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  • Author: Andrew Bernstein
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Author's note: Because I want to address several key events of this story, I've written this review in a way that contains spoilers. Readers may prefer to view this outstanding film before reading the review. For anyone who loves America and wants the country defended against Islamic totalitarians and other savage enemies, a film starring active-duty Navy SEALs doing precisely that should be a rare treat. Act of Valor is that film, and it delivers fulsomely on this promise.
  • Topic: Islam
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have labeled themselves “America's Comeback Team”—a political tagline that would be great were it grounded in a philosophical base that gave it objective, moral meaning. What, politically speaking, does America need to “come back” to? And what, culturally speaking, is necessary for the country to support that goal? America was founded on the principle of individual rights—the idea that each individual is an end in himself and has a moral prerogative to live his own life (the right to life); to act on his own judgment, un-coerced by others, including government (liberty); to keep and use the product of his effort (property); and to pursue the values and goals of his choosing (pursuit of happiness). Today, however, legal, regulatory, or bureaucratic obstacles involved in any effort to start or operate a business, to purchase health insurance, to plan for one's retirement, to educate one's children, to criticize Islam for advocating violence, or so much as to choose a lightbulb indicate how far we've strayed from that founding ideal. If America is to make a comeback—and if what we are to come back to is recognition and protection of individual rights—then Americans must embrace more than a political tagline; we must embrace a philosophy that undergirds individual rights and that gives rise to a government that does one and only one thing: protects rights. Although the philosophy of the Founding Fathers was sufficient ground on which to establish the Land of Liberty, it was not sufficient to maintain liberty. The founders advocated the principle of individual rights, but they did not fully understand the moral and philosophical foundations of that principle; they did not understand how rights are grounded in observable fact. Nor did the thinkers who followed them. This is why respect for rights has been eroding for more than a century. If America is to “come back” to the recognition and protection of rights, Americans must discover and embrace the philosophical scaffolding that undergirds that ideal, the scaffolding that grounds the principle of rights in perceptual fact and gives rise to the principle that the only proper purpose of government is to protect rights by banning force from social relationships. The philosophy that provides this scaffolding is Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. To see why, let us look at Rand's philosophy in contrast to the predominant philosophies of the day: religion, the basic philosophy of conservatism; and subjectivism, the basic philosophy of modern “liberalism.” We'll consider the essential views of each of these philosophies with respect to the nature of reality, man's means of knowledge, the nature of morality, the nature of rights, and the proper purpose of government. At each stage, we'll highlight ways in which their respective positions support or undermine the ideal of liberty. As a brief essay, this is, of course, not a comprehensive treatment of these philosophies; rather, it is an indication of the essentials of each, showing how Objectivism stands in contrast to religion and subjectivism and why it alone supports a culture of freedom. Objectivism stands in sharp contrast to religion and subjectivism from the outset because, whereas religion holds that there are two realities (nature and supernature), and whereas subjectivism holds that there is no reality (only personal opinion and social convention), Objectivism holds that there is one reality (this one before our eyes). Let's flesh out these differences and their significance with respect to liberty. . . .
  • Topic: Government, Islam
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Andrew Bernstein
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: On the morning of September 11, 2001, Mohammed Atta and his minions flew stolen planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, destroying the former and murdering thousands of innocent civilians. What motivated this atrocity? What filled the murderers with such all-consuming hatred that they were willing to surrender their own lives in order to kill thousands of innocent human beings? The clear answer is that these were religious zealots engaged in holy war with their primordial enemy—the embodiment of the modern secular West: the United States of America.In their evil way, the Islamists provide mankind with some clarity. They remind us of what real religion is and looks like—not the Christianity or Judaism of the modern West, watered down and diluted by the secular principles of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment; but real faith-based, reason-rejecting, sin-bashing, kill-the-infidels religion. The atrocities of 9/11 and other similar terrorist acts by Islamists do not clash with their creed. On the contrary, they are consistent with the essence of religion—not merely of Islam—but religion more broadly, religion as such. This is an all-important lesson that humanity must learn: Religion is hazardous to your health. Unfortunately, conventional views of religion hold just the opposite. Many people believe that religion is the necessary basis of morality—that without belief in God, there can be no ethics, no right or wrong. A character in Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov famously expressed this view: “In a world without God, all things become permissible.” In the 21st century, many people still believe this. But the converse is true. A rational, fact-based, life-promoting morality is impossible on religious premises. Indeed, religion clashes with every rational principle and factual requirement of a proper, life-advancing ethics. A proper ethics, one capable of promoting flourishing human life on earth, requires the utter repudiation of religion—of all of its premises, tenets, implications, and consequences. To begin understanding the clash between religion and human life, consider the Dark Ages, the interminable centuries following the fall of Rome in the 5th century AD. The barbarian tribes that overran Rome eventually converted to Christianity, which, in the form of the Catholic Church, became the dominant philosophic and cultural force of medieval Europe. Unlike the essentially secular classical world, or the post-Renaissance modern world, the medieval world zealously embraced religion as the fundamental source of truth and moral guidance. What were the results in human life?
