Thursday, December 26, 2002

Rethinking the War on Terror
Scrappleface, one of the funniest sites on the web, had a great bit about the Republicans' decision to adopt segregationist policies to appease Democrats angry about the Trent Lott tempest in a teacup. I just had to drop in the following comment:

In foreign relations, the Republicans have declared that they have decided that Osama bin Laden is not really as bad as they had thought.
"After all", a party spokeseunuch opined, "he did build all those day care centers, bar-b-que restaurants and discos in the third world. If we had only done that, he wouldn't have had to attack us on September 11, 2001."

Late news that bin Laden has been captured by the Sudanese police and offered to the Bush administration for prosecution brought this response: "We don't really think we have the authority to accept him. Millions of Frenchmen have bought a book declaring that the Pentagon attack never happened and the Jews were behind the WTC attack. That's reasonable doubt as far as we're concerned. We need to get on to the real business of the country, like making sure anyone who declares he's been persecuted gets lots of money and nailing down that thirty-five hour week and six weeks of paid vacation thing the French and Germans have been so successful with."

Monday, December 23, 2002

The Kabul Declaration
Has anyone else in blogdom, or in the regular US media, remarked on this agreement in Kabul, reported by the Tehran Times involving many countries surrounding Afghanistan promising to stay out of Afghan affairs? It sounds like, skeptic that I am, that this may be a major break in the centuries, nay, millennia of interference of every Asian potentate in Afghan politics. Maybe, just maybe "nation-building" or just plain allowing the Afghans to be free of outside influence, has begun in earnest. Come on, Fisk, Pilger, Chomsky, why don't you celebrate this evidence of independence and territorial integrity in Central Asia, by Central Asians? Hope rears its shining face.
Iraqi Darwinism
Vodkapundit has been opining that if we invade Iraq and topple Saddam, we need to be prepared to hang around for years and guide the Iraqis through the strait gate and down the narrow way to parliamentary democracy, capitalism and, presumably, pressure-group politics. All they really need is capitalism and the freedom to make it work. So I posted a comment:

The same people who say we shouldn't topple Saddam unless we are willing to nursemaid the Iraqi people for thirty years would scream the loudest if we refused to leave when the Iraqis said they were ready to go it alone. And that might be in five years, or six months, after the toppling. I think we should have done a lot more "nation-building" in Kuwait after the last war. Why leave a corrupt Sheik in power? But you don't hear anyone complaining about that. The fact is we can't control the political evolution of Iraq. We would be stupid to try. What we can do is make sure Saddam has no access to nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
I have a vision of a post-war Middle East where the Iranian students have installed a Turkish-style political system, including some power for the mullahs, and the Saudis have been dethroned. Assad in Syria and Mubarak in Egypt must also open up their political systems. The first Arab democracy is key, though. Turkey's democracy has not had an appreciable effect on Arab politics. Neither have Iran's spasmodic bouts of parliamentarianism. But a real functioning Arab democracy would spread freedom and individualism with blinding speed. The Arabs have always looked at the Turks and Persians as overlords, not models. But a true Iraqi democracy that was not seen as totally imposed by the US would make a real difference. Why, the Arabs might even realize that all of their people aren't more concerned with pushing the Israelis into the sea than they are with feeding their children and freeing their economy.
Christmas Contentment
Feeling pretty good about Christmas this year. My daughter's birthday is today. That always gets the celebrations started. We got our tree weeks ago, so the dreaded task of decorating is behind us. The house is full of food and presents. I gave myself an early Christmas present in the shape of Terry Teachout's biography of H. L. Mencken, which I am enjoying very much. I didn't know that Woodrow Wilson was such a monster. It makes sense, now that I think of it. How could anyone who could push the precursor of the United Nations and the Federal Reserve Board and prohibition be anything other than a contemptible fool?

I also finished Kary Mullis's "Dancing Naked in the Mind Field", an autobio by a Nobel winner that confirms all my prejudices about myths like global warming, the ozone hole and HIV not causing AIDS. The only jarring note in Mullis is his advocacy of astrology. Come on, Kary, we can give up all of the illusions left over from Sixties hallucinogenic fantasies. We don't have to hang on to any for nostalgia's sake. Astrology is worthless. Do you hear me? Fake, stupid, ineffective, non-functional, pointless and boring. Get over it. Go see Randi if you need help shaking the monkey off your back.
Message from the Levant

My sister in Egypt sent me a column from AlAhram by Edward Said that had a few interesting points about the Middle East. I can't find a link to the original article, so I've reproduced it below. Here's my response to her:

Well, what do you know? I actually agree with a lot of what Said has to say about Saddam and Arafat. They are thugs. And I share his rejection of suicide bombing and other attacks on civilians. But Said's basic mistake is to maintain that the Palestinians are a "people" rather than just an ad hoc group of refugees from the Arab world's obsession with destroying Israel. The security of Israel is and has been in so much doubt that it overwhelms the problems Palestinians have in getting their plutocrat mafia to share its Saudi and EU and even American wealth with them. I also disagree strongly with his picture of the "unrestrained" IDF. No army in the history of the world has been under such provocation and suffered such losses for so long and acted with such restraint. Any Arab autocrat suffering attacks from a group like the Palestinians would wipe them out to the last man, woman and child. Ditto for collectivists like Stalin, Mao, Kim, Ho, Castro and every minor Commie potentate. Also the French. I don't even want to think of what the Germans would do to them. What I find unbelievable is the leeway that leftists afford to Arafat and their shrillness towards the Israelis, who are only trying to survive. And of course, as Said well knows, the "occupation" is NOT illegal. Hostilities with the Arabs have never ceased for fifty-plus years and international law does not require a power suffering attacks from an area to allow those attacks to proceed unchallenged.
So Said is lying through his teeth as well. He and many others could well be surprised if, as I think likely, Bush manages to disarm and drive out Saddam without launching a full-scale war. Will he get credit for that if it goes well? Duh. And what other plan does Said have for relieving the Iraqi people of their oppression, which costs them far more lives every month than even the most ham-handed bombing campaign could?
Israel has freedoms, and economic success, in desperate wartime, that no Arab country has ever enjoyed. In sum, is Said blaming Arafat and the other mafiosi or Israel for the parlous state of the average Arab citizen? He can't have it both ways. I can't understand why he doesn't see that the campaign against Israel is and has been only maintained to keep thugs like Arafat in power. He should be for stopping the war orchestrated by Arafat but he can't bring himself to give up his reflexive anti-Semitism or the cherished myth of a "Palestinian nation" which has no historic or cultural reality. Otherwise, he's right. Eliminate Arafat. And Saddam and Assad and the entire Saudi royal family and Hamas and Hezbollah and Qaddafi and bin Laden, if he's not already a cinder, and the Israelis would with a great sigh of relief come to an accommodation with the Arab world and help them make their way to rationality and prosperity.

Note: I'm going to remove the Said article, because it seems to be knocking me off Blogger. I'll put it back in when I get a chance. RS.