Monday, November 27, 2006


There are lots of things one might call the belief that talking to Kim Il Jung or Assad will lead to their realizing that we have a common stake in reducing violence and bringing about a democratic Iraq. “Realistic” is hardly one of them. And yet it is now received wisdom among the elite that somehow talking to these people will make them come around.

If realism means anything it would seem to be the acceptance that other countries may not have your best interests at heart.

If you accept that you have conflicting interests you are in a bargaining situation, and the only real question is what costs and what benefits you can offer the other side for acceding to your wishes.

It is possible that there are some messages that have to be delivered in person, but the thing about imposing future costs is that they are usually costly to the nation imposing them as well as the nation imposed upon. In that case it might well be that agreeing to talks, particularly when the world is demanding it, might deliver exactly the wrong message. It might bespeak and unwillingness to bear up under international criticism, criticism that will surely be sharper in the face of delivering real costs—such as, say, a military strike—than they are in the case of simply not agreeing to sit down one on one with someone.

It may do more than send an unfortunate signal, it may send an unintended benefit. By sitting down to talk one on one with your adversary you are confering upon him a certain amount of legitimacy. By seeking another agreement you are in part letting him off the hook for trashing the last one.

Hitler's generals were said to have relaxed their opposition to his aggressive stance against France and Great Britain after Chamberlain agreed to direct talks with the Furher. Nothing increases a leaders stature like shaking hands with aonther world leader for the camera. American Presidents routinely go abroad to repair thier stature with the domestic public; it is a commonplace of political punditry that interacting with a foreign leader, any foreign leader, increases the president's domestic standing.

If it works for the leader of the free world when he meets leaders with far less power than he, imagine the effect on the standing of the leaders of lesser powers when they are seen on TV back home being greeted by the leader of the free world as an equal.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Steyn's "I told you so," of the day:

Where have all the Euro-weenies gone? Or, if they are not gone, to what use are they being put?

Pontiac Aztec

Baring being invisible to radar there is no excuse for a car this ugly.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

that darn Pope guy

The Pope has got us all into trouble. He has quoted one of his predecessors to the effect that Islam is a violent religion. Angry mobs throughout the Muslim world have protested, claiming that Islam is a religion of peace and that anyone who implies that it isn’t must be put to death where ever they are found.

The Muslims are understandably offended. Given that this Pope that Pope Gregory is quoting was under siege by Muslim armies and would in fact, just two years later be killed and see his city sacked by the followers of the world’s number one religion of peace, he was hardly an unbiased observer. Of all the Patriarchs of the Eastern Orthodox Church he could have quoted, he chooses one that was killed by Muslims. And then he wonders why they are offended.

The timing couldn’t be more tragic. The wounds were just beginning to heal in the Muslim world inflicted by nervous stares so many Muslim men were unjustly subjected to in airports of the Christian world after the last hijacking.

Still, this misconceived connection in the mind of people outside the Sublime faith is so widespread that the origins of the misconception are worth looking into. One source of the misconception are certain historical facts such as the liberal application of the death penalty to the unbelievers.

This is first of all just plain incorrect. The leaders of the Muslim world in its heyday far from forcing people to convert by the sword actively discouraged it. They even set up financial incentives to prevent themselves from backsliding on religious tolerance by taxing dihimmis (the word for nonbelievers in living under Muslim protection) at a higher rate. That way if any of them, in a moment of weakness, ever did start to mix religion and the sword they would be penalizing themselves financially. The system worked so well that the Sultans actively discouraged conversion to the final revelation. The only time they would punish people was when they left it to convert back to their original religion, which would signal that the person had been evading their taxes all the time they were pretending to be a Muslim. So even this small intrusion of force into matters of religion could be looked at as much as a matter of taxation as religion.

The Muslims of the past not only compare favorably with their Christian contemporaries, they were progressive enough to be able to teach our so-called advanced societies something today. Many Western societies are intolerant of different modes of dress. In France, for instance, girls are barred from wearing the hijab to school and in the Netherlands they are forced to bare their faces to grown men outside their families to have drivers license photos taken.

The Caliphate was so tolerant faith based sartorial diversity that they actually enforced it. Jews got to wear a special armband, Christians got to wear a special hat. And they were all encouraged to express their unique and rich heritages by riding on donkeys, instead of horses, which was the preferred vehicle of Muslim self-expression in transport.

Now there is no compunction in religion. Some people are unfairly generalizing from some isolated incidents of friction between the Muslim world and the infidels. Naturally, a naïve observer might get the wrong idea from the ‘forced’ confessions of the two Fox News Reporters after they had been kidnapped in the West Bank. This one had the Imams working overtime denouncing misguided attempts to generalize about the nature of the Muslim faith from this incident that these kidnappers did not represent Islam. One can understand their frustration. They have had a busy year of massacres committed in the name of their religion to explain had nothing to do with their religion. The high-school girls beheaded in Thailand, the report that majority of rapes committed in the Netherlands were committed by the 5% ‘non-Dutch’ population.

Their difficulties were compounded by what one can most charitably term misguided suggestions on the part of some non-Muslims that the Imams would be more convincing if they had spent less time denouncing those who wondered aloud about the connection between Islam and the violence committed in its name and more time denouncing those who committed violence in its name.

Though one suspects that such suggestions are disingenuous, it is probably worth reviewing why the Imams would not do so in the interests of not playing into the hands of the intolerant.

