February 2003, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
Racism Toward Arabs is one of the reasons Europeans are so unwilling to free Iraq, thinks David Pryce-Jones, an expert on Arab problems. If you define racism loosely, making target groups ethnicities, rather than races, as is often done, then there is some truth in his argument. Many in Europe, and the United States, for that matter, just don't think the Arabs are up to handling democracy. Racism certainly explains some of the European indifference to the suffering inhabitants of the southern Sudan, and to the Rwandan Tutsis during the genocide there. The late President Mitterand of France famously dismissed the mass killings as just one of those things that happens in black Africa.
- 3:52 PM, 19 February 2003 [link]
Many European Nations have laws against thought crimes, that forbid expressing "xenophobia and racism". The laws are even being extended, through the European Union, to apply in Britain, which has generally shared the American objections to criminalizing thought. This raises some interesting possibilities. Many of the "peace" demonstrators in Europe expressed xenophobia and perhaps even racism toward the United States (and Israel) at last weekend's protests. Will there be a wave of arrests for those who chanted "Kill Bush" and other such hateful slogans? And when this is extended to Britain, will Mayor Livingstone have to preside over the arrest of many of his supporters, when they express "xenophobia and racism" toward the United States?
This is not just a theoretical possibility. Norwegian comedian Otto Jespersen is, even now, facing prison for burning an American flag. This American would be more offended by a prosecution of Jesperson, than by his burning of our flag. I might even protest to the Norwegian government, though not, of course, by burning the flag of a country for which I feel such respect, and even affection.
- 3:10 PM, 19 February 2003 [link]
Worth Reading: Harriet McBryde Johnson has been disabled from birth. Princeton professor Peter Singer thinks her parents should have had the right to kill her at birth. In this provocative, horrifying and, yes, funny story, Johnson tells about her encounter with Singer, a brilliant man who has thought hard about difficult moral problems and come to appalling conclusions.
- 9:06 AM, 19 February 2003 [link]
US Special Forces are special in more ways than one. They even have special chemistry that lets them tolerate high levels of stress.
- 8:42 AM, 19 February 2003 [link]
Guess Who Intervened to keep Chicago's E2 nightclub open last summer? That's right, Jesse Jackson helped keep the nightclub with the disastrous fire open, in spite of code violations and warnings from community activist Derrick Mosley. Jackson's intervention may have been one of those routine things politicians do all the time without much thought, but he and PUSH certainly should have listened to Mosley. (For more information on the fire and some interesting historical background on similar disasters, see this post by Andrew Lloyd.)
- 8:36 AM, 19 February 2003 [link]
Dyes and Lies: Leftist law professor Mark Kleiman recently claimed that President Bush was dyeing his hair, though Bush had laughed at Gore for that during the 2000 campaign. Jane Galt provided a set of pictures that refute the idea, at least for me. All this made me wonder why Kleiman and others cared about the subject. If a man who has to be on television constantly has his hair touched up, why should anyone care? I think it is because Americans think that hair dye on men is a kind of lie, except for those who make their living by their appearances, like TV anchors and actors. (For women, the rules seem to be much more complicated and vary greatly among groups, so that sometimes hair dye is seen as a lie, and sometimes it isn't. I don't pretend to have any idea what those rules are.) So, when Kleiman, and others like him, think they see dye on George Bush's hair, they think they have caught him in a lie.
Clinton supporters, like Kleiman, want to find Bush lies because they still feel guilty about supporting a man who committed perjury, and who lied many other times, about many other subjects. Paul Greenberg dubbed Clinton "Slick Willy" after Clinton tried to claim he had supported the first Gulf War all along. (In fact, Clinton had straddled the issue with a statement that, even now, defies deconstruction.) During the 1992 campaign, I was struck, several times, by Clinton lies that seemed to have no practical point to them. He told these lies even though the truth was readily available to refute him, and there was no great gain to the lies. Opponents despised this aspect of Clinton's character, and it made many of his supporters uneasy. Journalist Bob Schieffer, for example, now tells us how uncomfortable all the Clinton deceptions made him at the time. (Yes, I know. Now he tells us.)
Kleiman is not alone in this search for Bush lies. Economist Paul Krugman's columns are filled with charges that the Bush administration is not telling the truth. Slate magazine's "Whopper of the Week" feature, written by Timothy Noah, is filled with similar charges that Bush, or people in his administration, are not telling the truth. (Both Krugman and Noah are often wrong in their charges, as one would expect from people obsessed with finding Bush lies.) I think that Clinton supporters err in this obsession, and would be better off if they just moved on. It is a curious fact that Clinton's opponents prospered during his time in office. Republicans took control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 1954 and gained nearly everywhere else. The obsessive search by Clinton supporters for Bush dyes and lies shows that the damage Clinton did to his supporters is far from over. They, and the country, would be better off if they gave up this effort to prove that Bush is just as big a liar as Clinton, and directed their efforts toward more rational, if less satisfying, forms of criticism.
