September 29, 2012

Benjamin Netanyahu Draws a Red Line at the United Nations

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu gave a powerful speech before the United Nations yesterday, one that should, but probably won't be, heeded by most nations of the world.


"At this late hour, there is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs. That's by placing a clear red line on Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Red lines don't lead to war; red lines prevent war."

Exactly right. And, as the Prime Minister went on to say, we must draw a clear red line with regards to the Iranian nuclear program.

Here is the section of the speech where he draws the red line on the bomb diagram.

Look at NATO's charter: it made clear that an attack on one member country would be considered an attack on all. NATO's red line helped keep the peace in Europe for nearly half a century.

President Kennedy set a red line during the Cuban Missile Crisis. That red line also prevented war and helped preserve the peace for decades.

In fact, it's the failure to place red lines that has often invited aggression.

If the Western powers had drawn clear red lines during the 1930s, I believe they would have stopped Nazi aggression and World War II might have been avoided.

In 1990, if Saddam Hussein had been clearly told that his conquest of Kuwait would cross a red line, the first Gulf War might have been avoided.

Clear red lines have also worked with Iran.

Earlier this year, Iran threatened to close the Straits of Hormouz. The United States drew a clear red line and Iran backed off.

Quite correct. The "strategic ambiguity" favored by some only encourages troublemakers to continually test the limits, to push the more peaceful nations farther and farther. And in when they do so they usually go too far and war is the result. So how does this apply to the current situation with Iran? fact the only way that you can credibly prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, is to prevent Iran from amassing enough enriched uranium for a bomb.

So, how much enriched uranium do you need for a bomb? And how close is Iran to getting it? Let me show you. I brought a diagram for you. Here's the diagram. This is a bomb; this is a fuse

In the case of Iran's nuclear plans to build a bomb, this bomb has to be filled with enough enriched uranium. And Iran has to go through three stages.

The first stage: they have to enrich enough of low enriched uranium.

The second stage: they have to enrich enough medium enriched uranium.

And the third stage and final stage: they have to enrich enough high enriched uranium for the first bomb.

Where's Iran? Iran's completed the first stage. It took them many years, but they completed it and they're 70% of the way there.

Now they are well into the second stage. By next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage. From there, it's only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

What I told you now is not based on secret information. It's not based on military intelligence. It's based on public reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Anybody can read them. They're online.

So if these are the facts, and they are, where should the red line be drawn?

The red line should be drawn right here.

Before Iran completes the second stage of nuclear enrichment necessary to make a bomb. Before Iran gets to a point where it's a few months away or a few weeks away from amassing enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon. Each day, that point is getting closer.

That's why I speak today with such a sense of urgency. And that's why everyone should have a sense of urgency.

Here is the entire speech

Where is the United States?

Two weeks ago Charles Krauthammer explained, as best anyone can, the position of the Obama Administration:

There are two positions one can take regarding the Iranian nuclear program: (a) it doesn't matter, we can deter them, or (b) it does matter, we must stop them.

In my view, the first position -- that we can contain Iran as we did the Soviet Union -- is totally wrong, a product of wishful thinking and misread history. But at least it's internally coherent.

What is incoherent is President Obama's position. He declares the Iranian program intolerable -- "I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon" -- yet stands by as Iran rapidly approaches nuclearization.

A policy so incoherent, so knowingly and obviously contradictory, is a declaration of weakness and passivity. And this, as Anthony Cordesman, James Phillips and others have argued, can increase the chance of war. It creates, writes Cordesman, "the same conditions that helped trigger World War II -- years of negotiations and threats, where the threats failed to be taken seriously until war became all too real."

This has precipitated the current U.S.-Israeli crisis, sharpened by the president's rebuff of the Israeli prime minister's request for a meeting during his upcoming U.S. visit. Ominous new developments; no Obama response. Alarm bells going off everywhere; Obama plays deaf.

The old arguments, old excuses, old pretensions have become ridiculous:

1) Sanctions. The director of national intelligence testified to Congress at the beginning of the year that they had zero effect in slowing the nuclear program. Now the International Atomic Energy Agency reports (Aug. 30) that the Iranian nuclear program, far from slowing, is actually accelerating. Iran has doubled the number of high-speed centrifuges at Fordow, the facility outside Qom built into a mountain to make it impregnable to air attack.

This week, the IAEA reported Iranian advances in calculating the explosive power of an atomic warhead. It noted once again Iran's refusal to allow inspection of its weapons testing facility at Parchin and cited satellite evidence of Iranian attempts to clean up and hide what's gone on there.

The administration's ritual response is that it has imposed the toughest sanctions ever. So what? They're a means, not an end. And they've had no effect on the nuclear program.

2) Negotiations. The latest, supposedly last-ditch round of talks in Istanbul, Baghdad, then Moscow has completely collapsed. The West even conceded to Iran the right to enrich -- shattering a decade-long consensus and six Security Council resolutions demanding its cessation.

Iran's response? Contemptuous rejection.

Why not? The mullahs have strung Obama along for more than three years and still see no credible threat emanating from the one country that could disarm them.

3) Diplomatic isolation. The administration boasts that Iran is becoming increasingly isolated. Really? Just two weeks ago, 120 nations showed up in Tehran for a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement -- against U.S. entreaties not to attend. Even the U.N. secretary-general attended -- after the administration implored him not to.

Which shows you what American entreaties are worth today. And the farcical nature of Iran's alleged isolation.

The Obama policy is in shambles. Which is why Cordesman argues that the only way to prevent a nuclear Iran without war is to establish a credible military threat to make Iran recalculate and reconsider. That means U.S. red lines: deadlines beyond which Washington will not allow itself to be strung, as well as benchmark actions that would trigger a response, such as the further hardening of Iran's nuclear facilities to the point of invulnerability and, therefore, irreversibility.

Which made all the more shocking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's dismissal last Sunday of the very notion of any U.S. red lines. No deadlines. No bright-line action beyond which Iran must not go. The sleeping giant continues to slumber. And to wait. As the administration likes to put it, "for Iran to live up to its international obligations."

Seen in this light, it seems clear that Netanyahu's speech was an attempt to reverse the current policy of the Obama Administration, which as Krauthammer explained is to talk loud but carry a small stick.

As Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismark (supposedly) said, "diplomacy without credible threat of force is like music without instruments."

Will the United States get with the program and draw a clear red line that the Iranians can clearly understand? If so, will our threat of force be credible? If not, will Israel feel compelled to attack Iran on it's own, and, if so, will the United States support her or complain and stand on the sidelines?

I don't know the answer to any of these for certain, but here is what I do know:

  1. Iranian is getting closer every day to getting the bomb
  2. Sanctions and diplomacy are not working
  3. The Iranian regime with the bomb is totally unacceptable
  4. Israeli military action alone cannot do the job
  5. Short of war, only a clear red line and credible use of force stands a chance of working
  6. A war would be extremely messy, but much better than a nuclear Iran
  7. The Obama Administration is not at all inclined to draw a red line
  8. Obama has not made a credible threat of force against Iran
  9. The way things are going now, Israel will attack Iran on her own, Iran will retaliate by trying to bloc the Strait of Hormuz, and we will become involved whether we like it or not

Iran is not Libya, and everyone knows it, so Obama's actions in that latter country don't scare anyone. I hope that our president wakes up before it's too late, but the similarities to our current situation and 1938 in Europe are too strong to be ignored. The clock is ticking, and we draw ever closer to midnight in the Middle East.


Incredibly, our own ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, skipped Netanyahu's speech. Her excuse is so lame I have to think it was intentional.

Posted by Tom at 3:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 11, 2012

Book Review - Theodore Rex

"Theodore Rex, is at any rate a really extraordinary creature for native intensity, veracity, and bonhomie - he plays his part with the best will in the world and I recognize his amusing likability."

Henry James


President: September 14, 1901 - March 4, 1909

Theodore Roosevelt was one of those larger-than-life figures that comes around only once a generation or so. Anyone who becomes a U.S. president must be somewhat extraordinary, but some are more so than others. Rough Rider and scholar, militarist and peacemaker, distrusting of socialism and trust-buster, naturalist and hunter, Theodore Roosevelt was just about everything. Both conservatives and liberals today can find things to admire and distain.

Theodore Rex is Edmund Morris' second in a series of three biographies of the 26th president. The first, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, covered his birth to assassination of President McKinley. Theodore Rex is about his assumption of power until the day William Howard Taft is sworn in as his successor, and Colonel Roosevelt about his days after leaving the White House.

As a side note, yes, he was related to our 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They were fifth cousins, and the best explanation of what that means was at Yahoo Answers, so take this for what it's worth:

FDRs wife was the niece of Theodore Roosevelt. Elliot Roosevelt was the brother of Theodore Roosevelt, and Elliot was Anna Eleanor Roosevelt's father. She, of course married FDR.

They are also related by blood, though the marriage is closer. By blood they are related because Nicholas Roosevelt (1658 - 1742) was Teddy's Great-Great-Grandfather and FDR's Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandfather.

I post this because is it somewhat interesting and I always wondered about it.

Book Review

There is much more to the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt than I could possibly mention here. What follows are just a few of the highlights.

Roosevelt because president at a turning point in our history. The frontier closed, as there was no more land to settle. We become more interested in the rest of world than ever before.

Personal Style

He was a master politician, running circles around his opponents time and again. As anyone involved in it knows, politics is as much an art as a science. Either you have an instinct for it or not, and he certainly did.

He was also an expert at dealing with the press. He manipulated them time and again into telling the story that he wanted told, using them to get what he wanted in Washington.

Roosevelt was a man of almost unbelievable personal energy. As president he did not give up his "rough rider" style at all. He took jujitsu lessons, relishing the contact sport. He played tennis almost every day, no matter what the weather. He took horse rides all time of year. He led dignitaries and assistants alike on journeys up and down the Potomac River, climbing rocks and swimming where necessary. Impervious to heat or cold, nothing slowed him down. He held boxing matches on the White House lawn. He had boundless energy and an appetite to boot.

Dominating every room he went into, his friendliness and "de-lighted to see you!" was so energetic as to almost unnerve visitors. In conversation he was insightful and humorous...

His energy was not just in the physical and personal, but in scholarly pursuits as well. He once listed the books he read while president; they went into the hundreds, and most were of the most scholarly type. Lest a modern reader think he must have just skimmed them, contemporaries attest that his powers of concentration were such that he did read all of them, more devoured them, and could talk about each one as if he'd spent his whole life studying it.

Domestic Policy

The term most associated with Roosevelt is of course "progressive." And he did certainly push through many good and lasting reforms. But as will be discussed below, his progressivism is not quite the same as i our modern time, and what struck me as I read the book was how cautious he was, and how his reforms were far more evolutionary than revolutionary.

Famous as a "trust buster," he was no wild-eyed extremist. He was very careful not to go too far or too fast. Conscious of the need to assuage conservatives, from the vantage of today his actions seem more cautious than anything.

The great anthracite coal strike of 1902 is illustrative of his attitude. The loss of the coal supply threatened to cripple the economy, and initially neither side was in a mood to compromise. But Roosevelt's adroit maneuvering convinced both sides to accept a special commission, and he then convinced each side to accept it's finding. Indeed, such as his skill that both sides claimed victory.

Roosevelt pushed Congress to pass the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, as well as the Meat Inspection Act of 1906. Partially as a reaction to Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. At first, many did not believe the description of the meat-packing industry in the book, but Roosevelt's investigators proved every point and then some.

Conservation of our natural resources became important to Roosevelt as his presidency went on, and towards the end of his second term he held a first-ever "Conference of Governors" at the White House to promote conservation. He signed into law the creation of five national parks, numerous national monuments, bird sanctuaries, and national forests

Foreign Policy

It was similar with the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. Although the Japanese had won every battle, by middle of 1905 they were financially exhausted by the war unable to continue. Roosevelt persuaded each side to meet in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where he mediated the dispute. As with the coal strike, it appeared at first that the positions of each side were irreconcilable.

It's hard to imagine it now, but the United States hardly had a navy for most of the 19th century. Most of the Civil War fleet was made of ships only suitable for river work, or for coastal blockade work. When he took office, our navy was small and insignificant. When he left, it was the world's third largest.

The new navy came together in what became known as the "Great White Fleet." Essentially, he decided that it was time to announce to the world that the United States was to be counted among the world's great powers, and what better way to do it then sent our new navy on a trip around the world. When asked how many battleships he wanted to send, his answer was to ask how many we had. Fittingly, the fleet returned to it's home base at Hampton Roads, Virginia, only a month before his successor was to be sworn in. "I could not as a finer concluding scene for my administration, " he said, as the fleet arrived.

Perhaps his most lasting legacy is not even in the United States. The idea of a canal, or waterway, linking the Atlantic and Pacific was not new. But Roosevelt took a failed attempt and made it a reality.

Toward the end of his second term he developed a near-contempt for our traditional constitutional system of checks and balances. In his last, "Eighth," message to congress was terribly extreme. He claimed that concentration of power was democratic, not the other way around. Earlier he had suggested the courts should affirm his policies more than examine the Constitution and rule that way. And as mentioned above his theory that true democracy required a concentration of power rather than a separation of it can at best be read as an intemperate response to congressional opposition and at worst a tendency toward soft tyranny... all for the good of the people, of course.

Although it can be said that Roosevelt was relatively enlightened on racial matters for his day, he was no civil rights crusader. He did invite Booker T Washington, the most important black leader of the time, to dinner at the White House, which was a noble move. Yet the white outcry, especially from the south, was so strong that he declined to repeat the move. He recognized that lynchings, which were occurring at epidemic rates at the time, were horrible, yet he was timid in speaking out against them, holding back at times for purely political reasons; he didn't want to hurt his parties chances in one set of mid-term elections, for example.

Roosevelt was hugely popular with the public throughout his term and could easily won election a second time. But since he assumed power a mere six months into McKinley's second term, he thought that seven and a half years was enough. That he willingly gave up another four years of power must be counted in his favor.

Conservative or Liberal?

The fact is that once you go back in history a certain distance, you simply cannot ascribe modern labels to people or parties. The issues were different, and the political philosophies not the same as today. Even "progressive," had a somewhat different meaning then than today.

The fact is that both modern conservatives and liberals will find things to like and dislike about Theodore Roosevelt. No modern movement can claim him as entirely their own.

My Take

Not that one should get the impression that Roosevelt is that of hagiography, for many of his attitudes and actions were nothing we would accept by modern standards. There was almost a cult of personality that came out at party conventions, for example.

Roosevelt was a remarkable man, truly a one-of-a-kind. There are so many facets to him, and so many seeming opposites (scholar and rough rider, for example). So energetic, so charming to his guests and frustrating to his opponents. So much to both admire and dislike.

The book itself is very readable. Morris is an excellent storyteller, and the events are pretty much laid out in straight chronological fashion.

The downside is that in 500 pages you only get seven and a half years of his life. I just don't have the time to read the other two sets in the trilogy, so although this book captures the most important part there's still so much more that I'll miss. Although I enjoyed this book it would have been nice to get his entire life in one volume.

All in all, a good read, and I recommend it. Roosevelt was president during an important part of our history, and he decisively shaped what our nation would look like in the 20th century.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 28, 2012

Obama's Wrongheaded Concept of American Greatness

If President Obama's ideas are so bad, perhaps it is because his concept of American history is so flawed. But what do you expect from someone who went to Trinity United and listened to Jeremiah Wright for 20 years?

Andrew Cline explains:

Obama and American Greatness The Corner at National Review By Andrew Cline January 25, 2012

If you want a good distillation of this president's wrongheaded view of the United States of America, look no further than this rhetorical bit from the end of tonight's State of the Union address: "No one built this country on their own. This Nation is great because we built it together. This Nation is great because we worked as a team. This Nation is great because we get each other's backs."

Unity is central to American identity, but not the way Obama envisions it. E pluribus unum is not Latin for, "Hey, bro, let's invest in some infrastructure together." The notion that this nation is one big team that acts collectively toward shared goals set by the state would be completely foreign to the men who founded it. But that is Obama's concept of America.

The Founders thought the nation was great, or could become great, because its people had secured individual liberty for themselves and their descendants by strictly limiting the power and reach of the state. The president uttered the word "liberty" only once tonight, and that was in relation not to the American people, but to emerging regimes in the Middle East: "We will support policies that lead to strong and stable democracies and open markets, because tyranny is no match for liberty."

By contrast, Ronald Reagan in his 1982 SOTU said the word four times. "In forging this new partnership for America, we could achieve the oldest hopes of our Republic -- prosperity for our nation, peace for the world, and the blessings of individual liberty for our children and, someday, for all of humanity," Reagan said. And he concluded with this: "Let us so conduct ourselves that two centuries from now, another Congress and another President, meeting in this Chamber as we are meeting, will speak of us with pride, saying that we met the test and preserved for them in their day the sacred flame of liberty -- this last, best hope of man on Earth."

We have gone from "the sacred flame of liberty" to "we get each other's backs." It gives new meaning to the epithet, "President Downgrade."

Posted by Tom at 7:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 12, 2011

Yuri Gagarin and Vostok 1: Fifty Years Later

On April 12, 1961, 27 year old Cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin climbed into his Vostok 1 capsule for man's first flight into outer space.

His flight would last 1 hour and 48 minutes, during which time he made one orbit of the earth. Although animals had been sent into space, no one was really sure whether a person would function normally, let alone survive. As such, the locked his controls, and the entire flight was controlled from the ground. Gagarin was given the capability of unlocing the the controls, but was instructed only to do so in an emergency.

What an incredibly brave man.


It is good that we should take time today to remember what he did. It is no contradiction to hold both that the Soviet Union that sent him was an Evil Empire while honoring the man and his mission.


Off into the unknown, on top of a rocket and in a capsule that we would regard as frighteningly primitive today. Your most basic scientific calculator has more calculating power than everything he and the control center had put together. Worse, it was all done in a rush, as the political pressure to beat the Americans was intense.

While doing my usual database thing at work today I watched a film of Gagarin's trip made by First Orbit:

Today it is 50 years since Yuri Gagarin climbed into his space ship and was launched into space. It took him just 108 minutes to orbit Earth and he returned as the World's very first space man.

To mark this historic flight we have teamed up with the astronauts onboard the International Space Station to film a new view of what Yuri would have seen as he travelled around the planet.

Weaving these new views together with historic voice recordings from Yuri's flight and an original score by composer Philip Sheppard, we have created a spellbinding film to share with people around the World on this historic anniversary.

At 1:39:15, then, the film is almost exactly the same length as Gagarin's flight. Better, the Russian authorities have released the entire transcript of what Gagarin and the controllers said, and this has been incorporated into the film. Set aside some time and watch it.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 20, 2011

The Fragility of Complexity

What would happen if all electricity and communications went out in a sizable area? No power, no Internet, no radio, no home or cell phone, and your car won't start. There are many things that might cause this, electromagnetic pulse being one. But forget the cause and play along with the scenario.

You have have no way of knowing how widespread the problem was. Was it just your town? You can't travel far on foot so you have no way of knowing. You'd search the sky for airplanes, and worry would increase if none appeared.

For the first few days everyone would stay near their homes, visit with their neighbors, nervously assure each other that things would be set right before long. But what if nothing changed? How long before people would raid the food stores?

Ok, that's an extreme scenario. More likely is something like what happened in Japan; a powerful earthquake coupled with a tsunami. The crisis at the nuclear plant is only one of many things that could have gone wrong.

What type of societies are the most resilient in the face of disaster? Complex ones like in the West, or more simple ones like those in Third World countries? And among those in the West, which of those would fare best?

You might think I'm strange for pondering such things, but there are larger issues than the "news of the day." It's all very fine to write about Libya, health care, the Federal budget and all that, but sometimes it's good to examine more fundamental issues.

This is one reason why Richard Fernandez' blog The Belmont Club is one of my favorites (Neo-neocon is another in this genre, please check her out too). Introspective and educated, he talks about the issues of the day, but at a level beyond what most bloggers achieve (including this one). This most recent piece of his is typical, and I'm posting it here in it's entirety:

What Could Go Wrong?
by Richard Fernandez

When some fragile item may be damaged by a fall the best place to put it is on the ground. There it can fall no more. Since the "spontaneous evolution of an isolated system" tends to disorder and things fall apart, the most stable place to be is where things must come to a stop. Because "once the system eventually reaches equilibrium and stops evolving, its entropy becomes constant." That's to say things can't get any worse. Something on the ground or at the center of a gravitational mass has nowhere left to go and stays there.

The enormous effort required to keep complex systems full of useful energy is at the heart of Victor Davis Hanson's observation that Japan is an example what happens when a complex system experiences a disruption.

Japan is a place where thing must happen just in time. Miss a connection and the consequences ripple on. It is like a watch; exquisite but dependent on a windup or battery charge to keep going. Let it run down and it stops. Dr. Hanson argues this is precisely the kind of society which planners -- the smart controllers of all stripes -- want to construct: complex, ordered, surveilled and refined. For Japan, complex systems were required for survival. For America, complex systems were required, not by need but the imperative to power; ambitious men who hankered after ant-heaps because they were born bureaucrats.

Japan's high density, central planning, mass transit, demographic uniformity, and a culture of mutual dependence allow millions to live humanely and successfully in quite crowded conditions (in areas of Tokyo at 6,000 persons and more per square kilometer). And compared to other Asian and African cities (Mumbai or Lagos) even Tokyo is relatively not so dense, though far more successful. Yet such urban societies are extremely vulnerable to the effects of earthquakes, tsunamis, "man-caused disasters" and other assorted catastrophes, analogous in nature perhaps to tightly knit bee colonies that have lost their queens.

I don't know quite why many of our environmentalists and urban planners wish to emulate such patterns of settlement (OK, I do know), since for us in America it would be a matter of choice, rather than, as in a highly congested Japan, one of necessity. Putting us in apartments and high rises, reliant on buses and trains, and dependent on huge centralized power, water, and sewage grids are recipes not for ecological utopia, but for a level of dependence and vulnerability that could only lead to disaster. Again, I understand that in terms of efficiency of resource utilization, such densities make sense and I grant that culture sparks where people are, but in times of calamity these regimens prove enormously fragile and a fool's bargain.

But catastrophe has a way of killing ants in ant-heaps more easily than when they are spread out over the ground. Then all the supposed disadvantages of unsophisticated America vis a vis "planned systems" become reversed for two reasons. The first is that subsidiarity -- the ability to addresses some needs at an individual or local level -- is more survivable than centralized systems. Dispersed housing, individual transportation, armed citizens and a tradition of community stop becoming "urban sprawl", "wasteful driving", "gun-toting" and "bigotry" and become objects of envy to helpless people cowering in their high rise, foodless apartments. Subsidiary forms of social organization are sustainable at greater levels of national disconnection. They can work, if need be, by themselves. It is an argument which Leo Linbeck III has been making about governance and health-care, but that is another story.

The second reason is that subsidiary systems are more adaptable. Complex societies are often locked into their adaptation. They can function only when enabled by a larger system. An Ipod is just a paperweight without a network and a power source. In a crisis world you would trade a Bugatti Veyron for a pickup truck. The Veyron is a specialized babe-magnet. The pickup truck does lots of other things. But even pickup trucks have become more complex over the years. In the old Willys Jeep a lot of things could be fixed with a screwdriver, Vise-grip, a few socket wrenches and a file. Today very little can be fixed without the help of "they". "They" is a term coined by Victor Davis Hanson to represent that faceless, anonymous source of help without which we are powerless to go on.

This fragility of complexity has especially bothered me the last 80 days, well before the tragedy in Japan. Some random experiences: I am teaching one morning a week at Pepperdine for the spring 15-week semester, each week alternating between flying and driving. One week in January, the power at terminal one in LAX just went out -- no explanation, no rhyme or reason, no notice when or if it would return. Thousands of travelers were rendered helpless -- no running water, bathrooms, overhead lights. All flights delayed or cancelled, as mobs packed flight counters or simply walked out of the darkened halls to the curb. Then abruptly later it went back on -- again, no explanation. The attendants at the counter simply shrugged and said "they" must have fixed it. To paraphrase those in the Wild Bunch, who are "they"?

"They" is who we are going to call if we break a leg or an intruder is at the door. "They" are who we ask to help us when we are lost. "They" are the ones who are going to enforce the "nuclear free zone" in Berkeley and the no-fly-zone in Libya. "They" are the guys who provide the physical basics, the hard power who the kings of "soft power" are destined to command. There was a time, not so long ago when "they" for the most part meant "us"; because we knew how to supply at least some of these things for ourselves. Knew how to punch out those who bullied us without having to carry the scars of trauma into the Oval Office. But no longer.

The complexity of modern pickup trucks is emblematic of our complex, interelated world. We need each other far more than is safe. Already Chinese factories are slowing down because of disruptions of deliveries from Japan. What do you do in a just-in-time production system when the shipment from Yokohama doesn't turn up? Only hope "they" will fix it. And what do you do when the oil disruptions threaten in the Gulf, the bond markets look scary and unemployment looks like it will never ever go down. You hope "they" will fix it.

At the highest political level of our complex world "they" means people like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. These were the final "fixers" of the system when something went wrong. Of late they seemed to be capable of very little. Why? Because their power to fix depended on the systems they were supposed to control. Their "smarts" were judged by their ability to manipulate the system through which they rose. Once the system itself began fraying at the edges their true quality became evident. They were not very smart and not very adaptable.

There are signs that our complex world is running out the enough "useful energy" to keep its welfare, entitlement and physical systems together. Perhaps as important, the ability of people like Obama and Clinton to understand what is happening may be decreasing correspondingly. This happen ironically because they think they are smart. Their blinkered minds will tend to draw the wrong boundaries around the emerging system in order for it to be comprehensible to their mental models. In the process they thereby increase entropy. When they "smooth" the system to conform to their ideological biases it creates a loss of knowledge which eventually adds to the problem.

People who know all the answers are the worst offenders of all. Their ideological solutions and "investments" make things worse. One way to minimize the effects of imperfect understanding is to shorten the feedback loop. By frequently updating our understanding of a changing system the amount of "error" introduced is smallest when they are drawn at the most subsidiary level. The greatest and most catastrophic errors are created when an monolithic regime clings for too long to an old paradigm. When forced to change, it draws the new paradigm around a bigger volume of enclosed space thus maximizing the error. Here again the simpler system has its advantages. As observed earlier, highly complex systems are less adaptable, less subsidiary. Ideologically driven complex systems, like Europe and the proposed Hope and Change are least adaptable of all.

In history the cumulative process of failing to adapt is called a Revolution. Writers have usually ascribed such upheavals to the personal failings of wicked kings. But at least part of it may be due to the system trying to reach a new equilibrium while the ancien regime stands in its way while they wait in vain for "they" to come and fix things. But things are never fixed; and something else always comes instead, something only dimly glimpsed in the present and fully visible only when it finally arrives. As Forrest Gump once put it, "My momma always said, 'Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.'"

Try telling that to those who know what we should get and what we should think.

In retrospect the desire for one world, a master energy plan and single health care system will be recognized not as imperatives of the human system, but the requirement of bureaucratic ambition. It may also be seen as one of the key blunders of the current political system. It emerged at a time when elites believed history had ended and all that remained was to freeze the 20th century welfare systems in place and etch their faces on Mount Rushmore. But reality proved too hard for them to handle. They would do well to recognize their limits.

Do you agree that complex societies are less adaptable, and that ideologically-driven bureaucratically centralized societies the least adaptable of all? Hopefully, of course, we'll never find out.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 13, 2011

Book Review - Decision Points

A short note to my readers: Because of several projects I have taken on I have not been able to blog nearly as often as usual. I will get back to it, but am just not sure when, In the meantime, this review of George W Bush's autobiography should provide food for thought. Thank you

The most honest book by a politician I've ever read was Standing Firm by Dan Quayle. He doesn't sugar-coat the treatment he got from the press, or make excuses for some of his own bad decisions. He knows that it was much of what he did that generated the press. He defends himself to the extent of telling the full story behind the infamous "potatoe" spelling incident, but admits that if he had handled the situation better it would not have been the story it was.

I gained a lot of respect for Dan Quayle while reading that book.

George W Bush's Decision Points is a pretty honest book, as books by politicians go. Nothing he writes will satisfy many on the left. But many on the right will also be disappointed if they are expecting apologies for No Child Left Behind, the prescription drug bill, the attempt at immigration "reform," or increasing the deficit through higher domestic spending.


Bush defends the decisions he thinks are right regardless of who may be upset. He's not quite as critical of himself as he should be, I think, so the book doesn't match up to Standing Firm. But few, if any, politicians are as honest as Dan Quayle.

Book Summary

Drinking and Faith

One thing about George W Bush; he's not afraid to write about his personal failing with alcohol. While others may see it as an embarrassing chapter in their lives best avoided, he deals with it squarely in the first sentence of the book: "It was a simple question. "Can you remember the last day you didn't have a drink?" Laura asked in her calm, soothing voice." At first indignant, he realized that in fact he couldn't. Admitting he has a habitual personality, he had once smoked cigarettes but at least got that down to cigars. Alcohol was something else, and quitting that was one of the toughest decisions he made. But determined man that he is, once he makes a decision he sticks with it.

Bush also details his conversion experience. As with many people, before he accepted Christ he wasn't totally godless, religion just wasn't really a big deal to him. Meeting the great evangelist Billy Graham changed all that. In 1985 his dad had invited Graham to their home for dinner, which was followed by a Q and A session. There was no on-the-spot bolt of lightning, but Graham planted a seed which grew slowly over the next few years.

Bush says that he "could not have quit drinking without faith." and "I also don't think my faith would be as strong if I hadn't quit drinking." He was still a drinker when he met Graham, but says that God "helped open my eyes" and saw him through. An awful lot of Christians share those sentiments.

Texas Air National Guard


From Baseball to Politics

Bush doesn't spend a lot of time on his childhood or young adulthood, moving rapidly to young middle age, where in 1989 he became a part owner of the Texas Rangers. It was his experience as owner that built the political skills that would later catapult him to the governor's mansion and then the White House. As owner he had to hold press conferences and take often-hostile questions from the press. It also sharpened his management skills.

Obviously his father and grandfathers' involvement in politics played a role in his decision to run for congress in 1978 and the governorship of Texas in 1994. Interestingly, although he lost the congressional race, his opponent, incumbent Democrat Kent Hance would eventually switch to the Republican party and become a supporter of his.

Incumbent governor Ann Richards was popular, and many people, including his own mother, advised Bush that he couldn't win. And Richards proved tough, and more than a little mean-spirited. Bush Bush won, and Richards was put out of a job.

On To Washington

A popular governor who had won reelection, many people had been telling him he ought to run for president. There would be no incumbent in 2000, and running for an open seat is always much easier. But he didn't take his final decision to run until listening to a sermon one day. The pastor told of how Moses had doubts until God reassured him. Bush, too, felt the same way.

Bush almost lost the 2000 election when the press discovered his previously unrevealed DUI only three days before the election. The reason he didn't reveal it earlier, he says is that he felt it would have undermined his lectures to his daughters about the dangers of drinking and driving. In his autobiography, Courage and Consequence says that he tried to get Bush to release it earlier and regrets that he didn't try harder.

In mid 2003, Vice President Dick Cheney told Bush that if he wanted to pick someone else as VP for the 2004 race he would understand, and "no hard feelings." No health issues, or political ones, drove his offer, Cheney said. He just thought the president should not feel obligated. In a capital full of power-hungry politicians, that was one of the biggest acts of loyalty any politician had ever seen.'

Leading up to the 2004 election, Bush was fine with his vice president, but not his national security team. Squabbling between State and Defense was natural, but it intensified over Iraq to the point where he felt he needed to make changes. He told Powell and Rumsfeld to cool it, but nothing he did seemed to work.

Don Rumsfeld submitted his resignation when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, but Bush refused the offer. The offer was not a formality, the offer was real. But that was not the time.

In 2004, though, Bush had had enough of the fighting between State and Defense. Fortunately, Powell made the decision easy by offering to resign himself.

In 2006, as the situation in Iraq worsened, Bush decided he needed a new Secretary of Defense. A long search ended with the selection of Robert Gates. The other person who he replaced was Chief of Staff Andy Card, who like Rumsfeld had offered to resign before Bush actually made the decision. Josh Bolton was chosen to replace Card.

A Bad Decision and a Good One

Some of the most painful reading was where Bush tried to justify bad decisions like appointing Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. This decision was ill-considered and in truth was the result of a personal friendship and reward for loyalty than based on qualifications. To most conservatives, this appointment fell into the category of "you gotta be kidding." Thankfully she withdrew when it became clear that she was not going to be confirmed.

On the other hand, some of the best reading was about his decision to ban funding for research on embryonic stem cells. Bush spent quite a bit of time researching the issue and listening to people on all sides of the debate. His decision was well-informed, and I think correct. But however you come down, the proponents of "anything goes" have done themselves a disservice through their dishonesty. The standard claim is that Bush (and those evil conservative Christians) want to "ban stem cell research that will save lives." They never mention that there are two types of stem cells, and no one has any objection to research on adult stem cells. It also seems apparent that the possible benefits have been overblown.

Sept 11 and the War on Terror

It's no surprise that Bush spends an entire chapter on September 11, 2001, and the days that immediately followed. It was, after all, the most important day of his presidency, and one of if not the most important days in our history since December 7, 1941. It makes for interesting reading. Most of it, though, is unremarkable in that all of this has been told elsewhere. One story did stick out though: Arlene Howard, mother of George Howard, a police officer who had been slain on 9-11, gave Bush her son's badge when he visited New York a few days after the attack. He kept it on his person every single day of the rest of his presidency.

For the past few years the Democrats have attacked the Patriot Act as at best undermining our freedoms and at worst a turn toward fascism, but Bush quotes Democrat after Democrat who at the time praising the legislation and saying how necessary it was. This would be repeated in a few years when the war in Iraq turned south. And for all of Obama's campaign promises, neither he nor the Democrats in Congress have removed its major provisions.

It was the same with the "enhanced interrogation" techniques. Nancy Pelosi was informed about them, including waterboarding, and approved of their use, and then in 2010 lied about it. Others have "forgotten" that they, too, knew about and approved of measures their party has since come to oppose. Bush goes through the issue in some detail and explains his decision to approve such measures. It is easy to Monday-morning-quarterback this one, as all too many have.

Truth be told, the question of what to do with captured terrorists is a tough one and reasonable people can disagree. What's important to remember is that the decisions Bush made were not rash and poorly thought out ones, but decisions taken after much consultation and reflection. More, they have kept us safe. Those who object imply that had we not kept terrorists at Guantanamo Bay and used waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques things would have still turned out the same; i.e. no more attacks. This is a logical fallacy.

"History can debate the decisions I made, the policies I chose, and the tools i left behind. But there can be no debate about one fact: after the nightmare of September 11, America went seven and a half years without another successful terrorist attack on our soil. if i had to summarize my most meaningful accomplishment as president in one sentence, that would be it."

Given the spate of follow-on attacks everyone expected, that is one heck of an accomplishment indeed.


Bush writes about the strategy at the beginning of the war, and how it seemed to work because, after all, they did route the Taliban in a month or so. We won with a relatively small number of troops, and so we thought we didn't need to add many more to finish the job. As Bush says, "our rapid success with low troop levels created false comfort, and our desire to maintain a light military footprint left us short of the resources we needed. It would take several years for these shortcomings to become clear."

We're told that Afghanistan is the war that "everyone" supported, and it was Iraq that caused all the problems. But as Bush points out, the Europeans reneged on their promise to send a sufficient number of troops to Afghanistan right from the start. And when they did send troops, they came with so many restrictions that there were not of much use. The British and Canadians were the exception to the rule.

Iraq and the Surge

Although Saddam Hussein did not know about the attacks of 9-11 before the occurred, they did change the calculus regarding his regime. Before 9-11 we thought of Saddam as a problem, albeit a difficult one, but one we could manage. The terrorist attacks on our homeland, however, made Bush and many others in this country realize that could happen if Saddam or someone like him gave WMD to terrorists. While some would say this is implausible, we know that Saddam did hatch a plot to kill former President George H. W. Bush on his visit to Kuwait in April of 1993.

Critics charge that Bush "rushed to war." This ignores the diplomacy and sanctions used by both Presidents Clinton and Bush after Saddam stopped allowing inspections in 1998. Diplomacy and sanctions could have been allowed to go on forever, but there is no evidence that waiting any longer would have made an evidence. Further, while there were risks to invasion, not invading was risky too, something the critics usually ignore.

Of all the criticisms, the "Bush Lied" about WMD is particularly inane. It's really on a par with 9-11 Trutherism (that's me, not W, making the comparison, but it's true). The fact is that all intelligence agencies around the world thought Saddam had the stuff, and the Democrats in Congress thought he did too. For that matter, up until the day he left office on January 20, 2001, President Clinton was convinced he was stockpiling WMD as well.

Obviously mistakes were made after the invasion. Bush writes about two critical ones that he and his team made. The first was that they did not respond quickly enough to the insurgency. No one was sure if it would last or was just a few "dead enders," and Bush and his team worried that an overly strong response would be counterproductive with the population. The other mistake, of course, was in getting the WMD wrong.

George Casey, our commanding general in Iraq in 2006, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and CENTCOM commander General John Abizaid all thought that our troop presence fueled the insurgency and that adding more troops would be counterproductive. Bush accepted that analysis for a time, but by the end of that year came to believe it was wrong. The critical moment came in June, when Casey was briefing him Operation Together Forward, a lost-ditch effort to secure Baghdad. Casey told Bush his strategy was "Clear, Hold, Build," but at the same time had been telling the President we needed to reduce our troop presence. The contradiction was clear, and Bush realized that a new strategy, and generals, was needed.

Beyond replacing Casey with Petraeus and making other key personnel changes, Bush needed key commitments from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Bush told Maliki that the political pressure to abandon Iraq was tremendous, but that he would send additional troops, but only if Maliki agreed to certain reforms. Bush got the commitments at a one-on-one meeting, and the surge went forward.

The rest, as they say, is history.


