On election tech and the California elections first, then Iraq second, then American Exceptionalism third.
But I can't resist posting this:
(picture from Superbike Planet)
Nicky Hayden, the 2006 World Champion of Motorcycling. For those of you who don't ride, you'll note three things - he's leaned over far enough that his knee is on the pavement, he's tucked completely in so that he doesn't slow the bike down at all. And he's going sideways - drifting the motorcycle out of the corner. Ride fast, take chances, win the championship.
Congratulations, Nicky!! And to "Doctor" Rossi who crashed out after a bad start and has conducted himself with as much sportsmanship and class as he shows skill on the bike. Next Year!!
What we have seen so far is that bin Laden lashes out spasmodically at targets of opportunity. The United States has been the consistent target of the attacks (though not the only one, of course) but bin Laden’s "strategy" (it can hardly be dignified with the term) is based on a delusion that he has explained many times: when hurt, the United States always cuts and runs. In the Isma'il interview, bin Laden said,
We think that the United States is very much weaker than Russia. Based on the reports we received from our brothers who participated in jihad in Somalia, we learned that they saw the weakness, frailty, and cowardice of US troops. Only 80 US troops were killed. Nonetheless, they fled in the heart of darkness, frustrated, after they had caused great commotion about the new world order.
Bin Laden thought that terrorist violence by itself would cause America to continue to retreat, to withdraw from Saudi Arabi and the rest of the Persian Gulf countries, enabling the Muslim ummah to realize their long-suppressed dream of a true Islamic society (bin Laden having a delusion that ordinary Muslim men and women truly thirsted for a Talibanic society for their own countries). Hurt the Americans enough, he said - more than once, on the record, - and they will flee.
Al Qaeda's political objectives were, and remain, well defined: reestablish the Islamic caliphate of yore. Then extend the caliphate into the middle of Africa, South Asia and parts of Europe and Southeast Asia. After that - these are very long-rage objectives - extend the rule of Islam across the entire globe. It matters not at the moment whether these are realistic goals. Islamists think they are.
Today, for both Islamists and the US, Iraq is the main battlefield. Whomsever prevails there will gain the intiative for many years to come, perhaps so strongly that the other side will not be able to take it away.
There are two main al Qaeda objectives to its fighting in Iraq.
1. Prevent the establishment of a democratic government and society there.
2. Compel the United States to withdraw its forces, hence its influence, before a democratic government is soundly established.
Obviously, these are two closely-related objectives. What is the threat to Islamism by democracy? Yussuf al-Ayyeri, one of Osama bin Laden's closest associates since the early 1990s, was killed by Saudi security forces in Riyadh in 2003. He wrote a book published by al Qaeda entitled, The Future of Iraq and The Arabian Peninsula After The Fall of Baghdad. In it Ayyeri wrote, "It is not the American war machine that should be of the utmost concern to Muslims. What threatens the future of Islam, in fact its very survival, is American democracy." Islamic absolutism, Ayyeri wrote, cannot exist inside a society where the people think they can pass their own laws and makes their own rules.
The memo says extremists are failing to enlist support inside the country, and have been unable to scare the Americans into leaving. It even laments Iraq's lack of mountains in which to take refuge. ... [The writer] claims to be impressed by the Americans' resolve. After significant losses, he writes, "America, however, has no intention of leaving, no matter how many wounded nor how bloody it becomes."
Today's sectarian violence in Iraq is no surprise. Even without al Qaeda there, millions of Shiites would have felt they had scores to settle. But in the same captured document, Zarqawi explained that sectarian violence would have to be fomented so that democratic sovereignty cannot take root.
"So the solution, and only God knows, is that we need to bring the Shia into the battle," the writer of the document said. "It is the only way to prolong the duration of the fight between the infidels and us. If we succeed in dragging them into a sectarian war, this will awaken the sleepy Sunnis who are fearful of destruction and death at the hands" of Shiites. ... "You noble brothers, leaders of the jihad [meaning other al Qaeda leaders - DS], we do not consider ourselves people who compete against you, nor would we ever aim to achieve glory for ourselves like you did," the writer says. "So if you agree with it, and are convinced of the idea of killing the perverse sects, we stand ready as an army for you to work under your guidance and yield to your command."
The greatest violence today in Iraq is between Iraqis, not the result of direct al Qaeda attacks. Inculcating sectarian violence has been enormously successful by al Qaeda and stands today as the greatest threat to a unified, democratic Iraq - so much so that serious talk is being given now to the idea of partitioning the country into near-autonomous provinces, demracated by ethnicity or tribal identity or Muslim denomination or some combination of all. Al Qaeda must be licking its chops at that prospect. It would be much more able to infiltrate and dominate weakened provinces seriatim than try to take on the whole country. I wondered a few days ago whether al Qaeda’s smart move would be to stop fighting after America's mid-term election next month. Baathists and sectarians now fighting each other realize, like al Qaeda, that their goals are less attainable as long as powerful US forces remain in the country. They are heartened, opined OpinionJournal, by American domestic political talk of timetables for withdrawals and Iraqi intractability.
The current American panic, by contrast, is precisely what the insurgents intend with their surge of October violence. The Baathists and Sadrists can read the U.S. political calendar, and they'd like nothing better than to feed the perception that the violence is intractable. They want our election to be perceived as a referendum on Iraq that will speed the pace of American withdrawal.
So I wondered whether al Qaeda might decide to sit things out after November, stop stirring the violence pot and hope that the Bush administration starts significant withdrawals well before the 2008 elections. After all, even the US senior commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, tacitly admitted Oct. 24 that the country is embroiled in a civil war: "We've seen the nature of the conflict evolving from what was an insurgency against us to a struggle for the division of political and economic power among the Iraqis." When contending armed groups are fighting over the control of the central government, that's pretty much the definition of civil war.
It may be, though, that al Qaeda's religious ideology of armed jihad means that it cannot lay low even if it might be advantageous. It cannot merely engineer the US withdrawal, it must be known to have done so. So it keeps bombing and shooting.
Except now it may have actually developed a strategy to fight America. This strategy is very simple and has excellent potential that is already being realized.
1. Target American news media, not for attack but for propaganda.
2. Through the media, buttress the idea in the minds of American politicians that Iraq is lost and there is no reasonable recourse but to begin withdrawing as soon as possible.
I would submit that al Qaeda is significantly accomplishing this strategy, so obviously so that I need not offer cites. And let it be remembered that now the calls for withdrawal do not come from only one party.
My colleague, John Krenson, explained what is at stake for America in Iraq. I'll commend his analysis and add that for the US to withdraw before victory would have catastrophic consequences for us. No other enemy - Syria, Iran or North Korea - would give us the slightest credibility. Neither would strategic competitors such as China or Russia. Inside the Middle East, America's reputation as a nation determined to defend its honor would be irretrievably sullied, this in a culture where honor, shame and perception are of primary importance. The perceived honor of al Qaeda would rise dramatically. The shame imputed to America would not reside solely with us. Cooperative Arab governments would also suffer diminished respect by their own people and the hostile regimes named just now. Resistance to Islamism across the Middle East by government such as Jordan's and Egypt's and their peoples would be badly harmed, perhaps even fatally. Such developments would only encourage Iranianand Syrian adventurism, spell violent trouble for Israel and endanger the ruling bodies of Arab governments friendly or neutral toward the United States. Precipitant withdrawal from Iraq would be a prescription for a much more violent world.What has this to do with November's elections? Mark Steyn conducted a little mind experiment not long ago.
But suppose the "Anyone But Bush" bumper-sticker set got their way; suppose he and Cheney and Rummy and all the minor supporting warmongers down to yours truly were suddenly vaporized in 20 seconds' time. What then? Nothing, that's what. The jihad's still there. Kim Jong Il's still there. The Iranian nukes are still there. The slyer Islamist subversion from south-east Asia to the Balkans to northern England goes on, day after day after day.
Would al Qaeda set down its AK-47s and TNT and take up watercolor? Or would they simply see the disappearance as a sign of Allah's favor and so redouble their efforts to bring us death and misery?
You know the answer.
There are legitimate criticisms of the way the Bush administration has waged the war in Iraq. I've made some myself. But Bush and Cheney are Rumsfeld are not the problem America faces. Al Qaeda is. The administration's critics claim, and some portions of the National Intelligence Estimate say, that the fighting in Iraq has increased al Qaeda recruiting. Probably so - even evildoers "rally 'round the flag."
If you think al Qaeda's recruitment and capability for violence is profiting from America's continued presence in Iraq, just wait until we prematurely withdraw. As Steyn continued, "And one morning we'll switch on the TV and the smoke and flames will be on this side of the Atlantic... ."Endnote: Fareed Zakaria writes in Newsweek about to make a way forward. The heart of the issue:
All sides in Iraq are preparing for the day the United States leaves. They are already engaged in a power struggle for control of the post-American Iraq. The Kurds have ensured that their autonomous region is governed essentially as a separate country with its own army. The largest Shia parties want to maintain their militias to bolster their own power base, independent of the state. And the Sunnis do not want to wind down the insurgency, for fear that they will be impoverished or killed in the new Iraq. Nobody believes that, after the Americans, this power struggle will be resolved with ballots. So they are all keeping their bullets. ... If the United States were to leave Iraq tomorrow, it is virtually certain that the bloodletting would spread like a virus. ...
As long as that is true - and it will be true for a long time to come - al Qaeda's main goal to prevent democracy in Iraq will be achieved. Zakaria's piece is long but well worth the read.
Related: Should Cheney and Rumsfeld be fired to set Iraq's course aright?
The author of the second, Mr. Rob Lyman, begins:
"I'd like to make the case that this sensitivity to the murder of one's countrymen - I've been trying to think of a word, and all I can come up with is 'tribal patriotism' - isn't just acceptable, or desirable, but rather is morally mandatory."
There is a word for this, but we don't use it regularly -- it's archaic except in Old English and early Middle English. The word is frith*. It's interesting for two reasons:
1) It neatly captures the concept the fellow is looking for, and,
2) It is linguistically linked to several modern English words, including "friend," "free," and "freedom."
When the term was in common use, the idea was that free men remained free only as long as they remained friends -- devoted to each other's common defense. These frith bonds were what allowed the tribe to create a space out of the chaos of the world, in which they could establish the order they prefer.
That's a concept we could usefully recover.
So now you know.
Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from Iraq that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday. This briefing is brought to you by Joel Gaines of No Pundit Intended and Andrew Olmsted of Andrew Olmsted dot com.
Other Topics Today Include: Iraqi security transfer may not make schedule; gunmen kill 17 Baghdad police; Ramadi turned over to Iraqis; thousands of Iraqis trying to flee to Europe; Syria-Iraq trade plan; Kurds go it alone on oil; $800 million reported stolen; Iraqi women take to the airwaves; Carnival of the Liberated; Democratic victory won't mean policy change; Hussein verdict draws near.
REPORTS FROM THE FIELD
RECONSTRUCTION & THE ECONOMY
THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE
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...or, I couldn't say it any better. From Foxtrot:
If you really had to move away from the U.S. what country would afford you the most peace of mind/freedom from fascism? New Zealand?
Canada has just adopted the U.S. No Fly list and has gone conservative, governmentally that is
"If I won the lottery today, I'd move to Iceland tomorrow."...and then I replied:
"I'd go to Italy (they have better food than New Zealand)."
I'm so f@@king tired of people who have no sense of history or reality waving the "fascism" flag and promising to leave...Let me make it really, really clear. Why should anyone trust you with the keys to the country when you don't love it enough to stay and fight to make it better?
[snip], I'll happily front $500 toward your plane ticket and help you on your way. Just stay out of the country for two years, and it'll be yours with no other obligation. Anyone else want to come in on this with me?
You could go to the UK where complaining about an immigrant teacher's accent gets you time in a holding station, or where you're on government -sponsored TV everywhere you drive (and they track the license plates)...
You could go to France where criticizing an (arguably false) piece of TV news gets you hauled into court for defamation, and fined.
Or just skip to the head of the line and go to Venezuela, where protesting against the government gets you shot.
Or Iran, where you can have all the rights you want, as long as you're straight, subservient, and don't try and use the Internet or meet to complain about the government. Or especially meet on the Internet - like we are here - to complain about the government.
Don't let the door hit you, etc...
And why should anyone pay attention to the notions of someone who thinks - seriously - that we're looking down the barrel of a fascist state here in the United States?
Talking about "Islamic fundamentalism" is a dangerous business for one outside the religion. Many Islamic things that to us look alike on the surface (and have the same effect on our lives as non-Muslims) come from different sources.
Is Bin Laden a Wahhabist? How would you know whether he is or is not? Is he a disciple of Sayyid Qutb? Often they write alike. But that is not the same thing. Again, how would you know that?
Something that ought to have been obvious all along struck me while reading "Basic Principles of the Islamic Worldview" by Sayyid Qutb.
Even the furiously defensive preface by Hamid Algar (who is of the Israel=Nazi Germany school) notes the "curious and paradoxical" quality of Qutb's writing, that while he announces his intention to expound on Islam, he spends most of his time condemning and refuting everyone else's beliefs and systems -- Christians, Buddhists, Jews, philosophers, Marxists, secularists. "In some cases," Algar writes, "they receive greater analytical attention than the characteristics of Islam that form the subject matter of each chapter."
Of course, Algar goes on to excuse this by blaming it on the West -- specifically on the "censorious Westerner peering over the shoulder of the writer." But invoking that fictional specter, which many Islamic writers beside Qutb seem to fear, begs a question. After all, apologists for Western liberalism don't seem to feel a censorious Qutb peering over their shoulders.
Likely the fixation with rejecting and refuting Western/Christian ideas reflects a silent acknowledgment of their powerful lure to the people in the Islamic world (and elsewhere) as well as an awareness of the poor performance turned in by Islamic societies in most of the measured achievements of modernity.
[Whether we ought to measure human achievement by the standards of Islam or modernity, of course, is the essential question between Qutb and us.]
That the Wahhabis, Qutb, Bin Laden, and to a certain degree Hamas, Hezbollah, and others tend to look the same to us is perhaps less a matter of "this begat that" or "this evolved from that" as it is an outcome of the nature of fundamentalism in religion, which is an attempt to turn back the clock as far as possible toward the zero-point of revelation. It seeks to purify the faith of the compromises and borrowings, the rust and "debris" (in Qutb's word) that accrue to it once it passes from divine hands into himan ones.
In Christian history, you have Christ preaching a way to live, and then 300 years later you have Constantine marching into battle under the banner of Christ. The gap between the two experiences is disturbing to many Christians, and attempts to turn Christianity back to its dynamic wellsprings generally bypass Constantine.
In Islam, Muhammad is both Christ and Constantine. Struggle -- jihad -- is integral to the roots of the faith. Islamic fundamentalism embraces the struggle for purity within the community and the aggressive engagement with outside powers, because both are prescribed in the revealed text.
As Algar puts it in his introduction, the "Islamic concept" is "dependent on engagement in struggle and effort to create the society mandated by revelation." Qutb's "urgent concern" was to "reconstitute, after a more than millennial lapse, the environment of struggle in which the revelation had first been received and to achieve thereby a new, exemplary era, mirroring the first."
And that struggle will naturally follow the path laid down in the original revelation: a call to establish a world founded on the justice of the faith, with other creeds tolerated, restricted, taxed, and protected under the virtuous rule of Islamic leaders.Here Qutb shares his vision, rebuking those who deny the accusation Islam is the religion of the sword by the equally (to him) false assertion that it is a religion of peace:
Some Crusaders and Zionists, for example, doggedly accuse Islam of being the religion of the sword, claiming that it was spread by the edge of the sword. Consequently, some of us defend Islam and refute this accusation by invoking the idea of "defence." Thereby they lessen the value of jihad in Islam, narrow the scope, and apologise for each of its instances, claiming that they were undertaken only for the purpose of "defence," in its present shallow meaning. These people forget that Islam, being the last divine path for humanity, has an essential right to establish its own system on earth so that all humanity can enjoy its blessing, while every individual enjoys the liberty to follow his chosen creed, for "there is no compulsion in religion." Establishing the "Islamic system" to have beneficial sway over all humanity, those who embrace Islam and those who do not, does indeed require Jihad as does the liberty of men to follow their own beliefs. This goal can only be accomplished with the establishment of a virtuous authority, a virtuous law and a virtuous system that calls to account whoever attempts to attack freedom of worship and belief.[emphasis added]
I often urge people to read the writings of Bin Laden. In fact, I think it would be a valuable exercise to have the whole nation take a day off work and read what the man has said and written about us and what he plans to do to us and why.
But the next question is, where do I get them; and the answer to that is surprisingly difficult. There is one published collection in English that I am aware of, Messages to the World. It's a good collection, but it has problems.
The problems in the book are not so much in Bin Laden's words, but in the surrounding material. The introduction by Bruce Lawrence (a professor of religion at Duke) seems to bend over to present Bin Laden as an honorable man reacting to legitimate grievances with appropriate resistance that he perhaps takes a wee bit too far.
This is repulsive to me, but perhaps the editors thought they were counterbalancing the hyperbole that the demon evoked from us. Bin Laden certainly is not a madman, and he often uses reason in parts of his arguments and he has a highly developed sense of honor.
But was it necessary to present so many encomiums of praise to the architect of 9/11? If this introduction is merely an attempt to balance other writings, why not say so, and what exactly are those writings? He's also a liar and a mass-murderer and a racist and an implacable enemy of Americans. This is glossed over in the introduction, and at the top of the list of the "further reading" section at the end is Tariq Ali's "Bush in Babylon: The Recolonization of Iraq."Not America, Americans. Just take the man at his word:
Every Muslim, from the moment they realise the distinction in their hearts, hates Americans, hates Jews, and hates Christians. This is a part of our belief and our religion. For as long as I can remember, I have felt tormented and at war, and have felt hatred and animosity for Americans.That's from an interview aired on Al-Jazeera in December 1998. The quote is on page 87 of the book.
But, curiously, if you look in the index under "bin-Laden's anti-Americanism" or "Jews," both of which have separate headings in the index, there is no reference to page 87, either alone or in a sequence. The whole index is highly curious in this regard. Certainly if you wanted to know what Bin Laden has said about Jews and Americans, that quote is pertinent. But the compilers of his writings have seen fit to steer their readers away from it.
The footnotes are just as deceptive. The editors jump in with a footnote every time they find a chance to bolster one of Bin Laden's points. But on his errors, they are silent. Why have footnotes at all if all you wish to do with them is legitimatize Bin Laden?
Example: In the 1998 Al-Jazeera interview, Bin Laden says America dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki "after Japan had surrendered," a gross error that is allowed to stand without comment by the editors [p.67].
But in Bin Laden's more carefully crafted open letter to Americans (posted on the Internet on Oct. 14, 2002) he wrote "You dropped a nuclear bomb on Japan, even though Japan was ready to negotiate an end to the war" [p.168].
Here the editors jump in with comments from "several high-ranking US military commanders" and one post-war military report to support Bin Laden. Nowehere do they add that there are as many comments to the opposite effect, and the topic is hotly debated among historians even today, and that the whole business of speculative history is far from certain.
Omar, at Iraq The Model, issues a cri de coeur to the west about the war.
We need the decision-makers to rise above the rhetoric of who's right and who's wrong and focus on protecting the world from falling prey to the vicious enemies of civilization.
He's right, of course. For too many of us the war is a tool to be wielded for political advantage - to frighten the electorate and shift votes right, or to decry and shift votes left.
The reality is that there is something real, and bad, over the horizon. We should neither deny its existence nor build it into something it is not.
And what I want from my leaders - and what Omar needs from them - is something other than fairy stories designed to frighten us or lull us to sleep.
I've met Omar, and shared meals with him. It's personal to me.
If we're not careful, it'll be personal for all of us soon.
The Examiner has an editorial up suggesting that Europe may be a lost cause, as the freedom-loving flee the EU bureaucracy and looming Islamization, leaving behind the basis for an Islamic Europe - Eurabia, as some have put it.
I'm not so sure.
I think Europe is headed for some dark days, but I think that we'll see a National Front/LePen politics emerge and that both the EUrocrats and Muslim population will get pushed back very hard by a far-right, nationalist politics.
That may not be as bad as Eurabia, from America's point of view. But it won't be good.As a note about attitudes changing, note Thursday's comments by the French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy:
"I have significantly evolved on the matter of the separation fence" said Douste-Blazy on French Jewish television TFJ on Thursday. "Although the wall was a moral and ethical problem for me, when I realised terror attacks were reduced by 80 percent in the areas where the wall was erected, I understood I didn't have the right to think that way."Concern about a "Paris Intifada" does evolve one's thinking, doesn't it?
Mine is up at the Examiner.
While it is an obvious thing to do to honor our dead soldiers, the joy of a book like this - and of the milblogs it gives a snapshot of - is to introduce you to very real words of our living ones. They are a very real manifestation of Whitman:And when you buy the book, take a moment to send an email or letter to both the White House and the Secretary of Defense, asking why it is that midlevel Pentagon bureaucrats are choking off the ability of our troops to blog and of our bloggers (see this from Michael Yon) to cover the troops:
"I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear. "...
Fewer and fewer Americans know soldiers as the tradition of military service slips into history. Buy the book, meet some, and listen to them.
Classification: UNCLASSIFIEDSomethings speak for themselves. The war doesn't, and we need the voices of Blackfive and his band of bloggers, and of Michael Yon, and of all the men and women serving to try and comprehend what's going on over there.
I do not recognize your website as a media organization that we will use as a source to credential journalists covering MNF-I operations.
LTC Barry Johnson
"...this email might be a scam."
A major newspaper prints a story which DOD believes is factually incorrect in important ways. The newspaper not only refuses to issue a correction, it refuses to publish a letter to the editor or an op ed with DOD's position. It also refuses to publish a letter from 5 senior generals speaking in their capacities as citizens who are also military leaders.
This happens, with minor variations, again and again.
What to do? Bypass the dying print media and open a website that gives blow by blow accounts of the interaction and sets the record straight.
After writing "Apocalypse Everywhere" here at Winds, and reading Glenn Reynolds' "We're All Soldiers of Fortune Now" on the mainstream growth of citizen disaster preparation (like survivalist kits at Target and Costco), Chester has some thoughts on present trends and what's beneath:
Patrick Cox thinks it does - and explains what he thinks it will be.
Mr. Byron Calame Public Editor
New York Times
Dear Mr. Calame:
Reading my Times RSS feed today, I noticed an editorial about mining: "Weakening the Fight for Mine Safety."
I read it with interest, and no small astonishment.
From reading the article, you'd assume that miners today faced conditions unprecedented in modern times, and that hazard and death were increasing rapidly under the Bush Administration.I have many differences with the Administration - many of them detailed on my blog at www.windsofchange.net - but here I'm just puzzled.
Because when I looked into it, I discovered that death and injury rates during the Bush Administration were lower than those during the Clinton Administration.
I blogged about it here.
I went and updated my information - this was from March, 2006 - and got this result:
The average number of deaths from Jan 1993 - Dec 2000 was 89.37.
The average number of deaths from Jan 2001 - Oct 2006 was 62.33.
This took me a total of ten minutes, using publicly accessible records. I'd expect your institution to do better.
I believe in regulation - the air I breathe here in Los Angeles is tolerable because of it. But I also believe in honesty, and in looking at facts before I draw conclusions.
Over to you...Marc Danziger
Or should that be "offensive diplomatics"? It would appear that El Caudillo Idiotario Chavez is generating no small share of backlash in his own neighbourhood, and even becoming a political liability to the Left in Latin America.
"None of this diplomatic buffoonery makes Hugo Chavez less potentially destabilizing. Chavez is determined to use petrodollars to win friends and to use arms sales - and, potentially, military adventurism - to intimidate foes. The danger he poses ought not to be taken lightly. As things currently stand, however, it seems that Chavez's foes have a lot to be thankful for. If they could not have a friend in the president of Venezuela, they at least got the next best thing; a thoroughly ridiculous enemy."
Not to mention the personification of just about every tradition of Latin American socio-economic failure that we've seen over the last century or so. But that's another subject.
Blackfive links to a Youtube video of Australian singer Beccy Cole.
All by herself, she's kind of the anti-Dixie Chick.
