Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Long Post

Not sure fencing off the Muslims and taking their guns (as Steve puts it) would be even remotely possible. We're talking about dozens of countries, billions of people, and God knows how many weapons left over from many years of warfare. I don't think you can cut them off from the world - you have to deal with them in some way or other.

I just wonder - if we're going to deal with them, as many prefer, diplomatically and economically rather than militarily, just exactly WHO the hell are we supposed to deal with? You can make peace with one faction, but as soon as you do some other faction starts killing you AND the first faction. Even if Israel and the PA signed a treaty that would give the Palestinians all the water and electricity they wanted, open up all the roads, remove all the checkpoints, tear down the wall, and let the Saudis build some condos, some group or other would be murdering Jews again before the ink was dry. Has this not been the history of Mideast peace efforts since the whole business started? Can you name an instance where a Palestinian group or government said "Wait, let's talk" and the Israelis said "OK," and then the IDF immediately blew up a refugee camp? (That's a serious question, too - I don't know as much about the conflict as Steve an some others, so I really need to know.) Given this apparently endless cycle, I don't think it's unreasonable for people to believe the Palestinians are basically intractable and, by extension, most of their Muslim brethren - who use Israel as the excuse for everything they do.

Fact-based people, tell me if I'm missing something here...

Bugs: I will make an attempt to set out my perspective on the matter.

As far as Israel-Palestine goes, peace has not always been top priority for either side.

As far as the Islamic world is concerned, it's a complication of demographics and collapsed ideologies and superstructure.

Bugs: I will make an attempt to set out my perspective on the matter.

As far as Israel-Palestine goes, peace has not always been top priority for either side.

As far as the Islamic world is concerned, it's a complication of demographics and collapsed ideologies and superstructure.

To take the second part first.

What typically happens when there are large population fluctuations is that it puts strain on the infrastructure. There are two types of infrastructure. There's the infrastructure that involves roads, schools, hospitals, and so on, and there's the infrastructure that involves people's attitudes about
their surroundings.

When you get a large population spurt, the infrastructure gets over-taxed and people become primed for rebellion. Exactly what causes the transition to rebellion is unclear, but there's no question that there were (at least) large population spurts in France prior to their Revolution, in Russia prior to theirs, and Europe in general prior to the World Wars. (America absorbed a lot of the excess Euro population between the end of the Civil War until WW1, but all we got out of it was the IWW and a few terrorist incidents. Probably because we were so huge and largely unpeopled.)

When the physical infrastructure starts to break down, people get pissed. They become, among other things, alienated. They want changes, not just more roads. They stop being passive, they are ripe for all kinds of revolutionary leadership. They start questioning the status quo. This is also what happened in France, Russia, Europe after WW1.

What's happening in the Muslim world is that population growth has over-taxed the existing material infrastrure. It has also over-taxed the social infrastructure. It is well on the way of creating "secular" Islam.

But there are many problems there.

The first problem is that the over-taxed infrastructure means that people are not being adequately taken care of. The second problem is that the population growth is interfering in the social infrastructure. It was common, for example, for farmer or herdsman to marry at a certain age, and have many children. IOW, a young man gets some assets, gets married, has kids, end of story. But there's a tremendous number of what the Russians used to call "superfluous people" who have no real assets, and if they have a job, it's some kind of BS bureaucrat job. Read Dostoevsky or Gogol to get a handle on what I mean. These guys have little hope of acquiring assets, little hope of acquiring social standing, little hope of marrying, and settling down. These people may, or may not be, poor. But their advancement is blocked because their social infrastructure is overloaded and there's no room to move. Most of the 9/11 guys came from this frame of reference.

A third problem is taking people away from their villages, putting them in big cities, and putting them to work in factories. This always happens when there's a big demographic bump. Typically, two things happen here. First, any city has a multitude of frames of reference. There's no "one explanation" for reality anymore. So, people become secular. When they become secular, they start asking questions. Questions like, "Why am I working in this crummy factory/refinery while that guy drives a Mercedes and has six wives?" In short, in the Muslim world, they are asking the kinds of questions we Westerners asked before our revolutions, which also involved the overthrow of nobility. (Remember that much of the power in the Gulf is princely power.)

