The Banks, Russia, and the Oligarchic Takeovers

I had always been curious on why supposedly capitalist bankers supported Vladimir Lenin’s destruction of Russia and his proposal for a communist state. It doesn’t make sense that people who believe in the free market (e.g., bankers) would support a man who openly wants to destroy the Free Market. Why would they do that? The evidence and literature is out there (I’ve read some of it. Other books are available for free in .pdf format. Those I will not read. I can’t stand .pdf books).

One line of argument is that Capitalism and Marxism are not fundamentally opposed to one another. In this sense I agree with Karl Marx that Capitalism dialectically leads to Marxism. More to the point, both systems have the same anthropology: they both reduce man’s existence to economic factors (We enlightened moderns ridicule the ancients for believing that “gods and powers” ruled the world. But this is the same mentality of the academy today: instead of “gods” we have unseen “forces,” Smith’s “invisible hand”). So one could argue that it is not contradictory for Wall Street bankers to financially support Lenin’s war against the Tsar.

That’s true but that doesn’t explain why they did it. I have some suggestions:

* Socialism, perhaps not as evident in its more raw, communist forms, has long yearned for a banking apparatus that could control the currency. Initially, this meant that the State should control the banks and the currency, and a few of the English Socialists advocated that. The more perceptive Socialists realized this wasn’t good enough, for what would happen if a country suddenly became hard-line nationalist and religious in outlook? More perceptive oligarchs like the Schiffs, Rothschilds, and Rockefellers saw the value in having control over a currency in a statist fashion, but by an institution that transcended the state (e.g., The Federal Reserve).

Fr Matthew Johnson writes in The Third Rome: Holy Russia, Tsarism, and Orthodoxy,

The revolution of 1905 was a direct result of the war, as the liberal press went wild attempting to link the loss to Japan with the “backwardness” of the system. Such propaganda was heard loud and clear in western capitals. The Russian government had long been considered the most threatening competitor to the British Empire As a result, the financial interests surrounding the House of Rothschild had slated Russia for destruction.

Jacob Schiff, long a student of the Rothschild mind and the beneficiary of her largess, loudly demanded Russia’s defeat. This question desperately needs to be dealt with, not least for the reason that the entirety, without exception, of “Russia historians” refuse to deal with it, so tightly bound are they to the robber baron foundations and their endless fronts for grant disbursements. Why, exactly, did the greatest capitalists in the world support, finance and wage a relentless propaganda campaign in favor of the communist revolutionaries? Author Eustace Mullins, a longtime student of that connection, gives a clue:

These Americans “of the finest temper” chose Lenin to do their work because he had outlined the plan they wanted in “The Threatening Catastrophe” in September 1917. “1. nationalization of the banks.” Ownership of capital which is manipulated by the banks is not lost or changed when the banks are nationalized and fused into one state bank, so that it is possible to reach a stage where the state knows wither and how from where and at what time millions and billions are flowing. Only control over bank operations providing they are merged into one state bank will allow, simultaneously, with other measures which can easily be put into affect the actual levying of income tax without concealment of property and income (66).

In other words, the communist program has always been in the interest of the bankers, so long as the communists can be kept under control. To completely standardize the Russian system — which did not have a central bank — was important if the massive wealth (both potential and actual) of the country was to be controlled. The massive economic success of Alexander III and St. Nicholas II was too titillating for the world’s oligarchy. Again,

Although Jacob Schiff’s personal agent, George Kennan, had regularly toured Russia during the later part of the nineteenth century, bringing in money and arms for the Communist revolutionaries (his grandson said that Schiff had spent $20 million to bring about the Bolshevik revolution) more concerted aid was called for to support an entire regime. Kennan also aided Schiff in financing the Japanese in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905; the Japanese decorated Kennan with the Gold War Medal and the Order of the Sacred Treasure. In 1915, the American International Corporation was formed in New York. Its principle goal was the coordination of aid, particularly financial assistance to the Bolsheviks which had previously been provided by Schiff and other bankers on an informal basis. The new firm was funded by J. E Morgan, the Rockefellers and the National City Bank. . . (64-5).

