Thursday, April 06, 2017

How ‘Mr. Wilson’s War’ Shaped the World Order

The legacy of World War I is still with us 100 years later.

By Arthur Herman — April 6, 2017
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World War I: Two American soldiers run towards a bunker.

One hundred years ago on April 6, the United States declared war on Germany and entered World War I. It was an event that changed America, and the world, forever.

America’s entry into that war was the result of the dream of one man, President Woodrow Wilson. In the light of America’s experiences in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, it’s easy to retrospectively dismiss our participation in World War I as the first egregious exercise in Wilsonianism — an act of high-minded liberal idealism and moralism leading to disaster rather than redemption.

Yet seeing this centennial exclusively through that lens is a mistake. Whatever else it was, America’s role in what was then the world’s bloodiest and most destructive war signaled the emergence of the U.S. as the arbiter of a new world order, one that would be built around America’s economic strength, military power, and moral authority as promoter and defender of democracy and freedom. Assuming that role and burden has caused the U.S. a good deal of trouble and brought considerable cost, much of it in human lives — but far less cost, one has to argue, than if the U.S. had stayed out of World War I and evaded a responsibility we still carry today, however reluctantly: that of the superpower of freedom.

It’s worth remembering how we got into the war in the first place. America, and President Wilson, had worked hard to stay out of the conflict that had broken out in the summer of 1914, pitting France, Britain, Italy, and Russia against Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey. In just two and half years, it had all but consumed the heart of Europe, leaving more than 10 million dead and pushing three long-lasting empires — Habsburg, Ottoman, and Romanov — to the brink of dissolution.

Wilson’s personal view had been that staying out of war meant preserving America’s role as the beacon of the future, of a peaceful and harmonious world in which war would be a thing of the past — and even possibly negotiating a final peace once the combatants finally exhausted themselves.

But Imperial Germany was unwilling to leave America alone. It knew that although America was officially neutral, the Allies were steadily buying from U.S. factories the food and other supplies they needed to stay in the war. Germany’s resumption of all-out submarine warfare in February 1917 aimed at sinking neutral shipping (it had been suspended after Wilson’s protest over the sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915, which killed 128 Americans) was meant to sever the transatlantic supply line between America and Britain. German experts figured that cutting this supply line would lead to German victory in six months, regardless of what Wilson did in response to German torpedoes’ killing more Americans.

In case the Americans did take military action, however, Germany came up with another plan, one that proved to be disastrous: offering to give Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona to Mexico, if Mexico joined with Germany in opening a second front on America’s southern border. The gist of that plan was contained in a telegram that was intercepted by British naval intelligence and passed on to Wilson; that telegram, and the sinking of three American vessels in three days in late March, finally tipped Wilson’s hand. The man whose reelection campaign slogan in 1916 had been “He kept us out of war” now asked Congress on April 2 to enter that war, by declaring war on Germany. Four days later, Congress enthusiastically agreed.

Wilson’s reasons for going to war were subtle and important for the future. In his mind, it was not America that was declaring war on Germany, it was Germany that had declared war on America — and the rest of the civilized world. America now had to take up the challenge and remake the future. “The world must be made safe for democracy,” he told Congress. “We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind.”

Fine words, noble sentiments. Like those uttered by some other presidents who have embarked on similar crusades for democracy in far-off lands, they only raised the curtain on frustration and failure. With American help, by November 1918 Germany had been beaten but not defeated. No fan of war, Wilson eagerly accepted an armistice that halted the advancing Allies before they entered German territory. The stab-in-the-back legend — that Germany was going to win the war but was prevented from doing so by domestic traitors — was born and would cause enormous problems later. In the movie Casablanca, when the German Major Strasser remarks to Captain Reynaud that Rick Blaine is just “another blundering American,” Reynaud retorts, “I was with them when they blundered into Berlin.” If only they had; it would have spared Europe, and the world, enormous pain two decades later.

In any case, in less than a year more than 116,000 Americans — nearly twice as many as were killed in Vietnam over twelve years — had died in a war that, as time went by, seemed more and more a tragic waste. The pain of “Mr. Wilson’s war” wasn’t felt only on the battlefield. The war-mobilization effort triggered an enormous growth in the size and reach of the federal government, which the New Deal only extended and which one could argue has never quite stopped. Numerous new federal agencies, including the Food Administration (led by a former mining engineer named Herbert Hoover) and the Fuel Administration, tried to take control of the U.S. economy, with dismal results. The full flush of wartime patriotism fomented anti-German and anti-immigrant feeling that led to such absurdities as banning the playing of Bach and Beethoven and the teaching of German in schools (in South Dakota’s case, even banning the use of German on the telephone). The absurdities took an ugly turn when a German immigrant in Illinois was lynched by an angry mob, and when the crackdown on anti-war dissenters led by Wilson’s Department of Justice put hundreds in jail, spilling over into the Red Scare and the mass deportation of thousands of suspected radicals.