  • Topic: Health, Islam
  • Political Geography: United States, America, Europe
  • Author: Daniel Wahl
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: In 2003, HarperCollins published Terrorist Hunter: The Extraordinary Story of a Woman Who Went Undercover to Infiltrate the Radical Islamic Groups Operating in America. The book is as relevant today, if not more. At the beginning of Terrorist Hunter the anonymous author, since outed as Rita Katz, has infiltrated a conference for radical Muslims. She asks herself why she is in a place where she (and her unborn baby) will probably die if anyone finds her recording equipment. Recalling her past, she goes on to answer that question. Katz was born into a wealthy family of Jews living in the then-prosperous Iraqi city of al-Basrah. Her happy childhood changed dramatically after Israel soundly defeated the Arab nations that attacked it in the Six-Day War of 1967. Unable to match Israel\'s military power, many Arabs began to take revenge on the Jews within their own borders. After the Ba\'ath Party of Saddam Hussein and his cousin Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr seized power the year following the war, they came for Katz\'s father, falsely accused him of being a traitor and a spy for Israel, and began torturing him to extract a confession. Meanwhile, Katz\'s family was moved into a small, guard-surrounded stone hut from which her mother would leave each day to beg for her father\'s release—and to which she would return with fresh bruises bestowed by her husband\'s captors. Sadly, her valiant effort was in vain. Katz\'s father was well known, and his trial was scheduled to be shown on television. The Iraqi tyrants were determined to quench their Arab citizens\' thirst for vengeance by reaching a guilty verdict. Because no amount of torture had hitherto pushed Katz\'s father to confess to the crimes he had not committed, Ba\'ath party agents invited his pregnant wife into a room he knew well—one in which, just the day before, another prisoner\'s wife was beaten and gang-raped by many guards. The agents told Katz\'s father that, if he refused to confess, they would immediately walk into that room, cut open her belly, and bring his unborn child to him on a tray. Later that evening he walked to the stand and “in a clear, unwavering voice, confessed his crimes as an Israeli spy and a traitor to the Iraqi nation” (p. 25). He was hanged soon thereafter in Baghdad\'s central square—to the cheers of a half million Iraqis. Katz goes on to tell the story of her family\'s daring escape from Iraq, which required her mother to drug the guards with Valium bought surreptitiously and then pretend to be the wife of a general in order to get a car ride to a town where they could be smuggled to safety. The remainder of their trek to safety involved hiding in the secret compartment of a chicken truck and walking across mountains with duct tape on their mouths to ensure that nobody made a sound. All this is told with the drama of a good novel. In fact, when Katz and her family are on the plane to Israel, and her little brother musters the courage to ask if it is finally OK to tell people they are Jews, you are likely to cry—just as everyone on that plane did. . . .
  • Topic: Islam
  • Political Geography: Iraq, America, Arabia
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 06-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: As political uprisings and civil wars rage in the Middle East, and as America's self-crippled efforts to defeat Al-Qaeda and the Taliban limp on, the need to identify and eliminate the primary threats to American security becomes more urgent by the day. As you read these words, the Islamist regime in Iran is sponsoring the slaughter of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan,1 funding Hamas and Hezbollah in their efforts to destroy our vital ally Israel,2 building nuclear bombs to further “Allah's” ends,3 chanting “Death to America! Death to Israel!” in Friday prayers and political parades,4 and declaring: “With the destruction of these two evil countries, the world will become free of oppression.”5 The U.S. government knows all of this (and much more), which is why the State Department has identified the Islamist regime in Iran as “the most active state sponsor of terrorism” in the world.6 Meanwhile, the Islamist regime in Saudi Arabia is funding American-slaughtering terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Taliban,7 building mosques and “cultural centers” across America, and flooding these Islamist outposts not only with hundreds of millions of dollars for “operating expenses” but also with a steady stream of materials calling for all Muslims “to be dissociated from the infidels . . . to hate them for their religion . . . to always oppose them in every way according to Islamic law” and, ultimately, “to abolish all traces of such primitive life (jahiliyya) and to reinforce the understanding and application of the eternal and universal Islamic deen [religion] until it becomes the ruling power throughout the world.” The Saudi-sponsored materials further specify that those who “accept any religion other than Islam, like Judaism or Christianity, which are not acceptable,” have “denied the Koran” and thus “should be killed.”8 None of this is news, at least not to the U.S. government. The Saudis' anti-infidel efforts have been tracked, documented, and reported for years. As the Rand Corporation concluded in a briefing to a top Pentagon advisory board in 2002, “The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader.”9 What is the U.S. government doing about these clear and present dangers? Nothing. Following the atrocities of 9/11, America has gone to war with Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Libya, but it has done nothing of substance to end the threats posed by the primary enemies of America: the regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia. Instead, the Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, continues the policy of seeking “negotiations” with the Iranian regime and calling the Saudi regime our “friend and ally.” This is insanity. And it is time for American citizens to demand that our politicians put an end to it. The Iranian and Saudi regimes must go. And in order to persuade American politicians to get rid of them, American citizens must make clear that we won't settle for anything less. Of course, the Obama administration is not going to take any pro-American actions against either of these regimes. But Americans can and should demand that any politician—especially any presidential candidate—seeking our support in the 2012 elections provide an explicit statement of his general policy with respect to Iran and Saudi Arabia. And we should demand that the policy be along the following lines . . .