The connections between the Schiff, Rockefeller and Rothschild interests and the Bolsheviks — actually all Russian revolutionaries of whatever stripe — are generally suppressed by mainstream academia. It is no surprise that the successors of these same capitalists, such as the Rockefeller Foundation cult or the Carnegie Institute, fund the majority of research that takes place in America’s hallowed halls.

Famous British historian Nesta Webster writes in her Surrender of an Empire:

Had the Bolsheviks been, as they are frequently represented, a mere gang of revolutionaries out to destroy property, first in Russia, and then in every other country, they would naturally have found themselves up against organized resistance by owners of property all over the world, and the Moscow blaze would have rapidly been extinguished. It was only owing to the powerful influences behind them that this minority party was able to seize the reins of power and, having seized them, to retain their hold of them to the present day. (102)

And further, Anthony Sutton, fellow at the Hoover Institution, writes in his Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution:

In brief, this is a story of the Bolshevik revolution and its aftermath, but a story that departs from the usual conceptual straitjacket approach of capitalists verses Communists. Our story postulates a partnership between international monopoly capitalism and international revolutionary socialism for their mutual benefit. The final human cost of this alliance has fallen upon the shoulders of the individual Russian and the individual American. Entrepreneurship has been brought into disrepute and the world has been propelled towards inefficient socialist planning as a result of these monopoly maneuverings in the world of politics and revolution. (102).

Nevertheless, the revolution of 1905 was a prelude to the later revolution, and funded by the same people for the same final goal: the complete standardization of the Russian state and therefore, the complete transparency of Russian financial transactions. In other words, standardization means control. The ultimate capitalist, as well as the ultimate communist gnosis is the complete concentration of all productive forces under the control of a single, unified body. In this case, the Rockefellers, Schiffs and Warburgs, as well as Lenin, who was their agent, had identical interests.

(Another side-note on social nationalist economics)

Nationalizing banks and industry is always tricky. Hayek pointed out in The Road to Serfdom that federal governments rarely have the knowledge to anticipate future economic factors; meaning, there will always be a shortage or glut of various materials. This is particularly true in liberal democracies, but it is not as true in Social Nationalist countries (like Russia, China, Belarus, and in a much weirder sense, Venezeula).

A free-market apologist will quickly respond that a social nationalizing will never produce the economic marvels of a Bill Gates. Sure, you might rescue 40% of the people from poverty (as much as I don’t like him, that is precisely what Chavez did, along with reducing the infant mortality rate by 20%!), but the economic geniui will never be able to reinvest that capital.

Yeah, I guess that’s true. Oh well. However, when countries nationalize the currency and the banks, they make themselves independent of the World Bank, IMF, and other devious oligarchies. This means when George Soros wants to topple currencies in a region (for instance, southeast Asia), countries who are independent of world markets avoid that catastrophe (like China).

Unfortunately, nationalizing the banks has about the same long-term appeal as having a strong defense budget: it does tighten the economy and is their primarily to preserve the country for temporary threats. Fact of the matter is at this moment in history nationalist countries are under open attack by the world oligarchs. Why else do liberal rags like Time Magazine and conservative rags like The Weekly Standard equally demonize Putin, Lukashenko, al-Assr of Syria, and others (or in another time frame, Milosevic)? Countries that stand against a unified world market, countries that say “Our heritage, culture, and faith are more important than letting George Soros topple countries simply so an oil pipeline can pass through”–these countries will always be under attack, and it doesn’t matter from whom: liberal and conservative are united in their opposition.

And this is partly why I don’t think every country should be a free-market anarcho-capitalist regime. If you are threatened by enemies on every side who openly plot your country (and heritage and faith–Obama’s advisor Zbignew Brzrzenski openly called for the destruction of the Russian church; Clinton’s defense minister Cohen cheered as he bombed Serbian churches), then decentralized governments simply won’t work. They won’t last.

Personally, I have an anarchist streak in me (not in the “bombs and beards” sense, to quote Tolkien), but I know that simply won’t work.

Warping Lenin: A Social Nationlist’s Economic Response

Given Obamanomics today, it is misleading at best for conservative folk to criticize Big Business and “capitalism,” if for no other reason one will be called “socialist” and deemed complicit in the drunken government spending.

(Oh, and by “social nationalist” I do not mean the same thing as “national socialist” per 1930s Germany.)

