Mittwoch, Januar 31, 2007
This is a great phrase, my phrase of the day:
"... cosmetically enhanced halfwits of Hollywood..."
That's from Dominic Lawson of the The Independent. Link here.
How true that phrase rings: the points he makes are good. The trivialization of serious news into easily chewable, bite-size pieces is part and parcel of what is wrong with the information age. We're not drowning in information: we are swimming in a sea of opinion instead. Having LaJolie hold a precious brown-skinned baby sells newspapers: that thousands of that child's sisters and brothers are being sacrificed in the name of Chinese oil interests is not only not worth reporting in the eyes of those we call journalists, but is positively taboo. Might distract them from supporting whatever Gwyneth Patrow is interested in this week.
Cosmetically enhanced halfwits of Hollywood indeed.
Freitag, Januar 26, 2007
This has got to be one of the most absurd revisionist themes out there. Here is the money quote:
The widespread perception that the USSR collapsed because its economic system was intrinsically flawed needs to be reassessed. During the periods when it had unrestricted access to cutting edge production-related knowledge and machinery, in the 1930s (mainly from the USA) and from 1945 to the late 1950s (from defeated Germany), the Soviet Union developed at a stunning rate. And contrary to what was promised, the reintroduction of capitalism in the former Soviet Union led to a smaller economic cake, shared out more unequally.
The number of errors here is manifold.
First: any country can grow rapidly over a set period of time if all you do is throw resources at a problem: what the SovUnion couldn't do was to a) maintain economic development and b) develop a self-sustaining economy that met the needs of its peoples. Outside of that, everything was fine!
Second: the failure of the economic system of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was not a failure of external events, of the denial of access to world markets for technology and capital, but first and foremost a systematic error, an error of planning and expecting that reality would conform to the plan.
These kind of historical revisionists - the author of the above piece takes his ideas from here - are those desperately in need of finding that there was nothing wrong with socialism.
That it had to build walls to keep its peoples in.
That it had to use terror to keep its people "motivated" to apply their entire lives for a radical utopia.
That it tread with heavy boots on people's rights and aspirations to be free, demanding absolute servitude.
That it oppressed more thoroughly than any other authoritarian government ever has and hopefully ever will.
That it confused a plan with reality.
That it misunderstood human nature and confused it with a "New Model Man".
That it rewarded ideologically acceptable incompetency and thoroughly punished independent action.
The second link above is convinced that it was the effects of an "economic" cold war that denied the SovUnion the tools that it should have rightfully had in order to compete effectively. The weakness in the development of living standards was the result not of incompetent planning and the obsessive need to have an enormous military, but rather because the mean old nasty capitalists wouldn't let the nice, peace-loving Soviets have all the cutting edge technology.
You see, economics, even in the SovUnion, has always been the study of how one deals with limited resources.
The SovUnion didn't collapse because they didn't have enough resources: it collapsed because the ruling vanguard of the revolutionary elite, the Central Committee of the Communist Party, made the wrong decisions about where to allocate resources. They did so because they were paranoid, and they were paranoid because they saw the world as nothing less than class struggle, a struggle where if they did not destroy the capitalist West, they themselves would fail to fulfill the historical imperative that socialism must obtain the upper hand in the course of historical development.
The writer of the second article goes on to quote a bunch of statistics - as made up as most Soviet statistics were - and shows how much progress was made for the average Soviet citizen. The problem is in how that progress was measured: giving everyone refrigerators is all fine and dandy, but if the food spoils because the refrigerator doesn't work or if the refrigerator is empty because there is no food available, then the improvement is not only made meaningless, but there is a negative value to be placed on it. The greatest complaints in the SovUnion was the misallocation of resources, resulting in socks being delivered when the stores needed winter coats, and winter coats being delivered when the stores needed fresh vegetables.
If you don't get the fundamentals right, nothing else matters.
The revisionism goes further: in Mulholland's eyes, the reason that the SovUnion collapsed was because of the abandonment of the planned economy, since the Soviets didn't understand how capitalism works and the SovUnion became a kleptocracy.
As if it wasn't before hand?
Idiots. The invisible hand is mightier than the Socialist plan.
Donnerstag, Januar 25, 2007
This from today's WSJ got me to thinking about what treason would have to look like today to get anyone to notice.
What is treason?
Well, let's look at Wikipedia:
In law, treason is the crime of disloyalty to one's nation or state. A person who betrays the nation of their citizenship and/or reneges on an oath of loyalty and in some way willfully cooperates with an enemy, is considered to be a traitor. Oran's Dictionary of the Law defines treason as: "...[a]...citizen's actions to help a foreign government overthrow, make war against, or seriously injure the [parent nation]." In many nations, it is also often considered treason to attempt or conspire to overthrow the government, even if no foreign country is aided or involved by such an endeavour.
Traitor may also mean a person who betrays (or is accused of betraying) their own political party, family, friends, ethnic group, religion, social class, or other group to which they may belong. Often, such accusations are controversial and disputed, as the person may not identify with the group of which they are a member, or may otherwise disagree with the group leaders making the charge. See, for example, race traitor.At times, the term "traitor" has been levelled as a political epithet, regardless of any verifiable treasonous action. In a civil war or insurrection, the winners may deem the losers to be traitors. Likewise the term "traitor" is used in heated political discussion – typically as a slur against political dissidents, or against officials in power who are perceived as failing to act in the best interest of their constituents. In certain cases, as with the German Dolchstosslegende, the accusation of treason towards a large group of people can be a unifying political message.
Disloyalty, betrayal, willfull cooperation with an enemy. Actions to help a foreign government destroy a parent nation.
Now, what does the law say?
Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.
Treason is the only crime listed in the US constitution as well:
Section 3: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. The Congress shall have power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
Interesting, that one: you can't convict of treason unless two witnesses come forth of the same act, or one confesses in open court. Also there is no condemning of family and wealth, with any penalty only be applied to the person found guilty.
What are the consequences of treason? Drastic: the death penalty for treason is part and parcel of the US constitution, and while a court may apply it, it doesn't have to. But at least five years and $10k fine; no public office whatsoever in the US.