Karl Rove did an excellent job summarizing Katrina in Courage and Consequence, which I reviewed here at Redhunter. His conclusion is pretty straightforward; government failed at all levels. If you want to blame President Bush for his part, fine, but let's not pretend that the Democrat dominated government in Louisiana and New Orleans did not behave in anything but a completely incompetent fashion.

Essentially, Mayor Ray Nagin, Senator Mary Landrieu, and Governor Kathleen Blanco were nothing short of complete nimcompops (again, my term, not George W's) who were incapable of taking a decision, did little that was productive, and if you get down to it behaved in an emotionally unstable fashion. Blanco, for example, continually refused to allow the federal government to assume control of the emergency, which legally limited what Bush could do. It took much begging and cajoling from the President for her to come around.

But Bush does not excuse himself, admitting to making several errors. Some of these were in public perception, but several more substantive. FEMA performed badly, and Bush and his team were slow to make personnel changes. It was indeed a failure of government at all levels.

Domestic Policy

While Bush's foreign policy generally met with approval from conservatives, his domestic policy did not. In the book Bush explains his reasons for everything from No Child Left Behind, to his attempted immigration reform, to increasing prescription drug benefits.

As with everything else in the book, you either accept his policies or you don't. Bush does a good job of explaining himself. He views his domestic polices as bipartisan attempts to make the system work better. That they were bipartisan is a matter of historical fact (look at the voting record in Congress). Whether they improved matters is something else entirely.

Liberals generally liked his policies at the time, or at least were pleased to see him taking their position on immigration reform, domestic spending and Medicare. It was Senator Ted Kennedy, after all, who basically wrote No Child Left Behind. But conservatives were displeased, and their/our continued support waned as time went on.

Africa and AIDS

It isn't widely known in the West, but George W Bush is something of a hero in sub-Saharan Africa. The fact is that he has done more for Africa than any other US president, including Bill Clinton, said by some to be the first "black" president.

Bush proposed, and Congress passed, a massive $15 billion initiative to fight AIDS in Africa. Called The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), it was the single largest program to fight a specific disease the world had ever seen. It was, in many ways, the medical version of the Marshall Plan.

In one memorable scene, after a Presidential visit to an AIDS clinic, the director of TASO (The AIDS Support Organization), Dr Alex Coutinho, said that Bush was the first world leader he had seen hug an African with AIDS.

Not everyone was happy with Bush's actions, some of them European leaders. French President Jaques Chirac was upset that Bush had decided to tie non-AIDS aid to anti-corruption efforts. Steeped in guilt, Chirac seemed to think that we had to send African dictators whatever they wanted. After listening to one tirade by the French leader, Bush gave his own lecture back, reminding Chirac that it wasn't Americans who colonized Africa, and that anyway "America is tired of seeing good money stolen while people continue to suffer. Yes, we are changing our policy whether you like it or not."

My Take

That George W Bush is a much better writer than he is a speaker will not come as a surprise to many. Famously stumbling over many of his words while speaking it must be remembered that he did earn an MBA from Harvard Business School.

As mentioned above, the book will not please liberals or conservatives who are expecting apologies. What Bush does accomplish is explain his decisions in clear, easy to understand, terms. Agree with him or not, you'll come away understanding why he did what he did.

There were a few subjects discussed in the book that I just don't have time to adequately cover; his "freedom agenda" and the financial crisis that hit at the end of his term are the biggest among them. I supported his policies on the former and opposed them on the latter.

Readers of this blog know that I supported Bush's foreign policy and if anything wish he had been more muscular. Iraq did sap our strength; not so much for Afghanistan as for confronting other threats like Iran, Venezuela, and the elephant in the corner, China. The mistake he made with Iraq was not in the decision to invade, which I believe was correct, but in pursuing a failed policy. Finally, few if any of those those who disagree with the decision to invade Iraq would have actually favored military action against Iran if it had come down to it (or if Bush had attacked Iran instead of Iraq, today they'd be saying that Iran was a distraction and we should have attacked Iraq. Liberals, I've noticed, always want to fight another war than the one we're actually engaged in).

Domestic policy was something else entirely. Bush did hold the line on social issues such as abortion, gay "marriage," and embryonic stem cell research. But his "compassionate conservatism" turned into "liberal light" on spending and creating new programs. Although John Roberts and Sam Alito were excellent choices for the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers was a disaster.

In general, those mostly on the right will like the book, those on the left will hate it. No surprise there.

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February 3, 2011

The Protests in Egypt Turn Violent: No Good Can Come of This

The protests in Egypt have turned into a near-revolution. What started in Tunisia has spread to Sudan, Jordan, Yemen, and of course Egypt. There are demonstrations scheduled for Syria and Algeria tomorrow, all this according to numerous reports.

Having the most people and being the strongest military, what happens in Egypt could set the tone for the rest of the region.


The longer the conflict continues the greater chance for a bad outcome.

In my last post on this on Sunday, I quoted Barry Rubin who said there were three probable outcomes. Summarizing, they are

1) The military deposes Mubarak and takes over, but otherwise keeps the regime
2) A revolution ensues, and radical elements, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, take over
3) Neither side gets the upper hand, and a bloody civil war ensues.

Now I'll add number four as what I think will happen

4) Mubarak hangs on and/or he is deposed and the military takes over, but either way elections are held in short order. A supposedly moderate government is formed and the world breaths a sign of relief. We're told that Egypt is on the path to pluralism and democracy.

And then, a few years later, the radicals are in control.

Revolutionary History

Let's go through a few popular uprisings that turned into revolutions. I'm leaving the American Revolution out of it because it was more a colonial revolt, and it was characterized by a long war instead of a mass uprising, and it is that latter model we want to examine.

French Revolution - In 1789 Louis XVI called for a meeting of the Estates-General to discuss a tax problem. Things spiraled out of control, and a revolution ensued with no small amount of violence. But when the dust settled, it did seem that there was hope for democracy ("liberté, égalité, fraternité") in France. There were radicals involved from the outset, but moderates (the Girondists) held much power. But within a few years the radical Jacobins had taken power and during the ensuiing Reign of Terror (September 5, 1793, to July 27, 1794) they sent their enemies to the guillotine. Eventually being deposed themselves, the whole thing devolved into the military dictatorship of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Russian Revolution - For a variety of reasons the Russian people were tired of the Romanov dynasty, and in 1917 decided to do something about it. There were two revolutions in 1917, one in February and the other in October. The February one left the Social Democrats in control, at least nominally. However, in October the Bolsheviks seized power.

Iranian Revolution - Demonstrations against the Shah started in 1978 and within a year the country was paralyzed by strikes. The Shah fled, Khomeini returned and the country voted to become an Islamic Republic. The first president of the new republic, Banisadr, was a relative moderate, but fell out of favor with Khomeini and was impeached and removed from office. Wikipedia has it right in that ""what began as an authentic and anti-dictatorial popular revolution based on a broad coalition of all anti-Shah forces was soon transformed into an Islamic fundamentalist power-grab."

Philippine Revolution In 1986, President Ferdinand Marcos was reelected in an election widely held to be fraudulent. Already upset over the assassination of Benigno Servillano "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr, in 1983, elements within the armed forces organized to overthrow Marcos. The people saw what was happening and mass demonstrations ensued. The Philippine communist party was taken by surprise and largely sidelined. Marcos fled, and by all accounts the Philippines are a free country today.

Romanian Revolution - . Nicolae Ceausescu ran Romania with an iron fist for 25 years, then one day in December 1989 we heard about disturbances in the streets, then in a few days there was a revolution and he was hopscotching around the country in a helicopter, and a week later he and his wife were shot dead by firing squad. The victors set up a democracy, and by anybody's reckoning is a free country today.

Cedar Revolution - A popular uprising that followed the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 led to the ouster of Syrian troops. Without their presence, it seemed that the country had a chance to the relative prosperity, stability, and democracy the country had enjoyed before the start of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975. Today Hizbollah is the most powerful element in the government.

In four of my six examples, what started as a popular uprising against a tyrannical regime ended up being hijacked by extremists who turned the government into something worse than it was before.

How did Romania and the Philippines escape? Put another way, why did France, Russia, Iran, and Lebanon succumb to extremists? I'm not entirely sure, and such complex events are not given to pat analysis. But I think there are a few factors we can identify

  1. If there is a healthy civil culture, there is a greater chance the country will end up as a true democracy
  2. If no powerful and/or well organized extremist group is waiting in the wings, the greater the chance the country will end up as a true democracy
  3. If the country has a Western culture the greater the chance the country will end up as a true democracy

What else? Help me out, commenters.

This is Not Encouraging

A few hours ago the New York Times broke the story that the Obama Administration wants Mubarak to go now, and that the Muslim Brotherhood should be part of a provisional government:

The Obama administration is discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately, turning over power to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military, administration officials and Arab diplomats said Thursday.

Even though Mr. Mubarak has balked, so far, at leaving now, officials from both governments are continuing talks about a plan in which, Mr. Suleiman, backed by Sami Enan, chief of the Egyptian armed forces, and Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the Defense Minister, would immediately begin a process of constitutional reform.

The proposal also calls for the transitional government to invite members from a broad range of opposition groups, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, to begin work to open up the country's electoral system in an effort to bring about free and fair elections in September, the officials said.

Senior administration officials said that the proposal is one of several options under discussion with high-level Egyptian officials around Mr. Mubarak, though not him directly, in an effort to convince him to step down now.

No long term good can come of this.

It's not just that Egypt is the home of the Muslim Brotherhood, because that organization has chapters in a lot of countries. It's also because Egypt itself has become more Islamist in the past few decades. A country that looked like it was becoming more Western in the 1950s and 60s has taken a serious turn toward radicalism. I doubt that can be reversed with a few votes, but hopefully I'll be proven wrong.

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January 29, 2011

The Cairo Clashes: Will Mubarak Survive? Should He?

As is so often the case with dictatorships, the Mubarak regime has been shown to be at once strong yet fragile. They control their countries with varying degrees of ruthlessness and brutality, but control them they do. They go for decades with amazing political stability, calm in the streets, and a secret police that keeps opposition under control.

Then, one fine day, seemingly out of nowhere, chaos erupts. Sometimes the government falls, sometimes not, but either way it is weakened. We've seen the pattern time and again. Nicolae Ceausescu ran Romania with an iron fist for 25 years, then one day in December 1989 we heard about disturbances in the streets, then in a few days there was a revolution and he was hopscotching around the country in a helicopter, and a week later he and his wife were shot dead by firing squad. "Where did that come from?" was the reaction of most people in the West.

We saw something similar happen in Iran ten years prior. Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, appeared secure on his thrown. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a few small anti-Shah demonstrations that no one had paid much attention to exploded and soon the country was paralyzed by strikes. Ayatollah Khomeini returned, and the Shah fled. Most of the world was caught totally by surprise.

Likewise, nobody paid much attention to the protests in Tunisia last month, either. Then a few weeks ago they jumped to the front page of the papers and we learned that the government had resigned and the president had fled. "Where did that come from" was what everyone said.

Is the same thing happening in Egypt now?

Right now there are no good options for U.S. policymakers. But that's because for the past few decades we haven't been doing what we should have been doing.

Right Now

As of this writing, the Egyptian capital seems to have fallen into anarchy. Protesters own the streets. The army and police are overwhelmed, and at this point are holding back and not even trying to disperse the protesters any more. They have relegated themselves to protecting what government and state television and radio buildings as they can. Military and police vehicles are overrun by demonstrators. Yesterday, the protesters burned down the ruling party's headquarters.

The government has shut down all Internet access, cellular and landline telephone systems. Foreign news media report their stories through private satellite links.

Photos via Fox News

What is happening is going far beyond what happened in Iran last year and is more reminiscent of the Iranian revolution of 1979. Mubarak has not had to flee, however, as did Ceausescu. Mubarak has fired his cabinet, but the crowds have made it clear that they are not going to be satisfied with that. They want him gone.


The Democracy Alternative

Maybe, just maybe, we would not be in this situation if we had spent the past few decades promoting liberty in these countries instead of just proping up whatever strongman was in power as long as we could work with him.

To be sure, sometimes we were able to follow this policy and get away with it. The Kuomintang government on Taiwan ran the country as a single party state, i.e quasi-dictatorship, until the 1990s. South Korea was run by a series of autocrats until maybe the 1980s. Both are full democracies today.

But as with the Iran or Nicaragua, sometimes the opposite happens, and they go from a pro-American authoritarian dictatorship to an anti-American totalitarian one. They go from the frying pan into the fire, as it were.


The biggest criticism that the left made about US policy during the Cold War was over our support of right-wing dictators over a communist alternative. It was wrong to support a dictator who oppressed the people just because they were "our guy," the argument went. And, truth be told, their case was hardly without merit.

Our justification was that 1) these dictators were the lesser of two evils, and 2) they might evolve into democracies whereas communist countries would not (see Jeanne Kirkpatrick's Dictatorships and Double Standards) Although countries like the ROC and ROK did evolved into democracies, the left did have a point. We should have pushed these countries harder to reform.


The Islam Problem

But it's not just a lack of voting rights or free speech that is the problem. We would be sticking our heads in the sand if we didn't say that there was a problem within Islam as well.

This is emphatically not to say that "Islam is the problem," or is unreformable. I reject that conclusion. What it is to say is that the way all too many Muslims interpret their religion is conducive to radicalism, whether it goes by the name of Salafism, Wahabism, Khomeinism, or something else. The Sharia of old must be rejected. The Caliphate is not a legitimate form of government.

That this will be difficult to achieve is an understatement. Now is not the time for me to lay out my ideas on how to push the Islamic world in that direction, and I've done so too many times before here on this blog (start here and start scrolling).

All Choices Now are Bad Ones

Right now we have three choices

1) Support Mubarak
2) Call for Mubarak's ouster and support the protesters
3) Do nothing except issue a general plea for peace and calm.

The problem with the first is that it goes against our principles, and if he's overthrown the new government will remember that we supported him.

The problem with the second is that the protesters would likely set up an Islamist government that is at best unfriendly to us, and at worst is straight out dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. It may well become the Sunni equivalent of Khomeinist Iran.

The argument against the third is that we ought to at least try and push things in a direction that is favorable to us.


Either way, in the long run we cannot go back to the old way of supporting one dictator over another. Hopefully, whatever the outcome of this current situation, we come to realize that we have to adopt a policy of pushing this region of the world towards some sort of pluralism and Western concepts of liberty.

The Muslim Brotherhood

Long story short, the Muslim Brotherhood was formed in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna as a response to the fall of the Turkish Caliphate in 1924. In the intervening years, it has become the world's largest Muslim organization, with branches and front organizations in nearly all parts of the world. It's stated goal is the restoration of the caliphate and imposition of Sharia rule. Groups in the United States like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) are Brotherhood front groups. The National Islamist Front, the political party that runs Sudan, is a Brotherhood organization. The Brotherhood created Hamas, the terrorist organization in Gaza. On and on it goes.


Although officially banned in Egypt, the Brotherhood is in reality quite active. Over the years, in order to prepare for the day when Islamists can seize power, they have spent their time infiltrating Egyptian institutions. Over the decades the government has attempted to destroy the Brotherhood by mass arrests and persecution, but has never been completely successful, as the Brotherhood always comes back.

Brotherhood is independent of any state. It works with rulers who are sympathetic to it, but operates outside of them. Theirs is a "grassroots" strategy. While the Wahabists "float with the world", the Brotherhood floats with the target society, which thus far has always been a Middle Eastern one.

The Brotherhood is part of the same Sunni Salafist tradition as the Wahabists. To some extent the Brotherhood competes with the Saudi Wahabists for influence within the Muslim world. Sometimes they cooperate, it all depends on the politics of the moment.

Basically, the Brotherhood seeks to change a society and government by trying to put its members or sympathizers in positions of influence. These positions may be in the media, industry, military, or, if it exists in the target country, a parliament. It is willing to start small, encouraging members to join at the "entry level" and work their way up. Rather than fighting the regime directly, it seeks to undermine it from the bottom up.

After infiltrating from the bottom up, they work their way back down again. As Walid Phares explains, "the Brotherhood would be interested in spreading through the elites, converting them patiently into the Salafi doctrine, and only then enlisting them into the organization." They never engaged the regime directly until they reached full strength. Their methods were "amazingly fluid and adaptable to circumstances. Their ideal shortcut wa to infiltrate the ranks of the military and proceed with a coup d'etat against the government. Their next choice was to "advise" the ruler and influence him instead."

Although the Brotherhood appears to be officially sitting out the protests, they are no doubt waiting in the wings, positioning themselves for a takeover or at least to have significant influence in any post-Mubarak government.

All of this is why we cannot ignore groups like the Brotherhood and pretend that there is no problem within Islam. This is why we need to celebrate and promote true reformers in the Muslim world. We need a long term policy of pushing for reform so that we are not faced with these devil's choices.

Why Should We Care?

We should care because whether we like it our not we are a nation with worldwide interests. The world complains about us, but expects us to "do something" to solve problems when they arise, whether they be tsunami relief or revolutions.

We didn't support Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua and the Sandinistas proved worse. We didn't support the Shah and the Khomeinists have become a huge problem for the world. We didn't support Ceausescu (not that we would have, but just for the sake of example), and the new government proved far better. Which way will Egypt go if the revolution topples Mubarak?

Iran is now on the verge of getting nuclear weapons. Egypt could have nuclear weapons if they wanted them. We can stop Mubarak from getting them, but have little chance against an Islamist government.

It's also bad enough to have the Muslim Brotherhood as an independent organization trying to spread it's ideology throughout the world. The problem would be far, far, worse, if they had control of a government. al Qaeda is dangerous enough as it is; they were far more so when they were fully supported by the government of Afghanistan.

An Islamist government in Cairo could incite wars, support terror in ways a private organization could not, abrogate the peace treaty with Israel, and threaten our access to natural resources, i.e. oil.


In Conclusion

Mubarak will have to go, but we should not fully support the protesters either. Whether Mohamed El Baradei should be the person who takes over or someone else is a matter for the experts, but perhaps we can thread the needle between options #1 and #2 above.

We must make sure that a post-Mubarak government has minimal Brotherhood infiltration (that there will be some is inevitable), but most of all is perceived as legitimate by the people. And we must adopt a true program of pushing them towards some sort of pluralism, liberty, and Islamic reformation. Difficult? You betcha. Impossible? Stranger things have happened.

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January 8, 2011

The Chinese Jet We Missed

The appearance of fifth-generation J-20 Chinese fighter has shocked the Defense Department


The aircraft looks eerily like our own next-generation stealth fighters:

This is the Northrop/McDonnell Douglas YF-23, the plane that in 1991 lost the competition to the F-22


And the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, the Air Force's current top of the line fighter. It was meant to be our main fighter, replacing the F-15 for use in the most high-threat environments. Until President Obama, in his infinite wisdom, stopped production of this fighter at 187 units, that is. This is not nearly enough planes to meet various global threats, but Democrat constituency groups needed the money more so it was an easy decision for him.


And finally for the U.S., the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. This aircraft grew out of the JSF, or Joint Strike Fighter, program. It will be used by all services; a traditional version by the Air Force where it will replace the F-15 (now that the future production of the F-22 has been canceled) and F-16, a naval version where it will replace the F-18 Hornet, and a VSTOL (Vertical and/or Short Landing and Take Off) version for the Marine Corps where it will replace the AV-8 Harrier. It looks like the military will be allowed to have this plane to replace their fleet of very old fighters, all of which first flew in the 1970s. It's pretty good, but not top of the line like the F-22. Too bad, because with fewer F-22's than expected will have to be our top fighter in most situations, a role for which it was not designed. No worries, if our enemies don't make too many of their new jets most of our guys will survive.


Not to be outdone, the Russians are developing their own fifth-generation stealth fighter, the PAK FA. It'll be like all recent Russian fighters; good performance but lacking in electronics. Their cockpit technology is about 20 years older than what you see in Western aircraft. They also have problems with reliability, that is, their jets require a lot of maintenance meaning that their readiness rates aren't as good as ours. But see my discussion below about Vietnam...


Ok, So What Does It Mean?

Bill Gertz has a great piece in the Washington Times explaining the background so I'll quote all of it:

The Pentagon is scrambling to explain what appears to be an intelligence failure after Internet photos made public recently showed a faster-than-estimated advance of China's new fifth-generation warplane.

U.S. intelligence estimates previously concluded the jet, dubbed the J-20, will not be deployed until 2020.

Vice Adm. David Dorsett, director of Naval Intelligence, told a group of defense reporters on Wednesday that the new Chinese fighter program was not a surprise, but "the speed at which they are making progress ... we underestimated."

"Across a broad array of weapons systems, they are making progress," the three-star admiral said.

Progress on the J-20 is among several other Chinese military developments that U.S. intelligence agencies have been accused of missing over the past decade. Others include the failure to detect a new class of Chinese submarine called the Yuan and shortcomings related to Beijing's long-range cruise missiles and a new anti-ship ballistic missile.

Pentagon spokesman Marine Col. Dave Lapan confirmed to Inside the Ring that recent photos of a new Chinese jet show "taxiing tests" on a prototype aircraft apparently photographed by people who saw it pass by.

"This is evidence that a fifth-generation fighter program is proceeding," Col. Lapan said.

"However, progress appears to be uneven: Open-source reports show that China has been seeking jet engines for its fourth-generation fighter from Russia, indicating that they are still encountering some difficulties in working toward fifth-generation capabilities," he said.

The faster development of the J-20 was first discussed by Chinese Gen. He Weirong, deputy commander of the Chinese air force last year. He predicted deployment as earlier as 2017.

The jet is expected to rival the U.S. F-22 superfighter whose production was canceled by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates after 187 jets were built. In scrapping the F-22, Mr. Gates stated publicly that one reason for his decision was that the Chinese would not deploy a comparable jet until 2020, thus more F-35 jets would be built instead of the more capable F-22.

Richard Fisher, a military analyst with the International Assessment and Strategy Center who was among the first to spot the J-20 photos months ago, said the aircraft is manufactured by the Chengdu Aircraft Co.

"Chengdu's goal is to beat the F-22 and then build their own F-35 when the 18-ton thrust engine is ready. It is a full challenge to the U.S. strategy for air power," Mr. Fisher said.

Both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations are to blame for not continuing production of the F-22, which is needed if there is ever a conflict with China over Taiwan, he said.

"Absent a better combat aircraft, this constitutes one of the most serious U.S. intelligence and leadership failures since the end of the Cold War," Mr. Fisher said.

Mr. Fisher said the images of the jet reveal that China is advancing rapidly toward fielding a credible and competitive fifth-generation fighter. The photos show a large fighter with radar-evading stealth features, an advanced electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and "supercruise" -- the ability to fly at supersonic speed for long distances using less fuel, he said.

"With refueling, this fighter can carry the fight out to Guam," Mr. Fisher said.

As for the Pentagon's claim that the Chinese are having problems developing an advanced engine for the jet, Mr. Fisher said China is ground-testing a new, more powerful jet engine and, as a result, could deploy the new jet by 2017.

"If the United States wishes to remain an Asian power capable of deterring Chinese aggression, or preventing future generations from becoming victims of China's dictates, it is essential that an improved version of the F-22 be put into crash development, as well as putting a sixth-generation fighter into formal development," Mr. Fisher said.

It's impossible to know if this jet really caught us off guard or if we're just saying that because we don't want the Chinese to know how much we know.

Before You Get Too Cocky

Too many Americans, I think, assume that we'll clean up in any air-to-air war, because, you know, we're the United States. Oh sure, we may have a hard time dealing with a bunch of guys in black pajamas or turbans on their heads, who shoot and run and hide, but our technology is so good that we'll dominate any aerial campaign. After all, we showed Saddam what's what twice, right?

Not so fast. Let's take a little walk through history.

The air war in Korea was mostly between our F-86 Sabre and the Russian built Mig-15 flown by Chinese pilots. Each aircraft had an advantage over the other in certain areas, but they pretty much equaled each other out. Our pilots shot down the Mig at a rate of 11 or 13 to 1 (the fog of war and all that, this not being Hollywood). Were were impressed with ourselves, and rightly so.

We went into Vietnam convinced that it's be Korea part 2 and we'd blow the North Vietnam out of the sky in droves.

Much to our surprise, in the 1964-68 period we only achieved a 2 to 1 ratio over the North Vietnamese, and probably only 1 to 1 against their premier fighter, the MiG-21. This greatly disturbed us because we knew that if we could only do this well against the North Vietnamese, we'd surely do much worse against the Russians.

There were two main reasons we did so poorly; one, our pilots had lost the art of dogfighting. We assumed that most fights would be at long to medium range with missiles and that dogfighting was a thing of the past. We didn't even put guns on our aircraft. When practiced aerial combat, it was one American squadron fighting another; i.e. similar or exactly the same aircraft with pilots using the exact same tactics against each other.

The second reason was problems with missile reliability. All too often our guys would squeesze the trigger and the missile would not leave the rail. If it would, as often as not it would fail to track.

The Russian built Mig-17 and especially the Mig-21 proved worthy adversaries when flown by competent North Vietnamese pilots. One thing that saved us from too many aerial defeats is that as often as not the communist pilots weren't very good and relied heavily on direction from controllers on the ground.

During the bombing halt after 1968, we corrected all of the problems. We formed Top Gun for the Navy and Red Flag for the Air Force, and got our missiles to work. At each fighter school the respective services formed dedicated Red Teams, or "opposition forces," who studied in detail the tactics that Russian (and other potential enemies) pilots actually used. They used aircraft different than what U.S. fighter squadrons used, aircraft with different performance characteristics to try and throw our guys off.

When we went back north again in 1972-73 we shot enemy planes down at the rate of 13-1, which was more like what we had achieved in Korea. We learned our lesson the hard way.

On The Other Hand...

All of the above works the other way around, too. If we haven't fought a serious air war in 38 years, the Chinese haven't fought one in 58. Further, that the Israelis shoot down the Arabs in droves every time they clash shows that you can have all of the sophisticated hardware you want and if you can't properly use it it's just so much junk.

So that the new Chinese aircraft carriers that are due to hit the water in 2015 are a big concern, it's one thing to build a ship and take nice photos of aircraft on it, quite another to engage in high-intensity launch-and-recovery operations over a sustained period, and especially under the pressures of combat, without blowing yourself up. We almost lost the USS Oriskany in 1966, the USS Forrestal in 1967, and the USS Enterprise in 1969 due to flight deck fires before we revamped procedures and got our act together.

Maybe we've retained the lessons of Vietnam and maybe not. Top Gun and Red Flag are still around, and our military takes them very seriously. That's the good news.

The Strategy

Wars do not take place in a vacuum. They are fought over something, and most likely that something will be Taiwan, the Chinese democracy on the island of Formosa.

If the mainland Chinese decided to take Taiwan by force, they could pursue any number of options, but all involve keeping United States forces at bay just long enough for them to succeed. In other words, at the end of the day they do not need to control the ocean; they just need to keep us from controlling it long enough to defeat Taiwan.

We, on the other hand, must be able to rapidly prevail in any war. Time is not on our side.

Sounding The Alarm?

On the one hand, China is not the Soviet Union, as their expansionist goals are much more modest. They are much more nationalist and authoritarian than communist and totalitarian.

On the other, remember that the bully boys around the world are watching, and if they see us humbled in one place they'll figure they can do the same. Just as wars do not take place in a vacuum without political objectives, neither do the results of individual wars not cascade around the world.

So while this new Chinese jet is not the equivalent to the Japanese Zero which was clearly superior to all of our aircraft at the time of it's introduction and a clear threat from a hostile power, neither is it to be ignored. If we sit still and do not produce advanced figther aircraft our potential adversaries will move forward. And if it comes to a shooting war, we may not do as well as we think we will.

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August 22, 2010

Tanks in Action!

Today we'll take a break from the usual subjects for something completely different. This past weekend the American Wartime Museum in Prince William County, Virginia held an open house, and yours truly went to see the exhibits. I'd never heard of them before, but a few weeks ago I got an unsolicited email from them about the upcoming open house. The email didn't really make it clear what they had to show, but did make mention of tanks and military reenactors. I didn't have any pressing business on Saturday, and although I wasn't quite sure what to expect, or if it would turn out to be any good, I decided to go and take a look. It was about an hours drive, which made me a bit wary in case it was totally bogus, but on the other hand the event was free so if I didn't like it I could still salvage most of the day.

It turned out much better than I expected. Whoever owns this private museum has done a good job of gathering military hardware from around the world.

Imagine my surprise at seeing this Swedish S-Tank, or Stridsvagn 103 (Strv 103). I'd expected a few WWII vehicles and some Cold War stuff, but certainly not this unique turret-less tank. It employed a complex hydraulic system to make minute adjustments in elevating the tracks and adjusting the suspension. It's not in service anymore, but it was the mainstay of the Swedish Army during the latter half of the Cold War.

S-Tank: Stridsvagn 103 (Strv 103)

You can view all 70+ photos I took that day on my photobucket site.

The Cold War

Here's a British Centurion, their first good post WWII tank. As with most of these tanks, it has served in many armies. Most notably, perhaps, it was the mainstay of the IDF when they defeated the Egyptians, Syrians, and Jordanians in the 1967 war.

British Centurion

And in action


Here, I believe, is an American M-60 Patton, the main battle tank of our military in the latter half of the Cold War. The Marines were still using them as late as Desert Storm

M-60 ?

M-60 ?

And of course their counterparts from the Warsaw Pact where there. First up is the venerable T-54/55 in action


This T-54/55 has an additional armor skirt around the front of the turret, something I'd never seen before


The more modern T-72G. We faced this tank in Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom


There were some Vietnam reenactors, all decked out in period gear and weaponry beside an M113 Armored Personnel Carrier (APC). I talked with these guys for awhile, and like all reenactors I've encountered they knew the history of their unit backwards and forwards.

Vietnam Reenactors

The BMP was the world's first Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV). The difference between an APC and an AFV was that the former was designed to simply carry men into combat whereupon they would exit the vehicle and fight, whereas the APC could not only carry troops, it could itself fight and the men inside could shoot with their rifles through small holes in the side. The American M113 had only machine guns for firepower; the BMP a 73mm cannon and at least one machine gun. Here is a BMP with some enthusiastic reenactors

BMP type w/Reenactors

Warsaw Pact Headquarters

Soviet Reenactors HQ

World War II

The British Valentine, a light infantry tank. It doesn't look like much, but was very useful in North Africa, where it served the British well


The first American heavy tank, the M-3 Lee/Grant (I'm not sure which version this one is). My understanding was that the unusual arrangement was due to our inability to produce a turret strong enough to house the main gun. Despite this, it was better than most British tanks and was a match for the German tanks of the time.

M3 Lee/Grant

The ubiquitous M-4 Sherman, the main and best of the heavy American and British tanks of the war. They had two there, this one with welded plate construction, and another with a cast hull. The latter was the later design and considered better protection. Any weld point is a weak point.

M-4 Sherman

The T-34/85 was one of the best tanks of the war and won the war for the Soviets. Some Red Army reenactors are standing by this one

T-34/85 w/Reenactors

Waffen SS reenactors

Waffen SS Reenactors

The Wehrmacht's version of the half-track, called the Sd.Kfz. 251 (Sonderkraftfahrzeug 251)

Sd.Kfz. 251

and the American M3 Half-track. I'm not sure how this played out in performance, but it's interesting to note that although the American vehicle had a smaller track, it had front wheel drive, whereas the front wheels of the German vehicle were unpowered.

M3 Half-track

A few more photos are at my photobucket site. Any additional information commenters have about any of these historical military vehicles is most welcome.

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June 3, 2010

Whatever Happened to Turkey?

It wasn't that many years ago when I thought Turkey might play an important role in a Muslim Reformation. Alone among Muslim nations, it was secular, almost militantly so. I'm no expert on Turkish history, but I know enough to know that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk moved the country away from what we today call Islamism and towards a European model. Seeing how the Arab secular alternative was Ba'athism, Kemalism, for all it's faults, looked pretty good to me.

No more. While I only follow Turkish politics peripherally, scanning the occasional blurb in the newspaper or website, what I did read was disturbing. There was no mistaking the rise of Islamism. The current ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP in the Turkish initials) was usually described as "conservative" in the press, which for most of the msm means "we don't like them."

So while I've been disturbed by what's happening in Turkey for awhile, never did I imagine that it's leaders would bring themselves to approve or even encourage the organization of the "peace flotilla." But that is exactly what happened. And although I figured they might tut-tut over Israeli actions, I never thought that they'd condemn Israel the way they have. Silly me.

So when I read thatTurkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan describes the interception of the "peace flotilla as "This bloody massacre by Israel on ships that were taking humanitarian aid to Gaza deserves every kind of curse," and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu says "Psychologically this attack is like 9/11 for Turkey because Turkish citizens were attacked by a state, not by terrorists, with an intention, a clear decision of political leaders of that state," I was somewhat taken aback.

Robert Pollack has a must-read piece in the Wall Street Journal about Turkey's "national decline into madness." Excerpts follow, but read the whole thing:

Israeli special forces and their commanders were apparently shocked to find their boarding attempt on the Mavi ("Blue") Marmara met with violence. They should not have been. I have no doubt that the Turkish "peace activists" aboard the ship regarded Israeli troops as something akin to the second coming of Hitler's SS.

To follow Turkish discourse in recent years has been to follow a national decline into madness. Imagine 80 million or so people sitting at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. They don't speak an Indo-European language and perhaps hundreds of thousands of them have meaningful access to any outside media. What information most of them get is filtered through a secular press that makes Italian communists look right wing by comparison and an increasing number of state (i.e., Islamist) influenced outfits. Topics A and B (or B and A, it doesn't really matter) have been the malign influence on the world of Israel and the United States.

For example, while there was much hand-wringing in our own media about "Who lost Turkey?" when U.S. forces were denied entry to Iraq from the north in 2003, no such introspection was evident in Ankara and Istanbul. Instead, Turks were fed a steady diet of imagined atrocities perpetrated by U.S. forces in Iraq, often with the implication that they were acting as muscle for the Jews....

There can be little doubt the Turkish flotilla that challenged the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza was organized with his approval, if not encouragement. Mr. Erodogan's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, is a proponent of a philosophy which calls on Turkey to loosen Western ties to the U.S., NATO and the European Union and seek its own sphere of influence to the east. Turkey's recent deal to help Iran enrich uranium should come as no surprise.

The obvious answer to the question of "Who lost Turkey?"--the Western-oriented Turkey, that is--is the Turks did. The outstanding question is how much damage they'll do to regional peace going forward.

Considering this article, Gabriel Schoenfeld at The Weekly Standard concludes that

The reaction of the democratic world to the Gaza flotilla debacle suggests that the barbarians are making impressive headway. The outpouring of condemnation from Europe--so outsized, so hypocritical, so ready to ignore the plain truths evident in the videos of the incident, so ready to pounce on embattled Israel--truly does reveal a world gone mad--the headline of a Jennifer Rubin post over at Contentions. One hopes that we are not yet in 1939. But we are unquestionably somewhere in the 1930s, a decade in which few and lonely voices were willing even to recognize the looming catastrophe.

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May 6, 2010

The Bureaucratic State

One of the things that so concern we conservatives is the movement of power in our government from democratic institutions to bureaucratic ones. This shift in power has been going on for a long time, but has been brought home by the radicalism of Barack Obama. Conservatives came awake when last December the EPA announced that it would regulate 'emissions' whether Congress passed "climate legislation" allowing them to do so or not.

It has long been a goal of the progressives to get power as far away from democratic institutions as possible and into the hands of "experts" who, they believe, know what is best for you. Western Europe is far ahead of us in this transition. The European Union grants vast powers to unelected bureaucrats far removed from the various legislatures, and mostly unaccountable to them. The bureaucracy hires, fires, and is almost an independent self-sustaining body. One more step and we'll be there.

"The Four Horsemen of Progressivism: Richard Ely, John Dewey, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and Herbert Croly" (National Review, digital subscription required) outlined some of the history. Jonah Goldberg laid out more history in Liberal Fascism. Joseph Postrell tells us where we are today in today's Washington Times

Constitution in Decline
The Washington Times
By Joseph Postell
May 6, 2010

It's time to reform our administrative state. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was right when she said Congress would have to "pass the health care bill so you can find out what's in it." That's because the health care bill, like most major laws passed by Congress over the past hundred years, isn't really a law. Rather, Obamacare is a series of assignments to bureaucrats in the Department of Health and Human Services. It is emblematic of what scholars call the administrative state, where legislative, executive and judicial powers are delegated to unaccountable experts sequestered in a fourth branch of government.

If we are seeking the most effective means of defending - and restoring - the Constitution, we must pay attention to the rise of the administrative state and the decline of constitutional government in the United States.

The Founders confronted a basic problem: How to vest government with sufficient power to get things done without giving it the instruments to exercise tyrannical control? To protect individual liberty and rights, they established (among others) two basic principles at the center of our constitutional order: representation and the separation of powers. To assure that government operated by consent, they provided that those responsible for making laws would be held accountable through elections. Moreover, legislative, executive and judicial power would be separated so those who made the laws were not in charge of executing and applying them.

Our modern administrative state violates these principles. That also is by design, courtesy of the progressives - the original architects of the administrative state. Progressives such as Woodrow Wilson disdained the idea of government "by the people" and sought to replace it with government by the experts. Wilson complained of America's "besetting error of ... trying to do too much by vote." "Self-government does not consist in having a hand in everything," he argued.

The progressives sought to circumvent representative government by transferring power from Congress to a newly created fourth branch of government, our modern bureaucracy. Congress would no longer make laws but merely pass bills that consist of assignments to agencies. The actual laws then would be passed by agencies in the form of "rules" carrying the full force of law.

However, Article I of the Constitution requires that "all legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress." This is not optional. The people, through the Constitution, delegate legislative powers to the Congress. Only the people can delegate legislative power, because they are sovereign according to our founding principles. Legislative power cannot be further delegated.

James Madison wrote in the Federalist No. 62, "Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known and less fixed?" Todays administrative state violates Madison's principle.

