Wear It On Your Sleeve

That’s my advice to this guy – though he seems to have arrived at the same conclusion on his own, and good for him. I don’t understand how he could have stayed in the political closet for so many years, but maybe that’s just me. Being discrete about your beliefs (in our society; I’m not talking about Iran) may help your career in some industries, and makes socializing easier in some places, but it has costs. Being open about who you are makes it easier to meet like-minded people – there are usually more of them around than you think – and you get to find out who your friends really are. You also won’t be as conflicted in dealing with people, which means you’ll get along better even with the ones whose values you don’t share. Think of it as a way to transfer the burden of worrying about your unconventional beliefs from you to someone else, for a change. As for people like Stern’s blind date, who fled when she learned he is a Republican, fuck ’em. Life’s too short to hang around with jerks, and he was wise to force the issue with a prospective marriage partner. This is why, contra conventional wisdom, it’s not necessarily a bad idea to discuss politics when you go on a date. Then, if things go really well, you can make the second date a trip to the shooting range.

(via Instapundit)

She’s Baaaack!


So much for a Democratic resurgence. Janet Reno is out and about, rallying the Demo base in her customary charming way:

. . .Reno spoke about visiting the Dachau concentration camp in Germany as a child and learning what had happened.

“I went back and asked my adult German friends, ‘How could you let that happen?’ ” Reno said. “They said, ‘We just stood by.’ “

She looked right into the the audience and told them that’s why she was there. She had no intention of just standing by.

“And don’t you just stand by,” Reno said.

Isn’t that cute. Do you think the listeners got the point? I like the way Drudge helpfully put it: “In Speech To Dem Club, Janet Reno Appears To Compare GOP Agenda/Nazi Atrocities…”

Reno earlier gave some practical advice:

“We should be more organized than the Republicans who have traditionally out-organized us,” Reno told the audience of about 60 people.

That’s a good point. Reno is certainly doing her best to organize Republicans.

Politics As Usual?

(This started as a comment to Lex’s thoughtful post and I got carried away.)

The Democrats can’t win on the economy as long as the main question is how much to cut taxes. Nor can they win on defense while the central issue is a very serious war and the central question is how aggressively to prosecute it. In each case the best they can do is act like Republicans Lite, in which case they lose because voters will prefer real Republicans. Where have we heard such ideas before? Bush is making brilliant use of the same tactics which Clinton used to such good political effect against Republicans for eight years. Now as then, the opposition party finds itself stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of lamely reacting to the President’s initiatives.

I think the Democrats can get out of it, but tired hacks like Lieberman aren’t the answer. There may be, however, opportunity for a party that shows sincere concern for civil liberties – something that neither party currently exhibits. Of course, this path may be anathema for the Dems, whose leadership is dominated by amoral statist authoritarians who are hostile to self-defense and on the take from trial lawyers, environauts, race hustlers, the entertainment industry, and other groups hostile to the open society.

But if the Democratic leadership could, somehow, become again as sympathetic to individual rights as, say, Hubert Humphrey was, they would likely pick up votes from independents and libertarians for whom the Republicans are now the lesser of evils. Probably lots of people who vote Republican have deep misgivings about the drug war, about extra-judicial detention of U.S. citizens, about the Bush administration’s eagerness to impose dubious snooping and data-mining schemes on us in the name of fighting terrorism, and about other similar issues. Given the closeness of current electoral divisions, a pro-individual-rights Democratic party, even one that was still on the wrong side of taxes and defense, might pick up enough support on the margin to win elections.

Will it happen? I doubt it, at least in the short run. First of all, the current Democratic leadership is reflexively pro-government to the core and likes things as they are. Second, the war could last for a while, and it crowds out most other issues, making it difficult for Democrats to do much except go along with the Administration’s agenda. But in the long run it’s conceivable the Democrats will become more open to a radical reorientation if they keep losing. And if they did transform themselves successfully it would pressure the Republicans to start paying more than lip service to issues that are now seen as the province of the libertarian fringe. Maybe this is all wishful thinking on my part, but we live in an age of radical transformations all over the world. Something in the way of an anti-government upheaval has been simmering in our politics for years. If anything it has quickened since Sept. 11. What happens if Democratic candidates see this as an opportunity and run with it?

Back to Politics-As-Usual

And not a minute too soon. I hate the months when there is no election on the immediate horizon.

Dick Morris, the maestro of the tactical, has this analysis of how Bush’s tax cut package is ingeniously packaged to raise maximum election day Hell with the Donks. Woo hoo. It makes perfect sense to me:

[The] deal -with the Democrats and moderates in his own party – looks like typical legislative compromise, but is actually a move of incredible political acumen: The “sunset” provision, under which the tax cut automatically lapses unless expressly extended by new legislation, makes taxes a front-and-center issue of the 2004 election.

Now Bush can send refund checks of $400 for each child to 25 million households this summer, slash the tax on dividends and capital gains to 15 percent and reduce tax rates on all three brackets – all effective immediately – and still be able to base his re-election campaign on the need to preserve his tax cuts.

The president can run for re-election with an economy stimulated by his tax cuts and still have the issue to use in the ’04 contest.

With the tax cuts slated to expire in the opening years of the next presidential term, every Democratic candidate will have to answer the question: “Will you support extending the Bush tax cut?”

