Sunday, December 29, 2002
Left and Right
A few interesting articles to read.
First, a backgrounder on international ideologies from Francis Fukayama in the WSJ. There is an interesting discussion of conservative versus liberal.
If one definition of a conservative is a defender of the status quo, then it is safe to say that American conservatives (a k a classical liberals) have never been this type of creature. This is true both in economics and in politics. Free-market competition is, in Schumpeter's words, a process of "creative destruction." Market competition means the relentless promotion of technological innovation and entrepreneurship, which brings in its train turmoil and social change. Globalization is intensely threatening to vested interests because it destroys jobs and livelihoods even as it creates new wealth and opportunity. Those who want to slow down or reverse globalization in the name of protecting the environment or defending the rights of workers are in fact taking a conservative position of opposing potentially progressive change--even though we think of antiglobalization activists as being on the left.
The political agenda of American conservatives is no less revolutionary. From the beginning, Americans regarded their values and institutions as embodying universal aspirations that would one day have a significance far beyond the shores of the United States. The Great Seal on the back of the dollar bill bears the inscription novus ordo seclorum--"new order of the ages"--that expresses a very unconservative sentiment with potentially revolutionary consequences. In this view, democracy, constitutional government and the individual rights on which they rest are good not just for North Americans by virtue of their peculiar habits and traditions, but for all people around the world. Hence the United States in its foreign policy has been anything but a status quo power.
The reason I see myself as a Republican today is that I've always been a classic liberal. It took September 11th to show me who were the real liberals. It's not just a matter of semantics. The problem is that the Left, while not supporting any liberal policies, benefits from the moral goodwill that real liberalism has generated. Liberalism has gathered this moral goodwill by fighting totalitarian governments for the past several centuries. On the other hand, the Left has supported totalitarian regimes from the Soviet Union to Iraq to North Korea. The use of the liberal tag by Leftist groups is one of those major perversions of history (like Europeans calling themselves peace-loving) that we encounter once in a while.
Next is a slightly dated article from Robert Kagan, entitled War and the Fickle Left
. It's an interesting story of how one Leftist ideologue switches his view of Iraq -- from hawk in 1998 to dove in 2002. What changed?
Finally, an opinion by WashPost's resident Old-Tyme Lefty, Mary McGrory
. The only reason I bring it up is because it contains a major Freudian slip.
George W. Bush ends the year with a genuine nuclear crisis on his hands. He has been assiduously trying to foment one with Iraq, dropping bombs on the country and expletives on its leader. But North Korea, which is not just suspected of working on the bomb but of having at least two, has muscled Saddam Hussein off the front pages and made our crusade against Baghdad seem crass: We're starting a war not just for oil or for Ariel Sharon but because we can win it.
Read that last sentence again -- her indignation is that we are starting a war in Iraq because we can win it, as opposed to North Korea. Think about it -- who starts wars they know they will lose? Why would they?
At first I thought that this was just another attempt to distract us from the liberation of Iraq, but it really contains a true grievance of the Left. I think that they would love a war that we can’t win. Think about -- another quagmire, American soldiers coming home in body bags, flag burning rallies. What could be more glorious from the Left's perspective? It would be like Vietnam all over again! So what that at the end of the day millions of Vietnamese ended up enslaved -- the Left never cared about that! The only thing that matter is that the hated hegemon gets a black eye -- at any price.
Even a little anti-Semitism can be thrown in. Notice how she calls the liberation of Iraq the war for Ariel Sharon. Somebody has been re-reading Mein Kampf
. I'm sure that Mary is a great admirer of the way Hitler blamed Germany's loss in WWI on the Jews. This will do him one better -- get the field prepared before the war. Anything goes wrong and the scapegoats are ready. We had nothing to do with this -- it was all the Israelis and their omnipotent Jewish Lobby in the US. The Left has a great policy -- never let facts get in the way of a good hate-fest.
Thursday, December 26, 2002
Europe’s Low Fertility
Today, the New York Times has a story on Europe’s low fertility rates. This is not strictly a news story – the trend has been around for many years now and most recently profiled in the Economist. I wasn’t going to blog about it, but the Instapundit claims that it’s because of trauma from the two world wars. I completely disagree.
If you look at the chart accompanying the article, you’ll see that the highest birth rates are in some countries that are or have recently been ravaged by war. The list includes Liberia (civil war), Somalia (civil war) and Ethiopia (war with Eritrea). In fact, people who survive traumatic events tend to reproduce more often. Cases in point are the baby boom caused by soldiers returning from World War II and the post September 11th mini baby boom in New York City.