I don’t plan to criticize Obama here, simply because there is no need to. One does not criticize a train wreck for “bad driving.” You just watch. But I don’t think “capitalism” is the answer. First of all, the capitalism of today is actually corporationism–an entity both John McCain and Obama will defend at all costs. It’s a far cry for Adam Smith, who was not without his problems as well.

In a sense I defend the free market, if by that you mean that small farmers and small business owners may do with their resources what they wish. I reject an “absolute free market” because I don’t think that Goldman-Sachs, Archer Daniels Midland should be allowed to pull their stunts in a way that threatens the small farmer and the local village.

Recently I read an interesting article summarizing Lenin’s critique of elitist corporational capitalism. Before I say the following I make it clear I am not defending Lenin. I believe he was fully possessed by Satan (as were some of the Wall Street bankers and capitalists who financed him–that is not a contradiction in terms; another post will show why Wall Street wanted a communist takeover in Russia).

On another note, I don’t know why Lenin really took the time to critique corporational capitalism. If, as Marx said, communism is the necessary conclusion to capitalism, and one must go through the corporational phase first, why did Lenin care?

Lenin’s Lesson

Lenin, echoing Karl Marx, also predicted that capitalism would eventually become imperialistic in nature, with a limited number of corporations controlling a huge portion of the global resources.

According to Lenin, whose theories are starting to get a second look from some Western economists, there are five defining characteristics of capitalist imperialism:

1) The concentration of production and capital developed to such a level that it creates monopolies that play a decisive role in economic life.

2) The merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of “finance capital,” of a domineering financial oligarchy.

3) The export of capital, as distinguished from the export of commodities.

4) The formation of international capitalist monopolies that share the global markets among themselves.

5) The territorial division of the entire globe among the greatest capitalist powers is completed.

Yeah, that’s not the free market “the way it used to be in good ole-America.” It’s really pointless now to argue on how to get back to the old capitalist way of Industrial Revolution England. It’s not going to happen (and who would want it?). Secondly, assuming we get back to the “capitalist ideal,” how do the capitalists answer the criticism that it is just a matter of time before the “dialectic to Marxism” repeats itself again? (This is also the reason I oppose Tea-Parties and “let’s get back to the Constitution.”).

The following is not new to me. I’m just repeating what a lot of other theologians and philosophers have said. A few decades ago Alasdair MacIntyre argued that “communal ethics” and politics is the wave of the future. MacIntyre is right–I am applying his insights to economics (that idea is original with me). I am taking a lot of my ideas from Fr Matt Johnson. The following is from him. He is describing how Putin was able to bring Russia from a 5th world country after the Clinton-Yeltsin years to a first world country with a stronger economy than Canada, all in ten years.

The way he did this defied all “sound economic principles” (e.g., see He was told that nationalizing the banks and much of the economy will necessarily ruin the country (there is a good way and a bad way to nationalize banks; Obama is doing the bad way). He kicked out the IMF and the World bank, rejecting their “help” (which would have been practically the same thing as going to a Mafia don for help) and as a result, his country prospered and he has a popularity rating of 85%.

In the following, substitute “American” or “Celtic” workers for “Russian” workers and you get the same idea.

A Social Nationalist Response

1. Profits need to be shared with Russian workers. Direct foreign investment must come with guarantees for worker safety and a rate of pay that is proportional to the profitability of the enterprise.

2. Russian workers will need a say in management. Worker’s councils should be convened as a matter of government policy to consult with management concerning pay, safety and any grievances that might arise.

3. Foreign investors will continually be under the surveillance of the state in terms of the treatment of the natural environment.

4. All foreign investors will be required to support local institutions, including Orthodox churches, theater companies, health clinics, libraries, local artists and social insurance.

5. Under no circumstances should foreign money be channeled into political parties, candidates or causes.

6. All food purchased by the investing firm must come from local agriculture if possible.

7. The labor force in any given enterprise, at all levels, must be at least 80% Russian.

8. Foreign enterprises will have at least some responsibility to work with local government to improve local infrastructure.

