Author Archives: Joe Bonham

The Atheist Conservative shows why secular conservatism continues to be an irrelevant and impotent force in American politics

Summary: Looking at the margins of a political movement often reveals much about its core, as people on the extremes display traits the mainstream conceals. For example, Marxists show many unexamined values held by Liberals. Today FM website author Joe Bonham looks at atheist conservatives, a group in the larger conservative movement that shows interesting things about what might be the dominant political force in America today.

Anguish at the stupidity of Christians

Anguish at the stupidity of Christians

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For centuries Christians have warned society about the threat of unbelievers, a narrative which continues today in the United States. Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly and other members of the Christian Right insist that an atheist is incapable of morals. Without a magic man in the sky threatening eternal damnation, a human being is not only unable to behave himself, but will be quickly seduced by an evil ideology, like Nazism. The underlying assumption is that man’s innate moral compass is not enough; a scripture written by prophets is the only way to ensure that the average citizen will remain within the confines of civilized behavior.

While most liberals and progressives scoff at this notion, the Religious Right has been proven at least partially correct in their prediction -– American atheists have become empty-souled and easily duped by a hateful ideology. Not on the Left, but within the ranks of the Right itself.

Any blanket statement of an entire group is problematic and to be avoided. So for the purposes of this analysis, the writings of one of the largest collections of Conservative secular thought will be used, the website “The Atheist Conservative”.

Perhaps the most extraordinary attribute of the Conservative atheist movement is the way they have unthinkingly accepted virtually every position held by the Christian Right. The viewpoints of these modern Conservative atheists contrast sharply with those of Ayn Rand, the most influential and perhaps only atheist of any significance in Conservative politics. Rand herself expressed contempt not just for religion, but the very idea of any moral constraints on human behavior at all

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Will the Taliban Give us a Taste of Armageddon?

Summary: Many comparisons have been made between the War on Terror, AKA “The Long War”, and Vietnam. Needless to say, our leaders prefer to think about happy counterinsurgencies, like the Philippines, Malaysia, and… the Philippines. Since fantasy is so much more appealing than reality (and makes for a better powerpoint slide), the Pentagon has learned a valuable lesson from the best long war fighters in the universe. The Eminians from Star Trek: A Taste of Armageddon.  This builds upon the conclusion of the previous post, Killing the leaders of our enemy. Is this the fast track to victory – or disaster?

In A Taste of Armageddon, Captain Kirk and Company go to planet Eminar VII on a diplomatic mission. Though warned upon arrival of a devastating attack from the neighboring planet, Vendikar, they see no apparent evidence of this. No violence, no destruction, nothing. Seeing their confusion, the planet’s leader Anan 7 explains. They fight the war entirely with computers! A complex apparatus simulates every military confrontation and calculates the casualties. Afterwards, the citizens “killed” in the attack have 24 hours to report to the disintegration chambers.

It’s a perfect war. No destruction, no famine, no plagues. A clean, orderly game with clear rules and no consequences. Even the deaths are orderly; a tally of “casualties” quietly executed in a sealed room. In this way, war can be fought indefinitely — the Eminians and their enemies on Vendikar have been at it for 500 years!

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Pain and misery builds discipline!

Summary:  The War on Terror is often compared to Vietnam, with good reason.  But the War on Terror is remarkably similar to another movement in our nation’s past, a dark chapter in American history that most Americans don’t like to think about.  Slavery.  An article by the newest contributor to the FM website.

The 2006 FM post The Myth of Grand Strategy predicted failure for America’s grand strategy in the War on Terror.  It argued that while modern Americans conduct strategic affairs on a purely rational basis, our enemies possess “primal strategies” — a ideologically driven mass movement towards a common cultural, religious, or racial goal (i.e., 19th century America’s “manifest destiny”, or Hitler’s superior race).  Excerpt:

We can envy these primal strategies, but find it difficult to emulate them.  History shows that mature states often try, vain attempts to recapture a lost element from its past.  Several factors make it difficult for us to adopt primal strategies.

  1. The people of a developed western state seldom have a widely agreed goal and the willingness to sacrifice for its achievement.
  2. Developed states have wealth, income, and security — leading to risk-adverse thinking.
  3. They have complex societies, whose elements have a wide range of goals and viewpoints.
  4. Their leaders and people have a large degree of cynicism.

