In Italy”€”which is the next eurozone domino to fall after Spain, Greece, and Portugal”€”things are bad and getting worse.

The mood here is one of black pessimism and utter contempt for politicians. Italians simmer with anger, but no one has a viable solution to the problem. How could they? Italy is a prisoner of the euro. There is no solution.

So the Italians cling to the tangible stuff they can get their heads around”€”and the more easily visible targets.

One colorful detail can speak louder than a thousand statistics. In Italy, it was a toga party

When photographs were published the other day by the online magazine Dagospia of politicians at a lavish and vulgar toga party paid for with taxpayers”€™ money, it caused a huge scandal even in Italy, which has surely seen every scandal known to mankind.

In these times of economic and existential crisis, Italians regard politicians throwing such a party as an utter disgrace.

The Italians, like the other Mediterranean peoples whose tragedy it is to possess the euro, are forced to endure austerity, which in reality just means more and more taxes and fewer and fewer jobs. Worse, such austerity is futile because it does not tackle the real problem: the crippling public debt. To solve that would require fiscal (therefore political) union of the 17 countries in the eurozone, which none will ever accept”€”or otherwise penury (not just austerity), which would provoke revolution.

“€œItalian politicians are corrupt because they are Italians.”€

So while Italians, like everyone else in the eurozone, are forced by their politicians to make all these useless sacrifices in the name of the terminally ill euro, those same politicians make absolutely no sacrifices whatsoever.

The toga party was held in 2010 and cost a paltry 30,000 euro, but that has not mattered. Italians see it as emblematic of political decadence. Like Nero, Italy’s politicians fiddle while Rome burns.

The party was held in the spectacular surroundings of the Foro Italico, the fascist-built marble Olympic sports stadium opened by Benito Mussolini in 1932, which is lined with enormous statues of athletes in the classical style. 

The theme of the toga party was “€œThe Return of Ulysses,”€ which has nothing to do with ancient Rome. The published photographs show bunches of grapes dangling into the mouths of scantily clad women and so on. But what made the wheel fly off was one photo of two male guests in togas wearing pig-face masks. In Italy, the word “€œmaiale“€ (pig) has several connotations, including “€œsex maniac”€ and “€œpolitician with his snout in the trough.”€

The other detail that caused outrage was what Franco Fiorito, the obese capogruppo (leader) of the party that governs the Lazio region, ate that night: Two huge plates of fettucine con i funghi porcini and four bistecche (steaks). But he turned down the pudding, saying: “€œI just can”€™t, I”€™m so sorry, I have to be careful alla glycemia (blood-sugar levels).”€ This was odd because earlier in the evening, Fiorito, whose nickname is “€œBatman”€ and who weighs nearly 400 pounds, had been spotted demolishing the contents of a box containing 24 baci perugini (Perugian chocolate kisses).

The toga-party revelations prompted the media to turn the spotlight on expenditure in Lazio and other regions, especially the wages and extras trousered by regional councilors.

Democracy’s a flop, Obama to blacks: Drop dead, Obama: One of the 47 percent, support the civilized man, olds from the Near East, MSNBC rant of the week, birds of a feather, li’l Squinty does New York, an automobile for our times, Cameron to U.N. crooks: Take my money, please!

The Obama regime’s official explanation for the murder of our ambassador to Libya and three staffers amid the destruction of our Benghazi consulate”€”that it was spontaneous and quasi-legitimized by an anti-Muhammad film”€”seems to be unraveling. But perhaps more importantly, it points out the insanity that has been US foreign policy from Morocco to Afghanistan since World War II.

Dubya dubbed this policy the “€œglobal democratic revolution”€”€”the idea that given the right combination of idealistic leadership and US-supported regime change, the Middle East’s civic life would magically transform into that of Ray Bradbury’s Green Town, Illinois. To these dreamers, 2011’s “€œArab Spring”€ seemed proof that in the Islamosphere, American-style rule of law was right around the corner. But even as their ears were oblivious to the dying cries of Iraq’s Chaldean and Assyrian communities, so have they been to those of Coptic and Syrian Christians. One would think the death rattles of American diplomats might at least catch their ears, but no such luck.

