Saturday, August 31, 2002
Camille Paglia, CounterRevolutionary?
(via Andrew Sullivan) She says that "the Left has lost its way and lost its voice."
Most leftists do believe that, without them, the naive proletariat would wallow for ever in ignorance and slavery. Unless they are volunteering hands-on service in blighted neighbourhoods, however, most leftists are far removed from working-class life. Many are wordsmiths — journalists or academics who run in packs. Leftism has become wordplay — a refuge for bourgeois intellectuals guilty about their comfort and privilege.(Empasis mine)
Camille does not reject the movement as radically as I do, but her approach may be more effective id winning converts. In the end, I think more and more people realize that if you drew a Venn diagram of Leftism and Liberalism, the intersection would be very small. In other words, they have very little in common.
What do Iraq critics and stock analysts have in common?
says that the people who seek to keep Saddam in power have always been wrong. And AMerican power has liberated thousands of lives around the world.
In 1990, 1999, and 2001, the fate of thousands of innocent lives hinged on whether the United States would or could risk military force for a just cause — in other words, whether it would choose the lesser of two evils for the greater good. People are alive today who would be long dead had we listened to the counsels of doom; and the world is a safer, not a more volatile, place for our past resolve. In the winter of 1991 we chose to be either magnanimous or realistic, and so let Saddam be. Thousands of civilians subsequently died for that decision, and now, a decade later, we are dealing with a wounded monster rather than a defeated despot. We should remember all that in the present frenzy.
Life immitates my attempts at humor.
You know, when I wrote my litte Sustainability Summit
satire (if the links don't work -- Monday, August 26, 2002 post), I did not expect events to really follow my script. Yet here we are -- the Jerusalem Post
In a stadium in the poor Johannesburg neighborhood of Alexandra, visiting Palestinians and their supporters in the African National Congress gave speeches which made the connection between sustainable development and Israeli occupation.
"The whole conference is about sustainability," said one man. "How can there be sustainability in Palestine if there is occupation?"
Apoligies for the self-pat-on-the-back.
Being a father is wonderful. Michael does just what he should -- he eats, sleeps and poops. He also goes through eight changes of clothes a day -- somehow he manages to stain his clothes every time we change him. I guess we need more practice.
Wednesday, August 28, 2002
I'm a Daddy!
Michael Illyich CounterRevolutionary (obviously fake last name; real, but unused, patronym) was born on August 27, 2002. Little Misha weighed in at 7 pounds and 13 ounces. He is 21 inches long. Mother and baby are doing fine.
Obviously, blogging will be a bit sparse. And apologies to anyone who has written me lately.
Monday, August 26, 2002
UN, Doing What it Does Best
Today is the opening day of another Very Important UN Summit. The great thing about these summits is that they all end the same, regardless of the topic discussed. So, to save you the trouble of reading a week’s worth of pompous statements and self-serving news releases, I drew up what I think a news dispatch from the last day of the conference will look like:
UN SUMMIT PARTICIPANTS RESOLVE TO FIGHT UNSUSTERRORISM.
September 6, 2002
Johannesburg (Routers) - Building on the success of last year’s Durban Conference on Racism and Xenophobia, the United Nations gathered in Johannesburg last week to discuss the prospects for global sustainable growth. The World Summit on Sustainable Development will consider the impact of growth and globalization on Earth’s environment.
Delegates said that this meeting was highly relevant as there were several developments last year that brought into question the previous predictions of sustainable sustainability. While the topics of the conference ranged from classifying unsustainability as a war crime for the purposes of the ICC to the environmental benefits of fundamental Islam, two distinct issues were determined to be of paramount importance.
Failure to Sign Kyoto Cited.
The failure of the Bush Administration to sigh the Kyoto Treaty was cited as the cause of much of the world’s growth of unsustainable growth. The destructive floods in Central Europe, the recent rash of child abductions, poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and the epidemic of impotence among Saudi princes were named as consequences of American failure to ratify the accord.
Separately, the US was chastised for the abnormal amounts of particulate matter released into the atmosphere when the Twin Towers of New York were allowed to collapse in September of last year. Sven Lingh of Sweden said that it was “the direct consequence of American hegemony, unilateralism and arrogance.”
Some participants blamed the American use of highly combustible jet fuel in its aircraft as the cause of the Towers’ collapse. “Had Kyoto been ratified, and followed, the jet fuel would not burn at such a high temperature and the buildings would not have crumbled,” added Lingh.
Israel also Mentioned.
The participants of the Summit also singled out Israel for criticism. Experts testified that the entire region was at risk of unstable unsustainable growth, unless Israel withdraws from what they called “the illegal, immoral, usurious, fattening and unsustainable occupation.” Arab representatives claimed that the Zionist entity was responsible for centuries of poor economic and environmental conditions in the Middle East.
A troubling development in the cycle of Middle Eastern violence was brought to the attention of the Conference. Participants noted that the rat poison used by Palestinian self-immolating freedom fighters could have long term environmental effects for the region. Israeli authorities were urged to curtail these catastrophic effects by releasing the Palestinians from their yoke, thus giving them hope and lessening desperation. Which, obviously, leads them to use rat poison as the only way to fight the Israeli military-unsustainability machine in the first place.
A separate NGO statement, not endorsed by the conference, stated that the cause of sustainable growth justifies expelling Zionists from Palestine by any means necessary. Animal Rights Watch and Sustainability International dissented from the umbrella statement and said that fighters of Israeli occupation should take care not to harm Israeli livestock and pets, who themselves are victims of Israeli oppression. “What kind of barbaric, colonialist society keeps pets?” asked François Leboeuf of Animal Right Watch.
Participants Determined to Fight Unsusterrorism
Following America’s War on Terrorism, the Summit attendees resolved to fight “Unsusterrorism.” The Iraqi representative, Tariq Esmail, claimed that the risk to the international community from Unsusterrorism is much greater that from any other threat.
The War on Unsusterrorism will build a global coalition that is much larger that that pursuing America’s War on Terrorism. “As everyone knows,” said, Chris Fatten, EU’s commissioner for the Promotion of Sustainability and the Prevention of Vice, “the more countries agree, the more important the cause. And our cause is bigger then theirs.”
One of the greatest threats of Unsusterrorism is the possibility that the forces of runaway growth and globalism will loose a new biological or chemical substance on unsuspecting and unprotected populations. Already, Iraq’s Esmail noted, his resource-poor nation had to build massive bio-labs to manufacture enough vaccine in the case of this cataclysmic scenario. As a result of this diversion of resources, another million Iraqi children have starved last year, according to chairman-elect of United Nations Commission on Human Rights, the Honorable Muammar Qaddafi.
Sunday, August 25, 2002
Saddam and Abu
The Telegraph reports that Saddam killed Abu Nidal because the latter refused to train al-Queda terrorists in Northern Iraq.
With the prospect increasing of the US launching a military campaign to overthrow Saddam, however, the Iraqi dictator was keen to combine Abu Nidal's expertise with the enthusiasm of al-Qa'eda's fanatical fighters to launch a fresh wave of terror attacks. In this way, Saddam hoped to disrupt Washington's plans to overthrow him.
I'm not sure that I buy this explanation wholesale. It might be a possibility, but there are other possible reasons for the murder:
1. It is possible that Abu Nidal was Arafat's alter ego, the "bad" in a standard bad cop/good cop routine. It is then possible that he was Arafat's liaison in Baghdad. For a time Arafat's and Saddam's interests converged. Saddam wanted to stave off a possible attack, and Arafat wanted to use violence to press his demands upon the Israelis. Recently, due to the Bush Administration's policy of isolating Arafat, their interests have become to diverge. Violence is no longer in Arafat's personal interest, but it is still in Saddam's. A disagreement may have arisen over strategy whereby Saddam killed Nidal to silence him or as a signal to Arafat or just for the fun of it.
2. It is also possible that it had something to do with the break-in at the Iraqi embassy in Berlin. What, I do not know -- perhaps he knew too much? There no evidence for this speculation other than the timing of the two events.
All these are speculations, of course, but I wouldn't be surprised if parts of the above were true.
Archive Still Not Working
No surprise here really. Did I actually expect Blogger archives to function?
Once again, I ask for your techincal help. If I don't get it, I will go back to the old template! I'll do it -- I'm crazy enough to try! ;)
UPDATE: The only thing that is not working now seems to be the links to individual posts.
George Will: talks about the NEA’s September 11th guidance.
Let's see. Some seriously angry people murder almost 3,000 people in America and Americans need to work on managing their anger? And on getting along with others? Did little Mohamed Atta's report card in third grade say he "plays well with others"?
Jim Hoagland: The more you read his work, the more you realize that this man is the most intelligent foreign affairs commentator writing for a major newspaper. This article is well worth reading. Hoagland explains the real motivation of Iraq critics:
Let me decode a central fear of some critics: They do not think that George W. Bush and his divided administration are capable of implementing an orderly and successful military campaign in Iraq without inflicting major casualties and national damage on the United States.
I obviously disagree with the critics that of this administration, and think that they can do the job properly. I do agree with Hoagland that Powell is a major liability.
Tom Friedman: After reading Hoagland, you can see how amateurish Friedman can be. The central theme of his piece is that countries with oil are allowed to be repressive, while the ones who don’t have to reform to maintain effective government (typical Left wing “oil war” crap). He names Saudi Arabia, Libya and Iraq in the first group and Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain, Morocco, Dubai and Qatar in the second. Can you guess which countries are missing here? How about Egypt, Syria and Algeria? All low on oil reserves and all extremely repressive, but mentioning them would, of course, nullify Friedman’s hypothesis.
