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Since the events of August 12, 2017, Charlottesville, Virginia has become infamous for something that it is not—a hotbed of racial strife. What happened? An “activist” highschooler was discomfited by an equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee. City Councilor Wes Bellamy, an Obama wannabe, ran with this until his project of removing the statue elided neatly with the broader racial polarization that makes Alinskyite hearts go pitter patter. This despite the fact that Mr. Bellamy, the Obama wannabe, had been caught in a seriesof racist and misogynistic declarations. No matter, he claimed, he had rather quickly become a different person.
Then, from all parts of the country even as far as what used to be California, the Nazis and the Klan came to town. In their signature event of the decade, they were able to leach from beneath the moron rocks only about 500 of themselves, of which perhaps four or five were locals. Yet the impression in the selectively inquisitive press was that 500 Nazis in a relatively small city were proportionally indicative of a metastasizing cancer throughout the nation.
There are about 10,000 Japanese restaurants, and perhaps 20,000 sushi chefs in the U.S. If 10% (i.e 2,000) of them massed in Charlottesville demanding more salmon eggs, would this be indicative of a burning issue for America? Unlike sushi chefs, the Nazis, with their coyly bent “non-” swastikas, were looking to fight. Hundreds of them marched by torchlight on the night of the 11th, chanting “Jews will not replace us.” The slogan has a European pedigree, but, honest to Betsy, Jews have no desire to replace them. And if by “us” they mean non-Jews, they are demographically hallucinatory.
The city’s partially sane authorities and notables urged the population to ignore the Nazis and the Klan so as to render them like a tree that falls in the forest when no one is around. The less sane—of whom, in a university town, there is always a surfeit—pitched confrontation.Enter Antifa, the Communist fascisti as invisible to the mainstream media as were Stalin’s and Mao’s genocides, Castro’s executions, and, with special mention to the New York Times, the Holocaust. They came in ranks: shields, helmets, clubs, etc. But unlike the idiots they came to fight, some of whom had firearms, Antifa had the best weapon of all—well-meaning, overprotected Millennials fed upon virtue signaling.
I saw something similar during the 1969 “Harvard Bust,” when the SDS occupied and trashed University Hall, manhandled some deans, and purposefully recruited lots of liberals to form a barrier between them and the assaulting police. In the Marxist version of épater les bourgeois, the instigators (some of whom became tenured rashes upon the academy) declared that they wanted to “radicalize the buzhies,” their term for the bourgeoisie. Radcliffe girls bore the brunt of the assault, and were thrown from landings like chaff, their bones broken by batons. I saw a Massachusetts state trooper literally break his nightstick on the skull of a boy lying motionless on the ground. But the ringleaders had escaped out the back. When I confronted one of them later—you would recognize his name—he told me that Mao said the leadership must be preserved.
So, in Charlottesville many serious injuries and three deaths (two police in a helicopter crash; one peaceful demonstrator slain by a white supremacist who drove his car into her and dozens of others) came not from the tips of the two spears but from innocents. The national press ignored both the role of Antifa in joining battle and the city authorities in instigating it. They deliberately misapplied President Trump’s comment that there were good people on both sides, to the confrontation rather than to the issue of monument removal. And Trump, being Trump, did not manage or bother to correct them.
As innocent as Charlottesville may be of exaggerated charges, being part of America it suffers nonetheless what James Madison characterized as “[i]mbecility in the government; discord among the provinces; foreign influence and indignities; a precarious existence in peace, and peculiar calamities from war.” The now fashionable abandonment of civility, turning like an augur deeper and deeper into the country’s heart, appeared here 20 years ago when the “conservation chairman” of the Virginia Sierra Club wrote, “Officials who support the road should be mercilessly abused, shamed, ridiculed, and otherwise made to suffer pain.” Charlottesville’s mayor at the time of last year’s confrontation, Mike Signer, was recently quoted as referring to “the so-called freedom of speech.”
I first visited Charlottesville during the decade after World War II, and I remember it when it was segregated. I have now lived in Albemarle County for 21 years, I partake quietly in civic life, and I can tell you that only in the eyes of extremists and radicals are this city and this county the kind of reverse Potemkin Village opportunists have constructed in synchrony with ideologues who would tear apart the American fabric for the purpose of recasting a nation they cannot abide.
Refusing to let a crisis go to waste, dim-witted and ceaselessly repetitive town-and-gown social justice warriors have used August 12th to further their agenda, with the excuse that Charlottesville needs a version of de-Nazification in terms of income inequality and race. We claim Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, who, one must interject defensively, would long have ceased to be slaveholders. Despite their differing temperaments and political leanings, they would probably think that Charlottesville’s city government fits Madison’s characterization as imbecilic.
Among other things, in a struggle between Nazis and Antifa, it took sides rather than reject both in favor of the good people here who are the overwhelming majority, who regardless of race or any other distinction get along as tranquilly, positively, and respectfully as in the real America—the America to which radicals of all stripes are tragically blinded by their impulse to destruction.
Originally published in The Claremont Review of Books, Summer 2018.
The Trump administration’s recently unveiled National Security Strategy is an excellent and overdue statement of intent. But unless it is ruthlessly prioritized, political and budgetary realities will make it little more than a wish list. And in regard to nuclear weapons, it hardly departs from the insufficient Obama-era policy of replacing old equipment rather than modifying each element of the nuclear triad to meet new challenges.
National survival depends on many factors: the economy, civil peace, constitutional fidelity, education, research, and military strength across the board. Each has a different timeline and resiliency. Nuclear forces, on the other hand, may have a catastrophically short timeline combined with by far the greatest immediate effect.