The progressives also had contempt for the Constitution's separation of powers. James Landis, an influential adviser to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, explained that administrative agencies arose in response to "the inadequacy of a simple tripartite form of government to deal with modern problems." Circumventing the separation of powers, these agencies would not only have the power to make laws - they also would be authorized to investigate, prosecute, adjudicate and enforce violations of those laws.

Herbert Croly, progressive intellectual and founder of the New Republic, explained that such agencies composed "a fourth department of the government" that "does not fit into the traditional classification of governmental powers. It exercises an authority which is in part executive, in part legislative and in part judicial." Agencies would be "a convenient means of consolidating the divided activities of the government for certain practical social purposes."

The administrative state holds sway today. The overwhelming majority of laws in this country are made not by Congress, but by administrative agencies. They execute their laws and adjudicate alleged violations of their laws through agency-employed hearing officers or administrative law judges. In this fourth branch of government, filled with unelected and unaccountable experts, all three powers of government are consolidated.

But all is not lost. In the minds of the people, the Constitution is still the governing document of this country. Most just haven't paused to ponder how far we have strayed from its structural design. But the political will to return to the Constitution is there, and increasing daily.

Two things are needed urgently. First, we need a public education program explaining the pervasiveness of our administrative state and how it departs from the Constitution's vision.

Second, and more difficult, is a practical road map for restoring the principles of representation and the separation of powers. The question is not necessarily how to make government smaller, but how to get it back under popular control and accountability.

We must devise a strategy to: bar Congress from delegating legislative power to agencies, eliminate the consolidation of all three powers in these agencies and make these agencies accountable to the people.

Such reforms would ensure that the only burdens we suffer are those we impose upon ourselves, with a government over which we, the people, finally have regained control.

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March 24, 2010

Barack Obama: The Most Divisive President Ever

How many times over the past twenty years or so have you heard liberals call conservatives "divisive?" Hundreds? Thousands? That and the charges of "racism" and "sexism" were their all-purpose responses to subjects they did not want to talk about. Democrats, we are told, are uniters who just want us to all get along, while it's those dastardly Republicans who are always so "divisive."

Carrying forth this theme during the campaign, Obama said he could unite the country better than Hillary:

Sen. Barack Obama said in an interview that he has the capacity she may lack to unify the country and move it out of what he called "ideological gridlock."

"I think it is fair to say that I believe I can bring the country together more effectively than she can," Obama said. "I will add, by the way, that is not entirely a problem of her making. Some of those battles in the '90s that she went through were the result of some pretty unfair attacks on the Clintons. But that history exists, and so, yes, I believe I can bring the country together in a way she cannot do. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be running."

Has Obama united us? One way to tell is whether his legislation has received bipartisan support. Let's take a look at the legislative record.

President Obama

All vote tallies are: Yes, No, Absent/Abstain

The Stimulus - H.R. 1: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

House - January 28, 200, 244 - 188: Democrats 244-11-0 GOP 177-0-1
Senate - February 10, 2009, 61 - 37: Democrats 58 - 0 - 1 GOP 3 - 37 - 0 Indep(Leiberman) 1 yes

Cap and Trade - American Clean Energy and Security Act "ACES", or Waxman - Markey Bill

House - June 26, 2009, 219 - 212: Democrats 211-44 -1 GOP 8-168-2
Senate - There has been no Senate action on this bill

2010 Budget

House - April 2, 2009, 223 - 196: Democrats 233-20-1 GOP 0-176-2
Senate - April 2, 2009, 55 - 43: Democrats 53-3-1 GOP 0-40-0

Health Care - H.R.4872 and H.R. 3590 Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010

House - March 21, 2010, 220 - 211: Democrats 220-33-0 GOP 0-178-0
Senate - Because this is being done as a "reconciliation" bill it has not yet been voted on in the Senate, but given that all it takes is a simple majority it's passage is a fait accompli. More importantly, I think we're all aware that Zero Republicans would vote for the measure, where as Obama has to bribe Democrats into voting for it

Landmark Legislation in History

Let's go through some of the landmark history of the past century and examine the breakdown in voting between the two parties (for the sake of clarity, and because it doesn't really matter for our purposes, I have not included the votes from third parties in this legislation)

President Roosevelt

Social Security Act of 1935

House - August 8, 1935, 365 - 30: Democrats 284-15-20, GOP 81-15-4
Senate - August 9, 1935, 76 - 6: Democrats 60-1-8 GOP 16-5-4

President Johnson

Social Security Amendments of 1965 (Medicare and Medicaid)

House - April 8, 1965, 313 - 116: Democrats 237-48-8 GOP 70-68-2
Senate - July 27, 1965: 70 - 24: Democrats 57-7-4 GOP 13-17-2

Voting Rights Act of 1965 ("Civil Rights Act")

House - August 3, 1965, 328-74: Democrats: 217-54 GOP Republicans: 111-20
Senate - August 4, 1965, 49 - 18: Democrats: 49-17 GOP 30-1

President Reagan

Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 "Kemp - Roth Tax Cut

House - July 30, 1981, 323 - 107: (I cannot find the breakdown, but the party breakdown in the House for the 97th Congress were: Democrats 244, Republicans 191, so clearly many Democrats voted yes)
Senate - July 1981, 89 - 11: Democrats 37-9 GOP 52-1


While this is hardly an exhaustive list of legislation, I believe it to be a fair sampling of landmark legislation passed over the past 75 years. Before President Obama, in every single case the legislation was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Obama's legislation, however, is opposed almost unanimously by the Republicans. Worse, he can't even get all of his Democrats to go along with him without virtual bribes that stink to high heaven and legislative tricks that are foreign to most people.

Obama is worse than partisan; opposition to his bills is bipartisan, while support is strictly partisan. Obama even divides his own party.

This makes Barack Obama the most divisive president in modern history. This from the party that for the past few decades lectured the rest of us on the perils of "divisiveness." And this from the followers of Obama who told us how "divisive" George W Bush was and how Obama would unite us all. Liberals, I hope you're happy!

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February 1, 2010

"The Steady Erosion of Women's Rights in Egypt"

In Now They Call Me Infidel, Nonie Darwish tells of growing up in a relatively secular and Westernizing Egypt in the 1950s, only to see the country take a sharp Islamist turn as the decades wore on. The experience led her to flee her native country, and eventually the faith of her birth, for the United States and Christianity.

Sometimes the level of freedom or liberty in a society is not obvious by simply looking around. Economic freedom, to say nothing of freedom of speech and press, cannot be easily discerned by simply walking down the street. But other times there are visible signs that make it painfully obvious where a society or nation ranks. We're all familiar with communist and Nazi propaganda posters and statues. Huge signs of the head of state are a sign of a cult of personality that is a telling sign of totalitarian or authoritarian societies.

These are still around, but in today's world we face a new threat to our liberties; a fundamentalist or radical Islam. One of the first things that happens in a society infected with that disease is the degradation of women's rights, and the most visible sign of that is the wearing of the veil, whether the full burka or the head-covering-only hijab.

Chester, over at Pajamas Media , has documented the degradation of women's rights in Egypt through four photographs sent to him by a friend. They show the graduating class of Cairo University in 1959, 1978, 1995, and 2004.

click on each photo to enlarge

Class of 1959

Egypt Women 1959.jpg

Class of 1978

Egypt Women 1978.jpg

Class of 1995

Egypt Women 1995.jpg

Class of 2004

Egypt Women 2004.jpg

Commenting on the photos, Mark Steyn says that

Whenever I give a speech on Islam, some or other complacenik always says, "Oh, but they haven't had time to Westernize. Just you wait and see. Give it another 20 years, and the siren song of Westernization will work its magic." This argument isn't merely speculative, it's already been proved wrong by what's happened over the last 20 years. Compare the Cairo University class of 1959 with those of the 21st century, and then see if you can recite your inevitablist theories of social evolution with a straight face. The idea that social progress is like the wheel or the internal combustion engine -- once invented, it can never be uninvented -- is one of the laziest assumptions of the Western Left.

Posted by Tom at 8:45 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 14, 2009

The Anti-Anti-Jihadist Assault on Cheney and the CIA

In the 1970s and 80s a species of liberal emerged called the "Anti-anticommunist." Although they'd been around before, it wasn't until the Carter Administration that they gained actual power in Washington. Not communists themselves, if you beat them up enough they'd eventually admit that "ok, communism isn't good..." but they saved their real venom for anyone who made it their mission to end the scourge of communism from the planet.

They took as their inspiration Senator Joseph McCarthy. Not to support him, of course, but because they took it as a given that anyone who spoke seriously about the need to end communism must be like him.

During the 1980s they spent their time in the nuclear freeze movement, convinced that American nuclear arms were the real threat to peace. They opposed American support for the "Contras," the rebels fighting the communist Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Ten such anti-anticommunists, including Speaker of the House Jim Wright, even went so far as to send the now infamous "Dear Comandante" letter to Sandanista leader Daniel Ortega. To them, the real enemy was the Contras, not the Cuban/Soviet supported Sandinistas. As such, anything bad the Contras did or were alleged to have done was trumpeted loudly, while the spread of communist influence went unremarked.

The situation got so bad that in El Salvador not only were we limited to only 55 U.S. advisers, but they could only carry handguns to defend themselves. One time one of them was seem carrying, or allegedly carrying, a rifle, and you'd have thought the Democrats had found their Watergate II. The media went bonkers for a few weeks and the Reagan Administration had to jump through the necessary hoops and assure everyone it wouldn't happen again yada yada yada. Nevermind that our guys were in real danger of being killed, and some of them were. No, to the anti-anti-communists it was much more important to limit our capabilities than limit the spread of communism in our own backyard.

Today we see a similar phenomenon with regards to some on the left. Even though they hold the White House and both houses of Congress, they seem to think that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are the enemies. Most of them don't even see a jihadist threat at all, convinced as they are that it's all just something cooked up by the evil neocon right to make profits for Halliburton and Blackwater.

The latest is the phoney scandal they've cooked up in which they alleged that Vice President Cheney ordered the CIA not to report a program to Congress, and now our democracy is in mortal danger! It's an outrage! We need an investigation and prosecutions! Cheney Lied! Bush Lied!

Er, no. Andy McCarthy explains:

Another Phony Scandal
Of course the CIA was plotting to kill bin Laden.

By Andrew C. McCarthy

With Speaker Pelosi caught in the web of her own deceit over what the CIA told her about "torture," and the Obama administration in the middle of its latest 180-degree reversal over CIA interrogators (Attorney General Holder is now considering prosecutions despite Obama's promise of no prosecutions), Democrats have trumped up a charge that the CIA, on the orders of Vice President Dick Cheney, failed to notify Congress that it was contemplating -- not implementing, but essentially brainstorming about -- plans to kill or capture top al-Qaeda figures.

This is their most ludicrous gambit in a long time -- and that's saying something. Given their eight years of complaints about President Bush's failure to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, and given President Clinton's indignant insistence (against the weight of the evidence) that he absolutely wanted the CIA to kill bin Laden, one is moved to ask: What did Democrats think the CIA was doing for the last eight years?

And if Democrats did not believe the CIA was considering plans to kill or capture bin Laden, why weren't they screaming from the rafters about such a lapse?

Of course the CIA has been trying to figure out how to take out top al-Qaeda leaders. One assumes -- one hopes -- they are also brainstorming about wiping out the Taliban, overthrowing the Iranian regime, undermining Kim Jong Il's nuclear program, disrupting Syrian support of Hezbollah, and tackling all manner of threats to the United States. But there is no law that requires, or could practically require, the CIA to brief Congress every time some agency component considers the feasibility of some security initiative.

Gen. George Washington himself observed that "upon secrecy, success depends in most enterprises . . . and for want of it, they are generally defeated." Washington thought it obvious that secrecy was the heart of good intelligence. That is a big part of why intelligence activities are executive in nature, a core part of what the Supreme Court long ago recognized as the "delicate, plenary and exclusive power of the President as the sole organ of the federal government in the field of international relations." Secrecy cannot be preserved in a system of national security by political committee, much less a system in which a sprawling, 17-agency intelligence community is forced to share all of its secrets, in real time, with 535 members of Congress.

Intelligence activities are not reliant on congressional authorization or supervision. Like all executive power under the Constitution, the president is checked in this area by Congress's enumerated powers, particularly the power of the purse. As is its wont, Congress tries to leverage this authority to usurp presidential prerogatives -- to make itself a partner in the actual running of intelligence activities, albeit a partner with no accountability (see Nancy Pelosi, supra).

Most Americans assume that the CIA has been trying to get bin Laden and his top lieutenants. Moreover, Democrats have a sorry recent history of turning national security into a war crime -- a pattern seen again in this weekend's coverage, which conjured absurd images of Cheney covering up illegal assassinations even though (a) the ban on assassinations relates to heads of state, not jihadist networks, and (b) during the 2008 campaign, the press considered it a positive demonstration of Barack Obama's toughness that he said he would not shrink from striking vigorously against terrorists who'd attacked Americans. It should thus come as no surprise that the CIA -- at the direction not only of the former vice president but also of George Tenet, the Democrat holdover who was Bush's first CIA director -- decided there was no need to brief congressional leadership on notions that evidently never became concrete plans.

So, to score some political points, Democrats have put themselves in the position of opposing CIA efforts to defeat our enemies. This misbegotten strategy can only remind the public of a few unwelcome facts:

First, when Democrats were in charge in the 1990s, at the time when bin Laden declared war on the United States and then bombed our embassies and the U.S.S. Cole, the Democrats' strategy to protect the country was to file indictments -- with no meaningful effort to capture bin Laden or his top aide, Ayman al-Zawahiri, much less kill them.

Second, when opportunities to kill bin Laden arose, the CIA's hands were tied because President Clinton so muddled the rules of engagement that our special-ops agents could not be sure whether Democrats would indict them for such operations.

Third, after 9/11, even as President Bush's warfare strategy decimated al-Qaeda's top hierarchy, Democrats complained that the Bush administration had failed to kill or capture bin Laden. Now that the political winds have shifted, they have returned to their default position of complaining that government agents were trying to kill or capture bin Laden.

Fourth, this bizarre complaint comes in the form of grousing about a failure to notify Congress, voiced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, among others. But consider that back in February, Senator Feinstein publicly revealed that Pakistan's government was allowing the United States to use Pakistani territory as a base for Predator drones being used for controversial targeted assassinations. Unlike Leahy's aforementioned malfeasance, Feinstein's unfortunate revelation was doubtlessly inadvertent. But it underscores the danger of informing Congress about intelligence activities.

The last point is a critical one, showing starkly the difference between Democrats and Republicans on national security. President Obama is clearly conducting a war in Pakistan, a country with which we are formally at peace. The legitimate existence of wartime conditions is crucial: If we are not at war, there is no basis in international law for killing Pakistanis (or non-Pakistanis) in Pakistan. But the Right is not accusing the president of conducting an illegal war, of failing to seek congressional authorization, or of committing war crimes. Nor did Republicans seek to exploit Feinstein's gaffe -- while there might have been political sport in it, doing so would have made it more difficult for Pakistan to cooperate with the Obama administration in an effort that advances American security interests.

Indeed, the real scandal is that we didn't implement a program to kill top al Qaeda leaders. As the Wall Street Journal reports

The goal was to assemble teams of CIA and special-operations forces "and put bullets in [the al Qaeda leaders'] heads," one former intelligence official said.

The plan was never carried out, and Mr. Panetta canceled the effort on the day he learned of it, June 23. The next day, he alerted Congress, which didn't know about the plan.

Well why in the world did he cancel it? If they want to investigate anything, lets find out why Panetta canceled what seems to me a pretty good idea, or at least one worth investigating.

It is pretty obvious to me that the Democrats are just desperately searching for something to take the heat off of Nancy Pelosi. She is the one caught in the real lie when she said that the CIA regularly misled her, and then was confronted with documents proving that, oops, she had in fact been briefed about the enhanced interrogation techniques.

There's no scandal. No laws were broken. Our agents thought about a program but never implemented it. There was no reason to brief Congress.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 7, 2009

The Coming "Reverse Reykjavik"

In October of 1986 Reagan and Gorbachev met in Reykjavik, Iceland, to discuss arms control measures. Gorbachev proposed a 50% reduction in strategic nuclear weapons, and completely eliminating intermediate range weapons, coupled with restricting missile defense testing to "laboratories." Reagan wanted to reduce, indeed eliminate nuclear weapons, but famously refused to restrict missile defense, and so the summit ended without an agreement. The consensus in the press was that it had been a failure because no deal had been struck.

In 2002 President Bush withdrew the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty so that we could deploy defenses without being encumbered by it's restrictions. While there were some protests the reaction of Russia and other nations seemed quite muted.

Now President Obama is in Russia to conduct talks on nuclear weapons, Afghanistan, and other matters. Knowing a sucker when they see one, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is trying to succeed where Gorbachev failed. From a Fox News story on Sunday:

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Sunday the United States must compromise on its plan to build a missile defense system in Europe in order to reach a deal on reducing nuclear warheads, Reuters reported.

The Russian leader said in an interview that a deal on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) and the United States' plan for a missile defense system are linked. Moscow believes a missile defense system is a threat to its national security.

"We consider these issues are interconnected," Medvedev said. "It is sufficient to show restraint and show an ability to compromise. And then we can agree on the basis of a new deal on START and at the same time can agree on the question of how we move forward on anti-missile defense."

Obama has thrown his grandmother, his pastor, and Israel under the bus. Why not the one area that plays to our biggest strength, technology?

Barack Obama, I fear, is getting ready to give up our missile defense. Heaven help us.

The threat is real and growing. Iran does not today have a missile capable of reaching most of Europe, let alone the U.S. They also do not have nuclear weapons. Today. But at the rate they're going they will have them both sooner or later, and when they do it would be foolish of us to count on our being able to dissuade them from using them based on a Cold War MAD mentality.

As good atheists, the Soviet communists wanted to live. They were evil, but they weren't crazy. The kingdom they wanted to create was of this earth.

The rulers of Iran are driven by religious zeal, and as such do not behave according to our rules of reason and logic. Ahmadinejad and his associates are driven at least in part by the cult of the return of the Mahdi, or Twelfth Imam, as I've documented about a dozen or so times.

The U.S. State Department website fact sheet dated January 20, 2009 gives the background into what President Bush trying do to in Europe:

The U.S. has agreed with Poland and the Czech Republic to begin formal missile defense basing negotiations, which if favorably concluded, would allow the fielding of ten U.S. long-range ground-based defensive interceptors in Poland and a tracking radar in the Czech Republic.
  • The proposed U.S. missile defense assets in Europe would defend the U.S. and much of Europe against long-range ballistic missile threats launched from the Middle East. The U.S. would benefit from greatly enhanced protection from attacks originating in the Middle East, while Europe would gain defenses where none previously existed.
  • Some southern European countries do not face long-range threats from Iran given their proximity to the Middle East. NATO has focused its missile defense development efforts on countering shorter range threats. The United States and NATO efforts are complementary and could work together to form a more effective defense for Europe.

Obama is wiling to give that up, as we see from this story in today's Jerusalem Post:

"If the threat from Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile program is eliminated, the driving force for missile defense in Europe will be eliminated," US President Barack Obama said Tuesday...

"In the short period since the end of the Cold War, we have already seen India, Pakistan and North Korea conduct nuclear tests. Without a fundamental change, do any of us truly believe that the next two decades will not bring about the further spread of nuclear weapons?

"That is why America is committed to stopping nuclear proliferation, and ultimately seeking a world without nuclear weapons ... And while I know this goal won't be met soon, pursuing it provides the legal and moral foundation to prevent the proliferation and eventual use of nuclear weapons," Obama said.

On the surface this might seem to make sense. No threat, no defense. The problem, of course, is that type of thinking assumes that we can predict with certainty 1) what types of weapons our enemies have and exactly what their capabilities are, 2) who our enemies will be a few years down the road, and 3) that if all else fails we an dissuade them from attacking by threatening the use of our own nuclear weapons.

I'm not certain of any of these. We are pretty good at tracking things like missiles, but not infallible. More, missile defense takes a lot longer to set up and test than do the offensive missiles themselves. Worse, Iran could acquire offensive missiles overnight from a rogue source and we might miss the shipment.

Complicating all this are two more factors: One, that the number of U.S. nuclear weapons is shrinking, and two, without testing their reliability is becoming questionable.

Second one first; I've googled around on the reliability issue, and the consensus seems to be that worst case most will explode, one scientist gives a 70% figure in a 2005 story in The New York Times. Even this doesn't sound so bad, but we need to remember that the perceptions of our enemies count for how they'll act.

A memo circulated by House Republicans has some numbers

...the United States has been shrinking (not growing) its nuclear stockpile for quite some time now. For example, under START accounting rules, the number of US warheads attributed to deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers in recent years has been:

1997: 7,957
2000: 7,519
2006: 5,966
2008: 5,951
2009: 5,576

These numbers aren't as impressive as you might think. Let's understand that warheads are not fungible, which is to say they're not all usable in any given situation. This is why we have a variety of types of warheads with different (sometimes variable) yields on many different platforms. Also, our responsibilities are worldwide, while our enemies are able to concentrate on a specific region. Finally, quick action may be required, and if we have too few it may take too long to get the right weapon to the other side of the world to have a decisive influence.

The U.S. - Russia joint statement wants to bring them down to 1500-1675. From the press conference of President Obama and President Medvedev of Russia on Monday:

It is very difficult for us to exert that leadership unless we are showing ourselves willing to deal with our own nuclear stockpiles in a more rational way. And that's why this post-START agreement is so important, and I'm hopeful that we can reduce our nuclear arsenals by as much as a third and hopefully can move even beyond that in subsequent agreements and treaties.

Here's an insight into Obama's thinking from The Washington Post

President Obama called for a new relationship between the United States and Russia on Tuesday, saying that the frequent rivals could both prosper by joining forces to combat common threats and pursue mutual interests.

The modern scourges of stateless terrorism and nuclear proliferation threaten both the United States and Russia, Obama said, demanding that the two nations shed past suspicions and confront those problems as partners.

"There is the 20th-century view that the United States and Russia are destined to be antagonists, and that a strong Russia or a strong America can only assert themselves in opposition to one another," Obama said. "And there is a 19th-century view that we are destined to vie for spheres of influence, and that great powers must forge competing blocs to balance one another. These assumptions are wrong."

Didn't George W. Bush try this?

From a BBC story of June 16, 2001:

Presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin have met for the first time and appear to have hit it off.

The two men still differ over enlarging Nato and US missile defence plans, but they exchanged warm words...

The summit is being judged a success by both sides even though it leaves Russia and the US little closer to resolving the issues that divide them.

The atmosphere here was one of friendly co-operation with the two leaders getting on far better than expected.

That didn't work out so well, did it? Why does Obama thinks he can do better? The answer is found in another Washington Post story:

Obama said he has been trying to alter the tone of U.S. foreign policy to make it easier for countries to focus on their common interests with the United States. But that task is much easier, he said, when the United States is viewed favorably.

"The world leaders are like politicians everywhere, and they're reading the polls," Obama said in an interview Wednesday with ABC News' Jake Tapper. "They find out that their population, 45 percent of or 30 percent approve of America and 70 percent disapprove, that is a strong disincentive to want to work with us."

I don't know if Obama is naive, arrogant, or just some combination of the two, but this business of "now that I have ascended to the throne the world will now bow at my feet in adoration" and so "previously bad nations will now come around" routine is getting old.

The Bottom Line

If Obama wants to flatter himself by negotiating a reduction on American and Russian nuclear weapons, fine. I haven't any great objection.

The problem comes if 1) he gives up missile defense, and/or 2) belives that reducing our arsenal somehow gives rogue nations incentive to do likewise. Anyone who thinks that Iran, North Korea, etc want nuclear weapons because we have them is naive or stupid. Anyone who thinks that if we reduce our arsenal the evil nations of this world will be morally shamed is an idiot. I hope our president is none of these. Who knows, he might surprise me, but I worry.

Wednesday Update

Professor Donald Douglas nails it over at American Power:

Conservatives knew Barack Obama lacked gravitas over two years ago. And now we're starting to see the rest of the country catch on. Folks are getting hip to the Democrats' epic electoral fail of 2008...

So, let's just consider President Obama's U.S.-Russia summit this week. It's one more indication of the woeful unseriousness of this man and his administration. The highlights are at Memeorandum. CNN has a story on Sasha and Malia Obama, "Obama Girls Take Russia by Storm." Plus, the New York Times follows up with, "Family Night for Obamas Miffs Some in Moscow." But the best of these, also from the Times, is "Family Night for Obamas Miffs Some in Moscow."...

The president himself remains inside a narcissisitic bubble and the rest of the world can only watch dumfounded as this administration sleepwalks through history.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 4, 2009

The Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. -- Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. -- And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

-- John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton


fyi that lowercase "u" at top is correct.

Posted by Tom at 1:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 17, 2009

Reagan v Obama: How To Handle Tyranny

The crackdown continues

International human rights organizations said Wednesday that many prominent activists and politicians have been arrested in response to protests over the Iran's disputed election.

Hadi Ghaemi, director of the New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights, said he had spoken with family members and colleagues of people who have been arrested or disappeared and was told that there were at least 200 across the country.

IranCrowd_3  06-16-09

IranCrowd_1  06-16-09

IranCrowd_2  06-16-09

Yet President Obama refuses to take a stand for freedom

Stephen Hayes says it best

President Obama said that he admired the protesters, not that he supported them. He refused to say anything at all that might have been understood as a direct criticism of the plainly fraudulent election. (On Tuesday, in his most aggressive statement, he said he joins the rest of the world in its "deep concern" about the election.) And by pretending that the coming "investigation" of perceived "irregularities" might actually be a serious undertaking, he strengthened the position of a criminal regime--or, as he prefers, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

As I outlined yesterday and the day before, rather than taking a stand our president issues mealymouthed statements and talks in that strange bureaucratic language that sounds like it came from a computerized phrase generator.

Once Upon A Time

On December 13, 1981 the Polish government declared martial law, and General Wojciech Jaruzelski took over the government. The Solidarity trade union was banned, and its leaders, most notably Lech Wałęsa, were arrested and thrown into prison.

Ronald Reagan official photo as President

Ronald Reagan was in the White House, and he wasn't having any of it. Less than a week later he said this during a press conference:

All the information that we have confirms that the imposition of martial law in Poland has led to the arrest and confinement, in prisons and detention camps, of thousands of Polish trade union leaders and intellectuals. Factories are being seized by security forces and workers beaten.

These acts make plain there's been a sharp reversal of the movement toward a freer society that has been underway in Poland for the past year and a half. Coercion and violation of human rights on a massive scale have taken the place of negotiation and compromise. All of this is in gross violation of the Helsinki Pact, to which Poland is a signatory.

It would be naive to think this could happen without the full knowledge and the support of the Soviet Union. We're not naive. We view the current situation in Poland in the gravest of terms, particularly the increasing use of force against an unarmed population and violations of the basic civil rights of the Polish people.

Violence invites violence and threatens to plunge Poland into chaos. We call upon all free people to join in urging the Government of Poland to reestablish conditions that will make constructive negotiations and compromise possible.

Certainly, it will be impossible for us to continue trying to help Poland solve its economic problems while martial law is imposed on the people of Poland, thousands are imprisoned, and the legal rights of free trade unions -- previously granted by the government -- are now denied. We've always been ready to do our share to assist Poland in overcoming its economic difficulties, but only if the Polish people are permitted to resolve their own problems free of internal coercion and outside intervention.

Our nation was born in resistance to arbitrary power and has been repeatedly enriched by immigrants from Poland and other great nations of Europe. So we feel a special kinship with the Polish people in their struggle against Soviet opposition to their reforms.

The Polish nation, speaking through Solidarity, has provided one of the brightest, bravest moments of modern history. The people of Poland are giving us an imperishable example of courage and devotion to the values of freedom in the face of relentless opposition. Left to themselves, the Polish people would enjoy a new birth of freedom. But there are those who oppose the idea of freedom, who are intolerant of national independence, and hostile to the European values of democracy and the rule of law.

Two Decembers ago, freedom was lost in Afghanistan; this Christmas, it's at stake in Poland. But the torch of liberty is hot. It warms those who hold it high. It burns those who try to extinguish it.

On December 23 he gave an address to the nation in which he said:

I want emphatically to state tonight that if the outrages in Poland do not cease, we cannot and will not conduct ``business as usual'' with the perpetrators and those who aid and abet them. Make no mistake, their crime will cost them dearly in their future dealings with America and free peoples everywhere. I do not make this statement lightly or without serious reflection.

But "business as usual" is what Obama is all about. In his case it is keeping his campaign promise of negotiations with out preconditions.

Reagan had it right. Almost immediately after his inauguration he "...met with his senior foreign policy advisers to discuss how to undermine Communist power in Poland and discourage Soviet intervention." Negotiations with the communists were at times necessary, but were not viewed as strategies in and of themselves. Overthrowing the communists was.

Obama should take a cue from Reagan and adopt a similar policy with regard to Iran.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

June 3, 2009

Book Review - Defending Identity

Identity - Merriam-Webster; he distinguishing character or personality of an individual. The Free Dictionary; The set of behavioral or personal characteristics by which an individual is recognizable as a member of a group.; The collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively recognizable or known.

What is your identity? How do you see yourself?

There's personal identity; father, mother, Little League coach, Girl Scout leader. Some people see their identities through what they own; a fast car or a multitude of electronic gizmos. Others see it through their work; teacher, lawyer, business executive, construction supervisor.

These identities are important but they're not what Sharansky has in mind. In Defending Identity: Its Indispensable Role in Protecting Democracy, Natan Sharansky is more addressing group identities; political, ethnic, religious and national. His thesis is that for the most part these identities are good, and in fact are vital the success of democracy. Attempts to suppress these identities will not only fail, but are counterproductive to the success of free societies.

Before I read this book this book identity is not something I've thought much about, and after reading it I have come to realized that it is far more of a complicated subject than I had realized. But before giving my own thoughts on the matter, a summary of the book is order.

Time in the Gulag

Some say that strong identity and democracy are incompatible. Many intellectuals insist it it so. Sharansky is convinced that this is false and that just the opposite is true. Identities, he says, vitally important to us not only as individuals but as democratic nations. The main message of Defending Identity is that identity is the ally of freedom, not it's antithesis.

Authoritarian regimes repress ethnic and religious identities not in accord with those prescribed by the state. Democracies allow multiple identities along these lines to flourish. The Chinese totalitarians are threatened by the Falug Gong and Tibetans, whereas the tolerant Indians do not persecute any of their minorities (the issue of the "Untouchables" and the problem of caste is somewhat different).

The formative experience in Sharansky's political life that has formed the basis for much of his thought was the nine years he spent in the Soviet Gulag. The gulag, he says, was a laboratory where he discovered truths and tested ideas against the harshness of the prison system. His time there convinced him that identity and freedom were inseparable.

In prison Sharansky discovered, or rediscovered, his Jewish identity. In it he found the strength he needed to get through his time there. Far from dividing him from non-Jewish prisoners who also had strong identities, it enabled him to join them in a common struggle. Most of these identities were religious; Pentecostal, Catholic, Baptist, or national-ethnic; Crimean Tatar, Ukrainian. It wasn't the details of their particular identities that mattered, just that they were strong ones. It was those with weak identities who had the most trouble adjusting or adapting to prison life.

Further, the various identity groups didn't 'come together' to defend each other's goals. Far from it, for each acted in it's own interest. They defended each other not because they believed in each others causes, but rather because they came to realize that if the government could persecute one group for it's beliefs, it could persecute any of the others as well.

Trouble in Europe

Many or most native Europeans have lost most sense of identity. Christianity is dead or dying. Nationalism is perceived as a throwback and the cause of world wars. Guilt over real or perceived historical injustices has caused the crisis of confidence, resulting in a loss of identity. Identity in Europe must be uniform, and everyone must have the same identity, which is to say no identity. The loss of identity in Europe has helped lead to the erosion of democracy. It's a long subject, but for example they do not have freedom of speech in most parts of Europe as we have it in the United States. The structure of the European Union is also such that it has become a rule by bureaucracy, not elected leaders.

The Muslim immigrants who have swept into Europe in the past few decades have no crisis of confidence. They have very strong identities and are not shy about them. In many or most cases, their values and identities are in fact antithetical to Western notions of liberty and tolerance.

The result is a clash; the natives want democracy without identity, and the Muslim leaders want identity without democracy. As a result, identity and democracy are seen as opposites. In reality, he says, you can't have democracy without identity.

Assaults on Identity

There have been two major assaults on identity since the start of the 20th century; Marxism and post-modernism. The Marxists wanted to subjugate all identity that was separate from their own vision of the communist utopia. The post-modern movement inherits much from Marxism, but while the goal of the latter is to strengthen class consciousness as the only acceptable identity, the former seeks to weaken all identity, especially one's own.

The post-moderns see the wars and assorted social problems of the 20th century as stemming from nationalism and religion. Their solution is to transcend these identities and merge everyone into a global community. In this view, since identity causes problems, eliminating them would result in a world without conflict.

The problem, of course, is that you can't get rid of all identities at once. If just a few aggressive ones are left, they will dominate, sometimes to the point of eliminating democracy. We are seeing the start of this in Europe, where the natives are helpless against the strong identity of an aggressive, radical, Islam.

Multiculturalism is a form of post-identity. Unfortunately, the muliculturalists (along with "diversity," and uber-tolerance it's twin sisters), favor some identities over others, which adds to the problem. Western nationalism is bad, but third-world national movements are good. Christianity is frowned upon and only tolerated if it of the left-wing variety, but the most fundamentalist Islam is just another lifestyle choice.

One problem with the post-modern liberals is that when they look at problem areas of the world, such as the Middle East, they "look for explanations not in ideology but in grievances because the belief in absolute values is rejected and the idea of Western guilt plays a central role." As a result, post modern thinkers see the solution as an end to settlements and the establishment of a Palestinian state rather than in changing the ideology of the jihadist mindset of Fatah or Hamas.

Types of Identity

Sharansky opposes the attempt by the French government to ban the wearing of the veil in schools because it contradicts their "enormous tolerance toward the coercion and repression that daily transpires in many Muslim areas within that country." In other words, rather than oppose all coercion, they are being selective, with the result that they are preceived as opposing a Muslim expression of identity. And no democracy, Sharansky says, should repress identity unless it is harmful to that democracy.

He also does not object to the use of hyphens by immigrants to describe themselves. While it is popular on the right to criticize the use of "Italian-American," "Arab-American," or "African-American," he sees it as a positive expression of identity that compliments rather than threatens democracy.

Just as ethic identity does not threaten democracy, neither does religious identity. In our current age the secular left is doing everything it can to remove religion, or at least Christianity, from the public square. But if religion is to be an identity, it cannot be banished in this manner. Indeed, all of American history shows that public expressions of religion compliment, and do not threaten, democracy.

Again, this is not to say that all identities are acceptable. Mormons were made to disavow the practice of polygamy in order for Utah to be accepted into the Union. Giving this up reduced or changed a part of their identity.

Where we have failed in America is to incorporate Native Americans and African American identities. On the other side, surveys universally show that Muslims in America feel their identity is more respected than those in Europe.

The Special Case of Israel

Because Israel is a state created out of nothing (no the land wasn't stolen), it is a unique laboratory with which to study the subject of identity and democracy. Further, the Jews who emigrated there from Europe were naturally quite traumatized, so it would be interesting to see how they handled the subject of identity. Would they embrace their historic Jewish identity, or abandon it?

The surprise answer - to me, anyway - was that they abandoned it. The question of identity was an aspect Israeli history that I'd never considered. I'd always assumed that Israeli Jews were, if anything, even more cognizant of their history and traditions than those of the diaspora. It turns out that at least for the first thirty or so years of Israel's history nothing could be farther from the truth.

It wasn't supposed to be that way. Theodore Hertzl, the Austrian Jew who founded the modern Zionist movement, envisioned an Israel that embraced classic Jewish heritage. Although he himself was mostly secular, he envisioned an Israel of diverse Jewish beliefs and cultures, but all rooted in the past.

The actual founder of Israel and it's first president, David Ben-Gurion, had a completely different vision. A socialist, Gurion had little use for religion. His socialist ideal "was of a person who disconnects himself from his past - a past that is seen as two thousand years of humiliation and slavery - and takes fate into his own hands." It all very much paralled the "New Soviet Man" concept. Ben-Gurion's equivalent was the Sabra, or "new Jew," borne of the "Jewish dust." The past was mostly meaningless, and a new identity for Israeli Jews would be forged. Not just words, this ideology was taught in the schools as state dogma.

This started to change when over one million Jews emigrated from the Soviet Union, mostly in the 1970s. Having been deprived of their identity in their former communist country, they were anxious to get back to their Jewish roots, and not about to adopt another "new man" as an identity. It was this group to which Sharansky belonged.

Long story short, the new immigrants kept their Jewish identity and changed Israel in the process. Rather than segregate themselves, they became fully part of Israel. The result is an Israel structured more along the lines of the "mosaic" of identities envisioned by Hertzl rather than the "melting pot" of multiple identities into one. According to Sharansky, it has all been a huge success.

Defending the Nation-State

Israel is important because "for the believers of post-identity, Israel has become equated with the colonial sins they are intent on expiating." Almost thirty years ago, I remember a college professor tell us that Israel was illegitimate because it was founded on Judaism, a concept that according to him was anachronistic in the modern world. Without realizing it I had run into my first post-identity thinker.

The worst and most important of the post-nationalist and post-Zionist thinkers are Eric Hobsbawm and Edward Said. Most arguments against nationhood and Israel can be traced back to one or both of them.

Zionism, nationalism, and identity are for Sharansky tied closely together. All three are for the most part good (there are always unhealthy exceptions) and combined produce democracy. Weaken one and Israel collapses. For other countries, weaken the other two and democracy collapses. The concept of the nation-state is itself vital in establishing identity. As discussed above, a weakened sense of statehood is one reason why Europe is in trouble.