“€œDue to religious and cultural histories too complex for the average American politico or bureaucrat to understand, the Muslim world is mind-numbingly fragmented.”€

Due to religious and cultural histories too complex for the average American politico or bureaucrat to understand, the Muslim world is mind-numbingly fragmented. Internal peace in any given region or country has inevitably been imposed from outside. As the topmost clique in each was small and usually alien, the rulership was constrained to govern through and with coalitions of minority groups”€”a pluralism dictated by necessity rather than ideology. This pattern was disrupted by the West’s growing power, culminating in the Ottoman Empire‘s defeat in World War I and subsequent deposition of the Sultan and Caliph.

Then followed the first of three waves of Westernization. This wave saw various traditional rulers that the West”€”especially the British and French”€”either raised or reinforced. Among them were the rulers of Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, Jordan, Iran, Afghanistan, Yemen, southern Arabia, and the Persian Gulf states. There was much to criticize about these regimes: no separation of religion and state; hereditary monarchy; minority rule; inefficiency; suspicion of modern education; rampant cronyism; limits upon freedom of speech, religion, and the press; and governmental legitimacy founded on legends rather than elections. But what these criticisms failed to understand is that in this region, majority rule inevitably means minority oppression.

And so we helped bring to power in various countries people such as Nasser, the Ba”€™ath Parties, and Gaddafi”€”they were Westernization’s second wave. They initially had much to recommend them to American policy makers. These revolutionaries broke down old aristocracies and tended to be secular rather than religious. They introduced the form”€”if not the substance”€”of republican government. They had a few small drawbacks. So long as the Soviet Union lasted, they were often pro-Soviet; they too were forced to rule through minorities; and as their regimes aged, they tended to become ever nastier in terms of bloody repression. So throughout the past two years, we have encouraged their overthrow in the “€œArab Spring”€ and its aftermath.

One of the downsides of being special is that you feel out of place wherever you go. I don’t understand half the stuff people like and I suspect they don’t either. Take cigars, for example:

You don’like cigars, you like the idea of cigars. You like standing on the balcony with the other men after the dinner party and doing something a woman would never do in a million years, but you don’t actually enjoy that cigar hanging out of your mouth. If you did, you’d smoke them when you were alone in the woods, which you never do.

Having a “Mc” in your last name means every birthday someone buys you a bottle of expensive whiskey. The problem is, whiskey tastes like gasoline. It’s especially bad when they take the extra time to let burnt peat moss smoke through it so then it tastes like gasoline that’s been sitting in an ashtray. I like bourbon because it’s sweet and tastes like cotton candy when you ice it. However, 99% of the reason we enjoy booze is because it gets us drunk. Let’s stop pretending we actually enjoy the taste. If we did, we’d drink nonalcoholic Maker’s Mark at breakfast.

“€œI w aa xt about two hours of TVTX night nd I feel the same way about television that prostitutes feel about sex. It’s depressing.”€

I”€™m told these games are much more complex than they seem. “€œIt’s like chess,”€ sports fans always tell me. But all I see is a bunch of transient millionaires playing a game outside. What’s so fun about watching someone else play?  What are we”€”gimps? I guess I understand that watching sports all Sunday is a way to bond with a dad who isn”€™t great at talking with his kids, but that seems to be the only redeeming thing about it. I didn”€™t grow up with sports so I see them for what they are: boring. I once spent a day researching the rules to football and learning about the teams involved in a Super Bowl game, and after trying to enjoy the 11 minutes of action a three-hour game provides I stood up and said, “€œThat’s it. I gave it a chance and I can now say, unequivocally, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that this sucks.”€ Besides, don”€™t you feel kind of queer talking about all these men and their injuries? Oooh, Rodney Jackson sprained his ankle. Let’s read an article about his legs. Sports aren”€™t chess, they”€™re gossip for men.

