteno—a man of the port city in his upbringing, but he was a 'Gaucho Cardinal' [see chapter seven, covering the years 2001-2007]. He identifies not with the Enlightenment liberals who ruled his county’s trade and commerce from the port cities, but with the great cowboy leaders who led bands of free men in the countryside. The gauchos are what Robin Hood and his band of merry men are to Englishmen, what Armenius and his warrior Bund mean to Germans, and what Wilhelm Tell and his confederates are to the Swiss. Those bands of men under a democratic but forceful leader are immortalized in the Argentine epic poem "El Gaucho Martin Fierro" (1872). In their story, which Bergoglio could recite copiously, is the soul of the nation. It is why the early aspirations of Juan Peron (1895-1974) will always embody the soul of Argentine more than the necessary military junta of 1976 or the understandable armed insurrection of the Montoneros guerrilla movement.
                                                       

Francis has a spiritual communal sense of Trinity and the Body of Christ and humanity. It overflows in the words of his fellow bishops from Aparecida. He accepts the formulation of Alberto Ferre of Uruguay that Latin America is a continental Christian patria with a concert of nations rising from this God-soaked soil. Francis is man of soul and communio. He will never prefer the European Enlightenment and its superstate enforcing libertine atheism over a Catholic nation protected by men sharing the work and protective duties of fatherhood and fraternal citizenship. Pope Francis is not a pacifist. He thinks that Europe without Christ is a barren grandmother. The Catholic America he sees will be a concert of nations and nations governed by agreement as well as force. He has a high concept of politics and expects that protective personalities are shaped by religion and then act in civic leadership. He knows Latin American nations have passed the era of the Marxist Castro and Chavez. He knows his nation and continent are aping the North while passing though the era of libertine atheists led by feminist Lady Presidents: Dilma Rousseff of Brazil and Christine Kirchner of Argentina. He meets the nation-men around the world and awaits his own continent to shape a Republican Christian, if not a Martin Fierro then a nation-man like Juan Peron. 
  
There are three keys to the papacy of Francis, says Mr. Ivereigh:
1) Evangelize through mercy; this era of human history is the kairos of mercy. If John Paul declared a feast day after Easter for the Divine Mercy, Pope Francis will ground his whole pontificate in that truth. 
2) Learn and hear the infallibility of God’s holy faithful people (santo pueblo fiel de Dios). This is not Marx’s proletariat. It is not a council of laity who wish to pass resolutions and to project their voices. This is the people at prayer and pilgrimage. They are not shouting at the government or the clergy; they are praising God and bringing Him their concerns. Just as often, they are raising their hearts of love and petition to His mother. Ecclesial men and civic men must accompany them in prayer and then ensure that nation and Church act in accordance with the needs expressed in prayer. When the people recite the creed during the Mass, God’s holy and faithful people are speaking without error. When old women in the U.S. kept the fires burning for Eucharistic adoration when seminaries were getting beyond "wafer worship," it was the faithful women who were without error. The beautiful CELAM bishops' document from Aparecida in 2007 was deliberately drafted within touching distance of pilgrims praying near the clay statue of Our Lady of Aparecida. It was not so the pilgrims could see the bishops, but so the bishops could hear the people. If such a practice frees the whole Church to come before God in prayer, we might even call this matured sensibility "liberation theology." 
3) Institutional reform will come by restoring the Church’s mission to the poor and faithful who can carry forth a more universal deepening of holiness in both diocese and parish. To enable that return to the first mission, a reformer must assemble real synods of governance and dismantle structures and depose careerists who are impediments to the reform.
A set of four governing Christian principles provide practical guidance to true reform which is never to be mistaken for the false reform of adopting the regnant ideology of a given era:
Unity comes before conflict; the whole comes before the part; reality comes before the idea; and time comes before space.