Wilson’s strict segregation policy, which he imposed on all federal agencies, also applied to the armed forces, where it led to resentment and backlash. The years of America’s entry into World War I saw a steady wave of racial tensions and race riots, the worst since Reconstruction. One, involving black soldiers in Houston in 1917, left a dozen dead. The same day Woodrow Wilson returned from the Paris peace conference in 1919, whole neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., were in flames in a race riot that killed 15. A similar riot in Chicago killed 38.

To top it all, after the war, Wilson’s proudest achievement, the Federal Reserve Board, sharply and disastrously raised interest rates, triggering a nationwide depression in 1920 that soon reverberated around the world — a foretaste of the Great Depression ten years later. In the presidential election that year, a Democratic rout was inevitable, and Wilson left office a sick and broken man. As socialist and anti-war activist Eugene Debs, sitting in a jail cell at the Atlanta Penitentiary, wrote: “No man in public life in American history ever retired so thoroughly discredited, so scathingly rebuked, so overwhelmingly impeached and repudiated as Woodrow Wilson.”

And yet Wilson’s goal of establishing America as a new kind of global arbiter had been achieved. The conventional view is that it is the end of World War II that marked the creation of a U.S.-centered world order. In fact, it was World War I — starting with the economic and financial might the U.S. acquired during the war as Wall Street replaced London as the center of world finance, and growing as U.S. economic power was deployed to feed and then rebuild a shattered post-war Europe, including Germany and even Soviet Russia.

This shift in world power began even before America formally entered the conflict. On April 1, the day before Wilson’s speech to Congress, the U.S. government extended an unprecedented $250 million in credit to Great Britain, with another $3 billion awaiting congressional approval. Overnight, Britain and the other allies became completely dependent on the U.S. to underwrite their purchases of war matériel — a debt that continued to mount until, by war’s end, the world owed the U.S. in excess of $10 billion, with Britain alone owing more than $4 billion and France upward of $3.4 billion. (To get a sense of the size of the debt in today’s money, add three or four zeroes.)

One could say that on April 1, 1917 — April Fool’s Day — the United States became the most powerful nation on earth, and that entry into the world war was merely anti-climax. Of course, some argue that Wilson should have used America’s financial leverage to force the Allies to the peace table without entering the war directly — but that would have left Imperial Germany as the dominant power in Eastern as well as Western Europe. A better criticism is that he should have entered the war earlier, in 1915 or 1916, before the Western democracies had exhausted themselves and before Russia had been shattered by revolution.

In any case, the armistice in November 1918 put the final seal on the United States’s status as the world’s lone superpower, which no future president could afford to ignore or deny. Indeed, far from being stereotypical isolationists, Wilson’s successors, Harding and Coolidge, embraced the new post-war U.S.-led world order and were heavily involved in European affairs in the 1920s, exerting strong influence to stabilize the world economy and even to promote multilateral disarmament. It was actually isolationist Democrats of the Thirties (including, ironically, a recently elected President Franklin Roosevelt) who worked to detach the U.S. from its post-WWI responsibilities and withdraw from the troubles engulfing the world. That in turn helped to set the stage for the rise of the totalitarian powers, which forced America’s entry into a second world war, one in which American deaths would dwarf those in the first.

After 1945, however, we finally learned our lesson from the experience of World War I. The world needed and still needs America’s military and strategic power, as well as its economic and diplomatic leverage, to ensure stability, prosperity, and (relative) peace. While Woodrow Wilson may have entered World War I in part for the wrong reasons — to fulfill utopian dreams about making the world “safe for democracy” and making war a thing of the past through an all-powerful League of Nations — 100 years later his decision stands as the right one. In the final analysis, it has made the world, and the U.S., safer, and created a U.S.-led system of international freedom, prosperity, and peace that has lasted until today.

Certainly the alternatives are not worth contemplating.

— Arthur Herman is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and the author of the forthcoming 1917: Vladimir Lenin, Woodrow Wilson, and the Year That Created the Modern Age.


By Ann Coulter
April 5, 2017

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Then Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov press the "reset" button. (AP)

The Susan Rice bombshell at least explains why the Democrats won't stop babbling about Russia. They need a false flag to justify using national intelligence agencies to snoop on the Trump team. 

Every serious person who has tried to locate any evidence that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 election -- even Trump-haters at the New York Review of Books and Rolling Stone magazine -- has come away empty-handed and angry. We keep getting bald assertions, unadorned with anything resembling a fact. 

But for now, let's just consider the raw plausibility of the story. 

The fact-less claim is that (1) the Russians wanted Donald Trump to win; and (2) They thought they could help him win by releasing purloined emails from the Democratic National Committee showing that the Democrats were conspiring against Hillary Clinton's primary opponent, Bernie Sanders. 

First, why on earth would Russia prefer a loose cannon, untested president like Trump to an utterly corrupt politician, who'd already shown she could be bought? The more corrupt you think Russia is, the more Putin ought to love Hillary as president. 