The justification for a Jewish Israel is that that's what the majority of Israelis want. This does not mean that the rights of minorities cannot be protected. Further, it does not mean a theocratic state per se, but rather one that embraces a Jewish heritage, a somewhat different concept.

Further, the survival of Israel as a predominantly Jewish state is crucial not just for it but for the entire world. Israel is an island of democracy in a region of dictators, religious fundamentalists, and terrorists, and a sense of Jewish identity is vital to its own survival. As a democracy surrounded by totalitarian neighbors it is a beachhead of freedom, something we should want to spread. Therefore it is vital that Israel survive as a Jewish state.

Peace or War

For life to be of any value it must be lived freely. The peace of slavery is no peace worth having. To live freely you must be able to have your identity. It is this freedom, then, that liberates, not simply the absence of war.

As mentioned above, many in the West today see identity as the cause of war, they thus seek to suppress it in the name of peace. Four hundred years ago John Locke wrote in "A Letter Concerning Toleration" that the attempt to impose one religion was what was leading to wars in Europe, and his recommendation was to let everyone believe what they wished. His views were adopted, but today we have come full circle.

Weaking identity may seem to lead to a happy society of no conflict between identity groups, but in reality leaves it defenseless against anti-democratic groups with their own strong identities. People without strong identities tend to be sheep and not resist when a group with a strong one comes into town.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the so-called "peace process" born of the 1993 Oslo Accords. As Sharansky tells it

The so-called Oslo peace process took place between two societies moving in directly opposite directions in terms if identity. Israeli society was being pushed in the direction of cosmopolitanism. Palestinians, under Arafat's corrupt dictatorship, were going through a crash course in hatred of Jews, Israel, and Zionism and making the rejection of the Jewish-Israeli identity the basis of their own. The hope for peace became predicated on a rejection of Israeli identity and a rejection of Palestinian democracy. On one side stood democracy without identity. On the other stood identity without democracy. The explosion was inevitable.

And indeed not only has the so-called peace process gone nowhere, but Palestinian society has not become any healthier.

Many people do not take radical Islam, or other such movements, seriously. We're told that ok they can blow up a few buildings, but the idea of them taking over Europe or the West is preposterous. "They'll integrate peacefully" is the line we've all heard.

Part of the problem is that most of those who believe this are of the post-modern mindset who have no identity themselves. "Multiculturalism," "diversity," and "tolerance" are not identities. As such, these people have a hard time understanding the power that strong identities can have on others. The result is that they think that if only Israel will stop building settlements the Palestinians will abandon all that talk about jihad. They don't understand that it is not issues that motivate them, but an ideology driven by a strong identity.

My Take

I'm not sure that Sharansky has it all right, or that he's thought through every nuance or complication as well he might of. Further, I'm not certain that the experiences of his own life, or that of Israel, are directly transferable to the United States or the rest of the world.

But the book has caused me to rethink my own assumptions about identity. It is fashionable for us on the right to criticize the use of a hyphen when describing one's identity; "Italian-American," Irish-American," African-American" and the like. This is a debate where I am sympathetic to both sides. I suppose the hyphen business is all a matter of degree and emphasis, and whether it's used for identity or to seek political advantage.

Malcolm X is not someone who gets much sympathy from conservatives. And there is much to criticize in his life. But in recent years I have become quite sympathetic to his adoption of "X" as a last name. After all, his African heritage had not only been stolen, it was quite ignored in the public educational system and culture at large. It was quite acceptable for those with Irish heritage to have a St. Patrick's Day parade, but how dare you think there was anything about Africa to celebrate.

Let's be honest, we all have a tendency to think that our own identity is good and certain others are bad: those crazy fundamentalist Christians, or those gay people and the way they dress, or maybe why does he have to wear his business success on his sleeve? Sometimes it's ethnic, sometimes religious, and sometimes political. But I think we all tend to view certain identities as good and others as bad.

Further, there is much about identity that Sharansky does not address in the book. What are proper and improper expressions of identity? Good v bad identities are also barely expressed. It 's one thing to have your own identity, but to what extent is everyone else expected to publicly acquiesce to it? For example, if a religious minority within a country wants their holidays off work with no penalty, that's one thing. It's quite another though if they insist everyone else recognize it also and government and business close down.
How far do concessions go?

In the end, though, this is not a scholarly tome It is a 232 page treatise that serves it's purpose well. Sharansky has a powerful life story, and Israel is at the center of the conflict between democracy and tyranny, between modernity and fundamentalist Islam. As such, his is too important a voice to ignore.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 6, 2009

Democracy v Authority in Nation Building

In the wake of Vietnam we forswore nationbuilding. Today we are heavily engaged in at least two such enterprises, Iraq and Afghanistan. Amazing how circumstances force such changes in policy.

But in a sense the West has been engaged in nationbuilding for decades, if not a century, whether we wanted to admit it or not. The Weimar Republic in Germany was a form of nationbuilding in that we pretty much forced democracy on that country in the wake of what was then called The Great War. In the 1950s and 60s, when ex-colonies were becoming nations, we insisted that they choose their government in democratic fashion. While some turned out to be one-man, one-vote, one-time, others, such as India, have turned into successful democratic states.

It is unclear whether our ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan will be successes or failures. What is clear is that it's not easy to create anything like what we would call a democracy in either. One of my pet theories is that we in the West are good at setting up votes, but not so good at instilling true liberty, or creating a pluralistic societies. Germany after World War II was a Western society, so at least had the benefit of having gone through the Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Reformation. We pounded Japan so hard that although their society had not gone through these things it didn't really matter. But neither Iraq nor Afghanistan have the Western experience, and we pounded neither into the ground as we did Japan. Thus, perhaps, our difficulty.

It was Rich Lowry's post at NRO's The Corner which set me thinking on this today. He brings up how many conservatives, seeing the difficulty of the project in Iraq, have said "sure these societies are having trouble setting up governments, but so did the United States." This is a fascicle comparison, he says, because it ignores the cultural differences, and that "it's the absence of order and functioning institutions not democracy that is the fundamental problem in these societies."

He then quotes Samuel Huntington from his book Political Order in Changing Societies:

[A] reason for American indifference to political development was the absence in the American historical experience of the need to found a political order. Americans, de Tocqueville said, were born equal and hence never had to worry about creating equality; they enjoyed the fruits of a democratic revolution without having suffered one. So also, America was born with a government, with political institutions and practices imported from seventeenth-century England. Hence Americans never had to worry about creating a government. This gap in historical experience made them peculiarly blind to the problems of creating effective authority in modernizing countries.

When an American thinks about the problem of government-building, he directs himself not to the creation of authority and the accumulation of power but rather to the limitation of authority and the division of power. Asked to design a government, he comes up with a written constitution, bill of rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism, regular elections, competitive parties--all excellent devices for limiting government. The Lockean American is so fundamentally anti-government that he identifies government with restrictions on government. Confronted with the need to design a political system which will maximize power and authority, he has no ready answer. His general formula is that governments should be based on free and fair elections.

In many modernizing societies this formula is irrelevant. Elections to be meaningful presuppose a certain level of political organization. The problem is not to hold elections but to create organizations. In many, if not most, modernizing countries elections serve only to enhance the power of disruptive and often reactionary social forces and to tear down the structure of public authority. "In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men," Madison warned in The Federalist, No. 51, "the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself." In many modernizing countries governments are still unable to perform the first function, much less the second. The primary problem is not liberty but the creation of a legitimate public order. Men may, of course, have order without liberty, but they cannot have liberty without order. Authority has to exist before it can be limited.

Indeed we take public order for granted in the West. We've had our riots, but nothing that came anywhere near doing anything more than keeping some people from going to work for a few days. The American Civil War happened so long ago it's ancient history for us (in the U.S. we slap a historical marker on a house that's 100 years old, something that must make Europeans smile). We entertain ourselves with an apocalyptic movie here and there, but the idea of it really happening... no, not to us.

And this of course is a good thing. When listing the virtues of the West, most of us put things like democracy, liberty, pluralism, freedom, capitalism, tolerance, that sort of thing. Few people would put "public order." Natan Sharansky failed to discuss the importance of keeping public order as a prerequisite to democracy in his much-discussed 2004 book The Case for Democracy

Fewer people, I think, miss the "(already) functioning institutions not democracy," that Lowry brings up. We know that we inherited our institutions from Britain, as our revolution was fundamentally different than the French or Russian Revolutions, which completely overthrew the old order and started anew. In this sense our revolution was Burkean in that it was "to preserve the rights of Englishmen." But I'm not here to argue history.

My point, and question, is how do we take these lessons and apply them to the future? As I've said ad nauseum here on this blog, we are where we are with regard to Iraq and Afghanistan, so I've little patience in refighting the battle of whether it was right to invade either. I'm all for learning lessons, don't get me wrong. For example, one of the biggest lessons of Iraq is that democracy is impossible unless public safety is first ensured.

More to it, what about other third world countries around the world? What will happen with North Korea implodes? Is there any hope in the near term for African or Arab countries? Pakistan may be on the verge of sliding into Taliban-style fundamentalism, so is there any hope for them as well? What about Iran if or when they can rid themselves of their crazy mullah rulers? We tend to think of how we can create democracy and liberty in these countries, but as we've learned just keeping order is a huge challenge. And as we learned with Afghanistan, ignoring a problem won't make it go away. We forgot about that country when the Soviets left and the resulting chaos led to the Taliban, their hosting of al Qaeda, and 9-11.

I don't know the answers, but it's certainly worth pondering, because whether we like it or not I believe the world is going to present us with more challenges sooner rather than later, regardless of who holds the presidency in the U.S.

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April 11, 2009

American Dominance of the Seas Under Threat

It's worth revisiting the issue of China as a potential adversary in the wake of this week's release of President Obama's first defense budget. One of my biggest problems with the budget is that it seems to be focusing around building a military that's mostly suited to fighting insurgencies. While surely this is something we will need to do, we need to be ready for all contingencies.

A military force that's out of balance can get itself into trouble. I remember years ago reading Chaim Herzog's account of the 1973 Yom Kippur War in his book The Arab-Israeli Wars (1982 edition). One reason the Israelis had gotten into so much trouble during the early days of the war was that they "overlearned" the lessons of the 1967 Six Day War. Airpower had been so decisive in 1967 that they cut back on traditional gun artillery and thought they could use their new American aircraft as "flying artillery." What they didn't count on was the effectiveness of of the Egyptian AA system, recently bolstered by Soviet SA-2 and SA-3 surface to air missiles. Soviet made AT-3 Sagger anti-tank missiles were also more deadly against Israeli tanks than had been imagined. They lost many aircraft and tanks before recouping and eventually winning the day. But for awhile it was a near run thing.

We pretty much knew how a conventional and even nuclear war with Soviet Russia would turn out. We knew what weapons we'd need. We weren't well prepared for Vietnam, not having quite the right weapons to fight it.

The lesson of today is that we just don't know who we might have to fight. But one adversary we may well have to fight is China, and while we're cutting back on our air and naval forces, they're building aircraft and ships like there's no tomorrow.

Let's start out with an excerpt from an article in Wednesday's Weekly Standard by Michael Mazza, a research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute.

The future of America's long-running dominance of the seas is under threat. The Department of Defense reported recently that the Chinese navy is continuing to modernize at a rapid clip. It is adding guided missile destroyers and nuclear and diesel-electric attack submarines to its fleet, and is developing over-the-horizon radars and next-generation anti-ship cruise missiles, and possibly even the first ever anti-ship ballistic missile. Not only have Chinese ships recently harassed unarmed U.S. naval vessels in the South China Sea, but according to reports emanating from Japan, China will likely complete construction on two conventional aircraft carriers by 2015, and will begin construction on two more nuclear carriers in 2020. is important to consider the downsides of China's future naval plans. Protection of China's merchant fleet is certainly not the PLA Navy's only reason for building carriers and deploying ships far outside its territorial waters. China is acting to alter the balance of power in Asia and working to diminish U.S. presence in the region. The PLA has engaged in a significant build-up over the past twenty years. China's Air Force is on pace to have the largest air fleet in the region within the next decade. Their navy is developing blue-water capabilities, deploying new submarines at an unparalleled rate, and, now, is determined to add aircraft carriers to its fleet. And the PLA has modernized and grown its strategic conventional and nuclear missile force. In short, China is developing considerable power projection capabilities at a time when it faces no discernable external threats.

Right now only the U.S. and French navies possess serious aircraft carriers, and the latter only has one. As noted in the article, aircraft carriers are used for power projection. Other surface combatants are force protection with limited projection capabilities. So if all China wanted to do was protect their merchant marine fleet and petroleum supplies from Somalia, destroyers and frigates would be sufficient.

The Chinese goals are simple; one, achieve hegemony in the south-western Pacific, and two, acquire Taiwan. There are many reasons they want to dominate the area, but they include national pride, dislike of America as the world power, and to acquire and secure economic assets. Indeed, it was in late December that for the first time in modern history, China sent warships abroad to secure their interests in Somalia. They are a nation on the move.

Why Should We Care?

It is in our national interest that Chinese influence not spread. The reason for this is that one of if not our prime foreign policy goals should be to the spread of liberty. Under the current Chinese government, the values that they will spread are antithetical to ours. As such, they should be resisted.

We must also protect our friends. Countries must know that an alliance with the United States means more than just words. If they go out on a limb for us we have to be there to help them as well. It's not that we should foot everyone's defense bill, more that we cannot abandon allies to the mercies of powerful nations like China.

In addition there is old fashioned protection of our various economic interests, which yes include petroleum from the Middle East and elsewhere. No matter what we do on the alternative energy front, we're going to need foreign oil for a long time. Further, it is in our economic interests to protect general shipping from everything from pirates to unfriendly nations.

FAS and More

One of the best overviews of the Chinese military is at the Federation of American Scientists. Their page on the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)is not to be missed. See, for example, their page on the new Type 039 Wuhan C, or "Song," class submarine, in which they state that it said to be as quiet as the American Los Angles nuclear submarines. But its overall performance is constrained by the use of 1980s technology, and the fact that the PLAN purchased the Russian Kilo-class submarines suggests that there are problems with the Song-class. Various upgrades to the Song are reported under development, and an improved version may have already entered service.

So while we shouldn't overrate PLAN forces, neither should we ignore them. As with Iranian and North Korean missiles, they're not there yet, but not for want of trying.

Almost as good is StrategyPage, which has an excellent database of navies from around the world.

I've gone over China's military in much more detail elsewhere so won't repeat it all here; see "China / Taiwan" under "Categories" at right.

Winning Without War

Finally, like any nation, China can achieve it's objectives even if there is no war. Bill Gertz, writing in the Washington Times, tells us the inside story of what happened with the harassment of the USNS Impeccable last month:

A U.S. defense official said the recent confrontation between five Chinese military vessels and the USNS Impeccable, an ocean survey ship, in the South China Sea resulted in the setting of a bad legal precedent for the Navy's freedom of navigation in international waters.

According to the official, who spoke on condition that he not be named because of the political sensitivity of the issue, the Impeccable's captain withdrew from the area rather than hold fast and assert the ship's freedom-of-navigation rights. Worse, the captain also radioed one of the five Chinese naval vessels to ask permission of the Chinese navy to exit the area.

Both steps were viewed as weakening U.S. Navy efforts to assert the right to transit international waters freely and to counter Chinese claims to a 200-mile economic exclusion zone claimed by Beijing as sovereign territory.

Beijing claims the entire South China Sea as its territorial waters.

The U.S. defense official said the Chinese harassment was part of what has been termed legal warfare, or "lawfare," the use of international laws to try to deny access to areas near coasts by foreign ships and aircraft.

The official said it is important for the Navy not to give in to such harassment because of the risks of limiting freedom of navigation, which is a vital interest for both the United States and its allies in Asia.

Remember that the Chinese are students of their own Sun Tzu, who about 2,500 years ago said

To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.

And as Karl von Clausewitz said

"When one force is a great deal stronger than the other, an estimate may be enough. There will be no fighting: the weaker side will yield at once. . . Even if no actual fighting occurs . . . the outcome rests on the assumption that if it came to fighting, the enemy would be destroyed."

The military budget proposed by President Obama and SecDef Gates sacrifices our Navy for counterinsurgency weapons, while both are important and needed. They would reduce our aircraft carrier fleet from 11 to 10, and 11 is way too low as it is. The next generation cruisers would be delayed, and the overall number of ships reduced to below 300. No more F-22 Raptors will be produced. All of this sends the wrong message to China.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 9, 2009

Piracy - The Simple Yet Impossible Solution

The recent seizure of the US flagged ship Maersk Alabama off the horn of Africa has brought the issue home. Most of us who follow the news have been aware that there was a serious problem with piracy in the area, and have read about this or that nation sending a ship or so to help with patrols. But there's nothing like having your own citizens seized to make you sit up straight.

The solution is both simple and impossible. Steve Shippert, military affairs writer for National Review's The Tank blog and Threatswatch, explains

The only tenable solution is to put the prevention at the point of risk: Aboard the vessel.

It is the only solution -- sans magical liquidation of all pirates and their havens -- that is fast-reacting enough or cost effective enough. (Have you ever checked the expense tab of operating a US Navy destroyer for a 24-hour period of steaming? It's an expense only a stimulus's mother could love.)

What does the security team look like? Pretty simple, actually. 4-6 men from the contracting outfit, with small arms with enough reach and punch to introduce a speedboat to the ocean floor. There is an array of potent automatic rifles available. The team should possess at least one .50 caliber weapon for both range and punch. Certainly no 5.56mm M-16's. As well, some form of grenade weapons should be on hand (RPGs, grenade launchers and/or other shoulder-fired explosive weapons suitable for maritime use.) Night scopes and night vision goggles are essential as well. There are plenty of arms experts who know what would and would not work best. Point is, it isn't rocket science. Get it done.

There's more, but that's the gist of it. And it would work. It'll also never be done.

Not sure why it won't work? Consider this tidbit from a story in the Wall Street Journal from last November:

Last April the British Foreign Office reportedly warned the Royal Navy not to detain pirates, since this might violate their "human rights" and could even lead to claims of asylum in Britain. Turning the captives over to Somali authorities is also problematic -- since they might face the head and hand-chopping rigors of Shariah law. Similar considerations have confounded U.S. government officials in their discussions of how to confront this new problem of an old terror at sea.

Then there's the story of the navy that did shoot to kill:

One of the most controversial cases so far is the Indian navy's sinking of a suspected pirate vessel in November. India said at the time it had come under attack from a pirate "mother ship," ordinarily a vessel pirates have captured to use to travel long distances that their speedboats cannot. The International Maritime Bureau and the Thai owner later reported that the vessel was a fishing trawler with civilian sailors on board. The trawler had been hijacked by pirates hours before it was sunk by the Indian navy.

If nation-states are afraid to capture obvious pirates, and a fuss is made then they actually kill them and sink their ships, imagine what would happen to private contractors. At least nations have the protection of sovereignty. Even they are under assault, as consider the cas of the Spanish court which wants to indite former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez on five other Bush Administration officials, charging that they "violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay." The issue of this court is not the work of a bunch of nuts we can ignore, but rather part of a determined effort . We're told that we have nothing to worry about from the International Criminal Court, as it's charter makes it seem so innocuous, but given all that I know color me skeptical.

Googling for "blackwater human rights violations" gets 167,000 returns, and the first two that come up are Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

So call me cynical but if Shippert's solution is employed it won't be long before there is shooting and before long there will be accusations that innocent people were killed. Before lone someone will be paraded before the cameras who will tell the world that he was just out for a pleasure cruise and had his boat sunk and friends killed. You know the rest of that story.

The solution, then, is not really technical, but political. Private firms need political cover.

We need leaders who can take decisive action and have the will to withstand the inevitable assaults from the "human rights" crowd. George W. Bush didn't have that willpower. President Obama doesn't, and I don't see anyone in Europe with the moxie either. I'm happy that the Indians sank that pirate ship, but as Shippert explained it's like swatting flies with a sledgehammer; great that we got one but there are a zillion more swarming around.

I am wondering why Shippert didn't mention special operations troops instead of private contractors. I know that ours are tied up fighting the GWOT(it's still that despite what Obama says) around the world. The Europeans, Indians, Canadians, and other have some, but maybe not enough. I tried to leave a comment asking him this at Threatswatch but got an error message, so sent an email instead. If I get a response I'll post it or a summary of what he says here.

Folks, I really hope I'm wrong here. I'd like nothing more than to see dozens or hundreds of these security teams from dozens of nationalities put onboard ships, have them shoot up some pirates, and have the "international community" give a hip hip hurrah. I just doubt any of it will happen. And if you have your own ideas as to how do deal with the problem I'm all ears.

What Won't Work

One, relying on traditional naval forces. The pirates are coming out in large speedboats and the like, and even the smaller naval vessels are expensive to operate, meant for high-tech warfare, and as Shippert put it using them would be like "swatting mosquitoes with a sledgehammer."

Along with this, "international cooperation" and UN resolutions are most certainly not the answer. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton typifies this attitude.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Wednesday for world action to "end the scourge of piracy" as U.S. warships raced to confront the pirates.

"Specifically, we are now focused on this particular act of piracy and the seizure of a ship that carries 21 American citizens. More generally, we think the world must come together to end the scourge of piracy," she said.

This sounds like something out of one of those sentence generators that paste together stock phrases. Note to Hillary; "the world" doesn't care enough to do anything.

The Barbary Coast Pirates

We've dealt with the issue or piracy before. If you're like me, you've often heard that the Barbary Coast pirates were attacking ships, the Europeans paid tribute, and we refused. President Thomas Jefferson sent the Navy and Marines and they took care of business. "To the shores of Tripoli" and all that.

In the end that's true, but it's all a bit more complicated and didn't go down quite that easy.

In the late 18th and early 19th century, pirates ("corsairs") operating Algiers were raiding ships in the Mediterranean. The entire story is long and complicated, but essentially Europeans powers were paying tribute to avoid having their ships seized. Nevertheless, some were seized, including some American ships, holding their crews as slaves for several years. After years of debate, we finally decided to build a navy to deal with this and other problems. We fought two wars with the pirate nations, the first lasting from 1801 to 1805 and the second in 1815. After much fumbling we eventually won and the pirates mostly ceased their actions, though it wasn't until the French invasion in 1830 that the problem was finally ended.

My guess is that the current problem will take the same route. It'll take more than the incident with the Maersk Alabama to provoke serious action. Until then we'll dither.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

April 6, 2009

Obama's B-1A?

Will this be Obama's B-1A?


If you're not aware, it's the F-22 Raptor, and Secretary of Defense Gates announced today that production would be stopped at 187 airplanes. This from a planned force of 339 aircraft to have been completed in 2013. However even this 339 figure is down from the 648 the Air Force had originally requested in 1991 Follow the link for the full story on how the figure has gone steadily down.

Readers of this blog will not be surprised to hear that I think this was a bad decision.

I'm not going to set up links to every weapons system mentioned here. If you want information I find the Federation of American Scientists the best source, but Wikipedia is good also.

In 1977 President Carter canceled the B-1A. Because he didn't want to look weak, he justified his decision by revealing that we were working on a "stealth" bomber that would perform better than the B-1A anyway. Partially because he canceled the B-1a, and partially because he revealed the existence of a stealth bomber program, the entire affair was very controversial. As a candidate for president, Ronald Reagan used the incident against Carter to great effect. It ended up hurting Carter, and was one of many things that contributed to his looking weak on defense.


After he was elected, Reagan resurrected the B-1 program. As technology had advanced, Rockwell updated the design and 100 B-1B bombers were built, all of which (except for a few which were destroyed in accidents) 66 are in active status today with another 24 in mothballs.

Will Obama's cancellation of the F-22 be his B-1A? Maybe I'm getting carried away, but maybe I'm not. Of course parallels are never exact, which is why they call them analogies.

Our Current Inventory

This section consists of stuff that I've written before and am just going to copy and paste

Let's not be overconfident or arrogant with regard to our own capabilities. This attitude got a lot of US pilots killed during the early days of the Vietnam War, when we discovered that the MiG-21 was the equivalent of our F-4 Phantom, and their pilots nearly as good.

Further, some of our weapons are getting very old. The F-15 first flew in 1972. The F-16 in 1979, and the F-18 1982. The first Los Angeles class submarine was launched in 1976. The CH-53 first flew in 1981, and the H47 in 1962. You get the point.

Yes all of the above systems have undergone major upgrades. I know all this. But you can only do so much with an old airframe. Sure, we could build a new helicopter instead of the tilt-rotor V-22 and it would be better than what is in the inventory. But we are really at about the limit of what you can do with helicopter technology, so it would be an exercise in the point of diminishing returns.

Instead of the F-22 Raptor we could rely on the somewhat less expensive F-35 Lightning II JSF. This, however, would have been the equivalent of canceling the F-15 and relying on the F-16. Ask any pilot about the wisdom of that potential decision.

Everything new goes through growing pains. Every roll out a new software platform at work and not have it go perfectly? Build a WAN and not have everyone be able to talk to each other the first time 'round? Years ago I bought a book on the X-planes. What struck me is that there seemed to be at least one crash in every single program.

There was criticism of the B-1A, and also the B-1B about various things that didn't work right. I'm sure if you dig you can find something on the F-22. Remember that the P-51 was a failure with it's early Allison engine, and didn't perform as the superior fighter we remember it to be until upgraded with the Rolls Royce engines.

Some will say that the "real question" is bang for the buck. Yes, I understand.

But there's a certain group who are against every weapons system that comes down the pike. They're always in favor of some future program that's still in development, or yet to be conceived. We see this especially with regards to Missile Defense, where it's "research forever, build never." There comes a point where you just have to freeze research and development and just build the thing. As you'll see below, our potential enemies are building new weapons.

Potential Enemies

It is said that "generals always want to refight the last war," but in this case I think it's the civilians. It is said that all we'll have to worry about is insurgencies and counter-terrorism. This I believe is a mistake. There are plenty of places where we could get into a traditional air-to-air shootout. China primarily comes to mind, but Chavez in Venezuela is intent on arming his country, and the Iranians or even North Korea could even acquire more advanced aircraft. Recall also that we sold Pakistan F-16s and that country could fall apart at any moment.

Russia and China are building new aircraft like there's no tomorrow. See this list at the Federation of American Scientists. The newer aircraft are very good, and are being exported to many countries around the world. Besides the Russian and Chinese aircraft, the ones coming out of Europe are very good and they hope to sell them to countries that, who knows, we may have to fight one day.

Mig-29 "Fulcrum"


Supporters of the decision to cut further production of the F-22 need to hope that we don't get into any shooting wars in which our planes are shot down, and ex-pilots start going on TV saying "if only we'd had the F-22..." No matter how good Obama's diplomacy, events can spiral out of control. Right or left I think we can all agree that there are a lot of crazies running countries right now.

These past 10 years or so the entire USAF has centered around the F-22. I know people who have worked as civilian contractors and as civilian DOD employees, and they've told me that the entire message from on high was that their future as a fighting force depended on this weapon.

I remember throughout the 1980s all of the weapons systems developed under Reagan were derided as "gold plated," too expensive, wouldn't work as advertised, and too complicated for our troops to handle. The B-1b was one of them. Then came the Gulf War and what do you know but most all of them worked as well or better than expected. The only shortfall was the Patriot Pac3, and that was a rushed early ABM system anyway.

Potential adversaries aren't just building new aircraft, but new ships, subs, and anti-aircraft systems as well. I don't have time here to detail it all now.

Relying on the F-35 Lightning II

I don't have specifics, but it looks like President Obama has been persuaded that the F-35 Lightning II "Joint Strike Fighter" can hold the fort for the next few decades. It's a good aircraft, but is to the F-22 what the F-16 was to the F-15; not designed as the primary front-line fighter meant to take on the best the world could throw at us.


The Dangers

The danger is not just a traditional shootout with ad adversary like China, though that is a possibility. It's also the message it sends; we're not serious about remaining the world's superpower. It sends a green light to our adversaries that they can poke us and get away with it.

Our adversaries are testing Obama, and they're looking at what he's doing with our defense budget. The incident with the Chinese harassment of the USNS Impeccable was a test. If they see weakness, they'll pounce.

I think we're seeing weakness from Obama.

SecDef Gates announced cuts in Missile Defense. More on this later, but it strikes me as incredibly bad timing to cut back on efforts there just after North Korea tried to intimidate us with the recent launch of their Taepo Dong-2, and when Obama wants to open negotiations with Iran. In both cases the clear message to each is that we're not serious about stopping or even countering them. Diplomacy only stands a chance if backed by military force.

Of course, this budget has to get through Congress. Lawmakers whose districts are impacted will not want their constituents thrown out of work. My guess is that Obama won't get all of the cuts he wants.

More to come.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

February 16, 2009

Are We All Fascists Now?

Liberals are fond of pointing out that their schemes aren't socialist, since they do not advocate state ownership of business. The more extreme socialism gets, the more private property is abolished, but the point is the same.

In this claim the left is surely correct. What they advocate is not socialism.

It's fascism, or at least a form of it.

Don't believe me? In a way I can't blame you. "Fascism" is an epithet, a term of opprobrium thrown around at whomever is on the low end of the political totem pole. As a practical matter it has lost most if not all of it's original meaning. Thus, both the Soviet and Chinese communists used to call each other fascists after their brief period of cooperation in the 1950s.

The cartoon version of fascism is that it is extreme nationalism, guys with guns taking over the government and goon squads beating up opponents, and a government that lets big business run the economy. The first two are aspects of fascism, though neither are central to it, at least in the way that most people think. The third is flat out false.

Yet original meaning, and terminology, counts. So do labels, as long as they're not used as simple insults.

What's interesting is that although today "fascism" is universally seen as a bad thing, not only was this not always the case, but the best people on the left called themselves fascists. It was widely seen as the "third way" between the capitalism and socialism and communism.

Let's go back to basics and discover what fascism is and is not.

There is the "hard" fascism of a Mussolini or a Hitler, which we all know about. Then there is "soft" fascism, of the sort Woodrow Wilson or Juan Peron practiced, and even FDR to a certain extent. Barack Obama and some or many of his followers are of this second sort.

This does not at all mean that all liberals are fascists. What it means is that many in the United States today do subscribe to a soft fascism whether they know it or not.

Jonah Goldberg identified the type in his groundbreaking 2007 best seller Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning (much of what follows in this post consists of parts of my review of Goldberg's book, but since I'm quoting myself I decided not to blockquote it).

Goldberg quotes Mussolini's political platform to make the point

  • Lowering the minimum voting age to eighteen, the minimum age for representatives to twenty-five, and universal suffrage, including for women.
  • "The abolition of the Senate and the creation of a national technical council on intellectual and manual labor, industry, commerce, and labor."
  • End of the draft.
  • Repeal of titles of nobility.
  • "A foreign policy aimed at expanding Italy's will and power in opposition to all foreign imperialism"
  • The prompt enactment of a state law sanctioning a legal workday of eight actual hours of work for all workers.
  • A minimum wage.
  • A creation of various government bodies run by workers representatives.
  • The creation of various government bodies run by workers' representatives.
  • Reform of the old-age and pension system and the establishment of age limits for hazardous work.
  • Forcing landowners to cultivate their lands or have them expropriated and given to veterans and farmers' cooperatives.
  • The obligation of the state to build "rigidly secular" schools for the raising of "the proletariat's moral and cultural condition."
  • "A large progressive tax on capital that would amount to a one-time partial expropriation of all riches.
  • "The seizure of all goods belonging to religious congregations and the abolition of all episcopal revinues."
  • The "review" of all military contracts and the "sequestration" of 85% of all war profits."
  • The nationalization of all arms and explosives industries.

What's important to understand is that these weren't just words to Mussolini; he meant it. He didn't just use this platform as a trick to get into power, because he implemented as much of it as he could once he was in power.

I shouldn't need to say it, but if you presented this platform to any Democrat today they'd accept it as their own.

Mussolini made a big deal about "getting beyond labels" and seeking a "third way" between left and right. He promoted himself as a pragmatist who "made the trains run on time." To be sure, he governed as a dictator. But he was no Hitler or Stalin in his level of brutality. He won reelection in 1924 in what were reasonably fair elections, and his granting of womans suffrage gained him applause from no less a source than The New York Times.

Mussolini defined fascism as "Everything in the State, nothing outside the State." Mussolini himself coined the word "totalitarianism" to describe his system, and it's important to note that he meant it in a benevolent manner, as he saw his system as a humane one in which everyone was taken care of.

The Militarization of Society

A core tenant of fascism is the desire to militarize society whether there is an external war to fight or not. The whole point, in fact, of fascism is to mobilize. What is important to understand, though, is that it is society that is being mobilized, not the military. When we say "militarization of society" we are NOT talking about putting people in uniform and giving them guns. Thus, Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was the most fascist organization ever seen in America.

Worse than the CCC was the National Recovery Administration (NRA), the cornerstone of Roosevelt's New Deal. It was led by General Hugh "Iron Pants" Johnson, and man who questioned the patriotism of his critics in a manner that would have made Joe McCarthy blush. He continually referred to the NRA and it's mission in military terms, saying for example that "This is war - lethal and more menacing than any other crisis in our history." In fact, Johnson was an ardent admirer of Mussolini's fascist government.

The symbol of the NRA was the Blue Eagle. Usually depicted in textbooks as an innocent symbol that businesses put in their window to show that they went along with NRA guidelines("We do our Part" was the motto under the eagle), it was really the method by which Roosevelt and Johnson bullied businesses into joining. The NRA stuck it's tentacles into every aspect of daily life, or at least tried to. The Blue Eagle was used for propaganda in a way that Goldberg says is difficult to exaggerate, and indeed the whole thing was really more an exercise in state religion than economics. Heaven help any business that refused to sign up, because people were admonished by the government not to buy anything from businesses that didn't have the Blue Eagle in their window.

Fascist Economics

It is perhaps in the area of economics that fascism is the most misunderstood. In the left's cartoon version, fascism occurs when right-wing politicians conspire with big business to oppress "the little guy," or that European fascists were tools of big business. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, as Goldberg demonstrates, "in the left's eternal vigilance to fend off fascism, they have in fact created it, albeit with a friendly face."

The fact is that the more free the market, the less fascist, and the more regulated and close to the political center, the more fascist. The far left, at outright government ownership, is socialist. Remember; it was Hitler and Mussolini who promoted themselves by claiming that they were neither left nor right but represented a "Third way."

Both Mussolini and Hitler were supported by small donations, and not, for the most part, by money from big corporations. Both denounced big business and the wealthy time and again, Hitler most notably in Mein Kampf. Their political platforms stressed regulating business and taxing the wealthy to benefit the working middle class.

Fascism is when the state says to business "You may stay in business and own your factories. In the spirit of cooperation and unity, we will even guarantee you profits and a lack of serious competition. In exchange, we expect you to agree with - and help implement, - our political agenda." This was not only the deal that Hitler and Mussolini made with big business in their respective countries, but it was pretty much the one that Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt imposed during the First World War and Great Depression as well. None of this can be called "right wing."

Brave New Village

If Roosevelt's CCC was the most fascist organization ever created in the United States, Hillary Clinton's It Takes a Village is the most fascist book.

It's very titleis about as fascist as you can get. If the motto of the Mussolini's fascism was "everything in the State, nothing outside the the State, then the implicit motto of It Takes a Village(to Raise a Child) is "everything in the village, nothing outside the village." The message is clear; your children belong to "everyone" which in the modern world means the state.

"Civil society" has traditionally meant free and open "independent associations of citizens who pursue their own interests and ambitions free from state interference or coercion" and "the way various groups, individuals, and families work for their own purposes, the result of which is to make the society healthily democratic." It consists of churches, labor unions, all those clubs and organizations that people form for their own purposes and as long as they are not outright criminal are outside the control of the state.

Hillary has a different view of civil society. To her it is a "term social scientists use to describe the way we work together for common purposes." This is factually incorrect and startlingly totalitarian. There are no truly free associations or clubs in Hillary's world, for everything in her "village" is managed or controlled by the state to achieve "common purposes."

Cult of Personality

Another aspect of fascism is that the person of the leader is built up and worshiped in proportions far greater than the average admired political leader. With Obama I don't think this needs much elaboration, but I'll quote Mark Levin from last October

There is a cult-like atmosphere around Barack Obama, which his campaign has carefully and successfully fabricated, which concerns me. The messiah complex. Fainting audience members at rallies. Special Obama flags and an Obama presidential seal. A graphic with the portrayal of the globe and Obama's name on it, which adorns everything from Obama's plane to his street literature. Young school children singing songs praising Obama. Teenagers wearing camouflage outfits and marching in military order chanting Obama's name and the professions he is going to open to them. An Obama world tour, culminating in a speech in Berlin where Obama proclaims we are all citizens of the world. I dare say, this is ominous stuff.

Ominous indeed.

Are We All Fascists?

No, not all of us. I have to think that some or hopefully many on the left will wake up and see what they have created. While we on the right have our problems with people like Pat Buchanan, most of us simply want the government to leave us alone. And as I think I made clear above sending troops abroad isn't fascism, whether you like the war or not.

Not Just Me

Now that we're clear on what fascism is and is not, let me go back to the article that prompted this post; Michael Ledeen's We Are All Fascists Now, posted last Thursday at Pajamas Media.

Ledeen notes Newsweek's "embarrassingly ignorant" cover story "We are All Socialists Now" which makes the same mistake I noted above; Obama is not seeking to take over big business, just coopt it for his own purposes. Yes the stimulus spends huge amounts of money, yes the Democrats want to cap salaries, yet they want to regulate like never before, but

But that's not socialism. Socialism rests on a firm theoretical bedrock: the abolition of private property. I haven't heard anyone this side of Barney Frank calling for any such thing. What is happening now-and Newsweek is honest enough to say so down in the body of the article-is an expansion of the state's role, an increase in public/private joint ventures and partnerships, and much more state regulation of business. Yes, it's very "European," and some of the Europeans even call it "social democracy," but it isn't.

This isn't socialism, but fascism, as Ledeen goes on to say.

As tempting as it is to compare Obama to Mussolini, given the latter's political platform and oratorical skills, it's probably Juan Peron he more represents. After all, Obama and the Democrats are not going to abolish our democracy. They don't need to.

