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September 18, 2014 / 23 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘american’

US Losing Middle East Coalition

Friday, October 25th, 2013

Ever since the seventies, the world has become accustomed to the split in the Middle East, between those countries that support the West – Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco and Israel, and we might add Turkey to this list as well, and those countries that were members of the opposing, Soviet, coalition: Syria, Libya, Iraq and South Yemen. Lebanon was then between the democratic hammer and the Syrian anvil.

Despite the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of the eighties, there were no big shifts in political orientation, and the countries that were faithful to the Western bloc led by the United States remained faithful to it until recently, mainly because a new hostile bloc was formed, led by Iran and supported by Russia and China. The stronger the Iranian threat became, the more the pro-Western countries depended on America for support.

Lately, however, the pro-Western coalition has begun to crumble, and two key countries – Saudi Arabia and Egypt – are searching for a new political crutch, ever since it became clear to them that the American crutch is nothing but “a broken reed” (Isaiah, 36:6). A few more countries can be added to this list, mainly Turkey and the Gulf Emirates.

Saudi Arabia

In an unprecedented move, the Saudi kingdom has refused to become a member of the most powerful body in the world, the Security Council of the UN, a body authorized to deal with the world’s security problems and, with the power of the authority vested in it, can even declare war as a world body on a country that violates its resolutions. The question that immediately arises is: why did Saudi Arabia refuse to become a member of the body that is perhaps the only one capable of dealing with Iran’s military nuclear project? Why did Saudi Arabia reject the opportunity to influence events in Syria from within the Security Council? Why doesn’t Saudi Arabia take advantage of the most important stage in international policy in order to take action against Israel?

The superficial reason is that which the Saudi foreign office published, expressing an ethical position: the kingdom will not agree to enter the Security Council until the Council undergoes reforms that will enable it to fulfill its role, which is to maintain world peace. The obsolete apparatus, the wasteful practices, and double standards used by the Security Council all prevent it from fulfilling its role. There are many examples of this: the Palestinian problem has not been solved despite it having been created 65 years ago, and despite the fact that the wars stemming from it have threatened the peace of the entire region and the world several times. The Council allows the Syrian dictator continue slaughtering his citizens for almost three years without imposing effective sanctions, and the Council has failed to achieve the goal of turning the Middle East into an area free of weapons of mass destruction because it has not managed to create an effective method of oversight for military nuclear projects.

Despite the fact that the Saudis do not speak specifically about Iran in their official announcement, it is clear that their reference is not to Israel, from whom they fear no danger, but to Iran, whose nuclear plans do keep them awake at night. However, it is specifically the Iranian nuclear issue which should have pushed Saudi Arabia to become a member the Council; membership could have granted them an active role in making decisions against Iran, so why not join?

In part, the reasons relate to the way that the Saudis see the international alignment of countries recently but is also connected to the customary culture of honor in the Middle East, without which it would be impossible to understand the behavior of the Saudis, proud sons of the desert.

First of all, a person of honor does not join a club where he is considered a class ‘B’ member. In the Security Council there are class ‘A’ members – the five permanent members (the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China) who have nuclear weapons and veto power, and there are class ‘B’ members – the ten countries with temporary membership, who are not allowed to attain nuclear weapons and do not have veto power. Saudi Arabia would in no way agree to be a class ‘B’ member of any organization, and would prefer not to join because honor is more important to it than anything else.

Goodbye Columbus, Goodbye America

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Columbus may have outfoxed the Spanish court and his rivals, but he is falling victim to the court of political correctness.

The explorer who discovered America has become controversial because the very idea of America has become controversial.

There are counter-historical claims put forward by Muslim and Chinese scholars claiming that they discovered America first. And there are mobs of fake indigenous activists on every campus to whom the old Italian is as much of a villain as the bearded Uncle Sam.

Columbus Day parades are met with protests and some have been minimized or eliminated.

In California, Columbus Day became Indigenous People’s Day, which sounds like a Marxist terrorist group’s holiday. While it’s tempting to put that down to California political correctness, in South Dakota it was renamed Native American Day.

