Romantic leftists like Tony Benn are easy dupes for the propaganda of brutal power politics.

By all accounts the late Tony Benn was a charming man. Those who met him say he had the real grace and charm of the educated aristocratic Englishman. Even his political enemies praise him as a man who may have been wrong, but at least he was wrong with conviction.

Certainly, back in the seventies, Benn cut a dash as a sort of respectable Che Guevara character, a patrician tribune of the people. Private Eye dubbed him “the most dangerous man in Britain”, a title he apparently relished.

But was there ever anything more than showmanship and self image-making to Tony Benn? Consider his grasp of political events.

According to Christopher Booker of the Sunday Telegraph, Benn compared Labour’s general election win in 1964 to Castro’s march into Havana in 1959.

Such a comparison was, surely, a measure of Benn’s immature romantic revolutionary mentality. After all, when Castro marched into Havana he had 500 supporters of the old regime murdered. When Harold Wilson won in 1964 he made Tony Benn Postmaster General.

Lack of political realism was — and still is — a common feature of the romantic Left in Britain. On the Northern Ireland problem, for example, Benn always had a simple solution — the British government should talk to the IRA terrorists: simple as that.

Of course, what Benn was suggesting would have conferred a degree of political legitimacy on those who placed car bombs among women and children. Not that Benn would, for one moment condone such behaviour.

But that’s the point: romantic leftists like Tony Benn are easy dupes for the propaganda of brutal power politics.

An interesting observation here, considering Benn’s never-ending demands to respect parliamentary democracy, was that he never said the elected majority Unionist voice should be listened to and respected.

But then, there was no kudos for a dashing revolutionary who had stylishly renounced his aristocratic title in supporting the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone.

Yet for all his leftish posturing, Tony Benn was not one of Lenin’s useful idiots. There was always the impression with Benn that he was conscious of his public image as the patrician tribune, the man with a higher understanding of world events than have ordinary mortals.

Such higher understanding lay behind his meeting with the isolated and embattled Saddam Hussein in 2003. Benn was on the world stage bestowing his wisdom on Saddam, above the narrow self-interests of ordinary politicians like Blair and Bush, very much the title-renouncing aristocrat.

Indeed, one feels it was the sheer class superiority in renouncing such a title that persuaded Saddam to host Benn.


The Arab League has drafted a blasphemy law that would likely be voted down at the U.N.

If you’re planning on visiting an Arab country for business or pleasure, be sure not to engage in any blasphemous dancing, singing, or miming — yes, miming.

On March 24, diplomats and experts from the European Union, the U.S., and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) met in Doha, Qatar, for the fourth meeting of the Istanbul Process. A series of meetings, inaugurated under former secretary of state Hilary Clinton, the Istanbul Process aims to bridge the gap between the West’s approach to fighting religious intolerance and the approach of the OIC. If the participants are serious about countering religious intolerance, their choice of venue is curious.

On November 26, 2013, the justice ministers of the 22 members of the League of Arab States (all of which belong to the OIC and whose annual summit in Kuwait coincides with the Doha meeting) endorsed the Arab Guideline Law for the Prevention of Defamation of Religions, a model blasphemy law drafted by none other than the ministry of justice of Qatar. The text includes a broad prohibition against “defamation of religions.” According to an English translation, practices include, inter alia:

1. Blasphemy against the divine essence or questioning it or infringing on it. 2. Contempt or disrespect [for] or [offense to] any of the religions or by defaming them or insulting them or ridiculing them or infringing on them. 3. Any infringement on the heavenly books, through abuse or alteration or desecration or prejudice. 4. Making fun of one of the prophets or the messengers or sacred symbols of these religions or their wives or their families or their companions or insulting or ridiculing them or infringing on them.

This sweeping definition would likely entail a ban on atheism and even agnosticism, which clearly questions “divine essence.” Moreover, the concepts “contempt,” “prejudice,” “ridicule,” “insult,” and “infringement” are not defined and would seem to encompass anything from mild satire to serious criticism to outright hostility toward protected religions. Proscribed offenses may take the form of “audio or visual [content] or written [content], or [content delivered through] electronic [media] or via the Internet or communications networks, or industrial materials, whether through [spoken] words or [in] writing, or [through] expressionist [illustration] or cartoon or symbolic drawing, or [through] photography or singing or acting or mime or electronic data or other forms [of communication,] and in any language.”

As Orwell put it, using “language as an instrument for concealing or preventing thought.”

George Orwell gave us some invaluable words: Newspeak, doublethink, thoughtcrime. Given the generosity of his gift to us, it is probably ungrateful to desire that he had given us a little more, but we could use a term for what he described as the use of “language as an instrument for concealing or preventing thought.” For lack of a genuine Orwellian coinage, I’ll use the word “antithought,” by which I mean a phrase or expression that is intended to prevent understanding rather than to enable it. Antithought includes elements of the linguistic meme, question-begging, and attempts to change the subject.