In that case, what accounts for the low fertility rates in Europe? I think it has something to do with Europe’s vast social welfare structure. A few weeks ago, I discussed my theory of hatred. In that discussion I introduced a human condition that I called “post-survivalism”. It is the mental state of an individual whose survival needs have been met, typically through a generous welfare system. Usually, this situation is accompanied by a dearth of opportunity for advancement. It is this condition of stasis that also decreases the desire to reproduce.
Reproduction is fundamentally a survival instinct. Along with food and shelter, it’s a primal human drive that ensures the survival of the species. The first, basic goal of any species is to reproduce. This contrasts with the many post-survival (self-actualization) goals that we have invented for ourselves (fashion, corner office, pop singer, etc.). Reproduction has practical survival effects as well. A large family (tribe, clan, etc) can fight more effectively compete with other families for limited resources.
In a post-survival society, as the name suggests, people do not worry about survival. The satisfaction of the basic food and shelter survival needs effects the reproductive need as well. Having a child is not easy – many parents know it’s only your parental instinct that allows you to get through the stress and the sleepless nights. If you lose your parental instinct – there is nothing in the world that will make you try to reproduce more than once.
While this theory may sound farfetched, it is backed by solid empirical evidence. The first is the experience of the European post-survival societies versus the much less safe (“survival”) environments of countries with high birth rates. The other example comes from the animal world. The post survival condition in not unlike that of animals in captivity – who are notoriously difficult to breed. Many just simply lose their sex drive. We are nothing more than complex animals and so are our post-survival states.
What about Easter Europe – it is certainly not as prosperous as the West and yet they have low fertility rates? The best way to think about the situation in Eastern Europe is to consider animals bred in captivity, which are consequently released into the wild. The communist governments of Eastern Europe essentially created massive post-survival societies (remember, you don’t need to be rich to be post survival – just have your survival assured). The fall of communism changed the governments, but not the people. Their survival instinct has already been suppressed. My prediction is that if things get worse in these countries, new generations will begin to reproduce more frequently.
Sunday, December 22, 2002
US out of Korea! Now!
Where’s the outrage about the election of South Korea’s new President? Roh Moo Hyun’s campaign took a page from Gerhard Schroeder’s anti-American playbook and said that in a case of war between the US and North Korea, the South would do nothing. Now, he’s been elected and the US must pull its troops from South Korea.
The President-elect’s statement is galling and unacceptable since our GI’s are there to protect South Korea. We do not have any strategic or tactical objectives that would require us to keep a large military presence in the peninsula. The reasons for the presence of our troops in the 1950s are no longer applicable. We are no longer worried that North Korea, backed by Communist China and the Soviet Union will be the vanguard of communist expansion, especially to Japan. The Soviet Union no longer exists, the Chinese are themselves worried about the loonies in North Korea and threats to Japan can be just as easily deterred from elsewhere. Our current objectives vis-à-vis North Korea are deterrence, non-proliferation and protection of South Korea.
Other than the last goal, these can be just as easily accomplished without out South Korean bases. Air power can easily be projected from American bases in Japan or, alternatively, from American Guam. B-2 bombers have been used to project power against Afghanistan from their base in Missouri. Using smart munitions even highflying B-52s can provide “close air support”. In addition, we can park carrier battle groups on either side of the peninsula.
Even tactically, our current bases in the South are useless for power projection. If we ever wanted to attack North Korea we would never attempt a frontal assault through the de-militarized zone (DMZ). The DMZ is probably the most heavily defended and mined stretch of land in the world. The attack would be brutal and bloody. If for some reason we wanted to invade the North we would stage an amphibious landing around the DMZ. With our naval and air superiority, an amphibious assault would stand a far better chance of success.
In short, American troops are there to protect the South from an attack by the North. Given the president-elect’s statement, are we to understand that if the North’s massive military machine starts crossing the DMZ, the South would not react at all? This leads us to a quandary -- if a democratically elected government is willing to open its people to possible enslavement, who are we to object? Out of all the places in the world, is this where we should be putting the lives of our servicemen at risk and spending our money? It would be different if we had other vital objectives, but in this case we must completely defer to democracy. It is certainly possible that we are wrong and that for the first time in history a totalitarian state will not dominate a weak neighbor. Who knows what the future holds, but we are not the ones to choose.
This brings us to the second reason we should move our troops from South Korea. In reality, I suspect that most South Koreans don’t really want live under the Northern yoke. But if they believe that American protection is free and unconditional – why not ask for more? This is called having your cake and eating it too.
