June 29, 2007
So we're back to the status quo--illegal immigrants flowing across the border, no security on that border, and no enforcement except for catch-and-release. Unless Washington gets the message, and when has that happend?
June 27, 2007
[N]o people wants to send off their sons and especially their daughters to fight overseas, but it never occurred to me that this was “‘natural isolationism.” It just seems like natural humanity to me. I don’t know of many other peoples in the world who truly relish sacrificing their young men to war. Peoples around the world may glorify soldiers and celebrate their deeds in war, but most people, normal people, would rather that there be no war if at all possible.Daniel is right to say there’s a long-standing aversion to sending young people–especially one’s own–to fight, especially when the enemy is far from our shores, let alone our gates.
At the same time there’s a bloodlust very deep in the souls of many, even if it’s helped along by drums, banners, films, speeches and sermons artfully deployed to stimulate it. We enjoy war at least as much as we do professional sports, especially if others do the fighting for us. The crowds cheered the parading soldiery as Europe unknowingly prepared to annihilate its civilization and a generation of its sons in 1914.
Does Norman Podhoretz, who built his career on having been chased by blacks as a kid in Brooklyn and growing up to write about it, get a frisson when he dreams of “our boys” igniting fireballs over Teheran? I wouldn’t be surprised it he does. (In case anyone gets the wrong idea, no, you don’t have to be Jewish to be a warmonger–it’s a multicultural pastime).
So much for "democracy promotion."
As to the first point, as almost everyone agrees -- we can't finally succeed in Iraq without an indigenous Iraqi government capable of effective government -- why don't we replace the government. While democracy is all good and well -- we entered Iraq to protect our own national security interests. If we could give them democracy, too, all the better. But first, we have to look out for our (and the world's) interests.
I continue to believe that defeat in Iraq will have shocking consequences. Even most war critics believe that -- they just don't want to think about it.
Just as Abe Lincoln kept hiring and firing generals until he found a Gen. Grant, who could fight and win, President Bush needs to hire and fire Iraqi leaders until he finds a strong man who can get the job done.
I pray that President Bush has not been so moved by his own "democratic" rhetoric that he has blinded himself to the ruthless, practical demands of the moment--Tony Blankley
June 26, 2007
The truth is that most Democrats have no intention of using military force to promote U.S. security under any circumstances. They prefer to live in a fantasy world in which "diplomatic initiatives" and "multi-national peacekeeping forces" can keep us safe.There is a reliably oikophoic/pacifist wing of the Dems, but most of them are reliably interventionist. The Dems as a party are more partial to UNICEF card internationalism than the GOP, but a little carpet bombing between friends is ok with them, especially if it has a UN or NATO figleaf.
Next stop, Darfur.
UPDATE: changed "anti-American" to "oikophobic/pacifist." More accurate.
Coolidge, who sardonically called Hoover a “wonder boy” and who memorably stated, “The chief business of the American people is business,” is presented as a kind of Zen saint, a pillar of inaction: “Coolidge had long ago determined that the world would do better if he involved himself less. [He] believed that the work of life lay in holding back and shutting out. He conducted his official life according to his own version of the doctor’s Hippocratic Oath—first, do no harm.” Shlaes hails his decision to leave the Presidency after five and a half years (thus ducking the crash and its consequences) as “another of Coolidge’s acts of refraining, his last and greatest.”Updike became a Democrat because his dad had a hard time in the Depression and FDR made him feel better.
--John Updike, reviewing Amity Shlaes's The Forgotten Man
June 25, 2007
Today, this same dynamic is creating a moment of great danger. The radicals are becoming reckless, asserting themselves for little reason beyond the conviction that they can. They are very likely to overreach. It is not hard to imagine scenarios in which a single match--say a terrible terror attack from Gaza--could ignite a chain reaction. Israel could handle Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria, albeit with painful losses all around, but if Iran intervened rather than see its regional assets eliminated, could the U.S. stay out?--Muravchick Yet Again
With the Bush administration's policies having failed to pacify Iraq, it is natural that the public has lost patience and that the opposition party is hurling brickbats. But the demands of congressional Democrats that we throw in the towel in Iraq, their attempts to constrain the president's freedom to destroy Iran's nuclear weapons program, the proposal of the Baker-Hamilton commission that we appeal to Iran to help extricate us from Iraq--all of these may be read by the radicals as signs of our imminent collapse. In the name of peace, they are hastening the advent of the next war.