The Russians knew Hillary was a joke from her ridiculous "reset" button as secretary of state. They proceeded to acquire 20 percent of America's uranium production, under Hillary's careful management -- in exchange for a half-million-dollar speaking engagement for her husband and millions of dollars in donations to the Clinton Foundation.

(Politifact rates this claim FALSE! -- LIAR, LIAR PANTS ON FIRE! -- because Trump referred to 20 percent of America's "uranium," not to 20 percent of America's "uranium capacity." This is the sort of serious reporting we get from our watchdog media.) 

The last thing our enemies want is unpredictability in an American president, and Trump is nothing if not unpredictable. Actually, that's only the second-to-last thing Putin wants. Russia's only export is energy: The last thing Putin wants is a president who vows to drill and frack, driving down the world oil price. 

But let's say the Russians were morally offended by a woman who could be bought (by them) for a $500,000 speaking fee, and what they really longed for was a bellicose American president promising to put our interests first. 

Why would anyone, least of all trained spies, think that it would help Trump to release emails showing the DNC had its thumb on the scale against Bernie Sanders

How was that supposed to work again? I forget. 

Accepting everything else the most deranged Trump-hater believes, normal people lose the thread of the conspiracy at the moment when the Russians are supposed to have said to themselves, "HEY, I KNOW -- LET'S TRY THIS!” 

Even experts in American politics haven't the first idea how to affect an election. The best minds of the GOP bet $140 million of their own money that Jeb! would be the nominee. (Maybe they should have hired Putin.) 

Throughout the primaries, Democrats were openly praying that the GOP would nominate Trump. Democrats had the same hope in 1980 for Ronald Reagan. In 2008, Republicans hooted at the idea of Al Franken running for the U.S. Senate. 

Days before the election, America's premier journal of liberal opinion, The New York Times, gave Hillary a 91 percent chance of winning. The Princeton Election Consortium calculated her chances at 99 percent. The Huffington Post's polling aggregator put Hillary's odds at 98 percent. 

But we're supposed to believe that a country practiced in spycraft was confident that it not only knew what was likely to happen in a U.S. presidential election, but also knew how to swing it? And no one in Moscow thought to ask: "What will be the predictable, certain outcome of releasing the DNC's 'Get Bernie' emails?” 

The DNC leaks might have ended up being the best thing that ever happened to the Democrats. What if they had pulled a Torricelli, and forced Hillary to drop out, so they could run Joe Biden instead? Biden is a lot more popular than Hillary! 

Isn't the more logical leaker someone within the DNC who'd had enough with David Brock and Debbie Wasserman Schultz steering the party into a ditch? The actual leaker probably thought: I've got to save the party! She's going to destroy us! 

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, as well as his associate, former British ambassador Craig Murray, both say that the DNC emails came from a whistleblower within the DNC. Murray has even identified the precise location where a DNC insider passed him the emails -- a park near American University. 

Assange may be a misguided zealot, but neither his friends nor his enemies call him a liar. His image is very nearly the opposite: a self-righteousness fanatic -- not a slippery con man. 

Hey, did anyone else notice that last week, very quietly, every single staffer at the DNC was fired

The claim that Russia hacked the DNC's emails to help Trump is the sort of crackpot theory that can only be concocted after the fact. 

They would prefer to say that North Korea or ISIS "hacked" our election and somehow installed Trump. But unfortunately, Trump has no business dealings with ISIS or the Pyongyang regime. He -- or people he knows -- have had some vague business dealings with Russia. So the left is stuck with its insane Russia conspiracy. 

And now, just as the whole story is collapsing, their need is even more urgent, to distract from the Obama administration's use of national security intelligence-gathering agencies to spy on domestic enemies like Donald Trump. 


Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Book Review - All Things Made New by Diarmaid MacCulloch

Great Awakening
A glittering collection of Reformation essays.
February 27, 2017
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Five hundred years ago, an obscure German churchman named Martin Luther issued a call for debate on an abstruse aspect of late medieval theology. From that mundane event followed a sequence of cascading consequences that would divide the Western Catholic tradition and leave a legacy, Protestantism, that would profoundly shape our society. At the time, all this would have seemed deeply improbable. Martin Luther, an intense scholar employed in a recently founded university in a small town in northeastern Germany, Wittenberg, was not at all well known. The town itself was a community of some 2,000 souls far distant from Europe’s main centers of power and influence. But sometimes the stars align to propel the most unlikely figures onto the public stage.
In Luther's case, events conspired to give his quixotic campaign against the sale of indulgences a public hearing. The church authorities failed in their efforts to have Luther quietly silenced. And Luther discovered a rare talent for writing, appealing over the heads of his fellow churchmen to address a public audience never previously mobilized to debate matters of theology. When Luther was condemned for his refusal to submit to the judgement of his superiors, he fought back, articulating a whole alternative structure of belief. When he died in 1546, half of Germany was irrevocably lost to Roman Catholicism, and a whole new faith was born.