  • Topic: Islam, War
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, America, Libya, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Joseph Kellard
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Ayaan Hirsi Ali gained international recognition in 2004 after she and Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh made Submission, a documentary about the brutal oppression of women under Islamic law. In response to the film, a radical Muslim savagely murdered van Gogh on the streets of Holland and posted a note on the filmmaker's body in which he threatened Hirsi Ali's life as well. Nevertheless, in 2007 Hirsi Ali wrote Infidel, in which she recounts the horrors of growing up female under the rights-violating Islamic cultures in Somalia and Saudi Arabia; how she fled to and settled in Holland, worked menial jobs, attended university, and collaborated on Submission; and how, in 2003, she ran for and was elected to the Dutch parliament as a candidate with a single issue: to stop the oppression of and violence against Muslim women in Holland. In Infidel, Hirsi Ali championed the Western secularist ideals that she came to adopt as true and right—free inquiry, the equal rights of the sexes, individualism, and personal liberty. Since then, she has moved to the land that she declares in her follow-up book, Nomad, to be her final home: the United States. In this latest book, Hirsi Ali shares the observations and emotional journey she has made since leaving Europe and arriving in America, even as radical Muslims continue to threaten her life for her uncompromising condemnation of Islam. In some respects Nomad demonstrates that Hirsi Ali has not only retained the intellectual independence and moral courage at the heart of her prior book, but that she has also strengthened and developed her thinking on the secular values she came to embrace. For example, in Nomad she elaborates on Enlightenment principles, including free inquiry, individual freedom, and property rights, exercising a thought process that grasps fundamentals: Every important freedom that Western individuals possess rests on free expression. We observe what is wrong, and we say what is wrong, in order that it may be corrected. This is the message of the Enlightenment, the rational process that developed today's Western values: Go. Inquire. Ask. Find out. Dare to know. Don't be afraid of what you'll find. Knowledge is better than superstition, blind faith, and dogma. (p. 214) Hirsi Ali proceeds to correctly identify Enlightenment principles as this-worldly and thus incongruent with Islam: The Enlightenment honors life. It is not about honor after death or honor in the hereafter, as Islam is, but honor in individual life, now. It is about development of the individual will, not the submission of the will. Islam, by contrast, is incompatible with the principles of liberty that are at the heart of the Enlightenment's legacy. (p. 214) She powerfully illustrates her development in the contrasts she draws between herself on the one hand, and, on the other, her relatives and other devout Muslims, both of whom cling unquestioningly to their religion and clannish traditions such as “family honor.” . . .