Supreme court rulings in the past point that treason must be an actual assembling of men for the treasonable purpose, which is to make war, and that treason is first and fundamentally a military thing: hence political sentiment cannot be treason, but the publishing of military secrets may be.
Finally, there have been fewer than 40 treason cases brought. The last case, but for this one, was brought in 1952.
Folks opposed to the war (after having voted for it), who are hindering US war efforts - the US, is, after all, at war, even though 90% of the public isn'rt paying attention and only one Democrat - Lieberman - is willing to admit it - and are being disloyal, betraying the goals that that willingly agreed to at the time when the choice was made.
But that's not treason.
But it is irresponsible. And irresponsible behavior - clearly defined as refusing to accept responsibility for one's decisions - can be as damaging as treason
Some may know this quote from the Saucy Godson: Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it treason .
He's wrong. The treason that he understands is the British take on treason, which was disloyalty to the King.
Let's re-work it: Irresponsibility doth never prosper: what's the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it irresponsibility .
Doesn't quite have the metric, I agree: but the point is valid.
The Democrats are the party of irresponsibility. The fundamental problem is moral hazard: the redistribution of risk changes people's behavior. The irresponsibility of Congress' cutting of aid to the South Vietnamese led to the collapse of South Vietnam in the face of more armor than the Wehrmacht used to conquer France, and the condemnation of an entire people to Communist rule, leading to the mass deaths of the Vietnamese exodus (aka "The Boat People"), but it led to successful careers for people like Kerry and the Kennedies, as well as the entire "anti-war" left of the 1960s. Their achievements - of abandoning an ally - were irresponsible.
Not treasonous, but irresponsible. That way they can claim their patriotism while at the same time working against government policy.
Dienstag, Januar 23, 2007
This came out of a recent post over at NeoNeoCon . That's a blog worth reading... :-)
There is a common name to mass psychoses of this type - eschatological heresy. They began circulate when society loses sense of stability, and general anxiety level rise. Lost of faith grossly enhances susceptibility to such mental infections, just as AIDS makes peoples vulnerable to microbes which otherwise are not pathogenic. Something is in the air, and this is not greenhouse gases; more probably, presentiment of world war.
The poster's web site is here.
It's in reference to the almost hysterical behavior of the Global Warming True Believers (GWTB), who are increasingly strident and refuse, largely, to even consider that they might be wrong. And of course refuse to consider the costs that they would inflict now for imputed benefits for our great grandchildren.
I'd extend this just so ever slightly: it also appears when socialists lose their sense of stability. The collapse of the SovUnion and the WarPact was the death-knell of socialism in the 20th century, and it'd be hard to find anyone outside of the True Believers in Socialism (TBiS) who would consider socialism a proper alternative to modern-day capitalism, with its warts and all.
But I think the case can be properly made for a confluence of the two: the TBiS and the GWTB are more often than not the same people, the organizations are there. Only the goals have changed: well, actually, the goal is the same, the facade has changed.
Instead of demanding control over the state and impoverishment for the masses in order to bring proletarian utopia to our grandchildren, there are now demands for control over the state and impoverishment for the masses in order to bring ecological utopia to our grandchildren.
Same w(h)ine, different bottles.
Sonntag, Januar 21, 2007
Not about its nuclear program.
But rather about the UN.
You can read this pretty much anywhere: this is an average take, a report from the AP.
Ahmadinejad puts it bluntly:
"The [UN] resolution was delivered dead. Ten more similar resolutions will not affect our economy and our policy," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech broadcast live on state-run television as he delivered a budget for the new year.
"Falsely, they want to imply that we have had costs in this regard," the president said — an apparent reference to recent news stories in the West that prices of food and other basics have risen in Iran since the UN sanctions were imposed in late December.
Now, what does this tell us?
First of all, it tells us that the UN, as it exists and as it works, means nothing to Iran's current government, and that they feel free to ignore the UN in its entirety.
What does this mean? That we can expect Iran to lie to the UN, to prevaricate, to deliberately mislead the UN - and perhaps more importantly, public opinion - in regard to anything that Iran does.
This means nothing less than that any official representation by Iran to the UN can be viewed as meaningless.
Of course, that doesn't mean that the UN is off the hook: this, for instance, is only slightly less than absurd:
On the nuclear issue, the International Atomic Energy Agency has said it has found no evidence that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons, but it has criticized the country for concealing certain nuclear activities and failing to answer questions about the program.
This sort of stuff makes it hard to take the UN seriously at times. But then again, I'm not a country.
Freitag, Januar 19, 2007
Apparently the corruption at the UN is so endemnic that it's going to be hard to find something that isn't corrupt.
This was in today's online WSJ.
Apparently Iraq wasn't bad enough: now the UN's "humanitarian" dealings with the North Koreans has become a major source of funding for the NoKors, enabling them to pursue their nuclear dreams.
Great. The UN, the home of international diplomacy, that center of the universe for the transnationalists, the purported prototype World Government, has undermined itself, paying those who flaunt UN resolutions, enabling them to spend money on weapons whilst allowing their population to starve.
Can't we agree that the UN is increasingly the problem and not the solution? Or will history wonder why the UN, located in New York, financed the bomb that destroyed New York?
The countries of the Axis of Evil - Iran and Korea, Syria as well - have no idea of the rage that will visit them if their dreams of delivering a weapon of mass destruction to the US, the Great Satan, are realized. While such an attack would hurt, it would change their lives forever. History is littered with the utter destruction of people who thought that the US was decadent, soft, weak and incapable of fighting.
Guess that more will join that list. Pity the poor souls who will pay the price.
This is arrogance beyond the pale, and is highly indicative of the mind-set of the German left. For the German speakers, this is the original. I must point out that the poor translator has NOTHING to do with the article's content, my critique is strictly to the original author. The translation is very nice, as a matter of fact. :-)
Let's start with the fisking...
