Archive:

November 2002, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics



Pseudo-Random Thoughts


Mary Daly's Dream:  Instapundit Glenn Reynolds has started a discussion about radical feminist Mary Daly's statement that she would like to live in a world in which only one in ten adults were men.  Rather than try to decide whether she is being sexist, or even discuss how such a society would be different from our own, I would like to mention a nation that, according to some accounts, came close to that ratio for a time.

In 1864, Paraguay under dictator Francisco Solano Lopez began a war with Brazil, which was then intervening in a Uruguayan civil war.  To attack southern Brazil, he tried to lead his own forces across Argentina.  Soon after, he was faced with a "Triple Alliance" of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay.  Although not very sensible in picking their foes, the Paraguayans proved to be courageous fighters who did not give up easily.  At the end of the Triple Alliance War in 1870, according to some accounts, the Paraguayan population had been reduced from 1,337,439 to less than 250,000, of who only 28,746 were men.  Not quite one in ten, but close enough for a test of Daly's idea, I would think.  (I should immediately add that there are other estimates, not quite as drastic, of both the losses and the sex ratio.  One I have seen puts the loss at only (!) half of the population.)

As far as I can tell, these immense losses made less difference than one might think.  According to some accounts, polygamy became accepted in Paraguay, which is not surprising.  Men continued to rule the nation, and nothing close to a feminist paradise appeared.  Nor did Paraguay give up wars over borders.  In 1932, they got into the three year Gran Chaco war with Bolivia.  It is hard, now, to think of anything distinctive about Paraguay stemming from this time in which they came close to Daly's ratio.

Finally, a bit of trivia.  President Hayes, now almost unknown in the United States, is a hero in Paraguay because he ruled in their favor after the Triple Alliance War.  There is even a province named after him.
- 4:32 PM, 29 November 2002   [link]


They Like Us, They Really Like Us!  The popularity of Americans in Britain is at the highest level in more than two decades, according to this British poll.  And, as the author of the columns says, the details are interesting, as well:
The British seem more or less evenly split when asked whether we can learn a great deal from the US.   Half of us agree, 44 per cent disagree.
Be interesting to know whether those who disagree tend to be Labour party members.  Actually, again agreeing with the author, I think one can learn just as much from mistakes elsewhere as achievements.   There are certainly some American mistakes I hope others do not repeat.

The second poll reported in the column is also interesting.  Apparently support is growing in Britain for using force against Iraq, which, as the author notes, was buried in the Guardian story.
- 3:30 PM, 29 November 2002   [link]


Why Kissinger, Why Mitchell?  President Bush's choice of former secretary of state (and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize) Henry Kissinger to head the independent 9/11 commission brought sharp reactions from the usual suspects on the left, and even from some who are more moderate.  To my mind, the appointment of former Senate majority leader George Mitchell by the Democrats is equally surprising, and so it is fair to ask both why Bush named Kissinger and why Gerhardt and Daschle named Mitchell.  Neither question has an answer I like very much.

The Bush administration has been resisting an independent commission, rightly in my view.  The essential question about the surprise on 9/11 is why the intelligence agencies failed.  In the middle of a war on terrorism, this is exactly the question that should not be discussed openly.   Intelligence is the key to defeating al Qaeda.  To take an obvious example, if we know where al Qaeda leaders like Osama are, we can kill them easily, with cruise missiles, or Predator drones, or even an attack by special forces.  They know this and will do everything they can to keep us from learning where they are and what they are planning.  If we discuss openly what we knew before 9/11, they will be able to counter many of our intelligence methods.  (And, of course, if the commission does not discuss them openly, it will be accused, with some justice, of a cover up.)   In choosing Kissinger, the Bush administration apparently decided to make the best of a bad idea, the independent commission, by putting at its head a man with a taste for secrecy.  And, they may have thought that Kissinger is good enough at theater to disguise the fact that essential intelligence matters will not be discussed openly.