A “no” will be required to win enough primary votes to get the nomination. But a “yes” will be necessary to prevail in the general election. Bush has put the Democrats in an impossible position.

Dude. I am liking this. It sounds good.

On a related point, the Washington Post notes today that Bush Fills Key Slots With Young Loyalists. It then quotes some “veteran of White House meetings” as saying: “These new folks are going to pull their punches at first. They don’t have the gravitas.” Whatever. They’ll get “gravitas” soon enough, by good and loyal job performance. The point is that Bush is getting a team together of young fire-eaters that can work sixteen hour days up to and through the election. And he is training a next generation of GOP leaders. Also noteworthy, the younger GOPers are more ideologically conservative. They are more hardcore.

Bush’s 2004 election campaign is going to be a sight to behold. I am hoping for a crushing win. Early signs bode well.


We are aware of the difficulties readers have been experiencing in viewing this site. I don’t know what the problem is, though I suspect it’s not unrelated to Blogspot. We have a new site, almost ready to go, awaiting us on a more reliable hosting system. We will move as soon as I can figure out how to transfer our archives to the new blog. (Joe Katzman has been kind enough to make some helpful suggestions in this regard.) Thanks.

Ayatollah, Sayonara

David Warren writes (1) that the Iranian regime is the new protector and landlord for al Qaeda (or its successor, currently nameless), and (2) that the Iranian Mullah’s turbanned heads sit lightly on their robed shoulders. Michael Ledeen has been arguing this for months now. (See this recent piece.) The Iranian “street”, or at least “campus” has been ready to throw these bastards out for some time. Warren also suggests that the US Government is hardening its stance toward Iran. Nonetheless, Warren notes that nobody, no matter how hawkish wants to “invade” Iran.

However, that may be answering the wrong question. After all the word “invade” is so old-fashioned, so “machine age”, so last century. Of course no one wants to do that. Anyway, it’s been done recently and well, and who wants to be passe?

No. This is the moment to turn the fearsome new weapons of the enemy back upon him. We keep hearing about how in this new world we are entering, tanks, planes and howitzers are irrelevant. (They looked pretty relevant rattling around Basra and Baghdad, but let’s put that to one side for the time being.) These units of power are supposedly now of no account because they can be circumvented by “Fourth Generation Warfare”, by “networked warriors” who will “swarm” around conventional forces and make “asymmetrical attacks” deep in the rear areas of their supposedly slow-moving enemies, disrupting and crippling whole societies, etc., etc.. We keep getting told that this is the threat faced by the civilized world. (See the excellent book Non-State Threats and Future Wars which I am halfway through reading.)

Fine. OK. Fat, dumb and happy America is, we are told, especially susceptible to asymmetrical sucker punches. The menacing but shadowy people who want to do us harm can infiltrate our society and work their way into the interstices and strike at the ill-defended but critical nodes and hinges and lynchpins, etc. Agreed, suicidal maniacs with box cutters, or terrorists with backpack nukes, are a menace. Let’s face that threat and be ready to defeat it.

But why can’t we dish it out, too? If the bastards can swarm us, why can’t we swarm them? Why can’t the United States do the same unto others? Why can’t we throw some bone-crunching, jaw-busting asymmetrical punches of our own? Why can’t we create a parallel capability to dish out this same nasty medicine? No reason I can think of. For example, we could certainly create a cadre of Iranian expats or Farsi speaking Americans, and send them into Iraq to undermine, disrupt, cripple and wreck the Iranian regime in exactly the same way. American “fourth generation warriors” could aid the locals in a non- or minimally violent overthrow of the Mullahs. Or, if that wasn’t working out, they could provide a sharp “special ops” edge to a locally generated but US-supported and armed revolution. These new challenges are not magic. Once the novel language is stripped away, it is apparent that most of these supposed new challenges are, at bottom, techniques. And the United States possesses the human and material resources to build the capacity to employ any techniques it chooses, including these, with maximum effectiveness, against anyone who decides to fuck with us.

Anyway, even if we don’t do any of this, the mullah regime in Iran is heading for the scrap heap.

Here’s a little springtime wish for our dear ChicagoBoyz readers — let us fervently hope and pray that before the leaves turn we will see Khomenei’s picture being flung on the bonfire like Saddam’s was. 2003 could end up being a very good year indeed.

Update. Sylvain comments that we ought to take it easy with Iran, since the overt involvement of the US is perceived as a bad thing in the region. I respect and understand this view, which a lot of people share, and I used to agree with it. I’m glad he raised this, since I should have addressed it in the first place.

