November 30, 2006
Webb Watch I
"Webb Watch" Kind of has a nice ring to it. I have a funny feeling that there may be many more installments ahead.
I wouldn't be writing about Senator-elect Jim Webb except that I live in Virginia. I spent most of my time this campaign season out working for Frank Wolf (R VA-10), but one day did a lit drop for George Allen.
At a recent White House reception for freshman members of Congress, Virginia's newest senator tried to avoid President Bush. Democrat James Webb declined to stand in a presidential receiving line or to have his picture taken with the man he had often criticized on the stump this fall. But it wasn't long before Bush found him.
"How's your boy?" Bush asked, referring to Webb's son, a Marine serving in Iraq.
"I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President," Webb responded, echoing a campaign theme.
"That's not what I asked you," Bush said. "How's your boy?"
"That's between me and my boy, Mr. President," Webb said coldly, ending the conversation on the State Floor of the East Wing of the White House.
Try to be nice to him and he acts like a jerk.
But this isn't the first time he's behaved this way.
Power Line reports that in 1997 he said this about then President Clinton:
"I cannot conjure up an ounce of respect for Bill Clinton when it comes to the military. Every time I see him salute a Marine, it infuriates me. I don't think Bill Clinton cares one iota about what happens in a military unit."
Power Line reminds us that he had no problem in having Bill Clinton come down to Virginia to campaign for him. Yet he once called Clinton's administration "the most corrupt in modern memory".
So he's both an opportunist and rude. Oh but in the same Post article, Senator Shumer assures us that Webb "really has deep convictions." We shall see. He's certainly not off to a godd start.
For Additional Reading
George Will takes down Jim Webb as only a master writer can do. In an editorial titled "
Webb conveys the message of a boor " Will starts off
That was certainly swift. Washington has a way of quickly acculturating people, especially those who are most susceptible to derangement by the derivative dignity of office. But Jim Webb, Democratic senator-elect from Virginia, has become a pompous poseur and an abuser of the English language before actually becoming a senator.
Read the whole thing.
I have a feeling that Jim Webb is going to provide a lot of material over the next six years.
November 28, 2006
"No Substitute for Victory"
Apologies for the light blogging recently. Holiday and other events have conspired to keep me away from the computer.
I'm gathering information for a general Iraq update, but since it will be somewhat depressing I thought that first I'd lay out the stakes. Lo and behold but David Rivkin did that for me in the November 20 print edition of National Review. You can view his article on-line if you have a digital subscription.
Rivkin's thesis is that "Iraq matters". Whether it was right for us to have gone in or not is now beside the point. Dithering over who is to blame for the mistakes we have made is also not productive. Rather, Iraq "is an integral part of the war against Islamist terrorism... and that the consequences of defeat would be dire."
Iraq matters a great deal in the broader War on Terror precisely because building democracy in the heart of the Islamic world enables us to pose an ideological challenge to our enemies — unlike ineffectual soft-sell efforts to convince Islamists of our basic goodness.
I said much the same thing in August of 2004 in a post in which I said that going into Iraq put us on the strategic offensive, the advantage of which was that we were taking the war to the enemy. Rather than skirmishing with his advance units, we had gone straight to his headquarters in a daring raid. What Rivkin adds is the ideological element, and I think he has a point.
We can argue over concepts of liberty and democracy, and of course while the two are related they are not quite the same thing. And we can also say that while Iraq may have democracy and some liberty, since it does not have security the former two don't matter much. Fine and good. But the Islamists are certainly worried. They know that if democracy and liberty take hold in Iraq they are doomed. Rivkin spells it out for us
The Islamist ideology is animated by the idea that sharia-based governance is both inevitable and the only alternative to the Middle East’s existing corrupt and authoritarian regimes. Just as the Soviets understood that the demonstration of one Communist regime’s illegitimacy would be a demonstration of all Communist regimes’ illegitimacy — the real reason for the enunciation of the Brezhnev Doctrine — al-Qaeda and other Islamists readily grasp that the success of democracy in Iraq would have catastrophic consequences for their legitimacy. Indeed, because Iraq’s much-maligned constitution fuses Islam and democracy — unlike, say, the secular Turkish constitution — it poses a uniquely powerful challenge to the jihadist ideology. U.S. critics of the Iraqi government focus solely on its shortcomings and fail to realize that the jihadists view its mere survival — no matter how weak it is, or how plagued by internal fighting, or how tenuous its ability to provide security — as a grave threat. The jihadists know that the establishment of a democratic polity that empowers women and calls for all of Iraq’s communities to enjoy political and economic rights would be a fundamental blow to their cause. This is the main reason Islamic extremists of all stripes have unleashed horrific violence on Iraq.
I remember all the angst when the Iraqi constitution was first announced. Many Americans were very disappointed that it incorporated Islam, and did not include many protections that we would consider vital, such as a Western-type bill of rights.
But before we despair we need to consider a few things. One, our own constution initially allowed for slavery and did not give the vote to women. Yet we have been able to rid ourselves of the first and enable the latter while keeping the originial document. Further, the only democratic example in the Islamic world is in Turkey, and the "Mustafa Kemal model" is much despised by Arabs. Further, it depended too much on the force of will of a a single powerful person.
The simple fact of the matter is that any Arab constitution is going to incorporate Islam and we might as well get used to it. Better, I think, to work towards long-term reform of Islam than try and marginalize it, which didn't work for the Shah and won't work in Iraq. Perhaps we can reform it if we can install some sort of democratic government.
The Consequences of Defeat
There is a certain type on the left, and even some on the paleo-right, who almost laugh at the idea that there will be dire consequences if we are defeated in Iraq. They point to Vietnam and say "See! You tried to scare us with your domino theory and nothing happened!"
But Iraq is not Vietnam, for a million reasons. The Islamists will use Iraq as a springboard to overthrow the regimes in surrounding countries. They will ally with Iran. They will come after us in Europe and America.
Given these stakes, even partially successful democracy promotion in the Islamic world and the creation of a modestly pro-American and strongly anti-jihadist government in the heart of the Middle East would be a stunning strategic defeat for al-Qaeda and its allies. It would be a brilliant geopolitical stroke, fusing American idealism with the imperatives of realpolitik. Conversely, the consequences of a U.S. loss in Iraq would be manifold and dire. Most obviously, the fates of Baghdad and Kabul are inextricably intertwined. This is because the Taliban and Qaeda elements in Afghanistan would surely be emboldened by a U.S. defeat in Iraq, while the pro-Karzai forces would be demoralized. A defeat in Iraq would also make it difficult to retain support, both in the U.S. and internationally, for Western efforts in Afghanistan.
More fundamentally, those who claim that the current Hobbesian chaos in Iraq can be neatly separated from other Middle East trouble spots, and that it does not affect America’s influence in the region, are utterly wrong. The war of all against all, with nationalism and Islamic extremism thrown in as the major motivating forces, is not limited to Iraq; it occurs frequently throughout the region, appearing in places where American troops have never set foot.
Certainly at this point the goal of a democratic, anti-jihadist Iraq looks difficult to achieve. We should consider, however, that in most past wars there were points at which the eventual victor faced severe setbacks if not outright defeat. But sticking to the point, I concur that Rivkin's essential point that a defeat in Iraq would have devastating consequences across the region if not the globe. Those who see everything through the lens of Vietnam ought to consider what happened in the 1970s after our defeat in Vietnam.
We also know that Islamist forces have perceived a long series of American retreats — in places ranging from Vietnam to Beirut to Mogadishu — as a sign that, in bin Laden’s charming words, the U.S. is a “weak horse.” His sentiment is not uncommon; Islamists are constantly searching for evidence of their foes’ weakness.
