August 31, 2008 - August 24, 2008
. One thing that's really missing from our national
political dialogue is serious contemplation of the future. That's
because both major parties are locked into their own discrete time
zones. The Democrats occupy a fantasy time past that could be called
"What shouldn't have been allowed to happen," in which they rail about
irrevocable decisions they would have made differently, thus preventing
the unacceptable present. The Republicans confine themselves to the
crisis-driven time present of "What can't be allowed to happen," in
which their view of the future is blocked by one or two possible
outcomes so terrible they believe everyone must dread them as
fearfully as they do. The mainstream media straddle these two zones,
creating an unreal superposition of past and present which projects the
impossible proposition that the only way forward is to somehow repeal
the recent past and initiate a do-over. Life as a video game with a
But there is no reset option. Regardless of our preferences, the future will unfold before us, good and bad, and it is not entirely unknowable. The propensities of key players are far from mysterious. All we have to do is recognize those propensities and consider how they will probably play out. Here's an example of that process.
1. Bush has won his last major battle in office. The war will continue and the Democrats will shift their focus to electoral victory in 2008 rather than American defeat in Iraq. In all other respects, the administration is too paralyzed and impotent to undertake serious action against Iran or the terrorist regimes in Syria and the Palestinian territories.
2. The Democrats will nominate Hillary Clinton. She's the supreme symbol of the fantasy past they long for -- that very brief moment in history after the Cold War and before 9/11, when America could hold the world at bay with vaguely worded treaties and concern itself with domestic prosperity and feel-good social policy gestures. Further, they have fierce, irrational faith in her ability to punish Republicans for the brutal termination of what they simply cannot see as a mere intermission in the incredibly costly and nasty interactions between America and the rest of the world.
3. The Republicans will nominate Rudy Giuliani because they simply must have a warrior candidate -- first, to have any kind of chance against the incredibly unscrupulous and dirty campaign Hillary will run against any Republican, and second, to stop the unthinkable from happening if he should somehow be elected president. Romney doesn't have the cold-blooded aggression to pull the trigger on enemies foreign or domestic. Thompson is just too comfortable to rouse himself for any kind of fight. So Giuliani will get the nod, the religious right will remain true to their own rigid fantasy of turning back the clock, and they will stay home on election day.
4. Hillary will win the presidency. She will campaign on a platform of domestic giveaway programs, international negotiation to restore American popularity in the world, and doing all the right and necessary things to head off the catastrophe of global warming. Giuliani will try to make voters care about the need to defeat Islamic fascism, and he will promise to give away money too, though less than Hillary. But the voters are tired of Islamic fascism and wish it would just go away. They also think it's better to get more stuff for free rather than less stuff. And since Hillary won't be able to give them the maximum stuff without a veto-proof Congress, they will give her that, too. It's time for a change.
5. Hillary will give a great inauguration speech that will remind everyone of FDR's New Deal. During her honeymoon period she will finally pass legislation taxing the evil rich enough and use the money to pay for a new national health care program. Congress will take the lead in repealing the Patriot Act and passing new laws extending constitutional protections to illegal immigrants and foreign nationals. The Guantanamo facility will be shut down, its prisoners set free or remanded to civilian courts for due process. As Commander-in-Chief, Clinton will take a wait-and-see approach in Iraq, while senior officers resign in droves from the U.S. military, and re-enlistments plummet in every branch of service. Troop drawdowns will therefore become absolutely necessary, regardless of the military situation in Iraq, and the Clinton administration will respond by launching ambitious negotiations with Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria to obtain a pan-Arabian treaty securing stability in Iraq. As one of the necessary terms of the treaty, the administration will coerce the exhausted Israelis into accepting the final steps of partitioning Jerusalem, granting the "right-of-return" to exiled Palestinians, and recognizing Hamas as the rightful government of the Palestinian state.