Going to punk shows was fun when I was a kid because we”€™d jump off the stage and get all our aggression out in the pit. Now it’s just loud. Going to a huge stadium to see your favorite band means watching tiny ants play their hits far worse than you”€™re used to hearing them at home. That goes double for a small venue. Why did you five dumb guys climb onstage and turn my bar into a practice space? Nobody wants you here. We came here to have a conversation and now we”€™re just waiting for you to stop so we can go back to it. Oh, thank God, you”€™re taking off your guitar. Oh, Jesus no, he just said, “€œWe”€™ll be right back.”€ They oughta call it “€œleave”€ music.

My wife convinced me to buy this $400 robotic vacuum cleaner and it’s been sitting in its charger dock ever since. I hate this thing for at least three reasons beyond the insane retail price: 1. It’s so loud, you can”€™t be at home when it’s doing its thing, which means you have to set it up when you leave and hope it doesn”€™t get stuck. 2. It always gets stuck, so you end up putting chairs on tables to keep them out of its way, which is about 90% of the job of sweeping. 3. Sweeping hardwood floors takes about five minutes no matter the size of your house. Vacuuming a carpet takes the same amount of time. A Roomba can do it automatically if you clear a space and leave it unfettered for an entire day. Thanks. Let’s invent a robot that can put your socks on for you in under three hours and an automatic lawn mower that takes all summer.

NEW YORK—Ten years ago this week I put my money down and The American Conservative magazine was born. They say that owning a yacht is like sitting under a shower tearing up hundred-dollar bills. Owning an opinion magazine based in Washington, DC is like sitting in a dull hotel room throwing thousand-dollar bills to the fire. A boat will at least get you some attention from the fairer sex—if it’s large and vulgar enough, that is—whereas a political fortnightly might attract some bores with lotsa dandruff on their collars, but that’s about it.

For starters, Washington is as boring a town as they come. A large percentage of the people who work there might be women, but they certainly don’t line the bars at night looking for horny Greeks. After millions spent, there were a couple ladies to speak of—both Southern belles—who had nothing to do with the magazine. I had two partners, Pat Buchanan and Scott McConnell, both of whom I treated equally by giving them the same amount of shares free of charge as I gave myself. It was not the smartest of moves, but I’m an impulsive sort of character and much too impatient to think things out. Pat Buchanan had run for president three times and is still Mr. Conservative as far as I’m concerned. McConnell was the editor, and I had trouble with him from the beginning, as I tend to go for the jugular at times, whereas he prefers the friendly persuasion approach to politics.

“In Hollywood melodramas, the bad guys are always revealed toward the end and more often than not, they get their comeuppance. Not in real life. The same bad old neocons are still at it.”

Pat, Scott, and I held a press conference in the National Press Club building in Washington for the launch, where I realized from the word go how deeply mistrusted and loathed is anyone who describes himself as a paleoconservative. The coverage by The New York Times and Washington Post had more to do with my drug bust of a quarter-century before than the startup of a new political biweekly. During the press conference I was asked time and again if I was using Saudi money. Saudi money? I’d rather catch the clap than use camel-jockey moolah, but it illustrates how much homework the Fourth Estate does. I’ve only been writing against them bums for 30 years, was all I said. When asked what my reasons were for coughing up the startup cash, I tried a bit of humor and answered, “for the women.” It went over like a loud fart in church.

Our first cover story was written by Eric Margolis: “Iraq Folly: How Victory Could Spell Defeat.” Pat Buchanan had a story on empire and how we should stay away from Iraq. I wrote about Ayn Rand and John Galt and how my father was no John Galt but a caring capitalist who looked out for his workers.

Iraq turned out to be the greatest foreign-policy blunder ever, and counting. Ten years to the day, all one has to do is substitute an “n” for a “q.” Iran will be far worse and could end up in Armageddon. Yet the same players who beat the war drums against Saddam’s WMDs are back playing the same tune, this time against Iran’s nuclear weapons.