There are reactions to this process of urbanizing, secularizing, and industrialization. One reaction is fascism. That covers Syria, the former Iraq, and Egypt. The attraction of fascism is that it gives everyone an identity, that is, a national identity, and it tells a single story, so people have something to believe in again. Another reaction is retreat, but a calculated retreat. That is Iran. Iranians are not really religious fanatics, but they go along with the mullahs because it gives them a simple set of rules and interpretation. It's easier than wide-open secularization, which is what we have in the US and Europe today. A third reaction is simple maintenance of the royal status quo, by force. That covers Saudi Arabia, and most of the rest. Of all the Arab countries in the region, Egypt, which is sort of post-fascist, and Jordan, which is sort of post-monarchical, are I think the most stable.

So what's going to happen? It depends on where the demographic pressure is most severe. Off the top of my head, I think, today, the pressure is worst in the Persian Gulf region, comprising Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and the fertile crescent along the Mediterranean, including Israel/Palestine. I think Iran is feeling its oats. I don't think it wants to conquer anyone, but I do think it wants to dominate the region. That is not in our interest, and it's not in Israel's interest. However, it's another question as to whether we (or Israel, if they could) would fight a war over it, because it would threaten to dislocate the global economy, which could create economic problems and the possibility of creating revolutionary situations all over the world.

First thing I should say, is that the likelihood of a western style democracy is not in the cards. The economic reality, and the historical tradition, do not support a democracy emerging for many decades. What you are likely to get is more countries like Egypt and Jordan.

There will probably be civil wars and/or revolutions in many of these states. These will be about jockeying for power. There will probably be many dead. There will also probably be many refugees, giving a strong Muslim flavor to both Europe and America. After 20-30 years, things will calm down.

The $64 question is, what's going to happen to us, to Europe, to Israel.

9/11 proved that we Americans have an interest in the Muslim world. We have to guide, and backstop, them. What is the likelihood of a small terrorist group like Al Qaeda getting a nuke and blowing it in the US? I would say, first, a nuke is a bit of a step up from a box cutter: let's not make these freaks into supermen. IF we work on our intelligence, and we maintain our security, we should be able to nip something like this in the bud. We aren't going to make ourselves safer, however, by bombing various Muslim countries. All that will do is radicalize more people, swell the ranks of Al Qaeda, and create more refugees.

Obviously we can't beat them if we don't even know what they're saying. I heard Ken Adelman say we have SIX Arabic language experts in our defense establishment. That's absurd. We should have six thousand. Spend the money. It's not hard a language, it's no harder than Hebrew.

We have to integrate the Muslims. That's not a problem for the US, we integrate and assimilate very well. It is a problem in Europe -- where most of these plots are hatched -- and in Israel, where integration is officially not done (but of course, unofficially it's common.)

What is the risk of a state actor nuking someone? Well, let's put it this way. I wouldn't trust Ahmadenijad with an electric razor. The guy is seriously nuts. On the other hand, he's not the real power in Iran. I wouldn't be too concerned about him. He frankly should not be in power because he is deliberately inflammatory. Look for him to go in the next year or os.

Will Iran get nukes? Probably. Will the nuke anyone, esp Israel? No. Nuking Israel would end up making all of the Holy Places there, which are sacred to Muslims, radioactive, even a low yield bomb would kill as many Arabs as Jews, incidentally probably make large parts of the country uninhabitable. I doubt if if that would please the Palestinians much.

Iraq is probably going to descend into civil war, and that may lead to wars between Turkey/Kurds, Syria/Saudi/Sunni vs Shiite/Iran, and so on. But those won't be nuclear wars. If there are great casualties, and large numbers of refugees, the US will probably get blamed for it, because we deposed Saddam, but it won't really be our fault. We would probably end up taking in many hundreds of thousands of refugees, however. We're good at that.

What about Israel and the Palestinians? I think you are right, the Israelis cannot stop being vigilant, because there's always going to be someone ready to start shooting. The problem is that Israeli expansion has occurred in such a way that it is now thoroughly enmeshed around and in the Palestinians.