As time goes on I care less and less what the “Arab Street” thinks, says or does — or for that matter what any of the governments over there (or in Old Europe) say, or think or do. The US/UK/Oz/Poles conquered Iraq. No revolutions happened in Cairo or Riyadh or anywhere else. No riots happened except in Baghdad. The “Arab Street” did what all inert mineral matter does. It sat there motionless. All that happened was that al Qaeda or somebody set off some bombs and killed a bunch of muslims in Saudi and Morocco. This is sad, but it is not a formula for rallying the mythical Arab Street against the Great Satan. The Iranians have given us plenty of provocation. The United States should make its case, then actively and openly support an Iranian revolution against the mullahs. What would happen? The revolution would succeed, Iran would be liberated, enormous crowds would celebrate in the streets of Teheran waving American flags, Iran’s nuclear weapons program would be shut down, its support for terrorism would be shut down, and a pro-Western regime would come to power there. All of these would be very good things. They are within our grasp, practically for the asking. Set off against these good things is a hypothetical bad thing: Some third parties won’t like it if the Americans openly help the Iranian people make these good things happen. But so what? None of these third parties are going to do anything about it. People in the region are finally, and at long last, once again, really and truly afraid of the United States. Good. It’s about time. That works wonders over there. So forget about the Arab Street. The French, Russians, Chinese, the State Department, North Korea et al. would be upset. They’d issue some memoranda, voice their disapproval, note the relevant provisions of the U.N. Charter. Fine. Whatever. They would not and cannot do anything substantive about it, either. Syria, Hamas, and who knows what other terrorist outfits would suddenly find themselves in a real pickle with their best buddy and bankroller crushed like a bug. Again, great. And the Iranian people want to be rid of the mullahs and are capable of understanding that the United States does not want to annex them, etc. and would likely be glad to have our assistance. And if some of them thought the revolution was “tainted” by US involvement, they’d still be glad to get rid of the mullahs and they’d then have the freedom to say any nasty things about the USA they want into the bargain. Who cares? It can’t be worse than what everybody else says about us already.

It all adds up to a big green light.

Baghdad in the Spring, Teheran in the Summer. Yeah, baby. We should go for it.

Update II:Rumsfeld Pushes for Regime Change in Iran. The Financial Times reports: “If regime change were to become official policy, then the US would cut off diplomatic contacts, lend support to opposition groups and intensify economic pressure. It would not necessarily involve military action.” Also this: “the view of hawks in the Pentagon is that the struggle in Iran is not between hardline clerics and elected reformists led by President Mohammed Khatami, but between the people and the system.” (via Drudge)

YES. Go get ’em. No time like NOW.

Proustian Almonds

I had to fly to DC for work. I was given a packet of salted almonds on the airplane. As I ate them the thought came back to me of the little white, paper cups of salted nuts they would give you on the side, if you asked for them, with a hot fudge sundae at Friendly’s Ice Cream. They were good, and added a whole dimension of sweet/salty, to go with hot/cold and chocolate/vanilla — to say nothing of the cherry on top. I don’t know if the nuts are available anymore, but I somehow doubt it, at least in the paper cups. When you had poured the nuts on there, you opened up the paper cup so it was flattened out into a disk, and then you got the last few crumbs and grains of salt out of it. There was a Friendly’s in Brockton, Mass. There was another one, I think, at the Braintree mall. I’d go in these places with my mother when I was a kid, if we were out shopping for school clothes. That was our ritual. No particular episode stands out, it is a whole category of memories (tactile, visual, olfactory, auditory as well as the taste of things), all in one bin in my head. This is all a long time ago now. It was a time before the issue of whether or not to eat such a thing would have occurred to me — if it was available, I ate it. And now as in so many other details, the torch has passed. It is part of my job to be the parent taking the kids out for ice cream. The kids are not particularly grateful. The kids are not distracted by other concerns when the ice cream appears — it is a brief but all-consuming episode. And the parent sits there, with a cup of coffee, having bought a moment’s quiet, or time to worry about something else in peace for a minute, which is even better than a hot fudge sundae with nuts. Or at least almost as good.

Public Cameras, Private Cameras

Glenn Reynolds says it’s fair for ordinary people to take photos in places that have surveillance cams, even places that forbid photography.

Yeah, screw the rules: carry a camera everywhere. Even a video camera.

Here’s another market – a useful one – for discrete mounting fixtures for car cams and front-door cams and living-room cams. How credible are cops’ and prosecutors’ rationalizations for no-knock searches going to be after people start blogging videos (preferably with sound) of what actually happens during these official home-invasions?

Back to School

In a classroom exercise tonight, the instructor in my community-college Spanish language class read to us, from a text, a couple of paragraphs in response to which we were supposed to ask questions.

The passage the instructor read was about immigration. It asserted that immigrants come to the U.S. because life is easy here due to material abundance, and because our relatively strong economy makes for more opportunity than exists in most immigrants’ countries of origin. It also asserted that many Americans oppose immigration because they don’t like or understand the foreign ways of immigrants (or words to that effect). It did not mention that some foreigners might be attracted to the U.S. because of its freedom. Nor did it suggest that some Americans might object to immigration for reasons having nothing to do with disliking them there furriners – e.g., because they object to transfer payments generally, and particularly to taxing U.S. citizens to subsidize indigent non citizens.

Is this kind of subtly anti-American multi-culti bullshit typical of language texts nowadays? I guess I know the answer. It doesn’t make me feel any better that the chapter from which the offending passage came is titled: “Los Estados Unidos: Un pais multicultural.” Of course it’s true that American culture is an amalgam. I just wish the multi enthusiasts would, for once, pay as much attention to such essential parts of that culture as personal liberty and representative government as they do to material wealth and the supposed provincialism of our native citizens.