One of Reagan's biggest mistakes was pulling the Marines out of Beirut after the bombing of their barracks. At the time we did not see that we were setting a pattern, one that would be repeated in our pullout of Mogadishu, and the non-response to the bombing of the USS Cole.
The U.S. retreated from Vietnam after being engaged there politically and militarily for nearly a decade and suffering almost 60,000 war deaths and 150,000 casualties. It paid a huge geopolitical price in the form of emboldened Soviet foreign policy in the 1970s and ’80s and a precipitous decline in U.S. credibility worldwide.
Those who claim that "the domino's didn't fall" after our withdrawal from Vietnam ought to study the history of the 1970s more carefully. Carterism led to an agressive Soviet Union. The result was the invasion of Afghanistan, increased Soviet influence in Africa, and insurgencies in Central America. If anything, the Islamists will be worse. At least the communists didn't seek to directly attack our homeland; the Islamic terrorists will.
A U.S. loss in Iraq would be taken as a sign that the time had come to launch ever bolder attacks on American soil and against American interests overseas, and to push for the creation of a global caliphate. Thus, an America that fails to stop suicide bombings on the streets of Baghdad, Fallujah, and Ramadi is likely to face them on the streets of New York, Washington, and Los Angeles.
The bottom line is that, with our ability to project power against the Islamist forces dramatically diminished, we would have to fight a largely reactive war, focusing mainly on homeland defense against an emboldened enemy. History’s lessons concerning such warfare are not encouraging. To take but one example, the Roman Empire in the 4th century ceased strategic offensive operations and, ultimately, was overwhelmed by the barbarians.
Eating Soup With A Knife
It is possible that we will lose in Iraq. I do not discount this.
It is also quite possible that we can win. Countries have pulled themselves out of seemingly impossible situations before and gone on to victory.
Insurgencies can be defeated. However, unlike fighting a conventional army, defeating an insurgency is difficult, messy, and takes a lot of time. In the words of Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as "Lawrence of Arabia", it's like being like eating soup with a knife. Back in March of this year I wrote a post on this very subject, taking Lt. Col. John Nagl's recent book Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam: Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife as a guide.
In his conclusion, Rivkin says much the same thing
There are no easy shortcuts to victory. Counterinsurgency campaigns are won by staying in the fight and grinding down the insurgents. Defeating the insurgencies in Malaysia and Algeria took years of hard fighting, with high civilian and military casualties.
Once again, whether it was right for us to have invaded Iraq is beside the point. The simple fact is that it is part of our war against Islamic terorrism, and those who say otherwise are dead wrong. The consequences of defeat would reverberate for decades, and it is not clear to me that we could recover. As Mark Steyn points out, we can lose this war; not the one in Iraq, but the entire one against the Islamists. Losing Iraq would only be the beginning of the end.
November 18, 2006
America Alone II
Earlier this week I reviewed Mark Steyn's book American Alone: The End of the World As We Know It. Steyn's thesis is that the Europe we always knew is almost dead. Declining birthrates among natives, an increasing Muslim minority that refuses to assimilate, and a multiculturalist-surrender mentality are leading the continent into steep decline.
A few recent news stories bear this out. Some Europeans are awaking to their new realities. An article in the Economist claims that multiculturalism is dead, but wonders what will replace it. The "politics of identity" seems to be the answer
...the airwaves and the newspapers have been dominated by what it is fashionable to call the politics of identity. There is still no sign of the debate flagging. Indeed, the government seems to be doing everything it can to keep it going. Last week Ruth Kelly, the communities secretary, announced that the government was undertaking a “fundamental rebalancing” of its relationships with Muslim organisations and that funding would shift towards those which actively tackled extremism and defended “our shared values”.
Ms Kelly was reflecting growing government disillusionment with the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an umbrella body that claims to speak for Britain's 1.6m Muslims. Ms Kelly, a devout Catholic, took particular exception to the MCB's refusal to join in the commemorations of Holocaust Memorial Day. She also criticised both its insistence that British foreign policy was anti-Muslim and its routine denigration of police anti-terrorism operations.
... Since then, the security services have reached alarming conclusions about the number of young British Muslims who have been radicalised and their potential to become terrorists. Increasingly, ministers believe that the willingness of successive governments to tolerate and, in some ways, encourage the separateness of Muslim communities in the name of multiculturalism has been a colossal error.
The result is that the government has started to ask itself some profound questions. How far is a liberal society obliged to go in defending attitudes and behaviour that are hostile to it? Is it reasonable to demand that members of all minority communities integrate, at least to some degree, with the majority?
This has traditionally been difficult territory for many on the left. Partly it is lingering colonial guilt, but mainly it is because the left is uneasy with notions that appear to claim superiority for majority cultural norms or which confuse the duties of citizenship with loyalty to the symbols of nationalism. In the search for a fairer society, the concept of national identity seemed either irrelevant or unhelpful.
Ms Kelly has made a stab at defining “non-negotiable” British values—respect for the law, freedom of speech, equality of opportunity, respect for others and responsibility towards others—that every citizen must sign up to. Steps are also under way to introduce an inclusive, narrative account of British history to be taught in schools as part of compulsory citizenship classes.
Both are doubtless worthwhile. But it may be beyond the exhortations of worried, well-meaning politicians to revive an idea of British national citizenship that is relevant and powerful enough to do what is needed. Unless Mr Blair's debate takes place where it matters most, within the Muslim communities themselves, it is likely only to deepen existing prejudices.
The good news, then, is that some in Britain have at least partially woken up to the danger. They have finally realized that their politicies have created what the French security officials once mockingly called "Londonistan".
Tony Blair and his New Labor partisans have been doing their best to "abolish Britain", as Peter Hitchens called it. It is going to be very difficult to reverse the trend.
Thomas Sowell says that the problem in Europe is that they've been insulated from the "reality of the international jungle" for too long, being allowed to live under American protection. Not being responsible for their own defense, they've grown soft. As a result, they "indulge themselves in illusions about brutal realities and dangers." The result, he says, is that Europe is "going quietly". He asks
How can a generation be expected to fight for the survival of a culture or a civilization that has been trashed in its own institutions, taught to tolerate even the intolerance of other cultures brought into its own midst, and conditioned to regard any instinct to fight for its own survival as being a "cowboy"?
Western nations that show any signs of standing up for self-preservation are rare exceptions. The United States and Israel are the only Western nations which have no choice but to rely on self-defense — and both are demonized, not only by our enemies but also by many in other Western nations.
Australia recently told its Muslim population that, if they want to live under Islamic law, then they should leave Australia. That makes three Western nations that have not yet completely succumbed to the corrosive and suicidal trends of our times.
If and when we all succumb, will the epitaph of Western civilization say that we had the power to annihilate our enemies but were so paralyzed by confusion that we ended up being annihilated ourselves?
As usual, Sowell has it just about right.
Heading For The Exits
In the face of all this some native Europeans have decided to call it quits and get out. Rob Liddle, writiing in The Spectator, says that
Apparently almost a million British citizens have left the country since 2000, to live somewhere else. Last year, according to the Office for National Statistics, 380,000 people left Britain, of whom about 200,000 were British citizens. At the same time, though, 565,000 immigrants arrived in Britain, the overwhelming majority from the Indian subcontinent (largely Pakistan and Bangladesh).
Der Spiegel reports that Germans are leaving their country as well.
They are fed up, truly fed up. Fed up with the constant bickering over the costs of wage benefits, social reforms, elimination of subsidies, store closing hours and all the other symbols of a country stuck in bureaucratic and legislative gridlock.
They are tired of living in country where landing a job is like playing the lottery, a country where not even half of citizens live from gainful employment and a country in which even academics in their mid-40s are already considered problem cases when it comes to job placement. In other words, they are fed up with living in a country where all opportunities already seem to be taken: opportunities to succeed in one's career, to own property and to achieve prosperity.