Martin Luther was a man of special talent, but it is hard to conceive his movement without the magnifying power of print. When Luther was born in 1483 the art of printing was in its infancy. Yet in 1517 Luther—a man who, into his mid-thirties, had published nothing—somehow intuitively understood the way to galvanize this miraculous new technology, turning out a mass of short tracts, 2,000 or 3,000 words long, written in an easy, accessible style. Many of his early writings are no longer than this review, and sold as separate books, they galvanized a mass movement. This was a revolution in communication as much as content. Critics were caught flatfooted, scandalized by his daring, and unwilling to follow him into such dangerously populist territory. By the time they found their voices, Luther's could not be stifled.
The Reformation was born, and so was a whole new scholarly industry: writing about it. Even in Luther's lifetime, writing the Reformation's own history became a fundamental task for its supporters, for the Catholic gibe—"Where was your church before Luther?"—urgently required an answer. So Protestant divines wrote to give their new church a lineage, rooting it in the tradition of the early church; and one way or another, they have been at it ever since. For the Reformation was, as it turned out, a defining moment of European history, the first public international media event as well as a theological revolution. When I began my professional career, the Reformation was one of the hottest topics in historical writing, emerging as a subject for scientific analysis from the relative neglect of church history in the decades following the Second World War.
Diarmaid MacCulloch was one of the brightest and best of those who applied themselves to the reinterpretation of the Reformation and its consequences in the last quarter of the 20th century. After the then-obligatory local study—in MacCulloch's case, a scintillating study of the progress of Reformation in Suffolk—he first came to prominence with an award-winning biography of Thomas Cranmer, the retiring academic who made himself useful to Henry VIII in the matter of Henry's divorce and then, somehow, negotiated the multiple perils of Tudor court politics to leave an enduring legacy as the architect of the English Protestant tradition. This was followed by a definitive study of the Protestant movement and a milestone interpretation of Christianity itself.
Along the way, most prolific scholars leave a crumb trail of smaller works, published conference papers, thought-pieces for academic journals, and announcements of archival discoveries. Here, in All Things Made New, MacCulloch has gathered together a carefully chosen selection of these shorter writings, in what turns out to be a remarkably coherent and consistently stimulating collection. Because MacCulloch writes so well, what would be an indulgence for many becomes a powerfully thoughtful reflection on both the foundations of the Protestant tradition and the very purpose of academic scholarship.
Diarmaid MacCulloch's writing has always been marked out by its range of references, from the Apostles to the modern-day church, and this is fully on display in this glittering collection. And it is good to be reminded that his broad understanding of the quarrelsome families of Christendom extends far beyond the Western tradition of Catholics and Protestants. In the bravura opening essay, he reminds us that when at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the discussions broke up without consensus, the refuseniks amounted to two-thirds of the Christian community of the day. These African and Middle Eastern churches have been embattled ever since, denounced as heretics by the European churches and almost submerged by the advance of Islam. But they deserve their place in the Christian story, and MacCulloch ensures that they have it.
In this, as in so much of All Things Made New, MacCulloch asks us to keep an open mind for the contingencies of history, the road not taken, and the events that did not occur. The disaster, as he sees it, of Chalcedon "shifted the whole Christian story westwards towards medieval Europe. That has obscured this greatest of might-have-beens in the Christian story, that of Baghdad becoming the center of gravity in Christianity rather than Rome."
MacCulloch, as becomes abundantly clear, is no great admirer of Rome and its pretensions to universal authority: Most of the essays in this volume were written during the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, so we have little chance to see whether the election of Pope Francis will have altered these perspectives. But his detestation of fundamentalism, of a mean-minded, judgmental spirit that makes a mockery of the Christian teaching of compassion and forgiveness, is quite ecumenical. MacCulloch likes nothing better than to tweak the noses of those whose entrenched beliefs are based on bad history and shallow understanding of the scriptures. Thus he reminds us, twice, that few Christians in the early modern period would have objected to slavery "because the predominant voices in the books of the Bible accept slavery as part of the God-given fabric of the world. Now it is the other way round: not a single Christian alive, I think, would defend slavery, and so in this respect, all Christianity is now out of alignment with the Bible."