Horror of horrors! The umbrella-wielding hordes are constraining "the president's freedom to destroy", and it is this constraint that threatens a war. Congress exercising its constitutional function.
Here we see Muravchick salivating, or worse, for a war; he will stop at nothing to have one. As Shakespeare said, such men are dangerous.
Where is the national interest in this fantasized folly? A question never asked, because it cannot be answered.
Democracies, it is now well established, do not go to war with each other. But they often get into wars with non-democracies. Overwhelmingly the non-democracy starts the war; nonetheless, in the vast majority of cases, it is the democratic side that wins. In other words, dictators consistently underestimate the strength of democracies, and democracies provoke war through their love of peace, which the dictators mistake for weakness.This proposition appears to be well-established only in the minds of ideologues.
It is not true empirically. World War I is a sufficient counter-example. The Boer War is another.
It is not true theoretically. Why should democracies be immune to the siren song of national insult and national aggrandizement? Why does it keep reviving, like a vampire suddenly immune to garlic?
June 24, 2007
Michelle likes to display the nasty side of Islamic politics, perhaps to a fault, but the repression in Iran is real enough. So let's be clear: the régime in Iran is nasty and repressive. Recently it's become ostentatiously worse on that score, perhaps because of its economic crisis.
I've been very much opposed to war with Iran. You don't have to love the mullahs to take that view.
I cumber you, good Margaret, much, but I would be sorry if it should be any longer than tomorrow. For it is Saint Thomas' even and the Utas of Saint Peter; and therefore tomorrow long I to go to God: it were a day very meet and convenient for me. I never liked your manner toward me better than when you kissed me last: for I love when daughterly love and dear charity hath no leisure to look to worldly courtesy. Farewell, my dear child, and pray for me, and I shall for you and all your friends, that we may merrily meet in Heaven. I thank you for your great cost...HT: Bill Luse.
June 23, 2007
Lest I be misunderstood as an apologist for Beijing, China is run by a Stalinist party turned more or less openly capitalist, but has hardly established civil society or the rule of law. China continues to be corrupt, arbitrary, and authoritarian. One would surely not want to be a Christian, a Tibetan, a Uighur, or even mildly libertarian in that land.
U.S. and Chinese interests are not identical, and indeed, the Chinese, now that Marxism has failed, specialize in cultivating nationalist resentment (which may not require much cultivating), and from time to time test the U.S. with military needling.
This, of course, is what competitive powers do. The question is not whether China is a rival in some respects. It is. The question is whether the way to respond to this rivalry is to predict and prepare for military confrontation with China; to appease China; or to work at establishing a modus vivendi, and adjust over time to the probable growth in Chinese power relative to its neighbors and to us.
The fault of Chang and his many fellow-thinkers is to emphasize the nasty aspects of the Chinese regime as if another crusade for democracy were in our interests and to regard every Chinese effort at military modernization as virtually a casus belli. A case in point is the Chinese desire to build one or more aircraft carriers. Chang's reaction is typical of his viewpoint on the subject:
“As we gain experience in dealing with each other,” Gates said of China in his Singapore speech, “relationships can be forged that will build trust over time.” Unfortunately, our defense secretary has got it all wrong. Our experience in dealing with China over the past decade indicates we should be forging a relationship built on less trust—and on a greater awareness of unavoidable military competition.If Chang's view were associated with a program of withdrawal from overseas military confrontation, and recognized that in a world of several powers, rivalry is inevitable, he might have a point. I fear, however, that what he and his fellow Commentarians want is to revive the Cold War milieu in which they were so comfortable, and characterize Russia, China and Iran not as competitive powers whose interests are not always congruent with our own, but as inevitably and increasingly hostile powers, which we should seek to isolate, subvert, and if necessary destroy.
