Posted: March 19, 2007
Painting the Map Red: The Fight to Create a Permanent Republican Majority by Hugh Hewitt
In this hard-hitting, well-written, and practical book aimed at the strategic imperatives of the 2006 and 2008 elections, conservative radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt lays out a plan to revive Republican fortunes, win a filibuster-proof Senate majority, and deal a knock-out blow to the Democratic Party. Hewitt argues that the Republicans' only hope for avoiding electoral disaster this year is to run a bold, nationalized campaign—instead of retreating to the localized, race-by-race approach common for incumbent parties on the defensive. Contending that Democrats are more radical than ever, he proposes a relentless attack on them as the party waging war on the military, religion, a sound judiciary, traditional marriage, and civil discourse.
Good advice as far as it goes, but the plan focuses much less on what the governing party should be for, summed up as "win the war, confirm the judges, cut the taxes, control the spending." Hewitt's call to build the Republican campaign around George W. Bush's trustworthiness (and the Democrats' lack thereof) will have to overcome the Left's three-year-long drive to cast doubt on the president's truthfulness in Iraq. Hewitt probably overestimates the long-term trouble Democrats face. With tens of millions of Americans dependent on the welfare state and liberals still dominating the mainstream media and educational establishment, it seems unlikely that Democrats will go the way of the Whigs anytime soon, even if the GOP runs flawless campaigns from coast to coast.
—Andrew E. Busch
Claremont McKenna College
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Romancing Opiates: Pharmacological Lies and Addiction Bureaucracy by Theodore Dalrymple
If public officials who dole out billions of dollars yearly for drug rehabilitation programs would read Romancing Opiates, it could spark a thorough reexamination of how we deal with addiction. Written by the witty and insightful British psychiatrist and columnist Theodore Dalrymple, this short, powerful book is one of the most important—and certainly one of the most entertaining—policy books of recent years. Dalrymple spent most of his medical career treating addicts, first at a clinic for university students and then for 14 years in a general hospital and adjacent prison in one of Britain's largest slums. He began with the conventional views: that heroin addicts are blameless, having been conned into trying the drug, only to become hopelessly trapped; that withdrawing from heroin is agonizing; that addicts need to be "treated" for long periods of time with replacement narcotics such as methadone to spare them the harsh medical consequences of withdrawal; and that addicts become criminals out of necessity to support their habit.
Dalrymple's experiences taught him otherwise. He watched many prisoners go off heroin with withdrawal symptoms no worse than a mild flu. If heroin is not highly addictive, than why do we need an elaborate network of nurses, social workers, psychiatrists, and other doctors who keep addicts dependent on substitute narcotics? "It is easier to give people a dose of medicine than a reason for living," he concludes. Heroin addiction is at bottom a moral and spiritual problem, but for decades a growing medical bureaucracy has held that patients need virtually lifelong medical maintenance. This misconception perpetuates a vast industry and has done nothing to reduce the scourge of addiction on addicts or on our society.
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In Praise of Athletic Beauty by Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht
Here is something of a marvel—a book by the Albert Guérard Professor in Literature at Stanford University that is written for the common reader, without footnotes, bibliography, or index. What's more, it is a pleasure to read. It consists of four elegant chapters written in an approachable, appreciative, meditative vein. The first is a chapter defining praise, beauty, and athletics. The second, "Discontinuities," chooses moments in the history of sports: demigods, gladiators, knights, ruffians, sportsmen, Olympians, customers. The third chapter defines what the author means by "fascinations." He chooses themes that excite all fans with a sense of beauty and wonder—bodies in motion, suffering, grace, tools, forms, plays, and timing. The fourth chapter, "Gratitude," concludes the book with original meditations on "watching" and "waste." In this delightful volume, Gumbrecht draws on his own favorite experiences, from watching hockey in Canada to watching the World Cup and other soccer games (especially those involving Germany), and most recently, watching Stanford's swim meets and football contests. He is not the first to write on these themes in a philosophical mood, but he does so with a grace that is worthy of his subject.
American Enterprise Institute
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Plato's Fable: On the Mortal Condition in Shadowy Times by Joshua Mitchell
The "fable" in the title of this unusual book on the Republic is not one of the tales Socrates tells but rather the entire dialogue. Not only does Joshua Mitchell doubt that Plato was making an earnest proposal in the Republic; the Georgetown University government professor argues that Socrates' interlocutors can understand almost nothing that he says to them. Mitchell tries to demonstrate this and more in his short book, arguing that a recovery of Plato's understanding of reason in an age dominated by liberalism will help reveal humanity's fatal flaw, the inclination to imitate (as Plato understood it).
Although the reader might be grateful that Mitchell seldom indulges in scholarly quibbles—he barely refers to Plato scholarship at all—the author has a penchant for linking the Republic to a vast array of philosophic, theological, and scriptural writings that often seem malapropos. For instance, he writes as though Thrasymachus thinks like Marx, Socrates like Calvin, and as if Book VIII's cycle of regimes calls to mind Luke's Gospel and the Book of Genesis. The result is an odd and arbitrary volume that leaves little sense of what makes Plato's thought distinctively his own.
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God and the Natural Law: A Rereading of Thomas Aquinas by Fulvio Di Blasi, translated by David Thunder
Originally published in Italian in 1999, God and the Natural Law is the impressive work of a young scholar, navigating through the swirling currents of modern debate over the meaning of natural law. President of the fledgling Thomas International (a planned Thomistic university) and co-director of the newly formed Ralph McInerny Center for Thomistic Studies, Fulvio Di Blasi presents a closer, far richer reading of Thomas Aquinas than is typical in these debates.
