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Disgraced FBI No. 2 Calls For Feds To Treat ‘Mainstream’ Conservatives Like Domestic Terrorists

McCabe

Have you ever wondered what disgraced former deputy FBI directors do after trying to stage a coup and lying under oath? Apparently, they give talks about “protecting democracy” at top-rated institutions of higher learning. Indeed, this last Thursday the University of Chicago invited former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe to join a panel of partisans to discuss the Jan 6 “insurrection.” 

McCabe was fired as the deputy FBI director for leaking sensitive information about an investigation into the Clinton Foundation and then lying about it under oath. He also took part in spying on the Donald Trump campaign through a secret warrant granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court.

The dossier he used to obtain the surveillance warrant was funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and, in an ironic twist, was itself the product of Russian disinformation. McCabe and his allies in corporate media justified all sorts of similar illegal and undemocratic tactics to discredit and attempt to unseat President Trump. 

Of course, neither the University of Chicago nor McCabe acknowledged the irony in him discussing the integrity of “democracy” in America on Thursday evening. In fact, what McCabe said at the University of Chicago event on Jan. 6, 2022 is even more shocking than his invitation to speak in the first place. Below are four of the most appalling assertions and policy proposals McCabe made at the public event.

1. Conservatives Are in The Same Category As Islamic Terrorists 

McCabe likened conservatives to members of the Islamic Caliphate: “I can tell you from my perspective of spending a lot of time focused on the radicalization of international terrorists and Islamic extremist and extremists of all stripes… is that this group shares many of the same characteristics of those groups that we’ve seen radicalized along entirely different ideological lines,” he said.

McCabe went on to describe the rise of the Islamic caliphate in Syria and how Islamic extremists were radicalized across socioeconomic, educational, and racial lines, likening it to the “mass radicalization” of the political right across demographics. That’s right, according to McCabe a grandma who shares a Federalist article on Facebook and your uncle with a “Let’s Go Brandon” coffee mug are in the same category as a jihadist who killed 49 people at an Orlando nightclub.

2. Parents at School Board Meetings Pose A ‘Threat To National Security’

“Political violence [is] not just confined to the Capitol,” McCabe asserted. “It’s going on in school boards around the country. It’s going on in local elections. It’s happening, you know, even to health-care workers.” According to this politically protected former FBI no. 2, the “political violence” occurring recently at school board meetings and during local elections is a “very diverse and challenging threat picture.” 

If you haven’t heard already, Democrats are branding parents who oppose child mask mandates and racist critical race theory indoctrination as “domestic terrorists.” 

McCabe said moms and dads who stand up for their children’s health and education at school board meetings in ways Democrats disagree with are very dangerous. So dangerous that it is actually “essential” we have a “rapid and complete response by law enforcement at the state, local and federal level to this sort of political violence…” 

Holding America’s parents “accountable” is not enough for McCabe. He wants to make sure that federal agencies also put “out that message that this sort of conduct that both horribly victimizes individuals, but also serves to undermine our democratic process” is “considered a threat to national security [that is] not tolerated.” 

3. McCabe Wants More Surveillance of ‘Mainstream’ Conservatives 

“I’m fairly confident,” McCabe said, “[that] the FBI [and other agencies] have reallocated resources and repositioned some of their counterterrorism focus to increase their focus on right-wing extremism and domestic violent extremists. And I think that’s obviously a good idea.” 

But McCabe wants more. McCabe asserted that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FBI need to stop merely focusing on the “fringes of the right-wing movement,” in order to “catch this threat” of the “right.” 

“Are you going to catch this threat if your focus is only on the traditional, right-wing extremist, those groups that we know about, the quote-unquote, fringes of the right-wing movement?” asked McCabe. “And I think the answer to that is no.” 

“It’s entirely possible that when the intelligence community and the law enforcement community looks out across this mainstream,” McCabe continued, “they didn’t assume [on January 6] that that group of people — business owners, white people from the suburbs, educated, employed — presented a threat of violence, and now we know very clearly that they do.” 

McCabe wants to get around constitutional obstacles that restrict the abuses of federal agencies. He explained that the path to granting the feds more power to spy on and punish “extremists,” a.k.a. conservatives, is by implementing federal penalties against “domestic terrorism.”

A measure like this would grant domestic agencies the intelligence capabilities of the international terrorism-focused National Counterterrorism Center. It would, McCabe says, “give investigators the ability to begin investigating when folks are plotting or planning or organizing to use violence for the purpose of coercing the population or influencing government…” 

Joshua Geltzer, President Joe Biden’s advisor on “countering domestic violent extremism,” made the same proposal in a 2019 hearing before a subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee. In his proposal, Geltzer suggested that we need to “polic[e] [tech company] platforms to remove not just incitement to violence, but also, the ideological foundations that spawn such violence.”

McCabe claims these proposed federal laws against domestic terrorism can be implemented without infringing on Americans’ First Amendment right to free speech. That seems quite impossible, however, given Geltzer is proposing government oversight of social media, for example. 

It is even more difficult to believe when you consider that Democrats are not going after real domestic terrorists and have literally defined parents speaking out at school board meetings as national security threats. As McCabe said himself, to Democrats, the extreme right is the mainstream right. 

4. McCabe Believes No One Is Above The Law (Except Himself)

Ironically, one of McCabe’s last remarks was a proclamation of equality under the law. “Whether you are a Trump supporter or a Biden supporter, right, left, or otherwise, we should all be able to agree on the principle that no one is above the law,” stated McCabe.

 “… [F]rom the lowliest trespasser on January 6, up to the highest-ranking government officials who may have been aware of a plan that would ultimately lead to violence in the Capitol––those people should be held accountable, period,” he announced. “And if we can’t do that, that is just another sign that we are becoming a non-functioning democracy.”

Ironically, McCabe’s firing for repeatedly breaking the law was expunged from the record only because he settled with a partisan Biden Department of Justice. If no one is above the law, as McCabe claims to support, then he would be in jail. Of course, McCabe is above the law. Only dissenting conservatives, in his view, deserve the suspicion and wrath of unelected federal agencies. 

Disturbingly, the University of Chicago does not care about national introspection post-January 6, 2021. If it did, it would not have invited McCabe, of all people, to speak about “protecting democracy.” 

UChicago allowed McCabe to spin lies about what truly happened one year ago and filtered student questions via Zoom, refusing to ask him any tough questions. Consequently, McCabe was given a platform to teach young, impressionable college students without question that the federal government should be weaponized against fellow Americans whom leftists brand as “extremists.”

To the elites in America — Democrats like McCabe, university administrators, and professors – January 6 is the key to labeling their political opponents as dangerous, “white supremacist extremists” and enacting new policy accordingly.

America’s universities are now indoctrination machines that shape the minds of the next generation. Academia openly exploits its power and rewrite history to serve their illiberal agenda.

Sadly, McCabe’s dishonest version of January 6 is happily accepted by the academic elites who invited him Thursday night. His frighteningly despotic views and policy prescriptions will likely be accepted and implemented by his young listeners. 


Peaceful Demands For Secure Elections Do Not Constitute ‘Insurrection’

To corrupt media, Democrats, and Big Tech, anyone who protested the 2020 election is no different than the fools who stormed the U.S. Capitol.

By Jordan BoydThe Federalist

Save America Rally 01/06/21

YOUTUBE/PHOTO

n the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, the corporate media is working overtime to convince the American public that Republicans as a whole stormed the nation’s beacon of democracy at the beginning of 2021 and have waged a war on all that is good and decent. While lunatics and fools did invade the Capitol last January, tens of thousands of Americans peacefully assembled to demand answers from the government about what they believed to be the sloppiest election in which they’ve ever voted. 

Political violence should always be condemned, but a majority of the people present in Washington, D.C., and on the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6 weren’t violent. Yes, hundreds of people stormed the U.S. Capitol in a riot, but tens of thousands of people of all ages, races, backgrounds, and lifestyles gathered together that day at the Save America Rally to protest the Democrats’ sleazy election manipulation and hear from President Donald Trump. 

Crowds began to form early at the White House Ellipse where Trump was scheduled to speak beginning at noon. After hours of waiting in the cold, Trump supporters finally heard from the president, who encouraged them to head to Capitol grounds and “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” Following Trump’s urgings, tens of thousands of people slowly and peacefully marched to the Capitol grounds to rally at multiple planned events, all of which were permitted through the proper, official channels. Many of the peaceful protesters were unaware until the end of the day of the vandalizing and looting that had occurred inside the Capitol.

As multiple reports suggest, violence was not even considered by the vast majority of the rally attendees who simply wanted answers about what they saw as the messiest election in their lifetimes. Multiple states had used COVID-19 as an excuse to loosen absentee voting protocols, opening up a window for bad actors to push their preferred candidates to the top.

In Pennsylvania, the Democrat Party circumvented the state legislature and instead used the leftist courts to make six changes to the state’s Election Code ahead of the 2020 election. These changes included expanding mail-in voting and drop-boxes and relaxing verification standards for absentee ballots. Some key states and counties even accepted money from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg through shady election-manipulating organizations designed to increase Democratic voter turnout.

These voters became even angrier when they realized how corporate media and Big Tech worked together to suppress stories that should have tarnished Joe Biden’s reputation and therefore his chances in the election. Whether the Democrats and their media cronies agree, these voters had every right to be upset and express their frustration peacefully at the feet of the government, legislators, and the system that they felt had betrayed them. 

The idea that everyone who was at the Capitol grounds that day is an insurrectionist is patently and deliberately false. Yet the same corporate media outlets, Big Tech oligarchs, and Democrats who defended the arson, looting, and crime associated with the political riots after George Floyd’s death as “fiery but mostly peaceful” branded nearly everyone within a 10-mile radius of the Capitol an insurrectionist. These institutions gladly overlooked the numerous accounts of peaceful assembly, to wrongly conflate the rioters with protesters. Anyone who protested the election was no different than the horned-hat guy and the other fools willing to vandalize the U.S. Capitol. 

The mischaracterizations didn’t stop in January of last year. For urging their state legislatures to listen to and take action regarding their grievances, Republicans as a whole are still being smeared by The New York Times for engaging in a so-called “bloodless, legalized form” of the Capitol riot. Just because of how they vote, Republicans are shunned for using the legal, rightful means presented before them to enact change that ensures safe and secure elections. 

It is a familiar tactic often employed by the anti-Trump crowd, who use everything in their power, including political censorship, to disparage and tear down the reputations of conservatives and the former president. They think that by tarring all Republicans as Jan. 6 insurrectionists, they can prevent future GOP victories, and therefore prevent Republicans from taking action to ensure that the sloppiness of 2020 is never repeated.


Is Wokeness Almost Over?

Extremist political cycles seem to have a natural lifespan, but it requires real political will to overcome them.

By Scott McConnellThe American Conservative

(KelseyJ/Shutterstock)

November’s off year elections revealed that the rollback of wokeness, if not imminent, may be nearer than many had hoped. Voters rejected decisively two of wokeness’s core policy components: Defunding the police lost badly in heavily Democratic cities from Seattle to Minneapolis to Buffalo, while Republican Glenn Youngkin’s vow to curb critical race theory in Virginia schools was central to his surprise win in the blue state.

Extremist political cycles seem to have a natural lifespan. Five years passed between the storming of the Bastille and Thermidor—the arrest of Robespierre by his fellow revolutionaries, fearful that the guillotine would touch them next; another five and a national equilibrium of sorts was restored to France. A similar ten years ensued between years between Mao’s launching of the Cultural Revolution and the arrest and imprisonment of its major backers by their rivals within China’s ruling hierarchy. Neither country had meaningful elections, but they did have public opinions, which eventually shifted enough to embolden those in position to challenge the radical wave to step up and assume the risks. If one dates the onset of wokeness from 2014, which saw the sudden explosion of phrases about race, equity, and white supremacy in the prestige media, we are seven years in.

The United States has free elections, a First Amendment, and political norms which remain more or less intact, and wokeness is an ideological movement which has managed to humiliate its victims and get them fired from their jobs, not to kill them. But it is not a stretch to see in it parallels to the totalitarian movements of the past century: the preening self-righteousness of its enforcers; their seeking of forced confessions, depicted as apologies from their victims; the attempted politicization of every aspect of social life, including language; the insistence that the traditional mores of their own country are utterly debased. Never in American history has so much energy been devoted to getting people fired for expressing an opinion.

Wokeness may well advance to the point where many of its goals become as institutionalized and naturally accepted as the abolition of slavery. (Some of the woke elect left style themselves as abolitionists). More likely it will be rolled back, its practitioners and cultural preferences first widely mocked and then ignored, its victims rehabilitated and in some cases honored. November 2 marked the first hint of a real electoral pushback against wokeness; hopefully it will prove as pivotal as the battle of Midway.

***

The origins and nature of the woke revolution have been described extensively if not yet definitively. Yes, it has elements of a new religion; yes, it was made possible by social media, with the potential to organize quickly a Twitter mob; yes, the financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath pulled the rug out from a generation of debt-ridden recent college graduates while giving business elites incentive to welcome diversions from a more class based leftism.

Within less than a decade a fringe and not especially popular way of thinking and speaking, spawned in the humanities departments of prestigious universities, had become the dominant discourse in all non-explicitly conservative media and, seemingly, the regnant ideology of the nation’s largest political party. This takeover occurred with stunning speed, while the initial popular resistance to it—chiefly the 2016 election of Donald Trump—served more as an accelerant than a brake. At this writing, wokeness seems entrenched in the media, liberal foundations, and universities, but also in institutions thought of as mainstream and non-political. A top navy admiral touts the work of Ibram Kendi; the American Medical Association officially calls for doctors to work absurd woke phraseology into regular communications with their patients.

The core idea of wokeness is that America and the West are essentially defined by interlocking systems of oppression, the main pillar of which is white supremacy, while secondary but important ones are the privileging of heterosexuality and of men over women. To be woke is to believe that all social life is permeated by these dominations, and that overturning them is a moral imperative. Radical leftists have held views proximate to this for over a century, but their nominal embrace by much of the establishment is a new thing.

For the woke, America’s history of slavery and segregation are at its core, more important than virtually everything else. Wokeness portrays itself as a struggle against whiteness, or white supremacy, rather than against white people themselves, a rhetorical evasion which allows white people to become the main practitioners of woke politics.

With black activism, wokeness has a somewhat contradictory relationship.

On one side it is given to displays of performative submissiveness. While fires from the George Floyd riots were still smoldering, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer led Democratic members of the House and Senate to the halls outside the congressional visitor’s gallery, where they donned kente cloth and knelt before the cameras; similar, if less striking, quasi-religious enactments continued throughout the summer. A few weeks later the New York Times announced it would henceforth capitalize black when it referred to race (white would remain lowercase) as its standard style, inevitably evoking the Bible’s capitalization of pronouns referring to the deity. Virtually every national news organization followed suit.

On the other side of wokeness is a kind of paternalism, which sees black Americans as people without much agency or control over their lives, defined by the past injuries of slavery and segregation and still burdened by chains of structural racism which are seldom specified but so pervasive that standards of achievement and conduct appropriate for other Americans must be suspended for them.

But despite its apparent dominance in corporate media and major institutions, wokeness increasingly resembles what ’60s era Maoists called a “paper tiger”; when confronted directly, as wokeness has seldom been in the past seven years, its popularity and power prove less than meets the eye.

***

The battle over “critical race theory” in the Virginia gubernatorial election was an early illustration. It’s difficult to discern how much critical race theory is being taught in Virginia schools: there are official Virginia state documents which call explicitly for “critical race theory” to be used in the training of teachers and the make-up of the curriculum; in some districts, CRT inspired consultants were hired to do mandatory teacher training. Materials deployed by these new “diversity” consultants are full of a bizarre racial essentialism, portraying white people as cruelly individualistic, people of color as warm communalists. Some Virginia parents in comfortable suburban districts were troubled enough by it to turn traditionally sleepy school board meetings into hotbeds of protest.

Curiously, the response by the Terry McAuliffe campaign—to charges by his opponent that Democrats were ignoring parents and teaching CRT in schools—was to claim that there was “no critical race theory” taught in Virginia schools, that the whole issue was a racist “dog whistle” cooked up by conservative activist Christopher Rufo and others. This denial was echoed repeatedly by nearly every mainstream media outlet covering the election.

This itself was an interesting tell. Liberals generally have no reluctance to defend their beliefs or policies, whether they be the right to have an abortion, higher taxes on corporations and the rich, or worker and environmental protection laws. But on CRT they mounted no defense, just denial and obfuscation. They would explain, as to a fifth grader, that critical race theory was a high brow discipline sometimes studied in law schools, and is absolutely not something taught to Virginia elementary and high school students. As if they assumed that people wouldn’t notice that programs and curricula explicitly grounded in CRT pedagogy, endorsed officially by the nation’s largest teacher’s union, was seeping into the schools.