One thing is for sure. The American Conservative did not stop the neocons, Bush-Cheney, and Tony Blair from lying their heads off and plunging us into a catastrophic war, nor will The American Conservative—now a respected monthly—stop the neocons and Netanyahu from taking us to the brink yet again.

Students at a Kansas high school are claiming that the government is trying to starve them to death. In the teeny-weeny Great Plains town of Sharon Springs, which is possibly smaller than Michelle Obama’s bum, an English teacher and her pupils have collaborated on a song-parody video called “€œWe Are Hungry”€ to vent their anger over a new law that places an 850-calorie limit on federally subsidized student lunches.

The singer”€”you are strongly encouraged to switch the sound off while watching this video unless you want his fragile warbling to be stuck in your brain like a bloodsucking leech”€”wails about how he “€œgave up food months ago”€ and “€œthought maybe we could find a way not to starve today”€ and that he has “€œno energy to run”€ and may wind up “€œcrawling home tonight”€ unless someone carries his malnourished husk home, because what’s happening is just like the Holodomor:

To any honest person who’s not emotionally invested in what appears to be yet another insanely partisan hyper-politicizing of humble foodstuffs, it immediately becomes apparent that these kids aren”€™t quite starving. In fact, there is more than one Blue Ribbon winner on the school’s female volleyball team. Many of those girls appear as if they”€™ve eaten far more than their fair share of government hay.

“€œIf parents can”€™t afford to feed their kids and keep them healthy, the solution is simple: Don”€™t have them.”€

And at the risk of stepping on the tender toes nestled within the gentle hearts that are tucked inside the marshmallow-soft minds of public-school students and their teacher-gurus nationwide, 850 calories is more than you get in a Whopper with cheese. And to our knowledge, no pistol-packing Stasi agents are preventing their parents from cramming their kids”€™ backpacks with ten-pound care packages of pork cracklin’s and deep-fried Oreos, so what’s the big deal?

Yet the humble flames of their heartland outrage are being eagerly fanned by Republican pols seeking to repeal the calorie limits imposed by 2010’s multi-billion-dollar Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Iowa Congressman Steve King (moderately fat) and Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp (also moderately fat) are co-sponsoring the “No Hungry Kids Act,” which would enable America’s already unacceptably chunky schoolkids to gobble yet more tax-subsidized calories.

According to Rep. King:

The misguided nanny state, as advanced by Michelle Obama’s ‘Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act,’ was interpreted by Secretary [Tom] Vilsack to be a directive that, because some kids are overweight, he would put every child on a diet. Parents know that their kids deserve all of the healthy and nutritious food they want.

Well, it seems as if Mr. King is asking the “€œnanny state”€ to provide it. Since his last campaign received substantial contributions from the meat industry and he’s publicly defended “pink slime,” AKA “€œSoylent Pink,”€ it’s possible he’s merely a pawn of Big Beef’s attempts to get their hooves back in school lunchrooms. King is also running against Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s wife for reelection, so this appears to be some sort of shadowy power struggle between big-money interests who either prop up the USDA or who fall afoul of it.

I had my weekend nicely planned. Saturday: small catch-up stuff, paperwork, and household repairs. Sunday: Write a book review I’d promised for midnight deadline…oh, and read the book.

Friday afternoon a friend called: “I have a spare ticket for the dress rehearsal of Turandot tomorrow, eleven AM; wanna come?”

I very much wanted to, so I did. Dress rehearsals tend to come with a couple of 45-minute intermissions, though. It takes two hours to get from my house to the New York Metropolitan Opera. Add in a leisurely lunch with my friend washed down with a few glasses of wine, and there’s a whole day shot.