Finally, some general thoughts on American politicians and lying. My study, over the years, has convinced me that American politicians tell outright lies far less often than most people think. (Though there are exceptions, like Clinton) Just like advertisers, they know that an outright lie that can be exposed will hurt them, and so they tend to avoid direct lies. This is not to say that they do not try to deceive people, but that they do not do so as blatantly as most voters think. For example, a politician may say, truthfully, that he is now supporting a project, even though he would prefer the project be defeated. This is not a lie because he will vote for the project. Other times what a voter might see as a lie is the sincere belief of the politician; he is not lying, but wrong. (Politicians on the far left are especially prone to this, since they often live in cocoons that protect them from criticism of their errors. Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott will rarely be told that he is wrong, though he often is.) American politicians are often deceivers, and even more often deluded, but they are less often liars than most voters think.
- 11:06 AM, 18 February 2003 [link]
Aid to Afghanistan: An incorrect BBC story led Josh Marshall to the bizarre conclusion that the Bush budget contains "no money, not even a line item, for humanitarian or reconstruction funds for Afghanistan". Joshua Clayborn and Alex Knapp correct the record here, and here.
In fact, as James Dao pointed out last November 24th, in that organ of the vast right wing conspiracy, the New York Times, what we see in Afghanistan is some return to our post World War II generosity. (Charge for accessing it on line) As Dao explains, last fall Congress appropriated $3.3 billion for Afghan reconstruction over the next four years, and the Pentagon is shifting resources from hunting al Qaeda to security and reconstruction. The Afghans have shown their approval of the changes by returning to their country in large numbers, more than two million in the last count I have seen.
Some thoughts for Mr. Marshall and others who bit on this BBC story. British journalists, especially those on the left, err frequently in their stories about the United States. Budget items are not necessarily where one would expect them. Money does not go to defined problems or goals, but to individual departments and agencies. Finally, as always: "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is". Marshall, and others like him, want so much to find evidence of Bush administration incompetence, that they are suckers for this kind of false story.
- 9:34 AM, 18 February 2003 [link]
Scuds to Yemen, Cyanide to North Korea: The North Korean ship that took Scud missiles to Yemen is bringing sodium cyanide, which can be used to make nerve gas, back to North Korea from Germany. The chemical has other, legitimate uses, but is on a controlled list:
The chemical is controlled by the 34-nation Australia Group, a voluntary coalition of states that agree to curb exports of dual-use chemicals that can boost the chemical weapons programs of states like North Korea. Germany is a member of the group.But not necessarily a member in good standing, judging by this shipment.
- 7:59 AM, 18 February 2003 [link]
Osama Is Still Dead thinks James Robbins, who explains why al Qaeda wants us to think otherwise, and how they may have been faking the audio tapes. Like Mickey Kaus, he finds their prediction that Osama will soon be dead all too convenient.
- 7:43 AM, 18 February 2003 [link]
Iraqi Defense Minister Arrested: That's the encouraging news in this article. Ken Adelman's prediction that an invasion of Iraq will be a cakewalk might be right. If Saddam distrusts his top generals, there is no way he can mount an effective defense.
- 6:24 AM, 18 February 2003 [link]
Good News, If True: According to this account, an aide to one of Saddam's evil sons has fled Iraq, with, one imagines, much current information on the regime, and its weapons.
- 1:39 PM, 17 February 2003 [link]
Good Posts: Tim Blair presents the case against Saddam in Australian, with translations here, and here. Ralph Goergens explains the behavior of Schroeder and Chirac It's about appealing to their voters, not something more sinister. (If you are prone to fainting, sit down before you read his account of Schroeder's gyrations.) Susanna Cornett reacts to the release from prison of the "Preppie Murderer", Robert Chambers. Solly Ezekiel provides us another picture of baby Eli to admire. Charles Johnson links to the American Kaiser and his coverage of the vile Paris "peace" demonstration, and then adds his comments here. Does "Kill Bush" sound peaceful to you? Derek Lowe has more technical details on the bacteria that is synthesizing the 21st amino acid that I mentioned in this post. Still no explanation for the mysterious "amber" codon. Could it be one that sometimes, but not always, means stop? Jay Manifold has good advice for his "single, male, churchgoing readership" next Valentine's Day. The Medpundit links to a Weekly Standard story that describes a horrific rape camp near San Diego for Mexican immigrants. (Scroll down, since I couldn't get the individual link to work.) The public health officials reacted to this by—providing condoms. This has some parallels to a story from Seattle I saw about six years ago. Under age boys were hanging around gay clubs to be picked up by the older patrons. Public health officials were worried, rightly, about health risks, and were indifferent to what was, after all, statutory rape.
