Category Archives: Bruce S. Thornton

Nothing to Do with Islam, Part 2

by Bruce Thornton // FrontPage Magazine

To read Part I, click here.

Photo via FrontPage Magazine

Photo via FrontPage Magazine

In his comments on the jihad being waged by the Islamic State in northern Iraq (ISIL), President Obama recycled yet again the shopworn false knowledge about Islam that continues to compromise our response to Muslim violence: “So ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday, and for what they do every single day.”

Over at the New York Post, a columnist rightly took the president to task by saying, “You can’t divorce the Islamic State from religion.” Unfortunately, the column is full of numerous misstatements that perpetuate the illusion that there is some peaceful, tolerant version of Islam that has been distorted and twisted by “extremists” or “fundamentalists.”

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Nothing to Do With Islam

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine

Photo via FrontPage Magazine

Photo via FrontPage Magazine

The war against jihadism has been chronically misunderstood because of our failure to acknowledge the religious motives of Muslim jihadists. This failure began in 1979 with the Iranian revolution. Trapped in our Western secularist paradigms, we interpreted the uprising against the Shah as an anti-colonial revolt against a “brutal” autocrat propped up by the West for its own exploitative economic and geostrategic purposes. The aim of the revolution, the argument went, was to create a government more sympathetic to national sovereignty and Western pluralistic government. However, it soon became clear with the political triumph of the Ayatollah Khomeini that the revolution was in the main a religious one, inspired in part by anger at the Shah’s secularization, modernization, and liberalization policies. As Khomeini said in 1962, the Shah’s regime was “fundamentally opposed to Islam itself and the existence of a religious class.”

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SMALL LATIN, AND LESS GREEK

Thornton reviews the book Confronting the Classics: Traditions, Adventures, and Innovations, by Mary Beard. New York: Liverwright, 2013, 320 pp., $28.95 hardbound. 

by Bruce S. Thornton // NAS 

This piece originally appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Academic Questions (Volume 27, Number 3).

Photo via wikicommons

Photo via wikicommons

Once the heart of liberal education, the study of Greek and Latin languages and literatures has unfortunately been reduced to a prestige discipline found mainly in elite universities rich enough to afford the luxury of a classics program. The once universal high school experience of memorizing Latin declensions and reading some Caesar is nearly extinct compared to sixty years ago. These days most people get their knowledge of antiquity from lurid cable television series like Spartacus, or historically dubious movies like Gladiator and the more recent Pompeii. The foundational ideas, ideals, literature, art, and philosophy of the West are increasingly becoming historical curiosities that like Egyptian mummies or Viking long ships are artifacts, detached from the society and the minds of citizens who continue to live off a cultural capital the nature and origins of which they know nothing.

Those expecting an argument in favor of reviving the study of the classics from Confronting the Classics: Traditions, Adventures, and Innovations, Mary Beard’s new collection of book reviews, will find misleading the dust jacket claim that the book shows why the classical tradition “still matters.” In this collection, Beard, a professor of classics at Cambridge University and a regular on British television, is more concerned with the intramural professional disagreements and conflicting interpretations of ancient literature and culture unlikely to be of interest to a larger audience. Very few, if any, of these essays cover the ancient “monuments of unageing intellect,” or the classical “things of beauty” that have delighted and instructed the West for 2700 years. Thus these reviews will “matter” mostly to the few hundred thousand academics and other cultural elites who subscribe to the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, and the Times Literary Supplement—the publications in which these reviews first appeared, and which have little influence on those outside the parochial Lilliputs of academe.

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Democracies Like Military Cuts

by Bruce S. Thorton // FrontPage Magazine

Photo via FrontPage Magazine

Photo via FrontPage Magazine

President Obama has been rightly chastised for his proposed cuts to our military budget. Critics have gone after his Quadrennial Defense Review and its plan to shrink the armed forces, not to mention the clumsy optics of issuing pink slips to thousands of officers still serving in Afghanistan. More troublesome is the reduction of the military’s global mission from its traditional purpose of being able to fight and defeat two enemies at once, to only defeating one while keeping a second from “achieving its objectives,” a conveniently fuzzy criterion.

Worse yet, these cuts are coming just as China and Russia are flexing their geopolitical muscles, the Middle East is exploding in sectarian violence, and Iran is creeping ever closer to nuclear weaponry. As a bipartisan panel created by the Pentagon and Congress concludes of these latest reductions, “Not only have they caused significant investment shortfalls in U.S. military readiness and both present and future capabilities, they have prompted our current and potential allies and adversaries to question our commitment and resolve. Unless reversed, these shortfalls will lead to a high-risk force in the near future. That in turn will lead to an America that is not only less secure but also far less prosperous. In this sense, these cuts are ultimately self-defeating.”

