Rethinking Christian Economics: The Biblical Context of Usury

The following piece is republished from In Praise of Folly. It is part of a short series on Christian economics. Footnotes will be provided with the final installment.


This paper will attempt to deal with an often under-discussed and misunderstood extension of the principle of Christian stewardship: Economics. Modern American Christians seem to espouse, whether implicitly or explicitly, one of three views on economics: 1) Laissez-faire capitalism; 2) “Crony” capitalism or 3) Socialism. Each of these economic models take modern economic systems and grafts Christianity onto them. They start with something else first and then add the Bible to it rather than grounding the systems upon the Bible itself. As in all world and life issues, the Christian is ought to ask first: What does the Bible say about this matter?

This paper is not exhaustive, as I have not dealt with all the possible formulations of Christian economics. Rather, I intend to bring central ideas to the reader’s attention and attempt to organize my thoughts on a hypothetical Christian economic order. In this paper, there are three main topics that I intend to cover: 1) Usury, 2) Distrubutism, and 3) Socialism. For transparency, I would like to inform the reader that I reject the first, have a qualified support for the second, and totally reject the third.

The Biblical Context of Usury

Usury is often considered the practice of charging unusually high rates of interest on money that is lent. Originally, however, usury denoted interest of any kind; that is, usury and interest were considered synonymous. Thus, when I refer to usury throughout this paper, I will use the original definition.

In practice, usury requires the borrower to repay the lender a sum which is more than the principle of the amount borrowed. How much this additional amount will be is determined by the rate of interest and the period of capitalization (that is, the regularity at which the interest is added to the principle) agreed upon by the lender and borrower. The moral objection levied against usury asserts that if the borrower only borrowed the principle of the loan from the lender, then the borrower ought to be required to repay only the principle and no more. Within this framework, it is immoral for the lender to require more to be paid back to him than the original principle, for the lender would be in fact gaining money without doing any work. For example, if person A lends $1,000 to person B at 15% interest for 1 year to be capitalized annually, then the lender earns $150 without lifting a finger. The lender produced nothing and yet he earned money. It is understood that no man is entitled to either money which he has not worked for, or money that was not given to him. The borrower borrowed $1,000 dollars, not $1,150 dollars; therefore, the borrower does not owe the lender an additional $150. I will demonstrate that usury is a form of extortion and is hence not a legitimate obligation of the borrower. The Bible is very clear on the immorality and sinfulness of issuing loans with interest:

Exodus 22:25-27: “If you lend money to any of My people who are poor among you, you shall not be like a moneylender to him; you shall not charge him interest. If you ever take your neighbor’s garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down. For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What will he sleep in? And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious.”

Leviticus 25:35-38: “If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you. You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.”

Nehemiah 5:6-10: “And I became very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. After serious thought, I rebuked the nobles and rulers, and said to them, “Each of you is exacting usury from his brother.” So I called a great assembly against them. And I said to them, “According to our ability we have redeemed our Jewish brethren who were sold to the nations. Now indeed, will you even sell your brethren? Or should they be sold to us?” Then they were silenced and found nothing to say. Then I said, “What you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies? I also, with my brethren and my servants, am lending them money and grain. Please, let us stop this usury!”

Psalms 15:5: “He who does not put out his money at usury, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.”

Proverbs 28:8: “One who increases his possessions by usury and extortion Gathers it for him who will pity the poor.”

Jeremiah 15:10: “Woe is me, my mother, That you have borne me, A man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither lent for interest, Nor have men lent to me for interest. Every one of them curses me.”

Ezekiel 18:13: “If he has exacted usury Or taken increase– Shall he then live? He shall not live! If he has done any of these abominations, He shall surely die; His blood shall be upon him.”

Ezekiel 18:17: “Who has withdrawn his hand from the poor. And not received usury or increase, But has executed My judgments And walked in My statutes– He shall not die for the iniquity of his father; He shall surely live!”

Ezekiel 22:12: “In you they take bribes to shed blood; you take usury and increase; you have made profit from your neighbors by extortion, and have forgotten Me,” says the Lord God.”

The above verses provide a solid case that God did not want the Israelites to extort their fellow Israelites by means of usury. However, we see that in Deuteronomy 23:19-20, although God prohibited usurious loans to His people, God allowed the Israelites to charge usurious loans to gentiles. This “loophole” was closed by Jesus Christ in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-42), as well as by his command to love our enemies in Matthew 5:44, an likewise in Luke 6:27 and 6:35. We see that we should treat our enemies as the Samaritan treated the Jew in the parable. We see that we should love and pray for our enemies and do them no wrong – and if usury is wrong to apply to a man, it necessarily stands in opposition to Christ’s command. If a man will die because of lending usuriously to his brother in Ezekiel 18:13, how greater will his punishment be for usuriously lending to his enemy under the New Covenant?

Someone might object to my interpretation of the prohibition of usury by reference to the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:27 and Luke 19:13. For proper exegesis, scripture must interpret scripture. We see that the master wanted the third servant to put the money into the bank to earn interest. But was the point of the parable to teach us lending practices? Patently, no. The purpose of the parable is to teach us that if we use what God gave us, then He will entrust us with more, and that if we squander His gifts, then what He has given us will be taken from us. Christ’s words in Matthew 5:42 and Luke 6:34-35 clearly indicate that we should be liberal givers. Luke 6 even indicates that we should not even demand back the principle of the loan.