In appointing Kissinger, the Bush administration is pursuing a good goal, the defeat of terrorism, with a bad method.  The appointment of Mitchell can not even be said to have a very noble goal.   As this New York Times article on the appointments suggests, the Democratic leaders chose Mitchell for partisan reasons, to make sure that the Bush administration does not escape blame.  Kissinger's appointment:
raised questions among Democrats about whether Mr. Kissinger, who served in the Nixon administration and in every later Republican administration, would pursue an aggressive investigation that would delve into delicate topics like the role of Saudi Arabia and risk findings that could prove politically explosive for Mr. Bush.
And, although the article does not mention it, one can be sure that the Democrats were also worried about findings that might be "politically explosive" for former president Clinton and Democratic leaders in Congress.  So, given these partisan fears, it was natural for Gephardt and Daschle to choose one of the most partisan men ever to be Senate majority leader, George Mitchell, as co-chairman.  Natural, but unfortunate.  Mitchell's partisanship damaged our security while he was majority leader, and there is no sign he has changed since then.  Sometimes the best interests of the nation require even party leaders to put away partisanship for a time.   Neither Mitchell or the current leader, Daschle, seem to understand that point.

Finally, there is one odd bit about the two appointments that I find amusing, but not significant.   Kissinger, as everyone knows, is Jewish.  Mitchell, as not everyone knows, is partly of Arab descent, since his mother was a Lebanese immigrant.  I don't think the appointments were influenced by the ancestries of either man, but it is an interesting detail.  (Some people do think that Daschle's time as staffer for Senator Abourezk has influenced his ideas on the Middle East.   Abourezk is also of Arab descent and was moderately hostile to Israel, as a senator.)
- 9:18 AM, 29 November 2002   [link]


Happy Thanksgiving!  
- 11:51 AM, 28 November 2002   [link]


Count Every Vote, unless it would give the Republican candidate a win, as in this Maine election.   Rich Galen describes a disputed election in which Democrats are determined not to count all the votes.  One would have to know more than I do, which is nothing, about Maine election laws to know whether the Democrats are disqualifying legal votes, or even votes that had been counted in past elections, but this does look dubious.  In my humble opinion, the rule should be not to count every vote, but to count every legal vote.

Galen mentions the 1984 controversy over the Indiana 8th district; here's how the 1992 Almanac of American Politics describes it:
In 1984, incumbent Democrat Frank McCloskey, Mayor of Bloomington for 11 years, led 27-year-old Republican Richard McIntyre in the first count by 72 votes out of 233,000 cast; then some double-counting in a Democratic county was corrected giving McIntyre a 34 vote lead which Republican state officials quickly certified; then a recanvass in another county put McCloskey ahead by 72 votes, and the House declined to seat either man.  The House is the final judge of this type of dispute, and the Democratic House set up a special task force to decide this one, and ultimately decided to seat the Democrat, at which point the Republicans yelled foul.  Probably both parties tried to judge fairly; there was no way a dispute over an election this close would be decided amicably.
Actually, my impression at the time was that both parties were cheating, though the Democrats may have been worse.  For what it is worth, in 1995, the Republican controlled House seated a Democratic congressman from Connecticut, Sam Gejdenson, without a dispute, even though he had won by a mere 21 votes, after a recount by the state's Supreme Court.  (By way of Patrick Ruffini)
- 5:36 PM, 27 November 2002   [link]


The Skulking Way of War:  Most Indian tribes practiced what one New England settler called the "skulking way of war".  Instead of war being fought between two armies in a formal combat, it was fought in a series of raids and ambushes, where civilians were often the main targets.  The settlers suffered heavily until they learned the same skulking way of war.  As the same settler said: "In our first war with the Indians, God pleased to show us the vanity of our military skill, in managing our arms after the European mode."   The settlers had brought with them ideas about limits on how wars should be fought that the Indians did not have.  The settlers expected to play croquet and found themselves in a field hockey match.  Nor do tribal warriors elsewhere in the world have these European ideas about limits on wars.  Though some have stylized and limited battles like the European model, most primitive warriors fought in the skulking way.

I learned this from Lawrence H. Keeley's impressive book, War Before Civilization, subtitled "The Myth of the Peaceful Savage".  Keeley demolishes the argument that tribes (and groups with even more primitive political structures) were usually peaceful.  He uses a variety of evidence to show that most were far more warlike than their civilized counterparts.  It took some courage for Keeley to come to these views, which contradict those held by most of his fellow anthropologists, at least until recently.  He had to admit that he had been wrong earlier in his career to ignore the massive evidence of war in many excavations.  (He also, at least for a time, had to learn how to disguise his requests for grants, since he found they would be rejected if he admitted he was searching for evidence of primitive war.)