Obviously, if the Imams were to denounce, say, the kidnappers of the two Fox reporters, they would be playing into the hands of those that wish to draw a connection between Islam and terrorism. It is bad enough that those who wish to smear Islam have the handful of fanatics committing intolerant acts creating a connection in the public mind between Islam and terrorism. How much worse would it be if every time the viewer saw a prominent Imam denouncing some one who happens to be Muslim for committing an act of terror, or worse, compulsion in religion? The people that know this is false know it a priori, that all religions are equally true, that all religions have their fanatics (don’t make us go through medieval history books to dig up our own) and that any temporary correlations that may appear to obtain between any of the world’s faith communities can only be the residual effects of that community’s oppression by another. The people that don’t know this have managed to persist in such retrograde beliefs in spite of at least 12 years of state mandated sensitivity training. How can we expect foreign teachers to succeed where our own efforts have failed?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Confirmation Bias and Jon Bene

Great example of confirmation bias in the news right now with the arrest in the Jon Bene Ramesey murder. The police initially became suspicious of the Father when he found the body. The initial police report is full of “telling” details, like how the Father got more and more nervous the longer it took to find her, that he seemed to be unable to stand the tension as the police were unable to turn up any sign of his daughter. That he finally struck off on his own and seemed to go directly to where the body was. And then he deliberately messes up the crime scene in bringing his daughter’s body up stairs and pretending to try and revive her.

Of course all of these details are also consistent with a Father not knowing where his daughter is. The longer it takes to find her the more worried he gets. He gets an idea of where she might be. He goes straight there because it is his house, not a particularly large house, and he knows that all the other places have been checked. He messes up the crime scene because he is inexperienced at finding his daughter murdered and doesn’t really know how to investigate a murder—something which might equally be said of the Denver police.

As is often the case the theory that gets first refusal on the facts happens to flatter the vanity of the theorizer (confirm their identity, as we are supposed to say in academia) or otherwise somehow serve his interests. The reason that the daughter was not found by the police while the Father went straight to her had nothing to do with the incompetence of the police if the Father is the murderer.

This is why it is important to have a lot of theories that one can bring to bare on a question ready and deployable before hand.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Insensitive to the feelings of Fascists

Well, once again Bush has done it, undermining attempts to “build bridges to the Islamic community.” According to Abu Shahid, by saying that we are at war with “Islamic fascists.” She demands an apology and I agree. President Bush owes an immediate and heartfelt apology to the Fascist community.

What did the Fascists ever do to be associated with these people? Sadly, the Fascists are not here to speak for themselves (a less enlightened generation of Americans, not understanding the futility of trying to solve a political problem by military means, failed to leave enough Fascists alive to keep up their end of the public dialogue), I will do my best to explain why the fascists have a right to be offended.

Unfortunately no one wants to speak for the Fascists, tarring all with the same Jew murdering brush, even though the proportion of fascists that actually killed Jews is laughably small. It is as if all the people of Islam were expected to be silent just because a small proportion of their co-religionists go about blowing up airplanes. But leave that aside, how can we justify comparing Fascists to these clowns in the Middle East?

Now part of the reason that Fascists are held in such low esteem is the way they treated civilians. In particular, the Fascists had a bad habit of murdering children. The pictures of little Jewish children baring their arms to display the tattoos the Nazi’s had given them at the death camps has been a particularly difficult image to live down. But say what you will about how the Fascists treated other people’s children, they were reluctant to hide behind their own. Can you recall any stories about Germans building gunnery emplacements near schools? Loading up the van that transports missiles with kids before heading off to the front?

And uniforms. If there is one thing that defines the present conflict in Lebanon and Iraq it is that the Islamic side refuses to wear uniforms. Now comparing the Fascists to people that don’t wear uniforms when they fight is grossly unfair—if ever there were a people that loved uniforms it was the Fascists. And they looked good in them.

Even when the Germans used children as soldiers during the final fight for Berlin they were careful to put them in uniforms.

Now this is not the whole story. The Arabs like uniforms just fine. Anyone who has seen their interminable parades of tanks and even guys dressed up for suicide would have to admit that they love uniforms and have even made contributions to the art of uniform design—who before the Islamists could have come up for a suicide bomber. In the homes of some Palestinians there are even photographs of the family toddler dressed up in a little Shaheed uniform.

But the difference is that the Arabs seem to lose all there enthusiasm for uniforms when it is time to fight. Those uniforms we see during the Hezbollah day parade are for display to adoring crowds; when it comes time to actually fight the uniform becomes and impediment.

And this is why it is so unfair to tar the Fascists with the Islamic brush. The uniform is not just a fashion statement. It is a tool to make oneself a target in order to protect the non-combatants on your own side. And herein lies the reason that the Arab/Islamist enthusiasm for uniforms dims as soon as the shooting starts. Wearing a uniform represents a double loss. It makes the ‘soldier’ more vulnerable to getting killed and makes the civilian less so. Given that generating casualties among their chief war aims actually wearing a uniform to the fighting represents a lose-lose for the Islamist. True, the Jews are not entirely blameless here: it is after all the reluctance of the Israelis to knowingly kill civilians that presents the Islamic side with the temptation in the first place. But the same bait was dangled in front of the Fascists under even more dire circumstances and taking it was never even contemplated. Advantage Fascists.

To be fair there are some points on which the Islamists have bragging rights. For instance, in being clear on ones intentions. Hitler, as one may recall, did not demand that Europe bow down and submit to Nazi rule. He negotiating position was that he just wanted Justice for the Germans of Czechoslovakia. True, a new local grievance was found as soon as the last “final demand” was met (protection from Polish aggression being my favorite), but at least Neville Chamberlain could claim that he had the problem of figuring out what the real Fascist intentions really were.

There was that whole Mein Kamph, thing where Hitler indiscreetly laid out plans for world domination and the elimination of the Jews from the face of the Earth, but, wily old Fascist he was, the Furher passed these off as youthful indiscretions in the actual negotiating sessions with Neville. Thus the British leader could legitimately say he had the problem of deciding if Hitler really meant it when he called a demand “final.”

The Islamists, by comparison, have been admirably forthright in both their intentions, both in the conflict with Israel and their larger plans for the whole Dhihimi community. President Adimejad has made no secret about his plans for world Jewry. He has relieved the rest of the world of the burden of deciding whether any ceasefire agreed to by the Islamists would be genuine. “The real solution to the problem is the destruction of Israel, but a temporary cease fire at this time could be justified for humanitarian reasons.” And this commitment to honesty and openness—the keys to any negotiation one would agree—is not just something on the fringe of Islamic society. Recall these encouraging remarks by the leader of the “moderate” wing in Iranian politics. “The nuclear weapon will be useful to us in our fight against Israel since with a couple of weapons we can destroy all of Israel but their retaliation could only destroy a small proportion of Dar al Islam.”

