Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The So-Called Collapse of Communism

We often think "Communism" collapsed because "Communism" is a bad system. Well, it's funny then, about Cuba, China, Vietnam, N. Korea: none of them have collapsed. Is there something that the other Communist countries that "collapsed" have in common? Yes. First of all treat all the "Soviet empire" (USSR plus Warsaw pact and Mongolia) as one entity. Then take Yugoslavia, Romania, and Albania. What do they all have in common? They all saw themselves as European geographically and desperately wanted to be part of Europe morally and economically. Europe was "normal" for them, and they felt themselves to be abnormal. Yugoslavia and the Soviet empire also had in common that they were ethnic federations. So "Communism" didn't collapse, multiethnic Communist federations that wanted to be part of Europe collapsed. Well, China is multiethnic, but she has not (wisely from the point of view of Zhongnanhai) created a federal structure. And she doesn't want to be part of Europe. Nor does N. Korea or Vietnam. Cuba might, but she's stuck next to the US. No automatic "collapsing" should be expected from any of them.

What's the point here? 1) We think of the "West" as a "system" or an abstract set of "values," but it is also a particular place, and a particular set of societies. Willingness to go along with the "West" is depends in large part whether the country involved can see itself plausibly as part of this particular place and trust those particular societies.

2) Yes muscular opposition by Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and John Paul II had a major role in the break up of Communism. But the role of "Euro-weenies" in having a successful continent into which to integrate and which seemed welcoming and relatively unthreatening was probably even more important.

UPDATE: Jim asks: Is China still recognizably "communist"? I mean, they still say they are, but doesn't the existence of private capital markets suggest pretty directly that it's not?

Good point, but I was talking about the political system. And about that I'll let Bill Kirby respond (in the words of Peter Robinson here):

At a dinner last week for the Rockefeller Center, the public policy program at Dartmouth, I sat next to Bill Kirby, a China scholar and a former dean of the Harvard faculty of arts and sciences. (Bill and I also sat next to each other during a Rockefeller Center board meeting earlier in the day. Bill took copious notes—in Chinese.) Bill explained that he isn’t particularly optimistic that China will become a democracy any time soon. It might—but then again it most certainly might not.

Then Bill made a fascinating point. Whereas Stalin would find the power structure that now governs Russia altogether baffling—an elected president?—Mao would find the power structure in contemporary China altogether familiar. The dozen or so people who hold real power in China sit on the same committees and rely on the same bases of support—above all, the People’s Liberation Army—as did Mao and his circle. "Mao," Bill said, "would feel right at home."

In other words, the remaining Communist states are highly likely to set up or be setting up private capital markets in the near future. But they are much less likely to be expanding decision making beyond twelve men on a self-nominated committee, unless they have a ______ Community in which to integrate.



Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A slightly unorthodox but very Orthodox Trinity

If any one else said this, one might think it was heretical. But it's Father Thomas Hopko, and it makes a lot of sense of Biblical language, so I found worth considering and pondering, as an alternative to our usual Latin-style "God the Father," "God the Son," God the Holy Spirit" language. (The notes added are my own)

Strictly speaking, according to Orthodox theology, again as I personally understand and teach it, God is not to be conceived as "one God in three persons," or as "three persons in one divine substance," if this is taken to mean that the one God is expressed in three personal forms so that it is one and the same God who is understood as being the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Strictly -- and I would say, biblically, liturgically, and creedally -- speaking, the one, true, and living God is not Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is the one God and Father who has within himself eternally and, one might dare say, as an "element" of his very being and nature, his only-begotten Son, also called his divine Word and Image, who -- being another person or hypostasis than who God is -- is incarnate as the man Jesus, the Christ of Israel and the Savior of the world. This one God and Father also has within him his one Holy Spirit, who proceeds from him alone and rests eternally in his Son and Word, anointing him in his incarnate manhood to be the messianic King, and through him, personally indwelling and deifying those who belong to him and his Father.* The vision is one of three distinct divine persons or hypostases who are confesed, as in the Nicene Creed, to be the "one God, the Father almighty" and the "one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten . . . of one essence with the Father," and "the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father." It is this God whom the Orthodox Church addresses in her eucharistic liturgy in this manner.

