Placid Conservative Discussion at UC Berkeley
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Question: How can you find the most interesting event on the Berkeley campus?

Answer: Look for the police guarding a lecture hall.

I knew I had arrived at the right place yesterday evening when I saw the long line of people waiting to be wanded and have their bags checked to enter a building, as several police officers stood nearby keeping an eye on things.

Security was tight, no doubt about it, but more importantly, Ayn Rand Institute-sponsored talk featuring Daniel Pipes, Victor Davis Hanson and Yaron Brook was not advertised widely, and as a result did not have dozens of loud-mouthed thugs trying to end the proceedings through sheer chaos. (That was what happened at Nonie Darwish's talk last October, although the Islam-reformer stuck it out through a rough scene where some members of the audience came to intimidate and disrupt.)

With a shortage of troublemakers and police stationed along the walls, the talk proceeded in calm fashion. The subject was the "Threat of Totalitarian Islam" and was part of a larger speaking tour with a rotating roster. Photoblogger ProtestShooter took some snapshots that showed the low-key atmosphere.

Of the three speakers, Victor Davis Hanson was the most upbeat about our efforts against political Islam, saying that many enemies have been killed or arrested over the last few years. But the military historian who has praised the superiority of the western approach to armed conflict said, "The war is half won, half lost."

He criticized the State Department for undermining the overall effort by banning the use of accurate words like caliphate and jihad.

There was general agreement that naming the enemy is critical. Otherwise, Washington can cite meaningless statistics about "terrorists" being routed, and we have no idea what has happened.

Free speech in general was understood as being under widespread attack because of political correctness and plain fear. Hanson said that the values of the Enlightenment are being lost in Europe.

A rare disagreement occurred when Hanson favorably compared America to Europe in assimilating Muslim immigrants, to the point where we had less to worry about in terms of jihadist terror erupting here.

Pipes said No, there are small-scale terrorist acts going on all the time in America that do not get national media attention. He noted the trial of Naveed Haq going on now in Seattle for the shootings at a Jewish center in 2006 that resulted in the murder of Pamela Waechter.

There could have been more discussion about immigration and how crazy it is to welcome potential enemies into America, but I shouldn't complain too much. It's the first event on campus in a while where I haven't felt either threatened by political violence or given a headache by left-wing looniness. So everything considered, it was a pleasant and intellectually stimulating evening where I got to hear two of my favorite writers debate a vital issue and even learned a few things.

It was almost like being at a... university.

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