Keeley argues that this skulking way of war is often more effective than the more civilized methods used by the European settlers, and that they had to learn the Indian's methods to defeat their tribal opponents.  The Apaches, in the American Southwest, for example, were defeated only when:
General Crook mounted campaigns in the early 1870s and early 1880s using small mobile units consisting mostly of Indians (specifically Apaches) and supplied by mule rather than wagon trains.  
The same was true of conflicts between tribal warriors and civilized armies in many other conflicts.   For the most part, the civilized armies had to learn the skulking ways, though there are exceptions, like the battle of Omdurman.

Is there any place in the world where this skulking way of war is still being practiced?   Of course.  It is an accurate description of both the continuing terrorist war against Israel, and the related war against the United States.  In both, civilians are often the targets and there are few set piece battles.  So, when we condemn terrorist tactics as barbaric, we are accurate historically.  The murder of civilians in raids, and similar ways of fighting, are tactics used by barbarians for millennia.  Condemning these tactics as barbaric is satisfying but insufficient.  We also need to learn, or rather relearn, the skulking way of war.
- 10:27 AM, 27 November 2002   [link]


German Indians:  Or, at least as Indian as someone living in Germany can be.  This entertaining account describes these dedicated hobbyists, so dedicated that they have sometimes criticized real Indians for their lack of authenticity.  I am glad to see that they have not copied some of the nastier customs of the most warlike tribes.
- 9:09 AM, 27 November 2002   [link]


Geography Knowledge at Our Paper of Record:  A reporter and a copy editor at the New York Times need some help with geography.  Black Sea, Baltic, why they are practically the same thing!  And getting the name of the slain missionary's husband wrong is a pretty bad error, too.
- 9:02 AM, 27 November 2002   [link]


Good News for New Jersey:  The state has a new prosecutor, who is beginning to make a dent in its widespread corruption.  Only a partisan would carp about the failure of the Clinton administration to appoint a similar prosecutor.  (They would have considerable motivation not to, at least in the short run, since the corruption is found more in Democratic than Republican organizations.)
- 8:42 AM, 27 November 2002   [link]


Worth Reading:  William Tucker's column on the enormous costs of rent control in New York city.
- 1:59 PM, 26 November 2002   [link]


Good Posts:  Tony Adragna's summary of that odd character, former UN inspector Scott Ritter.  Tim Blair's attempt to incite a riot, among those who are not of the Muslim faith.  Moira Breen's update on the Kennewick Man controversy.  Matt Evans' description of the gains by pro-life candidates in the 2002 election.  (Not given much coverage by the major media.)   Jane Galt's proposal for tax reform.   (Neither possible, nor in some parts, desirable, but it shows what a tax system based only on market objectives might look like.)  Joanne Jacobs on why American and British students don't know geography.   (The schools teach vague environmental ideas, rather than the subject.)  Orrin Judd's dissection of bias in a New York Times article on a murdered missionary.  (They don't quite say she deserved it, but come close.)  Jacob T. Levy's neat analysis of the Libertarian vote in South Dakota.  (No, they didn't cause the Republican loss, this time.)   Derek Lowe's explanation of how we tell right from left.  Iain Murray's dismissal of the recent report on hate crimes.  (Garbage in, garbage out.)  Natalie Solent's perceptive observation about the popularity of Charles Johnson's site, which specializes in critical material on Muslim terrorists.   ("There is a fierce joy in saying what is true but forbidden or supressed, or in hearing others say it.")  And, Bjørn Stærk's statistic on the Norwegian Progress party.  (It has a large and growing number of followers, but almost no one from the Norwegian elites.  The only recent parallel I can think of in American politics is the George Wallace movement in 1968, although the Progress party seems very different in most ways from them.)
- 1:37 PM, 26 November 2002   [link]


Bellicose Kurdish Women:  These women belonging to the irregular Kurdish "peshmerga" have more reason than most to want to attack Saddam.   As a commander, Shams Mahmoud, summarizes:
There is barely a woman in Iraq whose husband, brother, son or family member has not suffered or been killed at the hands of this regime.  My job is to teach them how to look after themselves, and how to fight to liberate this country.
Wonder what she would think about Monbiot's argument, just below, that the United States is not pure enough for the job?