Why did the sophisticated, consultant heavy, and poll savvy McAuliffe campaign lie? The most plausible answer is that it understood that the substance of a critical race theory pedagogy couldn’t be defended before voters in a campaign, knew it was extremely unpopular among people of all races, and knew also that it couldn’t be disavowed, because powerful constituencies within the Democratic party, especially the National Education Association, were too heavily invested in it. When push came to shove in a tight election, the establishment left wouldn’t stand up and fight for woke pedagogy.

Woke attitudes about law enforcement fared no better. The aptly named war on cops has been building for years, generating a narrative that most American police departments have been systematically oppressing black people. Its first major significant victory came in New York, with a series of court rulings against the NYPD’s policies of proactive policing, sometimes called “stop and frisk,” in 2013. Stop and frisk had proven enormously successful in getting illegal guns and the criminals wielding them off the street, but the tactic almost invariably targeted young black men.

This made sense to those who believed police should focus their efforts on those neighborhoods plagued by a disproportionate share of illegal gun crime. But by the end of the Bloomberg mayoralty, ending proactive policing had become a liberal cause célèbre. The next year, when a black man from Ferguson, Missouri, Michael Brown, was killed while resisting arrest, the anti-police narrative exploded nationally, with major voices in the mainstream media giving oxygen to the idea that the nation’s police were waging a “genocidal” war against black people, that calling 911 was an effort to get black people murdered.

It was a lie of course—the number of unarmed black Americans killed by the police is small, not disproportional to the number of white people killed by the police and infinitesimal in comparison to number of black people killed by black criminals. But the sheer enormity of the lie—repeated incessantly—made it a widely accepted fact, if not a true one. If the police were indeed racist murderers as frequently portrayed, defunding police departments made a great deal of sense.

By the summer of 2020, the topic of racist policing dominated the national conversation; and left-wing candidates calling for abolition of police departments began winning democratic primaries. A month after George Floyd’s murder, Minneapolis’s City Council voted by a 9-3 margin to dismantle the police department altogether, replacing it with a social worker agency.

But it did not take long for anti-cop wave to peak. In Minneapolis, as murders surged 50 percent and the number of downtown shootings doubled, city residents mobilized against the City Council’s anti-cop campaign. In Dallas, the City Council moved to hire more cops. In New York, progressives were stunned when a former black cop running on a law-and-order platform trounced progressives in the Democratic mayoral primary, while running up impressive margins in black and Latino working class districts. On election day last November, a defund-the-police socialist who had won the Democratic primary in Buffalo lost the general election even though she was the only person on the ballot. In Minneapolis, voters rejected an abolish the police department ballot measure decisively. In very liberal Seattle, an actual Republican won the city attorney race.

A restoration of the kind of policing that cut crime rates so successfully in the 1990s won’t come quickly—much legal damage had been done to inhibit effective policing, while in many cities left-wing district attorneys, elected late in the last decade in low turnout elections and committed to not putting criminals in jail, remain in office. But a 30 percent rise in murders in 2020—the largest since records have been kept, and a surge in violent crime in nearly every major city has made defunding the police a non-starter.

These political battles over education and policing plainly originate from America’s long standing racial divisions of black and white. But they are now contested on a very different demographic playing field. After 40 years of historically high levels of immigration, the United States has a far different racial makeup than it did when Martin Luther King was assassinated. An influx of immigrants from Mexico, Latin America, Asia and the Mideast has reduced the white share of the population from over 85 percent to under 65 percent; among school children, “Anglo” white kids make up less than half.

***

There may be no more broadly accepted assumption about demographics in American politics than that the reduction of the white share of the population favors the left. This was true in the 1960s, when one progressive intellectual famously labeled the white race the cancer of human history. It was central to Jesse Jackson’s two presidential bids during the ’80s, where he touted a “Rainbow Coalition” of black, Latino, and progressive white voters. It was a theme of Mike Davis’s much-admired-on-the-left 1986 (and recently reissued) book Prisoners of the American Dream which forecast a “black and Latino working class, 50 million strong” spearheading the triumph over American imperialism. It is true of contemporary left-wing authors enthusing triumphantly over demographic transformation, like Steve Phillips (Brown is the New White), and of liberals like Ruy Teixeira (The Optimistic Leftist). The woke neologism BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) arose to underscore the implicit solidarity of all non-whites, the soon to be demographic majority, against a declining group of conservative white Americans.

This analysis is intuitively persuasive. It was also prominent in paleoconservative circles in the early 1990s; Peter Brimelow at National Review published essays showing the GOP shrinking to national irrelevance by the early middle of this century. To some extent it has been vindicated: California, which launched the political careers of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, has become a reliably one-party state and other states are moving in the same direction. On many issues, the new immigration probably has shifted the United States towards the left; certainly any kind of “old fashioned” rooted-in-land-and-tradition conservatism, including anything associated with Dixie, now has a smaller demographic base to appeal to.

But this is not the case for the particular issues that emanate from wokeness. To state the obvious, most Asian, Latino, and other non-white immigrants and their children are not that invested in black-white history and the proper negotiation of the historic wrongs white Americans have done to black Americans. The vast majority of them have lived all their American lives in a post-civil rights revolution country, where racial discrimination is carefully monitored and illegal. Their ancestors didn’t own slaves, nor fight a war to end slavery. They can’t easily be made to feel guilty about the American past, and despite great efforts by university social science departments, it is not so easy to get them to feel aggrieved by it either.

An unforeseen aspect of the wokeness phenomenon is how many new immigrants, or children of new immigrants, are playing critical roles in pushing back against it. Optimistic “immigrants are socially conservative” arguments have bandied around pro-immigration Republicans for decades (I was never one of them), but no one predicted the polemical vitality and occasional brilliance that would emerge from newer Americans as wokeness pushed into the center of the national agenda. Any list of names will leave out dozens, but those paying attention know that writers and activists as distinct in style and ideology as Andy Ngo, Wesley Yang, Zaid Jilani, Harmeet Dhillon, Sohrab Ahmari, and Melissa Chen—to pick a half dozen at random—are not only important in the pushback against wokeness, but that their arrival at the battlefield was an absolutely necessary reinforcement. Of course one could point to comparable numbers of woke leftists of recent immigrant background, but compared to their conservative counterparts they don’t seem important or agenda setting to a movement emotionally centered on black and white Americans.

Indeed, if one wanted to design a movement explicitly to alienate Asian Americans, it would be hard to improve on the woke’s agenda on law enforcement and schools. Some consequences of the war on cops and so-called “over-incarceration” were predictable: Police would retreat from proactive policing, and crime would rise. But no one foresaw that this would produce a surge in crime against Asians. The mainstream media took great pains to obfuscate the most salient aspects of this trend. Stories about it invariably mentioned former President Trump’s depiction of Covid-19 as the “China virus” so as to imply without saying that the hate crime perpetrators were white Trump supporters. Always highlighted was the horrific case of the white man who murdered several Asian massage parlor workers and others of different races on a killing spree apparently prompted by feelings of sexual guilt. But the reality is that what is experienced by many as an open season on vulnerable Asian Americans in our cities is driven by the same group that commits most American street crime.

One must assume Asian Americans know this. Last summer’s New York Times Magazine story about the murder of a Thai grandfather in San Francisco quoted his son-in-law, who had begun attending anti-Asian-hate rallies in the Bay Area and asking how many people there had been pushed or spat on, and by whom. Yes, many, was the response, always by a black person. This Times piece acknowledged, with seeming reluctance, that hate crimes against Asians were “more likely” to be committed by non-white people. A former Oakland police captain relates that suspects in anti-Asian hate crimes are almost exclusively black. In New York City, black people are six times more likely to commits hate crimes than white people, and comprise half the suspects in anti-Asian attacks. In the all too common videos of such attacks that show up on social media, the perpetrators are almost always black.

The tensions between the groups have roots which have not been systematically explored, but were evident as early as the racially incendiary 1990 boycott of Korean grocery stores in Brooklyn and the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Of course, all ethnic and racial groups suffer from rising crime, and those in black neighborhoods are numerically most victimized by it. But in the past year of racial reckoning, the surge in anti-Asian hate crimes does, to say the least, complicate the woke narrative of an ascendant Rainbow coalition struggling to overcome white supremacy.

***

Everyone opposes hate crimes, and it requires some deductive reasoning to connect liberal campaigns against proactive policing, bail reform to keep suspects out of incarceration, progressive district attorneys determined to reduce the number of black Americans jailed for “minor” offenses, and the broader war on cops, to the surge in criminal attacks on vulnerable citizens.

The education issue is far more direct. For years, progressive educators have railed against standardized tests as barriers to racial equity. They have won some stunning recent victories: The University of California has ceased using the SAT as means for sorting applicants, and hundreds of other colleges have followed suit.

The SAT has not been discredited as a metric for determining the likelihood of a student succeeding academically; for that it has no equal. Its problem is a political one: Standardized test results reveal with considerable precision how much of a leg up is given to black students in college admissions competition over white and especially Asian students. The frequent result is a mismatch between student and institution where black students have less developed academic skills than their classmates, with many pooling in the bottom of the class. Some of the most notorious instances of woke cancel culture deployed against truthful speech have occurred when professors who had noticed and lamented these facts were hunted down by leftist students and subsequently dismissed from their jobs.

But in terms of potential to spark a widespread disaffection, the five decades long dispute over affirmative action in college admissions will pale next to the battles over the use of standardized tests for granting admission to academically selective high schools and curricula. In the past year of racial reckoning, the use of student standardized test scores for admission has been dropped or rolled back in Lowell High School in San Francisco, the Boston Latin School, and Thomas Jefferson High school in northern Virginia. Outgoing New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio sought unsuccessfully to have the tests banned entirely for its top schools, the storied Stuyvesant and Bronx High School of Science, and is still maneuvering to reduce the percentage of students admitted to those schools by exam only. His rationale is that they aren’t sufficiently diverse—at this point more Asians pass the exams than other groups and black students do so at comparatively low rates.

Not surprisingly, Asian parents from New York to California have begun to mobilize politically and legally to combat what is quite plainly an effort to tilt a level playing field against their children. (In San Francisco their pressure has at least temporarily kept in place the exam as criterion for admission to Lowell.) In picking a fight against the exam high schools, Democratic politicians following the woke playbook have chosen to attack an institution vitally important to one of the country’s most dynamic and academically successful immigrant groups. For the first time since the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act, grassroots organizations of Asian parents are at odds with Democratic politicians.

Wai Wah Chin, president of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, observes (in an interview on Glenn Loury’s podcast) that De Blasio and other Democrats pitch their campaign against the high performance schools in the language of representation, claiming that the student bodies of Bronx Science and Stuyvesant are not “representative” of New York. (Former New York schools chancellor Richard Carranza had gone further, warning Asian parents to back down with the menacing formulation that “no ethnic group owns admission to these schools.”) In response, Chin makes the necessary point: The kids who pass the rigorous math and verbal exams are not “representing” anyone but themselves. They have studied as individuals and take the exam as individuals, representing not a community but their own efforts. She adds that the student’s family or community might feel pride in their accomplishment; one could add that all Americans might feel proud of these incredibly successful schools. Graduates of Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech have won an extraordinary 14 Nobel Prizes in the sciences, more than many countries. Wai Wah Chin’s assertion stands directly against the racial essentialism that lies at the core of wokeness.

The issue is broader than the select exam schools which admit the cream of the student crop. There is a nationwide movement to eliminate tracking of students by ability. California, following San Francisco’s lead, is eliminating the teaching of algebra to eighth graders, which means far fewer public school students will have the opportunity to take calculus in high school. This will narrow the pipeline of students who might go on to pursue STEM majors in college and in their careers. The rationale for such changes is always the woke watchword “equity,” followed by lamentations that white and Asian students are overrepresented in advanced math courses. But of course parents of bright students want their kids to be challenged in school, and inevitably America as a whole will suffer if they are not. As one California math teacher put it, “I feel so bad for these students. We are cutting the legs of the students to make them equal to those who are not doing well in math.”

But if recent social history shows anything, it is that parents will fight harder over the education of their children than almost any issue. All over the country, parent groups are mobilizing—Asian parent groups often in the lead. As school questions emerge as hot button political issues, it will become apparent that the woke project of dumbing down schools to promote equity will fare no better than defunding the police.

***

The most widely noted defection from the anti-whiteness coalition comes from Latinos, emerging as the second largest demographic group in the country. Long viewed as the bedrock of any leftist Rainbow Coalition, there were certainly enough visible left-wing Latinos in academia to give this a certain plausibility. But it’s not turning out that way. Latinos remain a largely Democratic constituency, voting roughly 60 percent for Biden over Donald Trump. But this is a 16 percent drop from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 levels, a remarkable shift.

Polling shows Hispanics lukewarm towards the Black Lives Matter movement, favoring it at lower rates than whites did (the question was posed at a time when support for BLM was assumed to be the only possible opinion for decent people). Latinos oppose reparations and defunding the police, core components of the woke agenda, by more than 2-1 margins. As Ruy Teixeira, a long time proponent of the view that Hispanic immigration was a key to solid Democratic majorities, recently put it, “clearly this constituency does not harbor particularly radical views on the nature of American society and its supposed intrinsic racism and white supremacy.” Others noted that Hispanics are now jailed at lower rates than white Americans, and are increasingly employed in law enforcement.

Few discern specific issues for the shift, though it is unlikely that woke efforts to neuter the Spanish language with terms like “Latinx” have attracted more Latinos and Latinas to the Democrats. Might the trend continue towards transforming Hispanics into a group politically analogous to Reagan Democrats—that is, a formerly Democratic working- and middle-class constituency that now votes GOP? It seems improbable, but no one predicted that a candidate could be as tough on border enforcement as Donald Trump and experience a dramatic gain in Latino votes.

The fundamental political error of wokeness lies in its judgement about how popular a movement based on anti-whiteness is likely to be in a nation increasingly less European in ancestry. Immigrants have come to America for many reasons, but a hatred of “white supremacy” is probably nowhere near the top for the vast majority. One could easily surmise that many of them are motivated by appreciation of the very qualities wokeness either deplores or works to undermine: law and order, careers open to talents, advanced levels of science and technology—and the legal and cultural structures that make those things possible.

A passage from David Reiff’s book on Los Angeles from more than three decades ago comes to mind: In the coda of one chapter, Rieff describes a billboard for a Mexican beer, then visible in nearly every Mexican town, which touts the product as “a high class blonde,” double meaning very much intended. It played on aspiration, the kind that prompted men from Mexican small towns to decamp for Mexico City, or ultimately to Los Angeles, “the greatest blonde of all.”

One of the more provocative interpretations of the origins of the relatively new movement to bring critical race theory into the teaching of elementary and high school students was suggested, almost as an aside, by Wesley Yang. Sometime in the late 2000s or early 2010s, the left looked at Latino immigration and realized that a considerable degree of assimilation was actually happening: that the Latino working class was not drinking in the vaguely Marxist ideologies incubating in university ethnic studies departments, and that there was actually a possibility—perceived by the left as a danger—that just as (according to ethnic studies phraseology popular on the left) Irish and Italian immigrants had been “allowed to become white,” the same thing was happening to non-European immigrants as well. Critical race theory thus developed as a kind of reaction, to indoctrinate school-aged children of the new immigration into a kind of racial essentialism, to deflect them from an assimilationist path.

Yang’s suggestion would correlate with Eric Kaufmann’s argument in Whiteshift, a detailed and comprehensive study of demographic transformations and evolving racial attitudes likely to occur in the West. Intermarriage rates between white Americans and new immigrants or their children are fairly high, and over time the boundaries of whiteness will expand—American and other Western majorities won’t be exclusively white any longer, but they will have some connection to white ancestry; they will acknowledge and feel cultural ties to the traditional heroes of their nations. This may be an overly optimistic view, but recent American elections do nothing to contradict it.

***

What does that mean for the trajectory of wokeness? If one is inclined towards optimism, one can see signs that the movement has already peaked. Clearly the national conversation is not where it was in the summer of 2020. Andrew Sullivan wrote recently how he was cheered by the HBO mini-series The White Lotus, in which the obvious villains were two highly privileged very woke college students. A similar point could be made about The Chair, a miniseries about an Asian-American woman (starring and co-produced by Sandra Oh) assuming the English department chairmanship of a Williams or Amherst type college; there too the villains are Red Guard type students who concoct spurious accusations of “Nazism” against an undisciplined professor, who is portrayed sympathetically. Would either have been aired last year? The New York Times, having last year pushed out Bari Weiss and James Bennet to appease woke staffers, suddenly found the will to give a small slot in its opinion page roster to John McWhorter, author of a brilliant book hostile to wokeness.

