Friday, October 31, 2003
Occasionally, while some thoughts are coalescing in my head for a post, I find that someone else has saved me the trouble of making my point. To wit, here is Cori Dauber on the poor excuse for coverage of Iraq -- The Tragedy Template:
Monday we were told the weekend of attacks in Baghdad suggested the war there was approaching some kind of tipping point, or crisis point, or turning point, or some kind of point anyway. Tuesday it was hard to find Iraq coverage of much detail at all. What lingers is a sense of chaos, of events spinning out of control, because that is where the story was left off, when in fact if the city was in chaos, surely they would have squeezed two minutes of air time out of the heartwarming stories of courage and sacrifice that were everywhere. . . A bit back the most important political story of the season was the willingness of the Senate to hand the administration a defeat by making part of Iraqi reconstruction loans, and this was seen as vital to the substance of the story too. Now when the Congress reverses that, it is barely worth mentioning?
Exactly. (Link via Instapundit.)
Thursday, October 30, 2003
By way of Professor Drezner, I found out today that Matthew Yglesias from The American Prospect is in quite an argument with Rich Lowry of National Review. The focus of the argument is Lowry's new book, which blames Clinton for neglecting the threat from al-Qaeda and thereby permitting 9/11 to occur.

I have no intention of getting in the middle of this debate; Mssrs. Yglesias and Lowry are more than capable of sorting this out on their own. My own take on the situation was in the comments to Dr. Drezner's post, and I'll reproduce a portion here:

(And, of course, in all likelihood, no one saw the attack coming. If we had, we might have prevented it by catching the terrorists on U.S. soil, though they'd be hard to charge. And the charges of anti-Arab bias based on made-up threats out of Tom Clancy novels would be deafening. Best case, we put these guys in jail, and bin Laden sends a dozen more. As a nation, we simply were not equipped to deal with this threat -- militarily or politically. Any attempt to change this would have been labeled scare-mongering or simply anti-Arab bigotry.)

. . .So frankly, I'm not sure that the 9/11 attacks were preventable: as a country, we were simply too complacent, beguiled by silly notions of UN-guaranteed "world peace" and "the end of history." (I don't exclude myself from this criticism.) It's unfortunate that lessons to the contrary had to be so painful.
(If this sounds familiar, it's essentially what I said in one of my more infamous posts at LGF.)

In my post on Dr. Drezner's site, I go pretty far out of my way to avoid laying full culpability for the 9/11 attacks on Clinton. On the other hand, Dr. Drezner also links to Paul Mason's would-be defense of Clinton's foreign policy, which I think deserves a response.

According to right-wing American commentators, Clinton's foreign policy was weak. He was a loser. He cut defence spending, reduced the number of soldiers in the army and was reluctant to use US power abroad. Clinton pursued "social work" abroad, he was "short-termist", "ineffectual", "sycophantic" and "without a clue".
I guess I'm not sufficiently right-wing, so I won't go that far. Defense spending cuts started under Bush Sr., and at any rate, Clinton simply went along with the prevailing wisdom of the time, which was that with the Cold War over, the U.S. simply no longer needed the military it had and should prepare for a more cooperative, more peaceful world. Clinton may have lacked the foresight to challenge conventional wisdom in this regard, but he was certainly no Carter, working for "peace" against all odds and common sense. Not exactly a high standard to use, but Clinton does exceed it.
Throughout his presidency, members of Clinton's administration endeavoured to make sure that alternative models of capitalism gave way to US standards. Their biggest success was probably the destruction of the Asian economic model. In the immediate aftermath of the South-East Asian crisis of 1997-1998, senior US officials at the IMF, Wall Street banks, the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve rewrote the region's constitutions, smearing the Asian model as "crony capitalism".
While members of Clinton's foreign policy team doubtless deserve much credit for making Asian economies more open, I believe this credits them a bit too much. Simply put, the Asian model wasn't "smeared," as Mason puts it -- it was crony capitalism, without the dynamism and truly open markets necessary for the system to benefit people other than the well-connected. And getting someone to radically alter their practices after a crisis, is not exactly a Herculean feat.

Furthermore, Clinton's team was working from an advantage of being in charge of the largest and most productive economy on the planet, shortly after its main political rival had fallen apart. The U.S. had nearly awe-inspiring credibility on that front -- and still does -- and very little of it properly belongs to the Clinton team, which inherited all the benefits of winning the Cold War. Certainly diplomacy and nuance helped their goals in Asia, but mostly they could come in with a demonstrably superior economic model, which essentially sold itself.

These same officials brought China into the World Trade Organisation, thus killing off any chance that China would return to communism. . .
This statement is absurd. China is still very much a communist nation, albeit with pockets of capitalism in places. Furthermore, should China decide to close off its borders, throw out foreigners, and keep their goodies, the WTO is not exactly in a position to stop it. They will probably never return to pure communism -- but that's because they see a mixed economy as benefiting their nation (and them personally), not because of some piece of paper they signed when they joined the WTO. Joining did give China some benefits and raised its credibility slightly, but it has put zero constraints on China's behavior. It's hard to constrain a nation with its own nuclear arsenal -- a point that seems germane given the whole premise of Mason's essay.
. . .and made sure that global accounting and banking standards were written according to US standards. By the end of the 1990s, Clinton's team had effectively created a first draft of a global economic constitution, one that was a mirror image of America's own.
Again, while much credit does go to the Clinton team, it did represent the world's most vibrant and fastest-growing economy. It's hard to argue with success, and Asia didn't.
With this kind of record, it seems absurd to argue that Clinton's foreign policy was weak.
This is a total red herring. Conservatives never accused Clinton of carrying out a weak economic policy with basically-friendly nations. When using words like "weak" and "feckless," conservatives refer specifically to Clinton's dealings with overtly hostile nations and outfits. It's not his dealings with the Asian meltdown (or the Mexican financial crisis) that are at issue -- it's his response (or rather lack thereof) to repeated attacks on U.S. interests by Islamic terrorists. There's also his performance in the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, but we'll save that for another day.
But George W Bush has no time for any of this. His administration's understanding of power is far more traditional, with an emphasis on military force and narrow economic advantage.
Whenever I see someone pretending to know what's on Bush's mind -- what his "understanding" of something is -- my bullshit detector starts twitching.
As a consequence, military spending, even before 9/11, rose sharply and continues to increase. . .
That's because Bush felt that the military had been trimmed too far during the Clinton years. (You might remember this issue discussed by the Bush and Gore campaigns.) Which, as it turned out, was true.
. . .the number of countries with an American military presence has shot up. . .
Whoa, there! Hold up a bit! When did this number "shoot up"? That wasn't until after 9/11, when the Bushies went after al-Qaeda hard-core. That required deploying to Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and if memory serves, Kyrgyztan. There was also a small deployment to Djibouti. The invasion of Iraq required basing in Qatar, Kuwait, and Jordan, but has now been offset by withdrawal from Saudi Arabia. Bush's shifting of the troops was necessitated by world events and politics on the ground (especially vis-a-vis the Saudis), not by some traditional understanding of power. Quite to the contrary, prior to 9/11, Bush talked a lot about avoiding nation-building, and being a "humble country."

It's worth noting that all of these countries acquiesced to the U.S. basing troops on their soil -- even though for them, the U.S. presense carried with it high domestic political costs (unlike, say, China's WTO admission). Seems like when it comes to "soft power," the Bush administration is at least as good as its predecessor.