Alone of all crucial elements, the failure of America’s nuclear deterrent is capable of bringing instant destruction or unavoidable subjugation, as the deterrent’s unarrested decline will lead to either the opportunity for an enemy first strike or the surrender of the U.S. on every foreign front and eventually at home.
Believers in total nuclear abolition fail to recognize that if they are successful, covert possession of just a score of warheads could mean world mastery. And though they, like everyone else, are routinely deterred (from telling off the boss or driving against the flow of traffic), they fail to extend their understanding to nuclear deterrence. They seem as well not to grasp that whereas numerical reduction from tens of thousands of warheads would reduce the chances of accident, below a certain point it would tempt an aggressor by elevating the potential of a successful first strike. Nor do they allow that Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran — which have through their conduct of war and in suppressing their populations callously sacrificed more than 100 million of their own people — subscribe to permissive nuclear doctrines and thresholds radically different from our own.
The Obama administration understood nuclear rejuvenation to mean merely updating old systems rather than changing the architecture of the deterrent to match Russia’s and China’s programs, as well as advances in technology. Given that short of abject surrender the sole means of preventing nuclear war is maintaining the potential to inflict unacceptable damage upon an enemy and/or shield one’s country from such damage, what are our resources, and against what are they arrayed?
The “nuclear triad” commonly referred to is rather a pentad, its land, air, and sea legs joined by missile defense and the survivability of national infrastructure. America’s land leg comprises static, silo-based missiles, which (other than in the potentially catastrophic launch-on-warning posture) are vulnerable not only to nuclear strike, but, with soon-to-come millimeter accuracy, even to conventional warheads. Russia, China, and North Korea have road-mobile missiles (and Russia, additional rail-based ones), making their land legs more survivable and in the case of tunnel systems — of which we have none and China has 3,000 miles — unaddressable and uncountable.
The U.S. air leg consists of ancient bombers and outdated standoff cruise missiles, both vulnerable to Russian and Chinese air defense, along with only 20 penetrating bombers, the B-2. To boot, the planes are concentrated on only a handful of insufficiently hardened bases.
Our sea-based nuclear force, the least-vulnerable leg, for many years included 41 ballistic-missile submarines, SSBNs. These dwindled to 18, then 14, and, with the new Columbia class set to enter service beginning only in 2031, a planned 12. A maximum of six at sea at any one time will face 100 Russian and Chinese hunter-killer subs. At the same time, the oceans are surrendering their opacity to space surveillance and Russian nonacoustic tracking. Even a deeply running sub disturbs the chemical and sea-life balance in ways that via upwelling leave a track upon the surface.
Russia is moving to 13 SSBNs with high-capacity missiles that carry many maneuverable warheads; China, with 4 SSBNs, is only beginning to build. A possible new dimension is Russia’s announced, but as yet unseen, autonomous stealth undersea nuclear vehicle, capable of targeting the high percentage of U.S. population, industry, and infrastructure on the coasts. We have no such weapon and Russia presents no similar vulnerability.
American ballistic-missile defense is severely underdeveloped due to ideological opposition and the misunderstanding of its purpose, which is to protect population and infrastructure as much as possible but, because many warheads will get through, primarily to shield retaliatory capacity so as to make a successful enemy first strike impossible — thus increasing stability rather than decreasing it, as its critics wrongly believe. Starved of money and innovation, missile defense has been confined to midcourse interception, when boost-phase and terminal intercept are also needed. Merely intending this without sufficient funding is useless. As for national resilience, the U.S. long ago gave up any form of civil defense, while Russia and China have not. This reinforces their ideas of nuclear utility, weakens our deterrence, and makes the nuclear calculus that much more unstable.
Beyond these particulars are the erosion of the American nuclear-weapons complex and the larger defense-industrial base; the dangerous mismatch of nuclear doctrines and perceptions; the sulfurous fuse of North Korea and Iran; Russian “tactical” nuclear weapons that outnumber U.S. counterparts 10 to 1; Russian programs suggesting that it is working toward the capacity for nuclear “breakout”; 2,600 currently deployed Russian strategic warheads as opposed to America’s 1,590; and consistent and brazen Russian treaty violations.
The addition of China as a major nuclear power now presents an analogy to the three-body problem in physics, in which three variables acting upon one another create an unpredictable and unstable system. That is but one reason why China must either be brought into an arms-control regime with the U.S. and Russia or forced by its refusal to show its hand for all the world to see. It is inexplicable that the U.S. government and arms-control enthusiasts have both failed to address the fact that China, the third major nuclear power, is totally unconstrained.
All the above is only a precis of a long-developing peril that, though difficult to see upon the surface, day by day strengthens the chances of Armageddon or capitulation. The only way to face it is objectively and without fear, and the only solution (requiring just a tiny fraction of gross domestic product) is to correct the shortcomings and right the balances.
America’s powerful deterrent has kept the nuclear peace all these years. If it withers, it will keep the peace no longer. The nuclear problem has no adequate superlatives. As great as all other concerns may be, they must yield to it. For the force to be confronted is the breaker of nations and the destroyer of worlds.
The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 4, 2018
By Starlight Undiminished: How the American Landscape Shaped the Founding.
On behalf of the Second Continental Congress in declaring America’s independence, Jefferson in the first paragraph of the Declaration drew upon authority greater than the Crown, the British Empire, and the long traditions of English law and government. “With a firm Reliance on the protection of divine Providence,” he and those present staked “our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor” upon “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” [Continued at First Things, November 2017.