Now many will say that, “Yes we should give charitably with an open hand expecting nothing in return, but in the world of business and finance different rules apply.” This is not sound reasoning. Of course charity is interest-free, but loans and charity are clearly differentiated. We see that in Exodus 22:25-27 God is clearly not talking about charity, but a business transaction. For how could a loan ever be considered an act of charity? A loan is expected to be repaid, but charity is not. The prohibition of usury in business practices is also seen in Nehemiah 5:1-4, where heavily leveraged Jews were indebted for the mortgages of their land, vineyards, and homes. We also see in the Jewish Encyclopedia that according to scripture and rabbinical tradition that lending usuriously to a brother was prohibited in all cases: “There are three Biblical passages which forbid the taking of interest in the case of ‘brothers,’ but which permit, or seemingly enjoin, it when the borrower is a Gentile, namely, Ex. xxii. 24; Lev. xxv. 36, 37; Deut. Xxiii. 20, 21.” [1]

The prohibition of usury in the New Testament is extended to the unsaved as seen in Matthew 5:42 and Luke 6:34-35. We see that Jesus frequently expands the original promises and protections of the OT to cover not only Jews, but also Gentiles and the unsaved. Consider in Leviticus 19:18 that the Jews are commanded to love their neighbors, yet the usage of “neighbors” here is actually a status reserved only for other Jews. Thus, the Jews were not required to love the Amalekites, Philistines, or Edomites, among others; in fact, God ordered the Israelites to exterminate them. Followers of Christ are told also to love their neighbors in Matthew 5:43. Yet we learn in Luke 10:29-42 that our neighbor may be our worst enemy. We see that Christ has extended the definition of “neighbor” to even include those we consider enemies. It can be reasoned, then, that according to Luke 6:34-35 the prohibition of usury includes everyone, because Christ does not specify Jew or Gentile when he states that we should lend to anyone who asks, without expecting repayment. Anyone must also include the Gentiles and the unsaved.

The critic might say that if we lend to anyone without even expecting the principle in return then we would all be taken advantage of and be left naked and bankrupt. This is not completely true. Of course Christ does not intend us to lend to people who 1) will spend the money on their pleasures, 2) who are affiliated with prohibited means of employment such as prostitution, pornography, drug dealing, the military industrial complex etc, or 3) people who will likely spend the money on criminal activity. We are to be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves. A lot of potential objections are already dealt with right here.

But what are we to do in the event that the person to whom we lent money does not repay the loan and seeks yet another loan from us? The answer is that we are not required to loan to that person again. Why? Firstly, we are not required to because retrospectively that person was unworthy of the loan in the first place, and secondly, given that the amount of money that most Christians possess is limited, the Christian should give where it will do the most good. If a Christian lends money to a person, then whether or not he continues to lend to that person will be contingent upon the borrower’s faithfulness to the agreement. If a Christian gives charity to a person, then whether or not he should give charity to that person in the future is contingent upon the how the recipient dispenses of the gift; that is, it ought to be based upon whether or not the charity accomplished its intended goal. In sum, Christians should seek out and aid those whose need is genuine. Furthermore, if a brother in a business transaction fails to pay back the loan and fails to make alternate provisions, then he has proven himself to be a liar and thief, thus forfeiting his right to the brotherhood. Liars have their place in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 21:8).

Even with all this aside there is a lot of risk for a Christian lending money. For example, 1) he is not to expect even the principle of the loan back and 2) he is not allowed to leverage political power to obtain what is owed to him by another believer (1st Corinthians 6:1-11).

We see that 1) usury was prohibited between Jews in the OT, 2) in the New Testament usury is prohibited in all cases, 3) we are not required to lend to spiritual reprobates and 4) in 1st Corinthians 1:18, Paul writes: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

The View From Olympus 25: Another Crimean War?

It may be that the winter Olympics in Sochi will have yet another, even more spectacular closing ceremony. What might that be? Russia retaking the Crimea.

Among the manifold disasters that engulfed Russia in the late 20th century, few were more painful than losing the Crimea to a newly independent Ukraine. The Crimea includes Sevastopol, the base of Russia’s Black Sea fleet. The fleet is still based there under an agreement with Ukraine, but Ukraine can change its mind. Russia has no Black Sea port on its own territory that can replace Sevastopol, even if it had the rubles to rebuild Sevastopol’s extensive facilities, which it does not.

My bet is that the Crimea is topic number one in the Kremlin. I further suspect troop movements are already underway to position forces for a coup de main in the Crimea, perhaps as part of a broader mission to support the Russian population in eastern Ukraine.

The harsh fact is, Ukraine as presently constituted is not a viable country. As he did with the Poles, Prussians, and Silesians, Stalin pushed the Ukrainian population west (or starved them), and filled the resulting vacuum with Russians. East and west Ukraine were different to start with, in part because far western Ukraine had not even been part of the Russian Empire. To its great good fortune, it belonged to Austria-Hungary. The city now called Lviv was then Austrian Lemberg, and Austrian Ukrainians were known as Ruthenians. Once again in today’s events we see how much central Europe needs an Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The tension between Russian-majority eastern Ukraine and western Ukraine has been evident since Ukraine became independent. Political power in Kiev has alternated between the two, with the current legal (he was elected) Ukrainian president, Mr. Viktor Yanukovych, representing eastern Ukraine and the Russians. The revolt against him began when, reflecting the interests of eastern Ukraine, he opted for closer relations with Russia instead of the EU. Western Ukraine wants the opposite, so it rebelled.

Trying to keep eastern and western Ukraine united in one unhappy country is a losing proposition. The new government in Kiev has promptly demonstrated this fact. Instead of seeking to conciliate the Russians in eastern Ukraine, it has made them its target. Among its first acts was de-recognizing Russian as an official language and disallowing Russian in the state schools. These actions were declarations of war on Ukraine’s Russian population, a point not missed in Moscow.