This lesson in the perils of biblical literalism could easily be applied to the debates on sexuality and gender equality that have poisoned the life of so many Christian churches in the last two generations, and MacCulloch leaves little doubt that he believes that it should be.
As this example shows, MacCulloch also has a well-developed sense of mischief. I have never before heard John Calvin's installation as pastor in Geneva compared with the establishment of the Anabaptist kingdom of Münster. But MacCulloch develops the parallel with some gusto. Far from this being turned to Calvin's disadvantage, the Genevan reformer turns out to be rather a hero of this book, praised for a lucid pragmatism that allowed him to recognize theological differences with the Swiss reformers of Zurich, and yet to work to a shared statement of eucharistic belief.
"All too rarely in the 16th century," he writes, "did theologians acknowledge that they had substantial differences, but then go on to produce a joint statement which both sides could find acceptable." The desire that this should be a model for modern Christian confessions—committed in principle to unity but fixated on what divides them—hangs unspoken in the air.
These opening pieces on the world Christian tradition are expansive and magisterial, though it is no surprise that most of the essays gathered here are devoted to the British church in the era of the Reformation, for this is where the bulk of MacCulloch's scholarly work has been concentrated. Much of this was originally published as extended essays in the London Review of Books, and here MacCulloch lets rip with some of his most extravagant phrase-making, though it is hard to quarrel with the judgments.
When Henry VII claimed the throne in 1485 and began the Tudor line, he did so with a ridiculously weak claim to be heir to what was, indeed, a "failed cross-channel state" laid low by weak kings and the aristocratic bloodbath of the Wars of the Roses. The peripheral importance of the British Isles in the politics of 16th-century Europe is another constant theme, although (as MacCulloch willingly admits) this makes the achievement of the Tudor monarchy, in positioning England as an emerging great power, all the more noteworthy.
Amidst the slightly teasing asides—was Poland-Lithuania really one of Europe's big three powers?—two persistent themes shine through in his analysis of the English Reformation. First, MacCulloch inveighs against the undervaluation of the extraordinarily radical experiment in Reformation undertaken during the reign of Edward VI. Submerged during the Catholic revival under Mary, the Edwardian church emerged in full bloom in the Elizabethan Settlement, staffed in its entirety by those who had weathered the Marian years either in continental exile or, more perilously like Elizabeth herself, in England. In the circumstances, it was no surprise that Elizabeth preferred the company that had shared her experience of uncomfortable accommodation and disliked the smug piety of those who had sat it out in Strasbourg or Geneva. But her church settlement was no less Protestant for that, and this essential fact has been obscured largely thanks to 19th-century Anglo-Catholics, who had their own reasons for eliding the fact that England sat in a mainstream Reformed tradition.
MacCulloch's second major achievement is that he re-roots the English experience in the wider, larger fields of continental religious thought. And because he does so with the authority of someone who has studied and understood European Protestantism, he can obliterate one of the most persistent myths of English history: that the developing Anglican tradition (a term that was never used at the time) represents, in some respect, a "third way" between Catholicism and Protestantism. It was not; it was a forthrightly Protestant church, and this tediously persistent example of English exceptionalism should now be dead and buried.
This is a hugely readable book, sustained throughout by Diarmaid MacCulloch's marvelous instinct for the quirky and the original. Who would have thought that the only layman not of royal blood to be prayed for by name in the Book of Common Prayer would have been Sir James Croft, Lord Deputy of Ireland? But there he is, in the Dublin edition of 1551. Reading All Things Made New brings home an essential truth: that one can be funny, playful, and mildly seditious—and still be learned and authoritative. It is a lesson that academics need constantly to relearn.
Andrew Pettegree, professor of modern history at the University of St Andrews, is the author, most recently, of Brand Luther: How an Unheralded Monk Turned His Small Town into a Center of Publishing, Made Himself the Most Famous Man in Europe—and Started the Protestant Reformation.