Watching that was kind of a break in writing about Iraq; the piece should be done tonight and is called "So - What Now, Hawks?" Standing up in support of the troops is a good thing, but it's not in and of itself, policy.
Not running from your positions and beliefs and continuing to own responsibility for them isn't policy either. But it's a test of how much these beliefs and positions matter to you.
Supreme Court Justice Scalia, speaking before the National Italian American Foundation, made a couple of points that should be obvious to a 10 year old - which may explain why many law schools have a hard time. The first bit concerned judicial independence:
"You talk about independence as though it is unquestionably and unqualifiably a good thing. It may not be. It depends on what your courts are doing.... The more your courts become policymakers, the less sense it makes to have them entirely independent.... Take the abortion issue.
Whichever side wins, in the courts, the other side feels cheated. I mean, you know, there's something to be said for both sides. The court could have said, 'No, thank you.' The court could have said, you know, 'There is nothing in the Constitution on the abortion issue for either side,'.... and when they leap into it, they make themselves politically controversial. And that's what places their independence at risk."
Just so. If justices want to play legislator, as the liberal/left ideology in many law schools now demands that they do, they should be entirely unsurprised to find a citizenry that increasingly treats them as legislators. And believes they should be subject to similar checks, as well as similar criticisms. See this post, which makes this point with links to both the Washington Post article and to Ace.
Then there's the second consequence: a class of actual legislators who are quite happy to indulge this propensity in ways that are politically advantageous to them, but not to the judiciary. How? Simple: by tossing contentious issues to the court, so someone else takes the heat. This won't, of course, stop them from turning around and using would-be legislators from the bench as political footballs in campaigns, confirmation hearings, et. al. Just as they would use any of their other political colleagues.
Hence the present situation.
The second bit just speaks for itself:
"It so happens that everything that is stupid is not unconstitutional."
In October 2003 the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission placed 200,000 of Enron's internal emails from 1999-2002 into the public domain as part of its ongoing investigations. A new software company called Trampoline decided to use this archive as the testbed for its SONAR software, which plugs into the corporate network and connects to existing systems such as email servers, contact databases and document archives. SONAR then analyses information from these systems to build a map of social networks, information flows, expertise and individuals' interests throughout the enterprise.
They were fascinated by the results, and decided to just put the whole thing online for everyone to mine. Presenting: Enron Explorer, powered by SONAR.
I caught part of the president's press conference this morning and a thought struck me when he renounced, again, the idea of setting a timetable for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. It's an idea I've denounced myself: "Setting a timetable for withdrawal only notifies al Qaeda of the date of their triumph."
So I started wondering this morning why the terrorists in Iraq seem not to understand that time-mandated withdrawal from Iraq is practically central to opponents of President Bush specifically and the Republicans generally. And surely they have to realize that there is probably no one who would more like to start drawing down US forces from Iraq than President Bush himself, especially if he can make meanignful reductions before the two parties have their 2008 conventions.So, imagining myself as an al Qaeda strategist, I would be asking the terrorist leadership why they are stepping up the violence now. Okay, dumb question: they want to influence the 2006 elections.
The Baathists and Sadrists can read the U.S. political calendar, and they'd like nothing better than to feed the perception that the violence is intractable. They want our election to be perceived as a referendum on Iraq that will speed the pace of American withdrawal.
So let us carry that intention a little farther. This month is already the worst month in Iraq in a year, regarding US casualties. Let us assume, for argument's sake, that voters next month decide a change in the Congress is necessary. We need not assume that the Democrats actually take control of either house, but that thay gain enough seats to put a real scare into the Republican members and the rest of their party.
If I were an al Qaeda strategist, that would be my cue to taper down my violent actions over the next three or four months and then, beginning in spring 2007, start to lay low. I'd fill time with political reorganization, training, equipping, recruiting and other reconstituting efforts. By the fall of 2007, the Busha administration will use the lowered level of terrorism as a signal that pacification is coming along well and gratefully start pulling down US forces. By the spring of 2008, US force levels in Iraq could well be down to 50,000 or even fewer.
Then I'd strike and strike hard.
The administration's claims of victory would be revealed as hollow, another example of wishful thinking. Iraq, critics would say, is unwinnable. With the presidential elections looming soon, the president would be as lame a duck as ever quacked. The administration could well be paralyzed. Then, from al Qaeda's perspective, it might not even matter which party gains the Oval Office, for Iraq would be seen by either party as a tar baby that won't ever become unstuck. If anything, increased violence then would accelerate withdrawal of remaining American forces.
Naturally, such a strategy is not without risk. Al Qaeda is far from the only armed group resisting the central government, and some Baathist revanchists are actually fighting al Qaeda from time to time. Sectarian militias are waging open war against each other. Organized crime groups also kill and kidnap and rob. These groups will continue to stress the Iraqi government and US commanders no matter what al Qaeda does. The training and professionalism of Iraqi army and police may continue to improve until they really can replace large numbers of US troops, and the perception that al Qaeda has been beaten may cause many Iraqis to rally round their flag. The Iraqi people in all their various divisions might become more unified and more willing to rat out suspected terrorists.
But such a strategery might be attractive for groups other than al Qaeda, too. Right now the only thing between them and their victory, however they conceive it, is 130,000 Americans. As long as Goerge W. Bush is in office, those troops aren't going away as long as the violence remains high. It should be glaringly obvious to militiamen, Baathists and Islamists alike, that they will not prevail in any meaningful way until large numbers of Americans go home. So why not hunker down and let it happen? Yes, it's risky from their point of view, but so is continuing the violence in the way are are doing so. Everything in political-military endeavors is risky.
If I was a terrorist strategist, I'd be thinking about this real hard.
Endnote: So are things going well or not in Iraq today, overall? Two diametric assessments are on OpinionJournal today. One, linked above, says that progress in there is much better than given credit and will continue to improve (link again) and that Iraqri Security Forces are improving daily and steadily.
The other assessment, a long email by an intelligence NCO in Iraq now, says that things are actually so bleak, and the ISF so bad, that the US should, "Reassert direct administration, put 400,000 to 500,000 American troops on the ground, disband most of the current Iraqi police and retrain and reindoctrinate the Iraqi army ... ."
Myself, I lean more toward the NCO's assessment than the former, although the former's essay does seem to show that not everything is going to heck in a handbasket there. There are some good things happening. But not enough, and not where it counts the most.
Crossposted at DonaldSensing.com
Bret Stephens analyzes the four-corner friction in Gaza (Hamas/Iran/Syria, Fatah, Egypt, Israel), that looks likely to herald a full scale clash before long. The only question is who will be participating.
I will note here that those who predicted the emergence of Gaza as a terrorist fortress following Israeli withdrawal have been proven correct. How the coming drama unfolds, and finishes, will determine whether the pullout turns out to be a wise strategy, or a costly mistake. Those looking for the best available summary of Israel's plan can find it here. At the same time, one is reminded that nothing ever goes 100% to plan when dealing with human beings.
[Greetings once again from Chester of The Adventures of Chester. If you like these posts here at Winds, please visit my blog and see if you find something you like there.]
The new NBC series Heroes is very entertaining. The premise is that a number of regular people all over the globe -- about 10 or so -- have discovered that they have incredible powers. These are the usual comic book-type of powers, but that doesn't make them uninteresting. Indestructible bodies, the ability to fly, painting the future, hearing others' thoughts, and bending time and space are among those skills. It's a great show and I recommend it.
The most interesting part is each character's reaction to the discovery of these skills. Some want to deny them, others immediately see themselves as freaks, several aren't sure just exactly what is happening, and one in particular knows that he is a superhero and must now save the world.
The sudden discovery of unknown power then becomes a moral question: how best to use it? For good or evil? And how to determine what is good and what is evil?
The show hasn't gotten that far in-depth yet, but I suspect it will have to, because ultimately, these powers are useless, or at least destined to be misguided without the impetus of a sort of moral journey, in which one determines what is good and how to strive for it. Only then can superpowers be used effectively. Otherwise, they'll be forever used for mundane goals -- like cheating at Vegas.
Moreover, the possession of such power means that eventually choices will have to be made. The ability to make those difficult choices -- whom to save if many can possibly be saved? -- is perhaps what gives those with superpowers their true edge.
This leads to a question: if it is a clear moral grounding, or an ability to weigh difficult decisions and choose the lesser of many poor outcomes that truly gives superheroes their power, then couldn't such a faculty be conscientiously developed by an ordinary man not possessing such unnatural powers, but who would come to be no less potent for his ability to quickly and accurately command his emotions, a situation, or a difficult moral decision?Two things jump to mind: first, Frodo, of the Lord of the Rings, who has no supernatural powers whatsoever:
Frodo: I can't do this, Sam.And the second is Robert E. Lee's Definition of a Gentleman:
Sam: I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding on to Sam?Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.
The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.Perhaps honor and perserverance trump unnatural powers. It's a thought worth remembering in a test-driven meritocracy.
The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly--the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain lightThe gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.
By Bart Hall, who has a very personal connection to these events. See also Winds of Change.NET's earlier articles from Hungarian Ambassador Simonyi about rock n' roll and the quest for freedom in Hungary during Soviet occupation & servitude. Joe also recommends George Gabori's memoir "When Evils Were Most Free" (or audio version) very highly.
Autumn in Hungary is often short and nearly always unpredictable. Sometime by late October or early November the weather turns foggy-damp and cold. It is a brooding, mournful season, and in historical terms has been profoundly and repeatedly tragic -- temetni tudunk [ TEH-metnee TWO-doonk ] loosely translates "we sure know how to bury people."
The failed Revolution of 1956 began fifty years ago today (October 23, 1956), and by the time it was crushed a few weeks later nearly 30,000 people, most of them civilians, had been added to the long burial lists of late autumn Hungarian heartbreak. Yet Oct. 23 has become a national holiday...
In October 1849, most leaders of Hungary's failed War of Independence were executed and any semblance of freedom vigorously crushed. The dream remained, and twenty years later many of their basic requests were granted. The Great War ended in November1918 with the precipitous collapse of Hungary's 400 year-old monarchy, descending into a winter of chaos, anarchy, violence and terrible hardship.
In October 1944, concerned that Hungary would attempt a separate peace, the Germans installed the viciously repressive and anti-Semitic 'Arrow-Cross' government. Some 80,000 Jews were murdered in a matter of months. In November the Red Army began the Battle of Budapest which claimed over 160,000 lives, most of them civilians, and gathered Hungary firmly into the Soviet Bloc.
By 1953 about 200,000 Hungarians were in political detention, farmland had been collectivised and all businesses with more than 100 employees had been nationalized without compensation. Since the war, there had been very few moments of joy. The Hungarian water polo team won gold in the 1952 Olympics, and in 1954 Hungary competed in the final for the World Cup. That world cup team was drawn heavily from the Ferencvaros (FAIR-ents-va-rosh) club, based in a working class district nearly leveled in the Battle of Budapest.
Still, by 1956 Hungarians had had enough. Their first glimmer of hope arrived in February when the new Russian leader, Khrushchev, publicly attacked Stalin and his policies. In July the brutal Hungarian Stalinist, Rakosi (RAH-koshi) was removed from office and Hungarians began to dream. Poland, after all, had gained some rights and relief after a series of street protests and minor uprisings.
Autumn 1956 was particularly cold and wet. The harvest was terrible and food was already in short supply following repeated failures of central planning in the agricultural sector. Fuel, too, was in increasingly unavailable. The situation was so bad that the Viennese, themselves having gained freedom from Soviet occupation only the previous year, were as generous as they could be in sending aid and relief to Budapest.
Hard as things were, life continued as close to normally as possible. On 20 October a young student, Ferenc Kaltenekker, received his diploma as a Doctor of Medicine. On the 23rd large numbers of students and workers took to the streets of Budapest and issued a series of sixteen demands including greater personal freedom, more food, removal of the secret police, and so on.
As pressure built, Moscow appointed Imre Nagy (NAHJ) as prime minister and Janos Kadar (YAH-nosh KAH-dar) as foreign minister. They were viewed as "liberals" and it was hoped this would be enough to settle down the "hooligans" as Moscow saw them. The Red Army pulled out and Nagy allowed the renewal of political parties.
On the 31st Nagy declared Hungary 'neutral' (like Austria) and announced that it would withdraw from the Warsaw Pact. Kadar resigned and set up his own government in eastern Hungary, backed up by the Soviets. After racing across the Great Hungarian Plain the Red Army and its tanks attacked Budapest with remarkable brutality on 04 November.
The US, Britain, and France were occupied with the Suez Crisis and Israeli war, and thus did nothing, but the Hungarians fought back with everything they had and casualties mounted rapidly on both sides. Kaltenekker, the newly graduated doctor, patched up the wounded as quickly and as best he could in the circumstances; Russian or Hungarian, it didn't matter.
After being accosted by Russian patrols in spite of his work and having decided that the Revolution was failing, he took his medical bag plus a very few personal things and lit out for the Austrian border - one of 200,000 making the same decision, a third of whom ended up in the United States. He never saw his mother again.
For a more detailed vignette of the times, Peter Schramm, who was a child in 1956, has recently written a wonderful account of his own journey to the States.
The Hungarian Olympic water polo team was already en route to Melbourne when the Russians invaded, and they were kept ignorant of the outcome during their training. The 06 December match against Russia in the semi-finals is legendary because even though the revolution was lost at home the team saw it as their only chance to fight the Russians. Hungary won 4:0 and the match was called early to prevent a riot by the fans, who by the end were completely on the side of the Hungarians. Hungary went on to take gold in the finals. To prevent further incidents the Australians initiated the now traditional closing ceremony in which athletes mingle completely, without flags.
One of the Hungarian athletes, bleeding badly at the end of the match, eventually went on to coach the great American Olympic swimmer Mark Spitz, who has made a film called 'Freedom's Fury,' about the match.
The tenacity of the '56 freedom fighters in the face of a remarkably harsh Soviet reaction pulled the rug right out from under previously strong Communist movements in both Italy and France. The Hungarian Revolution exposed the true face of Communism for all the world to see, and though there were a few more Communist gains here and there, the high-water mark had been reached.
Kadar gradually granted many of the revolutionaries' demands and remained in power until he was forced out as a doddering old relic in 1988. The next summer, his successor ordered removal of the border fence and allowed Hungarians to emigrate. The dam had finally burst. In October 1989 the communists held their last party congress, and Parliament declared Hungary a democracy.
As for the young doctor, Kaltenekker, he worked as a physician for a year in the refugee camps under US embassy supervision and was offered a permanent visa to the States, where he went on to a career as a pathologist. Partly out of gratitude for freedom and opportunity in America he spent his last ten years of active practice driving 55 miles one way to work as a clinic physician in a very tough section of Chicago.
He is my father-in-law.
As this is being written, he is in Budapest with his surviving classmates from all over the world. The university is giving them golden copies of their original diplomas to honour the fiftieth anniversary of their graduation. To this day, two of his most treasured possessions are that original black medical bag and the worn, soft leather shoes in which he walked to his freedom. In a couple of weeks I shall once again ask to see and touch them, for in their very humility they symbolise most powerfully what it means to yearn for freedom.
Join me, then, in a toast to the '56ers and their courage: Szabadsagra [ SAH-bahd-shahg-rah ] … to Freedom to Liberty. And thanks, once again, for reminding us just how much it's really worth.
Nortius Maximus tips me off to this one - someone puts a lot of work in. Lots of good material there. I quite liked "The People's Newswire," with entries like:
To offer just one additional example let's look to The People's Dictionary:
(noun) A process whereby evil murderous thugs are turned into everyday heroes by an overzealous mainstream media. Hezbollize (verb) Assign great social importance to gangsters, treat them as celebrities (Hez-boll-ized, Hez-boll-iz-ing, Hez-boll-iz-es)
Example 1: "Cross burnings bring warmth and comfort to homes without central heating, as caring KKK activists distribute clean white clothing among impoverished kids."
Example 2: "Crips, Bloods, MS 13 organize daily after school programs, engage minority children in pharmacological economics and ballistics training."
Amplifying the Examiner piece (...thanks for the link, Glenn!), I'll add some more comments on journalism as I dodge writing the hard post on Iraq that I really need to do this week.
The Los Angeles Times is going through some changes. I still haven't resubscribed - for now I enjoy the extra half hour I get in the mornings to talk to my wife and son. But I do read parts of it online, and I do have an abiding interest in seeing it become successful, because I have an abiding interest in seeing my city be more successful, and good media - blogs, newspapers, television and radio stations - are one of the keys to making it so.
In light of this, the Times is changing its look, it's editorial pages, and all kinds of other things. And they've published a manifesto of sorts. It's a "Mission Statement" for their editorial pages.
And, to be honest, it's a useless piece of fluff.Let's go through some of it. the opening sentence is a good place to start:
The Los Angeles Times is a citizen of the city of Los Angeles, the state of California, the American nation and the world.No, you're not. You keep using that word - citizenship - and I'm not sure you know what it means. You're a citizen of the United States, with a supreme obligation to the polity assembled around it; you're members of the Los Angeles and California communities, with obligations within those communities (and between them, and between them and the greater obligation to the national polity). You're a human being, which means you share some ethical and emotional obligations with all other human beings - but you certainly can't claim citizenship with them, because there is no worldwide polity for you both to be a citizen of.
On the editorial page, the newspaper sets aside its objective news-gathering role to join its readers in a dialogue about important issues of the day - to exhort, explain, deplore, mourn, applaud or champion, as the case may be.Sounds good to me. There's a discussion to have about the objective news-gathering part, but we'll put it aside for now.
The editorial page strives to reflect the dynamism of Southern California. The region's iconic status as global entertainment capital, its entrepreneurial spirit and its extraordinary cultural diversity are among its distinguishing strengths, and we believe that all Angelenos should have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams.You need to get out of West LA and Silverlake more. Los Angeles is also still one of the aerospace capitals of the world, one of the real estate development capitals of the world, one of the garment industry capitals of the world, and one of the automotive capitals of the world. I'm sure there are four or five more industries that are equally central to the LA economy and deserve pride of place on your pages. You won't get to hang with stars as much, but you might learn more about how the city actually works and how the people here live.
We demand accountability from the people's representatives in government, promote the rule of law and support policies that encourage commerce and growth and that raise living standards in the region.We'll get back to this.
Freedom is our core value. We feel a special obligation to defend civil liberties and human rights. Because newspapers and other news media, uniquely among businesses, enjoy and rely on a provision of the Bill of Rights that protects freedom of the press, we assume an obligation to defend the rights of all citizens.Including the right to self-defense? Sorry, that was kind of juvenile on my part...
We reject overreaching moves by public authorities to control the culture or private mores. Citizens' right to privacy, to decide for themselves how best to lead their lives, is fundamental. It is in keeping with our Western roots to champion individual autonomy and the freedom of conscience.Back to this one as well.
The United States has developed into one nation whose citizens are engaged in a common enterprise and are entitled to live under the same basic framework of laws and enjoy their equal protection. And much as the bonds linking Americans have grown stronger over time, so too have the bonds among nations in the global economy. We believe that lowering barriers to trade and communication will lead to greater freedom and prosperity for all.Yes, as long as that prosperity is measured by a Pakistani brickmaker's standards. The leveling of worldwide incomes is good news - except to the folks who are getting leveled down. It's also inevitable. So to cheerlead for trade like this without some understanding of the real impacts - here in Los Angeles, which used to, for example, be a center of furniture manufacturing - seems naive.
At home and abroad, we believe that free markets are the best engines of prosperity. We are deeply skeptical of government attempts to subvert markets to engineer economic outcomes, though we also believe that a private economy requires a robust public infrastructure and a social safety net to prevent some members of society from falling prey to unconscionable levels of poverty and privation that corrode our democracy.The government engineers economic outcomes all the time, in tax policy, in fiscal policy, in accounting, banking, and other forms of regulation (in addition to the environmental regulations they cite). You may support minimizing regulation - although that's not what we see here or have seen in the Times in the past - but to suggest that the markets and regulations are somehow separable - seems naive.
An abiding commitment to preserve the nation's natural treasures is also is in keeping with our Western roots. Californians understand that there is a need for society and government to protect wilderness, balancing the interests of growth and conservation, and to regulate human activity to preserve the quality of our air and water for generations to come. The market may be the best arbiter of economic activity, but in pursuit of environmental and public health goals, state regulation must often encroach on private behavior.
Engagement with the rest of the world is a requirement of good citizenship. The United States should be an unabashed promoter of freedom and democracy in the world, ready to work with others to help ease the burdens of less fortunate nations. We believe that the United States should have, and sometimes must use, the strongest military in the world. It is also important to shine a spotlight on global development challenges that don't necessarily dominate daily news headlines, and that is part of our mission.And a muffled ...and we need a foreign policy... Yes, we need to be and remain engaged with the rest of the world, not only out of obligation to our fellow humans, but because the reality of today's shrinking world simply leaves us no choice.
The issue with talk like this, of course, is that it's easy and meaningless. I'm for economic freedom. Limited, of course, by the need to prevent poverty. I'm for a dynamic economy. Limited, of course by the need to preserve the environment.
The rubber meets the road when you have to talk about where those limits are and how we - together - determine them.
I expect more from the Times. A lot more, if they want to start getting my monthly check again.
Meanwhile I'll just keep talking with my son and my wife.
My latest Examiner piece - on the obligations of journalists as citizens - is up. The points won't be new to folks who've read about it here - but it will be interetsing to see what kind of reaction it gets on a wider stage.
A group of leading atheists is puzzled by the continued existence and vitality of religion.What an interesting thing for atheists to ponder. In the modern day one either has to accept some kind of deistic understanding of the origin of the universe or an evolutionary understanding that excludes any sort of deity from contributing to the origin of the universe and all contained therein. I am not saying that one must either be religious or non-religious, for the dichotomy is true even for adherents of non-deistic or nature religions. Either deity (or deities) had a hand in existence itself, or it/they did not.
So why would a deity-denying atheist be puzzled that religion is thriving? If evolution as they describe it is true, then religion is itself a product thereof. Not only that, but Judaism is an evolutionary product, so is Christianity, so is Islam, so is Buddhism, so is Shamanisn, so is ... well, you get the idea.
And so is the theory of evolution itself. And astrology. And tarot-card reading. And medical science. And faith healing. And everything else. So why do materialists single out religion as a particularly puzzling thing to exist? Why religion and not, say, athletics or stamp collecting or consumption of alcohol?
Read the rest at DonaldSensing.com.
In light of my recent "Afghanistan: Opium, War & Strategy" post, a follow-up that will provide a window into the dynamics of this kind of war. Australia's Department of Defence has a transcript up for this briefing:
"I appreciate your interest in the activities of our Special Forces Task Group in Afghanistan. As I promised you, today we will deliver you a full brief on the Special Operations' activities in Afghanistan over the last 12 months.... Ultimately it is the lives of the soldiers that is at stake here and this is why we have been very conservative in releasing details on the taskforce's activities. Nonetheless, Australians do have a right to know how our soldiers performed on this operation. I also have a great deal of empathy for the soldiers themselves who have been through an experience which in terms of prolonged battlefield stress and combat intensity is unlike any encountered since Vietnam in the 1970s....
Their story is an inspirational tale of courage, resilience and exceptional skill involving a determined and dangerous adversary in an environment that is both harsh and unforgiving. The Special Forces Task Group significantly undermined the insurgency capability of their enemy, thus making a notable contribution to the International Coalition fight against terrorism."
This anecdote was also interesting, and definitely has one of those "Japanese soldiers still on the South Pacific Island" feel to it. Maj-Gen Hindmarsh, on the remoteness of the Uruzgan Province area in which they operated:
"Let me relate a short anecdote which reinforces this point. On encountering a village deep inside one of these sanctuaries, one of our early patrols were asked by the village elder why it had been so long since the Russians had returned to the village..." [JK: the Russians left Afghanistan in 1989]
Guess they missed the New York Times coverage - which is probably just as well. Regarding their opponents:
"The enemy we faced included hard-core Taliban leadership and their supporters, local militants intent on retaining power and criminal groups involved in protecting Afghanistan's prolific drug industry. Now these groups were so intertwined as to be virtually indistinguishable and were therefore loosely termed as the Anti-Coalition Militia or the ACM."