It can be notoriously difficult to read accurately the tenor of one’s own times. Historians can point to many private letters of learned people written well before the darkest nights of communism and Nazism, assuring one another that the worst was certainly over and things would soon improve. Still, it strikes me that America’s liberal elite is beginning to find wokeness a bit embarrassing. What does the president of Yale really think about his diversity deans publicly threatening a law student for sending an email that used the phrase “trap house”?

The actual number of the woke remains small—perhaps 6 percent of the population, according to Pew surveys of American political attitudes. It is educated, it is mostly white, it is heavily concentrated in the media and universities. But it isn’t powerful enough to control the country if majorities are mobilized to resist it.

Overcoming wokeness will require real political will and courage, as well as legislation. At some point there will need to be a successful legal challenge to the idea that disparate income and disproportionate racial outcomes by themselves constitute sufficient evidence of racial discrimination, but that too is in the realm of the possible. As voters from New York City to Buffalo to Seattle showed without ambiguity, when wokeness is on the ballot and opposed vigorously, it loses. In activism and voting patterns, America’s most rapidly growing demographic groups are largely showing themselves indifferent or actively hostile to woke policies. If the tide is indeed turning, in a few years wokeness will be more mocked than celebrated. If not, America’s long reign as a relatively successful country will end.


How Democracies Perish

A failure of American nerve

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

President Biden Delivers Remarks At Summit For Democracy
Getty Images

“Democracy needs champions,” President Biden said on December 9 as he called to order his summit of democracies. It sure does. Yet Biden has a funny way of championing it.

Less than a year into his term, the number of global democracies has already decreased by one. Two others are under threat of invasion and extinction. What happened in Afghanistan, and what might happen to Ukraine and Taiwan, is a reminder that democracies do not vanish because of a failure to pass a partisan agenda or win an election. They die when the rule of law collapses. And that can happen in two ways. A polity can descend into anarchy. Or an adversarial force can replace a democratic state’s monopoly on violence with its own.

Both threats are serious. The risk of internal decay was manifest in the riots of 2020 and the storming of Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021. The moment demands that both Republicans and Democrats recommit to the rule of law, to constitutional deliberation and procedure, to empirical evidence, and to civil peace. But domestic challenges should not blind us to external dangers.

Otto von Bismarck once joked that the United States is blessed to be bordered on two sides by allies and on the other two sides by fish. Not every democracy is as lucky. The fate of freedom elsewhere is tenuous. For the last 80 years, American power and American security guarantees have sustained and expanded the ranks of democratic nations. The tinier and more fragile the state, the more hazardous its neighborhood, the more it depends on American aid and American strength. Remove America from the equation, and the jackals take its place.

That is what happened when America cut off aid to South Vietnam in 1975. It is what happened only a few months ago when President Biden overruled his national security team and the generals on the ground and withdrew U.S. forces from Afghanistan with no plan for the evacuation of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents as the Taliban advanced. Was the democratically elected government of Afghanistan flawed and corrupt? Yes. Was its control limited to the major cities? You bet. Did it nevertheless provide countless Afghans (population of Kabul: four million) a measure of freedom, security, and opportunity in which they could pursue their destinies in peace? Incontrovertibly.

And it’s gone. Because Biden lacked the will to sustain a relatively low deployment of U.S. troops to aid Afghan forces. America’s weary democracy endures. Afghanistan’s does not. And the man who condemned Afghanistan to misery—and who incidentally also had no problem abandoning South Vietnam to one-party Communist rule—now says the contest between authoritarianism and liberal democracy will define the twenty-first century. What he says is right. But what he does is wrong. Terribly wrong.

Consider Ukraine. It too is a democracy—and it too must be worried about Biden’s resolve. For the second time this year, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has built up his forces across Ukraine’s eastern border. A Russian invasion is a real, if unlikely, possibility. Putin is not “securing his border,” as if Ukrainians were entering Russia illegally looking for work. There isn’t any. Nor does Putin “feel threatened” by NATO. He’s the one making the threats. He’s the one who annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014. He’s the one raising the prospect of a major military operation against an independent state. It’s funny how many of America’s most famous “nationalists” don’t seem to be bothered by imperialism, so long as the imperialists speak Russian.

President Biden is vocal in defense of Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence. But he is also playing into Putin’s strategy of “reflexive control.” Biden agreed to a video teleconference with Putin that had one upshot: elevating the autocrat’s status. Biden warns of sanctions, an end to pipeline construction, and reinforcement of NATO allies in Eastern Europe. The trouble is that the measures would happen only if Putin invades. At this point Biden has done nothing concrete, has established no facts on the ground, to dissuade Putin from his present course. On the contrary: According to the AP, Biden wants Ukraine to recognize the “autonomy” of Russian-backed separatist zones. According to Bloomberg, he wants NATO members to negotiate with Russia over the future of the alliance.

Biden wants to avert war by naming potential reprisals. This is like telling your kid to behave or else you will send him to his room. Chances are he won’t listen. Why? Because he’s heard the same thing many times before without lasting consequences.

“I will look you in the eye and tell you, as President Biden looked President Putin in the eye and told him today, that things we did not do in 2014 we are prepared to do now,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said to the White House press corps on Pearl Harbor Day. Let’s hope so. Whatever President Obama did seven years ago—and he didn’t do much—had no discernible effect on Putin. Why then should Putin be worried about Obama’s former vice president—especially since Biden currently opposes sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, hasn’t yet retaliated against Russian-backed cyberattacks, and is going out of his way to address Putin’s phony grievances?

Deterrence doesn’t run on promissory notes. Deterrence raises the cost of hostile action in the here and now. Which is why Biden’s video conference was a mistake, and why his preemptively ruling out U.S. boots on the ground was too. No one wants or expects the commitment of U.S. forces in the case of Russo-Ukrainian war—but no one should tell Putin he doesn’t have to worry about that possibility either. Deterrence is about keeping Putin on his toes: by calling for real increases in the defense budget, by reinforcing the Baltic states sooner rather than later, by selling drones and other lethal materiel to Ukraine, by pledging construction of additional liquefied natural gas facilities in Poland, Ukraine, and Latvia.

What’s happening in Ukraine today is the result of what happened in Afghanistan over the summer. And what might happen in Taiwan in the coming years depends on what happens in Ukraine now. The failure of American nerve in Afghanistan caught the attention of authoritarians everywhere (including in Iran). They watched as America bolted and a democracy collapsed. They saw that democracies don’t live or die on talk. Democracies live or die upon their willingness to use force to defend their way of life. And that willingness, in turn, depends on the leadership and support and resolve of the world’s oldest, richest, and most powerful constitutional democracy.

This isn’t theory—ask the Afghans. Democracies perish when America bugs out.


The Sense of an Ending

Is America—and the world—prepared for what comes next?

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

Supreme Court
Getty Images

On December 1 the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. At issue is the constitutionality of a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Judging by the media reaction, things did not go well for the pro-choice side. “The Supreme Court Seems Poised to Overturn Roe v. Wade,” reads one Bloomberg headline. “‘Roe’ is dead. The Roberts Court’s ‘stench’ will live forever,” reads the title of a Washington Post column. The headline of another Washington Post article puts it this way: “The question is not whether ‘Roe v. Wade’ is overturned—but how.” Pro-lifers hope so.

I remain unconvinced. It’s never a good idea to infer a final ruling from the content of oral argument. In March 2012 everyone walked away from arguments in NFIB v. Sebelius, judging the constitutionality of Obamacare, assuming that the health care law was doomed. They underestimated Chief Justice John Roberts’s creativity. The same thing could happen in Dobbs: Roberts may use his smarts and guile to persuade other Republican appointees that the Mississippi law can stand without overturning the right to an abortion in Roe. Such a ruling would be illogical. It would be a jurisprudential mess. It would further aggrandize the Court’s power to decide when and under what circumstances abortion is legal. It would look, in other words, like plenty of other Supreme Court decisions.

Whatever happens, I find I cannot escape the sense that America has reached an impasse, that it has arrived at a moment of transition, and not just on the matter of abortion. Whether one looks at politics, economics, or the world, one sees a realignment of forces, a shuffling of players off and on the stage, to prepare for the next act in the drama. The Trump presidency seems less like the harbinger of a new beginning than a spectacular climax to a historical epoch. If so, we are living through a sort of denouement, a working through of conflicts left unresolved. “It feels like the order we have all taken for granted since the end of the Cold War is badly decaying, and has gotten so fragile that it might well shatter soon,” wrote Damir Marusic of Wisdom of Crowds last month. Question is: What replaces it?

If the Court does overrule Roe next summer, America will have entered uncharted territory. Many states will ban abortion immediately. Others will legalize it for the duration of a pregnancy. Still others will restrict and limit the practice. Abortion will be a matter for legislatures—including the U.S. Congress. Both Democrats and Republicans believe that abortion would become a major issue in next year’s midterm campaign, with unforeseeable consequences. Would a pro-choice backlash help Democrats? Perhaps. Then again, some of us thought that Texas’s fetal heartbeat law might help Democrats in Virginia and New Jersey. That didn’t happen.

Conversely, if the Court does preserve Roe, many conservatives and Republicans fear a pro-life backlash directed at the GOP infrastructure and conservative legal movement. No less an authority than former attorney general Ed Meese wrote in the Washington Post that the “success” of constitutional originalism depends on the Court’s ruling in Dobbs. Tension already is high within the conservative legal movement over former president Donald Trump, his attempt to remain in office, and the intellectual challenges from “common-good” constitutionalists and from advocates of judicial “engagement” over “restraint.” A disappointing ruling may not only deflate Republican enthusiasm, but also turn grassroots conservatives in more radical directions.

Either way, our constitutional system and its parties, ideologies, and politics will look different from before. And this change will happen concurrently with a transition in leadership. As of this writing, 19 House Democrats have announced their retirements. More will follow. It is widely expected that the 81-year-old Nancy Pelosi will retire after the midterm election, even if Democrats somehow keep the House of Representatives. Should we really expect the 82-year-old majority leader and 81-year-old majority whip to remain in their jobs? The belief that the 79-year-old President Joe Biden won’t run for reelection in 2024 is so pervasive that the White House scrambles desperately to calm Democratic nerves. For a party that maintains the allegiance of young people, the Democratic leadership class is disturbingly old. It will have to give up power. And the Democrats waiting in the wings are not what you’d call inspiring.

As these generational fights play out, both the Democratic and Republican parties face the internal challenges of their respective countercultures. The woke neo-socialist left and the national populist right disrupt and polarize, complicating the chances that the electorate will arrive at a non-crazy, common-sense politics of moderate reform and civil peace. The mindless controversies over outlandish personalities, the endless and sophomoric exchanges of social media call-out culture, distract attention from the new issues in political economy that ought to be the basis of policy discussion.

And these issues really are new. The air is so thick with neologisms that I barely can keep up: SPACs, DeFi, NFTs, BTC. It would be foolish to expect government to understand these innovations in finance any better than the rest of us. Meanwhile, millions of Americans have quit their jobs during the recovery. Inflation cuts into earnings. The political class has signed up the developed world for an “energy transition” whose costs dwarf potential benefits.

Congress is nowhere close to figuring out how to deal with Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google. And AI and quantum computing are coming down the pike. One doesn’t have to go the full Andrew Yang to recognize that the worlds of work, saving, investment, production, and trade look much different than they did just a few years ago. The problem isn’t identifying the change. It’s thinking about the change in constructive and original ways that promote human flourishing in the valued places of family, church, neighborhood, and vocation. There’s been work done in this space. But it hasn’t received the attention it deserves. Why? Because the loudmouths, grifters, cranks, and conspiracists drown it out.

Democracies can muddle through political and economic disruption. Foreign policy is different. The prospect of catastrophic miscalculation is real. President Biden’s foolish and botched withdrawal from Afghanistan looks more and more like a curtain-call for the post-Cold War era of American global leadership. It ought to be obvious that his retreat failed to improve American security. Russia and China have become more aggressive in recent months. Iran has accelerated its nuclear program. Belarus aimed its migration weapon at Poland. The Balkans fell back into bad and deadly habits.

China builds up its nuclear weapons cache as it sails a submarine through the Taiwan Strait. Russia shoots down a satellite as it builds up forces on the border of Ukraine. Vladimir Putin’s recent comments about Russia’s strong relationship with China are the most disturbing and underreported aspect of rising tensions in Eastern Europe. Putin and Xi Jinping seem to have assessed that America has become so decrepit, so inward-looking, so guilt-ridden and risk-averse that the moment has arrived to make the world safe for autocracy. Biden’s response is weak sauce. Holding a summit of democracies may be worthwhile. But it certainly is not a deterrent.

From the Court to Crimea, the past week offered glimpses of the different world we soon will be inhabiting. Not all the images are comforting. They remind us to temper our expectations, avoid rash judgments, and be modest in our presumptions. Above all, they remind us to think seriously about how best to preserve our traditions of freedom in these strange and darkening times.


The Vaporware Summit

President Biden rewards a hostile China

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

Biden Xi
President Biden and (on the monitor) Chinese president Xi Jinping / Getty Images

And you think your Zoom calls are important. On the evening of November 15, President Biden spoke over video for three and a half hours with China’s autocrat Xi Jinping. The “virtual summit” was held online because Xi hasn’t left China since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic two years ago. According to official readouts of the conversation, Biden and Xi talked to one another warmly. They covered a lot of ground—everything from ICBMs to global energy supplies. They took the first steps toward improved relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Global media amplified this official message. “The Biden-Xi Summit Was Actually Kind of a Big Deal,” read one headline in Slate.

Don’t believe it. Biden’s tête-à-tête with Xi Jinping was less constructive and more harmful than his in-person visit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin in June. At least Biden got something, however insignificant, from that earlier encounter with authoritarianism. The United States and the Russian Federation issued a brief joint statement on nuclear “strategic stability.” They established a “Strategic Stability Dialogue” that would “lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures.” The dialogue began in September. Will it go anywhere? Probably not. But the mind-numbing diplomatic process has started. And it involves real people, meeting in real five-star hotels, in real European cities.

That’s not the case with China. The only thing Xi gave Biden was a pledge to make a pledge sometime in the future. The virtual summit was vaporware—the promise of a possible conversation that doesn’t yet exist and most likely never will. At a Brookings Institution event on November 16, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the two heads of state decided to “look to begin to carry forward discussion on strategic stability.” Try saying that diplomatic tongue-twister three times fast. It’s the equivalent of a contestant on The Bachelor gushing, “I think I’m maybe beginning to fall in love with you.” I translate Sullivan’s gobbledygook this way: Xi and Biden had a conversation about having a conversation about China’s rising stockpile of nuclear warheads and the threat it poses to global security and nonproliferation. Nothing more.

This doesn’t even rise to the level of negotiating for the sake of negotiating. It’s talking about having negotiations for the sake of … well, what exactly? Talking some more? Reminding Xi of all the good times he spent on the phone with Biden a decade ago? Apparently, at the outset of the discussion, Xi used a friendly idiom to describe the U.S. president. Whoop-de-do. Does that signal a meaningful change in China’s behavior on trade, the pandemic, Hong Kong, Xinjiang, North Korea, and Taiwan? Of course not.

On the contrary: The most powerful, ideological, and despotic ruler of China since Mao Zedong used this opportunity to remind the U.S. president that the only guarantee of good relations with the PRC is to get out of its way. Even more worrisome, Xi Jinping repeated his threats against Taiwan, but with a twist, saying, “We are patient and willing to do our utmost to strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification with the utmost sincerity, but if separatist forces provoke and force the issue, or even break through the red line, we will have to take decisive measures.” He also said the United States is playing with fire. And “whoever plays with fire will get burned.”

The Obama veterans who work for Joe Biden have trouble enforcing red lines. Xi Jinping does not. He used similar language in 2017, warning Hongkongers not to challenge the mainland’s sovereignty and Chinese Communist Party control. And, sure enough, when a protest movement emerged in Hong Kong in 2019, Xi crushed it.

Notice, too, how Xi blames Taiwan for cross-strait tensions even as his air force violates Taiwanese airspace with impunity. His message is that China’s policies will remain the same and that it is Biden’s responsibility to rein in Taiwan and to not provoke the mainland. Some “friend.”

Journalists close to the administration emphasize the personal exchanges between Biden and Xi rather than the content, or lack thereof, of the meeting itself. “Monday night’s discussion touched the bedrock of what matters most in the U.S.-China relationship,” wrote David Ignatius of the Washington Post, “and it was at least a beginning of something that could reduce the risk of a global catastrophe.” If Monday really was a beginning, it was not auspicious. Ignatius himself quotes Biden aides “who recalled that when the two men met at Sunnylands, Calif., in 2013, while Biden was vice president, the Chinese leader had raised the possibility of new measures for crisis prevention between the two countries. Little came of that opening.”