Rarely have so many Germans decided to leave it all behind -- their houses and properties, parents and aunts, friends and co-workers. According to the German Federal Office of Statistics, 144,815 Germans left the country last year, a jump of almost 25 percent over 2002. At the same time, fewer and fewer Germans are returning from abroad. The most recent figure is 128,052. For the first time in a generation, more Germans are emigrating than returning. And these are only the official figures.
There are probably just as many who move away without bothering to notify officials in their local municipalities.
Worse, those who are leaving are young, well-educated, and highly skilled. They are just the sort of people that a country can most ill-afford to lose, and whose departure will have the greatest economic impact.
Emigration in and of itself need not be a death knell. After all, Europe lost millions in the 19th century and early 20th. But back then the birthrate was high, and they were able to make it up. Today, birthrates in Western Europe are at 1.5 live births per woman and declining. To maintain a population at a given level, 2.1 live births per woman is required.
To be sure, many of these German emigrants are staying in Europe, so it's not all a net European loss. But overall the population in Germany, like that of the rest of Europe, is declining.
It is ironic that not too long ago schoolchildren were warned that overpopulation was one the world's biggest problems. The issue, of course, is that back when such warnings were a staple of public education, no one thought of the problems of funding old-age retirement. It just seemed a given that there would be enough taxable income-earners around to pay for the ever-increasing benefits packages politicians were voting into place.
Today we know better. The United States will face a financial crisis when the baby boomers reach retirement. The situation in Europe will be much worse, since they have more benefits in place, higher unemployment, and fewer young people.
Add to this in increasingly assertive Muslim population, and you've got a future that doesn't look so good.
November 15, 2006
Book Review - "America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It"
Just when I think that the future can't be much darker for us in our war on Islamic Jihadism, Mark Steyn comes along to ruin things for me.
Consider our current situation: Iraq is in the throws of massive sectarian violence and may slide into Rwandan-style slaughter, Afghanistan is not-at-all secure, Musharraf has virtually ceded large parts of his country to the Taliban and their allies, most of Somalia, including it's capital Mogadishu, is controlled by the Supreme Islamic Courts Council, an Islamist militia, and Iran appears to be well on the way towards obtaining nuclear weapons. Did I miss anything?
Actually, as Steyn points out in America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It, what I missed was the fact that the United States is now virtually alone in the world. Europe, he explains, is well on the road to being completely lost to the Jihadists.
On the surface, of course, it doesn't seem that way. Their leaders still mouth the traditional pieties, lamenting that "with only proper US leadership" and "less arrogance", why, we would all be together against the terrorists. Traditional institutions such as NATO and a European-dominated Security Council still prevail.
Further, it's tempting to think that of course we can't really lose to the likes of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Isn't Europe the rock of Western Civilization? Surely a continent that survived the Nazis, Communists, and other assorted fascists can take on a bunch of backward Islamic fanatics, right? I mean, maybe they'll get lucky with some terrorist acts, maybe even sneak a nuke into a city, but lose, as in foreign occupation? No way.
"Yes way" is Steyn's response.
Here is Steyn's argument in a nutshell; the populations of native Europeans are headed into steep decline. Not only that, but the radio of young to old people is rapidly declining. Over the past several decades they've set up an enormous welfare state which depends on lots of young people for old-age payments. European leaders, seeing that the young people simply won't be around when needed, have been encouraging massive immigration into their countries. These immigrants are overwhelmingly Muslim, and most have no desire to assimilate into European culture. Not only that, but, most or many of them plan on making Europe a Muslim continent, complete with Sharia law. Native Europeans, infected with leftist multiculturalism and a complete lack of a sense of nationhood, have no will to resist.
America, he says, will be alone in the world before we know it. In many ways we already are.
Combine a powerful argument with his world-famous Mark Steyn wit, and you've got a great book. It is at once deeply sobering and laugh-out-loud funny. Put it on your must-read list.
The Inexorable Power of Demography
In order for a population to maintain its existing numbers, there must be 2.1 live births per woman. More and it's numbers increase, less and they decline. The United States is at almost exactly 2.1. That our numbers are slightly increasing is due, of course, to immigration.
Europe as a whole is 1.38, Western Europe, 1.5 or less. A few country numbers: Germany and Austria 1.3, Italy 1.2, Sweden 1.64, Ireland 1.9, Spain and Greece 1.15. Russia has the lowest at 1.15, and France the highest at 1.89. On the other side of the globe, Japan is at 1.32, and while they'll have a benefits crisis, they don't have to contend with immigrants who want to change the very nature of their society.
All this leads to rapidly declining populations. The populations of Spain, Greece and Russia will start to halve every 35 or 40 years starting sometime mid-century. The population of Yemen will exceed that of Russia.
Besides the fact that the welfare-state will simply come crashing to the ground (it's a mathmatical certainty), no one knows what will happen economically when there are lots and lots of retired people relative to younger workers.
On the other hand, here are the birthrates in Islamic countries: Pakistan 5.03, Saudi Arabia 4.53, Iran 2.33 (though Ahmadinejad is trying to get it up), Afghanistan 6.69 and Yemen at 6.58
Calculators Don't Lie
Into all this come Muslim immigrants. Europeans want(ed?) them because of their labor and ability to fund their welfare states, and Muslims wanted to come because Europe is obviously a better place than, oh, say, Pakistan or Algeria.
Exactly how many Muslims are in Europe now is open to question, and the numbers are probably higher than advertised. However, most sources I checked conclude that about 5% of Western Europe is Muslim, with the total number being at around 23 million.
The Muslim birthrate in Europe is somewhere around 3.5 live births per woman.
The bottom line: Sometime towards the end of this century Western Europe will be majority Muslim. Get the picture?
Islam is Not Just a Religion
This is not the place for a full discussion of Islam, the law, and the nature of society. Suffice it to say that you just haven't been paying attention if you think that the difference between Westerners (whether Christian or not) and Muslims is trivial. We're not talking like the differences between Presbyterians and Mormons, or Jews and Hindus, for that matter.
The reality is that all Westerners, and Hindus too for that matter, live in countries that have been through or deeply influenced by the Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment. This is why I'm not worried about the impact of Hispanics on American culture or society; fundamentally they're just like us.
Islam is another matter. There has never been an Islamic Martin Luther, much less a St Augustine or St Aquinas. I'd say Islam was stuck in the Middle Ages, but that would be an insult to Medieval Europe. I believe that Islam is reformable, it's just not on that path right now.
Radical Islam has exported itself to Europe. Melanie Phillips documented how bad the situation in the UK, who's capital was been dubbed "Londonistan" by French police officials. Islamism is an imperial project, says Steyn, and it's coming to a town near you.
It's not just the vast potential for terrorism that is the problem. Surveys show that up to 60% of these Muslims want Sharia law implimented in the European countries where they reside. Many or most of them have no wish to conform to Western standards, they want us to conform to them. Steyn, like any number of authors writing on this subject, provides example after example of demands that radical Muslims are making on their new countries; and time after time native Europe surrenders.
The problem is that the Muslim immigrants see the customs and law of Europe, and reject it. They see women who are free, and it offends them. They see that gays are allowed to live without being stoned to death, and it enrages them. They examine our legal system and believe it unjust because it is not based on Islam. They look at our democracy and seek ways to exploit it. They use our tradion of tolerance against us.
All Muslims? No. But enough Muslims? Yes. If there is a large group of "moderate Muslims" in Europe, it is a well-kept secret.
It's the Identity, Stupid
Population decline in and of itself would only be a economic problem; how to pay for all these benefits? A threat from radical Muslims would not be a problem in a culture and country that firmly believed in itself.