UPDATE:I don’t think the students in my class, who are mainly mature adults, or the instructor, who is an immigrant, actually believe the snake oil or even pay attention to it. I’m just taken aback by the casual attempt at indoctrination on the part of the textbook author. Maybe, to get a more balanced idea about American culture, we should ask immigrants, as Joanne Jacobs did.

Dick Morris almost says the word “Anglosphere”

This remarkable article by Dick Morris is an excellent short analysis of Britain’s most promising future world role — primarily as America’s ally, in alliance with the other English-speaking countries — and not as a province of the EU. Morris notes that during the Cold War, and under Clinton’s econo-centric foreign policy, Britain was not able to play a leading role.

But, post 9/11, things have changed:

But September 11 shattered the assumptions that underlay Bill Clinton’s world view. Suddenly, terrorism became the pre-eminent problem and the military-diplomatic-intelligence matrix we need to confront it our dominant need.

In this construct, the size of one’s economy is no longer the admission card to the top levels of global leadership. Japan’s large economy is of little use in addressing these new priorities and Russia’s small one no impediment. Britain need no longer come as a diplomatic package with France and Germany.

In the new era, willingness to act counts for more than any other factor in attaining global power. The war against terror does not require a massive economy to sustain years of expensive combat, but a relatively small and proficient military, combined with political will – among leaders and voters alike – to use it.

The political lesson of the war in Iraq is that the people of America and Britain have far more in common with one another than do the British people with the French or the Germans.

Our common linguistic heritage, shared values, renunciation of appeasement as a policy option, commitment to do battle against injustice, and our essential optimism about the possibility of success make us partners in a way that continental Europeans, with their history of foreign occupation, can never hope to match.

This is all very solid stuff.

I have long been an admirer of Morris as an astute analyst of practical politics, despite his occasional lapses and howlers. (The prostitute-on-the-phone thing I chalk up to an unusually bad case of plain old human weakness in the sex department leading to a severe stupid attack. Not like lying under oath or anything.) And in recent years I have been pleased to see Morris’s progress as a bitter enemy of his former masters, the Clintons. His book Behind the Oval Office is gripping, an excellent insider’s “how to” book, and one of my favorite books on nuts-and-bolts politics.

Now, on one of the major issues of the day, though under-appreciated as such, Morris has tipped his hand. He is, at minimum, an Anglospherist “fellow traveller.” I’m glad to have him aboard. I hope he will in the future offer some sage thoughts on the practical politics of the Anglosphere project both here in America and in other places.

And maybe Morris will even use the “A word” next time. C’mon, Dick, just say it. This might help, repeat after me:

It’s here. It’s the Anglosphere. Get used to it.

(Thanks to Iain Murray for the heads up on this article. )

Let Us Now Praise INTEL DUMP

Yeah, we’ve got it permalinked on the blogroll. But I want to mention here that Phil has been exceptionally good lately, so if you haven’t checked out his coverage of defense issues, please do so, and you will become a regular visitor.

This recent piece, War game’s outcome stuns decisionmakers, blew me away.

To summarize, the military had a wargame and then they were surprised that “Our overwhelming conventional superiority is bound to trigger a massive, unconventional, asymmetric, possibly terroristic response.” This causes Lex to scratch his head. Open and obvious sources, e.g. well-publicized books and articles on the Internet, have been saying plainly, for years now, that this is the type of approach America’s enemies are going to take. So how is it possible that senior military personnel who participated in this exercise were surprised, let alone stunned, by these results? Can it be that these senior military personnel are so out of touch with basic reality which is openly available to the entire world? Can it be that they don’t understand the fundamental nature of the world we are entering and the threats we are facing? Or, is it that they are willfully blind to that reality? Why are they preparing to face a non-existent state-based threat? Because that is all they know how to do?

Damn. Not good.

I am thinking more and more that any “state-based-threat”, in the tanks-planes-howitzers category, is a mirage — North Korea and China being partial exceptions. Cynically, I wonder why the anti-war crowd argue more forcefully that we attacked Iraq because it is the only country on earth inept enough to fight us in a fashion we are able to handle?

The many people out there who want to destroy America are short on means, other than willpower and brains, so they are doing some innovative thinking. If we don’t match that innovative thinking we are going to suffer unnecessary disasters before we rally and respond. We have abundant human and material resources to identify, engage and preempt, deter or destroy any possible threat. We need to employ these vast capabilities wisely. (Speaking of rallying, responding, etc., be sure to see this tour d’horizon by den Beste.)

A first step might be to stop thinking about and talking about “asymmetric threats” at all. Let’s just look at threats. A threat is only asymmetric because we have not yet developed a “symmetric” capability to address it. The Wehrmacht was an asymmetric threat in 1938, as far as America’s tiny army was concerned. We acquired the human and material means to deal with the threat, period. It stopped being asymmetric when we understood it and spent the time, effort and money to acquire the needed “symmetric” capability. Then we hammered the Third Reich into the dirt, with a little help from the Red Army’s tank armada.

The key thing here is that terrorism used to be primarily a nuisance from a military standpoint. For fifty years our former friend the Red Army’s tank armada was the monster symmetric threat we had to worry about. We could survive the loss of Vietnam. (We did.) But we could not survive the loss of Western Europe.