One detail in the article is significant.  If the deputy commander, Mustafa Sayid Khadir, is correct, we have not begun to supply the Kurds with a substantial amount of weapons.  This may show strategic caution, or a desire to have a very swift campaign, in which case we would not want to encourage the Kurds to jump the gun, or some of each.
- 7:22 AM, 26 November 2002   [link]


OK to Overthrow Saddam , as long as the United States doesn't do it, argues Guardian columnist George Monbiot.   The United States is disqualified because we have a "recent record of expansionism and foreign aggression", a "special interest in Iraq's resources", and some chatterers who talk "of creating a 'new imperium'".  Monbiot adds some other conditions, as well, but I am most interested in his argument that overthrowing Iraq can be done only by a nation with a heart as pure as Galahad's.   There is, of course, no such nation.  Costa Rica, which doesn't have an army, might come closest, but no nation with a military that could overthrow Saddam could meet Monbiot's conditions.   Not Britain, China, France, Russia, or Turkey, to name the obvious examples.

I'm not sure whether Monbiot is being disingenuous in making this argument, or whether he is so blinded by anti-Americanism that he does not notice that there are imperfections in every significant military power.  I am inclined to think that it is the second, since he also makes the amusing argument that writers, not even in the government, can disqualify a nation from pursuing a particular policy.   I don't think he has realized that following that principle would give, for instance, unelected writers for the Guardian a veto over British policy.  Not exactly a democratic idea, is it?
- 6:55 AM, 26 November 2002   [link]


Not Worth Reading:  Author John Reed (who has a suspicious name, you will notice) has written Snowball's Chance, a parody of Orwell's Animal Farm.   Future works include Oedipus Rex as a situation comedy, Romeo and Juliet as an Eminem rap performance, and Moby Dick as Love Boat.  All right, I made those last three up, but they make just as much sense as Mr. Reed's book.  According to this article, Reed was inspired, if that is the right word, to write the book by seeing the attack on the twin towers.  The attack showed, he decided, that there was "something wrong with our system, too" (as well as Communism).   The article does not ask the obvious question.  What conclusions would Reed draw after seeing the Nazi attack on Poland, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, or even a purse snatcher stealing from an old woman?  Somehow I think he would find a way to convict all three victims of something.
- 8:25 PM, 25 November 2002   [link]


Turducken:  If, by chance, you have not heard of this Thanksgiving specialty, here's the explanation and here's a recipe, for the ambitious.   I vaguely remember hearing of an experimenter adding one more layer, a whole pig, by the way.
- 8:02 PM, 25 November 2002   [link]


Afghan School Girls:  This last Sunday's New York Times had a picture of Afghan school girls, accompanying this article on progress in rebuilding Afghanistan.  (The picture is from Agence France-Presse and is not, as far as I can tell, available on line.)  The girls were having class in a crowded tent, while their school is being rebuilt.  To me, they look about 8 to 10 years old, and the picture illustrates what we have already accomplished in the war on terror.  These little girls, crowded into a tent, are having one of their first lessons ever and are showing complete enthusiasm.  Nearly all are smiling, nearly all have their hands raised ready to answer the question, and nearly all have the intent look that would bring joy to the heart of any teacher.  A little over a year ago, this school, with its enthusiastic girls, would have been impossible.
- 7:38 PM, 25 November 2002   [link]


Osama's Complaints:  The Observer, a left wing British newspaper, has posted a translation of a "letter to America", supposedly from Osama bin Laden.  Obviously, I don't know whether the letter is from him, or even one of his supporters, but it is consistent with views he has expressed in the past, so I think it fair to analyze it as if it were from him.  With that caveat, let me begin by noting that there are four kinds of complaints mixed together in the letter.

First, there are the cultural conservative complaints.  The United States should stop our "lies, immorality and debauchery". In particular, we should suppress "immoral acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling's (sic)".  Among other things, he condemns us for not punishing Bill Clinton for his activities with Monica Lewinsky.   (No comment so far from the Move On organization, which thought a censure punishment enough.)   All this sin makes us "the worst civilization witnessed by the history of mankind", a curious judgment since it is not difficult to find nations worse than we in all of those sins.  Some Frenchmen, in fact, might be annoyed that the United States is given the lead in fornication.  Thailand, not the United States, is a top destination for "sex tours".  South Africa has a rate of rape far beyond that in the United States.  Little Monte Carlo actually bases its economy on gambling.   Russia and many other countries outdrink us.  And, so on.