. . .and his presidency's key financial priority has been on energy security – ensuring the US has access to oil supplies.
OK, now I'm just wondering what Mason is talking about. It sounds like he's just re-hashing the "war-for-oil" rhetoric, which is not a credit to his essay. I fail to see how Bush's foreign policy has been any more about energy security than Clinton's -- except for the fact that Iraq is involved. But if all Bush wanted was Iraqi oil, there were far easier ways to get it -- and Franco-Russian gratitude would come as a bonus.
Global financial standards and institutions, even though they are of incredible benefit to the US, are now regularly sidelined and, in some cases, in danger of becoming obsolete.
Again, I'm at a loss as to what global financial standards and institutions Mason refers to. It's not like the U.S. is trying to scuttle the World Bank here.
And the funny thing is, everyone else has accepted Bush's take on power.
Perhaps because it's not all that controversial.
In the wake of the war in Iraq, those who discuss foreign policy rarely mention financial power, or even globalisation.
That's because globalisation only works as a policy when your rivals let it. We used financial and trade barriers against Iraq with some moderate success, but they were ultimately cruel and unsustainable. Against the 10th-century reactionaries of Islamic fascism, it's useless. (Never mind that the Arab countries that are rich in oil are essentially immune from such pressures.)
But Bush and Clinton are more similar than anyone seems to accept; they both tried to use American power to remake the world. While Bush's military approach is obvious, Clinton's was more subtle and, possibly, more effective. How many cruise missiles would it take to get the Chinese to abandon communism?
Here the essay shifts from merely non-sequiturial to simply nonsensical. The Chinese haven't abandoned communism, and whatever strides towards capitalism they did make (starting in the Nixon years) were not because of Clinton's successful "soft" foreign policy. Quite simply put, they realized that they had way more people than they could hope to feed, and acted with wisdom almost uncharacteristic of Communists. Again, it's hard to argue with success. To credit Clinton with the opening of China is the height of sycophantic absurdity. And furthermore, neither Clinton nor Bush set out with the goal of "remaking the world" -- Bush specifically rejected this goal prior to 9/11, and as for Clinton, he seemed to barely have any foreign policy goals at all. Both men simply dealt with what they perceived to be the most serious issues of their time -- that would be the transition to a post-Cold-War environment and dealing with emerging Asian economies for Clinton, and Arab/Islamic terrorism for Bush. Given the vastly different problems, it seems reasonable to expect dissimilar solutions -- which is what we got. Frankly, given Clinton's dubious record on battling terrorism, it's hard to see why Bush should use his methods.
A consequence of Bush's 'one level' understanding of power has been a massive increase in the power of the US government in military terms, while simultaneously, suffering a huge loss of financial power.
The increase of U.S. military power has come as a consequence of a mass murder committed on U.S. soil on September 11th, 2001. It's that simple. Nothing in Clinton's foreign policy prevented this, and it's unlikely that he would have simply continued with business-as-usual had the attacks happened on his watch. Economic power is not particularly useful against guys hiding out in caves.
On top of the rise in military spending, and the new bases – most notably in Central Asia, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan – the war in Iraq was an incredibly forceful demonstration of US military force. However, during this time, and not helped by profligate military spending, US government debt has risen enormously.
It's called wartime, and I take exception to description of the military spending as "profligate." Mason keeps giving the impression that Bush just randomly decided to invade a country or two.

It's also worth pointing out that part of the problem is the popping of the high-tech bubble of the 1990s, which produced a sharp slowdown in the economy (complete with a single recessionary quarter), even though spending levels had risen during the boom.

Then there's Congress, which in the wake of September 11th, actually exceeded the Administration's appropriation requests by billions of dollars.

As a result, the US government is now heavily reliant on Japanese, Chinese and other investors in other south-east Asian countries to keep on buying its debt (in the form of Treasury Bills). Without this financial support, US interest rates would rise sharply, devastating the country's economy.
True, though I'm not sure what the point is. Clearly, those countries except the economy to improve, since they are not generally in the foreign-aid business.
However, there is little reason why anyone outside the US should follow Bush in his obsession with military dominance.
Perhaps, but it's worth noting that without matching military dominance, most countries of the world no longer have a real say in its affairs. That the U.S. can dismissively refer to Germany and France -- combined! -- as "Old Europe" and tell them to get stuffed, is no small matter. That North Korea can do the same, is even more significant. That Israel disregard the EU is nearly mind-boggling. The events of the last couple of years clearly demonstrate that "hard power," so easily dismissed by Mason, is what's really behind the "soft power" of trade and financial policies -- which is why the EU, for all its wealth, is utterly impotent in the face of American military action. (They are nowhere near as helpless on the political or financial fronts, of course. Hence their frustration that Bush went with the military route. But even the Europeans' financial strength is ultimately guaranteed by American good will and military protection.)
As Nye says, military power is only one form of power
This is simply false. Military power is the ultimate source of any other power. Just ask Commodore Perry.
By meekly accepting Bush's definition of power, many countries, particularly in the EU, allow their own priorities, such as the environment, restructuring the international financial architecture and addressing poverty, to be sidelined.
I will leave alone the sycophantic sop to the EU's oh-so-precious concerns about the environment and "addressing poverty." Instead, I will point out that the one time the Clinton team did make a significant change on the ground somewhere, it was in the Balkans -- where all the EU "soft power" couldn't make an iota of difference, in spite of the fact that they were next door, and the countries involved were completely dependent on them for trade. Clinton used "hard power" to effect a change, and it worked. In North Korea, Clinton tried to use "soft power" -- in the form of the aforementioned Jimmy Carter -- to get the Kim government to stop its nuclear program. That worked really well, eh?
Monday, October 27, 2003
In his latest article in Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria is worried about Muslim perceptions of the U.S.:
President Bush’s commission on public diplomacy recently noted that in nine Muslim and Arab nations only 12 percent of respondents surveyed believed that “Americans respect Arab/Islamic values.” Such attitudes, the commission argued, create a toxic atmosphere of anti-Americanism that cripples U.S. foreign policy and helps terrorists. To address the problem the commission suggested amajor reorganization of the American government, hundreds of millions of dollars of funding and the creation of a new cabinet position. I have a simpler, more urgent suggestion: fire William Boykin.
I am not familiar with all the details of the Boykin flap, and I value Mr. Zakaria's opinion quite a bit, but one one point, he needs be set straight: the Muslim perception that Americans don't respect Arab/Islamic values is entirely correct. This applies just as much to the warmed-over hippies at this weekend's "peace" marches as it does to the most strident neocons -- more so, in fact. Where "Arab/Muslim values" are distinct from American values, we get practices that Westerners would never accept for their own societies -- be they relatively harmless ones like avoiding pork and alcohol, or sickening atrocities such as female clitorectomies, honor killings, and "martyrdom operations."

This is not to say that Americans don't respect Muslims, or the Muslims' right to practice their religion as they see fit, complete with its harmless idiosynchrasies. But there is a difference between respecting one's right to hold different beliefs, and sharing those beliefs. Simply put, Americans are at best indifferent to Arab/Muslim values -- but the more we learn about them, the less indifferent (and more hostile) to them we become. (Except for the "non-judgemental" part of our population, whose own values prohibit them from judging those of others. Of course, such an attitude is itself anathema to Arab/Islamic values, which is the crux of the whole problem.)

Not that we should apologize for this. As the good Dr. Mahathir Mohamad mentioned as the OIC conference, the Muslims hardly get bent out of shape over respecting Western values. And frankly, ours have done a helluvalot better. So perhaps they should be asking us how we feel about Arab/Muslim respect for our values. Though first, may I suggest muzzling a certain Malaysian Jew-hater...

The Red Cross/Red Crescent/But Not the Red Star of David Because the Jews Don't Count gets a nasty lesson in reality:
For the humanitarian agency, the blast shattered the belief that 23 years of good deeds in Iraq could be worn like protective armor against violence. "We were always confident that people knew us and that our work here would protect us," said Nada Doumani, spokeswoman for the Red Cross in Baghdad. "How do we understand this?"
Yep, it's real tough -- unless you realize that the terrorist scum who perpetrate these atrocities really are evil. I guess some people get a little giddy up on that cloud of high-minded "neutrality." Earth to the Red Cross: you are not in a local conflict between two warring tribes. You are in the middle of a conflict whose other side doesn't even recognize the concepts you hold most sacred, and will kill you, me, and even its own family members to achieve its goals. The people fighting on behalf of the U.S. are also fighting on your behalf, whether you admit it or not. Get that through your skulls, already.

What high-minded cranically-impacted arrogance: sure, Arab terrorists can gun down Israeli children in their beds, but they would never dare touch the precious do-gooders at the ICRC! Welcome to reality -- better late than never, I guess, and try not to stub your toes.

I don't mean to completely trash the Red Cross -- they do good work, often risking their own lives, and occasionally pay with those lives. It's also grossly unfair to rip the front-line workers for the political cynicism of their headquarters-bound bureaucrat masters. Nonetheless, the sanctimonious belief that they should be above these kinds of conflicts, and the naivete of thinking that only "bad" people get attacked by terrorists -- with all that implies about our soldiers -- simply disgusts me.

By way of an anonymous LGF poster comes this hilarious diatribe by none other than that mount-foaming punching bag of the blogosphere, Robert Fisk. The whole piece is hysterical, in both senses of the word: Fisk is hysterical over the numerous "human rights violations" by U.S. troops who have the indecency to shoot at Iraqis who just happen to "miss" their roadblocks, and the entire article is hysterical in that it's just funny to watch someone fall apart like that. One gets the impression that he's been getting his money's worth for his 25 loo rolls.