The president of the USA expects gratitude from the Iraqi people, because the USA liberated them from a tyrant. Any mistakes he has made are excused; he sees no reason for apologies. All the mistakes were made by others, up to and including recent executions in Baghdad, which apparently cannot be carried out correctly. In Texas, where George W. Bush was once the governor, humans are killed in an obviously friendlier fashion than in Baghdad. In Baghdad, people are lynched as they once where in the Wild West, where insults were hurled at the condemned and the unfortunate tearing off of heads at the end of a rope took place.
First of all, the first three statements are not facts, but postulates. The President of the US didn't expect gratitude: he greeted the liberation of Iraq not with demands for them to acknowledge this, but rather welcomed them into the 20th century. Bush has never been one to push the blame elsewhere: unlike Clinton, he acknowledges when something has gone wrong, and has never placed the blame elsewhere. Or did I miss the White House press release blaming the generals in charge for screwing things up? Must've been put in the stack of stuff and hasn't surfaced yet. He sees no reasons for apologies, as none have been asked for (except for his political opponents, who want Bush to go away: are there not the anti-Bush sentiments that his mother should've aborted him before birth (see Daily Kos, almost any page).
I don't remember any lynch mobs in Iraq: that was something that the Iraqis did under SH. What bothers our correspondant is the fact that there wasn't adequate decorum at the execution: hey, it's an execution, not a funeral. I think it should've been public, myself.
The Iraqi people have no reason for gratitude. In the end, Saddam Hussein was a product of Washington politics, to the point that he felt so secure, he thought Washington would permit him to become a conqueror - the conqueror of Kuwait. The older Bush allowed the Baghdad dictator a victory in the Iran War, let slide the gassing of tens of thousands of Kurds, the massacre of Shiites, Sunnis and democratically inclined Iraqis of all persuasions who didn't belong to Saddam's own clan. In regard to these crimes there will be no trial; this is where the promise of a constitutional state ends. Saddam was just a caricature of a system whose thugs - if you will pardon the expression - handed down to the nation of the two-rivers gang war, civil war, death squads and the enslavement of returning Iraqis from a cushy exile.
No reason for gratitude? I think the author here is projecting: what he means is that the left has no reason for gratitude, no reason to thank the US that it's actions have saved the UN from irrelevance in the face of severe corruption and malfeasance. If the left were in ANY way intellectually honest, they'd acknowledge that there was no alternative to dealing with a despot who had almost bribed his way out of the sanctions that the UN had placed on SH for failing to do what the UN told him to do.
And SH a product of Washington politics? Get real: SH was the result of Washington politics like the strongly expansive German economy is the result of the great economic policies of the last decades. In other words, the only connection is a negative one (in case you don't know, the German economy is weak and hardly robust; German macroeconomic policies have sucked). And to say that SH was given the go-ahead to invade Iraq is about as revisionist as you are gonna get.
And the time line doesn't work: it is generally accepted that the Iran/Iraq war was at best a draw, with both sides showing their incompetence and inability to fight a modern war. The US condemned the gassing of the Kurds: what does this guy think, that the US should've invaded back then?
In fact, the only thing in that paragraph which makes sense is the idea that SH was a thug.
And consider Iraqi's who returned from exile in Iran. These are people who had the courage to come out and vote and who gave the Shiite's a governing majority. Here again, we have a miscalculation; Iran allegedly has too much influence in Iraq because of the shared Shiite faith. Yet no one claims that the through a Catholic John F. Kennedy, the Vatican was secretly in control of the USA. Only ideologues and conspiracy theorists could believe such nonsense. Bush is just such an ideologue.
Oh give me a frellng break. The only people who voted in the Iraqi election were returned exilees? What the hell is that man smoking, I want to warn my kids against using that stuff. And the problem with Iran isn't a shared Shi'ite faith, but much rather that Iran sees such great opportunities for meddling in Iraq to tweak the nose of the Great Satan. And here the ignorance of history is also appalling: the fact that John F. Kennedy was a practicing member of the Roman Catholic Church was very, very much an issue during his presidential campaign! Bush isn't an ideologue in the sense that this man is trying to conflate (ideologues being on the same level, here, as conspiracy theorists: if anything, the Democrat Party is full of conspiracy theorists, not the White House).
While the "common vision" - the existence of which the U.S. President confirmed after communicating it to Iraqi head of state Nouri al-Maliki - has changed once and for all into a Fata Morgana, Bush has an even a bigger target in his sights. His last speech sounded like a declaration of preemptive war against Iraq's neighbor Syria - and above all Iran. His reasoning for taking action is still being fine-tuned. We can assume he will use the same sound reasoning as he did four years ago, which led to a war against Saddam Hussein that violated international law.
First and foremost: there is no such thing as international law concerning the decision to go to war with Iraq. Let me rephrase that: there is no such thing as international law that governs when nations go to war with each other. There are international treaties that the US is a signatory to, such as the Geneva Convention, and there are international organizations that the US has joined and whose rules apply: but there is no international law governing the decision to go to war.
Second, the US did not violate any international law in going to war with Iraq. The war was conducted under UN's own rules and regulations, which do not require anyone going to the UN security council. It's really very simply to understand: the UN security council sanctioned the war against Iraq to free the Kuwaitis. Iraq was able to reach a cease-fire that led to very specific requirements in terms of Iraqi disarming and completely documenting this disarmament. Iraq repeatedly and deliberately violated the terms of the cease-fire, and the US was fully justified in attacking Iraq on that basis alone. This is a constant meme of the left, that the war was illegal: it was not.
And the standard meme of the left as well is to say that for such a momentous thing as going to war, the UN security council must give its approval: this is, bluntly, an attempt to break the chain of events that led to the war.
Iranian agents are supposed to have been involved with killing American soldiers.Iranian diplomats - who are presumed to have been busy establishing consulates - were kidnapped by American troops (an act that shows how much the U.S. respects Iraqi sovereignty). Iranian "networks" allegedly destabilize Iraq, (as if the destabilization isn't a consequence of the invasion by the "coalition of the willing").