Such prophecies are self-fulfilling, and in a nuclear age, dangerous.
On one level you have to laugh that Kucinich and Paul were the only two dissenting votes in a 411-2 Congressional resolution urging the UN Security Council to charge Iran's president Ahmadinejad under genocide conventions. But it is interesting these particular men stood alone in supposedly principled opposition to the obvious. And I'm sure their supporters would cite these "principles" as being great and idealistic. I'll leave aside all the usual Neville Chamberlain clichés, because, well, we all know them, and cut to the chase - my view of their true motivations.This screed is a classic argumentum ad hominem, of course. If the messenger is a kook, or a crook, chimpish or or "French-looking," we need not consider the message on its merits.
I think both of these men became highly-rigid narcissists decades ago. Their entire public personae ... and the attention they crave... are totally dependent on maintaining an inviolable public image. You can invariably predict everything they are going to say, every attitude they take. There is never a surprise, because they are playing roles they have chosen for themselves and for which they were rewarded with public and media attention from years in the past. If they changed their positions and became more reasonable, even in a few areas, they would simply disappear because they no longer fulfilled their roles.This disappearance, of course, is intolerable to the narcissist. The point - for both Kucinich and Paul- is not to win, but to bask in that reflected glow that justifies their existence.
-- Roger L. Simon
In this instance, how many who voted for this ritual resolution to make a meaningless appeal to the feckless UN did so because it was an easy bit of political opportunism with no real-world consequences? How many of the Democratic Presidential candidates have rediscovered their inner McGovern in response to the hard-core anti-war views of the most active Democrats? Has Romney discovered his inner anti-Roe sentiments through unaided reason alone? To ask these questions is to answer them.
Are Kucinich and Paul giving vent to their inner crank, or glorying in the rôle of the almost-lone dissenter? Who knows, other than God and their psychiatrists? More significant is, are they right?
Each, in fact, has stumbled into a piece of the truth. The connotation of the resolution is to build up sentiment for, or weaken resistance to, an air attack on Iran. Unlike a resolution addressed to the Cartel of Tyrants on the East River, such an attack would be serious business, and in my opinion, a grave mistake if not a crime.
Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who is constrained by a rather complex political system, which he does not control, does make bizarre and offensive pronouncements. He's no friend of this country. Nevertheless, Iranian marines are not about to wade ashore at Atlantic City.
The notion of bombing Iran is kept on the agenda by a relatively small but influential group of people, some of whom seem to be influenced by a right-wing strain of Zionism. Norman Podhoretz is Exhibit A. This group is wrong about what is in the interests of the U.S., and many Israelis would say, wrong about what is in Israel's interests.
Air raids on Iran would unite the rather restive population against the mullahs, might provoke attacks on Persian Gulf shipping and U.S. troops in the region, and thus begin a cycle of battles. In the end, the U.S. could conquer and occupy Iran, if we went on a war footing and mobilized a million-strong army through a draft. Few politicians would endorse this course of action if it were openly proposed.
One we launch ourselves into the fog of war, all bets are off. Jimmy Carter's Presidency collapsed in an unforeseen sandstorm in the Iranian desert, as W's began to founder when our commanders tolerated looting in liberated but never occupied Baghdad. We can't know where cruise missiles over the Natanz, Iran nuclear facility would lead us.
Even if one is not a consistent noninterventionist, but a realist in foreign policy, or even a hegemonist who does not live for ideological abstraction alone, the thought of a confrontation with Iran and its aftermath should be sobering..
June 20, 2007
Someone or other said that a grassland punctuated by trees is our ancestral Garden, encoded in our genes. Certainly the oak-covered hills of Central California qualify as among the most beautiful places I know.
West Virginia must equal that, at least seen through Rick's eyes.
Yon is brave and calls them like he sees them. He used the forbidden term (among war supporters) "civil war" long before it was fashionable. His piece describes the eve of the battle in vivid terms.