I'm not going to go through this thing point by point -- fisking Fisk is just too easy, especially when he is completely off his meds (maybe we should call it fiskbarreling). I recommend reading the whole thing, if only to understand what kind of babble gets you the British International Journalist of the Year award (seven times!). But let's just look at one paragraph for illustration:

Then there was the case of the Bengal tiger. A group of US troops entered the Baghdad zoo one evening for a party of sandwiches and beer. During the party, one of the soldiers decided to pet the tiger who - being a Bengal tiger - sank his teeth into the soldier. The Americans then shot the tiger dead. The Americans promised an "inquiry" - of which nothing has been heard since.
Let me be the first one to say that I pity the poor animal, and that a man who tries to pet a Bengal freaking tiger is just asking for a Darwin award. But really, aside from this stupid mistake, what else is there to inquire about? What's there to condemn? The tiger grabbed this soldier with his teeth, and if the others didn't take immediate action, the soldier could have lost an arm, or worse. So they did what any armed man would do in this situation: kill the tiger. What would Fisk have them do -- send in Hans Blix?

Calling Mahathir Mohamad...

Oh boy.
In Nigeria, Muslim suspicions impede polio immunization campaign, aiding disease spread

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) - Wielding droppers over mouths of teary toddlers, Nigerian and U.N. health workers launched an emergency drive Friday to vaccinate millions against polio (news - web sites), as a spreading outbreak put an estimated 15 million children at risk and threatened worldwide efforts to eradicate the crippling disease.

Impeding the four-day effort, Nigerian and U.N. officials said: Pervasive rumors among Muslim fundamentalists that the vaccine was part of a U.S. plot to spread AIDS and render Muslims infertile.

. . .

"Allah knows better than all Western powers combined," said one, Ya'u Kabir, a 26-year-old Muslim theology student. "He has guided the Muslim community since the time of old. This he did without immunization. We do not need it."
Do you hear that, Mahathir? The Ummah is thinking!

(Link via Best of the Web)

Anatomy of the strike into Syria

The Jerusalem Post has an absolutely amazing story of the strike into Syria by the Israeli Air Force. (And you don't have to register to read it, so go ahead and click away.)

Some crucial points:

When the squadron commander said they had the most suitable weapons, he meant every word. He told he magazine that they chose precision guided bombs instead of dumb bombs because it was imperative not to miss.

"Not everyone knows this, but just 100 meters from the wadi where the training base was located were houses from a civilian village. We needed to have absolute accuracy," he said.
There, in two paragraphs, you have the absolute moral superiority of the Israelis over Arabs. The Israelis were conducting a retaliatory strike against a deliberate bombing and murder of dozens of Israeli civilians -- but they still took pains to avoid hitting Arab civilians of an enemy nation. That's far better treatment than Syrians have received at the hands of the Syrian government.
"Bull's-eye!," he said. "The explosions were very large and full of fire. The secondary explosions that followed a few seconds later proved that the place was an ammo dump and full of weapons."
So the place was a stocked ammunition dump. So much for PFLP assertions that it was abandoned years ago. But really, if you can't believe the word of a Marxist Arab terrorist outfit, what's there left to believe in?

Update: Geoff the Grasshoppa draws a most enlightening contrast between Israeli actions and Syrian rhetoric.

Saddam supporters appear to be working overtime to lose sympathy from all sides:
The deadly bomb blasts that rocked Baghdad on the first morning of [Ramadan] are now thought to have killed up to 40 people, claim latest reports.

A suicide bomber driving an ambulance detonated the device at the gates of the Red Cross headquarters in the Iraqi capital killing 12 people.
Emphasis mine. Ambulances as bomb carriers -- another Palestinian innovation!

I'm sure that in the wake of this latest atrocity, the world will finally see that this is not "resistance" but rather flat-out terrorism, and that removing these scumbags was a high priority.

...Yeah, right.

Update: Yep, no surprise: once someone other than Americans, Israelis, or Iraqis are hit, the EU charges right in to condemn these attacks, with Amnesty International not far behind:

"Armed groups must end the policy of targeting Iraqi civilians and international humanitarian agencies who are trying to provide help and assistance to a devastated country," said Amnesty International.
Ooh, that'll show 'em! Bad Ba'athists! Bad Saddam supporters! Naughty!

But hey, at least they are on the right side here. For contrast, check out this "report" in the L.A. Times, practically brimming with admiration for the "resistance" fighters beating down the "embattled American occupation."

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Oh give me a break...

While Mecca Cola was launched last year during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the name does not refer to the holy city, Mathlouthi said. "Journalists want to make Mecca Cola a Muslim product. I don't know why, it's a racist act. Mecca was a Navajo Indian tribe wiped out by the white pioneers who wanted to establish the United States. This name of the tribe we have taken for the drink."
Right. Some Muslims are trying to make product more appealing to other Muslims by connecting it with issues important to Muslims in the hope of making a buck, and they just happen to choose the name of an obscure Navajo tribe which only sounds like the name of the city holiest to Muslims. Uh-huh. (Oh, and calling this spade a spade is "a racist act." The Ummah is now a race.)

Not to be out-done, Coke offers its own load of B.S. later on:

Coca-Cola has issued a series of statements trying to refute what it calls myths about its activities in the Middle East. "The Coca-Cola Company and our products are often regarded as American. But the fact is that the Coca-Cola Company is a truly international company, operating worldwide in more than 200 countries. The Coca-Cola business in each country is a local business," it said.
Oh, please. Coca-cola has always been an American brand, and they have made good money selling themselves as part of the mythical "American lifestyle."

I got this by way of Joel the J'African, who neatly summarizes it as follows:

A highly revealing article on Ha'aretz about the radical opportunists who are marketing alternatives to Coke in order to oppose Israel and the U.S. Boycotting Coke hurts local economies in the Arab world and helped foreign businessmen and businesswomen in Paris and London, while fostering a culture of denial instead of healthy indulgence.
Arabs, firing at their own feet again? Not exactly news...
The Guardian "reports" (using the term loosely) that Israel is requiring Palestinians living near its border fence to obtain permits to continue to live there:
The Israeli military has ordered thousands of Palestinians living near the steel and concrete "security fence" through the West Bank to obtain special permits to live in their own homes.

Palestinian officials said the order breached a pledge by Israel to the UN security council a fortnight ago that the barrier would not change the legal status of those who live near it, and was another step towards the annexation of tens of thousands of hectares of Palestinian land.
While I'm not a huge fan of "special permits" and "closed military zones," given the willingness of Palestinians abuse whatever breaks Israel gives them, to go and murder Israeli citizens, I won't get all to upset at this latest "humiliation" endured by the Arabs. And as to the Palestinian officials' complaint that Israel broke its promise to the UN -- well, I have no idea what Israel promised, but since the UN oh-so-forcefully condemned the wall anyway, I'd say they are pretty much absolved of any obligations.

It should be noted that the Israelis consider this nothing but a temporary measure. The Guardian mentions this -- in the next-to-last paragraph:

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, Jonathan Peled, said the order was temporary and not a change in legal status. "What Gillerman promised the security council stands. Legally speaking there is no change in status because it is a temporary decree," he said.
Note that this is the concluding paragraph in the story. So why did I say "next-to-last"? Because the Guardian felt compelled to include this little totally unrelated tidbit:
The Israeli army is to launch a military police investigation into the shooting of Tom Hurndall, a British peace activist, by a soldier six months ago.
I know nothing about this incident, so I suppose I should refrain from commenting on it. Still, with that final paragraph, the Guardian drops all pretense to objective journalism, and goes from being a none-too-subtle editorializer to an all-out anti-Israel propaganda rag. The killing of Hurndall had nothing whatsoever to do with the permit story; it was only thrown in to give an example of the evil Israelis shooting peaceful British peace activists. How typical. And how sickening.
In response to my last post on Mahathir and the support he received, Kolya commented:
whatever Mahathir's intentions, it is possible for us to take an independent view of the likely consequences of Islamic societies trying to implement his technocratic reform program.

I, for one, believe that the more his proposed modernisation succeeds, the less credible the anti-Semitic worldview will become to Muslims themselves, and the more compelling will become the values that Mahathir so despises. . .

