The Afghan debacle just marks a new, more murderous phase
“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.
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.
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.
By The 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.
State Department in 2020 declared the group a 'propaganda' arm of CCP
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.”
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.
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.
What makes this war different—and disturbing
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.
In a blistering dissent, Judge Laurence Silberman said The New York Times and Washington Post are 'Democratic Party broadsheets.'
The control of major media by one political party is a dangerous threat to the country, a federal judge warned in a blistering dissent that called for courts to revisit libel laws that generally protect the press from being held liable for their reporting.
“It should be borne in mind that the first step taken by any potential authoritarian or dictatorial regime is to gain control of communications, particularly the delivery of news,” wrote Judge Laurence Silberman of the D.C. Circuit for the Court of Appeals. “It is fair to conclude, therefore, that one-party control of the press and media is a threat to a viable democracy.”
Silberman argued that it’s time for courts to revisit New York Times v. Sullivan, which has shaped press law in favor of media outlets for more than five decades. The New York Times and the Washington Post “are virtually Democratic Party broadsheets. And the news section of The Wall Street Journal leans in the same direction,” Judge Silberman wrote in his March 19 dissent.
He said that orientation also controls the Associated Press and most large papers in the country, including the Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, and Boston Globe. “Nearly all television—network and cable—is a Democratic Party trumpet,” Judge Silberman added.
Silicon Valley also has “enormous influence” over the distribution of news and it “similarly filters news delivery in ways favorable to the Democratic Party,” wrote Judge Silberman, highlighting the shocking suppression of stories about Joe Biden and his family when he was running for president.
In that case, Twitter and Facebook censored media outlets that reported accurately about the Biden family’s dealing with foreign entities. Twitter suspended users, including sitting White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, for merely sharing accurate information, and prevented people from sharing the information privately on its platform. Facebook said it would censor coverage of the Biden family corruption pending a “fact-check,” an unprecedented privilege given to Biden in the closing days of one of the closest presidential elections in history.
Only a few major media outlets are not controlled by the left, Silberman noted, citing Fox News, where this reporter is a contributor, the New York Post, and The Wall Street Journal. “It should be sobering for those concerned about news bias that these institutions are controlled by a single man and his son. Will a lone holdout remain in what is otherwise a frighteningly orthodox media culture? After all, there are serious efforts to muzzle Fox News,” he wrote. CNN hosts and other leftist activsts are currently on a campaign to deplatform their rival.
“Admittedly, a number of Fox’s commentators lean as far to the right as the commentators and reporters of the mainstream outlets lean to the left,” Silberman wrote in a footnote, in a dig at reporters inserting their extreme partisan views into news stories.
A New York Supreme Court judge last week ruled against The New York Times’ effort to get a defamation suit against it dismissed. The Times had said that its reporters were inserting opinion into news stories, and that opinions are not actionable for defamation. The argument didn’t hold sway with the judge, who critiqued the blending of news and opinion in purported news stories.
Another footnote critiqued the tepid response of some to “big tech’s behavior” censoring conservative speech. Silberman called repression of political speech in large institutions with market power “fundamentally un-American.”
“Some emphasize these companies are private and therefore not subject to the First Amendment. Yet—even if correct— it is not an adequate excuse for big tech’s bias. The First Amendment is more than just a legal provision: It embodies the most important value of American Democracy. Repression of political speech by large institutions with market power therefore is—I say this advisedly—fundamentally un-American,” Silberman wrote.
He then cited Tim Groseclose’s book, “Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind,” which empirically argued that media bias even a decade ago gave Democrat candidates an 8-10 point advantage. “And now, a decade after this book’s publication, the press and media do not even pretend to be neutral news services.” Silberman noted.
“The First Amendment guarantees a free press to foster a vibrant trade in ideas. But a biased press can distort the marketplace. And when the media has proven its willingness—if not eagerness—to so distort, it is a profound mistake to stand by unjustified legal rules that serve only to enhance the press’ power,” Silberman concluded.
The Magna Carta created the moral and political premise that, in many ways, the American founding was built upon. The Magna Carta came to represent the idea that the people can assert their rights against an oppressive ruler and that the power of government can be limited to protect those rights. These concepts were clearly foundational and central to both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.