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The Failure of the E.U.

by Bruce S. Thornton // Defining Ideas

Image credit: Barbara Kelley

Image credit: Barbara Kelley

The European Union has long excited American progressives, who want the United States to model itself after the European body. As each year passes, it has become difficult to understand this admiration. These days the E.U. acts more and more like a bloated bureaucracy staffed with elites armed with intrusive regulatory power and insulated from citizen accountability. The success of Euroskeptic parties in this spring’s European Parliament elections casts doubt on the whole E.U. project.

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Obama and the U.N.’s Alternate Universe

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine

Photo via FrontPage Magazine

Photo via FrontPage Magazine

Barack Obama has managed to push American foreign policy into an alternate universe in which everything the human race has learned over the past 2500 years about human nature, aggression, and its deterrence has been stood on its head. He is not solely to blame for this. For 150 years the West had indulged the illusion that human nature is progressing away from our violent past toward a world of reason in which conflict can be resolved and negotiated away without force or the credible threat of force. But Obama and his foreign policy team have completely detached this idea, serially mugged by the violent reality of the last century, from any recognition of morality or even fact. The result is the disastrous decline in American global authority and influence.

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The Incoherent Excuses for Hating Israel

by Bruce S. Thorton // FrontPage Magazine

Photo via www.marketoracle.co.uk

Photo via www.marketoracle.co.uk

Israel’s military operation to degrade Hamas’ ability to rain rockets down on Israeli cities has stirred up the usual noisy and nasty protests in Europe. We need not dwell on demonstrations by Muslim immigrants, whose genocidal Jew-hatred has been an Islamic tradition for 14 centuries. More revealing is the hatred of Israel by so many Europeans, ranging from leftover leftists and idealizers of the dark-skinned “other,” to far-right xenophobes and morally addled Christians. Whatever its origins, one thing their bitter hatred of Israel does not have is any foundation in coherent principle.

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Inventing Freedom. How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World

by Bruce Thornton // FrontPage Magazine

9780062231734_p0_v5_s260x420-231x350The fundamental incoherence of multiculturalism comes from its cultural relativism that posits no one way of life is better than another, but then singles out the West as a uniquely oppressive global villain. Even more contradictory, at the same time that multiculturalists slander the West for its alleged crimes, they praise and promote political and social ideals––democracy, freedom, equality, and law-based justice–– that flourish only in the West. This cognitive dissonance is made possible by massive historical ignorance of just where such ideas originated and developed. The great value of Daniel Hannan’s Inventing Freedom lies in its recovery of that history, and the role that the “Anglosphere,” the English-speaking countries, played in recognizing and nurturing those ideals for over 1500 years.

Hannan is a writer, blogger, and currently the Conservative representative of Southeast England in the European Parliament, where he vigorously monitors and battles the dirigiste excesses and autocratic impulses of the European Union functionaries. He is also a stalwart friend of the U.S., a throwback to the days when the “special relationship” between Britain and the U.S. was instrumental in turning back the fascist, Nazi, and communist assault on everything that comprises the liberal democratic ideals universally admired and imitated, even by those illiberal regimes who must pay lip-service to democracy and freedom even as they work to subvert them. Readers will find in Inventing Freedom an immensely readable, clearly argued survey of those ideals, the history in which they struggled to survive, and the great heroes whose sacrifice and commitment to them ensured that we enjoy them today.

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Moral Equivalence, Moral Idiocy

by Bruce Thornton // FrontPage Magazine

Image by © marco bottelli/Demotix/Corbis

Image by © marco bottelli/Demotix/Corbis

Scenes all too familiar from the Arab conflict with Israel have followed the murder last Wednesday of a 16-year-old Palestinian, Mohammed Abu Khdeir. Mourners at his funeral chanting the Muslim war-cry “Allahu Akbar” as they carry the boy’s open coffin, the crowd shouting slogans like “Intifada rise up” and “America and Israel are the terrorists,” banners representing terrorist organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad waving above the crowd, gangs of “youths” attacking Israeli police throughout East Jerusalem, barrages of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel, and the usual condemnations of Israel and calls for “restraint” from the “international community” – all sadly are business as usual. And the “business” is the demonization of Israel and the obscene double standards indulged by too many in the West.

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The Progressive Assault on the Legacy of Independence Day

by Bruce Thornton // FrontPage Magazine

Photo via Flickr

Photo via Flickr

Independence Day is a good time to revisit the foundations of our political order, especially given the long record of Barack Obama and the Democrats’ disregard for the Constitution. The members of the Continental Congress who met in Philadelphia in July 1776 sought their independence from England in order to recover their rights that had been violated by a tyrant, and to establish political freedom and autonomy so that those rights could be protected from further erosion. For a century now the Progressive ideology has insidiously undermined that legacy of autonomy in a slow-motion revolution that aims to “fundamentally transform America.”

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