If you re-examine Mahathir speech strictly from the point of view of the changes he is advocating in Islamic societies, ignoring the story he weaves to just ignoring the story he weaves to justify this radical departure from Islamic tradition; perhaps you will see some merit in the argument that the policy he advocates may have redeeming consequences, in spite of Mahathir's worst intentions.
As I said in reply to the comment, I wish I could share Kolya's optimism, but I don't. Kolya is implying that the modernity Mahathir is trying to achieve in the Muslim world is fundamentally incompatible with fanaticism, and countries that achieve this modernity will necessarily alter their outlook to be more tolerant, if for no other reason than their own comfort and decadence.

The first problem that I see with this argument is that we don't have to look far to find exampes of countries with little to no freedom, and yet sufficient modernity to be of military value. The most obvious of these, of course, was Nazi Germany. Here was a country whose fanaticism not only did not limit it, but actually brought it out of the rubble of the Armistice, to the cutting edge of modernity -- with technology and weapons design that were second to none in the world, not to mention an efficient and effective governing apparatus, which translated into an equally efficient and effective mass-killing machine, all driven by a fanatic devotion to notions that were nothing short of criminally insane.

Of course, one could argue that Germany had been a modern state before the Armistice, and the Nazis were simply able to harness the national abilities of the German people to their own ends. Which doesn't refute my point that fanaticism is not incompatible with modernity, but the argument could be made that a country can't advance technologically if it is bound by ideological rigidity and devoid of freedom. This also isn't true, however -- Stalin demonstrated the contrary quite well, almost single-handedly turning a backward, mostly agrarian Communist Russia into the military and industrial powerhouse that was the Soviet Union. Stalin's students have also done well by this standard -- which is why North Korea has recently become a nuclear power.

It is true that life for North Koreans is pretty much subsistence hell, and life in Stalin's Soviet Union wasn't too pleasant, either. Neither country approached the West in terms of material riches for their ordinary people. Along these lines, the Soviets constantly lagged the West in the dissemination of technology. But this isn't the issue: when Mahathir spoke of modernizing, he didn't mean putting a microwave in every kitchen, he was referring to having modern science, which could be harnessed to produce modern weapons. On that score, it's important to remember that for all their shortages, the Soviets were the first in space, had some of the finest scientists and engineers in the world, and became a nuclear power shortly after the Americans -- all while living in a decidedly un-free society, servicing a failed ideology and a cult of personality around a paranoid psychopath . (Yes, Sputnik I was launched after Stalin's death, but much of the development occurred while he was alive.)

It's true that liberal-democratic societies, with more resources and fewer constraints on their populations, will advance faster -- in terms of consumer goods and military prowess -- than societies that are more fanatical and authoritarian. However, when it comes to weapons technology, second-best is often quite good enough. The warheads built by North Korea are probably atomic, of the same crude variety as Little Boy and Fat Man -- in other words, 60-year-old technology -- but they still serve their purpose. The technology of the missiles they'd mount them on is also archaic and no match for what Americans have -- nonetheless, it'll do the job. The idea is not to achieve technological parity -- it's to catch up enough so that the enemy's advantage is not overwhelming. That is Mahathir's goal.

Finally, an argument can be made that none of the totalitarian societies I've mentioned can last: eventually, the Germans were defeated, the Soviet Union fell apart, and North Korea will probably do so eventually. Frankly, that is cold comfort: in their 12 years of power (and only 6 of war), the Nazis did a lot of damage; the damage from Russian communism was also enormous (and ongoing, if you count their legacy in China, North Korea, Cuba, and the Middle East). Were Mahathir's plan of a fascist pan-Islamic society to succeed, well, I don't even want to think about it.

Fortunately, his wish isn't going to come true, and the Ummah is not going to unite or modernize the way Mahathir wants. Nonetheless, it's important to realize that when he or many of his fellow "rulers" talk about modernization, what they have in mind is not a modern liberal democracy, but a pan-Islamic Soviet Union, with the military might to fulfill their dreams of an Islamic (re)conquest.

Some good commentary on this from the Gweilo Diaries:

If there is one thing the Islamic world does not need, it is more weaponry -- having caused entirely too much misery with what it already has. Yet to Mahathir, the benefit of modernization is not to promote peace and prosperity and to allow people to aspire to a better future. It is, rather, to be able to produce armaments to better threaten and kill non-Muslims.
And don't miss this suberb analysis of the whole speech by Andrés Gentry. He takes note of the fact that Mahathir constantly divides the world into Muslims and non-Muslims, and presents it as a constant struggle between the two. He also notices Gweilo's point that the examples Mahathir gives of people "defending" Islam are actually more along the lines of Islamic conquest -- which leads him to this:
For those of us who live outside the Ummah, this can only be worrying. Dr Mohamad views development as a sword with which to clash with non-Muslims. Rather than development leading to a more peaceful world where more and more humans are satisfied with their lot in life, he advocates it for the sake for the sake of a “final victory” against the “enemies” of Islam. With this antagonistic view of non-believers, is it any wonder that Islam's borders are so bloody?
Read it all. It's long, but most of the material should be familiar, and the rest is very well worth it.
Just a reminder to everyone that I don't choose the advertising that Google puts at the top of my blog. As to why I put up with it, you can see this post for an explanation. In a nutshell, if Dean for America wants to keep paying the expenses for running this site, I certainly have no problem with it.
Thursday, October 23, 2003

Fun with headlines

Apparently the Associated Press likes to exaggerate:
Bush Heckled by Australian Parliament

. . .

During Bush's speech, two Green Party senators jumped to their feet and shouted war protests at Bush. They were ordered removed from the chamber but sat and refused to leave. One of them, Sen. Bob Brown, shouted "we are not a sheriff," a reference to Bush's recent description of Howard.

"I love free speech," Bush said to laughter.

Several other lawmakers wore white arm bands to protest the Iraq war but remained silent.
Australia's Parliament is made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate, with 150 and 76 members, respectively. Out of those 226, two heckled the President. The rest listened politely, and many supported Bush.

For those wondering, the Greens have a grand total of three members in the Parliament - one in the House, and two in the Senate.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Have a look at what the UN thinks Israel should "make peace" with:
Hamas militants holding severed leg of Israeli soldier

A family of Hamas militants is still holding the severed leg of an Israeli commando killed four months ago in an explosion during a raid on the family's house in the Gaza Strip.

The office of the Hamas spiritual leader, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, says the al-Ghoul family is free to do what it wants with the remains, including opening negotiations with Israel for its return.
(Emphasis mine; appropriate name, huh?)

Perhaps that UN-offending "wall" ought to have been padded.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Two Words to the UN General Assembly

Up yours.

Update: I'm glad that Israel agrees. And I like this quote, by Israeli Deputy PM Ehud Olmert:

"If the whole world is on one side, and America and Israel on the other side, I'm proud to be on the American side."
Yeah, me too.
Sunday, October 19, 2003

Mongrel Nation Revisited

Get a load of this paragraph from the always quotable Arab News:
The Al-Aqsa Intifada revealed a weakness in the Israeli army. It lacked the most important pillars on which any army is built; it had no historic depth and no exceptional military leader because they are a new nation that encompasses a number of nationalities united only by the lie of the return to the promised land, which many are beginning to question.
One would think the Arabs might ponder this at some length. Seems like, with all their "historical depth," they seem unable to do much more than send their children to die uselessly while trying to dislodge a country that's less than 1/100th their size, and 1/1000th their population. And their own last "exceptional military leader" lost his country in three weeks, and now spends his days hiding under a rock and calling for suicide bombings against invaders. His predecessor managed to kill several thousand unprepared civilians, after which he most likely became a stain on an Afghan cave -- or, per the most favorable interpretation, a walking ghost who releases an audiotape every few months. (Why an audiotape? Because most of his audience can't read. But at least it's got "historic depth," whatever that is.)

Oh well. I'm reminded of another group of deranged ideologues who employed similar rhetoric about another mongrel nation -- with similar results. If this is the best the Arabs have to comfort them, well, I'd say the Israelis won a long time ago.

Misha the Rottweiler is in agreement with File13 of Amish Tech Support over the President giving the PLO exemption from U.S. anti-terrorist laws:
By not only refusing to act, but by rewarding terrorists for murder, [Bush] has betrayed his sacred oath to put the interests and safety of the citizens of the United States above all else, the single most important part of the Presidency.

In case you've forgotten, that's what we elected him to do, to represent US and OUR interests, nothing else. That is the consent with which he governs, and now he's betrayed it. No, don't give me any excuses. We didn't elect him to gobble the lice-infested nutsack of Yasser Arafish. He can't even find it in himself to avenge our dead, ferchrissakes!