Another stupidity: in defending the Saudis, Friedman mentions the Saudi Western-educated middle class as a moderating influence. Again, forgetting that all of the Saudi September 11th hijackers were Saudi Western-educated middle class.
And last, but not least, James A. Baker III: The Times’ Florida Recount Enemy Number One is now a respected statesman. This editorial is likely to get a lot of attention, so read it carefully. It’s a typical “elder statesman” article full of caveats and contradictions. Be sure to read the Hoagland piece BEFORE you read this, as it makes things much clearer. Over all, I think he supports the war effort, but we shall see what the Times front page tells me to think on Monday.
Peace-loving nations have a moral responsibility to fight against the development and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by rogues like Saddam Hussein. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to do so, and leading that fight is, and must continue to be, an important foreign policy priority for America.
But, Baker continues, we should try to get the permission of the UN Security Council to enforce a new inspections regime. This time however, we would let Saddam know that we would launch a war the moment even one inspection is blocked.
It all sounds good, but there are two major flaws in his logic. One, the lesser, is we fail to get permission from the Security Council for a new inspections regime (which is pretty likely), we would not be able to attack Iraq. Baker discounts this without explanation.
The second flaw concerns the inspectors in this get tough inspection scheme. Assume that such a scheme is set up and our “allies” have not managed to emasculate it. Under this proposal, we would launch a full-scale invasion the firs time that Saddam refuses entry to a site. At that moment, the inspectors will immediately be killed by Saddam’s guards. Everyone, including the inspectors, will know that ahead of time. This has two implications. One, we have to select people to send on a suicide mission – which are never good at. Two, how would this knowledge incentives the inspectors? Will they leave the “hard” sites for last, hoping to stave off their deaths or would they perhaps give Saddam the benefit of the doubt in critical situations knowing that their lives are at stake? These would be normal human reactions that we would expect of anyone, but they would destroy the whole purpose of having an inspection regime.
UPDATE: Mark Steyn discusses the Administration critics on Iraq.
Saturday, August 24, 2002
I think I'm almost done except that I can't get my archives to work. I seek to have the same language as the other kids, but no -- my archives won't work.
Feedback on the design -- is it too Instapundish? Any technical help?
UPDATE: What can I say? Sometimes working with blogger is a little less painful than banging my head agaist the wall. I apoligize to all who are trying to reference my archives. Will try again manana.
Work in Progress
As promised, I'm changing my template...
How did this get into the Times?
Senior management must be on vacation to allow this heresy to be printed in the Times. Bill Keller disects the anti-war agrument.
If candor counted for as much as courtesy, the author note under Brent Scowcroft's now famous op-ed in The Wall Street Journal last week, the one arguing against war with Iraq, might have said something like this: "Mr. Scowcroft, the former national security adviser, now makes his living advising business clients, some of whom would be gravely inconvenienced by a war in the Middle East. And by the way, he thought Saddam Hussein was finished after the gulf war in 1991."
Not a pro-war rant by any means, but I just don't expect anything other than knee-jerk reactions from the Times these days.
The Daily Sedative has a hilarious take on what multiculturalism stands for today.
Remember, we must understand. We must understand them, their culture, and how we cause their gross violations of their own cultural codes. Remember: there is no right or wrong, only wrongs made to oppressed groups. The worst of which is lack of understanding.
Friday, August 23, 2002
Pearl of Wisdom from Bernard Lewis
One of our best experts on the Middle East has an opinion piece in the WSJ today. The majority of the article describes Osama bin Laden appeal, but I thought that this was a little gem about the incentives of Muslim governments:
More often than not, they confront a situation in which they have to chose between offending bin Laden and offending the U.S. In such a dilemma, the choice is not difficult.
If they offend Osama, the consequences can be very dire indeed. If they offend the U.S., they will suffer no penalties and may even -- if the right people in Washington have their way -- receive some reward. It therefore makes obvious good sense to do nothing against bin Laden, and even to pay him some hush money, a practice widely followed in some of the wealthier Arab countries.
There is no doubt that this has been the dynamic in the Middle East and that it must stop. What can we do to change the incentive system of the Muslim states, so that they make the opposite choice?
More on Iraq and War
The Guardian reports that al-Queda fighters have been harbored by a Ansar al-Islam a Islamist group in Kurdish Iraq:
Intelligence officers in the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq told the Guardian that the Ansar al-Islam (supporters of Islam) group is harbouring up to 150 al-Qaida members in a string of villages it controls along the Iraq-Iran border.
Most of them fled Afghanistan after the US-led offensive, but officials from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which controls part of north-east Iraq, claim an "abnormal" number of recruits are making their way to the area from Jordan, Syria and Egypt. "They are being trained for terrorist operations within the Kurdish region and beyond, possibly Europe," one said.
The Guradian then goes on to discount the connections between al-Islam and Saddam, in an attempt to lessen the impact of this information. A much, much better account of Ansar al-Islam was given in March of this year by the New Yorker:
Kurdish officials said that, according to their intelligence, several men associated with Al Qaeda have been smuggled over the Iranian border into an Ansar al-Islam stronghold near Halabja. The Kurds believe that two of them, who go by the names Abu Yasir and Abu Muzaham, are high-ranking Al Qaeda members. "We don't have any information about them," one official told me. "We know that they don't want anybody to see them. They are sleeping in the same room as Mala Krekar and Abdullah al-Shafi"—the nominal leaders of Ansar al-Islam.
The real leader, these officials say, is an Iraqi who goes by the name Abu Wa'el, and who, like the others, spent a great deal of time in bin Laden's training camps. But he is also, they say, a high-ranking officer of the Mukhabarat [Saddam's secret police -- CR]. One senior official added, "A man named Abu Agab is in charge of the northern bureau of the Mukhabarat. And he is Abu Wa'el's control officer."
How many years has Al Qaeda maintained a relationship with Saddam Hussein's regime? "There's been a relationship between the Mukhabarat and the people of Al Qaeda since 1992," he replied.
So, tell me again, what provocation do we need to attack Saddam?
This is Bad News
The latest Gallup Poll, as reported by USA Today shows that support for the War to Free Iraq has fallen to 53% from 61% in June. Contrast this with the WashPost/ABC poll taken in the beginning of August showing 69% support. Since the polls phrase questions differently, you cannot compare one poll directly to another. But, clearly the support for the liberation of Iraq has dropped substantially. There are several lessons to be learned from this:
1. A sustained propaganda campaign can still work well. Especially, during a slow news month and when the main proponents of the campaign do not answer or are silenced.
2. The people who oppose the war are coldhearted monsters who care little for the sanctity of human life, here or in Iraq.
Some of you may think that I’m a bit harsh with that last comment, but allow me to explain. First, these people care nothing about the lives of ordinary Iraqis. It’s not like we’ve never seen a dictatorship overthrown. Think about the fall of the Berlin Wall, the crowds in Red Square after the fall of the Soviet Union, and recently the people in Kabul. No one likes living under an oppressive dictatorship. There is no reason to suspect that Iraq will be different. Yet for whatever reason, the needs of these people are not as important as the need to keep Saddam in power. There are many reasons why the anti-war crowd gives for holding back – none of them take the ordinary Iraqi into account.
The second reason is much more personal. You see, I live in New York City and, for the anti-war people, I’m bait. Every time someone says that a provocation is needed, I keep asking myself – what kind of provocation? It seems that Saddam’s violation of the 1991 cease-fire agreement, his assassination attempt on Bush Sr., his use of chemical weapons against his own population, his support for Palestinian terrorism and his association with al-Queda are not “provocative” enough. What would be a sufficient provocation?
My mind drifts back to our attack on Afghanistan to dislodge al-Queda and the Taliban. That nest of festering hate and violence was invaded only after 3,000 Americans died and two giant buildings were destroyed. That was deemed provocative enough. The previous attacks on American embassies and on an American warship were not significant enough to go after the terrorism network. It took the blood of 3,000 Americans in NYC and Washington to do the trick. Had we reacted earlier, their lives would have been saved.
Which brings me to Iraq. In my heart, I fear that only another attack on American soil would be provocative enough to go after the tyrant Saddam. And this is where I come in. My fellow New Yorkers and I are bait for Saddam. When there is another attack, it will be in New York. Our population density and economic prominence make us an ideal target. Especially if the weapon of choice is chemical, biological or nuclear – New York offers Saddam the greatest bang for the buck. The sheer number and density of people in NYC on a weekday compensates for the second rate weaponization that Saddam is likely to have. In other words, let’s say his weapons will only be effective over two square block area – well, in New York, that area can contain tens of thousands of people. That sort of target rich environment just wouldn’t be possible in another city.
So, we New Yorkers are walking around with targets painted on our heads, waiting until the next one hits. Hence, I think that the people who wish to delay a confrontation with Saddam are coldhearted. They know what the danger is, yet they seek to prevent a rescue until blood flows in the streets of New York. How else would you describe these people if you were a New Yorker?
Thursday, August 22, 2002
..about what I should do about the color scheme? A lot of people don't like it. Please be as technical as you would like. Thanks.
