Monday, March 19, 2007

Gandhi's Pacifism Gets A Beatdown

Mahatma Gandhi's belief in non-violence holds sway in the anti-war movement and Fred Thompson recently took on Gandhi's views:
I feel bad for Nancy Pelosi, AND her neighbors. Anti-war activists from the group Code Pink have been giving her the same treatment the president gets at his Crawford, Texas, ranch. Camping on her San Francisco lawn, they’re demanding she cut off funds to the troops in Iraq.

Besides coolers and mattresses, protesters have brought along a giant paper mache statue of Mahatma Gandhi, who is pretty much the symbol of the anti-war movement. Code Pink was founded on his birthday, and when Saddam Hussein was being given a last chance to open Iraq to U.N. weapons inspectors, posters appeared around America asking “What would Gandhi do?”

And that’s a pretty good question. At what point is it okay to fight dictators like Saddam or the al Qaeda terrorists who want to take his place?

It turns out that the answer, according to Gandhi, is NEVER. During World War II, Gandhi penned an open letter to the British people, urging them to surrender to the Nazis. Later, when the extent of the holocaust was known, he criticized Jews who had tried to escape or fight for their lives as they did in Warsaw and Treblinka. “The Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife,” he said. “They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs.” “Collective suicide,” he told his biographer, “would have been heroism.”

The so-called peace movement certainly has the right to make Gandhi’s way their way, but their efforts to make collective suicide American foreign policy just won’t cut it in this country. When American’s think of heroism, we think of the young American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, risking their lives to prevent another Adolph Hitler or Saddam Hussein.

Gandhi probably wouldn't approve, but I can live with that.

And this guy might be running for President. If he has press releases like this count me as a supporter.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Theophobe Reading

In the last few years there has been a spate of new books with old ideas about religion by atheist authors. Sam Harris (Letter To A Christian Nation, The End of Faith), Daniel Dennett (Breaking The Spell), Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), and now Christopher Hitchens. Hitch's new book, out in May, is called God is Not Great and here is a quote on why he wrote the book:

I was quite young when I came to the unsurprising conclusion that there was no supreme being who had created the unknown universe and the known world, let alone a supreme being who took an interest in my doings or those of anyone else. I could be asked, I suppose, how I knew this. My first response would be that I learned it from those other humans who were making absurdly large claims that they could never in a billion years have even a slight chance of proving. My second response would be that we now have better explanations than “god” for everything that we do know about, and no sillier explanation than “god” for those numberless things that we cannot know about. Those who claim to “know” the mind of this indefinable entity are therefore wrong by definition and are arrogantly assuming an authority that no human can dare to claim.

In spite of the huge imbalance between the two sides, one resting its claims on reason and evidence and one insisting on “faith,” this ought to be a private dispute between two different mentalities. And I have spent many enjoyable evenings on just this point. The argument about god is the beginning of all intellectual arguments: it is how one works out how to think, which is always much more important than what one thinks. I hope to show in the book that I do understand the pulse that underlies belief.

So this has now become everybody’s business and bids fair to be the dominant subject for the rest of our lives. I thought it was time to re-state the traditional and hard-earned reasonings by which humanity emancipated itself from medieval rule and brought about the triumphs and advances of science and the Enlightenment. I also thought it might be a good moment to show that all the claims of established religion are bogus, and man-made, and undeserving of anything but contempt and ridicule. My hope is that the book will become a part of the long-overdue fight-back against superstition, sexual repression, political fanaticism, and all the other ways in which the “faith-based” have chosen to present themselves.

I'm unimpressed with Dawkins as a philosopher but I might give Hitchens a try and see if he brings anything new to the table. Hopefully he'll fare better than Dawkins at the hands of Plantinga: You might say that some of his forays into philosophy are at best sophomoric, but that would be unfair to sophomores; the fact is (grade inflation aside), many of his arguments would receive a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

VDH & 300

The film 300 took the box office its opening weekend and is connecting with American audiences. Classicist and military historian Victor Davis Hanson wrote the introduction to the picture book that accompanies the film. (Just last year Hanson wrote A War Like No Other: How Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War and it has sold surprisingly well.)

But is the movie something far more sinister? Maybe "part of a comprehensive U.S. psychological war aimed at Iranian culture"? That quote is from an art advisor to Ahmadinejad and is reported by People's Daily Online.