More notes from Bathellos’s Byzantine Christ

The Notion of Will in Saint Maximus

Thelesis–basic term for “will.” Extremely loaded lexical background.
Gnome and proaerisis–a mode of willing bringing to mind sinful and post-lapsarian man.
Maximus makes the important distinction between willing and “mode of willing.” We can take the distinction even further to see the capacity of willing and the object of willing (119).
The “mode of willing” is the particular way in which a will is actualized.
More on Proaerisis–closely linked to the English words “choice” and “decision.” Gnome is a disposition of the appetite: Maximus uses these words to refer to the sinful state. Maximus excludes these modes of willing from Christ firstly, because it would introduce a human person in Christ. Why? While will is a faculty of nature, natures qua natures do not will. Persons do. If Christ had a deliberative will per gnome, and this was part of his human nature, he would now have a human person as well as a divine person (152). Further, as Joseph Farrell notes, gnome is a sub-category of “the mode of willing,” it is not identical with the mode of willing. Excluding the former does not negate the latter.
The Willing of the Saints in Heaven
Can saints have free-will in heaven? Sort of. Obviously, they will not sin, but neither will they be robots. How? The wills of the saints in heaven will be one according to the logos of nature, but varied insofar as the mode of movement of the wills is concerned, for each saint will participate in God in a manner proportionate to his desire (157; Farrell also scores huge points on this, Free Choice in St. Maximus the Confessor, 124).

Keeping the Bible as Mystery

Thoughts on Liturgy, Canon, and “Inerrancy.”

Early Fathers thought of Scripture as “divinely inspired.” No argument there. Their mentality, though, was different from the modern evangelical. I think most people today realize that you do not interpret Scripture with a “blank slate.” While I reject a lot of what Cornelius Van Til said, I think that move of us was genius (and was independently corroborated by multiple schools of theology and philosophy).
Secondly, most Evangelicals today realize that God didn’t “bomb” Earth with full, intact Bibles. There was a long and arduous process of canonization.
At this point the moronic Dan Brown/Elaine Pagels/Karen Armstrong crowd reasons thusly: “Aha! The early church didn’t have the Bible you have today; it only got the canon when it was strongarmed by Constantine at Nicea; therefore, the early Faith is different from yours and the gnostics and Gaia-children are actually the true Christians!’
Response: The Church had much of the Bible by 110 A.D (and had the Gospels by middle of the first century). And even where they wouldn’t have had the entire Bible, one has to ask the question: Spanning a distance from India to Ireland to the middle of the African continent to southern Russia, the church had a relatively uniform set of beliefs and practices–how did they do this without a complete Bible? This isn’t a rhetorical question. It is true they didn’t have a full Bible, but the lack of the full canon did not prevent the Church from worshiping correctly. So, what was the “glue” that held the church intact?
At this point one can argue that it was “The Holy Spirit, Liturgy, and/or Holy Tradition.” I guess those are all true answers, but I think I can point to something more concrete–or at least use the “pat” answers in a more concrete fashion.
Liturgy and the Mystery of the Bible in Worship

The Bible was originally meant for use in liturgy. It was to direct the people to the knowledge of God (of course, daily bible readings and meditation on passages outside or Liturgy are necessary for piety, and all the Fathers did that anyway–how else could St John Chrysostom have memorized the entire bible!). In the earlier days of the Church, the only way the people knew which Scriptures were which, or who wrote them, was in the public worship of God. The texts were read aloud. Apostolic tradition told you that St Matthew wrote Matthew (I’ve literally seen first year students at a liberal arts college lose their faith on this point–since the gospel of Matthew doesn’t say that Matthew wrote this book, how do we know for sure? My thoughts: people who knew Matthew and John–like St Ignatius–said that Matthew and John wrote this book). But how did you know of apostolic tradition? You heard it in the public liturgy, which included but is not reduced to the public reading of the Gospels.
While this next part my just be myself thinking out loud, but I find a “Mystagogical” and liturgical use of the Bible to be helpful to my mental health, among other things. I can accept the Bible as “inspired and infallible” without freaking out over the thousand minute questions that come from the “inerrancy debates: ” how do you explain the discrepancies in x, y, and z? Doesn’t this prove the Bible’s wrong?” Absurd questions. The Bible is not a scientific database of Enlightenment-framed propositions. It is a book of mystery that reveals Christ when opened by Christ via the Holy Spirit in the Church.
“And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and loose its seals? And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. But one of the elders said to me, Do not weep. Behold the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”
And reading the Bible as mystery also preserves its supernaturalism. It avoids rational disection and postmodern deconstructionism: it many ways it is an icon in the truest sense of the word: it reveals, if in a slanted way, Christ and the heavenly world (especially in the Apocalpyse). And it’s “slantedness” is not a mark against it. Because it has multiple depths in it, it defies simplistic rationalizations and deconstructions. In other words, I am not a foundationalist.
I’ll try to explain that last paragraph later.