For Thou are God . . . Thou and Thine only-begotten Son and Thy Holy Spirit . . .

For all these things we give thanks to Thee, and to Thine only-begotten Son, and to Thy Holy Spirit . . .

Holy art Thou and All-Holy, Thou and Thine only-begotten Son and Thy Holy Spirit.

The divine "Thou" of Orthodox worship is the one God and Father.** His Son is also a "Thou," as is his Holy Spirit. And the three are divine. This is the biblical teaching, summarized in the creed and celebrated in the liturgy. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are three equally and identically divine persons or hypostases. They are of "one essence" or "nature." There is no metaphysical superiority of any of the persons to the other, and no ontological subordination. Yet the one God and Father is the source of his Son and Spirit. And the Son and Spirit are not only "from the Father" ontologically (by way of "generation" and "procession"), but are personally obedient to him in their divine being and activity. They do his will, they carry out his work, they complete his actions, they reveal his person, they communicate his nature, they bring him to creation and take creatures to him. This does not mean that they are any less "divine" (or any less "God," to speak in this way) than the Father. And this certainly does not diminish or degrade them in any manner at all. On the contrary. It is to their everlasting glory, honor, and worship that they are, from all eternity, God's very own Son, Image, and Word and his own Holy Spirit.

From his "Women and the Priesthood: Reflections on the Debate -- 1983" in Women and the Priesthood (SVS Press, 1999), pp. 238-240.

Thanks also to Bill Tighe for making this available to me!

*Thus the usual Trinitarian formula in Paul is: God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, as in 2 Cor. 13:14. Stripped to its most basic elements it is God, Lord, and Spirit as in Ephesians 4:4-6. In 1 Peter 1:2 we have God the Father, the Spirit, and Jesus Christ.

**" And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent": John 17:3. This is by the way a favorite proof-text for Muslims to prove the Gospels themselves deny the divinity of Christ. It's nice to know they would get no traction with Fr. Hopko on this point.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Does It Make a Difference?

OK, re the discussion going on here (scroll down a bit to the Mary and Mariology posts),* I'd like to ask a question that's been on my mind a long time. This should be pretty short on my part, but I hope will generate some discussion, and even thought.

There are number of differences between Christianity and Islam. Many of them center around the lives of their founders and around the different conception of heaven.

Jesus was, we confess, a life-long virgin. Muhammad married several times and had a healthy enjoyment of the sex act.

In the resurrection, Christians believe there will be neither male nor female, no marrying or giving in marriage, in short, no sex. Muslims, on the other hand, believe that sexual intercourse is an integral part of the experience of paradise. (As a pretty good non-sensationalist account of the religious significance of sex in Islam, I enjoyed this book.)

So here are my questions:

Does the perpetual virginity of Jesus diminish the incarnation or cast doubt on the goodness of sex? Is Jesus a model for our lives as well as a savior? If so does this difference between Jesus and Muhammad make any difference to our lives?

Does the resurrection life we are aiming for have some kind of connection to our view of the ideal life? If so does it make any difference to us now that in our view the ideal life to which we are tending has no sex?

*Thanks to John H for giving me the archive link!

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"A great many things keep happening" -- but me posting is not one of them.

I've been very busy lately and posting will probably be light for a while. I'll try to dig up some draft I forgot about and put it up.

Tom R asked me my views about Taiwan's renaming of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall as the "National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall" (pro side argued here).

Briefly: I dislike renaming things in general. And when they have been renamed, I approve of people going back to the old name. For example, renaming St. Petersburg as Petrograd and then Leningrad was a bad idea. Good to go back to St. Petersburg.