I think for the first 20 years after 67 the Israelis did not intend to give up the West Bank. I think they were hoping that the Palis would get tired and leave and/or accept Israeli suzerainty. What changed that was the first intifada. It was only after that, I feel, that Israel seriously entertained giving up land for peace. Of course, not all Jews nor all Israelis like that idea. That's why the first Israeli architect of the idea, Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated.

Of course, the Palestinians haven't been interested in peace, either. Under Jordanian control, the Palestinians were hassled by the Jordanians, and the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from where Israel now stood (some of whom were forcibly expelled, see Rabin's memoirs) were confined to UN administered refugee camps, where they, and their descendants, still live today.

Arafat got his start way back in '65, when he tried to blow up an Israeli water line (yes, even then it was an issue.)

The Palestinians who left where Israel is today, or who were forced to leave, want to go back. It's impractical of course, but, since they're confined to refugee camps, what's the alternative? They really have no place to go, so, they have made the old homes an obsesssion, complete with wearing door keys around their necks. That is why, in any future peace, the Israelis are going to have to bite the bullet and say "I'm sorry" about those expulsions.

Of course the Israelis cannot actually allow the Palestinians to return, because then Israel loses on demographics, etc. etc.

Meanwhile, Israel has its own problems. 20% of their population is non-Jewish, but the whole concept of Israel is based on a country run by Jews for Jews. The non-Jewish minority is growing, in two ways: one, through native birth rates, and two, through the influx of Soviet Jewry (the main source of immigration, or aliyah, to Israel in the past 20 years.) About a million Soviet Jews came to Israel in the last fifteen years, after legislation was passed disallowing Soviet Jews from leaving Russia with Israeli visas and then coming to the US, instead (which is where they usually went, prior to that legislation.) This was engineered by Sharon, Shamir, and others, to beef up the Jewish population vis a vis the non-Jewish population. The problem however is that many of these Soviet Jews come from mixed marriages and their Jewishness is a bit tenuous.

Israel is also suffering from battle fatigue. I mean, Israel/West Bank together is about the size of New Jersey, which is the most densely populated state in the Union, but has 2 million more people, much less rainfall, significant deserts, water shortages, and few natural resources. It has intellectual capital to burn, but there aren't enough ways to employ that, which is why the trend for young Israelis is to wander to more moderate climes, more opportunity, less likelihood of violence (yes, that's a factor), and so on. They are still Israelis, they still love their country, they keep their visas, but ....

Israel needs significant donations. It gets them from governments, like the US, and it gets from private Jewish agencies. To get immigrants, and to keep immigrants, it offers them great real estate deals, in the West Bank (usually), and money to live in Israel. The pull is, "this is a nation for you, a Jew." Problem there is, Jews are just as secular as most Christians nowadays, so the religious pull of Israel is fading. What remains is, "Your fellow Jews need your help, because we are embattled, etc. etc." That still works, at least as far as donations are concerned. However, that appeal won't work, if Israel became a binational state.

Basically, if Israel is at peace, then it will get less support. But if it is threatened, it gets more. If it can continue to portray itself as a Jewish homeland (although only about 1/3 of the World's Jews live there), then it will continue to get support from World Jewry. But if it becomes binational, then it's appeal to Jews will also diminish. So they have a tough problem, not even counting the Palestinians.

The Palestinians are stuck. Realistically, I expect a lot of them will come to the US. I have known some. They are OK. They look very Jewish. ;-)

The key is breaking down the refugee camps, in the West Bank and Gaza.

Then the Israelis have to offer to make serious territorial concessions, behind closed doors, including Arab East Jerusalem.

Then the Israelis have to apologize.

Then the Palestinians have to apologize.

Then the US has to support both states. Shoot, I'd raise my taxes for that. Would you? I'm tired of it.

The Israelis are ripe for territorial concessions. I would almost say, that the Israelis are ripe for a binational socialist state. The Palestinians are not ready yet. They can be helped getting ready by:

a) systematically relieving overpop through emigration to the US,
b) rebuilding infrastructure destroyed since 2000,
c) gradually returning lands, and compensating the Jews who depart,
d) investing capital in Palestinian areas,
e) US financed desalinization plants throughout Israel/Palestine/Gaza,
f) empowering moderate factions in Palestine,
g) talking, yes, even to Hamas,

There are probably other things. The wall actually HELPS, short term, because due to that the Israelis have no reason to destroy Pali infrastructure as they did in, say, 2002. But I see no reason why we Americans can't have a significant portion of our consumer goods made by Palestinians. And that's the kind of infusion that could help them take off.