Now this is rich as well. Iran has NEVER recognized that it was illegal for them to have occupied the US embassy in Teheran, and now they are whining about having what they were calling their consulate offices violated by coalition troops in Iraq. It has also been established - no longer supposition - that Iran has delivered military goods, fresh from Iranian factories, to people who enjoy blowing up innocent civilians. From what I have understood of the arrests of Iranians in Iraq is that they were neither accredited diplomats, nor were the offices a duly declared and recognized consulate, nor were their activities compatible with diplomatic activities.
As I've posted elsewhere, Iraq is a failed country, destabilized not by the invasion, but by the removal of the despot, SH. As such, would it have been better to keep SH around?
The war planners in Washington obviously exclude the use of ground troops against Iran. Aircraft carriers, cruise missiles and Patriot missiles, which have now been deployed in the waters off the Iranian coast, are considered unfit for a land war, and will be of no use fighting the various factions of the Iraqi insurgency. The deployment rather points to the possibility of surgical strikes against the Teheran regime's nuclear facilities, airfields and military bases.
Well, well, well. Someone slept through their Military Threat Analysis 101 class. First: all of the above weapon systems are there at the request of the various Persian Gulf states, all of whom feel threatened by Iran. Not so much threatened by military action, but rather feel threatned politically (and if you don't think this is a problem, then you don't understand the Persian Gulf at all. Maybe someone should simply poin out, as well, that not all US soldiers are in Iraq: the military strategy of the US doesn't revolve around what is going on in Iraq. And the whole damn point of putting those systems in place IS to raise the possibility of using them: the utility of a strategic asset is in direct proportion to the perception of the potential opponent in regards to that system. This is basic. But something that this author simply doesn't understand.
It is only the danger that Iran could activate the Lebanese Hezbullah that now prevents the "hawks" from attacking Iran. But it is certainly questionable whether Hezbullah would listen to the Teheran Ayatollahs. The U.S. administration promotes the scenario that Hezbullah is under the direct control of Teheran. But the reverse argument is just as conceivable: Hezbullah could provoke Israel to execute the "decapitation blow" before the United States does so itself.
This is what drove me to Fisk this. The "only" danger that prevents the US from attacking Iran is Hezbullah? Gee, the fact that there is a long border with Iraq and that US troops could well be directly involved if Iran were to invade Iraq in response isn't a danger at all? And the idea that Hezbollah is in some concieveable way seperate from Teheran's whims is patently absurd: Teheran funds Hezbollah and controls Hezbollah. End of story. This isn't some bizarre sort of "scenario", but rather established fact. Not convinced? How about this from the 1985 Hezbollah Manifesto:
We are the sons of the ummah (Muslim community) - the party of God (Hizb Allah) the vanguard of which was made victorius by God in Iran. There the vanguard succeeded to lay down the bases of a Muslim state which plays a central role in the world. We obey the orders of one leader, wise and just, that of our tutor and faqih (jurist) who fulfills all the necessary conditions: Ruhollah Musawi Khomeini.
I mean, just how naive can you be? Ruhollah Musawi Khomeini is the Ayatollah Khomeini. This isn't a "scenario": this is fact.
The despots on the southern coast of Persian Gulf [the Sunni oil states] may favor such a scenario [getting Hezbullah to incite Israel to attack Iran]. In Berlin, Paris and other capitals, one was aware of other ways to discourage Iran's nuclear ambitions. It is time to reflect on this, especially in Berlin. In its present role, the German government has the strength, the opportunity and therefore an obligation, to tame the "hawks."
Now this is really rich: passive voice, "one was aware". No statement of fact, but rather weasel words: "one was aware". And hello, no one wants to discourage Iranian ambitions: we want them to abandon their ambitions.
The German government hasn't the strength or the opportunity to punch its way out of a paper bag. A wet paper bag at that.
Germany, under Schroeder and Fischer, blew their opportunity to shape US foreign policy in the Middle East by choosing the cheap and easy way out, the way of radical pacifism, of denying that there are times to use military force, and were more than happy to allow their French colleagues to basically set German foreign policy be defaulting to their position. The Germans abdicated their foreign policy position to the French, and honestly, I haven't seen any change since then.
And who died and made the Germans the world's superpower tamers?
I'll repeat this once again: Germany abdicated its responsibilities by failing to engage the US in any sort of meaningful dialogue when confronted with the evidence of the failure of the UN sanctions to tame Iraq. Instead they chose the route of public rejection of US policy in order for Schroeder to win an election. Perfidious at best.
Donnerstag, Januar 18, 2007
There is a letter to the editor in today's FT (link is here) that raises an excellent point that I'd like to expand on.
First of all, Iraq, despite being called one, is not in a civil war. Rather, it is a failed state: the events of the last decade have destroyed Iraq.
First you have the despotic rule of SH, resulting in a cult of personality: loyalty was not to Iraq, but rather to him (which makes those who decry the disbanding of the Iraqi Army ignorant of the true nature of that Army: it was there as an instrument to do what SH wanted, and not there to serve the state).
Second you have the sanctions after the GWI, which destroyed civil society by impoverishing Iraq in general, except - and this is a critical point - those who directly supported and served SH.
Third you have the invasion, which led to the collapse of what was left of the state.
Fourth you have the continuing low-level fighting, which has moved from attacks on US soldiers to terror killings of civilians.
Add those up and you can see what we have in Iraq: a failed state which cannot get a new start because of continuing sectarian violence, aided and abetted by its neigbors for their own purposes.
For me, that makes the situation clearer in understanding why Iraq hasn't yet started on a road to peace.
Fundamentally, there is no Iraq left.
Oh, it's there, in the hearts and minds of the population. But it's not there any more.
The rulership of SH ruined it.
The sanctions destroyed it.
The invasion liberated Iraq, but the problem was that the old Iraq, the Iraq of the last 40 years, wasn't there any more. That is the failure of post-war planning: everyone "knew" that Iraq was a secular society (after all, the denial of the Left that there were ANY ties between the Iraq of SH and religiously motivated terror groups is part of the litany condemning the war) that *should* have been able to quickly pick up the pieces and reboot, so to speak.
As did Germany and Japan, both devestated by their wars and utterly defeated on the battleground.