- 7:47 AM, 17 February 2003 [link]
Not Just Europeans are foolish, as this column by Courtland Milloy shows. It was "balm" for his weary soul to hear people accuse the Bush administration of lying about not having made a decision on war, to hear people say that President Bush was brainless, and to hear that the Patriot II Act is like the Gestapo. I leave it to Mr. Milloy to explain why, if he believes this nonsense, he finds it soothing. If I believed such things, I would find it terrifying, not soothing. (I should add that I am skeptical, as the Post's ombudsman also seemed to be on Sunday, about the balance and accuracy of the account.)
- 7:47 AM, 17 February 2003 [link]
American POWS in the first Gulf War were tortured, without exception.
The Americans were beaten, electrocuted, urinated and spat upon. They suffered broken bones, torn muscles, chipped teeth, perforated eardrums and massive bruising, and one of the women was sexually molested.Now some of them are suing, in one of the least frivolous lawsuits in history.
- 7:26 AM, 17 February 2003 [link]
Night and Day: Saturday morning I watched the local news on King 5 and saw what amounted to a five minute commercial for the "peace" protest being held in Seattle that day. In fact, I would go farther and say that it could have come from Saddam's propaganda ministry. The anchor, Carolyn Douglas, even quoted from a Saddam government statement, accusing the United States of aggressive war, without giving any reply. I found this so offensive that I watched the evening news program, with Don Porter on the same station, just to see if it would be the same. In the evening, the report was far more balanced, giving almost as much time to the support the troops demonstrations as to the "peace" demonstrations. I don't know why there was this night and day difference between the morning and evening programs, though Porter did mention critical emails that the station had been receiving on this issue. Whatever the reason, I do know that I will be even more skeptical of any news report from Douglas in the future. If she were to tell me that the sky is blue, I would go outside to check.
Although I give Porter some credit for a more balanced presentation, I should add that I have yet to see, on any local TV station, or in either of the two Seattle papers, any news stories on the radical nature of some of the groups organizing the "peace" protests. (The Seattle Times did publish Michael Kelly's syndicated column on the subject.)
- 7:02 AM, 17 February 2003 [link]
Affirmative Action at the Naval Academy produces "obvious absurdities", like the graduate of a fancy private school in Texas who was given preference as a Hispanic. Bruce Fleming, a professor at the Academy, has decided he wants to judge applicants, not on their color but on the "content of their character".
After a year on the USNA Admissions Board, I find I am in favor of eliminating all our set-asides: racial, athletic and fleet-determined.I would disagree with him only on the last. Sailors and Marines performing well should have some advantage in applications to the Academy.
- 6:36 AM, 17 February 2003 [link]
Make War and Love might have been Genghis Khan's slogan, though love might not be the best word for the brutal taking of young women from conquered peoples for the Khan's harem. This combination of war and "love" left behind an enormous number of descendants, perhaps 16 million, according to the study described here. Seizing women was one of the motives for the Islamic conquests, too, as the directives from rulers make clear. Commanders were ordered to send back thousands of young women from the lands they had conquered. Seizing women is even one of the motives for some of the young punks attracted to radical Islam, as Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs found when he looked at some of the dialogs on their web sites.
- 6:13 AM, 17 February 2003 [link]
Condoleezza is the first name of President Bush's national security advisor. I have been mistakenly spelling it with a single 'z', as have others, I notice. This article on Dr. Rice and her remarkable family explains the origin of her name. It comes from "the Italian musical term Con Dulce, or Con Dolcezza, which means to play 'with sweetness'".
- 4:57 PM, 16 February 2003 [link]
Two More Strange New Hawks: Two more prominent newspapers, both on the left, now back force against Iraq.
Newsday, on Long Island, says that we should try one more time to get a resolution through the Security Council, but if that fails, act anyway:
Bush has already offered a good argument to the Security Council. If it fails to act in the face of continued Iraqi defiance, it risks becoming an irrelevant debating society, not the world's guarantor of security. Standing up to Iraq may be the United Nations' ultimate test, one that it must not fail.The Los Angeles Times makes the same argument about the United Nations:
However, the United Nations risks irrelevance if it does not set a definite date for Iraq to comply with Security Council demands -- made as long as 12 years ago and as recently as last November -- that it destroy its chemical and biological weapons and show that it has done so.The League of Nations died because it did not confront dictators before World War II. The United Nations will not die, in all likelihood, but it may, as the newspapers contend, become increasingly irrelevant.
- 8:00 AM, 16 February 2003 [link]
Worth Reading: Jonathan Rauch's account of how the United Nations followed the French strategy toward Iraq in 1999, and how it failed.
Consistently, France's approach has been to offer Iraq pre-emptive concessions in hopes of spurring cooperation. Appeasement, as that approach is called, is a perfectly legitimate strategy, provided, crucially, that the appeaser has something the appeasee wants. Appeasement failed in 1999 because the Security Council's carrot was the lifting of sanctions, but Saddam didn't care about lifting sanctions. He preferred weapons. He still does.And, the current, somewhat stronger, French plan for inspections has already been rejected by Iraq, something that should embarrass the French government but does not. Appeasement of Saddam failed before 1999, failed in 1999, and is failing now. As Rauch says, "enough is enough".