The shift from celebrating Columbus’ arrival in America to commemorating it as an American Nakba by focusing on the Indians, rather than the Americans, is a profound form of historical revisionism that hacks away at the origins of this country.

No American state has followed Venezuela’s lead in renaming it Día de la Resistencia Indígena, or Day of Indigenous Resistance, which actually is a Marxist terrorist group’s holiday, the whole notion of celebrating the discovery of America has come to be seen as somehow shameful and worst of all, politically incorrect.

Anti-Columbus Day protests are mounted by La Raza, whose members, despite their indigenous posturing, are actually mostly descended from Spanish colonists, but who know that most American liberals are too confused to rationally frame an objection to a protest by any minority group.

About the only thing sillier than a group of people emphasizing their collective identity as a Spanish speaking people, and denouncing Columbus as an imperialist exploiter is Ward Churchill, a fake Indian, who compared Columbus to Heinrich Himmler. Ward Churchill’s scholarship consists of comparing Americans in past history and current events to random Nazis. If he hasn’t yet compared Amerigo Vespucci or Daniel Boone to Ernst Röhm; it’s only a matter of time.

The absurdity of these attacks is only deepened by the linguistic and cultural ties between the Italian Columbus Day marchers and the Latino Anti-Columbus Day protesters with the latter set cynically exploiting white guilt to pretend that being the descendants of Southern European colonists makes them a minority.

If being descended from Southern Europeans makes you a minority, then Columbus, the parade marchers, the Greek restaurant owner nearby and even Rush Limbaugh are all “people of color.”

Italian-Americans are the only bulwark against political correctness still keeping Columbus on the calendar, and that has made mayors and governors in cities and states with large Italian-American communities wary of tossing the great explorer completely overboard. But while Ferdinand and Isabella may have brought Columbus back in chains, modern day political correctness has banished him to the darkened dungeon of non-personhood, erasing him from history and replacing him with a note reading, “I’m Sorry We Ever Landed Here.”

But this is about more than one single 15th century Genoan with a complicated life who was neither a monster nor a saint. It is about whether America really has any right to exist at all. Is there any argument against celebrating Columbus Day, that cannot similarly be applied to the Fourth of July?

If Columbus is to be stricken from the history books in favor of ideological thugs like Malcolm X or Caesar Chavez, then America must soon follow. Columbus’ crime is that he enabled European settlement of the continent.

If the settlement of non-Indians in North America is illegitimate, then any national state they created is also illegitimate.

It is easier to hack away at a nation’s history by beginning with the lower branches.

Columbus is an easier target than America itself, though La Raza considers both colonialist vermin. Americans are less likely to protest over the banishment of Columbus to the politically correct Gulag than over the banishing America itself, which was named after another one of those colonialist explorers, Amerigo Vespucci. First they came for Columbus Day and then for the Fourth of July.

The battles being fought over Columbus Day foreshadow the battles to be fought over the Fourth of July. As Columbus Day joins the list of banned holidays in more cities, one day there may not be a Fourth of July, just a day of Native Resistance to remember the atrocities of the colonists with PBS documentaries comparing George Washington to Hitler.

These documentaries already exist, they just haven’t gone mainstream. Yet.

We celebrate Columbus Day and the Fourth of July because history is written by the winners. Had the Aztecs, the Mayans or the Iroquois Confederation developed the necessary technology and skills to cross the Atlantic and begin colonizing Europe, the fate of its native inhabitants would have been far uglier. The different perspectives on history often depend on which side you happen to be on.

To Americans, the Alamo is a shining moment of heroism. To the Mexicans who are the heirs of a colonialist empire far more ruthless than anything to be found north of the Rio Grande, the war was a plot to conquer Mexican territory. And neither side is altogether wrong, but choosing which version of history to go by is the difference between being an American or a Mexican.

A nation’s mythology, its paragons and heroes, its founding legends and great deeds, are its soul. To replace them with another culture’s perspective on its history is to kill that soul.