Relationships between nations are similar to relationships between people. They depend on mutual respect and reciprocal obligations. A relationship where one person only gives and the other takes is not a healthy one. It is the same with nations. Too many of our so-called allies have become used to receiving the benefits of American protection without any obligation on their part. If one ally sees that they can get away with bringing less to the table, then all the others will try to do the same. There has been an alarming race to the bottom among our allies as to who can be more antagonistic to us and still retain the benefits of our protection. The elections in Germany and South Korea are just the latest and the lowest examples of this trend.
This is not only unhealthy, but also dangerous. We not only get poor allies, but when our enemies see how our allies push us around they assume that we are no more than a paper tiger. First, they perceive that our allies are friends in name only and can be easily manipulated for their own goals (see Europe and Iraq). Second, they can easily question our resolve. How willful can we be when we allow our military inferiors to push us around? Remember that most of our enemies are totalitarian regimes where people only understand power. When our adversaries see how we are treated by Europe (except UK), Egypt, Saudi Arabia and now South Korea – what other conclusion can they reach?
Previously, I have called on our government to pull our troops from Germany. I have great respect for democracy and free speech. But these things must have consequences – you can’t say I hate you to your friend and expect him to remain your friend forever. When you protect an ally, the least you can expect in return is that the ally offers you respect. If the South Korean polity feels that the protection we offer is a burden and we have no other interest in offering the protection, than we should leave immediately. Our sons and daughters in uniform should not be protecting reluctant allies, especially when they are needed more urgently elsewhere (like Iraq).
Wednesday, December 18, 2002
Work has been extremely busy, as it usually beore year end and I have not had time to post. I've been working on a long post similar to those of the "hate" series, but its not finished. But I wan't to post something...
So here goes a brief (very brief) list of topics:
Lott -- got to go! A few months ago I wrote that the Democrats weakness in national security is analagous to the GOP weakness with racism. I claimed that the Republicans worked hard to get rid of racists within the party. It seems like there's one more, and he's got to go!
Could this be why the Germans don't want to attack Iraq? Germany out of Iraq!
This is big: The Latin Patriarch of Israel tells Arafat he should step down. These guys used to be friends.
Any that's it for now. Hopefully more soon...
Tuesday, December 10, 2002
Living in interesting times
Had to blog this one. In the UK, the Campaign fo Nuclear Disarmament is going to court to block the Brits from disarming Iraq's nuclear weapons. That's right folks -- this is what it has come to. The world has become a cross between a Kafka novel and Alice in Wonderland. They could at least change their name to Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament of the West so that the Islamists (now that the Communists are gone) Can Come in and Destroy the System that We Hate So Much. I guess that's too long.
This is even worse than a "human rights" group protecting human rights abusers.
Sunday, December 08, 2002
It's the end of the year and everyone is trying to close deals and that means that I'm very busy. I spent the entire weekend working, which is unusual for me. So, let me just link to a few stories you might have missed:
Daniel Yergin talks about the dynamics of the Iraqi oil market. He says that this can't possibly be a war for oil and neither will Iraqi oil be able to stimualte the economy. so long as it gets the Saudis off our backs...
The New York Times Magazine had a article on "liberal hawks." I really wanted to comment on this, but alas, no time. The interesting thing is that, with the exeption of Hitchens, none have of teh profilees have gone all the way. Meaning that they understand that liberalism and humanitarianism requires the removal of Saddam, but their residual anti-Americaninsm or distrust of George Bush holds them back.
Finally, Go Trojans! (I went to USC for undergrad)
Sunday, December 01, 2002
Hate: Why Muslims? Why now?
In past week I have posted two articles entitled, “Dynamics of Mass Hate" and "Why Do They Hate?” which describe my personal theory of the origin of the mass hate movements of the postindustrial world. The three significant movements – socialism, fascism and Islamism are essentially identical in their psychological origin and only differ in the focus of their hate. There are three factors that lead to mass hate:
1. A perception that one’s basic survival needs (food, shelter, procreation) are not threatened. (The “bottom clamp”)
2. A perception that one’s higher self-actualization (“post-survival”) needs are out of reach and impossible to satisfy. (The “top clamp”)
3. A strong perception that this social immobility is caused by a specific scapegoat or, stated alternatively, that the scapegoat is keeping the group from achieving self-actualization. (The “grievance”)
The presumption behind my theory being that human beings have a strong survival drive. Once survival needs are met this drive is not depleted, but instead channeled into higher (post survival) self-actualization goals. If the pursuit of these post survival goals is somehow blocked, the individual is forced to refocus survival drive elsewhere. The untapped energy causes feelings of frustration and impotence. It may be internalized, for example in the Soviet Union alcohol was frequently used to alleviate the monotony of existence. Or, in the case of mass hate, it is externalized and a scapegoat is found for their troubles. Of course, these factors must take on mass proportions. Enough people must feel this way so that they may organize themselves within identity groups – e.g. by economic class (socialism), nationality (fascism) or religion (Islamism) each with an identical scapegoat. Finally, this theory seeks to explain the violence, not to make moral judgements. In many cases, the grievances may be legitimate, but the resulting violence completely out of proportion to the situation and directed at the most convent (instead of culpable) party.
