Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Look at it this way: when you see that title at the top of a post, at least you know I won't be droning on for a thousand words or more on a single subject!

1. Crimea, Spheres Of Influence, and American Foreign Policy

Yes, Russia has invaded and annexed Crimea. Yes, Vladimir Putin has poised forces around the borders of Ukraine in a fashion that suggests that he intends to annex the entire country to Russia. Yes, Putin has openly deplored the disintegration of the USSR. Yes, he thinks he's the second coming of Czar Alexander II. Yes, yes, yes.

Does any of that matter to the United States? Sufficiently so that it should evoke a genuinely powerful American reaction? And no, I'm not doing a Hillary Clinton imitation.

Like it or not, the United States can do nothing about Putin's territorial ambitions. Even in the Sixties, at our military and economic zenith, when we had to be propagandized into fearing the Soviets' next-to-negligible nuclear arsenal, we could have done nothing.

Ukraine is not within our sphere of influence.

In the Game of States, where Great Powers face off against one another for geopolitical advantages, spheres of influence are largely determined by proximity and geography. This is the reality of international dealing, which is always founded on the credible threat of military action. Every request portends a negotiation; every negotiation shadows a threat; and every threat implies the possibility of armed conflict. Intelligent statesmen know this -- and even the most junior strategic planner will tell you that a nation's ability to shape events in another land is inversely proportional to the distance from the zone of interest, if not worse.

Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan lies in our sphere of influence, either. We were right to strike the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and we were morally justified in toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein, but now that we have withdrawn the greater part of our expeditionary forces from those nations, the natural spheres of influence dictated by proximity and geography are being restored. Yes, it's unfortunate. That doesn't make it other than true.

So: to the many in the Right who are ranting about the Administration's weak response to Putin's initiative -- and by the way, I think it to be as ludicrous as you do -- I pose two questions:

  1. Would you be willing to go to war with Russia over its actions in the Crimea?
  2. What would the point of such a war be? In other words, how would you frame the expenditure of blood and treasure as being in America's national interest?

2. The Revolt Against the Anti-Gunners

Developments in Connecticut and New York are forcing those states' anti-gun forces to take stock of the initiatives they recently rammed through their respective state legislatures. There isn't a single sheriff in New York who's agreed to enforce Andrew Cuomo's "SAFE Act." Similarly, Connecticut gun owners affected by Dannel Malloy's comparable law have essentially told him to "come and take them" -- a challenge the governor would be wise to decline.

This is heart-lifting stuff, in two states not normally known as bastions of liberty or homes to widespread libertarian sentiments. But though it's highly unlikely that the myrmidons of those states will accept the risks involved in going toe-to-toe with private citizens who are armed equally well (and are probably better shots), at least one of the possible outcomes remains unpleasant.

The anti-gun laws of those states could remain on the books unenforced.

An unenforced law is among the most insidious of all political things. First, it weakens respect for all law. Second, it muddies the predictability of events. Third and perhaps worst, it gives the politicians a rationale for moving against anyone unwise enough to act as if the law had been repealed.

It would be foolish to be satisfied with a status quo in which gun owners are left alone but the anti-gun laws remain on the books. That tableau is more likely to result in death and tragedy than any other plausible outcome.

3. Executive Overreach

Congress is contemplating a bill to curb the usurpation by the president of powers not granted to the president by the Constitution. Emperor Barack the First has promised / threatened to veto any such bill. What's wrong with this picture? Why wouldn't he simply ignore it, as he's ignored so many other laws to this point?

Yet there are persons, including demonstrably intelligent persons, sincerely convinced that a Constitutional Convention of the States is the route to repairing and restoring the Republic. It is to laugh.

4."Friendly Lawsuits and Potemkin Protests"

Ed Driscoll has an important article today about the use of "friendly lawsuits," filed by environmental activists, to "compel" the EPA to "make law" that would never be approved by Congress or command majority approbation. Please read the whole thing. It has staggering implications for the ascension of the Regulatory State over the Constitutional one we thought makes our laws out in front of God and everybody.

