“Mobile” vs. “Immobile” Civilizations

That’s how Reuven Brenner, in this recent column, characterizes the struggle between the democratic West and Islamic fundamentalism. Brenner’s argument is interesting.

It is easy to criticize both grandiose thesis and narrow ones. To come up with a different way of perceiving the events and offer solutions is a bit harder. Yet this brief does just that. It shows that today’s conflict between Islamic groups and the West, as well as within Islamic societies, can be viewed as one between “mobile” and “immobile” civilizations, whose members can be found in every society. What distinguishes the US is that it has far more people sharing the outlook of a “mobile civilization” than any other country. And what characterizes many Islamic countries is that they have a large number of people sharing the values of an “immobile” civilization. “Relativist” orthodoxy notwithstanding, one point I make is that although one can understand the values and ideals of “immobile societies”, as fitting certain situations, there cannot be a compromise between these two civilizations. Today’s circumstances – demographic in particular – require moves toward “mobility”.

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Joke of the Day

The World Court, an organization with neither legitimacy nor accountability, condemned Israel, a democratic country, for building a security fence that is saving lives every day. The Court’s head judge wrote:

. . . “The wall … cannot be justified by military exigencies or by the requirements of national security or public order.

“The construction … constitutes breaches by Israel of its obligations under applicable international humanitarian law. Israel is under an obligation … to dismantle forthwith the structure,” he said.

Where does this head judge, who is so concerned about humanitarian and legal obligations, come from? From China, a country ruled by an unelected clique of mass-murderers that lacks legitimacy and accountability and treats its citizens like ants in an ant farm.

It should long ago have become obvious, to anyone who has a clue, that the principal role of “international organizations” like the World Court is as weapons against the U.S. and Israel and other democracies that assert their right to defend themselves. These are the same organizations to which John Kerry and his political allies on the Left would grant increased resources and legitimacy. Bush, whatever his flaws, at least understands who our enemies are. The Democrats won’t be ready for national leadership again until they wise up in this area, and stop pandering to the idiots for whom it is always 1968.

Intelligence And Law Enforcement: Stewart Baker Gets It Half Right

Instapundit links to a thoughtful article by Stewart Baker about the underlying causes of U.S. pre-September 11 intelligence failures.

Baker is right that there should be more cooperation between intelligence people and law enforcement people, and that increased after-the-fact auditing of law-enforcement activity is probably better than increased a priori regulation.

However, he is only partially correct in his explanation of why the “effort to build information technology tools to find terrorists has stalled.” While it’s true that civil libertarians have hamstrung government efforts to deploy such tools, they have done so mainly for good reasons. Widely discussed information analysis proposals have been badly conceived: mining error-filled credit and financial databases is certain to produce a huge number of false positives, all of which must be evaluated. These proposals also appear to be designed, at least in part, to satisfy various old bureaucratic agendas. (Where have we read this before?)

Civil libertarian skepticism about the government’s anti-terror analysis proposals parallels popular skepticism about airport security. In both of these areas government tends to favor ineffective and intrusive conventional solutions, and LE/intelligence pork barreling, over politically difficult courses of action (air passenger profiling; firing failed FBI and CIA decision makers) that go to the heart of the issue.

While some of the opposition to the TIA program etc. has been overwrought or politically motivated, much opposition appears to originate out of sincere concern about the poor quality of the government’s proposals. I think we are more likely to make progress in this area if the Administration’s backers admit that this is the case, and encourage the government to improve its proposals, rather than continuing to try and deflect blame onto the critics.

Another Security Risk from China?

Bruce Schneier writes:

China is getting a copy of the Windows source code. I’ve already written about the security risks of open-source versus proprietary software. One of the problems with open source is that the bad guys get to look at the code. One of the good things about open source is that the good guys get to look at the code, too. If I were the Chinese government, I’d turn that code upside down looking for vulnerabilities, and then not tell anyone about them. This seems like a huge security risk to me, even though Microsoft might consider it a smart business move.

Good point. Microsoft probably sees China as just another customer, but from a security standpoint we should be wary. If there is any advantage to be gained here, the Chinese government will take it. The fact that we habitually view a technology as benign does not preclude someone else from using that technology as a weapon. (See, in this regard, Lex’s recent post about China’s space program.)