Archive for June, 2006
Amid news about the recovery of the corpses of two American soldiers, and that the soldiers may have been tortured before decapitation, I’ve seen a troubling pattern here on the home front. People seem to be going beyond blaming President Bush personally for the deaths of the two soldiers; now, with none other than Andrew Sullivan leading the charge, critics of the President are claiming that the torture of hostages by terrorists is somehow morally equivalent to the torture of enemy combatants by U.S. personnel:
Some people wonder why I remain so concerned about torture, and the surrender of our moral standing with respect to this unmitigated evil. Maybe the news of captured, tortured and murdered Americans will jog their conscience. Or maybe it will simply reinforce the logic of torture-reciprocity endorsed by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Gonzales.
While I share Andrew’s concern about the use of torture, I must disagree with his faulty logic that Islamoterrorists torture because we torture, in some hocus pocus, smoke-and-mirrors “cycle of violence” that is so much en vogue among many members of the Left. Even a passing glance at the video messages from terrorists, such as the late and unlamented Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, will show that fighting Iraq in the Persian Gulf War, basing troops in Saudi Arabia, enacting sanctions against Saddam Hussein, invading Afghanistan, are all nothing more than raisons du jour for the terrorists. Their aim is nothing more than the complete takeover of the world by their extremist version of the already-intolerant Wahabbi sect of Islam. Pay attention, and you’ll see calls by Osama bin Laden for the reconquest of al-Andalus, and calls by Zarqawi for the extermination of Shiites whom he sees as apostates, and therefore far more deserving of hell than even “infidels and crusaders”. No, Andrew, the torture of non-Muslim hostages predates even the Iraq War. But I guess that would throw off the “everything is Bush’s fault” tint to your world view.
Posted by Lexington Green on 20th June 2006 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Good post by Jim Bennett about his recent trip to England. (Previously referred to here by Helen Szamuely, in this post.) Bennett discusses the various Anglosphere polities as “state-nations” rather than nation-states, i.e. they are not primarily states formed out of ethno-linguistic units, but states which formed out of political structures. As he puts it, the Anglosphere countries are composed of “Burkean communities” which have by agreement bound themselves into “Lockean bargains”. RTWT.
Bennett’s discussion of the political arrangements struck by various communities in the Anglosphere is pertinent to the ongoing and perhaps accelerating process of increasing regional autonomy or even independence by smaller and smaller units in Europe. As Chirol discusses over at Coming Anarchy, the recent move to independence by Montenegro, while a seemingly small thing, is having repercussions, including further separatist steps in Catalonia. As Jim Bennett notes in the comments to that post, it is the wealthy regions which want out of the larger units that formed in the 19th and 20th centuries. Other questions: How well will the Europeans do with such map-rewriting? They have usually killed each other over such changes. Also, how will a Europe composed of smaller units do in the face of the hulking monolith which is the EU government? Will they be too weak to resist it? Or will they demand autonomy and get it, as they did from their national units?
And what of the security dimension? As John Robb notes, in a world where security threats come mainly from terrorism and criminal gangs, not from mass armies — since nuclear weapons make mass armies obsolete for conquering people — then smaller units may actually have a security advantage. I am not sure of how true this really is, but it is an interesting idea. I think a decentralized, federal arrangement is still optimum. We need more of that in this country, but not formal devolution. So sayeth I.
Chirol also noted the curious fact that Japan was quick to recognize Montenegro and agree to end the 102 year old formal state of war that has existed between them since Montenegro gave its symbolic support to its larger Slavic cousin in the Russo-Japanese war. I speculate that this historical curiosity is really about Japan jabbing China in the eye. If there is anyone out there who is horrified at the prospect of devolution, and of prosperous regions spinning off and doing their own thing, it is the Chinese leadership. Apparently the Chinese are particularly horrified at the course that Kosovo is taking, since it was an organic part of Serbia, and I read somewhere that they think the US supporting independence for Kosovo is “really” a signal we are sending them about Taiwan. If only we were capable of such deep and clever behavior. I am sure the “Kosovo team” at the State Department is doing its own thing in blithe ignorance of China.