If only the Fascists had been so forthright. There is one thing where the Islamists and the Fascists can be fairly compared. Neither of them can be appeased.

Friday, August 11, 2006

No war movies

Richard Corless speculates on why there are no movies about 9/11. Only 2 so far. He gets it wrong and he inadvertently reveals the real reason in his suggestions for what kind of movies could be made: Holly Wood's ideology is too far out of touch with the way the rest of America feels, or at least felt, in the first four years after 9/11.

The kind of movie he thinks should be made is one that exposes the "real" reasons behind the invasion of Iraq or lays bare the ways that Bush manipulated public opinion to its own purposes after the attack. The kind of movies that people would have wanted to see were the kind that he gives backhanded praise to in his article, the ones that were being made after WWII, ones about a confrontation between good and evil.

Notice that Clooney portrays his two movies as being relevant to contemporary events--his movie about McCarthyism and his movie about a CIA plot to install a compliant dictator in a small Arab country. In other words, movies where America is the real villain. These are the only kinds of movies that Hollywood and contemporary intellectuals would regard as serious. Clooney made them about imaginary or long past situations because he thought, probably correctly, that movies with such a thesis would not be well received if about contemporary events. This is what Hollywood liberals mean when they talk about people not being ready for movies on this subject. People are not ready to hear that their sons are dying for a lie, and the "real" causes or 9/11 are America's own actions in the past.

This is why the only movies explicitly about 9/11 are so narrow in focus, concentrating only on the immediately effected participants. The heroism of ordinary Americans is something that Hollywood and the rest of America can agree on. Go any larger than that and the disagreements become too large.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The UN's efforts for peace

Oh joy, oh bliss! Working tirelessly, the great minds of the diplomatic world have finally reached a consensus on how to solve the crisis in the Middle East. The Jews should surrender.

There are some details to be worked out of course, concerning what the diplomats refer to as “modalities.” The Arabs are steadfast in their insistence that the surrender be effected in the traditional following the traditional Arab practice of the surrendering party’s army dropping their weapons and fleeing in disarray. The French, with their traditional sensitivity to dignity, propose that the Jews maintain good discipline and march out in formation with their hands in the air. The American diplomatic core, dismissing these proposals as unbefitting a great power, have proposed instead that the Israelis merely withdraw unannounced, perhaps throwing a few helicopters over the side of some aircraft carriers as a sop to world opinion.

Unfortunately, the Jews have other ideas. The seem almost willfully oblivious to the benefits to Arab self-esteem and eventual peace of unilateral withdraw. They seem to think that an attack across an international border and the indiscriminate—indeed unaimable—rocket firings seem to require some sort of response. Indeed, they go so far as to maintain that the precedent set by a powerful nation allowing an armed gang to attack their civilian population with impunity would somehow encourage more of the same. The 6 million Jews living in the state of Israel point to the stated intention of the 200 million Arabs surrounding them to wipe the Jews off the face of the Earth as some sort of justification for treating the situation as a war. They treat the statement of intentions as some sort of guide to their enemy’s intentions, instead of what all sophisticated people know it to truly be: a cry for help.

For surely, as every educated person knows, people don’t just hate for no reason. They do not hate someone simply because they are better than them. They only hate because they have been oppressed. The Israelis, instead of recognizing the persistent hatred of the people surrounding them as evidence of Israeli mistreatment of the Arabs and taking it as an occasion to search their souls and formulate proper acts of contrition, treat it as a justification to defend themselves!

Instead of seizing this golden opportunity to demonstrate their contrition and commitment to peace by allowing Hezbollah to go on amassing missiles from their patrons in Iran, the Israelis go on using the excuse of ball-bearing loaded missiles being launched at their cities as a pretext for bombing those rockets—in spite of the Israelis being perfectly well aware of the Arab custom of building pre-schools next to rocket launchers.

This callous indifference to multicultural norms can no longer be tolerated by the international community. Israeli intolerance is testing the world's tolerance.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


We have live pictures from the attack on Haifa on TV right now. Notice how different the atmosphere is compared to the Qana bombing. people rushing around, no one posing the corpses for the cameras, no one contorting on queue for the cameras.

Last gasp

I don't want to get started with the sad and somewhat desperate speculation that the increasing intensity of an insurgent group's attacks indicates that the insurgents are losing. There has been enough of that in the case of Iraq. But I do think that the increased frequency of Hezbollah rocket launches could indicate that some of their launching pads are under pressure.

If you are surrounded by the Israeli army you know that you are going to lose all of your rockets soon, so you have no choice but to use them or lose them.

But even more importantly they are beginning to launch at night. Before, they would only launch during the day because at night the flames from the end of the rocked can be more easily picked up by Israeli drones. Today two landed in Haifa at night. One has apparently caught a lot of people in a building. They were not in a bomb shelter because the rockets always landed during the day.

A reporter on the scene says that the daytime firing indicates strength on the part of Hebollah, a sort of declaration that we can launch anytime they want. That may be the case, but it seems that it is just as consistent someone deciding that the rockets must be used or sacrificed.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Hezbollah's blunder

Hezbollah is apparently calling for a cease fire. What a blunder. Don't they know that the ineffectual Israeli bombing campaign is just creating more recruits for there organization in the long run? Don't they read Robert Pape? The New York Times?

If only

points out that if only Gibson had substituted the word "Israelis" for "Jews" in assigning blame for all the wars in the world he would have been spared a scandal and probably been raised in stature.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Quote of the Day from President of Iran (whose name I still cannot spell

Courtesey of Hugh Hewitt:

"Today, the Iranian people is the owner of nuclear technology. Those who want to talk with our people should know what people they are talking to. If some believe they can keep talking to the Iranian people in the language of threats and aggressiveness, they should know that they are making a bitter mistake. If they have not realized this by now, they soon will, but then it will be too late. Then they will realize that they are facing a vigilant, proud people."

Good thing they are not interested using that nuclear stuff for weapons.