Add the two together, however, and you've got a disaster on your hands.
How Europe lost it's way is no great secret; two world wars, coupled with the threat of complete annihilation during the Cold War, prompted many to distrust or hate nationalism and put their faith in integration and international institutions. And it has, in this respect, worked; the idea of two major European countries going to war with each other is more remote than ever.
Sure, if the Islamists somehow cobbled together a traditional army and hit the beaches in Spain or Italy, Europe would rally to their defense. The problem, as Steyn points out, is that "the dragons are no longer on the edge of the map."
The reasons why Europe is not resisting are several. There is the lack of national identity that I mentioned earlier. There is also it's post-Christian state. Most Americans believe in God whether they go to church or synagogue or not. Most Europeans don't even believe in God. This results first of all in a lack of believing in anything, a lack of identity.
On top of that you've got leftist muliculturalism, which seeks to deny that any one culture or society is superior to any other.
All of this has led to a lack of identity. Islam is not only growing in Europe though immigration, but by conversion. Again, numbers are hard to come by, but there are all too-many news articles about the subject.
What Christian churches are left outside of Catholicism are in full-scale retreat. Most are desperate to retain whatever members they can, and believe that the best way to do so is to become like the society around them. This has led to a milquetoast version of their religion that is utterly unable to resist the threat that is all around them.
The funny part about it all is that if you had to invent an ideology that would be complete anathema to the liberal or leftist mindset, you couldn't do better than radical Islam. It's mysogenic, anti-gay, and theocratic. Yet to most leftists and indeed many liberals, the threat's simply not there. They'll tell you that the Islamists are just upset because we haven't solved the Palestinian-Israeli problem.
In the End
"Jihad can win", is Steyn's message. Although it may seem incredible to us to imagine the sort of changes that would forever change Europe, it is stability that is the illusion. Looking at the broad sweep of history, one realizes that not only do countries come and go, but peoples do to. Meet any Visigoths or Byzantines recently?
So yes, Europe as we know it can disappear. Before it does it will likely catch on as to what is happening, and we'll likely see mass riots or outright warfare, coupled with a rise of fascist parties on the right. We'll also see a mass exodus to the United States, which in my opinion would be a good thing. But in the end the tyranny of demography will prevail unless action is taken now.
What Can Be Done
Steyn doesn't spend much time here, prefering to spend most of the book simply laying out the problem. He does, however have some ideas, most of which are good ones.
First, he lays out our options
1. Submit to Islam
2. Destroy Islam
3. Reform Islam
As Steyn puts it, "because most of us don't take number one as a serious possibility, we're equally unserious about being forced to choose between two and three. But submission to Islam is very possible...."
Because "destroying Islam" is both impractical and immoral, our only option is number three. Ultimately, he says, we can't do this; only Muslims can. However, we can create the conditions for reform.
Some of the things he proposes are supporting women's rights in Islamic countries, rolling back Wahhabi "exports", ie Saudi-funded Mosques. In general, supporting liberty and democracy in Muslim countries is necessary, too. We must think more comprehensively about a ideological strategy as well as a military one. Forget the UN and NATO, they're worse than useless. Changing the government in Tehran must be a priority. Military action when necessary is required, though in general this war will not be won with bombs and bullets.
All of this stuff except ending the military parts are the types of things we don't do very well, but it's quite necessary that we learn.
Trends do not necessarily hold. It is possible that native Europeans will see an increase in their birthrates, or will suddenly come to their senses and enact measures to stop or seriously slow down immigration from Muslim countries. They might rediscover a sense of identity, and maybe even their Christianity. But it seems less than likely to me. Steyn's vision is, if anything, more frightening than even the prospects for defeat in Afghanistan or Iraq. The lights may be going out in Europe once more, and this time I'm not sure we can get them back on.
November 11, 2006
Ratchet up the Pressure in Iraq?
I've seen several interesting articles recently about what to do with Iraq. Usually we just hear two options; "stay the course" or "pull out now". The first will probably not result in victory, and the latter certainly won't. For someone who does believe that victory must be our goal, I believe that we need to come up with something new and fast. Last July I wrote about some new ideas that had been suggested to me in a roundtable discussion in Foreign Affairs by commenter jason. I didn't agreeing with most of the ideas presented, but that didn't mean they weren't worth considering. As we've seen, our plan for securing Baghdad against the recent insurgent offensive isn't working (here and here).
The good news, as Chester reports, is that
A small group of officers assembled by Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to draw up alternatives to the U.S. military strategy in Iraq is expected to conclude its work in December, according to defense sources. Some observers anticipate the recommendations will call for a dramatic change of course in the Persian Gulf nation and perhaps in the war on terrorism more broadly.
First today we'll take a look at what William J. Stuntz says in The Weekly Standard.
First off he talks about the natural inclination not to "throw good money after bad." Looking at Iraq the same way one would look at a financial investment, one could be excused for thinking it's time to cut our losses and pull out. But of course, Iraq is not a financial investment. Unlike in financial matters, in war a "willingness to raise the stakes often wins the game."
Why do insurgent gangs, who have vastly smaller resources and manpower than the American soldiers they fight, continue to try to kill those soldiers? The answer is, because they believe they only have to kill a few more, and the soldiers will leave. They need not inflict a military defeat (which would be impossible, given the strength of the American military)--all they need to do is survive until American voters decide to throw in the towel, which might happen at any moment.
The proper response to that calculation is to make emphatically clear that the fight will not end until one side or the other wins, decisively. That kind of battle can only have one ending, as Abraham Lincoln understood. In a speech delivered a month after his reelection, Lincoln carefully surveyed the North's resources and manpower and concluded that the nation's wealth was "unexhausted and, as we believe, inexhaustible." Southern soldiers be gan to desert in droves. Through the long, bloody summer and fall of 1864, the South had hung on only because of the belief that the North might tire of the conflict. But Lincoln did not tire. Instead, he doubled the bet--and won the war.
In other words, now is the time to ratchet things up by sending in more troops. Stuntz continues
Send just enough soldiers and guns and tanks to do the job, and you may soon find you have sent too few. The enemy concludes that if it can raise the marginal cost of the conflict just a bit, if casualties are a little higher or the expense a tad greater than you imagined, you'll quit the field. On the other hand, send vastly more soldiers and materiel than required to the battlefield, and the enemy soon decides that the fight is hopeless--that, as Lincoln so elegantly put it, our resources are unexhausted and, as we believe, inexhaustible.
Maybe. One certainly has to think that the insurgents (and yes I know they're a mixed bunch) are just trying to wait us out, always figuring that if they can kill just a few more Americans we'll give it up.
Possibly referring to the policy review led by Gen Pace, Ralph Peters says that
One proposal under discussion within the administration is to "send everything we've got" - to deploy every possible Army and Marine unit, no matter how worn and weary, for six months to "clean things up.
Let's hope that it's at least under consideration. I'm tired of half-measures. So is Rich Lowry.
What contribution has offense made to preventing another terror attack on the U.S. homeland? This gets into controversial territory. The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 seemed to shut down the Al Qaeda terrorist training factory that had produced thousands of trained cadres. Critics of the Iraq war claim that the terror training factory just moved to Baghdad and al-Anbar province, as a result of the American decision to invade Iraq.
Proponents of the “fly paper” theory argue that many foreign terrorists have been drawn to the Iraq jihad, only to die shortly after arriving. Critics counter by asserting that the Iraq war has energized a new generation of Islamic youth to take up arms against the U.S.
But, war proponents say, bringing a long and nasty war into the heart of a dysfunctional Arab world has accomplished two positive things for the West. First, it has shown the Arabs what a monster Al Qaeda really is. Second, it will force the Arabs to reform their neighborhood.
This remains to be seen.