Juan and Eva Peron

Writing in last Sunday's Washington Times, Jeffrey T. Kuhner elaborates:

The disastrous path on which America is currently embarked was tried in another country - in the Western Hemisphere: Juan Peron's Argentina. During the 1940s until a 1955 coup ousted him from power, Peron presided over a fascist state.

What is not commonly known about Argentina is that prior to World War II, it was an economic powerhouse. Beginning in the 1880s and continuing through the 1920s and 1930s, it was regarded as one of the most prosperous and advanced nations in the world.

Argentina had a strong industrial base, thriving agricultural exports and a broad and expanding middle class. Like America, it served as a magnet for immigrants from all over the world, especially Italians. Within 15 years, however, Argentina went from being one of the richest to one of the poorest countries.

This was due largely to Peronist policies. Upon coming to office, Peron, along with his popular wife, Eva, established a corporatist state characterized by lavish social spending, elaborate welfare programs, protectionism, confiscatory taxation and runaway deficits.

Peron used strident class warfare rhetoric, attacking big business, the banks, corporations and the propertied class. He greatly strengthened labor unions, making them pivotal allies of his regime.

Peronism transformed the Argentine state. The bloated bureaucracy and massive government intervention fostered widespread corruption. Central economic planning destroyed productivity and growth. Investment capital fled. Inflation and interest rates soared. The middle class was wiped out. The independent judiciary was undermined and eventually smashed. The fawning media class became co-opted by Peron's allies. His -and Eva's - cult of personality fostered a climate of violence and political persecution of the regime's enemies. Argentina degenerated into the Latin American basket case that it is today....

Mr. Obama is taking the first dangerous steps toward an American version of Peronism. His followers see him as a political messiah, a revolutionary change agent who will foster national cohesion and unity. He and the Democrats are plundering the state, using it as a vehicle to reward supporters (and punish foes). He is our Dear Leader, whose image is everywhere from magazine covers to T-shirts to baseball caps. His wife, Michelle, is the Eva Peron of our time - glamorous, chic, a fashion trend-setter who is beloved by the media.

A scary vision indeed, especially since Peronism is still very popular in some circles. The theatrical musical production Evita! was quite popular and won a whole list of awards. Given how things are going now, it's not hard to imagine a Michelle! in our future.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

January 19, 2009

A History Lesson for Bush Haters Part II

Two of the reasons the left tells us that the war in Iraq is illegal is because it never got the proper UN authorization, and Iraq was a sovereign nation that didn't threaten us.

I disagree with both assertions, but I don't want to argue those points here.

What I want to tell all Bush Haters is that President Clinton also invaded and/or attacked nations without getting authorization from either Congress or the UN, and that posed no threat to us.

Don't believe me?


On September 19, 1994, President Clinton launched Operation Uphold Democracy, in which United States forces invaded the Caribbean island nation of Haiti. I'm not going to rehash the entire affair, but suffice it to say that it was done with neither congressional nor United Nations authorization.

And one can hardly say that Haiti posed a threat to the United States.

I supported what we did then and I think it was the right thing now. We restored the duly elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and General Raoul Cédras stepped down even before we went in. It was a relatively easy operation in which we only lost one soldier, and on March 31, 1995 we ended our operation and handed it over to the UN.

No authorization from Congress or the UN. And Haiti hardly posed a threat to the US.

Bosnia and Kosovo

The war in the former Yugoslav republics is god-awful complex, and I didn't follow it in detail at the time. Haiti is bad enough, there's no way I'm going to try and rehash what was going on in the Balkans.

Suffice it to say though that in 1999, President Clinton once again ordered United States forces to attack a sovereign nation(s) without authorization from either Congress or the United Nations. Nobody can say that any of the former Yugoslav republics posed a threat to the United States. We called it Operation Allied Force.

Clinton did it under the aegis of NATO, but nowhere in it's charter does it give itself the right to invade a third country. Talk about how the fighting might "spill over" into other countries, or "don't you remember that World War I started there" was balderdash. Article 5 states that "The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all...." but Milosevic posed no threat to anyone in NATO.

So again, if I wanted to make silly arguments against what Clinton did in Bosnia it would be pretty easy. And all of you who love your

But as with Haiti, I supported what President Clinton did and I think he did the right thing now. No one else was going to deal with the situation, so he stepped up to the plate and took charge of a difficult situation.

The Point

My point, of course, is that throwing out talking-points such as "no UN authorization" or "X was a sovereign nation that posed no threat to us" is is childish and it's usually more complicated.

Of course I know that obviously Iraq is a huge affair in which we have spent much blood and treasure. From this perspective it's not the same as Iraq. But if you're going to make an argument on principal it is the same. If you're going to argue that we can't invade nations that don't pose a threat to us you must oppose Clinton's invasion of Haiti and his attack on Yugoslavia.

Not a Clinton Hater

I didn't vote for Bill Clinton in 1992 or 1996, and indeed have not voted for any Democrat ever. All in all I do not think he was a good president.

But I will say that at times he did the right thing. At times he was a good president. Yesterday I defended when he ordered cruise missiles fired at a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory, in a case when the intelligence turned out to be faulty. Other examples of good things are negotiating and signing GATT and NAFTA. He held down federal spending more than either Bush has done, and he signed onto welfare reform (though he had a lot of "help" from Republicans in Congress, who acted a lot more responsibly then than they did under GWB).

So unlike some liberals who don't give George Bush credit for anything, I'm not some wingnut who reflexively criticizes everything the other side does.

That's the lesson for today.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 18, 2009

A History Lesson for Bush Haters

Attention all Bush Haters

Consider your reaction if this story came across the wires today:

As was reported last week, President Bush launched cruise missiles at Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan as part of what he called "Operation Infinite Justice". The missiles destroyed the factory, Sudan's primary source for ant-malarial and veterinary drugs. The day after the attack, which took place at night, Bush claimed that the factory was producing chemicals used in the production of VX nerve agent. He also claimed that the factory owners were tied to al Qaeda.

In the days since serious doubt has been cast on both of these claims. The evidence for the production of VX nerve agent is particular shaky. It has been revealed that it was based on a single soil sample taken by a CIA agent outside of the factory, which seemed to show the presence of EMPTA (O-Ethyl methylphosphonothioic acid), a VX precursor. But experts now say that testing errors could have been responsible for a "false positive," and at any rate there is no proof that the EMPTA was tied to the factory. Further, although Bush Administration officials first said that EMPTA was banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention, they have since backed off this claim.

Ties to al Qaeda are vague, with administration officials only stating that "intelligence sources" as the basis for their actions.

Administration officials have conceded that they had no congressional or UN authorization for the attack, which was on a sovereign nation not at war with the United States.

Experts say that as a humanitarian crisis looks as a result of the destruction of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory. Werner Daum, the German ambassador to Sudan, says that it is possible that tens of thousands of Sudanese may die because they won't be able to get the medicines they need.

Everything in the above paragraph is true. It all actually happened. Ok, it's all true except for one thing:

The president that ordered the attack wasn't George W. Bush.

It was William Jefferson Clinton.

The attack described above took place on August 20, 1998. And tens of thousands of Sudanese probably did die as a result. Further, although Sudan demanded an apology, President Clinton never offered one. Look it all up if you don't believe me.

Here's another way to look at what happened: From an editorial published December 13, 2005 in the Washington Times:

From "Why the U.S. bombed," The Washington Times, Oct. 16, 1998, by National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger:

"Following the Aug. 7 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the United States launched a missile strike against a factory in Khartoum, Sudan, as well as against terrorist camps in Afghanistan. Since then, some critics have suggested that we acted precipitously when we struck the Sudanese Al Shifa plant. But, given what we knew, to not have acted against that facility would have been the height of irresponsibility.

"First, we knew that the Osama bin Laden terrorist organization was bent on large-scale violence against Americans... And we had information that bin Laden has been seeking chemical weapons to use in his terrorist acts.

"Second, we had physical evidence indicating that Al Shifa was the state of chemical weapons activity... We found the presence of EMPTA, a chemical essential for making deadly VX nerve gas...

"Other products were made at Al Shifa. But we have seen such dual-use plants before -- in Iraq. And, indeed, we have information that Iraq has assisted in chemical weapons activity in Sudan.

"Third, we had information linking bin Laden to the Sudanese regime and the Al Shifa plant. Bin Laden lived in Sudan ... until he was expelled under international pressure. He left behind associates and facilities and has maintained a close relationship with the government...

"To those who assert we did not act appropriately, I would ask: With information that bin Laden had attacked Americans before and planned to do so again, that he was seeking chemical weapons to use in future attacks, that he was cooperating with the government of Sudan in those efforts, and that Sudan's Al Shifa plant was linked both to bin Laden and chemical weapons, didn't the United States government have a responsibility to the American people to counter this threat? I believe the unequivocal answer is yes."

Berger was exactly right. President Clinton made his decision based on the best intelligence available. He didn't want to risk VX nerve agent making it's way into the hands of al Qaeda, which was known to operate in Sudan (bin Laden even living there in the 1980s).

No serious person, certainly no Republican of any stature that I know of, has suggested that Bill Clinton or any of his officials be prosecuted for war crimes. Yet it is is entirely accurate to say that based on flawed evidence he destroyed a pharmaceutical plant in a poor third world nation which produced badly needed medicines. We don't know how many black Africans died, but it was surely many, given that the factory was Sudan's primary source for anti-malaria and veterinary drugs.

The left is forever insistent that George Bush and various administration officials be indited for war crimes.

Where are their calls for the indictment of Bill Clinton?

Posted by Tom at 8:45 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

October 4, 2008

Barack Obama and the Fall of the Democrat Party

If I had lived throughout the latter half of the 20th century, I'd have been a Democrat during most of it. Unlike most conservatives today I admire FDR. I would have liked Eisenhower, I suppose, but found his nuclear weapons policy unacceptable. I like JFK and RFK, and would probably have voted for LBJ because he was a foreign policy hawk and promoted civil rights at a time when such advances were sorely needed. I would have also probably voted for Humphrey in 1968, but that is the last time I can say I would have voted Democrat. With the nomination of George McGovern in 1972 and Jimmy Carter in 1976, I'd have take a turn towards the GOP. I probably just raised a few conservative eyebrows in this paragraph but so be it.

So here is the current nominee of the Democrat Party

The only, and I mean only, reason Ayers isn't in prison is because the government so screwed up the case that all or most all of the evidence was thrown out. Nobody, not even Ayers himself, disputes his guilt.

Whatever happened to the party of Harry Truman, John F Kennedy, or Henry "Scoop" Jackson? They would be spinning in their graves if they knew what was going on today. Zell Miller is another that I miss. The Democrats have even chased away the last decent member of their ranks, Senator Joe Lieberman.

Even Bill Clinton was a moderate by today's standards, he having famously once been chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council. The DLC is the voice of moderation in the party, but has now been reduced to a shell of its former self. The "progressives", most notably Barack Obama now shun all of its positions.

Amazing, isn't it, how far the Democrat Party has fallen?

The Democrats are now the party of the crazy anti-war left, who welcome and Michael Moore into their ranks. Although Barack Obama did not start out as part of this movement, he has certainly embraced it.

In 2004 this party nominated John Kerry, a man who returned from Vietnam to betray his country by his participation in the "Winter Soldier" tribunal/investigation, and the disgraceful group Vietnam Veterans Against the War. His testimony before the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on April 22, 1971 is positively awful.

And today they've nominated a man who sat at Trinity United Church and listened to a racist kook hatemonger for 20 years and only left when it became politically expedient for him to do so. Say what you want about Sarah Palin's Wasilla Bible Church, there's no comparison. So far I've listened to six sermons from that church, and can find nothing remarkable or out of the ordinary. In fact, they're really quite mainstream and I found them inspirational. So there.

It's also the sheer creepyness of the messianic "Obama worship" that is disturbing. I think that conservatives sometimes go too far with Ronald Reagan, such as when during the primaries the GOP candidates where trying to out-Reagan each other. Commentators fall into this trap too, with Heritage even having a "What Would Reagan Do" section on their website.

Obama's Jimmy Carter foreign policy is grating because it's so naive in irresponsible, but I've already written about that at some length.

Mostly, though, it's Obama's past associations, namely those of Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers, that get me. The Tony Rezko stuff, while bad, is the garden-variety corruption. The man should not be the Democrat candidate.

I've covered the Wright stuff, so now let's talk a bit about his association with the unrepentant 60's terrorist William Ayers.

First, former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy reminds us in National Review of just who Ayers is and how he is still lying today about what he and his terrorist Weathermen wanted to do:

In (a) Fox interview...Ayers preposterously claimed that he and his fellow Weather Underground terrorists did not really intend to harm any people -- the fact that no one was killed in their 20 or so bombings was, he said, "by design"; they only wanted to cause property damage. ...

First of all, "that moment in the townhouse" he's talking about happened in 1970. Three of his confederates, including his then girlfriend Diana Oughton, were accidentally killed when the explosive they were building to Ayers specifications (Ayers was a bomb designer) went off during construction. As noted in Ayers' Discover the Networks profile, the explosive had been a nail bomb. Back when Ayers was being more honest about his intentions, he admitted that the purpose of that bomb had been to murder United States soldiers

In fact, Ayers was a founder of the Weatherman terror group and he defined its purpose as carrying out murder.

Now he wants you to think they just wanted to break a few dishes. But in his book Fugitive Days, in which he boasts that he "participated in the bombings of New York City Police Headquarters in 1970, of the Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972," he says of the day that he bombed the Pentagon: "Everything was absolutely ideal. ... The sky was blue. The birds were singing. And the bastards were finally going to get what was coming to them."

And he wasn't singular. As I noted back in April in this article about Obama's motley collection of radical friends, at the Weatherman "War Council" meeting in 1969, Ayers' fellow terrorist and now-wife, Bernadine Dohrn, famously gushed over the barbaric Manson Family murders of the pregnant actress Sharon Tate, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, and three others: "Dig it! First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a fork into the victim's stomach! Wild!" And as Jonah recalled yesterday, "In appreciation, her Weather Underground cell made a threefingered 'fork' gesture its official salute." They weren't talking about scratching up the wall-paper.

A Weatherman affiliate group which called itself "the Family" colluded with the Black Liberation Army in the 1981 Brinks robbery in which two police officers and an armed guard were murdered. (Obama would like people to believe all this terrorist activity ended in 1969 when he was eight years old. In fact, it continued well into the eighties.) Afterwards, like Ayers and Dohrn, their friend and fellow terrorist Susan Rosenberg became a fugitive.

On November 29, 1984, Rosenberg and a co-conspirator, Timothy Blunk, were finally apprehended in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. At the time, they were actively planning an unspeakable bombing campaign that would have put at risk the lives of countless innocent people. They also possessed twelve assorted guns (including an Uzi 9 mm. semi-automatic rifle and an Ithaca twelve-gauge shotgun with its barrel sawed off), nearly 200 sticks of dynamite, more than 100 sticks of DuPont Trovex (a high explosive), a wide array of blasting agents and caps, batteries, and switches for explosive devices. Arrayed in disguises and offering multiple false identities to arresting officers, the pair also maintained hundreds of false identification documents, including FBI and DEA badges.

When she was sentenced to 58 years' imprisonment in 1985, the only remorse Rosenberg expressed was over the fact that she and Blunk had allowed themselves to be captured rather than fighting it out with the police. Bernadine Dohrn was jailed for contempt when she refused to testify against Rosenberg. Not to worry, though. On his last day in office, the last Democrat president, Bill Clinton, pardoned Rosenberg -- commuting her 58-year sentence to time-served.

These savages wanted to kill massively. That they killed only a few people owes to our luck and their incompetence, not design. They and the Democrat politicians who now befriend and serve them can rationalize that all they want. But those are the facts.

Going to Tom Maguire at Pajamas Media we now look at Obama and Ayers:

Barack Obama and the unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers have worked closely together on education reform since 1995, and possibly since 1987. Obama has obfuscated and minimized this association in his public statements and on his website. Why the cover-up? We don't know, since we aren't sure what is being concealed.

It's becoming known as the Annenberg Challenge cover-up and it's become big news since the McCain campaign highlighted it in a press release late Wednesday.

This is what we know. Bill Ayers was a leader of the Weather Underground, a violent radical student group of the 1960s. His father, Thomas Ayers, was a prominent Chicago business and philanthropic leader who served as an adviser to Mayor Richard J. Daley, father of the current Chicago mayor. Although he is not apologetic about his terrorist past (and had the bad luck to be quoted as saying, in an interview that ran on Sept 11 2001, that "I don't regret setting bombs. ... I feel we didn't do enough."), Bill Ayers has been accepted back into the Chicago political community and has been an informal adviser to the current Mayor Daley on education reform.

But regardless of his cachet in the liberal circles of Chicago politics, presidential candidate Barack Obama has not been eager to explain his own relationship with Bill Ayers. Published reports from February 2008 gave a glimmer of their ties. In 1995 Ayers hosted a fund-raiser for Obama prior to Obama's run for Alice Palmer's seat in the state Senate; they both served on the board of the charitable Woods Fund of Chicago from 1999 to 2002; and Ayers donated $200 to Obama's state Senate campaign. Other researchers and reporters (for example, Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun Times) noted a few joint panel appearances and a favorable review by Obama of a book by Bill Ayers.

But even this was more than Obama was willing to admit. Asked point blank by George Stephanopoulos in the Philadelphia debate preceding the Pennsylvania primary to "explain that relationship for the voters," Obama prevaricated by pretending he scarcely knew Ayers:

This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who's a professor of English in Chicago, who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He's not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis.


Stanley Kurtz, writing in National Review, explains why

Although the press has been notably lax about pursuing the matter, the full story of the Obama-Ayers relationship calls the truth of Obama's account seriously into question. When Obama made his first run for political office, articles in both the Chicago Defender and the Hyde Park Herald featured among his qualifications his position as chairman of the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a foundation where Ayers was a founder and guiding force. Obama assumed the Annenberg board chairmanship only months before his first run for office, and almost certainly received the job at the behest of Bill Ayers. During Obama's time as Annenberg board chairman, Ayers's own education projects received substantial funding. Indeed, during its first year, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge struggled with significant concerns about possible conflicts of interest. With a writ to aid Chicago's public schools, the Annenberg challenge played a deeply political role in Chicago's education wars, and as Annenberg board chairman, Obama clearly aligned himself with Ayers's radical views on education issues. With Obama heading up the board and Ayers heading up the other key operating body of the Annenberg Challenge, the two would necessarily have had a close working relationship for years (therefore "exchanging ideas on a regular basis"). So when Ayers and Dorhn hosted that kickoff for the first Obama campaign, it was not a random happenstance, but merely further evidence of a close and ongoing political partnership. Of course, all of this clearly contradicts Obama's dismissal of the significance of his relationship with Ayers.


But Obama followers see nothing wrong with this. They're either in denial or don't care.

And what is Ayers doing today? Why, He's a professor in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, holding the title of Distinguished Professor.

Which tells you everything you need to know about today's left. The left that makes up the anti-war base of the Democrat Party.

Remember, the only reason Obama has distanced himself from Ayers is the same reason why he distanced himself from Wright; not because he disagrees with them, but because he found it politically inconvenient to remain friends with them. And it's not that Obama agreed with everything Ayers or Wright said or did, that's not the point. The issue is that Obama may not have agreed with everything about them, but was ok enough with them to hang around them. He didn't see them as especially objectionable.

There's nothing to equal any of this on any Republican candidate for president since Watergate, and that happened when Nixon was president, so it's not really the same. The left has nothing like this on John McCain (the Keating five stuff having been thoroughly investigated, and to be sure while he showed "poor judgment it's not like associating with an unrepentant terrorist). They can say what they like about Sarah Palin, most all of it's false and anyway it's all penny-ante stuff compared to this.

Sunday Update

Silly me, I forgot it was racist to bring up Bill Ayers! Or so says Douglass Daniel of the AP.

Shame on you for nominating Barack Obama.


Don't take it from me that Obama knew full well about Ayers, take it from Mark Halperin of Time Magazine (h/t TWS)

Halperin: "Is it fair to say that [Barack Obama] continued to associate with [Bill Ayers] professionally -- and personally on a casual basis -- even after he learned?"

Robert Gibbs: "He continued to serve on a charitable board and an educational grant board with money supplied by Walter Annenberg, a Republican who was an ambassador under Richard Nixon. Yes."

Halperin: "But with the knowledge of Ayers' past?"

Gibbs: "Yes."

Apparently it's ok to associate with unrepentant ex-terrorists as long as you condemn them.

Got it.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 30, 2008

A Childlike View of the World

David Gelernter knocks it out of the park with a piece in The Weekly Standard that will leave youngish yuppie liberal types seething.

His thesis is that the generation who grew up after the 60s Cultural Revolution know little about recent history, and most of what they do know is wrong. Recall Obama actually using the Kennedy-Khrushchev summit as a reason why he should meet with Ahmadinejad.

He calls them "gen-CR", and his indictment is stinging

We know what to expect of gen-CR. Unless they have grown up in regions or families with an unusually strong grasp of tradition, patriotism, and reality, gen-CR'ers tend to have a fuzzy view of history, an unconditional belief in tolerance and diplomacy, and contempt for the military and war-making. Their patriotism (such as it is) tends to focus on the "global community" or "the planet" or some other large, meaningless object. (Beyond a certain point, patriotic devotion spread too thin simply evaporates-which is a good way to get rid of it if you are, say, an English intellectual trusting to the European Union to eradicate this primitive emotion.)


To be sure, not everyone in a particular generation fits to type. After all, not all baby boomers burned their draft cards and protested the war in Vietnam. But there are certain general characteristics (dare we call them "stereotypes"?) of each generation.

On to some history:

His (Obama's) announcement that he would meet Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions shows exactly why a president must not merely know history but have a decently nuanced view. It was wrong for Chamberlain to meet Hitler and foolish for JFK to meet Khrushchev, but right for Begin to meet Sadat and for Churchill to make repeated long, dangerous journeys to meet Stalin.

We've all read leftie blogs gleefully point out that we were supposedly "allied" with Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war, and how in 1983 Reagan-envoy Donald Rumsfeld traveled to Baghdad and shook hands with Saddam, and how these supposedly illegitimized our 2003 invasion.

Never mind that we weren't really "allied" with Iraq. For awhile I tried to point out that we were very much allied with Stalin's Soviet Union, and yet as soon as the war ended fought a Cold War against them for 40 years, so did our onetime alliance with them illegitimize that too? Eventually I grew weary and gave up. Too many on the left today lack the moral clarity to understand the difference.

But other than racism, sexism, or the new one, "homophobia", Hemingway points out that "Gen-CR recoils from the idea of enemies." Last night I was listening to Dennis Prager on the radio say that when he spoke with Europeans they told him that what they didn't like about America was that we spoke about good and evil. Anecdotal to be sure, but it rings true.

Start with a given: An Obama administration might still bring about defeat in Iraq; speeded-up troop with-drawals might weaken this new democracy and bring on its collapse like a burnt-out log into a blaze of terrorist violence. But if it did-if the left's policies proved tragically mistaken-Obama's supporters would never know it. What would the collapse of America's noble project in Iraq look like in the funhouse mirrors of the New York Times, NBC, Time and Newsweek and NPR and the rest of the establishment media? "In the end, Bush policy plunged Iraq into chaos, but Obama was smart enough to pull out before more American lives were lost." And that's what Democrats would "know" about Iraq.

It would all just be another excuse to blame George W Bush and from which to seek political advantage, the better to put us all under the rule of the EPA.

Members of the CR generation who had mainstream, establishment educations have been trained like pet poodles to understand where romping is allowed and where it is forbidden. The permissible range of thought on such topics as protected minorities, protected species, protected psychosexual deviations, et al. is clearly spelled out from kindergarten onward.

Yup. I see more intolerance among the "tolerance" and "diversity" crowd than anywhere else. The push for gay marriage is about a lot of things, but marriage isn't one of them. Their real agenda is to force everyone to accept and approve of the gay lifestyle whether they want to or not. Anyone who deviates from correct thought will be severely punished.

You doubt me? Consider the fate of Harvard President Harry Summers, and before the incident that got him in trouble he was considered a right-thinking liberal:

To understand this generational shift in the making, consider the resignation of Harvard president Lawrence Summers in 2006, under attack for having said that, just possibly, the far greater number of male than of female scientists might have to do with innate differences between men and women-something that a large majority of working scientists (male and female) almost certainly take for granted (whether or not they are willing to say so). But Summers had expressed a forbidden thought, and (despite his abject confessions and apologies at the Harvard show trials) was duly banished. In the gen-CR age now approaching, such embarrassing accidents will no longer happen. Forbidden ideas simply won't occur to the Harvard presidents of the future.

The Obama generation in action.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 28, 2008

Book Review - All Creatures Great and Small

All Things Bright and Beautiful,
All Creatures Great and Small,
All Things Wise and Wonderful,
The Lord God Made Them All

I only just looked up that poem, and discovered it was written by one Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895). Little did he know that each of those first four lines of a much longer poem would become book titles for one of the most successful authors of the late twentieth century.

Under the nom de plume James Herriot, James Alfred Wight published a series of books in the 1970s detailing his life as a country Veterinarian in Scotland in the 1930s and 40s.. The first was actually All Creatures Great and Small, the second All Things Bright and Beautiful, and the third and fourth from the last two lines of the poem. The books were eventually adapted into a television series, which I believe ran on the Arts and Entertainment channel. There are a few other Herriot books also, but these four are the most popular.

At the time I was in middle and high school, and I remember my mom talking about how much she enjoyed his books. For the life of me I couldn't understand how the story of a country Vet could be remotely interesting. Little did I know how much in later life I would enjoy them. At various points in my life I've picked up and read all four. I watched the series when it was on TV, and it was one of the few boom-to-TV transitions that worked as it captured the books perfectly.

I was reminded of the books recently when my cat Athena died. She was diagnosed with cancer of the mouth so there was really no choice but for me to have her put to sleep. Almost exactly 15 years ago I had gotten her with her brother, whom I named Zeus. He died in a mysterious accident two years later (I think he hit his head while playing and broke his neck or something. I was in the next room, heard a sound I didn't like and went in to see him immediately but he was already dead). Not too long after I got another cat, an orange tabby whom I named Bengal (Bengal Tiger...). He died two years of kidney failure.

Here are Athena and Bengal at their best:

Athena & Ben Best1.JPG

So after each of my cats have died I've gone back and reread one or more of James Herriot books. It's what I do for therapy, I suppose. Anyway it works.

So what makes James Herriot books so special?

There are several things that make the books, and TV series, so good. One is simply the superb writing and storytelling. Much of it is also characterization. The personality quirks of his partners and the local Darrowby farmers make for great entertainment. I have come to understand that the books are only partially autobiographical, and he employed some "literary license" in his stories. In other words, some of it is partially fiction. No matter, for it is all based on true experiences.

The books are written as a series of short episodes, each taking up a chapter or two of maybe 10-20 pages. They are absolutely laugh out loud funny. Herriot and his partners are always getting themselves into impossible situations. It's also stories of successes and failures, of many animals that he saves, but some he cannot. While most of it is farm work, there are stories of cats and dogs. More than the animals themselves, the farmers and pet owners are often the real subject of each episode.

The books are usually described as "heatwarming" in the reviews, and they are that. Though funny and historically informative, they are mainly the stories of people and their everyday life as regard their animals.

The first two books are five-star, with All Things Wise and Wonderful not far behind. The Lord God Made Them All is ok, and worth reading to round out the series, but is not as good as the first three. It's that time in the late 1930s and early 40s, during the great changes in medicine and agriculture, that make for the best reading.

Historically the first two books take place in 1938-39, when both human and animal medicine was in the midst of a great revolution. When Herriot starts practicing medicine, antibiotics were unknown, and their medicines were of the "Professor Smith's Universal Cow Medicine" variety. From All Creatures Great and Small, when Herriot has just arrived at Darrowby and with his new boss (later partner) Siegfried Farnon are surveying the dispensary, with all of it's bottles and tins of old-time medicine:

The two of us stood gazing at the gleaming rows without any idea that it was all nearly all useless and that the days of the old medicines were nearly over. Soon they would be hustled into oblivion by the headlong rush of the new discoveries and they would never return.

It is in the second book, All Things Bright and Beautiful, when antibiotics such as penicillin and the sulfonamides were introduced. It is perhaps hard today, when we take such things for granted, the effect that the new "wonder drugs" had. For the first time doctors and vets had medicines that actually worked.

Another theme is that for the first time veterinarians were treating pets on a regular basis as well as farm animals. Before this time the profession was centered around livestock and horses. Again, from All Creatures Great and Small

"Not much small animal work in this district." Farnon smoothed the table with his palm. "but I'm trying to encourage it. It makes a pleasant change from lying on your belly in a cow house. The thing is, we've got to do the job right. The old castor oil and prussic acid doctrine is no good at all. You probably know that a lot of the old hands won't look at a dog or a cat, but the profession has got to change its ideas."

And indeed in the second book Herriot takes several tough cases to a vet in a nearby town who - gasp - only did small animal work. Two of the reasons for the introduction of "small animal"(read "pets") work was the elimination of the plow horse as the mainstay of the veterinary profession and thus the need to find additional sources of revinue, and two, with the rise of a middle class people had the time and money to have pets and pay vets to minister to them.

There's much else, of course. World War II intervenes and all three take time out for military service. Herriot gets married and has children. Wikipedia and an "All Things James Herriot" website have much more if you want the full background.

But mostly, though, if you've never read James Herriot or seen the series on TV you just need to go out and buy the books. Pick one or more up from the library if you're still unsure whether you'll like them. But do yourself a favor and do get one. I promise you won't regret it.

I'll also get back to blogging now on a more regular basis.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 25, 2008

Book Review - Liberal Fascism


At various points in my life I've read fairly extensively about Communism and Nazism. As a good Cold Warrior, I wanted to know as much as possible about the Soviet threat, as well as communist infiltration of the West. World War II was of great interest, and I studied not only the battles and weaponry but the Nazi leadership, ideology, and history as well.

The twentieth century being in large part a great struggle between democracy and Orwellian totalitarianism, this seemed to me natural. Today I read about Jihadism, and try to understand our enemy and their infiltration of the West. I think my book reviews show this pretty clearly.

But fascism was something that I never read much about. Part of this, I think, was that Mussolini's Italy was such a non-factor in World War II. Other fascist governments, such as Franco's Spain or Peronist Argentina, were not expansionist and relatively minor violators of human rights (relative I stress compared to what Hitler or Stalin wrought). As such I never studied them or fascist ideology. I had some vague notion that fascism was militarism coupled with extreme nationalism, but that was about it.

A few years ago I read a comment by Jonah Goldberg on National Review's The Corner blog that he was working on a book about fascism, and I thought "what a waste of time. We're in a war against radical Islam and he's investigating fascism? That can't be relevant to anything."

Was I ever wrong. The book that resulted from his years of research, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, is one of the most important books I've read about modern American liberalism, and its related twin, progressivism.

The book is now on many best seller lists, and Goldberg has a special Liberal Fascism Blog over at NRO where he answers readers questions and post news stories relevant to his thesis. Predictably, the book has thrown the left into a fit of rage, to the extent where Amazon had to delete several thousand "you suck" type "book reviews." The Amazon site was even hacked a few times and the photo of the book cover changed.

Unlike with most, the cover to this book is important. The fascism that Goldberg sees creeping up on us is not of the "hard" sort of a Mussolini or Hitler. Rather, it is the "soft" type of a Hillary Clinton.

The cartoon description of fascism which most people hold consists of two parts; 1) Extreme nationalism and 2) Militarization. While these are or can be aspects of fascism neither are central to it, at least in the way that most people think.

Book Objective and Thesis

Goldberg goes to some length to explain that no, he is not saying that all liberals are fascists or that being in favor of universal health-care coverage means that you are a fascist. Rather, his objective is to replace the cartoon image of fascism with a more historically based one, and in so doing demonstrate that it is modern liberalism, not modern conservatism that has its roots in fascism. More precisely, modern liberalism grew out of the progressive movement of the early twentieth-century, and progressivism in turn has it's roots in fascism and indeed in many cases was ideologically allied with it. Liberal fascism is different, Goldberg says, for what should be the obvious reason that modern liberals don't want to eliminate voting and line opponents up against the wall to be shot. This does not mean, however, that the ideological underpinnings are different.

Rather than go on and risk getting it wrong I think I'll just quote Goldberg himself:

In this book I have argued that modern liberalism is the offspring of twentieth-century progressivism, which in turn shares intellectual roots with European fascism. I have further argued that fascism was an international movement, or happening, expressing itself differently in different countries, depending on the vagaries of national culture. In Europe this communitarian impulse expressed itself in political movements that were nationalist, racist, militarist, and expansionist. In the united States the movement known elsewhere as fascism or Nazism took the form of progressivism - a softer form of totalitarianism that, while still nationalistic, and militarist in its crusading forms and outlook, was more in keeping with American culture. It was, in short, a kind of liberal fascism.

The term "liberal fascism" comes from a speech by H.G. Wells at Oxford University in 1932. He used it the term to describe what he called a need for a "phoenix rebirth of liberalism." Although known today as the science fiction writer who produced such works as "War of the Worlds", back then he was also known as a prominent progressive thinker. Today we see the term "fascism" as unreservedly evil, and the polar opposite of "liberal." What may surprise readers today is that his joining of the two - liberal and fascist - surprised no one in the audience, and was in fact well received.

Modern American liberalism is totalitarian but in a "smiley face" way, not like that of the twentieth century Orwellian nightmares; Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. By "totalitarian" Goldberg means that it wishes to control every aspect of our lives; from the food we eat to the light bulbs we can buy to the very words that are deemed acceptable (try using "he" as a gender-neutral pronoun and see what happens).

When liberals promote these totalitarian goals they claim that they are not ideologically driven, but are rather "listening to the experts", or seeking to overcome the left-right divide with a "Third Way".

Goldberg is not saying that simply caring about the environment or physical fitness makes you a liberal fascist. What makes you a liberal fascist is insisting that everybody else care too, or forcing everyone else to eat healthy and live a healthy lifestyle and using the power of the state to do it. The reason usually given is that it's all "for your own good," or "we all pay for it".

From here out the headings are the titles of the book's chapters.

Benito Mussolini: The Father of Fascism

The ultimate roots of fascism can be found in the Romantic nationalism of the eighteenth century, which culminated in the French Revolution. Jean Jacques Rousseau was the father of fascism and Maximilian Robespierre its executioner.

However, we all associate fascism with the Il Duce himself; Benito Mussolini. What may surprise people - it certainly surprised me - was his Fascist party's political platform. Here is some of it:

  • Lowering the minimum voting age to eighteen, the minimum age for representatives to twenty-five, and universal suffrage, including for women.
  • "The abolition of the Senate and the creation of a national technical council on intellectual and manual labor, industry, commerce, and labor."
  • End of the draft.
  • Repeal of titles of nobility.
  • "A foreign policy aimed at expanding Italy's will and power in opposition to all foreign imperialism"
  • The prompt enactment of a state law sanctioning a legal workday of eight actual hours of work for all workers.
  • A minimum wage.
  • A creation of various government bodies run by workers representatives.
  • The creation of various government bodies run by workers' representatives.
  • Reform of the old-age and pension system and the establishment of age limits for hazardous work.
  • Forcing landowners to cultivate their lands or have them expropriated and given to veterans and farmers' cooperatives.
  • The obligation of the state to build "rigidly secular" schools for the raising of "the proletariat's moral and cultural condition."
  • "A large progressive tax on capital that would amount to a one-time partial expropriation of all riches.
  • "The seizure of all goods belonging to religious congregations and the abolition of all episcopal revinues."
  • The "review" of all military contracts and the "sequestration" of 85% of all war profits."
  • The nationalization of all arms and explosives industries.

Amazing. When you just see this he seems like a pretty good guy.

What's important to understand is that these weren't just words to Mussolini; he meant it. He didn't just use this platform as a trick to get into power, because he implemented as much of it as he could once he was in power. None of this is to excuse him, it's just a statement of fact.

Mussolini started as a socialist and became a populist. "Populism" is not really right-wing, it's more a phenomenon of the left. Populism is a "power to the people" ideology, and is usually a force on the left.

Mussolini made a big deal about "getting beyond labels" and seeking a "third way" between left and right. He promoted himself as a pragmatist who "made the trains run on time." To be sure, he governed as a dictator. But he was no Hitler or Stalin in his level of brutality. He won reelection in 1924 in what were reasonably fair elections, and his granting of womans suffrage gained him applause from no less a source than The New York Times.

Mussolini defined fascism as "Everything in the State, nothing outside the State." Mussolini himself coined the word "totalitarianism" to describe his system, and it's important to note that he meant it in a benevolent manner, as he saw his system as a humane one in which everyone was taken care of.

When Mussolini finally did write out his economic theories in the early 1930s, they looked more like standard socialism than anything else. His goal was to either nationalize industry or regulate it into submission. This was called "corporatism", but it hardly meant that he was in league with big business. Far from it, he was their enemy.

Adolf Hitler: Man of the Left

As with Mussolini's Fascists, Hitler's Nazis tried to transcend left-right labeling and promoted themselves as representing a "Third Way." This said, they campaigned as socialists, stealing issues from the communists because they were trying to appeal to the same worker base. The Nazis chose red as the background for their flag precisely because it was the color the communists used.

What made National Socialism - Nazism - different than other left-wing movements was it's adherence to what we today would call identity politics. With the Nazis it was Aryan supremacy, today it is the ethnic identity of minority groups. This is today something associated with the political left. Again, Goldberg stresses that this does not make modern-day identity groups neo-Nazis. What it does say is that the roots of progressive identity politics go back to the Nazis.

Just because the Nazis were anti-Semites does not make them right-wing, as antisemitism is hardly a phenomenon reserved for the right. Stalin and Karl Marx were a vicious anti-Semites, while Mussolini protected the Jews as long as he could against Hitlers desire to get at them.