Less will come of this one. The vaporware summit was a return to an earlier model of Sino-American relations: the two nations play nice and pretend one isn’t at the other’s throat. It was also a reminder that, since the fall of Afghanistan, President Biden has spurned the China hawks for China doves. The Economist reports that in early September, as the administration reeled from its ignominious and self-inflicted defeat in Central Asia, Xi Jinping “was shockingly testy at the start of a telephone call with Mr. Biden.” Then in late September the United States assented to the swap of imprisoned Huawei executive Meng Wenzhou for two Canadian businessmen held hostage since 2018. On October 7, Jake Sullivan met with Chinese foreign secretary Yang Jiechi in Switzerland to find areas “where the United States and the PRC have an interest in working together.” And on November 10, the United States and China issued a joint declaration to fight climate change.

Words on a page. Another statement China will ignore. This summit was a gift to Xi as he consolidates rule ahead of next year’s winter Olympics in Beijing and his anticipated (and unprecedented) third term as China’s leader. Biden has done nothing to make China pay for its pandemic cover up. He hasn’t increased the defense budget in real terms. He hasn’t further restricted Chinese investment in the U.S. economy. “China’s leaders still want investment and technology from the West,” writes the Economist‘s correspondent, “but they think it is in decadent decline and are decoupling from Western norms and ideas.” America’s leader has done nothing to make them think otherwise.


The Forever War Isn’t Over

The Afghan debacle just marks a new, more murderous phase

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

Getty Images

“I’m now the fourth American president to preside over war in Afghanistan—two Democrats and two Republicans,” President Biden said during his speech on August 16. “I will not pass this responsibly on— responsibility on to a fifth president.” He needn’t have corrected himself. He did indeed irresponsibly bequeath to his successor a terrible situation in central Asia.

The best-case scenario, according to Biden, would look like this: Afghanistan’s reversion to Islamofascism fades from the international headlines. The Taliban understands that its continued rule depends on its ability to prevent terrorists from launching attacks from its territory. America goes back to fighting over masks and vaccinations and “building back better,” or whatever.

But the best-case scenario is an illusion. Why? Because the war isn’t over. Afghanistan is just one front in a global conflict that the United States did not initiate and cannot wish away. The Cold War did not end when the South Vietnamese government collapsed. Nor will the war on terror or the “Long War” or the “Forever War” cease with Taliban control of Afghanistan. When participants in the worldwide Salafist-jihadist movement look at the developments of the last week, they don’t see reasons to quit their mayhem. They see the chaos, panic, violence, disorder, and American retreat as a vindication of their ideology and a spur to further action.

It’s happened before. North Vietnam’s victory over the South did not make communism less expansionist or revolutionary. On the contrary: Laos fell to the Communists, Cambodia was subjected to the barbarism of the Khmer Rouge, Cuba sent advisers to the pro-Communist People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola, the Sandinistas overthrew the anti-Communist Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, and a pro-Communist insurgency took root in El Salvador. The relentless humiliations that followed America’s defeat in Vietnam ended Jimmy Carter’s presidency. They did not stop until Ronald Reagan shifted the nation’s course.

Or try a more recent example. When America removed its troops from Iraq at the end of 2011 and failed to enforce its red line against the use of chemical weapons in Syria in 2013, the Middle East did not become less violent or pathological or dangerous. It was only a matter of time before ISIS overran the Iraqi cities of Falluja, Ramadi, and Mosul. On June 29, 2014, the terrorist army’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, announced the formation of a caliphate. Then ISIS moved toward Baghdad and enslaved and massacred Iraq’s Yazidi population along the way.

So terrible was ISIS that in August 2014 President Obama intervened against it with airstrikes—an intervention that continued, with greater success, under Obama’s successor. As I write, the caliphate is no more, Baghdadi is dead, and Iraq has another shot at a better future. There are 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq and some 900 in Syria. This is not a coincidence.

How long, then, before U.S. forces return to Afghanistan? I recognize that it might feel a little silly to ask such a question at this moment. Biden already has deployed more troops to Afghanistan to evacuate civilians than were there when he gave the order to leave. Let’s say, though, that the withdrawal is completed without incident—a questionable assumption—and that there are no Americans in Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. What happens next?

The first thing to note is that the Taliban faces rebellion. Demonstrations against the return of the Islamic militia have been met with violence. They may increase in number. Meanwhile, the son of the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, the legendary anti-Taliban mujahid who was murdered two days before 9/11, has announced the renewal of his family’s resistance campaign. Just as the Taliban never surrendered after the U.S. intervention, neither will the former partisans of the Northern Alliance acquiesce to the collapse of Kabul. Afghanistan is too geographically and ethnically diverse to submit easily to the domination of one party.

Even a low-grade civil conflict will draw in other powers. The list of interested parties begins with nuclear-armed Pakistan and includes Iran, Russia, China, and India. America will be forced to pay attention and likely will become involved. After all, the fate of Afghanistan is part of the “great power competition” that President Biden said he cares about.

Biden also said he’s “adamant that we focus on the threats we face today in 2021—not yesterday’s threats.” And the “terrorist threat,” he went on, “has metastasized well beyond Afghanistan.” He didn’t acknowledge that one of the reasons the threat spread out of Afghanistan was that for 20 years America denied it a base there. Now that the Taliban is in, and the Americans are out, the elements of al Qaeda and ISIS in Afghanistan today will be joined by more holy warriors.https://ddc8dde6090d8332df22f7d8a904db36.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Not to worry, though, said Biden. “We conduct effective counterterrorism missions against terrorist groups in multiple countries where we don’t have a permanent military presence.” And we can do the same thing in Afghanistan, he continued, because “we’ve developed counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States in the region and to act quickly and decisively if needed.”

Let’s hope he’s right. The problem with his argument is that America does have a “military presence” in north and east Africa, Syria, and Iraq, as well as in Turkey, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, and elsewhere. And America does have a naval presence in the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, and Indian Ocean. Our eyes are “firmly fixed” on bad spots in the Middle East and North Africa because we are nearby. The horizon over which our counterterrorism forces must travel is short. That won’t be the case in Afghanistan.

Biden created a situation in which America has neither boots nor eyes on the ground in a landlocked, mountainous country thousands of miles from port and surrounded by unfriendly states. Unlike 20 years ago, China and Russia are strong and adversarial and looking for opportunities to embarrass the United States. Every threat or attack that emanates from Afghanistan will testify to U.S. stupidity and weakness. Furthermore, the Taliban, even as it is dogged by internal opposition, will command more territory and field stronger forces than any of the Salafist-jihadist outfits scraping by in the ungoverned and contested spaces of the Maghreb, the Sahel, the Levant, and the Arabian Peninsula. Our intelligence capabilities will be hobbled and our response time lengthened.

This dispiriting assessment doesn’t include the propaganda boon to the Salafist-jihadist cause. Kabul will be transformed from an island of modernity to the global capital of anti-Western jihad. International terrorism flourished alongside the Islamic State. It manifested in spectacular, mass-casualty attacks in Paris, Marseilles, San Bernardino, Orlando, and Manchester. “For a long time now Islamist movements have defined the creation of an ‘Islamic state’ as their goal and standard for achievement,” writes former State Department official Charles H. Fairbanks. “A state provides a better terrorist sanctuary, and has far more versatile capabilities, than a movement.” A state gives a movement safe harbor, institutional support, and physical inspiration for “lone wolves” in the West to murder unbelievers. Such a state is what the Taliban will build in America’s place.

“I made a commitment to the American people when I ran for president that I would bring America’s military involvement in Afghanistan to an end,” Biden said. “And while it’s been hard and messy—and yes, far from perfect—I’ve honored that commitment.” Yes, he has. The Taliban’s military involvement in Afghanistan, however, continues in our absence. And so the Afghan people are left to suffer, the world watches agog, and America is vulnerable to resurgent Islamic extremism. The Forever War isn’t over—it’s entered a new phase. Where the enemy has the upper hand.


Will America Defend Taiwan? Here’s What History Says

By Ian EastonHoover Institution

In December 1949, Chiang Kai-shek moved the capitol of the Republic of China (ROC) to Taipei. He intended the relocation to be temporary. He had already moved his government multiple times: when the Empire of Japan invaded China, when World War II ended, and again when Mao Zedong’s Communist insurgents took the upper hand in the Chinese Civil War.

To Chiang’s eyes, Taiwan was the perfect place to refit his tattered forces and prepare them for the long struggle ahead to defeat the Communists. The main island was protected by dozens of tiny island citadels, many just off the mainland coast, and surrounded by famously rough waters. While Chiang’s army had sustained crushing battlefield defeats and mass defections, he believed his superior navy and air force would make Taiwan an impregnable fortress.

The events that followed presented successive U.S. presidents with some of the most consequential foreign policy questions ever confronted by America’s leaders. During the decades since 1949, there have been several incidents that tested whether or not Washington was willing to confront the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and support Taiwan. If past is prologue, how the United States responded to previous crises might say something important about what it will do in the future. So, what does the historical record say? What might we expect to see if China attacks Taiwan in the 2020s or beyond?

The Korean War

On January 12, 1950, U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson gave a speech in which he suggested that America no longer intended to defend its erstwhile allies the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Republic of China (Taiwan). According to Acheson, those governments were outside of America’s defensive perimeter in Asia. His speech encouraged the newly established People’s Republic of China (PRC) to accelerate plans to invade Taiwan. But before Mao Zedong and his generals could act, their North Korean ally Kim Il-sung launched an invasion of South Korea.

On learning of the attack, President Harry Truman decided that the U.S. would defend both Korea and Taiwan, and ordered the U.S. Navy to forestall the CCP from attacking the ROC’s last redoubt. On June 29, 1950, an American aircraft carrier, heavy cruiser, and eight destroyers sailed into the Taiwan Strait to conduct a show of force within visual range of Communist forces arrayed along the mainland coast. Soon thereafter, armed American seaplanes were stationed on the Penghu Islands and began to search for any hostile movements toward Taiwan.

To further enhance its early-warning picture, the U.S. sent submarines to monitor Chinese ports across from Taiwan, areas where enemy vessels were expected to marshal if an invasion was imminent. In addition, four American destroyers were stationed in Taiwan. Their mission was to patrol near the coast of China, with at least two warships watching around the clock for signs of a pending amphibious assault. The Taiwan Patrol Force, as the mini-surveillance fleet became known, operated continuously for nearly three decades to come.

Soon thereafter, the U.S. established a defense command in Taipei and sent a Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) to Taiwan under the command of a two-star general. This organization was tasked with providing training, logistics, and weapons to the ROC military in order to develop it into a modern fighting force. By 1955, there were tens of thousands of American troops stationed in Taiwan, including over two thousand military advisors, making MAAG the largest of the U.S. advisory groups then deployed around the world. In the following years, MAAG transformed the ROC military into one of Asia’s most capable fighting forces.

The 1954–1955 Taiwan Strait Crisis

In August 1954, the Chinese Communists launched a string of operations against ROC forces along the mainland coast. Mao and his top lieutenants judged that by attacking the offshore islands they could drive Washington and Taipei apart and set the stage for a final invasion of Taiwan. They began by shelling Kinmen and Matsu, island groups located just off the coast of Fujian Province. Not long after, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) launched air and sea raids on the Dachens, a group of islands 200 miles north of Taiwan, near Taizhou in China’s Zhejiang Province.

In November 1954, the PLA encircled Yijiangshan, a ROC island base located at the extreme northern flank of the Dachens. Using modern equipment and tactics from the Soviet Union, the PLA carried out a successful invasion operation, taking the island on January 18, 1955. In response, the U.S. Navy steamed into the area with 70 ships, including seven aircraft carriers. The Americans then launched Operation King Kong, the evacuation of the Dachens. U.S. Marines assisted ROC forces to safely move some 15,000 civilians, 11,000 troops, 125 vehicles, and 165 artillery pieces back to Taiwan with no casualties.

On March 3, 1955, Washington formally cemented a mutual defense treaty with Taipei. President Dwight Eisenhower also received permission from Congress to exercise special powers in the defense of Taiwan, granted by the Formosa Resolution. In May 1955, the PLA stopped shelling Kinmen, and, three months later, the CCP released 11 captured American airmen. The 1954-1955 Taiwan Strait Crisis was over, but the standoff continued.

The 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis

On August 23, 1958, the PLA launched a surprise attack on Kinmen, showering the island group with tens of thousands of shells as a prelude to planned amphibious landings. Beijing sought to test the resolve of the Americans, seeing if the seizure of Kinmen and the threat of war could break the U.S.–ROC alliance apart and demoralize Taiwan. The plan failed almost immediately. ROC military engineers had tunneled deep into Kinmen’s granite, carving out subterranean bunkers and strongholds that allowed the defenders to weather the shelling with few casualties. The PLA made an amphibious assault on the nearby island of Tung Ting and was repulsed. To the north, Communist units launched artillery strikes against the Matsu Islands. But those were just as ineffectual.

The U.S. sent in four aircraft carriers, along with a large number of cruisers, destroyers, submarines, and amphibious ships. The American fleet was equipped with low-yield atom bombs, designed to stop a potential human-wave assault on the islands, a PLA tactic previously seen in Korea. After torpedo boats and artillery began to target ROC Navy ships resupplying Kinmen, the U.S. Navy began escorting the convoys from Taiwan with cruisers and destroyers. On September 18, 1958, American artillery guns were rolled ashore Kinmen, which were capable of firing tactical nuclear shells that could incinerate any invader (the shells were kept aboard U.S. Navy ships located nearby). The colossal guns also fired conventional rounds that increased the garrison’s firepower and morale.

During the crisis, ROC Air Force pilots used new Super Sabre jets and Sidewinder missiles to engage PLA MiG-17s in air-to-air combat. The results were decisive: ROCAF pilots achieved 33 enemy kills in return for the loss of four of their own. On October 6, Beijing announced a cease-fire under pressure from its Soviet allies, who feared the fighting could escalate and go nuclear. The 1958 Crisis was over and Taiwan’s offshore island bases remained undefeated.

The 1995–1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis

In the early 1990s, Taiwan began peacefully transitioning to a democracy. With the Cold War over, it seemed hopeful that the U.S. and other nations would recognize Taiwan as a legitimate, independent country. Taiwan’s president, Lee Teng-hui, publicly signaled that, in his view, the Chinese Civil War was over; Taiwan was now the ROC, the ROC was Taiwan, and his country would no longer claim sovereignty over territory controlled by the authorities in Beijing.

In June 1995, President Lee returned to his alma mater, Cornell University, to announce Taiwan’s plans to hold free and fair elections. The CCP responded by conducting a series of ballistic missile tests, firing rockets into the waters north of Taiwan. In August, the PLA moved a large number of troops to known invasion staging areas, conducted naval exercises, and carried out further missile firings. That November, the Chinese military staged an amphibious assault drill. In March 1996, just before the elections, the PLA fired more ballistic missiles into waters directly off Taiwan’s two largest ports, and implicitly threatened to turn a planned exercise into a real invasion operation.

The U.S. played an important role throughout the crisis. President Bill Clinton responded to Beijing’s provocations by sending two carrier battle groups to waters near Taiwan. The American demonstration succeeded: China backed down, and Taiwan’s elections went ahead as planned. President Lee won the elections with a decisive margin, and the 1995–1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis ended on a positive note. Nonetheless, Taiwan remained diplomatically isolated and has slowly become more vulnerable over time, a trend that continues unabated to present day.

Implications for the Future

While all historical analogies are imperfect, precedents previously set could provide American leaders with a guide in subsequent similar circumstances. The record of past policy decisions made by Washington demonstrates that, when tested, American presidents have always viewed it in their nation’s interest to come to Taiwan’s defense, even amid situations that could have escalated to the level of nuclear warfare. In 1958, for example, Washington was resolved to defend Taiwan against invasion even if that required the use of battlefield atomic weapons—and even if such usage invited nuclear retaliation from the Soviet Union, which was then closely aligned with Beijing.

Perhaps even more notable were those American leadership decisions undertaken in the 1995–1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis. In that instance, the U.S. deployed aircraft carrier battle groups to waters near Taiwan in spite of the fact that the CCP had recently detonated two nuclear warheads at a test site; had carried out multiple tests of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles; and, in backchannel conversations, had implicitly threatened Los Angeles with nuclear attack. The resolve displayed by Washington in 1996 might be considered particularly remarkable given that the U.S. no longer diplomatically recognized Taiwan’s government at the time.

