Thursday, April 27, 2006

Diplodocus Defends America

I introduced myself, told a couple self-deprecating jokes, and got to the topic at hand. Right when I was finishing my bit about the Mexican American war, I stepped in it. In order to frame a good process story, I mentioned that one of the great opponents of the war was one Abraham Lincoln. A hand shot up from the back. A chhador-clad young lady had a question...
It is the story of a rarely-reported "win" for the U.S. in the battle of ideas. What our foreign service officers should be doing more of. Thank you, Diplodocus.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"The Last, Best Hope of Mankind"

is discussed in two excellent articles at The American Thinker. Consider The Essential Nobility of U.S. Foreign Policy:
Unquestionably, American foreign policy must protect American interests. But in the strategic vision of FDR, Wilson, Truman, Kennedy, and Reagan, the long-term interest of America requires that we support democracies, work for the liberation of enslaved nations (as we did with Latvia and Lithuania), and avoid the short-term gains of selling out our friends, and bear the expense of pushing for world of free peoples...

Then ponder Religions of Freedom:
...If we cannot reconcile divine omnipotence and divine goodness, we must choose between them. Islam has chosen divine omnipotence. It may praise God’s goodness and mercy, but because it holds that everything that happens is the direct result of God’s will, it must make God responsible for rape, murder, theft, adultery, deceit, and so on, even blasphemy; and if God is responsible for these evil deeds, then they must not be evil after all.

“If God did not want those people to die,” says the mullah, “why did he allow those airliners to crash into the World Trade Center?”

I'd like to delve into these articles further but the Passover holiday is rapidly approaching so my blogging and commenting activities will be light for the next week or so.

The Time Traveler

Spooky stuff from Dan Simmons:
“You were a philosophy major or minor at that podunk little college you went to long ago,” said the Time Traveler. “Do you remember what Category Error is?”

It rang a bell. But I was too irritated at hearing my alma mater being called a “podunk little college” to be able to concentrate fully.

“I’ll tell you what it is,” said the Time Traveler. “In philosophy and formal logic, and it has its equivalents in science and business management, Category Error is the term for having stated or defined a problem so poorly that it becomes impossible to solve that problem, through dialectic or any other means.”

I waited. Finally I said firmly, “You can’t go to war with a religion. Or, I mean . . . sure, you could . . . the Crusades and all that . . . but it would be wrong.”

The Time Traveler sipped his Scotch and looked at me. He said, “Let me give you an analogy . . .”

God, I hated and distrusted analogies. I said nothing.

“Let’s imagine,” said the Time Traveler, “that on December eighth, Nineteen forty-one, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke before a joint session of Congress and asked them to declare war on aviation.”

“That’s absurd,” I said.

“Is it?” asked the Time Traveler. “The American battleships, cruisers, harbor installations, Army barracks, and airfields at Pearl Harbor and elsewhere in Hawaii were all struck by Japanese aircraft. Imagine if the next day Roosevelt had declared war on aviation . . . threatening to wipe it out wherever we found it. Committing all the resources of the United States of America to defeating aviation, so help us God.”

“That’s just stupid,” I said. If I’d ever been afraid of this Time Traveler, I wasn’t now. He was obviously a mental defective.“The planes, the Japanese planes,” I said, “were just a method of attack . . . a means . . . it wasn’t aviation that attacked us at Pearl Harbor, but the Empire of Japan. We declared war on Japan and a few days later its ally, Germany, lived up to its treaty with the Japanese and declared war on us. If we’d declared war on aviation, on goddamned airplanes rather than the empire and ideology that launched them, we’d never have . . .”

Hardly. World War II was driven by religious as well as political doctrines - each reinforcing the other. Can the West continue to turn a blind eye to Islam any longer? There is some hope: that Islam can be turned into a tame variant the way Japan's Shinto religion is today. But the process of taming Japan was terrible. What can be done for the Islamic World?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Iraqi Crunch

Now is the key moment when Iraq's leaders decide whether they wish to become a united democracy or lapse into civil war and despotism. As I wrote at Austin Bay's blog:
I suspect that Iraqi politicians aren't used to parliamentary maneuvering, and that's a big part of the political problem.

In tribal politics, loyalties are fixed: the rank-and-file don't negotiate among themselves, they just follow their leaders. In parliamentary politics, the rank-and-file talk among themselves, and if their party leaders are unsatisfactory, they use their own initiative to gang up and toss their leaders out.

Look carefully at the behavior of Iraqi politicians since the last election and I think you see the tribal politics mentality, not the parliamentary one. Iraqi bigwigs were trying to commit the loyalties of rank-and-file even before all the votes were counted.

The solution, then, is to nudge parliamentarians who are uncomfortable with their leadership to gang up and betray them. Not an easy thing when the leaders have their own militias! Perhaps opening up the Green Zone to the parliamentarians would help?

If Iraqi parliamentarians can re-align their political system along non-sectarian lines they can re-assert control of the police forces and dismantle the militias. Otherwise, Iraq will become just another Lebanon, a place where people vote almost exclusively along religious or tribal lines, resulting in separate fiefdoms and stagnant politics punctuated by violence at best, or civil war and foreign intervention at worst.

What will the U.S. do in such circumstances? Why, just shrug and move on to the the next target in the Global War on Terror. The threat to the U.S. posed by a loose Saddam is over, and the Iraqis will have had their chance to improve matters.