Woodrow Wilson and the Birth of Liberal Fascism

Mussolini wasn't the world's first fascist dictator; that honor goes to Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States 1912-1920. If this sounds over-the-top, consider that Wilson arrested or jailed more political dissidents than did Mussolini during his first ten years in power. Wilson's ministry of propaganda was better than Mussolini's. Wilson sent more goons to beat up and harass opponents than did Mussolini (again, during the latter's rule in the 1920s. Mussolini got worse in the 1930s).

The "goons" who carried out Wilson's orders called themselves progressives. Their agenda consisted of eugenics (racial purity and weeding out the unfit), social Darwinism, and imperialism (real imperialism, not the cartoon sort ascribed to President Bush today). They worshiped the State and political power, didn't like organized religion, and looked down on individualism. They thought the U.S. Constitution was outdated and in need of change because it's system of checks and balances impeded quick action.

In short, Woodrow Wilson and the progressive movement of the time had all the bad attributes and more that the left assigns to President Bush and the neocons today.

Theodore Roosevelt also exhibited fascist traits. Much of his appeal was based on a cult of personality. Roosevelt's America would be more like the militarist and welfare state of Prussia than anything else.

Although his campaign slogan in 1916 was "he kept us out of war", when Wilson pushed Congress to declare war on the Central Powers in 1917 almost all progressives supported him. President Wilson then proceeded to set up what can only be described as a fascist police state. His ministry of propaganda, the Committee on Public Information, or CPI, was positively Orwellian in nature. The mission of the CPI was not simply to explain the rationale for war, but to "inflame the American public into "one white-hot mass" under the banner of "100 percent Americanism."" The CPI had offices around the country, and turned out an impressive number of pamphlets, posters, buttons and the like in eleven languages not including English. It hired a hundred thousand "four minute men" who went around the country giving four minute speeches promoting Wilson and the war effort.

In addition to the "four minute men", tens of thousands more were hired to knock on doors and ask residents to sign loyalty oaths, or pledges not to use a certain luxury good that was needed for the war effort. This effort extended down to children, who were asked to sign a pledge called "A Little American's Promise."

Worse than any of this was Wilson's Sedition Act, which banned "uttering, printing, writing, or publishing any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the United States Government or the military." What this translated into was that any criticism of the war effort was forbidden. As an example of how it was enforced, the Postmaster General was given the authority to refuse to deliver any publication he deemed seditious, and there was no appeal to his decision. At least seventy-five periodicals were effectively banned by his refusal to deliver them.

Wilson's Justice Department created the American Protective League to enforce the Sedition Act. APL officers had the authority to read their neighbor's mail and tap their neighbors phones, all without a warrant. It had a "vigilante patrol" whose mission was put a stop to "seditious street oratory" and to physically assault draft dodgers. The Palmer Raids, named after Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, were part of all this.

It is estimated that some 175,000 Americans were arrested for some violation of the Sedition Act or failing to demonstrate appropriate patriotism. Many, though how many is not known exactly, went to jail.

In the end, of course, Wilson left office peacefully, so he was not a Mussolini or Hitler. But his administration was fascist nonetheless.

Franklin Roosevelt's Fascist New Deal

A lighter version of Wilsonian fascism occurred during the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the time of the Great Depression.

At the beginning of this review we noted H.G. Wells use of the term "Liberal Fascism" to describe his brand of socialism. Wells was an ardent admirer of FDR. The reason, of course, was that Wells saw Roosevelt as a liberal fascist.

As with Mussolini and Hitler, Roosevelt was obsessed with "the forgotten man". It wasn't a cynical act for any of them. All were genuinely concerned with the economic well being of the lower-middle classes. And indeed the economy prospered under Hitler. Again none of this is to excuse Hitler or Mussolini, it is just a statement of fact. Further, neither is it to insinuate that Roosevelt was no different than the two dictators. For all his flaws, Roosevelt, like Wilson, did respect the vote and the democratic process.

Many European fascists saw Roosevelt as a kindred spirit. Both Mussolini and Hitler saw their programmes as similar to Roosevelt's New Deal. Mussolini gave a good review of Roosevelt's book Looking Forward. The German press praised FDR and his New Deal.

A core tenant of fascism is the desire to militarize society whether there is an external war to fight or not. The whole point, in fact, of fascism is to mobilize. What is important to understand, though, is that it is society that is being mobilized, not the military. The military is usually involved, but it's participation is not really central to fascism. It is the cartoon version of fascism discussed above that only sees the military aspect of fascism.

The progressives supported American entry into World War I not because they wanted to defeat Germany, but because they saw it as an opportunity to advance their domestic policy goals at home. They wanted to militarize society. It was William James who came up with the term "moral equivalent of war" to justify mobilization for one cause or another.

The New Deal was all about the militarization of society. The premier New Deal project, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) had actually been started during World War I. The National Recovery Administration (NRA) was modeled on Wilson's War Industries Board. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) which constructed many city, state, and national parks, was the most explicitly fascist of all the programs. It's members wore uniforms and was rationalized as a program to "beef up the physical and moral fiber of an embryonic new army" (Goldberg's words).

Worse than the CCC was the NRA mentioned above. it was led by General Hugh "Iron Pants" Johnson, and man who questioned the patriotism of his critics in a manner that would have made Joe McCarthy blush. He continually referred to the NRA and it's mission in military terms, saying for example that "This is war - lethal and more menacing than any other crisis in our history." In fact, Johnson was an ardent admirer of Mussolini's fascist government.

The symbol of the NRA was the Blue Eagle. Usually depicted in textbooks as an innocent symbol that businesses put in their window to show that they went along with NRA guidelines("We do our Part" was the motto under the eagle), it was really the method by which Roosevelt and Johnson bullied businesses into joining. The NRA stuck it's tentacles into every aspect of daily life, or at least tried to. The Blue Eagle was used for propaganda in a way that Goldberg says is difficult to exaggerate, and indeed the whole thing was really more an exercise in state religion than economics. Heaven help any business that refused to sign up, because people were admonished by the government not to buy anything from businesses that didn't have the Blue Eagle in their window.

The bullying wasn't just verbal or economic; it often got quite physical. Johnson sent his goons to smash businesses that wouldn't sign up, and "G-Men" were used to spy on opponents. Goldberg says that "FDR used the post office to punish his enemies and lied repeatedly to maneuver the United States into war, and undermined Congress's war-making powers at several turns." The rationale was that as long as it was for the right cause the constitution didn't matter.

Goldberg is careful to note that despite the fascism in Wilson and Roosevelt's programs, at the end of the day they were not dictators. Neither sought to end elections, and neither cheated (at least not more than their opponents) to win. Theirs was a "nice" fascism.

The 1960s: Fascism Takes to the Streets

The New Left that arose during the 1960s and "took to the streets" had many characteristics of traditional fascism. It prided itself on it's call to unity, but "unity" is at best a morally neutral concept. The Mafia is "unified". Many of the calls to "direct action" were made without any concrete goals in mind, action itself being the objective.
The student groups that took over universities and ousted the faculty were using out and out fascist tactics.

While Nazism is evil, it does not follow that every Nazi was motivated by evil intent. Many Germans joined the Nazi party because they liked Hitler's economic populism, or thought that their country had been treated shabbily by the victors after World War I. But although one might say that Hitler's program had it's "good" parts, it obviously crossed the line into evil. As such, whatever the "good" parts of the New Left of the 1960s, much of it was outright fascist thuggery. '60s leaders such as Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, Mark Rudd, Bernadine Dohrn and others were continually calling for more violence and more destruction, and would have set up an Orwellian totalitarian state if they could have.

The left does not understand that love of country does not by itself lead to fascism. Patriotism is not fascism. During the 1960s the left got the idea that displays of patriotism were fascist and that criticizing one's country was patriotic. Outright anti-Americanism became fashionable among the elite during this time.

From Kennedy's Myth to Johnson's Dream: Liberal Fascism and the Cult of the State

John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson did more than anyone else to establish the federal government as a sort of "state religion." Liberals have used the myth of Kennedy ("Camelot" and all that) to promote this idea, especially the idea that if he had lived we would never have gotten bogged down in Vietnam. The purpose of this was to expand federal power into all aspects of life.

Kennedy, like FDR, turned everything into a "crisis", the better which to whip up popular sentiment so he could get his programs passed. This crisis mongering is classic fascist behavior (though again this alone does not make him a fascist). Kennedy even created "crisis teams" to deal with issues and short-circuit the bureaucracy. Biographer Ted Sorensen counted sixteen "crises" in Kennedy's first 8 months in office alone.

"The Kennedy presidency represented...the final evolution of progressivism into a full-blown religion and national cult of the state." It was a rule by elites ("supermen") who had the special answers to our problems ("gnosticism"), all presided over by a "great man in the mold of Wilson and the Roosevelts" (cult of personality).

Remember, the progressives did not push their liberal totalitarianism because of the world wars or the Great Depression, they were glad that they occurred in that they gave them the opportunity to implement their existing ideas.

It was in the 1920s that American progressives redefined the term "liberal". Previously, the term had meant something along the lines of "individual and economic liberty without state control." It was "freedom from a dictatorial state". Led by John Dewey, they changed this to "freedom from want, from poverty, lack of education" etc. This meant that now the state had to get involved, and the idea of the activist state was born.

Liberal Racism: The Eugenic Ghost in the Fascist Machine

Modern-day liberals claim that they have always occupied the high ground on matters of race. Would that they knew their own history. It was the progressives, fathers of modern liberalism, who were the strongest backers of eugenics, one of the most racist and scary programs of the twentieth century.

If you're not familiar, eugenics is the idea that "human stock" can be improved through controlled breeding, much like we treat cattle or crops. While this might not seem too harmful on the surface, in actuality it led to practices such as state-enforced sterilization of the mentally retarded, those with Down's Syndrome and the like. It also led to much racism, as many white progressives wanted to "control the lesser races."

What is amazing is that the progressive infatuation with eugenics has been almost completely erased from history. We are supposed to believe that on matters of race, liberals have always been the good guys and conservatives the bad guys. In reality, close to the opposite was the truth. The fact is that it was the left that promoted eugenics, and conservatives who opposed it.

Progressives supported eugenics because it was one of the means by which they wanted to achieve their "utopia", or at least a better society. They saw it as all quite scientific. This may seem odd today, but remember that since progressives saw nations as bodies, and problems within them as a disease. Excise the disease and you cure the body.

Progressives admired Hitler's eugenics program. This, too, has been conveniently forgotten. But the reality is that until the truth about how far Hitler intended to go sank in, his ideas looked pretty good to progressives. As with all else, Goldberg stresses that this does not put progressives in league with Hitler, or make them Nazis. No progressive favored mass extermination. But it is a fact that many progressives of the 1930s admired Hitler's program.

In the now notorious case of Beck v Bell, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes supported forced sterilization with his infamous justification that "three generations of imbeciles are enough." The lone dissenter on the bench was Pierce Butler, usually described as an "arch conservative." Goldberg points out that it was the reasoning in Beck v Bellthat "endures in the often unspoken rationale for abortion."

To be sure, just because so many if not most progressives fifty to a hundred years ago were racists doesn't mean that their liberal heirs are too. But it does mean that modern liberalism was built on it, something that liberals are loath to acknowledge.

Margaret Sanger, whose American Birth Control League became Planned Parenthood, was a terrible racist who wanted to use eugenics and abortion to reduce the black population and anyone else she deemed "unfit." She said this directly in her 1922 book The Pivot of Civilization; "More children from the fit; less from the unfit - that is the chief issue of birth control... We want fewer and better children...and we cannot make the social life and the world-peace we are determined to make, with the ill-bred, ill-trained swarms of inferior citizens that you inflict on us." The very stated purpose of her "Negro Project" was to use birth control to reduce the black population.

The mindset that promoted eugenics is that same one that supports abortion. Though the holocaust discredited eugenics, the idea behind it did not really disappear. "Family planning" is simply the term used today for what amounts to something very similar. Indeed, in a way Planned Parenthood is more eugenic that the old eugenicists, as abortion ends more black lives than heart disease, cancer, accidents, AIDS, and violent crime combined.

Liberal Fascist Economics

It is perhaps in the area of economics that fascism is the most misunderstood. In the left's cartoon version, fascism occurs when right-wing politicians conspire with big business to oppress "the little guy," or that European fascists were tools of big business. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, as Goldberg demonstrates, "in the left's eternal vigilance to fend off fascism, they have in fact created it, albeit with a friendly face."

The fact is that the more free the market, the less fascist, and the more regulated and close to the political center, the more fascist. The far left, at outright government ownership, is socialist. Remember; it was Hitler and Mussolini who promoted themselves by claiming that they were neither left nor right but represented a "Third way."

Both Mussolini and Hitler were supported by small donations, and not, for the most part, by money from big corporations. Both denounced big business and the wealthy time and again, Hitler most notably in Mein Kampf. Their political platforms stressed regulating business and taxing the wealthy to benefit the working middle class.

Fascism is when the state says to business "You may stay in business and own your factories. In the spirit of cooperation and unity, we will even guarantee you profits and a lack of serious competition. In exchange, we expect you to agree with - and help implement, - our political agenda." This was not only the deal that Hitler and Mussolini made with big business in their respective countries, but it was pretty much the one that Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt imposed during the First World War and Great Depression as well. None of this can be called "right wing."

Indeed, as part of his New Deal FDR asked big business to write the very laws under which they would be regulated, and they happily obliged. In doing so they managed things so as to eliminate as much competition as possible through the simple expedient of making the laws so stringent that only the biggest of corporations could implement them. Thus, smaller competitors were regulated out of business.

Even more shocking, New Deal progressives studied Mussolini's corporatism, admiringly, in order to find things that they could apply here. The feelings were reciprocated across the Atlantic, with both Italian fascists and German Nazis praising Roosevelt and the New Deal.

"Fascism is the cult of unity, within all spheres and between all spheres." Therefore, as long as they followed the political goals of the regime they could keep their businesses.

it is forgotten today, but the Nazis were what we today would call "health freaks." Among their many campaigns were ones to reduce alcohol consumption by replacing beer with fruit drinks, fight smoking (before anyone else they saw the link between smoking and cancer) and promote organic foods.

In Nazi Germany, businesses proved their bona fides by being "good corporate citizens", not too different than what we have in the United States today. To be sure, what constituted being loyal differed considerably, but the philosophy is the same. In Germany it was firing Jews, in the United States today it is promoting "diversity" or "environmentalism."

Brave New Village: Hillary Clinton and the Meaning of Liberal Fascism

Goldberg uses Hillary Clinton's 1996 book It Takes a Village to Raise a Child as the example par excellence of modern-day fascist thinking. It's very title, indeed, is about as fascist as you can get. If the motto of the Mussolini's fascism was "everything in the State, nothing outside the the State, then the implicit motto of It Takes a Village to Raise a Child is "everything in the village, nothing outside the village." The message is clear; your children belong to "everyone" which in the modern world means the state.

All this does not, he stresses, mean that Hillary is evil. Far from it, for hers is "nice fascism", all meant for good. That she means it for well, however, does not make it less fascist.

"Civil society" has traditionally meant free and open "independent associations of citizens who pursue their own interests and ambitions free from state interference or coercion" and "the way various groups, individuals, and families work for their own purposes, the result of which is to make the society healthily democratic." It consists of churches, labor unions, all those clubs and organizations that people form for their own purposes and as long as they are not outright criminal are outside the control of the state.

Hillary has a different view of civil society. To her it is a "term social scientists use to describe the way we work together for common purposes." This is factually incorrect and startlingly totalitarian. There are no truly free associations or clubs in Hillary's world, for everything in her "village" is managed or controlled by the state to achieve "common purposes."

Hillary's "politics of meaning" is therefore a totalitarian philosophy. Again, this is "nice totalitarianism", but totalitarianism nonetheless. Also important to note is that she claims that she is promoting a "Third Way" approach.

Hillary and her cohort Marian Wright Edelman justify everything by saying that it's "for the children." And it's not just that she wants to make their current situation better; to her the children are in a state of crisis. Indeed, to her childhood itself was a crisis. There is no better to erase the wall between government and the private sphere than to declare a crisis.

Using "the children" as a propaganda tool to advance their goals was a brilliant political stroke. For Hillary it was just an opening to a broader political agenda. To her, families are not private units. Indeed, she has said that "As adults we have to start thinking and believing that there isn't really any such thing as someone else's child...For that reason, we cannot permit discussions of children and families to be subverted by political or ideological debate." It is indeed a favorite trick of the left to declare that one of their political goals is not in fact political, as anyone who has debated a liberal on the issue of "diversity" or "multiculturalism" has discovered.

Liberalism's entire "cult of the child" is similar, Goldberg says, to fascist thought. Children are controlled by their passions and feelings. Fascism is driven by will (see Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will). Our youth culture is driven by narcissism, so was fascism.

The New Age: We're All Fascists Now

When I was in high school in the 1970s I read both George Orwell's 1984 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Both impressed me, but the former more than the latter, because I saw 1984 as a metaphor for the Cold War, which I saw as more relevant. Over the years I've reread each work once or twice, and recently have come to believe that while Orwell's work was more relevant for the twentieth century, Brave New World is the better warning for what we face today.

It was therefore flattering yet unsurprising to read that Goldberg has reached the exact same conclusion. The totalitarianism of a Hillary Clinton or Al Gore is not that of Hitler or Stalin, but it deprives us of our freedom nonetheless. Today's totalitarianism, or Liberal Fascist State, is one in which everyone is at least nominally happy. All of our needs are met, and indeed no Gestapo or KGB will be coming to break down our doors.

Environmental Fascism

Environmentalism, Goldberg says, is fascistic partially because of it's "crisis mechanism." Al Gore and others preach the gospel of global warming and insist that the world will come to an end if we do not take immediate action. Anyone who demurs is denounced and called a 'denier" or worse. He and others like him will brook no debate. Worse, they insist on all sorts of measures that would create a sort of "economic dictatorship" of just the type that progressives have always wanted.

Environmentalism in general, and the "global warming" movement in particular, are totalitarian. Everything is or can be said to be an environmental issue. The new worry is our "carbon footprint", and every human activity is said to emit carbon, and therefore is to be regulated.

Environmentalism is also quite totalitarian because everything falls under it's aegis. Nothing is private, or out of the reach of environmentalism, because they see every activity as influencing the environment, and thus worthy of regulation. From the food you eat, to the material your sofa is made of, to the light bulbs in your house, they want to regulate it all.

There are many parallels with modern environmentalism and Nazism. Part of the Nazi program was centered on what we today would call "environmentalism." Nazi thinkers were worried about the whales, nature preserves, and "sustainable forestry". They were very concerned about eating habits, and there was a virtual "cult of the organic" among Nazi leaders. Hitler was a vegetarianism and Himmler pushed for animal rights legislation.

Interestingly, the Nazis used the same rationale that modern environmentalists use; "the common good supersedes the private good." A Hitler Youth manual instructed that "food is not a private matter!" and that "you have the duty to be healthy!" Today we hear smoking and trans-fats bans justified with the "we'll all pay" line.

The Tempting of Conservatism

Although fascism is a leftist ideology, and most fascist traits today can be found on the left, the right is not immune. Goldberg identifies three areas in modern conservatism where strains of fascism can be found.

The first is "nostalgia" to the extent that it romanticizes the past into something it was not. This leads to trouble when conservatives try and translate "traditional values" into national programs. Goldberg only devotes one short paragraph to this, and I'm not entirely sure what he means. Based on years of reading his writing at National Review, I know he's not saying that conservatives should not champion their values in response to the "kultursmog", or that anti-abortion laws are fascist.

The second area where Goldberg says conservatism gets into trouble is when in desperation it turns into "me too" conservatism. Here conservatives start to copy progressives, and it turns into a "liberal fascism light."

Lastly, conservatives are not immune to the temptation of identity politics. Sometimes conservatives are tempted to mirror-image liberal identity politics to give them a taste of their own medicine, such as a white conservative referring to himself as a "Euro-American" or some such. It is all very fine to hold conservative Christian values, for example, and of course to base one's voting or governance on such values. Proposing a Department of Judeo-Christian Culture, however, would be going too far.

Goldberg identifies Patrick J. Buchanan as the one conservative who has these characteristics. William F Buckley Jr, "officially" drummed Buchanan out of the conservative movement in 1991 by accusing him (and a few others) of Anti-Semitism in his book (and NRO article of the same title) In Search of Anti-Semitism. Ever though, Buchanan still hovers around the edges of the movement, and appears as a guest on certain conservative radio talk-shows.

Really more of a populist and neo-progressive than a conservative, Buchanan identifies himself as a "paleoconservative." Nevertheless, he has at various times come out against free market trading, the flat tax, in favor of capping executive pay, in support of higher unemployment benefits, and backs a "third way" type of governance. On foreign policy he is famously isolationist and generally opposes Israeli policies. The thesis of his latest book, Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, that World War II was an unnecessary war, is downright bizarre.

For what it's worth, I wrote off Buchanan some time ago. First it was his isolationist foreign policy. Then, however, I became less and less comfortable with his talk about immigrants and the need to preserve our culture. I'm as anti-illegal immigration as the next conservative, and I want English as the official language of our country, but Buchanan takes it all too far. And if WFB says he's an anti-Semite, that's good enough for me.

My Take

The danger is that immediately upon reading the book you tend to be hyper sensitive to anything in the news that appears in the slightest fascist. It is tempting to see something fascist in all movements you don't like. I'll try and resist the temptation in the weeks and months ahead.

This warning acknowledged, I would be remiss if I pretended that there was nothing in the news that did not smack of fascism. The anti-smoking movement has morphed from something laudable into fanaticism. It's all very well to promote healthy living, but we've crossed the line when legislators want to ban "trans fats." And can't we live our lives the way we want without some sort of enforced "national service" plan?

All in all this is one of the most important books I have read in the past several years, and comes highly recommended, whether you end up agreeing with all of his conclusions or not. Goldberg has defined and explained a political ideology of which I only had a vague notion. He has also explained much about the history of the progressive movement that I had not known about. Get this book and read it.

Posted by Tom at 8:00 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 29, 2007

Quote of the Century

Michael Ledeen says this is the quote of the century, and it's hard to disagree with him other than to ask why we should limit it to one century

It appears we have appointed our worst generals to command forces, and our most gifted and brilliant to edit newspapers! In fact, I discovered by reading newspapers that these editor/geniuses plainly saw all my strategic defects from the start, yet failed to inform me until it was too late. Accordingly, I'm readily willing to yield my command to these obviously superior intellects, and I'll, in turn, do my best for the cause by writing editorials - after the fact.

Robert E. Lee, 1863

Posted by Tom at 8:25 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 24, 2007

Fake Arguments against Democracy

The latest argument coming from the left is that by not supporting Hamas, the Bush Administration, and conservatives in general, do not respect Democracy.

Here's Jimmy Carter (h/t NRO)

The United States, Israel and the European Union must end their policy of favoring Fatah over Hamas, or they will doom the Palestinian people to deepening conflict between the rival movements, former US President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday.

Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was addressing a conference of Irish human rights officials, said the Bush administration's refusal to accept the 2006 election victory of Hamas was "criminal."

Carter said Hamas, besides winning a fair and democratic mandate that should have entitled it to lead the Palestinian government, had proven itself to be far more organized in its political and military showdowns with the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Next up is a writer on the Daily Kos (h/t LGF)

The extreme contempt both Israel and the U.S. have for democracy means that, despite recent events in Gaza, the isolation and strangulation of Hamas and the Palestinians of Gaza will likely continue. The probable Israeli response to Hamas’ assumption of power in Gaza will be to ease restrictions in the West Bank and engage in meaningless “peace talks” with Abbas, with the cynical aim of increasing his popularity relative to Hamas’. In the long-term, however, if Hamas remains resilient and does not submit to external pressures to relinquish power, we could very possibly witness a full-blown “‘Bay of Pigs’ type invasion of Gaza”, with Dahlan at its head.

If what we want to see is a relatively stable Palestinian democracy with the capacity to engage in meaningful peace negotiations with Israel (and again I emphasise that these are not the objectives of the Israeli government), the policies we should follow are obvious, as they have been for months. The Hamas government should be recognised as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and should be engaged with in the form of meaningful final status negotiations.

Sorry, but I'm not buying this.

The whole issue raises interesting, and I don't think completely easy to answer, questions about the nature of democracy, and it's twin, liberty.

The short version of my answer is that there is a lot more to democracy than just the mechanics of voting. Carter I'm not so sure about, but I have to think that most liberals and even leftists know this full well. So when the folks at Kos berate conservatives for not accepting Hamas because they were elected, I have to think they're not being entirely serious in their criticism, because it's eithe that or they're outright apologists for terrorism. I have to think that most who spout this line are just blinded by their hatred of President Bush. In short, they've got Bush Derangement Syndrome.

After all, if the Ku Klux Klan started winning elections in the U.S., I can't imagine the left would accept their right to rule regardless of the fairness of the vote.

Likewise, the Nazi party won a plurality of the vote in the 1933 elections, coming in first with 43.9%, more than twice that of their nearest opponent. The election itself was relatively free and fair, but who today would say that it really represented "democracy"?

All of this brings to the forefront the central question of elections and their relationship to what we think of as "democracy": Is it just or acceptable for a non-democratic party to come to power through elections?

What is Democracy?

The US Department of State helpfully provides a longish definition. Here are some of the highlights

Freedom and democracy are often used interchangeably, but the two are not synonymous. Democracy is indeed a set of ideas and principles about freedom, but it also consists of a set of practices and procedures that have been molded through a long, often tortuous history. In short, democracy is the institutionalization of freedom.

Several "Pillars of Democracy" are listed

# Sovereignty of the people. # Government based upon consent of the governed. # Majority rule. # Minority rights. # Guarantee of basic human rights. # Free and fair elections. # Equality before the law. # Due process of law. # Constitutional limits on government. # Social, economic, and political pluralism. # Values of tolerance, pragmatism, cooperation, and compromise.

Wikipedia says that

Liberal democracy is a representative democracy along with the protection of minorities, the rule of law, a separation of powers, and protection of liberties (thus the name liberal) of speech, assembly, religion, and property.

I think that most Westerners can agree that all of the above are pretty good definitions of democracy.

Back to the Palestinian Authority

Clearly, then, Hamas does not qualify as an institution committed to democracy. Neither, for that matter, does Fatah. Therefore, when the Kos author talks about "extreme contempt both Israel and the U.S. have for democracy" we can conclude that he either has no understanding of democracy, is just off on a political rant and is thus guilty of lazy thinking, or is just an apologist for terrorism. Or, as I mentioned above, he's got BDS.

As for ex-President Carter, I think he's just a bitter old man. He never reconciled himself to this 1980 defeat, and for a Christian seems not to have learned how to forgive. He's thrown in with the worst dictators, has become a virtual anti-Semite, and I believe will be judged harshly by history.

The Algerian Example

What if a situation develops whereby a political party promises to dismantle the institutions of democracy if it is elected? What if it actually wins a majority of the popular vote?

Such a situation has actually occured, not once but several times in the post-WWII era.

In 1991, the Islamic Salvation Front won the first round of Algeria's first multi-party elections. The ISF had promised to turn the country into an Islamic state and institute sharia law. After the voting, the military stepped in and annuled the elections. Western governments either applauded or remained silent. This led to a civil war, and some 160,000 people were killed over the next ten years. However, in the end the insurgents were defeated and a true democracy (republic, actually) is emerging.

What it Means

We in the West are good at the mechanics of voting. Through international agencies we can set up relatively free and fair votes most of the time.

But our record at installing actual democratic values has been rather hit-or-miss. We got it right in Germany and Japan. India has also turned out to be a stable democracy. We got it wrong in Zimbabwe and most other African states. El Salvadore seems to be doing well, but Nicaragua not so much.

Iraq somewhat parallels the Palestinian Authority. It was easy enough for us to set up voting, not so easy to convince people to respect each other's liberty.

In the end, then, we need to recognise that democracy is about more than voting. We need to think harder about what it takes to instill concepts of liberty in troubled regions, and not fixate on voting. This is a tough subject, and will require much thinking and trial and error in order to get it right in a place like Iraq. The first step, though, is to have moral clarity on the subject, and to recognize the true nature of democracy.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 24, 2007

Edwards Shows His Colors

On the one hand this is really no big surprise, but it's interesting to hear him say so plainly that he doesn't believe that there's any jihadist or Islamist threat to the West (h/t NRO)

The war on terror is a slogan designed only for politics, not a strategy to make America safe. It's a bumper sticker, not a plan. It has damaged our alliances and weakened our standing in the world. As a political "frame," it's been used to justify everything from the Iraq War to Guantanamo to illegal spying on the American people. It's even been used by this White House as a partisan weapon to bludgeon their political opponents. Whether by manipulating threat levels leading up to elections, or by deeming opponents "weak on terror," they have shown no hesitation whatsoever about using fear to divide.

But the worst thing about this slogan is that it hasn't worked. The so-called "war" has created even more terrorism—as we have seen so tragically in Iraq. The State Department itself recently released a study showing that worldwide terrorism has increased 25% in 2006, including a 40% surge in civilian fatalities.

By framing this as a "war," we have walked right into the trap that terrorists have set—that we are engaged in some kind of clash of civilizations and a war against Islam.

There are so many things wrong in this it's hard do know where to start.

First, there's the big lie that the Bush Administration is manipulating threat levels for political purposes. Where's the proof, John? None, of course, is offered, because there is none to be had. Just because a threat level is turned up before an election doesn't mean that it was done for political reasons. One of the most basic tenants of logic and statistics is that association is not causation.

One thing that amazes me about the anti-war left is that they tend to assume that all of our intelligence findings about the enemy must be made public, and that anyting that is not public doesn't exist. The have no understanding that so much happens behind the scenes, things that won't and shouldn't be made public for dozens of years. The public actions officials take are but the tip of the iceberg, and the public sees only a bit of what is going on.

Judith Coplon

One example should suffice.

In 1949 an employee at the Justice Department named Judith Coplon was arrested in the act of handing top-secret documents to a known KGB agent. FBI agents had been following her for some time, and as she was handing the documents to the Russian agent the FBI swooped in and arrested them both. Coplon was caught red handed, as it were.

Newspaper reporters asked FBI officials how it was that they suspected her. They told some story about how they watched everyone in the DOJ records department, and discovered that Coplon was pilfering documents.

Coplon was convicted in two separate trials, but each time an appeals court ruled that certain evidence the government presented was inadmissable, and nullified the convictions. Eventually the government gave up and she was let free.

Fast forward to 1994. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan's (D-NY) Commission on Government Secrecy has the job of deciding which old covert programs can safely be made public. There is, after all, no reason to keep things classified forever, and the public should know about the successful efforts of our clandestine services.

One of the programs that Moynihan's commission decides to make public was project Venona. During project Venona, the Signals Intelligence Service (the precursor to today's NSA) intercepted and decrypted hundreds of cables sent from the Soviet embassy in Washington DC to Moscow during 1942-45. They were not able to decrypt all cables, and some were only partially decrypted, but the intelligence haul was monumental nonetheless.

In the cables some 349 American agents working for one or another Soviet intelligence service were identified by code name. Of these, American intelligence was able to identify by name 171, leaving 178 unidentified to this day.

Among those identified in the cables was Judith Coplon.

At Coplon's trial, government prosecutors had a problem. If they revealed the existance of project Venona, the KGB would be alerted to the fact that many of it's agents had been compromised, and the Soviets would redouble their efforts to secure their codes. On the other hand, by not revealing Venona, much of the government evidence that was presented might get thrown out (you'll have to read the details of the trials yourself if you want to know why, because the technicalities would time some time to explain and I'm not a lawyer anyway).

In the end, the prosecution took the only decision they could; they kept Venona secret. Partially as a result of this decision, Coplon's two convictions were overturned and she walked.

Back to Edwards

In case it's not blindingly obvious by the example above, project Venona also revealed that Alger Hiss and Julius Rosenberg were Soviet spys. Yet for decades the far left claimed that they were innocent victims of McCarthyism.

No I am not saying that we should blindly trust whatever the Bush Administration tells us. What I am saying is that people need to be aware that when they turn up the terrorist threat level and only issue vague justifications we need to understand that there is a lot going on that we don't know about, and won't for decades.

So when Edwards talks about the Bush Administration "manipulating threat levels leading up to elections" he sounds like a complete idiot.

War on Terror?

In a way, Edwards is right when he says that there is no War on Terror. Unfortunately, his reason is completely wrong.

The correct answer would have been to say that we're in a War on Terror makes about as much sense as describing World War II as a War on Blitzkreig. It wasn't about fighting a tactic, but rather about fighting an ideology.

As such, as I've said many times, we're really in a "War on Jihadism". Our enemies, in their videos, pamphlets, and communications, call themselves "men of jihad". We ought to do them the favor of taking seriously what they say.

But is it a war? Edwards thinks not. Like most liberals, he distrusts and dislikes military action, and any military action is usually characterized as "an over reliance" on it.

The jihadists have been saying for decades that they are in a war against us. When Osama bin Laden issued his famous 1998 Fatwa declaring war against the United States, neither Republicans nor Democrats took them seriously, to say nothing of the major media. Stunned by this non-reaction, bin Laden took it as a sign from Allah that the United States was ready to be attacked. We paid the deadly consequences on September 11.

Of course we're in a war. Using this term does not, as Edwards supposes, mean that military action is our predominant method of fighting it. For over 40 years we fought what was properly called the "Cold War" against the Soviet Union, yet employed many methods other than military action to win it. Does he want us to rename that time period also?

For that matter President Johnson and other liberals declared a "War on Poverty" in the 1960s. The plain fact is that applying the term "war" to something does not mean that those involved necessarily see military action as the prime or only method of fighting it.

Playing Defense

Much else that Edwards says in the speech is silly as well. Consider this passage

We must be clear about when it is appropriate for a commander-in-chief to use force. As president, I will only use offensive force after all other options including diplomacy have been exhausted, and after we have made efforts to bring as many countries as possible to our side. However, there are times when force is justified: to protect our vital national interests... to respond to acts of aggression by other nations and non-state actors... to protect treaty allies and alliance commitments... to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons... and to prevent or stop genocide.

Sorry, but no it isn't clear at all as to when you'd use military force. As Jim Geraghty comments, "Okay, but how would he, or any other President, know that all other options have been exhausted? How do you know with 100 percent certainty that no additional efforts, concessions, negotiations, requests, or efforts at persuasion will bring on additional allies? When is it considered enough?"

Recall that in 1991 a majority of Democrats in the House and Senate voted against the resolution authorizing President George H.W. Bush to eject Saddam from Kuwait. Yet the Bush Administration had garnered worldwide support, and had all of the necessary Security Council resolutions in place. If that wasn't enough, what was?

It would seem, therefore, that Edwards is setting up a series of conditions that he know cannot be met. No matter how much failed negotiation takes place, he can always say that we ought to give it "another chance".

This is nothing new from the Democrats. Some time ago I reflected on all of the little conditions they were setting up and drafted some new rules for going go war Democrat-style.

And Finally

One of two more points and I'll let this go. Edwards again

But I will also remove any civilian or military officer who stifles debate or simply tells me what I want to hear.

What does this even mean? That he's going to fire anyone who agrees with him? This is the sort of pap that gets applause from the crowd but doesn't really mean anything. I t sounds good in theory but would be hard to actually enforce.

These troops are exhausted and overworked, and we have been forced to dig deeper and deeper to find ground forces for Iraq and Afghanistan. This leaves us ill-prepared for the future. Today, every available combat active-duty Army combat brigade has been to Iraq or Afghanistan for at least one 12-month tour. We are sending some troops back to Iraq with less than a year's rest. To make matters worse, the Secretary of Defense just extended tours from 12 to 15 months, which is unconscionable.

The proper response, of course, would be to rebuild our armed forces, which have fallen disasterously in size since the end of the Cold War.

Last month the editors of National Review provided some facts that shows just how small our military has become compared to the force that ejected Saddam from Kuwait.

From 1974 to 1989, the Army had 770,000 to 780,000 active troops (all of them volunteers). Today, we have around 508,000. The Navy had 568 ships in the late 1980s; today it has 276, and its manpower is so reduced that it often has to helicopter sailors from homebound ships to outbound ones in order to keep them staffed. The Air Force’s number of tactical air wings has shrunk from 37 to 20, and the average age of its aircraft is 24 years (as compared with nine years in 1973).

In addition (sorry but I can't find the link just now to prove it) during most of the Cold War we spent about 8% of GDP on defense. Today it's under 4%. For a time we spent about 50% of the federal budget on defense, today I believe it's under 20%. One of the biggest failures of the Bush Administration has been to not increase the size of our armed forces.

Edwards gives a positively Clintonian response as to whether he'd increase the size of our military

The problem of our force structure is not best dealt with by a numbers game. It is tempting for politicians to try and "out-bid" each other on the number of troops they would add. Some politicians have fallen right in line behind President Bush's recent proposal to add 92,000 troops between now and 2012, with little rationale given for exactly why we need this many troops—particularly with a likely withdrawal from Iraq.

The numbers game only gets us into the same problems as the president's approach. We must be more thoughtful about what the troops will actually be used for. Any troops we add today would take a number of years to recruit and train, and so will not help us today in Iraq.

We might need a substantial increase of troops in the Army, Marine Corps, and Special Forces for four reasons: to rebuild from Iraq; to bolster deterrence; to decrease our heavy reliance on Guard and Reserve members in military operations; and to deploy in Afghanistan and any other trouble spots that could develop.

So does this mean he would or wouldn't increase the size of the military? I can't tell. 5 1/2 years from 9/11 and 4 years after the start of OIF and the best he tell us is that he "might" substantially increase the size of the military?

What he's doing is trying to have it both ways. In the first paragraph of the quoted secrion he's playing to the Kos kids, and in the last to whatever hawks are left in the Democrat party. In coming months he'll point to whichever paragraph suits him depending on his audience.

In short, Edwards gives us no reason to think that he would be a competent commander in chief. He is clueless as to the threat our nation faces, and has no serious plans to defeat the jihadists.