- 7:42 AM, 16 February 2003 [link]
Prime Minister Blair makes the case for disarming Saddam, and warns that, if Saddam stays in power, there will be consequences "paid in blood". Blair has my admiration and, I think, that of most Americans.
- 7:16 AM, 16 February 2003 [link]
Examples of French Anti-Americanism: Yesterday, I argued that the outburst of French anti-Americanism preceded the current anti-French sentiments so common here. Here's an example:
For years, a popular French television show featuring puppets has poked fun at America with a puppet resembling Sylvester Stallone. Monsieur Sylvester, as the puppet is called, is president of World Company and is the only puppet on the show that represents an entire country instead of an individual.Smith makes a common mistake in the body of the article, claiming that the death penalty "has been overwhelmingly rejected by the majority of Europeans". In fact, large numbers of Europeans support the death penalty, even majorities in some countries. Since their politics is less populist than ours, these sentiments of the voters do not get represented in their parliaments. He is more right when he attributes much of the recent anti-Americanism to our current predominance in the world.
- 2:55 PM, 15 February 2003 [link]
The New York Times Gets Serious , as you can see in this editorial:
In our judgment, Iraq is not [disarming]. The only way short of war to get Saddam Hussein to reverse course at this late hour is to make clear that the Security Council is united in its determination to disarm him and is now ready to call in the cavalry to get the job done. America and Britain are prepared to take that step. The time has come for the others to quit pretending that inspections alone are the solution.Apparently, their close and serious study of Powell's evidence, that I laughed at here, paid off.
- 2:32 PM, 15 February 2003 [link]
The French Defense: The French newspaper, Le Monde, presents this defense of the French position. The editorial shows a fatal misunderstanding of the American objections to French policies, but there is an argument in the editorial that deserves some respect.
Americans object more to the devious way President Chirac has pursued his policies than to the policies themselves. Let me grant, for the sake of the argument, that the editorialist was correct in stating the objections the French have to our proposal to liberate Iraq. Even if those are the real objections (and not the desire to protect contracts and dirty secrets), the French government has pursued them in a way guaranteed to make problems for alliance relationships. Instead of stating an argument directly and consistently, Chirac switches from one to another, choosing whichever argument seems to give him the most tactical leverage at the time. For years he opposed both inspections and sanctions. Last fall, when Blair and Bush increased the pressure, Chirac switched to favoring limited inspections, blocking a more extensive program and a more agressive chief inspector. Now that the pressure has increased even more, Chirac switches again, openly favoring first the more extensive system of inspections that he blocked last fall, and then floating a proposal that Saddam would never agree to for "intrusive" inspections. Is there any reason to believe that Chirac truly believes in any of these swiftly changing proposals?
So much for Le Monde's substantive argument about Iraq. (If anyone can determine what, if any, policies Chirac thinks are best, I will glad to give them more consideration. With his frequent switches, trying to analyze his policies is like trying to draw clouds on a windy day.) But there is another point in the editorial that deserves our atttention and some thought. They are right—just as we are in similar circumstances—to complain about stereotypes. If it is foolish and rude for the French to talk endlessly about "trigger-happy cowboys", it is equally foolish and rude for us to indulge in anti-French jokes like the tiresome "cheese eating surrender monkeys".
Now that the French are complaining about these stereotypes, it is fair to ask on which continent the escalation of this name-calling began. I don't regularly read French newspapers, but I do often look at the British newspapers. It is not going too far to say that President Bush's election was met with an outburst of crude anti-Americanism from newspapers like the Guardian and the Independent. (See the editorial cartoons at the Guardian by Steve Bell like this one for an example.) I think it almost certain that the same thing occurred in the French media, at the same time. This was not because Bush had promised any great changes in policy that affected these nations during the campaign. Differences between him and Gore on foreign policy were small. Mostly Bush wanted to cut back somewhat on our overseas involvement and take a humbler approach to the world. That many Europeans, especially on the left, preferred to react to Bush and the United States with crude anti-Americanism is not our fault. That Americans would, after years of this abuse, and much obstruction from the French government, reply in kind, should not surprise anyone.
Even though Americans did not begin this name-calling, we should do our best to be the adults in this dispute, as I have argued before, We will be best off in the long run if we do not reply to the adolescent name-calling from the French, the Germans (and much of the British left) with adolescent name-calling of our own. Given the talents of these two nations, we have some reason to hope that their next round of leaders will be grown-ups like Blair and Bush. We can best encourage that by setting a good example for them.
- 8:26 AM, 14 February 2003 [link]
Has the War Begun? Maybe not the shooting, but in other ways, since United States Special Forces are already on the ground in Iraq. That the administration has chosen to release this information shows that the decision for war has been made, though no doubt Saddam could prevent it by going into exile.