The purpose of this article is to show how this principle applies to Islamism and to answer why the Muslim population is falling under the intoxicating spell of genocidal hate and why is it happening now? The why now question is perhaps the first place to start because it debunks the foundation myth of modern Islamism. The myth can be summarized as follows; “The rise of Islamism is due to the intervention by the West in Muslim lands and the inequity with which Muslims are treated”. The myth begs the question, if this is indeed the cause, then why now and not in the heyday of European colonialism?
Consider the map of the world at the turn of the 20th century. Today’s largest Muslim countries – Indonesia, India and Pakistan were under the thumb of the Dutch and the British. Most of Muslim North Africa was ruled from either London or Paris. Although the heart Arabian Peninsula was mostly free of influence, today’s Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, United Arab Emirates and parts of Yemen were all either British possessions or protectorates. Persia was divided into Russian and British spheres of influence.
If you were Arab, things were even worse. The only major independent Arab kingdom (another, Libya, was conquered by Italy in 1914) was in the heart of Arabia – Nejd – the forerunner of Saudi Arabia. Even that entity was a rump of the Saudi empire today because it did not include the “crown jewels” of the eastern oil fields and the holy cites of Mecca and Medina. Muslim, but not Arab, Turks controlled those lands. The Turks also controlled the Fertile Crescent on which arose the modern nations of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Israel. Of course, the British and the French drew the national boundaries for these countries after they were wrestled from the Turks at the end of WWI.
So if the driving force behind modern Islamic violence is some sort of grievance against Western influence, the timing is really off. Today most Arabs live in independent states. Instead of being ruled from Europe, many oil rich kingdoms welcome groveling European dignitaries begging for their share of the black gold. Saudi Arabia has gotten in the habit of dictating to the strongest military in the world what it can and can’t do with the forces stationed on their land. Leftists may also try to explain the hate in terms that they can understand – economic class. Poverty and economic desperation is their pat answer to everything. However, the evidence that the primary participants are wealthy Saudis destroys this theory.
Hence, none of these explanations satisfactorily explain why the Muslim world is becoming more rife with violent hatred. I propose an alternative explanation. Namely, that the cause of the increasing Muslim violence is the ever expanding number of Muslims who are falling into the psychological description provided by my theory. In the following paragraphs I will show how the Islamist movement has capitalized on the frustrations of Muslims residing in the epicenters of Islamist mass hate: Saudi Arabia, Europe and the Palestinians.
Saudi Arabia is the kernel of the Islamist hate, not only does it provide the ideological basis for the hate, it also supplies many of the most violent adherents and finances it around the world. Why the Saudis? If you look at the three factors I propose, you will see that nowhere else is the individual so squeezed and frustrated than in Saudi Arabia. Nowhere else is the welfare state so thorough, the possibility of upward ascent so blocked and the grievance so strong. At the heart of it all is the oil and the Two Mosques.
The oil makes the largest welfare state in the world possible – every Saudi perceives an entitlement of privilege. Almost all get government jobs where they work only a few hours a day (most of the physical labor is done by migrants). However, the custodianship of the Two Mosques made possible by the Wahabi sect ensures that the Saudi male has nothing to do with that extra time except to pray. Economic and political advancement is blocked by the ever growing list of royal princes and their favorites. Unless you are a member of the “in crowd” there can be no economic or political self-actualization. In the West, similar situations (we are all a little frustrated) are alleviated by a dose of fun – like movies, sex and alcohol, but in Saudi Arabia these things are illegal.
At the same time, and because of the oil and the Mosques, the Saudis have the greatest “grievance” on the face of the world. Many believe that their possession of the two of the most holy places of Islam and the largest oil fields was divinely ordained. But, in that case, why are they still so backward compared to the West? Why do the numerically inferior (and despised) Jews repeatedly defeat the Muslims if the latter are backed by God? Why do the infidel Americans have to station troops to protect the “chosen” nation from the secular tyrant of Baghdad? These are the questions you ponder when you have nothing else to do, work or recreation, but to contemplate and pray. Eventually you reach the conclusion that this must be the work of the Great Satan.