Di Blasi argues that many scholars have been unduly influenced by the fact-value distinction and other modern notions, and as a result misunderstand the role of God and nature in Aquinas's thought. The author maintains that Aquinas (and Suarez) did not think that natural law is completely external to man, based on the arbitrary will of God; nor that the natural law is completely internal to man, based on man's reason alone. Without a basis in nature, morality becomes merely a human product, and natural law ceases to be natural. Yet without seeing the natural order as a product of God's will (in accord with His reason), there is no sufficient obligation for man to obey the dictates of his natural ends, and the natural law ceases to be law. For Aquinas, the "natural law is nature revealing itself to human reason as willed by God."
—Matthew J. Peterson
The Claremont Institute
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Just Americans: How Japanese Americans Won a War at Home and Abroad by Robert Asahina
With his new book, influential New York editor Robert Asahina shows how Japanese Americans won equal citizenship through military service. He describes these draftees' contribution to America's effort in the Second World War with incomparable richness and detail; his account is all the more stunning when we realize that at the time nearly all black Americans were denied combat roles (other than in the Air Force).
The book breaks with Eric Muller's Free to Die for Their Country (2001), which claimed that the real heroes of the World War II relocation were the Japanese-American draft resisters, who allegedly followed the American political tradition of wartime dissent. (In fact, they followed the wishes of their old-country families, not their new-country traditions, however understood.) Though rejecting Muller, Asahina hews to the standard and increasingly inadequate line about the racist impulse behind the relocation. He does not take seriously how Japanese expatriates and even American citizens of Japanese ancestry might have served the needs of Japanese foreign policy; and he dismisses the possibility of significant disloyalty among ethnic Japanese, even while acknowledging the pull of nationalism. He does not confront Michelle Malkin's polemical In Defense of Internment (2004; see Charles A. Lofgren, "Hardships of War," CRB, Summer 2005) or Brian Hayashi's scholarly Democratizing the Enemy (2004). These books argue that there was substantial evidence of disloyalty among the ethnic Japanese population, though the volumes come to opposite conclusions about the relocation policy itself.
Nonetheless, Asahina shows movingly how these Japanese-American soldiers, by their courageous service, helped to reaffirm the equality of duties and rights as America's central idea.
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War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World by Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., et al.
I repeat the words of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence—that little band of patriots, fighting long ago against overwhelming odds, but certain, as we are now, of ultimate victory: "With a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."
This is the epigraph to Frank Gaffney's War Footing, taken from an address by President Franklin Roosevelt on May 14, 1941. It captures the governing purpose of the book, which is to awaken in its readers the sense of urgency that can come only from full realization that we are at war. Only such a sense of urgency will enable the nation to put itself on the "war footing" that is the necessary condition of moving forward to ultimate victory in the "war for the free world."
Each short and easily digested chapter is co-authored by Gaffney, President of the Center for Security Policy, and another defense expert. Co-authors include Victor Davis Hanson, Andrew McCarthy, Caroline Glick, and Congressmen Curt Weldon and Roscoe Bartlett. Their recommended "ten steps" range from geopolitics to energy security. An appendix contains much needed proposals to improve American missile defense policy. The book is designed so that one may consult individual chapters independently for a policy briefing on each of the necessary steps to victory.
This is a good and important book, but it faces a great challenge. Roosevelt gave the address from which Gaffney takes his epigraph six months before Pearl Harbor; and America was far from being ready for war when the day of infamy came. Gaffney writes five years after our more recent day of infamy; and America is still far from being on a war footing. If September 11 could not awaken our leaders and those who vote them into office from their strategic slumbers, this book faces a difficult challenge indeed. But when they are shaken from their complacent dreams by the next deadly alarm, this will be a useful book to have on their bedside tables.
The Claremont Institute
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The British Moment: The Case for Democratic Geopolitics in the Twenty-first Century A Manifesto by the Henry Jackson Society
With the ouster of Joe Lieberman, the Democratic Party seems to have thrown "Scoop" Jackson's legacy unceremoniously out the party door. But his legacy may be alive and well across the pond. The Henry Jackson Society formally proclaimed its existence in Cambridge, England, on March 11, 2005, issuing a statement of principles signed by several prominent academics, politicians, and journalists. Just a few months ago (July 14, 2006), at a gala co-hosted with the Social Affairs Unit at the Reform Club in London, the Society celebrated the publication of its first book, The British Moment: The Case for Democratic Geopolitics in the Twenty-first Century.
This is a slim volume of five chapters and two brief appendices. It is written and edited by several "young academics based at Cambridge University." It is issued, however, not in any individual's name (though each is credited), but as "A Manifesto by the Henry Jackson Society." The five chapters consider, in order, "Britain and"—the world, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and China. The first appendix is a one-page appreciation of Henry "Scoop" Jackson; the other is a two-page statement of the society's principles. These include: the affirmation that "the rest of the world should aspire" to be "modern liberal democracies"; support for "a 'forward strategy' to assist those countries that are not yet liberal and democratic to become so"; support for strong militaries in the United States, countries of the E.U., and other democracies, complete with "expeditionary capabilities and global reach"; the assertion that "only modern liberal democratic states are truly legitimate, and that any international organisation which admits undemocratic states on an equal basis is fundamentally flawed"; and "two cheers for capitalism."
The society dismisses accusations that it is part of the international neoconservative conspiracy. Actually, it argues that neoconservatism can perhaps best be understood as an outgrowth of centuries-old British traditions—such as the policy of abolishing the international slave trade. Anglophiles Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan, and Richard Perle are among the International Patrons of the Society.