I’m still not convinced by Lex’s arguments that Russia is not a dialect of Western Civilization, and when I get the time, I’ll dig more into that. However, I did want to make some of his case for him, from a quote in the article that he linked to. I disagree with much of that article because I think it focuses on a Russia that has not been in existence for hundreds of years, and projects that vanished Russia on the modern Russian consciousness. Most specifically, the claim that Russians do not see or emphasize individuals is flat wrong, in my opinion. However, I have the pathological need of the scientist to try to poke holes in my own arguments: there is much in that article that is correct, and can be used to bolster the argument that Russia is a separate civilization from the West. For example:
The masses remained traditional: they were unable to defer gratification, they were indifferent to fraud and the notion of contract, they had a short time horizon, had little or no drive or motivation for achievement, and did not know what entrepreneurship was.
sarcasm Sounds like France. /sarcasm
Seriously, an older friend of mine in a city near the site of the great tank battle of Kursk was an engineer. He and I were engaged in a slightly tipsy philosophical conversation (was there any other kind in the late USSR?) back in 1989. He said that the taint of serfdom still permeated the Russian soul, and most of his countrymen were still slaves at heart. I wholly disagreed with him at the time. I only partially disagree with him now. Who knows, I may wholly agree with him when I get to be as old as he was then (he is much older – and wiser – than me).
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The title of this post is actually rather misleading. The Associated Press is reporting that hundreds of National Guard troops will be deployed to New Orleans this next month as an anti-crime measure. So far as I know, martial law has yet to be declared.
Using soldiers to keep the civil peace has always been problematic. Troops equipped and trained to defeat another nation’s military are ill suited to arresting street gangs and investigating crimes. New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco, the two politicians behind this decision, understand that well enough to emphasize that the NG troops will have “law enforcement experience”. The news article linked to above doesn’t mention which units will be used in NO, so there is no way to tell if they will confine themselves to using MP’s and refrain from having regular troops patrol the streets.
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Posted by Lexington Green on 19th June 2006 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Prior to the miracle of Civil Society, human societies habitually lived under coercive and superstitious systems, and generally took such a condition for granted. They were right to do so. There was no alternative. Within such societies, the maintenance of the social order was normally quite properly accorded far more importance than any possible augmentation of the cognitive capital or of productive potential, if indeed those things were valued at all, or held to be attainable or even conceivable. All this was reflected in the values pervading agrarian societies; these values led to a reverence of martial and hieratic skills, a Rule of the Red and the Black. They did not lead to any great respect or encouragement of productive capacity or of intellectual innovation. The specialist was often the object of contempt or fear or both. This, once again, is the normal social condition of mankind. It is foolish to expect anything else.
Then, on one occasion, something strange and unusual happened. Certain societies, whose internal organization and ethos shifted away from predation and credulity to production and a measure of intellectual liberty and genuine exploration of nature, became richer and, strangely enough, even more effective militarily than the societies based on and practicing the old martial values. Nations of shopkeepers, such as the Dutch and the English, organized in relatively liberal polities, repeatedly beat nations within which martial and ostentatious aristocracies, addicted to the values of aggression and conspicuous display, dominated and set the tone.
[cross-posted on Albion's Seedlings]
- Bourne, Kenneth, Britain and the Balance of Power in North America, 1815-1908 (1967)
- Campbell, Charles, From Revolution to Rapprochement: The Unites States and Great Britain: 1783-1900 (1974)
- Campbell, A.E., Great Britain and the United States: 1895-1903 (1960)
The history of relations between the US and Great Britain/Canada during the 19th century is complex and fascinating. It is also the subject of a very large body of historical research. In this post, I’d like to briefly introduce three titles that cover portions of the period in slightly different ways.
ynet reports that:
While three major British newspapers published reports contradicting Israel’s claims that its military was not responsible for the murder of seven members of the Ghalia family on a Gaza beach over a week ago, a German newspaper casts doubt on the authenticity of pictures taken soon after the bloody incident….