That is the ultimate goal of political correctness, to kill America’s soul. To stick George Washington, Patrick Henry, Jefferson, James Bowie, Paul Revere, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and all the rest on a shelf in a back room somewhere, and replace them with timelier liberal heroes. Move over Washington, Caesar Chavez needs this space. No more American heroes need apply.

This is how it begins. And that is how it ends. Nations are not destroyed by atomic bombs or economic catastrophes; they are lost when they lose any reason to go on living. When they no longer have enough pride to go on fighting to survive.

The final note of politically correct lunacy comes from a headline in the Columbus Dispatch about the Columbus Day festival in the city of Columbus, Ohio. “Italian Festival honors controversial explorer with its own Columbus Day parade”.

Once the great discover of America, Columbus is now dubbed “controversial” by a newspaper named after him, in a city named after him .And if he is controversial, how can naming a city after him and a newspaper after the city not be equally controversial?

Can the day when USA Today has a headline reading, “Some cities still plan controversial 4th of July celebration of American independence” be far behind?

Not Enough Joy and Meaning

Monday, October 7th, 2013

The recent NY Times article on the newly released PEW findings on Jewish continuity paints a bleak future for American Jewry. The study, among other findings, reported that nearly six in ten Jewish respondents (58%) who have gotten married since 2000, have married a non-Jewish spouse. The study also showed that only 20 percent of those who have intermarried are raising their children Jewish by religion.

There are, I’m sure, many reasons for this worsening situation including a serious lack of Jewish education for most American Jews, a more than ever distracting world in which living any kind of religious life becomes more challenging, and many other contributing factors. However I believe there is another cause, which I have seen in my 20 years of outreach to the young and less affiliated: the sheer lack of joy or meaning that so many young Jews associate with Judaism.

More often than not, the perception young people have of Judaism is of a faith filled with rules and restrictions which offers little or no joy or meaning in return.

But why should young Jews be left with any other impression? When Yom Kippur continues to be the most celebrated Jewish experience in synagogue what else should we expect? How many American Jews are present for the somber Yom Kippur service, complete with fasting and chest-pounding/forgiveness asking but are no-where to be found the next week when joyous singing and dancing in honor of Simchat Torah takes place? That balance of reverence and joy is vital to keep our interest and it is so authentically Jewish. In the Temple of old, the Beit Hamikdash, the feeling on Yom Kippur was one of awe and even trepidation as the High Priest performed the service to secure atonement for all of Israel, but the next week that same Temple was filled with a sense of joy and exuberance during the Simchat Beit Hoshava (water drawing ceremony) on which which the Talmud tells us: “Whoever never witnessed the Simchat Beit Hashoeva has never in his life seen true joy.”

Like most synagogues, MJE has always drawn larger numbers for its Yom Kippur services than for Simchat Torah. This year however, for the very first time, we had approximately the same number of participants for both holidays. It took us 15 years but we did it. The same number of previously less affiliated 20′s/30′s who were willing to fast and pray with us on Yom Kippur returned to sing and dance with us on Simchat Torah.

Young Jews desperately need to experience both the serious and lighter sides of Judaism. We can no longer allow our beloved faith to be marketed as a religion of guilt and restriction without even trying to present it for what it truly is: a path which can ultimately bring joy and meaning to contemporary life. And we must learn to properly articulate how the limitations Judaism does place on our lives are important in helping to create that more joyous and meaningful existence.

The goal of our synagogues and Jewish institutions today must be to demonstrate this balance of reverence and joy; fealty to tradition with personnel meaning and relevance. Jewish educators need to be better trained to invest more explanation and inspiration into our prayer services and provide greater depth and insight as to how living a life of Torah can actually improve our lives and make us happier and more fulfilled people.

Otherwise, for most American Jews, why bother?

What the Syria Crisis Tells Us about the Israel Lobby

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Barely minutes after the news broke earlier this month that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was planning a major effort on Capitol Hill to garner support for the Obama administration’s plan for a limited military operation against the Syrian regime, the conspiracy theorists were having a field day.