To date, there is no known case in which an American president failed to send forces to support the defense of Taiwan in response to a credible CCP threat. If this track record is indicative of future performance, the years ahead are likely to see the U.S. government continually improve its operational readiness to defend Taiwan in accordance with the evolving threat picture. In times of crisis, American leaders will likely send overwhelming national resources to the Taiwan Strait area and make their commitments to Taiwan’s defense more explicit in hopes of convincing the PRC to deescalate tensions.

Even barring a major political-military crisis, it seems probable that the years ahead will see the U.S. government improve its early-warning intelligence via regular ship, submarine, and aircraft patrols of the Taiwan Strait; more frequent overhead passes of space and near-space platforms; and expanded intelligence sharing arrangements with the Taiwanese security services. It also seems probable that the U.S. will make significant enhancements to its diplomatic, trade, intelligence, and military presence in Taiwan.

It remains an open question whether a Taiwan Patrol Force and MAAG-like organization will be reestablished—let alone an official country-to-country relationship and defensive alliance. But each could be considered past examples of political and military initiatives that, when combined, were successful in helping to deter CCP aggression. Herein we might find positive lessons for the future.


The Parable Of The Hungarian Spider And The Ill-Suited American Fly

By Dr. Miklos K. RadvanyiFrontiers of Freedom

On August 1, 2021, Viktor Orban the long-serving Prime Minister of Hungary posted a photo on Viktor Orban/Facebook with Fox News Channel host Tucker Carlson chatting amicably at the Prime Minister’s official residence situated in the Buda Castle’s historical Carmelite Monastery.  To clarify the situation, Tucker Carlson tweeted:  “We’re in Budapest all this week for Tucker CarlsonTonight and a documentary for Tucker Carlson Originals.  Don’t miss our first show here starting tonight at 8 pm ET on #Fox News.”  

Tucker Carlson’s interest primarily in Viktor Orban personally and secondarily in Hungary harks back to early 2019, when he rightly praised Viktor Orban’s opposition to Angela Merkel’s lax immigration policies.  Yet, Viktor Orban’s resolute opposition to Angela Merkel’s and the European Union’s permissive immigration drive would have been more credible if he would not have granted either the equivalent of green cards or even citizenship to countless well-paying individuals as well as their families from Asia.  His “humanitarian” largesses that mostly favored rich Chinese and Russian citizens have been performed in total secrecy, raising all kinds of rumors about his, his families’ and his close collaborators’ private dealings with tens of thousands of those individuals with overwhelmingly questionable background.

Artificially linking Viktor Orban’s anti-immigration stand to Europe’s declining birth rate in general and Hungary’s abysmal record of steady population decline, he extolled the prime minister thus:  “Hungary’s Leaders actually care about making sure their own people thrive.  Instead of promising the nation’s wealth to every illegal immigrant from the Third World, they’re using tax dollars to uplift their own people, imagine that.”  Again, Tucker Carlson grossly embellished the Hungarian demographic situation.  According to the Central Statistical Office (Hungarian acronyms:  KSH), just in the first two months of 2021, the rate of population decline increased by a steep five percent.  In the same period, the death rate increased by a whopping six-and-a-half percent.  Meanwhile, the number of marriages decreased to 6,877 in the same period.  These trends are nothing new in Hungary.  Since Viktor Orban’s allegedly pro-Hungarian and pro-family policies, close to one million Hungarians left the country either permanently or temporarily.  To add insult to injury, young people declare in unison all over the social media that they do not see their future secured in Hungary and leaving the country permanently.  

Furthermore, in the same vein, Tucker Carlson opined: “Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, has a different idea.  Instead of abandoning Hungary’s young people to the hard-edge libertarianism of Soros and the Clinton Foundation, Orban has decided to affirmatively help Hungarian families grow.”  In this manner, in addition to not reflecting reality, his praise of Viktor Orban’s stand on illegal immigration spookily mirrored Hungarian government propaganda.  As a follow-up to his flattering comments, he invited in February 2019, the Orban-puppet political non-entity Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto to reinforce this narrative on his show.   

To crown his sojourn to Hungary, Tucker Carlson sat down on August 5, 2021, for an interview with Viktor Orban and on August 7, 2021, addressed as the featured speaker the Mathias Corvinus Collegium Symposium, held between August 5th and 7th in the town of Esztergom at the bend of the Danube river.  According to the Director-General of the Collegium, “the biggest name at the Mathias Corvinus Fest will undoubtedly be Tucker Carlson.”  Both his interview and his speech were unmitigated disasters and made him permanently a laughing stock in Hungary.  Except for their utter idiocy, neither highlight of his stay deserves detailed analysis.  However, his senseless and unjustified denigration of the United States of America abroad merits a more comprehensive scrutiny.  

The Collegium itself has been under the auspices of the Maecenas Universitatis Corvini Foundation, as does the University too, that was established under  Law No. XXX of 2019.  The Foundation has been endowed by Law No. XXVI of 2020, with many billions of Hungarian Forints (HUF), such as 82 million shares from the government-owned oil company (Hungarian acronyms: MOL), each share worth almost 2000 HUF, 19 million shares of the government-owned pharmaceutical company Richter, at about 7000 HUF each, and a variety of other government-controlled foundations as well as institutions that indirectly channeled government-endowed largesses in the tens of billions to the university.  This Foundation is run by a Board of Directors (Kuratorium in Hungarian) selected exclusively by Viktor Orban and his FIDESZ party with the absolute monopoly of power in Hungary.  Nominally, the Collegium’s mission has been “talent development” of gifted Hungarian youth from all over the Carpathian Basin, meaning mainly ethnic Hungarian youth from the Ukraine, Romania and Slovakia.    

For those who are not familiar with Hungarian history and geography, King Mathias, adoringly called Corvinus, ruled the Hungarian Kingdom from 1458 to 1490, and was dubbed the Renaissance King on the account of his progressive reforms and his marriage to an Anjou princess by the name Beatrice from Naples.  The town of Esztergom has been the seat of the only Hungarian Catholic Cardinal, starting with Bishop Domonkos the First in 1001.  For final historical accuracy, the Corvinus University of Budapest was named under the Communists the Marx Karoly (Karl Marx) Economics Scientific University.

To add intellectual cover to Tucker Carlson’s adventure to Hungary, Rod Dreher, a Senior Editor at the American Conservative, authored on August 4, 2021, a long article in the same publication under the title “Tucker To Hungary, Nixon To China.”  Claiming “a personal intellectual investment in the Hungary story” and trying to justify his grandiose title as a conservative breakthrough toward a more sane and effective Republican policy against both the Democrat as well as Republican Establishments and their misguided supporters, he suggests that “Tucker to Hungary is a kind of Nixon to China for conservative American intellectuals and thought leaders.”  Then follows an equally idiotic and confusingly discombobulated, grossly superficial and totally useless snippet of quotations from various writers, in which Rod Dreher attempts to show the difference between the allegedly uberliberal and unfree United States of America and the ideally much freer conservative Hungary. 

With due respect for Rod Dreher’s “personal intellectual investment,” whatever it is, I would like to present my objective intellectual analysis as well as my learned opinion to his and to Tucker Carlson’s unprofessional as well as extremely irresponsible flirtation with Viktor Orban and his equally unserious creed.  

For starters, some personal background.  I was born and mostly educated in Hungary.  After I took the Hungarian Bar for Judges and Prosecutors with distinction and oversaw all kinds of crimes in Hungary’s Communist society, I escaped to the Federal Republic of Germany.  Following a stint with Radio Free Europe, I worked in Academia in Germany.  Subsequently, I got an invitation from the United States Congress to join one of its research departments.  When Ronald Reagan was elected, I was on loan first to the Supreme Court, then to Senator Orin Hatch’s office and later to the White House.  I ended my government career as Congressman Christopher (Chris) Cox’s foreign affairs adviser.  I published hundreds of articles as well as opinion pieces and authored several books.  Already in 2005, I wrote an article about the real Viktor Orban under the title “Viktor Orban the Hungarian Chavez.”  Very recently, I published three major analyses on the current situation in Hungary at www.ff.org.  My aim with presenting my professional background is not to boast but to establish my credentials as knowing the United States of America and Hungary too, as opposed to the Monday Morning Quarterbacks of international relations like Rod Dreher and Tucker Carlson.  So-called intellectuals should not lecture others for being ignorant of the world when they are guilty of the same offense.

Moreover, throughout my professional career, I have been a staunch conservative and a Republican.  I wrote articles against George Soros and those who supported him either intellectually or politically.  Until his commentaries about Hungary, I mostly have agreed with Tucker Carlson’s opinions, especially with regard to the overall situation in the United States of America.  However, his lying about Hungary has turned him into an idiot.  As a result, his reporting about Viktor Orban and the Hungarian situation has only shown glaring ignorance and shameful fakery.  More dangerously, Tucker Carlson has positioned himself outside the intellectually objective and honest political debate in the United States of America, thus embarking on a zigzag course seeking to mix order and reform.  Seeing himself as becoming the media-equivalent of the “Reagan conservative,” he is running into political as well as intellectual headwinds, because of his deficient intellect and compensatory arrogance.

Both of these qualities have been in full display during his short stay in Hungary.  Limiting Viktor Orban’s policies to his justifiably firm response to illegal immigration and his “illiberal” responses to Brussels’ liberal value system are short-sighted and misleading.  It would be more helpful to put the Viktor Orban phenomenon in the context of the post-Communist developments in the formerly Soviet Union-occupied region’s general and specific situations.  Generally, all the countries that constituted the so-called Soviet Empire in Central and Eastern Europe have been in difficult transitions since 1990 from their original ubiquitously abnormal state to a more normal Western political, economic, cultural and ethical system.  In this quest, some have been more successful than others.  The Czech Republic and Slovenia have made the most progress.  Behind these two states are Slovakia and Croatia.  Romania and Bulgaria have been struggling to overcome corruption, poverty and political instability.  Poland and Hungary have been the most complex and contradictory examples of the post-Communist parochial as well as global challenges.  As far as Hungary is concerned, Balint Magyar published a thought-provoking article in Magyar Hirlap on February 22, 2001, in which he opined:  “With the appointment of Lajos Simicska (a former close friend of Viktor Orban’s) as the head of APEH(acronyms for the Hungarian IRS) a new chapter begins. What has happened since means the introduction of the state employing mafia methods within the democratic institutional framework to systematically build up an “organized uberworld” [in Hungarian felvilag as opposed to alvilag that means underworld].  Later, the same author with the assistance of Balint Mladovics published a book titled The Anatomy of Post- Communist Regimes, in which they argue that the so-called linear transition theory cannot be applied for those regimes, because of their “moral inhibition” to consequently adopt liberal democracy.  In conclusion, the authors coined the term “hibridology,” according to which those regimes are an inconsistent mixture of liberal and illiberal constructs.

Although I tend to agree in general with Balint Magyar, I think that the term “Mafia state” for Hungary is erroneous.  In a Mafia state the government is transformed because the Mafia that develops parallel to the state gradually overtakes the local and central positions of political, economic and financial organizations.  What has happened in Hungary since 1990 is exactly the opposite.  First, politicians gained absolute political power through using and then abusing the democratic processes.  After that, they turned the government into the instrument of their extreme lust for power and money. Therefore, I would rather use the term “Kleptocratic Absolutism” to describe the political regime of today’s Hungary.  

The post-Communist so-called “Democratic Politicians” were either members of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party (Hungarian acronyms: MSZMP) or non-party persons who elected to stay in the country and conform superficially to the norms as well as the abnormal values of the Communist dictatorship.  The latter led a schizophrenic existence that made them hover between collusion with the regime or merger with the political and economic power holders.  Clearly, neither the former members of the Communist elite nor the passive sympathizers espoused democracy or free market capitalism.  

To add insult to injury, both groups unconditionally believed in the redeeming value of government institutions and their bureaucracies.  Thus, instead of changing society by promoting new ideas, they tried to modify, but not reform, the existing government organizations, in order to transpose society and its mentality to their own bureaucratic image.  Predictably, the results were devastating.  The first democratically elected Antall government in 1990 was on a futile search for a new Hungarian business elite that would, in turn, finance the new-old bureaucracy forever.  No wonder that corruption on the scale unimaginable even under the Communists has taken roots in the society.  This government of supreme amateurs only lasted a single term.  In 1994, the former Communists, their party rechristened to the “Hungarian Socialist Party” (Hungarian acronyms: MSZP) returned to power with an absolute parliamentary majority.  Yet, to avoid being reminded of their one-party dictatorship, they allied themselves with the Free Democrats (Hungarian acronyms:  SZDSZ) in an absolutely unworkable political alliance.  In 1998, came Viktor Orban and his Young Democrats (Hungarian acronyms:  FIDESZ) in alliance with the Smallholder Party (Hungarian acronyms: KGNP).  First, Viktor Orban destroyed his coalition partners and then started to take over the political as well as business heights of powers.  The first signs of Viktor Orban’s corrupt dictatorial mentality and his lust for money emerged.  Suspicion of corruption and conspiracy theories were abound across Hungary.  In 2002, his government was sent packing into opposition by the voters for eight long years.  The former Communists were back in the saddle with their unloved Free Democrats.

In opposition, Viktor Orban behaved in a most undemocratic and disgusting manner.  In addition to barely showing his face in the Parliament, he tirelessly incited his loyal Antifa-like mob to disrupt, threaten and destroy everything in their way.  As a result, the years between 2002 and 2010 were the eight lost years for Hungary.  Tired of the former Communists and the politically impotent Liberals, the Hungarian voters, in their desperate stupidity, gave Viktor Orban and his party an absolute parliamentary majority.

Viktor Orban’s second chance at absolute powers from 2010 would enter the annals of Hungarian political history as the rapid return to the one-party rule combined with the resurrected self-defeating “Magyar” (Hungarian) semi-Feudal mentality. Domestically, Viktor Orban has been convinced that he is the Messiah the Hungarians have waited for since the humiliating Trianon peace treaty in 1920.  Better still, he has believed that he is infallible and possesses God-like qualities to decide by himself what is good for the nation and what is not.  For these reasons, he has zero tolerance for any other opinion that happens not to be his.  Therefore, he is convinced that he has every right to tyrannize the entire nation whose citizens he looks upon as his subjects.                               

To this end, his and his party’s first major political/legal act was in 2011 to pass a new constitution, which with its nine amendments thus far, has become a highly politicized instrument for political, economic and moral corruption.  Naturally, more laws, decrees, regulations and an avalanche of government decisions have followed that have perpetuated his hold on the media, prescribed the limitations of free speech, the conduct of elections, the financing of political parties, and the obtrusive acquisition as well as shameless expropriation of the national wealth to his family and his chosen elementary, high school and university buddies.  

To complete the creation of his absolutism, Viktor Orban and his pliant Parliament appointed a bunch of Yes-men to key and lesser important central and local government positions.  In this manner, Janos Ader, the President of Hungary, has become the “signing automat” of every law having been passed by the Parliament without any regard to its constitutionality; Laszlo Kover, the Speaker of the Parliament, who rules with iron hand over the opposition and metes out insane amounts of fines exclusively against their members; Peter Polt, the Prosecutor General of Hungary, who sees his role to protect the Prime Minister and his close associates from domestic and foreign criminal prosecution; Sandor Pinter, the Minister of Interior, who does the same on the police investigation level; and Judit Varga, the Minister of Justice, who tries to explain why the frequent violations of the rule of law are more democratic than any legislation passed by the European Union, etc.

Thus, it beggars belief to hear Tucker Carlson claim incessantly that in Viktor Orban’s Hungary the people enjoy more freedom than in the United States of America and that in Hungary people fear less of the government than in the United States of America.  As opposed to Tucker Carlson’s tendentious and misleading narrative, Hungary under Viktor Orban’s absolutism has turned into a closed stock company for the exploitation of the national wealth with profits shared exclusively among members of the government, parliamentarians and their privileged adherents, called in Hungarian slang the “Knights of the NER.”  Most of them, including Viktor Orban, have entered government poor as Job, but in politics they have been elevated to millionaires and even billionaires.  The Orban absolutism functions like a private business, in which each shareholder thinks of public affairs only insofar as he or she could turn his or her position into private profit.  Money reigns supreme for a small minority, while the overwhelming majority of the population either lives in poverty or struggles to make ends meet on a monthly basis. 

Meanwhile, the building of soccer stadiums, organizing international sport events, exhibitions, politically motivated financing of ethnic Hungarians across the neighboring countries, etc. have been in full swing for a decade.  Unnecessary mega projects, such as the Budapest Belgrade railroad, the extension of Hungary’s only nuclear power plant in Paks, the construction of hotels that would never be filled with tourists, and the elevation of Viktor Orban’s birth place in Felcsut have been objects of nationwide derigion.  On the other side of the coin, the once excellent Hungarian education system and the health industry have been run to the ground.  