But those days are long gone. Now terrorism is the major threat because the means of destruction the terrorists are likely to obtain are so enormously powerful. This is a novel situation. We need to look carefully at military history to cull out any the lessons which are pertinent to this current situation, and to “fill the box” to deal with asymmetric challenges. We must not suffer a nuclear Pearl Harbor before we figure out what the real threats are. That would be a catastrophe, and it would be positively criminal if it occurred as a result of bureaucratic inertia.

(This Intel Dump piece about the current issue of the Atlantic Monthly is spot on. The essay about JFK’s dealings with the military, and the rotten advice they kept giving him, strongly support Eliot Cohen’s thesis, in his book Supreme Command — i.e., the military must be subject to strict scrutiny and control by the civilian leadership but, unfortunately, skillful or even competent civilian leadership in this area is rare. A quandry. Anyway, a discussion of Cohen’s book, and other historical and contemporary examples, merits a long post in itself. Too many topics, too many books, too little time.)

Personal? Or Political?

Ralf’s earlier post, This time its personal (scroll down to the first May 17 post if Blogger permalinks don’t work), got me thinking. I started to type a comment but it got too long.

I don’t think Dubya is personalizing anything by not talking to Schroeder. Ralf also noted that Bush’s contacts gain in stature just from being photographed with him. Bush is aware of this power and he is using for political purposes.

Bush has set a floor on what he will tolerate from foreign leaders. Snubbing Schroeder is about the United States, and perhaps the presidency, but it is not about GWB as any kind of personal matter. Bush likes to deal with leaders he thinks he can trust, and assesses them on that basis but, again, I think that is practical and not a matter of “personalizing” his policies or his politics.

Bush is cutting Schroeder because Schroeder’s conduct fell below what is acceptable. And Bush is wise enough to know that Germany is not = Schroeder, just as America is not = Bush 43. Schroeder will be gone some day, and his successor will think twice about how he chooses to speak to and about the United States. As to lost networking opportunities, that is not much of a price to pay. If someone has something they want to bring to the attention of the United States government, there are avenues by which to do that. A visit to Bush’s ranch or a convivial lunch with Powell is not absolutely necessary. Such perks must be earned. Bush loses nothing by not talking to Fischer on the phone, and he sends a useful message to others: Respect us. Don’t diss us. Don’t assume we will just choke down anything you may care to say about us or do to harm or thwart us.

We’re still not used to the Bush era. We got used to 8 years of Clinton. Clinton was a “68er”, though he did not have the guts to actually be in a riot like Fischer did, or even inhale. Still that is his origin: He’s a hippie. Clinton was comfortable with people, leftists, anywhere in the world, who instinctively hated the United States. Also, he was uncomfortable with formality, dignity or the symbolic and monarchic aspects of the Presidency. His incredibly bad neckties showed this. He had to goof on all that stuff, like dressing appropriately, to show that he was really cool. This matter of “tone” is one of the unspoken reasons Conservatives loathed him but true-blue Lefties loved him, despite the fact that his Administration did not really do much of anything substantively. These attitudes were also a big part of why Clinton was a horrible Commander in Chief — he just couldn’t handle the fact that he actually was the Commander in Chief. He probably wasn’t sure that there even should be a Comander in Chief. To Clinton, a guy who shits on America or its institutions is a rebel, an outsider, a radical, and hence at some level a soulmate and a good guy. And Clinton really believed that you always have to have a dialogue with everybody, that talk is the answer no matter what the question is, and no one is beyond hope. So if some foreigner attacks the US, even makes homicidal threats, Clinton’s instinct would be to sit down with him, get to know him, have a good heart-to-heart chat, understand how we had hurt him, seek forgiveness, try to move beyond the pain together. And Clinton wanted to be loved.

And the world took advantage of this, and got used to it.

Bush is a whole ‘nother smoke. Bush is a manager. Bush does not value process for its own sake. Bush knows there are people it is a waste of time to talk to. Like Arafat. And, apparently, Schroeder too. Bush decides on a small number of important things he wants to do and he sets about doing them, relentlessly. Bush does not care if you like him. Bush does not need to be loved. Bush has no time for people who instinctively hate the United States. Bush does not think that he has to win the heart and mind of everyone in the world. Bush is comfortable asserting the basic decency and value of America and its institutions, and vigorously opposing and imposing costs on those who assert otherwise. Bush is willing to ruthlessly employ lethal force against those who threaten us with physical harm. Bush wants America to be respected, and barring that, feared. So, while Bush has his personal idiosyncracies (the nicknames) he does not lose sight of his politicial goals due to any personality issues. And he is consistent about the bread-and-butter basics of politics — rewarding good conduct and punishing bad conduct. That is what Bush’s dealings with Schroeder are all about.

Ralf’s very valuable post (What Schroeder did right for a change, which is the second May 17 post) about Germany’s many contributions to the war on terrorism shows something important. Germany’s real interests and Schroeder’s public posturing are out of sync. This is true domestically, as well. Schroeder will eventually pay a political price for his missteps.

Meanwhile, I’m glad the Germans are aboard in the GWOT (“Global War On Terror”), which is not anywhere near over yet.

Southern Manners are African in Origin

Miss Manners Weighs in with a little nugget of Anglospheric cultural history which should, upon reflection, come as no surprise.

TAE: The popular perception is that the Southern tradition of manners and gentility comes from England.