First, a bit of history about Magna Carta — its full name was Magna Carta Libertatum which is Latin for “Great Charter of Freedoms.” But, it became commonly known as simply Magna Carta or the “Great Charter.” It was written in 1215 to settle an intense political dispute between King John of England and a group of barons who were challenging King John’s absolute right to rule. The terms of the charter were negotiated over the course of three days. When they reached agreement on June 15, 1215, the document was signed by the King and the barons at Runnymede outside of London.
This was a time when kings asserted the absolute right to rule, and that they were above the law and that they were personally chosen to rule by God. At this time, even questioning the King’s power was both treasonous and an act of defiance to God himself.
The Magna Carta limited the king’s absolute claim to power. It provided a certain level of religious freedom or independence from the crown, protected barons from illegal imprisonment, and limited the taxes that the crown could impose upon the barons, among other things. It did not champion the rights of every Englishman. It only focused on the rights of the barons. But, it was an important start to the concept of limiting the absolute power of governments or kings that claimed God had given them the absolute right to rule.
Magna Carta is important because of the principles it stood for and the ideas that it came to represent — not because it lasted a long time. Shortly after signing the charter, King John asked Pope Innocent III to annul it, which he did. Then there was a war known as the First Barons War that began in 1215 and finally ended in 1217.
After King John died in 1216, the regency government of John’s nine-year-old son, Henry III reissued the Magna Carta, after having stripped out some of its more “radical” elements in hopes of reuniting the country under his rule. That didn’t work, but at the end of the war in 1217, the original Magna Carta’s terms became the foundation for a peace treaty.
Over the following decades and centuries, the importance of Magna Carta ebbed and flowed depending on the current king’s view of it and his willingness to accept it, or abide by it its concepts. But subsequent kings further legitimized or confirmed the principles of Magna Carta — often in exchange for some grant of new taxes or some other political concession. But the path towards limited government and individual rights had been planted and continued to grow.
Despite its relatively short political life as a working document, Magna Carta created and memorialized the idea that the people had the right to limit the powers of their government and they had the right to protect basic and important rights. By the end of the Sixteenth Century, the political lore of Magna Carta grew and the idea of an ancient source for individual rights became cemented in the minds of reform-minded political scholars, thinkers and writers.
Obviously, it wasn’t as written in 1215 a document that protected the rights of the average Englishman. It only protected English barons. But the concepts of individual rights and the limitations of governmental power had grown and were starting to mature. Magna Carta was the seed of those powerful concepts of freedom and constitutionally limited government. By the 17th and 18th Centuries, those arguing for reforms and greater individual rights and protections used Magna Carta as their foundation. These ideas are at the very center of both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.
As English settlers came to the shores of North America, they brought with them charters under the authority of the King. The Virginia Charter of 1606 promised the English settlers all the same “liberties, franchises and immunities” as people born in England. The Massachusetts Bay Company charter acknowledged the rights of the settlers to be treated as “free and natural subjects.”
In 1687, William Penn, an early American leader, who had at one point been imprisoned in the Tower of London for his political and religious views, published a pamphlet on freedom and religious liberty that included a copy of the Magna Carta and discussed it as a source of fundamental law. American scholars began to see Magna Carta as the source of their guaranteed rights of trial by jury and habeas corpus (which prevented a king from simply locking up his enemies without charges or due process). While that isn’t necessarily correct history, it is part of the growth of the seed of freedom and liberty that Magna Carta planted.
By July 4, 1776, the idea that government could, and should be, limited by the consent of its citizens and that government must protect individual rights was widely seen as springing forth from Magna Carta. The beautiful and important words penned by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration spring from the fertile soil of Magna Carta:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Obviously, Thomas Jefferson’s ideas of liberty and freedom had developed a great deal since Magna Carta was penned in 1215. But, it is impossible to read Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence and not see the common DNA.
When the Founders debated, drafted and ratified the U.S. Constitution, it is also clear they were creating a set of rules and procedures to limit and check the power of government and to guarantee basic, individual rights.
The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution which guarantees “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” is a concept that comes from Magna Carta. Our constitutional guarantees of “a speedy trial” as found in the Sixth Amendment are also founded in the political thought that grew from Magna Carta. The Constitution’s guarantee of the “privilege of the writ of habeas corpus” (Art.1, Sec. 9) is also a concept that grew from Magna Carta.
Even the phrase “the law of the land” comes from Magna Carta’s history. And now we use that phrase in the United States to describe our Constitution which we proudly label “the law of the land.”
To this day, Magna Carta is an important symbol of liberty in both England and the United States.
The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution are in my estimation the two most important and influential political documents ever written. What they did to provide promote and protect the freedom, opportunity and security of the average person is almost impossible to overstate. As British Prime Minister William Gladstone said in 1878, “the American Constitution is the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.”
I believe Gladstone was correct. But, Magna Carta was an important development in political thought and understanding about government power and individual rights. It is difficult to imagine the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution without the foundational elements provided by Magna Carta.
Democrats say Muslim terrorists aren’t terrorists, but their political opponents are.
The Biden administration responded to protests against its stolen election by embedding a domestic extremism office into the National Security Council. The man in charge of making it happen, Joshua Geltzer, had previously denied that Black Lives Matter was a terrorist threat and had attacked the Trump administration’s response to Antifa and BLM violence in Portland.
That means that the only domestic extremists the NSC will be fighting are Republicans.
Even while the Biden administration is preparing to double down on Obama’s abuse of the national security state to target his political opponents, it’s also giving real terrorists a pass.
Joe Biden, whose biggest bundlers included the Iran Lobby, announced he was ending support for American allies fighting the Houthis, and then went even further by preparing to remove the terrorist organization whose motto is, “Death to America”, which took American hostages and tried to kill American sailors, from the list of designated foreign terrorist organizations.
The motto of Iran’s Houthi Jihadis is, “Allahu Akbar, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse the Jews, Victory to Islam.” The Houthis took over parts of Yemen as a result of the chaos unleashed by Obama’s pro-Islamist Arab Spring. Since then they’ve been engaged in a protracted war while causing a local famine by confiscating food from the local population.
Last year, the Trump administration had finally secured the release of three American hostages, Sandra Loli, an American aid worker who had been held for 3 years, another American who had been held for a year, and the body of a third American, in exchange for 240 Houthis, including three dozen Islamic terrorists who had been trained in the use of missiles and drones by Iran.
Like those launched at the USS Mason.
The Houthis lived up to their “Death to America” slogan by repeatedly launching cruise missiles at the USS Mason which had been protecting shipping in the area. And they lived up to the second half of their slogan by ethnically cleansing the remaining local Jewish population, locking them up, and confiscating their homes and land. Local reports stated that the Houthis were “cutting off water & electricity to Jewish homes and preventing Jews from purchasing food.”
“No Jew would be allowed to stay here,” one of the Jewish refugees said.
The Iran-backed Islamic terrorists fight using 18,000 child soldiers. The soldiers, many abducted, some as young as 10, are taught to hate America and to kill enemies of Iran.
None of this stopped Biden’s State Department from taking the Houthis off the terror list.
“Secretary Blinken has been clear about undertaking an expeditious review of the designations of Ansarallah,” the State Department claimed. “After a comprehensive review, we can confirm that the Secretary intends to revoke the Foreign Terrorist Organization and Specially Designated Global Terrorist designations of Ansarallah.”
‘Ansarallah’ or ‘Defenders of Allah’ is what the Houthis call themselves. Blinken had only been confirmed on Tuesday. By next Friday, he had already somehow completed the “comprehensive review”, amid all the other minor business like China, Russia, and a global pandemic, and decided that the Islamic terrorists whose motto is “Death to America” aren’t really terrorists.
How can the Biden administration deny that Islamic Jihadis backed by Iran who attacked Americans are terrorists? The State Department claimed that this, “has nothing to do with our view of the Houthis and their reprehensible conduct, including attacks against civilians and the kidnapping of American citizens.” Not to mention the attacks on the USS Mason.
But the Biden administration isn’t even going to pretend to care about attacks on our military.
The Bidenites are claiming that they’re taking the Houthis, whom they don’t deny are terrorists, off the list of designated terrorist groups because of the “humanitarian consequences”.
That’s a lie, no matter how often you hear it in the media, because Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States would be providing licenses to “humanitarian activities conducted by non-governmental organizations in Yemen and to certain transactions and activities related to exports to Yemen of critical commodities like food and medicine.”
That’s despite the fact that the humanitarian crisis in Yemen was caused by the Houthis.
Nevertheless the media, echoing propaganda from the Iran Lobby and Qatar, a close terrorist ally of Iran, has falsely claimed that the Houthis are the victims of the Yemen famine. A number of politicians, mostly Democrats, but some Republicans, as well as various aid groups, have pushed this same disinformation campaign about the causes of the Yemen famine.
America and its allies have spent billions providing food, medicine, and other humanitarian aid to Yemen. That aid has been seized by the Houthis who have used it for their own troops or to resell on the black market. This is a familiar problem from Syria to Somalia, and aid groups have refused to honestly address their complicity in aiding the terrorists who caused the crisis.
There’s no money in admitting that the aid an organization is providing is being seized by the terrorists, prolonging the conflict and worsening the humanitarian crisis. Some aid organizations share the same goal as the Houthis of worsening the crisis because it boosts their donations.
That’s why international aid organizations don’t want to talk about the Houthis taking their food donations, or about their use of child soldiers. “It’s a taboo,” an anonymous aid official had said.
When Secretary Pompeo announced that the United States was finally designating the Houthis a foreign terrorist organization, the United Nations took the lead in claiming that it would cause a humanitarian crisis. But the UN’s World Food Program had already admittedthat its food shipments weren’t getting to the starving people because the Houthis were intercepting them.
The Middle East director for UNICEF also admitted that the Houthis were seizing food.
An Associated Press investigation found entire stores seling “cooking oil and flour displaying the U.N. food program’s WFP logo.” The former Houthi education minister said that 15,000 food baskets that were supposed to go to hungry families instead went to the Houthi terrorists whom the Biden administration is defending. Massive amounts of aid have been pumped into Yemen, and the famine has only grown worse because the Houthis have used starvation as a weapon.
The only way to end the famine is to end Iran’s grip on Yemen through its Houthi terrorists.
That’s obviously not what Biden or the Democrats have in mind. The loudest Democrat voices against designating the Houthis as a terrorist group have a troubling history with Iran.
“Reversing the designation is an important decision that will save lives and, combined with the appointment of a Special Envoy, offers hope that President Biden is committed to bringing the war to an end,” Senator Chris Murphy tweeted.
Murphy had been among the loudest voices against the designation.
And Murphy had met with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif last year. That same year, he had advocated lowering sanctions on Iran for “humanitarian reasons”. Biden had also joined the push to use the pandemic as a pretext for reducing sanctions on the terror state.
That same year, the Left succeeded in forcing out Rep. Elliot Engel, one of the few remaining pro-Israel Democrats, and replaced him with the militantly anti-Israel Rep. Jamaal Bowman, whose election was backed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and her antisemitic ‘Squad’.
Engel, who had served as Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was replaced by Rep. Gregory Meeks, a strong backer of the Iran Deal. Meeks’ position was cheered by Iran Lobby groups. As far back as 2009, Meeks had declared at a hearing, “I have developed a tremendous appreciation for the work of the National Iranian American Council. I am pleased that we will hear the perspective of NIAC’s President, Mr. Trita Parsi.”
Emails released allegedly showed Parsi telling Iran’s Foreign Minister, “I am having a meeting with Gilchrest and Meeks, and they asked for our assistance in getting some communication going between the parliamentarians.”
Speaking to the Islamic Republic News Agency, the official state news agency of the Islamic terrorist state, Chairman Meeks allegedly stated that he was willing to travel to Iran and had been engaged in dialogue with Iranian legislators.
Meeks took the lead in attacking the designation of the Houthi Islamic terrorists as terrorists, arguing that, “No solution in Yemen will be sustainable unless the Houthis are involved.”
And that gets at the real reason why Biden and Democrats oppose the designation.
It’s not about humanitarian aid, which would have kept on going anyway, only to be stolen by the Houthis. It’s about supporting Iran’s bid to take over parts of Yemen in order to control shipping and tighten the grip of the Islamic terrorist regime over the entire region.
The ‘diplomatic’ solution advocated by Biden and the Democrats would finalize Iran’s grip over parts of Yemen. Designating the Houthis as terrorists would get in the way of another in a series of Islamist dirty deals with Iran that began with Obama and that will continue on under Biden.
Even while the Democrats insist loudly that the Houthis must be part of the solution in Yemen, they just as vocally cry that the Republicans must be isolated and eliminated in America.
The Democrats militarized D.C. with an armed occupation and are criminalizing political dissent. They have claimed that one riot, after a year full of them by their own activist wing, requires a permanent state of emergency that will be run through the National Security Council.
The Biden administration is not only taking the Houthis, and likely other Islamic terrorist groups, off the terror list, it’s putting the domestic political opposition on its terror list. This is an extension of the same Obama policy that illegally shipped foreign cash to Iran even while it was using the NSA to spy on pro-Israel members of Congress and on the Trump campaign.
The Democrats are happy to fight terrorism by designating their domestic political opponents as terrorists while removing the “Death to America” Houthis who have kidnapped and killed Americans, who fired on the USS Mason, and ethnically cleansed Jews, from the terror list.
And what do the Houthis plan to do with their newfound support from the Biden administration?
In addition to sanctioning the Houthis, the Trump administration sanctioned three of their leaders, beginning with Abdul Malik al-Houthi. The Houthi leader has made it clear that he intends to build up the same missile program that was used to attack the USS Mason.
“To have rockets that could reach far beyond Riyadh, this is a great achievement,” he said, referring to the Saudi capital.
He also promised to send terrorists to fight against Israel.
“Many of Yemen’s tribesmen are ambitious to fight against Israel, and they are looking for the day to participate along with the freemen of the Islamic nation against the Israeli enemy,”
This is the terrorist group that the Biden administration and the Democrats are bailing out even while they’re criminalizing the Republican political opposition as terrorists.
“Death to America” is something that the Houthis and their Democrat supporters can agree on.
White House doesn't list Israel as American ally
President Joe Biden is the first American leader in 40 years not to contact Israel’s leaders as one of his first actions in the White House, setting up what could be four years of chilly relations between America and its top Middle East ally.
Biden has already phoned multiple world leaders, including Russian president Vladimir Putin and Chinese president Xi Jinping, but during his 23 days in office has yet to speak with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu—making Biden the first president in modern history to punt on bolstering U.S.-Israel relations during his initial days in office. Every president going back to at least Ronald Reagan in 1981 made contact with their Israeli counterpart within a week of assuming office, according to a review of news reports.
Congressional foreign policy leaders slammed Biden’s Netanyahu snub, prompting a flurry of questions for White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who has declined to disclose when or if Biden will call the Israeli leader. Psaki also said on Friday the White House would not list Israel as a U.S. ally when asked about the relationship during her daily press briefing.
Modern presidents going back to Reagan made calls or overtures to Israel during their first days in office, sending a message the United States would continue to stand for the Jewish state’s security. Biden’s diplomatic slight comes as Israel faces encroaching terrorist threats and the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran. He also has hired several individuals with a background in anti-Israel activism, including Maher Bitar, a top White House National Security Council official who spent his youth organizing boycotts of the Jewish state. The State Department’s Iran envoy, Robert Malley, also has been a vocal critic of Israel.
Upon assuming office in January 1981, Reagan made overtures to Israel, vowing to protect its interests, and sent Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to meet with Israel’s leaders to build “Israeli confidence in the administration of President-elect Ronald Reagan,” according to an Associated Press report from the time.
President George H.W. Bush followed this trend. He called then-Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir on Jan. 25, 1989, five days after he entered the White House.
President Bill Clinton reached out to Israel even sooner. He called then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin on Jan. 23, 1993, three days after being sworn in.
President George W. Bush phoned former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak on Jan. 27, 2001, a week after taking the White House, to express his support for the U.S.-Israel alliance.
President Barack Obama, who faced criticism from Republicans for policies they branded anti-Israel, called the Jewish state’s leaders on his first day in office. Obama also called Palestinian leaders that day, laying the groundwork for that administration’s failed bid to foster peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
President Donald Trump not only called Netanyahu but made the historic decision to invite him to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 22, 2017, two days after he took the oath of office.
GOP leaders on the House Foreign Affairs Committee raised multiple concerns with Biden’s refusal to express support for Israel with a phone call.
“I’m not sure why President Biden has already called world leaders from 10 other nations, including China but hasn’t yet bothered to speak with Israel,” Rep. Mark Green (R., Tenn.) told the Washington Free Beacon on Thursday, adding that “Israel deserves to be treated with respect from every world leader—especially the president of the United States.”
Rep. Ronny Jackson (R., Texas), another HFAC member, asked, “What is President Biden avoiding?”
“The American-Israeli relationship is vital to our national security for a litany of reasons,” Jackson told the Free Beacon. “I urge President Biden to ignore the radical left in his party and make a strong show of support for our partnership with Israel by calling Prime Minister Netanyahu.”
As inaugural speeches go, Joe Biden‘s will be remembered (if at all) for its forgettability. Its best line was borrowed. It lacked the soaring rhetoric of a Reagan, Roosevelt or Kennedy calling us to search within ourselves to find the strength to make America the nation most of us believe it can be. It was, instead, as workmanlike and pedestrian as the man who gave it.
In and of itself, this is not an especially bad thing. Biden’s reputation as an orator was irreparably damaged by the plagiarism scandal that destroyed the then-senator’s 1987 run for the Democratic presidential nomination. After four years of flash and sass, the American people may be ready for a president who operates at a consistently lower frequency.
Trump fatigue will only get Biden so far. He’s going to have to produce, and quickly, to show the American people their decision to change horses midstream was the right one. So far, he’s not doing it. His heavy reliance on executive orders to set policy is rankling the remaining constitutionalists within his own party who upbraided his immediate predecessor for doing what the new president himself once referred to as dictatorial. Through executive orders he’s killed jobs, reapplied the heavy hand of federal regulation and readopted radical theories that keep the nation divided into camps. So much for the unity he supposedly called for in his address.
But was he really calling for unity? If Trump was the polarizer, as the conventional wisdom has accepted, then Biden is the unifier whose main job is to bring America together at a time when our differences threaten to rip the very fabric of our democracy apart—at least, this is how the folks on MSNBC and CNN and at The New York Times portray it.
And that’s the tack Biden took in his maiden presidential address. The need to bring the country together, addressing the problems as he defined them would require “that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity.”
Biden used that word 11 times in the speech—mostly erroneously. His repeated calls for unity were actually appeals for uniformity which, as any student of democracy will tell you, is among the most undemocratic things that can be found anywhere on Earth. The absence of dissent, the absolute sameness of opinion and direction, is deadly to truth, to scientific inquiry, to progress, to entrepreneurship and to liberty itself.
Biden isn’t alone among the Left and progressives, either in his desire for uniformity or his willingness to disguise it in more noble terms. For years now there’s been a concerted effort to push conservative voices out of the public square. What started on college campuses has spread to the business community, to social media and to the national conversation itself. Progressives believe their analysis of what the problems are and where they came from is conclusive—while efforts to dispute those conclusions are not only disharmonious but dangerous to everyone.
It’s not enough for large groups of people to be woke. Those who are not must be, in the minds of progressives, still asleep. How else does one process the calls from prominent persons for the “deprogramming” of Trump supporters and the suppression by Big Tech of what it all too easily and without basis labels misleading information?
The survival of the American system depends on room continually being made for rigorous, civil, constructive debate, even over topics people find unpleasant. Yes, we must all come together to fight the evils that exist—as Mr. Biden called for us to do in his speech—but who gets to pick what those evils are? This is not an anodyne question. The one who takes it upon himself to define the terms and identify the problems has the advantage when it comes to proposing the solutions.
The sense of oneness Mr. Biden invoked in his calls for “unity” may be benign rather than threatening if he’s leaving room for a broad diversity of opinions and approaches to confronting “the common foes we face: Anger, resentment, hatred. Extremism, lawlessness, violence. Disease, joblessness, hopelessness.” If he’s not—and it’s clear that important leaders in his party and the movement he leads are not—then the nation’s political polarization will continue at an accelerated pace.
America is a big place with room for the big ideas that will see us through our current conflicts. Rather than focus on unity or uniformity, Mr. Biden would do better to approach the challenges before him from the perspective that he needs to build a consensus and not simply expect people to fall in line behind him. There needs to be space for lots of voices—not just his.