In my previous post, I noted that opium per se fell into the "not our problem" category, and only association with the Taliban was a problem. That is still my position - and here, that association got some people deservedly targeted. More re: our enemies later, during the Q&A:
"In terms of the - what's our intelligence telling us, well, we don't talk about intelligence matters, as you know, Brendan, but I will say that most of the people that we're fighting are young Afghans, nearly all Pushtans, and I think most of them would come from the province of Oruzgan [JK: i.e. local Pashtuns]. The leadership probably has a wider origin in some cases."
The Brits were less reticent about that last bit, specifying Pakistani cities including Quetta as the locus of Taliban/al-Qaeda command-and-control for Afghanitan.
So, how did the Aussies do - and how did they go about it?
"Let me give you some facts. Of the 395 days the Special Forces Task Group was deployed, Australian Forces were in the field in harm's way and remote from their secure operating base for some 306 of those days."
No FOBbits here, and a lot of venturing right into enemy territory. Why? Because winning in warfare requires both overmatch and intelligence. Good intelligence requires contact and presence. As Maj-Gen Hindmarsh notes:
"Launching out intermittently from safe bases was not the answer. Existing and patrolling in depth over lengthy periods and I'm talking about weeks, smack in the centre of the ACM havens, was a tactic the SAS employed that the enemy did not expect; and it did have the desired effect of unsettling them psychologically and undermining their ability to function with their normal expected impunity in these areas.
Whilst the ACM had an excellent early warning network, the SAS with its ever-increasing familiarity with the environment and displaying characteristic audaciousness and skill were regularly able to penetrate to attack Taliban leadership. This heralded a second phase for the deployment, with the Task Group actively targeting to good effect ACM key leaders in carefully planned and coordinated direct action operations involving both SAS and the Commandos."
That's what happens when you start to really know the terrain and the people, who then begin telling you things that can fit in with things you have already seen. Each contact builds up more intelligence. Patterns emerge, and... well, you see where it leads. Winds has discussed the whole "little fish to big fish" chain and how it works.
Now, what do we mean by conact?
The Special Forces Task Group was involved in 139 combat incidents with the enemy. These incidents ranged from skirmishes with small groups of ACM to pitched battles involving hundreds of fighters over a number of hours, often so intense with the hasty aerial ammunition re-supplies where necessary. The Task Group over the course of the 12 months employed over 217 offensive air support missions that provided direct fire support to the troops when they were in contact with the enemy."
That sounds dangerous...
"In retrospect you could say we're extremely fortunate not to suffer any fatalities over the course of the deployment. We had a total of 11 wounded in action - a combination of gunshot and fragmentation wounds."
It helped that these are some of the world's best soldiers, but yes, luck also played a big role here.
With respect to tactical matters and weapons faced:
"Now thankfully the Coalition has faced far fewer surface to air missiles than the Russians did. What has become far more prolific, however, is the now ubiquitous rocket-propelled grenade, the RPG.
This relatively cheap unsophisticated weapon system caused most of the casualties suffered by the Task Group during this deployment. In one incident during the early phase of the commitment in which two Special Forces members were awarded the medal for gallantry, SAS Patrols were engaged from all sides by synchronised volley fire from multiple RPG grenadiers over a number of hours.
The cumulative effect of exploding RPG munitions was described as akin to fighting within a mortar barrage. Now throughout the tour it was common practice for the ACM to respond to our presence with well-placed RPG attacks, supported by heavy machine guns, mortars and recoilless rifles and of course large volumes of small arms fire.
The battle I just referred to involved all of that with a relatively small SAS Force, virtually surrounded for upwards of six hours by a couple of hundred ACM, hell bent on scoring an early and decisive victory over the Australians.
As it turned out the ACM suffered heavily in that engagement thanks to a combination of superior and more disciplined combat skills of our soldiers, together with timely Coalition offensive air support. This event and its outcome set the tone for the rest of the deployment, with the ACM periodically seizing opportunities to quickly mass and attack our forces, invariably at great cost to themselves."
The briefing as a whole has a few description like this. The zero deaths figure is little short of amazing. How about IED land mines?
"Now the other key change from our earlier experience in Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002 is the now widespread use of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. In a country littered with the detritus of war, IEDs are a cheap and effective way of fighting an insurgency campaign.
The greatest concern for the Taskforce was the introduction into Afghanistan of techniques learnt by insurgents in Iraq."
That's technically incorrect; the technique comes from Lebanon, and ultimately from Iran who taught it to Hezbollah. There are consistent and credible reports that Iran is playing the same role, along with supply of advanced materials, in both Iraq and Afghanistan. To continue directly:
"IEDs became far more technical, were constantly updated to defeat known Coalition protection and detection systems and the use of suicide attacks, something extremely uncommon in Afghan culture increased in regularity. Mines of course remained a constant concern. Afghanistan remains one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. But our experience on this tour was that the ready supply of explosives from mines would be more likely used as an IED component, rather than in the traditional buried form.
This is highly unsurprising, and would be true no matter where the West was fighting al-Qaeda and/or other Islamists. Lessons of war as well as instructions and objectives are disseminated globally, using international communications networks that their socieities could not build but which they can parasitize. Foreign combatants bolster this role by acting as cadre, and supportive states provide additional materiel, training, and instruction - and occasionally personnel.
That's the Islamist model for this war, and has been since the 1980s. Wherever we fight Islamism and al-Qaeda, our enemies will adapt, experiment, and spread the lessons elsewhere within the global jihad - just as they do when we are NOT fighting them... vid. the 1990s as Exhibit A.
Of course, they aren't alone in such efforts; civilized societies have their own learning curves. One wag has referred to Afghanistan as "The Commando Olympics," and the label is not inapt. Note the points in the briefing referring to 5-6 nation operations, and comments along the lines of "the lessons of this will be studied in staff colleges for years." He meant Australia, but this will also be true in the other participating countries. There are also small but significant regular forces from many nations deployed there, in an environment that statistically is about as dangerous as Iraq. This experience and exposure is forcing shifts in military equipment and priorities around the world, as well as in training and tactics.
Speaking of commandos, it wasn't all fighting for Australia's SAS and their Commado backups. Nor was it all about fighting, though killing Taliban, Taliban leaders and their allies was essential. To be on the ground in unfamiliar territory requires allies. So...
"Of course, as important as these operations were, the long-term future of Afghanistan requires far more than just a kinetic approach. In true special operations forces tradition, the SFTG also became actively engaged with Afghan villagers, officials and key leaders. The task group attempted to balance their operations through a strong program of supporting combat operations with non-combat effects; that is, through hearts and minds activities - activities such as medical and veterinary support, enhancing the capabilities of local schools, and assistance with humanitarian needs, highlighted to the local population that the Special Forces Task Group was just as concerned with the plight of the everyday Afghans as it was with ridding the land of the anti-Coalition militia."
American Special Forces, and indeed SF in general, work this way. They leverage this work to get information and assistance as they go (like being welcomed into villages et. al.), and may also train locals to fight in order to raise hostile forces against the enemy. For instance:
"Our patrols delivered large quantities of humanitarian stores. The task group also worked extensively with the Afghan National Army and the Afghan Highway Police, frequently fighting side by side with them. There existed a mutual respect. We found them courageous and tough, and I know they enjoyed working with our Diggers who showed them typical Aussie compassion and friendship. This interaction provided a force multiplier effect to the Australian operations."
Overall evaluation? They did what was required in order to make humanitarian assistance and long-term improvement possible - because unless the bad guys are dead and disrupted, it isn't:
"Now, in summing up, I believe the task group has been able to set the conditions under which the Australian Reconstruction Task Force (RTF) will have the best possible chance of conducting successful operations. Ultimately, our success can be measured by the difference that has been made to the people of the Chora and Tarin Kowt districts - areas where only recently the task group was fighting pitched battles with the ACM, and where the RTF intends to operate. People in these districts now openly welcome the Coalition and express their gratitude for the removal of the ACM. Commercial centres and schools have been reopened and the fear of intimidation or extortion has, for the moment at least, diminished considerably.
To ensure this remains the case, and as with any counter insurgency operation, there needs to be a strong enduring security presence, initially provided by Coalition forces, but ultimately by Afghan National Security forces. This will allow the reconstruction work to be undertaken in the short term and the local Afghan people to be empowered to protect themselves and build their communities in the long term."
Note the Reconstruction Task Force, similar to the USA/NATO Provincial Reconstruction Teams. These circumvent the basic uselessness/corruption of 'Toyota Taliban' NGOs generally, and especially in dangerous areas. The accomplish this by embedding paramilitary assistance that can survive and work in dangerous areas and failed states, in an approach somewhat similar to the traditional Cuban model though not yet refined to that degree. It's an important future trend
"In conclusion, was the overall Special Forces Task Group deployment a success? Did it achieve the objective of disrupting the ACM's ability to operate within its sanctuaries? I would say emphatically yes. Oruzgan is a big province, and we could not hope to cover the entire area simultaneously with the troops we had at our disposal. But we did go where we felt the key and most threatening ACM enclaves were, and the task group was relentless in maintaining the pressure in these areas to good effect. Its ability to operate independently and remote from friendly ground forces for long periods of time, coupled with the outstanding field craft and combat skills of the soldiers, enabled it to constantly keep the ACM off balance in their own backyard. Although difficult to quantify, the indirect effect of this was to disrupt the Taliban's overall capacity to prosecute insurgence operations elsewhere. Now, this is a good outcome."
Good on ya, Diggers! There's actually a lot more, including some fairly riveting descriptions of hairy operations that came extremely close to disaster (but didn't). Worth reading the whole thing.
Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from Iraq that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday. This briefing is brought to you by Joel Gaines of No Pundit Intended and Andrew Olmsted of Andrew Olmsted dot com.
Other Topics Today Include: U.S. deaths spike; violence against Palestinians continues; UNHRC says huge refugee problem; plan to refurbish Syria pipeline; plans for 10 new hospitals; train coordination; Vice President asks rebel groups to negotiate; reorganization of Iraqi National Police; Mecca document signed; hiding true casualties in Iraq (?); consensus on Kirkuk wanted; Carnival of the Liberated; Egypt welcomes Mecca agreement; White House rejects two Iraq options; Pope urges reduction in violence; Howard promises to stay in Iraq as long as necessary; Pentagon propaganda program deemed legal.
REPORTS FROM THE FIELD
RECONSTRUCTION & THE ECONOMY
THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE
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Citizen initiatives are a major feature of the political landscape in California, whose voter guide with its summaries from "For" and "Against" campaigns is an excellent model worth emulating. John Fund, who does some of the best work out there on subjects like elections and their associated corruption/malfeasance, turns in this report:
"Direct democracy in the 24 states that allow it often makes government function when arrogant, self-absorbed legislatures are gridlocked. Voters in several states have imposed term limits and curbed bilingual education and racial quotas, hot-button issues legislators often shrink from tackling. Liberals have used initiatives to pass minimum-wage hikes and tobacco taxes that were often blocked by legislatures where powerful lobbyists hold sway..."
Fund reports that judges are using a number of pretexts to block these initiatives, some of which are patently and transparently ridiculous. It's hardly an unexpected result of the courts' increasing drift into a role as partisan members of the political class, but it's a bad one that deserves and needs reversal. The politicians also need to be watched, of course, since they're the most obviously apt to rig the system against citizen initiatives if left unsupervised. So, too, the NGOs and activists involved need to be held to proper standards of behaviour and transparency. Fund reports on a number of problems, and suggests a few important solutions.
We don't get any major papers out where I live these days, but we do get a couple of community newspapers. There's an insert called "American Profile" that comes in one of them. I'm curious enough to look, and found the usual stuff: recipes, a bit of celebrity-related stuff, ads for Elvis Presley stamp collectors series and various other tchotchkes I wouldn't be caught dead with. Kind of tacky, overall. But I also find various profiles of those "extraordinary ordinary" people in every community, and that's why I always read it:
Etc., Etc. They don't often receive the recognition they're due - but they do make a difference, and you probably have one near you.
Through the efforts of journalists such as Mark Steyn and others, the peril of Europe's low birthrates is becoming better known. An industrialized society must average 2.1 births per woman simply to maintain a level population number. More than that, poplulation rises, less and it falls.Most European nations have lower-than-stable birth rates, and many have rates so low that they have been termed a "death spiral," too low to recover without massive changes in social mores and economic-legal standards that seem most unlikely. The Stanford Review explains,
Not even one EU member state has a fertility rate that will replace the death rate... . In fact, eleven EU countries, including Germany, Austria, Hungary and Italy have a negative population growth rate. Instead of Europeans, the population is being replaced by Muslims, whose birth rates are much higher than those of Europeans. French cities such as Lyon and Marseilles have become mostly Muslim Arab cities. European identity is being usurped, and Europe is in a death spiral, demographically and culturally.
The International herald Tribune reported in September on "Empty playgrounds in an aging Italy."
GENOA There are hundreds of stores in the Fiumara Mall - Sephora, Elan, Lavazza Cafe. But in a nation long known for its hordes of children, there is not one toy store in the sprawling mix, and a shiny merry-go-round stands dormant.
"This is a place for old people," said Francesco Lotti, 24, strolling with his fiancee in Genoa's medieval old town. "Just look around. You don't see young people." Even for people their age, "there are not many places - no clubs, for example." Playgrounds? He looks quizzically at his fiancee. They can count them on a few fingers.While all of Europe has suffered from declining birthrates, nowhere has the drop been as profound and prolonged as in this once gorgeous Mediterranean city, the capital of Italy's graying Liguria region. Genoa provides a vision of Europe's aging future, displaying the challenges that face a society with more old than young, and suggesting how hard it will be to reverse the downward population spiral.
Russia has the highest death rates among all countries with at least moderate levels of economic development. The present life expectancy for a typical male is about 58 years, below what it was 20 years ago in Russia. ... Even more worrisome to many Russians are the very low birth rates during the past couple of decades. The total fertility rate- the number of children born to the average woman over her lifetime- is expected to be just 1.28 in 2006, or just a little more than one per couple. Russian fertility is among the lowest in the world. ... The Russian decline is currently about 700,000 persons per year, but the rate of decline will accelerate as the number of women in childbearing ages continues to fall. A World Bank report projects that with unchanged birth and death rates, Russia's population would fall from its present level of about 140 million persons to under 100 million by the year 2050. If this happens, such a huge nation would then be largely empty of people.
The old Soviet government "offered Medals of Glory to mothers who had many children," but the Russian government
has proposed a ten-year program with very generous benefits for Russian women who have a second child- about 70 per cent of Russian women of child-bearing ages presently either have no children or only one child. Under his plan, women who do have a second child will get up to $110 more per month in child allowances, they would be able to take leave from work for up to eighteen months while receiving 40 per cent of their salaries, and they would get larger subsidies for child care. But the most novel aspect of Putin's proposal is to give a cash bonus of over $9000 to women who have a second child. This bonus is considerably larger than the annual earnings of a typical Russian worker, men or women, and it could be used for mortgage payments and for many other large outlays. Putin acknowledges that this program would require lots of money (perhaps 1 per cent of Russian GDP), but he claims that it is necessary in order to "change the attitude of the whole society to the family and its values".
Meanwhile, back in France, the government has awakened, too, and is offering financial incentives for more children. Unlike Genoa and other Italian cities, French cities are far from devoid of children. Reports the WaPo,
When the municipal day-care center ran out of space because of a local baby boom, the town government gave Maylis Staub and her husband $200 a month to defray the cost of a "maternal assistant" to care for their two children. ...
While falling birthrates threaten to undermine economies and social stability across much of an aging Europe, French fertility rates are increasing. France now has the second-highest fertility rate in Europe -- 1.94 children born per woman, exceeded slightly by Ireland's rate of 1.99. ...
France heavily subsidizes children and families from pregnancy to young adulthood with liberal maternity leaves and part-time work laws for women. The government also covers some child-care costs of toddlers up to 3 years old and offers free child-care centers from age 3 to kindergarten, in addition to tax breaks and discounts on transportation, cultural events and shopping.This summer, the government -- concerned that French women still were not producing enough children to guarantee a full replacement generation -- very publicly urged French women to have even more babies. A new law provides greater maternity leave benefits, tax credits and other incentives for families who have a third child. During a year-long leave after the birth of the third child, mothers will receive $960 a month from the government, twice the allowance for the second child.
This being France, the subsidies of children are not only cash incentives but also a burgeoning of the socialist state apparatus, with very generous, paid work leaves and even tax deductions for nanny payments.
We should recognize that the United States also subsidizes children with deductions from taxable income amounting to several thousand dollars per child and certain child-related expenses - but unlike Russia and France, there is no increase in the financial incentive for more than one child.
French women may yet achieve true replacement rates of birth. But even with Russia's strong financial incentives for having children, its birth rate is so low that even an enormous improvement - say a demographically huge increase of one-third from the present 1.28 births per woman to 1.7 - means that the country's rate of decline slows but does not stop. And no one really expects such a large increase to be attained.
But bless them for trying. It has to be done.
Related:Europe, East and West, wrestles with falling birthrates
I had occasion to visit Israel as a guest of its ministry of defense in April 2001, in the run up to the Paris Air Show that July. The idea was for a group of defense journalists to spend a week visiting all of the key high-tech companies responsible for Israel's weapons systems, IAI Elta, IAI Malat, IMI, Tadiran, Elisra, Elbit, Raphael, and others. We also got to visit a number of interesting military installations, the Arrow ABM site and the 200 Squadron UAV unit outside of Tel Aviv, and the F-15I base in the Negev.
Coming into the country through Ben Gurion was a grueling process, however, and by the time most of our group had been processed I was still an hour or so in arrears. The upshot of this was that my escort, an IDF official, drove me to my hotel himself. It turns out that he was an armor officer, and was very enthusiastic about the Merkava main battle tank. Knowing that I was an American, he took care to say nice things about the Abrams. But the Merkava, he assured me, was the best tank in the world. It was conceived, designed, and built from the treads up to meet the specific requirements of the IDF. It fights in the desert. It fights in the streets.
It is interesting to note that Israel buys nearly all of its "platforms" from the US, notably its aircraft and vehicles. This is because the large amounts of military aid the US provides must be spent of US-supplied weapons systems. Into these the Israelis typically integrate indigenous electronics and weapons systems of demonstrable high quality. Therefore it is significant that the only indigenously produced combat vehicle is the Merkava series of MBTs. Most anything other type of platform can be purchased from other suppliers (the subs come from Germany because the US doesn't make diesel electric attack boats) and customized with Israeli electronics. Even the ship hit by an C-802 missile in the recent war with Hezbollah was built by Northrop Grumman. But Israel considers its ability to produce MBTs to its own specifications to be a strategic necessity.
One of the most dangerous counters to the Merkava on the market today is the AT-14 Kornet anti-tank missile. Not only does the weapon have a tremendous two-stage warhead capable of penetrating the armor of the latest generation of MBTs, such as the Merkava and the Abrams, it employs a laser-beamrider guidance. The importance of the latter is that laser-warning receivers on tanks may not detect the laser energy of the missile system, because the beam is focused on a receiver on the tail assembly of the missile rather than the target. Think of a laser beamrider as receiving its guidance commands by laser rather than through a wire. Targeting information is collected by the launch crew by means of a passive electrooptical system and an auto tracker. A computer translates the tracking data into guidance commands sent automatically to the missile via the laser. This form of guidance is much more difficult for a laser-warning receiver to detect than laser-guided weapons whose seekers home on reflected laser energy from a spot held on the target. The only opportunity a tank crew has to receive warning of an impending launch of a laser-beamrider is when the missile crew briefly lases the tank for range, an activity that can be difficult for laser-warning receivers to detect.
Reports that laser-beamrider anti-tank missiles are turning up in southern Lebanon must be a source of intense concern to IDF officials. The weapons are apparently coming from Syria and Iran, who have purchased the systems in large numbers from an obliging Russia. It is likely that many of Israel's casualties and the unexpectedly large numbers of armored vehicles lost in operations against Hezbollah were due to the introduction of the Kornet. Certainly, the loss of Merkava tanks to Hezbollah militia must have come as a shock and a painful blow to the IDF, which has placed such faith in its homegrown MBT. I wonder how long it will be before Hamas also has access to such weapons?
Iceland has just announced a decision to resume commercial whaling. The stated numbers are small, and constitute a deliberate warning shot across the bow of the International Whaling Commission.
The problem can be explained simply. Whaling countries were told the moratorium on commercial whaling was temporary, until an agreement on a sustainable, science-based catch limit could be worked out. Which would be possible for some species, given current whale populations. But agreement was impossible, and it really boils down to a shift of sentiment in many non-whaling countries that came to see whaling as barbaric murder. There are varied reasons for this, some serious and some less so, and in fact I'm pretty close to being in that camp myself. Hence, no agreement from the early 1990s onward. Thing is, the commercial whaling moratorium had a time limit/deadline, and it's coming due... hence Iceland, Japan, Norway et. al. simply announcing their catch limits.
Because the values involved are so radically different, there's no diplomatic solution to be had here. Either activists will successfully use coercion to shut the hunts down (via boycotts most likely, which work at full power when campaigning against economic activities), or the IWC's moratorium will break down very soon and countries will simply announce their catches, limited by the effectiveness of the activists' ongoing lobbying more than by anything the IWC does. Any agreements struck, or any IWC quota hurriedly arrived at, will be provisional only for both sides; without moral common ground or shared interests, conflict is the only option. Indeed, it was always the only option. All diplomacy and the moratorium did was "freeze" the conflict while both sides tried to improve their position for the next go-around. Likewise, any diplomacy conducted by either side now that the conflict is "unfreezing" is just a way of participating in that conflict on the way to eventual victory. Welcome to the human condition.
If you hadn't already guessed, I won't be supporting the whalers. The position I do support? Zero whaling - and activists and groups who share that belief should be honest enough to say so forthrightly.
ESPN has done exhaustive work looking into Pat Tillman's death in Afghanistan, via an excellent article series that reconstructs what happened and offers perspectives from many of the people involved. While there are some aspects of the military culture that the reporter doesn't quite grasp (like: how big a punishment dismissal from the Rangers is, and why), overall it's a first-rate job. The article isn't afraid to ask hard questions, including whether or not Tillman realy deserved the Silver Star bestowed on him. Fortunately, Fish's and ESPN's agenda seems to be about telling the story from various viewpoints and getting it right. The people in this story are all recognizably human - the tellers of their own stories, not props in someone else's. Of course, they're a sports network not a 'news' outlet like the NY Times, so this shouldn't be wholly surprising. But it's still gratifying to see.
As most of you know, Tillman's family still have a number of questions connected with what happened...
Some of those questions appear pretty easy to answer. Some can be chalked up to Tillman's fellow soldiers being human beings and therefore fallible. Others are quite legitimate questions, and I'd sure as hell be wondering in their place. I've said more than once that his family deserved to know the truth, and know it quickly. To me, this is a reciprocal obligation that (barring real national security concerns, like a secret op) is owed to everyone who dons that uniform and puts themselves on the line.
If you know much about the military or warfare, you know that Tillman's story is one that has happened in every war you can think of. This makes it a very human story; it's just that this one happened to a bona fide hero, at a time with greater expectations of transparency, and the execution of that obligation fell short. The system continues to ratchet the investigation up to higher and higher levels, as it should under these circumstances. Which means it's working. But the military's reciprocal obligations of honour and honesty to the family of the fallen still leave a bitter taste by their shortcomings.
I hope the Tillmans eventually do get a proper set of answers. They are owed nothing less. ESPN stepped up, and did a ton of hard work on this one, and kept the faith with their charges and their professional creed. Now it's the military system's turn to finish this right, and do likewise.
That last paragraph isn't the parable, by the way, which is found in vv. 16-24. Jesus's discourse on jockeying for position illuminates the kind of cultural values that Jesus grew up in 2,000 years ago, and which is still found across most of the Middle East today (and, in his renunciation of those values, helps explain why he made such powerful enemies). Cultures of honor and shame are literally foreign to Western minds. Matters of honor and shame have certainly been powerful in Western history, but such concerns have always been tempered and tamped by Jesus's teachings that "all who exalt themselves will be humbled." And the twentieth century's blood-drenched years did nothing to preserve the concept, either. Jonathan Rauch, writing in National Journal, explains,
14 On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the Sabbath ... . 7 When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. 8"When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; 9 and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, 'Give this person your place,' and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."