Rough Notes on Person and Nature

This is a (very!) rough outline from Demetrios Bathellos’ The Byzantine Christ. I am doing this upon reflection from a conversation at David‘s Blog. This is one of the best books on Christology I have read.

Cappadocian View of person and nature: ousia has the same relation to hypostasis as common has to particular. A nature/essence becomes a person/hypostasis by possessing particular idioms. Problem with this: if the human nature of Christ lacked particular characteristics, it would not be a real nature (38-39). For Leontius, however, to nature applies the logos of being while to hypostasis applies the logos of being by itself (41).
anhypostasis: without a person/hypostasis. The anti-Chalcedonians wanted to prove that without a nature there is not a person, and to introduce a human nature of Christ is to introduce a human person of Christ, which is sheer Nestorianism. What Leontius wanted to say is that if the human nature existed apart from the Logos, it would exist as a human person. But it doesn’t exist apart from the Logos.
Leontius of Jerusalem defines hypostasis as “distance, separation, and subsisting by itself” (45).
We must reject the claim that a human nature cannot exist without a human person. The human nature of Christ is an authentic human nature. It never existed as a human person because it never existed apart from the Divine Logos (46).
Unity of the Logos and Monotheletism: It is true that an overemphasis on the divine hypostasis of the Logos in Christology may overshadow and eventually undermine the completedness of Christ’s humanity. Two points need to be made: there is no necessary connection between accepting that Christ has a divine hypostasis, on the one hand, and monotheletism on the other hand. If the will and energy are natural faculties–faculties of the nature–the divinity of the Person does not endanger them (53).
Actually than rather denying a human will to Christ, monotheletism resigned it to a merely passive state (66).
The humanity of Christ is more or less a passive instrument (71).
The monothelites operated under the presupposition that a difference of wills necessarily equals an opposition of wills. This is the same reasoning by today’s postmodern thinkers regarding an ontology of violence: differance is perceived as violence/opposition.
Organon concept: Is the fact that the Logos moves the human flesh of Christ necessarily a monotheletite statement? No. One can say this (per Cyril and Athanasius) as long as one doesn’t undermine the human will (93).
Cf. Soloviev’s interesting criticism of monotheletism on p.98 n. 206

The Dyothelite Christology of St Maximus the Confessor

Maximus sought the unity of Christ not on the level of nature but on the level of hypostasis (101).

Hypostasis: it is an essence with idioms, or the essence of an individual man that includes all his idioms (102). Mode of existence = it is impossible for beings to exist without their mode of the existence. However, person is not identical with mode of existence (else we turn the humanity of Christ into a person). Hypostasis responds to the question “who” and indicates an “I” (104; cf. von Balthasar). Hypostasis is an ontological category. It does not have to do with the existential domain in the modern sense nor with the unity of consciousness (104).

Maximus distinguishes the human nature of Christ from the human person: a hypostasis subsists by itself. The humanity of Christ was never a hypostasis because it never subsisted by itself (104).

Hypostatic (a)Symmetry

In Christ the divine nature exists prior to the human, whereas for man the soul comes into existence simultaneously with the body. In Christ the divine hypostasis is personal.

Maximus and Essence
Maximus identifies the divine essence with the three persons of the Trinity, but this is aimed not at erasing the all-important distinction between nature and hypostasis, but rather at excluding any sort of tetra-theistic conception of God which would make the essence would be a fourth God beside the three Persons (109). Accordingly, Maximus identifies Christ with the two natures, in order to prevent a tertium quid existing alongside the natures (e.g., this is what Bulgakov meant by Sophia). The “who” is identified with the “whats” without being reduced to them (109-110).