MARTIN: There’s a big English component, but it’s not the only one. The dominant culture in what is called Southern charm or hospitality is African. Southerners thought they were copying English country gentlemen, but do English country gentlemen say, “Y’all come see us”? Southerners practiced African manners–that’s how Southern graciousness developed. The South’s open, easygoing style, its familial use of honorifics, and its hospitality are largely African in origin. The higher the Southern family pretensions, the more likely the children were to be receiving daily etiquette instruction from someone whose strict sense of the fitting came from her own cultural background–the house slave who occupied the position known as Mammy. Charles Dickens was among those who noticed that Southern ladies spoke like their black nurses.

Sounds plausible to me. I wonder if David Hackett Fischer’s book American Plantations — (the long awaited sequel to Albion’s Seed – nice summary here) — is ever going to come out, so we get the whole story on this?

The rest of this item, from The American Enterprise Online, as usual with Miss Manners, is also good. (Found via Innocents Abroad.)

Update. This article about Ralph Ellison from the Atlantic makes, in part, a similar point. Ellison always insisted on the absolutely inextricable and undeniable and all-pervasive permeation of so-called White American culture by Black America from the very beginning. Therefore there is really no meaningful sense in which America can call itself, or be accurately called, a “white” country or culture or society. America is a Euro-African hybrid. This is so despite the perpetual attempts to deny, bury, evade or ignore the “Afro” element by “whitey”. On the other side there have been attempts on the part of some who would be blacker-than-black to say that there is some non-white Black culture here in America buried under the vestiges of oppression. Nope, there aint. We’re all Americans, we’re all in the same boat. We can celebrate diversity or we can grumble about being stuck with each other, but we’ve had 350 years of water under the bridge and it is what it is and it ain’t something else. Ellison is quoted as saying: “There is a de’z and do’z of slave speech sounding beneath our most polished Harvard accents, and if there is such a thing as a Yale accent, there is a Negro wail in it doubtless introduced there by Old Yalie John C. Calhoun, who probably got it from his mammy.”

Right on.

What Schroeder Did Right For a Change

Because of Schroeder’s anti-war stance the German contribution to the war on terror remains largely unmentioned or even unknown, so here are some links on that issue:

The German ISAF contingent

“Afghan force changes leaders Germany and the Netherlands have formally taken command of the international security force in the Afghan capital, Kabul”.

The link above lacks concrete numbers, so there’s this one:

“ISAF is made up of 4,900 soldiers from 22 nations. The German contingent is limited to 2,500, including personnel stationed at an airbase in Termez, Uzbekistan. The Netherlands have a deployment of 630 armed forces personnel”.

KSK commandos in Afghanistan:

“Germany’s KSK (Kommando Spezialkraefte, or “Special Commando Force”), was created in 1994 and became operational in 1997, is getting it’s first combat experience in Afghanistan. About a hundred KSK troops are in Afghanistan, and more are expected”.

German troops in Djibouti:

“German Defence Minister Peter Struck arrived in the Horn of Africa state of Djibouti on Saturday for a one-day tour dedicated mainly to visiting German troops patrolling the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, the official radio reported”

“Germany has based three frigates, five fast motorboats, four supply ships and a helicopter contingent with a total troop strength of 1,600 to 1,800 in Djibouti as part of the US-led “war on terrorism.”

NBC troops in Kuwait:

“a 250-man, highly-specialized German NBC (nuclear-biological-chemical) warfare battalion equipped with “Fuchs” (fox) armored vehicles has been in Kuwait since early this year”.

(This unit has been largely withdrawn after the war).

Troops in the Balkans:

“With a total of roughly 5,600 soldiers Germany provides one of the largest contingents for KFOR, in second place alongside Italy behind the US. Germany is one of the nations which has to date kept all its promises, has not made any unilateral reductions and has only a very few, legally based reservations regarding the tactical deployment of its troops”.

These deployments make the German contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom the second largest after the American one.

This Time It’s Personal

After winning his reelection by campaigning on an anti-war platform last fall Gerhard Schroeder is anxious to mend relations with the Bush Administration. He ended his stay in Asia a day early so he could meet Colin Powell on Friday, even though Powell was in Berlin for a informal, ‘working visit’, not an official state visit. Meanwhile George Bush is also cultivating German-American relations, but he is doing so by approaching the German opposition while ostentatiously giving Schroeder the cold shoulder. Roland Koch, Premier of Hesse and a member of the opposition Christian Democrats, had an appointment with Dick Cheney on Thursday when GWB surprisingly joined them for about a quarter of an hour. Bush voiced his concern that Germany seems to put its relations to France ahead of those to America and also didn’t forget to criticize Schroeder for his opposition to the war on Iraq.

In contrast to this he still won’t even talk to Schroeder on the phone, and there also have been hints that as long as Schroeder is Chancellor the climate between both governments is going to remain pretty cold. GWB can’t even be accused of letting this interfere with the war on terror, because cooperation on the military, intelligence and law-enforcement levels works as well as ever (Schroeder’s opposition to the war never went beyond the rhetorical), so Bush is reaping the advantages from that while demonstratively marking time until he gets to meet Schroeder’s successor in office.