The pope's favorite image of Mary is not from Guadalupe. He met her in Germany—Mary, the Untier of Knots. He had seen his Jesuit brotherhood torn asunder and men pulling against each other with a rope of liberation and a rope of order as the knot grew more tight. He saw his beloved country torn apart between an oligarchy of super-rich and an ideology of liberating violence answered by a response of order, turned into an even more brutal violence of hidden torture and murder. Each kept pulling and killing and the knot grew more tight. He sees the tired but rich German Church of Walter Kasper, and the living word made a dying letter by the American Raymond Burke. He sees the envy of Marxism and the greed of Adam Smith. He is too much a man of Trinity, Church, and nation to reduce ecclesial or civic life to such options. He knows for sure that most knots are not undone by pulling. Start with God’s mercy, often be silent, pick where you will contest, act boldly. The Great Reformer is a poetic, historical, spiritual masterpiece about Francis and the "Making of a Radical Pope."                                                    

                                                    


UPDATE: Check out this excellent talk given in Ireland by Austen Ivereigh.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The burial site of the only canonized king of France


                                                           


Saint Louis IX -- who died in 1270 (four years before Thomas Aquinas was ushered into the full presence of God) -- is buried in the Basilica of Saint Denis.

On the northern edge of Paris, it is where most of the  French monarchs are interred. Another reason for its fame since the 12th century: it was the first Gothic church ever built.
                                                                                           
                                                    


Gothic, which replaced Romanesque architecture, was a “transformation of stone into something light and airy.”




It wasn't until 1966 that the Basilica of Saint Denis also became a cathedral.


In his inimitable way, here are some words that flowed from G.K. Chesterton's pen as he addressed the subject of Gothic architecture:
"The truth about Gothic is, first, that it is alive, and second, that it is on the march. It is the Church Militant; it is the only fighting architecture. All its spires are spears at rest..."

Both Chesterton and the art critic John Ruskin were in awe of Lincoln Cathedral (three hours north of London):
                                     



UPDATE: In what church had Louis IX been crowned? Only 12 years old at the death of his father, his coronation was at Reims Cathedral (one of the Gothic churches whose stunning photographs can be found here.)


Monday, February 23, 2015

Map on Monday: Mapping Middle Earth

by A. Joseph Lynch


While J.R.R. Tolkien's love of language played a great role in his story-telling (he invented a language before creating a fictional species to speak it), map-making was another essential, if often overlooked, part of his writings. Tolkien once said: “Believable fairy-stories must be intensely practical. You must have a map, no matter how rough. Otherwise you wander all over the place. In The Lord of the Rings I never made anyone go farther than he could on a given day.”

Making the maps that shaped the story of Middle Earth was a father-son effort. Tolkien drafted his own maps for writing, but his son, Christopher, is credited with making the maps used in publishing. In 1969, Tolkien gave permission and assistance to Pauline Baynes in creating an early, authoritative map of Middle Earth (see below).

This map of Middle Earth was painted by Pauline Baynes in 1969. Design by J. R. R. Tolkien, C. R. Tolkien, Pauline Baynes. Copyright © George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., 1970.

An Excerpt from J.R.R. Tolkien's Mythopoeia:
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind. 
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons, 'twas our right
(used or misused). The right has not decayed.
We make still by the law in which we're made.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

First Sunday of Lent: Noah and His Sons—The Nations and the Rainbow


by David Pence

In this forty-day season of Lent, the Church recalls in her liturgical readings another forty days of trial and tribulation meant to purify God’s people to fulfill our destiny of loving God and our neighbor. The traditions that flow from the story of Noah and his sons are crucial to the Christian understanding of the unity of the human species and the necessity of the nations. All the nations have a righteous grandfather, and his seventy grandsons are considered progenitors of the more than 100 nations of today. All humans have a common ancestor refuting the polygenesis racial theory that humans have many origins.  Men have a political obligation to order our different language and ethnic groupings under law and communal authority. The human species is one because of our common origin and destiny but we live out history in the public bonds of accord known as nations.

The tradition of the Seven Noahide Laws is not simply reason-deduced natural law. The first two laws are “Do not deny God” and “Do not blaspheme God.” Maimonides (the greatest rabbi of the last thousand years, who died in Egypt in 1204) insisted, in fact, that men were not following the Noahide law unless they acknowledged it came from above -- and not from man’s reason. He thought men could reason to these laws, but like all the major Asian and Semitic traditions he posited that authority comes from some transcendent order, not man’s intellectual apprehension.
                     