So, you see, there will probably be fighting, and a large loss of life, in the Muslim world in the next 20-30 years. But it need not go nuclear. What the US has to do is facilitate change while at the same time supporting stability. A difficult balancing act. It will cost more in terms of money, than in terms of blood.

What we as Americans can do is insist on a more involved position in the Muslim world, and that includes the entire Israel/Palestine situation. It will cost us a lot of money. And we should keep our powder dry, by increasing our armed forces accordingly. The threat is always stronger than the execution.

The end state we should be aiming at is social equilibrium throughout the Muslim world, and that includes Israel/Palestine and Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc.

In this process, words are very important. Therefore, we should avoid the "A" word (used by Carter), the "R" word, the "A-S" word, and we avoid disrespecting Muslims, like it's a big joke to piss them off.

What we should not be doing is selling the American people a bill of goods about how we can cause these changes to occur magically by Shock 'n' Awe, and Democracy, in a war that will last no more than three months, that will pay for itself, and similar hogwash. The American people have to be leveled with as to the sacrifices we should make. Otherwise, a lot more people will die. And we should stop looking for military solutions, when, as I have tried to show, the problems are economic, structural, infrastructural, demographic, and ideological,
and have to be managed in that manner.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Response to Jeff Goldstein and His Chorus Blog

This time, however, the media cannot control the entirety of the narrative. And we feckless keyboard warriors and chickenhawks will never let Americans forget,

You really are a talented writer. The problem is that America will forget, because no one hangs around to read keyboard warriors whose overriding ethos or tone is different from what they already believe. And that seems to be the problem with the blogosphere. Everyone seems content to hang out with people who agree with them, and slander anyone who disagrees, and in this way there is no persuasion, which means the numbers stay the same.

The only entre out of obscurity is a fact-based analysis (e.g., the expose of the fraudulent docs concerning Dubya’s service) and even then it bubbles up via MSM. Expressions of opinion, no matter how finely wrought, or magnanimous (an adjective tha applies almost no blog posts), just aren’t going to bubble up and propagate.

The problem is that the war has not turned out as it was advertised in late ‘02 and early ‘03. That’s just a fact. As a consequence of that fact, the American people are tired of the war, and just want it over. The polls on this have been solid for some time.

I watched the TV commentators (and their guests) today. They seemed to cover the spectrum fairly well. Most everyone is calling for “one last push”—ok, fine. Do it. But everyone agrees that this “one last push” is a final roll of the dice. And that if it doesn’t work, we gotta get out. That’s the broad carapace of common sense / conventional wisdom / received opinion which keyboard warriors would have to pierce.

Of course, failure in Iraq—we appear to be failing so far—is terrible for the United States and brutally cruel to our men and women in the armed forces of the United States, the dead, and the maimed. We could—in the opinion of those who think the whole project was a mistake—“throw good money after bad”, or “stay the course” for those who think there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. But that approach has to contend with the “you told us sumpin different!” attitude that is now widespread across the land.

_I_ think that at this point it’s a failure of political leadership. If we really want to go balls to the wall in Iraq, we have to go balls to the wall in the whole region, we have to have political leadership that points to the militarization of our culture, the notion of necessary shared sacrifice, but all of this with ABSOLUTE GUARANTEES of individual rights (inc. privacy, freedom of speech), and the notion that we cannot afford to allow a billion Muslims to go batshit, not only because of the oil that fuels the global economy on whose stability our country depends, but also because we cannot afford 1/6th of the population of the world to be unstable, to acquire nuclear weapons and destroy cities in accordance with a nihilist ideology.

However, there’s no way we can do these things with the relatively puny number of people we have in our armed forces. In World War Two, at one point or another, 25% of Germans were in uniform. Our armed forces, including recent veterans, probably is at about 1%. We cannot provide security to the world—our world—under those circumstances.