A reader writes:
…Then I noticed the next blog - claiming somehow that multiculturalists support the practice of settee, or rape or devil-worship or god knows what. Look - someone found a guy who attempted to justify rape using multiculturalist language in the Netherlands. Fine - he's an idiot. But when you use him to represent multiculturalism in general you've committed something between an Orwellian lie and an outright idiocy, depending upon your level of intention. Not only that, but it's a dull ripoff of the same nonsense spouted by a handful of other bloggers for years now. Does it really need to be explained again why it takes more than a handful of carefully homogenized anecdotes to understand or explain a group? Multiculturalism is about far more about exercising as much tolerance as possible for cultural differences within a set of firm moral boundaries than what you gleefully describe. It is not, as you pretend, about some kind of relativist abolishment of morality. But then, why attack a complex reality when you can attack a cartoon to greater effect?
So what is the reality of multiculturalism?
This reader’s argument reminds me of the argument used to defend socialism. The reality of capitalism is compared with a utopian socialist world. The brutal, murderous reality of socialist regimes is dismissed by calling it a fluke (albeit repeated every time) or blaming an individual (like Stalin) rather than the system that allowed them to flourish. The reader is inviting me to debate on similar terms. I’m supposed to argue against the mythical “multiculturalism” found in sociology textbooks and ignore the reality of what has been done in the name of “multiculturalism”.
In reality, multiculturalism has been used as a powerful political tool to quiet opponents and to undermine the liberal society that I value most. Multiculturalism has been used to justify misogyny, anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism. Multiculturalism is NEVER used to defend certain groups. When is the last time you heard a European defend America’s death penalty as a multicultural preference that they shouldn’t judge? Where is a French academic to explain to her fellow citizens that they should accept McDonalds and GM foods, because they are expressions of American culture? Such suggestions are laughable. Instead, it is American culture that is described by what the reader calls “a handful of carefully homogenized anecdotes”.
Yet there is much to defend in American culture. As a liberal, I can find no other culture that has as much respect for democracy, the rights of individuals, religious minorities, freedom of speech and press, women’s rights than America. Furthermore, I believe that Americas prosperity and power is precisely the result of our liberal culture. Bernard Lewis states that Christendom’s dominance in the past several centuries has much to do with the empowerment of the Western woman. While I would certainly not argue that we live in a perfect country (far from it), if we are judged on a consistent set of standards, the US will always come ahead.
The reader says that multiculturalism is not “about some kind of relativist abolishment of morality”, but that’s exactly what the debate is about. Debating what ideal multiculturalism would look like is sufficient for the classroom, but in the real world we must judge multiculturalism as applied. I don’t think that the reader can expect me to concede this fundamental point and debate the topic on his terms. In fact, I do believe that, as practiced, multiculturalism is the abolishment of morality. Or, to be more precise, it is a set of positions that reject everything Western or American or Jewish (as the case may be) without any basis in morality, but just to be in opposition.
For many years I thought that this phenomenon can be ignored, but I was wrong. Today, multiculturalism is used to justify rape and murder; and has gone far enough. I am a liberal. I believe in democracy, the sanctity of the individual, the freedoms of speech, religion, press, and the equality of women and I have no use for any culture or ideology that does not consider these things important or fundamental.
Wednesday, August 21, 2002
What Really Happened in Berlin
A NY Sun editorial claims that the Iraqi embassy in Berlin was the center of Iraqi Secret Police activity. What was strange about the raid on the Embassy is a) the group was previously unknown, b) that it gained access to a mission of a totalitarian state with just pepper spray, c) it had very few material demands and d) the stand-off ended peacefully.
The inquiring mind would say that a) and b) would suggest that this was a propaganda job. Done by Saddam to focus on the ruthlessness of the "opposition". This is why the Iraqi National Congress and the President condemned it so strongly. There is one problem with this theory -- part d. If this was Saddam's job and he wanted to draw attention, people would have died. Many people. The best way to draw attention to your cause is to spill blood. Saddam would have had no problems killing his own people. But the standoff ended peacefully, with the "dissidents" in German custody. Also, if they were Iraqi agents, then there would be a probability of them talking to the Germans and spilling their beans about the plan. That would be a no-no. So, I don't think this was an Iraqi job.
That leaves us with an intriguing possibility -- that the raid was an intelligence gathering mission. Let’s assume that the Iraqis were a group of dissidents trained by the CIA or the German Intelligence to infiltrate the embassy. That would also explain a) and b). I’m not sure of any other way that three men can infiltrate a mini-fortress (most embassies are) staffed by professional killers. That would also go a long way to explain c) – they did not need to make any demands, they just needed time. Finally, that would explain d) – the Germans were not storming the castle – they were exfiltrating agents to make the mission look legit for the international cameras. That explains why no one was hurt and the group surrendered quietly.
Why would they do this? This is where the NY Sun editorial comes in – the embassy is the center of the Iraqi Secret Police in Germany. All over the world, the spy agencies keep records – lists of agents, lists of pay-offs, etc. Perhaps this group of dissidents was looking for records. They made an obligatory list of demands and “negotiated” with the police, all the while they were looking for documents. Maybe they took photos of the documents or maybe they faxed them out.
But here comes the juicy part – what were they looking for that would be worth potentially creating an international incident? It is worth remembering that Mohamed Atta and his whole crew came from Germany. So if there is an Iraqi connection to September 11th then it would be filed away in the Embassy.
So that’s the theory – a group of Iraqis trained by friendly intelligence penetrate the enemy fortress, steal the required documents and prove conclusively that Iraq was involved in the attack. In a few weeks, the President will announce that the CIA has found these important documents (in Afghanistan?) or perhaps the leak will come from elsewhere. Congress and the world will have no other choice but to support an invasion of Iraq. It's something worth thinking about.
Tuesday, August 20, 2002
Mark Steyn takes on multi-culturalism.
Once upon a time we knew what to do. A British district officer, coming upon a scene of suttee, was told by the locals that in Hindu culture it was the custom to cremate a widow on her husband's funeral pyre. He replied that in British culture it was the custom to hang chaps who did that sort of thing. There are many great things about India -- curry, pyjamas, sitars, software engineers -- but suttee was not one of them. What a pity we're no longer capable of being "judgmental" and "discriminating." We're told the old-school imperialists were racists, that they thought of the wogs as inferior. But, if so, they at least considered them capable of improvement. The multiculturalists are just as racist. The only difference is that they think the wogs can never reform: Good heavens, you can't expect a Muslim in Norway not to go about raping the womenfolk! Much better just to get used to it.
My thoughts exactly.
Kristol & Kagan make the case against Iraq.
The problem today is not just that failure to remove Saddam could someday come back to haunt us. At a more fundamental level, the failure to remove Saddam would mean that, despite all that happened on September 11, we as a nation are still unwilling to shoulder the responsibilities of global leadership, even to protect ourselves. If we turn away from the Iraq challenge--because we fear the use of ground troops, because we don't want the job of putting Iraq back together afterwards, because we would prefer not to be deeply involved in a messy part of the world--then we will have made a momentous and fateful decision. We do not expect President Bush to make that choice. We expect the president will courageously decide to destroy Saddam's regime. No step would contribute more toward shaping a world order in which our people and our liberal civilization can survive and flourish.
Umberto Eco talks about intellectual anti-Semitism.
Monday, August 19, 2002
WSJ to Times: Cut the Bias!
Here is what the WSJ had to say about the Times use of the Scowcroft opinion:
We're pleased, we guess, that the New York Times thought our article on Iraq by Brent Scowcroft last Thursday was important enough to lead its front page two days in a row. We'd be more pleased, though, if instead of trumpeting our story to advance a tendentious theme, the Times kep its opinions on its editorial page
Ouch. However, there is another choice. The Times could continue as it is if it just admitted that it was partisan paper, without any pretensions to objectivity. The problem is who's views does the Times represent? The closest, in my mind, would be the French Communist Party.
Scowcroft and Whose National Security?
An editorial in the New York Sun takes down Brent Scowcroft. It appears that Mr. Scowcroft's company, the Scowcroft Group, "provide access to government agencies" for "foreign direct investors" in the energy sector. Who would that be?
Sunday, August 18, 2002
Links not Working
Blogger archive is not working again. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Now for Something Completely Different
An opinion piece in the NY Times a few days ago discusses the current controversy regarding journalism education. The president of Columbia University wants to overhaul the graduate journalism program. As I understand it, his goal is to shift the emphasis from the current trade school to a theory-based education akin to law and business schools. I think that this is a good idea.
Our current news delivery system is in poor shape and many of our citizens do not trust journalists. This is a serious problem, since a trusted news system is an essential part of a free and open society. What can be done to improve our current dysfunctional news media? I’m sure that this could take whole books – but I will try briefly describe the function of journalist and how they fail at it; and finally whether the proposed reform would help to improve the system.
What do journalists do? What is their value added to society? I believe that their main function is information intermediaries. The average person does not have the time or the energy to gather all the information that he would need to make daily decisions. The duty of the journalist is to gather such information and present it to the reader in a format that makes sense when you consider the reader’s information needs. The reason that the system fails today is the requirement for “objectivity” in the news. The problem is that the news function is, by its nature, not at all objective; therefore, the contrast between the claimed objectivity and the obvious bias creates distrust.
