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Is Arab Democracy Possible? In his new book, Realism and Democracy, Elliott Abrams holds out hope that the Islamists will lose the battle for the soul of the Arab world. By David Pryce-Jones

Editor’s Note: The following piece originally appeared in the December 31, 2017, issue of National Review.

One day in December 2010, a policewoman in a small and rather humdrum town in Tunisia slapped the face of Mohamed Bouazizi. The dispute was over his permit to be selling fruit and vegetables off a barrow. The injustice that he encountered, and the humiliation, drove the poor man to take his life. Just as a butterfly fluttering its wings is supposed to cause a cascade of faraway atmospheric effects, this suicide set off a movement of protest and solidarity in one Arab country after another. The monarchies and republics in which Arabs live are, in reality, dictatorships, and the time had apparently arrived for them to reform and take their place in what was supposed to be an emerging worldwide democratic order.

What became known as the Arab Spring did not live up to these expectations; far from it. Since 2010, Arab countries have suffered civil war, coups, terrorism, invasion by foreign powers, genocide, the sale of women in slave markets, the ruin of historic cities and monuments, the death of civilians by the hundreds of thousands, and the flight of refugees in their millions. The rise of the Islamic State, self-described as a caliphate, redesigned the boundaries of Syria and Iraq, countries that may not be reconstituted for a very long time, if ever. Islamist volunteers in this misappropriated territory murdered, beheaded, crucified, or tortured to death, often in public, whomever they pleased. Libya, Yemen, and Lebanon are also states in varying stages of collapse. A whole civilization seems to be coming apart.

The proper human response to such calamity is that something ought to be done about it. Elliott Abrams takes it for granted in Realism and Democracy: Foreign Policy after the Arab Spring that the United States can and should come to the rescue. His career has given him authority to comment on matters of power politics. In the Reagan administration, he was assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs (1981–85) and assistant secretary for inter-American affairs (1985–89); he later served as President George W. Bush’s adviser for global democracy strategy (2005–09). His sympathies are very wide, his quotations from the academic literature are numerous and apt, and his prose is almost miraculously jargon-free.

Friedrich Hayek’s Enduring Legacy By Roger Kimball

In 1929, Benito Mussolini boasted, “We were the first to assert that the more complicated the forms assumed by civilization, the more restricted the freedom of the individual must become.”

This is the first in a series of essays on the life and thought of Friedrich A. Hayek.

Of course, Mussolini was wrong about his historical priority, just as he was wrong about most other things. The palm for first promulgating that principle in all its modern awfulness must go to V. I. Lenin, who back in 1917 boasted that when he finished building his workers’ paradise “the whole of society will have become a single office and a single factory with equality of work and equality of pay.”

What Lenin didn’t know about “restricting the freedom of the individual” wasn’t worth knowing.

Granted, things didn’t work out quite as Lenin hoped—or said that he hoped—since as the Soviet Union lumbered on there was less and less work and mostly worthless pay. (“They pretend to pay us,” one wag said, “and we pretend to work.”) Really, the only equality Lenin and his heirs achieved was an equality of misery and impoverishment for all but a shifting fraction of the nomenklatura. Trotsky got right to the practical nub of the matter, observing that when the state is the sole employer the old adage “he who does not work does not eat” is replaced by “he who does not obey does not eat.”

Nevertheless, a long line of Western intellectuals came, saw, and were conquered: how many bien-pensants writers, journalists, artists, and commentators swooned as did Lincoln Steffens: “I have been over into the future,” he said of his visit to the Soviet Union in 1921, “and it works.” Jeremy Corbyn updated the sentiment when, in 2013, he said that Hugo Chavez “showed us that there is a different and a better way of doing things. It’s called socialism, it’s called social justice and it’s something Venezuela has made a big step towards.”

Yes, Jeremy, it has. And how do you like it? Of course, you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. But it is remarkable what a large accumulation of egg-shells we have piled up over the last century. (And then there is always Orwell’s embarrassing question: “Where’s the omelet?”)

Conservation, Not Environmentalism By Janet Levy

Much of the disagreement over the use of America’s natural resources stems from confusion over the difference between conservation and environmentalism. Conservation, a rational, conservative approach to protecting and preserving the environment, is an ethic of resource utilization. Conservationists view man as a natural, invested partner in the endeavor to preserve the environment to ensure its continued, sustainable use by humans.