But unlike Germany and Japan, both of whom retained their national identity - that is why Hirohito was not deposed and put up for war crimes: it would have destroyed the heart of Japanese culture - and were able to use their positive national charachteristics to rebuild their societies, Iraq was, at the point of the invasion, already a failed state, unable to provide for its citizens, existing not for the sake of Iraqis, but rather only for the sake of SH.
That puts some of the comments during SH's execution also in perspective: at least one of his captors bluntly stated "you have destroyed us".
That is the legacy of SH.
So now what?
The critical thing is that nation-building here has nothing to do with rebuilding roads, infrastucture and the like: it has everything to do with rebuilding the concept of a functioning Iraqi state. One that serves the people of Iraq, not the other way around.
But as long as there are those who do not want this, and they themselves are not sanctioned for meddling in the internal affairs of another country, then it will be a long and stony road.
But one worth taking.
This is what is so appalling about the current pessimism and defeatism in the Congress: these people will be more than happy to inflict major ruin on the Iraqi people in order to further their own little pathetic careers, instead of pushing the rest of the world to help.
Not help the US in Iraq.
But to help the Iraqis in Iraq.
And pointing all the blame to the US is farcical: Iraq was destroyed when the sanctions were put into place. Iraq must be the example in the future that sanctions, as well-minded they may have been, are nothing more than an admittance that other policies have failed. They punish no one but the average person on the street: to imagine for a moment that a despot like SH might have been influenced by such sanctions is to show an appalling lack of knowledge about despots.
Rather, the Iraqis are paying the price now for the perfidy of France and the rest of Europe when Iraq was confronted in the UN: Iraqis are paying the price for the incompetence and ultimately banal corruptability of the UN in enforcing the sanctions, which allowed SH to escape any meaningful effect. Iraqis are paying the price now for the failures of the UN.
The US saved the UN from irrelevance by deposing SH. If the US had backed down, as the French had been paid to try to do, then the UN, today, would be ignored even more than it is.
Mittwoch, Januar 17, 2007
Ah, so many seem to be so convinced that Iraq is lost, that the US must go down in defeat.
So many that it almost seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Well, to parahprase Gershwin, It Ain't Necessarily So.
Here is the first link: put bluntly, the main-stream media and the pundits from the left that have been driving the meme of "the US is incompetent, the Military is clueless, we've made all these mistakes" are in turn clueless themselves. The fact that the US doesn't trumpet its strategy from the towers and keeps its strategy close at hand is confusing for such weak-minded; the military is far, far from clueless (indeed, letting the cities fester while consolidating the countryside is a strategy eminently suited for Iraq; and the mistakes we've made are not the ones the Left think we are making.
Secondly, here is another link listing the real failures: Inadequate plan for the post-war period; leaving Iran alone; pullbacks and soft failures; Iraqi elections held too early; misunderstanding some fundamentals; unreasonable expectations; media misconduct and malpractice. Some of these failures were the result of things that we should've known, but didn't; others are beyond our control, and yet others can only be answered with the words "no excuse". But these are not the failures that the MSM and the Left imagine our failures to be.
Third is that the conflict needs to be put in perspective: it just isn't Iraq.This post by Steve den Beste sums it up better than I ever could (and this by Tigerhawk updates Steve's original points). This post by Belmont Club reminds us what is at stake.
In other words: it ain't over till the fat lady sings.
I was reading last week's Spiegal magazine, a retrospective of the last 60 years (that's how long they've been publishing). One thing that struck me was the difference between the post-war politicians - Adenauer, Schmidt - and today's German politicians.
Today's politicians are technocrats: they have mastered the political framework that they live in, but in doing so have retained no charachter. I don't use the term in a nice sense: I do not espouse technocracy, as it is simply elitism wrapped in academic paper. Still stinks.
I realized that something that happened in the past would run completely different today.
The hijacking of the Landshut.
On 13 October 1977, Lufthansa flight LH181 from La Palma to Frankfurt was hijacked by the "Martyr Halimeh" terror commando, led by Zohair Youssif Akache and with Souhaila Andrawes, Riza Abbasi and Nadia Duaibes. Further details aren't really necessary: it is the reaction that counts.
After the pilot, Jürgen Schumann, was murdered - he was executed in the aisle of the plane with a shot to the back of his head - the GSG 9, up to that point a relatively unknown anti-terror commando created after the Munich massacre, stormed the aircraft on 18 Oct and killed three of the hijackers. A stewardess and a GSG 9 member were wounded.
If this were to happen today, I doubt that any German politician would dare to order the same action. The German chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, had prepared a letter of resignation if the attack had failed.
German politicians today are too interested in their careers to risk anything like that.
Dienstag, Januar 16, 2007
Today's FAZ has an editorial that ends beautifully.Here's my quick translation (link is behind the gotta pay wall):
The Finns will be warm and cozy when the lights go out in Germany. They use continuous electricity production from biomass and extremely efficient power-heat coupling. The basis demand is met by nuclear energy. That is a sensible energy mix. But the Finns also have the better education system.
Ouch. That's about as nasty a nastygram as the German press is capable of.
What's the story?
Very simple: Germn energy policy, as it currently exists, will lead to the collapse of the German energy system.
There are two reasons.
First, there's a lot of nonsense about global warming, the need to reduce CO2, etc. This is for the indoctrinated and the accompanying useful idiots.
Second, German energy policy is chained to ideological precepts that have nothing to do with reality.
Yes, my friends, stupidity and irresponsibility are alive and flourishing in Germany!
Here's the rest of the story:
In the 60s and 70s there was a very broad and general acceptance of nuclear energy in Germany, seen as a necessary part of the energy mix. In the 1980s, in yet another desperate attempt to save the party from irrelevance, the SPD, the German socialists, decided that this was something that they had never agreed with, oh no, not us. The Red-Green administration under Schroeder, behoven to an increasingly anti-science votership, forced German companies running nuclear power plants to enter an accelerated depreciation schedule on those plants, and switched all research into wind and solar energy generation. The goal is to generate 20% of all German energy use in 2020 by using wind and solar.
