Taking Reagan’s name in vain

In today’s WSJ, there’s an op-ed from Dianne Feinstein, urging Obama, when president, to shut down America’s nuclear arsenal. To make her point, she opens with an anecdote about Ronald Reagan:

When Barack Obama becomes America’s 44th president on Jan. 20, he should embrace the vision of a predecessor who declared: “We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.”

That president was Ronald Reagan, and he expressed this ambitious vision in his second inaugural address on Jan. 21, 1985. It was a remarkable statement from a president who had deployed tactical nuclear missiles in Europe to counter the Soviet Union’s fearsome SS-20 missile fleet.

What’s so funny (and, I must say, offensived), about the above quoted passage is that Feinstein finds Reagan’s remarks and his actions incongruous, rather than completely coherent and logical.

In fact, Reagan understood completely that Isaiah’s vision of a world in which swords are beaten into plowshares, so that none shall know war anymore (Isaiah 2:4), is a world in which good (which, in Biblical terms, means ethical justice) first defeats evil, making weapons unnecessary. Neither Reagan nor Isaiah contemplated a world in which idiots emblazoned with peace symbols roll over on their backs, like dogs exposing their bellies to jackals, in the vain hope that the jackals won’t attack.

To emphasize this incredibly important point — which is that peace follows moral (not brutal) strength, it does not precede it — let me quote from Rabbi Joseph Telushkin’s Biblical Literacy: The Most Important People, Events, and Ideas of the Hebrew Bible, which I finished yesterday, after several days of extremely enjoyable and enlightening reading:

Isaiah’s hopes for a peaceful world do not reflect, as is commonly assumed, a pacifistic worldview. Unlike the twentieth-century Mahatma Gandhi, whose pacifism motivated him to advise the British army and people to stop fighting the Nazis [and I’ll quote below Gandhi’s insane words, which Telushkin includes in a footnote here], Isaiah was much too obsessed with stopping injustice to believe that it was preferable for evil people to triumph without armed resistance. What the prophet hoped for was a world in which good itself triumphed, so that there would be no Hitlers, Nazis, or others who wished to destroy good people. (p. 286, hardbook edition.)

It really doesn’t take a genius or prophet like Isaiah to understand that, when good people put down their arms in the face of evil, all you end up with is a whole bunch of dead good people. Gandhi, interestingly, understood that this was precisely what would happen, but was okay with it. Thus, in the footnote referenced above, Telushkin has this to say about Gandhi’s world view:

At a time when Nazi Germany seemed poised to invade England, Gandhi offered the British the following advice: “I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity. You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions. . . . If these gentlement [a word Gandhi apparently used without irony] choose to occupy your homes you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourselves, man, woman, and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them” (Non-Violence in Peace and War.)

Some call Gandhi great. If that’s an example of his thinking, I can only say that I disagree with them strongly. That type of thinking is idiotic. Only a man lacking in any moral principles or decency whatsoever would advocate that approach. (And somehow I just can’t make myself consider separate from this manifest stupidity the fact that Gandhi was deeply opposed to the creation of Israel.)

And yet here we have Dianne Feinstein — who is now, in the Pelosi/Obama era, a very, very powerful Senator — espousing precisely the same type of advice: We should disarm ourselves so that those who have vowed to kill us can pursue their agenda. She seems to believe, in the fatuous way typical of “peaceniks,” that if we lead by example the bad guys will just smile sweetly, lay down their arms too, and retreat to their own borders. Gandhi at least had the decency to acknowledge that his ideas about disarmament and nonresistance brought nothing but the stench of death in their wake. Feinstein is either too dim or too dishonest to articulate the logical result of her ideas.

So I say again that Feinstein took Reagan’s name in vain when she purported to advance him as a proponent of unilateral nuclear disarmament. In fact, Reagan was anything but. He fully understood that disarmament happens after justice triumphs, not before.

Cross-posted at Bookworm Room

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