It is easy to see how events might play out. Russian leaders in eastern Ukraine are already meeting to coordinate their response to the new government in Kiev. Mr. Yanukovych is probably safe in Russian hands. Authorities in eastern Ukraine petition Russia for help to protect them against Kiev’s anti-Russian actions. Mr. Yanukovych, as legal President of Ukraine, asks Russia for the assistance of Russian forces. Moscow announces that in response to these requests, Russian forces will enter eastern Ukraine to protect ethnic Russians whose rights are being violated. A coup de main, which Russians traditionally do well, seizes first Sevastopol and then all of Crimea. Ukraine’s armed forces are not strong enough to resist Russia, especially in majority-Russian areas where Russian troops are welcomed. Resistance by guerrilla warfare is not possible there because the anti-Russian guerrillas would not have a base among the population.

Instead, spontaneous violence in both eastern and western Ukraine results in a population exchange. Ethnic Russians leave western for eastern Ukraine, while ethnic Ukrainians in eastern Ukraine head west. Eastern Ukraine sets up a “Ukrainian” government under President Yanukovych, which Moscow promptly recognizes. Sooner or later eastern Ukraine, including the Crimea, asks to join the Russian Federation and is accepted. Russia has the Crimea back, with the Black Sea Fleet’s now-secure base.

What should the United States and the EU do in response to such a scenario? Accept reality. Again, Ukraine as presently constituted is not viable. It is two mutually hostile peoples in the embrace of a shotgun marriage. Each will go on trying to slip a dagger into the other’s back so long as they are forced together.

Peace will only come when each side is allowed to do as it wishes. For eastern Ukraine, that means coming home to Russia. Where the EU can help is with western Ukraine. Brussels should put western Ukraine on a fast track for EU membership. Washington can join in an effort to provide the massive financial assistance western Ukraine needs, while avoiding the depression that the IMF forces on any country it rescues. Western Ukraine will soon enough say “good riddance” to eastern Ukraine if its reward is joining, or for the Austrian parts, rejoining, Europe. And to their great good fortune, all parties will have avoided what none needs, a second Crimean War.


The Cossacks have awoken; the Ukrainians are waking from their slumber, and the Slavic spirit is reignited. We are witnessing a palingenesis before our eyes, something that makes the Golden Dawn in Greece seem somewhat tame in comparison, and the meager election gains in Scandinavia lukewarm. What we’re seeing is the rebirth of a people, the loftiness of soul that Nietzsche spoke of. In Greece, Golden Dawn is jailed because they are such a threat. In Sweden, Party of the Swedes gains support and the Sweden Democrats are the third largest party in the ultra-liberal culture of Sweden. In Hungary, Jobbik and Fidesz have started to transform the country into a traditionalist and Eurasian force. Russia has shown its might by standing up for Syria and preventing Obama’s wars, and preserved its traditional culture through law. And now, the Ukrainians have risen to take their state back.

Yanukovich has been deposed by the nationalists. The main question here is which way Ukraine will turn. Will Ukraine become another globalist satellite state for the United States via the European Union or will they partner with Russia for trade and keep a Eurasian alliance with the more traditionalist countries? Will the eastern half of the country, which is culturally Russian, break away from Ukraine proper and form their own sovereign state like they have threatened? Will the western nationalists accept this if so? Or will there be a massive civil war with Russia backing the eastern breakaway territory like other separatist, pro-Russian territories such as south Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Transistria, effectively enforcing a geographical and cultural split in a sovereign state with the United States backing the nationalists? Will the EU plunder Ukraine’s national resources and force them to accept mass immigration and globalism? Will Ukraine’s culture survive?

To understand the Ukrainian situation, one must understand the history of Ukraine itself. The situation is not simplistic, and no easy answer awaits these lingering questions. The huge problem is a cultural divide in a country that is partly a distinct cultural and national state, and partly a Russian territory. The Ukrainian socialist republic was a product of the Soviets which created the nation we know today as Ukraine. The Ukrainians in the west harbor a deep animus towards the Russians because Stalin created a genocide there in the 1930s, via starvation. The westerners view themselves as a distinct nation, but the eastern half of the country, however, is largely Russian and often votes for the far-left but culturally-conservative Ukrainian communist party. The western half is nationalist and often far-right, with a support for the center-right fatherland party to the right wing nationalists of Svoboda. Right Sector, which is composed of western nationalists declared that it wants to create a nationalist state free from “Russian chauvinism and European slavery.” Easier said than done.

First of all, the two major world powers right now are Russian/Chinese Eurasianists, which are culturally right wing and traditionalist even if economically they tend to be left wing. The other side is the United States and the European Union which are culturally left wing and center-right economically (capitalist). These two sides are at war, culturally and economically, and every single country is a chess piece. For a country like Ukraine, which is not valuable to the United States but is highly valuable to Russia, it could be potentially destabilizing to lose their manufacturing power and their economic power as an ally. For this reason, many pro-Russian sources have claimed the CIA backed the revolution to scorn Putin for foiling Obama’s war plans. The revolution has taken place right during Russia’s Olympics in Sochi—a major embarrassment for Putin. It is tit for tat, by the Americans, it would seem, to get back at him for making Obama out to be a fool and warmonger to the world.

Despite this seemingly un-serendipitous revolution, the Ukrainians, several of whom I am in contact with, such as the noted political writer Olena Semenyaka, are well known within the Svoboda nationalist party, have claimed that the CIA is not backing the revolution whatsoever, and Euromaidan is happening because Yanukovich is a corrupt neo-liberal politician who does not care about Ukraine or its people. Which is probably true. I don’t pretend to know what is really going on. The situation could easily fit into a conspiracy theory, but I am loath to buy into such notions, and remain skeptical of them. Yet there are some serious things to make one question the legitimacy of the revolution.