6. When the troops begin to come home from Iraq, sectarian violence will increase dramatically as Syrian and Iranian reinforcements rearm al Qaeda and insurgent militias. The military will be embarrassed by humiliating and bloody tactical blunders, as well as emerging scandals of corruption, malfeasance, and civilian atrocities. Military morale will reach an all-time low. Congress will launch investigations of senior military officers. Assad and Ahdumjihad will deny involvement in the renewed Iraqi violence, although they will eventually be compelled to send in peacekeeping troops to "support" the failing Iraqi government. All-out civil war will ensue.
7. Belatedly, the European nations will express concern about the dramatic increase in Iran's nuclear program, and they will put up a fairly united front in objecting to Vladimir Putin's overt technical and military aid to Iran. The Cinton administration will conduct multi-lateral negotiations with Putin to obtain a treaty securing their cooperation in stabilizing the middle east, part of which will involve decommitting the U.S. to missile defense. At some point, while all this negotiating is going on, the Musharaff government will be overthrown, and Pakistan will fall into civil war. The administration will ask the U.N. for assistance in ending the violence, resulting in endless talks, and U.S. troops will be transferred from Iraq to Afghanistan in a show of force designed to deter extremists from exporting or otherwise exploiting Pakistan's unprotected nuclear arsenal.
8. In the dwindling period before Palestinians begin returning to Israel, Ahdumjihad will launch a surprise nuclear strike on Israel which will be only partially successful. Over a million Israelis will die outright, and another million will be poisoned or sickened with radiation. The partially successful Israeli counterattack will likewise kill a million Iranians and stop the flow of Iranian oil to the west. The Clinton administration will threaten the use of American military power to prevent Syria from invading crippled Israel. American aid will flow to Israel and Iran, and elsewhere in the world, nations will send aid to Iran. The U.N. will meet to condemn the actions of both Israel and Iran in using nuclear weapons.
9. Vladimir Putin will dramatically raise the price of Russian oil while the middle east writhes in chaos and Islamists worldwide launch terrorist attacks on targets of opportunity, including Iraqi and Saudi oilfields. This will catalyze a worldwide recession that causes governments to fall in Europe in favor of political coalitions seeking to placate Russia by breaking their alliances with the U.S. The sudden economic downturn in China will also convince that government to secure its own oil supply by forming an overt alliance with Putin's Russia and providing military "aid," including troops, to Pakistan and Iran.
10. To protect Americans and prevent a wider war, the Clinton administration will recall the U.S. Navy to guard the American coasts. As rumors of missing and stolen nukes proliferate, President Clinton will also declare a policy of immediate nuclear retaliation against the country of origin in the event of any terrorist nuclear attack on the U.S. The planned emergency evacuation of surviving Israelis will, regrettably but unavoidably, be cancelled. American academics will be jubilant about the sudden end of "the American empire." The New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, and all the television news networks will produce multi-part series explaining why and how all these events are George W. Bush's fault. After many congressional investigations and a televised criminal trial, he will be sentenced to a federal SuperMax prison for life. Dan Rather will pull his comfy old sweater out of mothballs and return to the anchor chair at CBS News. At the end of his first newscast, he will utter his old valedictory, "Courage."
How do you like the future so far? No wonder none of our leaders wants to talk about anything but the past and the present.
Can you believe it? The photo above records the first ever meeting
Reynolds and Ann
Althouse. It happened yesterday in New York. Yesterday. Mark the date on your
calendars. In blogger terms, this is the equivalent of an 8.9 on the
A friendly word of warning to Glenn, though. Be careful, Big Guy. That Ann's a real siren. The way you two carry on electronically already reminds us of another legendary couple:
Just keep things virtual, if you know what we mean.