I've become persuaded that both the over-hyped WMD threat and the Wilsonian rationales for the initial intervention were mistaken, and a consistent anti-interventionism is our best foreign policy approach. Now that we're in Iraq, victory (whatever that means--and that's part of the problem) is for me preferable to defeat.
I suppose victory now means a régime in power that has some continuity with the elected government after we draw down our forces, and jihadis are not a major part of the mix. Defeat means Al Qaeda, Ba'athist, or Sadrist rule in Iraq, or a failed state. Whether victory in that sense is now possible, given our domestic politics as well as the military situation, is far from clear. (We're not going to put in half a million men, mostly draftees, and stay there for 15 years, although nothing could prevent it if we chose to do so).
Meanwhile, Yon has a vivid take on the military situation on the ground.
June 19, 2007
Very dark horse candidate Mike Gravel has come up with a non-verbal campaign video.
"Gravel" means small rocks. The next size up is "cobble." Perhaps the Senator is merely jealous.
If his silence means he's into Coolidge, he might yet earn my vote.
HT: Election central.
FATAH FORCES barely raised a finger to prevent their defeat in Gaza in spite of the massive quantities of US arms they received and the military training they underwent at the hands of US General Keith Dayton. Bush, Olmert and all proponents of the notion of strengthening Fatah in Judea and Samaria refuse to answer one simple question: Why would a handover of Judea and Samaria to Abbas's Fatah produce a better outcome than Israel's 2005 handover of Gaza to Abbas's Fatah?
They refuse to answer this question because they know full well that the answer is that there is absolutely no reason to believe that the outcome can be better. They know full well that since replacing Yasser Arafat as head of the PA in 2004, Abbas refused to take any effective action against Hamas. They know that he refused to take action to prevent Hamas's rise to power in Gaza and Judea and Samaria. They know that the guns the US transferred to Fatah in Gaza were surrendered to Hamas without a fight last week. They know that the billions of dollars of international and Israeli assistance to Fatah over the past 14 years never were used to advance the cause of peace.
They know that that money was diverted into the pockets of Fatah strongmen and utilized to build terror militias in which Hamas members were invited to serve. They know that Fatah built a terror superstructure in Judea, Samaria and Gaza which enabled operational cooperation between Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror cells.
SO WHY embrace the fantasy that things can be different now, in Judea and Samaria? Rather than provide rational arguments to defend their view that Hamas's takeover of Gaza is an opportunity for peace, proponents of peace fantasies as strategic wisdom explain vacuously that peace is the best alternative to jihad. They whine that those who point out that Israel now borders Iran in Lebanon and Gaza have nothing positive to say.
Although Glick triggers in me an almost instinctive aversion, and is almost insanely chauvinist and bellicose, she has an eye for the follies of the Olmerts of the world.
HT: Power Line.
About as far from Glick's worldview (for one thing, if she's anything but secular, there's no way to tell) as one can get, here's Möbius, in an unusual and thought-provoking Torah-based critique of contemporary Israeli politics:
There's much more here--the entire post is worth reading.
And then I started getting more specific: What does the messianic ideal look like? That we should be free to live in the land of Israel without anyone to oppress or disturb us. That non-Jews will look to us an exemplar of righteous conduct in the world. That they will cling to us for guidance out of the love of their own hearts. I then said that we need to ask ourselves how we can conduct ourselves in a way that endears the nations, rather than one that brings them to revile us.
Furthermore, I noted that the land of Israel is the altar of the world, and examined what that means, in terms of entering the land with a purified consciousness and a sacred vision. Are we conducting ourselves in the land in such a way that it sanctifies the altar or desecrates it?
These are the themes I believe we ought to be exploring, whereas, I find, that they’re universal among Jews, both secular and religious, more so than any sort of universal political ethic. Whether devout or non-believing, both care about Jewish values and our legacy as a people, whether we’re fulfilling our potential as a nation, and at that, whether we’re committing a chilul Hashem (a desecration of G-d’s name, via the desecration of our legacy as a righteous nation) or a kiddush Hashem (sanctification of the name, via embodying the highest principles and aspirations of our tradition). Thus, it’s a more effective strategy for addressing the issues surrounding Israel and the occupation.