Quoting the relevant parts here would exceed the boundaries of fair use, so interested readers should please follow the link and look for themselves.
Anyway, the original German article is here, and it contains just what ynet says. It also mentions ‘Pallywood’ and the numerous deceptions the Palestinians had previously committed. The lastest they were caught at happened this Tuesday, when terrorists from ‘Islamic Jihad’ tried to remove a short range missile from a car the Israeli air force had just taken out – they had wanted to make it look as if the IDF had killed innocents on a road trip.
While the article of the Süddeutsche Zeitung probably doesn’t prove Palestinan guilt with one hundred percent certainty, it is the much more likely explanation.
I recently paid a visit to Chicago, and had a pleasant visit with Lex. I also got to take some pictures around Chicago, especially along the river. With no further ado, I present the pictures:
Update: It seems the link below was wrong before. I’ve fixed that now. Thanks for the comments on the pictures; I have to say that Chicago architecture makes taking great pictures so much easier!
[Excerpted from Between Worlds]
Posted by Mitch Townsend on 16th June 2006 (All posts by Mitch Townsend)
Wired had a pretty good article about preventing identity theft. This sort of thing predates the Internet by many decades. It happened to me when someone stole my mail, including my bank statement, some 30 years ago and tried to cash bad checks made out to me, using a fake ID. He happened to use the same bank branch I used and was caught immediately.
There is one more tip I think is worth mentioning: Your credit card company may be able to issue you a temporary credit card number linked to your real account number. This feature is provided by several large US and foreign banks through a company called Orbiscum. Depending on the bank, you can limit the time the number can be used and the amount that can be charged. It can also be restricted to a single transaction, so that once the transaction is complete, your credit card number is useless to anyone else. Consider the one-time use technique when dealing with unknown or dodgy vendors.
A report on Jim Bennett’s talk to the Bruges Group in London
A combination of day-jobbing and difficulties with internet connection at home has meant a very weak presence on the blog. This has given me a feeling of not quite understanding what is going on. (Yes, yes, there are numerous people around who would say I suffer from that all the time, particularly if they don’t agree with me.)
However, some good things come out of everything. Yesterday I spent the afternoon talking to the guru of the Anglosphere, Jim Bennett, and in the evening, to round things off, I was privileged to chair the meeting organized by the Bruges Group at which he spoke to an appreciative audience.
Well, it was largely appreciative. There was a Conservative candidate for the European Parliament who announced in ringing tones that matters European were all going our way and Anglospheric ideas will win in Europe as they have always done. There must be an underground establishment where these people are bred.
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Posted by Lexington Green on 15th June 2006 (All posts by Lexington Green)
“…drinking can make you lose that inner voice that says you suck.”
(Book here (It’s an absolute scream, BTW. I read it.))
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Terrorism is an information war disguised as a military operation. The press plays a symbiotic role, and isn’t willing to address that.
There have been many predictions about the impact of blogging. Some people have claimed that this hobby of ours (la blogga nostra?) will replace main stream media some day. Eventually there will be no more TV news shows, no more newspapers. Everyone will get their fast breaking news from the blogs.
I think this prediction is not very realistic, if for no other reason than bloggers usually write about items they find in the news instead of getting out there and nailing down the story by themselves. But there is no question that blogs have done a great service to this country.
The scandal known as Rathergate showed just how blogs can be used to keep traditional media sources honest. Forged documents were held up as evidence in a story that would have seriously damaged President Bush’ chances to win the 2004 election. If not for bloggers, history would have been altered.
Rathergate is the single great blog success story so far even though it is two long years in the past, but it has some very long legs. The Washington Post reports that Dan Rather will probably be forced into retirement some time this year.
It could very well be that the scandal which bears his name has nothing to do with the end of Rather’s career. I do note that the author of the WaPo story keeps mentioning that piece of old news, though.
One of the executives at CBS had an epitaph for an old anchor who spent his career in the service of one of the traditional media giants.