Environmentalism began as a sincere conservationist movement but subscribes to a view of man as nature’s enemy. Nature itself is revered and intrinsically embodied with value. Environmentalists seek to limit human access to, rather than allow use of, nature to advance human life, health, and happiness. Environmentalists perceive man as an immoral, destructive interloper who can interact only negatively with his natural surroundings.

In his book, Smoking Them Out: The Theft of the Environment and How to Take It Back (American Tradition Institute, 2013), Greg Walcher focuses on these ideological differences as he examines the environmental movement.

Walcher begins with the history of the environmental movement. He demonstrates how the stewardship of our resources – water, forests, energy sources, other natural resources – has become less about real science and conservation and more about politics and achieving centralized control. This change in focus has created unintended consequences, far removed from the ideals of caring for the environment and, today, bordering on malfeasance.

Edward Cranswick The New Nationalist

Before he fell out with his president and was ejected from the White House, and after that from Breitbart News, Steve Bannon was the influence who crystalised and codified Donald Trump’s thinking. Gone he might be from the locus of power, but not, to date, the legacy of his prescription for US renewal.

Bannon: Always the Rebel
by Keith Koffler
Regnery, 2017, 256 pages, US$28.99

In the wake of Donald Trump’s surprise victory in 2016, and Steve Bannon’s subsequent appointment to the position of his chief strategist, media speculation reached a near-hysterical pitch regarding the degree to which Bannon was the puppet master pulling the strings of an apparently dirigible and clueless President. On Saturday Night Live, Bannon was portrayed as the grim reaper and actual President, and Time magazine featured him on its cover with the accompanying title “The Great Manipulator”.

In a matter of months, Bannon had gone from anonymity to political stardom—one of the most recognised (and reviled) figures in American politics.

Since leaving the White House and returning to his post as chairman of Breitbart News — a post he has only recently relenquished under pressure from the site’s financial backers after his dalliance with Fire and Fury author Michael Wolff – Bannon turned his attention back to grassroots political organising, attempting to galvanise (and, moreover, bring into being) the “economic nationalist” base that can support Trump-friendly candidates in the congressional elections of 2018.
This essay appears in the current edition of Quadrant.
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Despite having left his post at the White House, Bannon still exerts a tight grip on the imagination of the political media. He has been lambasted with every imaginable political epithet from the Left (“white nationalist”, “fascist”, “anti-Semite”) and until recently he rarely bothered to dispute any of these labels.

Like Trump, Bannon is a savvy media operator, who realises that notoriety confers its own form of power—something he noted to the Hollywood Reporter’s Wolff in a piece written shortly after he was appointed. Depictions of Bannon as the puppeteer behind Trump may have annoyed the President, and possibly damaged Bannon’s standing in the White House, but they also amplified his image beyond Trump—and outside the White House he is using his newfound celebrity to continue pushing his agenda for a comprehensive remake of US policy, domestically and abroad.

Keith Koffler’s Bannon: Always the Rebel is the first full-scale biography, tracing Bannon’s peripatetic career and elucidating the biographical and intellectual influences that underpin his political philosophy. While largely hagiographical (Koffler is clearly an admirer) the book offers a corrective to the many unhinged assessments of Bannon that have come to dominate the mainstream media. Koffler interviewed many people close to Bannon for the book, allowing for personal perspectives that illuminate his character through the different phases of his career. Koffler also interviewed the man himself for over ten hours, and the book does a fine job of discussing the intellectual influences of an notoriously non-bookish President’s bookish adviser.

Born in 1953 to a working-class family of Irish-Catholic provenance in Richmond, Virginia, Steve Bannon was raised amidst the turmoil of 1960s America, the civil rights movement, and a major realignment of political sympathies between traditional supporters of the Democrats and the Republicans. While the family were pro-Kennedy Democrats, Bannon’s sympathies later turned Republican after what he perceived to be Jimmy Carter’s craven response to the Iran hostage situation of 1979.

Facebook Bans Bestselling Author over ‘The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama’ By Megan Fox

Bestselling conservative author Matt Margolis has a new book coming out that is already banned on Facebook. Margolis’s first book, The Worst President in History, which detailed the failures of the Obama administration, was an instant hit last fall. Margolis used social media to market his presidential biography to #1 on Amazon. When he tried to market his latest, The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama, he was banned from Facebook groups for six days with no explanation. This is the ad Margolis created and posted.Shockingly, Margolis paid for this ad to be “boosted” throughout Facebook using the advertiser program they offer. Facebook had no problem taking his money for this ad but banned him directly after he posted it to several groups. The groups he sent it to were all conservative-friendly groups that normally welcome such announcements and buy conservative books.

