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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Should one ally with those with whom one disagrees? (updated)

(Republished following some minor editing).

Robert Spencer published a very thoughtful and chronically relevant article on 19 May 2006:

Should one ally with those with whom one disagrees?

Paul Weyrich once told me that I should never hesitate to ally with someone with whom I had disagreements on some issues.

Allies are hard to come by in any case, and agreement on one issue didn't require agreement on all issues. There are some with whom one should never ally, but they are few. I think it's good advice. This is important today, as I have called repeatedly for Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists and others to unite against the global jihad. This will require working with people with whom one disagrees.

The reason Mr. Spencer published this statement is because of some recent attacks:

This has come up because Lawrence Auster, a conservative writer, has been attacking me on a more or less regular basis lately for defending Hirsi Ali and other sins -- including the contention that I'm a "neoconservative." So I write this not to convince Auster of anything, but to try to clarify these issues for people of good will who may read this.

And why is Mr. Auster unhappy with supporting Ms. Ali?

Anyway, the heart of Auster's pique at me is that he believes that by defending Hirsi Ali, an atheist liberal, I am allying with someone who would destroy what I am ostensibly defending. He calls her "an enemy of our civilization."

The most important statements from Mr. Spencer follow:

I don't believe Hirsi Ali is an "enemy of our civilization." She holds to some positions with which I disagree, but the key difference between her and the Islamic jihadists is that I am confident Hirsi Ali will never try to murder me. We can work out our differences in peace in the public sphere, in rational discourse and debate.


It may be that she and I will be in the position of Murray Rothbard and William F. Buckley; Rothbard told Buckley, according to Auster, that although they were allies against Communism, they would be on opposite sides after Communism was defeated. That may be, but at this point I am only concerned with defeating the jihad -- and if that future break with Hirsi Ali or someone else does happen, it will happen within the political arena, and not play out with guns and bombs.

What about the "long run"? What about the longest run, after the war has been won?

It may be that I will be on opposite sides with many of my present allies if Islamic jihad is defeated and we all survive to work out our disagreements after that.

Periodically, we get similar attacks from those who believe that we are treasonous to our most fundamental philosophical values:

1. We share the blog with a "conservative," as they see it, who addresses issues from that perspective. (Our co-blogger never loses sight of the big picture or fails to hierarchicalize issues and values properly, however, but that seldom gets praised by detractors).

2. We are "soft" on Christianity, we are told, because rarely articles by some contributors make some small reference Christian values and concerns.

In Mr. Spencer's case, he indicates that his attacker sees him as insufficiently Christian. However, whatever position Mr. Spencer takes, he will always draw fires from those ideologues whose minds are two standard deviations or more away in either direction. Any position one takes will attract supporters and detractors. Both may be right or wrong in toto or in part. Bad supporters are just as deleterious as bad detractors.

However, success comes significantly from knowing and holding context. No, it is not the whole matter, but context comes hard to some supporters and detractors.

Mr. Spencer is "dead on" when he points out that his focus is ending the threat of Islamic jihad internationally, starting with us first.

I have often said that we need a broad coalition of Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, and more -- everyone threatened by the jihad -- in order to defeat the jihad. I stand by that statement, because as far as I can tell, no single one of those groups is strong enough to defeat the jihad by itself.

Mr. Spencer is not naive enough to think that any of us can win with a single group, no matter how dedicated. However dedicated they may be, there must be numbers of people who share the context of facing existential threat from Islam and see the need to neutralize it. When we fought WWII, for example, we allied with sundry nations, having differing cultures. Our own combatants came from differing races and religions. No one, taking a cue from Mr. Spencer, tells someone to stop sharing his foxhole and killing the enemy bent on his annihilation because he is ________ (Christian, atheist, Jew, negro, white, and so on).

None of us could or should ally with certain people, even if they want to defeat Islam. If these groups are among the anti-American and anti-reason fifth columnists, they cannot be allied with because they oppose our deepest values. They seek to overthrow our Constitution and destroy our country along with us. Christians, Jews, and a number of other of the religious per se do not.

Differences must be thoughtfully considered and not become sources of rejection just because of differences. For example, I am an atheist and have never made it a secret, but I ally with religious people, except Muslims. I am, if any classification fits, more of a "classic liberal," who has had the inestimable advantage of maturing under the power of the philosophy of Objectivism. This advantage has helped me understand and deal with an otherwise very difficult to understand world far better than any religion could ever provide. The philosophy really does not accommodate names like "liberal," "conservative," "moderate," and so on, because none of these terms really get to fundamentals, where the rubber really meets the road. However, I can ally with conservatives (excepting the militantly religious), liberals, and moderates, if they hold enough of the proper values for this fight with Islam.