But what about if the now repudiated regime actually built the city or street or bridge or memorial or whatever? So that it never had any name other than the objectionable one? (Like for example, Washington DC, which has no pre-American plutocracy identity). Or Sukhbaatar city in Mongolia? Named after the founding hero of the revolutionary-morphed-into-Communist regime there which democratized in 1990? I'd say let 'em stay the way they are.

But Chiang Kai-shek is a bad man! Well, I'll grant a lot of your points about him, but it is not truthful, to say that this is the "Democracy Memorial" when it was built to commemorate Chiang Kai-shek. And as Gresham Machen reminded us in a different context, "honesty is not one of the lesser matters of the law."

History is messy. Communists build economies. Colonialists kill hundreds of thousands and leaves great railways. Little islands acquire their independence by becoming the redoubt of a corrupt party that abhors their cause. Cleaning up names is a way of cleaning up the ironies of history. And that's a bad thing: one that keeps on happening.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"A Great Many Things Keep Happening"

A great many things keep happening, some of them good, some of them bad. The inhabitants of the different countries keep quarrelling fiercely with each other and kings go on loosing their temper in the most furious way. Our churches are attacked by the heretics and then protected by the Catholics; the faith of Christ burns bright in many men, but it remains lukewarm in others; no sooner are church buildings endowed by the faithful that they are stripped again by those who have no faith. However, no writer has come to the fore who has been sufficiently skilled in setting things down in an orderly fashion to be able to describe these events in prose or in verse.

Thus St. Gregory of Tours begins his History of the Franks, and it is, for my money, the most engaging beginning to any history book I have ever read. And despite the dull moments to be expected in 604 pages of small print, the rest of the book mostly lives up to this beguiling beginning.

Quoting from memory here, C.S. Lewis once began an essay like this (more or less).

Some people say that while the pagan finds no meaning in history, the Christian historians knows that all history has a direction, that it is going from Creation, and Fall, through Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection, to full and final Redemption. For the Christian historian, history has a purpose and a direction. To which I respond (says Lewis, if I remember aright), that most Christian historians aren't nearly that bad.

He goes on to point out that while the biggest possible picture may be plain to the Christian, getting from that to the hear and now, to the events actually recorded is something not at all plain. C.S. Lewis didn't mention him, but Gregory of Tours knew that long ago.

One barrier to proper appreciation is the widespread idea, rightly debunked by Walter Goffart, that Gregory is only telling the story of "barbarians." All those bad things keep happening, the conventional-minded historians say, because Rome has fallen. Implication: normally things don't fall apart. Gregory would not agree. All those bad things happen because that's what always happens. That's the way kings act. That's the way soldiers behave. And the rich -- that's what they do. And the poor -- well, what can you expect? But there's also normal life, which can be pleasant -- as long as you don't expect any moral improvement.

People talk a lot about "Constantinianism" and its pernicious effects. What about Gregory of Tours, bishop two centuries after Constantine? He's a man of influence and social power, scion of an old Senatorial family most of whose relatives were called saint this or that, confidant of kings on numerous occasions, and extoller of Clovis as Catholic against the Arian Goths. Isn't he a natural "baptize the current social order, bless the king's wars" kind of guy?

Not at all. In fact, he is shockingly "irresponsible," taking absolutely no responsibility for the continuance of government, and praising virtually none of its functions. Support the death penalty? If Gregory had his way all the prisons would all be emptied:

One night in the gaol at Clermont-Ferrand the chains holding the prisoners came undone by the intervention of God, the gates of the lock-up were unfastened, and they all rushed out to seek sanctuary in a church. Count Eulalius had them loaded with fresh chains, but no sooner had these been placed in position than they snapped asunder like brittle glass. Bishop Avitus pleaded for his prisoners to be released, and they were given their liberty and sent home (p. 553).

Torture is routine in every criminal investigation. Does Gregory ever speak against it? Of course not. But does he ever think releasing any criminal would be a bad idea? Of course not again.