As always, it’s instructive to note how the notion that American foreign policy is a prisoner of organizations like AIPAC, the main pro-Israel lobbying group in America, is an idée fixe on both the far left and the extreme right. Juan Cole, a left-wing academic with a strong online following, grabbed the opportunity to argue that AIPAC, in advocating for what he described as “attacking Syria,” is out of touch with the opinions of most American Jews, who are not evil neoconservatives but solid progressives. The anti-Zionist Jewish blogger M.J. Rosenberg ranted about how “AIPAC and its cutouts are the only lobbying forces supporting the administration’s plans for war.”

Not to be outdone, Rod Dreher of The American Conservative, a magazine founded by Pat Buchanan, wrote that in supporting military action, AIPAC was endangering the lives of Syrian Christians, whom he believes are better off under the Assad regime.

Such concern for the plight of Christian minorities in the Middle East is touching, but also a tad disingenuous, as The American Conservative has never shown much sympathy for the fate of those Christian communities, from Nigeria to Pakistan, who suffer from Islamist atrocities. When you bring Israel into the equation, however, the magazine suddenly finds its voice.

The combined message here is clear: Syria is Iraq Redux, another “endless war” America is being pushed into by a shadowy Jewish cabal.

Critics of these conspiracy theories have rightly pointed out the anti-Semitic pedigree on display here. The idea that Jews are powerful enough to manipulate their governments from behind the scenes is a staple of modern anti-Semitism. Still, let’s for a moment take the Israel Lobby thesis on its own merits. Is the charge that the “Lobby” is the real authority when it comes to U.S. foreign policy empirically verifiable?

The answer to that question is a resounding no. In fact, what the latest developments on Syria demonstrate is that rather than the “Lobby” running the administration, it is the administration that runs the “Lobby.”

AIPAC, along with mainstream Jewish advocacy organizations, had been largely silent on the atrocities taking place in Syria. In that sense, they were no different from the other influential groups and individuals who were either undecided on the issue of a limited military operation or firmly opposed to it. It’s no secret that Obama always faced a rough ride in Congress, especially as some of his traditional supporters, like the MoveOn.org PAC, actively opposed any intervention in Syria.

Similarly, the Jewish left is uncomfortable with the prospect of taking on the Assad regime; J Street, a group that once ludicrously claimed to be Obama’s “blocking back” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict issue, has deserted the president over Syria.

Rather than pushing for war, then, AIPAC and similar groups were drafted in at the last minute to boost support for a president who was looking dangerously isolated. The irony of an administration that includes Chuck Hagel, the defense secretary who famously bemoaned AIPAC’s influence, running to groups like AIPAC to secure backing shouldn’t be lost on anyone. Even so, away from the political point scoring, what this shows is that the influence of pro-Israel groups is something this administration values. Equally – and this is key – these groups will wield that influence when the administration requests that they do so.

Importantly, this is not the first time the administration has turned to the “Lobby” for support on Middle East-related matters. Part of the reason Secretary of State John Kerry was able to galvanize support and publicity for his efforts to renew the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was that he turned to American Jews, whose principal organizations dutifully trumpeted his message. The fact that Kerry’s diplomacy has yielded few results isn’t really his fault, nor is it the fault of American Jews. The stasis on the Israeli-Palestinian front is the consequence, as it always has been, of rejectionism among the Palestinians, whose leaders remain distinctly queasy about doing anything that might smack of accepting Israel’s legitimacy.

Any worry about all of this on the part of American Jewish organizations should relate not to accusations of outsize influence but to association with failure. So far Israel has little to show for its decision, under pressure from the Americans, to release Palestinian terrorists ahead of the talks; meanwhile, the Syrian intervention proposal is mired in confusion because of widespread concern that an American-led operation will be too little, too late.