What makes that possible? Is it craven compromising of my own values? Am I "making nice" to curry favor and win allies by pretending that some of their values, including their deepest values, do not run counter to mine?

Hardly. I keep in mind one of the themes of the negro civil rights movement that started in the mid-20th century. They used the phrase and the song, "Keep your eyes on the prize." And, they did, very successfully, thereby achieving moral and existential victories, long overdue.

Enter our Constitution. It keeps those of differing views at bay from imposing their views by physical force. Lose the Constitution, and we lose everything.

"Keep your eyes on the prize" really says it. It means, don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Put another way, it means hierarchicalizing one's values and having the integrity to achieve them. It means recognizing, among other things, that rarely in life do we have the luxury of dealing with pure cultures of anything. We must work with those who share cardinal values and do all we can to pursuade others to adopt our values as reality-based and rational--we are far more likely even to be heard and be in a position to persuade people to consider our values if we are not busy rejecting them so quickly because they differ. Even there, we will achieve a range from full to partial success to lack of success: It is much quicker and easier to move the Empire State Building without disassembly that change a culture in the same time or with the same amount of effort.

Of course, after the war has been won, we may go our separate ways. Bless the Constitution. In many cases, we may well be on opposite sides, but united under the Constitution. But, one must be alive and thriving in order to go those separate ways. One must first win the war. Otherwise, well, there is no otherwise.


  • At Sat May 20, 11:37:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    There is one bright spot about the ever growing threat posed by Islamic lunatics. Their position is so exclusionary and their rhetoric and practice so hate-filled that every other type of human being on the planet is a potential ally. I'm not sure who should or shouldn't be our allies in this struggle, but I do know that the sheer numbers of nations like China or India would give these latter-day Saracen hordes some pause.

  • At Sat May 20, 11:40:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    By the way. As distasteful as it was, the alliance with the Soviet Union during World War 2 undeniably shortened the war and its associated slaughter.

  • At Sat May 20, 01:03:00 PM PDT, Blogger Seth said…

    Treachery and Treason, foreign and domestic is usurping the US Constitution and English as the Only National Language.
    9/11 was in 2001, we find we could go to battle but we could not go to War for Victory, couldn't find the map or close our borders to all the enemy. We still find no Sustainable Quality Control program and an massive invasion of foreign dependents planting flags and re-colonizing Our nation. It has been a time when weak kneed politicians and/or weak kneed leaders may have found political correct polls for discovered cockroaches that don't swear allegiance to Our Constitution, because they ate it.
    These last 5 years we could battle in foreign sand but couldn't find the enemy aka Islam-Marxism because it sleeps in our very house and compromises Victory, confused Leaders still can't find an emergency way to close Our border doors and keep all enemies out, truly a sworn Constitutional duty, a responsibility for responsible Leaders.
    I do believe we are witnessing the selling of *The Compromise*, the next tragic event of the US, a re-constituted border, an abrogation, duplicity and humanitarians farming treason, a massive alien invasion and the New World Order of lessor values, standards, quality that is replacing Our standards and flag. It appears Our spinning politically correct spineless Leaders have regurgitated the Constitution, replace it with these undefended-open borders and has recycled Kant, Marx, Lenin, Mohammed, et al into The New World philosophy with Standards for All The Multiplying Sand Cockroaches of World dependence.

  • At Sat May 20, 05:23:00 PM PDT, Blogger Cubed © said…

    I was glad to see Spencer's article. I used to be attacked regularly when I commented at Jihad Watch, because one staff member did not like my atheism. No matter what I said, whatever I said was interpreted as "anti-Christian."

    Finally, I quit going up there. Apparently, Spencer himself sees the "Big Picture," and as I do, has confidence in the remaining shreds of the Constitution.

  • At Sat May 20, 05:29:00 PM PDT, Blogger Cubed © said…


    I fear, as you do, that we as a country are becoming frayed around the edge. The things that made this country great are being hidden from our school children, so that when those who would fundamentally alter our nation so that it no longer resembles what we were given by the Founders, they do not protest. They don't even recognize that anything is happening.

    It's all up to us.

  • At Sun May 21, 12:33:00 PM PDT, Blogger George Mason said…


    Within limits that old expression applies: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. That expression has always bothered me a bit, even if it is often true. Didn't Churchill say that he would ally with the Devil to defeat Hitler, when asked why he allied with Stalin? If we could bypass the government and go directly to the Chinese people, we might have a chance for effective alliance, but the Red Chinese Commie government wants us as gone as do the Muzzies.


    I think I followed your complex statement, and, if I did, I think you might well be right.


    Some of the Spencerites may be far less tolerant than Spencer, although he does get ruffled feathers easily.


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