Also, the concept of objectivity becomes an easy cover to for a system that believes in only one correct point of view. Whether you call it “correct thinking”, as in socialist states or “objective thinking” – it makes it easy for a partisan to block certain information or stories on the basis that they are not “objective”. Any fact can be blocked from publication by saying that it’s not objective. Objectivism is, after all, in the eye of the beholder. In other words, the objectivity standard becomes another litmus test that can be abused at will. As we shall see, the news gathering and presenting function is inherently non-objective, so that the insistence on the standard systematically leads to abuse.
Objectivity is impossible because so many decisions need to be made in order to present the news. The first is selecting the information that will be presented. Typically we read many more local stories than those from far-way places. Selecting which of this rarer variety make threshold for publication is an important decision. Do you publish the story about the two Palestinians killed battling the Israelis or the hundreds of Christians killed in Indonesia? There are six billion people on this planet. We all have something happen to us on a daily basis (no matter how small) – the choice of whose struggle and whose adventures you emphasize is a big decision.
After choosing the story comes the choice of which information is presented. The readers’ time and the presenters’ space are not infinite. Choices need to be made about which facts are relevant, how many words of a speech to quote and who is telling the truth. Another choice is how much background to present -- either historical or scientific to help the reader understand the significance of the story. This is perhaps the most crucial part of the journalist’s job.
Finally, there is the physical presentation of a story. Does it get front-page treatment? How are the facts decided on above presented in the story? Which facts are mentioned in the first paragraph (or title for that matter) and which are left for the last.
The last thing to realize is that the objectivity standard is an oxymoron. You cannot be objective with respect to a standard, even if that standard is “objectivity”. Once there is a standard – which, in fact, is an decision system to make the choices above -- Given all the possible choices, demanding that stories fit a “standard”, no matter what that standard is
Standard-based systems are prone to failure, however, there are few problems so long as there are a variety of standards. For example, in the UK, the press has not forced itself into a fallacy of a objective standard. The Guardian has a “Left” standard and the Telegraph has a “Right” standard. They filter stories and information based on different agendas and present them to the public as such. Severe problems arise when the different standards merge into one “universal” standard. To see how this becomes a problem consider the current financial crisis that we are in.
To me the main cause of the bubble was the disappearance of dissent and independent opinion from the financial world at the peak of the crisis. Being a financial intermediary is not very different from being an information intermediary – the information that people on Main or Wall street use to make their decisions needs to be filtered. Ideally, the opinions of various players should be different allowing the participants to make an informed decision. However, sometimes this variation in opinion disappears (for more on this read Irrational Exuberance by Robert Shiller). That was the case during the late 1990s. You could not find anyone to tell you that the Internet stocks were overvalued or worthless. Wall Street also managed to fool itself – telecomm companies were darlings and everybody wanted to lend them money. Everybody had the same opinion. In effect, the economy became centrally–planned. Central planning does not work whether it comes from Washington or New York – the system failed. As a result, investors are upset with Wall Street research for not being objective!
Similarly, the news dissemination system has become centrally planned. The standard of “objectivity” has become a Lefty litmus test for news. Concepts like political correctness and “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” all sound like they are supposed to be objective. In reality, they convey a specific, narrow point of view.
Like a centrally planned economy, centrally planned news (also known as propaganda) cannot survive on its own. Please note that it makes no difference if the propaganda comes from some entity that also claims to govern or another entity that’s private. Also, like the financial markets, it’s irrelevant whether the central planning is done by a single individual or by many who believe exactly the same thing. The results are the same – the information delivered is identical and some people begin to look for alternatives. Several alternative news sources (FoxNews, talk radio) have arisen to cater to the disgruntled public. Also, like the samoizdata of the Soviet Era, blogs have allowed individuals to express their editorial views of the news. However, the defects of the system continue and must be resolved. Because we take the freedom of the press seriously, the reform of the journalistic profession must be voluntary and internal.
How do we solve this problem? First and foremost – get rid of the silly notion that reporters can be objective. There is no reason to require such super human qualities from our journalists. In this respect, the Brits do a much better job, at least in the print media. Newspapers have points of view and they do not pretend that they are objective. Unfortunately, the BBC still tries to pretend that its reports are neutral. The notion that reporters can be objective is similar to socialist ideas of a workers’ paradise. They too rely on the assumption that under certain circumstances people will begin to act in an ideal manner, miraculously losing their biases and fears. History has shown that this is impossible.
Furthermore, having a single standard of thought – whether it has a cuddly name like “objectivity” goes against everything we stand for as Americans. If nothing else, we in America have been good at allowing dissent and freedom of thought. We have also learned that repressive regimes often hide behind socially acceptable masks. There is no reason to make journalism an exception.
By this time you may ask yourself – what about journalism schools? Well, the journalism schools are possible saviors of the profession, if needed changes are made. To repair the profession, the notion of objectivity has to be wiped out and critical thinking placed back in. While the first step of the process is the realization by the profession that objectivity is not possible, the process of reform needs to occur in the halls of J-schools.
My personal experience is with the legal profession and law schools. While many criticisms can be leveled at the profession – one of the things that we do well is to keep wide latitude of opinions. To a large extent that is the product of our adversarial legal system and Socratic legal education. From the start, the profession assumes that the attorney will not and should not be objective or fair. In fact, it is the attorney’s duty to represent his client’s wishes and interests. We expect and require partisanship.
Graduate of law schools go on to become Democratic lawyers and Republican lawyers, lawyers for terrorists and their prosecutors, and lawyers protecting corporations and those filing personal injury claims against them. Furthermore, it is exceedingly common for an attorney to switch sides – a prosecutor becoming a criminal defense attorney. The system works not because there is one “correct” and “objective” opinion, but because there isn’t. Moreover for our discussion, the legal education system makes sure that this process does not change.
The legal education system begins the process of transforming an average Joe into a partisan. Reading case law shows that there is two sides to every story. Typically, milestone cases are such not because the decision was easy, but because it was hard. Both parties had merit to their case. The Socratic method enforces this notion. Many times the students are asked to argue a side with which they personally do not agree with. At every step, legal education reinforces the duty to the client, and his needs, as opposed to some general notion of societal good (with some important exceptions).
So the newly minted lawyer graduates with disdain for the concept of objectivity – ready to dissect any argument thrown by the other side, or given the passage of time, to switch. For the purposes of this discussion, he is well aware that his opinion is not the only one and that others, like him, will argue the opposite side. While this is a reason that most people don’t like lawyers, it gives the legal system an amazing variety of opinion.
I think that this is what we want journalists to be like. They need to be able to argue their case passionately, while at the same time understanding that there are other opinions and others will fight just as hard for them. They should not pretend to their readers that they are objective, but proclaim themselves to be partisans. Their adversarial duty should be owed to their readers.
I think that J-schools can learn a lot from law schools. By learning how to become adversarial reporters they can see how fact selection and emphasis is fraught with bias. The Socratic method could used to force student to report from various angles, teaching them to approach the story from another side and opening their minds to competing ideas. Instead of reading law cases, the student can read history and how differently contemporaries and historians viewed human events. They can learn a lot from how attorneys treat witnesses – human frailty and bias is assumed.
A free society requires a press that is free and whose opinions are varied. We must get rid of the utopian notion of “objective” reporting in order to rebuild trust in our journalists. The best place to start is the journalism schools. It’s going to be a tough task, but I wish Columbia's new president, Lee Bollinger, the best of luck.
Saturday, August 17, 2002
Stupidity in the Times
I lack the time and energy to Fisk all of the Times stories, but I decided write a few phrases:
Thomas Friedman's opinion: Starts out strong by talking about the stupidity of the Palestinian intifada. But then asserts that the Bush Administration needs to summarize the justification for war against Iraq to fit on a bumper sticker. No, really. Tom finally lost it. How would summarize the war against Hitler that you couldn't the war against Saddam?
Americans Stay Home, and Europe Feels a Pinch: Gee I wonder why Americans are staying home? Are we tired of both subsidizing Europe's defense and tourism? Couldn't happen to nicer guys.
In the Magazine, The Free-Trade Fix: The gist is that globalization hasn't helped the poor. Let's ignore that this statement is taken as a fact. Actually, let's ignore the article. However, here's an answer for anyone who tells you that globalization has failed. Answer them in the same way that socialists have been defending the themselves. Tell them it wasn't true globalization and we have to try it again to get it right.
Finally, Officers Say U.S. Aided Iraq in War Despite Use of Gas. What is this article doing on page one? Doesn't the Times realize that we helped the Soviet Union in WWII despite the fact that it was ruled by the butcher Stalin who had already killed millions of his own and did not abide by the rules of warfare? Read the article and tell me what we did wrong. What is the point of this article, except to reinforce the Times Agenda Number One: Protect Saddam.
On that point -- Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post. He states the case against the Times coverage of the war against Iraq. Specifically, he takes issue with the Times' front page treatment of the Republican "break" with Bush over Iraq, noted here on Friday. He says that the Times deliberately distorted the opinion of Henry Kissinger in order to add him to the list.
Furthermore, contrast the Times with WashPost's editorial.
Ultimately the decision on Iraq will require weighing competing risks, where the risks of inaction may be as great but less obvious than the risks of action. Mr. Scowcroft ably spelled out the latter: that a war will be bloody and expensive; that Saddam Hussein, if cornered, will unleash his worst weapons, likely against Israel; that the region will turn against the United States and the war on terrorism will be set back.
