On this Holiday, Give Thanks to the Producers

In Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, there’s an unforgettable Thanksgiving scene at the mansion of Hank Rearden, a self-made millionaire industrialist whose achievements include the invention — after ten years of toil — of a revolutionary new metal, stronger, cheaper and more durable than steel. In addition to Rearden, seated at the table for Thanksgiving dinner are his mother, his wife Lillian, and his brother Philip, all of whom are wholly dependent on Rearden and his wealth. Continue reading >>

What Vox’s Will Wilkinson Gets Right — and Horribly Wrong — about Trump and the Islamist Menace

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I applaud Will Wilkinson’s essay at Vox.com criticizing the Trump administration’s view of the jihadist threat, but I can offer only one cheer, not three. Wilkinson tries to put the threat in perspective, and although he makes some important points, he exhibits a mile-wide blind spot. Thus, in his own way, Wilkinson fails to understand the Islamist menace, what enables it, and the urgent necessity of confronting it.

Let’s take stock of Wilkinson’s basic argument. His two main points line up with observations I’ve made in the past. First, he refutes the idea — apparently held by Trump’s advisor Steve Bannon among others in the administration — that the jihadists pose an existential threat, comparable to what we faced in World War II from Nazi Germany and the Soviets. When you look at the empirical data and compare military strength, however, the U.S. is in a class by itself. For example, Wilkinson notes, the “combined military budget of the nine biggest-spending Muslim-majority countries came to about $186 billion in 2015. The United States alone more than tripled that, spending $596 billion in 2015.”

The Islamic State (or ISIS) has some rifles, explosives, and pickup trucks, but no navy, no air force, nothing comparable to the vast war machine of Nazi Germany or the Soviets. So, however you tally the material strength of all the jihadists on the face of the globe, they are way, way overshadowed by America’s towering might. When faced with the material weakness of ISIS as a military force, Wilkinson writes, “defenders of the [Trump administration’s] clash of civilizations view tend to retreat to the idea that radical Islam is waging war on the West in secret.

Continue reading “What Vox’s Will Wilkinson Gets Right — and Horribly Wrong — about Trump and the Islamist Menace”