They're involved

Quote from an Israeli pilot talking about the Qana incident from a Guardian article critical Israeli "whitewash":

"What do you do if you see hundreds of rockets and they are against your family? For me, I hit the target. Once these civilians are letting people use their houses, they are involved."

That about sums it up for me.

Mel Gibson again

The real theme that runs through Gibson's films is hatred of the British. The Jews are an afterthought. And there is the real key to his ideology. It is envy. The British and the Jews are people that have succeeded and triumphed through their own prowess. It is a particular kind of small mind that is attracted to the idea that some powerful group is responsible for all their problems. In the context of American society these things--anti semitism and antipathy for the English--have not gone together, but in the rest of the world this is probably a common coupling.

I think that it is very important for conservatives and religious people to take the lead in condemning Gibson the way we did in condemning Trent Lott. We have often pointed out that the failure of Muslims to condemn terrorism justifies suspicion that Muslims as a group are complicit in terrorism.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Pape takes some interesting facts and uses them to support a completely wrong-headed conclusion.

He shows that the suicide bombers of Hezbollah are not usually personally fundamentalists but in fact come from a broad spectrum of society, representing a range of religious and political convictions. He infers from this that they are motivated by the incursions on their territory by Israel and that trying to wipe them out militarily will only increase their ability to recruit.

It is true they believe that their land has been violated by the presence of foreigners, but the key question is what are borders of the land that they consider to be violated. The violation is not the borders of Lebanon but the borders of the Dar al Islam. It is not the borders of Isreal but its existence that constitutes the incursion. Why else would Israel's evacuation of Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank have lead to increasing its attacks instead of reducing them?

What is the point of saying the whole problem will go away if you withdraw from what your enemies consider "occupied territory?" The current conflict came after Israel withdrew from the occupied territory.Hezbollah's's response was to stock up on missiles. And doesn't the effectiveness of his advice depend crucially on how the other side defines the territory that is occupied?

If the evidence from the suicide bombers themselves about their motivation is so crucial when it concerns whether they are religiously motivated, why don't we listen to them when they tell us what the territories they consider to be occupied are? Isn't it the case that they refer to Israel itself to be occupied territory?

What is the point of saying the whole problem will go away if you withdraw from what your enemies consider "occupied territory?" The current conflict came after Israel withdrew from the occupied territory.Hezbollah's's response was to stock up on missiles. And doesn't the effectiveness of his advice depend crucially on how the other side defines the territory that is occupied?

If the evidence from the suicide bombers themselves about their motivation is so crucial when it concerns whether they are religiously motivated, why don't we listen to them when they tell us what the territories they consider to be occupied are? Isn't it the case that they refer to Israel itself to be occupied territory?

Pape makes much of the finding that the divisions between socialists and religiously motivated terrorists are brought together by hatred for Jews and Christians. He uses the ecumenicsim of the Islamic Fascist movement to support his argument that there is some secular demand, some reasonable amount of territory that could be given up to appease this movement. But the same finding could also support a clash of civilizations view of the conflict. After all, Fascism in Germany brought together a broad spectrum of German society as well. The Islamists' motivation is not some definable piece of territory that could be given back settling the whole thing. They want to regain the power and glory of Islamic civilization. The honor of that civilization was martial in nature and they will only be satisfied by being able to dominate and expand against the outsiders the way they once were able to.

The observation that the recruits for Hezbollah are from a broad range of ideological and sectarian leanings could mean that they are all motivated by some satiable territorial demand. But it is also consistent with the clash of civilizations interpretation of the conflict.

"Given Syria’s total control of its border with Lebanon, stemming the flow of weapons is a job for diplomacy, not force." What? Doesn't that mean that the force is merely being directed to the wrong place? The fact that Syria has effect control over whether Hezbollah gets weapons or not merely means that changing Syria's behavior is one wato achieveee Israel's goals. Changing Syria's behavior could be brought about by military means or diplomacy.

He says that his data shows that the only thing that ends suicide bombings is withdraw by the occupier. But suicide attacks from Lebanon were not the problem for the Israelis, were they? Just because he did a study of suicide bombers doesn't mean that every problem is suicide bombers.

And there is this lazy assumption that because a movement is "popular" it is invincible. Destroying Nassar's army apparently increased support for him and hatred of Israel. We now hear reports that Hezbollah is getting more popular as "the only force that can defend the country," leaving out that the only reason anyone as any interest in attacking the country is Hezbollah. We can't fight the enemy because that will make the enemy more popular.

But we have wasted 50 years basing our policy on the notion that there is some deal to be made if only we are nice enough to the other side. Lets try winning. Winning decisively. Winning so clearly that even the Arafantasistts can convince themselves otherwise.

It is odd that realism, which supposedly offers us a universal theory of international relations seems to shirk from applying its nostrums to the other side. Why doesn't a realist say to the Arabs that they are being irrational? That every state would have to respond is you attack its soldiers across an international border and start lobbing missiles at their population centers. That such actions will only increase the hatred on the other side. That the Israelis only ever attack in response to violations of their territory? As always in the case of Isreal, we have an ideology offering universal rules that are only enforced against one side--the Jews.

Mel Gibson

I am done with this guy. He is no longer acceptable to me as a public figure. I feel especially bad because I remember defending him after his movie came out. Now, everyone that argued he should be given a benefit of a doubt now look like complete fools. And so we should. Sometimes there really is coded racism.

What does it mean?

The fact that the people that used to run Iraq, the people that were allowed by the "international community" to sit in the UN and pronounce on the morality of US policies and were treated as "legitimate," are now murdering Shiites at random is being used as an argument that these same monsters should have been left in charge of the country. If Nazis had reacted to the defeat, occupation and democratization of their country by murdering people at random in public places (my apologies to any Nazis who may be reading this, since, after all, whatever they did to other's children never contemplated murdering their own), would we infer from that that we should have left them in charge of the country?