Bush’s brief meeting with Koch was interpreted as a personal affront to Schroeder and set the downright cold tone for Powell’s meetings with Schroeder and Foreign Minister Fischer yesterday. Even so they agreed with Powell that the UN sanctions against Iraq should be lifted as soon as possible, to make the proceeds from the sale of Iraqi oil available for reconstruction. This is somewhat surprising since the Bush Administration has so far failed to persuade France and Russia to go along; Russia, especially, insists on having its financial considerations taken into account before it will approve such a resolution. It’s obvious that Schroeder is now inching away from both Putin and Chirac to avoid any further strain on German-American relations, but this won’t be enough to repair the previous damage. Powell demanded more cooperation – both with the reconstruction of Iraq and the war on terror – as a precondition for better relations, but cautioned that it would take time until things could get back to normal (he was tactful enough to omit ‘not with you, Gerhard’, at least in public). As a first step in that direction Schroeder promised to consider an expansion of the German peacekeeping-force in Kabul, but since the German military is already over-stretched by commitments in Afghanistan and elsewhere this will be difficult to do.

The most interesting aspect of the whole affair is that Bush seems to personalize politics and international relations, not just by taking slights personally, but also by directly approaching individuals he sees as worthwhile partners. This goes beyond playing “divide and rule” (although it’s part of it), he is cutting out both foreign governments and the American foreign policy apparatus for some pretty effective networking. He doesn’t have to do much more than meet people; just being seen talking to him raises their status, as it just did for Roland Koch, so they’ll be eager to stay on his good side. Conversely, those who don’t get on very well with him either manage to make up or find themselves becoming increasingly lonely (there is a reason why Schroeder is concentrating on domestic problems all of a sudden). By now he manages to integrate the Machiavellian and the personal* very well so that he seems to be completely at ease with himself, after looking somewhat awkward at the start of his presidency.

*This might be the more important aspect for GWB; Machiavelli never mentioned nicknames in ‘Il Principe’; Pooty-Poot indeed.

Listen to Me

Imagine you just got onto a bus and the only empty seat is next to some self-absorbed slacker who’s plugged into an iPod, eyes closed, rocking back and forth and singing loudly to himself. Now you know what it feels like to watch the new TV commercials for Apple’s online music service.

Grandpa’s Skyhawk

Jonathan pointed me to this post, about a school in California which is not sure it wants to keep the A-4 Skyhawk which has been on display out front for many years. This got me thinking.

A generation or more back people had few qualms whatever about weapons and war as matters of public celebration and commemoration. The period from the end of World War II until the late Sixties was one in which there was an unusual consensus about the rightness of America’s cause and the wars it fought during that period. Liberals had supported WWII because it was against fascism, and the old time, main street Republicans had supported it grudgingly because we had been attacked and Southerners supported it because it was a war and they always support America’s wars. The various tanks and howitzers in town squares or in front of VFW halls come from this era. This also partly due to the fact that there was a mountainous heap of surplus tanks, etc. which could be gotten easily, welded in place, and painted green. (And you Chicagoans should note next time you are strolling downtown that the State Street bridge is the Bataan-Corregidor Bridge.) The consensus era continued in the early Cold War, which was led initially by Democratic liberal internationalism, so liberals supported it, and main street conservatives supported it because it was against Godless communism, and Southerners supported it because it led to a larger military and the possibility of a war as well as because they didn’t much care for Godless communism, either. So, war and the threat of war and our recent victories were in the air at this time, and monuments featuring weapons were not particularly controversial.

Airplanes had a special appeal. There were lots of surplus planes, for one thing. Also, added to the general willingness to use hardware for commemoration, there was a romanticism about aviation, especially jet aviation, which it is hard for us to conjure up. My Dad got his pilots license when he was 16, in1945, and he was taught by true first-generation pilots. So I have tasted that pioneer-era excitement in hearsay fashion. But you only have to look at the popular culture of the late 40s and 50s and you see aircraft and jet imagery everywhere. Chuck Berry even had Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer “zooming like a Sabre jet.” So, airplane monuments were doubly appealing during that period. Airplane monuments were in large part a celebration of American know-how and technology and speed and energy and vitality — at least as much as they were of an instrument of war.

Previous eras have had a more ambivalent public response to our nation’s wars, and little or no technophilia such as we saw in the Jet Age. WWI produced very few public monuments. In fact, the Yankees of New England and the Upper Midwest had opposed the war, grudgingly supported Wilson once we got in, and then turned against the whole thing the minute it was over. There is a World War I monument in Oak Park, Illinois which is massive, impressive and quietly tasteful — but it is a memorial to the dead, not a celebration of victory. The Spanish American War was met with genuine public ambivalence, and was so badly botched in its execution, that there was little desire for commemoration. The Civil War produced the many cannons and soldier statues in county seat squares, on both sides. In New England and in the upper Midwest every old town square has its white-steepled Protestant church, often a brick late Victorian Catholic church, old trees and large houses on the surrounding streets — and a civil war statue or cannon. But the tone of these monuments tends to be somber or stoic rather than celebratory. Most monuments to the Revolution were put up many years after the events, like the Minuteman statue at Lexington, a stark and beautiful work, and the somewhat less powerful statue at Concord. Saint-Gaudens’s equestrian statue of George Washington in the Boston public gardens is a magnificent and frankly martial work, but it was more a celebration of American national identity and unity than of the war per se. The Mexican war was a land-grab by the Slave-ocracy, which was not popular in the North. U.S. Grant participated in it, and said it was the most shameful chapter in our history. I’ve never seen a monument to it. Of course, the very popular Vietnam monument in Washington DC is anything but celebratory. Its very abstractness allows each visitor to bring to it and take away from it what they want and need.