In Europe, Muslims have bore the brunt of a policy of de facto segregation called “multiculturalism.” For the most, integration into the host society has been impossible leading them to believe that they have no possibility of a self-actualized future. In contrast to the US, where the children of immigrants are the most integrated, in Europe the younger generations are the most radicalized and the older the most willing to integrate. This is the top clamp of my theory. On the other hand, generous welfare benefits reduce the need to try to break into general society no matter what the barrier. So the Muslim population lives in their segregated ghettos, without a need to work to survive, seething with the frustration of worthlessness and impotence (read about it here). This is the bottom clamp. That multiculturalized frustration has been funneled into Islamism spewed by radical clerics financed by oil money.
The plotters of the 9/11 attack all had a nexus in Europe. Mohamed Atta, the leader, was apparently radicalized in Hamburg while attending university. Buttressed by generous allowances for students in Germany, but perhaps seeing no future in German society (until recently, you could not become a German citizen unless you had German blood) he fell in with the local mosque. He was talented and thought highly of himself, but with nowhere to fall and nowhere to rise his energies were focused on the destruction of the scapegoat which was proffered to him at the local mosque – America.
Finally we come to the sad and violent state of the Palestinians. Their genocidal hatred of the Israelis is unmatched by any other group. Conventional wisdom accepts two reasons for this violence – they are poor and their land has been stolen. Surely, they are not the only ones who can claim these two factors. Almost every civilization has stolen land or has been stolen from or both. Most of these are not as violent and hateful as the Palestinians. What really drives the Palestinians?
We can easily identify the three required hate factors as they apply to the Palestinians. The bottom clamp is the massive welfare network that caters to them. They are the only people on the face of the world who have a specific international welfare agency that caters only to their needs – the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East). This agency is funded at twice the level (per capita) of the UN’s High Commission for Refugees which caters to the rest of the world ex-Palestinians. UNRWA provides the Palestinians with minimum services that are by no means luxurious, but UNRWA does eliminate any concerns that the Palestinians may have about personal survival. The situation of the Palestinians shows that the bottom clamp may apply even if the lifestyle of the population is fairly poor. So long as individuals perceive no threat to their food, shelter and procriation needs -- they may be considered “post-survival”.
The Palestinians top clamp has been discussed in great detail and includes an extremely corrupt Palestinian Authority, an outside world whose best interests include seeing the Palestinians suffer and Israeli security procedures. The final plank is the sense of grievance. For decades, the Palestinians have been repeatedly told who their scapegoat is. By no means are their grievances unjustified, but in this case they have been amplified many times by parties who are interested in seeing the destruction of Israel. At various times, the Palestinians carried or still carry on their shoulders the burden of the failure of Arab nationalism, Soviet imperial ambitions and anti-Semitism, European greed for oil and Leftist anti-Semitism and, today, the call of pan-Islamic jihad. When so many parties repeatedly tell you that your cause is the most important in the world, your grievance deepens and your resolve steels. As a result of these factors you find a population which is well fed and sheltered, but which has precious little else to strive for. Combine this powder keg with mobs of outsiders cheering the Palestinian “gladiators” onward to kill the Jews, you get the predictable result.
Many other examples of this post-survival behavior can be found in the Muslim world. The Algerian revolt against France and the Iranian Revolution come to mind. Readers should note that my theory couldn’t possibly explain every circumstance. Every situation is unique and may involve other factors that either amplify or reduce the effects of the “squeeze”. It’s best to think of this outline as the trend and understand that other random effects may be playing a part at any given time.
In the end, the answer to my question Why Muslims, Why Now has everything to do with larger numbers of Muslims entering the post-survival state. Whether through petrodollars, immigration or handouts, many no longer concern themselves with the rudimentary needs of survival. To their misfortune, most of them live in societies where their advancement is still blocked by corrupt governments or in the case of Europe, prejudice. Age-old grievances and disappointment compound the frustration of their social immobility with their lot in life. Every year more and more Muslims begin to believe that the scapegoat for their troubles is either the Americans or the Jews. Every year, this mass hate movement grows.
Nevertheless, if we want to solve the world’s current dilemma it is imperative that we start asking tough question – if the proffered explanations for violence have any credence. If they don’t, “solving” them may not help the situation, and, in many cases may make things worse. I believe that this is the case with the violent Islamist ideology. Imposing the bottom clamp of welfare without, at the same time, loosening the top clamp of opportunity just makes things worse. We should insist the rigid social structures and corrupt governments of the Muslim world be dismantled and that, at the same time, welfare entitlements reduced. One should not happen without the other. That will create populations that are too busy working and keeping up with the Muslim equivalent of the Joneses to dwell on the false promises of violence.