Either or

"We are not here to talk about Hezbollah"
I hate this dodge. When you are talking about a war there are two sides. You have to choose one or the other. When you make demands of one side that disadvantage it then you are advantaging the other side. This obligates you to address whether the other side is, on the whole, better or worse. If you demand on humanitarian grounds that the allies unilaterally stop bombing German cities and demand it stop you are obligated to address 1) whether this might lead to a German victory and 2) whether or not that result will not, in the end, be better or worse for humanitarian values.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Humanitarian Dodge

Just as the Bush and Blair were giving their press conference reports came in that a Hezbollah rocket hit a hospital. Did you catch the outrage in the UN? Neither did I. And to be fair, it is not as if Hezbollah's rockets can be aimed.

But there is no outrage because no one was hurt--the Israelis had already evacuated. No humans hurt, no humanitarian outrage.

And that is why the framing of demands in terms of "simple humanitarianism" is neither simple nor, necessarily, humanitarian.

By calling this a humanitarian crisis the issue of right and wrong, intentions and moral culpability, are conveniently sidestepped. The fact that these tragedies occur in spite of the best efforts of the Israelis, while they are only avoided on the other side only because of HezbollahÂ’s incompetence, is ruled out of order by calling it a simple humanitarian problem.

So we are telling anyone that attacks “us” (in the sense of a first world country) that all you have to do is fire from behind schools and hospitals at schools and hospitals (if you can aim) and you will have the world on your side.

saying it is a humanitarian problem makes taking a side not look like taking a side. The humanitarian position is that the killing should stop now--until the terrorist decide to start it again. And when they do start it again they will have all of their rockets atheirier ball bearing warheads intact and even replenished. The prisoners they have taken will still be held. And the terrorists will have been strengthened in the public opinion theirier own countries because they will have been seen to have come off the victors in an encounter with Israel.

The simple "humanitarian" position gives the terrorists in effect the right to attack civilians and to hide behind them, indeed, encourages the practice, since civilians dying on one side is the sole measure of the other side's morality. If you are willing to hide behind civilians you are awarded by the international community the right to do so with impunity, even if you are attacking the other side's civilians.

more later....

Kennedy and the Legal Class

Striking observations from Senator Kennedy:

"The Senate's constitutional role has helped keep the court in the mainstream of legal thought."

Well, maybe it is the job of the Senate to keep legal thought connected to the Constitution. Or keep the Judicial thought in the mainstream of American thought. Nothing better exemplifies the concept of hegemony than the way we make weighty moral and philosophical issues into the province of a profession that purports to be merely "interpreting" documents.

"Perhaps the biggest winner is the president himself. During Alito's hearing, I asked him about a 1985 job application in which he stated that he believed "very strongly in the supremacy of the elected branches of government." He backpedaled, claiming: "I certainly didn't mean that literally at the time, and I wouldn't say that today."

But he is willing to say it now. In the very recent case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld , Alito signed on to a dissent by Justice Clarence Thomas that asserts a judicial "duty to accept the Executive's judgment in matters of military operations and foreign affairs" as grounds for allowing the administration to use military commissions of its own design to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."

Now, I cannot imagine any of the signers of the constitution arguing with the notion of the supremacy of the elected branches. And the idea that courts' judgments in military operations and foreign affairs would have been laughable. The idea that the Senate was created by the founders to protect the perogatives of the legal class would have been the object of contempt.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Killer analogy

Here is a great analogy that Netenyahu used in an interview recently:

For instance, when a BBC interviewer accused Israel of harming Lebanese civilians, Netanyahu compared the situation to the British Royal Air Force's fight against the Nazis in World War II. He said that when the RAF targeted the Gestapo headquarters in Copenhagen in 1944, they missed and hit a children's hospital, but "that didn't make the British pilots terrorists and it didn't make the Nazis the good guys."

Great debaters have a great stock of analogies. The game here is volume and filing. You have to have a lot of analogies to fit them to each audience and situation. Even more difficult is the issue of retrival. You can always come up with these a day later. The key to getting them when you need them is to have an analysis based classification scheme that you can flesh out.


Isn't it disturbing that Israel could be so surprised by Hezbollah? A country with the best intelligence service in the world we are told, facing an exitential threat right across its border, is caught off guard by thousands of missiles in the hands of a bunch of guys that couldn't have to import anything with more than three moving parts. What if the things smuggled in we armed with chemical weapons rather than ball bearings? Or worse? This should make us cautious the next time we are asked to wait for hard evidence before we take steps to protect ourselves. In an anarchic world it may not be possible to wait for absolute proof before we act.

Easy targets

The thing that I haven't figured out is why we want to avoid a wider war, a war against states. Wars against states are easy, it is fighting the terrorists that states sponsor that is hard. A limited war against Syria or even Iran is a lot easier than trying to root out Hezbollah.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The threat

A similar argument clairfying the "proportionality" issue under just war theory is posted by Kenneth Anderson, a law professor at the American University Law School. I think that the one thing I would add is that the underlying threat that Israel is responding to is not just a stream of hostage takings and missile firings themselves. It is allowing a terrorist enemy to show the world that it can do such things with impunity. If it does so successfully, it will lead not only to more hostage takings and missiles, it will embolden others and encourage the idea that Israel is weak. The enemy wants to destroy their state. Like a mafioso or anyone whose survival depends on the perceptions of others of thier own prowess, the perception of weakness is more dangerous than provocations that lead to that perception.

Just War Theory

Very cogent argument by Michael Walzer that Israel's response is in line with just war theory.

One quibble, Walzer casts the argument solely in terms of a state's right to end the immediate problem of missiles and hostages. The need to put an end to these immediate harms are the sole justification he examines. But the fact that Hezbullah's long term goal is the destruction of Israel adds something else to this war. Because Hezbullah seeks to destroy Israel considerations of reputation and judgments that each side makes about the other to inflict and absorb pain come to the fore. Because the enemy is openly seeking to end the other's existence, merely solving the immediate problem is not enough. The conflict must end on terms that make it clear that Hezbullah lost and lost badly. Absent this, they will only return again stronger.

Return address

One of the arguments that I find unconvincing is that we don't need to worry about Iran having a nuclear weapon because they could never use it. If they did, we could retaliate since we would know where it came from. Call this the "return address" argument. It is often expanded to cover bombs that are delivered unconventionally since we would have a good idea where those came from too.