In this economically insane situation, a set of scandals has tarnished the so-called elite.  Without going into the well-publicized details of those scandals, it should be sufficient to mention the fact that between 2015 and 2019, Hungary has headed the European Union’s anti-fraud investigation list.  During this four year period, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) concluded forty three probes into misuse of funds where it found irregularities and recommended to the European Union Commission to recover some four percent of payments made to Hungary under the organization’s structural and independent funds and agriculture funds.  In comparison, in all other member states the recommended rate of recovery of European Union money was below one percent.  At the same period, the European Union average was 0.36 percent.  Hypocritically, the Hungarian government defended itself by claiming that all the irregularities took place under the previous government.  Just a humble note:  Viktor Orban and his FIDESZ party has enjoyed absolute power since 2010.  

The most recent chaotic controversy again touches upon the suspicion of corruption in Hungary.  At the center of this new scandal is the Norwegian government’s financial contribution to the NGOs operating in Hungary.  The sum was 77 billion HUF, the equivalent of about 217.5 million Euros.  The saga of the Norway project has had its origin in an agreement concluded in December 2020.  Accordingly, the above quoted sum was designed to be distributed by an organization totally independent of the Hungarian government.  The latter had seven months to designate such an organization.  The Hungarian government missed the deadline and still demanded that the Norwegian Fund wire the money to Hungary.  The Norwegian Foreign Ministry informed the Hungarian government in early August 2021, that it considers the agreement null and void, because of the Hungarian government’s breach of the agreement.  Demonstrating that the word chutzpah has entered the vocabulary of the Hungarian government too, it first criticized Norway claiming that “Norway owes us this money,” since Oslo has benefited from its participation in the common market, despite not being a European Union member state.  To show the seriousness, better defined as irrational greed, of the Hungarian government, Gergely Gulyas, the government’s spokesman, stated that Hungary is looking into the legal possibilities to obtain the Norwegian money.  To support such a claim, the Hungarian government passed on August 6, 2021, Decision (in Hungarian:  Kormany hatarozat) 1564/2021, in which the government instructs the competent ministries to launch a complaint against the “Nowegian Kingdom” concerning the latter’s failure to provide the said amount of money to Hungary.   

In this single episode the entire mentality of the Viktor Orban-led regime is present.  For Viktor Orban and his clique, politics, including international affairs, is not the art of settling controversies but of trying to intimidate and to shut up those who disagree with them.  No wonder that the Viktor Orban regime is losing credibility at home as well as abroad.          

With respect to the Viktor Orban-led regime’s international shenanigans, the most important facts have been its anti-American, anti-European and pro-Chinese, pro-Russian and to a lesser extent pro-Turkish policies.  The gulf among the former and the close coordination among the latter are alarming, because the feeling of alienation on the one side and the hostile elation on the other are mutual.  Increasingly, Viktor Orban is asking what NATO and the European Union would do for Hungary.  Clearly, he is trying to use his allies to blackmail them into accepting his “illiberal democracy,” while offering Russia and China access to NATO and the European Union for personal favors.  In this dangerous game, in which he could easily be eliminated as prime minister, Viktor Orban has turned Hungary into a state of lies, fear, intimidation and vicious rumors.

As this analysis demonstrates, occasionally small countries must struggle with great challenges too.  Clearly, Hungary is at a crossroads.  The upcoming national elections next spring will be crucial for the future of the country.  Either Hungary will sink further into the swamp of Viktor Orban’s “Kleptocratic Absolutism,” or it will have a chance to rejoin as a democratic nation to the European Union and NATO.  The opposition parties have forged a united front, but barely.  Currently, their programs lack maturity.  In order to succeed, they will have to come up with a more homogeneous set of political and economic messages.  Yet, another election victory for Viktor Orban and his party would be unacceptable for Hungary and the West, including the United States of America, regardless of whether the Democrat or the Republican party controls the White House and Congress.  For this reason alone, objective information about the situation in Hungary would have been in America’s national interest.  Regrettably, Tucker Carlson’s week-long visit to the country did not serve this purpose.

Most importantly, Tucker Carlson appears to be in denial of Viktor Orban’s burgeoning authoritarian tendencies and endemic corruption both at home and abroad.  He says nothing or very little about strengthening the ruthless manifestations of glaringly anti-democratic values, such as censorship and other restrictive measures that have become daily occurrences in Hungary.  Even more alarmingly, Tucker Carlson is totally silent about the illegal spying on citizens, mainly opposition politicians and journalists.  Finally, it is never a positive professional sign about the strength of one’s case when a journalist compares Viktor Orban’s dictatorial regime favorably to the current state of affairs in the United States of America.  Thus, instead of presenting an explanation for his fallacious reporting, Tucker Carlson simply suppresses all the unpleasant and negative issues.  To a real and knowledgeable journalist, the difference between fraudulent government propaganda and the reality must be self-evident.  But not for Tucker Carlson who appears to be on a phony ideological mission.  Recommending Viktor Orban’s Hungary worthy to be followed by the United States of America is inexcusably idiotic.  In the end, Viktor Orban’s war on the Hungarian people and the West is not about politics.  It is about culture and mentality.  And in the long run, Western civilization carries far more weight than Viktor Orban’s and Tucker Carlson’s corrupt as well as bastard illiberal democracy.      


The US should make a stand in Lebanon to push back against Iran’s ambitions

By RUSSELL A. BERMANThe Hill

Lebanon is facing a dangerous combination of accelerating crises — economic, political and societal. Although Lebanon is a small country, important issues for U.S. national interest and geo-strategy are at stake. Yet, currently, American Middle East foreign policy is devoted to the single obsession of the Iran negotiations, leaving little oxygen for other matters. This is a mistake. The Biden administration should develop a more nuanced engagement with the region and especially a robust response to Lebanon’s pending collapse. 

The Lebanese currency has lost close to 90 percent of its value, pushing much of the country below the poverty line, with many families relying on remittances from relatives abroad. Yet even those lifelines cannot make up for the shortages in commodities: gasoline, medications and food are all in short supply. Add to this a crumbling infrastructure that can supply electricity for only a few hours every day. 

Meanwhile, a political stalemate blocks the formation of an effective government that could institute reforms that might alleviate some of the problems. Instead, the political class, largely viewed as incorrigibly corrupt, is making no effort to meet the needs of the public. One bright light is the emergence of vibrant oppositional forces. But they remain fragmented, and elections will not take place until next year.   

Leadership change may therefore be too far in the future to rescue the crumbling institutions that once enjoyed a strong international reputation, especially Lebanese universities and hospitals. Now the talented personnel on which those institutions depend are trying to leave for better paying jobs abroad. After the troubled decades of civil war and occupations, after the devastation of COVID-19 and the massive destruction of the explosion in the port of Beirut on Aug. 4, 2020, this already fragile country faces even greater disorder.  

Given the extent of the suffering, there is every reason to provide humanitarian assistance to Lebanon, as the United States is already doing. The U.S. also provides important training support to the Lebanese armed forces, although the scope of that mission has been shrinking. Otherwise, American engagement is quite limited. Washington should do more and put Lebanon higher on the list of foreign policy priorities for four reasons   

1)  Grand Strategy: Lebanon presents a clear case of the deleterious consequences of a pivot away from the region, given the reality of great power competition. If the U.S. does not provide leadership, it opens the door for other powers, notably Russia. Its naval repair facility in Tartus, Syria, is less than a 40-mile drive from the Lebanese port of Tripoli, which could be ripe for Moscow’s taking. Lebanon could become one more stepping-stone for Russia’s advance in the Middle East, unless the U.S. reasserts its role there.  

2)  Terrorism: The discrepancy between the degradation of living conditions in Lebanon and the immobility of the political class can lead to social unrest, a breeding ground for the sort of Islamist terrorism that has plagued the larger region. One should not discount the possibility of a resurgence of ISIS or intentional spillover effects from the Syrian civil war, which led to bombings in Beirut and Tripoli only eight years ago. The more such violence proliferates, the greater the chance that terror incubated in the region can spread beyond it, including to the U.S.   

3) Refugees: Unless the Lebanese crises are addressed, the resulting social disorder is likely to produce a new wave of refugees, fleeing the ravages of a collapsed economy or, in a worst-case scenario, the resurgence of sectarian conflict. The Assad regime in Syria is not above provoking violence in Lebanon in order to achieve the sort of demographic reengineering it has undertaken at home, where it has forced targeted populations to flee, a cynical form of ethnic cleansing. The U.S. should be concerned about the destabilizing effects of renewed refugee flows into allies such as Jordan and Turkey, already hosting large refugee populations, or into the European Union, where the 2015 refugee wave continues to have disruptive political repercussions.   

4) Iran: A collapse of the Lebanese state can only benefit Iran and its most anti-American political forces. Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, might see an opportunity to seize power directly or, more strategically, it might prefer to consolidate its control in its strongholds and let the rest of the country dissipate, precisely in order to demonstrate the weakness of western democracy. In either case, Tehran would win, unless the U.S. engages in strategic ways to address Lebanon’s dilemmas.  

Arguments that it is in the U.S. national interest to engage more strongly in Lebanon run counter to current foreign policy predispositions in Washington. A prevailing orientation deprioritizes the Middle East in general in order to shift attention to the Indo-Pacific. But that viewpoint does not need to lead to a full-scale abandoning of the Middle East that hands the region over to America’s great power adversaries.  

In addition, the Biden administration views the region primarily in terms of Iran and a renewed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Many Lebanese understand this and correctly fear that Hezbollah will benefit from a windfall when the U.S. lifts sanctions on Iran. There is no indication that the U.S. negotiation team is seriously demanding a termination of Iran’s regional destabilization campaigns, including its support for Hezbollah. Yet getting to a new deal with Tehran without such a constraint basically means appeasing Iran by trading away Lebanese sovereignty.    

American national interest, including American values, requires a different path: Instead of misusing Lebanon as an accommodation to Tehran, the U.S. should make a stand in Lebanon, with policies designed to renew its democracy (and purge its corruption) and to protect its sovereignty by diminishing Hezbollah, as first steps toward pushing back against Iran’s broader expansionist ambitions.

Lebanon is a small country, but the current crisis has outsized geo-strategic implications for the U.S. 


China-Backed Confucius Institute Turns Its Attention to K-12 Classrooms

State Department in 2020 declared the group a 'propaganda' arm of CCP

By Alex Nester and Jack BeyrerThe Washington Free Beacon

Getty Images

Several American universities maintained relationships with China after shuttering their Confucius Institute chapters, shifting resources to affiliate K-12 programs and fostering sister relationships with Chinese schools.

Rather than fully cut ties with the Confucius Institute, many universities shifted their resources to affiliate programs aimed at K-12 classrooms. The Confucius Classrooms program offers an array of Chinese language and culture programs to elementary, middle, and high school students across the United States. Often linked to Confucius Institutes at nearby colleges, Confucius Classrooms are funded and run by the Hanban, a division of China’s Ministry of Education.

The shift reveals the extent to which the Chinese Communist Party is ingrained in American educational institutions. American security officials have recently warned about Beijing’s efforts to cultivate links with educational institutions in order to change American perceptions of the Communist regime.

Over a dozen universities closed their Confucius Institute chapters after the State Department declared the organization a Chinese propaganda arm. According to Rachelle Peterson, a China expert at the National Association of Scholars, the Communist regime was ready for the fallout.

“The Chinese government has developed a nuanced and sophisticated network of tools,” Peterson told the Washington Free Beacon. “In the case of Confucius Institutes, the Chinese Communist Party is aware that they are falling out of favor in the U.S., and they’re preparing alternative ways of engaging with the United States—many of which are equally problematic.”

Confucius Classrooms are just some of those “problematic” alternatives. The National Association of Scholars estimates that, at its height, there were upward of 500 Confucius Classrooms in operation—significantly more than the 41 active Confucius Institute chapters. And because most federal oversight is directed at higher education, China has been able to covertly entrench itself in the K-12 education space.

Rep. Chris Stewart (R., Utah) told the Free Beacon that he is concerned Confucius Classrooms operating in his district teach an inaccurate view of the Chinese Communist Party to children.

“The Confucius Classrooms are a little bit different and a little bit harder [than Confucius Institutes] because they’re not as obvious,” Stewart said. “The thing we’re trying to do now is to show that they’re not using it for intelligence access, computer access, or to propagandize adults, but they are using it to soften children.”

The Confucius Classrooms operating in Stewart’s district are just a few such outposts that grew out of shuttered Confucius Institute chapters across the country.

A consortium of Confucius Classrooms serving nearly 1,200 K-12 students in Ohio continues to operate more than a year after Miami University in Ohio announced it shuttered its Confucius Institute. In western Kentucky, a coalition of more than 30 staffers led by Simpson County public schools has taken up the mantle of the Western Kentucky University Confucius Institute, which closed in 2019.

When Michigan State University’s Confucius Institute closes this year, the school plans to transfer the program’s resources “to other areas within the university” so as to “benefit K-12 students and teachers who would not otherwise have these learning options available in their schools,” a spokeswoman told the Free Beacon.

In addition to shifting resources from universities to elementary and high school classrooms, China has found ways to maintain a foothold at universities that have closed their Confucius Institutes. Several universities have sought out partnerships with Chinese “sister schools” to replace their Confucius Institutes.

Middle Tennessee State University closed its Confucius Institute in August 2020, after receiving criticism from Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.). But the school continues to foster ties with sister universities in China. The University of Nebraska said it remains “deeply committed” to its connections with Chinese universities after its Confucius Institute closed in December 2020.

In a statement to the Free Beacon, Tufts University—which plans to close its Confucius Institute chapter in September—said the school will “focus on expanding and deepening” its ties with Beijing Normal University. Similarly, the College of William and Mary closed its Confucius Institute at the end of June, but will continue to offer China-related programs “through university-to-university agreements,” a spokeswoman told the Free Beacon.

In at least one case, China has continued to donate to a university in order to bolster ties. Peterson uncovered Education Department documents that show the University of Michigan received a $300,000 gift from China after the school closed its Confucius Institute in 2019.

“All the signs are that there are replacements for Confucius Institutes,” Peterson said. “Alternative forms of engagement are popping up—many in ways that are going to have the same problems as the Confucius Institutes.”


Viktor Orban’s Harum-Scarum China Gambit

By Dr. Miklos K. RadvanyiFrontiers of Freedom

On July 5, 2021, Nathan Law, a pro-democracy activist and politician of Hong Kong, published a Letter to Orban from his London exile in Politico.  In his Letter’s opening paragraph, Mr. Law states that “It’s difficult to imagine how somebody who battled against the brutal repression of a communist party at a young age could later become a staunch supporter of another.”  Then, he continues thus:  “Since assuming power in 2010, your growing intimacy with the Chinese government has made it difficult for the EU to put pressure on Beijing when it comes to human rights violations.  Hungary was the first EU country to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative in 2012, paving the way for Beijing to export its authoritarian model to the world.  And in the years since, your country has served as China’s biggest defender in the EU.”

Nathan Law is absolutely correct.  The second son of an unskilled laborer who became the Communist party secretary at the local gravel mine, Viktor Orban used his personal hatred toward his cruel father to rebel against the Soviet occupation and the resulting one-party dictatorship.  Having entered public life on June 16, 1989, the day of the symbolic reburial of Imre Nagy the failed leader of the 1956 Revolution, Viktor Orban called at Budapest’s Heroes’ Square for free elections and the removal of the Soviet military from Hungarian soil.  

From there on, his journey in the discombobulated terrain of Hungarian politics has been marked by self-induced narcissistic turns in opposition, through leading between 1998 and 2002 an utterly inexperienced as well as woefully incompetent government that failed miserably within four years, to reestablishing the one-party dictatorship of the pre-1990 Hungary in its barely disguised oppression and all-encompassing corruption in his second reincarnation as Prime Minister.  As proof of his sickening egomania, Viktor Orban has repeatedly claimed that his 1989 speech was the reason for the Soviet Union to remove its military from Hungary.  Notwithstanding Viktor Orban’s laughable as well as baseless assertion, the decision about the retreat of the Soviet military was made years before his speech and the actual withdrawal of several military units was already ongoing or partially completed. 

Viktor Orban’s destructive transformation of Hungary from a developing democratic state to a neo-Communist fiefdom has come with a heavy price.  Viktor Orban has become politically a fatally wounded non-entity and personally a persona non grata within the European Union.  His Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto has only exacerbated Viktor Orban’s international misery.  Having proved himself more as a pompous amateur, Mr. Szijjarto has made Hungary with his grossly undiplomatic statements about President Biden and the Democrat Party in the United States of America unwelcome too.  As a result, the Viktor Orban-led Hungary has become a pariah in Washington, D.C. as well as in Brussels.