The Ontological Priority of Person/hypostasis over nature/essence
Hypostasis is necessarily nature but nature is not necessarily hypostasis (111).

The Logos is identifiable with the Divine Nature according to Nature and with both Natures according to Hypostasis
The flesh differs with the Logos according to essence. “Therefore, it is clear, that for Maximus, whereas the Logos is identical with both natures according to hypostasis–since booth natures are united in one hypostasis, which is identical with the incarnate logos, who is their hypostasis–he is identical wtih the incarnate Logos–he is identical only with the divine nature according to nature (112).

How Dangerous is Iran?

The coming Iranian war has me thinking on who are the true dangers. It’s a question that doesn’t have an immediate “easy answer.” Three of the most important cultural/political/historical books I’ve read are Spenser’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam, Trifkovic’s, The Sword of the Prophet, and Defeating Jihad. And of course, one must always mention how the US government imported thousands of Muhajaddin from Iran and Afghanistan (including associates of bin Laden) into Serbia for the purpose of killing Christians.

Knowing all that, people immediately jump to the conclusion that all Muslims are bad and destroying “muslimdom.” To make the argument stronger, the Quran teaches that believers must bring Dar al-Islam to the Dar al-Harb. The Muslims who flew the planes into the towers were not extremists by Islamic standards: they were simply doing what they’ve always done, except now facilitated by technology and money.
That being said, going and fighting many different wars against Islamic countries (usually and only for the sake Israel) is not actually helping weaken Islam. I won’t go into the arguments for “blowback” at the moment. But there is another factor: there are numerous Christians in the Middle East who suffer more under Israel than they do under Muslim regimes (Syria is 35% Greek Orthodox and according to some estimates Israel is 20% Christian). In fact, the second strongest political party in Syria, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, was started by a Christian!
Of course, believers are being persecuted in Muslim countries. That’s not for debate. But that’s not universally the case at the moment. I say all of that to clarify the idea that not all Muslim countries in the Middle East are necessarily bad for Christians. Accordingly, fighting Muslim countries is not necessarily good. I found the following at Foreign Policy’s website (I’m actually linking to Voice of Reason because I think the article is archived and inaccessible at FP).

GDP: United States — 13.8 trillion
Iran –$ 359 billion (U.S. GDP is roughly 38 times greater than Iran’s)

Defense spending (2008):
U.S. — $692 billion
Iran — $9.6 billion (U.S. defense budget is over 70 times larger than Iran)

Military personnel:
U.S.–1,580,255 active; 864,547 reserves (very well trained)
Iran– 525,000 active; 350,000 reserves (poorly trained)

Combat aircraft:
U.S. — 4,090 (includes USAF, USN, USMC and reserves)
Iran — 312 (serviceability questionable)

Main battle tanks:
U.S. — 6,251 (Army + Marine Corps)
Iran — 1,613 (serviceability questionable)

U.S. — 11 aircraft carriers, 99 principal surface combatants, 71 submarines, 160 patrol boats, plus large auxiliary fleet
Iran — 6 principal surface combatants, 10 submarines, 146 patrol boats

Nuclear weapons:
U.S. — 2,702 deployed, >6,000 in reserve
Iran — Zero

One might add that Iran hasn’t invaded anyone since the Islamic revolution, although it has supported a number of terrorist organizations and engaged in various forms of covert action. The United States has also backed terrorist groups and conducted covert ops during this same period, and attacked a number of other countries, including Panama, Grenada, Serbia, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq (twice), and Afghanistan.

By any objective measure, therefore, Iran isn’t even on the same page with the United States in terms of latent power, deployed capabilities, or the willingness to use them. Indeed, Iran is significantly weaker than Israel, which has roughly the same total of regular plus reserve military personnel and vastly superior training. Israel also has more numerous and modern armored and air capabilities and a sizable nuclear weapons stockpile of its own. Iran has no powerful allies, scant power-projection capability, and little ideological appeal. Despite what some alarmists think, Iran is not the reincarnation of Nazi Germany and not about to unleash some new Holocaust against anyone.