Second, there are the left wing anti-capitalist, anti-American complaints.  Many of them seem to be taken directly from the Observer or its equally left wing partner, the Guardian.  Osama condemns us for not signing the Kyoto treaty.  (Actually, we did sign it, but we didn't ratify it.)   He thinks our politics are controlled by the wealthy, through their campaign donations.  He recycles the discredited idea that Japan was ready to surrender before we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.   He accuses us of using puppets to control governments in the Muslim world, in particular Algeria.   (The French did help the military government there against the even more brutal Islamic militants, but we had little or nothing to do with that.)  He claims that our treatment of the Guantanamo prisoners was outrageous, though that is not what most of those prisoners, including some who have been released, say.  He thinks our military bases around the world are there, not in support of our allies, but to control those nations.  He accuses us of responsibility for the deaths of more than a million children in Iraq.   All of these are complaints that have appeared in the Guardian, and similar left wing newspapers and magazines.  Most of their readers would agree with them, at least in part.  As with the cultural complaints, these left wing complaints apply to many other nations besides the United States.   Syria is an obvious example; their long and brutal occupation of Lebanon is far worse than anything the United States has done in some time.  An even more obvious example is the invasion and brutal repression of East Timor by the Muslim government of Indonesia, which is described here.  (To our shame, we supported this at the beginning.  To his great shame, bin Laden supports it even now.  In defense of the Nixon administration, it seems likely that they expected something like the almost bloodless takeover of another Portuguese enclave, Goa, by India.)

Third, there are the anti-Semitic complaints.  He rants against Jews and Israel all through the letter.  He argues against history and even some passages in the Koran that Jews have no historic connection to the land of Israel.  In this, he follows and worsens the long Muslim history of discrimination against Jews, as described here.  (There were times when absolute Islamic rulers tolerated Jews.  For the most part, these came when the ruler felt no threat from outsiders.  When rulers did feel threatened, or the absolute rule broke down, Jews and other religious minorities became targets.)  To me, these anti-Semitic complaints are the most disturbing of of the four groups, reflecting a widespread hatred that can be compared fairly to that of the Nazis.  In one way, it is already even worse.  It is more open.

Fourth, there are the radical Islamic complaints.  He says we can stop the attacks by submitting to Islam and its laws, in short, by surrendering.  Naturally, he does not mention the second class dhimmi status all of us who do not become Muslims would have to accept, though that is, in fact, part of the bargain.  Nor does he consider the Sudanese slaves, held by Muslims, who might disagree with his views that his version of Islam is a religion of "sincerity, the best of manners, righteousness, mercy, honour, purity, and piety". Christians in Nigeria might find it hard to accept his claim that Islam "is the religion of showing kindness to others, establishing justice between them, granting them their rights, and defending the oppressed and the persecuted."  And, not a few women in Afghanistan and elsewhere would find absurd his claim that his version of Islam brings "total equality between all people, without regarding their colour, sex, or language".  As bizarre as all this seems, in view of his brutal record, there is every reason to think that he, and his followers, believe these arguments.

If we look at the four kinds of complaints, the first two kinds seem to be simply propaganda.   They are included, not because they are the real source of the anger, but because they can be used to weaken support for the United States.  The third group are genuine and show us what an evil person and movement we have for an enemy.  The fourth group, which Osama would call submission to Islam, and George Bush would call freedom, are the heart of the matter.  Osama hates us because, as he sees it, we block Islamic rule of the world.  Given that, there is no compromise, no easy way of satisfying him or his followers. At the risk of melodrama, I will end by saying it is him or us.
- 8:16 AM, 25 November 2002  
Update:  Claudia Winkler thinks the letter can not be from Osama because it is too moderate, and suggests some other suspects for the author(s).  I did notice that the writer(s) of the letter picked a different year than Osama usually does for when everything went wrong.  He usually picks 1920, if I remember correctly, but the letter says 50 years ago.
- 2:12 PM, 26 November 2002   [link]


Britain is Unprepared for a desert war, according to this account in the Telegraph.  Lack of money is not the problem in Britain, as the overall budget is getting a large increase this year, with more planned in years to come.  The British are probably the best prepared of our European allies.
- 8:45 AM, 25 November 2002   [link]