Thus, Viktor Orban’s epiphany from a young firebrand against Communist oppression to an egomaniacal monster has had its roots in his primitive communist upbringing and the related worshipping of power and money by persons who only knew hardships and destitutions in their miserable youth.  Naturally, so-called scholars like Dorit Gerva are talking and writing about “Orbanism” as a new ideology.  They are all badly mistaken.  For Viktor Orban ideology has always meant an interchangeable and disposable semi-intellectual garbage whose sole purpose has been to conceal his insatiable appetite for power and money.  Moreover, for people with Viktor Orban’s mentality, countries or individuals do not count as supreme political and humanistic values.  Consequently, for Viktor Orban democracy with its glorification of individual rights and its protection of personal freedoms is meaningless platitudes that must be continuously attacked and decisively rejected.  For these reasons, the combination of his ostracism by the leaders of  NATO and the European Union and his personal inclination toward authoritarianism, moving closer to China  has been an obvious solution.

 Domestically, Viktor Orban and his propaganda machine has tried to sell his “Eastern Opening” as hugely beneficial for Hungary.  However, the facts have belied his promises of large investments, preferential loans and new markets concerning China, Russia and many other Asian countries.  Specifically, Hungary’s exports to China in 2020 were $2.04 billion.  On the other hand, Hungary’s imports from China in 2020 have reached $8.72 billion.  This means a trade deficit of more than $6 billion.  Thus, while being up in arms against any foreign interference in domestic affairs, Viktor Orban is quietly and surreptitiously turning Hungary into an economic “Canton” of the People’s Republic of China.  

The Chinese-built Budapest-Belgrade railway’s Hungarian section, a highly ballyhood accomplishment of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, is costing about $3 billion.  Of this amount, 85 percent is financed with Chinese loans, with interest between $500 and $800 million.  This means that the entire project’s cost around $3.7 billion.  Thus, this railway project is wholly financed by the Hungarian taxpayers.  Again, the project is much more beneficial to China than for Hungary.  First, the new railway does not connect Hungarian towns.   Second, tourism from the Balkan region has never been significant. Third, the railway is constructed mostly by Chinese companies.  Fourth, the railway is designed to carry freight more than passengers.  Fifth, the strategic penetration of the European Union’s infrastructure markets will become much easier for Chinese state-owned companies.  Notwithstanding these negative aspects, the railway is being built and the entire project with all the documents connected to the bilateral deal were declared a national strategic matter, and thus top secret.  

Similarly, fighting the coronavirus pandemic, Viktor Orban has never criticized China.  On the contrary, he and his cabinet members have only had the kindest words for Beijing’s efforts to fight the pandemic and its willingness to supply Hungary and the rest of the world with vaccines, masks as well as badly needed medical equipment.  Accordingly, the Hungarian government bought at the beginning of 2021 five million doses of Chinese Sinopharm vaccines for $36 (30 Euros) each.  In comparison, the European Union paid only 15,50 Euros per dose for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.  For a dose of AstraZeneca, the European Union paid $2.15, according to Belgium’s budget secretary.  

Even more suspicious is the way the Hungarian government acquired the five million medically absolutely useless doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccines.  The intermediary company from which the Hungarian government purchased the vaccines was an offshore company with a registered capital of $10,700 (9,000 Euros).  The net value of the bilateral contract was $179 million (150 million Euros).  Such arrangements clearly raise red flags for anti-corruption watchdogs, as The New York Times article on March 12, 2021, rightly stipulated.  

The Chinese vaccine was aggressively promoted by Viktor Orban himself.  Claiming that he got the Sinopharm vaccine, he encouraged Hungarians of all ages to do the same.  Yet, while promoting and using the vaccine, it lacked full approval even by the competent Hungarian authorities until January 2021.  Adding insult to injury, the European Union and the American FDA have never approved the Sinopharm vaccine for use on humans.  To prove the uselessness of the Sinopharm vaccines, Hungarians who were vaccinated with Sinopharm have never developed antibodies in their bodies. 

The background story of the Shanghai-based Fudan University is equally strange, or more precisely, typical Orbanesque.  This story has started with the forced expulsion of the George Soros-established Central European University from Budapest, Hungary.  This University was accredited in both the United States of America and Hungary.  In addition, it ranked in quality way above any indigenous school of higher education. The ensuing saga of the very personal feud between George Soros and Viktor Orban has been portrayed and analyzed exhaustively by the media in Hungary as well as across Europe and the United States.  

To summarize it, the Central European University rejected government control.  The University’s argument was that in a democracy institutions of higher education must be independent of political influence.  Moreover, the President of the Central European University Michael Ignatieff argued that the Orban government destroyed the independence and the high quality of Hungarian university education by politically as well as professionally crushing their independence, while simultaneously liquidating the free-thinking intelligentsia.  Yet, utilizing his artificially created two-thirds majority in the unicameral Parliament, Viktor Orban’s party adapted a law that made the functioning of the Central European University in Hungary impossible.  The Central European University departed to Vienna, Austria, leaving Viktor Orban and his battered educational system enjoying in their miserable isolation their pyrrhic victory.

This self-congratulatory gloating about the triumph of Viktor Orban’s “illiberal democracy” over the “Leftist liberalism of George Soros” has culminated in the Hungarian government’s sudden announcement about rolling out the red carpet for the Shanghai-based Fudan University.  Preemptively declaring that the Chinese university’s mission would be strictly educational, the ensuing nation-wide protest against the “Trojan Horse” of Communist influence and potential spying expressed the real opinions as well as the anti-Chinese feelings of the Hungarian people.  

Clearly, the pivoting towards China, defined vaingloriously by Viktor Orban as “Eastern Opening,” is extremely unpopular among all Hungarians.  Adding fuel to the already existing popular discontent is the cost and the size of the Fudan University project.  Planned to spread over twenty six acres, with an additional forty acres accounting for the surrounding park, and estimated to cost a whopping $1.687 billion, it would exceed the total cost the Hungarian government spends on the annual operation of its over two dozen state-run public universities.  No wonder that the suspicion of another gigantic government corruption has again raised its ugly head throughout the country and beyond.  

To top this monstrous political and financial ploy, the construction of the campus is carried out exclusively by Chinese banks and Chinese companies, involving only Chinese workers.  More specifically, the Hungarian government agreed that the Chinese only involvement also means that the job must be done by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), the world’s largest construction company.  Again, bribery and corruption suspicions are justified by the tarnished reputation of the Chinese company that has been involved across the globe in numerous scandals and foul plays.  To prove this point, the Chinese company’s financing offer that would cover all expenses only amounts to $1.06 billion.  The difference between the published figure of $1.687 billion by the Hungarian government and the Chinese estimate speaks for itself.  Even more glaring is the Chinese financing proposal of $1,81 billion that is supposed to cover only 80% of the construction costs.  This unprecedented and unjustified overfinancing of the Fudan University project potentially could be another proof of the long-suspected high-level corruption in state-funded construction business deals.

The secrecy surrounding the Fudan University project thickens by its legal construct.  While in the case of the Budapest-Belgrade railway reconstruction an international agreement was executed, the relevant contracts of the Fudan University deal were designed to exclude public procurements and open biddings even in the management of the campus.  The obvious sleaziness of these arrangements was crowned by the establishment of a consortium of two Chinese and a single Hungarian company, in which the latter is wholly owned by Viktor Orban’s childhood friend and straw man, Lorinc Meszaros.

Finally, leaked documents suggest that the Fudan University deal was in the offing for years but assiduously kept away from the Hungarian and the European public.  During his 2019 visit to Hungary, the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi spoke of the Budapest campus of the Fudan University as a done deal, negotiated carefully for some time before.  Designating it a “priority project,” he emphasized the strategic importance of the Fudan University’s presence in the geographic middle of the European continent for Beijing.  Like in the case of the Budapest-Belgrade railway project, the Hungarian government classified the Fudan University deal as a “national security” matter.  The expropriation and even usurpation of great construction projects affecting the entire country by a single yes-men party, namely the FIDESZ, are another proof that Hungary is not a democracy.  Even more unsettling is the state of democracy in Hungary when the one-party legislature and executive do not govern by consensus but political improvisation and greed. 

Demonstrations against the establishment of the Fudan University have been held across Hungary.  The Mayor of Budapest Gergely Karacsony and the opposition called for a nationwide referendum and already proceeded to rename streets around the planned campus “Dalai Lama Street,” “Free Hong Kong Road,” etc.  The Chinese regime that regularly launches vigorous protests against “interference in Chinese internal affairs” has gone ballistic over the free expression of “anti-Chinese” sentiments in Hungary.  Global Times, one of the many subservient mouthpieces of the Chinese Communist Party, called in an editorial Gergely Karacsony “an enemy of China.”  The Press Secretary of the Chinese Embassy in Budapest released a statement voicing his outrage thus:  “As a diplomat of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Hungary, I have been working in Hungary for nearly a decade and witnessed the deepening friendship between the Chinese and the Hungarian peoples.  Recently, Hungary has gradually overcome the COVID-19, and people’s daily life is beginning to return to normal.  People on the streets are full of joy and laughter again.  As someone who works and lives in Budapest, I am also delighted by this.”  Clearly, such an idyllic description of the general mood in a country is more reminiscent of the Chinese propaganda lies concerning their own country than the reality in Hungary.   

Referring again to the Mayor of Budapest, his long winded nonsense continued with the following hypocritical sentence:  “In broad daylight, it is unseemly to criticize the internal affairs of another country.”  However, in the same breath he goes on wadding into the internal affairs of Hungary:  “The Mayor’s speech was a serious interference in China’s internal affairs and a deliberate attempt to undermine the friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation between the two nation, which is incompatible with the trend of the era of mutually beneficial cooperation.  We firmly protest, resolutely oppose and strongly condemn it.”

To better understand the real Chinese strategic intentions, one should not search farther than the recent spring visit of the Chinese State Councilor and Minister of Defense Wei Fenghe to Budapest.  Praising Hungary as a “good brother” and “partner,” Wei stated that China is ready to strengthen cooperation with Hungary in various fields.  He grew agitated about the sanction imposed by the United States of America and the European Union against his country for the treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, calling them lies and false accusations made by the West.  Then, turning to the President of Hungary, Janos Ader, he thanked him for Hungary’s firm support of China on Xinjiang and other issues concerning China’s core interests.  Janos Ader, on his part, praised China’s vaccine support, claiming that this support has brought hope to Hungary’s fight against the pandemic.  He also called for a “comprehensive strategic partnership” and the strengthening of cooperation in the economy, trade, tourism and military matters.

In line with these essentially anti-NATO and anti-European Union declarations and actions by Chinese grandees, leading Hungarian politicians have given a slew of irresponsible and derogatory statements about both organizations, in which they have claimed to be loyal members.  Just very recently, exactly on July 11, 2021, the Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament Laszlo Kover said on Radio Kossuth that, if a referendum would be held today about Hungary’s joining the European Union, he would definitely vote against it.  And on July 8, 2021, in another interview that he gave to Mandiner, he opined that Hungary will stay a member of the European Union until it collapses.  

Viktor Orban’s dislike for the European Union has been well documented throughout the last nine years as Prime Minister.  Equating any criticism of his government and the Hungarian Parliament that he rules through Laszlo Kover as a condemnation of the Hungarian nation, he has repeatedly insinuated that leaving the organization could be an option.  On September 25, 2020, Reuters reported that he praised Britain’s decision to leave the European Union as a “brave one” and demonstration of “greatness” that Hungary should not follow.  However, signaling his real feelings, he went on to criticize Brussels for its treatment of Great Britain and opined that the 2016 referendum was an act to safeguard the “good reputation” of the British people:  “Brexit is a brave decision of the British people about their own lives…we consider it as evidence of the greatness of the British.”

After years of cutthroat hostility with the overwhelming majority of the European Union’s other member states Hungary’s new legislation that couples pedophilia and anti-LGBT behaviors is the newest bone of contention.  Without descending into the dirty swamp of Hungarian politics, it suffices to state that the values that the Viktor Orban-led government has espoused for the last nine years and the values that the European Union views as compatible with Western civilization have been distinctly different in most of the cases.  While Brussels defends values in general, the Orban government protects its parochial and thus narrow political and financial interests.  For this reason, an ultimate rupture could occur at any time in the future.                

Where does all this leave the Orban regime and Hungary?  It leaves both in an ever widening vacuum full of lies, deceptions, existential corruption, moral depravity and hopelessness concerning the future of the individual as well as the Hungarian nation.  It leaves Hungary hovering between Europe and Asia.  It leaves Hungary in a state of permanent paralysis politically, economically, financially, culturally, morally and existentially.  It leaves Hungary with a government that prioritizes the interests of the privileged one percent to the detriment of ninety nine percent of the nation.  It leaves Hungary with a government that is despotic and inimical to the country’s real interests.  Finally and tragically, it leaves Hungary in a state of utter despondency.

Historically, whenever Hungary has turned away from the West and has attempted to seek its future in the East, stagnation and even backsliding were the results.  Today, when confronted with the uncomfortable facts of his “Eastern Opening,” Viktor Orban’s and his party’s responses rest on two parts.  First, they try to conceal, deny and obfuscate.  Second, when such brazenly authoritarian and shamefully immoral political campaigns fail, they attack with ruthless aggression the motives of their domestic as well as foreign critics.  

Clearly, the worldwide criticism of Hungary has reached a dangerous stage.  Led by Hungary’s incompetent foreign minister, its diplomats call such criticism a shameless plot to slander the country and thwart its progress.  The government controlled media spew ad hominem falsehoods at scholars who analyze Hungarian government statements and documents, as well as open-source materials, describing them as CIA agents or anti-Hungarian fanatics.  Regrettably, such fallacious assertions have had an impact domestically.  It has not been very difficult to meet Hungarians from every walk of life who treat even the mildest criticism of their country as a hostile attack directed against them personally.  

Yet, facts are stubborn things.  Since his election victory in 2010, Viktor Orban has governed Hungary as an elected despot.  The safeguards of democracy have been eliminated gradually.  With his “Eastern Opening,” Viktor Orban is preparing to tear up all pretence of democracy and develop his “illiberal democracy” into a full fledged dictatorship.  The obvious question is why?  The answer is almost self-evident.  Viktor Orban and his associates fear defeat in the upcoming elections in the spring of 2022.  As Nathan Law stated, Viktor Orban and his FIDESZ party has betrayed its democratic past for a semi-Feudal and arch-Communist regime, combined with nepotism and dynastic pretensions.  While capturing total control over the legislative, judicial and executive branches as well as vertically the local councils, he has courted the rural population with monies that the European Union has given to Hungary.  Simultaneously, the pliant media are selling in unison Viktor Orban’s “illiberal democracy” as identical with the desires of the whole nation. 

To add political insult to existential injury, the declared election alliance of the thus far fragmented opposition parties might not be enough to stop another triumph at the ballot boxes for Viktor Orban and his FIDESZ party.  While the 2018 elections were laden with irregularities, suspicions are rife throughout the country that the upcoming poll might be fraught with more shenanigans.  As in the past, the most contentious issue  will be the voting rights of Hungarians living abroad without registered Hungarian addresses, mainly in the neighboring states of Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania and Serbia.  The emotional manipulation, financial bribery, voting by mail without proper verification, practically ensures that the overwhelming majority of these ethnic Hungarians, estimated to be close to ninety percent, will cast their ballots for FIDESZ.  To illustrate the shocking political nature of courting the ethnic Hungarian votes, the Fuggetlen Nemzet (Independent Nation) revealed that ethnic Hungarians with barely any elementary school education claimed to have been directors of large Ukrainian companies with outlandishly high salaries, collect huge retirement pays from the Hungarian Pension Disbursement Office.  

Such an electoral system clearly distorts the will of all Hungarians who live within the international borders of Hungary.  Leaders of the opposition parties and foreign observers have claimed in 2018 that the voting laws installed by FIDESZ enabled electoral fraud through uncontrollable manipulation of the mail-in ballots.  Hungarian humor has it that being buried in one of the neighboring states as a Hungarian guarantees the dead person’s resurrection and a second life in Hungary proper through elections.

In stark contrast to this extremely liberal treatment of ethnic Hungarians, Hungarians who live in Hungary proper but work or live abroad with real Hungarian residency must be registered on the electoral roll a maximum of fifteen days before election day.  Moreover, on election day they must go to a Hungarian consulate or embassy to cast their votes in person.  Registration has been slow and laden with bureaucratic obstructions.  Consulates and embassies have posed additional hurdles to Hungarians suspected of not voting for Viktor Orban’s party.  The nefarious political intent is clear.  Those Hungarians who live outside the country are alleged of not always agreeing with the domestic situation.  Thus, they must be prevented from voting by dictatorial bureaucratic fiat.  Those who have been bribed by the Hungarian government abroad must cast their votes without any bureaucratic difficulties, because they are presumed to be loyal to Viktor Orban and his regime.  This is ethnic discrimination by voting, plain and simple.     