I couldn’t miss Turandot, though. Opera-wise, I’m a meat-and-potatoes guy. I like the big old classics, the ones that make up most of the Met’s season schedule. If you are a fan of Karlheinz Stockhausen or Thomas Adès, I have no quarrel with you. We are just, as the late Stephen Jay Gould said of religion and science, operating under different magisteria. Or as a great novelist remarked: “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.”

“€œThe rigorously trained human voice is, for me, the most beautiful of all instruments.”€

Turandot is one of those big old classics”€”the last one, really, by date of composition. (The composer died in 1924 with the final act’s last half still unwritten. A lesser talent completed it.) Turandot also has some nonmusical appeal: It gives set designers the opportunity to let out their inner Cecil B. DeMilles. The current Met production shows the result magnificently.

Like most of those big old masterworks, though, it’s sappy and silly. The sappiness is a consequence of opera having come to full maturity in the Romantic Age from 1800 onward. With all the beauty of the music, the voices, and the sets, there comes a point in every opera where I find myself thinking: “Oh, come on!

With Turandot that point comes at the very end. The title character is a beautiful but cruel Chinese princess. To win her hand, suitors have to answer three riddles. Those who fail”€”all have so far”€”die gruesomely, to her apparent pleasure.

Along comes a handsome stranger who answers the riddles correctly, so by the rules Turandot must marry him. She hates the thought of it. Not wanting an unwilling bride, the stranger gives her a second chance: If she can find out his name by dawn tomorrow, she can impale, disembowel, burn, or decapitate him.

During the night they meet and he woos her. Confident he has melted her icy heart with the Power of Love, he tells her his name: Calaf. Since the sun hasn’t yet risen, he’s handed the victory to her.

Off they go to report to the emperor, Turandot’s dad. “Noble father, I know the stranger’s name!” exults Turandot. Pause for some dramatic tension. “His name is…Love!”


Our era’s dominant narrative focuses lavishly on gays, who are portrayed as society’s powerless victims.

Yet gays themselves don”€™t find the party line very interesting. They like to picture themselves as culturally dominant. For instance, if you spend any time online researching the entertainment industry’s history, you”€™ll notice that a large fraction of writers on the topic are homosexuals who often emphasize that practically everybody of any importance was gay.

How can they tell? They pride themselves on their acute gaydar. Anybody who fits any gay stereotype is claimed for the clan.

(Ironically, we are told that society is becoming less “€œhomophobic,”€ yet we still don”€™t see movie leading men coming out of the closet. Indeed, straight men dress these days like they”€™ve barely been in their own closets, putting on instead whatever they pick up off the floor. John Derbyshire calls this process of average guys shunning any kind of refinement in fear of seeming gay “€œstraight flight,”€ and it appears to be accelerating.)

Checking out these claims and insinuations is highly time-consuming and uncertain, but there is now a way to at least rapidly measure public perceptions of celebrities using what I call Google Gaydar.

When you begin typing a search phrase, Google offers ten auto-completion prompts in order of popularity. (This convenience came into the news recently when the wife of a German politician sued Google for auto-finishing searches on her name with helpful suggestions such as “€œprostitute“€ and “€œescort.”€)

We can use the rank order of Google’s prompts to quantify what Mickey Kaus called the “€œUndernews”€ back when only the National Enquirer dared report on presidential candidate John Edwards’s illegitimate baby.

The Undernews is that vast realm of gossip, speculation, slander, daydreams, misinformation, disinformation, intuition, and unwelcome fact too disreputable for the respectable press. Figuring out what is true and what is false in the Undernews is still labor-intensive, but we at least have a tool for quickly measuring it.

“€œI”€™ve noticed over the years that many people have extremely strong opinions on which actors are gay and which are straight.”€

As a movie reviewer, I”€™ve noticed over the years that many people have extremely strong opinions on which actors are gay and which are straight. This makes up a noticeable fraction of the Undernews.