The great example of our time is the phrase “voting against their own interests,” popularized by Thomas Frank in What’s the Matter with Kansas? Those words, or nearly identical ones, turn up everywhere: the beef-witted columns of Robert Reich, the Guardian, the Huffington Post, the Daily Kos, the Bangor Daily News, Alternet, the BBC, The New York Review of Books. Robert Schenkkan even put the phrase into the mouth of Bryan Cranston’s Lyndon Baines Johnson in his new play, All the Way.

As a phrase, “voting against their own interests” clearly has taken on a contagious life of its own, a genuine linguistic meme. But what is its function? Its ostensible function is to communicate the idea that conservative people of modest means, particularly in relatively poor Republican-leaning states, vote for candidates who are in fact hostile to their economic interests, having been beguiled into voting thus by the so-called social issues, by religion, by racism, by Fox News, or by whatever attendant boogeyman will do to swell progressivism, start a tweet or two. But its ostensible function is not its authentic function, nor can it be, because the antithought is engineered to foreclose discussion of the facts that it assumes, those being: (1) that conservative economic policies ill serve lower-income people, notably those in rural and agrarian areas; (2) that economic concerns should, as a matter of self-evident rationality, supersede non-economic concerns; and (3) that people in “Kansas” — that greater Kansas whose borders are not contiguous with those of the 34th state — would concede No. 1 and No. 2 if not for the nefarious operations of certain wicked social and political forces.

Here, antithought is essential to the hopes of the so-called progressive movement (another perversion of language: the idea that a political tendency that seeks to impose 1930s-style central-planning policies, which have their intellectual roots in the government of Bismarck, is in anno Domini 2014 “progressive”). There are a few centuries’ worth of very good economic data suggesting that economic policies oriented toward the security of property, free trade, free enterprise, regulation that is both light and consistent, and a relatively small political footprint upon the economy produce economic growth and widespread prosperity, and that this dynamic functions in both relative and absolute terms — which is why, for example, Chinese people are poor in China while Chinese people are rich in Hong Kong, and why India is richer than Pakistan. Kansas may very well be making a rational and historically literate judgment that Republican economic policies, defective as they often are, remain more oriented toward growth and more hostile to central planning than do Democratic policies, and that this is likely to leave the country as a whole, and thus Kansas, better off. In fact, the general prosperity of the United States, even after the punishing economic episodes of the past decade and more, is a scandal to the Left, as are the market-oriented and fiscally conservative reformist movements that have achieved so much in places such as Sweden and Canada. The horrifying thought of general prosperity under capitalism is therefore to be met with another antithought: “the 1 percent.”


The Roosevelt administration once talked loudly of pivoting to Asia to thwart a rising Japan. As a token of its seriousness, in May 1940 it moved the home port of the Seventh Fleet from San Diego to Pearl Harbor — but without beefing up the fleet’s strength.

The then-commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral James O. Richardson, an expert on the Japanese Imperial Navy, protested vehemently over such a reckless redeployment. He felt that the move might invite, but could not guard against, surprise attack.

Richardson was eventually relieved of his command and his career was ruined — even as he was later proved right when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Britain at the same time promoted a loud Singapore Strategy, trumpeting its Malaysian base as the “Gibraltar of the Pacific.” But London did not send out up-to-date planes, carriers, or gunnery to the Pacific.

Japan was not impressed. It surprise-attacked the base right after Pearl Harbor. The British surrendered Singapore in February 1942, in the most ignominious defeat in British military history.

By 1949, the U.S. was pledged to containing the expansion of Communism in Asia — even as Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson (who had been chief fundraiser for Truman’s 1948 campaign) declared that the Navy and Marines were obsolete.


It’s unfair to expect Obama to do anything about Ukraine when his biggest priority is convincing twenty-somethings to buy worthless health insurance policies by appearing on online comedy shows and deploying his March Madness bracket.

The Obama Twitter feeds are filled with desperate pleas to buy ObamaCare; harnessing every memeworthy bit of internet detritus from cat pictures to twerking in the hopes of convincing healthy young people who don’t want health insurance to buy it anyway.

On March 17th, Obama’s Twitter linked to a statement on Ukraine and then it was back to “There’s only 14 days to get coverage.” It’s currently down to 12 days. It’s like holiday shopping, but with a $6,000 deductible.

Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn) went to Ukraine, called Russia’s invasion a “weak” and “panicky” reaction to Obama’s strength, and then announced plans to speak about the “Between Two Ferns Effect”. The “effect” is the sheer awesomeness of Obama’s appearance on an internet comedy show to promote ObamaCare.

It’s that kind of 21st century thinking that sets Barack apart from Vladimir’s quaint 19th century hunger for territory. While a former KGB agent wastes time conquering countries, a former community organizer focuses on selling nationalized health care to young invincibles through a website that works about as well as a Soviet Yugo.

NATO’s Military Decline As Russia Re-arms, the West Increasingly Neglects its Defenses.