As for taxes, he's always against them.

At the request of Bishop Maroveus King Childebert sent tax inspectors to Poitiers: Florentianus, Mayor of the Queen's Household, and Romulf, Count of hi own Palace. Their orders were to prepare new tax-lists and to instruct the people to pay the taxes which had been levied from them in the time of Childebert's father. Many of those who were on the lists had died, and, as a result, widows, orphans, and infirm folk had to meet a heavy assessment. The inspectors looked into each case in turn: they granted relief to the poor and infirm, and assessed for taxation all who were liable (p. 515).

Well that sort of responsible collaboration with the king was not Bishop Gregory's style -- and elsewhere his portrait of Bishop Maroveus shows a man seemingly uninvolved in the properly religious functions of his diocese. Here's Gregory's approach:

After this they came to Tours. When they announced that they wre about to tax the townsfolk, and that they had in their possession tax lists showing how the people had been assessed in the time of earlier kings, I gave them this answer: 'It is undeniable that the town of Tours was assessed in the days of King Lothar. The books were taken off to be submitted to the King. Lothar had them thrown in the fire, for he was greatly overawed by our Bishop, Saint Martin [dead by the way for about a 150 years, but throughout a living presence and the real hero of Gregory's history]. When Lothar died, my people swore an oath of loyalty to King Charibert, and he swore in his turn that he would not make any new laws or customs, but would secure to them the conditions under which they had lived in his father's reign. He promised that he would not inflict upon them any new tax-laws which would be to their disadvantage (pp. 515-16).

Well, some one of the townsfolk produced tax rolls for Tours, but by the power of Saint Martin, the malefactor died of a fever and

an official letter came back almost immediately, confirming the immunity from taxation of the people of Tours, out of respect for Saint Martin (p. 517).

Just war? Well, the Bretons keep raiding and sacking Frankish cities.

In this year the Bretons ravaged Nantes, Rennes, and the neighborhood. They stole the wine-harvest, destroyed the cultivated fields and carried off as slaves those who lived on the country estates. They kept none of the promises which they had made. Not only did they break their pledges, but they even stole property belonging to our Kings (p. 512).

Crusade time? No quite.

While these things were happening, the Bretons were busy ravaging the open country around Nantes and Rennes. King Guntram put Duke Beppolen and Duke Ebrachar in charge of an army, and ordered them to march against the Bretons. Ebrachar had an idea in his head that if he and Beppolen were to win a victory Beppolen would usurp a dukedom. He therefore started a quarrel, and the two enlivened the whole march by abusing, taunting, and cursing each otehr. Wherever they passed they burned, slew, and sacked, committing every crime in the calendar . . . . (p. 556).

With the ambiguous help of Bishop Regalis peace was patched up between Ebrachar and the sly Breton leader Waroch, and the Frankish army retreated.

As they passed through the Tours region they are said to have collected a great deal of booty and to have robbed a great number of people, for they caught the local inhabitants unawares.

But just when you thought justice unattainable, some else keeps happening:

Many of those who took part in this expedition went to King Guntram and alleged that Duke Ebrachar and Count Willachar had been bribed by Waroch to lead their troops to disaster. When Ebrachar appeared at court the King reproached him bitterly and ordered him to leave his presence. Count Willachar fled and went into hiding (p. 558).

Slavery? Taken for granted; not a word of abolitionism. But one time, two Frankish kings took hostages from the senatorial families. Some escaped, but Attalus the nephew of Saint Gregory (another saint and bishop, this time of Langres, great grandfather of our historian friend) was enslaved to a Frankish nobleman around Trier (in today's Germany) and made a groom. With the help of another slave, Leo, he escaped and after thrilling adventures got to Rheims:

They went in and found a man, whom they asked to tell them where the priest Paulellus lived. He gave them the necessary directions. As they crossed the city square, the bell rang for morning prayer, for it was the Lord's Day. They knocked at the priest's door and went in. Leo explained whose servant he was. 'My vision has come true, then,' said the priest. 'This very night I dreamed that two doves flew in and perched on my head. One was white and the other black.' Leo said to the priest: 'May the Lord grant us indulgence for [eating before communion on] His holy day. We beg you to give us something to eat. The fourth day is now dawning since we last tasted bread or meat.' The priest concealed them and gave them some bread soaked in wine. Then he went off to morning prayer. Later the Frank [i.e. the owner] put in an appearance, still looking for his two slaves. The priest told him a lie, and he went off once more. The priest was an old acquaintance of Saint Gregory. When they had eaten, the two slaves felt stronger. They stayed two days in the priest's house. Then they went on again and were brought before Saint Gregory. The Bishop was delighted when he saw them both. He wept on the neck of his nephew Attalus. He made Leo a freedman, and all his progeny, too, and he gave him a piece of land of his own on which he lived in freedom with his wife and children all the days of his life (p. 179).

And while Gregory hails King Clovis as a Catholic champion against the Arians, he concludes with such a story of hypocrisy, greed, and treachery on the part of the newly baptized king that makes it impossible to take unironically his concluding assertion that Clovis

walked before Him with an upright heart and did what was pleasing in His sight (p. 156).

But then again, Clovis always made sure to stop his ravages on the borders of Saint Martin's bishopric.

Gregory of Tours truly took no responsibility for Caesar: and that lack of responsibility included abdicating any responsibility whatsoever for social reform or melioration. His church advocated no positive social change, or progressive reform of the laws. That would come later, with the great reforming movements of the eleventh century to the present.

But he and his fellow bishops with few exceptions would harbor just about any escaped slave, plead with the King for just about any prisoner, argue if possible to have just about any community spared of taxes, and expect nothing but the worst whenever the King took up arms against marauding Bretons or peaceful Gothic heretics. This was his version of "Constantinianism". Because he took no responsibility for reforming the kings, he had no compunction about supporting any of their victims, and always told the truth about them, even of those whom he more or less liked (such as Guntram).

It was the earnest reformers who got slavery abolished and torture banned -- it is hard to say that the bishops of the early Middle Ages used all the opportunities they could for doing good. But abjuring reform had one attractive by-product -- it meant abjuring the hypocrisy that earnest reformers always embrace when the progressive regime they've have fought for finally becomes law. By accepting his world entirely as it was, he could tell the truth about it, not in bitterness but in love, indignation, and pity.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

I asked it once here, but now the iMonk asks it again here:

Why can’t the Lutherans and [Episcopalians] get their act together? Imagine how many young evangelicals would seriously consider these churches if they would (in the ECUSA’s case) embrace orthodoxy or (in the LCMS case) embrace something that looked like a missional approach to new churches and evangelism? I know that real Christians will drive through sleet, hail and snow to find that little cadre of faithful Lutherans/Anglicans, but wouldn’t it be great if the zeal of the SBC for growth and evangelism could find its way to the churches that actually have some connection to the historic Christian faith.

He was responding to Pirate here:

I have this theory that a large plurality of evangelicals who become Roman Catholics think they’re becoming Lutherans. I mean, a lot of them think they’re getting a historic liturgy, ancient practice, and an evangelical understanding of grace with a sacramental package providing assurance. But what they’re really getting is crappy Marty Haugen rites, medieval novelty, and dogmatic doubt. I mean, you almost never see evangelicals swimming the Tiber because they’re really excited about being able to get indulgences, sacrificing Masses to get their grandmas out of purgatory, or doubting whether they’re in the state of grace.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

"Clash of Civilizations" and the 10/40 Window, or, How Big is the West?