  • Topic: Islam
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Welcome to the Fall issue of The Objective Standard. Ten years have passed since Islamic barbarians slaughtered thousands of Americans on U.S. soil, and America has yet to name the primary enemies (the Iranian and Saudi regimes), let alone eliminate them. Instead, we have gone to war with lesser enemies, enemies that we could retaliate against without appearing sure of ourselves, without appearing morally certain, without seeming selfish. In his article “9/11 Ten Years Later: The Fruits of the Philosophy of Self-Abnegation,” John David Lewis examines the essence of this approach and what it's delivered so far. The opposite philosophy—that of cognitive clarity, moral certainty, and self-respect—is Ayn Rand's philosophy of rational egoism, the political principles of which should be guiding U.S. policy. In “Ayn Rand's Theory of Rights: The Moral Foundation of a Free Society,” I examine the essential aspects of her philosophy that give rise to her theory of rights, as against the theories of God-given, government-granted, and “natural” rights. Using the principle of rights as his standard of evaluation, Joshua Lipana examines and grades various components of Rep. Paul Ryan's “Path to Prosperity,” which, although rejected in the Senate, is perhaps the best plan put forth by an elected official to date about how to deal with America's financial crisis. The report card is telling. In an exclusive interview with TOS, John R. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, presents his ideas on the proper purpose of government and on various issues facing America today. This discussion will leave many TOS readers disappointed that Mr. Bolton has decided not to run for president. Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico, is running for president, and his exclusive interview with TOS sheds important light on his view of the proper role of government and on what he would do if elected commander in chief. Where does he stand on domestic issues? How about foreign policy? Governor Johnson answers the tough questions here. In “The Mastermind behind SEAL Team Six and the End of Osama bin Laden,” Daniel Wahl surveys the history and principles that have given rise to the breathtaking competence of U.S. special operations forces, and finds that one man is primarily responsible. This, to borrow the words of Ragnar Danneskjöld, is a story of what happens when brute force encounters mind and force. Speaking of intelligence, ability, and heroism, sculptor Sandra J. Shaw explains, among other things, how she captures such qualities in the subjects of her works, including her bronze busts of Ayn Rand and Michelangelo. Several images accompany this lengthy interview, and Ms. Shaw's bust of Rand graces the current cover of the journal. Fuel for the soul from beginning to end. In addition to the above articles and interviews are film reviews of Captain America (directed by Joe Johnston) and Lifting King Kong (directed by Park Geon-yong) as well as book reviews of A Time to Betray by Reza Kahlili, Nomad by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, The Fear by Peter Godwin, The Bourgeois Virtues by Deirdre N. McCloskey, Gauntlet by Barbara Masin, Crashing Through by Robert Kurson, The Extra 2% by Jonah Keri, Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, and My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke. Enjoy the articles, interviews, and reviews, and have a wonderful and productive fall. —Craig Biddle
  • Topic: Islam
  • Political Geography: America, Mexico
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Now that the 2012 GOP presidential nominee is almost certain to be either Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich (who, in terms of policy and lack of principle, are practically indistinguishable), many on the right are turning their attention to the 2012 Senate races. And they are wise to do so. In the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans gained control of the House but failed to secure a majority in the Senate, leaving Democrats with 53 of 100 seats. Of the 33 Senate seats up for election in 2012, 21 are held by Democrats, 2 by independents. Republicans are likely to retain control of the House, and if they manage to gain control of the Senate as well, they will have the opportunity to repeal Obama Care, Dodd-Frank, and other disastrous laws and regulations, and to begin cutting federal spending. These are crucial short-term goals. But if we want to return America to the free republic it is supposed to be, we must do more than campaign and vote for Republicans. We must embrace and advocate the only principle that can unify our political efforts and ground them in moral fact. That principle pertains to the purpose of government. Government is an institution with a legal monopoly on the use of physical force in a given geographic area. What is the proper purpose of such an institution? Why, morally speaking, do we need it? The proper purpose of government is, as the Founding Fathers recognized, to protect people's inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Government fulfills this vital function, as Ayn Rand put it, by banning the use of physical force from social relationships and by using force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use. Insofar as an individual respects rights—that is, insofar as he refrains from assault, robbery, rape, fraud, extortion, and the like—a proper government leaves him fully free to act on his own judgment and to keep and use the product of his effort. Insofar as an individual violates rights—whether by direct force (e.g., assault) or indirect force (e.g., fraud)—a proper government employs the police and courts as necessary to stop him, to seek restitution for his victims, and/or to punish him. Likewise for international relations: So long as a foreign country refrains from using (or calling for) physical force against our citizens, our government properly leaves that country alone. But if a foreign country (or gang) attacks or calls for others to attack us, our government properly employs our military to eliminate that threat. As Thomas Jefferson summed up, a proper government “shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”In order to begin moving America toward good government, we must explicitly embrace this principle, and we must demand that politicians who want our support explicitly embrace it as well. To do so, however, we must understand what the principle means in practice, especially with respect to major political issues of the day, such as “entitlement” programs, corporate bailouts, “stimulus” packages, and the Islamist assault on America. . . .
  • Topic: Government, Islam
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 07-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: On May 31, 2010, a flotilla of six ships manned by alleged "peace activists" motored toward Gaza, which, since 2007, has been controlled by the Iranian-sponsored terrorist group Hamas. But because Hamas openly seeks to destroy Israel and has already fired "more than 4,000 rockets and mortar shells [into the state] from Gaza," Israel has imposed a blockade on the region. The "peace activists" ostensibly sought to breach the blockade and reach Gaza to deliver "humanitarian aid." Their real goal, however, was revealed by their own words and actions.
  • Topic: Government, Islam
  • Political Geography: America, Iran, Israel, Palestine, Gaza
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 10-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Welcome to the Fall 2010 issue of TOS—and a special welcome to our new Canadian readers who, with this issue, are discovering the Standard via newsstands in Canada's largest bookstore chain, Chapters/Indigo. We are excited to add our northern neighbors to the list of countries we infiltrate with principled discussion of the moral and philosophical foundations of freedom.
  • Topic: Economics, Islam
  • Political Geography: America, Canada