Book Review - All Things Made New: The Reformation and Its Legacy by Diarmaid MacCulloch

A Historian's Historian

October 8, 2016
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The best of historians knows the data and facts, but wears them lightly unless heavy lifting is in order, knows the history of scholarship on the discipline, and can write up his or her results in the kind of prose that sparkles with suspenseful ordering. One such historian is the Reformation historian Diarmaid MacCulloch (see bottom for details), and his newest book, All Things Made New: The Reformation and Its Legacy, exhibits MacCulloch’s skills profusely. He is a historian’s historian in all three ways: masterful comprehension of the facts and history and ideas, an analytical mind on the history of Reformation and its reformers, and his jaunty prose clicks with wit, barb, and sparkle.
I’m no historian of the Reformation so this book was both a steep learning curve — his study of the forgerist Robert Ware is the kind of detective work that only masters can describe so breathtakingly well — and a delightful read, though at times the confluence of names stopped me short. One has to know one’s stuff to comprehend all that goes on this book.
I’m an Anglican so MacCulloch had my interest; I love The Book of Common Prayer and he affirmed its centrality to all things Anglican (the history of the term is in his grasp); and I value the so-called via media between Catholicism (cathedrals, vestments, liturgy, absolution) and (mostly Reformed but from Strassburg and Zurich, not Geneva) Protestantism so I found help in his nuanced articulation of the via media in All Things Made New.
The book is a collection of essays and reviews, some of them erudite and zippered up with an abundance of footnotes while others, being reviews, barely mention the book! All Things Made New will be of most interest to historians of the Reformation and especially for those of the Anglican sort of Reformation. The book follows on from his award-winning book The Reformation: A History.
In his concluding chapter, MacCulloch says the Anglican tradition is a “double helix, intertwining two mutually antagonistic strands of Christianity which elsewhere bitterly clashed in the Reformation: Catholic and Reformed” (360). That double helix is examined in this book, now from one another and then from another. But that double helix theory never gets to far from the page. His approach is socio-cultural, personality, local context and theological. He knows theology but he refuses to reduce the English Reformation to theologies and theologians.
A collection of essays from a scholar as versatile as MacCulloch means a wide range of topics, including essays on angels and the Virgin Mary [his astute analysis shows the tenuousness of going too far from the Catholic tradition], some penetrating studies of individuals (Calvin, his obvious specialities in knowing all things connected to Henry VIII, Cranmer, Mary and Elizabeth [not the Bible ones], William Byrd, King James and Richard Hooker — and his essay on Hooker is one of the highlights of this book), and topics (the Council of Trent, the Italian Inquisition, Tudor Royal-Image making, the Prayer Book, the King James Bible and the Bay Psalm Book), but most especially MacCulloch expounds and reshapes one theme of the Reformation after another — and one of the themes of these studies concerns the relationship of the English Reformation to the Continental Reformation.
There are moments of synthetic conclusion, none any finer than this on Henry VIII: “What united the diverse strands of Henry’s religious policy? Apparently it was Henry’s conviction of his unique relationship with God as his anointed deputy on earth, a conviction strong enough to be shared by his devoted but not uncritical admirer Cranmer” (116). Or on the King James Bible: “Undoubtedly it possesses literary merit, but also a great deal of luck” (180). With his customary sexual jab: on the KJB, he says it was “commissioned by a monarch whose jovial bisexuality would cause them apoplexy at the present day” (181). He snips every tall poppy.
MacCulloch’s brilliant biography of Cranmer finds a nesting place among all the other biographies in a wide-ranging and masterful sketch of the various portraits and biographies of Cranmer. And his study of Cranmer includes a probing study of the various forms of toleration (concord by coercion, by discussion, by tolerance or by religious freedom — 119) as well as a delightful sketch of the various approaches to Cranmer’s biography — some wanting him to be Reformed with a big R and others a Roman Catholic. For a new and less academic study of Cranmer, Leslie Williams’ new Emblem of Faith Untouched: A Short Life of Thomas Cranmer is my recommendation.
Overall, a necessary book for anyone studying the English Reformation and all things Henrician or Cranmerian.
Diarmaid MacCulloch is Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University. His Thomas Cranmer (1996) won the Whitbread Biography Prize, the James Tait Black Prize and the Duff Cooper Prize; The Reformation: A History (2004) won the Wolfson Prize and the British Academy Prize. Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years (2010), which was adapted into a six-part BBC television series, was awarded the Cundill and Hessel-Tiltman Prizes. His Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh were published in 2013 as Silence: A Christian History. His most recent television series, Sex and the Church, broadcast in 2015. He was knighted in 2012.

Susan Rice’s White House Unmasking: A Watergate-style Scandal

Her interest was not in national security but to advance the political interests of the Democratic party.

By Andrew C. McCarthy — April 4, 2017
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Susan Rice (AP)

The thing to bear in mind is that the White House does not do investigations. Not criminal investigations, not intelligence investigations.

Remember that.

Why is that so important in the context of explosive revelations that Susan Rice, President Obama’s national-security adviser, confidant, and chief dissembler, called for the “unmasking” of Trump campaign and transition officials whose identities and communications were captured in the collection of U.S. intelligence on foreign targets?

Because we’ve been told for weeks that any unmasking of people in Trump’s circle that may have occurred had two innocent explanations: (1) the FBI’s investigation of Russian meddling in the election and (2) the need to know, for purposes of understanding the communications of foreign intelligence targets, the identities of Americans incidentally intercepted or mentioned. The unmasking, Obama apologists insist, had nothing to do with targeting Trump or his people.

That won’t wash.

In general, it is the FBI that conducts investigations that bear on American citizens suspected of committing crimes or of acting as agents of foreign powers. In the matter of alleged Russian meddling, the investigative camp also includes the CIA and the NSA. All three agencies conducted a probe and issued a joint report in January. That was after Obama, despite having previously acknowledged that the Russian activity was inconsequential, suddenly made a great show of ordering an inquiry and issuing sanctions.

Consequently, if unmasking was relevant to the Russia investigation, it would have been done by those three agencies. And if it had been critical to know the identities of Americans caught up in other foreign intelligence efforts, the agencies that collect the information and conduct investigations would have unmasked it. Because they are the agencies that collect and refine intelligence “products” for the rest of the “intelligence community,” they are responsible for any unmasking; and they do it under “minimization” standards that FBI Director James Comey, in recent congressional testimony, described as “obsessive” in their determination to protect the identities and privacy of Americans.

Understand: There would have been no intelligence need for Susan Rice to ask for identities to be unmasked. If there had been a real need to reveal the identities — an intelligence need based on American interests — the unmasking would have been done by the investigating agencies.
The national-security adviser is not an investigator. She is a White House staffer. The president’s staff is a consumer of intelligence, not a generator or collector of it. If Susan Rice was unmasking Americans, it was not to fulfill an intelligence need based on American interests; it was to fulfill a political desire based on Democratic-party interests.

The FBI, CIA, and NSA generate or collect the intelligence in, essentially, three ways: conducting surveillance on suspected agents of foreign powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and carrying out more-sweeping collections under two other authorities — a different provision of FISA, and a Reagan-era executive order that has been amended several times over the ensuing decades, EO 12,333.