The countervailing risk, so difficult to measure, is that Saddam Hussein will use, either directly or by slipping them to terrorist groups, weapons of mass destruction against the United States. Former secretary of state Kissinger (writing in The Post on Monday) argued that "policies that deterred the Soviet Union for 50 years are unlikely to work against Iraq's capacity to cooperate with terrorist groups. Suicide bombing has shown that the calculations of jihad fighters are not those of the Cold War principals." Mr. Scowcroft argued that "compelling evidence that Saddam had acquired nuclear-weapons capability could" present a legitimate cause for war. But outsiders' evidence has always lagged Saddam Hussein's capabilities. Mr. Kissinger noted that those who argue against war today because of the danger to Israel of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction are practicing "self-deterrence." "If the danger exists today, waiting will only magnify possibilities for blackmail," he wrote.
Friday, August 16, 2002
EU Loves Arafat, Part II
Earlier this summer, Stefan Sharkansky translated an article from Die Zeit about EU financial support for Arafat and Arafat's support for terrorism. Here is the translation of a follow-up article in Die Zeit. Here is the original for our German speaking readers.
Duplicity at the NY TImes
Contrast today's editorial "cautioning" about a possible war in Iraq with yesterday's editorial favoring democracy in the Arab world? I don't understand how one can be reconcilied with the other. How many dictators have stepped down without the use of force? What are the real chances of a peaceful change to democracy from dictatorship without military intervention? Practically none. So how in the world could the Times genuinly advocate both positions?
When does an editorial in a rival newspapaer merit front-page treatment? Answer: When it agrees with the Times agenda. I've never seen it done before. And Brent Scowcroft -- the weenie who argued that we should not go into Afghanistan, that we should not finish Saddam in Gulf I and that we should have stuck with the communists in 1992 Soviet coup. This guy has a record of bad callls. I'm pretty happy that he's agaist Iraq -- means that we are doing something right.
Why can't the Times ever print a story that goes agaisnt their agenda? Like, why no mention of this interview with Condi Rice laying out the case agaist Iraq (BBC interview -- front page Washington Post) and this story from the Telegraph, 'We are asking God for US to attack Saddam'? Seriously, can't they even bother to pretend to be objective anymore?
Thursday, August 15, 2002
Egypt Feeling Some Pressure
The Bush administration, putting its money where its mouth is, is refusing any further money (above the current commitments) to the Egyptian dictatorship until they improve their human rights record:
The Bush administration will oppose any additional foreign aid for Egypt to protest the Egyptian government's prosecution of human rights campaigner Saad Eddin Ibrahim and its poor treatment of pro-democracy organizations, administration sources said yesterday.
The Ibrahim case makes it "impossible" for the administration to contemplate extra money for Egypt, according to a White House official who said President Bush will soon advise Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in writing of his decision. Existing aid programs will not be affected.
The Ibrahim case, said one State Department official, was "the last straw."
This is good to see.
Wednesday, August 14, 2002
Saudis -- the Enemy of the People
The Times of London reports that the Saudis are now seen as enemies.
Saudi Arabia, once the indispensable cornerstone of US policy in the Arab world, has refused to co-operate with the war on terrorism or support President Bush’s plans to overthrow President Saddam Hussein. According to the sources, it has handed over no Intelligence of any value about the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation, which has roots in Saudi Arabia.
The final “stab in the back” for Washington was the decision to ban American bombers from attacking Iraq from Saudi airbases. That has soured relations to such an extent that the country from which America launched its 1991 invasion of Iraq is now being excluded from discussions about a post-Saddam era.
So it appears that the Rand presentation was a planned leak.
And here is the related leader.
Little Green Footballs on my Mind
So much stuff on his site today -- it would be a waste of time repeating everything he posted.
Are the Israeli Tactics Working?
Yes, says Fox News. Quote: "One man turned his son over to the police in Tulkarem, while another in Nablus shot his son in the leg." Maybe there is hope.
Tuesday, August 13, 2002
EU Lashes Out
The EU once again strikes out at the hand that protects it. EU officials are pressuring potential members not to agree to protect US soldiers from the jurisdiction of the ICC.
A senior European Union official, Romano Prodi, advised the aspirants for membership — including Poland, Hungary, Slovenia and Cyprus — to wait until the union reached a common policy on the issue, a European Union spokesman said today. The first meetings to discuss the American request for bilateral side agreements will be held later this month and in early September, but indications from Europe do not present an optimistic picture for Washington.
What is one to make of this? How is this not a direct confrontation with the US?
As I've stated below, the EU treats the US as a competitor and in some cases as an enemy. Their tactics involve undermining US political and military influence abroad. Unable to match the US militarily, the EUropeans are attempting to either seize control of American political decisions (through moral suasion) and to weaken American military power (through the ICC). Unable to leave well enough alone, the EU is trying to effectively override the Administration decision by forcing the ICC on us through a loophole. Furthermore, and this is where the confrontation part comes in, the EU is not happy just rejecting this agreement themselves -- they are using all the influence they can to force others not to agree. Forget about the merits of the "Court" -- the fact is that the EUropeans are trying to force it on us by hook or by crook. They made their choice and we made ours, why can't we agree to disagree? You don't see us using backhanded methods to try get the EUros out of the ICC?
There is only one problem in this tactic -- it depends on the US to keep staffing peace-keeping missions in other countries. No peacekeepers -- no one to submit to the jurisdiction of the International Star Chamber. So what is our incentive to keep sending our soldiers into harm's way? None.
For 50 years, the American taxpayer has been subsidizing the EUropean welfare state by providing it, free of charge, with defense services. Its about time that this courtesy stops. Many EUropeans have begun to believe that they do not require Armed Forces for defense. Well, with GIs protecting the continent, they never have had to make a hard choice. They can profess their peace loving all they want, but they have never had to put their money where their mouths are.
I have a modest proposal: if the EU persists, we begin to withdraw from NATO (an organization that lost any usefulness after the fall of the Berlin Wall). Can you believe that we still keep two Army divisions in Germany? Why? They can surely be used more effectively on the Middle Eastern front.
Billion Dollar Terrorist
Well, well, it seems like our man Arafat is a billionare, says the IDF. It seems like there is a connection between poverty and terrorism. But its the inverse of the conventional wisdom. Terrorism appears to be a lucrative career.
So says Ron Dreher. We need to remember that almost one year later we are still hated and still in danger.
Whatcha' know, WashingtonPo?
The Washington Post editorializes that the US is justified to go to war againt Iraq, well sort of:
It's true that Saddam Hussein isn't the only evil tyrant in the world. He's not even the sole tyrant seeking or possessing weapons of mass destruction. Neither the United States nor the United Nations can or should contemplate military action against every such tyrant who might qualify for membership in the axis of evil. But Saddam Hussein is in a class of his own, and not only because he has hideously used chemical weapons against his own people and others. The world already has considered his case and formed a judgment. If nations prove incapable of enforcing that judgment, the harm will spread far beyond the Middle East.
Also, John Chipman in the FT, says that the US is fully legally justified in attacking Iraq based on past UN resolutions.
Monday, August 12, 2002
Are the Politicians Listening?
A new WashPost/ABC poll says that Americans support military action agaist Iraq (69%).
You read it here first!
The Economist says that the gulf between the US and Europe is widening.
Sunday, August 11, 2002
Two shots of Victor Davis Hanson, from NRO and WSJ.
An interview with one of my favorite ME experts -- Bernard Lewis.
The British Left has met its enemy and it’s us. The Independent’s Adrian Hamilton argues that America is the world’s biggest rogue state and should be taken over by the “world”. This article enraged me and made me realize how different we are from many of our allies. I will not bother Fisking this writer and hope that you’ve read the whole piece, however, here are a few choice selections:
The government which is spending by far the most on weapons of mass destruction, and is now planning to raise its budget by an increase greater than the total defense spending of Europe, is, of course, based in Washington. Not only is it building an arsenal the like of which the world has never seen, it has unilaterally withdrawn from the treaties designed to limit the spread of nuclear weapons, and has refused to accept any kind of international monitoring of its chemical or nuclear weapons facilities.
It is no friend of democracy, having announced its refusal to deal with the only two elected leaders of the Islamic world – Khatami in Iran and Yasser Arafat in Palestine, the latter the only Arab leader ever elected with western observers checking the process. The country has armed and succored state terrorism and assassination by the Israelis. It has installed the worst sort of warlord gangsters in Afghanistan and, according to "intelligence", been party to upsetting (albeit briefly) the elected president of Venezuela. The world cannot afford to await its next move.
The problem remains the practicalities. Whereas in Afghanistan the allies could rely on a local opposition force on the ground, no such scenario can be relied on in this case. The Spanish speaking minority in the south might be induced to rise up. There could be assistance from Minutemen in the mountains. But the democratic opposition is too defeated and divided to provide much help.
What’s going on here? Can it be really true that in the eyes of the European Left, America is the world’s greatest enemy? What possible set of moral values makes one reach that conclusion? Does the fact that the British Unions will attempt to block Britain’s participation in a war against Iraq signify their preference for Iraq over the US? Or just a preference for dictatorships? Is that why the Europeans consistently back Arafat (world’s best-loved dictator since Uncle Stalin) over Israel?
The oft-repeated preferences of the European Left for democracy and individual rights don’t seem to correspond with the goal of attacking America. What we need to do is (drum roll, please) apply the CounterRevolutionary Inquiry! Using the Inquiry, we seek to learn the real goals of a group by examining the methods it prefers and completely ignore the goals advocated by the group. We assume that because of the effects of rationalization and deception that the means must be judged not by the ends advocated but by the ends likely.