Posted by Tom at 12:30 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 18, 2007

Copperheads in Congress


I don't suppose there's anyone in their right mind today who couldn't imagine not fighting to free people imprisoned in the hell of slavery, especially when it's happening on your own soil.

And if you're like me, when you were younger and less well-read you had this view of events like the American Revolution, Civil War (from the North's perspective), and World War II as glorious crusades in which "of course" we were all in it together.

But it were the truth. Most history books will tell you that only about 1/3 of the colonists supported independence, another 1/3 were loyal to the crown, and the last 1/3rd just didn't care. Up until Dec 7 1941 up to 80% of Americans wanted nothing to do with aiding the British in any shape way or form. Yet who today could imagine not wanting to fight the Nazis?

We all know, I suppose, that the North stumbled many times in the road to victory. Lincoln went through general after general before he found one who could consistently win. And then after the victories of early 1863, came the losses of later in that year and early 1864.

The Federal Army was unable to fill it's ranks with volunteers and resorted to a draft, which proved so unpopular that riots broke out in New York City over it. Many northern Democrats, disappointed in the way the war was being conducted, decided that it wasn't worth it.

These "peace Democrats" became known as Copperheads. By 1864 they had gained effective control of their party.

There was a presidential election in 1864. From the Democrat Party Platform:

Resolved, That this convention does explicitly declare, as the sense of the American people, that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, during which, under the pretense of a military necessity of war-power higher than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part, and public liberty and private right alike trodden down, and the material prosperity of the country essentially impaired, justice, humanity, liberty, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, with a view of an ultimate convention of the States, or other peaceable means, to the end that, at the earliest practicable moment, peace may be restored on the basis of the Federal Union of the States.

Amazing, isn't it? Yet it's true; the "peace Democrats" of 1864 wanted an immediate end to the fighting and a negotiated peace that would undoubtably have left slavery in peace. Today's Democrats want an immediate withdrawal regardless of consequences, which would be a huge victory for the jihadists.

As with the Civil War Copperheads, today's variety think that they have the public behind them. They are convinced that the results of the last election "prove" that the American people want an unconditional withdrawal. But as a poll published in Investor's Business Daily points out, it isn't that simple (hat tip Power Line)


From the accompanying editorial

The party of John Murtha shamelessly seeks to defund and defeat U.S. troops on the battlefield and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The Congress the terrorists wanted is doing their bidding ...

As we've noted on several occasions, Democratic talk of "redeployment" has encouraged terrorist groups around the world.

Jihad Jaara, a senior member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, said before the 2006 vote: "Americans should vote Democratic," adding that "it is time the American people support those who want to take them out of the Iraqi mud." The statement could have come from Murtha, Kerry, Hillary or any number of Democrats.

We find it scary that the Democratic and terrorist game plans are indistinguishable.

I'd say that's about right. I'm reading Walid Phares' Future Jihad, which is the best book I've read on the terrorists period. He lays it out just as IBD says; that one of OBL's objectives was to get us to become divided and fight each other. Critics will say that it's all President Bush's fault, that if only we hadn't invaded Iraq we'd all be in it together.

Hogwash. The left would still object to the Patriot Act and Gitmo. Take Iraq out of it and the right and left still have fundamentally different views of what the war is even about. The right sees it as a war against fundamentalist Islam, and the left sees it as a police action against criminals. But more on that when I review Phares' book.

John Murtha has become the chief Copperhead and his plan for our defeat is in full swing. The Washington Times explained on Friday that

When the House votes today on the resolution denouncing Mr. Bush's plans for additional troops to combat al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in Iraq, members should be under no illusions about what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic Party leadership are trying to do: to make it impossible for American troops to properly do their job in Iraq. In an interview yesterday with, a Web site for a coalition of anti-war groups, Mr. Murtha, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, explained that by placing conditions on $93.4 billion in new combat funds, he would make be able to effectively stop the troops in their tracks. "They won't be able to continue. They won't be able to do the deployment. They won't have the equipment, they don't have the training and they won't be able to do the work. There's no question in my mind," Mr. Murtha said.

"We will set benchmarks for readiness," a top Democratic leadership aide told the nonpartisan Web site, which summarized the Democrats' strategy this way: "If enacted, these provisions would have the effect of limiting the number of troops available for the Bush surge plan, while blunting the GOP charge that Democrats are cutting funding for the troops in Iraq."

No one should be fooled by Murtha's "readyness standards". They're fraudulent and everyone knows it. If you don't believe me listen to what Murtha himself said as quoted by the IBD article

"We're trying to force a redeployment not by taking money away, (but) by redirecting money,"

The Democrats, and some Republicans, don't just think that the Keane-Kagan plan, "A Plan for Success in Iraq", around which the "surge" is based, won't work, they're trying to ensure that it won't . It's shameful enough that they've given our most vicious enemies aid and comfort with their stupid resolutions, now they're trying to pull the rug out from under our troops feet too.

Copperheads, all of them.

Posted by Tom at 9:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 26, 2007

Two Wars

This from today's Washington Times "Inside the Ring" column

Sen. James H. Webb Jr., Virginia Democrat and decorated war hero, gave the Democrats' response to President Bush's State of the Union address, and likened Iraq to the 1950-53 Korean War.

Mr. Webb said, "As I look at Iraq, I recall the words of former general and soon-to-be President Dwight Eisenhower during the dark days of the Korean War, which had fallen into a bloody stalemate. 'When comes the end?' asked the general who had commanded our forces in Europe during World War II. And as soon as he became president, he brought the Korean War to an end."

We think that is an apt comparison, but probably not for the same reason as Mr. Webb's.

Like Iraq, the U.S. war in Korea was dogged by poor planning, the wrong types of troops, failed tactics and major miscalculations, such as China coming to the communist north's defense. The American death toll: 36,000 in theater.

But in the end, America won. The north's invasion was reversed and the south was preserved. It matured into one of the world's great democracies, free markets and U.S. allies. And a free South Korea helped blunt Josef Stalin's plan for a communist Asia. What some have called the "forgotten war" was messy and unpopular. It drove Harry S. Truman from office. But it made the world a better place. It just took 30 years to realize it.

What's interesting is that at the time the Korean War was not necessarily seen as a victory. But there's also another war that we fought some time ago that didn't work out so well, but that most people today would say was absolutely necessary.

But before we get to that war, let's talk a bit about Korea.

My point here, btw, is not to go after Senator Webb. Both he and the President gave pretty good speeches the other night. As you may guess I thought the President did better, but that's not what I want to talk about here.

Back to Korea. If you're not sure why the Korean War was viewed as a fiasco at the time, you can start with Task Force Smith and the Chosin Reservoir.

Our initial justificatioin for fighting the North Korean invasion was to simply preserve the integrity of the South. However, after we successfully turned the tide with the invasion of Inchon, President Truman changed his war goals and decided to liberate the entire peninsula. General MacArthur dismissed warnings that the Chinese would intervene if he got too close to their border. As we know, the Chinese did intervene in a massive invasion that inflicted tremendous casualties on US forces and drove us completely out of the north. A stalemate ensued that was only ended when newly elected President Eisenhower negotiated an armistice (not a peace treaty) with the Chinese and North Koreans.

We were so traumatized by the Chinese intervention that during the Vietnam War 15 years later we imposed strict requirements on our pilots when they attacked targets in the north. At the time, we saw the lesson of Korea as "don't piss off the Chinese or Russians or they'll intervene and cause a wider war".

Yet as the article from the Times points out, South Korea is a stable democracy today and generally a very good ally. Sure, we've got some current disagreements over policy with regard to the north (see "Sunshine Policy"), but all-in-all it's hard to find anyone today who doesn't think the Korean War was worth it. However, at the time Truman was much-criticized for it.

Another War

One-hundred forty-odd years ago the United States fought another war that was, at times, deeply unpopular. It was said to be an unnecessary war, one that could have been resolved by negotiation, the President was accused of changing his goals halfway through it, and of massively violating our civil rights. Further, the war was conducted incompetently and the reconstruction period afterwards solved nothing. The oppressed people it was supposed to benefit didn't get their rights for another hundred years.

I write, of course, of the American Civil War. President Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus, probably illegally. While he initially justified the war simply to preserve the union, after the battle of Antietam he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, effectively introducing abolution as a justification and war goal. The Emancipation Proclamation was very controversial in the North, with some troops even threatening desertion over it.

Some Democrats in the North became almost violently anti-war. They became known as "Copperheads".

By 1863 and early 1864 the war was going very poorly for the North. The Federal Army was unable to meet it's recruiting goals, which led to the imposition of a draft. The draft proved so unpopular that riots in New York City broke out over it.

Because of these and battlefield setbacks, the war opponents gained much strength. They were able to take over the Democrat party to the extent that the Democrat Party Platform for the 1864 presidential elections demanded "that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities" and a negotiated peace with the South.

Of course, the North won and the Union was restored. But the Reconstruction period that followed was marred by political disputes up North, the long and short of it being that it ended in 1877 without the civil rights of blacks being assured. With the imposition of Jim Crow, a visitor to the South in the 1920s or 30s might be forgiven for wondering if in fact the Civil War achieved anything at all.

How We View History

Maybe I'm all wet, but it is my perception that the way we view events like the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War II is that "we were all in it together" fighting for a glorious cause. Because the Korean War is more recent, I think many people have at least some inkling of the controversies involved, at least that of the insubordination of General MacArthur.

But when I go back and read the history of these events, what amazes me is how much we fought with each other. The colonialists seemed to spend as much time bickering with each other as they did fighting the British. When you read about how the New Englanders opposed the selection of George Washington to lead the Continental Army soley because he was a Virginian, and they wanted "their man" in charge, you just want to go back in history and scream at them. And this is not to mention that only about 1/3 of the colonists even supported revolution. But this is how history works, I think.

So here we are today with the current situation in Iraq. I've made no secret of both my disappointment with how President Bush has done in handling it and the larger War on Jihad, but right now I'm even more disappointed by the anti-war crowd.

Laying that aside for the moment, we need to realize that wars that are seen as obviously necessary today were often quite controvesial at the time.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 28, 2006

Gerald Ford - An Appreciation

My earliest political memories are of watching the 1976 Republican National Convention. My parents were supporters of President Ford, and therefore so was I. I was not the rebellious type, then or now. Besides, what Ford said and stood for seemed to make sense.

There was an interloper at the convention, who my parents felt threatened to split the party and thus lessen our chances of victory. All I remember was watching the TV cameras turn to someone called Ronald Reagan, who was sitting in the audience, and who waved to his fans who in turn cheered him. My parents didn't like this, for reasons not entirely clear to me at the time. In later years they became huge Reagan supporters, and it became evident that theirs was simply a call for party unity.

Ford of course lost the election, and so the first presidency I followed with any detail was that of Jimmy Carter. In the next four years the country seemed to careen from crisis to crisis, with the president having no clear idea of what to do about any of them.

The only thing I recall with any specificity about Ford's term was the Mayagüez incident, and it seemd to me that he did the right thing, given what he knew at the time he made the crucial decision to send in the Marines and Navy to rescue the captured crewmembers.

During one of their debates, Carter criticized Ford over his handling of the incident, which I thought terribly unfair.

In later years I, like most people, I suppose, remember Ford mainly for what he didn't do after leaving the presidency; criticize his successors. He went away to do...well I wasn't sure quite what he did all those years, but had the vague feeling it was sitting in some distinguished post somewhere offering sage advice in his usual steady manner.

Surely his brief term in office offers plenty for a conservative like me to criticize. "Whip Inflation Now" was just about the most silly economic plan of modern times. That he continued the Nixon/Kissinger policy of detente will also never endear us to him. But for all his policy errors, he proved a far better president than his successor. And when the 1980 election rolled around, he quickly agreed to campaign for the man who almost took the nomination from him in 1976.

The most important thing he did was pardon Richard Nixon. It was also the correct decision. That he did so knowing full well that it would cost him dearly polically is a tribute to his character and leadership.

Ford's legacy will be that of a steady hand on the helm in a time of national distress. He was refreshingly "boring", at a time when we needed someone with a steady temperament, someone who "looked" like a president and acted as such. He served our nation well when it was needed.

Jeanne Kirkpatrick - An Appreciation
Pope John Paul II - An Appreciation
Memories of Reagan
Yasser Arafat - An Unappreciation

Posted by Tom at 4:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 23, 2006

Nobles and Knaves, The Contest

Every Saturday the Washington Times names a Noble and Knave for the week. At the end of the year, they compile the winners, and invite readers to vote for a Noble and Knave of the year. Below I have copied the year-end contest from this morning's Times. At the end, I'll tell you who I voted for. On to the contest:

To vote, send an e-mail to with "Nobles Contest" in the subject line or send a fax to 202-715-0037. Entries must be received by Jan. 1. When voting, please remember that only this year's nominees are eligible and that votes sent en masse with the intention of unfairly weighting the nominees will not be considered.

For Noble of the year, select three:

• The West Virginia coal miners, the 12 who tragically perished and the one who miraculously survived.
• BB&T Corp., for enacting a policy of not loaning money to private developers who have acquired land by way of eminent domain.
• Dr. Ward Casscells, now Col. Casscells, who, at 53, put aside a highly successful medicine career to join the Army Reserves.
• Peter Benchley, the writer who gave us "Jaws" -- and an inordinate fear of sharks -- died in February.
• Maryland state Sen. John Giannetti, who saved his primary challenger, Senator-elect Jim Rosapepe, from choking during a chance encounter at an Annapolis restaurant.
• Dana Reeve, who devoted her life to taking care of her late husband, actor Christopher Reeve, and who tragically died in March.
• Loudoun County Sheriff's Deputy Brian Sayre, for saving a hostage's life at a gas station with one incredible shot.
• David Dingman-Grover, the 11-year-old brain cancer survivor whose mano-a-mano battle with his tumor, which he had named Frank, became a symbol of courage.
• U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, who, upon sentencing terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui to life in prison, told him flatly, "you will die with a whimper."
• Bill Cosby, who continues to challenge the country with his message of tough love, self-reliance and personal responsibility.
• Robert Rector, the Heritage Foundation fellow whose research helped expose the Senate's disastrous immigration "reform" bill.
• Staff Sgt. Michael Caldwell, who, while lying wounded on a hospital bed in Baghdad, took the oath of re-enlistment.
• Oakland A's pitcher Barry Zito's "Strikeout for Troops" campaign, which donated $500 for every strikeout thrown during the 2006 All-Star game to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
• Laurie-Ann Fuca, for choosing to follow her son into the Army by enlisting herself at 41.
• Rep. Bobby Jindal, who helped his wife deliver their son when they couldn't get to the hospital fast enough.
• The Boy Scouts of America Omaha Scout Troop, for saving an 18-month-old girl from drowning.
• Steve "The Crocodile Hunter" Irwin, whose daring exploits with the wildest and most deadly of animals came to end with his death in September.
• Oriana Fallaci, the Italian writer whose unwavering and unapologetic defense of Western Civilization in the face of Islamist barbarism earned her a place as one of freedom's heroines. She died in September at 77.
• Park County, Colo., Sheriff Fred Wegener, for making the tough call to end a tragic school-shooting incident which took the life of a 16-year-old girl.
• Drs. Andrew Fire and Craig Mello, whose research into how to "silence" specific genes earned them the Nobel Prize this year.
• The Alaskan villagers, for refusing Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez's offer of cheap oil.
• Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor, the Navy SEAL who in September threw himself on a grenade in Iraq to save his fellow SEALs.
• The Minnesota National Guard, whose members had the perfect rejoinder to Sen. John Kerry's "joke" that only the uneducated get "stuck" in Iraq: "Halp us Jon Carry -- We r stuck hear n Irak."
• San Francisco's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC), whose members saw the school board eliminate their beloved program.
• The off-duty Secret Service agent who was shot while trying to break up a fight at an Annapolis mall.
• Stevie Long, the 4-year-old "superhero" who managed to save his family by scaring off a burglar by dressing up as a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger.
• Ambassador John Bolton, who leaves the United Nations better than he found it, but not as good as he could have made it -- if given the chance.

For Knave of the year, select three:
• Vermont Judge Edward Cashman, for sentencing a confessed child rapist to just 60 days in prison.
• James Frey, for peddling a fictionalized autobiography, "A Million Little Pieces," and making millions off it.
• New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, for saying that Hurricane Katrina was an act of God in response to the United States being "in Iraq under false pretenses."
• Los Angeles Times columnist Joel Stein, who in a January column compared U.S. soldiers to corrupt politicians.
• The Colombian drug traffickers, for using puppies' stomachs to smuggle heroin into the United States.
• The Spotsylvania County, Va., Sheriff's office, whose officers were enjoying the, er, services of the Moon Spa while ostensibly investigating it for prostitution.
• U.S. figure skater Johnny Weir, who chose an Olympic setting to proudly wear a "CCCP" red sweatjacket.
• Yale University, for admitting a former member of the Taliban, but not the U.S. military.
• A Republican-controlled Senate, which drafted a budget blueprint that added $11 billion to federal spending, all the while claiming to be the party of fiscal responsibility.
• NBC's "Dateline," whose producers crafted an unethical scheme to ensnare NASCAR fans in a story on Arab-Muslim bigotry.
• Sen. Harry Reid, whose opinion on unilateralism versus multilateralism depends on which way the political winds are blowing.
• The Los Angeles Times and Paramount Pictures, whose idea of promoting "Mission: Impossible 3" was to have a series of wires and a ticking sound emanate from L.A. Times newsstands.
• The Cambridge, Mass., City Council, which in May declared Cambridge a "sanctuary" for the nation's 12 million-plus illegals.
• Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado professor who was found to be not only an anti-American extremist but also an academic poseur.
• The American Civil Liberties Union, which attempted to prohibit its own members from criticizing the free-speech organization.
• Helen Thomas, the so-called "Dean of the White House Press Corps" who didn't know the difference between contemptuous and contemptible.
• The Dixie Chicks, whose lead singer Natalie Maines told the London Telegraph in June that she "didn't understand the necessity of patriotism."
• Susan Roberts, a Davidson political science professor who in May wrote that the Supreme Court had the power to strike down constitutional amendments.
• Rep. John Murtha, for trying to backtrack from comments he made in June that the U.S. presence in Iraq was more dangerous to world peace than a nuclear North Korea.
• "Peace Mom" Cindy Sheehan, whose "Troops Home Fast" fast ended pretty, er, fast.
• The scoundrels who mugged a disabled Iraq war veteran outside a restaurant in Bethesda in August.
• The Stars, Stripes and Skates fund-raising organization, for writing a children's book which tried to make September 11 a "happy" event for kids.
• France, for having to be dragged kicking and screaming to provide troops for an international peacekeeping force in Lebanon that was its idea in the first place.
• The CBS producers of "Survivor," who had the idea of organizing contestants into racial groups for its upcoming season.
• Jimmy Carter, for this, that and about everything else he's done, written or said recently.
• John Edwards, whose crusade against Wal-Mart apparently doesn't keep him from shopping there.
• Senator-elect Jim Webb, for ditching veterans at a post-election event in Virginia Beach.

My Selections

As always, it was a difficult choice for both Noble and Knave. After some consideration, here are my selections:

For Noble of the Year
• Bill Cosby, who continues to challenge the country with his message of tough love, self-reliance and personal responsibility.
• Oriana Fallaci, the Italian writer whose unwavering and unapologetic defense of Western Civilization in the face of Islamist barbarism earned her a place as one of freedom's heroines. She died in September at 77.
• Ambassador John Bolton, who leaves the United Nations better than he found it, but not as good as he could have made it -- if given the chance.

For Knave of the Year

• The Dixie Chicks, whose lead singer Natalie Maines told the London Telegraph in June that she "didn't understand the necessity of patriotism."
• Rep. John Murtha, for trying to backtrack from comments he made in June that the U.S. presence in Iraq was more dangerous to world peace than a nuclear North Korea.
• A Republican-controlled Senate, which drafted a budget blueprint that added $11 billion to federal spending, all the while claiming to be the party of fiscal responsibility.

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December 9, 2006

Jeane Kirkpatrick - An Appreciation

I first started paying serious attention to politics at about the time Jimmy Carter became president. Our country seemed to drift from one crisis to another, and we suffered numerous humiliations and setbacks abroad. In the wake of Vietnam the Soviet Union seemed on a roll, with many nations falling to the communists during the 1970s. Demagogues across the globe realized that it was safe to insult the United States, and many lept at the chance.

Symptomatic of Carter's term was his ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young. For example, during the trail of Soviet dissident Anatoly (now Natan) Shcharansky, Young claimed that there were "hundreds, maybe thousands, of people I would categorize as political prisoners" in the United States. While he later said that he was not equating the Soviet Union with the United States, he never explained what he meant either. Carter stuck by him, but Young was finally forced to resign after he met with a representative of the PLO, which was contrary to administration policy.

Then came the election of Ronald Reagan and everything changed. No longer would we apologize for our role in the world. Integral to his view of the world was his appointment of Jeane Kirkpatrick as ambassador to the UN.

She quickly put other nations on notice that insults to the US, to which they had gotten used to making, would no longer be tolerated. Far from apologizing for the United States, she demanded that other nations, in particular communist ones, apologize for theirs. There was a new sheriff in town, and and this one didn't let anyone intimidate her.

Conservatives were impressed. in 1984 William F Buckley Jr wrote two columns about her called "St. Jeane of the U.N." (in Parts I and II) , which National Review has conveniently reprinted on their website. Buckley wrote that the media had managed to attach a stigma to the use of the term "cold war", a term that Kirkpatrick felt was the correct way to describe relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. When confronted, Buckley wrote,

Mrs. Kirkpatrick answers that “We have been manipulated into feeling that it is warlike behavior on our part to register the fact that [the Soviets] are waging a full-scale ideological combat against us. Also, in the U.S., where intellectual categories are the objects of fashion, it became terribly unfashionable to call the cold war ‘cold war.’”

She was never one for the idiologically fashionable.

"They Always Blame America First"

Kirkpatrick may be best known, however, for her speech at the 1984 Republican National Convention, in which she attacked liberals for blaming the United States whenever something went wrong in the world. The relevant part of her address is worth quoting at length:

They said that saving Grenada from terror and totalitarianism was the wrong thing to do - they didn't blame Cuba or the communists for threatening American students and murdering Grenadians - they blamed the United States instead.

But then, somehow, they always blame America first.

When our Marines, sent to Lebanon on a multinational peacekeeping mission with the consent of the United States Congress, were murdered in their sleep, the "blame America first crowd" didn't blame the terrorists who murdered the Marines, they blamed the United States.

But then, they always blame America first.

When the Soviet Union walked out of arms control negotiations, and refused even to discuss the issues, the San Francisco Democrats didn't blame Soviet intransigence. They blamed the United States.

But then, they always blame America first.

When Marxist dictators shoot their way to power in Central America, the San Francisco Democrats don't blame the guerrillas and their Soviet allies, they blame United States policies of 100 years ago.

But then, they always blame America first.

The American people know better.

They know that Ronald Reagan and the United States didn't cause Marxist dictatorship in Nicaragua, or the repression in Poland, or the brutal new offensives in Afghanistan, or the destruction of the Korean airliner, or the new attacks on religious and ethnic groups in the Soviet Union, or the jamming of western broadcasts, or the denial of Jewish emigration, or the brutal imprisonment of Anatoly Shcharansky and Ida Nudel, or the obscene treatment of Andrei Sakharov and Yelena Bonner, or the re-Stalinization of the Soviet Union.

The American people know that it's dangerous to blame ourselves for terrible problems that we did not cause.

They understand just as the distinguished French writer, Jean Francois Revel, understands the dangers of endless self- criticism and self-denigration.

He wrote: "Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself."

All you have to do is change the relevant proper nouns and the same speech could be delivered today.

Once a Democrat

Jeanne Kirkpatrick was perhaps the original neoconservative. While today it has become a term of opprobrium among liberals, back then it simply meant someone who had once been a Democrat but had become disillusioned with their party over it's adoption of a leftist foreign policy. Kirkpatrick had campaigned for Hubert Humphry, but had become very critical of President Carter and his policies. She became an advisor to Ronald Reagan, which led to her appointment as Ambassador to the UN.

Her most famous essay during her time of transformation was "Dictatorships and Double Standards" in 1979, published as a book with some of her other works in 1982. It was among the first serious political works I read and I found myself agreeing with it's precepts. In the piece she criticized Carter's foreign policy, and discussed the fate of the Shah of Iran and Somoza of Nicaragua. Her essential thesis was that by abandoning repressive rightist regimes, we allowed far worse ones to come to power. From the frying pan into the fire, as it were. She also pointed out that thus far no "socialist" or communist regime had willingly democratized, and that "the architects of contemporary American foreign policy have little idea of how to go about encouraging the liberalization of an autocracy."

Whatever one thinks of the details of her piece, it is hard to argue that Iran, for example is better off with its Khomeinist regime than it was under the Shah. It is very easy to moralize and say that you won't support a repressive government, but sometimes all the world offers is a choice between bad and worse.

She supported the Argentine junta led by General Galtieri in it's "dirty war" against leftist opposition. This provoked some criticism, some of it justified. I don't know enough about the situation in Argentinia to know whether a leftist government would have gone full-scale communist, and we can't go back and replay history using different variables.


In the end, though, what matters is that she was the right person at the right time. She, Reagan, and the others came to power at just the moment when it looked like the Soviet Union might win the Cold War after all. They stemmed, then reversed the tide, starting a series of events that eventually led to the collapse of the Evil Empire.

Along with Reagan, she was famously hated by the left. Their enthusiasm for international institutions such as the UN who's function seems to be more and more supporting dictators and terrorists, is distressing, to say the least. Her modern-day successor, John Bolton, is hated in a similar fashion. Appropriately, he is moving into her old office at the American Enterprise Institute.

Jeane Kirkpatrick, 1926 - 2006. RIP


In a post over at The Corner today, Stanley Kurtz reminds us of how the business of leftists on college campuses shouting down conservative speakers started in the 1980s

The silencing of conservative speakers by shouting campus mobs is a sadly too common occurrence nowadays. (Has anyone seen Lee Bollinger?) Yet the mother of all campus shout-downs was the drowning out of a talk by Jeane Kirkpatrick at the University of California at Berkeley in February of 1983. At the time, the practice of shouting down speakers was uncommon. So it shocked me when, as Berkeley grad student, I heard faculty members openly justifying that action with the claim that “oppressors have no free speech rights.” The Kirkpatrick incident was a key moment in my long, slow transformation from McGovern liberal to conservative.

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August 14, 2006

VJ Day

Today marks the 61st anniversary of Victory over Japan Day. It's a day worth marking and remembering. From Wikipedia

August 15, 1945, marked Victory over Japan Day or V-J Day, taking a name similar to Victory in Europe Day, which was generally known as V-E Day. In Japan, the day is known as, Shusen-kinenbi, which literally means the "Memorial day for the end of the war". The day marks the end of the Burma Campaign, the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Pacific War with the U.S., and other military conflicts in Asia. This is commemorated as Liberation Day in nations such as Korea, partly due to participation of her exiles in War against Japan over 40 years. See Surrender of Japan for historical circumstances surrounding Japan's surrender.

At noon Japan standard time on that day, Emperor Hirohito's announcement of Japan's acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration was broadcast to the Japanese people via radio. Earlier the same day, the Japanese government advised the Allies of the surrender by sending a cable to U.S. President Harry S. Truman via the Swiss diplomatic mission in Washington.

Since Japan was the last Axis Power to surrender and V-J Day followed V-E Day by three months, V-J Day marked the end of World War II.

Never forget

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August 8, 2006

End this Stupid War

To all of my readers, after long and considered thought I have reached a conclusion.

We must petition our president to end this stupid war. Now. And if he does not, we should consider articles of impeachment.

I'll list my reasons below, but by now you're familiar with most of them; we're fighting someone who never attacked us, most of the fighting is in a part of the world that does not or should not concern us, our president has used the war to violate our civil liberties, he hides the true extend of US casualties, and has fought the war incompetently.

Yes we were attacked. Yes a response was necessary. But every since the attack on

December 7 1941, this president has used his powers to take us in a direction I never imagined he would. As such, it is time for action. Here then, is my case.

Germany Never Attacked Us

I accept that we need to fight Japan (but more on that later). But there is no reason for us to be fighting Germany and Italy.

Here is the timeline, for anyone who forgets;

1) December 7 Japan attacks us at Pearl Harbor
2) December 8, the US declares war on Japan
3) December 11, Germany declares war on the United States
4) December 11, the US declares war on Germany

But why did Germany declare war on us? It was not obligated to do so by the Tripartite Pact (the "axis" treaty), which was strictly defensive in nature, only obligating the parties to come to each others aid if they were attacked.

I'll tell you why; because Roosevelt provoked them.

US Provocations

The fact is that Roosevelt gave secret, illegal, orders(and here) to the US Navy to shoot on sight Germany U-Boats years before we were officially at war with them. If you doubt me, let it be remembered that on September 11 1941, Roosevelt ended all pretense and publicly stated that he had ordered the US Navy to shoot on sight German U-Boats. Who can blame Germany for declaring war on us after this?

In March of 1940, Roosevelt rammed "Lend-Lease" through Congress, the purpose of which was to aid Great Britain by shipping her war material. Who can blame Germany for being angry with us?

To top it all off, Roosevelt and that drunk Churchill in August of 1941 issued their "Atlantic Charter", which was basically a declaration of war on Germany. They did this on warships in the atlantic, and even forced the crew of the HMS Prince of Wales to sing "Onward Christian Solders" for their entertainment. Besides gross insensitivity towards non-Christians, this event shows that Roosevelt and Churchill believe that this is some sort of religious war that they are fighting, something totally out of place in our modern world.

Great Britain and France are to Blame

But didn't Germany attack Poland, you ask?

Oh yes, and it's The Great War all over again. Didn't we learn our lesson that time? Europe went to war because one stupid assassination triggered a series of declarations of war because all those countries had treaties with each other. Well, they've gone and done it again. If Great Britain and France were stupid enough to sign a defense treaty with Poland, that's their problem.

Besides, the whole thing could have been avoided if those two countries had treated Germany decently after The Great War. President Wilson even warned them that if they carried out their vicious plans it would only set the stage for another war. But no, they had to punish Germany way beyond what was necessary. All the Treaty of Versailles did was to create political and economic chaos in Germany. Who can blame them for bringing Hitler to power? Besides, by any economic measure, Germany is a better place now that he is in power.

The Arms Merchants

The Nye Commission conclusively proved that it was the arms merchants who suckered us into The Great War. Thanks to the indefatigable efforts of Senator Nye, we now know that it was their greed that led to untoward politcal influence. Far from being a war between "good" and "evil", it was all the works of munitions lobbyists paying off congressmen. The lesson, of course, was not to sell arms to beligerants in Europe.

Why Roosevelt has ignored this is beyond me. He claims it is a war between "good" and "evil", but we've heard that one before.

The situation is not any better with regard to Japan. Japan fears the United States because of our bases in the western Pacific, such as those on Guam, Wake Island, and especially the Philippines. We obtained those bases through our own imperialist expansion, obtaining the latter in a war we provoked with Spain at the end of the last century. Yes Japan's actions in China are deplorable. But did Roosevelt expect Japan not to respond when he imposed sanction after sanction on them?

No Accountability

After the disaster at Pearl Harbor, you would think that Roosevelt would have fired most of his military advisors. But then, you don't know Roosevelt and his cronies. Virtually all of the people who held office on December 7 are still in their positions today.

Secretary of War Henry Stimson, Still on the job.

Secretary of State Cordell Hull, still on the job.

Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, still on the job.

Admiral Husband Kimmell and General Walter Short, commanders in Hawaii? They were cashiered. Which shows you the respect Roosevelt has for our military as opposed to his cronies in the cabinet.

Unprepared for War

You might think that someone who would lead us into war would at least be ready to fight it. But then you would think logically, unlike Roosevelt.

Despite years of "preparation", this is the situation that our armed forces found themselves in when war was actually declared:

- Every single one of our single and twin-engine warplanes were inferior to that of our enemies. Every single one
- 80% of our naval torpedoes were duds.
- Our army tanks were inferior to that of our enemy, and still are today. Worse, the Army has as it's stated policiy not to improve on the M-4 Sherman! Besides thin armor and a pitiful gun, they are powered by gasoline engines, while those of our enemies are powered by diesel. When hit by an enemy shell, a gasoline tank explodes, a diesel one burns. Our own troops call our tanks "ronson burners".
- Our navy built far too may battleships when it should have been concentrating on aircraft carriers.

I could go on but I think you get the point.

Military Incompetence

Roosevelt, when pressed, claims a number of "mistakes" were made. I call it incompetence. This war has been fought by amateures.

Remember these? Dieppe, Tarawa, Anzio, Manila? Or Operation Market Garden? Or how they tried to cover up the disaster of Exercise Tiger? How many American boys were killed because we underestimated enemy troop strengh at Iwo Jima? And don't think that things got any better with time; we were caught by surprise in the Ardennes and lost 19,000 brave Americans, the biggest loss of the war, and the ongoing effort to capture Okinowa looks to the be the most incompetently executed operation of all.

How about incompetent generals like Mark Clark. Or how about the kamikazes that plague our Pacific Fleet, and about which Nimitz has no idea how to stop? Admiral Halsey should have been fired after driving his fleet through a typhoon, but was inexplicably allowed to remain in command.

Out of Proportion

I will accept that we needed to respond to the Japanese attacks of December 7. But our response has been all out of proportion to the damage inflicted on us. Our stated goal is the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers. This implies occupation of their countries and punishing their leaders. But none of them has ever attacked the American homeland. Japan limited their attacks in Hawaii to military targets, yet report after report shows American aircraft bombing civilian and "industrial" targets in Germany and Japan. Our response should be proportionate; recapture the islands that Japan took in the opening days of the war and stop there.

American Atrocities

There is great evidence that there is a deliberate policy of murdering enemy soldiers. For example, Japan is estimated to have had 21,000 soldiers defending Iwo Jima, yet only 1083 survived the battle. It deflies the imagination to think that had Roosevelt been so bloodthirsty, he could not have asked his commanders to negotiate the surrender of more Japanese troops.

Further, our strategy in the Pacific is to bypass some Japanese held islands, leaving them to "wither on the vine". Translation; starve them to death. This is a violation of th rules of war. The least we could do is allow humanitarian agencies to ship food and medical supplies to the Japanese soldiers on these islands. But of course Roosevelt has seized all food through his rationing program.

Then there is our bombing of civilian targets. General Curtis Lemay, newly appointed commender of the Army Air Force's XX Bomber Command in the Pacific, has ordered our bombers to drop incendaries - firebombs - on civilian targets in Japan. Reports from the field tell of fantastic destruction of Japanese cities, especially Tokyo. It is apparent that our commanders are making little or no distinction between civilian and military targets in these campaigns.

The situation is the same in Europe. American and British bombers regulary attack German cities, taking little care as to what they hit. The recent "carpet-bombing" of Dresden is said to have caused massive civilian casualties for little or no military gain.

Alliance with the Devil

Although this is said to be a war against evil, we are allied with some of the worse dictators on the planet; Joseph Stalin in Russia and Chiang Kai-shek of China. At least Hitler can claim one democratic election (albeit a plurality), which is more than what Stalin or Chaing can claim. Not only are we allied with these two dictators, we ship them supplies. We cannot claim to be on the side of "good" as long as we are allied with such people.

Hiding the Cost of War

Roosevelt has gone out of his way to hide the cost of this war from the American people. He has forbade newspapers from publishing photos of dead Americans, and newsreels, which are nothing but propaganda, only show "happy scenes".

Roosevelt also manipulates the media at every turn, and newspapers that publish things he does not like are said to be "unpatriotic." There are even a series of posters which purport to tell us that anyone who publishes leaked information is unpatriotic. This assault on our civil liberties must stop.

In addition, mail that our brave troops send to their loved ones at home is censored. Besides the obvious violation of civil rights, it is clear that the real purpose of this is to hide the horror of the war from the American people.

The Bottom Line

We need to force this president to end the war immediately. We should bring our troops home before they get stuck in Japan or Germany for an indefinate amount of time. Even at this late date, negotiations are still possible. We should not allow ourselves to be beholden to the bloodthirsty war aims of Churchill or Stalin. If Roosevelt does not comply, articles of impeachment should be drafted.

Next up - A Decade of Failure

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August 4, 2006

1938 Redux?

Several commentators at National Review have written recently that what they see happening in the world resembles nothing so much as the 1930s.

In the 1930s Britain and France appeased Hitler. Anything to prevent the horrors of what they called The Great War, they said. The United States stood on the sidelines, naively thinking we were secure in our isolationist policies. The elite mocked Churchill as a drunkard alarmist.

Today many in the West so no danger from Iran or the various terrorist groups that cannot be negotiated away. The elite today mock George Bush and Tony Blair.

First up is Michael Ledeen, who points out that although "9/11 was supposed to have been the wakeup call," "we are again asleep". The problem now, he says, is that we fail to recognize that it's not just about fighing "insurgents" in Iraq, or Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran and Syria are behind much or most of it, and behind that is a virulent form of radical Islam. Although I still say that going into Iraq put us on the strategic offensive, Ledeen points out that since the invasion we have been playing defense.

Meanwhile, a collection of frauds, writing in places like Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and Mother Jones, continuously recycles a story saying that a neocon (code for “Jewish”) conspiracy duped Bush into going to war in Iraq, and is now arranging the invasion of Iran.

For those that forget, President Roosevelt was treated to the same sort of nonsense from the likes of people like Father Coughlin, who accused the president of "leaning toward international socialism or sovietism on the Spanish question." Indeed, as Ledeen says

It is the Thirties again. Many of the statements above apply to Franklin Roosevelt’s first two administrations, and to the political atmosphere of those dreadful years. Then, too, the mounting power of what became the Axis was ignored. As my father often reminded me, a few months before Pearl Harbor, at a time when Nazi armies were long since on the march, the draft passed by a single vote. Apologists for Hitler and Mussolini were legion, and some of our leading intellectuals were saying that American democratic capitalism was a failure, and we would do well to emulate the European totalitarians.

