Archive for August, 2006

What’s so funny ’bout a ceasefire?

Monday, August 14th, 2006

There seems to be universal condemnation of the Lebanon ceasefire on the Right, which I don’t really understand. To me it looks like what will happen is that Hezbollah will refuse to quit rocketing Israel, at which point Israel will resume the offensive, and at least some of the onus will then shift to Hezbollah. Or, Hezbollah will stop, but will then refuse to disarm, with the same result, and the European weenies will have one less excuse to blame Israel first. Anything that makes Israel look more like a victim has got to be helpful. This doesn’t seem like such a stupid plan to me. I could be wrong, but I just don’t see how anyone can be so sure that this is a bad strategy. This war we are engaged in is after all at least as much a battle of perceptions as it is a military contest. It is no doubt true that this makes Israel and the U.S. look weak and will encourage all of the Middle East nutcases to think that the jihadists are the strong horse, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing either. Why not try a little rope-a-dope? We are the strong horse and deluding the weak horse into thinking otherwise can work to our advantage. Pride goeth before a fall. The conservative reaction seems simplistic and premature.

Left/Right Psychology

Saturday, August 12th, 2006

I watched the bloggingheads.tv diavlog between Ann Althouse and Robert Wright last night. Ann is a law professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and a registered Democrat who has voted for Democrats all her life, and still votes for Democrats more often than not, but she voted for Bush in his second term. Her blog, which I read regularly, is not primarily political, but she does sometimes post about politics. Her political posts take liberal positions as often as they do conservative ones. She has noticed that conservative blogs link to her when she takes conservative positions and ignore her when she takes liberal ones, but the lefty blogs never link to her, no matter what she says.

On the left any deviation from the party line on any issue is grounds for excommunication, especially if it involves support for the evil Bush, but on the right there is vigorous debate on every issue from stem cells to Iraq. Thus Joe Lieberman becomes Rape-Gurney Joe, whereas Rudy Giuliani and John McCain are the front-runners for the Republican presidential nomination. Tolerance for divergent points of view is much more prevalent on the right than it is on the left. Intelligent critical analysis of the war in Iraq is much more likely to come from the right than from the left. The effect of this liberal intolerance and rigidity is to drive any liberal who has second thoughts about any aspect of the liberal laundry list into the arms of the right.

Her experience is very much like my own in my interactions with people of different political points of view, and also my observations of the changes in my own psychology in the process of moving from the left to the right. If one is a member in good standing of the left, it’s not necessarily noticeable, until that is, you change your mind about one of the liberal required ideas. I’m sure there are enclaves that exist of conservatives who only associate with other conservatives and live in a bubble where the rightness of their politics is never questioned, but I’m not aware of any, and I think it is much less common on the right than it is on the left.

As one steps out of liberal orthodoxy and is confronted with the suspicion and anger and rejection that ensues, it is a revelation. You lose a lot of friends, but there is an exhilarating feeling of mental freedom as you realize that now you can think whatever you like. This is not conjecture. This is the truth of my own personal experience, and it is the reported experience of a great many other people who have gone through a similar process. Once you deviate from the party line on any single seminal liberal issue, the war, abortion, the environment, gay marriage, affirmative action, school vouchers, corporate perfidy, campaign finance reform, gun control, the capital gains or inheritance tax, military recruitment on campus — the look of horror and mistrust on the faces of your associates triggers the beginning of the slow, painful process of leaving the cult.

It is a shocking and enlightening experience. And then you discover that most people who call themselves conservatives are not the demons you thought they were. There is a willingness to debate and disagree and think about important issues. It is very liberating. My theory about why this is so is that the difference between the left and the right is the difference between a semi-religious belief in utopianism and a mature understanding that, as my father was fond of saying, people are no damn good. And they will always be no damn good. It is the obsession with a futureperfect world that closes the fevered, liberal mind, and it is an acknowledgment of the imperfection of all things that humbles the conservative mind.

I realize these are gross (imperfect) generalizations, and that there are many apposite examples on both sides, but I do believe that this is the fuzzy line that divides the polity. The reason the Democratic Party seems so bereft of new ideas about Iraq or social security or taxation or educational reform, etc. is because the psychology and rigid, politically correct peer pressure of the left cripples the mind. I know many don’t agree, and I am aware that I am an imperfect vessel, but I think I am pretty much right about this.

Thank you, Pakistan

Friday, August 11th, 2006

Apparently the plot to blow up nine or ten airplanes was foiled because of information obtained by the arrest of a couple of jihadists in Pakistan. I sure hope they weren’t mistreated during interrogation.

Civil War

Saturday, August 5th, 2006

Looks like Iraq may be sliding into civil war. Hezbollah is making their bid to overthrow the legitimate government of Lebanon, under the pretense of defending Lebanon from the evil Jews. This is really a Lebanese civil war, with several external participants. Of course there is Sudan. If some deus ex machina were to descend on Iran, overthrow the mullahs, and institute democracy, can there be any doubt that a well-armed militia would be formed by the theocracy’s fanatic supporters? And we would have another civil war in the Middle East. The mullahs may be unpopular, but they’re not that unpopular. If democracy were to come to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, they would either elect the Islamists outright, or they would be facing a civil war. The entire Middle East is one big potential and actual civil war, that has been held in check for decades by the imposition of fascist dictatorships, with U.S. backing. During that time, the Islamists have only grown stronger and more united and better-armed and organized. It is difficult to think of an Arab country that would not slide into civil war, if it were to become a democracy. Kuwait and a few others possibly.