Vladimir Putin and his American apologists like to blame NATO’s post-Cold War expansion for his territorial conquests, which ignores that the alliance refused in 2008 to let Georgia and Ukraine even begin the process of joining. Those are the two countries the Russian has since carved up, and the question now is whether Russia’s expansionism will slap Western leaders out of their self-defense slumbers.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen sounded the alarm last week in a visit to Washington. “I see Crimea as an element in a greater pattern” of Russian strategy, he told an audience at the Brookings Institution. Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, he said, is “a wake-up call” that “must be followed by increased European investment in defense.” He might have included the U.S.
The combined GDP of NATO’s 28 member states tops $30 trillion. Yet with few exceptions, most notably Poland, NATO defense expenditures have declined since the end of the Cold War. The nearby table shows the relative defense spending in 2013 for some key NATO countries as a share of GDP. Only four members—the U.S., U.K., Greece and Estonia—spent at least 2% of GDP on defense.

At 1.9%, France last year fell short of the 2% that is supposed to be the technical requirement for membership. Mr. Rasmussen’s Denmark spent 1.4% of its GDP on defense, Angela Merkel’s Germany 1.3%, Italy 1.2%, and Spain 0.9%. This is what a country spends if it thinks its main security threat is Belgium.

Putin’s seizure of Crimea gets an assist from foreign policy realists and postmodern liberals.

Russia is a big country. In case you didn’t know.

A flight from New York to St. Petersburg will cover the same distance as one from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok. There are 22 Russians for every Russian square mile, a population density only slightly exceeded by Mali. Exclude all of Russia east of the Urals, and the European portion of the country is still about the size of India and Turkey put together.

This is not exactly a state needing greater Lebensraum.

The point needs making in the face of an undercurrent of Western apology for Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Crimea. It’s an argument that goes roughly as follows:

• Yes, Russia’s seizure of the peninsula was provocative and illegal. But look at it from Moscow’s point of view. “To Russia,” writes Henry Kissinger in the Washington Post, “Ukraine can never be just a foreign country.” Defining events in Russian history—Mr. Kissinger cites the 1709 battle of Poltava—took place on (current) Ukrainian soil, and Ukraine has been independent for just 23 years. Crimea itself is ethnically Russian and only passed into Ukrainian hands through a Soviet bureaucratic maneuver in the mid-1950s.

• As for provocation, how could any Russian leader be indifferent to a Ukraine that sought to join NATO or the European Union, much less sit still as demonstrators in Kiev paralyzed the country and brought about the downfall of its democratically elected leader?

Palestinians Dream of Destroying Israel, Peace Treaty or Not by Khaled Abu Toameh

U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry may be able to force Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, under threats and pressure, to sign a “framework agreement” with Israel. But as this week’s rally of hatred in the Gaza Strip shows, even after the signing of a Palestinian-Israeli “peace” treaty, a large number of Palestinians will not abandon there dream of destroying Israel.

“Jihad in Palestine is not terrorism. Jihad in Palestine is a sacred duty.” — Yusef Rizka, representative of Hamas

A mass rally held in the Gaza Strip on March 23 showed that Hamas continues to enjoy popular support among Palestinians. Tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the streets to attend the rally commemorating the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

Hamas officials claim that nearly one million Palestinians attended the rally in the center of Gaza City.

Hillary Clinton Wants ‘Mass Movement’ on Climate Change By Ken Thomas

Hillary Rodham Clinton says young people understand the significant threat of climate change and that she hopes there will be a mass movement that demands political change.

The potential 2016 presidential candidate says at a Clinton Global Initiative University panel that young people are much more committed to doing something to address climate change. Clinton says it isn’t “just some ancillary issue” but will determine the quality of life for many people.

The former secretary of state cited global warming as a major issue that students could face in the future.

She made the comments Saturday during an interview with late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel at Arizona State University. The weekend gathering also features former President Bill Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea.

Our World: Why Bring Down Ya’alon? By CAROLINE B. GLICK

The media chose to focus the campaign against Ya’alon on his purported irresponsibility and loose lips because they cannot argue with him on substance.

The media chose to focus the campaign against Ya’alon on his purported irresponsibility and loose lips because they cannot argue with him on substance.
US Secretary of State Chuck Hagel and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. Photo: Courtesy of Ministry of Defense
If this is a coincidence, it is an extraordinary one. Twice in less than two months, remarks that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon made in closed forums about key issues on Israel’s national security agenda were leaked to the media. In both cases, the media used the leaked remarks to foment a crisis in relations between Israel and the Obama administration.

In both cases, the Obama administration has used the opportunities created by the Israeli media to bash Ya’alon and pressure Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to fire him.

In January, Yediot Aharonot leaked Ya’alon’s private remarks about US Secretary of State John Kerry’s irrational focus on the mordant peace process between Israel and the Palestinians at a time when there is both relative peace in Israel, and Israel’s neighbors are undergoing political upheavals and civil war. Together with the other two musketeers of Israel’s far-left media – Haaretz and Channel 2, Yediot used the story to provoke a fight between the Netanyahu government and the Obama administration. Acting on cue, the White House and State Department demanded that Ya’alon apologize for remarks that were made in private. Ya’alon sufficed with a terse statement that he was sorry if anyone took offense from his private remarks.

And now, two months later, Ya’alon’s remarks have been leaked again.