For example, in the case of socialists the ends advocated of helping the poor are a mere pretense to justify the means. The ends likely of socialist ideology are the overthrow of the current regime by the ones immediately below them (social number twos trying to replace social number ones). The old “nobles vs. king” conflict dressed up in politically correct attire. The poor usually suffer from this conflict. We will find a similar dynamic at work here.
For the purposes of the Inquiry, the Hamilton article is a Freudian slip-- the carefully cultivated façade of a society burst open to give us a glimpse of the sub-conscious forces. What could justify some of European Left’s wild positions? How could America be the world’s greatest enemy? That’s expected coming from an Islamic militant who hates everything we stand for, but from European liberals? Aren’t they supposed to share our values? What about their militant anti-Israeli attitudes? Isn’t Israel a democracy in a sea of dictatorships and aren’t there countries that do much worse things than Israel is accused of? Why is it that when they describe tragedy they mention the 10,000 killed in Chile not the tens of millions killed by Communist regimes? Are not all lives sacred?
Our inquiry clearly leads to the conclusion that some Europeans care nothing for democracy or individual rights or human lives. At the very least, that their concerns for these values, while genuine, are selectively applied and enforced. In reality, they are merely agendas used to bash their real enemy – America.
Take a look at all the hot-button issues that we hear about from Europe. In many cases, the positions advocated by European Governments and media outlets are in direct opposition to America or her other allies. The support for not attacking Iraq does not really mean that Europeans prefer dictatorship (although socialism could only lead to dictatorship – but that’s another rant), it shows their preference for an enemy of America. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Same goes for their preference for Arafat. The enemy of an ally of my enemy is my friend. Ditto for the silence about the appalling lack of human rights and democracy in states hostile to America (e.g. Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, etc), but constant badgering of any American ally (e.g. Chile, Turkey).
Hamilton’s slip is a clear recital of the unstated, un-rationalized subconscious goals of many Europeans -- the downfall of the American “regime”. Let’s be clear, these desires are not conscious. These Europeans, except for bursts of “satire”, will never admit it. If you hooked them up to a lie detector machine they would pass. But anyone who has taken Psych 101 would know that humans sometimes act on subconscious desires, sometimes unaware of what they are doing and sometimes rationalize their actions. Psychoanalysis requires us to judge people by their actions.
Why would some Europeans consider us their enemies? Or to be consistent with the exploration of the subconscious nature of the desire, why do they have such strong negative feelings towards us? As above, the pattern is similar to the socialist struggle. America is number one, Europe is number two and the two are fighting it out for the top spot. Like socialism, Europeans rationalize their struggle and instead of directly attacking the US, they support various openly anti-American avatars.
The complaints that the Europeans toss at us make much more sense in this light:
1. Hegemony: Why do you have to be number one? We deserve to be number one!
2. Unilateralism: We are too weak militarily to struggle directly with you, why won’t you voluntarily cede some of your power to us? Economic (Kyoto), political (UN, ICC),etc.
3. The U.S is not “peace” loving: Why do you have to defend your self against attacks – it would be easier for us to win if you guys weren’t so strong.
And so on.
This attitude towards America began to take form in the final years of the Cold War. Until then, the Cold War was itself a struggle between number one – the US and number two – Soviet Union. The individual countries of Europe, ravaged by WWII and various colonial wars, were too weak to even consider competing for the top spot and allied themselves with the lesser of two “evils”, the US. The end of the Cold War saw two phenomena that created the current situation -- the fall of the number two and the creation of a unified European identity. With that identity, and more stable economies, some Europeans began to subconsciously feel that they could effectively compete with the US for the top spot. Remember, the EU was consciously created for such a purpose.
At the same time, European prejudices about America have never shifted from their 19th century norms. America is still seen as a cultural and intellectual backwater – a frontier state with cowboy mentality, exactly how the European nobles saw it in the 19th century. America was tolerated during the Cold War as the “muscle” to protect Western Europe, but our ways continued to grind the “refined” European nerves. As the threat from the East began to subside so did the need to tolerate the “muscle”. Many Europeans began to long for the days that the whole world was ruled from the elegant palaces of the Continent.
It is also important to remember that this dynamic is but one of the forces that is acting upon individual Europeans. The strength of its influence is a function of the other ideologies that complement or balance it out. For example, any group that already has a beef with the US, like the socialists, will succumb more easily. On the other hand, those who fear other threats more (Islamism or socialism) are less likely to believe that America is the main enemy. Citizens of states with imperial ambitions (France) are more likely than states without (Denmark) to look at America askew. Furthermore, many understand that the European alliance is itself fractured and believe that in an ascendant Europe only certain countries or institutions will be dominant. Britain is the most torn country in Europe. On the one hand, it has strong socialist leanings and an imperial past. On the other hand, it has social and political connections to America, and realizes that their old rivals the French or the Germans will lead a dominant Europe.
The Europeans are not the only ones gunnin’ for number one. The Islamists and the Chinese are also interested. The process is an age old one and there is nothing we can do stop others from setting their sights on the alpha male. In the past, however, there were many more regional powers and no country was a supreme global power. Today, if you hold any pretensions of world influence, in almost every field imaginable, there is only one champion – the US. What America must do is to be aware of the dynamic and ask ourselves if the advice that we are getting is necessarily in our best interest.
Saturday, August 10, 2002
Liberal "Free" Press
The publishers are censoring Jewish books again! Stefan Sharkansky's father is a Professor of Political Science who is having problems getting his 32nd book published. The issue -- he teaches at the Hebrew University. Read the email sent to him from the publisher on Stefan's blog. In their pursuit of correct speech and opinions, this specific publisher obviously believes that the Arab-Israeli conflict would be simpler if the Jewish side just shut-up.
If you truly believ in free speech and the free press -- this attitude is very disconcerning.
Friday, August 09, 2002
The meaning of peace.
Languages are fluid things. Meaning of words change with time and usage. Once upon a time the word gay had the primary meaning of happy, today it primarily refers to male homosexuals. The transition of meaning is not centrally planned (at least not in the US), the usage just changes and, with time, we all accept the new meaning.
Lately, I've been wondering if the meaning of the word peace is undergoing such a change. Merriam - Websters Online dictionary defines peace as "a state of tranquillity or quiet." Lately, however, the word has been used to describe people or situations that are not tranquil or quiet.
Take the Middle Eastern peace process. As a result of this process, also known as the Oslo accords, more Israelis have died in the current intifada than in the previous one. International peace activists flock to the side of Arafat's Palestinian Authority, while none at all take up position protecting Israelis from attack. Make what you will of the legitimate claims of the Palestinian people, but Arafat's Al-Aska Brigades tactics have been anything but quiet and tranquil. Yet, when the Palestinians come to town, the headline on the Washington Post screams, "Visiting Palestinians Bring Hope for Peace." Perhaps I misread the definition, but it said nothing about peace applying to only one side in a conflict.
Is it possible that the meaning of the word peace is changing? Like gay, it is being transformed before our eyes (and ears)? Is it possible that the new, developing meaning of peace has something to do with preference for one side over another? Or, is the whole meaning being changed into a euphemism? Gay, for example, was a euphemism for homosexuality before it was polite to mention it by name. Is peace becoming a euphemism for anti-Jewish violence? It wouldn't be the first time peace became an excuse to ignore homicidal anti-Semitism. In the 1930s, the main argument to ignore the racial ideology of the Nazis was to maintain peace in Europe (and "in our time").
Lest you think that this application is limited to just to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, consider the other hot-button issues for the peace activists. They can be mainly found resolutely standing firm in support of the repressive Iraqi dictatorship and criticizing the American removal of the illiberal and misogynistic (not to mention very violent) Taliban regime.
What will be the future of the word peace? Will peace crusaders burn their victims alive for the sake of peace and will terrorist attacks forever be classified as consequences of a peace process? With distinguished linguists like Chomsky, only history will tell. One thing for sure however, since the word is changing we cannot afford to allot the same moral meaning to it. As peace begins to mean less and less what it used to mean, we should assign it less and less moral worth. Instead of giving peace activists the benefit of the moral high ground, we should just treat them as any other sort of partisan.
Bill Safire, we need your help!
Wednesday, August 07, 2002
American Left and the Rich
A reader, Greg, sent me this link to a kaus files story about Gore's populism. Mickey links to a LATimes story which digests Gore's 2000 results:
Gore's populism was aimed largely at working-class voters, but he didn't run as well with those voters in 2000 as Clinton did in 1996, when he entirely avoided populist themes. Meanwhile, Gore ran better than Clinton among voters earning $100,000 a year or more--some of the affluent voters who critics thought were alienated by the populism.
Readers of the CounterRevolutionary should not be surprised, that "populist" themes really appeal to the upper middle class (and their struggle against the upper class). These election results show this in practice.
Remember, the insults hurled against Bush (I was one of the hurlers) were that he led a charmed life and everything was handed to him. Now think for a second, who would be most upset by a spot taken away at Yale? Would it be A) a truck driver for whom there is little differentiation between institutions of higher learning or B) the guy who still pissed off that he had to go to Brown, because he had no connections with the Yale admissions committee? Without going into the value of such arguments, think about all the argument against him and consider whose ire they raise.