. . .

May a merciful G-d grant us the blessing of forgetting that we ever voted for him, because it WON'T happen again.

"But who else?"

I don't care. He's a traitor. I do NOT vote for traitors, no matter WHAT the alternative is. I'd rather chop off the arm that pulls the lever.
(Emphasis in original.)

Bill Quick disagrees -- not on principle, but on tactics:

In any normal times, I'd have long ago decided that GWB is an abomination unworthy of re-election, and certainly unworthy of a vote from anybody who calls himself a libertarian. Unfortunately, we don't live in normal times, and I am faced with the knowledge that if any viable alternative to Bush - and yes, I include Al Gore in this group - had been President when 9/11 occurred, today we would have Osama bin Laden alive, well, and sheltered by the Taliban government of Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein merrily thumbing his nose at the US - and possibly a nuclear power by now - and Saudi Arabia shoveling oceans of money at Wahabi fanatics and Palestinian murderers, while our government kneels in New York to suck whatever appendages the lords of the United Nations deign to offer us.

And I am simply unable to bring myself to vote for turning the safety of our country over to somebody like Gore, Dean, or even Joe Lieberman, just to make some point about ideological purity. Those who put ideology above national survival are, in a word, selfish. And, in another word, stupid.

I'm not willing to sacrifice New York City or San Francisco simply because I think George W. Bush is a statist jerkwad. I wish there were real alternatives. But there aren't.
Let me start my comments by saying that I absolutely, categorically, wholeheartedly believe that Misha and File13 are neither stupid nor selfish. I doubt Bill meant to say this either -- his own post did not refer to either of these men, and it was me, not Bill, who juxtaposed the sentiments. I just want to make that clear before moving on, lest there should be any misunderstanding.

Second, I am nowhere near as convinced as Bill that had Gore been President on 9/11, the U.S. would follow the Clinton method of throwing some symbolic cruise missiles around, and making speeches at the UN. It's a possibility, and a high probability -- but it's not a certainty. Events like September 11th have a way of changing people, and making them act contrary to what we'd seen before. Certainly, if the day after GW's inauguration, someone told me that this man, who in a campaign speech actually made a sop to those poor Arab-Americans getting "profiled" at airports, would be sending several thousand Arab illegals into holding cells and deporting hundreds more; that this man who preached that other countries would respect us if we were more "humble," would be ignoring the UN and the EU and invading Afghanistan and then Iraq; that the man who eschewed nation-building would be trying to get $87 billion to put that same Iraq back together while simultaneously rebuilding and helping clean up Afghanistan -- well, would any rational person have believed it? That the son of George H.W. Bush, whose cabinet was one of the most anti-Israeli in recent memory, would call for Arafat's marginalization, would demand that Palestinians implement democratic reforms -- would actually defend, in so many words, Israel's right to "defend herself," even as endorsement to the bombing of Syrian territory -- who the hell would have believed it, even after 9/11? The point is, we don't know how Gore would have reacted to 9/11 had he been in the Big Chair. He might have panicked and offered tribute to the Mullahs, or he might have decided to show everyone that a Democrat can be "tough," and ordered a few ICBMs retargeted at Kabul, with some explicit instructions to the mullahs. He might have caved to "world opinion," or he might have explicitly rejected it. The latent rhetoric from him opposing the Bush plan and the War on Iraq is meaningless: it's just political posturing, a sop to the same Looney Left who were tearing out their hair over Clinton's bombings of Iraq and actions in the Balkans.

Not that this defeats Bill's point, though. For all the perfectly justifiable anger over Bush's tolerance of the PLO, there simply is no better alternative at this point. While not flawless, I believe Bush's record vis-a-vis the Arabs has been, on balance, far better than any of his predecessors: he has destroyed the Mullahcracy in Afghanistan; he has destroyed the Ba'ath regime in Iraq, along with the Arabs' best chance at a viable WMD program; he has deflated and humiliated the pretentious and arrogant Europeans; he has demonstrated an indifference towards the UN and shown that the opinion of Washington matters more than the opinion of Kofi Annan; even on the Israeli-Arab conflict, he has unequivocally backed Israel. On this latter point, the Administration is in something of a bind: I doubt that they have much love or use for Arafat or his PLO henchmen, but at this stage, taking any action against them would make the United States more interested in the destruction of the PLO than even the Israelis -- a position that is politically untenable, and carries with it diplomatic costs with no benefits. If the Israelis want to kill Arafat and destroy the PLO, they have to go and do that, and the Administration would probably provide them diplomatic cover in the UN. But the Israelis themselves are divided, and certainly unable to come to a conclusion as to what to do with Arafat, beyond issuing a few stupid public threats. It's ridiculous to expect the Bush Administration to be more pro-Israel than the Israeli government, and as long as the Israelis are willing to play along with stupid peace charades, the Bushies have to carry the tune. The Administration is simply not obligated to take greater risks for Israeli security, than the Israelis are themselves -- nor would it be wise to do so.

In the end, I agree with Bill that on foreign policy and the war on radical Islam, there's simply no superior alternative to Bush -- "traitor" or no. From a practical standpoint, I'd rather have more of what we've got, than stupid rhetoric about "working with the UN" and even more sanctimonious posturing about "ethnic profiling" every time the Feds act as though there just might be a connection between Muslims and terrorism, apologetic pandering that decries legitimate Israeli actions, stupid prattle about multilateral institutions and the use of force as a last resort, or, Heaven forbid, deranged blather about a Department of Peace and making war obsolete.

Bush isn't perfect; far from it. But in the War on Radical Islam -- the most crucial issue of our generation -- he is boatloads better than his alternatives. Regardless of my feelings on his other policies, this one takes priority. Give me a better alternative -- one that is viable, not another Perot -- and I'll give it my full consideration. But until I have it, I'm not going to toss Bush in the trash simply because he does something stupid. So far, his alternatives seem to have made Stupid their platform.

And speaking of gas chambers, let's turn once again to that lovable frustrated Malaysian Hitler-wannabe, "The Hon. Dato Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad," as he is credited with his speech at the OIC website. (Do read the speech, by the way. It's really quite remarkable and rather parody-proof. And remember, this is the original, and he gave it in English.)

It doesn't surprise me one bit that this man would wax anti-Semitic, with the usual Muslim-world conspiracy theories and calls for final solutions. The man has a history of hating Jews, and he is not wild about Americans, and Australians, either. No, what I find so appalling (though not really surprising) is this tiny little line from an AP report on the speech:

The leaders gave Mahathir a standing ovation afterward.
Just to recap: Mahathir made a speech whose points included:
  • That he and the other leaders have been raised by Allah to rule (not represent, not serve, rule) their countries. (#9)

  • That the Muslims' "enemies" are out to attack and kill them, invade their lands, and bring down their governments. (which, of course, have been raised by Allah to rule their subjects) (#11)

  • Fond memories of the Europeans having to "kneel at the feet of Muslim scholars in order to access their own scholastic heritage." (#14)

  • That accepting "the western democratic system" divided the Muslims. (#19)

  • That Europeans "excise[d] Muslim land to create the state of Israel to solve their Jewish problem." (#20)

  • That global standards on human rights and consensual government are a form of "oppression" on "Muslim countries," denying them true independence. (#28)

  • That Jews are out to defeat Muslims. (#34)

  • That peace treaties are nothing but wartime tools to build strength, in order to defeat one's enemies later, per Mohammed's own example. (#35)

  • That Jews "rule the world by proxy" (#39) and that Muslims must work towards a "final victory" (!) over them (#38). The final victory would follow a "strategic retreat." (#38 and #49)

  • That Muslim societies must be modernized, but only as a means to defeating "the enemy." (#44, in context of the rest of the speech)

  • That Socialism, Communism, human rights, and democracy were all invented and promoted by the Jews, "so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so that they may enjoy equal rights with others," and that with these they have "gained control of the most powerful countries" and "have become a world power." (#51, emphasis mine)

And after this spew of lunatic hate and a modernization program straight out of the National Socialist party platform, the paranoid accusations of Jews running the world, the outright rejection of the principles of democracy and human rights as "oppression" of Muslims -- the leaders rulers of 56 states, representing nearly 1.3 billion Muslims, got up and gave this whackjob a standing ovation. Remind me, once again, how lunatic Judophobia is just a fringe phenomenon in the Muslim world.