Singularly, however, the West has backed away from honor. Under admonitions from Christianity to turn the other cheek and from the Enlightenment to favor reason over emotion, the West first channeled honor into the arcane rituals of chivalry, then folded it into a code of manly but magnanimous Victorian gentlemanliness -- and then, in the 20th century, drove it into disrepute. World War I and the Vietnam War were seen as needless butcheries brought on by archaic obsessions with national honor; feminism and the therapeutic culture taught that a higher manly strength acknowledges weakness.
He goes on to explain that in Arab culture, one's standing in the community is of paramount importance. What Easterners call "saving face" is a real force in the Middle East. Why else, Rauch asks, would Saddam lie about possessing WMDs, knowing that the lies could bring about his downfall and demise? "Saddam was more concerned about saving face -- preserving his reputation for being fierce and formidable -- than about his office or even his life. Indeed, he could not feel otherwise and still count himself a man."
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[I[n traditional Arab society ... a distinction is made between two kinds of honor: sharaf and ‘ird. Sharaf relates to the honor of a social unit, such as the Arab tribe or family, as well as individuals, and it can fluctuate up or down. A failure by an individual to follow what is defined as adequate moral conduct weakens the social status of the family or tribal unit. On the other hand, the family's sharaf may be increased by model behavior such as hospitality, generosity, courage in battle, etc. In sum, sharaf translates roughly as the Western concept of "dignity."
Honor, then, is what is granted by the community, by the social units of society. Likewise, shame or disgrace is also so given. I demur, though, that what MEQ describes at sharaf corresponds, even "roughly," to the Western concept of dignity. A person's dignity comes from self-concept: you cannot rob me of my dignity because of my inherent worth as a human being. The idea of dignity of mankind was a concept that undergirded the American revolutionists and that led Thomas Jefferson to write that, "The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy but cannot disjoin them." I wrote several years ago that the American Civil War pitted the Southern states' honor concepts against the Northern states' dignity concepts.
Holy War from the legacy of the American South is waged from an offense to the nation that is seen as a stain upon the national honor, or as vengeance for wrongs done to the nation. (Southern concern with honor was a major contributor toward both Southern secession and the attack on Fort Sumter, precipitating the worst war in our history.) Honor can be restored only by confronting the foe with great force. The foe's surrender or destruction restores the national honor. Honor codes have not played a large role in shaping the Northern model of of Holy War. Instead, the Northern codes spring from ideas of the dignity of humankind, and deep notions of sin and judgment. From the Northern model, Americans readily answer the call to colors to liberate the oppressed and punish the oppressors, a combination that probably springs from the North's Puritan and Calvinistic founding.
Back to MEQ:
In contrast, ‘ird relates only to the honor of women and its value can only decrease. It translates roughly as the Western concept of "chastity" or "purity." And as with chastity or purity, exemplary moral behavior cannot increase a woman's ‘ird but misconduct reduces it. In addition, ‘ird trumps sharaf: the honor of the Arab family or tribe, the respect accorded it, can be gravely damaged when one of its women's chastity is violated or when her reputation is tainted. Consequently, a violation of a woman's honor requires severe action, as Tarrad Fayiz, a Jordanian tribal leader, explains: "A woman is like an olive tree. When its branch catches woodworm, it has to be chopped off so that society stays clean and pure."
This dynamic, says MEQ, explains "honor killings" in Muslim societies, but especially Arab ones, in which a woman whose chastity has been compromised, even by rape, is punished.
As for rape, society perceives the violated woman not as a victim who needs protection but as someone who debased the family honor, and relatives will opt to undo the shame by taking her life. Failure to do so further dishonors the family.
Rape in such societies is not held to be principally an offense against the woman, as it is in the West, but against first the men of her family and secondarily the other women, whose reputation for chastity can be sullied by libertine ways of one. Because it is not really dishonorable for a man to commit rape as much as for a woman to endure rape, things like this occur:
On May 31, 1994, Kifaya Husayn, a 16-year-old Jordanian girl, was lashed to a chair by her 32-year-old brother. He gave her a drink of water and told her to recite an Islamic prayer. Then he slashed her throat. Immediately afterward, he ran out into the street, waving the bloody knife and crying, ‘I have killed my sister to cleanse my honor.' Kifaya's crime? She was raped by another brother, a 21-year-old man. Her judge and jury? Her own uncles, who convinced her eldest brother that Kifaya was too much of a disgrace to the family honor to be allowed to live."
The psychologist who uses the nom de blog of Dr. Sanity explained in Shame, the Arab Psyche, and Islam, that in Arab cultures, the principal concern over conduct is not that which is guilty or innocent, but that which brings honor or shame.
[W]hat other people believe has a far more powerful impact on behavior than even what the individual believes. [T]he desire to preserve honor and avoid shame to the exclusion of all else is one of the primary foundations of the culture. This desire has the side-effect of giving the individual carte blanche to engage in wrong-doing as long as no-one knows about it, or knows he is involved.
In contrast, he says, the West has a Guilt/Innocence culture. "The guilt culture is typically and primarily concerned with truth, justice, and the preservation of individual rights."
The great difference between the two cultures is illustrated by this matrix:
The key: if your principal concern about your social self is your standing in your community and what others think about you rather than your own inherent sense of conscience and personal sense of worth, then you are operating on a honor/shame model.I am wondering whether honor/shame codes play a much larger role for the left side of the American political aisle than is first evident. It was mostly from that side of political aisle that just after 9/11 the plaintive cry was raised, "Why do they hate us?"
To many people in the Middle East and beyond, where US policy has bred widespread anti-Americanism, the carnage of Sept. 11 was retribution. And voices across the Muslim world are warning that if America doesn't wage its war on terrorism in a way that the Muslim world considers just, America risks creating even greater animosity.
Note how the concerns of others is implied to be of supreme importance even in waging war, even if the others are the actual enemy. The Abu Ghraib offenses called forth honor/shame language from all around the aisle.
U.S. military policy was to treat the detainees at the Abu Ghraib facility outside Baghdad in the same manner as enemy prisoners of war. ... For an American soldier, there are few crimes more shameful than breeching the standards of conduct established by the laws of war. ... Nothing will regain the respect of the Iraqis and the world more than doing the right thing in Iraq. That is the most determined response that America can make to the betrayal at Abu Ghraib.
Then there was the entirely false report that copies of the Quran had been abused at Guantanamo, which evoked strong honor/shame language from Western critics, especially on the left:
This is worse than Abu Ghraib; Abu Ghraib represents the physical and psychological torture of a few Muslims, Quran desecration represents a spiritual, emotional and psychological torture of all Muslims. Even if it turns out that the Newsweek report was false, most people will see it as a cover up and another American attempt to eschew accountability.
Note that this author deliberately eschews a guilt/innocence code by claiming that that fact of innocence does not matter. Only the perception of guilt matters. Then he comes to another part of the honor/shame code: rectufying by penance or even debasement of the offender:
The ramifications of mistakes such as this one, even if it is proven that ultimately the report was a false one, will take a long time to rectify. Perhaps Newsweek should dedicate a special issue to celebrate the Quran and the deep devotion that Muslims hold for it.
These words come as no surprise since their author is one Muqtedar Khan, a Muslim teacher in the United States. And it is no surprise that he was writing not for, say, National Review, but for Common Dreams News Center, "Breaking News and Views for the Progressive Commnity." (As for National Review, see this piece on the story and note its concern with truth or falsehood of the allegations, that is, whether the accused is guilty or innocent.)
So is the left side of aisle more concerned with image than with substance, that is with the opinion of others rather than the interior compass of the self? It seems to me to be so. I am not saying that, politically speaking, the right side of the aisle evinces no such conerns - pundits love to wax eloquent about how all politicians need to make sure they are attractive to the base of their party. But it does seem to me that the left side overall acts more within honor/shame frameworks than the right side. If so, it also helps explain why the left side is pretty fast to sympathize with the aggrieved feelings of Muslims generally when it comes to US policy: accusations are more important than evidence.
Crossposted at DonaldSensing.com
Phil Carter has a piece up in
Salon Slate about where we are in Iraq and what to do. Everyone ought to go read it. Period.
What? You're still here?
I'll try and comment when I get some time, but the short form comment is that he's absolutely right.
So, there's a report going 'round that the efforts of a number of bloggers managed to block the sale of EADS-CASA's military transport aircraft to Venezuela. See this article, for instance.
I have only one problem with this report. It's B.S.
Back on Valentine's Day 2006, I wrote a Defense Industry Daily story about this sale, and called it "Love on the Rocks: CASA's $600M Venezuelan Plane Sale In Heavy Turbulence." That was updated in August with an addendum, when Venezuela decalred the deal nullified. I'd recommend that people with an interest in this issue from either the military side or the blog side read that, because it will clarify how these things really work. It will also, through no intention of its own, make the recent claims of "blogger power" look pretty stupid.
I have a lot of time for Venezuelans tired of Chavez's dictatorship and pained by his destruction of both its electoral system and rule of law. I'll also grant that the bloggers involved have probably done some positive good on the margins with their campaign, by creating additional political headaches for the EU's favorite defense manufacturer that remind it - again - of the limits it faces if it follows its socialist EU patrons too far. It may even reduce the odds of the EADS-CASA C-295M becoming the USA's next cargo plane, which would be good because it's the wrong choice (Alenia's C-27J "Baby Herc," which can carry tactical vehicles and even small helicopters, is the right one).
But poking at a dead dragon is not the same as slaying one, and confusing the two is not a credibility enhancer in serious circles.
It didn't take a genius to guess that something was fishy when a John Hopkins study (coincidentally released very conveniently near the election) trumpeted a figure for Iraqi dead that exceeds even far-left body counts for Iraq by a factor of about 5, and reliable estimates by a factor in the double-digits.
It may take a fairly smart person to explain exactly what was wrong with the study, however, and how it produced such laughable results. Fortunately Steven E. Moore, who has been doing survey work in Iraq for over 2 years, can. He steps up to the plate and deservedly destroys the study as a effort that would flunk a grad student. That it was a work of political agitprop rather than anything honest or serious was obvious from the get-go - but it's always good to understand the whys and hows of its shoddy dishonesty, because you'll see this again and again in future.
"More than any maulana, my morality is a by-product of a dark elf named Drizzt Do'Urden....."
If you get that reference, you really ought to read this (just ignore the comments section, which serves mostly as an advertisement for Drizzt's approach to trolls). If the above is gobbledygook to you, well, you still might learn a few things. Including a few that have applications rather beyond the issues of the day.
I've had a correspondent or two pushing me to explain "what your problem?" with the modern Democratic party. Rather then write up something new, it occurred to me that a very old post of mine sums it up pretty perfectly:
From back in May, 2002:I've been thinking about "Liberalism" (as opposed to Lockean "liberalism") for a while - after all, I need to justify the title of this blog. I am trying to unify the examples of what mostly goes for Liberalism in this day and age, which I'm calling "SkyBox Liberalism" - which is v. different from what I'm promoting.
While I was there, there was a small controversy that I followed. It involved the effort of the student government to evict from the student union one tenant, and to replace it with another. This is to me, the perfect example of SkyBoxing, and I hope that telling the story will help define what I mean.
In the 60's in Berkeley, there was a movement to create a series of co-ops that would allow student-radicals to both generate jobs outside the hated-but-paying-their-rent capitalist system, and provide a living example that (for all I know) Trotskyite anarcho-syndicalism could triumph in the Belly of the Beast.
Most of these communal businesses failed mercifully quickly, as far as I know (this is all ancient history to me, so if I'm getting part of it wrong, drop a note). By the time I got there, there were two survivors - Leopold's Records ("Boycott Tower Records, keep Berkeley Free") and the Missing Link bicycle shop.
Leopold's was off-campus somewhere near Telegraph, but the bicycle store was a part of the mini-shopping area that was in the ASUC building.
The student government decided that they were going to evict it to make room for a small-electronics (Walkmen, stereo, calculators, etc.) annex to the Student Store. Why??
The small-electronics store could pay as much as $50,000 more in rent every year.
Now this is an appropriately cold-hearted landlord kind of decision to make. But the people making the decision weren't sweater wearing conservative Young Republicans, driven by their vision of the purity of the market.
They were a bunch of New Left, ethnic-identity, progressive communitarian kind of kids.
Why did they want to make this decision? Because it would mean $50K a year more for their organizing budgets; $50K more in pork they could carve up in the hopes of building their perfect communitarian future.
Now I don't know about you, but I have a hard time imagining anything more keyed to a progressive communitarian future than a cooperatively owned bicycle store. I mean, how much better does it get? Nonprofit. Cooperatively employee owned. Bicycles, for chrissakes. If you really wanted to educate people in alternatives to the "mass consumerist repressive capitalist paradigm" (I think I got the buzzwords right), wouldn't that be a good way to do it?
But reality couldn't stand a chance against the cold need for this elected group to make sure that they and their friends were rewarded.
See it's not about what you really believe in, in the SkyBox world ... it's about making sure you and your friends can be very comfortable while you think and write and feel very very seriously about it.
I'm not touting bicycles or co-ops right now (although there are things to say for both); it's the fact that one group put their beliefs into practice in the world, while another made it a point to live comfortably while thinking really hard about making the world a better place.
One of those is a Liberal - the other is doing something else, but is definitely doing it from a SkyBox.
Some of you may have noticed that Winds went down entirely for about an hour yesterday. We made major modifications to our infrastructure recently, in order to run Winds on a series of base platforms that were more CPU-friendly (Ubuntu/LightTPD not Red Hat/Apache, no more Virtuozzo or CPx control panel, which forced a hosting switch from the excellent folks at ServInt to our new friends at Pixelgate). That worked, and performance improved significantly. But yesterday... over to Ev:
"They called back and let me know what happened. It was a trackback spam attack so large, it drove the load average on the server so high that they couldn't even log in themselves without forcibly rebooting the box first. The spam attack resumed while I was on the phone with him, so I've disabled trackback. It's simply untenable to keep on, when it can disable the machine so badly that not only can't I log in, they can't log in when they're physically in front of the server."
We've killed trackbacks now, and they'll stay dead. Movable Type's approach to dealing with trackback & comment spam is fundamentally non-scalable, which means it's fundamentally broken in an age of cheap CPUs and no consequences for spammers. Worse, their security flaws forced us to migrate to MT 3.3 (and the only CAPTCHA system that works with it, plus the unfixable author link limit annoyances, etc.) and made our lives here worse, not better. We're as frustrated as some of you are.
Which is why Winds of Change.NET will be moving to Wordpress once some test migrations of other blogs are finished and confirmed to be trouble-free. Wordpress is inherently more CPU-friendly (PHP not Perl), has a wider variety of features & plug-ins, and a community that is way, way ahead in anti-spam measures. I'm hoping this can happen by mid-to late November. It would be a fine birthday present for me, and a present for many of you, too.
And: we've all submitted to a level of "ownership" by the state. This country does a better job of minimizing that than most, but society exists to restrict the freedom to do "bad" things in the hope that "good" freedoms will be expanded. When we disagree about what good and bad are is where we bump up against that ownership issue. We have to do as we're told or end up dead/imprisoned. That's ownership, isn't it?Is it proper to think of Americans as "owned" by the state? Is that the right relationship, more broadly, for a person to have with the state?
Part I: ClassicsPlato appears to have thought so, for he has Socrates relate the point as explanation for why he will not attempt to flee his own execution. Here is the excerpt from the Crito:
Soc. "Tell us what complaint you have to make against us which justifies you in attempting to destroy us and the State? In the first place did we not bring you into existence? Your father married your mother by our aid and begat you. Say whether you have any objection to urge against those of us who regulate marriage?" None, I should reply. "Or against those of us who regulate the system of nurture and education of children in which you were trained? Were not the laws, who have the charge of this, right in commanding your father to train you in music and gymnastic?" Right, I should reply. "Well, then, since you were brought into the world and nurtured and educated by us, can you deny in the first place that you are our child and slave, as your fathers were before you? And if this is true you are not on equal terms with us; nor can you think that you have a right to do to us what we are doing to you. Would you have any right to strike or revile or do any other evil to a father or to your master, if you had one, when you have been struck or reviled by him, or received some other evil at his hands?- you would not say this? And because we think right to destroy you, do you think that you have any right to destroy us in return, and your country as far as in you lies? And will you, O professor of true virtue, say that you are justified in this? Has a philosopher like you failed to discover that our country is more to be valued and higher and holier far than mother or father or any ancestor, and more to be regarded in the eyes of the gods and of men of understanding? also to be soothed, and gently and reverently entreated when angry, even more than a father, and if not persuaded, obeyed? And when we are punished by her, whether with imprisonment or stripes, the punishment is to be endured in silence; and if she leads us to wounds or death in battle, thither we follow as is right; neither may anyone yield or retreat or leave his rank, but whether in battle or in a court of law, or in any other place, he must do what his city and his country order him; or he must change their view of what is just: and if he may do no violence to his father or mother, much less may he do violence to his country." What answer shall we make to this, Crito? Do the laws speak truly, or do they not? Cr. I think that they do.Plato's position might be said to be further amplified by the following exchange on being a free man versus being a slave, from the Alcibidaes:
SOCRATES:This is the classical view, then: that the state does indeed own a man, as even a "free man" is like a slave morally; and the state's ownership is to be directed at improving the greater virtue of the community. To truly become free requires the help of God. In the meanwhile, the state's ownership of men is right and proper.
Or again, in a ship, if a man having the power to do what he likes, has no intelligence or skill in navigation, do you see what will happen to him and to his fellow-sailors?
Yes; I see that they will all perish.
And in like manner, in a state, and where there is any power and authority which is wanting in virtue, will not misfortune, in like manner, ensue?
Not tyrannical power, then, my good Alcibiades, should be the aim either of individuals or states, if they would be happy, but virtue.
That is true.
And before they have virtue, to be commanded by a superior is better for men as well as for children? (Compare Arist. Pol.)
That is evident.
And that which is better is also nobler?
And what is nobler is more becoming?
Then to the bad man slavery is more becoming, because better?
Then vice is only suited to a slave?
And virtue to a freeman?
And, O my friend, is not the condition of a slave to be avoided?
And are you now conscious of your own state? And do you know whether you are a freeman or not?
I think that I am very conscious indeed of my own state.
And do you know how to escape out of a state which I do not even like to name to my beauty?
Yes, I do.
By your help, Socrates.
That is not well said, Alcibiades.
What ought I to have said?
SOCRATES:By the help of God.
Sam, in asserting the same position, is on very solid philosophical ground. He will find this traditional conception asserted time and again through history. Once Europe becomes Christian, he will find defenders in the Church as well as in the halls of the state.
Part II: Enlightenment Thinking
He will find it difficult, however, to justify the United States of America.
Because of its history, the United States requires a different explanation of the authority of the state. It arose in rebellion to civic authority, by serious thinkers who believed that what they were doing was not only neither a crime nor a sin, but an expression of their rights under the natural law written by their Creator. Catholic theory has a different view of what natural law has to say on the subject; search on "canker-worm" in the previous link to find it.
It is possible that Jefferson and Washington were wrong -- both criminals and, if you like, sinners. In overturning civic authority, they therefore created a great crime -- but we might still be justified in newfound obedience to the state they created. For better or worse, it is now the civic authority, and we should show it the obedience that they wrongly denied to the authorities of their day.
However, it is also possible they were right. If so, there is a right to rebel -- a natural law that holds that men are created equal, even if 'one man is [not] as good as another,' as the Catholic article holds. The American nation is founded on the idea that rebellion is a human right: "...to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them[.]"
If that is so, though, how to get around the problems raised by Socrates, and Sam?
Part III: The Problem of Rebellion
Does it not do violence to the law and the communal good, as Socrates held, to believe that anyone is justified in putting aside the common law? The Alcibidaes quote suggests that "tyranny" might be an answer to the problem -- when the state is behaving tyrannically, it is proper to overthrow it. Not by accident nor by coincidence, "Tyranny" was a term frequent in the writings of the Founding Fathers.
Yet what is tyranny, finally? If the state is going to execute you, is that not the ultimate tyranny from your point of view? If it drafts you into its wars, when you do not agree, is that not tyranny? If not, why is it tyranny to impose a tax on tea or require the purchase of stamps?
We are treating with natural rights here: we need to be able to say that in the one case, to rebel is a wrong justly punishable by the state even unto death; but in the other case, to rebel is the exercise of a natural right that the state has no proper authority to resist. Yet there is no clear line: America holds that the Boston Tea Party was an exercise of natural rights, but that the secession of the Southern states -- by acts of assembly not different in form from those that created the United States -- were unjustified rebellion.
Part IV: Wagering Lives, Fortunes and Sacred Honor
Some of this can be excused by pointing out that the facts on the ground were decided by the wager of battle, not by philosophers. It should be no surprise that the wages of battle are chaotic. They always are.
If we look at likely future scenarios, too, there is a certainty that claims will be tested by the wager of battle. This may not be so full-throated as all out war: the Civil Rights movement entailed real fighting and military force, with marches in defiance of legal orders; regular deployments of the National Guard; attacks on police by rioters in Boston and elsewhere; and even lynchings by insurgent mobs.
That is to restate that rebellion is a natural right -- but it is also to add that it is a right with costs. You do not exercise the right to rebellion like you do the right to religious liberty.
The right to rebel has to be said to be a natural right, but one that must be justified in the midst of the field.
That is to say: We are free men, not slaves. If we obey, we choose to obey. If we do not, we are as right as we can make ourselves. We wager our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor -- and, if we are truly justified, we do so in bonds with other men who freely choose to stand with us and stake their own.Oddly enough, this proves to be the resolution to the problem raised by the Catholics:
All [ultra-democratic doctrines] originate in a manifestly false supposition, that one man is as good as another.Not so this one. It holds that this fundamental human right has to be justified according to the wager of battle. That implies a matching of tactics and strategies, the making of alliances and the forging of powerful arguments. Not just any man will be the equal of that task. Here is an ultra-democratic doctrine: it holds that any man may overthrow the state, and be right to do it. But it does not believe that any man is good enough to do it. All of which reminds me of the climactic lines in the movie Shane. There, too, there were competitors for who was the proper authority -- the bold cowboys who had fared hard against the Cheyenne in settling the land, or the new farmers who wished to move in and build fences across the range. There, too, the existing authority had brought in force of arms, in the form of a gunfighter named Wilson, to enforce the existing order. In deciding to stake his life, fortune and honor on the challenge to that order, Shane faces the 'state's' righteous demand:
Shane: So you're Jack Wilson.John Hancock did. He proved that we are free men, not slaves. That shall I defend, with my life and fortune, and sacred honor.
Jack Wilson: What's that mean to you, Shane?
Shane: I've heard about you.
Jack Wilson: What have you heard, Shane?
Shane: I've heard that you're a low-down Yankee liar.
Jack Wilson: Prove it.
Coral reefs are spectacularly beautiful, critical ocean ecosystems that take thousands of years to fully form, and serve as an barometer of sorts. Think of them as the tropical rainforests of the oceans - incredibly lush, and important to many other chains and processes, but somewhat fragile. Their fate and productivity is also tied to mangrove swamps and similar habitats, which have suffered great damage of their own albeit for different reasons.
If you dive, as I do, you're familiar with the phenomenon of "coral bleaching," which looks pretty much what it sounds like. There are various reasons attributed, and warming waters may play a role, but cold will also d it and humans who do dumb things like dump massive amounts of semi-treated waste into the ocean near reefs, fish using cyanide to catch tropical fish for aquariums, et. al. are speeding things along (indeed, may be a far larger cause - see here and here).
The recent Asian tsunami may have wised up a bunch of folks about the importance of mangrove swamps et. al., but the reefs still need attention. Fortunately, healthy reefs can generate a lot of sustainable tourist revenue in addition to their more obvious economic benefits, so the priority dial for conserving them is set relatively high. To that end, strategies for conserving the world's coral reefs are included in a new guide released October 11 by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Australian Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the World Conservation Union. "A Reef Manager's Guide to Coral Bleaching" will give reef managers the latest scientific information on causes of coral bleaching, and new strategies for responding. The release can be found here (with links), and here's the full report in PDF format.
