Fear and Hate:

So this was written even as John Bolton ponders an Israeli strike on Iran.

This brief survey demonstrates why Israel's military option against Iran's nuclear program is so unattractive, but also why failing to act is even worse. All these scenarios become infinitely more dangerous once Iran has deliverable nuclear weapons....

On the other hand, the Obama administration's increased pressure on Israel concerning the "two-state solution" and West Bank settlements demonstrates Israel's growing distance from Washington. Although there is no profit now in complaining that Israel should have struck during the Bush years, the missed opportunity is palpable. For the remainder of Mr. Obama's term, uncertainty about his administration's support for Israel will continue to dog Israeli governments and complicate their calculations.
Israel is afraid, of a great many things. How reasonable are their fears? Iran is a place proven to be of great capacity for calculation, one that has succeeded in waging war with America on two fronts without actually incurring retaliation. They have been killing us here for quite some time, but aside from rough words from our generals, they have nothing to fear. Certainly our President seems unlikely to endorse any such course as Mr. Bolton suggests, and how they will cross Iraq's airspace without our consent is something they will need to ponder.

Does such a state as Iran really intend to develop nuclear weapons, only and solely to cast away its life in fire? Frankly, it's hard for me to believe, in spite of the suicide bombers they send forth. The truth is that few of the people who orchestrate suicide bombings ever think to carry a bomb themselves. Normally they leave that to others, even at the end of their lives when you would think there was little to lose. They are manipulators, not brave men themselves.

A man can be both wicked and brave, of course: and some of these cap a wretched life with a death meant as an insult to the world. We saw such an attempt this week at the Holocaust Museum, which is tied to this story both by the form of attack -- a suicide, that failed -- and by its target.

Here was an old man who saw every belief in which he had put faith held to ridicule and then discarded. Here was his attempt to draw your eye, just once before he finally died, and to underline what he believed in such a way as you could not ignore it.

Well, a man who is ready to die for his beliefs will be heard. We have heard, and now let him pass from us.

Still, it has frightened. It has frightened some people badly. Cassandra mocks one of them; but while her arguments (Ms. Warner's) are just as bad as Cassandra says, I think we should respond otherwise.

Ms. Warner is easily frightened; she is apparently the author of a book called Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety. I recall her too from this column:
She writes about attending a McCain-Palin rally in Virginia. She confesses that she intended to go as a joke, and to mock the attendees -- but she ends up being taken by the kindness of the strangers, their hopes for Gov. Palin, and the evident joy of their lives. It scares the hell out of her.
No, it wasn’t funny, my morning with the hockey and the soccer moms, the homeschooling moms and the book club moms, the joyful moms who brought their children to see history in the making and spun them on the lawn, dancing, when music played. It was sobering. It was serious. It was an education.... For those of us who can’t tap into those yearnings, it seems the Palin faithful are blind[.]
Yet she went on in very much the right spirit, recognizing the blinders of ideology and wanting to see past them.

Today's piece was... not of that spirit. Still, remember that now she is frightened not by joyful mothers dancing with their children, but by a hateful killer who has wrought with death a fearful sign.

So we ought to be kind, and recognize that we are looking at panic from a woman who confesses herself to be given to anxiety. Her fear has become hate, but it does not always lie on her so strongly. She has moments, when the fear is on her less, that she tries to do right.

So say to her: Be at peace, lady. We are not your enemy. No arms of ours will be used against you. They might well be used in your defense.

This man has done the last harm he will do to the world. Don't make of him more than he was.

If you must fear, there are real dangers in the world. Fear Iran, perhaps, but we have no power there: it is the hour of another. Yet if called to the task, you know we will come.

Two For Today

Battles Lost and Losing:

The American Knife and Tool Institute (AKTI) finds itself, today, in a difficult position. It wants to draw your eye to a sweeping power grab by the Federal government to regulate even the pocketknife you might normally carry -- by redefining it as a switchblade, even though it has no switch.

Yet it is hard to get people to see that this is a serious danger; after all, it is an arcane rule-change, not a legislative process; and it is by a portion of the government that has no normal reason to be of concern to Americans, namely the Customs service; and anyway, it's so obvious that my knife is not a switchblade, how could I possibly be concerned about it?

Well, on another topic, were you concerned about the EMTALA? Neither was I. In fact, I don't recall having ever heard of it until today, when I read this piece by GruntDoc, at the recommendation of Doc Russia. He is explaining why doctors are doing so little to try and stop ObamaCare, even though it will plainly destroy both their ability to make a living and also lead to government rationing.

When the monstrosity of EMTALA was enshrined the battle against universal health care was lost. How is the argument even made that we do not have universal care now? And how can one argue that there is a problem with access? I have not been able, ever, to turn a patient away from the ER.

You can be a murderer, an illegal alien, or a John Doe, pick up the phone, call 911, and get all your care (up to and including all manner of surgery) right away at the ER and never pay a dime. Why in God's name would we physicians, as a group, have any other belief than that the battle is lost and was lost some time ago.

Also, even though we have swallowed the bitter pill of universal care (without any legislative disincentive to abuse the system having survived scrutiny) our feeble attempts to bring even a small amount of sensibility to our tort system have been crushed in their infancy by the legal community, most often the American Trial Lawyers Association (and their willing accomplices in the congress).... [W]e are not allowed to deduct the cost of this free care we give away, conservative estimates place it at $150k per year per Emergency Physician, and we are taxed in the highest bracket.
The lawyers and lawmakers are strangling us all. It's gotten to where it is more than a full-time job just to keep track of the new regulations that the government is constantly dreaming up to impose on our lives. If you spent all day every day doing just that and nothing else, you still would need to hire help.



Along the way to defining 'right drinking,' Scruton imagines what he calls "true chastity" for an analogy. This is a concept worth considering entirely separately from the concept of right drinking, though (perhaps because of my own continued 'chastity' from both drink and other things, occasioned by General Order #1) the analogy between a temporary abstinence from sex and from drink seems reasonable to me.

What he argues is that chastity is best taught (to those who are not priests) as a way of whetting the appetite, so that you may enjoy the deepest and fullest experience of the thing when the time is right. Sex is not something to be avoided, but rather, something that is best when it is joined to love and to commitment.

That is what true chastity consists in, and it provides one of the deep arguments in favour of marriage or, at least, in favour of the constraint upon sexual appetite that is offered by love, that it makes sexual enjoyment into a personally fulfilling habit.
Chastity in this light becomes, not an avoidance of something that is pleasurable, but a means of deepening the experience. In this way it is placed in the realm appealing to those who want to "live best, and love deepest" -- in a word, it becomes romantic.

That suggests Scruton has hit the truth of the thing.

Vine and Virtue

Virtue and Vine:

Roger Scruton has a piece on the virtue of drinking. He is aiming at the Aristotlean balance between vice ("vicious drinking") and avoidance (which he probably improperly renders as 'Puritanism').

If alcohol causes drunkenness, they think, then the sole moral question concerns whether you should drink it at all, and if so how much. The idea that the moral question concerns how you drink it, in what company and in what state of mind, is one that is entirely foreign to their way of understanding the human condition.

This puritan legacy can be seen in many aspects of British and American society. And what is most interesting to the anthropologist is the ease with which puritan outrage can be displaced from one topic to another and the equal ease with which the thing formerly disapproved of can be overnight exonerated from all taint of sin. This has been particularly evident in the case of sex. Our parents and grandparents were concerned — and rightly concerned — that young people should look on sex as a temptation to be resisted. However, they did not see chastity as a preparation for sexual enjoyment: in their eyes it was precisely the enjoyment that was wrong. As a result, they made no real distinction between virtuous and vicious desire. The whole subject was taboo and the only answer to the question of sexual urges was "Don't!" The old idea of chastity as a form of temperance eluded them. Yet what Aristotle said about anger (by way of elucidating the virtue of praotes or "gentleness") applies equally to sex. For Aristotle it is not right to avoid anger absolutely. It is necessary rather to acquire the right habit — in other words, to school oneself into feeling the right amount of anger towards the right person, on the right occasion and for the right length of time.

What is the right balance for the consumption of alcohol? He invites you to consider:
The practice of buying rounds in the pub is one of the great cultural achievements of the English. It enables people with little money of their own to make generous gestures, without the risk of being ruined by them. It enables each person to distinguish himself from his neighbours and to portray his individuality in his choice of drink, and it causes affection progressively to mount in the circle of drinkers, by giving each in turn the character of a warm and hospitable friend. In a way it is a moral improvement on the Greek symposium, where the host alone appeared in the character of the giver, and also on the common room and the country house. The round of drinks enables even the speechless and the downtrodden briefly to receive the thanks, the appreciation and the honour of their neighbours....

When people sit down together in a public place — a place where none of them is sovereign but each of them at home — and when those people pass the evening together, sipping drinks in which the spirit of place is stored and amplified, maybe smoking or taking snuff and in any case willingly exchanging the dubious benefits of longevity for the certain joys of friendship, they rehearse in their souls the original act of settlement, the act that set our species on the path of civilisation, and which endowed us with the order of neighbourhood and the rule of law.

Although there is some rather playful anthropology at work in the piece, it's hard to argue with that particular note. I look forward to having the occasion to enjoy such companionship, once I have left behind a land and a life that is dry in both the physical and metaphorical senses of the term.

Scruton quotes a few poets in his discourse. There are many good ones! Among my favorites is this stanza of Chesterton's:
Feast on wine or fast on water
And your honour shall stand sure,
God Almighty's son and daughter
He the valiant, she the pure;
If an angel out of heaven
Brings you other things to drink,
Thank him for his kind attentions,
Go and pour them down the sink.