The process is more significant than the results it has reaped to this point. How did such an obscenity get started -- and by what rationale do the settlements of such lawsuits become part of standing law that binds us all?

5. For My Christian Readers: Unbelief vs. Disbelief

When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him. And He asked them, “What are you discussing with them?” And one of the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.” And He answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!” They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.” After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, “He is dead!” But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up. When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?” And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.” [Mark 9:14-29]

I've recently begun to ponder the nature of unbelief as distinguished from the more easily comprehended concept of disbelief. To disbelieve is to reject a proposition, either as untrue or unconvincing. Unbelief is a different animal, the nature of which might not be made perfectly clear by the Gospel passage above.

I expect to write about this come Sunday. Until then, please let me have your thoughts, Gentle Readers, on what unbelief connotes to you -- if, indeed, it connotes anything at all. Particularly interesting suggestions will be incorporated into Sunday's Rumination.

That's all for today, Gentle Readers. Enjoy your Humpday.


A Reader said...

Mr Porretto,
I think unbelief is the precursor to faith. It is the intellectual acceptance that someone may be possible without the spiritual certainty that it can or will be done. I parse the father's prayer, which I have prayed many times, as the desire to see a limited capacity for faith expanded. The Epistle to the Hebrews says: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Another version reads: "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." I think the father lacked confidence, knew it was necessary, and had just enough faith to ask Jesus to make up the difference. All in all, his request is not the request of a total non-believer.

Rick White said...

Mr. Porretto, Disbelief is as you stated, "the rejection of a proposition..." However unbelief is doubt in the truth of the proposition which will lead to a loss of faith in the proposition. Satan's greatest tool at his disposal is the simple question mark, it is his skillful tool to place doubt in your path to faith and belief. What was Satan's tactic to Eva when he got her to taste the apple, he simply stated, Ge:3:1: Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? Thru this simple question Satan was able to place doubt in Eva which lead to her downfall. And Satan continues to use this skillful trick even today and with doubt he is able to diminish our witness and cause us to have doubts about our faith. Just look at “Time”, “Newsweek” or “US News and World Report” covers over the last 50 years, any time they did an article on Christianity, they usually lead off with a title that ends with a question mark. Creating doubt in Biblical truth is the corner stone to unbelief in our faith.

Xealot said...

The Crimean issue demonstrates that you cannot play the middle with major geopolitical issues. Either you are willing to go to war in order to prevent the action -- in which case Putin probably would back down -- or you are NOT willing to go to war in which case you have no business interfering at all.

This idea that sanctions and strongly-worded language about red lines can somehow influence the behavior of strong-willed potentates is ludicrous. Crimea's annexation is not worth a war, and therefore America ought not to be involved in the matter. There is no need to condone the action, either. Simply refuse to comment on it. "It's none of our business" is the only proper political response.

Now if, for example, Russia were to try an annex Canada or Alaska, well that WOULD be our business and it would, quite naturally be worth a war.

RichJ said...

Before 4GWF, shouldn't all peaceful means of reversing the overreach be exhaustively explored? (aside: By the way, it is not just the executive branch that is complicit).

Like you, I am not optimistic about this, but the general rule of letting "them" initiate action seems sound to me.

Until that time, let's see if the COS can do something other than be co-opted by the very sociopaths/tyrants/central planners/statists whose behavior the proposed amendments are intended to address.

Needless to say, if the opportunity is taken by these villains to "rewrite" the constitution (as some fear)... the patience of many will be exhausted and more drastic measures will be contemplated.

KG said...


doubletrouble said...

In my daily prayers, I ask for "...relief of my worldly anxieties, and help my faith be increased. I believe, Lord, help my unbelief."
It is my duty, as a Catholic, to put my complete trust in God/Jesus/Holy Ghost, but the human, sinner element precludes me from doing exactly that.
For me, it's less of an issue of 'doubt', as it is one of overcoming my internal human instincts.

Note the "I, my, & me"; YMMV.