Nature abhors a vacuum and politics abhors a vacuum of power. There are vacuums of power throughout the Arab/Muslim world, and either we, Americans, fill those vacuums or someone else will. We need to orient our society towards armed service, mobilize the country, re-establish the draft, drastically increase our armed forces (especially ground forces), increase taxes to fund our defense establishment, and then pacify Iraq. Then, we act further on the basis of what the neighbors do. We do not act on the basis of our limited forces, we do not act on the basis of “what we think we can get away with.”

SHORT TERM, I think we are losing and will lose. Too many people have an almost superstitious faith in the efficacy of remote weapons systems. Short term, we cannot possibly put enough people on the ground. But LONG TERM (five years) we can do this. We simply need the political leadership to do it, and we aren’t getting it, and it is unlikely we are going to get it via blog posts here or there. If we don’t get the political leadership to do the things I have outlined, then we will in fact lose, regardless of the imprecations and gnashing of teeth.

NOTE: Although I have been calling for radical increases in the size of the armed forces for a long time, people always accuse me of being a defeatist, because, they say, I am only suggesting these alternatives because I “know” they are unattainable. Rubbish. We can do anything we want to do, we simply need the political leadership to spell out to the American people what’s going on and what needs to be done.

On the other hand, if people continue to insist that these problems can be solved by dropping more bigger bombs, or by killing more people and letting God sort them out, or by insisting we can turn the Iraq fiasco into a triumph by “controlling the narrative”, we will continue to fail. This is not something that can be solved by sending 20 K troops into Baghdad and letting them act like the Wehrmacht in Occupied Russia. We need a lot more people involved, and unless we get that, we will lose, lose, lose, and we are not getting the political leadership to get there.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Thoughts on Academia

I will offer some thoughts on academia, since I was once a part of it.

Some few people gravitate to academia because they are extremely bright and want/need some kind of stipend in order to support their research. The vast majority of people who fit this bill (and they are a tiny minority of academicians), are in the hard sciences. The reason is because there's new data and methods being discovered all the time and therefore there's real, hands on work to do.

Another class of people are in academia where they have a special skill that in turn they pass on to students. Think some applied science disciplines, and esp foreign language study.

In literature and the social sciences another set of circumstances obtain. There are some successful novelists in literature. There are some outstanding historians of literature. And there are a lot of people who just like to read. Ditto sociology, poli sci, history, etc. in this area.

One should ALWAYS remember that the academy is a business. It promises a product: a mind that has been inculcated with the accumulated wealth of our civilization, or, at the very least, a certificate that attests to that. The price can be, say, $150,000. (It can also be a lot cheaper, and even more expensive.)

To sell the product, the academy has to tailor its curriculum to the potential buyers. This brings about a situation that is actually a little unusual. Normally, we advertise to a consumer for something that he or she will actually use. In the case of a college education, we advertise for something one person will (theoretically) use, and another person (the parents) will largely if not entirely pay for.

That means college curricula, extra-curricular activities, campus layout, and all the rest have to appeal not only to the 18 year old Jack and Jill who will be attending college, but also the the 40 something (or 50 something, or whatever) parents who will be paying for it. The kids have to be sold on fun, self-discovery, deep meaning, relevance, and so on. The parents have to be sold on practical utility and ROI.

Thus the packaging of a college education is a little bit like breakfast cereal packaging: the cereal is sweet, and delicious looking, there might even be irresistable trinkets inside. But the sidebar of the box assures the parents that the product is GOOD FOR THE KIDS.

The parents are sold by statistics. X no. of Nobelists, or National Book Award finalists. X millions of dollars in research grants acquired by faculty. X % of graduates tracked to make Y amount. That sort of thing.

The kids are sold on other things. Getting past the most obvious (sex and beer), they are sold on relevance. Virtually every college has a department of middle east studies, because, it's in the news every day. Thirty years ago, there used to be departments of German and/or Soviet Studies everywhere. Where are they now? Gone, replaced by Muslim studies, Gay studies, Chinese Studies, Far East Studies, etc. etc.