I reprint this not to refight our justification for being there but because of what Westhawk says in the second sentence in the second paragraph; if Iraq is simply energizing Islamists and swelling their ranks, perhaps a troop drawdown would be best.
Moving to a bit more complicated analysis and suggestions, we go next to Armed Liberal. His post is rather long, and much of it quotes an article by Phil Carter at Slate. Following are excerpts from Carter's piece
First, the U.S. military must reverse its trend of consolidation and redeploy its forces into Iraq's cities. Efficiency and force protection cannot define our military footprint in Iraq; if those are our goals, we may as well bring our troops home today. Instead, we must assume risk by pushing U.S. forces out into small patrol bases in the middle of Iraq's cities where they are able to work closely with Iraqi leaders and own the streets....
Second, the United States needs to reinforce the most successful part of its strategy so far - embedding advisers ($) with Iraqi units. Our embedded advisers achieve more bang for the buck than any other troops in Iraq; one good 12-man adviser team, living and working with an Iraqi unit, can bolster an entire Iraqi battalion. Without these advisers, Iraqi army and police units remain ineffective - or worse, they go rogue....
To combat the insurgency, America must adopt a more holistic approach than simply building up the country's security forces. We have the seeds of this in Iraq today - the State Department's Provincial Reconstruction Teams. I worked closely with the PRT in Diyala to advise the Iraqi courts, jails, and police, and I saw their tremendous potential. However, having been hamstrung by bureaucratic infighting between the State and Defense departments, these teams now lack the authority, personnel, and resources to run the reconstruction effort effectively....
Lastly, we're going to have a report from the Baker Commission pretty soon. Unlike some, I'm not optimistic about what it's going to propose. My guess is they're going to recommend some version of "declare victory and leave." Mario Loyola seemed to agree in a post yesterday at NRO's The Corner
In today's Wall Street Journal, Reuel Marc Gerecht has a great editorial (subscription) on the problems facing the new Secretary of Defense — and all of us — in Iraq. Among other things, it's time to begin massively diminishing the expectations for Baker's Iraq Study Group, which looks likely to confirm the dilemma we face in Iraq without resolving it:
As will soon be apparent, the Iraq Survey Group [sic*] of which Mr. Gates is a member and to which I'm an adviser, has not discovered any way for the U.S. to exit Iraq — except under catastrophic conditions. Its recommendations will probably be the least helpful of all the blue-ribbon commissions in Washington since World War II because it cannot escape from an unavoidable reality: We either declare defeat and withdraw completely tout de suite, or we surge troops into Baghdad and fight. The ISG will surely try to find some middle ground between these positions, which, of course, doesn't exist.
If one works through the different scenarios, they all return quickly to a Rumsfeldian position that the U.S. needs to do more in Iraq with less — a position that has been proven flatly wrong since the spring of 2003. This is why Washington has not been able to draw down even though the president, his defense secretary and his generals have dearly wanted to do so. Any meaningful reduction of U.S. forces is very likely to collapse the Iraqi Army into Shiite and Sunni militias and bring on massive carnage, the likes of which the Middle East has not seen since the Iran-Iraq War. If Mr. Gates signs off on the ISG's recommendations, which will probably be completed before he assumes office, he will be party to a doomed strategy — and everyone in Washington and abroad will recognize it as a failure as soon as they start to work through it — before he even sets foot in the Pentagon. It may not be easy for Mr. Gates to recover from this initial flop.
However, when the ISG bombs, the Bush administration may finally get serious about correcting its mistakes in Iraq.
Daniel Henninger nearby makes another interesting point. Baker's Iraq Study Group is weighted away from "neocons" and towards "realists" from the Bush I administration — the same people who betrayed Iraq's Shiites in 1991 by coldy standing on the sidelines while Saddam slaughtered them. It seems odd that this group of people (whom I generally admire) thinks maybe we should abandon them again.
[* An ironically Freudian slip — He means the Iraq Study Group — The Iraq Survey Group was the one that figured out that there are no WMD in Iraq]
And I post this not to slam Baker, as Loyola and I will hopefully end up being mistaken, but because it touches on the question of consequences if we draw down troops.
An no reader will be surprised, my inclination is to rachet things up along the lines of what Stuntz and Carter propose. Whether the Democrats will allow any of this is another discussion entirely. I suppose the Administration could just act quickly and hope for a quick resolution, but that would completely destroy relations with the Democrats and it's doubtful that we could win quickly in Iraq in any event. More likely Bush will wait for the Baker Commission's report, and then will consult with the new congressional leaders before acting.
But I'm not optimistic on the latter, because the AP reports that "George McGovern, the former senator and Democratic presidential candidate, said Thursday that he will meet with more than 60 members of Congress next week to recommend a strategy to remove U.S. troops from Iraq by June.".
At this point a critic from the left or right would be forgiven for saying "if ratching up the pressure is such a good idea, why didn't Bush do it 2 years ago when he had the political capital?" Unfortunately I don't have a good answer to this. Bush had 3 and a half years to fight the war with GOP majorities in Congress, and they pretty much let the Administration do what it wanted in Iraq.
In an earlier post I mentioned that the big battle in the Democrat party was going to be between the new breed of pro-gun socially conservative congressmen like Heath Shuler, and old-time lefties like Charlie Rangel. How that battle is resolved may determine the fate of Iraq.
November 8, 2006
Election Post Mortem
We lost fair and square. No doubt there was cheating in places, but there always is. Sure, we had all of the media except for Fox News against us (the Washington Times is too small to count much), but that's always been the case, and this time we do have the blogosphere. Bottom line is we shouldn't start in on how "the people are stupid", but rather use it as a time to plan for victory in 2008.
Let's not become like a bunch of moonbats and start falling for all sorts of wild conspiracy theories about voter "intimidation", Diebold machines and all what-not.
Further, let's not overreact. I can't find the link right now to prove it, but from what I've read GOP losses were about average for a the 2nd mid-term elections of a two-term president. Clinton did well in 1998, but he suffered his loss in 1994.
Although most MSM pundits, and the Democrat leadership, will say that the reason Republicans were defeated was that going into Iraq was a mistake. More about the war below, but this is at best a half-truth.
Michael Ledeen had it partially right when he wrote that
I think Mark Steyn sums it up well: this was a normal 6th year election, not a paradigm shift. narrow margins in both houses of Congress, and we're back to divided government. I think the left's pickups were basically due to disenchantment with Bush and the state of the war in Iraq. In retrospect, isn't it fair to say that Bush's reelection and the Congressional results in '04 were basically a message to him? Get Iraq right, you've got two years or else.
And he hasn't got Iraq right, so the "or else" arrived as threatened.
No doubt there is a lot of truth to this. The American people are frustrated with Iraq. They want - or wanted - victory. Since this has not occured, they want to put someone else in charge. This is understandable.
But I think that Republicans could have survived had they kept their base. They didn't because the President and the Republicans in Congress didn't carry forth on their promises. The big three that I can think of are: 1) Spending on pork-barrell projects. Too many thought that they could buy off their constituants by "bringing home the bacon". This might work with liberals, but it turns off conservatives. 2) An ever-increasing federal government. At least Reagan tried to kill the utterly useless Dept of Education, and in the 1990s we tried to get rid of federal spending for the arts, but today's Republicans don't even try. 3) Illegan immigration. More on this below, but suffice it to say that this has become a huge issue and the national GOP refused to address the issue until it was too late.
Corruption was also an issue. It's not so much specific cases, as it is just the perception that Haskert et al didn't want to reform the system after the Abramoff scandal broke. And it's based in truth, because they didn't. It's no use complaining that there's a double standard, our guys (Cunningham, Foley) resign while theirs (Studds, Hastings) continue in office. Let's just resolve to purge our ranks of wrong-doers and start over again.