I realize the Undernews can be distasteful. For example, Sir John Gielgud died in 2000 at age 96 after a lifetime of acting triumphs, from playing Hamlet on the West End stage at age 26 to winning an Oscar as the definitive valet in Arthur 52 years later. Yet if you go to, type “€œJohn Gielgud,”€ and hit the space bar, the foremost prompt is “€œJohn Gielgud gay.”€ He spent three quarters of a century devoted to his craft (including perhaps the most astonishing short performance in television history in Brideshead Revisited), yet what the Googling world finds most intriguing is “€œJohn Gielgud gay.”€ What could be more interesting about Sir John than his 1953 arrest in a lavatory?

My general opinion is that most movie and TV stars are good at playing Let’s Pretend, so many guesses about their orientations are overconfident.

On the other hand, the art of casting consists in large measure of noticing those aspects of actors”€™ personalities most accessible to their art, which means that the underlying man matters. Thus Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple works with Walter Matthau (movie version) or Jack Klugman (sitcom) as slovenly sportswriter Oscar Madison and with Jack Lemmon or Tony Randall as fussbudget Felix Unger. As skilled as these expert actors were, reversing the casting would only work as a stunt.

To illustrate how you can use Google auto-complete to measure which actors trigger the public’s gaydar, let’s use veteran comic actor Bill Murray. If you type in “€œBill Murray”€ and hit the space bar, Google offers you the ten most popular ways to complete the search phrase (e.g., “€œBill Murray movies”€ and “€œBill Murray net worth”€). Not surprisingly, none of the ten suggestions for Murray includes the word “€œgay.”€

If you want to try even harder, type “€œBill Murray g.”€ You”€™ll get ten g-word suggestions such as “€œGhostbusters 3,”€ “€œGarfield,”€ and “€œgolf,”€ but once again, not “€œgay.”€

This is hardly astounding. Bill Murray rarely plays gay characters (except in the farcical Ed Wood). He’s too old and odd-looking to be the object of gay fantasies. Most of all, in all his decades of fame, he’s never seemed gay. Thus, on a 0 to 100 scale of Google Gaydar, Murray is a 0.

Other stars who score a 0 on Google Gaydar include Matthau, Jeff Bridges, W. C. Fields, Mel Gibson, Fred MacMurray, Robert Duvall, and Woody Allen. This doesn”€™t mean that they are all 100 percent straight, just that none of their ten most common search terms”€”or even the ten most popular beginning with the letter “€œg”€”€”are the word “€œgay.”€

In contrast, type in “€œKevin Spacey,”€ and the word “€œgay”€ is immediately proposed as the single most efficient suggestion to finish your search. So Spacey gets a 100.

It could be that these public perceptions of Bill Murray and Kevin Spacey are completely backwards. It’s important to stress that this Google Gaydar scale doesn”€™t measure reality; it merely quantifies what people who care enough about an actor to search his name on Google are interested in finding. Guessing someone’s Google Gaydar score is rather like that TV game show Family Feud where the winners are those who think most like the consensus of the studio audience, no matter how vulgar or ill-informed the audience may be.

One difference from Family Feud is that Google prompts are self-selected. Only the interests of people who care enough about Kevin Spacey to type his name into Google get counted.

I have no love lost for the Arab world. Aside from the fact that they basically gave up on modernity from circa 1700 onward and only rediscovered it once oil’s fiduciary benefits became apparent, there is the enormous issue of bathing. There’s a reason most Arabs wandered the desert for generations, and it was largely to keep away from one another.

Unfortunately, most of my fellow Westerners are at times equally odious.

Since the promotion of the film The Whatever of Whatever Designed to Create Havoc but Marginally About Muhammad, there have been innumerable talk radio, television, and candidate references to Islam’s intolerance. It’s true that Muslims tend to be intolerant, but not for the reasons the pundits state.

Whatever their roots, contemporary Muslim viewpoints are often in clear contradiction to liberal democratic principles (to the extent any of our own roots still survive). Treatment of females, toleration of dissent, and many other issues leap to mind.