If you dive too, consider joining R.E.E.F. and turning in a list of fish found on your next dive - fun, and you'll be helping ocean science in a very concrete way.
Patrick Belton's mother has died. Patrick has posted a eulogy for her that has me headed to work thinking about mortality, parents, children, love, and what it is to have a son who loves you as much as Patrick obviously loved his mother..
So Michael Totten has posted something on the election, and while I'm not completely in agreement with him you ought to go check his post out. I'm a little more tied into the redistributionist, social justice stuff than he is, but I'm equally disgusted with the choices on the menu.
Let me explain.
I'm a huge fan of motorcycle road racing, and have done a bit myself. Right now, we're in the midst of what will be an epochal season in MotoGP, the premier class in the sport.
Valentino Rossi has been the dominant racer in the world for much of the last decade, in several classes from 125cc up to the modern 200+ hp,
100+ 200+ mph 990cc bikes. I've watched him race here in the states, and watched many of his races on video, and he's simply superhuman on a bike. I sat in a pub in Guildford and watched on TV as he took two seconds a lap out of the best racers in the world on a flooded track at Donington.
This year, he's had a tough time. The evolution of his bike hasn't gone as well as one might expect. And it's possible to infer that partying at his mansion on Ibiza might be more of a priority for him than the drudgery of training and testing equipment. He took a nasty spill, and was off his form for the first half of the season.
As a result, young American Nicky Hayden has held the lead for most of the season. They are quite a pair, these two, a real contrast. Both second-generation racers, each of them has arrived, in their mid-twenties at the pinnacle of their sport and profession.
I've been a fan of Rossi's for a number of years. I've been a fan of Hayden's for a shorter time. On one hand, it's wonderful to see a master return to form when the pressure is on. On the other, it's amazing to watch someone struggle to defeat someone who is and has been clearly the best in the world at something. Each champion has had a season marred by mischance, accident, mechanical issue, bad tire construction - all the drama that leads racers to shrug and go "that's racing".
This weekend, Hayden was knocked off his motorcycle by his Repsol Honda teammate, Dani Pedrosa, and fell behind Rossi for the first time this season.
So the whole shooting match will be decided in two weeks in Valencia. And I'm riveted, because regardless of who wins, I will be completely convinced that they deserve the championship, perhaps more than in most years.
So you're completely confused now, right? I started out talking about elections that may determine the future of Life As We Know It, and moved on to an irrelevant, elitist sport that is hastening the end of the world as we know it through global warming.
Here's the difference. Rossi and Hayden both deserve to win. The Democrats and Republicans both deserve to lose.
I don't spend much time Republican-bashing on this site; I figure I'll leave that to people who want to build a strong Republican Party - something I'm not terrifically invested in. but in case you're wondering, I think the modern Republicans have a lot in common with the Russian apparachniks who sold themselves the assets that belonged to the state for pennies on the dollar and suddenly announced that they were now brilliant businessmen. The modern GOP seems compelled not to limit the power of the state - the root of conservative thought, as I was raised to understand it - but to use it to pay for their places in the Hamptons and Montecito.
The Republicans have one thing correct - we face a serious enemy that needs to be fought - but seem incapable of rising to the historical moment and convincing the rest of us to put the nation first - because they're too busy looting it to put it first themselves.
And the Democrats...
Let's not go there. They have sold out the working people of the country, along with a whole lot of other folks they were elected to defend, all for a mess of Hollywood and Silicon Valley pottage.
There's one race that matters a lot to me, and should matter to you as well. I'll talk about it in the next day or so, along with some comments on California propositions.
A confederal, rather than federal, type of nation may be looming, as I predicted in early '03CNews reports that the Iraqi parliament has passed legislation that would allow the country to be paritioned along sectarian lines in 18 months.
Evidence continued to mount in the 44th month of U.S. involvement that Iraqi centres of power - politicians and the government, the police and military - were unable or unwilling to rein in violence in parts of the country where Sunni and Shiite Muslim or Kurdish populations rub up against one another. ...
The Shiite Majority in parliament, over complaints of dirty tricks from rival Sunni and even some Shiite legislators, adopted a measure that would allow the effective partition of the country after an 18-month waiting period, something widely opposed in polls of Iraqis.
"The starting point is to recognize that Iraq is not going to be a democratic, unified country that serves as a model for the region. The violence and the Sunni-Shiite division have already ruled that out," Dennis Ross, a Mideast peace negotiator and policy maker for former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, wrote in an Op-ed column for the Washington Post on Sunday.
A partition would leave Iraq with a weak central government and largely independent states run by Kurds in the north, Shiites in the south and Sunnis in the centre and west, giving impetus for still more violence and still further population upheaval.
Iraqis so-called national unity government announced that next Saturday's much-anticipated national reconciliation conference was indefinitely postponed for unspecified "emergency reasons." ...
Ross said the best solution was, in fact, the formation of a federal state, with Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds running areas where they are majorities. ...Sunnis, a minority sect in Iraq that ran the country until the ouster of Saddam, are violently opposed, fearing it would leave them with no revenue from Iraq's oil riches. Natural resources are largely absent from their lands in central and western Iraq.
Saudi Arabia said yesterday that it feared a US-led war on Baghdad would set out a turmoil in the volatile region and transform Iraq into another Afghanistan with rival ethnic and religious factions fighting for power.
"If things fall apart, who will come back and bring it all back together?" Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal asked while addressing a news conference."All the factions inside Iraq will present their visions for a new government like they did in Afghanistan. These are the consequences of a conflict, and if that happens, it will result in the division of Iraq," he said.
My long-time readers know that I always held invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam's regime was justified, and that I have consistently denounced the shortsighted management by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for trying to do it on the cheap. See, for example, Rumsfeld v. the Army, from June 2003. That the US should have sent in many tens of thousands more troops to establish post-combat control of the country is so blindingly obvious now that I'll spend no more time discussing it. The question is, what about Iraqi democracy? In my Feb. 03 post I discussed it thus.
Not all of even the most rabid Iraqi opponents of Saddam Hussein are friends of America or wish for American-style democracy. The organizing principle inside Iraq has always been the tribe. Political idealism as we know it has no history there. In fact, citizenship as we know it has no history there. The boundaries of Iraq were drawn up by the British after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. In the West, citizenship is by definition territorial; it was the shared territorial identity among different people, unified by language and religion, that gave rise to the modern nation state. This territorial loyalty did not arise from nationhood, it was a precondition of nationhood. But the tribes of Iraq have never thought of themselves as common citizens of the entire territory bounded by the British-drawn lines on the map. Tribal territorial loyalties are far more limited than that. Hence, whatever loyalty Iraqis have for "Iraq" as a nation has been imposed from above, not grown from below.
It does not help that the Iraqi people have never known a government that was staffed from the top down with public servants; what they have known is imperial rule and dictatorship. So any democratic-type government that might be instituted is handicapped at the outset: the people will not invest their full trust and confidence in it right away because all their governments have proven to be untrustworthy and oppressive. And the people elected to the actual offices will not take them understanding what it means to be a democratically elected office holder.So will there be Jeffersonian democracy in Iraq? I don't think so. Maybe the best we can hope for is a confederation of tribal regions, united only in their desire to share in oil profits. I don't see a successful federal system being emplaced there. The boundary lines of "Iraq" on the map will be merely the limits of centripetal expansion of tribal regions. They will define the limits outside of which tribal frictions and conflicts may not spill. But inside the external boundary of Iraq there is real danger of violence as competing claims are settled. And American troops will be caught in the middle.
Then I closed with this prediction:
My bottom line analysis: Something close enough to democracy as we understand it is a reality now in the Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq. I think that the various factions among Iraqi exile groups and populations will try to set up a federal-type Iraqi government under the aegis of the American occupiers, but the attempt will ultimately fail.
I am not happy to be shown apparently correct.
Acting smart by analysing a problem endlessly and calling attention to negatives and problems is easy but worthless; making clear recommendations for action is tough and exposes you to criticism, but it is indispensable.
If there is going to be a growing school of people who have accepted Islam as a dangerous enemy, which seems inevitable and/or a done deal, given Islam's continuing fearful and bloody influence on current events, then this school has to make positive suggestions. Assuming as some of us do that Islam is an enemy: what is to be done?
Diana West stepped up to the mark with her two posts on what the American President should say. (link) (link) (She wants a defensive struggle against sharia, not an active policy of democracy promotion.) Robert Spencer has made many sensible suggestions in various posts. At an infinitely humbler level I've started to lay out in scattered posts here the basics of an anti-Islamic policy based on the precedents of the British Empire and our new problems (mainly nuclear proliferation and demographics). Mark Steyn's position can be summed up simply: the problem is demographic, and the solution is to get rid of the welfare state.
And now I think Fjordman at Gates of Vienna has outdone everybody with a long, crystal-clear post full of recommendations, taking a European view and therefore taking immigration as a central issue. (link)
My recommendation, other than what I said in comment #17 there, is that everyone go read Fjordman's post (link), and discuss and debate it both here and there. Hardly everyone is going to agree with every word in such an action-packed post, and there are other things that need to be said which I think Pope Benedict XVI has started to say, but if old Europe is to have a future I think it will have to look as though people who think like Fjordman in this post suddenly became influential.
This emerging school of bloggy thought, which might as well be tentatively named for Fjordman as for anyone, as we are just starting to collate and understand its typical opinions and recommendations, is something quite other than neoconservatism. (And I don't think it's just the same as the "unfrozen cave man" school of thought either. It's much more systematic.)
An evaluation of Islam as intractably and highly dangerous doesn't lead to optimistic estimates of what can be quickly accomplished by force, and thus to bold military aggression, generous reconstruction aid and a general willingness to "wing it" in dealing with the Muslim world. Just the opposite. In its most militarily active (rational) form it leads to the position of the gloomy hawks, as explained by Stanley Kurtz. (link)
I think George W. Bush has every right to present himself as a pro-Islamic idealist, because if you read Fjordman, and Diana West and Robert Spencer and others who really have accepted Islam as an enemy, it supports that claim. He thinks nothing like them, and they don't think like him.
People like Robert Spencer have very modest estimates of our capacity to help the Muslim world - and how much we can expect to be rewarded for trying. They don't support doing Islam any favours, including George W. Bush's democracy project in Iraq, and in Robert Spencer's case he never did. (link) (Yes, I know the title of the post doesn't say that this is what this is about, but if you read the whole thing, and mainly follow the first link, it is.)
Fjordman has now spelled out a lot more of the implications of this spirit of modesty, caution, wariness and self-protective unfriendliness toward Islam. And it's not all gloom. (So read!)
You never know today what you will learn tomorrow. Maybe the Fjordmen will turn out to be just wrong. The unswervingly pro-war Victor Davis Hansen is still talking a deal of sense. (link) ("Post-Iraq" - which can be summed up as "just win, baby.")
But I think it's inevitable that increasing numbers of people in Europe and other parts of the West will refuse to define "winning" as empowering, enriching and accepting Islam. Helping out the Muslim world has been tried now. Alternative notions of "winning" are wanted, if not for Iraq then for those parts of the world where Islam does not yet entirely dominate.
If there are to be more and more Fjordmen, I hope they'll be as productive, rational and civil as he is being here.
Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from Iraq that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday. This briefing is brought to you by Joel Gaines of No Pundit Intended and Andrew Olmsted of Andrew Olmsted dot com.
Other Topics Today Include: Marines hand Fallujah to Iraqi forces; U.S. in Iraq through 2010; former Chicago resident faces prison; parliament regulates foreign investment; Kirkuk pipeline online again; reconciliation conference postponed; Islamic state in Iraq; 3,000 police fired; cleaning house at Interior ministry; Carnival of the Liberated; Kirkuk status decision looms; Iran-Iraq working group; Saudi king asks Shiites and Sunnis to work together; Kuwait gets reparations; U.S. policy change in Iraq?
REPORTS FROM THE FIELD
RECONSTRUCTION & THE ECONOMY
THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE
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Here's a good NYT article suggesting that the Administration is looking at new deterrence models, and on the technical difficulties involved in doing so:
Security specialists said Mr. Bush's warning signaled a significant expansion of longstanding policies of deterrence, extending the threat of reprisals to the transfer of nuclear weapons or materials to another country or to terrorists.
That has long been a concern about the North Korean program, but the tools to prevent it are still limited.
Robert Joseph, the under secretary of state for arms control and international security, said in an interview on Thursday that "to be credible, declaratory policy must be backed up by effective capabilities."
The Pentagon, in carrying out one of its most sensitive missions, maintains a team of nuclear experts to analyze the fallout from any nuclear attack by terrorists, not only to identify the attackers but also to figure out where they got their bomb.And what it means:
Separately, the International Atomic Energy Agency, a United Nations unit based in Vienna, compiles identifying markers drawn from the chemistry and physics of processes that produce radioactive material in nuclear programs around the world.
Using that kind of data and technology, it might be possible to figure out the likely origin of an intercepted shipment of bomb material ... or of the radioactive debris of a weapon that was used. The atomic energy agency's inspectors have significant records from their time in North Korea before they were expelled, and they could rule out many other possible sources of radioactive material by calling on records from nations that cooperate with the agency.
Mr. Bush's statement was viewed by national security experts as a major shift in deterrence doctrine, one that acknowledges that the mission today is no longer preventing North Korea from building a nuclear weapon, but deterring its use or transfer.And why it's hard:
"The administration will continue saying that a nuclear weapon in North Korea is unacceptable, but in fact they are beginning to accept it," said Scott D. Sagan, director of Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation. "The administration is switching from a nonproliferation policy to a deterrence and defense policy. It is a form of containment rather than a form of nonproliferation."
...while the Bush administration at first charged that North Korea had been the source of Libya's uranium, experts spent months trying to determine whether the contents of the cask had come from there as well or whether it had been filled up elsewhere. The result: plenty of suspicions, but no hard proof.
"We took months and months and months and still couldn't come to a 100 percent conclusion," one senior administration official said this year. "That happens. But it doesn't help you justify a counterstrike against someone."
Remember how I said Matt Stoller of MyDD was a fool?Well today, Chris Bowers joins him as he looks at the mess MyDD helped make, and whines loudly about it.
Further, since current polling shows a senate with 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans, Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman, Joe Lieberman would also potentially have the ability to flip control of the Senate if he chooses to caucus with Republicans. Back in 2001, the Democratic caucus gladly gave seniority to Jim Jeffords when he left the Republican caucus in order to gain control of the chamber. That was the price to pay for control, and after six years in the minority, the Democratic caucus was more than happy to make that compromise. It isn't hard to imagine that if Republicans find themselves one seat in the minority after the elections next month that they will also gladly grant Lieberman seniority in order to retake control of the chamber.
What, exactly, did you think was going to happen, Bowers? I've been meaning to make my fortune with a reality TV show I'm calling "What the f*** were you thinking?" I want to go to jails and interview the guy who led 30 cops on a two-hour chase at 55mph in his minivan, until he ran out of gas. Or maybe I can get Foley. Or maybe Chris and the rest of the blogging braintrust that decided that "I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part." would be good national politics could be the first guests.
Back - once again - to my very first comment about this race:
Ask yourself this, if you're all excited at the notion of Lieberman running against Lamont as an independent. Who do you think is going to be sitting in the Dirksen Building in February of '07? Lamont? In a state that was - in 2004 - 44 percent unaffiliated, 34 percent Democratic, and 22 percent Republican. Come Election Day, what exactly do you think is going to happen?Thanks for noticing, Chris.
And when Lieberman is sitting in his Senate office next year, do you think the Democratic Party will be stronger or weaker for his departure?
I say it will be weaker.
May I suggest an alternative framing that may find some common ground? In the commentary here and on Joe's post there's at minimum a volks-wisdom that we can grudgingly trust some newer nuke powers to act responsibly - India, Israel, China (let's hope), but others we cannot: NK, Pakistan, Iran. Is question is how to convert that intuition into a framing that is understandable by all, not seen to be simply arbitrary, and is utterly convincing to transgressors in regards of their fate. It should also be able to survive the probably inevitable further proliferation of nuclear power reactors. In short, a de facto effective 'Nuclear Proliferation Treaty', with nasty, sharp, pointy teeth.
- All participating nuclear powers provide samples of output of their reactors to all other powers. If any power is ever caught not doing so, through the national intelligence means of any other power, they are out of the agreement.
- All non-participating powers are in one equivalence class. They may come into compliance only by agreeing and conforming to the above, to the satisfaction of all the currently complying powers.
- Any conventionally or unconventionally delivered nuke having the signature of one of the participating powers makes that party culpable. (A powerful incentive to report any fissile materials losses and enlist everyone in cleaning them up.)
- Any conventionally or unconventionally delivered nuke having no known signature, or one known to originate from a noncompliant power by national intelligence means, means that all noncompliant powers are jointly culpable.
- The target of an attack may deal with the culpable party or parties by any means it feels necessary. Other compliant powers may assist in this, but none will oppose.
This might be stable if enough of the incumbent nuke powers agreed to it as a de facto doctrine. The disclosure part is close enough to the current, ineffective NPT compliance regime that that it might be workable, at least technically.Tear it up...
I have a few issues - the notion that all noncomplaint powers are jointly responsible is something that will take some serious thought.
But it actually may be a basis for a longer-term stable regime than the shotgun hooked to the piece of string proposal that I originally made, because a) it divides the nuclear world into those that embrace transparency and are willing to be held explicitly accountable, and those who are not; and b) it provides strong incentives to move from the latter to former category.
Part III of Cassandra's series is here. The judiciary is an area of intense interest for her compared to the other branches, and it comes out in her writing today.
Abu Aardvark (Marc Lynch) has launched a new Middle East group blog - Qahwa Sada (literally - "Coffee without sugar"). You'll recall that coffee and I don't get along all that well, but this looks interesting enough that I'll make an exception. It's in my feeds and has my attention. You ought to check it out as well.
BiggestGuy: actually, i had an interesting conversation with the cable guyAnd it made me think of a piece in Vanity Fair linked by democracyarsenal. It's about the growing crisis in Egypt as the state oppresses harder in response to it's citizens' discontent, and how America is seen through that prism.
Biggest Guy: tried to talk about he thinks other countries are better places to live than the us and whatnot
Biggest Guy: sly little smile on his face, 'im not trying to offend'
Biggest Guy: like i care
Biggest Guy: and then i explained he would easily make 20 reas an hour in the us to do the work he does
Biggest Guy: he was much more thoughtful after that
[Farouk's] ultimate dream, though, was to win the American-visa lottery. Every year, the U.S. awards some 50,000 work visas around the world, and this was the fourth year in a row that Farouk was applying...The amazing cognitive dissonance here - between desiring the dream of America so badly and then, rejected, feeling that "killing some Americans before I die" is the thing that would give his life meaning - is mind-boggling.
For some minutes, Farouk rhapsodized about what his life would become if he won the lottery, how it would answer all his dreams. "Because I know in America I would be a great success. Everything would be wonderful for me then." After a short time, though, Farouk seemed to reflect on just how improbably small the odds were of this happening, and grew more solemn.
"You remember my friend Ashraf?" he asked. "He didn't tell you this, but last year he got an Iraqi visa. He wanted to join the jihad - as a fighter or as a shaheed [martyr], he didn't care - but so many Egyptian men have gone there that they have closed the land routes. To go to Iraq now, you first have to fly to Syria, and he didn't have the money for that."
It sounded like some bad joke, a guy so down on his luck he couldn't even get himself killed, but then Farouk continued in a soft voice.
"Sometimes I think maybe I should do that. They talk about it a lot in the mosques, about all the young men going there. I think I'm too soft to be a fighter, that it's not in my spirit, but I don't know ... If I could go and kill some Americans before I die, then maybe my life would have had some meaning."
And in there is the seam of belief that we need to somehow exploit to split people away from adopting beliefs that will ultimately mean we will have to kill them.
So...how do we do it? That's the three-pipe problem.
North Korea is a country formed by a war that never ended.
Pacifists are fond of saying that war never solves anything. I beg to differ--war, for example, solved the problem of Adolf Hitler and German expansionist aggressiveness, although at great cost.
But that war was fought to the bitter end, unlike many subsequent ones. Revulsion at war--which I share, by the way, although my critics won't credit that--has led to a series of unfinished, prematurely truncated wars. And like most unfinished business, there's a tendency for these conflicts to come back to bite us.
The Korean War was the first modern "limited war," a concept with which we've grown familiar. (The division of Korea was a result of the conclusion of World War II, by the way--so you might say that, if that Second World War solved the problem of Hitler, it led indirectly to the creation of the problem of Kim Jong il.)
Why was the Korean War not fought to a conclusion, but rather a stalemate? Each side wanted to unify the peninsula under its leadership, and each side failed. Each side was supported by a much larger power in its endeavors, but the larger powers were both exhausted, partly from fighting the Second World War. The US was reluctant to use the atomic bomb again, which would certainly have broken the stalemate--although MacArthur was purportedly in favor of it.
Little was accomplished by the Korean War in terms of change in the borders between the two countries, unless you consider the killing of hundreds of thousands of people an accomplishment (I don't). The best you can say is that it kept the South from being swallowed up by the North--which, given what the North has become, is certainly a good thing.
But now the long-postponed conflict is coming to a head once again. And now North Korea is a dictatorship of such tyranny and oppression that it's hard to find anyone who wouldn't consider the end of such a regime to be an unequivocally good thing.
Answer: a potentially chaotic humanitarian and political disaster, as the tyrannical structure that holds together the failed state and its suffering people fails apart:
“It could be the mother of all humanitarian relief operations,” Army Special Forces Colonel David Maxwell told me. On one day, a semi-starving population of 23 million people would be Kim Jong Il’s responsibility; on the next, it would be the U.S. military’s, which would have to work out an arrangement with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (among others) about how to manage the crisis...
In order to prevent a debacle of the sort that occurred in Iraq—but with potentially deadlier consequences, because of the free-floating WMD—a successful relief operation would require making contacts with KFR generals and various factions of the former North Korean military, who would be vying for control in different regions. If the generals were not absorbed into the operational command structure of the occupying force, Maxwell says, they might form the basis of an insurgency. The Chinese, who have connections inside the North Korean military, would be best positioned to make these contacts—but the role of U.S. Army Special Forces in this effort might be substantial. Green Berets and the CIA would be among the first in, much like in Afghanistan in 2001.
Does this mean it's best to keep Kim Jong il in power? Of course not. But be careful what you wish for, and be prepared--much better prepared--to deal with the consequences than you were in Iraq.
After the horrors of World War II, we faced the problem of reconstruction in Germany and in Japan, as well as most of Europe, which was in near ruins.
But, just as World War II was a total war, the reconstruction was an all-out effort as well. At the time, the US held no fear of words like "occupation" in Japan. If we were imperialist, so be it; we were out to change the country we had conquered. And change it we did, and most agree it was for the better.
Reconstructing North Korea would probably be a much more daunting task than reconstructing Japan. And all-out war, plus all-out reconstruction, doesn't seem to be an option. But without the latter, the prospects seem grim.
Scylla and Chraybdis, indeed.
Last weekend Carolina FreedomNet took place in Greensboro, NC, and was sponsored by The John Locke Foundation. During one panel, two particular questions asked in rapid succession were especially intriguing.
The first was from the head of the Locke Foundation. "Why are there so many national politics blogs?" he wondered.
The second question, from another member of the audience, was, "why is there such a persistence of the left-right dichotomy in the blogosphere?
The tentative answers of the panel were understandable: bloggers in general prefer national politics because it provides a larger audience and the left-right dichotomy persists because media discourse, particularly the left-leaning tendencies of the mainstream press, reinforces it.
But perhaps there is more at work than the ideological influence of the press . . .
Perhaps instead, the left-right dichotomy persists because of the overwhelming dominance of our two-party system, which itself defines issues and platforms in this fashion. This might explain the lack of more local political blogs as well, because local issues, while partisan, often break along much different lines than national issues, and frequently draw upon traditions that are older or more rooted than those of the national parties.
The answer might be that the left-right dichotomy will continue so long as the two major parties retain their dominance.
How long might that be? It's hard to tell. But perhaps one or both of the parties is not far from either a transformation into something else, or a dissolution into constituent parts.