The Democrat leadership will say that the election proves that Iraq was a mistake and that we need an immediate pull-out. I think it's more that Americans' are just disappointed that we haven't won it. The lesson, I think, is that after the initial invasion we lapsed into a series of half-measures when we should have gone for broke.
James Robbins thinks we're headed "back to the seventies", and it's hard to disagree.
The outcome of the 2006 midterm elections will have serious consequences for the war on terrorism and U.S. national security generally. If you liked the foreign-policy impotence of the 1970s, get ready for moreWhether they did so consciously or not, the American people chose the party of cut-and-run. There's no no nice way to put it. You can say that the Virginia Senate race, for example, was lost by Allen's mistakes all you want, but the fact is that Webb was Mr. anti-war and this is who they chose. A reader they called the Pessimistic Hawk wrote into NRO with sentiments I again find hard to disagree with
Sooner or later, Baker's recommendations will likely be implemented, at which point al-Qaeda will be left in control of Anbar, Salahaddin, and possibly Babil and Diyala as well. They won't have any oil, but they'll have their failed state and that will give them a base from which to strike throughout the rest of the Middle East. Whether or not they are able to work out a manageable detente with Muqtada al-Sadr (who I expect will likely seize the southern part of the country), they won't be able to conquer his territory nor vice versa, meaning that we will still have a failed terrorist state made up of what was central Iraq to deal with. Oh, and a lot of innocent Iraqis are going to die, probably in the tens of thousands. But no one here will care about them, just like no one ever cares about the hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese and Cambodians who died when we abandoned Vietnam, but the important thing is that we'll all feel that much better.Illegal Aliens
You'll hear a lot of "The GOP lost the Latino vote because of it's hard-line stance on illegals". Me: so you're saying that Latinos are in favor of illegal behavior? If so, then I don't want them in my party. Now, maybe we revisit the details of how we go about stopping illegal crossings (focus more on jailing employers or increasing legal immigration), but no way am I going to turn a blind eye to illegal immigration. Besides, it'll just alienate the base, and all you'll have accomplished is trade one voter for another.
The big danger here is that Bush or some other Republican will say that "this proves the need for comprehensive immigration reform", which will only drive the base further from the party.
I disagree with Fred Barnes that "what Americans want is a comprehensive solution to the immigration crisis" He says that Republicans "come together on a "comprehensive" measure that not only secures the border but also provides a way for illegals in the United States to work their way to citizenship and establishes a temporary worker program."
What a joke. We've been down this path before. When Reagain was president they passed a "comprehensive" bill which legalized the illegals, but it ended up ignoring the border problem. If they pass another "comprehensive" bill, we'll get the same thing: they'll legalize the legals, and once the see that attention is diverted to something else will go back on their promises to secure the border. It's all guaranteed to keep illegals streaming into the country. What a joke.
Yes I know, what about JD Hayworth? He's big on stopping illegal immigration and he lost his house seat. I'd say that his problem was that he made it his centerpiece, and it's the single issue by which we came to know him. He became too vehement on it and became perceived as a bit of a fanatic. Basically, he overplayed his hand. So while stopping illegal immigration should be part of the conservative agenda, it should not be centerpiece of the agenda.
Closer to Home
Last night I wrote about how my local congressman, Frank Wolf, won reelection. It was about the only good news of the night.
It looks like James Webb, who defeated Senator George Allen in Virginia, is going to play the Absolute Moral Authority card if anyone questions his stance on Iraq. As John Miller pointed out on NRO
The Washington Post, on Oct. 18:
Virginia Democratic Senate candidate James Webb, who was critically wounded as a Marine in Vietnam, said yesterday that he is uncomfortable talking about his personal story even if doing so could help him unseat Republican Sen. George Allen on Nov. 7.
The Washington Post, right now:
When Webb claimed victory, he did it as a Marine. He came into the Vienna hotel ballroom accompanied by his brother Gary playing the bagpipes, and about a dozen of his Marine buddies emerged from behind the stage. He stood at attention, ramrod straight, as they filed in.
The biggest disappointment of the night was Michael Steele's loss in Maryland. I think everyone in the conservative camp was pulling for him, and if it hadn't been a hard year for Republicans all 'round, he would have won. I don't think we've heard the last of him, though, and that is a good thing.
Allen and Steele lost, and The Washington Post won.
Also, I've heard that this enhances the prestige of John McCain. Obviously, with the defeat of George Allen, this removes one of his potential challengers for 2008. Given that evangelicals will likely reject Mitt Romney because of his Morman beliefs, and Guliani is simply too liberal, this enhances McCain's chances of getting the nomination. But since he is despised by so many conservatives, it also greatly increases the chance of a Democrat seizing the White House.
Romney, in his press release, said all the things that conservatives want to hear. I'm starting to like him more and more, but I just don't think he'll be able to get over the "Mormon thing".
Meanwhile, John McCain is saying all the right things on Iraq in his most recent press releases, see here and here.
For all of my differences w/McCain, he is right on the war. And his take down of Barack Obama last February was beautiful. And deserved.
The Good News
Pretty sparse, but here are a few things to consider.
Also, notice now gun control and abortion have disappeared from Democrat talking points? With the former, almost all Democrats now at least say that they're pro-2nd Amendment. Only the ones in the bluest of districts talk about passing new gun-control laws. See David Kopel's article on how our Second Amendment freedoms are largely still secure even with a Democrat House and Senate.
In addition, Arizona passed Prop. 103, English as the state's official language, 74%-26%. This, too, is a good thing.
Other than that, I hear we won a few dogcatcher races out west somewhere.
November 7, 2006
Victory in VA-10
I just got back from Rep Frank Wolf's victory party at the Holiday Inn near Dulles VA. Rep Wolf is the Republican incumbent for Virginia's 10th district, and area covering parts of northern Virginia from near Washington DC to the West Virginia Border.
Although Wolf was expected to win, it was a relief nonetheless. Here's a bad photo of his victory speech
The others turned out even worse as either people or balloons kept getting in the way. Here's a better photo
As of this writing, here are the unofficial results from the state Board of Elections website.
Precincts Reporting: 146 of 187 (78.07%)
Registered Voters: 463,159 Total Voting: 172,683 Voter Turnout: 37.28 %
Candidates Party Vote Totals Percentage
F R Wolf Republican 98,866 57.25%
J M Feder Democratic 70,862 41.04%
Mr Wolf gave a spirited, but very positive, victory speech. He stressed that he tried hard to run a positive campaign, focusing on his accomplishments, such as founding a regional gang violence task force. In a year where there have been many scandals on both sides of the isle, he pointed out his reputation for honesty and integrity. He mentioned the Iraq Study Group, which he had proposed and lobbied for. He also emphasized the need to bring both Republicans and Democrats together to search for solutions for our problems. Given that northern Virginia is turning bluer, and that he consistently wins by convincing margins, this is not just a lot of hot air. Although Wolf is a conservative, he is not given to partisan sniping, and is on good terms with local Democrats.
More about his positions can be found on his campaign website and his official House website. Besides his strong support for our country taking an active role in fighting the War on Islamic Fascism, he has been a leader in bringing awareness and action to human rights issues in the Sudan, Ethiopia, and elsewhere. While other congressmen take junkets to Hawaii, Wolf goes to Sudan. Check out his trip reports here.
I was able to get out several weekends and take part in "lit drops", walking through neighborhood after neighborhood leaving literature on doors. It was a small roll in the overall campaign, but if a few hundred people each take a little bit of time to work for something or someone they believe in it all adds up.
Wolf is a man who talks the talk and walks the walk. I am proud to have him as my congressional representative.