As Director Comey explained, in answering questions posed by Representative Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.), those three agencies do collection, investigation, and analysis. In general, they handle any necessary unmasking — which, due to the aforementioned privacy obsessiveness, is extremely rare. Unlike Democratic-party operatives whose obsession is vanquishing Republicans, the three agencies have to be concerned about the privacy rights of Americans. If they’re not, their legal authority to collect the intelligence — a vital national-security power — could be severely curtailed when it periodically comes up for review by Congress, as it will later this year.

Those three collecting agencies — FBI, CIA, and NSA — must be distinguished from other components of the government, such as the White House. Those other components, Comey elaborated, “are consumers of our products.” That is, they do not collect raw intelligence and refine it into useful reports — i.e., reports that balance informational value and required privacy protections. They read those reports and make policy recommendations based on them. White House staffers are not supposed to be in the business of controlling the content of the reports; they merely act on the reports.

Thus, Comey added, these consumers “can ask the collectors to unmask.” But the unmasking authority “resides with those who collected the information.”

Of course, the consumer doing the asking in this case was not just any government official. We’re talking about Susan Rice. This was Obama’s right hand doing the asking. If she made an unmasking “request,” do you suppose anyone at the FBI, CIA, or NSA was going to say no?
That brings us to three interesting points.

The first involves political intrusion into law enforcement — something that the White House is supposed to avoid. (You may remember that Democrats ran Bush attorney general Alberto Gonzales out of town over suspicions about it.) As I have noted repeatedly, in publishing the illegally leaked classified information about former national-security adviser Michael Flynn’s communications with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, the New York Times informs us that “Obama advisers” and “Obama officials” were up to their eyeballs in the investigation:
Obama advisers heard separately from the F.B.I. about Mr. Flynn’s conversation with Mr. Kislyak, whose calls were routinely monitored by American intelligence agencies that track Russian diplomats. TheObama advisers grew suspicious that perhaps there had been a secret deal between the incoming team and Moscow, which could violate the rarely enforced, two-century-old Logan Act barring private citizens from negotiating with foreign powers in disputes with the United States.
The Obama officials asked the F.B.I. if a quid pro quo had been discussed on the call, and the answer came back no, according to one of the officials, who like others asked not to be named discussing delicate communications. [Translation: “asked not to be named committing felony unauthorized disclosure of classified information.”] The topic of sanctions came up, they were told, but there was no deal. [Emphasis added.]
It appears very likely that Susan Rice was involved in the unmasking of Michael Flynn. Was she also monitoring the FBI’s investigation? Was she involved in the administration’s consideration of (bogus) criminal charges against Flynn? With the subsequent decision to have the FBI interrogate Flynn (or “grill” him, as the Times put it)?

The second point is that, while not a pillar of rectitude, Ms. Rice is not an idiot. Besides being shrewd, she was a highly involved, highly informed consumer of intelligence, and a key Obama political collaborator. Unlike the casual reader, she would have known who the Trump-team players were without needing to have their identities unmasked. Do you really think her purpose in demanding that names be revealed was to enhance her understanding of intelligence about the activities and intentions of foreign targets? Seriously? I’m betting it was so that others down the dissemination chain could see the names of Trump associates — names the investigating agencies that originally collected the information had determined not to unmask.

Third, and finally, let’s consider the dissemination chain Rice had in mind.

The most telling remark that former Obama deputy defense secretary Evelyn Farkas made in her now-infamous MSNBC interview was the throw-away line at the end: “That’s why you have all the leaking.”

Put this in context: Farkas had left the Obama administration in 2015, subsequently joining the presidential campaign of, yes, Hillary Clinton — Trump’s opponent. She told MSNBC that she had been encouraging her former Obama-administration colleagues and members of Congress to seek “as much information as you can” from the intelligence community.

“That’s why you have the leaking.”

To summarize: At a high level, officials like Susan Rice had names unmasked that would not ordinarily be unmasked. That information was then being pushed widely throughout the intelligence community in unmasked form . . . particularly after Obama, toward the end of his presidency, suddenly — and seemingly apropos of nothing — changed the rules so that all of the intelligence agencies (not just the collecting agencies) could have access to raw intelligence information.

As we know, the community of intelligence agencies leaks like a sieve, and the more access there is to juicy information, the more leaks there are. Meanwhile, former Obama officials and Clinton-campaign advisers, like Farkas, were pushing to get the information transferred from the intelligence community to members of Congress, geometrically increasing the likelihood of intelligence leaks.

By the way, have you noticed that there have been lots of intelligence leaks in the press?
There’s an old saying in the criminal law: The best evidence of a conspiracy is success.
The criminal law also has another good rule of thumb: Consciousness of guilt is best proved by false exculpatory statements. That’s a genre in which Susan Rice has rich experience.

Two weeks ago, she was asked in an interview about allegations by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R., Calif.) that the Obama administration had unmasked Trump-team members.

I know nothing about this,” Rice replied. “I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that count today.”

