- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 6, 2006

Jean-Francois Revel

Jean-Francois Revel, who died last weekend in Paris at 82, was a rarity among European intellectuals: a stalwart friend of freedom and a friend of the United States during the Cold War and the struggle against Islamofascism. An author of more than 30 books, including a three-volume history of Western thought, Revel referred to himself as a leftist. But in reality, he seemed more like a small-d Democrat along the lines of the late Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson: someone who, although not a conservative himself, made common cause with many on the political right in opposing the messianic totalitarian forces of our time.

From 1953 to 1969, Revel, living in Italy and France, learned about the United States through the filter of the European press, and unsurprisingly reached some very negative conclusions about this country. Revel began to realize that those impressions were wrong when he visited the United States in 1969 to research a book. During the 1970s, in books like “Without Marx or Jesus” and “The Totalitarian Temptation, ” he brilliantly dissected the self-righteousness and hypocrisy of European intellectuals who vilified the United States for all manner of sins real and imagined but showered Communist and Third World dictatorships with praise.

In the early 1980s, Revel grew darkly pessimistic about the chances that Western democracies would survive the intellectual elites he saw as rooting for its downfall. In “How Democracies Perish,” he appeared to suggest that democracies were preparing to self-destruct. But in 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, and Soviet communism imploded. While Revel was on target in pointing out the cowardice of the Western elites, he had failed to account for the internal weaknesses that ultimately caused the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact dictatorships to collapse.

In the final years of his life, Revel turned his attention to the threat posed by Islamist terror. In his book “Anti-Americanism,” published in 2003, Revel noted that in the wake of September 11, European nations, Muslim countries and rulers and journalists reached new heights of intellectual incoherence in attacking the United States.

“After the first gushings of emotion and crocodile condolences, the murderous assaults were depicted as a justified retaliation for the evil done by the United States throughout the world. This was the reaction of most Muslim countries, not all of which have Muslim majorities,” Revel wrote. “Here we see the habitual escape hatch of societies suffering from chronic failure, societies that have completely messed up their evolution toward democracy and economic growth; instead of looking to their own incompetence and corruption as the cause, they finger the West in general and the United States in particular.”

And Revel rightly had little patience for world leaders and Western elites who insisted that a) it was necessary to evaluate the terrorists’ motives for seeking to kill us, and b) the United States should not “launch a war against terrorism that could cause the entire planet to suffer.” Such thinking is nonsensical, Revel noted. It meant in effect that “A gang of suicidal fanatics, indoctrinated, trained and financed by a powerful and rich multinational terrorist organization…had murdered [nearly] three thousand people in the heart of Manhattan, yet it was the victim who had mysteriously become the aggressor. America’s mistake was to try to defend herself and eradicate terrorism, according to the America-haters. Obsessed by their hatred and floundering in illogicality, these dupes forget that the United States, acting in her own self-interest, is also acting in the interest of us Europeans and in the interest of many other countries threatened, or already subverted and ruined, by terrorism.”

Jean-Francois Revel, one of the most brilliant thinkers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, was also among the West’s most tenacious enemies of tyranny. Hopefully, in the coming years, more European intellectuals will follow his fine example.

Immigration inconsistencies

There’s a fundamental problem here that immigration supporters seems to be missing (“Thousands join boycott,” Page 1, Tuesday). Immigration proponents in politics and the media too frequently assume that illegal aliens are coming to this country in order to become U.S. citizens.

This is false. These illegal aliens come here to work and send money home. Remember, the only reason employers hire these people in the first place is that they don’t have to pay minimum wage, income taxes or Social Security taxes on them.

Recalling that the penalties for income-tax evasion are much harsher than for illegal entry to the country, the moment these people become citizens they also become unemployable. What the politicians who support illegal immigration are saying is that our economy is fundamentally dependant on illegal behavior. Something is wrong here.



Gas-tax holiday or no?

Some people have been calling for a gasoline tax holiday to give drivers immediate relief from high gasoline prices (“Bush orders suspension of gas rules,” Page 1, April 26). Such a holiday would not have the intended effect. Instead of reducing the after-tax price to the consumers, the tax holiday would increase the pre-tax price received by the gas stations. This is because the after-tax price must balance the supply and demand for gasoline; and, in the short run, the gas stations cannot increase the supply significantly.