It goes without saying, of course, that the UN made no comments aside from some limp-noodle pretty-pleases to stop suicide bombings against Israelis. But at least the U.S., Australia, Italy, Germany, and other countries expressed their outrage. All except... France, whose prime minister actually blocked a condemnation from the European Union!

In other words: the OIC, at its conference, gave a standing ovation to a speech claiming that democracy and universal human rights are nothing more than inventions used by Jews to control the world, and call for a modernization whose expressed purpose is to defeat those world-controlling Jews (and thus, presumably, their horrible notions of human rights and democracy). The speech got a standing ovation from the leaders of other Islamic countries, including supposedly "moderate, pro-Western" ones such as Hamid Karzai. And reaction from the rest of the world was, well, mixed, with France refusing to even support a verbal condemnation.

This is why I support Israel. This is why I place the sovereignty of Israel above any pronouncements of "international law." This is why I treat with indifference and utter contempt the very basic principles behind the United Nations. This is why I support the invasion of Iraq, or any other Islamic country with a WMD program. This is why I view the the French government as an enemy. And this is why I will never, ever support any subordination of U.S. sovereignty to the UN or "international law." "The world," with its dictatorships, full-scale oppression, mass murder, honor killings, ethnic slaughter, mass starvation, misogyny, bigotry, and madrassa-taught idiocy, will have to learn right from wrong first. Until it does, the UN hasn't earned the right to even look Brits, Americans, Israelis, or Australians in the eye, much less instruct them in proper behavior. As long as "leaders" such as Mahathir receive standing ovations from their audiences, I plan to keep those audiences on the business end of a rifle, thank you very much. And I fully support Israel in doing the same.

Some notes and comments on the previous two posts. (Yes, they are a bit late. That's our slogan here at Thinking Meat: Yesterday's News, Tomorrow!)

ESPN has fired Gregg Easterbrook, apparently over the comments he made at TNR. It is unclear whether he was fired because his remarks were perceived as anti-Semitic, or simply because he harshly criticized Michael Eisner, CEO of Disney, which owns ESPN. Frankly, I'm guessing that it was the former: ESPN has already showed that they shun any sort of controversy when they fired Rush Limbaugh for his comments on McNabb. In a way, it's almost understandable: ESPN is a sports network, not a news and opinion outlet, and they don't want their brand tarnished by association with perceived racists and anti-Semites, however unfair the perception may be. They have a business to run, and want to keep the controversies to sports. (Though in that case, I can hardly understand why they'd hire Easterbrook and Limbaugh in the first place.)

For what it's worth, I don't think that Easterbrook meant for his writing to be interpreted as being about "money-grubbing Jews." That phrase was most unfortunate, possibly inserted for its shock value, and Easterbrook has since apologized for them. That's commendable, but what offended me in the article was the notion that Jewish executives and Jews in general should somehow be especially appalled by violence. Even his apology article repeats this:

How, I wondered, could anyone Jewish--members of a group who suffered the worst act of violence in all history, and who suffer today, in Israel, intolerable violence--seek profit from a movie that glamorizes violence as cool fun?
This still doesn't sit with me, though I should give it some context (unknown to me before). Here's some context for the preceding quote:
Monday I wrote an item about the disgusting movie Kill Bill, which so glorifies violence as to border on filth. I was indignant that a major company whose work is mainly good, Disney, would distribute such awfulness, in this case through its Miramax subsidiary. I wondered how any top executive could live with his or her conscience by seeking profits from Kill Bill, oblivious to the psychological studies showing that positive depiction of violence in entertainment causes actual violence in children. I wondered about the consciences of those running Disney and Miramax. Were they Christian? How could a Christian rationalize seeking profits from a movie that glorifies killing as a sport, even as a form of pleasure? I think it's fair to raise faith in this context: In fact I did exactly that one week earlier, when I wrote a column about the movie The Passion asking how we could take Mel Gibson seriously as a professed Christian, when he has participated in numerous movies that glorify violence.

But those running Disney and Miramax are not Christian, they're Jewish. Learning this did in no way still my sense of outrage regarding Kill Bill. How, I wondered, could anyone Jewish--members of a group who suffered the worst act of violence in all history, and who suffer today, in Israel, intolerable violence--seek profit from a movie that glamorizes violence as cool fun?
I've got no argument with Easterbrook on Kill Bill -- I haven't seen it, but I've seen Tarantino's other work, and he does seem to take sadistic pleasure in the graphic deaths of his characters, portraying it as good fun. (Not sure about Gibson, but I found Payback particularly vile, for the same reason.) But the whole Jewish angle is, to put it bluntly, stupid. Yes, Jews and Israelis suffer from "violence" -- but so does every other nation on the planet. And violence is not a force of nature: it's a catch-all term for human beings out to hurt, maim, and kill other human beings. The perpertrators, actions, and victims matter more than the v-word here. Nowhere in recent Jewish history do we have people suffering from "violence" committed by sword-wielding babes. Had Tarantino made a movie about the hilarious lives of suicide bombers, I might see Easterbrook's point, but the kind of violence shown in Kill Bill has as much to do with Judaism as do pork roasts. By lumping stylized swordplay with gas chambers and bus bombers under the heading of "violence," Easterbrook in fact commits the sin of moral equivalence, which I find more wrong than any crack about money-grubbing.

(Most of the links in this post came from Little Green Footballs.)

Thursday, October 16, 2003
Wow, is there anything Jews didn't invent to rule the world?
Putrajaya, Malaysia - The biggest summit of Islamic leaders in three years opened on Thursday with calls for the world's 1.3bn Muslims to unite against "a few million Jews" who allegedly rule the world by controlling the world's major powers...

[Malaysian Prime Minister] Mahathir [Mohamad], chairing the two-day summit, launched a blistering attack on what he described as Jewish domination of the world and Muslim nations' inability to adequately respond to it.

"The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy," Mahathir said. "They get others to fight and die for them."

"We are up against a people who think. They survived 2000 years of pogroms not by hitting back but by thinking," Mahathir said....
Starting to think immediately after this declaration, the Prime Minister lets us know just what he thinks of human progress over the past few centuries:
..."They [the Jews] invented Socialism, Communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so that they can enjoy equal rights with others."
Emphasis mine. Idiocy in original.

Finally, to allay any doubts of his aspirations to be the Hitler of the 21st century:

He suggested new tactics other than lashing out violently against "the enemy," including leveraging the political, economic and demographic forces at the disposal of Muslim nations, calling it a "strategic retreat" that would lead to "final solution victory."
This is, of course, not the first time Mahathir has let his views on Jews be known. Just to reiterate: this man is the Prime Minister of a supposedly "moderate" Muslim country. I'm sure his speech will be strongly condemned at the OIC, the UN will issue a rebuke to its Malaysian representative, and Human Rights Watch will add this to its curiously incomplete complaints.

And pigs will become a hazard to air travel.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Via Charles Johnson and Roger Simon, and ultimately by way of Meryl Yourish, comes a screed by The New Republic's Gregg Easterbrook on Quentin Tarantino. I actually agree with much of what he says -- I never understood Tarantino's appeal: he really does seem to take sadistic pleasure in how he treats the people in his movies, which usually leave me more disgusted than amused. Tarantino is certainly not alone in this, and he's not the worst of the lot, but I simply don't get all the noise about his "genius." Whatever, people like him, he's successful, and the carnage he causes is fictional, so I have no problem with it, even if I don't get it. On the other hand, I do have a very serious problem with Easterbook's reasoning as it seems to jacknife and flip over right about here:
Set aside what it says about Hollywood that today even Disney thinks what the public needs is ever-more-graphic depictions of killing the innocent as cool amusement. Disney's CEO, Michael Eisner, is Jewish; the chief of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, is Jewish. Yes, there are plenty of Christian and other Hollywood executives who worship money above all else, promoting for profit the adulation of violence. Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence? Recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice.
Never mind that the people killed in Tarantino's movies (at least by the protagonists) are hardly "helpless." What sets of my alarms is the gratuitous blame laid at the feet of the Hollywood executive, and the utterly useless invocation of their Jewish roots -- both to scandalize the reader with the phrase about worshipping money, and to chastise them for needing to be more sensitive to violence "as Jews."

Let's dispense with the money-worshipping first -- aside from deliberately playing on an ugly old stereotype, I fail to see how Easterbrook's point even stands here. I mean, how does he know what drove Eisner and Weinstein to green-light Tarantino's film? Maybe they genuinely liked it: plenty of other people did, including Roger Ebert, who gave it four stars. How does Easterbrook claim to know what is in the minds of Hollywood execs -- or, for that matter, anyone else? And how did these execs' religion have anything to do with it?