Regardless, The nationalists claim their revolution was done independent of outside forces—something I tend to side with, though being naïve about the CIA and the United States’ tendencies is equally ignorant. I don’t know the exact truth, but I do know this: If Ukraine joins the European Union it could be potentially devastating for the country, whereas Putin’s Russia is a reliable, traditionalist, friendly nation. The EU hates nationalism and traditionalism, and works to destroy it. So now that Yanukovich is deposed, is Yulia Tymoshenko going to become the leader of Ukraine? And will she lead the country to glory or ruin?

Unlike her more right wing traditionalist friends, who until the Euromaidan, were labeled “far-right” on Wikipedia, but during the revolution were changed to “center-right and then to right wing” under their description (curious change, don’t you think?) Tymoshenko is pro-European, and pro-neoliberal. At least Yanukovich did not sell out his country to the EU, though he tried to. He is of course, obviously a Russian-backed leader and does not stand strongly for much of anything. Like a typical politician he is primarily concerned with saving his own skin first, which is why the Ukrainians wanted him gone. His sole redeeming factor seems to be his support for Russia as Ukraine’s partner instead of the European Union. However, he tried to get the best of both sides, and for it Putin pulled out and initiated a trade war which precipitated the revolution. Yanukovich is obviously duplicitous and not a real ally to anyone—Russia, the EU, or the nationalists. Ukraine needs a strong leader who will make the right choice, which I believe is to be siding with Russia.

If the nationalists are smart and join the Russian/Kazakhstan/Belarus trade union, and keep Russia as their main trading partner, the nationalists will have created a conservative state and put a thorn in the side of the United States’ globalist world power. If they join the European Union, which with Tymoshenko in power is very likely, Ukraine may face a terrible future of mass immigration, neo-liberalism, fast food, and all the other hallmarks of the encroaching globalist power that is trying to stamp out European culture for good.

The powerful thing we have learned from this is that we, nationalists, have shown our power and our strength. We’ve shown we can revolt and depose leaders. We’ve shown that unlike the feckless Occupy movement, who have accomplished nothing in several years, we have accomplished the transformation of a society and primed it for a possible independence that may not have been imagined before. All in less than a third of a year. This means that regardless of Ukraine’s fate, the nationalists have shown we have far more power than we think. This gives us hope. For years and years we have watched as nationalist state by nationalist state has fallen or turned culturally left wing. Now, the tables have turned. The Ukrainians are showing the way, showing that with proper organization, the nationalists are the only hope for real change. Unlike occupy, we have no identity politics to divide us, we have no sex or sexual orientation persecution issues we fixate on. We don’t fixate on “equality,” whatever that means. We fixate on our culture and our heritage. By being united as a people, we can fight the powers that be, stop history in its tracks, raise a fist, and not back down.

Ukraine shows it is possible; that we are a threat to the New World Order and globalism. Hopefully, the nationalists do what is best and support Putin instead of joining the EU. But even if they don’t, it still shows the power of what we can accomplish. It’s a beacon to the world, whether you agree with what the outcome is or not. I support Putin staunchly, so I hope the Ukrainian nationalists will as well. He’s on our side. He has issues, yes, but he’s a conservative and supports nationalists. We have to pick our allies. Russia is our ally. Let’s hope that Ukraine joins as well, and makes the right move.

Even if they do not, however, we know now that change is possible, and that our power is real. Our time is coming and soon we may have the same revolution in our states. We can fight. We can win. Ukraine showed us this. Let’s just hope for our sake and theirs, they don’t waste the revolution by forfeiting their sovereignty and culture to the European Union.


James Harmon is a writer, artist, and teacher. He holds an MFA in painting. He stubbornly maintains his Republican party registration despite being to the right of Ghenghis Khan. As a national conservative, he still tries not to take things too seriously, or else no lady folk would find him pleasant to be around. He does rail about the wilds of free market capitalism, but just as any other critic of economic liberalism, he enjoys the finest cigars, whiskeys, card games, and European imported foods.

The View From Olympus 24: The Navy Commits Intellectual Seppuku

The December, 2013 issue of the Naval Institute’s Proceedings contains an article, “Don’t Say Goodbye to Intellectual Diversity” by Lt. Alexander P. Smith, that should receive wide attention but probably won’t. It warns of a policy change in Navy officer recruiting that adds up to intellectual suicide. Lt. Smith writes, “Starting next year, the vast majority of all NROTC graduates will be STEM majors (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) with minimal studies in the humanities … As a result of the new policy, a high school senior’s best chance of obtaining a Navy scholarship is to apply for Tiers 1 and 2 (engineering, hard sciences, and math), since CNO guidance specifies that not less than 85 percent of incoming officers will come from this restricted pool.”

Lt. Smith rightly bemoans this loss of intellectual diversity, the only diversity that has real importance. But the problem is much worse than that. An armed service dominated by engineers and other science types will not be able to think militarily.

The engineering way of thinking and the military way of thinking are not merely different. They are opposites. Engineering, math, and other sciences depend on analysis of hard data. Before you make a decision, you are careful to gather all the facts, however long that may take. The facts are then carefully analyzed, again without much regard for the time required. Multiple actors check and re-check each others’ work. Lowest-common-denominator, committee-consensus decisions are usually the safest course. Anything that is not hard data is rejected. Hunches have no place in designing a bridge.

Making military decisions in time of war could not be more different. Intuition, educated guessing, hunches, and the like are major players. Hard facts are few; most information is incomplete and ambiguous, and part of it is always wrong, but the decision-maker cannot know how much or which parts. Creativity is more important than analysis. So is synthesis: putting parts together in new ways. Committee-consensus, lowest-common-denominator decisions are usually the worst options. Time is precious, and a less-than-optimal decision now often produces better results than a better decision later. Decisions made by one or two people are often preferable to those with many participants. There is good reason why Clausewitz warned against councils of war.