It seems to me that recent events undercut this line of argument. The people arguing that we need to engage Syria and Iran to shut down Hezbollah are tacitly, no, not even tacitly, admitting that those two nations are behind Hezbollah. They are, in effect, the "return address" of Hezbullah's Katushas. Since we are manifestly unwilling to hold the senders responsible in this case, presumeably out of fear of retaliation and Middle-East sentiments--it is not clear what grounds are there for confidence we would be willing to do so when the sender is armed with nuclear weapons.


It is so painful watching these Bush and Blair press conferences. You see Bush struggle through some vague and tortured set of ideas that leaves you with your head cocked to one side, and then Blair gets his turn and you see "Oh, that is what he was trying to say." It is like Blair is Bush's interpreter from stupid and smart. It is sometimes painful to be a Republican.
Fred Kaplan argues that the administration's goals for a long term solution are admirable but unrealistic:

"Finally, Bolton answered. What the administration has in mind, he said, is a region where nations stop supporting terrorism, stop importing weapons from China and North Korea, and where Lebanon has security institutions that can function independently of outside influence.
They're all nice wishes, but does anyone believe that they can be fulfilled soon? Bolton's words don't always reflect those of the administration (that's one of the problems his critics cite), but are they in accord here? Do Bush and his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, believe there's no point in pressing for a cease-fire without these conditions?"

These are fair questions and deserve a fair answer. It seems that, yes, these things could be done soon. It is a very easy thing to stop importing weapons and supplying them to Hezbullah. Very easy, since it only requires one nation to change its behavior: Syria. Indeed, the people pushing for negotiations of Syria use the fact that Syria is the main supplier of weapons as reason for negotiating with it. And yes, the Lebanese government could very easily establish control over the Southern part of its own territory, if they were given the resources to do so.

It is true, neither of these things are likely to happen soon, but the reason is not because of their inherent impracticality or even difficulty, it is the lack of political will in the West. Stopping Syria's supply of Hezbullah requires making Syria feel pain, something we are not willing to do. Giving the Lebanese government the resources to control its own territory is chiefly a matter of supplying troops that are able and willing to fight. Needless to say, the people loudly talking about the need for an immediate cease fire are the least likely to contribute to such a force.

The real question is then would a cease fire be better or worse than continued war?

Stopping now means a pause before Hezbullah resumes its terror campaign again. There is no point in pressing for a cease fire barring those conditions given that Hezbullah will use the cease fire to strengthen its position militarily and politically. The cease fire would only make Hezbullah--a party that makes no secret of its intention to destroy Israel--look like they had stood up to the Israelis and feed the fantasy eventually wiping Israel off the map.

The over 1,000 missiles with ball bearing warheads have no other purpose but terror. Leaving them in the hands of a force determined to destroy you is a rational act only if you believe that the force holding those missiles will be weaker or more favorably disposed toward you at some later date.

The question that cease-fire now advocates must answer is if the Syrians and Iranians are not willing to reign in Hezbullah while Israel is destroying them, why would they become more willing to do so once Hezbullah is safe behind a cease-fire?

Not enough killing

Josh Marshall argues that the massive scale of violence and decisive defeat inflicted on Japan and Germany are what made the transformations of those societies possible. He used this example to support the argument that we were pulling our punched in Iraq. The argument surely has some merit as applied to our failure to destroy Iraqi Republican Guard Units that were left largely intact at the end of the war are a large part of the resistance we face today. The failure to win total victory not because of military considerations but because of political considerations has been a consistent feature of the US and Israel's prosecution of the conflict, for example during the Suez crisis, the decision to not destroy Egypt's 3rd Army during the Yon Kippur war. Examples could be multiplied of Israel's refusal to press military advantage out of concern for longterm Arab good will.

The "not defeated enough" argument was made at length by Nail Ferguson in his History of WWI. The Allies decision to grant an Armistice to the Germans before the German army was destroyed in a way that was apparent to the German people themselves was what made it possible for the inter-war generation of Germans to believe that they could have won had they not been betrayed by German liberals.

The example of the Germans suggests that we are missing something very important when we think about public opinion in the Arab world solely in terms of minimizing hostilities and civilian casualties and ending hostilities as soon as possible. The benefits of such a policy may be outweighed or at least compromised against the cost of support those in the Arab world argue that the Arab world can win through military confrontation.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Kofi's rent-a-hostage service

Well, that didn't take long. It seems that the Hezbullah fighters were not "miles away" but "all over us," according to emails from one of the dead UN observers.

Imagine that? Terrorists using the UN as Shields. I mean, I knew they hid behind their own women and children, but the UN? That is going to far. I expect a big outcry from the international community any minute now.

What are the UN observers but hostages for hire?

There is one unintentionally humorous note in the story, where the recipient of the emails says, "What he was telling us was Hezbollah fighters were all over his position and the IDF were targeting them, and that's a favorite trick by people who don't have representation in the U.N. They use the U.N. as shields knowing that they cannot be punished for it."

Now what would happen if they the Hezbullah were members of the UN? What exactly would be their punishment? Ask the states that tried to wipe Israel off the map. If anything, I expect this to lead to calls for the Hezbullah and Hamas to be given membership status in the UN, along that lines of the PLO, so that they can be subjected to incentives to follow the rules.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

While joining Arab leaders in....

What is so amazing about the anti-Maliki stories is that the complaints about him being unwilling to condem Hezbollah manage to miss the real story. His foreign minister attended the press conference in his stead and was asked if the PM would condem Hezbollah. The Foreign Minister answered that, well, maybe no, not outright, but that the PM had authorized the foreign minister to join the other Arab countries in condeming Hezbollah's attacks on Israel.

Join other Arab states in condeming the Arab side in an Arab-Israeli conflict! That is the real story. We have split the Islamic side and even have Shiites siding against Shiites in a conflict with Israel. Would that have happened absent Bush's confrontational policy?

What we have seen is a sea-change that has been totally overlooked and dismissed merely because of the absence of signing ceremonies. The goal of foreign policy is to get other people to do what you want, not to get agreements. It is to change behavior, not sign treaties.