Anyway, the people who are blessed with an A-4 Skyhawk in front of their school should be grateful to have it. It is a relic of a different time, and we should respect, or at least try to understand charitably and sympathetically, what earlier generations were trying to do by putting it up. The people at the school should understand and appreciate their history. Like it or not, this is a nation built and sustained by war. For all its faults, it is a proud and worthy history. And whether you agree with that or not, we should all be able to squarely face that history, and its tangible relics, and preserve them for the next generation.

Update. Jonathan sent me a link which shows that the Washington statue was not by St. Gaudens. A little research discloses it was in fact sculpted in 1869 by Thomas Ball. So much for Lex’s feigned omniscience.

Doctors as Government Snoops

Via the Politech list comes notice of an FBI pilot program in which emergency-room physicians report to the feds suspicious injuries or illnesses that might have resulted from terrorist activities.

We’ll have to wait and see how it turns out, but from the article’s description of the program there appear to be some potential pitfalls. The program’s use of non-police agents raises the same questions as did the now-defunct homeland-security plan to deputize meter readers and cable-TV installers to report suspicious activities. The incentives in such schemes tend to be for massive over reporting. Given that there are probably very few terrorists among the population that uses emergency rooms, the odds of a very high percentage, and high absolute number, of false positives seem significant. The cost to the people who are incorrectly fingered will be high, and nobody knows if any terrorists will be caught. There will also be a temptation, as Declan McCullagh notes, to expand the program to report drug use and other activities that are unrelated to terrorism.

This program is a bit like the system for reporting child abuse, except that there are probably several orders of magnitude more child abusers in the health-care-seeking population than there are terrorists, and deciding which medical problems result from terrorist activity is probably much less clear cut than deciding whether a child has been abused. I don’t know if the FBI is up to the task. (The Bureau is still trying doggedly to make a case against Steven Hatfill, for supposedly mailing the anthrax-laced letters that to some of us seem more likely to have been sent by the Sept. 11 hijackers.) It’s difficult for me not to be skeptical that the benefits of this program will exceed the costs even if it does catch the occasional terrorist.

There is also the matter of the spirit in which this program is being promoted.

That approach, Allswede acknowledges, sometimes raises issues with the constitutional right of being presumed innocent until proven guilty.

“That was in the days of our founding fathers when the worst thing that could happen to you was your horse was stolen,” he said. “We were willing to give up a few horses in order to prevent innocent people from going to jail. But in the era of bio terrorism, when you could lose a city, the threshold has changed.”

This is the new justification for government snooping and bureaucratic empire building: with the existence of WMD, the stakes are so high that safeguarding the rights of individuals (life, liberty, and property are contemptuously dismissed as “a few horses”) is secondary. This is a dangerous idea.

I’d like to give the FBI the benefit of the doubt but I can’t. It never accounted adequately for its abuses at Waco and Ruby Ridge; its leaders stymied proper analysis of pre-Sept. 11 intelligence and didn’t take responsibility for their failure (they still have jobs); it has bungled major investigations and covered up malfeasance (the Crime Lab). Its competence is questionable. This snooping plan deserves more scrutiny.

Remember William Pitt’s apothegm:

Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

Osama: Amputee, Cadaver, Loser

The Command Post links to this story which says that OBL probably had his arm amputated after the Tora Bora raid, and then probably died from it, since surviving an amputation under those unsanitary conditions is unlikely. Of course, this is all speculation. But it seems pretty convincing.

I sure hope it is true. I must say the idea of OBL scurrying around up in the mountains hiding from our commandos, getting caught in a huge air attack, barely surviving the raid, maimed, undergoing a field amputation, then falling sick, withering, suffering a fevered, lingering death of shock and infection up in the mountains, knowing he’d blown it, knowing the soft, weak, cowardly US had killed him, knowing that the Muslim world was not rallying to his cause, knowing we were going to hunt down the rest of his gang like rats … well, I like that a lot better than him being vaporized by a direct hit on his cave. He did not deserve a quick death.

Bush put it well. They chose to go to war with the United States, and war is what they got.

And if he’s not dead, we will get him. Sooner or later, dead or alive.

Death to America’s enemies.

Amazon and Permalinks

Amazon should make it possible to link easily to individual posts in book- and product-review threads. Some of these review posts are great, easily the equivalent of high-end published reviews. Others are merely greatly entertaining. It isn’t currently possible to link to these posts except by linking to the poster’s “about me” page (which is cumbersome and not quite specific enough) or to a book’s main review page, which is almost useless for books that have lots of reviews. Real permalinks for individual reviews would have no downside for Amazon but would greatly facilitate the use of Amazon’s substantial online content in blog posts and other online publications. Whatever happened to “viral marketing”? Permalinks should be a natural for Amazon.

(Thanks to Val for sharing his Amazon knowledge.)