Tuesday, May 31, 2005


What is really appalling about the comparison to the Gulag is the trivialization it entails about the deaths of up to 20 million human beings, people who did nothing wrong other than have the wrong class or ethnic background. The apology that is owed is to the victims of Communism. To make such a comparison is to trivialize their suffering and to impune thier character--these people were not members of a terrorist organization. The idea of comparing people--men, women and children--that were starved to death for the 'crime' of being in the wrong ethnic group to members of a terrorist organization whose main health complaint has been gaining weight is, frankly, sick.

Monday, May 09, 2005


Why is it that we are supposed to be agast when an investigator starts out with pre-concieved notions about what he will find unless the pre-concieved notions are ones of which the intellegentsia approves? If a social scientist started out to find the ill effects of abortions or divorce he would be charged with being unscientific but if he is committed to drawing attention ot the ill-effects of global warming we applaud his public spiritedness?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Felon disenfranchisment

It seems the minium requirement for a voice in writing the laws is obeying them yourself. How can anyone who does not follow the law claim a voice in deciding what rules his fellow citizens should be punished for not following? It seems as basic as taxation without representation. Indeed, it seems closely aligned to the obverse proposition: if you don't pay your taxes why should you be allowed a voice in deciding them? Voters gleefully apply this maxim to candidates all the time.

Just Because People Hate You

David Ignatius makes an interesting parallel between our situation after the Civil War and the War in Iraq. Both had unexpectedly difficult postwar periods marked by insurgents undermining democracy.

The key point to remember is that the bad outcome in the South was driven by the success of the KKK in making the main cleavage racial instead of economic. The white planter elite succeeded in making the poor whites side with them against their natural economic and political allies, the newly freed slaves. The fact that the white elites succeeded didn't make them right; it was all the more reason to oppose them.

Apply this thinking to Iraq. The insurgents are trying to make the main cleavage Islam vs. the West. They are, fortunately, succeeding to a much lesser extent that the KKK did a century ago. But to the extent they do succeed there are some in the West that want to take this as a reason to abandone the project. Such people are in the same position as those who said that we should abandone the South to the KKK.

Moral Balance of Power

One of the things that makes a lot of reasonable people wonder about our foreign policy is the fact that so much of world public opinion is against us. How can so many of our allies be against us if we are doing the right thing? In fact, the allies being against us is not strange at all if one thinks in terms of moral politics. Nations strive, not just for security, but for the ability to think well of themselves.

Balance of power politics can be played out in moral realms just as easily as in territorial contests. In many ways, the same rules apply. The weaker combine together against the stronger. In the case of moral politics the moral leadership of the world community which we are constantly warned we are in danger of losing or have already squandered by alienating world opinion, is precisely the reason world opinion has turned against us.

We are in the moral leader of the world. As the nation that has done the most to effect moral outcomes in the world, the rest of the world’s nations, in ganging up on us, are only doing in the realm of moral politics what nations have always done in the realm of power politics. If one doubts this motivation look at the UN human rights record. Virtually the only human rights issues dealt with are those that can be laid at the door step of the US or Israel. Is it really plausible to think that nothing worth comment by the international human rights community has occurred in China or North Korea? Why such silence? Because the talk’s only purpose is only to redress an imbalance of moral standing, moral power. The goal of such international organizations is not to create a more moral world but to see that moral credibility is distributed more evenly, or at least is not monopolized by one power.

Think of the US in the interwar years again. All of our moral censure was directed against the British, we had very little to say about the Germans or the Japanese, or at least that was the case for a significant subset of US opinion. The reason is that in addition to being militarily superior Britain was a moral superpower and, as such, out chief competitor. As we were protected by Britain’s armed power we had a moral incentive to take them down a notch in the moral realm. The cognitive dissonance of being the beneficiary of Britain’s engagement in the real world was a threat to our good opinion of ourselves, our moral vanity. This required us to focus on Britain’s moral shortcomings, real or imagined, to the near exclusion of the moral failings of the other side.

This is good to keep in mind when we feel self righteous about the moral preening of the Europeans, criticizing us while they have prospered under our protection. They are only doing what we did to Britain for over a century.