The unwronged wrong-doer

Chris Matthews makes a complaint that one hears often, that the Bush administration is blinded to facts by ideology. My contention is that both sides are necessarily forced to see the world through their ideology. If anything, it is the pejorative use of the word ideology that is blinding us.

Most arguments, including the one about the war on terror, are about how to explain someone's wrong doing. Within our own political culture I argue that there is widespread agreement on what constitutes wrong-doing (indeed, an agreement about what effects are bad is what having a culture means), and that most disagreements are about who or what should be blamed for wrong-doing.

The problem is that different theories can explain the same facts more or less equally well, or can explain them well enough so that a reasonable person could find those explanations convincing. In the terror war we have acts of terror against us and, recently, against our ally Israel. Is this evidence that the confrontational approach of the Bush administration is not working? There are a couple of theories. If you think that terror is caused by poverty and the frustration of legitimate ambitions then the continued acts of terror in the presence of an administration that sees addressing such concerns as appeasement, then the continued acts of terror are confirmation of your theory. If you see the problem of terror as caused by a power hungry alien ideology then the continued acts of terror against the most powerful nation in the world and its allies are confirmation of your theory.

The critics of the confrontational approach see the other side as being too simplistic, as failing to ask "why they hate us?" The idea that someone would do wrong for no reason, just because they are "evil," is simplistic at best.

But I argue that any belief system must have such an un-explained "wrong-doer." Like Aristotle's un-moved mover, every chain of causality has to begin somewhere. The people that attribute the actions of terrorists to the injustices committed by the US or the Israelis are just as simplistic in their explanations of why the US and the Israelis are causing these problems. In the accomodationist' belief system the actions of the theory's bad guys are explained just as the confrontationists' theory explains the actions of terrorist: lust for power, a willingness to do anything to get it, in a word, evil.

There are two caveats to this. One is that the motive attributed to the US tends to be material gain, the motive attributed to terrorists in the confrontationists' theory tends to be lust for power. The other caveat is that often the accomodationist explanation for the bad actions of the US or Israel tends to be more benign. The Israeli decision to set up the state of Israel is seen as the tragic reaction to the Holocaust, or the US reaction is seen as the result of the US being hijacked by nefarious interests in the oil industry, leaving the US people as a whole as semi-innocent victims and the real villains being Moneyed interests, etc. The evil actions of the powerful can be attributed to tragic misunderstandings or circumstances, but the result in terms of policy recommendations is the same--appease the terrorists. Even if the US or Israel are doing wrong from innocent motives it is they who have the power to break the chain of action and reaction. So even if they are not viewed as benign directly morally culpable the onus is still on them to not retaliate or make concessions. The terrorists actions against us always being the result of some crime or misdeed committed against them, it is always the side that retaliates against them that is the un-wronged wrong-doer, the one that puts the chain of misfortune in motion, or, as Bush might say, "the evil one."


Great article on the Suez crisis arguing that it was the turning point in the post-war world. I heard someone quote Eisenhower as saying that Suez was the greatest mistake of his career. Why is it that all the backers of the UN are all in favor of giving it decision making power when someone else's safety is at stake but never when it is their own?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Let down

the Iraqi Prime Minister refueses to condem Hezbollah. This is a story? So he side steps an opportunity to denouce Hezbollah by talking about a the suffering of the people of Lebanon and all the sudden it is a scandal and affront to the Democrats in Congress?

Compare the leader of Iraq's position with the UN or the Europeans. It is no worse and in many cases considerably better. The same people that say we should ceed more power to the UN or the "International Community" are all the sudden shocked when someone refuses to denounce the terrorists? Will this standard be applied to Kofi Annan?

And by the way, if it is such a matter of grave concern that the current leader of Iraq wil not denounce the terrorists perhaps it is worth considering what his predecessor would have done. Recall that Sadaam offered bounties to the families of suicide bombers and running a retirement home for terrorists with American blood on thier hands, including the man that made the bomb that was used in the first world trade center bombing. If we are so concerned about what the current Iraqi President says we should consider what the previous President did.

Monday, July 24, 2006

disproportionate principles

Israel's claims that it has principle on its side are dismissed by the word humanitarian. Israel claims, rightly in my view, that it is the wronged party under international law and that it is trying its best to avoid civilian casualties. If there are more civilian casualties occurring on the Lebanese side in spite of Israel's efforts that is unfortunate but irrelevant.

The other side dismisses this argument by invoking the words "humanitarian crisis." The effect of using the words humanitarian are to sweep aside such legalistic considerations as who started it and who is trying to avoid civilian casualties and focus on suffering defined by numbers.

What seems incongruent in the use of this argument by Israel's opponents is that they seem to be on the exact opposite side when the tables are turned. When a suicide bomber blows up a bunch of people in a Israeli Pizza parlor it is "deplorable, but..." After all, the Israelis started it by occupying Palestinian land. What else can the Arabs do to get their land back, to enforce their rights? Who started it is irrelevant when we are looking at Arab casualties but the very nub of the issue when we are looking at Jewish or Israeli casualties.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

UN resolutions

I think it is a mistake for defenders of Israel to point to the failure of Lebanon to disarm Hezbolla as a matter of not living up to a particular UN resolution. The failure of Lebanon as a sovereign state is more general. The rights of a sovereign state entail responsibilties, in particular the responsibility of establishing a monopoly on violence. That is the reason other sovereign states as an incentive to deal with you, because you make war and peace. If some group inside your borders can make war from your territory then it is not, in effect, your territory. UN resolution or no.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What are we?

We are a society that takes the depravity of its enemies as a reason to stop making them mad. If they Nazi's had reacted to occupation by going around and randomly killling passersby in markets and blowing up churches on Sunday would that have caused us to question our conquest of them? And yet when the Islamic Facists reach ever greater depths of depravity we take it as evidence that we should never have taken the country from thier control in the first place.


To my many fans around the world, posting may be light as I will be in Afthanistan for the next week. I figured I should get a look at it before the tourists have it all commercialized.