This is going to be a tough week at work, so I'll be posting a bit less.
The Evil Among Us
Got this site from LGF (where else?). It is very disturbing. The threads are about how to kill jews and infidels (in English, of course). Elsewhere on the site is a video of a Russian soldier being slowly killed (go to page 5). This is the youth of islam site. This is the next generation. The Nazis have nothing on them.
UPDATE: Read Lileks Bleat on the topic.
ANOTHER UPDATE: For more on this go to LGF, where ther is a monster of a thread going.
Tuesday, August 06, 2002
The Winds of War
The NY Post reports about the build up of American forces in Qatar. You can find more great photos of the base here, which is part of the GlobalSecurity.Org site -- a valuable resource.
On another note, Go Rummy! And a follow-up on the Kernel of Evil story below. Considering the earth-shattering nature of the report, the disavoval of the premise by the Pentagon is quite weak -- and that's good news!
The Kernel of Evil
Please read this Washington Post article. A RAND Corp report given to the Pentagon advisoty board states flatly that the Saudis are our enemies. To quote,
The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader.
"Saudi Arabia supports our enemies and attacks our allies," said the briefing prepared by Laurent Murawiec, a Rand Corp. analyst. A talking point attached to the last of 24 briefing slides went even further, describing Saudi Arabia as "the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent" in the Middle East.
Murawiec said in his briefing that the United States should demand that Riyadh stop funding fundamentalist Islamic outlets around the world, stop all anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli statements in the country, and "prosecute or isolate those involved in the terror chain, including in the Saudi intelligence services."
If the Saudis refused to comply, the briefing continued, Saudi oil fields and overseas financial assets should be "targeted," although exactly how was not specified.
Although this is not official government policy, the views of the Administration are changing.
One administration official said opinion about Saudi Arabia is changing rapidly within the U.S. government. "People used to rationalize Saudi behavior," he said. "You don't hear that anymore. There's no doubt that people are recognizing reality and recognizing that Saudi Arabia is a problem."
Moreover, the fruits of victory in Iraq would be great:
The report concludes by linking regime change in Iraq to altering Saudi behavior. This view, popular among some neoconservative thinkers, is that once a U.S. invasion has removed Hussein from power, a friendly successor regime would become a major exporter of oil to the West. That oil would diminish U.S. dependence on Saudi energy exports, and so -- in this view -- permit the U.S. government finally to confront the House of Saud for supporting terrorism.
"The road to the entire Middle East goes through Baghdad," said the administration official, who is hawkish on Iraq. "Once you have a democratic regime in Iraq, like the ones we helped establish in Germany and Japan after World War II, there are a lot of possibilities."
And, by the way, if you are a loyal CounterRevolutionary reader, you would have read about the oil angle in March.
Monday, August 05, 2002
Does the State Department Realize
that its supposed to represent US interest to foreigners AND NOT foreign interests to Americans? More shame from Foggy Bottom..
Since Andrew Sullivan is taking August off...
I will attempt to keep an eye on the Times. Our first candidate, from the minorities are slower than us category, is this gem about bilingual education. "Wave of Pupils Lacking English Strains Schools" screams the front page article. Many, many new bilingual teachers are required! A disaster is looming!
Contrary to the opinion of the Times and the liberal intellegencia, I believe that Hispanics can learn to speak English just as well as anybody. What holds them back is bilingual education. When I came to this country, I spoke not a single word of English. Today, except for the occasional spelling error (for which I blame my dependence on spell-checkers :-), is excellent.
I was fortunate enough not to have bilingual education (is it discriminatory to provide bilingual education to Spanish speakers only?). Young kids have a remarkable ability to learn languages when forced to do so. It wasn't my light skin or my college educated parents that allowed me to learn English. Look, for example at Africa and South East Asia, where millions of dark skinned uneducated people are multi-lingual. Because of the high language density of those areas (many languages are tribal only), people have to be able to speak several languages to live. All without the benefits of bilingual educators or even organized schools.
On the other hand, bilingual education is detrimental to the economic prospects of the students. Most "graduate" high school unable to speak English with any reasonable skill and are then forced to take menial jobs. For centuries, immigrants to America have been able to live the American dream by integrating into American society, including speaking English with the natives. And this opportunity is being denied to these students! Experience has show that even in America (gasp!) foreign student learn English better outside of the ESL framework. The California ESL experience has shown that students who switch from bilingual to English-only classes do better in school and on standardized tests. Polls show that parents do not want bilingual education because they understand how detrimental it is. Bilingual education keeps the poor immigrants poor.
Why is it then that the Times is shouting about this "disaster?" The answer is there in the article if you can look closely enough. A Harvard professor says, "up to 290,000 teachers would be needed." There it is, in a nutshell. The bilingual education program is a job creation program for college educated Spanish speakers. The need to provide union jobs to the middle classes outweighs, in the eyes of the Left, the need to provide the poor with an opportunity to prosper. As I've said before, this is typical socialist thought -- take from poor, give to the middle class, and pretend you are doing it for the sake of the former. All the comforts of wealth, without any of the guilt!
Saturday, August 03, 2002
It must be Sunday and another low for the Times.
In an editorial, the Times manages to assign some blame to Israel for the Hebrew University attack. Essentially, the paper has now endorsed the Arafat position that all killings in Israel are the fault of the Israelis.
Israel cannot take the blame for causing the Palestinians "to lose their humaneness." Palestinians must search their own consciences for the depravity of dancing in the streets in celebration of death. But there is plenty of searching for Israel as well. Blowing up homes of terrorists' relatives will not end the terror. Nor will it help create the conditions that will bring more young Americans like Marla Bennett to Jerusalem.
All this while claiming that they do not participate in moral equivalence!
After that remarkable feat of gymnastics, it introduces an "opinion" piece by Albert Gore on the evils of the Bush Administration. For the sake of full disclosure, I voted for this man and for Clinton. But the Democratic attacks on our economy really piss me off. It’s like setting a fire to a house, and then blaming the fire department because their effort wasn’t perfect.
I work in the financial services sector (befitting a counterrevolutionary, no?), and I saw the bubble start in 1998. Not to gloat, I had my dollars in money markets since then. And I blame the bubble squarely on the Clinton Administration (as far as government is concerned). Gore says, “For the president is the only person in our constitutional framework charged with representing all Americans.” Well, it was Clinton, as President, who nurtured and fed the bubble. In their early years, like fires, they need to be fed. They need lax government enforcement and oversight, they need special laws to feed the flames and they need a government eager to make people so happy that it would do nothing to stop the party. Does it matter if they nurtured the bubble for the benefit of the “forgotten middle class,” as Gore claims? That just put more of them at risk (maybe it would have been better if only the rich participated -- only they would have been hurt). As I wrote in the CounterRevolutionary Inquiry, below, the moral value of an action is independent of the reason given for it.
As the Administration "on duty", Clinton/Gore is the responsible party for the bubble. If they just told people that they should not get carried away with their money when the Naz was 2500, we would not have gotten so insane and borrowed on the assumption that the Naz was going to 10,000. If Gore had any balls he would apologize to the country for what he and Clinton did. If.
I'd like to say that the Times is becoming the direct voice of the Democratic voter, but I don't think that the Dems are as radical as this. I'm not sure who the Times represents now, its closest natural constituency being the French Socialist Party and the Palestinian Authority.
Mrs. CounterRevolutionary says:
My speling sucks! Sorry fo the inconvinience.
It seems like everyone in Blogger-land lacks their August archive. I don't feel so bad.
Thanks to all those who responded. I fixed the screen, but it seems that I have lost my archives! I know that blogger has problems with these, so I'll keep working.
UPDATE: Got it working. Thanks for all your help. I t seems that everytime I go into Blogger template, selected ["] get replaced with [>]. This process gets reset everythim you go into Blogger. Well, I wont be editig my template for while.
ANOTHER UPDATE: It seems that the August archive is still lost. I did what Blogger recomends, but to no avail. I getting tired of this, but I understand that this is a typical problem. Unfortunately, no one canlink to my latest posts. Oh, well.
Friday, August 02, 2002
Bio-Weapons and Iraq
The Times of London reports that Saddam is planning on giving biological weapons to the Palestinians. The portable weapons are also designed to be used in America.
Can anybody tell me what's wrong with my page? (I mean with my code, not content)
Thanks in advance
Letters for Europe
My August 1 rant produced an interesting e-mail from a UK reader. We've traded several letters since then. I guess it's just human nauter, but I write much longer responses to critical mail, then to supportive letters (the people who sent hose will see what I mean -- my apologies). In any case, this exchange shows why we have drifted so appart from our European friends and why we should start questioning and reconsidering the relatioship. Like a couple, whose marriage was one of convinience, we need to question if the relationship is worth continuing. I think it is, but not before both sides realize why they need the other. No international relationship is perfect, but they must be based on trust and understanding both ways. Please read the whole thing and look for more comments at the end -- I have a quick reader survey.
A UK reader wrote:
There are a lot of people in this country who are seriously thinking of opposing Tony Blair simply because he cosies up to a country which considers us to be effete, hypocritical wimps . Ill considered rants like yours are driving me into their arms.
It doesn't matter how closely we join in your farcical military adventures, play your games, kiss your President's arse, you still hate us. Why should we send the Royal Marines to Afghanistan when you have nothing but an almost racial contempt for Europeans? Why should we support your every military move when you spit it back in our faces? Why?