“€œLet them go their own way so long as it is not on a collision course with us.”€

Yet love of religion is not itself a fundamental flaw in their belief system. On this score Islam gets things more right than wrong. I’ve often wondered whether we might not have a better West if there were some radicals around. Hmm, maybe not.

What irritates me most is the middle-aged, middlebrow denizen of most Western nations who says something to the effect of, “I just don’t get it. Why are they taking this so seriously? We had X happen a few years ago and while we weren’t pleased, we didn’t get up in arms about the matter.” (Frequently “X” has been the film The Last Temptation of Christ or the laughably unprofessional “discovery” of a papyrus fragment which any logical schoolboy could tell you might have a hundred legitimate interpretations.)

The West is host to a seemingly unimaginative horde of apparently well-meaning people who “just don’t get it.” I’m not sure whether this is feigned ignorance, but given its prevalence perhaps not.

So here it is: Many Arabs are poor.

Since that’s an alien concept to Westerners, I’ll try to elaborate. These Arabs are not American poor or English poor. They aren’t even Moldavian poor. They are Depression Era during the Dust Bowl poor. Like Limehouse circa 1901 poor. Or height of the Soviet Era poor.

When I was a child we delivered Thanksgiving turkeys to the poor. Most of those homes had wood-plank walls and dirt floors. There was nothing under the dirt but more dirt. When I saw the faces of those people I knew that what I was doing mattered. And guess whom they thanked first? No, not me. They thanked God.

For truly poor people there is no higher education as a way out, only a higher power. They don’t have the preparation to get a scholarship and couldn’t get admitted to college even if they had a loan. There is no “road to prosperity” for them.

For Americans of the Greatest Generation that fought World War II and of the Silent Generation that came of age in the 1950s, the great moral and ideological cause was the Cold War.

It gave purpose and clarity to our politics and foreign policy, and our lives.

From the fall of Berlin in 1945 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, that Cold War was waged by two generations, and with its end Americans faced a fundamental question:

If the historic struggle between communism and freedom is over, if the Soviet Empire and Soviet Union no longer exist, if the Russians wish to befriend us and the Maoists have taken the capitalist road, what is our new mission in the world? What do we do now?

The debate was suspended when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. George H.W. Bush assembled a mighty coalition and won a war that required but 100 hours of ground combat.

We had found our mission.

“And—while this may border on a hate crime—some countries are unfit for democracy.”

The United States was the last superpower and a triumphant Bush declared that we would build the “New World Order.” Neoconservatives rhapsodized over America’s “unipolar moment” and coming “global hegemony.”

But Americans were unpersuaded and uninspired. They rejected the victor of Desert Storm—for Bill Clinton. By Y2K, the Republican Party was backing another Bush who was promising a “more humble” America.

Came then 9/11 and the midlife conversion of George W. to Wilsonian interventionism. After the rout of the Taliban in December 2001, Bush decided to remake Afghanistan in the image of Iowa and to go crusading against an axis of evil. In his second inaugural, he declared that America’s mission was to “end tyranny in our world.”

The world declined to oblige. By the end of 2006, the Taliban were back and America seemed in an endless war in Iraq. Republicans had lost Congress and Bush’s democracy crusade was producing electoral victories for Hamas and Hezbollah.

In November 2008, the crusaders were sent packing.

Came then Barack Obama. With the “Arab Spring” beginning in 2010, with dictators being toppled in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Syria, Obama embraced the movement as his own.

But Obama received a rude awakening. As the Arab dictators began, one by one, to fall, also unleashed and now surging and spreading through the lands they had ruled were the four horsemen of the Arab apocalypse: tribalism, ethno-nationalism, Islamic fundamentalism and anti-Americanism. So we come to an elementary question:

If the Islamic world is so suffused with rage and hatred of us—for our wars, occupations, drone attacks, support of Israel, decadent culture, and tolerance of insults to Islam and the Prophet—why should we call for free elections, when the people will use those elections to vote into power rulers hostile to the United States?