Egyptian statue of Maimonides
                                                       
This tradition categorizing the sacred and the taboo was given to all humans, though it has been lost by different cultures through the ages. The prohibition of eating live animals distinguished the human meal from the carnivore’s kill. The seventh law commanded men to establish a state and the rule of law—the original ordering of the human species into public bodies of city, tribe, and nation. This God-centered natural ordering of men into public bodies with prohibitions and taboos against murder and sexual perversion safeguard the interpersonal flourishing of our species. Just so we wouldn’t forget, God marked in electromagnetic radiation a universal sign for all the peoples  to remember His simple commands that set us free. Remember next time you see a rainbow.

The seven Noahide laws as traditionally enumerated:

1. Do not deny God.
2. Do not blaspheme God.
3. Do not murder.
4. Do not engage in incestuous, adulterous, or homosexual relationships.
5. Do not steal.
6. Do not eat of a live animal.
7. Establish courts/legal system to ensure law and obedience.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, February 21

by David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch

A SUMMIT ON VIOLENCE 

President Obama held a Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Feb 10 at the State Department. After a day of highlighting local outreach programs involving city governments and local Muslims, leaders from abroad heard a series of speeches by the President, Secretary Kerry, Attorney General Holder and National Security adviser Susan Rice. None of these talks dealt with a strategic ordering of nations and states in a Mideast convulsed by an intra-Sunni war of identity in the midst of a escalating Sunni-Shiite war on multiple fronts. Mr. Holder said research has been initiated to study the similar profiles of young people joining urban gangs at home and those joining extremists abroad. He didn't mention young males. Susan Rice said there had to be particular focus on women and girls because who better can alert us to upcoming violence than the watchful eye of a mother. President Obama said fighting extremism must include refuting the "ugly lie that the West is in a war against Islam."


DEFINE YOUR ENEMY TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT 

The President is correct in saying we are not fighting Islam. He is painfully wrong in not naming our enemy as a distinct religious movement within Islam. His correct instinct not to enlarge the identity of our enemy is fatally compromised by not isolating it by a precise definition. This ambiguity can only hurt Muslims who need to be clearly distinguished from that brand of Islam we are trying to find and destroy. A brilliant widely-read article in the Atlantic provides a good start in understanding the apocalyptic underpinnings of ISIS.


RECOGNIZE YOUR ALLIES: A TRUE RUSSIAN RESET 

Understanding the religious nature of our enemy should drive us to better assess the cultural religious loyalties of our most natural allies in this war which Congress is now debating to authorize. This must begin with a clear understanding of the great disaster of baby boom diplomacy: enmity with Russia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Russia is an indispensable ally we need in this war, and we must approach them as a nation conceived in Christendom. Our century of battle with their atheist Communist leadership bled the world; our fraternity could heal it. But first we must understand the colossal strategic errors that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall. Both parties and almost all American  public men have shared in this blunder.  It will take a few real statesmen to put us back on the right path.  The enlargement of NATO has drawn us into an entangling alliance with a European Union which is imploding. Our agreement with Mikhail Gorbachev was based on a promise to Russia that the peaceful reuniting of Germany as a nation-state depended on no eastern expansion of NATO. That buffer zone didn't exactly work out.  A serious geostrategic debate  of US/NATO-Russian relations during the Clinton and Bush years might start by considering  Robert Parry's argument: Why "Blame Putin" doesn't work for the Ukraine Crisis.



THE LIBERTINE ATHEISM OF THE WEST VS THE CHRISTIAN NATIONS OF AFRICA, ASIA, AND THE AMERICAS 

America's intellectual elite of power couples deeply identify with the dying  Euro-superstate of libertine atheism. They mean it when they say "we are all Charlie Hebdo." The EU, and its military extension NATO, have replaced the old Soviet Union as the dominant form of the godless state. The Eurocentric bias of our first black president and his feminist State Department is mindful of the last synod of Catholic bishops when a German cardinal dismissed the African bishops for their taboo-driven thinking on sexual matters. There is the same disconnect between America's irreligious officials and the very religious Nigerians in forming an alliance against the deadliest of Africa's Sunni terrorists. The anti-Christian and anti traditional  bias of our governmental elite is a tired white racialism masquerading as the modern West. A Nigerian bishop bemoans the linking by the Obama-Clinton team of military support against Boko Haram with capitulation on homosexuality.