When Margolis attempted to appeal the ban, he was unable to. This is suspicious timing considering that James O’Keefe just released videos of Twitter executives admitting to “shadow banning” conservative content creators and even those who are associated with conservative sites.

Bridget Johnson, PJ Media’s D.C. editor and terrorism expert has been banned from Twitter since November, and just the other day Facebook admitted they censored conservative author Jon Del Arroz by “mistake.” PJM reached out to Facebook and Twitter about the bannings in light of the scandalous undercover tapes of Big Tech admitting to censoring conservatives — or, as they call us, “sh**ty people.” Twitter did not respond.CONTINUE AT SITE

Victor Davis Hanson Book Dissects WWII By The Editors An Interview

Professor Victor Davis Hanson spoke about his new book, war, movies and President Donald Trump’s ability to lead with Seth Leibsohn earlier this week. Listen to the audio and read the transcript below.

Seth Leibsohn: Welcome back to the Seth and Chris show. The journalist I.F. Stone once wrote, “I am having so much fun I should be arrested.” We are having a lot of fun today and delighted to bring one of the nation’s great, one of the world’s great public intellectuals, dear friend of ours, contributor to American Greatness, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, author of the brand spankin’ new book “The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won”, Professor Victor Davis Hanson. Welcome back to the airwaves of Phoenix, Victor.

Victor Davis Hanson: Thank you for having me.

Seth Leibsohn: Thank you. I want to talk to you a little bit about your book in a moment, but first I want to talk to you about someone else’s book if you don’t mind, and that’s what you wrote about at American Greatness, “Is Trump Really Crazy,” in regard to the book that seems like most of Washington is gonna talk about for about another week and maybe the rest of the country’s about to stop talking about, but it’s Michael Wolff’s book. You had some wonderful writing in there.

I’m gonna quote you to you if I can.

“Wolff’s ogre purportedly sloppily eats Big Macs in bed, golfs more than Obama did, has no hair at all on the top of his head, and at 71 is supposedly functionally illiterate. OK, perhaps someone the last half-century read out loud to Trump the thousands of contracts he signed. But what we wish to know from Wolff is how did his trollish Trump figure out that half the country—the half with the more important Electoral College voice—was concerned about signature issues that either were unknown to or scorned by his far more experienced and better-funded rivals?”

This was kind of the topic of the tiff between Stephen Miller and Jake Tapper, and something Jake Tapper and CNN still doesn’t get, right Professor?

Victor Davis Hanson: I think so. Just from a purely logical point of view, if you’re making the argument that someone who destroyed the ’16 Republican primary really brilliant, experienced candidate, destroyed them in the primary and then took on ‘Clinton Incorporated’ and destroyed her, and you’re saying that he’s either incompetent or he’s naïve or he’s stupid. Then the logic of that would be, “Well, that was all a fluke,” and his first year shows that it was a fluke, because he’s a total failure.

But when you look at the stock market, their GDP, their business growth, their unemployment, or any traditional metric of economic activity, he’s had a very good first year. This is besides Mattis and Gorsuch, McMahon, all the great appointments he’s made, so then the question becomes, “Well, if he’s so stupid, how was he so successful as a politician, and how has he been so successful in a way that a Harvard law graduate, Barack Obama, was not in his first year?” It sort of makes us either say, “It’s all a fluke,” or “It’s all an accident,” or the criteria that Michael Wolff is using are just bogus, or his book is bogus, but the people who appreciate it and fawn over it, their criteria is bogus, but something doesn’t make sense. It’s not logical.

Seth Leibsohn: Something isn’t logical. Added to the list of the illogic is another part of Michael Wolff’s book and pieces, is that he didn’t wanna win. For someone who didn’t want to win, he did an awfully bad job at that.

Victor Davis Hanson: He did, but that is sort of another boomerang. It suggests that somebody who had a lot more money, experience who really wanted to win, like Hillary, couldn’t beat an amateur who didn’t want to win.

Seth Leibsohn: Right.

Victor Davis Hanson: Again, it means that, well, Trump would just like I guess he would say to us, “Well, even when I don’t want something, I’m more successful than the people on the other side.” It doesn’t make sense.