Of course, in the long run, a permanent tax cut would give the oil industry the ability and the incentive to increase the supply of gasoline. This would then result in lower after-tax prices than would otherwise exist. But it is precisely the long run that the tax holiday idea ignores.

I expect that a tax holiday would merely give the enemies of the oil companies more ammunition to attack them. They might say something like, “See, the oil companies have stolen the tax benefit that we tried to confer on drivers. They just cannot resist the urge to gouge consumers.” Of course, this would be a lie that exploits the public’s ignorance of economics.

More generally, the oil companies have the right (and the moral duty to their shareholders) to charge as high a price as they wish and to earn as much profit as possible. But the same is true of everyone at every time. There is nothing special about oil companies at this time. It is the responsibility of the consumers to look out for their own interest by restraining their consumption if the price is too high or by looking for cheaper substitutes. Biting the hand that feeds you is always a bad policy.



Iran and Clinton policy debacles

The editorial, “Iran and the Clintonistas” (Wednesday), was spot-on in writing about the Iran policy debacle presided over by the Clinton administration when Mohammad Khatami became president in 1997. Unfortunately, this fiasco was not limited to “making conciliatory statements” and “relaxing sanctions on Iran,” including “an end of the ban on imports of products such as caviar and rugs.”

The most disastrous aspect of that policy was to blacklist the only effective and organized internal opposition to the tyrants in Iran, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK). Senior Clinton administration officials acknowledged that the move was “a goodwill gesture” to Tehran. Ironically, conciliation led not to moderation, but to the ascension of the most extremist faction of the Iranian theocracy, which is also hellbent on derailing the democratic process in Iraq.

The world is now faced with the prospect of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism arming itself with the world’s most dangerous weapon. How does one thwart this threat? The solution, as the Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi articulated during an address at the Council of Europe last April, lies neither in appeasement nor in a foreign war. It is democratic change by the Iranian people and their organized resistance.

Labeling the main component of the resistance, the PMOI, as “terrorist,” however, has hamstrung its potentials and seriously impeded democratic change in Iran. A majority in Congress and thousands of lawmakers in Europe have demanded the removal of the “terror” tag.

The PMOI played a crucial role in revealing Tehran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program and has acted as a major bulwark against the mullahs’ efforts to export their firebrand ideology to Iraq, which explains why the despots in Iran have recently attempted to curtail the right of thousands of PMOI members to free speech.

As an anti-fundamentalist Muslim movement, the PMOI is an ally in the fight for democracy in Iran as the world is trying to grapple with the specter of a nuclear-armed theocracy threatening not just the Middle East, but Europe and America as well.


National Council of Resistance of Iran


A simple solution for Herndon

Thank heaven for some sanity. I am glad to see people in Herndon and the editorial “Herndon’s rebuke” (Thursday) supporting local government and taxpayer dollars not being used to aid criminals and illegal activities.

Help should be given to the many legal immigrants, but those benefiting from the activity at the day laborer pickup sites should be the ones to pay.

There are charities and church groups that want to man pickup sites and supply coffee and water. That’s fine. Let them put up a tent on their property, where there is probably room for trucks and sport utility vehicles to drive by to pick up workers. If a vehicle picks up a worker, the driver pays $5. Every worker who rides away in the vehicle pays $1.

Try this system for six months and see what happens.



Belated, but welcome, DDT support

With regard to “U.S. takes new view on DDT in Africa” (Page 1, May 3): We Americans are fortunate, having eradicated malaria 50 years ago, thanks in large part to the insecticide DDT. Yet we continue to hear smug “environmentalists” continue to advocate for restrictions on the use of DDT to combat malaria in Africa, where millions die each year from this largely preventable scourge. When Kristin Schafer of the Pesticide Action Network calls for “healthy, safe alternatives for malaria control” I ask, “healthy for whom, exactly?”

Certainly not for the hundreds of millions who contract malaria and those who succumb to it. The article states, “Environmentalists liked things as they were previously” — as it was when even more died, needlessly, because of unscientific fears of this lifesaving chemical? Let us applaud the U.S. Agency for International Development for its belated but welcome turnaround to support increased use of cheap and effective DDT to save African lives.


Medical director

American Council on

Science and Health

New York



Click to Read More

Click to Hide