Over at "Eating Words" Jeremy is blogging Samuel Huntington's famous/notorious Clash of Civilizations book. I have never read the book, but only heard of it in seminars and papers, where Professor Huntington has done every graduate student a favor by giving them a popular thesis everyone in the academic world hates. Here's how it works:

"Let's see, I have no idea how to conclude this paper I'm giving on the economics of traditional music performance in Bangladesh. I mean it's so complicated, and I don't really have anything sexy to say about it. Hmm. I know! I'll say the fact that they sometimes use guitars disproves Huntington's Clash of Civilizations thesis! That's easy, and the guys on my dissertation committee will love it!"

So I'm really glad for the chance to get a bit more familiar with it in ways that are non-cartoonish. (Here's the series entries so far.) One of the excerpts Jeremy blogged seems right on target in many ways.

Huntington cites Ronald Dore’s “second-generation indigenization phenomenon” as the underlying cause of the reassertion of traditional culture in “modernizing” or “post-independent” non-Wests. The first generation receives its education in Western universities in a Western language. “Partly because they first go abroad as impressionable teenagers, their absorption of Western values and life-styles may well be profound.” The second generation, however, receives its education in local universities created by the first generation:

These universities “provide a much more diluted contact with metropolitan world culture” and “knowledge is indigenized by means of translations – usually of limited range and of poor quality.” The graduates of these universities resent the dominance of the earlier Western-trained generation and hence often “succumb to the appeals of nativist opposition movements.” As Western influence recedes, young aspiring leaders cannot look to the West to provide them with power and wealth. They have to find the means of success within their own society, and hence they have to accommodate to the values and culture of that society.

Yup, that happened in China I can say, around the 1930s and 1940s. And yup, that same phenomenon is happening in Mongolia too, although with a different twist.

But although it works nicely for some areas it doesn't really work with all of the "non-Western" civilizations. For example, let's take Brazil, Kenya, and Russia. By Huntington's handling of the thesis, they would be Latin American, African, and Orthodox, right? Different civilizations?

By Huntington's book then they ought to evince the following features:

1) contrast between Western-educated and non-Western educated generations
2) Problems with poor translations
3) Ethnic, nationalist, and religious appeals will be anti-Western.

This seems to work more or less poorly with the cases I've mentioned.

1) Brazil and Russia have been in contact with the West so long, that the transition of generations took place almost two centuries ago. With Kenya that would work.

2) Language: Obviously Brazilians have no more language problems understanding the Western tradition than Portuguese (and Mexicans no more than Spanish, etc.) As for Russians, the Western (i.e. Latin, Catholic, Protestant, Western European) traditions have already been thoroughly nativized. I doubt Russians educated all in Russia have any more serious problems understanding the Bible, Plato, or Kant than Americans do. And as for Kenya, the schooling is still in English -- Kikuyu or Maasai may be the home language, but English is the language of thought and political debate (as French is in Guinea or Congo, etc.). That makes some difference, but still the case is quite a bit different than it is for China, Iran, or Egypt.

3) Anti-Western appeals: In the case of Brazil, again, this works very poorly. Like most of Latin America, Brazil is multi-racial (and the largely mono-racial Latinos are often pure European; see Chile, Argentina, etc.). Racial appeals may have traction with part of the society, but not with all. And nationalism may be powerful in places like Mexico, for example, or Venezuela but it will be anti-American, not anti-Western. (On the other hand, Brazil has been traditionally pro-American and anti-British. Same principle, different sides.) And religious appeals will be mostly -- Catholic. Brazilian radicalism, is part of the radical tradition of the West. Outside the Andes (and even there its a stretch), few Latin countries have enough indigenous presence to sustain a really anti-Western nationalism.

Now with Russia, this works much better: Russian nationalist and Orthodox appeals do work to create a generalize us vs. them sense with the West.

With Kenya, there is the post-colonial African racial solidarity, but for that reason nationalism is weaker, and again, because most of the people are Christians, religious anti-Western arguments will fall on stony ground.