CNN has better result information. In fact, they've got a very cool setup whereby you can pretty easily look up any House or Senate seat. With 97% of precincts reporting:
Frank Wolf R 126,907 57%
Judy Feder D 90,045 41%
I'll post a post-mortem on the entire election later today or tomorrow. In the meantime, here are the results from the Board of Elections for VA-10 with 99.47% of precincts reporting
Frank Wolf R 135,330 57.27%
Judy Feder D 96,824 40.97%
November 6, 2006
The Troops in Iraq Don't Want to Withdraw
For all the talk from many Democrats about the supposed need to withdraw (er, "redeploy") the troops from Iraq, most of the troops actually there do not seem to agree. Don't take it from me, but from a good liberal paper like the Washington Post (via Captain's Quarters)
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SYKES, Iraq, Nov. 5 -- For the U.S. troops fighting in Iraq, the war is alternately violent and hopeful, sometimes very hot and sometimes very cold. It is dusty and muddy, calm and chaotic, deafeningly loud and eerily quiet.
The one thing the war is not, however, is finished, dozens of soldiers across the country said in interviews. And leaving Iraq now would have devastating consequences, they said.
With a potentially historic U.S. midterm election on Tuesday and the war in Iraq a major issue at the polls, many soldiers said the United States should not abandon its effort here. Such a move, enlisted soldiers and officers said, would set Iraq on a path to civil war, give new life to the insurgency and create the possibility of a failed state after nearly four years of fighting to implant democracy.
"Take us out of that vacuum -- and it's on the edge now -- and boom, it would become a free-for-all," said Lt. Col. Mark Suich, who commands the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment just south of Baghdad. "It would be a raw contention for power. That would be the bloodiest piece of this war."
The soldiers declined to discuss the political jousting back home, but they expressed support for the Bush administration's approach to the war, which they described as sticking with a tumultuous situation to give Iraq a chance to stand on its own.
You'll want to read the entire article, but the quotes above capture its essential thesis.
Note that the troops don't comment on strategy or tactics. Nor do they, or the Post writer, indicate whether they think we're winning or losing. As I've said before, I think that at best we're in a stalemate, possibly losing. Indeed, I've said for some time now that I'm open to ideas on what to do - as long as it's not cut-and-run.
But what one finds striking about the troops that White interviewed was their realism. As the Captain said, "None of them have any illusions that Iraq will suddenly and miraculously find peace." Rather, they know that in order to win this thing we've got to be committed for the long haul. I remember reading in interview with General Casey a few months ago where he said that it takes an average of 9 years to defeat an insurgency.
Nor do the troops underestimate the enemy they're fighting. From the Post article
First Sgt. David Schumacher, 37, of Watertown, N.Y., is on his eighth deployment to a foreign battlefield since a tour in Somalia, and his third tour in Iraq.
"The insurgents are more strategic this time, they're smarter," he said. "We're trying to anticipate their next move, and they're trying to anticipate ours. There's still a lot to do
I've met dozens of troops inside and outside of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC. See here and here. They, too, respect the enemy. But none that I've met are discouraged, either. They're an amazing bunch, and ever time I go there I feel honored to be in their presence.
Most amazingly, it's the men and women actually on the battlefield that worry about us back home. They worry about our committment.
Sgt. Jonathan Kirkendall, 23, of Falls City, Neb., said he fears that many Americans think that building the country to viability will be "quick and easy," when he believes it could take many years. Kirkendall, of the 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division in Baghdad, is on his third deployment to Iraq and celebrated his 21st and 23rd birthdays here.
"If they say leave in six months, we'll leave in six months. If they say six years, it's six years," said Kirkendall, who is awaiting the birth of his first daughter, due next week.
"I'm just an average soldier, and I'll do what they tell me to do. I'm proud to be a part of it, either way it goes, but I'd like to see it through."
This makes me remember a story from an evening outside of Walter Reed of a few weeks ago. As usual, I and a bunch of other Freepers were standing outside holding our pro-troops signs and waving to the cars. It was maybe 8pm or so on a Friday.
Two troops came out of the hospital entrance and walked up to the corner where I was standing. "Thank you for doing this", they said. "Can you direct us to the subway station?"
Now, although they had long pants on it was obvious that each missing all or part of one leg and had a prosthetic on. The subway was several blocks off, so I said "hop in my car and I'll take you."
They told me that they were Marines, one wounded in Fallujah, and I forget where the other got hit. Both lost their legs through IEDs.
But it was the rest of the conversation that struck me, even though it seems like everytime I talk with one of them it goes the same way.
They went on and on about how much the appreciated what we were doing, about how much they appreciated our Friday night pro-troops rallies, and how it helped their morale (word of this has reached Iraq). I have to say that it was almost embarrassing to hear it from them, and so I started saying in effect "guys, thank you but all I'm doing is standing on the streetcorner holding a sign and coming in afterwards, you're fighting battles and both of you have lost a leg. We do this for you!" Finally after a few minutes of this sort of back-and-forth we all agreed that we appreciated, supported, and needed each other.
As I said, what an amazing bunch.
November 5, 2006
What Is At Stake on Tuesday
I wasn't going to write about the mid-term elections until they were over, but today I saw a post at LGF that changed my mind. Charles linked to a post at The Ornery American in which the author lays out the stakes perfectly. Following are a few choice excerpts
There is only one issue in this election that will matter five or ten years from now, and that's the War on Terror.
And the success of the War on Terror now teeters on the fulcrum of this election.
If control of the House passes into Democratic hands, there are enough withdraw-on-a-timetable Democrats in positions of prominence that it will not only seem to be a victory for our enemies, it will be one.
Unfortunately, the opposite is not the case -- if the Republican Party remains in control of both houses of Congress there is no guarantee that the outcome of the present war will be favorable for us or anyone else.
But at least there will be a chance.
...To all intents and purposes, when the Democratic Party jettisoned Joseph Lieberman over the issue of his support of this war, they kicked me out as well. The party of Harry Truman and Daniel Patrick Moynihan -- the party I joined back in the 1970s -- is dead. Of suicide.
...we are not waging a "War in Iraq." We are waging a world war, in which the campaigns to topple the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan were brilliantly successful, and the current "lukewarm" war demands great patience and determination from the American people as we ready ourselves for the next phase.
It's a lengthy article, and you'll want to read the whole thing, but these quotes lay out the author's thesis. It is one with which I agree.
Lest you doubt just how irresponsible the Democrats have become, here are two additional pieces of evidence that you can add to your collection. Both come via LGF, which is one of the best blogs in existence.
The first is a photo from a rally last night for Ned Lamont, who as knows is the Democrat candidate for the Senate in Connecticut
I think the photograph speaks for itself.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said Democrats want to redirect Bush's policies so the country is focused more on fighting terrorism.
"My plan would be to focus on getting Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida ... and begin redeploying troops out of Iraq where they are fueling terrorists and return to fighting the war on terror," she said.
Now, getting OBL would be a good thing, but put your dunce cap on if you think that getting him means that we've won the war. As one commenter on LGF said, "Getting Osama bin Laden will have the same effect on the WOT as Ray Croc's death did to McDonalds." And of course neither she nor any other Democrat has offered any concrete plan to "get" bin Laden.
All of which is exactly why the Democrats as a party are completely irresponsible and need to be kept out of power.
November 3, 2006
On Hypocrisy and Evangelicals
There's a story out whereby evangelist leader Ted Haggard bought methamphetamines and received a massage from a gay prostitute. You can follow the link for details if you like but they don't really matter to me because I'd never heard of him until now, and whether the story is true or not doesn't make any difference to me.
As is predictable the lefties are going nuts over it. Their glee is that of a child who's just received the Christmas present he's always wanted. As with the story above, I'm not going to bore you with links to prove this because if you're reading this you've probably also been on websites wereby lefties were whooping it up over the story so you know what I'm talking about.