- 10:42 PM, 13 February 2003 [link]
The Estrada Filibuster: War is imminent in the Middle East. The Congress has still not finished its work on last fiscal year's budget. Unemployment is unpleasantly high at 5.7 per cent. In the face of all these serious problems, the Senate Democratic minority has chosen to block the business of the Senate by refusing to allow a vote on Miguel Estrada, whom President Bush nominated to the D. C. Court of Appeals long ago. They are blocking a vote because they know that Estrada would be approved by the whole Senate, were a vote to be allowed. The New York Times, which has taken an extremist position on judicial nominations, supports the Democrats in their filibuster.
If the arguments you see in the editorial seem familiar, there is a reason. As Stuart Buck shows, the Democrats (and the New York Times) are taking their arguments from a letter written by the People for the American Way. In the few cases when they don't, like the strange chiropractor argument from Senator Reid that Buck recounts, you can see why they usually stick to a simple script. Those arguments from PAW are mostly false, as Byron York explains here.
The real reason behind the opposition from PAW and the Democrats to Estrada is simple, but not something they can admit. Estrada is a Hispanic with a remarkable record of accomplishment. Allowing him to go on the D. C. Court of Appeals might give President Bush a strong candidate for the Supreme Court in a few years. Interest groups like PAW, and the Democrats in the Senate, are desperate to prevent that from happening. There is a danger for the Democrats in this; they will be seen as anti-Hispanic if the filibuster gets much press play. Already, columnist Ruben Navarrette is angry about the filibuster and other Hispanics are likely to follow his lead.
Finally, even without the dirty politics being played here, there is the question of priorities. What does it show about the Senate Democrats that, in a time when the nation faces such great problems, they make blocking the nomination of a single judge to an appeals court their highest priority?
- 5:20 PM, 13 February 2003 [link]
Joshka Fischer, Germany's Foreign Minister, has a disturbing personal history. As a young radical, he attacked and injured a policeman. He was a "good and active friend to terrorists", and may have been a terrorist himself. He supported the PLO longer after it was obvious that their goal was the destruction of Israel and they were willing to kill any number of Jews to achieve that end. There are two things I would add to Kelly's portrait of Fischer. These facts about Fischer's early career received wide publicity in Germany, and they seemed to have no effect on his popularity in that country. Reports during the election suggested that he was the most popular politician in the country, and even that his popularity may have provided the slim margin that gave the Social Democrat-Green coalition their victory.
Fischer's radical past may explain why he, and similar German politicians, have not, as this article from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung explains, learned the lesson of Munich:
Yet it is sadly clear the Churchillian lessons of fighting a smaller and shorter war if necessary against an aggressive dictator rather than waiting to have to fight a longer and more terrible one later, are not lessons which these German leaders and apparently a majority of the public have remembered or even learned in the first place.
- 9:48 AM, 13 February 2003 [link]
It's the Smirk: There are reasonable arguments against disarming Saddam and liberating Iraq. I've made some of them myself, though I think, on balance, because of the risks of nuclear proliferation and the oppression of the Iraqi people, the side favoring action has the better case. But, many who oppose Prime Minister Blair and President Bush do so for reasons that can only be called absurd.
Yesterday, the Michael Medved talk show had an hour exploring why many who supported President Clinton and his arguments for force against Saddam in 1998 now oppose Blair and Bush. As he often does, Medved gave priority to the people who held that position, that had backed Clinton but now oppose Bush, even though the argument that Bush now uses is remarkably similar to that Clinton used. (Both, for example argued that Saddam was cheating on banned weapons, and neither thought that action required a UN resolution. Clinton even signed a Congressional resolution saying that regime change in Iraq was our national policy.) No caller who had supported Clinton, but now opposes Bush, had a reasonable argument. One gave a solipsistic explanation; he now feels differently, so he must act as if the the world is different. Another was still enraged over the Florida recount dispute; nuclear attacks were less important to him than chad.
As foolish as those callers were, none matched this column by Al Kennedy in the Guardian. He is opposed to war because he thinks that Bush and Blair smirk too much after their press conferences:
What's really making me force out my eye teeth through my ears is the presence of that particularly irritating smirk. They're not just making fools of us, they're enjoying it.Amazing. And, I should add that, though I do not often watch either man on TV, I have not seen any sign of the smirks that infuriate Kennedy. In the pictures I have seen, both men look more burdened than anything else, just as one would expect.
- 9:16 AM, 13 February 2003 [link]
Treason, Fascist, Communist, and Nazi are words with such great emotional loads that they should be used with care. They should not be used simply to abuse an opponent, both because it is wrong, and because it discredits the person using them. When, for example, Ann Coulter called the New York Times the "Treason Times" in this column, she both stepped outside of the bounds of reasonable argument, and made a fool of herself.
So, Eugene Volokh was right to criticize the New York Sun in this National Review article for their use of "treason", in a dispute over a parade permit. (One can argue that the Sun was correct in objecting to a parade permit, in a time of a terror alert, even while disagreeing, as I do, with the rest of their argument. Diane Moon's argument on the point seems persuasive to me, though I do not know enough parades in Manhattan to be certain.) The Sun has since backed off from their editorial, though not as forthrightly as one would like. It would not surprise me to learn that the criticism from Professor Volokh helped move them back to a more sensible position.