The more one thinks about it, the odder our obsession with Iran appears. It’s a pretty unlovable regime, to be sure, but given Iran’s actual capabilities, why do U.S. leaders devote so much time and effort trying to corral support for more economic sanctions (which aren’t going to work) or devising strategies to “contain” an Iran that shows no sign of being able to expand in any meaningful way? Even the danger that a future Iranian bomb might set off some sort of regional arms race seems exaggerated, according to an unpublished dissertation by Philipp Bleek of Georgetown University. Bleek’s thesis examines the history of nuclear acquisition since 1945 and finds little evidence for so-called “reactive proliferation.” If he’s right, it suggests that Iran’s neighbors might not follow suit even if Iran did “go nuclear” at some point in the future).

Obviously, simple bean counts like the one presented above do not tell you everything about the two countries, or the political challenges that Iran might pose to its neighbors. Iran has engaged in a number of actions that are cause for concern (such as its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon), and it has some capacity to influence events in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, as we have learned in both of these countries, objectively weaker adversaries can still mount serious counterinsurgency operations against a foreign occupier. And if attacked, Iran does have various retaliatory options that we would find unpleasant, such as attacking shipping in the Persian Gulf. So Iran’s present weakness does not imply that the United States can go ahead and bomb it with impunity.

What it does mean is that we ought to keep this relatively minor “threat” in perspective, and not allow the usual threat-inflators to stampede us into another unnecessary war. My impression is that Admiral Mullen and SecDef Gates understand this. I hope I’m right. But I’m still puzzled as to why the Obama administration hasn’t tried the one strategy that might actually get somewhere: take the threat of force off the table, tell Tehran that we are willing to talk seriously about the issues that bother them (as well as the items that bother us), and try to cut a deal whereby Iran ratifies and implements the NPT Additional Protocol and is then permitted to enrich uranium for legitimate purposes (but not to weapons-grade levels). It might not work, of course, but neither will our present course of action or the “last resort” that Mullen referred to last weekend.

Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Transformation of Divine Simplicity

The problem that Basil and Gregory faced was reconciling the doctrine of divine simplicity with a coherent theological epistemology. To say that God is simple is to deny any composition of parts in God whatsoever. This implies that there are no material parts that come together to constitute God (1).

Theological epistemology: the question of what can and cannot be known of God, considered apart from the abstract question of whether this knowledge is justified (4).

Identity thesis of Divine Simplicity: the claim that God’s essence and attributes are identifiable (5, Augustine and Aquinas).

Basil and Gregory’s view of Divine Simplicity: they oppose what would later be called the Identity Thesis. In fact, they view this as Eunomius’ position (6). Stump and Kretzman try to rehabilitate the Identity Thesis by pointing out the sense-reference distinction: distinctions in concepts we have about God do not necessarily relate to ontological distinctions in God. I guess that’s true, but that is also another way of saying the problem: they might be distinct concepts for us (e.g., for us justice is not the same as wrath), but it doesn’t address (1) is God’s act of justice the same as his act of wrath (St Basil specifically says it isn’t)? and (2) the problematic implications of the identity thesis, even granting the sense-reference distinction: if God’s act of willing is identical with his nature, and his nature is necessary, then God’s act of willing x is necessary, which means creation is necessary.

According to Galwitz, Gregory and Basil transformed the doctrine of Divine Simplicity. They want to avoid the horns of total apophaticism on one hand and the identity thesis on the other hand.

The goals of Gregory and Basil: to say that God is simple is to provide a sort of second-rule order for speaking about God. If one says “God is just” and “God is merciful,” one does not mean that justice and mercy constitute separate parts of God.

Eunomius’ Problem: there is a fundamental contradiction in saying that the simple divine essence is without beginning (agenetos) and begotten or generate (genetos). Gregory responds that it is Eunomius who is in contradiction: to say that God is simple is to say that goodness is not mixed with its contradictory, evil. The Cappadocians speak of simplicity in connection with the problem of divine consistency (8). cf. Gregory, Eun. 2.31ff

Results of the identity thesis: one must either sever God’s activities from God’s simple essence (per Eunomius) or appeal to an utterly mysterious monad (12).

Cappadocian simplicity does allow for positive statements about God.. They are not identical with the divine nature, but neither are they merely relative extrinsic properties. Rather, they are the proporia of the divine nature (13-14).