Much more interesting to me is why the left would find such joy over the story, and why anyone who would is such a complete idiot.
David Frum summed up my thoughts earlier today on a post on his blog over at NRO, so I'll just quote him:
A sensational but to-date unsubstantiated allegation has been hurled at a major American religious figure. On much of the left, the reaction is gleeful delight: See! He is no better than anybody else!
In my mind, however, this story highlights a widespread moral assumption that I have never been able to understand.
Consider the hypothetical case of two men. Both are inclined toward homosexuality. Both from time to time hire the services of male prostitutes. Both have occasionally succumbed to drug abuse.
One of them marries, raises a family, preaches Christian principles, and tries generally to encourage people to lead stable lives.
The other publicly reveals his homosexuality, vilifies traditional moral principles, and urges the legalization of drugs and prostitution.
Which man is leading the more moral life? It seems to me that the answer is the first one. Instead of suggesting that his bad acts overwhelm his good ones, could it not be said that the good influence of his preaching at least mitigates the bad effect of his misconduct? Instead of regarding hypocrisy as the ultimate sin, could it not be regarded as a kind of virtue - or at least as a mitigation of his offense?
After all, the first man may well see his family and church life as his "real" life; and regard his other life as an occasional uncontrollable deviation, sin, and error, which he condemns in his judgment and for which he sincerely seeks to atone by his prayer, preaching, and Christian works.
Yet it is the first man who will if exposed be held up to the execration of the media, while the second can become a noted public character - and can even hope to get away with presenting himself as an exemplar of ethics and morality.
How does this make moral sense?
Let me put it another way:
In every other avenue of life, we praise people who rise above selfish personal wishes to champion higher principles and the public good. We admire the white southerners who in the days of segregation spoke out for racial equality. We admire the leader of a distressed industry who refuses to ask for trade protections and government handouts. We admire the Arthur Vandenbergs and (someday) the Joe Liebermans who can reach past party feeling to support a president of the opposing party for the sake of the national interest.
If a religious leader has a personal inclination toward homosexuality - and nonetheless can look past his own inclination to defend the institution of marriage and to affirm its benefits for the raising of children - why should he likewise not be honored for his intellectual firmness and moral integrity?
"I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self."
I thought that he was so right that I sent him the following email
You are dead right in your comments and analysis.
We live in an age in which all too many people, especially those in the media, consider hypocrisy to be the worst of all sins. To these elites, one who does wrong and encourages wrong is not as bad as the person who tries to do good and encourages others to do good, but who occasionally succumbs to temptation.
Thus Hugh Hefner and Larry Flint are usually given more respectful treatment than a Christian minister who even once has fallen into sin. The former are "genuine", while the latter is a hypocrite. A strange world, is it not, when being "genuine" is held in higher esteem than trying to do good!
The result is that those who try to do good and encourage others to do so must live up to a standard of absolute perfection lest they be subject to the worst sort of ridicule.
But we shouldn't really be surprised. We see in our daily lives how people who go out and do things they oughtn't, like excessive drinking, mock someone who doesn't if that person does the least wrong thing in some other area. The reason for this is simple; it makes the mockers feel better about their activity. As you put it, they say "See! He is no better than anybody else!"
(Strange, for some reason MT is combining everything into one giant paragraph whenever I try to indent (blockquote) my letter. I'll figure it outlater)
The bottom line is that hypocrisy is a bad thing but it is not the worst thing.
It is indeed difficult to strive for virtue in the face of so many who would mock you for the least failure. But I learned a long time ago not to live for the approval of others.
Hate and Self-Satisfaction
A Military Dictator for Iraq?
Given the current situation in Iraq, some people say that we need to put some sort of strongman in power to restore order. Others balk, saying that Iraqis are too used to their newfound freedom and would never acquiese to another dictatorship.
Ralph Peters is one who says that a military government may be the best answer to the problems beseting Iraq. Actually, he says that despite the votes that have taken place we have already have a de facto police state.
We went to Iraq to overthrow a police state. Through a combination of stubbornness, naivete and noble intentions, we've replaced it with another police state - more violent, more corrupt and less accountable.
As an Army officer remarked to me, Saddam's starting to look good.
Our greatest setback in Iraq may be that country's undoing: It has proven impossible to develop an honest, nonpartisan police establishment anywhere in the country's Arab provinces. The police aren't feared by criminals, but by law-abiding citizens.
The secret police are back, in the form of death squads. And the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki looks perfectly happy with the situation.
... In the coming months, we may find that the only hope of restoring order is a military government. It sounds repellent, but a U.S.-backed coup may be the only alternative to endless anarchy.
You'll want to read the whole thing, but Peters' argument is that Arabs can't handle democracy, at least not yet. The Iraqi Police are out of countrol and pose as much danger as the insurgents. Maliki, he says, is simply "a puppet of Muqtada al-Sadr". The Iraqi Army may be the country's last hope.
Not that this is all our fault, Peters stresses. Although we have made mistakes, the simple fact is that we have given the Iraqis a chance to build a new country and they are blowing it.
Jim Dunnigan's StrategyPage has another view of the matter. Yes, they say, there are many problems in Iraq. It is a disturbingly lawless place, with seemingly no respect for the law and order that we in the West take for granted. Corruption is not just rampant but is a way of life. The reason for these problems is not that Arabs in Iraq or elsewhere enjoy that way of life, but rather because "they have not reached a point where enough people in a country have decided that democracy and "civil society" is superior to the old ways."
In the West, it's been over a century since most people accepted the rule of law and democracy. Political scientists, historians and economists agree that this combination has also played a major role in creating the booming economies and all that wealth. But in the Middle East, anyone who wants those goodies, moves to the West. Trying to change minds in the Middle East is too dangerous. The old ways have too many fans, usually heavily armed fans with short tempers.
But there are an increasing number of Middle Easterners who want to try democracy and rule of law. Many of them live in Iraq. They resent Western suggestions that only dictatorship works in the Middle East, or that it's futile to try and establish democracy in the region. Until September, 2001, that was an attitude much respected (if not much talked about publicly) in the West. The dictators were supported, because these thugs kept things under control. But then came the increasing attacks on Westerners by Islamic terrorists. Many Westerners now demanded something more than "police efforts" be directed at the Middle Eastern situation. That led to the invasion of Iraq, which brought down one of the worst dictators in the region, and presented Iraqis with the option to try democracy. Many have accepted the offer, but a large minority, mainly composed of the deposed Sunni Arabs, have not.
StrategyPage is essentially arguing that appearances can be deceiving because a although determined minority can create an awful lot of death and destruction, this does not mean that they represent what the majority want. In other words, we shouldn't give up yet.
Iraqis are well aware of their own history, and one important part of it is that when the British and French took over from the Turks after World War I, they set up sort-of democracies in the region. Unfortunately, these nascent democracies all failed.
The Iraqis are well aware of their track record when it comes to democracy, more so than all the critics, pundits and talking heads in the West. Most Iraqis say they want democracy, and many have died supporting their beliefs. But there are still many Iraqis who prefer a dictator, a "strong man," and the corrupt old ways. This is another battle going on that rarely makes the headlines. But this is the battle that matters most. Ending the violence in Iraq is less of a problem than is establishing rule of law and working democracy.
Who is correct? Peters or the editors of StrategyPage?
I tend to agree with the view that if we can hang in there for some additional years we can eventually make Iraq work. I once read in an interview where General Casey say that it took an average of 9 years to defeat an insurgency. I just don't know if we have that much patience.
In an upcoming piece, I'm going to discuss at more length the concept of whether a society or nation can combine both democratic development and high levels of violence. Stay tuned.