There is a direct correlation between the type of education an officer receives and his ability to think militarily. An education in the humanities, especially history and literature, is the best preparation for thinking militarily. An education in engineering, math, and hard science is the worst. Are there engineers who can think creatively? Yes. But there aren’t many.

The problem has yet another layer. Engineering, math, and science tend to draw certain types of people. Humanities draw different types. The first are inward-focused, rule-bound, risk-averse, and bureaucratic. The outward-focused, improvisational risk-takers who hate bureaucracy and embrace Verantwortungsfreudigkeit—joy in making decisions and taking responsibility—are usually drawn to the humanities. Von Moltke is only one of many historical examples. He painted, he wrote poetry, he was deeply interested in antiquities, touring the Middle East to see them, and, as the saying at the time went, he knew how to be silent in six languages.

An anecdote: In the 1970s, I had the privilege of having dinner with General Hermann Balck, a truly great commander, one of the few German generals who really had Fingerspitzengefuhl (the Allies had fewer). John Boyd was also at the dinner table. At one point, Boyd said to General Balck, “You know, General, with your very quick reactions, you would have been a great fighter pilot.” Balck’s instant response was “Ich bin kein Techniker”—“I am not a technician.” It was the only time I saw Boyd get shot down.

The navy has suffered for decades from too many technicians and too few tacticians (and strategists), thanks to Rickover’s baleful influence on the Naval Academy. He wanted nuclear engineers, so he made Annapolis into even more of an engineering school than it already was (all the service academies are biased toward engineering). This was counterbalanced by Naval ROTC graduates, more of whom came out of the humanities. Now, that pipeline will be shut.

The result will be a Navy that does splendidly in peacetime. It may be able to do well enough in war, so long as events unfold slowly and the enemy offers up few surprises. But if a U.S. Navy completely controlled by engineers ever faces a competent opponent, one who frequently does the unexpected and drives events at a rapid tempo, it will come apart, the same way the strong, technically skilled French Army of 1940 came apart. Like that French Army, the U.S. Navy will be revealed as militarily incompetent.

It won’t be necessary for China or anyone else to destroy our Navy some time in the future. It is committing intellectual seppuku now.

The View From Olympus 23: The Iranian Bomb

Several weeks ago I wrote about a clear and present danger to America’s security, a U.S. Senate Bill entitled The Nuclear Free Iran Act of 2013. Not only would the bill endanger the current negotiations with Iran by applying new sanctions, it would pre-commit the U.S. to war with Iran if Israel attacks that country. You read that right: we would be in not if Iran attacks Israel, but if Israel attacks Iran. In effect, the bill hands Bibi Netanyahu a legal right to declare war on behalf of the United States.

Fortunately, the bill appears to be losing support in the Senate. Senators are facing the fact that their constituents do not want America to fight another war anytime soon.

But some analysis of Iran’s nuclear program may also point to reasons why we should not go to war over it. Does Iran want nuclear weapons? Undoubtedly it does, if they can be had at not too high a price. But it also appears—and this is the conclusion of our intelligence agencies, for whatever that is worth—Iran has decided the price is too high, at least for the foreseeable future. So instead of building a bomb, Iran has decided to learn how to build a bomb as well as delivery systems for it. Then it will halt its nuclear program, beyond what it needs for civilian purposes, mostly power generation. Under international law, Iran has the right to civilian uses of nuclear energy.

All this is fairly well known. Where most current analysis falls short is in its assumptions as to why Iran wants a bomb. It is assumed the purposes of an Iranian bomb are to deter an attack by the United States and either to deter the same from the Israelis or to launch a bolt-from-the-blue nuclear attack on Israel.

These assumptions are open to question. Not being blind to American politics, the Iranians surely know the only thing that would bring an American attack is getting a bomb. There is zero chance that an American president could ape George Bush and launch an all-out invasion of Iran to achieve “regime change.” The American people would quickly let Congress know what they thought about such an adventure, as we saw when President Obama made noises about attacking Syria. The American people have had it with wars of choice on the other side of the world that send their kids home in body bags or crippled for life and cost trillions of dollars we don’t have. So an Iranian bomb, instead of reducing the danger of an American attack, would create it.

Similarly, were Iran to lob a nuke on Tel Aviv, it would commit suicide. Israel not only has about 500 nuclear weapons, plus delivery systems that would survive an Iranian attack, the Israeli mind-set is such that its retaliation for an Iranian nuclear strike would be annihilating. 3000 years of Persian history and culture would be wiped off the map and out of history. Americans may not be much aware of Persian history and culture, but Iranians very much are. And, as in the case of the U.S., Iran acquiring nuclear weapons would raise both the likelihood and the legitimacy of an Israeli attack on Iran. So once again, building a bomb would reduce Iran’s security, not enhance it.

So why would Iran want a bomb? Because Pakistan has one.

From an Iranian perspective, Iran’s principle threat today is neither the U.S. nor Israel, but Sunni Islam. Iran, as the leading Shiite state, is at war with the Sunnis—real shooting war, not metaphorical war. That is Tehran’s top priority, and it is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

Pakistan is overwhelmingly Sunni. Shiites are regularly murdered in Pakistan. Sunni suicide bombers sometimes blow themselves up in Shiite mosques in Pakistan in the middle of worship services. Sunnis, many of them, regard Shiites as “worse than infidels,” because they claim to be Muslims but, from Sunni perspective, are heretics. Wars inside a religion can be even more brutal than wars between religions.

And Sunni Pakistan has the bomb. In fact, it has several hundred nuclear weapons, with sophisticated delivery systems for them. From an Iranian perspective, letting the Sunnis have a bomb while the Shiites don’t is a problem. It may be a far bigger problem to them than either Israel or the United States.