But, Professor Volokh did not finish the discussion, because the Sun's foolishness on the right inspired a similar foolishness on the left. In his attack on the Sun, Timothy Noah called the Sun's editorial "fascist", which is objectionable for the same reasons that the Sun's use of "treason" is. So far I have seen no criticism of Noah, even from the right, for this abuse of the language and the principles of fair debate. I'll be sending an email to Noah about this post and so we'll see if Noah thinks the rules of fair debate apply only to those he disagrees with.
(If you, like Noah, do not see why calling the editorial "fascist" is incorrect, here is a brief explanation: Neither a charge of "treason" nor a demand that a limit be put on demonstrations are peculiar to fascism. Both have often been used by their ideological half-brothers, the communists. In fact, communists tend to be even worse in their attacks on free speech than fascists, as many a citizen of Stalin's Soviet Union or Mao's China could tell you. They are not even peculiar to totalitarian or even authoritarian governments. Few would call Woodrow Wilson a totalitarian, or even an authoritarian, but his government suppressed free speech and made charges of treason against many whom we now can see were innocent.)
- 8:42 AM, 13 February 2003
Update: Diane Moon has asked me to point out that "the SUN editorial has NOTHING to do with the point I was making" about the permits. Quite right, as a fair reading of her posts shows. Apparently, some have taken her defense of the judge's decision on the permit to imply a defense of the Sun's editorial, even though she had plainly called the editorial "abysmal". That's illogical, as Spock would say.
-8:51 AM, 14 Feburary 2003 [link]
The CIA Agrees with the argument I made about proliferation in this post. If Saddam develops nuclear weapons, expect more nations to follow, not all of them friends.
- 12:37 PM, 12 February 2003 [link]
Elaine Brown on the Chomsky Cult Program: (I have gotten far behind in my accounts of this program, which runs on many NPR station's including Seattle's KUOW. I have notes on most of the missing programs and hope to catch up in the next few weeks. If you are not sure what this is about, see this Introduction.)
In last weekend's program, the Chomsky cult broadcast a speech from a leader of the Black Panthers, an organization with a record of terrorism. Her rambling talk was too disjointed for me to give a complete account, but she said a number of things of interest, while plugging her book, which seems to be about a juvenile killer named "Little B". She wants reparations for blacks, of course, but also for Irish-Americans (including the Kennedys?), Native Americans, and every other "oppressed" group. She asserted that the abolition of slavery did nothing for blacks, a position she shares with many neo-Confederates. (Blacks at the time who thought differently were obviously victims of false consciousness.) She boasted about the support the Panthers gave to terrorist organizations like the Irish Republican Army and Peru's Shining Path. Her talk was given at the University of Colorado at Boulder, so we taxpayers probably subsidized the original talk, as well as its broadcast.
If you would like to know more about the Black Panthers or Elaine Brown, here's some essential background in an article protesting her appearance at another university.
- 10:29 AM, 12 February 2003 [link]
Belgium's Record: Belgium joined what some have called the "Axis of Weasels", France and Germany, to block the movement of defensive equipment to NATO member Turkey. (I'm not sure whether this makes Belgium a little weasel or a little wheel, spinning around the French-German axis. Probably the first.) Everyone knows that neither France nor Germany behaved perfectly in the last century, but Belgium's record is less well known.
Before World War II, while France was much stronger than Germany, Belgium had a mutual defense treaty with France. As Nazi Germany re-armed, Belgium retreated into a fantasy land of neutrality. When Hitler attacked in May 1940, they were unprepared and were swiftly overwhelmed. Had they kept to their original treaty and coordinated their defense with France and Britain, Hitler might have been stopped there. Belgium had a population of more than 8 million in 1939, so they could have added about one fifth to France's strength had they adhered to their original treaty. After the German conquest, the Belgians collaborated with the Nazis on a large scale and even volunteered to fight with the Nazis in SS divisions.
After the war, Belgium did join NATO and the Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg) customs union, but did not earn much admiration for its policies otherwise. Politics in the nation have been characterized by ethnic divisions between the French and Flemish speaking parts of the nation, widespread corruption, and even a massive pedophile scandal. Worst of all have been the Belgian policies toward their colony, the Belgian Congo, and their former colony, Rwanda. They had ruled the Belgium Congo brutally and then, in 1960, left in a hasty retreat that almost guaranteed the greedy dictatorships, punctuated by chaos, that have ruled there since.