Ryan Sager's recent book The Elephant In The Room describes the fissures between evangelicals and libertarians within the Republican Party. Another new foreign policy work, Ethical Realism, attempts to create a cross-the-aisle foreign policy consensus.
These thinkers either examine existing fissures or try to mold something new from what is already there. In other words, even they are not immune to the left-right spectrum so commonly in use. There are signs though that other categories are emerging and defining themselves in different ways. Virginia Postrel's 1999 work The Future And Its Enemies created new categories of politics that have retained lasting relevance: dynamists are those who are not afraid of change, and see a world of "constant creation, discovery, and competition," whereas stasists believe in a "regulated, engineered world." Postrel then divided stasists into two subparts, which often reinforce each other: reactionaries, who long for an idealized past, and technocrats, who have met no innovation undeserving of their control.But that's just one example. PajamasMedia even as we speak is conducting a contest with an unusual goal: the naming of a new political category. They explain:
When Pajamas Media was just forming, a fair number of bloggers were uncomfortable with the conventional left-right, liberal-conservative dichotomized pigeonholes of the mainstream media.I submit that if any one issue is likely to sunder either of the two national parties, it is probably the war. Way back in the fall of 2003, Mark Helprin, once a speechwriter for Bob Dole, penned an indictment against both parties' understanding of national security in National Review [not available on the web, but see an overview of Helprin's work at my blog]:
We wondered how others felt, so in the fall of 2005 we looked for research on this area. Not being able to find any, we commissioned in October 2005, a poll with Princeton Research. Question 21 of that poll (hence the X21) asked if the respondents felt that the labels liberals”or conservatives applied to them. Not entirely to our surprise, an awful lot of people said no. A full 43% of those responding felt that the liberal nor conservative labels did not really apply to them, a percentage vastly greater than those who identified with either polarity.But we also found these people aren't actually centrists in the conventional sense of that word. They have passionate feelings from all sides of the spectrum, not just the middle ground.
America has approached the war on terrorism as if from two dreamworlds. The liberal, in which an absurd understanding of cause and effect, the habit of capitulation to foreign influence, a mild and perpetual anti-Americanism, reflex allergies to military spending, and a theological aversion to self-defense all lead to policies that are hard to differentiate from surrender. And the conservative, in which everything must be all right as long as a self-declared conservative is in the White House—no matter how badly the war is run; no matter that a Republican administration in electoral fear leans left and breaks its promise to restore the military; and no matter that because the Secretary of Defense decided that he need not be able to fight two wars at once, an adequate reserve does not exist to deal with, for example, North Korea. And in between these dreamworlds of paralysis and incompetence lies the seam, in French military terminology la soudure, through which al-Qaeda, uninterested in our parochialisms, will make its next attack."Paralysis" and "incompetence" are rather less flattering ways of defining our current dichotomy. But might they leach out into the public discourse? Consider WindsofChange's own Grim, who last week published a sense of mounting frustration:
I have lost all confidence in the Federal institutions governing our country, with the sole exception of the military. The institutions, which have served us well for so long, are breaking or are broken along key fault lines.Far from being ignored, Grim's concerns were turned into a series by Cassandra of Villainous Company, another influential blogger. See Part I and Part II, already available. Back in June, a commenter on my blog offered this anecdote:
I recently went down to buy some hay for the Horses at the local agri dealer which by the way is near the Volunteer fire station and the site of course for local elections. The consensus there is We don't know what is going on! with Bush, democrats, The war.
All say the democrats don't field a person respected or believed enough to be voted for, all say Bush has screwed the pooch on this war.
All state Kerry is a jackass and Gore not trusted.
All state Islam is the enemy and many say Islam is the work of Satan.
The Immigrant problem is a hot button. less immigration is the idea.
One old WW 2 vet who fought with the 506 PIR 101 AA Div said, "This is the damnedest way He ever seen to fight a war." Half the government and the population is rootin' for the other side!
I think We will eventually win this war (by open warfare on a scale not seen before)though not in my lifetime and I am 53 but before we win we are going to get our collective asses kicked and a whole lot of folks are going to die.
Somebody up there in D. C. needs to get their shiite in one bag and get their asses in gear.
otherwise we might as well accept Sharia now and get it over with.
A message to the politicians in charge, "quit politicin' and fight the real enemy."
Is there something to all of this? Comment away!
UPDATE: At the risk of pushing my own work, it occurs to me that those interested in this topic may want to see two of my pieces for TCSDaily, Unfrozen Caveman Voter, and America's Schizophrenic View of Warfare.
Part two of Cassandra's series, treating the legislature, is here.
Canadian military think tank CASR notes that:
"On 26 September 2006, a suicide bomber attacked a Canadian convoy 2km from Kandahar Airfield. The bomber detonated a explosives-laden minivan while trying to ram an RG-31 Nyala Armoured Patrol Vehicle. The result differed dramatically from earlier attacks on armoured [Mercedes] G-wagons. Instead of charred wreckage, the blast- resistant [BAE Systems OMC] Nyala limped home with little damage. Instead of wounded or dead, no-one was injured inside the APV."
See the full CP article describing this situation (only available here thanks to a canoe.ca technical glitch), and note the Canadian troops' contrasting lack of confidence in their up-armored Mercedes G-Wagens; DID has covered both this specific problem, and the larger global trend of which it's a part.
CASR's "Blast-Resistant Vehicles For Beginners" (also Part 2: Tracing the Origins | Part 3: Tweaking the APV) offers contrasting pictures from Afghanistan and explains the basics re: how to make vehicles mine-resistant... something that isn't the same as up-armoring them. In addition to V-hull designs like BAE OMC's RG-31 Nyala featured in this story, Force Protection's Cougar, ADI's Bushmaster, et. al., DID has also covered alternative/additional options like the KMW Dingo 2's composite blast pan, the Iveco Panther CLV's collapsible layered approach, et. al. It's a topic that looms large as the USA considers what will come next after contracts for its Hummers, FMTV medium trucks, and HEMTT heavy trucks end during the FY 2007-2008 time frame.
Sen. John McCain has a CQ Guest Blog about the recent North Korean nuke test. In "Why North Korea is the Wrong Focus," I warned about next steps that won't be enough to make a difference - and unfortunately, McCain's suggestions are a good example of that dynamic at work.
The simple truth is that China will not implement or carry out the sanctions he envisions, for the reasons I discussed, unless faced with a downside large enough to both cancel their expected gains from enabling North Korea, and offer the reality of a fear greater than their fear of a North Korean refugee tsunami. McCain offers nothing of the kind. On the plus side, his post accurately diagnoses the failures of the previous policy, and correctly calls where this is probably headed.
This post was prompted by the thread of the post Who's Afraid of Islam? by Joe Katzman (link), AMac's request, (link), and a number of very good statements made lately by outstanding people who are Muslims, speaking more than five years after 11 September 2001, but still (or for the first time) speaking as isolated individuals, when history has moved on.
Now that Iran is embarked on what looks like a final drive to manufacture nuclear weapons and now that North Korea is nuclear armed and may put its products up for sale, some regrets are too late. I think time is running out, and we have to deal with the Islam we have already encountered, not with a post-reform Islam that we might imagine and would prefer to have encountered.
I will say what it is that I think we have encountered as it relates to us as a challenge and a threat (not in itself, as I have no claim to be an expert on the inner spirit of Islam), and some of what is to be done, in what spirit.
I think that considering the splendid personal character of many of the people who are on the opposite side in this fight, or who will wind up on the opposite side as events unfold, we ought to regard this as a bloody tragedy. And I think we have to accept that, and press on anyway. I think we should fight boldly, fiercely and proactively for certain key values such as freedom of religion and freedom of speech, to protect the lives and dignity of those who exercise those freedoms, especially against Islam, and intentionally to diminish Islam, which threatens them. I do not think that we can get out of this fight or prevail otherwise.
What Tashbih Sayyed is saying here (link), and what some other splendid people who are Muslims have said lately, is what I expected Muslims in general to say after 11 September 2001, when I was still very pro-Muslim and I expected Osama Bin Laden to live six months at most, because his fellow Muslims would turn against him for associating the name and image of their religion with shocking crimes.
History has taken another course, and it is now clear that Muslims will turn against crimes in the name of jihad in decisive numbers only when these crimes are against Muslims, or under Western pressure of various kinds, or in atypical cases, such as when Westernized or just individually great people who happen to be Muslims are speaking eloquently and that is all that is required.
When Westerners fight against aggressive Muslims, even when it's against genocidal terrorists like Hamas, or simply terribly tyrants like Saddam Hussein, the global Muslim nation (the "umma") unites more than not against the unbelievers, and with double fury against Jews and their friends. This means that if all you want is to be less unpopular with Muslim populations, such as the population of Iran, this is possible to some extent, but you can't fight the crazy jihadists, you have to let them win, otherwise you unite the moderates with the radicals against you.
While unbelievers fighting against Islam provoke deep, lasting, widespread and deadly reactions, Muslims fighting against unbelievers (or sometimes Muslims fighting against non-Arab or otherwise "lesser" Muslims as in the Darfur conflict) provoke only sad musings by isolated individuals, reactions that are inconsequential and can easily be set aside later, because, hey, we won.
This is why, speaking to gamers, I liken our relations to the global Muslim community to a bunch of reaction rolls where we get a permanent penalty of one pip on a 1d6 roll, making friendly reactions weaker than might have been expected and unfriendly reactions more common and more deadly than would have been the case if we were not dealing with Islam. Individual reactions genuinely differ, and reactions to individual cases are pretty random. (For example, nobody knows in advance which opera or other art-work will spark Muslim rage next.) Each individual case, such as the Muhammed cartoons jihad, could have been different. But the dice are loaded against us, and in the long run bad reactions, grievances and struggles mount up.
And of course friendly reactions are disaggregated because the system of Islam is against them (even to the point of the Koran declaring specifically against Muslims being friends with Christians and Jews), while unfriendly reactions are readily rewarded, collectivized, organised and acted on in sharp, consequential ways by the system of Islam, which is inherently political and which strives (makes jihad) for Muslim domination without limit.
We have seen all this play out, year after year, after 11 September, 2001, which ought to have been enough to make anyone take pause.
So five years ago, had decisive numbers of Muslims said what Tashbih Sayyed, Ph.D. is saying, I would have said "Here is the strongly moral Islam I was talking about. Organizations like Al Qaeda are doomed, because sooner or later they will all trespass over the boundaries that the dominant majority of good Muslims will permit, and then they will each be destroyed." But today I say "Tashbih Sayyed, Ph.D. what a great guy!" And I attach no further significance to all such friendly opinions.
On the question of whether Islam is inherently political, I don't think we have to get into amateur theology and speculate on what the Koran "might" lead to or which verses "should" be abrogated, I think history has answered that question and the answer is yes, too often.
On whether political Islam inherently aims at sharia, I think it tends to, inherently, as that will alway be the preferred solution, all things equal - but in history all things are rarely equal, and jihad (which I think Islam does produce inexorably) can be carried on under its natural color as we see today, or under any "mask", such as pan-Arabism or Socialism or Arab Nazism, that demonstrates advantages such as winning over allies (for example by gaining German backing in World War II or Soviet backing during the Cold War) and gets the job done. If aiming directly at sharia is less effective at achieving key Islamic goals such as the destruction of Israel, it can be rejected, as Soviet-influenced socialism was. (However, it will never be rejected once and for all, as it has a legitimacy in Islam that alien ideological "masks" for jihad can never have.)
Can success be defined and ideological "masks" be evaluated by different, friendlier goals approved by Israel and the rest of the West? Unfortunately, no. Islam must dominate, and it is very big on making those who have been subdued feel painfully every day that their position is humiliated and inferior. This hasn't changed in Islam's long history, and there is no indication that the mentality that strives for domination and fears the domination of the other will alter.
It's not personal. It's a system, and it's in the Koran and in the example of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) and in history and in the systems of laws and the cultural influences derived from all of the above. This, you can't alter. You can't get a fundamentally friendly Islam.
What you can have is simply less Islam, and more of other alternatives which aren't so hostile. And that is what I advocate that we aim at.
I think we should use the most moral, humane and I hope effective means, such as protecting and enabling people who want to quit this bloody and onerous religion. We should stand up for freedom of religion, not occasionally and reactively in high profile cases such as that of Abdul Rahhman in liberated, democratic Afghanistan, but boldly, globally and pro-actively. We should stand up boldly and pro-actively for other values and customs that militant Muslims have declared incompatible with their religion, such as freedom of speech including freedom to criticise religion, including Islam. What militant Muslims say will destroy their religion we should give them in spades, including broadcasts of the Miss World contest yearly. (As they chanted while they rioted: "Death to beauty! Miss World is sin!" Well then...) And when fatwas calling for assassination are issued, as they are from time to time (typically with those who issue them paying no cost to send others into hiding for fear of their lives) we should make it more dangerous to issue them than to receive them, so that the practice stops and those who want to criticise Islam or even leave it can do so boldly and safely, or at least with complete confidence that they have our full and muscular backing, not just empty words calling for "tolerance" and "tact" (sending the tacit message that those who are threatened by militant Islam are on their own). And we should seek alliance with and support people throughout the world who are threatened by the fearful pressure of militant Islam.
If we do that, Muslims are sure to say that their chronic accusations that the "crusaders" want to change their religion have been validated, and moderate and radical Muslims will rally together on that basis, and we will lose the moderate Muslim goodwill we have invested so heavily in cultivating. (Without, however, impressive results to show for it.)
But if we do not aim to diminish the intractable source of our troubles, the jihad-driven clash of civilizations will continue anyway, and one-sidedly, to our detriment. If someone pounds on you, not as hard as he can, but still hard enough that you can't keep taking that, and he won't see reason (as after five years from 11 September, 2001 it is clear that the Muslim world will not see reason), but he will get really mad if you fight him - you have to fight him.
This is an adversarial view of Islam, and an adversarial set of recommendations about dealing with Islam. I do not advocate avoiding a conflict of civilizations, because I think we are already in one and we can't get out of it, and the sooner that we recognise that we are in a struggle and start fighting to win, the better our chances are to emerge as the winners.
This is also a tragic view of the position of good people who are Muslims and our relations with people in Iran and other places who are willing to be friendly, though of course not if we fight their leaders and their religion and thus them.
The tragedy can be denied if we deny that there are really moderate Muslims and friendly and upright people on the other side of the line that Islam draws between itself and the non-Muslim world, but I don't agree with blinding ourselves to the goodness of other people, even if we may not be able to avoid fighting them.
Rather, we are called by history to face up to a tragedy: that we have to oppose and diminish a system that is intractably and (in the context of proliferating nuclear weapons) fatally hostile to us, even though that will enrage and alienate the large absolute numbers of genuinely good and moderate people within that system, people who would like Islam to be friendly, kind and fair, even though, friendly or unfriendly, kind or unkind, and fair or anciently wedded to prejudices and violent supremacism in practice, it is still their religion, and since it is a political religion, still their side.
As someone who appreciates a good title or headline, I'll offer you The Headlines of the Day:
and the one that has my oldest sons seriously depressed:
Amidst all the other issue clutter these days, my perch at Defense Industry Daily has given me a window into a largely-ignored event: the slow-motion collapse of Airbus, that monument to Euro-socialism and pan-European flagship. It would be trite to say its key problem is that it's run by Europeans in the European vision, but this would also be more or less true.
See DID's coverage of BAE Systems' sale of its 20% stake in Airbus... even though the assessed valuation was less than half of what BAE expected. The Board's rationale for the sale is damning, and the 99+% shareholder approval that followed was worse. Meanwhile, EADS shares continue to spiral downward, and management & governance looks like a Keystone Cops episode. Giovanni de Briganti, of Defense Aerospace, has an excellent current overview that includes this excerpt:
"Politicians and trade unions of all stripes are calling for calm, deliberate resolution of employment and structural issues, even as analysts are cutting valuations, A380 buyers are demanding financial penalties for late delivery, and investors are selling off their EADS shares."
It gets worse.
Investment in the A350, aimed at a much larger mid-size market that Boeing is currently cleaning up on with its 777 et. al., may not get off the ground. Why? Because the enormous A380 super-jumbo needs the cash to fix its ongoing problems; a move that adds opportunity cost subsidies to the massive A380 development subsidies from the European taxpayer (the A380 has already cost $12 billion equivalent to develop). All amidst a future of steadily high oil prices, in which arch-competitor Boeing sat down years ago and bet on a need for greater fuel efficiency as its key future design driver. Sure beats Europe's chosen business driver, which was "prestige and feeling good about our political project."
That legacy continues to reap a bitter harvest. Throughout this mess, notice the way political, prestige, and other priorities are consistently being put before the needs of the business' customers - and the needs of the business itself. And the solution as warning signs appear? More "oversight" from politicians, corporate HQ, et. al. Hey, if some gasoline makes you cough, why not drink the whole can so you can feel better! No wonder even Deutsche Welle is sounding alarm bells about Europe's "flight of fancy."
Socialism is a farce at the best of times, but watching the various unions, Eurocrats, and government appointees try to play businessman and tell EADS/Airbus how to run their affairs in a major global industry is even funnier than usual. Tell us again how Europe is going to dominate the world economy with this approach, Mr. Rifkin. It's been a hard week, and I could use the laugh.
As Joe mentioned, we were all having dinner when I got a call telling me that the Norks had set off a bomb.
I bumped an Examiner piece I'd done called "What's a Hawk To Do?" (which I'll extend and put up here soon), and did a quick piece on my response instead. It's up at the Examiner site right now, go check it out and let me know what you think here.
Let me take a moment and expand on my comments, which are really twofold. One is aimed at the political crowd:
I'm tired of hearing whose fault it is, was, or will be.
I'm tired of reading everything written by people close to the seats of power and seeing nothing but spin generated in a quest for partisan advantage.
I want to see some serious effort to address the very real and deadly issues we're facing, and I don't care where it comes from. I threw over my party loyalty of thirty-plus years because I felt that one candidate had more to say than the other, and I'll gladly continue to be fickle in my search for someone who has some serious thoughts about what to do about the situation we're in.
So step to the plate folks, and let's see what you've got.
The other comment is aimed at the core foreign policy question - which is why does it matter? So what if the Norks have nukes?Well, go back to one of my first blog posts, back in 2002:
One nice afternoon, I'm sitting here in my home office near the Palos Verdes peninsula when I notice a brilliant flash of light and some of my windows break.The problem is that it is very likely that there won't be a clear return address on those nukes. A Russian or Chinese ICBM is a clear statement - their government is culpable. But a mystery nuke? One where we don't have assays of the fissile materials that would let us point to a source?
The power goes out, the telephones, cell phones, and computers don't work. My backup AM/SW/SSB radio in the garage doesn't work, and I step onto my driveway and look toward San Pedro and see a dark mushroom cloud.
We'll skip over the fact that all the electronics in the area are kaput because of EMP, and hypothesize a working TV or radio, which informs me that it appears that a small…5KT…nuke has just exploded on a container ship in San Pedro harbor, along with another one in Red Hook, just across from Manhattan, and another one at the container yard in Seattle.
How do we respond in a world where courtroom standards are the only acceptable ones?
Cassandra of Villanious Company has decided to take a whole week to respond to "Time for a Change." She wishes to explore some of the ideas in greater detail than a single post. This is surely a useful undertaking given the depth of problems discussed and the seriousness of the proposed remedies.
For those of you who may not know Cassandra, she is one of the most thoughtful and thorough bloggers working today. I was particularly honored that she felt the piece merited that sort of discussion at length.
Part I is here, and treats something I didn't examine in detail at all -- the question of the military's stability and force structure.
Now that the "Kim Regime" of North Korea has birthed the Nightmare of Rapid Nuclear Proliferation with it's Sunday nuclear test. I think a retrospective listing of "worst case posts" made here on Winds of Change on the subject of North Korean/Iranian nuclear proliferation is in order.
Starting with my 5-year anniversary September 11th prediction that North Korea was about to test a nuclear weapon:
NORTH KOREA'S COMING NUCLEAR TEST
by Trent Telenko at September 11, 2006 5:30 AM
This is my Sept. 11th prediction of the October 8th North Korean nuclear test. I make the points that
1) The Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs are not separate national programs, but are really a single, joint, international arms program;
2) That it can only be stopped via regime change in Iran,
3) That the logical assessment of the Libyan nuclear program meant If Libya could have nuclear weapons next year, Iran can have them now.
4) That not stopping the Iranian nuclear program will lead to "A world of 20-30+ unstable nuclear-armed 3rd world tyrannies is less than a 15 years away, maybe as little as seven, if Iran succeeds in its goal of becoming a nuclear power."
IRAN'S NUCLEAR WARHEAD
by Trent Telenko at May 24, 2006 1:55 PM
Here I point out a Straegypage.com report that Iran is getting Russian and Chinese missile warhead design help.
COUNT DOWN TO IRAN’S NUCLEAR TEST REVISITED
by Trent Telenko at April 10, 2006 4:10 AM
I make the case that the US Government has chosen to mirror image the Iranian nuclear program rather than truly assess where Iran’s policy objective will lead its nuclear weapons development program. And that the result is that Iran has several gun-type fission warheads for its Scud missiles that the American intelligence and national security establishments deny the existence of.
HOLSINGER: THE UNITED STATES WILL ATTACK IRAN
by Guest Author Thomas Holsinger March 17, 2006 6:12 AM
Holsinger makes case that the US Government has chosen to attack Iran to pre-empt their nuclear program.
COUNT DOWN TO IRAN'S NUCLEAR TEST
by Trent Telenko at February 15, 2006 12:53 PM
Based on a Sunday Times of London article on North Korea’s plutonium stockpile, I predict in this post that the world is on a count down to both a Iranian nuclear test and possibly a nuclear war between the USA and Iran.
THE CASE FOR INVADING IRAN
by Guest Author Thomas Holsinger January 19, 2006 1:24 PM
Holsinger made the policy case for invading Iran to pre-empt their nuclear program.
IRAN'S SPOILING ATTACK
by Trent Telenko at April 20, 2004 3:23 AM
In this post I predicted that Iran would have nuclear weapons by the Spring of 2006
IRAN: IT WILL COME TO BLOWS
by Trent Telenko at July 13, 2003 3:44 PM
Based on a David Warren column, I predicted that the USA must conduct a ground invasion of Iran to pre-empt it from acquiring the nukes.
You can say a lot of things about the Nuclear Proliferation Nightmare we face. The one thing you can't say is you weren't told it was coming.
Tashbih Sayyed, the Editor in Chief of Pakistan Today and The Muslim World Today, writes:
"Should I as a Muslim be happy about the situation? After all, these apologies and advances made by radical Islam confirm that the Muslims are winning in their jihad against the "infidel" world. The Judeo-Christian World is on the defensive and has chosen to lay down its arms at the feet of the religious fascists instead of standing up for its ideas about openness, tolerance and freedom.
But I do not feel any happiness or see any victory in finding that the world fears the Muslims. IN FACT I AM SAD. I do not want to be feared. I want to be respected, accepted and loved. The very fact that the world is appearing to be afraid of Muslims concerns me a great deal. I am afraid that the Muslim extremism is pushing this world to a point from where its rescue will be almost impossible. I do not see anything good in the situation.
The fact that the world fears Muslims speaks volumes about the image of my co-religionists. The image is definitely not good. People do not fear GOOD. They fear EVIL. And Muslims have somehow have failed to convey to the world that they are good."
It's a worthy article - can Islamic societies be "stronger at home and respected abroad"? That's certainly an important question when a religion chooses to confront several companion civilizations in a warlike manner, all at the same time. But the question ultimately goes deeper.
"It is often asked whether Islam as a faith is compatible with democracy as a political philosophy. Or whether Islam can accommodate equal rights for women and non-Muslims. Good questions, but hardly the most pertinent. For the most urgent question is whether Islamism as a political ideology is essentially totalitarian, like fascism and Communism, by seeking to bring the individual, the family, and society itself under the heel of the state. In other words, can Islamism function by example and persuasion - but without the coercive power of the modern state?
Or of mob-rule and terrorist violence as a surrogate for state control. The simple practice of raping women who do not wear veils in Muslim areas does not require the modern state, but that form of jihadism is most certainly an exercise of coercive power used for Islamist ends.
We've discussed the phenomenon of "politicist" ideologies before. It's a more precise term than "totalitarian," and highly applicable here where the question of "is there an acknowledged Islamic private/civil sphere" becomes a key issue. As Cullinan notes:
Similarly, can Islamism acknowledge the rightful autonomy - and freedom from clerical control - of the individual, the family, society itself, and political life generally? The answers to these questions will determine the fate of the post-9/11 U.S. grand strategy, namely "the forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East."
And more besides, as Dr. Sayyed's article reminds us with its survey of European developments et. al. Of course, regardless of how the Islamists choose to answer that question, they could simply end up contained or marginalized within their own societies; a struggle already underway in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, et. al.
The two streams of Islam as faith and as politics cross at the nexus of shari'a, of course - and if Islam as a faith requires the implementation of shari'a law, then the distinctions between it and political Islam as an ideology (aka. "Islamism") shrink to zero for practical puposes. It's one thing when religious groups advocate for public policy options that are informed by their religious values; quite another when a religious group's political program involves enshrining religious law that is superior to or entirely replaces civil-made law. Conceptions like Grand Ayatollah Sistani's, which wisely seek to establish politics as distinct from religion lest religion become as stupid as politics, can survive and even thrive in the first case - but not the second.
Ultimately, if Islam is politicist at its core, a war of civilizations is more or less inevitable. And precisely because of the size of those stakes, evasions and lies cannot be afforded or tolerated when grappling with this question. At the same time, however, we'll need to acknowledge that it's possible for the answer to change in response to introduced selection pressures. I submit that both of these propositions need to be acknowledged, and that neglect of either one leads to a tragic and possibly fatal blindness.
Which is why Dr. Sayyed's article is the sort of thing one wishes to see more of; I wish him success in his efforts. For Muslims will answer these questions by their actions and behaviour - and that in turn will call forth its own answers.
As fate would have it, I was sitting in a local Italian restaurant with Marc Armed "Liberal" Danziger when the call came in at around 8:30pm California time. Kim Jong-Il, the star of "Team America: World Police" and also incidentally the ruler of North Korea, had set off a nuke. Later research at home turns up the 4.2 quake near Chongjin, an area that doesn't have much of anything in the way of seismic activity history. That isn't a 100% lock as a nuke test... but I'd put it around 90%. Especially given that a Hiroshima size nuke in a chamber 100-150 ft. cubed would be expected to produce about this size quake.
So the day has likely come, as it inevitably had to. And with it comes the question: "Now what?"
And my first answer is: Forget North Korea. No proposal involving their government, from idiotic talk of sanctions (what, we're going to cut Kim out of the movie remake?) to even dumber and more craven responses around "rewards" (read: appeasement and a license to keep cheating) is worth even 10 seconds of your time. Search and boarding activities for ships from North Korea may be helpful, and preparations for that have been underway for a while, but ultimately this doesn't solve the problem and raises risks whenever used.
If you want to fix the problem, you have to see and understand the lever.
The truth is that North Korea is an irrelevant bit player in this whole drama. The real player here is China. They have helped North Korea at every step, and North Korea's regime cannot survive at all without their ongoing food and fuel aid. Kim Jong-Il's nuclear plans may be slightly inconvenient to the Chinese - just not not inconvenient enough to derail a strategy that still promises net plusses to those pursuing it within China's dictatorship.
Recall Winds' comprehensive look at the forces within and around China, its geo-political goals and imperatives, and its military options. Korea is a potent potential competitor that has historically had some rivalry with the Chinese, and South Korea is part of the chain of countries that helps to box China and prevent unimpeded access to the sea lanes on which it is so dependent for resources. With its highly developed economy, it's also an investment rival for projects in Russia, and thus complicates Chinese efforts to secure Siberia's resources as a land-based alternative.
Hence the two-faced strategy China is pursuing. One that uses North Korea as their deniable "cut out," and works in conjunction with South Korean political elements to irritate the US and build pressure to push them out of Korea. Once that is achieved in whole or in part, or South Korea concludes for other reasons that the US security guarantee cannot be relied upon to the extent required, South Korea can be "Finlandized" by making China its key security guarantor. Of course, this will happen in return for the same kind of quiet veto power and political interference the USSR exercized in Finland during the Cold War.
That's a very big strategic carrot to dangle in front of fellow members of China's ruling dictatorship. This approach is also bolstered on the flip side by a Chinese aversion to seeing a wave of starving North Korean refugees from what may be the most evil regime in human history wash over Manchuria. Hence, both advantage and fear work to keep Chinese support in place, while shaping South Korea toward a strategic Chinese double-win in which they also pick up the pieces in any northern collapse. The current South Korean government's "sunshine policy" which preaches "one Korea," plays down issues with the North and will not confront it, and demonizes the USA at a grassroots level is perfect on all counts from a Chinese perspective. North Korea's threat will not go away, of course, but friction with the USA, paralysis that keeps their North Korean client safe from retaliation, and positioning Korea psychologically to be responsible for the North later (but not, for instance, for starving North Korean refugees now)... all are exactly what China's doctor ordered from a geo-political perspective.
That will not change. Not until - and unless - the potential advantage is seen to be outweighed by very immediate consequences, and the fear of regime collapse in North Korea is replaced by a greater fear. Since China's is also an absolutist dictatorship, the consequences and greater fear must be far greater in order to trigger the kind of to-the-death (and here we mean the real deaths or equivalent of people and families, not just political careers) internal political battles required to remove the architects and proponents of the current strategy. Who cannot back away from it normally, both for fear of their lives and positions in such a system and for more culture-specific reasons around "face."
In other words, China won't move unless its current strategy is seen to cost them, big-time.
The biggest cost, and the only one that will be real to them in any sense, is to have Kim Jong-Il's nuclear detonation result in parallel nuclear proliferation among the nearby states China wishes to dominate/ bully. That would be a foreign policy disaster for the Chinese, and would cause the current architects of China's North Korea policy to be buried along with their policy. Which, as we noted earlier, is the only kind of policy education that works in a system like theirs.
So... if this turns out to be a nuclear test, ignore North Korea. Sanctions et. al are a total waste of time. Target China indirectly, with consequences it can easily understand as horribly bad from their perspective but which appear to be perfectly reasonable responses to North Korea.
In other words, make it clear to the Chinese via back-channel diplomacy that anything Taiwan chooses to do re: acquiring nuclear technology is no longer of any interest to the USA until Kim's regime is gone - and that the Taiwanese are being briefed to that effect (the US had stopped a Taiwanese nuclear effort by threatening a cutoff of all military aid). Be clear also, and make public statements that "other states in the region" now have a viable reason to respond in kind. One could also drop hints about and then refuse to deny to the Chinese that back-channel discussions have begun with South Korea and Japan that involve America offering them a set number of working nuclear weapons from US stocks as a counterweight. They can also be told more directly via diplomatic channels that the USA will also support either or both countries if they choose to pursue their own programs, meanwhile floating diplomatic "trial balloons" re: a system that gives these countries their own deterrents as a better option, because it does not produce the capacity for further manufacture and so is "less destabilizing to the region."
How China chooses to fix the North Korea problem after that and thus stop all of these intiatives is, of course, up to them. Welcome to the big leagues, and have a nice day.
Nothing short of that kind of response is going to change anything.
I'll add here, since we're inevitably going to hear the Democrats and their media allies lionizing the Clinton approach, that what we're seeing here is directly Clinton's fault. By signing an agreement that everyone knew would be cheated on by North Korea as a substitute for taking action, he, personally, left any successor no viable options and made this day a 100% certainty.
And that day is a 100% certainty, whether or not this particular event is borne out as a nuke. The only question now is when, and that was true the day after Clinton/Carter's "peace in our time (subtext: and war in someone else's)" agreement was signed. That transparently phony agreement, and not his negligence in pursuing al-Qaeda, has always been the #1 screw-up of Clinton's Presidency. It may yet surpass his #2 screw-up in terms of the American lives it costs before all is said and done.
If the GOP has 2 brain cells left, they'll hit that point with everything they have. Which means, of course, even odds at best.
When I saw that intro trumpeted in the 1950s on our black and white Hoffman TV as a "special report" I knew, with the certainty of gravity, that the headline would somehow grab me up in the sweep of history. This happened some time before I reached puberty, and I can't recall the exact year, but I knew those events would profoundly affect my life. That's the way I now feel about The Recent N. Korea Nuke Test.
I sincerely hope I'm just a dumb ignorant human who can't see around corners, but my guts are giving me the same message now that they did then. This is ugly. We've passed a point of no return.
North Korea said Monday it has performed its first-ever nuclear weapons test. The country's official Korean Central News Agency said the test was performed and there was no radioactive leakage from the site.S. Korea detects signs of N. Korea's nuke test
SEOUL, Oct. 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korea received intelligence on Monday that North Korea might have conducted a nuclear test, officials here said. "President Roh Moo-hyun called in an emergency meeting of related ministers on Monday to discuss the North Korean nuclear issue," Foreign Ministry spokesman Choo Kyu-ho said. "The meeting comes as there has been a grave change in the situation involving the North's nuclear activity."The Bush administration sent a secret warning to the Koreans not to go ahead, or face unspecified consequences. We shall see if their dog's bite is toothless.
He refused to go into further detail, citing the sensitivity of the issue.
This nuclear test will provide much grist for the Democrats' partisan mill; they've already tried to pin the lack of progress in North Korea on the Bush Administration, contrasting it with the "progress" made under Clinton. It will be interesting for this Republican to watch the response from across the aisle. More than anything else, this test is an indicator of incredible weakness and increasing desperation, not strength. A cornered lunatic can certainly be dangerous, but was he any less dangerous when he was Albright's and Carter's darling? The knives come out in the open.
China Confidential points out that the entire Axis of Evil is escalating tensions globally in tandem. Syria's unimpressive leader has been talking about declaring war on Israel.
We are living in excruciatingly interesting times.
UPDATE: Seismographic data here. Note that the stations in China et. al. seem to show a smaller event right around the 0130 GMT reported by South Korea's government as the time of the test - and here's the specific 4.2 event near Chongjin - in an area with no historical seismic activity since 1990.
UPDATE: Steven Den Beste says it was very likely a misfire. Another North Korean failure.
It seems to me that the dire condition of the Republicans in congress is due, almost entirely, to their own neglect and incompetence. Their current electoral disadvantage is largely a matter of their inability to respond appropriately to the propagation of two caustic memes: 1. That the US is losing the War in Iraq and the larger War on Terror; and 2. That Mark Foley's pederasty somehow tars anyone other than himself. During today's Meet the Press Bob Woodward was treated to a profoundly sympathetic interview by Tim Russert. Not only did Russert loft a few soft pitches directly over the plate, but it was clear that Woodward had been briefed on what questions would be asked so that he'd be able to prepare responses, ready with documentation and cites (something missing from most of his book). But the primary fault of the interview was that Russert failed to challenge the basic assumption of the book, without which it reduces to total incoherence: that the US is losing. If that assumption is challenged the entire premise of State of Denial becomes evidence of a state of denial by Woodward and his supporters, about the actual condition of the War on Terror and the War in Iraq. It's also an indictment of the mainstream media's ability to make sense of facts... a flaw from which the conventional wisdom would not recover were it given reasonable credence. And by their self imposed incapacity to make a defense one could almost suspect Republicans of complicity in their own demise...
The basic assumption of the Woodward book, quite apart from its disregard for academic validation and transparency, is simply the mind-numbingly foolish contention that because an enemy continues to fight with some degree of ferocity we must have the wrong strategy, and we'll lose the fight unless we change strategies by choosing to fight with less intensity ourselves. If we'd used this same analytical paradigm during WWII we'd have given up the Pacific Campaign and the advance into France, because the most ferocious fighting happened near the end of the war: at Iwo Jima and the Bulge. Furthermore Woodward's support of his thesis, the argument that attacks are increasing, avoids mention of the equally salient fact that lethality is declining. US casualties in Iraq follow the trend of offensive operations, but have generally been declining, while those of the Iraqi forces have ticked up by 30%. Furthermore, a close look at the casualty trend suggests that although average casualties have remained about the same since the fall of Baghdad, the variation has decreased. The peaks and valleys are no longer as high or as low as they were in the past. This suggests that the persistence of the opposition is based not on a growth in recruitment and resources due to anger at the US, but on the continued perception that if they keep up the fight the US will eventually just give up and go home. And it also suggests that, in spite of what Woodward claims, violence is being slowly contained. In other words they're still fighting with some ferocity because they have faith in Bob Woodward and the Democrats.
Of course, the US is going home eventually anyway... though not because we're losing. Rather, we are gradually handing off responsibility for the war to Iraqi security forces (h/t: Good Lt). What's happening, in other words, is something precisely analogous to what was happening toward the end of WWII... when the tide of war was turning decisively against the Axis causing them to reach deeply into their dwindling resources in a "hail Mary" attempt to influence perceptions. Al Qaeda itself recognizes this, even if Woodward doesn't. Thus, it becomes a question of whether one chooses to believe Bob Woodward or Al Qaeda concerning the state of the war.
Russert could have brought some of these issues up, but didn't. That's understandable in a sense. Selling the story that the US had lost in Vietnam, over the empirical fact that we were winning that war, established the American Mainstream Media dominance that secured positions, careers and privilege for the next thirty years. The ability to over-ride an empirical fact is one of the most profound demonstrations of power that can be imagined, so one can understand why Russert would have a desire to repeat the hat trick. But what one can't really forgive is the inability of the Republican establishment to effectively counter these memes, or even summon the desire to try. As they carp and grouse about who is responsible for an inappropriate but non-criminal act it's easy to see how they might swing wildly at a curveball delivered in the general neighborhood of the plate. But strike two is still strike two. There won't be any do-overs, and if they can't take advantage of reality to counter an outright defeatist fantasy perhaps they deserve to lose. Strike one was high and outside, strike two low and inside. Any bets where the next pitch will be?
Other Topics Today Include: troop losses soar; Iraqi Air Force steps up; AQI leader not captured/killed; Palestinians threatened; Iraqi brigade relieved; oil to Jordan; education problems grow; securities law completed; now oil refinery opens; militias and politics separating; Carnival of the Liberated; Baker says options available in Iraq; Rice visits Iraq; victory party funds available.
REPORTS FROM THE FIELD
RECONSTRUCTION & THE ECONOMY
THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE
That sound you hear is the unmistakable hiss of a huge media bubble deflating. I can see Ann Coulter smirking, even as I type this...
Update: Ace of Spades has a lot more about who knew what, when. There's also this link, from the comment section of the above post, to a cached forum discussion among a number of congressional pages, including Jordan Edmund, about the possibility of publishing a Washingtonienne-type tell all book about page life on capitol hill.
Update 2: CNN broke the allegation about a page prank last night, and it was my impression that Edmund's lawyer equivocated quite a bit about whether or not it was a prank. I also heard him saying that there was a lot about the incident that was like a practical joke, which is about the opposite of what both Drudge and Michelle have him saying. I may have misheard him on the "practical joke" content, but even assuming that, his comments certainly didn't seem an unequivocal denial of the "prank" story. Therefore I still tend to think it's true. The denial attributed to him by Drudge and Malkin might be a lawyerly way of deflecting inquiry by referencing the consequences of the prank as "not a joke" rather than the original intent. He didn't speak to original intent at all.
Anyone have a clip of the interview?
First Lt. Hegseth served as an infantry platoon leader and civil-military operations officer in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division, mostly in and around Samarra in the Sunni Triangle:
"I volunteered to serve in Iraq because I believe in our mission there. I share the president's conviction about the Iraq war--we can and must win, for the Iraqi people, for the future of our country and for peace-loving people everywhere. But I'm frustrated. America is fighting with a hand tied behind its back.... After witnessing two national elections during three months in Baghdad, my Army unit moved north to Samarra, where we spent eight months sowing the seeds of progress. While we had success in uprooting the insurgency and building the local government, it wasn't enough. We had just enough troops to control Samarra and secure ourselves, but not enough to bring lasting stability or security. "Not enough" became the story of my year in Iraq."
UPDATE: Lots more commentary over at Instapundit from Iraqis, Americans, et. al., along with some good arguments.
With American politics at the height of its silly season and much attention being rightfully devoted to Iran, developments on other fronts tend to receive less attention. That's natural but unfortunate, because al-Qaeda is definitely paying attention to Africa, and developments in places like Somalia and Nigeria could become rather consequential in the coming years. Also paying attention? The US military, which may be about to set up an African Command that's distinct from CENTCOM. The anti-black genocides by Sudan's Arabs are well known - here's a few other snapshots from the front:
Chester recently discussed apocalpytic feelings. Some of you suggested they are prominent because our models are breaking. That is a point on which I agree: our models and institutions are both breaking.
I argue at length here what I think are some of the key flaws, and how they may be repaired.
Part 2 of 3 of a series written by my friend Kat, who was a contractor's employee in Iraq for almost two years: "You'll Never Know What We Did" | " I Learned to Handle Myself..." | "I Wasn't Chasing Blood"
She refutes the media's excuse for not covering the Iraq reconstruction. The introduction to the series is here. The series hinges on an interview with Dexter Filkins of the "New York Times" in which he says the media can't cover the reconstruction work ongoing around the country because doing so would be too dangerous to the media.
Her post about that drew a faintly hostile comment from "Bob," insinuating she was just pushing "a larger GOP talking point," implying her work in Iraq was less dangerous than that of a New York Times journalist, and challenging her to prove her right to criticize the media.
This is her response. Part one is here.
You're apparently upset that I come down hard on Dexter and the NYT. That's understandable, but stay with me a little here.
I didn't have lots of guards. I had Iraqi nationals working for me who had to worry about being shot. I had to help them figure out safe lies, figure out safe ways to go home. I had to teach the girls working for me how to do their jobs because they'd never had a really good job before. I also had to try to protect and watch out for them. Girls working for us sometimes also needed support with lies about their jobs, travel information, and occasionally security for travel.
The lying extended to producing false job-related paperwork for their cars and to carry on their persons. From three different offices we "sold" orders for detergents, orders for cell phone batteries, and sandals, and produced an array of paperwork to support those claims.
And that's not about me taking care of myself, Bob. That's about my people, my employees, who half the time couldn't get their jobs done unless I was there to help them.
So what did I do for my security? What did I do when I needed to move? Well, my bosses got us security, kinda. And we had pretty good trucks, even if they weren't armored. My security for much of my time in Iraq was a 19-year-old kid who more than anything needed a job and owned his own gun. He was a big kid for an Iraqi and I'm more than sure he was hooked up on the street, so he was actually pretty safe to have around (unless you were one of the younger women in my office, but that's a different story).
My other guy was in his mid-40's and Iraqi army. He wasn't suitable for regular duty. But he was filling Iraqi obligations as the coalition began handing over government responsibilities to the interim Iraqi government. He was a true sweetheart, but nothing like U.S. soldiers or the Iraqi soldiers you see on TV today.You wonder about what I saw, in terms of blood. That appears to be, beyond my pierced belly-button, what will provide for your comparison of me to Dexter and the "Times" crew. Okay.
That experience was crazy because we came up on them fast and they didn't recognize our IDs and we came very close to being shot. We nosed the truck to the side of the road, had to get out of it, and lie on the ground while we and our vehicle were being looked over. We had come up on the fast, immediately after the explosion, and that's a no-no.
On this occasion I was in Iraqi clothing, my security was in civilian attire, and it was too confusing to get myself identified. Fortunately, our soldiers are pros, we obeyed their signals, and we didn't get shot. You just lie face down and wait until they're ready to deal with you, but it's difficult to live through that time. On the other hand, if they'd shot me by accident, you can bet your life you'd have read about that in the news. Those guys have zero room for mistakes, and their lives are always targeted.
As we were leaving, more rounds started going off; I didn't even know what was going on until we were suddenly swerving and my security person was yanking me down to the floor in the truck. One of our (American) soldiers caught a bullet in his thigh and another in his knee and was close to dying from loss of blood when they got him out of there.We spent the next hour huddled against our truck with it wedged up next to the outside wall of the orphanage until two hummers drew up next to us and escorted us out of the area. It's only by chance that they even saw us, because of where we were, and if I'd been veiled at the time we might have been shot instead of rescued because we both had our guns in our hands.
Western contractors and supply vehicles were targeted much more regularly than were military vehicles. They were softer targets, and insurgents often could see what materials were being delivered, and they usually knew what they were being delivered for. The insurgents understoood that halting the reconstruction work we were doing was an essential part of their plan to win in Iraq. The biggest prizes were, of course, major military vehicles. But trucks and materials could be taken out with less trouble and explosive materials, as could key workers if they could be identified.
So the least-safe circumstances involved a contractor hauling materials for rebuilding. As things got worse in the area, my bosses moved my office further north and east into an area that at the time was safer but ultimately proved to be just as violent, though for entirely different reasons.
There, instead of having to worry about myself or others I worked with being blasted by a IED or RPG, we had to worry about snipers and kidnappers, rapists and thieves. I began dressing “local” more consistently and wearing a veil more at this time. And you are right: It is easier to blend in when this is done.
On the other hand, adopting the look and dress and manners of locals also subjects a woman to a different set of scrutiny usually reserved for Muslim Iraqi women. If you intend to blend in, you must accept that there are certain things you may do and things you cannot do. Wearing the clothing brings certain expectations, and it does not pay to let people know you aren't who they thought you were and then hang around long enough for them to feel foolish. In the wrong neighborhoods, the entire event can become a highly complex theatrical act, particularly if you have something important that you must accomplish. This is true for men, but it is especially true for women.
Ultimately, I learned to handle myself, as myself, around some very hard people. I also learned to appreciate the softer people who were trapped there alongside the hard ones. And in doing so I gained a rather deep appreciation for the situations that existed in certain areas. In those areas, people sometimes died for what seemed to me to be nothing, but in truth there were reasons as complex as you could imagine.
Regardless of the reasons, I shared some of the pain, and I certainly saw a good deal of the blood. In doing so, amongst other revelations, I could understand the limitations of our military and realize the depth of their responsibilities. And, Bob, this is where the differences are.
[Greetings, Winds readers. This is Chester from The Adventures of Chester. Here's a new post, humbly submitted for your reading and commenting pleasure.]Kurt Andersen recently discussed the draw of apocalyptic ideas in a piece in New York Magazine entitled, Why Everyone Has Apocalypse Fever:
Millions of people - Christian millenarians, jihadists, psychedelicized Burning Men - are straight-out wishful about The End. Of course, we have the loons with us always; their sulfurous scent if not the scale of the present fanaticism is familiar from the last third of the last century - the Weathermen and Jim Jones and the Branch Davidians. But there seem to be more of them now by orders of magnitude (60-odd million "Left Behind" novels have been sold), and they're out of the closet, networked, reaffirming their fantasies, proselytizing. Some thousands of Muslims are working seriously to provoke the blessed Armageddon. And the Christian Rapturists' support of a militant Israel isn't driven mainly by principled devotion to an outpost of Western democracy but by their fervent wish to see crazy biblical fantasies realized ASAP - that is, the persecution of the Jews by the Antichrist and the Battle of Armageddon.Andersen hypothesizes that while there have always been apocalypse-obsessed groups, the reason they seem to have sprung so vividly into the public consciousness is due to a collision of demography and culture:
When apocalypse preoccupations leach into less-fantastical thought and conversation, it becomes still more disconcerting. Even among people sincerely fearful of climate change or a nuclearized Iran enacting a "second Holocaust" by attacking Israel, one sometimes detects a frisson of smug or hysterical pleasure.As in the excited anticipatory chatter about Iran’s putative plans to fire a nuke on the 22nd of last month - in order to provoke apocalypse and pave the way for the return of the Shiite messiah, a miracle in which President Ahmadinejad apparently believes. Princeton’s Bernard Lewis, at 90 still the preeminent historian of Islam, published a piece in The Wall Street Journal to spread this false alarm.
I don't think our mood is only a consequence of 9/11 (and the grim Middle East), or climate-change science, or Christians' displaced fear of science and social change. It's also a function of the baby-boomers' becoming elderly. For half a century, they have dominated the culture, and now, as they enter the glide path to death, I think their generational solipsism unconsciously extrapolates approaching personal doom: When I go, everything goes with me, my end will be the end. It's the pre-apocalyptic converse of the postapocalyptic weariness of the hero in The Road: "Some part of him always wished it to be over."Andersen is a bit too tough on Christians for my taste, but his article is still pretty interesting and should be read in its entirety.
Nevertheless, let me offer a different explanation for these various competitive apocalypses:
Perhaps an unmentioned factor is the sensational media. The press encourages a worldview that is both utopian and cynical at the same time: utopian for constantly using hindsight to espouse an "if-only" no-place that can never truly exist. At the same time, cynical, for finding the flaws in all who would aspire to leadership of any kind -- no matter how trifling or inconsequential they might be, they are all too frequently allowed to define the man behind the image. It might provoke laughter to argue such a position in the midst of "Foleygate," but the main point stands: while one Congressman might be a sexual predator, most, from both parties aren't. But who in the electorate can rattle off their names on a regular basis?Robert Kaplan wrote a piece for Policy Review some time ago, entitled The Media and Medievalism, in which he argued that the press is the true totalitarian of our time:
The medieval age was tyrannized by a demand for spiritual perfectionism, making it hard to accomplish anything practical. Truth, Erasmus cautioned, had to be concealed under a cloak of piety; Machiavelli wondered whether any government could remain useful if it actually practiced the morality it preached.1 Today the global media make demands on generals and civilian policymakers that require a category of perfectionism with which medieval authorities would have been familiar.What does this have to do with a preponderance of apocalyptic visions?
[ . . . ]
In The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History (2002), the academic Philip Bobbitt builds on this notion. He observes that, "In the market-state, the media have begun to act in direct competition with the government of the day." The media "are more nimble than bureaucrats hampered by procedural rules," even as they are "protected in many countries by statutes and constitutional amendments." He adds that the "critical function of the media in the market-state is similar to that of the political parties of the Left in the nation-state." Bobbitt is not here calling the media left-wing. For all one knows, he may believe that they have become, in certain quarters, dangerously right-wing. No, Bobbitt leads one on the path of a different insight: that the essential role of the left has always been to question and expose authority. For it has been the left's very fear of authority that makes it uncomfortable with the concept of leadership. People on the left rarely write books about leadership and taking charge: That is the domain of business and military types. Leaders must choose, and because even right choices may produce imperfect outcomes, there will always be much to criticize - and to expose.
[ . . . ]To the extent that the left is still vibrant, I am suggesting that it has mutated into something else. If what used to be known as the Communist International has any rough contemporary equivalent, it is the global media. The global media's demand for peace and justice, which flows subliminally like an intravenous solution through its reporting, is - much like the Communist International's rousing demand for workers' rights - moralistic rather than moral. Peace and justice are such general and self-evident principles that it is enough merely to invoke them. Any and all toxic substances can flourish within them, or manipulate them, provided that the proper rhetoric is adopted. For moralizers these principles are a question of manners, not of substance.
Well, if leadership as exposed in the press is perpetually vacuous; if sentiments such as heroism are routinely traded for exposes; if virtue is tossed out in favor of sanctimony or mere moralizing, then what is left?
Nothing. A nihilistic morass with no fixed points at all with which to anchor one's life. It matters not if that fixed point is a Muslim, Christian, libertarian, idealistic, or classically virtuous one. None of these will be allowed.
So why not nuke the whole thing and start over?
I can't wait for comments.
Ali Eteraz is on a tear again...this time he's writing to ask people to take action to save seven women sentanced to be stoned to death for adultery in Iran.
He's got facts, impassioned argument, and useful links. Go over, take a look, and do something.
VDH doesn't think very much of Woodward's latest. I don't recall exactly how many times Woodward insisted, in his interviews on FOX, that his facts were totally accurate and his analysis "tight", but the reality is that he can't verify more than half of what he says, let alone how he interprets it. Of the more controversial evidence, he probably can't verify more than 10%. If someone suggested that he were 90% false, Woodward would be correct in observing that such an the assertion can't be proved, but that's chiefly because the fellow who invented Gotcha Journalism, hasn't provided enough information to allow an objective observer to put his sources to test.
Relatedly, Al Qaeda's own narrative isn't exactly inspired by confidence in their mission. Given this, there are only two explanations for the almost-universal conviction in the media that we're losing the war: ignorance or mendacity. And although much of the consensus is built on ignorance of strategy (or even what strategy means, since it's usually conflated with tactics) I can't help but speculate that some small percentage of the effort is simply a power play, seeking to impose a narrative and thereby demonstrate dominance.
Hence, an effective counter to Woodward's aggressive defense is that the assertion that his book is mostly false in support of its key point, that the White House is in a state of denial about the war, can't be falsified. And more damningly, Woodward's theme reduces to incoherence in light of the enemy's demonstrated opinion of their own status. His narrative might as well have been a subjective religious experience, like Tulsidas' Ramayana, for all we know. Only in the perverse world of mainstream media, and in some dark corners of post-modern academia, is this considered a strength.
Adam Bellow has been telling me for a year that he wants to bring back pamphleteering - not just the style of it, which has pretty well extended itself into blogging ("Blogging as modern-day pamphleteering" being a pretty well-accepted trope), but in the fact of it - little paper booklets you can buy in odd places like coffee shops, train stations, news racks. Booklets about serious things, because he believes as I do that the average American can take attention away from Survivor and Paris Hilton's coochie to read, think, and talk about things that matter if they are presented in an accessible way.
Well damn if he hasn't actually pulled it off.
He's publishing a 3-part series by Michael Totten on Hiz'bollah. And it will be the first, I hope, of a long series of works he will put out under his own imprimatur: The New Pamphleteer. Their website is at www.pamphletguys.com, check it out. I just bought the first set, and suggest that you take a look and consider doing it as well.
I think a lot about the contingency of history, about the essentially random events that wind up turning our lives one way or another.
My strongest reaction to the news of "The Foley Scandal" was a kind of amusement that the course of future events might wind up depending on one self-righteous pervert's lack of sexual self-control. I mean think about it - while I don't think these elections will irreversably impact the intermediate future we all face, they'll be important - and the results may well turn on some dumbass Congressman's inability to keep it zipped when teenage boys are around. How can you say that the human condition isn't a comedy?
"When I find a hairy bug," he wrote in a 2003 blog posting, "I love having the developer come in and debug it face to face. It gives me a chance not only to understand more about the product's internals, but also, you have no idea what I learn chitchatting while waiting for debug files to copy, etc. Design and implementation issues, stuff that people have been building off to the side, things about the organization, rumors, etc." He continued: "I suppose this is just classic 'walking the halls,' but I feel as though without this sort of direct nonhierarchical contact I would lose touch with my organization, and people throughout would know I was disconnected and would have no respect for me." [emphasis added]The strongest feature of our society is that everyone is called to account. Power and wealth shield you from it - somewhat. But what is happening that frightens me far more than a randy Congressman and abused teenagers is the increasing ability of many elites to keep themselves from being held to account - a trend that is (slightly) pushed back by the increasing transparency of society and the fact that so damn many of us are watching. Foley felt free to indulge his (immoral, illegal) sexual obsessions because he felt protected by his position. The GOP leadership looked away because he was inside the walls, and so entitled to the protection of his position.
He got caught, and they got caught, and the fallout will be a price they have to pay. (note that Mickey Kaus has some numbers that suggest that Florida voters either expect this kind of thing or just don't care.)
But, on a cosmic scale, or to an American soldier somewhere, it must seem funny as hell that this is the kind of thing that can turn elections.
(Posted at the suggestion of Armed Liberal)
Q: Shut your festering gob, you tit! Your type really makes me puke, you vacuous, coffee-nosed, maloderous, pervert!!!
M: Look, I CAME HERE FOR AN ARGUMENT, I'm not going to just stand...!!
Q: OH, oh I'm sorry, but this is abuse.
M: Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person makes.
A: No it isn't.
For those who don't recognize the source, here is the Python's argument sketch.
This door (WoC) is labelled 'Argument' in the spirit of #2 above. Those who enter only to receive or dish out abuse and contradiction may find themselves unwelcome. There are many other doors on the Web where you can find what you seek.
I haven't posted about Mark Foley because there's just too much I don't know. I noticed that none of my co-bloggers on Winds of Change have posted about it either, so far. My friend, Pat Conlon on Born Again Redneck, who is a homosexual conservative Republican, makes a case that this isn't an issue about pedophilia, as has been characterized, but about homosexuality. That makes sense, but it's only one of a number of things about which I'm uncertain. Here are a few others:
1. Who knew what, when? I don't know what was known by Rs or Ds in congress concerning Foley's predilections. The assumption that La Shawn, Ed, and Tony are making is that Hastert & Co. knew a lot. I can't assume that. When I was in high school I attended a boys prep school for four years, and there were a lot of rumors about two faculty members. This was really pretty malicious stuff about their seduction of kids, etc. "Open secret?" As far as I know there was never any proof that the rumors were true. One of the targets was the varsity wrestling coach, who was extraordinarily good at his job. The wrestlers loved him, and those who didn't make the team may have been the source of the rumors. He was also very tough on boys he was coaching, working the hell out of them. He demanded perfection, and often got it. The rumors about him still abound among the alumni, but I have no idea whether they're true. Same with the other fellow, who was a language teacher. Teenagers are notorious and often malicious gossips. Was my school administration lax for not seeking an investigation of these men? I don't know, but I've never heard any verification from people who were close to either that any of the accusations were actually true. Not one.
So, what was Hastert supposed to do if he lacked proof that anything untoward was going on? Just make the assumption and start tossing out accusations and seeking censure? Launch an investigation? If he had, wouldn't be accused of jumping to conclusions, or of homophobia? Hindsight is 20/20.
2. I don't know what was actually in any of the messages, including the emails that are touted as either being innocuous or red flags, depending on who's making the assessment. I've heard some wild variations, that the emails included a question about underwear and requests to disrobe. But why would he ask about that in an email? It doesn't make sense. By the time you get feedback through the email system the "mood" has almost surely passed. It's like writing a letter to your girlfriend asking her what she's wearing and whether she's clothed. You might do it if it's your only communication, but without an extraordinary imagination and some impressive literary ability it's likely to be rather uninspiring.
3. What did Foley actually do, in terms of sexual acts? Did he engage in anything, or was this just role-play fantasy? So far there's no evidence, or even an accusation, that it went beyond dirty messaging. There's a difference between this and an actual seduction. Shouldn't this difference matter?
4. Did he do anything illegal? The age of consent in DC is 16, and I'm not sure what it is in FL and LA, but it's possible that nothing he did, whether overtly physical or suggestive, was more than wildly improper. I feel like that's important. No?
5. What are the Ds doing? Are they deliberately ginning things up, misleading people, counterfeiting messages, conducting fraud? La Shawn and others think this is irrelevant and urge us to be "realistic", but how can one be realistic if you have no idea which version of "reality" is true?
6. What will be the impact? There's still a month before the election, and if the Ds follow their typical pattern of over-exploiting a good hand, or are seen to be deliberately misleading people, there might well be a backlash by then, especially if there was no physical contact between Foley and anyone underage. (People will begin pointing this out as soon as their horror has been sufficiently registered.) And again, is this a pedophilia scandal or a homosexual scandal? The biggest clear issue is that Foley was a raging hypocrite, but that would appear to only impact him and a few victims wouldn't it? And he's no longer a player.
I just don't know enough at this point to form much of a judgment, other than that something incredibly improper was done by a member of the elite who are in authority. That's pretty bad, but when it gets right down to it I'm a great deal more concerned about the possibility of a nuclear device being set off by a terrorist in a major western city in order to rescue Al Qaeda's dwindling "reputation" than about an aspiring pederast whose name I frequently confuse with a former Democratic House Speaker. Am I allowed to say that yet?
He asks: "So can she call you, then?"
And you reply - because you're polite - "Sure, go ahead and give her my number," because you don't really think she'll call. And what would you say to the mother of the man who died riding the motorcycle that crossed the centerline and caused the head-on collision that almost killed one of your good friends?
The entire mass of modern society - from the cell phone that dialed 911 through the computer network that dispatched the Life Flight helicopter to the emergency room and medical team that saved his life, rebuilt his bones with titanium plates and bolts, and then cared for him as he recovered from three major operations - saved my friend.
Now it's time to deal with the losses.
Through the Internet, the other rider was identified, and the message came across that his survivors - his widow and parents - wished to talk to the injured rider, his girlfriend, and his parents.
I wound up as the message-bearer back and forth, and after a long discussion with my friend's parents, eventually conveyed the message that they would be willing to talk with the bereaved parents. As I passed the message, my counterpart - a close friend of the deceased rider - asked if they could call me as well.
And I said yes, and didn't think about it until today, when my cell phone rang and a strange, sad voice was there when I picked up.
She called me as I merged onto the 110 South and we spoke until I left the 110 for the 405 North...maybe twenty minutes. And as I spoke with her I suddenly wasn't just a friend of one of the riders any more; I was a parent, imagining a call like this about one of my sons and how I know my heart would be tearing its way out of my chest with every word I spoke. And we talked as parents.
"He was so happy that morning when he left to go for a ride..." And then the phone rings and the Sheriff's car, and a mountain of grief that - in the best of all world - becomes a hill of sadness you'll climb every day from now on.
My friend is looking at a hard year to become what he was one corner before his accident - and knowing him, and watching his girlfriend lovingly sit holding his fingers - I know he'll come out on the other side of it.
We all will. All of us except one...
We'll come out of it but we will be changed.
Leftist Muslim blogger Ali Eteraz has been beating the drum about the Pakistani divorce reform proposal, and feeling kind of lonely in doing so.Today, he uses this history to talk about the interaction between domestic reformers with the Muslim world and Western progressives.
This might be part of the reason that so many Muslim 'reformers' like Irshad Manji, Hrsi Ali, Wafa Sultan, end up becoming a "chamcha" (joke for insiders) to the neo-imperial right. They become unhappy with the progressives for seeming so "distant" from activism and so flock to those who seem "all up in the bizness" (even if its the worst way to do bizness). It's a sort of Reformist Dilemma I discussed earlier.
Reformists are activists; and that means they are impatient. They don't want to sit around and explain why demanding equality in divorce rights is not cultural imperialism. The neo-right doesn't bother to ask such questions, and therefore draws the Reformists to it. I see that Ziba Mir's film was made and financed in 1998. Back then it was the progressives who were the vanguard of human rights advancement in the world and the conservatives preferred isolationism. I doubt that a left group in England today would fund her film. They would be more concerned with how such a film would advance the neo-con ambitions over Iran. While the concern is legitimate, I think it is overwrought. In the end, progressives need to usurp and re-assert their former dominance in the international human rights arena. At the time being, they have utterly and totally lost their status. So they have been supplanted.The problem is that mainstream progressives are caught in a logical bind; they can't promote that which further imposes perceived Western hegemony; and at the same time they can't abandon their human values.
Ali is already a signer of the Euston Manifesto, and so he's participating - more so because he's working the hard seam of progressive values within the Muslim world.
For the conservatives here who are harrumphing about the uselessness of progressivism or human rights in the face of Islamist tyranny, let me suggest that liberating women in the Muslim world would do far more to solve Islamist tyranny and terrorism than any weapons system you can imagine.
I love forests. New England, my new home, has no end of them. This time of year the trees are beginning to quake with fall color. Red and yellow branches are beginning to lash out of the green canopies that shroud this land. Soon the leaves will briefly dominate the hills in a quiet fire, then fall to the ground like ash, waiting for the embrace of snow.
My wife and I just completed a westward journey across the state of Massachusetts. We wound up in the small town of Stockbridge, near the New York border along the road to Albany. Stockbridge, Massachusetts is considered to be an American icon. It was dubbed as such by another American icon, Norman Rockwell, who painted American icons during America's most iconographic era. He spent many years in Stockbridge. The people and settings there were the subjects of many of his canvases that celebrated the American spirit.
We visited his museum. Every single painting on its walls were the originals of reproductions I'd seen hundreds of times. One painting that had been etched in my mind, long before seeing the original, was his depiction of a snowy Main Street in Stockbridge at Christmastime.
We walked around Stockbridge and took in Mr. Rockwell's view of America. There remain the small stores and quaint colonial houses from his Christmas painting. We stood across the street from them to find the viewpoint he occupied to create his famous masterpiece. Just behind us on that corner was St. Paul's Episcopal Church. I guess it's still a church -- I don't know -- the steeple is crowned with a copper chicken, not a cross. Perhaps the congregation dwindled down too far for the building to remain a church. I couldn't bring myself to ask how the chicken made its way up there. I'm sure it found its way to the top of the pecking order well after Mr. Rockwell's time.
- - -
As Autumn breaks, the chill of winter has begun to descend from the north. With the frost I have found myself contemplating a long, cold winter.
It's been five years since 9/11. During that time I have seen my country's lights pulse brightly and then dim, its shades drawn. The political landscape is enervated. I had hoped that we might find a new voice, a new beginning, a newfound patriotism; something that a new Rockwell might anxiously render on canvas to national acclaim. It hasn't happened. On 9/12, I placed myself outside the two governing parties of our country and took stock. It's five years later, and here's where I stand.
Our president might aim for moral clarity, but he offers little else. He recites well-worn bromides, assuming that he will be vindicated in the years to come. He stays the course, because he set it. We need more in a president. For all of President Bush's bold moves, it is striking how little vision there is behind them. There's been incompetent followup to get through the details; no comprehensible articulation of this country's worth and values; and little willingness to risk alienating his base to win this fight. Now his policy on torture has derailed whatever moral authority he had. I don't see a man who is leading. I, for one, do not feel led. Instead I feel dragged around by his transparent coterie of advisors. I feel numb.
One look at the other party offers little consolation. Democrats like Gore decry the Bush administration for fear mongering, who equate fighting terror with voting Republican. But then there's Gore's movie, and his own bromides on global warming. And there's Gore to begin with, still with us after losing six years ago to Governor Bush on the heels of the golden Clinton years. Still barking away, somehow considered still relevant in this era.
My option as a voter appears to be a false choice. Either I can vote Republican, lest we ignore the war on terror, or I can vote Democrat, lest we lose the planet to the sun. Our political culture is coarse and cramped with soundbites that have overshadowed eloquent debate. There are no Daniel Websters anymore, riveting packed galleries in the Senate chamber with soaring rhetoric expounding on the great issues of the age. No Lincoln-Douglas debates. After Martin Luther King was assassinated, Robert Kennedy stood on the back of a truck in Indianapolis quoting Aeschylus on the meaning of grief to angry black Americans. No more.
There are few genuine debates taking place in congress. There is little eloquence. There is mostly position-taking and attack. We find mostly 'where's the beef' and 'gotchya' politics. We've come nowhere after five years of war. If anything, we've devolved.
Now we're looking down the barrel at a nuclear Iran -- a nuclear religious death cult. What we need to counter this threat is a fresh approach, employing all of the weapons in our arsenal: military, diplomatic, economic and moral. We need a better international diplomat and politician than the President. Successful leaders are shrewd; they shape public opinion to their own ends. At this late date President Bush needs to throw a few curveballs. It may be unconventional, but he could have answered Ahmadinejad's letter from a few months ago, much like Lincoln answered Horace Greeley and other critics. The same with Chavez's blistering speech at the U.N. The President should articulate a tighly reasoned, forthright defense of Western values. He should do something stunningly bipartisan, and ignore the political fallout -- perhaps appoint Bill Clinton to some important task in the Middle East.
Bush's one-dimensional, 'I'm-a-man-of-principle' approach is failing. We have to mix things up like Nixon going to China, or Roosevelt being a traitor to his class. The challenges of this era demand it.
If anyone harbors any doubt about what the next real war proffers, read the Rand report Considering the Effects of a Catastrophic Terrorist Attack by Charles Meade and Roger Molander. It games-out a hypothetical nuclear terrorist attack on the Port of Long Beach, California. Long Beach is the second busiest seaport in the United States. It's in the Los Angeles region, handling 30 percent of U.S. shipping imports. The attack studies the short-term and long term effects of a ten kiloton Hiroshima-sized atomic device ground-bursted from within a shipping container on a pier. It examines the policy issues that would result, identifying the high-priority concerns for different stakeholder groups.
In a nutshell, all hell will break lose. The ripple effect into the global economy borders on apocalyptic. Just from one "small" nuke in a western port.
There has been a lot of debate here on ways to deal with Iran. Many think we should preempt. I think it might work, but only if we had the right leadership. I see no such leadership in Washington -- neither from the President or from Congress. It's a fool's errand to believe that the present leadership can marshal the political, civilian, military and international resources required to prevent the Party of God from nuclearizing. In essence, I think it's too late. The necessary isotopes can be purchased as well as produced within Iran. This has been true now for years. The game of prevention is over. Proliferation is here.
At this point, because we have weak government, a tail-biting political system and hollow allies, we're not in a position to take out Iran's nuclear program, let alone its regime. I've come to believe that if we preempt, utter disaster will ensue. And if Iran promulgates nuclear terror, disaster will also ensue. Preemption is not a strategy -- it's a last ditch Hail Mary pass.
Since I believe that's the case -- that we're on the verge of a terrifyingly new world, no matter what we do -- I think we should take the moral high ground. That means letting Iran take the low ground. Europe is too weak and corrupt to block Iran's threat. We're too sapped, too bereft of creative leadership. This isn't a nihilistic suicide wish on my part. It's a reality observed as coldly as anyone who advocates preemption. Given the absolute fog that shrouds Iran's nuclear program, who's the expert? Whose data is sound enough to stand the Iraq Test? Only great leadership might overcome this problem. We don't have it.
If preempting Iran is not a viable option in this political climate, a strategy of containment, fence-mending, alliance-building, and homeland protection may be the best we can do. Sometimes you have to wait on events. Diplomacy is all about patience and maneuver, requiring the kind of leadership strengths our president and congress lack.
My conclusion is as kitsch as Rockwell's paintings: I believe our spirit as free people can overcome the odds. It's not entirely rational, but it's where I find hope. There's plenty of room for doubt. But I have more faith this country can reinvent itself in the aftermath of a catastrophic attack -- far better than it can lead the world into a series of bungled, unsupported, desperate Hail Mary passes to stave off the inevitable. After 25 years, five presidents, a dozen congresses, countless U.N. sessions and the maturation of a hollow European Union, the free world has long since dropped the ball on nuclear proliferation. Now it all leads to Rand. Frankly, I can't see past Rand. I don't think anyone can.
For our country to lead again, we will apparently need to have our genesis forced upon us. Our response to what inevitably lies ahead may turn out to be our finest hour. It will be a call for greatness -- in ourselves, and in a new generation of true leaders. In order to regain greatness, we will have to take on monumental risks and sacrifices. We will have to do more than face-down our demons; we will have to personally fight them and rebuild a nation that short-circuits them. It will be then that we might redefine the meaning of kitsch patriotism, if the 21st century has a place for it at all.
That's the only way we'll be able to chase the chicken down from Rockwell's steeple.
Other Topics Today Include: leading terrorist killed; rough Thursday in Baghdad; AQI leader calls on Iraqis to strike U.S.; Cyprus cancels Iraq debts; oil infrastructure problems costing billions; U.S. way behind on reconstruction; al-Sadr losing control; 7,000 security forces fired; waiting to crack down on militias; Sunni leaders pledge to fight insurgency; Carnival of the Liberated; Saudi Arabia plans Iraq fence; Congress bans permanent bases in Iraq; new NIE commissioned; new Woodward book roils Washington.
REPORTS FROM THE FIELD
RECONSTRUCTION & THE ECONOMY
THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE
Has anyone else noticed that the newest version of Technorati is basically useless? Does anyone at Technorati pay attention or care?
Go over and click on a search for windsofchange.net.
Look at the results - most of them are either a) posts within WoC itself (from the 'read more' links); or b) blogrolls of sites that have update recently that contain WoC.
I went and looked for Smythe's World as a control...same thing.
Look, it would be ridiculously easy to eliminate results from within sites (or at minimum from 'read more and other set links) and equally easy to eliminate results from blogrolls. If they can't figure out how to do it, they can buy a day of my time and a plane ticket and I'll go show them.
Or I could get off my butt and build a better one...