Christianity has created great nations to the East and West, to the South and North. Christian culture has fostered wide-radius brotherhood which is the basis of civilized nations and concerts of nations. We must reform ourselves and reassert the protective presence of fraternity to be worthy of what Pope Francis called an ecumenism of blood. The Libyans who killed those 21 Christian workers from Egypt have now definitely answered Hillary Clinton's question of "What difference does it make?" in regard to who murdered our ambassador in Benghazi. We are entering a religious war and to fight it properly we will have to reform ourselves as a Christian nation. The painful inadequacies seen in the desolate speeches of our highest officials at the CVE summit are countered in this reflection by Rod Dreher on atheist, secular, and religious.


THE SUNNI MONARCHS: IS THEIR ENEMY OUR ENEMY? 

Our theme this week is to define the enemy, begin to define ourselves again, and to discourage alienating nations that should be powerful allies. Finally, we must not be fooled by those pretending to be our allies who have very different goals than our own.

The US has signed a deal with Turkey to arm Syrian Sunnis. But we should not forget that both Saudi Arabia and Turkey are much more interested that those Syrians direct their energies against the Shiite State and fight against Assad. The one piece of advice that former national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft had for the Senate panel in their joint testimony this week was: do not make Assad and the portion of Syria he controls into your enemy. We can be assured that advice will not be followed by the new Sunni "moderates" who have not been willing to replace their deep antipathy  toward Assad with a fighting will against ISIS.

Speaking of allies, the Cooperation Council for the Arab states of the Gulf (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, and United Arab Emirates) is not forming a military alliance to take on Al-Qaeda in Yemen which many analysts say is the group most likely to launch attacks against the US homeland. They are instead agitating to militarily oust the Shia Houthis of Yemen who are willing to fight Al-Qaeda. Our so-called allies among Sunni monarchies are much more interested in their war against the Shia governments of Iran, Syria, and now the  regional government in Yemen. That is understandable in terms of their long-term hatreds. But should their enmities drive US policy?  Bahrain is majority-Shiite, but they are ruled by a Sunni king who was aided by troops from Saudi Arabia and the UAE in quelling the Bahraini uprising of their Shiite subjects. Iraq is the only Persian Gulf state not part of the Cooperation Council. The Shiite-majority government that followed the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein  has been a target of Sunni jihadists from throughout the region since they emerged as the elected rulers.


MRS. CLINTON AND GOV. BUSH: ARE THEY ALREADY CAPTIVES OF THE WRONG ALLIANCE? 

It is not clear if either presidential contenders Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush will be able to clearly see this problem. Mr. Bush's family has deep personal ties to the Saudis. He isn't hiding it. “We have to rebuild our relationships with allies and key relationships in the Middle East, including the Persian Gulf states and of course Egypt. We will not be successful unless we invest in the much-needed coalitions and partnerships and develop the personal relationships that make it possible to garner worldwide support,” he said at a foreign policy speech this week in Chicago. If you think that Democrat populist Hillary Clinton will put an end to such old boy rich-man diplomacy, then read these interesting figures from the Wall Street Journal of foreign contributions to the Clinton endowment fund:
"A previous donor, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has given between $10 million and $25 million since the foundation was created in 1999. Part of that came in 2014, although the database doesn't specify how much. Qatar’s government committee preparing for the 2022 soccer World Cup gave between $250,000 and $500,000 in 2014. Qatar’s government had previously donated between $1 million and $5 million.Oman, which had made a donation previously, gave an undisclosed amount in 2014. Over time, Oman has given the foundation between $1 million and $5 million. Prior to last year, its donations fell in the same range. United Arab Emirates, a first-time donor, gave between $1 million and $5 million in 2014."