The CBS executives hope a dignified exit can be arranged and that Rather can find a second career, perhaps in cable, the sources say.
Or, I suppose, he could start his own blog.
Instapundit points to Bill Frist’s proposals for altering the budgetary process to make it more accountable and controllable. He ask for thoughts on the matter.
I think that every government program should have some kind of metric attached to it which will be used to determine if the program has succeeded or failed.
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Five Years A Dragoon: ’49 to ’54 and other Adventures on the Great Plains. Percival G. Lowe (1905) reprinted 1965 University of Oklahoma Press Norman
[cross-posted on Albion's Seedlings]
One of the great dramas of the late 19th century was the rapid American transition from self-absorbed isolationism to globe-trotting bravado in the last decade of the 19th century. Part of the story is the buildup of muscle and self-confidence which the American public and American military acquired during the development of the West. The vast scale of the American continent, its settlement and policing, was to absorb the energies of America through most of the 19th century. After somber hints to Napoleon Bonaparte from Thomas Jefferson, the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 was to add 282,000 square miles to the United States, almost 22% of its ultimate continental extent. Settlement of the Missouri drainage west of the Mississippi was initially quite slow. With the discovery of gold in California in 1849 however, the wagon trails from Saint Louis, Missouri were striking off in greater and greater numbers each year. Five Years a Dragoon may seem a strange subject for a chicagoboyz book review but it describes the American military experience for an ordinary soldier during a period when European nations could ignore American activities except for the border clashes in Maine and Oregon (settled effectively, if not amicably, by treaty with Great Britain). Percival Lowe was an enlisted man and writes in a lucid clear style reminiscent of US Grant’s autobiography. Without a military reputation to enhance, his accounts of the period from 1849 onward in the region from Kansas west to the Rocky Mountains are notable in many ways.
It has been widely noted that congressional Republicans have failed to live up to their billing as the party of small government, especially since George W. Bush became president. There are exceptions, to be sure, but the allure of spending other people’s money has proved so great that voters have not gotten the spending restraint they expected when they elected a Republican Congress in 1994. About all that Republicans can say in defense of this record is that Democrats have been worse.
Yet what is less widely noted is that the Democrats, in opposition, have presented themselves to a large extent as an antigovernment party. One of their main themes has been that the Bush administration is “incompetent”–that, at least for now, the government can’t do anything right. As we noted in September, former Enron adviser Paul Krugman blamed the allegedly poor response to Hurricane Katrina on Ronald Reagan’s “ideological hostility to the very idea of using government to serve the public good.”
This attitude betrays a fundamental lack of faith in government. Its implication is that the institutions of government are too frail to withstand the pressures of American democratic politics. It is also a remarkably self-serving position. Liberal Democrats take credit for creating an enormous government, which, according to them, doesn’t work–but would work just fine if only the populace were smart enough to elect liberal Democrats.
In sum: Republicans favor small government but embrace big government when they have the power to control it. Democrats favor big government but insist that it can work only when they have the power to control it. Politicians in both parties, then, seem to see government as a means to the same end: their own political power. Little wonder that voters are suspicious of government.
That seems about right. I think many Americans were intrigued, in 1994, by the possibility that the Contract with America might just prove to be the tonic long needed in national government. Unfortunately, as with most revolutions, this one too reversed to Establishmentarian form once its enumerated objectives were met.
Given the choice between bad ideas and no ideas, is it any wonder voters and citizens are tuning out?
[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]
Posted by Lexington Green on 12th June 2006 (All posts by Lexington Green)
“ONE of Britain’s most senior military strategists has warned that western civilisation faces a threat on a par with the barbarian invasions that destroyed the Roman empire.”
Quoting Rear Admiral Chris Parry, head of the “development, concepts and doctrine centre at the Ministry of Defence”, who is “charged with identifying the greatest challenges that will frame national security policy in the future.”