Think of that: 20%. Does anyone know what that means?
It means that the lunatics will have taken over the asylum.
The FAZ editorial puts it in proper perspective: no one knows who will be the administration in Germany in 2020. But whoever they are, they will curse the policy decisions made at the turn of the millenium. They will curse when the first ship in the North Sea rams a wind generating pylon and brings the whole net to collapse; when the nets across Europe start to overload and the fail because of swings in German electricity supplies that will ripple through the electrical infrastructure; and when the critics point out that while Germany may have the highest level of renewable energy, it has a bad record of controlling emissions and that the money has been wasted; consumers will gripe about the very high electricity costs, and the environmentalists will bemoan the millions of dead birds and the herds of whales in the North Sea that will beach themselves because they've lost the ability to navigate inside a matric of 40 meter concrete sockets set into the ocean floor.
The problem is one of a simple technical nature, one that the irresponsible idiots - sorry, the duly elected officials - have deliberately ignored and rejected as being important. The problem is that the vector of growth of renewable energy supplies is slower than the vector of the basis demand.
That means nothing less than the growth of renewable energy is not going to be able to replace the energy sources that today make up the basis supply that ensures that the electrical infrastructure works the way it is supposed to.
Now, the only way that energy demand increases can be met when nuclear power is phased out is to build new plants. Since these can't be nuclear, they will have to be either oil, gas or coal. Hence: in their idiotic pursuit of the demonization of nuclear energy, the policies of the so-called environmentalists will actually increase those emissions that they will have literally spent billions on reducing.
In other words, the equations of the irresponsible, political idiots pushing these policies don't work: to repeat, there is no way that renewable energy production can replace German nuclear power generation in the German energy mix in the year 2020 (or even beyond that). There is no way: the equations do not work.
But the German environmental minister Gabriel has now promised, in Nairobi, that the Germans will generate 40% less CO2 by 2020, as long as the Europeans promise to generate 30% less. Completely and fully absurd, it's a promise not worth the paper it's written on.
What are Germans actually planning to do in order to replace nuclear energy in the German energy mix?
No less than 38 gas and coal generating plants with a total production of 24 000 MW and an annual CO2 production of ... 120 mn tons. This represents not an expansion of German energy production, but ONLY the replacement of nuclear energy. This means that the Germans willl reach the originally set goals that they were to have reached in 2005 in the year 2020.
But Gabriel has eaten the mushrooms. He claims that Germany's nuclear plants can be replaced with renewable electrical energy generation.
And the useful idiots - those who call themselves "critical thinkers" - don't even bother to check the numbers. They've all drinken the Kool-Aide, after all: we don't need to check numbers.
Too bad that the German taxpayers also don't do the numbers: on-shore wind power connection to the net is something that the owners pay for. Off-shore? The consumers of electrical energy generation will have to pay for it. We're literally talking about billions being put into the ground that consumers will have to pay for. You see, if the owners of the off-shore windmills had to pay for it, then they would literally never turn a profit, since the sunk costs - pun intended - would deter any rational investor.
This is what happens when anti-science people - the Greens in Germany are notoriously anti-science unless, of course, it's a pet environmental project - can successfully demonize energy production: you get a situation where the energy mix of the country is going to be so screwed up that it's almost going to make sense to start anew.
And the stupidity is reflected in the ironic final sentence: no wonder that the Germans are so screwed up. They've been indoctrinated for decades now that nuclear energy and a sensible energy mix is the work of the devil.
The current crop of German politicians is appalling at best and downright dangerous at worst.
Why my interest in Rwanda and the Rwandan massacre?
Not because of personal friends involved or the like, but because it is something that unfolded under the eyes of the world and is not unlike the Darfur tragedy currently unfolding.
It also underscores the banality of evil. Evil is a hard concept in our relativistic world. After all, so the sophists, one man's evil is another man's virtue, and while people shouldn't hurt other people, anything goes otherwise. We saw it in Germany with the cannibal: his claim that he didn't commit a crime was based on his fantasy that it wasn't a crime when he had the victim's permission. And the mere fact that there *are* internet forums where such things are discussed is an indication that evil is very much alive and well today.
Here you can read more: Dalrymple makes a good point. But first of all: philosophers usually don't concern themselves with evil, unless they are moral philosophers, and moral philosophy is about as popular in modern philosophy as theologians are ( i.e. not very), unless, of course, they are left-wing moral philosophers ranting about the imminent establishment of a theocratical fascist state in the US.
What is, then, evil?
Evil is a slippery concept. I'll go as far as to take the Heideggarian analogy with being itself: we don't know what it is, we can't describe it simply, as it is something that is in and of itself indescribable. To paraphrase US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart on pornography: I can't define it, but I know what it is.
First of all, evil is contextual. Evil has to be viewed in context with what the alternative is in terms of behavior at that point in time. If a child sees a dog who has been run over, breaking its legs, that childs' actions may be good, indifferent or evil. Good might be rescuing the dog and having it operated on; indifferent might be to simply go on walking by, and evil might be to poke at the dog's broken leg with a stick in order to make it howl. But would be pulling a gun and shooting the dog, putting it out of its misery, be evil? These are all contextual questions that need to be understood within the world in which the actions took place.
But there are absolute standards upon which one may act. We know them as imperatives: a Doctor's primary moral responsibility is "To Do No Harm", and he swears a hippocratic oath to indeed do no harm. The child in my constructed example behaves wrongly when that child pokes at the dog with the broken leg, but we can give a child the benefit of a doubt because that child may not know any better: while this is an explanation, it is not an excuse, and obviously the child has not had a moral upbringing that enables it to choose between right and wrong.
Evil is the sheer joy of doing wrong. The willful knowledge that your actions are morally wrong, but with the willful knowledge that you either don't care or you actually enjoy doing that which is wrong.
Rwanda was, in Dalrymple's words, the most efficient slaughter in human history. Rarely have so many been killed by so few with such little effort, is what he saying: I'd venture that the death camps of fascism and communism were more efficient, but that is a different category entirely.
In that slaughter, in the space of three months, neighbours killed without compunction those with whom they had been friendly all their lives, only because they were of the different, and reputedly opposing, ethnic designation. They used no high-tech means, only clubs and machetes. Women and children were not spared; husbands of mixed marriages killed wives, and vice versa. The participation of the general population in the slaughter was its most remarkable feature: usually in mass murder, it is the state that does the killing, or rather the state's agents, since the state is an abstraction without an existence independent of those who work for it. Hatzfeld, the African correspondent of the French left-wing newspaper, Liberation, went to interview some of the perpetrators a few years after the genocide. They were friends who took part in the murder (if that is not too slight a word for it) of 50,000 of the 59,000 Tutsis who lived in their commune.
Here we have a clear view of what happened: the collapse of the state; the lack of a common moral compass that would have prevented the people taking part from doing what they did. Dalrymple sees the book from which it is taken as one of the better ones dealing with the moral problem of evil, but one that mystifies the author, as evil mystifies any decent and moral person.
The next question that must now be addressed is this: what were the French doing here?
It's one thing to realize that your policies were wrong, that your actions were mistaken, that what you did was, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, wrong and that you would've decided differently if you knew what you now know.
It's another one entirely of actively aiding and abetting evil. Which is what the French did in Rwanda, and my question remains: these are the people that the US is supposed to look to for guidance?
Montag, Januar 15, 2007
I think the best thing one can do to understand how the French have deeply, terribly screwed things up in Africa is to read this.
The French were more interested in saving the Embassy's dog than they were in saving the Tutsis that had worked with its own diplomats for years.
And this is, for me, the key quote:
As the French left, years of anger among Rwanda's Tutsis spilled out over the price they believe they have paid for Paris's unique view of its place in post-colonial Africa - a role critics say is shaped by an obsession with the influence of its language and culture that led Paris to support a murderous regime because its opponents spoke English. France went on backing the killers even as the bodies piled up in the streets, churches and football stadiums. "France wants to blame us, the ones whose families were murdered, the ones who put a stop to the murderers; they want to blame us for the genocide because they cannot face their own guilt," says Rwanda's foreign minister, Charles Murigande. "The French armed the killers and they trained them even when they were saying they were going to kill the Tutsis, and France supported the genocide regime right up until the end, even helping the killers to escape." Why? "Because they have this obsession with Anglo-Saxons."
Because of this obsession with Anglo-Saxons. Sort of explains French opposition to US foreign policy as well: a severe case of NIH, Not Invented Here. And what was France doing, inviting and meeting with the architects of the massacres, who were later convicted of genocide in the Haague?
And there is this, indicative of the imperial nature of French foreign policy:
Africa has traditionally been considered such a special case in Paris that France's policy is run out of the presidency. At the time, the "Africa cell" was headed by Mitterrand's son, Jean-Christophe, a close friend of the Habyarimanas. He later said that there could not have been a genocide because "Africans are not that organised". France's president did not deny what had happened, but took a view no less racist: "In such countries, genocide is not too important."
There's that old saying of Eldridge Cleaver: If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. I think you have to extend that even further: if you've caused the problem, then you better be part of the solution.
But to support genocide in order to preserve the sanctity of a language?
The RPF's invasion of Rwanda in 1990 rang all the alarm bells about encroaching Anglo-Saxon influence. The rebel front was dominated by Tutsis whose families had been driven into exile by wholesale massacres around the time of Rwanda's independence from Belgium in 1962. Many families settled in neighbouring Uganda where their children grew up speaking English, joined Yoweri Museveni's rebel movement that seized power in Uganda in 1986 and then began to plan an assault on their homeland. Kagame was among them.
France immediately sent troops and weapons to defend Habyarimana's regime. Politicians and the military top brass cast the conflict as between Francophone Hutus and invading Anglo-Saxon Tutsis - though 15% of Rwanda's population were Tutsis who had not left the country. Some in the French military talked of the RPF as wanting to destroy the Hutus, calling the rebels the "Black Khmers". Despite the growing evidence of a genocide in the making during the early 1990s, and the excesses of Habyarimana's regime in assassinating opponents and organising periodic massacres of Tutsi civilians, France's support did not waver.
This cries of fatal conceits and sheer incompetence of corruption. But it gets worse: the French bear a grudge. Against the Tutsis and the Rwanda government, it bears a grudge against those who survived:
Rwanda's foreign minister, Murigande, accuses France of spending more than a decade punishing the RPF for its victory: "In all international forums - the World Bank, the IMF - France not only voted against any development programme that these institutions would want to undertake in Rwanda but it even went out of its way to mobilise other countries to vote against them." Before the genocide, France was the largest donor of any country to Rwanda. Today, it is the smallest.
And this is the country that is supposed to serve as an example of enlightened use of power?
There is a propaganda war being waged, and it is largely one-sided.
This is, as always, a good read.
Thomas Barnett has it right:
Americans swallow enemy propaganda at face value, subjecting us to knee-jerking manipulation by fiery orators. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with a few choice phrases, successfully elevates himself to the status of a Muslim "Hitler." But this populist windbag is already losing his grip in Tehran, giving Washington a strategic opportunity we don't yet appreciate.
It's not merely Americans who do this, but the West in general. We are so used to the fiction of objectivity in the news - a fiction, not reality - that we believe that everyone behaves in this manner. After all, the last great propaganda war was that of the SovUnion: the ChiComms have abandoned theirs largely.
But it gets better:
Suffering the world's worst brain drain and a birth rate that's dropped through the floor, Iranian society is imploding before the world's eyes, triggering a resurgent domestic reform movement that's now aligned with pragmatic conservatives determined to arrest the nation's downward spiral.
Externally, however, Iran is peddling influence across the region, quietly executing regime-building investment strategies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and southern Lebanon. Iran's oil revenue is creating development all right, just not back home where increasingly angry Iranians want it.
Slap these dichotomous images together, and you can't help but wonder at the similarities between today's Iran and the Soviet Union in the late Brezhnevian period: the blustery facade of regional domination covering a system rotten to its spiritual core.