In 1994, Belgium provided the bulk of the UN forces in Rwanda. The UN forces were there to prevent another outbreak of massacres and failed completely in that mission. The assassination of Rwandan President Habyarimana provided the signal for the violence to begin, and the Belgian response was first pathetic and then disgraceful. Ten Belgium soldiers went to rescue the Prime Minister, who had already been forced to flee and killed by the mob. Philip Gourevitch tells us, in his book about the Rwandan genocide, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families, what happened then:
Before the Belgians could leave, a Rwandan officer drove up and ordered them to surrender their arms and come with him. The Belgians, outnumbered, were taken to Camp Kigali, the military base in the center of the town, where they were held for several hours, then tortured, murdered, and mutilated.The Belgian government then withdrew its forces from the UN command, giving free rein to the Hutu militants who had massacred the Belgian soldiers, and were now killing Tutsis by the thousands. This withdrawal crippled the chances of an early stop to the genocide. Many nations bear some responsibility for failing to stop the Rwandan genocide, but, except for France, none behaved worse than Belgium. The Belgian soldiers, to their credit, recognized this. As Gourevitch tells us, "Belgian soldiers, aggrieved by the cowardice and waste of their mission, shredded their UN berets" in protest as they were leaving Rwanda.
In sum, Belgian governments deserted, in turn, France, the Belgian Congo, Rwanda, and now Turkey. The first three desertions had disastrous consequences, and the fourth has yet to play out. I think it fair to say that there are nations with better records as allies than Belgium, though the country does make good beer and fine chocolate. Finally, it is, as I have said before, unfair to make too much of a person's appearance when criticizing their policies, but I do think the picture of Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel in this article says something about the Belgian leadership.
- 9:38 AM, 12 February 2003 [link]
Worth Reading: Michael Novak makes the religious case for forcing Saddam to comply with the agreements he made to obtain a ceasefire in 1991. As Novak rightly says, a war now with Iraq would be "a lawful conclusion to the just war fought and swiftly won in February, 1991". A homely metaphor may clarify the point. Suppose the police stop a brutal thug after he has attacked another man's house. The police have the drop on the thug and can shoot him or remove him from his own, fortified house. To save his house and his life, the thug promises to disarm. He breaks his promise and begins to produce and hide more weapons. The police then have every right to use whatever force is necessary to make the thug keep his original agreement.
Catholic doctrine, and I would think, most Christian doctrine generally, would support the use of force against the thug, and against Saddam after twelve years of waiting for him to lay down his arms:
Warfare under this teaching is a morally appropriate political end, and may be morally obligatory upon public authorities, when circumstances dictate that evil must be stopped.Given the risks from nuclear proliferation and Saddam's record, I think it is "morally obligatory".
- 8:15 AM, 12 February 2003 [link]
More Ideas for Shuttle Replacements, but don't miss John Pike's cautionary comment about technical difficulties: "It has always been easier to generate the artwork than to turn it into hardware". I am inclined to think that Pike is right, and that, for the short term, we should work on a reusable plane on top of a disposable rocket. We know how to build both, while every other design is unproven. We should continue our research on single stage to orbit vehicles, piggy back scramjets, space elevators, and all the other concepts that make such pretty artwork, but we need something that works and is less expensive and dangerous than the shuttle, soon.
- 2:41 PM, 11 February 2003 [link]
Kudos to Joel Connelly for this column, arguing for more balance from the Christian left, and less reflexive anti-Americanism. As he rightly says, churches that offer prayers for the Iraqi people should also offer prayers for "the men and women of our armed forces, their families, and their safety". (One wonders, by the way, whether those churches offering prayers for the Iraqis know that many Iraqis, probably a majority, would be willing to go through a war to overthrow Saddam?) And, if these leftist churches are looking for something practical to do, President Bush has this suggestion.
- 2:22 PM, 11 February 2003 [link]
The Crafty President Bush: Matt Welch argues in this column that President Bush has been following a strategy of first issuing a "crazy-sounding cowboy threat", and then allowing other, seemingly more reasonable, people to pull him back to the proposal Bush really wanted all along. This is an ancient tactic in bargaining. Ronald Reagan learned it as a union leader. Unions typically begin negotiations with an unreasonable demand, and then back down later and settle for what they had hoped for from the start. President Nixon used a variant when dealing with the Soviets. Kissinger was directed to warn the Soviets that Nixon was not entirely stable, and that they should be very careful not to provoke him. And, mostly, they were. (Perhaps their own recent experience with Stalin made the idea of an unstable leader all too plausible.) Given this history, I think Welch is probably right that Bush is using these tactics deliberately. Certainly that fits with the caution seen in, for example, the way Bush dealt with the incident of the spy plane downed by the collision with the Chinese fighter, or the Bush administration's efforts to limit our involvement in Afghanistan. The wild "cowboy" may be more like his prudent father than his opponents realize.
This tactic, as successful as it often is, damages your reputation. Nixon can not have been entirely happy that others, as well as the Soviets, thought him more than a little imbalanced. Reagan got some of his reputation for hardness from just these bargaining tactics. And many in the rest of the world now have a view of Bush as a reckless cowboy that will make other initiatives more difficult. So far, I think that cost has been worth paying, given the strategic threats we face.