If the Obama administration can be confident of anything, it is that its American Jewish partners will never go so far as to openly criticize the president. Far from being the war-crazed cabal depicted in the imaginations of conspiracy theorists, the “Israel Lobby” is in reality an oasis of calm reliability for a president who may just be on the cusp of his biggest foreign policy failure.

Back in the USSR

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Those among us who are middle-aged or older will remember a song by the Beatles called “Back to the USSR”. Ever since the minor crisis regarding the Asad regime’s use of chemical weapons, this song has been stuck my head.

This minor crisis has revealed, emphasized and demonstrated what we wrote about here long ago, which is the weakening of the Western bloc, especially the United States, and the return of the opposing group to the center of international stage under Russian leadership.  Putin’s article in the New York Times openly expressed his opinion about the old-new international situation, in which the world has stopped being a unipolar system, and has gone back to being a bipolar system, as it was until the end of the eighties, when the Soviet Union collapsed, and the allies in Eastern Europe left it in favor of joining with the Western, democratic world, and afterward, the European Union.

The Russian Bloc is based on non-democratic countries that are hostile to the West, whether from a cultural point of view, like China and Syria, or a religious point of view, like Iran. Countries where democracy is limping along like Venezuela and Nicaragua, also join up with Russia, who doesn’t bother them too much about marginal matters like human rights and political freedoms. North Korea also enjoys China’s and Russia’s political protection, especially in the UN Security Council.

Today’s anti-democratic glue is apparently better than the glue of Slavic identity that formed the “Warsaw Pact” because it is a world view and a cultural perspective. Back then, membership in the Soviet bloc was forced on the states (for instance, in Czechoslovakia and the Soviet invasion of 1968), while today, states freely choose to belong to the Russian bloc. It is not yet a consolidated and unified bloc, but one definitely sees that this union of anti-democratic forces is winning ever more diplomatic territory in the international sphere. There is an important military aspect to this alliance, due to the supply of Russian weaponry to Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.

Many countries in the world compare the behavior of the bloc under Russian leadership to the conduct of the West under United States’ leadership and conclude: The United States betrays her friends and abandons them, while Russia is faithful to her friends and defends them. When the world analyzes what the United States has done for states and rulers in recent years it finds Mubarak, who was abandoned by President Obama with the start of demonstrations against him; the president of Tunisia – bin Ali – who was forced to flee from the demonstrations without even one of his European friends  to rescue him; the United States abandons its friends in the Gulf and in Saudi Arabia in the face of Iran’s threatening buildup; the West does not back Israel in its efforts to maintain its security and its strategic assets, and urges it to establish another Palestinian terror country in the mountains of Judea and Samaria, overlooking most of the territory of the State of Israel.

On the other hand, the world sees that Russia defends Iran and its nuclear project in the Security Council faithfully, and even supplies its reactors and the means of defending them; Russia is faithful to Asad and supplies him weaponry, ammunition and means of defense necessary for his survival; Russia supplies China with raw materials and places of employment.

In Economic matters as well, the West appears weak relative to Russia. Since six years ago, the Western economy – Europe and the United States together – has been caught in a structural crisis, not in a recession from which it is relatively easy to emerge. It seems that the unification of currency (the Euro) and production standards are not enough to make Europe into one body, so divisive forces exist there that even threaten the stability of some countries: the region of Catalonia wants to secede from Spain, and the Scots apparently will leave the United Kingdom in another year. Europe is addicted to Russian gas, and to oil that, by Iran’s “good will”, is allowed to pass through the Strait of Hormuz on its route from the Emirates to Europe.

Regarding the issue of Syrian chemical weapons, the West has seemed like a crumbling and disintegrating body, with no leader and no shared agenda. The British parliament is against war, the French is for it, and the American administration says that it’s getting ready to attack, Congress doesn’t support it, the American army is preparing for war and the State Department puts forth a compromise. The right hand does not know what the left is doing, and each one acts according to a different agenda. This is no way to build a bloc of states that is capable of executing a mission that everyone agrees is ethically justified: to defend the citizens of Syria from chemical weapons. And when ethics ceases to be the leading cause for the West, what is left of its values?