Continuing this same theme, Victor Davis Hanson reviews some of the apologists of that era

...nevertheless it is still surreal to reread the fantasies of Chamberlain, Daladier, and Pope Pius, or the stump speeches by Charles Lindbergh (“Their [the Jews’] greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government”) or Father Coughlin (“Many people are beginning to wonder whom they should fear most — the Roosevelt-Churchill combination or the Hitler-Mussolini combination.”) — and baffling to consider that such men ever had any influence.

Tell me, what is the difference between any of the above cited men and Michael Moore or Markos "Screw them" Moulitsas? Or Pat Buchanan, for that matter?

And how are our "allies" In Europe responding to all this? Hanson continues

There is no need to mention Europe, an entire continent now returning to the cowardice of the 1930s. Its cartoonists are terrified of offending Muslim sensibilities, so they now portray the Jews as Nazis, secure that no offended Israeli terrorist might chop off their heads. The French foreign minister meets with the Iranians to show solidarity with the terrorists who promise to wipe Israel off the map (“In the region there is of course a country such as Iran — a great country, a great people and a great civilization which is respected and which plays a stabilizing role in the region”) — and manages to outdo Chamberlain at Munich.

Our enemy, as I mentioned, is not just a few Taliban remnants, or "insurgents" in Iraq, it is Islaofascism (or whatever you want to call it) in general. Principal among the villans is the government of Iran. And before we congratulate ourselves, Barbara Lerner says that far from confronting Iran,

...we have yet to admit that Iran is at war with us, or to seriously consider striking back at her, and, in speaking of our own war aims, we never dare use the v-word — victory — anymore. Instead, we make head-in-the-sand happy-talk about “peace,” “democracy,” and “ceasefires,” rejecting any military action against Iran for fear of “widening the war” — as if Iran were not already at war with us — and rely on the U.N. and “the international community” to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions and to prevent her proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, from continuing to bring death and destruction to our smallest, truest, and most vulnerable ally, Israel. ...

Worse, we meet the jackals halfway by endlessly apologizing for sins our soldiers and guards are falsely accused of, in Iraq and Guantanamo, and by urging “restraint” on Israel — as if she weren’t employing near-suicidal restraint already. Then, we congratulate ourselves for our “courage” in standing up to international pressure by not forcing Israel to stop fighting for her life immediately, and promising, in return, to “protect” her with a “peace-keeping” force of enemies, led by the reborn Vichy France of Jacques Chirac and Phillipe Douste-Blazy — the French foreign minister who just called Iran “a stabilizing force.”

So is this were we are, again on the brink of the precipice? After 9/11 we said "never again", but even a casual reading of any newspaper reveals a large segment of opinion-makers who believe that George W Bush and Tony Blair are the greatest threats to world peace. Sorry, but I don't buy the notion that all would be well if only we hadn't invaded Iraq.

It also doesn't explain current attitudes on the left towards Iran. This article at Mother Jones typifies the "what me worry?" attitude the left has towards Iran: "The confrontation with Iran has very little to do with nukes—and a lot with the agenda of empire".

The good news is that the Bush Administration is letting Israel have a go at destroying Hezbollah. The bad news is that we are not serious about dealing with Iran or Syria. Barbara Lerner, in her article linked to above, has some good ideas for dealing with Iran. All too many of our elites, however, seem mired in the attitudes of the 1930s. And we all know what that got us.

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November 6, 2005

The Cold War Museum

Nine years ago, Francis Gary Powers Jr dedicated himself to building a museum about the Cold War. The son of famed U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers(since deceased), he has an obvious personal interest in seeing that people do not forget the sacrifices and heroism of the Americans who fought it.

The museum is still in the planning stages. Powers is in the finalizing with local government authorities a site, on an old Nike missile base in Lorton Virginia, just a few miles south of Washington DC. Many artifacts have been acquired and are in storage awaiting construction of the museum building. However, Powers has put together an exibit on his father's U-2 as a kind of "traveling museum", which today can be seen at the Wings Over the Rockies Museum in Denver, Colorado, through November 2005. It has been on display on other museums across the United States as well.

Recently, the Commonwealth of Virginia allocated a $125,000 matching grant to the Cold War Museum. "Matching", of course, means that in order to receive the money they need to match it with money of their own. To donate you can go here or here. Federal and Military personnel can donate though Combined Federal Campaign number 7475.

On a personal note, I had the pleasure of meeting Francis Gary Powers Jr some years ago. We live in the same general suburban area of our nation's capitol, and I attended some events to to help him promote his cause.

Every month, from spring through fall, Mr Powers hosts the Spies of Washington Tour, which I went on a few years ago. The tour starts at the Pentagon City Mall, where everyone boards a charter bus. The bus drives around the northern Virginia and Washington DC area while Mr Powers and another guide point out places of interest relating to espionage activities. The tour includes a stop at the International Spy Museum, which I would encourage everyone to visit if you are in the area.

While there is of now no physical museum, they do have a website where you can find many articles, personal stories, and on-line "exibits" about the Cold War.

In addition, Powers publishes an on-line magazine about the Cold War, titled, appropriately enough, The Cold War Times.

From the Cold War Museum website:

Mission Statement and Goals

The Cold War Museum is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to education, preservation, and research on the global, ideological, and political confrontations between East and West from the end of World War II to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.


The three main goals of the Museum are to:

* Develop permanent Cold War Museums to preserve local and regional Cold War history with the headquarters and National Museum facility located in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

* Erect Cold War Memorials with the National Cold War Memorial located near Arlington National Cemetery to honor the men and women who were killed as part of Cold War events and activities.

* Establish a reference library and research center to help maintain the historical accuracy of the Cold

From Powers' most recent email to subscribers:

Please consider making a year-end donation to the Cold War Museum. Your gift will help us plan for the new year and the new physical location. Tax-deductible contributions and artifact donations to the Museum will ensure that future generations will remember Cold War events and personalities that forever altered our understanding of national security, international relations, and personal sacrifice for one's country. Please help spread the word about the Museum. Together we can make this vision a reality. If you should have any questions, want additional information, or would like to subscribe to our Cold War Times email newsletter distribution list, send an email to

Posted by Tom at 7:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 27, 2005

At the Walter Reed Army Medical Center

Faceoff with Code Pink

That's right, your intrepid blogger was at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center last night to face off against the Code Pink whackos!

As most of you probably know, a story broke this week that members of a far-left group called "Code Pink Women for Peace" have been holding a weekly protest outside of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which is located in Washington DC.

The story erupted on Thursday when Marc Morano of CNS News published this story and video on the protests that have been held, unnoticed by the mainstream media, outside of the main gates of the Walter Reed hospital complex.

The anti-war demonstrators, who obtain their protest permits from the Washington, D.C., police department, position themselves directly in front of the main entrance to the Army Medical Center, which is located in northwest D.C., about five miles from the White House.

Among the props used by the protesters are mock caskets, lined up on the sidewalk to represent the death toll in Iraq.

Code Pink Women for Peace, one of the groups backing anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan's vigil outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford Texas, organizes the protests at Walter Reed as well.

Once word of their presence got out, a counter-protests organized by the conservative group started. Every Friday night, both groups hold forth on opposite street corners. They start shortly after 6pm, and the "main event" is the arrival by bus of soldiers which occurs sometime around 9:00. I believe that these are newly arrived wounded soldiers just flown in from the front but will have to investigate further.

The Code Pinkos would hold up signs saying things like "Maimed for Lies" and "Enlist here and die for Halliburton", all the usual stuff you'd expect from the far-left. One soldier told the CNS News reporter that one day when they drve by they saw "...a bunch of flag-draped coffins laid out on the sidewalk." The wounded troops could see all this, mind you. Nice, eh?

Location, Location, Location

The problem that I and other conservatives have with Code Pink is that they are staging their protests outside the military hospital where wounded troops are brought from the front to recover. If they want to protest in front of the White House or Capitol building, fine. But not here. And let's be clear; they have been doing this as an "in your face" to the troops.

Code Pink, of course, claims otherwise;

The anti-war protesters claim their presence at the hospital is necessary to publicize the arrivals of newly wounded soldiers from Iraq, who the protesters allege are being smuggled in at night by the Pentagon to avoid media scrutiny. The protesters also argue that the military hospital is the most appropriate place for the demonstrations and that the vigils are designed to ultimately help the wounded veterans.

"If I went to war and lost a leg and then found out from my hospital bed that I had been lied to, that the weapons I was sent to search for never existed, that the person who sent me to war had no plan but to exploit me, exploit the country I was sent to, I would be pretty angry," Luke told Cybercast News Service.

Indeed, Code Pink is now claiming that they are not even protests at all. From their website:
These are vigils, not protests, and participants have included Washington, DC-based members of Veterans for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, and DC Labor Against the War, who all want more support for veterans.

"Since we started these vigils, we feel we have helped put the spotlight on the needs of the soldiers and helped achieve positive results, such as greater VA funding and a rollback of attempts to make soldiers pay for their own meals, phone calls, daily hospitalization fees and increased co-payments,” said CODEPINK’s Gael Murphy, one of the vigil’s organizers.

But this is not true. We've got the goods on them.

A New Code Pink Spin

Since the publicity hit last week spokeswomen for Code Pink have has been spinning like tops. Whenever interviewed on the radio or TV they've tried to claim that "oh no, we're not against the troops, we're doing this in support of the troops!" and "We just want them to have the best health care possible!"

Yeah right.

But FreeRepublic has the goods on them. Check out these photographs of past Code Pink signs on their website.

Who is Code Pink?

Code Pink is just about as bad as you think they are. Check out their website, they're a typical leftie group. David Horowitz, as usual, has the goods on them. From his invaluable Discover the Network website, a database of left-wing groups, is this:

Mocking the Bush Administration's color-coded security alerts, the "Code Pink Alert" warns that this administration poses "extreme danger to all the values of nurturing, caring, and compassion that women and loving men have held." Proclaiming that "women have been the guardians of life . . . because the men have busied themselves making war," Code Pink calls on "women around the world to rise up and oppose the war in Iraq. We call on mothers, grandmothers, sisters and daughters . . . and every ordinary outraged woman willing to be outrageous for peace." During one Code Pink demonstration in Washington, D.C., participants marched up the steps of the Capitol, unfurled their slogan-bearing banners, and stripped down to the dove-adorned bras and panties they wore beneath their clothes. "We're putting our bodies on the line," they shouted. "You Congress people better get some spine. We say 'Stand back, don't attack - innocent children in Iraq!'"
But wait, it gets worse span style="font-style: italic;">
During the last week of December 2004, Medea Benjamin announced in Amman, Jordan that Code Pink, Global Exchange, and Families for Peace would be donating a combined $600,000 in medical supplies and cash to the terrorist insurgents who were fighting American troops in Fallujah, Iraq.
That's right; this group gave $600,000 to the other side.

"Peace group" my foot. They want us to lose.

The News

So all of this hit the news this week, and was all over the radio. As I think I mentioned in a previous post, my job allows me to listen to the radio most of the day, and it doesn't take much brains to figure out who I tune in to; Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Michael Reagan... ok I occasionally listen to music but that's mostly at night.

Anyway, it all allows me to stay on top of things. So they all started talking about this on Thursday, with Marc Morano of CNS being just about the most-interviewed man on the planet, and it didn't take me long to figure out what I was going to do come Friday night.

I live in the Washington DC area. I wasn't going to miss this for the world.

Friday, August 26

After work I hurried to Walter Reed, arriving shortly after 7pm.

The main entrance to the hospital complex is on a main street, with four lanes of traffic. Across from the entrance another street runs perpendicular to it, forming a four corner intersection (I hope this is clear. I did't think to take any "big picture" photos).

The Code Pink protesters on one corner, one of those by the entrance (to the left if you're looking at the entrance). We were on the other three corners. They had a maximum of 22 people (a FreeRepublic person kept count), whereby we had maybe 75 or so. So we outnumbered them by at least 3 to 1, and probably more, but I'll be conservative.

Here are some of our people outside the entrance


This was our largest sign. You just gotta love it!


I just had to pay the Code Pink folks a little visit. Nothing nasty, mind you, I was on my best behavior. So I walked over to their corner and asked "Can I take a photo?" Without really waiting I took a few.

"What are you protesting?" I politely asked.

One of their party looked a bit confused and looked at another for assistance. "It's not a protest, it's a vigil" one of them said.

"What's it a vigil for?" I asked.

No response.

At that point they'd had enough of me. "You're in front of my sign. Go back to your own corner."

Deciding that enough was enough, I retreated, taking this photo of them as I left


Here's your intrepid reporter, holding a sign that the FreeRepublic people made. They kept a bunch handy for people who showed up.


The Code Pink people were silent all night. No chanting or singing, nothing.

We, on the other hand, were somewhat vocal, and more so as the evening went on:

"Move your protests to the White House!"

"Code Pink gave $600,000 to the terrorists in Fallujah!"

"Where are your old signs!"

At around 9pm the troop bus arrived. I couldn't get my camera out fast enough to got a photo as they drove past us, so this one is as it enters the complex.

But when it came past our corner, the driver turned the lights on in the bus so that we could see the troops. They all smiled and waved to us. I couldn't see their reaction to the Code Pink folks, but have heard that they've been known to give them the one-finger-salute.


The Code Pink people broke camp and went home shortly after the bus arrived. They'd made their point, I guess. But so had we.


Cam Edwards was there, and has some photos and even video of the event on his website. I actually saw him there, and said "that guy looks familiar", but couldn't place him. Now I remember that I've seen him in my NRA magazines.

Update II

Check out the the post on the goings-on that night. They've got lots of photos and great reporting on what went on. They were nice enough to give us a plug, too. Thank you, guys!

Posted by Tom at 11:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 2, 2005

Static vs Dynamic Analysis: Why the Critics don't Get It

Once again we’re hearing all the things that we “should” have done in Iraq. Over the last two days I listened to General Barry McCaffrey and Senator Joe Biden on the radio and both of them excoriated the administration for not having followed their oh-so-wise advice.

At least these two have our best interests at heart. I do truly believe that they want us to succeed in Iraq. Others, like, and, well, the entire leadership of the Democratic Party, seem only to be concerned with scoring political points.

Some of the things that McCaffrey, Biden, and others tell us that the administration should have done in the early days of the Iraqi War are:

1) We should have used more troops

2) We should not have disbanded the Iraqi Army

Biden even went so far as to state ad nauseum that "everyone knows" that we need and needed more troops. Biden considers himself a genius, you see. If you don't believe me, just ask him.

Movinge beyond that, let’s take them on. But before we get to specifics, let’s go over some important concepts:

If you change one factor in an equation, everything else changes too. The first problem I have with Biden and McCaffrey is that they are engaged in static thinking.

Dynamic vs Static Analysis

Their mistake is in thinking along static lines. They assume that if you change one factor in an equation, nothing else will change. This is such a basic error that I am amazed that it happens so often, and by people who should know better.

For example, if you raise taxes by 10% on an item, it is invalid to automatically assume that the government will get 10% more money. It is true that on some items, such as cigarettes, the increase in revinue will be about 10%, because the demand curve for such items is inelastic. But on other items, such as candy bars, people will simply adjust their spending habits, buy less of the product, and the government may not end up with any appreciable increase in revinue at all.

People who blithely say that we “need(ed) more troops” or that we should have “kept the Iraqi Army together” assume that only positive results would come from such a decision. They seem not to realize that there were potential negative consequences from taking a decision other than what we did.

More specifically, they seem not to realize that if you change one factor in the equation of history, everything else changes too.

So people who say that we "need(ed) more troops" or "should have kept the Iraqi army" may be right, or they may be wrong, but I have yet to hear aargument from any of them yet that takes any of this into account.

Now that we've laid the groundwork, let's go though each one in more detail.

"We Need(ed) More Troops"

As Rich Lowry of National Review pointed out last year in "What Went Wrong" (subscription required), there were significant disadvantages to having put more troops in the field of battle:

If more troops would have enhanced security in the aftermath of thw war (a debateable proposition, as we shall see), the lighter and more mobile force had significant advantages in the prosecution of it. "The decision was made to collapse the regime as quickly and violently as possible," says a senior administration official. the most kimportant advantage of this approach, he sways, was simple: "A quick collapse saves American lives and Iraqi lives."

It served other objectives as well. It made it possible to take the oilfields - crucial to Iraq's rebuilding - mostly intact before Saddam had time to destroy them. And there was the political consideration. It was thought important to avoid a drawn-out war, and the destabilizing effect it might have on the region. "You don't want an American army slogging it's way to an Arab capital," is how one official puts it.

I can hear it now from the lefties: "But we have lost a lot of American and Iraqi lives!" To which the only logical response is; "not by historical standards, and remember, the situation could be much worse. Remember the "battle of Baghdad" we were assured would happen?"

The problem I have with the "more troops" crowd is not that they're necessarily wrong, but that they don't even think it necessary to consider that the presence of more troops might have made the situation worse.

For example, we are told that with more troops we could have "stopped the looting." Really? How exactly? It is not clear that the mere presence of our soldiers would have stopped anything. By shooting the looters? Oh that would go over well in the rest of the world. By "detaining" them? And put them where, and for how long? What about trials, which our "human rights" groups would not be long in demanding? They never say.

And how would we get all of these troops into Kuwait? They forget that during the Gulf War we had access to huge Saudi ports. In this war we only had access to smaller, less numerous ports in Kuwait. It is not clear that we could have even gotten a significantly larger force into Kuwait and kept it supplied. More troops would also have presented Saddam with an even more inviting pre-invasion target.

In addition, we need to recall that our military was significantly smaller in 2003 than it was in 1991, by a factor of about 40% overall. True it was much more capable on a unit-by-unit basis, but a ship or soldier can still only be in one place at a time. Bottom line; we would have had to drain troops from other theaters.

This would have presented the world's troublemakers with a perhaps rresistible opportunity.

Suppose Kim Il Sung had taken the opportunity to invade the south, or China decided to make trouble over Taiwan. What would the critics be saying them? That it was "obvious" that by depleting troops from other theaters we were inviting trouble.

We should not have disbanded the Iraqi Army

The first thing to say is that we did not disband the Iraqi army; it disbanded itself. It literally disintegrated in the closing days of major combat operations. We would have had to recall it. People who advocated this need to think carefully about the consequences.

Once again, those who say we should have kept or recalled the Iraqi army only see the potiential positives. They fail to even consider that doing this may have made the situation worse.

Armies in many third-world countries are used as much to oppress the population as they are to defend the borders, sometimes more so. In the case of Iraq Saddam had long used some units to carry out his murderous atrocities. Many Iraqis didn't have much respect for much of the army, and saw it as an oppressive institution. To have kept it in place might have made the population even more angry at us. Remember, things can always be worse.

Further, Iraqi units were organized along sectarian lines. Shi'is, tired of Sunni oppression, might have taken this opportunity to seek revenge. Shi'ite units might well have moved into Sunni neighborhoods and wrecked havoc. Same with the Kurds. Indeed, it is not hard to imagine Iraqi units fighting each other. And who is to say that they would not have turned on us is an opportunity presented itself?

Imagine the consequences of any perceived atrocity; "human-rights" groups would immediately protest that it was all the fault of the United States, that because we invaded and kept the Iraqi units together, we were responsible for their actions. The western media would have a field day.

Back to Analysis

Again, what bothers me so much about the sort of 20/20 hindsight analysis that we hear so often is not that it is wrong, but that it is not even stated correctly. The critics do not even think it necessary to consider that had we done things their way, things might be worse. They only see the positives. As Lowry makes clear in his article, the idea that there was "no plan for after the invasion" is utter nonsense.

Prior to the invasion, our government spent a lot of time planning, it's just that many of the things they planned for; mass starvation, a major refugee crisis, destruction of the oil wells, use of WMD, civil war, SCUD missile attacks on Israel, didn't happen.

And, of course, these are many of the things the critics assured us would happen.

Posted by Tom at 2:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 22, 2005

"Are We There Yet?"

huh mom? Are we there yet? Where's the hotel? Tell Jimmy to keep his hands off me! He keeps putting his stuff on my half of the seat!

At this point dad turns to mom and says "do something", whereby she turns around and says "do not make us stop this car! I told you it would be several hours before we get there


Who hasn't experienced something like this? Either as a kid, parent, or both.

This is how Tony Snow characterized liberal criticism of the war in Iraq the other day, and I laughed all the way in the car driving to work because it is so true.

Liberals (ok, not all but many) sound like the little kids in the back seat. From day one the Bush administration told everyone that the war on terror would take a long time to win. But no one wants to hear that.

Wars are also unpredictable. Yes, I know, no great insight in that comment. But it's true, and needs to be resaid.

Briefly, here's why; it has to do with what I call "The Myth of the Glorious Crusade"

Let's just get this out of the way up front; many of us who advocated invading Iraq got it wrong. We expected a harder conventional fight and not an insurgency that would last so long. We were burned why what Clausewitz called "the friction of war"

Liberals and leftists have no reason to gloat, however, as they've gotten even more wrong. They told us that there would be thousands of American casualties (just as they did before the Gulf War), and there would surely be a massive "battle of Baghdad" that would drag on for months. They also predicted massive a massive humanitarian disaster and civil war, neither of which happened. They also told us that the entire Mideast would erupt - the "Arab street" routine - which did't happen either. And about a million other horrors, none of which occured.

Between us and the liberals, I'll take our mistakes. Any day.

Like most events, there is no exact parallel in history. The simple fact is that most wars do not turn out like "everyone" thought they would. Obviously the defeated side did not predict things right. But usually the victor didn't either.

The Myth of the Glorious Crusade

There is a tendancy, I think, to view all the wars in which we have been victorious as great crusades in which we all link arms and march off to defeat an enemy. This is borne, I believe, of World War II, in which we pretty much did just that. But most of our other wars were different.

In the Revolutionary War only one-third of the colonists were patriots. Another third were British loyalists, and the remainder didn't care. The patriots spend so much time bickering among themselves it's a wonder we won.

The Civil War went badly for the North for the first several years. The war became unpopular, and the Federal Army did not meet it's recruiting goals. The government resorted to a draft, which was resisted so fiercely that in 1863 it led to bloody riots in New York City. Lincoln thought he was going to lose the 1864 election to ex-union general George McClellan, and the public only came around to supporting Lincoln after several Union victories, including the capture of Atlanta.

In World War II we were certainly united, but our conduct of the war was as often as not inept. I've gone of this in in another post so please go there for details.

Today is June 22, 2005, and no we are not there yet, so stop your whining and stop hitting your brother.

Posted by Tom at 8:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 7, 2004

Roosevelt Lied, People Died!

October 7, 1946
United States Senate

"Fellow members of the Senate, I have the duty to report to you that Franklin Delano Roosevelt lied to us about his reasons for initiating the Manhattan Project. Yes, the project that developed the atomic bomb was all based on a lie.

Millions of dollars were wasted on this hugely expensive program. Money that could have been spent here at home on health care, job programs, and education. Instead, it was spent on producing two tiny devices that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of good Japanese citizens.

We were told by the president that Nazi Germany was developing this new type of weapon. He assured us that the evidence was infallible. All throughout the war, he assured us that this secret project of his was necessary because he and his advisors were "certain" that Hitler was developing an atomic device, a device that he would use against us unless we acted quickly.

It now turns out that most of the "evidence" he used to justify this wasteful and harmful project was based on a few letters sent by a scientist to Roosevelt!

Look at the headlines. We are now the laughingstock of the world. An article in the eminent New York Times tells the story:

The New York Times, 1945
New York Times; Dec 7, 1945; pg. 4
Truman was part of the Roosevelt administration, so he cannot deny responsibility for the Manhattan Project. How can we regain the respect of the rest of the world when our own president has no credibility?

Operation Alsos has reported to us that Nazi Germany in fact did not have a credible atomic weapon program. They were nowhere near completion of an atomic device. In fact, we know now that Hitler was never even serious about developing such a weapon. His program was underfunded. They had no reactor. No quantities of fissile material. Not even a blueprint for a bomb.

And so we are now in a situation where Harry Truman demands more and more money to fix the problems that he helped to cause. Can anyone doubt that occupied Germany, for example, is nothing but chaos? The evidence is printed for us day after day in our newspapers! The German people hate us. We have botched the occupation. . There is much doubt as to whether Germany can develop into a democracy.

This administration has also failed to adequately consult our allies. I trust that you have all seen the New York Times article telling of Russian success in their sector? About the revival of industry, agriculture, and education under their wise tutelage? But, sadly, our president is too arrogant to hold the summit meeting necessary for a frank exchange of ideas.

Despite all this, they have not announced any plan for the reconstruction of Europe. Secretary of State Marshall has hinted at something that he is developing, but he has presented us with no plan.

Fellow Senators, there is only one conclusion: Roosevelt lied, and people died!"

Posted by Tom at 3:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 23, 2004

History Backwards

One of the charges that the left often makes when arguing against the Iraq war is that we "supported" Iraq in the early '80s. I saw this charge again last week while debating with liberals on a website last week. Somehow, the fact that we "leaned" towards Iraq during their war with Iran means that our invasion was illegitimate. The logic of this escapes me, but that's not really what I want to discuss now. Rather, that if you want to understand why something happened, don't study just that time period, but examine what happened before the period in question.

Ok, this sounds obvious, right? Unfortunately I see mistakes along this line made frequently, and not just by the lefties mentioned above. I've decided to discuss three periods of history and common problems in understanding them;

  1. Our support of Iraq in the early '80s
  2. Restrictions on our military in general, and on pilots in particular, during the Vietnam war.
  3. Appeasement of Hitler in the 1930's

1. Support of Iraq in the early 1980's

In 1980 Saddam Hussein invaded his neighbor Iran. His objective was to seize the oil fields in the south of that country. Its basically old-fashioned greed. Iran was in the midst of their revolution and in a state of semi-chaos. He assumed that he could take advantage of that disorder to seize some territory.

This proved to be a miscalculation. He forgot the adage that there is nothing to unite a country like an external enemy. Iran thus united against their foe and put up a much stronger than expected defense. Far from easily seizing land, Saddam was soon faced with a serious war.

The United States looked on this with interest. The Persian Gulf region is vital to the economies of the Western world and as such we must be able to assure the continued flow of oil. The war threatened this transit, especially after Iran started to attack shipping in the gulf.

The Reagan administration therefore decided to "lean" towards Iraq. We supplied them with some arms and other material. Our navy conducted operations against the Iranians, attacking their mine-laying ships and off-shore platforms that they were using as bases. Don Rumsfeld, I believe, even made a trip to Iraq to meet with Saddam.

This "leaning"(the word we actually used at the time) towards Iraq is the basis of the charge the left levels against the Bush administration today.

But why did we lean towards Iraq? Ok, there's the obvious answer; "to protect the oil supply." But why did we think that supporting Iraq instead of Iran would accomplish this? Let's take our history backwards for a moment.

The Iranian Hostage Crisis

In order to understand U.S. policy in the 1980's we need to understand what happened in the late 1970s.

I was in my early college years when the Iranian Hostage Crisis occurred, and this is when I first really started to pay attention to politics. It was not a pretty introduction.

The sense of helplessness that most Americans felt was maddening. Here we were, a superpower, and yet we were unable to get our people back. We had just been through Vietnam and Watergate, with those humiliations fresh on our minds, and now this. Worse yet, our president was telling us that we would have to get used to a lower standard of living here at home.

I remember that my father was working in Washington DC at the time, and he'd tell us stories of the protests in the city: Protests, mind you, by Iranian "students" in support of the hostage takers. The protestors were protected by the police, whose protection they needed full well. The office workers would go out during their lunch break to observe these protests. My dad would tell us of normally calm, unsuitable men who would go ballistic at what they saw.

My point is that the anger towards Iran was intense and deep. We would have supported just about anyone who was willing to oppose the Ayatollah Khomeini and his regime.

More importantly, in the late '70s and early '80s it really did seem like the Iranians would be able to export their revolution to the rest of the area. The idea of the gulf states and Saudi Arabia falling to radical Islam was frightening indeed.

Contrary to what the left would have you believe, no one was under any illusions as to who Saddam was. We knew full well that he was a thoroughly rotten dictator.

The Lesson

We were right to support Iraq when we did, just as we were right to side with the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany. The threat of the Iranian revolution spreading throughout the region was quite real, and the consequences of it doing so could be devastating to the region and to our economy.

2. Restrictions during the Vietnam War

One of the most frustrating things about reading the history of this war that the restrictions upon our forces seem to almost dictate our defeat. These restrictions included, but were not limited to:

  1. Not being able to bomb surface-to-air(SAM) missile sites while they were under construction; the pilots had to wait until they were fully operational and thus able to shoot back.
  2. Not being able to bomb ships in Haiphong harbor that were off-loading massive amounts of war material that the North Vietnamese would then use against us.
  3. Not being able to attack North Vietnamese fighter bases. We had to wait until their aircraft were in the air to attack them.
  4. Entire areas of North Vietnam were "off limits", including ordinance storage areas.
  5. The pilots were often required to fly predictable strike routes again and again, the result being that North Vietnamese knew exactly when and where we were coming.

How in the world, one wonders, could we have been so stupid? And indeed that is exactly the charge that is most often made; that U.S. policy makers were "stupid". You hear it all of the time; on the radio, in movies, and in books. But could that really have been the case?

David Halberstam has said that the tragedy of Vietnam was not that we were led by stupid or evil people, but that it was our "best and brightest" who made the mistakes that led to our defeat.

(Sidenote; if you insist on thinking that because we won most of the tactical engagements we "really" won the war but were stabbed in the back by the media, please read my earlier post here, especially the conversation between the American and North Vietnamese colonels) .

How did this situation arise? Let's go farther back in history

The Korean Experience

After being surprised and suffering some initial defeats by North Korea's attack in 1950, the U.S. quickly recovered. General MacArthur staged a brilliant landing at Inchon, which, coupled with an advance from the southern city of Pusan, completely routed the North Korean army. Barely eight months after the war started, it looked like a decisive U.S. victory was at hand. Not only would we save our allies in the south, we were on the verge of capturing all of the north. It seemed that a huge defeat for the communists was at hand.

Then things went wrong in a big way.

For months the Chinese had been warning us not to come too close to their border. The Yalu river forms the border between North Korea and China, and the Chinese feared that we would take the opportunity to invade their country. The communists had recently taken control of the country and feared "imperialist aggression."

General MacArthur dismissed Chinese warnings, along with intelligence reports of Chinese troops massing for the attack. This proved to be a recipe for diasaster.

We were caught completely by surprise by the Chinese attack, and they overran several US divisions in the ensuing confusion. There was much bravery on the part of U.S. troops, but in the end our forces were pushed out of the north entirely and well back into South Korea. It was only with much effort and loss of life that we were able to push back to the original border again. A bloody stalemate along World War I lines developed, and after much negotiation an armistice was eventually reached.

The Lesson

To U.S. policy-makers, the lesson seemed clear: Do not let a small, regional war escalate into a larger one by provoking a larger, third, power.

When it came to Vietnam, we were deathly afraid that there would be an "incident" that would provoke the Chinese, or even Soviet involvement. This might even result in a new global war. Because the relevant parties all had nuclear weapons (China having exploded it's first device in 1964) the results might well have been catastrophic.

This, then, was the reason that we placed so many restrictions on our pilots. For example, because we knew that Soviet and Chinese technicians were helping to build the SAM sites, we feared that a bombing raid would kill them, and the Soviet Union or China might retaliate.

I am not defending the actions of our policy-makers. I am explaining them. As I stated earlier, we should have headed Stonewall Jackson's advice to "Never take council of your fears."

3. The Appeasement of Adolf Hitler

Of all mistakes that have occurred this century, it seems blindingly obvious that the policy of appeasement would lead us to war . How in the world could anyone have given in to his demands? "Peace in our time"? What a joke. The man was obviously going to overrun Europe.

Thankfully Winston Churchill saved Britain, and by extension at least half the world, from permanently Nazi occupation.

What seems especially odd is that it was widely believed at the time that those who advocated appeasement held the high moral ground. This attitude was held not just by the elite, but by a significant part of the population in the US and UK at the time. FDR faced stiff opposition in even providing minimal aid to Great Britain even after France had been defeated and she stood alone against the Nazi onslaught.

The Perceived Pointlessness of World War I

During "The Great War"(as it was known at the time) nationalist fervor ran high. Despite the slaughter in the trenches, most people on both sides believed the war worth fighting and decried attempts by a few "troublemakers'" to seek a negotiated settlement. It was only towards the end that the German people grew weary and their army broke. Even the French had been able to contain mutinies within their ranks.

It was after the war that it hit home; what did we go through all that for? Tens of millions had died, and for what? Persuasive answers were not forthcoming.

In Germany a "stabbed in the back" explanation took root. "We really won the war," it was believed, "but the Jews conspired to see us defeated."

In the UK pacifism took hold. King George V himself said the he would abdicate rather than allow his country to go though another such war.

The situation was perhaps the worst in France, where a malaise militaire set in to destroy morale within the ranks. They retreated behind their Maginot Line to recover.

We in the U.S. were disillusioned with the war as well. Woodrow Wilson had been completely outmaneuvered at the peace talks after the war and his Fourteen Points ignored. A congressional investigation (the Nye Commission) said that arms manufactures had conspired to get us into the war. The lesson, we thought, was to never again sell arms to belligerents.

The Lesson

The Great War was a huge shock the people of Europe. Such a thing was not "supposed" to happen. Even the Napoleonic wars of a hundred years earlier had not resulted in such devastation. The nineteenth century saw the development of what we today call "science". It was widely assumed that science would solve all of our problems and we would live in an age of unparalleled prosperity. Few imagined that the twentieth century would be among the bloodiest in history.

Anything, it was felt, was better than another war. Although now it seems so obvious, few at the time believed that Hitler would really launch another war, or that it could be more terrible than the Great War.

Wrap up

The above is not meant to be a complete history, or to list all causes or results for each war. It was mainly an exercise in historical review, which started off by frustration with yet another stupid leftist charge against Operation Iraqi Freedom. I am sure that readers will be able to add much insightful commentary and perhaps even correct some of my inevitable errors.

Posted by Tom at 2:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 21, 2004

Politics and Military Decision-Making

The Redhunter Rates the Presidents

"Keep politics out of military decision making!" is a statement that I've heard again recently. It also makes no sense whatsoever.

We are currently in battle with radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia in the city of Najaf. I am not going to comment here on the details of the operation, nor in this post will I evaluate whether our strategy is correct. For now I'm going to briefly discuss the relationship between politics and military decision making.

One hundred fifty odd years ago the Prussian General and theorist Karl von Clausewitz wrote that

The only whether...the political point of view should give way to the purely military(if a purely military point of view is conceivable at all)....Subordinating the political point of view to the military would be absurd, for it is policy that creates war. Policy is the guiding intelligence and war only the instrument, not vice versa. No other possibility exists, then, than to subordinate the military point of view to the political.

At this point we need to define our terms. In our current age the term "politics " usually conjures up the image of the ubiquitous smoke filled room, where deals are struck that are not necessarily in the public interest. The term has sinister overtones. But they are only one part of "politics" as properly defined. The word need have no sinister meaning. Merriam-Webster defines the term thus:

1 a : the art or science of government b : the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy c : the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government
5 a : the total complex of relations between people living in society

Go back to the quote; "Policy is the guiding intelligence and war only the instrument, not vice versa". Now we see why there is nothing sinister about mixing politics and military decision making.

I believe that one reason why we often say that we should "keep politics out of warfare" is that we tend to view war by contrasting World War II with Vietnam. The former was the "perfect" war in that because the objective was total victory, "politics" was kept out of military decision making. That is not a completely accurate view, but leave that aside for the moment.

In Vietnam we had the opposite situation. We refused to fight for total victory and imposed restrictions on our troops, most notably upon our pilots. Targets were chosen in Washington and pilots told exactly what they could and could not attack. President Johnson is famous - or infamous - for having said "they(the military) couldn't bomb an outhouse without my permission."

All of this is accurate to a point. In a future post I will discuss why we imposed these restrictions on our military, and the answer may surprise you. For now, let's go back to Clausewitz to see why we should not view WWII as the "perfect" war:

In war many roads lead to success, and...they do not all involve the opponent's outright defeat. They range from the destruction of the enemy's forces, the conquest of his territory, to a temporary occupation or invasion, to projects with an immediate political purpose, and finally to passively awaiting the enemy's attacks....

Bear in mind how wide a range of political interests can lead to war, or...think for a moment of the gulf that separates a war of annihilation, a struggle for political existence, from a war reluctantly declared in consequence of political [pressure or of an alliance that no longer seems to reflect the state's true interests. Between these two extremes lie numerous gradations. If we reject a single one of them on theoretical grounds, we may as well reject all of them, and lose contact with the real world."

Most wars simply do not involve the total destruction of the enemy. Most wars are fought with limited means for limited aims. For example, in our own revolution we did not need to go to London and overthrow the king in order to win.

A few more quick historical examples should suffice to illustrate the range of gradations that Clausewitz was talking about.

As I stated earlier, World War II was the war of annihilation. It surpassed anything in modern times, save maybe the Napoleonic wars. It was also the exception. Check out my post "Presidents and Military Experience" and you'll see that it is the only war we fought in which both sides were trying to totally destroy the other.

Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, on the other hand, is at the opposite end of Clausewitz' spectrum. It was never even built, yet had a profound impact on world history. Simply the decision to engage in a research program scared the Soviets silly and helped lead to their eventual collapse. That the left here derided it as something that could not work, for the Soviets (the only ones who counted) certainly believed that it could be. The reason for this can again be found in Clausewitz:

Combat is the only effective force in war; its aim is to destroy the enemy's forces as a means to a further end. That holds good even if no actual fighting occurs, because the outcome rests on the assumption that if it came to fighting, the enemy would be destroyed.

"...even if no actual fighting occurs." being the key phrase.

We might not have to totally smash al-Sadr to win. By the same token, he may not have to defeat our army in order to win.

Posted by Tom at 11:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack