Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Boys of Pointe du Hoc. By Ronald Reagan.

President Ronald Reagan salutes during a ceremony commemorating the 40th anniversary of D-day, the invasion of Europe. Wikimedia.

The Boys of Pointe du Hoc: Remarks at a Ceremony Commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, D-day, June 6, 1984. By Ronald Reagan. The American Presidency Project. Also at Real Clear Politics, Reagan Archives, Mike’s America. Video at YouTube here and here.

President Reagan’s 1984 Normandy Speech. By Rush Limbaugh., June 6, 2013.

The Boys of Pointe du Hoc. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, June 6, 2013.

The Greatest Generation Passing Into History. By Michael Barone. Real Clear Politics, June 6, 2013.


We’re here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved and the world prayed for its rescue. Here, in Normandy, the rescue began. Here, the Allies stood and fought against tyranny, in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.

We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, two hundred and twenty-five Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs.

Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here, and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.

The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers at the edge of the cliffs, shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only ninety could still bear arms.

And behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there. These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. And these are the heroes who helped end a war. Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender's poem. You are men who in your “lives fought for life and left the vivid air signed with your honor.”

I think I know what you may be thinking right now – thinking “we were just part of a bigger effort; everyone was brave that day.” Well everyone was. Do you remember the story of Bill Millin of the 51st Highlanders? Forty years ago today, British troops were pinned down near a bridge, waiting desperately for help. Suddenly, they heard the sound of bagpipes, and some thought they were dreaming. Well, they weren’t. They looked up and saw Bill Millin with his bagpipes, leading the reinforcements and ignoring the smack of the bullets into the ground around him.

Lord Lovat was with him – Lord Lovat of Scotland, who calmly announced when he got to the bridge, “Sorry, I’m a few minutes late,” as if he'd been delayed by a traffic jam, when in truth he’d just come from the bloody fighting on Sword Beach, which he and his men had just taken.

There was the impossible valor of the Poles, who threw themselves between the enemy and the rest of Europe as the invasion took hold; and the unsurpassed courage of the Canadians who had already seen the horrors of war on this coast. They knew what awaited them there, but they would not be deterred. And once they hit Juno Beach, they never looked back.

All of these men were part of a roll call of honor with names that spoke of a pride as bright as the colors they bore; The Royal Winnipeg Rifles, Poland’s 24th Lancers, the Royal Scots’ Fusiliers, the Screaming Eagles, the Yeomen of England's armored divisions, the forces of Free France, the Coast Guard’s “Matchbox Fleet,” and you, the American Rangers.

Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief. It was loyalty and love.

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead, or on the next. It was the deep knowledge – and pray God we have not lost it – that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.

The Americans who fought here that morning knew word of the invasion was spreading through the darkness back home. They fought – or felt in their hearts, though they couldn’t know in fact, that in Georgia they were filling the churches at 4:00 am. In Kansas they were kneeling on their porches and praying. And in Philadelphia they were ringing the Liberty Bell.

Something else helped the men of D-day; their rock-hard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause. And so, the night before the invasion, when Colonel Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer, he told them: “Do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask His blessing in what we're about to do.” Also, that night, General Matthew Ridgway on his cot, listening in the darkness for the promise God made to Joshua: “I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.”

These are the things that impelled them; these are the things that shaped the unity of the Allies.

When the war was over, there were lives to be rebuilt and governments to be returned to the people. There were nations to be reborn. Above all, there was a new peace to be assured. These were huge and daunting tasks. But the Allies summoned strength from the faith, belief, loyalty, and love of those who fell here. They rebuilt a new Europe together. There was first a great reconciliation among those who had been enemies, all of whom had suffered so greatly. The United States did its part, creating the Marshall Plan to help rebuild our allies and our former enemies. The Marshall Plan led to the Atlantic alliance – a great alliance that serves to this day as our shield for freedom, for prosperity, and for peace.

In spite of our great efforts and successes, not all that followed the end of the war was happy or planned. Some liberated countries were lost. The great sadness of this loss echoes down to our own time in the streets of Warsaw, Prague, and East Berlin. The Soviet troops that came to the center of this continent did not leave when peace came. They’re still there, uninvited, unwanted, unyielding, almost forty years after the war. Because of this, allied forces still stand on this continent. Today, as forty years ago, our armies are here for only one purpose: to protect and defend democracy. The only territories we hold are memorials like this one and graveyards where our heroes rest.

We in America have learned bitter lessons from two world wars. It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We’ve learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent. But we try always to be prepared for peace, prepared to deter aggression, prepared to negotiate the reduction of arms, and yes, prepared to reach out again in the spirit of reconciliation. In truth, there is no reconciliation we would welcome more than a reconciliation with the Soviet Union, so, together, we can lessen the risks of war, now and forever.

It’s fitting to remember here the great losses also suffered by the Russian people during World War II. Twenty million perished, a terrible price that testifies to all the world the necessity of ending war. I tell you from my heart that we in the United States do not want war. We want to wipe from the face of the earth the terrible weapons that man now has in his hands. And I tell you, we are ready to seize that beachhead. We look for some sign from the Soviet Union that they are willing to move forward, that they share our desire and love for peace, and that they will give up the ways of conquest. There must be a changing there that will allow us to turn our hope into action.

We will pray forever that someday that changing will come. But for now, particularly today, it is good and fitting to renew our commitment to each other, to our freedom, and to the alliance that protects it.

We’re bound today by what bound us 40 years ago, the same loyalties, traditions, and beliefs. We’re bound by reality. The strength of America's allies is vital to the United States, and the American security guarantee is essential to the continued freedom of Europe’s democracies. We were with you then; we’re with you now. Your hopes are our hopes, and your destiny is our destiny.

Here, in this place where the West held together, let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgway listened: “I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.”

Strengthened by their courage and heartened by their value [valor] and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.

Thank you very much, and God bless you all.

Saving Private Ryan: Omaha Beach Scene [1998]. Sandra Prior, May 6, 2012. YouTube. Also here. The first 20 minutes of this film is the most accurate and realistic portrayal of the horror and butchery of June 6, 1944. These men sacrificed their lives so that we, their posterity, could live in freedom.

The Stagnant Mediterranean. By Victor Davis Hanson.

The Stagnant Mediterranean. By Victor Davis Hanson. National Review Online, June 6, 2013.


From the heights of Gibraltar you can see Africa about nine miles away to the south — and gaze eastward on the seemingly endless Mediterranean, which stretches 2,400 miles to Asia. Mare Nostrum, “our sea,” the Romans called the deep blue waters that allowed Rome to unite Asia, Africa, and Europe for half a millennium under a single, prosperous, globalized civilization.
Yet the Mediterranean has not always proved to be history’s incubator of great civilizations — Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, Florentine, and Venetian. Sometimes the ancient “Pillars of Hercules” at the narrow mouth of the Mediterranean here at Gibraltar marked not so much a gateway to progress and prosperity as a cultural and commercial cul-de-sac.
With the rise of the Ottoman Empire, the old city-state powerhouses of Italy and Greece faded from history, as the Mediterranean became more a museum than a catalyst of global change. In contrast, the Reformation and the Enlightenment energized Northern European culture, safely distant from the front line of the exhausting wars with Islam.
By the early 17th century, Northern Europeans more easily and safely reached the rich eastern markets of China and India by maritime routes around Africa. The discovery of the New World further shifted wealth and cultural dynamism out of the Mediterranean.
For a while the Mediterranean seemed to roar back after World War II. Huge deposits of petroleum and natural gas were found in North Africa. The Suez Canal was a shortcut to the newly opulent and strategically vital Persian Gulf. With the unification of Europe and the ongoing decolonization of Africa and the Middle East, there was the promise of a new, resource-rich, democratic, and commercially interconnected Mediterranean.
Not now. The Arab Spring has brought chaos to almost all of North Africa. The bloodbath in Syria threatens to escalate into something like the Spanish Civil War — sucking in Lebanese militias, Iranian mercenaries, Turkey, the Sunni sheikdoms, Israel, and the Palestinians, along with surrogate arms suppliers like China, Europe, Russia, and the United States.

The economies of the Islamic rim of the Mediterranean are in shambles. But then so is the southern flank of the European Union, as Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain haggle for subsidies and loans from an increasingly fed-up Northern Europe. New gas and oil finds in North America, China, and Africa may soon make both Mediterranean supplies and Suez passage to the Persian Gulf irrelevant for a billion energy consumers.
A shrinking and aging Europe keeps drawing in young Muslim immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa. They want out of their impoverished Islamic homelands but are being consumed by, rather than enriching, the wealthier European societies that they are drawn to like moths to a flame. The recent rioting in Sweden, the gruesome near-beheading of a soldier in London, and periodic unrest in the French suburbs all remind us that the Mediterranean is not a shared postmodern vacation spot. Instead it is increasingly a stagnant premodern pond of religious, political, and economic tensions.
Unrest in the West Bank, Gaza, Cyprus, Syria, Libya, and Egypt could at any moment spark violence that cuts across religious, racial, and political fault lines. Yet otherwise, these tired hotspots are immaterial to a world that from Shanghai, Mumbai, and Seoul to Palo Alto, Houston, London, and Frankfurt is creating vast new wealth, technologies, and consumer goods — without much of a nod to Mediterranean science or innovation.
The old strategic fortresses at Cyprus, Crete, Sicily, Malta, and Gibraltar are becoming inconsequential, as the United States pivots to Asia. The Cold War is long over. Europe has all but disarmed. Meanwhile, the societies on the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean are coming apart at the seams.
It is hard to find a robust free-market economy anywhere in the Mediterranean world these days. Instead, European socialism, Arab statism, and Islamic terrorism in various ways are retarding commerce and growth. Tourism — with visitors gazing at ancient rather than modern wonders — is more profitable than manufacturing.
Will the Mediterranean world rebound again? History is cyclical, not linear, and the region’s favorable climate and opportune geography suggest that it could.
But, before we see another Mediterranean renaissance, constitutional government would have to sweep the Muslim world. The fossilized bureaucracy of the European Union would have to radically reform or disappear. A new generation of Michelangelos and Leonardos would have to believe that they could think, say, and write whatever they wished — in a climate of economic confidence, prosperity, and security.
Unfortunately, the culture of the Mediterranean is reverting to its stagnant 18th-century past rather than leading the 21st century.

Israel Lives the Joseph Story. By Thomas L. Friedman.

Israel Lives the Joseph Story. By Thomas L. Friedman. New York Times, June 4, 2013.


How would you like to be an Israeli strategist today? Now even Turkey is in turmoil as its people push back on their increasingly autocratic leader. I mean, there goes the neighborhood. The good news for Israel is that in the near term its near neighbors are too internally consumed to think about threatening it. In the long run, though, Israel faces two serious challenges that I’d dub the Stephen Hawking Story and the Joseph Story.

In case you missed it, Hawking, the British physicist, cosmologist and author of “A Brief History of Time,” canceled a planned trip to Israel this month to attend the fifth annual Israeli Presidential Conference. Cambridge University, where Hawking is a professor, said Hawking had told Israelis that he would not be attending “based on advice from Palestinian academics that he should respect the boycott” of Israel because of the West Bank occupation.

“Never has a scientist of this stature boycotted Israel,” Yigal Palmor, of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, declared. I strongly disagree with what Hawking did. Israelis should be challenged not boycotted. (After all, Palestinians are also at fault.) Nevertheless, his action found wide resonance. The Boston Globe said Hawking’s decision was “a reasonable way to express one’s political views. Observers need not agree with Hawking’s position in order to understand and even respect his choice. The movement that Hawking has signed on to aims to place pressure on Israel through peaceful means.”

That was not Al-Ahram. That was The Boston Globe — a reminder that in this age of social networks, populist revolts and superempowered individuals, “international public opinion matters more not less,” notes the Israeli political theorist Yaron Ezrahi, the author of “Imagined Democracies.” And, in Israel’s case, it is creating a powerful surge of international opinion, particularly in Europe and on college campuses, that Israel is a pariah state because of its West Bank occupation. It is not a good trend for Israel. It makes it that much more dependent on America alone for support.

This global trend, though, is coinciding with a complete breakdown in Israel’s regional environment. Israel today is living a version of the Biblical “Joseph Story,” where Joseph endeared himself to the Pharaoh by interpreting his dreams as a warning that seven fat years would be followed by seven lean years and, therefore, Egypt needed to stock up on grain. In Israel’s case, it has enjoyed, relatively speaking, 40 fat years of stable governments around it. Over the last 40 years, a class of Arab leaders took power and managed to combine direct or indirect oil money, with multiple intelligence services, with support from either America or Russia, to ensconce themselves in office for multiple decades. All of these leaders used their iron fists to keep their sectarian conflicts — Sunnis versus Shiites, Christians versus Muslims, and Kurds and Palestinian refugees versus everyone else — in check. They also kept their Islamists underground.

With these iron-fisted leaders being toppled — and true, multisectarian democracies with effective governments yet to emerge in their place — Israel is potentially facing decades of unstable or no governments surrounding it. Only Jordan offers Israel a normal border. In the hinterlands beyond, Israel is looking at dysfunctional states that are either imploding (like Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain and Libya) or exploding (like Syria).

But here’s what’s worse: These iron-fisted leaders not only suppressed various political forces in their societies but also badly ignored their schools, environments, women’s empowerment and population explosions. Today, all these bills are coming due just when their governments are least able to handle them.

Therefore, the overarching theme for Israeli strategy in the coming years must be “resiliency” — how to maintain a relatively secure environment and thriving economy in a collapsing region.

In my view, that makes resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more important than ever for three reasons: 1) to reverse the trend of international delegitimization closing in on Israel; 2) to disconnect Israel as much as possible from the regional conflicts around it; and 3) to offer a model.

There is no successful model of democratic governance in the Arab world at present — the Islamists are all failing. But Israel, if it partnered with the current moderate Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, has a chance to create a modern, economically thriving, democratic, secular state where Christians and Muslims would live side by side — next to Jews. That would be a hugely valuable example, especially at a time when the Arab world lacks anything like it. And the world for the most part would not begrudge Israel keeping its forces on the Jordan River — as will be necessary given the instability beyond — if it ceded most of the West Bank and Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.

Together, Israelis and Palestinians actually have the power to model what a decent, postauthoritarian, multireligious Arab state could look like. Nothing would address both people’s long-term strategic needs better. Too bad their leaders today are not as farsighted as Joseph.

Taking the High Ground. By Thomas L. Friedman. New York Times, June 13, 2004. Also here.

Friedman 2004:

There is no total victory to be had by Israel over Hezbollah or the Palestinians, without total genocide.

Palestinians and the Hands of Time. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, June 5, 2013.

Ya’alon: No real peace without end to Palestinian incitement. Israel Hayom, June 3, 2013.

The End of Palestinian Reform. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, June 3, 2013.

Palestinians: Why Abbas Chose This Prime Minister. By Khaled Abu Toameh. Gatestone Institute, June 3, 2013.

Palestine’s Nothing Man. By Jonathan Schanzer. Foreign Policy, June 4, 2013.

Radical Islam Arrives in Ramallah. By Khaled Abu Toameh. Gatestone Institute, June 5, 2013.

“Racism” or Extinction. By Dan Calic. Ynet News, June 8, 2013.

The Camel’s Hump Blog.

Palestine, Peoples and Borders in the New Middle East. By Ahmad Samih Khalidi. NJBR, June 3, 2013. With related articles.

Zionism and Israel Are Anti-Semitic. By Joseph Massad. NJBR, June 2, 2013 with related articles.

Palestinians Have Suffered . . . at the Hands of Their Leaders. By Jonathan S. Tobin. NJBR, June 10, 2013. Includes articles and video of Jibril Rajoub claiming Palestine from the river to the sea.

The Libertarian Populist Agenda. By Ben Domenech.

The Libertarian Populist Agenda. By Ben Domenech. Real Clear Politics, June 5, 2013.

Three Challenges to Libertarian Populism. By Ben Domenech. Real Clear Politics, June 6, 2013.

Libertarian Populism and Its Limits. By Ross Douthat. New York Times, June 4, 2013.

What “Conservative Reformers” Can Learn From Libertarians. By Peter Suderman. Reason, May 31, 2013.

Conservative reformers should fix the rigged game. By Tim Carney. Washington Examiner, June 4, 2013.

Reformish Conservatives. By Ryan Cooper. Washington Monthly, May/June 2013. Also here.

What Is Reform Conservatism? By Ross Douthat. NJBR, June 2, 2013.

On Conservative Reformers. By Erick Erickson. RedState, June 4, 2013.

U.S. Meritocracy Has Given Way to Aristocracy. By Erick Erickson. NJBR, May 30, 2013. With articles by Ben Domenech and others.

Erickson (Conservative Reformers):

In fact, I dare say this is a problem both parties have these days — the up and coming intellectual voices are voices that have worked little outside think tanks and ideological publications. The saving grace for the conservatives on this front is that they, by virtue of being conservative, at least have an understanding into how human nature actually operates.

Conservatism wins when it is populist and middle class. It does not win when it is academic or technocratic. Those discussing conservative reform in Washington and New York are offering up some intriguing ideas worth considering. And I hate it for them that they, real conservative policy thinkers, have to overcome both the poseurs and the anti-beltway bias, but I would also urge them to consider that the public deeply, deeply distrusts Washington. It is therefore probably not a great sales pitch to figure out how conservatives in Washington can make the case for Washington improving the lives of people who feel Washington and those, regardless of party or ideology, in Washington have helped create an American aristocracy.

Ronald Reagan took the academic ideas of conservatism and tied them to a mid-western understanding of human nature and a life spent touring factories and talking to people within 100 miles of a major American river valley, not just 25 miles of a coast. Conservative reform is going to come from the 50 laboratories of democracy and will be tied to a face and voice that ground them in the real world of Main Street, USA.