The lies and academic fraud of Climategate reminded us that it is almost impossible for even disinterested scientists to fathom the complex history of global climate change. But it also — and more importantly — reminded us how Western universities have turned into rigid medieval centers of intolerant orthodoxy. Our new academic monks, in their isolated sanctuaries — cut off by grants, subsidies, tenure, and cadres of obsequious graduate students from the grubby efforts of others to stay alive — have for years breezily issued all sorts of near-religious exegeses and edicts about the public’s ruination of the planet. We lesser folk were supposed to find salvation through installing windmills and junking our incandescent light bulbs under the tutelage of wiser overseers.
So add it all up: the Al-Arabiya interview, the Cairo speech, the distancing from Israel, the euphemisms like “overseas contingency operations” and “man-caused disasters,” the politically correct banishment of any anti-terrorism phraseology associated with Islam, the repeated announcements of the closing of Guantanamo and the trying of KSM in New York, the strange case of Attorney General Eric Holder, who can call his own fellow citizens “cowards” but not associate radical Islam with recent attempts by Muslims to kill those fellow citizens en masse — and we get Syria supplying terrorists with missiles, Iran ever closer to a bomb, and the largest number of terrorist attempts inside the U.S. over the past year than during any other twelve-month period since September 11, 2001.
Indeed, a trait of this administration is to speak far more harshly of fellow Americans than it does of our enemies: Arizonans vote to enforce federal immigration laws, so the administration offers them up to the Chinese as an example of American civil-liberties violations. In our morally equivalent world, a government that would enforce laws against those who entered the country illegally is not all that different from a government that not long ago killed more than 40 million of its own.
If Europe is our model of soft power; if Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other autocracies are the moral equivalents of democratic Israel; if it is not radical Islam that empowered a Hasan, an Abdulmutallab, or a Shahzad; if Iran can be reasoned with to abandon its nuclear agenda; and if Russia can be flattered into acting responsibly — then the world suddenly does not work in the way it has in the past 2,500 years of civilization.
What is common to all these disillusionments — the intolerance and dishonesty of environmental extremism, the European Union crackup, and Barack Obama’s renewal of Jimmy Carter’s failed foreign policy? They all can be traced to a global Western elite that in its intellectual arrogance confused late-20th-century technological progress with a supposed evolution in human nature itself. Heaven on earth was to be ushered in by those who deemed themselves so wise and so moral that they could remake civilization in their own image — even if that sometimes meant the end of disinterested research, basic arithmetic, and simple common sense.