- 10:42 AM, 11 February 2003 [link]
100 Calories A Day: Here's some good news for a change. A study of two national surveys of US eating habits shows that:
Most people could avoid gaining weight simply by reducing the amount they eat by 100 calories a day or burning up 100 more calories daily, according to a new analysis.That's a few bites less to eat each day or fifteen minutes more walking each day. Most who do both would lose weight. Quick? No, not at two pounds a year. Relatively easy? Yes.
- 10:21 AM, 11 February 2003 [link]
Islamic Leader in Britain predicts (Or should that be threatens?) violence. Note that he nowhere condemns the violence he predicts.
- 10:10 AM, 11 February 2003 [link]
Iraq and Nuclear Proliferation: If Saddam is not removed from power, he will obtain nuclear weapons. Estimates after the first Gulf War were that he was six to eighteen months away from a bomb when he started the war, much closer than those outside Iraq had thought. The war and the inspection regime from 1991 to 1998 delayed his program, but did not stop it, as we know from defectors like Khidhir Hamza, at one time Saddam's chief nuclear scientist, and the author of Saddam's Bombmaker. How long it will take Saddam to acquire nuclear weapons is unknown to everyone except Saddam and his regime, but it is hard to believe that he will not have them within ten years, at the very most. He will also have ballistic missiles on which to mount them, missiles with range enough to hit targets in all of the Middle East and much of Europe. He already has shorter range missiles and has been trying to develop longer range missiles, a much less difficult task technically than developing an atomic bomb. At the very worst, he can acquire the technology from North Korea, which has been willing to sell their missiles to anyone with the funds to pay for them.
It has been more than 50 years since we used nuclear weapons to end the war with Japan, so we may have become blase about their dangers. Here's a reminder. If Saddam is able to acquire a small nuclear arsenal and intermediate range ballistic missiles, he will have the capability of killing tens of millions of people, as many as Hitler, Stalin, or Mao. There are many cities with populations greater than one million within the range of IRBMs fired from Iraq. Draw some circles around Iraq with radii varying from 750 to 1500 miles to show yourself just how many. The prospect of Saddam being armed with nuclear weapons mounted on ballistic missiles does not appeal to me, but it is only part of the dangers the world will face if Saddam is not disarmed. [Continue?]
If Saddam obtains nuclear weapons, it is almost certain that other nations will, in response. From the beginning of the nuclear age, the problem of proliferation worried planners. Tom Lehrer's 1965 song, Who's Next?, joked about proliferation, but the joke still has a nervous edge in 2003. Even in the song, we can see an essential point about proliferation: Nations often develop nuclear weapons in response to other nations having them, or the fear of other nations having them. One of the strongest motivations for our nuclear program in World War II was our fear that Nazi Germany would develop one first. Every other nation that has developed nuclear weapons since has done so, in part, out of fear, just as we did. The Soviet Union developed them out of fear of ours. Britain and France developed them out of fear that we would not risk war with the Soviet Union to protect them. China developed them out of fear of us and the Soviet Union. India developed them out of fear of China, and Pakistan developed them out of fear of India.
This was all clear to nuclear theorist decades ago, and so they worked hard to stop proliferation, offering bribes of help with civilian nuclear power, and various kinds of pressures. Taiwan, for example, had a weapons program but stopped it after pressure from us. Long time South American rivals Brazil and Argentina were encouraged to agree that neither would develop nuclear weapons. On the whole, our efforts to stop proliferation have had more success than most would have predicted forty years ago.
This success at preventing proliferation may break down if Saddam acquires nuclear weapons. It is not difficult to discern how this could happen. Iran and Iraq are bitter rivals. Iran has a nuclear weapons program now, though how much progress they have made is uncertain. If Saddam acquires nuclear weapons, nothing will stop the Ayatollahs from acquiring their own. Nor will it end there, in all probability. Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which are mostly Sunni Muslim, will feel threatened by both secular Iraq and Shiite Iran; both will have strong incentives to develop their own nuclear weapons. Turkey, which is the strongest conventional power in the region, after Israel, will find it difficult to rely on our nuclear umbrella. If any of these nations acquire nuclear weapons, others will want to acquire them in turn. If Turkey has them, Greece will want them. If Egypt has them, Libya will want them. And on, and on, and on. We will not be able to deter all these nations from using their weapons, however hard we try. Nor will any conceivable missile defense program offer complete protection, though one will give us a great advantage. In sum, allowing Saddam to acquire nuclear weapons makes a nuclear war, somewhere in the world, far more likely. It also means a far greater risk of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. The more nations that have them, the greater the risks. It really is that simple.
Those who oppose disarming Saddam should understand that this means accepting three enormous risks in the future, a Saddam armed with nuclear IRBMs, out of control nuclear proliferation, and a far greater risk that terrorists will acquire nuclear weapons. There are risks to disarming Saddam, but I think they are far less than these.
- 9:11 AM, 11 February 2003 [link]