Monday, January 31, 2005

right again

ok, gloating done.

Now, on to the fun part, complaining. I find it a little tiresome, this line that people have on the election, that, now, OK, the ball is in the court of the Shias to show that they can be responsible and give the Sunni's a place at the table anyway. Obviously it would be prudent to try and peel off the moderate Sunni's to the extent practicable, but does anyone else find it a bit odious that we continue to put the onus on the Shias? Have they been the ones going around threatening to and sometimes succeed at blowing people up for having the termerity to vote? I think the most striking fact has been the amazing restraint shown by the Shia in the face of the most extraordinary provocation. It is a little like going down to Mississippi after the voting rights act is passed and saying, "Ok, now, the important thing is for the negroes to act responsibly and make sure that the KKK supporters have a reason to feel that their interests are not going to be prejudiced by the fact that they succeeded in terrorizing so many people from going to the polls."

Thursday, January 27, 2005


Andrew Sullivan reports:

"RELEASED WITHOUT CHARGE: The final four Brits in Guantanamo were immediately released by the British government upon returning to the UK. They are charging torture. No formal charges of terrorism have been brought against them. Either we should be deeply concerned that potential terrorists are now at large or that innocent men have been held without any due process for three years and, if they were not British, would still be in jail. Which is it?"

I think he asks a very interesting question but one that excludes the middle, as Aristotle would say. One would presume that a large number of Al Qaed members were in Afghanistan but that most had never gotten to the point where they had committed what would normally be called a crime, i.e., participating in a direct conspiracy to perform a specific terrorist act at a specific time and place. There must be a large number of detainees that they were members of al Qaeda and had therefore taken an oath to attack America, went through a training program to do that and fought with them in the war. Those actions are good reasons for the Americans to hold them even though none of those actions are explicitly crimes. Applying standards of criminal law to such persons would mean they were innocent.

But innocent does not mean not dangerous. Imagine that they had been let free soon after being picked up in Afghanistan but were subsequently involved in a terrorist act against the US. What would be our reaction? I can imagine us saying now, "Well, that is the price we pay for being a civilized world," but I can also imagine a government being in a great deal of trouble. After all, they had by their actions clearly conveyed in a general sense thier intention to do harm to the US. No government whose citizens having subsequently been attacked by such people would have a right to say they didn't see it coming.

I think there is a problem applying the legal paradigm to this problem. After all, I would imagine that many of the soldiers in the German or Japanese Armies never fired a shot in anger or directly participated in anything that they could be arrested for. My Uncle delivered mail in the Phillipines in WWII, not a crime against the Japanese but still part of the American War effort and still enough for any Japanese soldier that saw him to lawfully shoot him or take him prisoner. Maybe the problem is that we need to make joining certain types of organizations itself a crime?

The whole thrust of western civilization has been to move from treating people as members of collectives to treating them as individuals. This is surely an advance to the extent membership in these collectives were based on characteristics that a person can do nothing about, e.g., being of a certain race or nationality. But that may not be true for a collective one voluntarily joins. The reason you can shoot members of the opposing army without inquiring what they have done as individuals is that war is a clash of groups, not individuals. Asking what crimes these released members of Al Qaeda have committed seems to being applying the standards applied to individual activity through criminal law to the collective activity of war.

Michael Reinhard

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


I predict these elections in Iraq will be a huge success. I think the turnout will be above 60% even in Sunni areas and even if it isn't it won't matter. Sunni's not being able to vote because of Sunni terrorists is really not a knock on the other 80% of Iraqis and in any case, a democratically elected government is a very hard thing to dismiss.


I have a horrible cold and workload that prevent me from blogging just at the moment, but I would just like to go on the record for the benefit of the contemporary world and posterity that I think the Iraqi elections will be a big success. I have thought that all along and nothing has happened to make me less confident. I think turn out will be in the 60% range enven in Sunni areas and even if it isn't I predict that it will not matter. A democratically elected government is a difficult thing to dismiss.

Monday, January 10, 2005

society for self-congradulatory anachronism

There is a pattern in movies where we go back but take most of ourselves with us.
The pattern is straightforward. A hero, tortured by the his own past and his participation in the crimes of his own society is thrust into the midsts of an oppressed group. He learns their ways and comes to understand them. Then he has a great moral revalation about the importance and moral superiority of this oppressed group and, of course, the moral inferiority of his own group. The climax of the story is involves the hero making some sort of revelatory speech and members of the oppressed group looking on in gratitude for his revalation of thier own moral superiority and members of the hero's group sputtering in anger and storming away in a huff as only those who know deep down inside that they are truly the guilty ones can do.
These movies serve a political purpose just as plain as the movies made during WWII did--they validate the moral order that reigns among the people making the movies. The key is that the hero reacts to the situation not as a man of that time would but as a person of our time would. And the oppressed and oppressors have little relation to the historical groups they are to represent but are fully determined by the supposed virtues and faults of the contemporary political collectives they are meant to represent. Even when the story draws from a history situation where there was a hero acting against an oppressive group the hero's motives and conduct are not one of a person of thier time but of a person of our time transplanted into historical reality that is only costume deep. The three examples of the genre I will examine in this chapter are "Dances with Wolves," "The Last Samurai," and "Iron Jawed Angles."


Fellow came up to me. He was from Sri Lanka. He mentioned how funny it was the Americans started doing something about disaster relief only after the argument was made that failure to do so would be used by Al Qaeda to increase support among the Muslim victims of the disaster. Aside from being patently false the interesting thing is that he did not expect me to be offended. Nor did he have any reason to think I would be. After all, I am an academic and academics aren’t Americans, they are citizens of the world. His years in the U.S. academic world had lead him to expect that a professor would naturally see himself as a citizen of the world, not of America. He was not being provocative in insulting my country since, as a fellow academic, he implicitly assumed that my country was the “cosmopolitos” or “cosmotopia” that imagined community of the enlightened that will one day rule the world as soon as the U.S. can be persuaded to cede sovereignty to the UN and fund enough international bureaucrats.