He identified the most dangerous flashpoints by overlaying maps showing the regions most threatened by factors such as agricultural decline, booming youth populations, water shortages, rising sea levels and radical Islam. Parry predicts that as flood or starvation strikes, the most dangerous zones will be Africa, particularly the northern half; most of the Middle East and central Asia as far as northern China; a strip from Nepal to Indonesia; and perhaps eastern China. He pinpoints 2012 to 2018 as the time when the current global power structure is likely to crumble. Rising nations such as China, India, Brazil and Iran will challenge America’s sole superpower status. This will come as “irregular activity” such as terrorism, organised crime and “white companies” of mercenaries burgeon in lawless areas.
Hmmm. I’d like to see the map. I bet it looks a lot like the Gap.
Meanwhile, the Brits are probably going to be axing one of their planned aircraft carriers. Wise move to ditch a Cold War anachronism — or foolish move, sacrificing a valuable 4GW power-projection platform? I suppose it depends on what the person with the checkbook wants to hear.
The Brits are speculating about (reconfiguring for?) a new Barbarian Invasion. And it sounds kinda plausible.
That concerns me.
(via EU Referendum Blog)
Posted by Lexington Green on 12th June 2006 (All posts by Lexington Green)
The race will go to the swift, the smart, and the agile. Here, we Americans have an important edge, for the capacity to leave the past behind flows from our culture and political system. We venerate new frontiers and diversity, the expression of ideas, and the freedom to differ. We, as a people, are the swift, the smart, and the agile. As such, we are far more willing and able than any others to seize the opportunities of the new age.
A true teenage rebel isn’t a person whose parents can’t stand him. A true teenage rebel is a person other teenagers can’t stand.
Stratfor sums up last week’s events:
It strikes us as far more than a coincidence that within hours of the confirmation of al-Zarqawi’s death, the Iraqi Parliament put the finishing touches on the new Iraqi government. Baghdad now sports an internationally acceptable, domestically chosen government that includes participation from all of the major sectarian groups.
They argue that the use of F-16s indicates stronger pre-existing intelligence and lower fragmentation & fire; this implies, they believe, that “Al-Zarqawi was not found, he was sold out. A political deal was made, and the Sunnis have delivered on their end.”
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I love the word “maturity” in this profile of Tom Stoppard by William Langley:
For all this, it might be fairer to call Stoppard a libertarian than a Conservative. In the 1970s, when the big names of British theatre – all of predictably uniform Leftist sympathies – reserved their denunciations for the United States and its supposedly nefarious doings in places like Nicaragua, Stoppard was quietly active among the dissident groups of the Eastern Bloc. In part this was attributable to his roots, but it speaks, equally, to the maturity of his thinking.
Posted by Lexington Green on 8th June 2006 (All posts by Lexington Green)
The consensus among my friends about this video: “now THAT rocks!”
The pictures of Zarqawis carcass reminds me of Che, that other bearded terrorist, murderer and media sensation that America, with local allies, killed. Much like Zaq, Che never looked better than he did when he was dead.
(When will we have the first live sighting of Zarqawi’s mug on some foul-smelling hippie’s t-shirt?)
God rest the souls of the thousands of men, women and children Zarqawi murdered.
God bless America.
God bless our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, and our allies who put their lives in danger in the fight against Islamic terrorism.
God bless free Iraq.
Death to America’s enemies.
UPDATE: Zarqawi’s death is a setback to the apocalyptic, irrational element in the resistance, composed in large part of non-Iraqi “jihadis”. Paradoxically, his death, while it may lead to less murder of innocent civilians — an unequivocal good thing — may make things harder not easier in the long run. With Zarqawi gone, the potential for a more rational resistance emerges. Successful insurgencies usually have three elements: (1) foreign assistance, (2) a political “front” that has specific goals and seeks unity with all those opposed to the current regime, and (3) a guerilla/terrorist/military arm that wages war in a targeted way against the regime and its supporters. I think we are likely to see a more “traditional” and hence more capable and threatening resistance emerge as a result of Zarqawi’s removal from the playing field. Without regard to this, he was a man who did hideous things, and would continue to do so until he was stopped. As W puts it, justice was brought to him. That is worth celebrating, for its own sake.