You know, you can never count out commercialization. I was in Khazakstan and the most popular resturaunt was a communist theme bar, complete with pictures of Lenin and happy farm workers marching around with pitch forks and shovels. Someday the Taliban will be a punch line.

Of course they are doing some serious damage now. I haven't told the Embassy since they would tell me not to go. They think it looks bad for the Fulbright program when its grantees are taken hostage, especially around appropriations time.

Still, I have taken precautions. I have learned how to say, "I am a trained Sumo Wrestler" in Afghan. That way if, God forbid, I do have to hurt someone my conscience will be clear.

the head hacker general

I had a moment in which I really couldn't believe what I was hearing. at the press conference explaining the autopsey results for Zarquawi a reporter solemnly asked how the remains were being treated, and the general (military guy running the whole thing) just as solemnly assured the audience at length that the remains were being treated just with full "cultural sensitivity", that is just as a good Muslim's remains should be. Given that the deceased's idea of being a good Muslim was hacking off the heads of infidel aid workers while singing the praises of Allah one is not quite sure what that standard would entail. but what kind of society are we? Did the reporters that made the press conference announcing Hitler's death ask if his remains had been treated properly?

I just wrote it off as an obligatory question when I heard it at the press conference, but then I saw the news report on CNN where the general's (?) answser was replayed in full. In the judgement of the professional journalists at CNN the most important thing about the feind's death, the thing that would matter most to the news watching public, was whether his remains had been treated with sufficient sensitivity.

This is a society so full of self-loathing doubt that it's main concern is that we don't offend people that use homemade videos of women getting their heads sliced off as a recruiting tool.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Iran and Germany

One of the things that makes people reluctant to compare the standoff with Iran over nuclear weapons and Germany's occupation of the Rhine is that Germany was such a powerful nation, with deep reserves of scientific talent and economic resources. Iran, even with its oil reserves, is an economic basket case.

But the very fact of Iran's weakness makes its acquisition of nuclear weapons even more dangerous. They have nothing to lose from confrontation and little to gain from peaceful intercourse with the world. Notice that Russia was all along a weak nation but was at the center of world affairs becuase of its armament AND becuase of its anemic economy.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


why is it ok to profile a country's government because of what some of the people from that country have done but not ok to profile the people from that country? If we, say, subjected people from Dubai to extra security in the airport because two people from that country were among the 9/11 hyjackers the ACLU would be up in arms.

Personally, I am all for subjecting people to extra scrutiny becuase of the country they come from but when I voice that opinion I am a racist. Why is it then OK when it is a company from that country?

Whatever else you can say, it would seem that President Bush himself has been consistent. He has backed these non-discriminatory, non-profile based security procedures. It would appear to still be against FAA regulations to search more than two passengers that appear to be Arab or Muslim on any given flight. We can't act on the assumption that the people from that part of the world present any extra risk when they get on airplanes but we can when they run companies. Where is the logic in that?

I am also puzzled by this 'tone-deaf' meme (I am sorry, but the word is just so useful) that has become the obligatory preface of talking headdom when they are about to conceed that almost everything we heard about the deal when the ruckuss was first raised is, how do you say, not true? The same Congress that has had no problem with the Saudi Arabians running ports in the US for years is now suddenly insenced that they were not given a heads up on the Dubai deal? Isn't the fact that the bureaucracies (or, the experts, as they are called when they disagree when they disagree with the Bush administration) signed off on the deal without deeming it necessary to bring to the attention to the political appointee level an indication that there really isn't a problem?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Central Asian politics

From the Central Asia Report Vol. 6, No. 6, 16 February, comes this shocker:

“Omurbek Tekebaev, the speaker of Kyrgyzstan's parliament,set off a political furor when he referred to President Kurmanbek Bakiev as a "disgrace" and a "dog." The remarks came in the midst of rising tension between the president and parliament.”

Now a seasoned observer of Central Asia like me would be about to infer the second sentence from the first. You can’t really call the President a “dog” without there being some increase in tension. Still, it is nice of the Observer to clarify things for those new to Asia's version of the Wild West.

Still, that is the great thing about Central Asia, people say what they mean. Seriously, you could take such rhetorical overkill as a bad sign for democracy,but in fact it is the sign of a healthy democracy. The political rhetoric of the 19th Century US was of about the same tone as the war of words between the Parliament and the Presidency we are seeing now. It was a sign then that people we then that people felt free to speak there minds and it indicates the same thing now. It might be better if some of these rhetorical excesses were toned down, but it might also be a sign that people were afraid to speak their minds openly.

Open hatred is a lot better than hidden intriguing, not to mention a lot more entertaining.

McElvaine’s Column

McElvaine weighs in on the NSA controversy:

“Remember when conservatives wouldn't have bought the argument that giving up freedoms is good for us?”

Now are we really giving up a freedom bequeathed to us by our forefathers to have our foreign cell phone conversations unmonitored? I don’t think that Jefferson would have automatically had a position on the issue. “Should we allow the Bey’s (that is the guy that we had our first war with, “ the shores of Tripoli,” guy that young men with cylindrical hair cuts have been boasting about trouncing for a couple hundred years) men to send messages to the ears of people on our shores?” The question really hadn’t come up, but it is not clear what his answer would have been.

In the context of a war where the enemy targets civilians by having sleeper cells in the US who scrupulously follow our laws until they don’t , until they kill us, it may not be such a good idea to allow unfettered messaging from people we suspect of being the enemy.

At a deeper level, the tone of the statement is a bit off. Giving up freedoms is often quite a good thing, especially if it leads to an increase in other freedoms, like freedom from getting killed by a guy that was your smiling neighbor until the signal came in from his bosses.

It is the determined refusal to take the issue seriously that has given the Democrats such a bad reputation on security. To pretend that there is no question to be asked about trade-offs between liberty and safety when we are under attack by an enemy whose main tactic is to use those freedoms to engineer mass murder is just naive. Taking every procedural constraint on the government’s ability imposed by courts over the last fifty years as a “freedom” handed down from time immemorial is somewhat tendentious.