There are two civil wars in the Middle East. The first is the struggle between the radical Sunni and the radical Shia for leadership of the Jihad. This has been all but decided now in favor of Iran and the Shia. The other coming civil war will be between the Jihad and everybody else in the Middle East. The Jihadists are in the minority, but they are an organized military force and everybody else is not. So the Jihad will win, unless the U.S. utterly destroys them, on behalf of everybody else. We would then have to equip and train their military and police forces, and help them in other ways, until they got on their feet as a functioning democracy, without an armed milita trying to overthrow them. Sound familiar? Iraq is just the beginning. And we are just beginning to realize what a messy, daunting task it is.

What’s the alternative? We could get the Hell out of the Middle East, and just let them discuss among themselves. But if we do this, the end result of the bloody civil war that would erupt, would likely be the entire Middle East in the control of the Islamists, led by Iran, armed with nuclear weapons.

Is there some other option? Am I missing something?

Democrats take a stand on the war

Friday, August 4th, 2006

Finally the Democratic Party has agreed upon a unified position on the war. The following statement was issued this morning by Howard Dean, spokesman for the Party:

“Bush and the neocons could be wrong about everything. It could be that if we had left Saddam Hussein in power, things would be better in the Middle East, or at least no worse. It could be that the Jihad will never be more than a nuisance for us here in the U.S.A., less of a threat than holiday highway accidents. It could be that it will just peter out from lack of interest. It’s possible that the declarations of war against the entire Western world issuing from Iran and Hezbollah and Al Qaeda and North Korea are just the pathetic fantasies of madmen, best ignored. Maybe nuclear weapons in the hands of the Iranian mullahs and Kim Jong Il won’t really matter all that much. Perhaps we can just absorb the occasional bombing or deadly virus outbreak or Jew-shooting without any substantial impact on our way of life. Maybe we can just wait it out. Who knows? We certainly hope so. Vote for hope. Vote Democratic.”

Who knows?

Market Research

Thursday, August 3rd, 2006

What is happening is that the radical Muslim world is making progress toward healing the splits between Sunni and Shia, and Arabs and Persians. Al Qaeda was hit hard after 9/11. Iran laid back while that was happening, waiting for Al Qaeda to be weakened enough so that Iran, the largest funder of terror organizations in the world, could seize leadership of the Jihad. Much like Coumbian drug cartels count on the DEA to take care of eliminating their rivals. Al Qaeda is Sunni. Iran is Shia. Saudi Arabia, the Minister of Education of the Jihad and funder of Al Qaeda, is Sunni. Maliki, the Prime Minister of Iraq, is Shia. Mukti Al Sadr, with his Hezbollah-lite militia in Iraq, is Shia. Hezbollah is Shia. Hamas is Sunni.

Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s guru, has started saying that he has come to heal the thousand year old Sunni-Shia split. Ahmadinejad believes in the coming of the twelfth imam, but has harbored and helped Al Qaeda, and is quite willing to join forces as long as Iran is the master. Osama Bin Laden’s son has been sent, by Iran, where he has been residing, to Lebanon to help Hezbollah. Alliances are being formed. All of these wars and maneuvers are market research, including the tentative civil war in Iraq. What will the response be if I do a little bit of this, or that? What does this tell me about the will and capabilities of the enemy, which in the Jihad’s case is everyone in the world who does not surrender to Allah in the proscribed manner?

The big challenge on the Jihadist side is to bridge the gap between Sunni and Shia, Arab and Persian, and present a unified, WMD-equipped force to the infidels, including a Stalin-Hitler pact with North Korea. Our challenge is the same, to unite the civilized nation-states to be of one mind, more or less, in this war. Where are Churchill, FDR, and Eisenhower when we need them? So far, they are doing a much better job of it than we are. However, I am fairly confident that the civilized, democratic, crisis-driven nations, while slow to respond, will eventually realize the danger and come together. When that happens, the Jihadists will have been suckered into a draw play, and will be very surprised at the ferocity of the response, much as Hezbollah has been taken aback by the Israeli response in Lebanon.

As these alliances form and the market research is done, one perhaps unintended side effect is that the issues are clarified for everyone. The Hamas and Hezbollah actions are not just market research for Iran or Al Qaeda. We also benefit from the results. We learn as much about them as they learn about us, and exactly who is zooming who becomes more and more obvious. For all the MSM sympathy for the Lebanese civilian hostages of Hezbollah, regrettably killed by Israel, certain facts have moved toward the exalted rank of conventional wisdom, e.g., Iran, and its subservient ally Syria, are behind the Hezbollah attacks, and are their necessary and sufficient supporters. This was a fringe opinion a few weeks ago. Now to deny it, is to relegate oneself to Dante’s circle of the unserious. It has also begun to take root in the zeitgeist that the nature of the war in Iraq has changed, that the insurgency has yielded to “sectarian violence”. This is vastly important and is part and parcel of what is happening in Lebanon. Al Sadr has pledged to send troops to Lebanon in support of Hezbollah. Howard Dean has castigated Maliki for being insufficiently pro-Israel.

World War III, or IV, depending on how you count, is beginning. Would that it were not so. If I were a betting man, I would bet on civilization, but there were a lot of smart Romans who lost that bet.