This really is the key to current and future developments: the increasingly obvious case that can be made for the inherent severe weakness of Iran. The analogy between the two (Theists in Iran and the CPSU in Russia) is not perfect, but it servves the point: Iran, as I've stated here before, is not going to have an easy time of sustaining its development, let alone making the jump to nuclear power.
If I were to fault Barnett's analysis, it is that he postulates that Iran will be have rationally and in its own enlightened self-interest.
Of that I am not too sure: to paraphrase Joshka Fischer, "Mr. Secretary, I am not convinced".
There is, after all, the risk that a status quo will develop for the next several years, one where the internal politics of Iran get sidetracked and while the government in power (whatever form it might be) is embroiled into solving the problems that theocracy has created for Iranian society (poor economic opportunities, squandered billions, lack of adequate infrastructure), that the mainstreams of Iranian theocracy will be content to work in the background, supporting whatever role they play in the establishment of the New Caliphate. Not that the Iranians are Arabs, but they see in many ways the world with the same set of blinders. They would rather be in bed with a Shi'ite than to have secularism become the dominant philosophy.
Let's remember the basic plan that the theocrats have: seven steps to establish the Caliphate.
1) Awaken Muslims to their heritage and plight.
2) Open Their Eyes: Force the West to make it their problem, i.e. force the West to become involved. The greatest threat here is that the West yawns and basically says "so what?", choosing not be engaged at all. Terror attacks will make this highly unlikely.
3) Arise and Stand Up: make terrorists and their organizations part of the body of Middle East politics, i.e. the legitimization of terror, or more exactly, the establishment of the terror groups as legitimate players. This is what Hamas and Hisbollah are trying to do in Lebanon: become part of the political scene.
4) Collapse of Arab Tyrants: the destruction of not merely the politicians of the various countries, but literally the destruction of a functioning political system. This means that Democracy in Egypt (such that it is) is as doomed to destruction as the Hashemite King in Jordan, as well as the Royal Family in Saudia Arabia and elsewhere.
5) Declaration of the Caliphate: with the state withering away, the Mullahs and their tools will ascend into control.
6) Confrontation: As complete and total a war as the Islamists can pull off. The West will be too weak to be bothered to fight it properly, i.e. the Will of the West is to have been broken at this point, weakened by the years of conflict.
7) Victory and the subjugation of the World. By defeating the West and re-establishing the Caliphate, the Caliphate will have re-established the ancient glory of Muslim society whose collapse and destruction has haunted them ever since. The West will abdicate its role in the world and retreat, becoming dhimmi.
Now the question: what is to be done?
The strategy against the establishment of the Caliphate has to do with 3 and 4: deny terrorists their role in politics and strengthen states in the region, preventing the political and social chaos that would develop in the wake, for instance, of destroying the Jordanian royal family, either literally or figuratively. That is the kingpin to the success of the theocratic plot: deny them this, and they cannot succeed.
But now we are still in 1 and 2 (and feel free to think, if you want to be a fool, that these steps can only be taken one after another: up to 5, they are supposed to run parallel and with varying speeds), with some 3, while 4 is being worked on.
After 5 we have truly serious problems. That is the war that the theocrats want, and indeed must have to reach their goals.
Freitag, Januar 12, 2007
What do you say about former Presidents?
Most have been happy to simply, more or less, fade into the background and follow their hobbies, having served their country.
There have been, fundamentally, two exceptions. Clinton sees himself as too young to simply fade away - and after all, his legacy still needs to be created - and his wife is still involved in active politics. This can be seen as his due. He doesn't comment (much) on active presidential issues, but rather does defer to the sitting President, avoiding direct criticism, as has been the inofficial policy of virtually all Presidents after leaving office.
To repeat: it has been the inofficial policy that any President's politics will not be criticized by any former Presidents. None.
There is an exception. Carter.
Carter, despite the heartfelt and serious desires of the left to paint Bush 43 as the worst President, is arguably the worst President in living memory. I'm sure that Presidential scholars might argue with that (Taft was pretty bad, and the less said about Millard Fillmore is probably better...), but I think we have now the phenomenon of the grouchy old President.
This links to something that is virtually unheard of: he, and the policies he now espouses, are driving his buddies away.
The key word is "malicious advocacy".
The facts in dealing with the conflict are these: There are two national narratives contesting one piece of land. The Israelis, through deed and public comment, have consistently spoken of a desire to live in peace and make territorial compromise to achieve this status. The Palestinian side has consistently resorted to acts of terror as a national expression and elected parties endorsing the use of terror, the rejection of territorial compromise and of Israel's right to exist. Palestinian leaders have had chances since 1947 to have their own state, including during your own presidency when they snubbed your efforts.
Your book has confused opinion with fact, subjectivity with objectivity and force for change with partisan advocacy. Furthermore the comments you have made the past few weeks insinuating that there is a monolith of Jewish power in America are most disturbing and must be addressed by us. In our great country where freedom of expression is basic bedrock you have suddenly proclaimed that Americans cannot express their opinion on matters in the Middle East for fear of retribution from the "Jewish Lobby" In condemning the Jews of America you also condemn Christians and others for their support of Israel. Is any interest group to be penalized for participating in the free and open political process that is America? Your book and recent comments suggest you seem to think so.The occasional reader here knows that I have an interest in sophistry, or more exactly of showing that it not only still exists, but is active and plays a major role in politics today.
Carter has become a sophist, confusing opinion with fact (indeed deliberately representing opinion as fact, and fact as opinion), and that those who dain to disagree and object are to be made objects of ridicule and disdain in turn.
What is sad is that there were only 14 of 200 that resigned.
Carter will get what is coming to him: he will end up disdained and mocked, remembered for rabbit attacks, micromanagment, the Moral Equivalent of War (MEOW), abandonment of US diplomats to their fate, abandoning allies and abject failure as a President. That will be his legacy.
That must be the most bitter thing concievable: it will be the fate of Clinton as well, especially if La Clinton fails to go for the presidency, knowing that her husband has permanently tainted her.