Disconnect Israel’s Interests from America’s

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

I do not understand the Israelis who are eager for a U.S. attack on Syria. They are confused, willing to be at the receiving end of missiles and, down the road, the object of tremendous diplomatic pressure – to “prove” America’s balanced approach to the Middle East – just to preserve the U.S. hegemony in our region.

These people suffer from a blurred sense of identity. It diffuses their ability to identify an Israeli interest that is independent from, and not contingent upon, an American interest. I have the utmost respect for the U.S., but Israel must be able to look in the mirror without seeing stars and stripes.

Yitzhak Shamir, of blessed memory, was perhaps the best Israeli leader since David Ben-Gurion. Nonetheless, Shamir made a serious strategic mistake under circumstances similar to those we are currently facing. Five years ago, I wrote a column explaining why his actions were so detrimental to Israel. That 2008 column (see below) provides fresh insight into Israel’s current position. (The column was translated from the Hebrew version, which appeared in Makor Rishon.)

* * *

Shamir’s Blunder Nobody really expected Israel to react to the rockets fired on the town of Shlomi last week. And they were right. Israel is not going to retaliate.

From the end of the War of Independence in 1949 and until the First Gulf War in 1991, Israel’s civilian population was out of bounds. Israel had created a balance of fear that dictated that shelling its civilian population was not an option and would lead to all-out war. When the Syrians shelled Israeli towns in 1967, Israel retaliated by conquering the Golan Heights.

But in the First Gulf War, under intense pressure from Israel’s Left, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir reversed two strategic principles that Israel had carefully preserved until then. The first principle was that only Israeli soldiers would be responsible for Israel’s security. The second principle was that the attack of Israel’s civilian population is completely unacceptable. When Iraqi Scud missiles rained down on Israel’s cities, Israel opted to hide behind the broad shoulders of the American and British soldiers, move U.S. Patriot missiles into strategic locations, and, of course, to instruct its citizens to cover all windows with sheets of plastic and masking tape.

Shamir enjoyed the support of the media, academia and Left for a time. No commission of inquiry was established to investigate the mistakes made in that strange war. By the grace of our Father in Heaven, there were very few Israeli fatalities and nobody criticized Shamir’s strategic turnabout. There were no bereaved families to point an accusing finger at the leader of the Right who had sacrificed their dear ones’ lives in vain. There were no reserve soldiers to stage hunger strikes outside Shamir’s home and not one Knesset member or public figure demanded that he resign.

I claimed then – and support that claim even more so now – that Shamir’s blunder was even greater than Golda Meir’s in the Yom Kippur War. In that war, Israel did not lose its power of deterrence. But by the end of the First Gulf War, Israel found itself facing new rules. Israel had entrusted its security to foreign armies and it soon had to pay for its mistake in hard currency. The Madrid Conference, to which the Left pushed the hapless Shamir to attend, was in effect Israel’s unofficial doorway to recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Shamir still attempted to stick to his principles by speaking only with Yasir Arafat’s representatives and not with Arafat himself. But the Israeli public – justifiably – did not bother with the nuances and elected Yitzhak Rabin to succeed Shamir. The Oslo process was on its way.

Approximately 1,500 civilians have already been murdered in the Oslo process – more than all the civilian terror fatalities that Israel had suffered from the establishment of the state and in the pre-state days. Oslo placed a question mark over Israel’s very right to exist. It was only a matter of time until missiles, mortars and rockets began to rain down on Israel’s towns and cities.

Since Shamir’s blunder his successors have followed suit, criminally ignoring the fact that Israel’s neighbors are arming themselves with strategic missiles. They have brought Israel to its knees, waiting for the merciful final blow of tens of thousands of conventional and non-conventional missiles that will lift off simultaneously from launchers in Syria, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon and Gaza.