The second point Easterbrook makes -- that Jews must somehow be more repulsed by movie violence, because of prior history -- is simply nonsensical. He might have a point if the movie made campy fun of people rounded up by the millions and worked to death in concentration camps, but Kill Bill does nothing of the kind. The violence in Kill Bill is mostly personal, one-on-one (or one-on-many) choreographed combat, which is certainly not something uniquely experienced by the Jewish people. In fact, the whole concept makes no sense: if Hollywood does have a certain responsibility for the moral content of its output, why should this responsibility stop at the executives? Shouldn't the directors, producers, actors, even the lowly best boy grip (whatever that is) carry some of the burden? In particular,

  • With crime and violence harming disproportionate numbers of African-Americans, shouldn't Vivica A. Fox have refused her role?

  • Lucy Liu is Chinese-American; knowing how the Chinese have suffered at the hands of foreign invaders, including whites, should she have just said no?

  • What about Japanese actors like Chiaki Kuriyama and Sonny Chiba -- should they have refused to participate, given that much of the film is about an American who slaughters Japanese? (I believe there was some recent experience with Americans killing lots of Japanese, just after the Holocaust, actually...)

  • This film's stars are all women, but shouldn't they all have refused to be in the movie, realizing that a more vulgar and violent society would be quite detrimental to women who did not happen to be elite assassins -- such as actresses?

  • While I'm at it, what about Christians who participated in the making, marketing, and selling of this movie? Didn't Jesus have some unpleasant experience with torture and violence some time ago?
Really, once you start this train of thought and apply Easterbrook's all-knowing moralism, everyone who has participated in this movie has done themselves and people like them a disservice. Yet Easterbrook seems to be extremely selective about whom he chooses to shoulder blame for what comes out of Hollywood, and more selective still about why.
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Today's moronic headline comes from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which handily informs us that
Kucinich says his priority is people
As opposed to other candidates, whose priority is termites and wombats.

Not that the good former mayor is deserving of more intelligent headlines:

He said he would create a Cabinet-level Department of Peace and work "to make war a thing of the past."
Uhhh yeah... Someone keep that man away from sharp objects, and get him a copy of 1984...
Sunday, October 12, 2003

Gray Roh?

This whole recall concept seems to be catching on.
Thursday, October 09, 2003
While the Western news sources debate the semantics of "suicide bomber" vs. "homicide bomber," the wise folks at al-Jazeera have found the perfectly meaningless term:
Violence continued on Thursday in the West Bank when a human bomber detonated explosives at an Israeli army base, killing himself and injuring two Israeli soldiers and a Palestinian.
This is as opposed to what -- a space-alien bomber? A robot bomber? A platypus bomber, perhaps?
It's always interesting to me how the wrong starting premise will often lead to a pointless argument, which will support a wrongheaded or simply silly conclusion. A lot of these right-left-whatever arguments aren't so much about facts or conclusions; they are about starting premises -- and until we dig up those and examine them, no amount of "exchange of ideas" can get us anywhere. Oftentimes, the starting premises are held rather closely and much emotional investment has been made in them, which makes it difficult if not impossible to dislodge them with mere ideas. Not that there's anything wrong with that: ideas and ideals held sacred are ultimately what defines us as people, and writ large, as cultures and societies. But that doesn't mean that all such premises are equally valid, or that they are not subject to examination.

Sorry for the high-minded spewing of truisms above, but I was just struck by a great example of this reading a post by Demosthenes. It's all about the recent bombing of an empty terrorist training camp in Syria, and Demosthenes begins as follows:

The problem here is relatively simple. Does Israel have the right to enter Syrian territory? If it does, should it have done so? If it doesn't, then does it matter?
And with the first sentence of his post, Demosthenes has already transported the entire argument into the realm of the nonsensical. One simply does not ask if a country has a right to do something. Rights are possessed by people -- i.e. individual human beings -- not countries. Israel can no more have a right to do something than it can have a stomach cramp. The words stick together, but they don't mean anything.

Of course, one could make the argument that this is simply shorthand for, Do the Israeli people, as represented by their government, have the right to enter Syrian territory? I can accept that, but the question has no more meaning under this construction. Israel is a sovereign nation, whose government is answerable only to its citizens, and no one else. As a sovereign power, Israel can do as it please, when it pleases -- and if it wants to invade Syria, or for that matter, Senegal or Slovakia, it can certainly do that. (The same applies to other countries, of course -- if Syria wished to invade Israel, it could go right ahead -- and tried to do exactly that several times. What ultimately keeps whatever shaky peace may exist between two nations is usually not the lack of desire to invade, but the lack of ability to get away with it.) Neither we nor the government of Israel needs to consider whether Israel has the "right" to do something -- whatever it is, as a sovereign nation, Israel has the right to do it.

Not surprisingly, Demosthenes takes the polar-opposite view:

The answer to the first question is relatively simple: No, it doesn't. National sovereignty isn't a grey area; countries are allowed to defend their borders against hostile intruders, but aren't allowed to venture into other countries to pre-emptively attack,
Indeed, national sovereignty is not a grey area, and sovereignty means the ability to take any action at will. Individual human beings, generally speaking, do not have sovereignty: we are all subject to the laws of our national governments, and usually several layers of more and more local authorities. The local authorities themselves are not sovereign; they owe allegiance to the national government. But the national governments are sovereign, and answer to no other authority. (Whatever limitations there are on government behavior in modern democracies essentially come from the body of national law wielded by the governments themselves, not outside agencies.) Demosthenes's language thus turns into nonsense again: countries are not "allowed" or "not allowed" anything, because there simply isn't any higher authority to do the allowing or disallowing. A country -- be it Israel or Lichtenstein -- does as it sees fit. End of story.
else there would be endless "pre-emptive" attacks that are, simply, attacks. (After all, any military you don't control is a potential threat.)
This is entirely true in theory. In practice, of course, attacks on other nations aren't undertaken lightly, for fairly obvious practical reasons: the loss of lives, the possibility of loss, the lack of desire (i.e. effort not worth gain) or the lack of ability. It has nothing whatsoever to do with who is "allowed" to do what. The several times they thought they could win, Arab countries attacked Israel quite eagerly, without bothering to secure any permits. They did not seek leave from the Demostheneses of this world, because they needed no such leave. What stopped them, and discouraged them for the future, was the repeated destruction of their armed forces at Israeli hands. Had they succeeded, what is now Israel would simply be so much Egyptian and Syrian territory, duly recognized by the global community, of course. (And if not, Egypt and Syria would hardly give a rip. Global recognition is not high on their list of priorities for the region.)

This isn't just a moral goal or political theory; it's a core concept of the U.N. Charter, to which Israel (and, yes, the United States) is a signatory (and, therefore, a benficiary).
I'm sure this strikes Demosthenes as authoritative, but it isn't. First, his dichotomy is false: the "core concept" of the UN Charter, and indeed the UN itself and the principles it is based upon, is nothing more than a collection of high-minded moral goals and naive political theories. Second, by signing the Charter, neither Israel nor the United States surrendered their sovereignty to the United Nations or relegated to same their exclusive responsibilities to safeguard their citizens. In a democratic republic, the latter takes precedence over everything else; it's the main reason the government is put in power. (In a dictatorship, of course, the power is the end goal.)

At any rate, the UN Charter, like any treaty, is a pact among equals, not a formation of a meta-government; the group has no authority over any individual member. Naturally, any Charter member can determine for itself whether any other member is in violation of the Charter, and denounce the violator or take other courses of action -- but in no way does this imply that the group is imbued with some kind of automatic authority over any of the members. The Charter is a diplomatic tool, and as such is merely one of many tools a country may use to influence other countries; force is another such tool. Even if a member flagrantly violates the Charter, that doesn't mean the violator has somehow exceeded its "rights" and is now "at fault" -- such concepts do not apply to sovereign nations. Naturally, there can be consequences, ranging from reduced credibility with other nations to outright hostile action by same -- but that is all they are: amoral consequences, not some kind of punishment for a moral default. (Seriously: to speak of any sort of "moral authority" wielded by Syria or the Sudan, is to render the very word "moral" completely useless.)