I have heard this analysis from area specialists, but it never seems to make it into the American debate about an Iranian bomb. If it is correct, it puts the question of an American attack on Iran in a very different light. Do we need, or want, to involve ourselves in the Islamic civil war between Sunnis and Shiites? To pose the question is to answer it: obviously not. Let them fight each other until doomsday, preferably with vast casualties on both sides. The energy they expend fighting each other is energy they do not have to attack us.

Were the Senate to consider this argument, I think there is little chance it would vote to give Mr. Netanyahu a blank check to take the United States to war with Iran. Is your Senator aware of it? You might want to send him a copy of this column.

The View From Olympus 22: His Majesty’s Birthday

January 27 is the birthday of my liege lord and reporting senior, Kaiser Wilhelm II, so as usual I telephoned him to offer my felicitations. Frequently I find him just returned from some madcap adventure. This year was different.

“Happy birthday, Hoheit. I trust you have been celebrating in good form. A ride in a Zeppelin-Staaken R-7, perhaps?”

“Thank you. Actually, you find me in the Garnisonkirche here in Potsdam. They called me to the Fernsprecher in the rector’s office. As I’m sure you know, in Heaven all churches are Anglican.”

“Well, of course they are. In Heaven everyone’s upper class. What other church could they possibly attend? But may I enquire why you are in church on your birthday?”

“I find myself spending a good deal of time in church now. This year marks the hundredth anniversary of that vast civilizational catastrophe you know as World War I. Our culture, Western culture, in effect put a gun to its head and blew its brains out. Everything since has merely been the twitching of the corpse.”

“If I may ask a somewhat delicate question of Your Majesty, how much responsibility do you, in hindsight, bear for that disaster?”

“Your President Wilson’s closest advisor, Colonel House, spent a great deal of time with me in 1914. As he subsequently wrote to Wilson, in 1914 I neither wanted war nor expected war. I was know derisively in Germany as the “Peace Kaiser” because in one crisis after another I insisted Germany back down to preserve peace. My error in 1914 was not insisting Austria back down, even though she was in the right. Germany was encircled with enemies at that point, and my advisors were terrified that if we did not support Vienna we would lose our last ally. My instinct was to overrule them, but I didn’t. That was my error all too often, before and during the war.”

“If I may say so, Your Majesty was almost always wiser than your advisors.”

“Thank you, but that means I wasn’t stupid, but weak. That may be a fair verdict. I was no Frederick the Great. But remember, he was an absolute monarch, and I was a constitutional monarch. Often, my cabinet simply ignored me.”

“Your Majesty will be pleased to hear that according to a piece in the January 18 Financial Times, the German public no longer accepts the canard, invented by the Versailles Treaty, that Germany caused World War I.”

“Heaven rejoices that the German people are beginning, just beginning, to rediscover the truth about the history of their country. Except for the thirteen short years of the Third Reich, Germany was a normal country. Germans have as much right to be proud of their history, and the history of their military, as any other people. It is shameful the way the Bundeswehr is forbidden virtually the whole history of the German armed forces, except the few short years of the War of National Liberation from Napoleon. This is due in large part to the influence of the Frankfurt School, as you well know.”

“Indeed. Cultural Marxism is even stronger in Germany than in the United States. But let me ask, if I may, about another influence, that of the Fischer Thesis. What is your response to Fischer’s charge that World War I was the inevitable culmination of a German plan to become a world power?”

“The Fischer Thesis is an example of ideological history. Ideology dictated the conclusion, that the Second Reich was merely a forerunner of the Third—utter nonsense—and then Fischer erected a sand castle of evidence to prove it. That sand castle all stood on one event, a single late-night tabagie where I and some of my senior advisors, especially some General Staff officers, got drunk on anxiety, hubris, and perhaps a few other things as well. As you have observed with the U.S. military, a roomful of officers can late at night turn into a room full of twelve-year-old boys. The discussion had no effect whatsoever on policy. It dissolved in the next morning’s light. The Fischer Thesis dissolves with it. Germany had no master plan to conquer the world. It is pure invention, by a German Left that wants to teach Germans to hate Germany.”

“I can happily inform Your Majesty that the German people are beginning to reject the Left’s version of German history. Financial Times reported that only 19% of Germans now believe Germany bore ‘chief responsibility’ for World War I. 58% said each of the Powers was to blame.”

“That 58% is right. My cousin Nicky was yesterday lamenting the role he played in July 1914. Like me, he could have stopped it but didn’t.”

“What does your other cousin, King George of Great Britain, say about it?”

“I don’t know. He’s not here. He was something of a rotter, you know.”

“He and Winston both.”

“Winston’s not here, either. Oh, I think he’ll get here, eventually. But he has to spend some time in the servants’ hall first. In fact, now that you’ve made me think of him, I’ll ring and have him bring me up a pot of good English tea.”

“A suitable beverage for celebrating your birthday in this penitential year. I thank Your Majesty for his time and insight. I always suspected Fischer conjured up his facts. Now we know. Until next year, Hoch Hohenzollern!”

Deutschland hoch in Ehre, dann und jetzt! May the German people ever so regard it. Goodbye!”

The View From Olympus 21: Terrorist Attack

One of the more obvious facts about our country’s situation is that we cannot afford another war. We cannot afford it financially. Another massive explosion of debt (the Iraq war cost three trillion, including veteran’s care, and Afghanistan is on its way to two trillion) could bring about the collapse of American government paper, and with it the dollar. The consequences of that would be far more dire than the actions of any foreign “threats.”

We cannot afford another war militarily either, because our recent record suggests we will probably lose. Unless someone is foolish enough to take us on in Second Generation war, our Second Generation military will suffer another defeat. Like other Second Generation armed services, it cannot beat the Third Generation without overwhelming material superiority. It cannot defeat Fourth Generation opponents even with huge material superiority. Since more and more wars are Fourth Generation, our only rational option is to stay out of them, at least until we either reform our obsolescent services or simply send them home and save some money.