It stated that Americans are incapable of a primal strategy. With 20/20 hindsight, that belief turned out to be incorrect. To quote a prestigious retired Army general:

There are few, I believe… who will not acknowledge [Operation Enduring Freedom] is a moral and political evil. It is idle to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it is a greater evil to the [American people] than to the [Population of Afghanistan]. While my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more deeply engaged for the former. The [Afghans] are immeasurably better off [now], morally, physically, and socially. The painful discipline they are undergoing is necessary for their further instruction as a [democratic nation], and will prepare them, I hope, for better things.

This well summarizes our goals in the Middle East. We only want to educate and train these people in the ways of a modern republic. We are willing to fight, spend our resources, and even die on their behalf. There is no economic benefit to us for doing this. Despite liberal nay-sayers’ skepticism, we did not steal the Iraqis’ oil.

In Afghanistan there are no notable natural resources, except of course the poppy industry, which we are going to great lengths to eliminate. In turn, we teach the Afghan people how to raise more legitimate crops, and give them the grain with which to do it. Members of both major political parties have continued to express support for the war up to this day.  The Tea Party has risen up, but the majority of American leaders who have joined it maintain their pro-war values.  The rise of Right-wing parties in Europe has almost invariably brought with them policies of near-isolationism; but the Tea Party has the opposite view:  America must continue to bring democracy to the world – with bombs and guns, not foreign aid (see A poll shows the source of America’s problems).  This seems to be a textbook case of a primal strategy.

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Generals read “Ender’s Game” and see their vision of the future Marine Corps

Summary:  The outline for today’s post comes from the youngest member of the FM website’s staff, a Marine Corporal.  He’s completed one tour in Afghanistan and will deploy again in early 2011.  Here he describes a dark side to one of the most popular science fiction books of the past 20 years, widely read by members of the US military.  Ender’s Game contains inspiration for both the best and worst leadership philosophies in today’s USMC. See the follow-up post The little-known dark side of Ender’s Game.

The USMC professional reading program includes Ender’s Game, perhaps science fiction writer Orson Scott Card’s greatest work.  It contains a powerful dramatization of current Corps doctrine, but it also holds a hidden vision for many Generals.   See Wikipedia for a summary of the book.   Go here to see the full text of the original short story (Analog, August 1977); the book-length version was published in 1985.  It won the Nebula and Hugo awards.

From the USMC discussion guides (here and here):

Ender’s Game is more than about the difficulty and excitement that competition provides in preparing for combat. There are lessons in training methodology, leadership, and ethics as well. Such richness in range and treatment has made Card’s book an oft-read and re-read title for many years; Ender’s Game has been a stalwart item on the Marine Corps Reading List since its inception. then Captain John Schmitt, author of FMFM-1 Warfighting (a foundational book on Marine maneuver warfare doctrine, now published as MCDP 1) used it to teach.

… Winning wars depends on the quality of the people you put into battle. Start with smart people, train them in imaginative and challenging ways, and ensure you force decision making authority down to the person with superior awareness of the tactical situation.

… Ender’s Game was published at the same time Marines started reading The Maneuver Warfare Handbook.  We have since institutionalized maneuver warfare into the Marine Corps. The challenge to every generation of Marines is to continue to live up to what Maneuver Warfare philosophy demands of them.

The discussion guide minimizes the aspect of Ender’s Game that appeals to many generals:

The least interesting part of the story was Ender’s computer games. The role playing games with the giant and playground seemed a distraction from the more interesting portions about training and preparing to lead.

Unfortunately some Generals would like to be Ender, directing battles at their desks.  Commanding ships with a keyboard, instantly seeing “every enemy ship and weapons it carried.”  Perfect information in the hands of a brilliant chessmaster, supported by his brilliant staff sitting before their screens — moving drones at the other end of the wire.  Logic, order, planning, victory.  The opposite of real war.  Scharnhorst, Clauswitz, or von Moltke (either one) would laugh at such folly.

General Screwtape (USMC) describes the dream in the first of his enlightening series of letters (links appear below):

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