We’re Turning Japanese Now

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

It’s an article of American faith that Japan is an incredibly strange place. The world has been mapped and GPS’ed to death ruining much of the thrill of discovery. There probably aren’t any hidden cities with remnants of lost civilizations lurking in the deserts of Africa or the jungles of South America. That just leaves the land of the rising sun as the X on the map, the strange place that suggests that the world that we know all too well, might still be odder than we can imagine.But Japan isn’t really all that strange. We are.

Depressed post-industrial economy, low birth rate, social disintegration and a society obsessed with pop culture and useless tech toys? A country that has embraced pacifism to the extent that it can hardly defend its own borders? A nation where materialism has strangled spirituality leaving no sense of purpose?We are Japan. And so is Europe. Or rather Japan is the place we all reach eventually.Japan is strange because it aggressively hurled itself into a postmodern void without knowing what was on the other side. It did this with the same dedication that its soldiers once marched into machine gun fire.

Japan had been in a race with the West, as it had been ever since Commodore Perry showed up with a fleet to open up a closed nation. It wasn’t unique in that regard. A lot of countries tried to do the same thing. Most found that they couldn’t keep up with either our technology or our decline. Japan shot past us in both areas. It beat us technologically. And then it outpaced our decline.

In the 80s, there were dire predictions that the future would belong to Japan. America would be broken up and run by a bunch of Japanese corporations. There were even predictions that after the fall of the USSR, the next war would be with Japan. Some of those predictions came from some surprisingly high profile analysts.

The future doesn’t belong to Japan. It may not, at this rate, belong to anyone. Japan hurled itself into the future, but didn’t find anything there.

Korea hurled itself into that same future and found only emptiness. Now China’s elites are rushing into that same void and are beginning to discover that technocracy and materialism are hollow. That is why China is struggling to reassert Communist values even while throwing everything into making Walmart’s next product shipment. Like Japanese and Korean leaders, Chinese leaders are realizing that their technological and material achievements have left their society with a spiritual void.

That isn’t a problem unique to Asia. Asian countries were just less prepared for a rapid transition to the modern age. Europe and America, which had more time to prepare, are still on the same track.

Japan isn’t really a technocratic wonderland. It has a few robot cafes, but not a lot of ATMs. Its tech companies got by on Western products that initially never caught on in the West, like the Walkman and the tax machine. There’s not much of a digital economy and the computer isn’t all that ubiquitous. Daily life for the Japanese these days is usually lower tech than it is for Americans or Europeans.

It’s not as bad as some Gulf Sheikdom where desert Bedouins fire off assault rifles in view of the glittering new skyscrapers whose waste products have to be manually removed from the building, but the strain of a feudal society rapidly transitioning to the modern world is still there, as it is in Russia.

Like Russia, Japan tried to beat us. Unlike Russia it did, only to stop halfway there and wonder what the whole point was.

And that’s the problem. There is no point.

American technocrats talk incessantly of beating China. But what is it that we’re supposed to beat China to? The largest pile of debt? The biggest collection of light rail and solar panel plans? The lowest birth rate and the most homeless farmers? The greatest disastrous government projects?

A country should move toward the future. But it should have a goal that it’s moving toward and a sense of connection with its past values.

The thing we have in common with Japan, China and Europe is that we have all moved into a post-modern future while leaving our values behind and our societies have suffered for it. It is a future in which stores have robots on display but couples are hardly getting married, where there are high speed trains and a sense of lingering depression as the people who ride them don’t know where they are going, and where the values of the past have been traded for a culture of uncertainty.Marriage and children are more extinct in Japan than they are here. They are more extinct in Europe than they are here. And China is still struggling with a bigger social fallout headed its way.Japanese modernism has made for a conservative society of the elderly. That is what Europe nearly had a few decades ago and it is what it would have had if it hadn’t overfilled its cities with a tide of immigrants. Japan survived the consequences of its social implosion only because of its dislike for immigration. If not for that, Japan really would have no future the way that the European countries which have taken in the most immigrants have traded their past and their future for the present.