Well, at least she didn’t blame it on a video.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.


Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Susan Rice, Obama's Hatchet Woman, Proves Lord Acton Right Again

April 3, 2017

Image result for susan rice trump
Susan Rice, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in a opinion piece that ran in the Washington Post that the United States is less safe when the White House doesn't tell the truth. Her statement drew a reaction from Twitter users, who mocked her based on her 2012 statements about Benghazi. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Forget G. Gordon Liddy and the White House plumbers of Watergate days.  If you're looking for a my-president-right-or-wrong apparatchik in the grand tradition of the Soviet Union, willing to do anything for her leader, look no further than former national security adviser Susan Elizabeth Rice.

Rice, who evidently exploited  the world's most technically advanced intelligence agency, the NSA, for similar purposes (spying on the opposition), has made Liddyet al seem like primitives.  Apparently, the former Obama adviser was the one who "requested to unmask the names of Trump transition officials caught up in surveillance."  The final unmaskings took place in January, days before Trump's inauguration. (Eli Lake at Bloomberg, Adam Housley and John Roberts at Fox, and Sara Carter and John Solomon at Circa have reported this story in only slightly varying ways.)

Failing some extraordinary  explanation (so far Rice isn't talking), the onetime national security adviser exhibited an arrogance that once again provesLord Acton's famous apothegm: "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Rice undoubtedly believed she was undertaking her sub rosa, possibly felonious, activities for a greater good, but in reality she has been undermining the very basis of our democratic republic in a manner calling forth another quote from the19th century British lord: “End justifies the means. This is still the most widespread of all the opinions inimical to liberty.” That Rice was able to prevaricate so casually during a recent PBS interview, claiming  she "knew nothing" about the unmaskings of Trump officials when she had instigated them,  proves Acton right yet again and exposes the "ends justify the means" mentality as Rice's default position.
(Speaking of Acton, he also wrote: “Men cannot be made good by the state, but they can easily be made bad.")

From her serial lies about the Benghazi terror attack being caused by a video to this latest surveilling -- incidental or otherwise -- of political enemies and its own attendant dishonesties, Rice seems to have been the "go to" person for Obama White House dirty work and cover-ups, Obama's hatchet woman.  She did not and could not, however, have acted alone.  She was part of a culture.
The unmasked names, of people associated with Donald Trump, were then sent to all those at the National Security Council, some at the Defense Department, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and then-CIA Director John Brennan – essentially, the officials at the top, including former Rice deputy [Iran deal fixer] Ben Rhodes. 
The names were part of incidental electronic surveillance of candidate and President-elect Trump and people close to him, including family members, for up to a year before he took office.[bold mine]
Up to a year?  Is it possible it was even longer? When did it actually start?  It would be interesting to see how "incidental" this all was. Will the Senate Intelligence Committee be sufficiently bipartisan to really investigate that?  Or will they be mired in the supposedly nefarious Russian connection that Clapper himself found no evidence of, even after, as we now learn, having been privy to all this "incidental" information for months or years? You would have to assume this Trump-Russia collusion was remarkably subtle to have withstood such constant investigation by so many for so long.

No, the real story here is the Russification, more accurately the Sovietization, of the Obama administration.  They did believe, unlike Lord Acton, that "the ends justify the means."  That phrase, incidentally, is sometimes incorrectly ascribed to Machiavelli, who wrote something far more sophisticated.  In reality, it was coined, or at least codified, by the 19th century Russian revolutionary Sergey Nechayevand used by Lenin and Stalin to justify their murderous acts.

I hasten to say there are no murders going on here that I know of.  But there is a massive subversion of the principles of our republic. The moment the party in power is permitted to exploit the extraordinary capabilities of our intelligence agencies to surveil in any way the party out of power is the moment that we are well on the road to high-tech totalitarianism. We may already be there.

Difficult as it would be, what is called for now is a full airing not of Russian espionage, which has been going on pretty much constantly since the 1920s, but of our own intelligence agencies and how they function and how they are interacting with current and past administrations. We must be certain that existing privacy laws have actually been observed and, if those laws have not been sufficient, that they be revised to protect the apparently already violated civil liberties of our citizens.

Meanwhile, when it comes to actual punishable law-breaking, the person most vulnerable is, of course, the leaker (or leakers).  Those who accidentally or purposefully  "unmask" identities unfortunately can skate away under current readings of the law.  But if I were to guess, in this instance, the unmasker and the leaker are quite possibly one and the same.  Ms. Rice has much to answer for -- and she should do it under oath.

As the scandal evolves, will the finger point even higher? In fact, it already has.  Unbeknownst to almost all of the American public, back in 2011 Barack Obama eased the rules on the unmasking of American citizens in NSA surveillances, putatively to counter foreign espionage threats.  Six years letter and the tables have been turned on us.  Was that always the intention? Or was it simply absolute power corrupting absolutely?

Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media.  His latest book is I Know Best:  How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If  It Hasn't Already. You can follow him on Twitter @rogerlsimon.