It doesn't matter whether it's Israel or Syria or Serbia or the Sudan or Jordan or Canada or India or Pakistan or Ethiopia that you're talking about. Crossing borders isn't, well, Kosher.
Once again, note the implied authority. What is or isn't kosher is, after all, a dictum from God, enforced by a group of men of undisputed authority. No such entity -- at least of the non-divine caliber -- is around for Israel to apply or appeal to. Demosthenes tries to create authority out of nothing; it doesn't work that way.

Demosthenes continues:

(Israeli advocates usually interject that the U.N. is hostile to Israel. I don't believe it is, innately, but even so that doesn't get Israel out of its Charter requirements.
On the contrary. Those requirements are not absolute, and the Israeli government isn't allowed to subordinate the well-being (indeed, the very lives) of its citizens to an agreement it signed with a bunch of other governments. If the Israeli government believes that bombing Syria is the way to secure the lives of its own citizens, it must do so, Charter be damned. The responsibility of a government is to its own citizens, not to other governments.

Naturally, one can make the argument (often correctly) that violating peace treaties endangers the citizens more, and should be avoided. Demosthenes applies such an argument to this situation, but not here. Here, instead, he tries to subjugate Israeli sovereignty to a piece of paper. Sorry, but that's not going to fly.

Furthermore, signing the Charter gave Israel certain entitlements -- for example, terminated hostility from other Charter signatories, not to mention UN protection if said hostility continued. Israel received neither: the other signatories are demonstrably hostile, and the UN vascillates between ineffectual empty gestures and outright cooperation with the Arabs. This, in fact, does absolve Israel from having to fulfill its side of the bargain -- the UN and other signatories have clearly failed to do their part. But frankly, the whole point is moot, as Israel is a sovereign nation and its government's only responsibility is to its own citizens.

You have to play by the rules if you want to benefit from them.
First, this is just false. Those who benefit the most under UN rules are exactly those who care about them least, which is why the UN Charter and similar well-intentioned reams of drivel are violated more often than a Bourbon Street hooker. And conversely, of all the member nations of the UN, Israel has arguably benefited least from the arrangement. Despite the fact that its conduct is demonstrably morally superior to that of any Arab country (indeed to that of most non-Arab countries), it has been dumped on, condemned, isolated, criticized, and reviled more than virtually any other UN member. When Israel was weak and called on the UN for help, all it got was admonitions against violence and useless condemnations of its neighbors' aggression -- and that was when the UN was not actively pro-Arab. In 1967, the UN cooperated with Nasser's invasion plan by removing its peacekeepers from the Sinai; today, it loudly condemns every Israeli threat against Arafat, even as it manages to find no human-rights violations in Iran. No, if you really want to benefit from having the UN around, you need to be a mass-murdering dictator who invades two nations and gasses his own villages. The UN will do its utmost to keep you in power.

Socrates understood this when he drank the hemlock, and Sharon should understand that now.
Perhaps the Israelis are not yet eager to commit suicide in the name of international cooperation.
They might also say that Israel needed to act in order to defend themselves. That's fine as an abstract, but the entitlement to *an* act doesn't mean entitlement to *any* act. Israel couldn't nuke Syria either, although that'd certainly solve the problem of Syrian-based camps.)
Again, when Demosthenes uses "entitlement" here, he is implying that some outside authority does the entitling. And again, it's just plain wrong. Israel can indeed nuke Syria; it chooses not to for its own reasons, which have nothing to do with who is allowed to do what. Were Israel Syria's moral equal, Damascus would have been radioactive glass a decade ago.
So, the question is... does it matter? That's tougher. The U.S. is onside, which is unsurprising considering that Sharon is simply adopting the Bush doctrine.
Once again, Demosthenes has a worldview that is, shall we say, interesting. The concept of a nation being willing to attack its enemies without waiting for the first attack predates Bush by a few millenia. Just because some UN document condemns something, doesn't mean it ceases to exist as an option. Israel itself did this to Egypt in 1967, when the creator of the Bush doctrine was attending frat parties. Sharon is adopting nothing; he is doing as he sees fit, which is his job as Prime Minister of Israel. (Actually, it's Sharon and the Israeli cabinet. Let's not conflate Israel with the autocratic Arab hellholes arrayed against it.)

With the U.S. onside, there can't be a security council resolution against Israel, and Israel has a history of ignoring the things anyway.
Which is exactly what they are for. The only way any resolution can be enforced is when other sovereign nations decide to take action to support it. As they virtually never do -- witness Iraq -- the whole concept is meaningless. And if Israel can't count on the UN to protect it from aggression, it correctly sees no need to abide by its edicts any more than its repugnant neighbors do.

Syria can't respond; they don't have the military might.
Yep. They can choose to try, but they know they won't succeed. That's what keeps the Israelis safe, not more UN paperwork and Kofi's impassioned speeches.
The Arab world as a whole could respond, but any real threat to Israel can be (and likely will be) met with a nuclear response.
True -- and this assumes that the Arab world is genuinely interested in risking its own blood and treasure for Syria. They've tried it several times when Israel was nuke-free and it didn't work out; the Arabs aren't about to mount a war they are going to lose -- not when there are still Palestinians to die for them on the cheap. It's not that Arab governments are particularly concerned with doing the right thing by "the world" or the UN; it's simply that they can't do anything without getting turned into rubble and scrap metal. Peace through strength, demonstrated.
The E.U. and the Russians won't be overly happy; the E.U. because they have to keep their large Muslim minorities happy...
Oooh, now this is an interesting line. So, like, why is it that the EU wants to keep its Muslims happy? Is it because they love the Muslim immigrants so much? Hardly -- they simply know that Muslim minorities who are unhappy are likely to riot, burn churches and synagogues, threaten the citizens of their host country, and get radicalized -- basically, what they are doing today, only more aggressively. Terrorist networks would get more members, and when the terrorists get frustrated in their fight against the Yankee Imperialists and the Zionist Aggressors, they might just lash out at the Decadent Infidels that ride with them on the Metro. So it's better to keep them happy, and hope they direct their anger at the Jews and the Americans instead -- after all, what are Jews and Americans going to do? Write a few letters and have a demonstration? Oh well -- at least the store windows remain intact, and that's what's important.

(Remember that bit about having to play by the rules in order to benefit from them? Consider the preceding yet another example to the contrary. The dictum only applies if the rules are vigorously enforced, and the Europeans abdicated on this years ago.)

...and the Russians because they're on the border with Iran and they know that Iran will only further step up its attempts to get the bomb, which is a serious threat to Russian security. That race for the bomb will be the #1 priority for Iran now, and I wouldn't be overly surprised if cash gets funnelled in from other parts of the Middle East to make it happen, because Israel's threat to "hit its enemies at any time in any place" will be taken very, very seriously.
You know, I've read this part several times, and I still don't understand it. Where has Demosthenes been all this time? Aside from the irrelevant points about what makes the EU and the Russians happy -- why should Israel care? -- did he honestly think that Iran had previously been holding back in its efforts to develop a nuclear weapon? The race for the bomb has been the #1 priority in Iran ever since Ayatollah Khomeini took over the Shah's easy chair, and the very Russians who are oh-so-worried about those weapons are the ones building up Iran's nuclear industry. (Which is, of course, really for peaceful energy generation. After all, why else would a poor country swimming in oil spend all that money on nuclear power plants, getting technology from a country with a checkered safety record?) At any rate, the Israelis will have to treat Iran the same way the treated Iraq on this matter -- that is, of course, assuming that the Americans don't do it for them.

Demosthenes seems to view security as walking on eggshells around your enemies, hoping they won't develop the capability to hurt you. It's a fool's dream, and it's not security -- in fact, it's the very opposite of security. There's only one way to achieve true security: by convincing the enemy that by attacking you, he will lose more than he'll gain. And if that fails, and the enemy still attacks, then there's only one way to achieve peace: through complete victory. Any fantasies to the contrary, involving Charters, Understandings, and International Frameworks, are just that -- fantasies. And any arguments based on sovereign nations being "not allowed" to do something, are self-refuting.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

People unclear on the concept

ROME (Reuters) - Anti-globalization demonstrators set fire to an employment agency, smashed cars and windows and hurled insults at government headquarters in Rome on Saturday as they gathered to protest against a European Union summit

Tens of thousands of demonstrators were due to march through a district south of Rome later to protest against the one-day summit, called to discuss an EU constitution. Organizers said 400,000 could attend.

The demonstrators say the proposed constitution is designed to promote the free market and capitalism and is not focused enough on the need to build peace and understanding.

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