For several years, the most likely new war facing us has been a war with Iran. Such a war might begin as a Second Generation air and sea war, which we would win. But a defeated Iran would be likely to come apart as a state, facing us with yet another region of stateless disorder. Regardless whether or not we intervened on the ground at that point, the forces of 4GW would have another win.

It should therefore not be too great a reach in logic, even for Congress, to grasp the fact that we need to avoid war with Iran. The Obama administration has grasped it, and is currently doing an admirable job of war-avoidance. There is a genuine prospect of not only a nuclear agreement with Iran, but of a whole new strategic relationship, one that would push an Iranian war completely off the table.

Now comes the curious part: a bi-partisan coalition of senators and congressmen is doing everything in its power to sabotage the deal with Iran and put us back on the course to war. A 52-page Senate bill (that’s a short one), the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013, would impose a whole new set of economic sanctions on Iran. Its passage would run a strong risk of killing the negotiations. Iran could only remain at the table if it agreed to swallow a major and public humiliation. The Iranian government may not do that; it may be politically unable to do that even if it wants to.

And oh, by the way, the Senate bill requires the United States to provide military support to Israel if it attacks Iran. Not if Israel is attacked by Iran; we are in another Mideast war if Israel itself is the attacker. And they say Kaiser Wilhelm II gave a “blank check” to Vienna in 1914…

This provision of the Senate bill points to the most important fact about it: it was de facto written in Tel Aviv. It was sponsored by Israel’s Likud government, it serves that foreign government, and it threatens to take the United States to war for the interests of Israel against our own interests.

How could such a thing happen? Because almost all members of Congress live in mortal terror of the Israeli lobby. Every Senator or Representative who has dared to take the lobby on has lost his seat. It pours enormous amounts of money into funding his opposition, and he loses. The Israeli lobby owns Congress like a kid owns a yo-yo, and it plays with it in the same way.

Given the multitude of disasters involvement in another war would probably bring to this country, the Israeli lobby’s push for the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013 is nothing less than a terrorist attack. Its weapons are money and votes, not bombs, but the effects could easily be the same: thousands of Americans dead and billions (or trillions) of money lost. The damage to our economy could be fatal. And in the end, the Fourth Generation would win another victory.

Lose-lose is seldom wise policy. Is there a chance the American people could wake up on this one, the way they did to stop an attack in Syria?

The Rights of Men or the “Rights of Man?”

In the comic book version of history promoted by the left, all Europe groaned under the weight of tyrannical absolute monarchs, who could do whatever they pleased, until the glorious French Revolution recognized the “Rights of Man” (all of which it proceeded to violate). As usual with the Whig interpretation of history, none of it is true.

After the fall of Rome, absolute monarchy was rare in the West until the late 17th and 18th centuries. Kings’ subjects had rights, lots of them, and they were not shy about claiming them. Medieval in origin—the Middle Ages were on the whole a good time, not a bad one—they differed from the “Rights of Man” in fundamental respects. First, they were real, specific, and concrete, not air-fairy promises. I, as a subject, have the right to the products of this field. I have the right to having my grain ground at this mill, at a price not to exceed this much. I have the right not to pay these taxes. I have the right to take certain grievances to the king, in person. I have the right to walk this path (still with us as right-of-way). I have the right, depending on my function in society and thus my class, to serve in the king’s army, or to refuse to serve in his army. If you violate my rights, you will face a dangerous rebellion.

Second, these rights of men (and, differently, women) could neither be established nor withdrawn by law. Rather, they were first established in fact by being exercised, then enshrined in custom, and only finally recognized by law, based on precedent. The rights came first, the law afterward.

This made traditional rights—we know them best as the “rights of Englishmen,” which is what the Americans rebelled to defend in 1776—robust. Because the “Rights of Man” are invented by legislative fiat, they can be easily withdrawn by legislative fiat. Because they depend on the state, they can be withheld by the state. The constitution of the Soviet Union was full of rights, but the same state that created them could and did ignore them. The same thing has occurred in western Europe, where “rights” such as free speech are being withdrawn at the demand of the cultural Marxists. Whatever they deem “hate speech,” which is to say open defiance of cultural Marxism, is now prosecuted.

Before the rise of absolute monarchy in a few places, most prominently France, in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, kings had to respect their subjects’ rights. In Spain, a new king, as part of his coronation, had to visit each province, formally swearing to respect that province’s rights. Even in France, the parliaments (which were courts, not legislative bodies) could and regularly did defy the king and block actions he wished to take right up to the catastrophe of 1789. That disaster, the French Revolution, began because the king could not levy new taxes without the approval of the Estates General, which he had to call into session. That was one of his people’s rights.

Ironically, in the 18th century absolute monarchy was not traditional, it was a violation of tradition and its sweeping away. Those promoting it were the equivalents of today’s progressives, not conservatives, who fought to defend traditional rights. Progressives, then as now, wanted an all-powerful central government that could push through their agenda, the people’s rights be damned. In most of Europe, they were not successful in creating the all-powerful monarchs they wanted. In most German states, the Landstände, which were legislatures like France’s Estates General, retained significant power.

Conservatives reject rights created by the wave of a hand, at the demand of some philosopher or ideology (a recent absurdity is “animal rights,” which cannot exist because animals cannot compel us to respect them). That is not because we are against rights, but because we know our rights can neither be created nor legitimately taken away by the state. Something is our “right” because it has been for a long time. Its origin lies in precedent, not politics. If a government violates it, we have the right to rebel and demand its restoration. In both Europe and America, where culturally Marxist governments are violating real rights on a massive basis, rebellion is growing. People want the rights of men, not the evanescent “Rights of Man.”