OK, where is this going? Mainly that I think Western Civ, in Huntington's sense, is much bigger than he thinks it is. Latin America is mostly part of Western Civ, Africa and Oceania largely, and even Russia pretty much. For much of these areas their Western civilizational identity is a complex post-colonial reality, full of resentment and memories of past grievances, but it is real: colonialism did the job well. For these areas, I think the usual analysis of economic and political resentment over poverty, exploitation, and dignity work better than a "clash of civs" argument. Castro is turns his back on much of Western Civ (the pluralist, religious, constitutional side) because he's enamored of the other (the revolutionary, utopian, dictatorial) side, one which is quite as Western as the other (think the Gracchi not the patricians, the Ranters not the Puritans, Hegel not Locke, Robespierre not Lafayette). I remember (very Sovietized) Mongols who'd been to Cuba and North Korea tell me, after hearing me mention them in the same breath, that they're not the same. "It's the culture," they'd say with a smile, "but Cubans just can't be Communists like the Koreans." Cubans reading Marx are radical Westerners; Koreans or Chinese reading Marx put it in a whole different civilizational context.

So . . .
If you track where intensive intellectual contact with the West was recent and has fallen off sharply in the post-colonial era, where higher education is largely in indigenous languages, where non-Western classics and scriptures powerfully shape viewpoints, where the elites move in a world that is basically centered outside the West, where the possibility of a really alternative non-Western and anti-Western politics does exist, well you do get a picture.

And it strangely it looks pretty much like the so-called 10/40 window that missiologists talk about. (Here's a good missions-oriented summary, and here's Wiki on it -- I think the Wiki writer's taking the exact latitude lines a bit too seriously. The best map is one from Time Magazine here.)

So much of what Huntington is saying seems drawn from precisely that region, the one in which the experience of colonialism was relatively brief, and was blunted by societies with relatively high powers of cultural resistance. Those are also the areas in which ties with former colonial powers are particularly weak -- few (but not none! Think India, Malaysia, etc.) have the amicable relation with former colonizers that the Carribean has with Britain, or most of Central and West Africa with France, or America with the Pacific Islands, etc.

So why does Samuel Huntington want to draw the West so small? That's the question I have.

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"I don't care what George Tenet says. I know what's right. I know what's morally right as far as America's behavior."

That's John McCain speaking about "coercive interrogation" or "torture lite." Strangely, this seems to be an issue where if you're a Republican and you're against, you won't get any credit from people now damning the Republican Party for being the party of torture.

Anyway, here's more from a man who has considerable credibility on the issue:

McCAIN: A man I admire more than anyone else, General Jack Vessey, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, battlefield commission, told me once — he said, "John, any intelligence information we might gain through the use of torture could never, ever counterbalance the image that it does — the damage that it does to our image in the world." I agree with him. Look at the war in Algeria. Look, the fact is if you torture someone, they're going to tell you anything they think you want to know. It is an affront to everything we stand for and believe in. It's interesting to me that every retired military officer, whether it be Colin Powell or whether it be former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — everybody who's been in war doesn't want to torture people and think that it's the wrong thing to do. And history shows that. We cannot torture people and maintain our moral superiority in the world....

WALLACE: But when George Tenet says...

McCAIN: I don't care what George Tenet says. I know what's right. I know what's morally right as far as America's behavior.

WALLACE: But if I may, sir... when George Tenet says we saved live through some of these techniques...

J. MCCAIN: I don't accept it. I don't accept that fundamental thesis, because it's never worked throughout history. And so again, I know this for a fact, and anyone who's had experience with this, I think, that's — well, the people I respect will tell you that if you inflect enough physical pain on someone, they will tell you anything they think you want to know in order to relieve that pain. That's just a fundamental fact. And we've gotten a huge amount of misinformation as well as other information from these techniques.

Andy McCarthy at the Corner attacks McCain for inconsistency with his position on the "ticking bomb scenario" here. Well on that, too, I find McCain's statements quite reasonable.

Something tells me though, that those who follow the link will still assume that a blog post on the Corner is the established Republican party line while the statement of a Republican presidential candidate on national TV is irrelevant.