That conservatism helped freeze Japan in time, that time being the cusp of the 90s when Japan was at its peak, and crippled its corporations and its culture, but also made the return of the right to power possible. It’s far from certain that a conservative revolution can save Japan, but so far it has a better shot at it than we do.

A society of the elderly may be slow to turn around, but it’s less likely to drive off a cliff without understanding the consequences than the youth-worshiping voting cultures of America and Europe. Japanese political culture may be lunatic, but even they wouldn’t have elected a Barack Obama. The prospect of an American Shinzō Abe backed by a right-wing coalition winning are poor. The last time Americans voted for a conservative message was 1980 and even Reagan’s message was leavened by liberal ideas. A genuinely conservative resurgence in which the type of politician who might have run for office in 1922 could become president on a similar platform is nearly inconceivable.

Japan is a long way from fixing itself. As a country and a society, it’s still peering into the abyss.

The cultural eccentricities that Americans fixate on come from a society of young men unmoored from normal human connections, a decline of national values and an obsession with trivial consumerism– all commonplace elements in postmodern American and European life. The difference is that Japan got there first.

The loonier elements of American pop subcultures were predated by Japan. Indeed the latter are often influenced by the former. The same holds true with petty plastic surgeries, a truly epic plague among Asia’s newly rich, and some of the more ridiculous accessories for living a life with no meaning or human companionship, but we’re all going to the same place. Just not at the exact same speed.

The common problem is that our journey has no meaning. The postmodern world of robots, fast trains and handheld computers is shiny, but not meaningful. It’s less meaningful than the earlier technological achievements that saved lives and made ordinary prosperity possible.

We can go fast, but no matter how fast we go, we seem to keep slowing down. That’s what Japan found out. Its decline was social. And social decline translates into a technological decline, because technological innovation is powered by a society, not some soulless force of modernism. Innovation must have goals. And those goals must be more than mere technology. They must emerge from some deeper purpose.

American innovation hasn’t halted entirely because its tech culture had enough purpose to make the latest set of digital revolutions possible. But each revolution has slowed down, becoming another shopping mall with microprocessors, replicating the Japanese problem. And at some point we’ll run out of revolutions and be left with the skeleton of a digital shopping mall that is no longer anything but a place to buy more things.

A healthy culture transmits values. When it stops doing that, it dies. When the values no longer seem to be applicable, than the culture hunts around for new values, it undergoes a period of confusion while its forward motion slows down. That is where Japan is now. It’s where America has arrived.

The values of the left, that are present in both Japan and America, are a cultural suicide pact.The left pretends to add a spiritual dimension to modernism. It has been peddling that lie for two centuries and it has yet to deliver. In countries where it wielded full control, there was neither modernism nor values. Russia destroyed the economic, technological and spiritual potential of generations of its people. China is trying to use Communist values to avoid turning into another Japan, not realizing that those are little better than the collective obligations with which Japan rushed into the future.

As America gazes at the ruins of Detroit and the insanity spewed forth by a digital frontier that increasingly looks every bit as eccentric and toxic as anything coming out of Japan, it is all too clear that we are Japan. There is no unique insanity in East, only a common disintegration of values in the East and the West.

Asia and Europe have both witnessed the rise and fall of civilizations. It isn’t technology that destroys civilizations, but a lack of values.To understand where Japan and Europe are, imagine an America decaying with no new ideas, losing its religion and values, losing its economy and finally its sanity, becoming coldly conformist and inhuman, while its families fall apart and its youth retreats into their own makeshift worlds. That reality is closer to home than we might like to think.America is destroying its values on an industrial scale. In a post-industrial nation, the destruction of values has become one of its chief industries. And while there is value in challenging values, in the conflict and clash of ideas, that requires that values go on existing, or there is no longer anything to challenge. And then there is nothing left but emptiness and madness.

Another stupid product from an infomercial. Another ridiculous politician. Another protest. Another indicator of economic decline. Another day, week, month, year of empty nothingness.

That is the modern abyss. And Japan is waiting for us there.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/sultan-knish/were-turning-japanese-now/2013/09/03/

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