. Yesterday, Michelle
Malkin noted the 50th anniversary of the
publication of Atlas Shrugged,
the extraordinary paean to capitalism written by Ayn Rand. She also
revealed the incredible fact that Angelina Jolie has been signed to
star in a movie version of the book. If you haven't read the book, you
can't know just how
incredible this circumstance is. The folks at IMDB.com confirm that the
project is in some stage of development, and they include a plot
synopsis. Here's an excerpt:
I'll tell you right now the eventual shooting script will bear little
relation to this synopsis and even less to the unmistakeable
intentions of Ayn Rand. (Check out the message boards already starting
up at IMDB.com) There is simply no way the book Rand wrote can
be transformed faithfully into a movie by left-wing Hollywood, whose
loudmouth political activists are living caricatures of the philosophy
Rand was attacking in every word of Atlas
Shrugged. Her loathing of the socialist egalitarianism best
exemplified by Berkeley and Hollywood leftists was utter, devoid of any
shade of nuance. She didn't believe in income redistribution or a
social safety net of any sort. Her ideal was a pure meritocracy in
which absolutely unfettered capitalism rewards those who work,
innovate, and take risks in the market. Not much is said about those
who are incapable of work or unwilling to work. Presumably, they will
learn when their straits become dire enough.
The book is also unabashedly pro-American. One of the characters in Atlas Shrugged delivers a five- or ten-page speech celebrating the fact that the United States is the only nation in history to employ its own initials ('U" superimposed on 'S') as the symbol of its currency, thus demonstrating the cardinal value of the nation (regardless of any cracker-barrel platitudes we may repeat as a pretense of altruism.) God, for example, is conspicuously absent from Atlas Shrugged; Rand was an atheist, which along with her ruggedly individualistic feminism, was all she had in common with the 'progressive' community in which this movie will be made. Nor is the atheism incidental. Rand was a product of the Soviet system, a supreme rationalist who created her philosophy in direct opposition to the equally atheistic rationalism of Marxism. Time and again she assaults the concept of "the greatest good for the greatest number," arguing that personal sacrifice is actually immoral and, correctly, that most of what we think of as sacrifice is not. The mother who goes hungry in order that her child may eat is not sacrificing anything. She is simply choosing an alternative she values more highly than her own physical well being. But the more abstract and remote from the individual such choices become, the less legitimate they become. At the extreme, the requirement to sacrifice personal well being in deference to the needs (or demands) of an entire populace amounts to annihilation of the individual self.
Rand's writings are as extreme -- and as unrealistically black-and-white -- as the rationalist totalitarian system her personal experience inspired her to oppose. That's why her books have always been most prized by those who read them very young. (I note that Michelle read Atlas Shrugged in high school, at about the same age I did.) Her sensationally radical opposition to a lot of unexamined social pieties provides a clarity that enables young minds to see a bigger picture they never knew was there. For most, the result is a kind of intellectual breakthrough which leads through time to a better educated and usually more temperate view of the ideal social contract; for example, one in which an individual may feel some responsibility for the well being of people he doesn't know personally, or in which a soldier may give up his life for his country without its being an immoral sacrifice.
But the residual Rand effect is still dangerous to leftist orthodoxy -- a core belief in the power and worth of the individual, on whose best achievements the success of whole nations and societies depend. No organization, no committee, no plurality of mediocrities can serve as a substitute for outstanding individual achievement. And if the incentives for the best and brightest among us are taken away, or too seriously diminished, the entire culture will crumble.
This is the irreducible nut at the center of Atlas Shrugged, and it's one Hollywood just won't be able to swallow. The story will have to be changed. The script will be rewritten endlessly until a way is found to spit out the nut. It will go through drafts as a Bush-bashing allegory, an anti-war parable (business is war by other means, right?), an allusive prefiguring of the worldwide economic crisis wrought by Global Warming, a melodrama symbolic of feminist battles against the patriarchy, a shallow screed against corrupt (Republican?) politicians, a complete reversal in which the disappearing industrialists are portrayed as villains for abandoning the parasitic sheep who feed off their talent... and, in fact, anything and everything BUT what Ayn Rand was saying on every page of her 1000+ page book. The most unlikely miracle of all is that a movie will ever be released in theaters.
You can take that to the bank.
I don't mean to be a wet blanket to all you Rand fans. I'm just trying to be realistic.
P.S. The sound file contains excerpts from the music I listened to continuously while I was reading Atlas Shrugged when I was fourteen. Don't ask me why. It just seemed to fit.