Why “Judeo-Christian?”

Some readers have inquired why we often use the term “Judeo-Christian” to describe Western culture, instead of just “Christian.” The reason we do so has nothing to do with modern Israel or present-day Judaism. Rather, like much on traditionalRIGHT, it reflects historical accuracy.

Western culture has often been described as a product of Athens and Jerusalem, Athens standing for reason and logic and Jerusalem for monotheism and a moral code. Athens and Jerusalem have often been in tension with each other, and that tension has been one of the sources of Western culture’s dynamism.

While Jesus Christ’s earthly life centered on Jerusalem, the West’s moral code finds its origins there long before he lived. That moral code, including the Ten Commandments, traces to ancient, Old Testament Judaism. So, of course, does monotheism. Western culture is unimaginable without either, much less without both. Hence we describe it as “Judeo-Christian.” Honesty about the historical record demands we do so.

The New Covenant Christ established changes the basis for salvation from following the law laid down in the Old Testament to faith, i.e., accepting Jesus Christ as the Messiah and our Savior. However, the Old Testament remains important to Christians as a moral guide. Christ came, as He reminds us, not to abolish the law but to fulfill the law. The Ten Commandments remain mandatory for Christians, as do many other broad rules in the Old Testament, such as charitable giving. It is only narrow rules, such as those pertaining to ritual purity or forbidden foods, that fall away. While the New Covenant supersedes the Old Covenant, it also incorporates important elements of the Old, enough so that our culture remains Judeo-Christian. Again, that is the clear historical record.

Understanding Western culture as Judeo-Christian is especially important for conservatives because it is perhaps the central reason conservatism rejects fascism (and fascism’s sub-set, National Socialism). At its root, fascism was an attempt to abolish the whole Judeo-Christian heritage of Western culture and return to the value system of the ancient world, where power was the highest good. Athens might have been too soft for fascism; Rome and Sparta were more its inspirations. What astonished the ancient world about Christianity was not that its Savior died and rose from the dead; that was claimed by many mystery cults. What was astonishing, indeed incomprehensible to the ancients, was that Jesus Christ said he came to serve, not to be served. That stood the entire ancient world’s hierarchy of values on its head.

Historical accuracy and intellectual honesty—both enemies of cant—are among traditionalRIGHT’s most important values. Appropriately to this topic, they spring from both Jerusalem and Athens. They are Western, and we uphold them for the same reasons we uphold the rest of the West’s heritage: because they are true, because they are good, and because they are ours. May they always remain so, all ideologies to the contrary.

The View From Olympus 20: Scratch Another State

Several years ago, one of the “causes” favored by the Washington establishment and its globalist partners in the European Union was breaking up the state of Sudan. They prevailed, and through the spending of billions of taxpayers’ dollars and Euros, the facade of a new state was brought forth and named South Sudan. Over the past several weeks, that pseudo-state has dissolved in Fourth Generation war, of the sub-category “war between ethnic groups.”

Quelle surprise! The only real surprise is that the globalist elites are still surprised when their handiwork destroys yet another state. Or at least they pretend to be, pretense being a necessary quality in those who would be members of the establishment. Everyone not playing a game of “let’s pretend” figured out long ago that in an age of Fourth Generation war, when a state is fractured its remnants continue to fracture. The end result is not “democracy” and “human rights” as defined by Jacobins but bottomless chaos and statelessness’s usual outriders, war, plague, famine, and death. None of which counts for anything to the establishment, which justifies itself by its stated intentions, not its usual results.

Meanwhile, back in the Sudan, which is again merely a geographic expression, two ethnic groups, the Nuer and the Dinka, are doing what they have always done, namely killing each other. Why? Because he’s a Dinka and I’m a Nuer, or vice versa. That is war at its most elemental, reaching far back into pre-history. As ground for killing, it is quite enough. With spears and bows replaced by AKs and technicals, the body count is far higher than it used to be. Grafting the products of modernity onto traditional societies usually makes a mess.

Why did the establishment crusade to break up the state of Sudan? Because it was a corrupt, inefficient tyranny. Of course it was: it’s in Africa. There as in much of the world, the options are tyranny or anarchy. The fortunate get an honest and efficient tyranny, but those are few, and none are African. The billions of dollars spent to prop up the Potemkin state of South Sudan mostly went to Swiss bank accounts. Again, that’s Africa. They did not create a state. A piece in the January 1 New York Times reported that, as is the case in all pseudo-states,

Instead of governing through strong institutions, many power brokers and generals in this nation still essentially command their own forces, their loyalties to the government often determined by their cut of the national oil revenues.

“It is an extortion racket with bargaining ongoing on a regular basis, with either violence or the threat of violence” as a form of negotiation, said Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation at the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

That describes virtually all the pseudo-states the globalist elites have created by their wars against real states: Libya, Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan (which under the Taliban became as real a state as Afghanistan can). The chain of serial failure will continue (they really, really want to do Syria but fear the cries of “ a lá lanterne ” from their voters if they do), because the Globalists are Jacobin ideologues and all ideologies demand shutting out reality. Anyone “in” who dissents from Jacobinism is immediately “out.” After all, what’s more important, additional thousands of little brown people dead or your career?

Realism knows that when Fourth Generation war raises its head in a typical corrupt third world tyrany, the best possible outcome is that the tyranny effectively represses it. That is what appears to be happening in Egypt (you can hear the globalists clucking). If both we and the Syrian people are lucky, it may happen in Syria, as badly off as the state there now is. If the public makes it clear to both the American and Europan Establishments that they want to stay out, the state, and with it some measure of order, may still have a chance, even in Africa. Sadly, for the Sudan, it’s already too late.