Seth Leibsohn: There was the old line of Irving Kristol: “Smart, smart, stupid.” A lot of these people Washington and elites say are smart and they have the right pedigrees, maybe Hillary Clinton would be in that crowd, Donald Trump is not. He’s part of the vulgar crowd of course, but there is some kind of reevaluation of what constitutes smart in this country now, isn’t there. There’s something about common sense. Something about conservatism.

David Goldman: A Review Hitler’s Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich by Eric Kurlander

That Hitler and his inner circle were mad is not a matter of controversy. The source and character of their madness, though, is subject to debate. Eric Kurlander wants us to understand Nazi ideology as an outgrowth of occultism, characterized by endemic beliefs in parascience, magic, ­astrology, ­crackpot theories of racial origin, and other weird notions. There exists an extensive literature on Hitler and the occult, but Kurlander’s new book is the most ambitious offering to date. It is likely to be the standard work for some time to come on a bizarre but revealing facet of Nazi ideology.

Truly strange ideas had currency in Hitler’s circle. In addition to their obsession with spurious “race science,” Kurlander reports, “Nazi leaders sponsored everything from astrology, parapsychology, and radiesthesia [dowsing] to biodynamic agriculture and World Ice Theory (Welteislehre, or WEL).” The last of these tried to explain events in prehistory by the earth’s collision with moons of ice. They sent expeditions to find the Holy Grail, a vanished master race in the mountains of Tibet, Aryan magical rites supposedly still practiced in Karelia, and an Aryan calendar in the Andes.

Morbid curiosity makes all of this entertaining, but the reader finds it hard to determine just how important any of it was to actual Nazi internal policy or war strategy. One didn’t have to be an occultist to be a Nazi, although evidently it helped. Otherwise rational men and women joined Hitler not because they believed in pixies, but out of profound historical despair. Martin Heidegger, for example, embraced Nazism because he believed that “resoluteness” required the embrace of “historical authenticity” in the form of the “fate” of the German nation in its concrete circumstances (see Being and Time, section 74). Some occultists eschewed Nazism; although the Nazis drew some ideas from Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy, the Steiner schools closed rather than take the loyalty oath to Hitler, a fact Kurlander fails to mention.

The very abundance of material overdetermines Kurlander’s argument. It is more parsimonious to state that the Nazis were mad, but in a specific way: They were pagans who abhorred Christianity for the same reason they hated Jews. In passing, Kurlander mentions a Nazi accusation that Jews conspired with the Catholic Church to exterminate the vestiges of German pagan religion by killing witches. The SS formed a Witch Division, which produced a report alleging that a connection between Jews and Catholics was behind the persecution of witches:

Who are you going to believe, Michael Wolff or your own eyes? David Goldman

Hatchet job should be seen for what it was from its inception: an attempt to show Trump couldn’t win office and that, if he did, it could only have been due to some awful accident.

read as much of Michael Wolff’s ‘Fire and Fury’ as my stomach lining could stand, and then I watched Donald Trump’s last rally of the 2016 presidential election. Groucho Marx’s old line came to mind — “Who are you going to believe; me, or your own eyes?”

He spoke in Michigan, a swing state where Hillary Clinton didn’t bother to campaign, and he hammered on the issues that decided the vote: more jobs, no Obamacare, Washington corruption. Trump was focused, confident, and ruthless. “Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt person ever to seek the office of the Presidency of the United States… We are finally going to close the history books on the Clintons, and their lies, schemes and corruption… My contract with the American voter begins with a plan to end government corruption and to take our country back from the special interests… We’re going to win today and we’re going to Washington D.C. to drain the swamp.” The crowd of 18,000 chanted “Drain the swamp!” back at him.

That’s the man who neither expected nor wanted to win, according to Wolff. There stood Donald Trump on the day before the election, declaring that he would win, in the middle of the state whose votes would make him win, talking about the issues on which he would win. More pertinent than what it is, goes the adage about Southern cooking, is what it was, and the caveat applies to Wolff’s ‘Fire and Fury.’

How much of Wolff’s supposed insider account of the Trump campaign and White House is true, how much invented, and how much cribbed from other reports — some real and some invented — will keep the pundits busy for weeks. What it was from inception was an attempt to show that Donald Trump couldn’t win the 2016 election – and that, if he did, it could only have been the result of an awful accident.