I also spoke about Holocaustism and Rube Goldberg Syndrome: How we’re collectively suffering from PTSD — best indicated by our inability to hear anything remotely critical of Israel without interpreting it as a call for the genocidal destruction of the Jewish people. I mentioned how we’re genuinely afraid of non-Jews despite the leaps in tolerance that have transformed the world in the last 60 years, and how we need more therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists working in the Jewish community to address these issues. I spoke about the Jewish community’s need for healing.
Another subject I explored was our need to overcome our hypersensitivity to language. One of the big issues that came up for attendees, as they described it, was that hearing others using words like “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing” made them nervous and uncomfortable — not because they necessarily believe that that’s not what’s happening in Israel, but because they’re worried about the motivations of those who use such language.
"Holocaustism." Wish I'd invented that.
Zionism contained two contradictory claims. One, that an independent Israel would be a light unto the nations, some kind of moral exemplar. The other, that an independent Israel would finally be just another nation, freeing Jews of their inhibiting and lethal chosenness.
It seems that neither has come to pass.
Remarkable technically, but there's something creepy about it. I'm not certain whether its the surfacy slickness of the simulation, or whether Ancient Rome itself had something creepy about it.
Iran would like to throw its weight around regionally, and its unsavory President makes bizarre and aggressive comments. That’s hardly a reason for the U.S., which is a world away, to bomb the place, when the result would be to cause the Iranians to rally around the mullahcracy and provoke Iran to make serious local mischief. Even the deranged Podhoretz Père doesn’t propose reinstituting the draft and sending a million men to occupy Iran, locus of a proud civilization. an effort that would not be worth a fraction of the lives and treasure it would take.
As for Russia, the West’s approach has been wrongheaded. Once the threat of a massive armor attack on Europe, abetted by local communists, was gone, the reasons for NATO and the encirclement of Russia were gone. Instead of respecting Russia’s sphere of influence and treating it as an imporant interlocutor, we expanded NATO to within a few clicks of St. Petersburg, and many of our opinion leaders cultivated Russophobia (and also Sinophobia) as if they were in search of an adversary to give meaning to their shallow lives. There’s no issue with Russia that a realistic view of U.S. national interests and competent diplomacy can’t manage. (By the way, this doesn’t mean we need to love Putin, any more than we need to love Mubarak).
Podhoretz is just another old man who is willing to spill the blood of the young men of his country, in furtherance of his mad delusions and out of envy of their youthful vigor. Unfortunately he’s still endowed with rhetorical skill and has some remaining influence, and therefore remains a danger to the Republic.
June 18, 2007
I've been hard on Israel for many reasons, not the least the self-righteousness of its supporters, but it's not hard to imagine that these Sudanese folks, persecuted by the Egyptian government, know things the average British academic, where the faculty union had been advocating a boycott of Israeli universities, does not.
June 16, 2007
Doug Brock, a lawyer for the North Carolina State Bar, the state agency bringing the case, said, “From his very first involvement in this case, Mr. Nifong weaved a web of deception, which continued up to this hearing.”The old Germanic ablaut system of "strong" verbs, where the inner vowel is changed to mark tense (sing, sang, sung, for example) is dying out.
In my day, rogue prosecutors wove webs of deception. Sic transit gloria mundi. Bah, humbug!
June 14, 2007
Just as this goes on, the democratic winners of democratic elections in Gaza are consolidating victory by shooting people in hospitals and in front of their wives and children. The poor victims complain, even as they buy the farm, that it's not fair because, after all, they are not Jews.
The faith of these naifs is doubly misplaced. First, in democracy itself, which for all its canonical status in conventional wisdom, is a highly flawed commodity, and second in the bouregoisified Trotskyism-without-Marx that would spread democracy with cruise missiles and color revolutions to places where no civil society has evolved to support anything close to consensual government.
The fact is, democracy tends to find a place for every snout in the public trough. The souls attached to the snouts are thus diminished, not enough slops are available to all, and power concentrates in the hands of those who distribute the slops (really, those who make the rules about how the slops are distributed).