We are supposedly your closest ally, we are a vital and integral member of the EU, and yet you and your ilk STILL come up with shit like your August 1st post. Sod it, bring the boys home. No thanks, no recognition, just hostility and condescension.
Bollocks to the lot of you. We are starting to realise how much you hate us, soon you won't have any allies left at all. I was one of 3000 people who stood in Parliament Square for the 5 minutes silence for the terror victims. After reading shit like your post, I wouldn't bother again.
Now, I wasn't sure why the European references insulted this reader so much, where my post focuse on Eurppean and French institutions. However, not to split hairs, it could have been (and was) reasonably taken to mean the UK, so I responded:
I'm sorry you feel the way you do. Just to be clear, I myself am European by birth (well, Eastern anyway) and have many close European friends. To be completely honest, I'm not too sure what made you so angry about the article. Unfortunately, in the context of a rant (on a blog) some contractions have to be made. For example, it would be correct to say that the UK has been our greatest ally in Europe. You could further sub-divide the country into subgroups such as the mainstream Torys and Tony Blair vs. Labor backbenchers and the odd pro -Euro Conservative. Otherwise, the rant would last for pages (X but not Y, except for Z). You make the same choices in your letter when you use the plural you (I'm assuming that you are not considering my personal farcical military adventures, but America's).
For what its worth (I don't think I'll change your mind) no one here thinks of the Royal Marines as effete. And we do greatly appreciate the support we get from the Blair Government. However, it is also true that militarily we need no help, and seek allies only for protocol.
Should the UK join the fight? I don't know. Two reason for: 1) A weakened US would wreak havoc for the export dominated Euro economies, and 2) Honor -- to return the favor from WWI and WWII (neither of which were our business in the same sense that Iraq is not your business). The UK is a democracy and will have to choose -- I'd rather see dedicated troops who want to help an ally rather that a contingent sent for show. We'd love the help, but we'll be OK either way.
As for the "hate" part of the letter -- it takes two to tango. Since September 11th many here are tired of being the world's errand and whipping boy. Many of us did not expect the reaction we got from the other side of the pond (keeping in mind what I said above). In retrospect, it seems obvious that the "Atlantic rift" has been growing for a while. The alliance was maintained because of the Cold War and momentum afterwards. However, we no longer see eye to eye on many things.
As in any relationship, we have to speak about these issues and not sweep them under the rug. I understand why my rant hurt you, but do you (plural use) understand why we get hurt by you (selective plural)? For many years, we Americans (our perspective, of course) have restrained our power and sucked up to others for the sake of our alliances. After September 11th, we are no longer willing to do that.
The Western Alliance has issues and we should discuss them and determine if we should continue in the relationship as it is now or to redefine that relationship -- it seems like you've already started. I do hope that our relationship with Europe does not deteriorate, however, Europeans will have to start caring more about the needs of Americans (and, yes, I realize that this very point is very much contested).
Thanks for writing,
I will return to the Rift later. The reader responded:
Thank you for your response.
The problem with yourself and most American commentators is that you have no differentiation between sub groups within and entire continent, let alone a single country. Whereas the European press have a constant analysis of the different political strands within the United States, Americans lump the entire continent into one lumpen mess without even an attempt at differentiation. The portrayal of the average Englishman/European within mainstream American culture (effete, evil, sadistic, possible homosexual
tendencies) is constant with its misinterpretation of the continent as a whole. It's that sort of underestimation, vilification, of "abroad" which worries us. You have, at best, always condescended us. When we dare to criticise you, you get pissed off. You can give criticism, and frequently do, but take any and you are the "whipping boy". Poor "you".
For a start, we have no moral obligation to help anyone, especially the US, for historical or other reasons. We received far more assistance in practical terms from the Soviet Union in the Second World War than the United states, for the simple reason that the German Army used up over three quarters of its resources on the Eastern Front. Now I don't wish to denigrate the sacrifice of American soldiers in Europe, but the Russians didn't take the moral high ground when we failed to get involved in Chechnya.
Furthermore, while Marshall Aid rebuilt the rest of Europe as client economies to the US, the US deliberately ruined the only surviving pre-war capitalist economy, we only finished paying off lend/lease THIS YEAR! Say what you like about the welfare state, it would have been easier to pay for if we weren't paying for Churchill's rather inconvenient decision to save democracy. This country expended a whole century's worth of GDP on fighting Nazism while the US profited in the long term. It is only our membership of
the European Community which has now led to recovery. That's without even going into the Von Braun/V2/Apollo thing.
As for "we don't need any help" I would argue that the opposite is true. With all due respect to the Australians and Kiwis the only major military adventure that the United States has attempted abroad, Vietnam, without significant assistance from its allies is its most significant failure. Both World Wars and Korea were only successful because of the backing of a
large part of the international community.
How do you think we felt when every time an IRA bomb goes off in London or Belfast that American politicians fell over themselves to be an apologist for it? "Regrettable" but "necessary". I remember reading a letter in the Telegraph from a Congressman which basically stated that ANY action was legitimate for the Irish cause. Don't you think that kind of upset us? You talk about being sick of criticism but that is all we have taken from the US for years. America is the only country in the world where visitors from the
UK are routinely advised to pretend to be from another country, preferably Canada.
Contrary to your view, America has only ever cared about the needs of Americans, otherwise it would not taken an attack on its soil to bring it into the Second World War. Under previous administrations you at least paid lip service to your neighbours. Its time you started considering others. You never have in the past.
Wow, so many issues to respond to. I could only choose a few:
My friend, it looks like you grew up with the same Soviet propaganda I did. I rejected my past, when will you question yours?
As for your paragraph -- ditto for you. Ditto for your letter and ditto for your media (sorry, about the "No, you're it" debate, but its just that obvious).
I'm sorry you feel the way you d about paragraph 2. The nature of moral obligations is that they are voluntary, and I wouldn't want it any other way. As far as assistance from the Soviet Union, I can assure you that Comrade Stalin was not at all concerned about the welfare of the British. He wasn't too unhappy to sign the Nazi-Soviet Treaty dividing up Poland (the country that you went to war over, remember?). As for the US, we got in the business of helping the UK way before the official declaration of war, and our boys were dying in the Atlantic just trying to feed your isolated island.
I must say that I have never heard this take on the issue before, but it does have Soviet fingerprints all over it. Now, just let me get this
straight -- Marshall Aid rebuilt the rest of Europe as client economies to the US? Would you then apply the same standard to the current "vaunted" EU foreign assistance programs? All we hear about here in the States is how much money the EU spends on economic assistance overseas, and all this time it was just to build "client states"! Now I understand.
The UK's troubled post-war economy is primarily the fault of one Clement Atlee and his attempt at nationalization. Do you think it's at all a coincidence that your economy perked up after 40 years during Lady Thatcher's reign. And if you think that Lend Lease was a good deal for us, I hope that you work at a bank or building society, because I want a loan! If you really think that those lend lease payment really stood between a utopian health care system and the NHS -- I don't know what to say. Finally, the most hurtful thing you've said in this e-mail was that the US profited from the war. I know that this is the standard Soviet line, but if dead bodies and charity are profit, then I no longer wish to "profit" from Europe at all! This just really reinforces the notion that is you want to do anything nice for another country -- just don't -- they'll just resent it later.
I won't bother discussing whether we need your or not and your attitude towards conflict resolution, except to refer you to the Goldberg article again.
About the IRA -- you are 100% correct. No issues at all. But the last sentence really makes me want to question how much you really know about the States. "America is the only country in the world where visitors from the UK are routinely advised to pretend to be from another country, preferably Canada." This can't be serious. If you knew anything about the US -- you would know how giddily fascinated Americans are with Britain and the British. How much annoying news we get about your royal family and general well
being. I will publish our correspondence on my web site just to have others take a peek at this statement.
Our correspondence has reinforced my belief, that to go forward, people like yourself, will have start learning more about America, from Americans. And not from old Moscow stories. I guess this correspondence is the first step -- we are definitely laying out our issues to discuss.
Remember my mention of the Rift -- do you see what I mean? I think that he reader is genuinely expressing his feeling for America. It is amazing how far apart we are on so many perceptions of world events and history. His views of America's motives and actions are taken from the worst take possible (I'm sure he would say the same about me). Like I said, the Cold War threw us into a marriage of convenience with Europe, one in which we repeatedly said, "yes, dear" to every hypocrisy and lie for the sake of the alliance. All that time, however, we continued to drift apart. The masks came off on September 11th. For Americans, it was shocking to see how much hate and condemnation came from our allies. For Europeans, I suppose, it was shocking to see how little power they had over our foreign policy (compared to what hey had or what they assumed). This situation cannot be ignored, to be useful, our relationship (as any) should be based on trust and understanding, otherwise it’s a waste of time and should be reconsidered. For many reasons, I think that the Europeans need to begin to understand us more. Maybe for too long we Americans carried our burden quietly, and created expectations of the relationship that are too high. Well, its time to be the squeaky wheel and put our needs first.
One huge example of how difference the perceptions are is the reader's sentence that claimed that "America is the only country in the world where visitors from the UK are routinely advised to pretend to be from another country, preferably Canada." My jaw just dropped when I read this -- its like someone who claims that the earth is flat.
I would like to hear from any readers about what they think of this statement. Do other Europeans feel this way?