The dead possum in Wolff’s farrago is his unsupported claim that Trump had no intention of winning the election, did not expect to win the election, and was shocked to find out that he had won the election. In fact, I called the election for Trump on September 11, 2016, after Hillary Clinton offered her now-infamous crack about the “deplorables” supporting her opponent. A political upheaval was in progress like nothing I had seen in my lifetime, propelled by economic stagnation, popular revulsion at political correctness, and a deep sense of wounded dignity at the arrogance of the political elite.

Book Banning Bunkum Trump’s feckless bluster isn’t a threat to the First Amendment.

One reason many Americans don’t trust the media is because they treat every Donald Trump outburst as a Defcon 1 level threat to the survival of the republic. The latest example is the panic over Mr. Trump’s legal threat to the publisher of Michael Wolff’s book and his lament that libel laws are too weak.

Mr. Trump had his lawyer send a letter on Thursday to Henry Holt demanding that it “cease and desist” publication of Mr. Wolff’s book. This is a longstanding Trump tactic designed to underscore his claims that a book or article is false. Invariably the threat vanishes as the controversy does.

Mr. Trump tried this with us when we criticized one of his debate performances during the presidential campaign. His lawyer sent a letter threatening the Journal and the editor of these columns, in his personal and professional capacity, with a defamation suit if we didn’t apologize and retract the editorial. We ignored the letter, repeated the criticism, and Mr. Trump dropped the subject.

Mr. Wolff’s book may be partly imagined, as his work often is, but that is no reason to block publication. Unless an author has violated national security, or some contractual agreement with an agency like the CIA, no court is going to ban a book in advance of publication. The Supreme Court declared such “prior restraint” on free speech unconstitutional in the landmark Near v. Minnesota case in 1931. Henry Holt knows this and responded to Mr. Trump’s letter by moving up the publication date.

Mr. Trump’s libel lament is also familiar and feckless bluster. “Libel laws are very weak in this country. If they were strong it would be very helpful,” Mr. Trump said on Saturday at a press event, joining the queue of politicians who wish they could sue journalists.

In February 2016 as a candidate, Mr. Trump declared: “One of the things I’m going to do if I win, and I hope we do and we’re certainly leading. I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.” The difference now is that he’s not even claiming he can change the libel laws; he’s merely griping about them.

Review: ‘Fire and Fury’ in the Trump White House The author writes as if he were the omniscient narrator of a novel, offering up assertions that are provocative but often conjectural. Barton Swaim reviews ‘Fire and Fury’ by Michael Wolff.

Michael Wolff has done what the rest of us chump writers can only dream of: He has gotten himself and his book denounced by a sitting U.S. president on live television. That, together with a cease-and-desist letter sent from the president’s attorneys to the publisher, will ensure not only that the book makes Mr. Wolff a truckload of money but also that it gets talked about for a generation. “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” is thus in a class with Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses”—by itself a forgettable book, certainly not Mr. Rushdie’s best, but remembered forever as having provoked a death sentence from Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini.

Mr. Wolff was allowed to lurk around the White House for something like six months, presumably because someone in the first days of Donald Trump’s administration thought he would write a sympathetic account. It was an idiotic decision. Mr. Wolff is known in New York and Hollywood for his withering takedowns of popular public figures; he was only ever going to write one kind of book.

In one sense, “Fire and Fury” is a typical piece of “access journalism,” as it’s known, like many titles by Bob Woodward or, on the more gossipy side, like the “Game Change” books by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. Mr. Wolff takes the genre to another level, and perhaps a lower level. If he has employed objective criteria for deciding what to include or exclude, it’s not clear what those criteria are. By the looks of it, he included any story, so long as it was juicy. We’re told, for instance, of Mr. Trump’s supposed method of bedding other men’s wives in his pre-presidential days; of Mr. Trump’s promise to his wife, who had no interest in being first lady, that everything was OK because he wasn’t going to win anyway; of the president’s scolding of the White House cleaning staff for picking up his shirt from the floor (“If my shirt is on the floor, it’s because I want it on the floor”); and many other such weird tales.

Former chief political strategist Steve Bannon was evidently the source of the book’s most staggering revelations—if “revelations” is the right word for the sort of titillating office gossip that Mr. Wolff reports as fact. A typical story: Mr. Bannon, in a heated argument with the president’s daughter Ivanka, called her a “liar”—with a choice modifier to go with it. This took place in front of the president. The father’s response: “I told you this is a tough town, baby.”