We are taught in school that democracy is wonderful, and have fought wars supposedly to make the world safe for it. The rule of law is good. Restraint in government is good. Democracy can be horrid. Missionizing for it, as if it were divine grace, is, as every Iraqi knows, worse than a crime. It's folly.
The ghost of Marcel Duchamp has triumphed completely, like it or not. More here. Roger Kimball writes:
Duchamp mounted a campaign against art and aesthetic delectation. In one sense, he succeeded brilliantly. Only the campaign backfired. Once the aloof and brittle irony of Duchamp institutionalized itself and became the coin of the realm, it descended from irony to a new form of sentimentality. I do not have much time for Marcel Duchamp; in my view his influence on art and culture has been almost entirely baneful; but it is amusing to ponder how much he would have loathed the contemporary art world where all his ideas had been ground-down into inescapable clichés, trite formulas served up by society grandees at their expensive art fêtes in the mistaken belief that they are embarked on some existentially or aesthetically daring enterprise. Perhaps Duchamp, aesthete that he was, would have savored the comedy. I suspect his amour-propre would have caused him to feel nausea, not amusement.Of course, he, like me, is a reactionary fuddy-duddy, which is just another type-cast part in the play.
Tragedy, comedy, or farce? You decide.
June 10, 2007
WASHINGTON, June 10 — Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, an independent who strongly supports the war in Iraq, said today that unless Iran stops training Iraqis to carry out anti-coalition attacks, the United States should launch cross-border attacks into Iran.We've been hocking the chinik about the danger of an American attack on Iran, and the agitation in Zionist circles for such a raid. This agitation is motivated mostly by Iranian President Ahmadinejad's aggressive rhetoric against Israel and Iran's active development of nuclear technology. In the eyes of some Israelis and their supporters, Ahmadinejad is Hitler redivivus, or to be Biblical, Amalek.
“I think we’ve got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq,” Mr. Lieberman said in an interview on the CBS News program “Face the Nation.”
This could be achieved mostly with air attacks, Mr. Lieberman said, adding, “I’m not talking about a massive ground invasion of Iran.”
I happen to believe that Ahmadinejad's bark is worse than his bite, though of course I don't live within missile range of Iran. Therefore, I would be less concerned about what the Israelis decide they must do to protect themselves than with the potential for involving the United States.
The fact is the only reason we have a dog in the fight is that we have already stuck our snouts into the Middle East far beyond what our interests can justify.
Given the fact that we are in Iraq, Lieberman might even have a point if Iranian involvement was materially threatening our position. In such a case, a "tit for tat" response, although carrying some risks, might have some merit. Although the Iranians are in a way up to their eyeballs in Iraq, it doesn't appear that their involvement in thing military is the source of the difficulties there.
What is needed is to fundamentally revise our conception of what our national interest truly is. This process would lead to a massive retrenchment of our overextended military positions around the world.
Lieberman's impulse to bitch-slap the Iranians, on the other hand, is fraught with danger. And without going on a war footing of a different kind, and assuming responsibilities with incalculable consequences, we wouldn't be able to finish what we start.
June 7, 2007
The pernicious new Puritanism (is) slowly squeezing the life and soul out of Britain. Ye gods, as my grandmother used to say, almost all the middle classes have left is their glass of wine in the evening. That bottle of organic Pech-Latt (£6.49 from Ocado, very reasonable and actually extremely drinkable) is the equivalent of the 19th-century factory worker’s shot of gin. Because let’s face it, this Government is doing its best to make our lives about as miserable as any pox-raddled Hogarthian whore’s. Utter the word “middle class” in Whitehall and watch their greedy little pimps’ eyes light up with pound signs. Behold the British middle-classes – a docile, law-abiding army of tax slaves. Hurrah, let’s blow it all on some more social workers in Newcastle.I love good English invective.
--The Times, via Stuttaford
June 2, 2007
This kind of thing must have worked in front of juries.
It's an example of our current fashion for emotional self-revelation, "sharing," as some call it.
Doesn't live up to my "Silent Cal" standard.