In these and similar manners, Hungary’s march away from Western values and democracy toward Socialism/Communism with Chinese characteristics is in full swing.  As for the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, creating enemies and demonizing opponents have been the order of political culture for Viktor Orban and his FIDESZ party.   Meanwhile, Hungary proper has been torn by deep hatred, unbridgeable divisions and the danger of civil war.  Moreover, the country lacks a large middle class and is divided into the miniscule group of the very rich and the vast majority of destitute survivors as well as hopeless Have-nots.  

Yet, the greatest threat to Hungary’s future is the fatalistic complacency of its people.  To overcome this deadly cultural disease, the Hungarian people must take back their past, present and future.  In doing so, they should be able to rely on the active and decisive assistance of all the member states of NATO and the European Union.  Conversely, the latter should start to take democracy as well as political, economic and cultural morality seriously – meaning that they must enforce the values of both alliances more rigorously.  Otherwise, NATO and the European Union will cease to be multilateral bodies of free nations.  Even worse, they will continue to nurture internal enemies within their ranks that ultimately will destroy both alliances.  Clearly, it is high time to put a stop to the destructive madness of the current Hungarian government by calling it to full account.  In closing, Hungary must be made to understand that membership in both organizations comes with rights and obligations that are inextricably linked.  Joining both organizations was voluntary.  No one forced the competent Hungarian government to join.  However, once Hungary joined, it must fulfill its obligations fully.  Claiming that Hungary has only rights but only selective obligations is unrealistic.  Comparing Washington, D.C. and Brussels to the Kremlin of the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, is wrong and self-defeating. Such comparison is simply idiotic.  Yet, Hungarian politicians, with Viktor Orban in the lead, have played the victimhood card often and shamelessly in the last eleven years.  Enough is enough.  Either the Hungarian government will start to play fairly or it must be asked to leave both organizations.  The future effectiveness and unity of NATO and the European Union are at stake.  Time is of the essence.  Before the Orbanesque cancer could metastasize, it must be stopped peremptorily. 


Twitter Spies and Foreign Lies: Is Social Media Safe for Democracy?

By Peter RoffNewsmax

Social media has become an essential lifeline to the outside world for protestors courageous enough to stand up against repressive regimes. Platforms like Twitter have kept attention focused on the struggle for liberty and, in a few cases, even helped bring down a few dictators.

What the protestors don’t know is how their oppressors may have been using these platforms to collect information about their allies and informants. And they probably won’t know unless Judge Valerie Caproni, a Barack Obama appointee to the Southern District of New York, allows a suit filed by a Saudi dissident to proceed.

The facts as alleged by the plaintiff—Ali al-Ahmed, who fled Saudi Arabia and received political asylum here in 1998—seem plain enough but Judge Caproni, who served as the FBI‘s general counsel under Director Robert Mueller, is unconscionably dragging her heels as she decides if the suit can go to trial.

What al-Ahmed alleges began after the Saudi secret police arrested Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, a 27-year-old aid worker employed in the Riyadh office of the Red Crescent (the Islamic version of the International Red Cross) in March 2018 for operating a Twitter account used to mock Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and the government.

Some, including al-Sadhan’s sister Areej—a U.S. citizen who works in the tech industry outside San Francisco—have said the actions taken against her brother are a deliberate test by MBS of President Joe Biden‘s resolve regarding his campaign promise to crack down on human rights abusers, including U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia.

After al-Sadhan was convicted and sentenced to 20 years, al-Ahmed took up his cause, calling the penalty egregious and the crime nonsensical.

On his Twitter account, al-Ahmed has criticized the ruling family for repressing women, suppressing dissent and being intolerant of other religions. That made him a target of the regime. He claims the government tried to silence him, arrested his friends and members of his family, and tried to lure him to meetings outside the United States, where he’d be unprotected and probably arrested or worse. His refusal to bow to the regime’s intimidation efforts also led him to file suit against Twitter for what his lawyers claim is “a blatant tortious invasion of privacy.”

This photograph taken on October 26, 2020
This photograph taken on October 26, 2020 shows the logo of US social network Twitter displayed on the screen of a smartphone and a tablet in Toulouse, southern France.LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Al-Ahmed’s Arabic-language Twitter account had nearly 36,000 followers, mostly in Saudi Arabia. It functioned as a major communications link, allowing sources inside the country to send him tips and news and allowing him to spread information about what the U.S. and other Western media were reporting in order to “mobilize action at home and abroad.”

That account was hacked in 2016 and, in 2018, was mysteriously shut down. He applied to Twitter for reinstatement but received no answer. Then, in July 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice accused two Saudi nationals employed by Twitter of hacking accounts critical of the Kingdom and passing personal information about account holders to Saudi intelligence agencies.

“All of a sudden,” al-Ahmed said in an interview, “everything made sense. Saudi police and intelligence services had somehow infiltrated Twitter to get information about the people following my account, many of whom would be classified as dissidents. They had—at the direction of the Saudi government—stolen my user information and the information of my followers and gave it to the security services in Riyadh.”

Based on what we know about how MBS handles dissidents, this shouldn’t be a shock. In fact, Twitter’s second-largest shareholder, Saudi Prince Al Waleed bin Talal, is MBS’ cousin. That stock may now be controlled by MBS, who reportedly forced Prince Al Waleed to divest himself of his assets during a prolonged 2018 detention inside the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton.

Is Twitter a platform for free speech or a tool of repressive regimes and secret police operatives? It’s a question worth exploring. Al-Ahmed’s charges are compelling enough to be heard in court. Unfortunately, Ali al-Ahmed’s case has been languishing in pretrial motions for over a year. This delay is a blow to informed debate and smart public policy. As social media sites have grown in importance and market cap to become “Big Tech,” the public deserves a fuller understanding of whether and how they have sacrificed their noble free speech principles in exchange for cash and cozy relationships with autocrats who want to use their technology to spy on dissidents and shut them down.


Hungary’s Evil Pandora’s “Pithos”

By Dr. Miklos K. RadvanyiFrontiers of Freedom

The mythological allegory of Pandora, the Greek equivalent of the Biblical Eve, the first woman on Earth, was created by Zeus as a new punishment for mankind, because of Prometheus’s theft of the fire from Heaven.  According to Hesiod’s Theogony, the Gods provided her with beautifully evil gifts to be mendacious, obstinate and weird.  As Eve was forbidden by God to consume the fruit of the “tree of knowledge” of good and evil, Pandora was not allowed by Zeus to open her gifted box ever.  Again, as in the case of Eve, Pandora could not resist the temptation and opened the box.  Her disobedience resulted in the escape of all the illnesses and deprivations that the Gods hid in the box.

Correspondingly, the gods of the fledgling Hungarian democracy, namely the voters, have since 2010 given absolute powers to a Young Democrat/Christian Democrat coalition and its leader Prime Minister Viktor Orban to steer the historically ravaged ship of the country into the safe harbor of a future free from evil.  Yet, the trust of the voters has been betrayed one more time in Hungarian history.  Viktor Orban and his party the Young Democrats have used their absolute powers to cage democracy and simultaneously to unleash all the evils of a destructive totalitarianism.

Domestically, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has pursued a form of government that he defined in his speech in 2014 at Tusvanyos illiberal democracy.  Pursuant to his definition, illiberal democracy is the idea of “Christian liberty,” which he equates with placing the common good above the traditional liberal values of individual freedoms.  According to him, this “Christian liberty” is under unrelenting attack both from within as well as from the outside.  In his opinion, Hungary as an illiberal democracy must endure undeserved onslaughts by those who push a post-nationalistic and post-Christian globalist agenda.  Thus, combining the adjective illiberal with the general political term democracy, Viktor Orban introduced a dangerous authoritarian ambiguity into the Hungarian, European and global discourse.  On the one hand, he has rendered Hungary a victim of his own misplaced righteousness vis-a-vis all those who disagree with his convoluted understanding of democracy.  On the other hand, he has designated himself as the sole defender of the common good, including the absolute arbiter of individual and societal morality.  

Equally significant is the fact that Viktor Orban owns the entire Hungarian media market.  His and his party’s disinformation propaganda campaign has disseminated lies about Hungarian as well as regional history, has created confusion about past and present relations among the various ethnic groups, and fostered the false sense of revisionism in the ethnic Hungarians across the neighboring countries.  In this context, especially alarming and outrageous have been his repeated references to “being the prime minister of 15 million Hungarians.”  To add fuel to the fire of the ever present ethnic grievances that have been rooted in the peace treaties of World War I, Viktor Orban’s purely political investment strategies and his militaristic bravado have only aggravated the long-existing ethnic tensions in Central and Eastern Europe. 

Clearly, Viktor Orban’s version of illiberal democracy can be characterized by its lack of civil society and by a corresponding totalitarian overreach of the political, economic, financial, religious, cultural and educational powers of the authoritarian one-party state.  Its common denominator is the irrational and self-defeating nationalism that fails to correctly gauge Hungary’s place and role in the region as well as in the European continent.  To add insult to injury, this sick Hungarian nationalism is intertwined with a non-existent Christian identity, because Christianity does not capture the political realities of today’s Hungary.

Essentially, Viktor Orban’s totalitarian regime is an extremely radical oligopoly, in which a very small number of firms are totally subordinated to the political decision making of a single individual, namely, the Prime Minister Viktor Orban.  In this absolutely centralized oligopoly, there is only very restricted competition and creativity, because the entire economy is owned by the Prime Minister himself.  Since the economy is under the rule of a single political despot, entry to the Hungarian markets is limited to the Prime Minister’s closed circuit of trusted individuals.  In this manner, Hungary is a semi-Feudal political and economic construct that is practically closed to effective as well as meaningful political, economic, intellectual and spiritual developments.

Today, amidst Viktor Orban’s totalitarian power grab and failures, his party is flailing and on the defensive.  The Young Democrats’ unity is shattering and they are in mounting disarray.  Less than a year from now, both the Prime Minister as well as his party will be forced to  account for the shameless plunder of the national wealth that they have foisted on the Hungarian people for over a decade.  

By now, the majority of Hungarians are thoroughly fed up with the all powerful corruption and the limitless squandering of the national wealth by incompetent thugs masquareding as genuine businessmen and responsible politicians.  The time has come for a new political course that will steer the country toward genuine democracy and free markets.  Therefore, it is also time for the opposing majority , all across Hungary, to take back their country and truly improve the lives of the citizenry by pursuing political freedom and existential prosperity for every single man, woman and child.

This awakening to the disaster that is Viktor Orban and his Young Democrats Party must also extend to the ruinous foreign policy of Hungary.  Although Hungary is a member of NATO and the European Union, Viktor Orban has done everything in his limited powers to undermine the unity of both organizations.  In the case of the European Union, his main motivation has been to protect his corrupt regime from the oversight and scrutiny of Brussels.  Secondly, he single-handedly has prevented the European Union from imposing punitive sanctions against China and Russia.  Again, his reason has been to protect his corrupt dealings with both countries.  

Concerning NATO, his close personal relationships with Presidents Putin and Xi have presented extremely serious security threats for NATO.  Presently, Budapest has become the major spy hub in Europe for Moscow as well as Beijing.  His latest decision to build a large campus for China’s Fudan University is an open invitation for President Xi Jinping to establish a permanent foothold in the middle of Europe.In Hungary, the united opposition must find a way to show the really corrupt and destructive character of the Orban regime and present a coherent vision of moving the country closer to NATO and the European Union.  In the same token, the United States of America and all the member states of the European Union must unite in helping Hungary to find its way out of the Orbanian cul-de-sac.  Jointly, they also must assure that the national wealth that has been stolen and embezzled so brazenly from the Hungarian people in the last decade be returned to them, and that individuals who committed those crimes be called to full account.  Only with such solidly unified assistance will Hungary be able to really rejoin the Free World of democratic nations.              


The Revolution Comes for Israel

What makes this war different—and disturbing

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

Israel has battled Hamas four times since the terror organization seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Each battle unfolds the same way: Hamas launches rockets at Israel’s civilian population, Israel bombs Hamas targets, and the fighting continues until terrorist infrastructure is sufficiently degraded so that the rocket fire stops for a few years. Israelis call it “mowing the lawn.” The last major clash was in 2014. In its origins, order of battle, and strategy and tactics, Operation Guardian of the Walls, which began May 10, resembles these previous flareups.

So what’s different? Just about everything.

The region has changed. In 2014 the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, legitimizing the nuclear program of Israel’s archenemy Iran, was a gleam in John Kerry’s eye. Its adoption the following year, and America’s withdrawal from the agreement in 2018, realigned the Middle East along the axis of Iranian power. The result was an Arab-Israel détente formalized in the 2020 Abraham Accords. From a regional perspective, the Palestinian cause is less important than Iran’s ambitions.

Israel has changed. In 2014 Benjamin Netanyahu was at the outset of his third term and led from a position of strength. His indictment on corruption charges in 2019 initiated a political crisis that has led to four elections (and most likely a fifth) in the space of two years. On the eve of the latest violence, Israel’s bewildering politics became even more surprising when two of Netanyahu’s rivals enticed an Arab Islamist party to join a coalition government. That effort collapsed when the rockets blazed. The subsequent outbreak of intercommunal violence in cities with large Arab-Israeli populations is a reminder of Israel’s pressing domestic challenges. The security issue unites Israel. Just about everything else divides it.

America has changed. In the summer of 2014, Barack Obama was a lame duck, the Republicans controlled the House and were on the verge of winning the Senate, and Donald Trump was the host of Celebrity Apprentice. Obama’s dislike of Netanyahu and willingness to expose “daylight” between the United States and Israel was no secret. But anti-Israel invective was limited to the fringe. And anti-Israel media bias was nowhere near as bad as it is today.

Then came the Great Awokening. The dialectic of Black Lives Matter and Donald Trump drove the nation into its current obsession with race, culminating in the protests, riots, vandalism, cancellations, and iconoclasm that followed the murder of George Floyd one year ago. The Trump years brought a revolutionary fervor to American politics, radicalizing the left and burdening the rest of us with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her anti-Israel, socialist “Squad” of congressional Democrats.

The Squad shares an all-encompassing woke mindset that collapses individuals and events into a reductive binary of oppressor and oppressed. When the Squad looks at Israel and Hamas, it cannot see anything other than Critical Race Theory. And so this emboldened left draws disgustingly false equivalences between American racial minorities and Palestinians. It slanders Israel as an apartheid state. It demands America stop a planned weapons sale to Israel in the middle of our ally’s offensive against terrorists supplied by Iran. It says President Biden is “taking orders” from the Jewish prime minister.

What the Squad lacks in numbers it makes up for in noise. Its members exploit social media, show up on MSNBC, and amplify the hostility to Israel already thick on college campuses and in progressive enclaves. Its allies fill the op-ed pages with similar dreck, catering to the audience for politically correct, left-wing clickbait. The polemical onslaught is false and obnoxious. But it gets results, driving an Israel-shaped wedge into the Democratic Party and forcing Biden to step up his calls for a ceasefire.

This unappeasable hostility is a problem for Israel, for America, and for the Democratic Party. It makes me wonder if the head of the DNC has checked in lately with his British counterpart. There hasn’t been a Labour prime minister since 2010 and Labour just experienced another drubbing in local elections. Labour’s current leader has been trying to salvage his party’s reputation from the wreckage of his far-left anti-Semitic predecessor Jeremy Corbyn. It’s a struggle.

Explanation? Under Corbyn, Labour went hard left, abandoning its traditional working-class constituency for progressive social and cultural issues that appeal to the university crowd and the Very Online but turn off everyone else. Corbyn opposed Brexit, supported high levels of immigration, embraced political correctness, and tolerated the worst sort of anti-Semitism in his campaigns against Israel. The Socialist International became the Socialist Intersectional (Jews excluded).

The same process is well underway here. Not content with tearing down America, and energized by the cultural revolution of 2020, the Jackal Bins turn their gaze on the Jewish State. Anti-Semitism dogged the anti-Trump Women’s March. Black Lives Matter, which recently tweeted its advocacy for “Palestinian liberation”—no mention of Hamas’ genocidal intent—supports the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib require no introduction. Comedian Trevor Noah irresponsibly likens Hamas to a powerless four-year-old. The haters can’t believe their success.

Someone needs to disappoint them. As long as Hamas remains in power, Israel will be forced to defend itself. The Jewish State’s position in American politics can’t be allowed to deteriorate further. Not just for Israel’s sake. For ours.


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