Part of this is driven by geopolitical realities (we really should be graduating more Arabic and Persian mavens), but a large part of it is driven by what an 18 year old thinks is relevant. And what an 18 year old thinks is relevant, is, 99% of the time, usually just a reflection of the surrounding popular culture, which, by definition, will be shallow and short-sighted.

The people who work in academia, I mean, the professors, have to service the students in this manner. They have to teach about the things the students want to hear. Not necessarily WHAT they want to hear (in terms of interpretation), but subject matter.

At the same time, for any job security, the academician has to produce a lot of papers, reviews, and generally one or two books, to go into their CV so they can get job security, otherwise known as tenure.

That's not all they have to do. They generally have to teach three courses simultaneously, that involves lecturing perhaps nine hours a week. In addition, they have to allow about four hours a week to listen to students complain about their lives or about how to write their papers. If a professor is conscientious, there will be another four hours a week for group discussions, and LOTS of reading and writing assignments for the students, which in turn have to be read, graded, and evaluated with an eye to the student's improvement.

Also, since the college is essentially a bureaucracy, there will lots of meetings, and any professor, especially a novice, will have to "volunteer" (because tenure tracks this also) for committees that have significant student participation. The Black Students Union, Gay Lesbian Bisexual Tranvestite Congress, Asian Students Union, Traffic Committee, American Indian Union, Halal Breakfast Menu Committee, and, of course, the dreaded American Indian Indian American Revolving Door Committee, not to mention department meetings, faculty meetings, and pep rallies will normally take up another 10-15-20 hours a week, in addition to teaching and prep, and in addition to the research and writing that will generate the paper trail that ensures tenure.

It is NOT an easy life. And it doesn't pay very well either, comparatively.

So: Outside of the geniuses and the savants in academia (comparatively few), who really makes a career in this? People who are gregarious, who like directing the lives of young people to a better place, IOW, the same qualities that make good elementary school teachers, except usually better read, but not necessarily more intelligent. Because they are in continual symbiosis with the darlings whose parents are paying for a piece of paper, the faculty tends to adopt the youthful idealism and values of the generally non-adult student body. To be sure, one can avoid this, and be independent. Then one likely will face ostracism from one's faculty peers, and even from the students (poor course evals, no one signs on for your lectures, etc.)

Is it any wonder that the academy is overrun by people with immature world views and opinions? Those who are not, esp those who have to face the reality of raising children or just earning a decent living, generally do not stick around.

There are some exceptions. But we are making a HUGE MISTAKE if we choose to denigrate the life of the mind, that is distributed in and out of the academy. There are significant things being done in many fields, inside and outside the academy. Broad brush dismissals of the sciences, philosophy, or even the humanities, because of the academy's dependence on selling their sheepskin product, are quite unfair. While the percentage of ACADEMICS who are making, or who make, substantial contributions to our continuing knowledge may be smaller than one might think, that doesn't mean that they make no contribution, and, furthermore, in addition to all of their other duties they are, faute de mieux, the CUSTODIANS of our intellectual tradition, going back thousands of years. However silly their political opinions might be, EVERY academic understands their duty in that respect. If they don't know the books, the lineage, the background, then no one will. They know this, they study it, but it's not the type of thing the ordinary person asks, nor is the kind of thing that ever gets quoted on the Internet.

In sum: The people in academia are the way they are because they are engaged in selling a product. They are not necessarily fonts of wisdom (though sometimes they are.) They are the repository of accumulated knowledge, and they have to work hard. Yes, they tend to write and speak about the world we live in in stupid and silly ways. But they usually do have an expert knowledge that no one cares about. Meanwhile, they work very hard, and are not paid very well, for the work they do. It is true they tend to arrogate to themselves the voice of wisdom and irreproachable authority: well, anyone who falls for that has only himself to blame.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

My Crystal Ball on Israel

Daily Kos has a post on "Imagine a World Without Israel." The posting at Kos is absurd.

However, I have to say that I think Israel in say a generation is going to be a lot different than it has been. I would say the same about Europe, and the United States as well.

Certain things run common in history. One of these is that wealthy countries act as magnets to poorer countries, that wealth is redistributed by revolution (violent or peaceful) when the demographics warrant, and that whenever a country tries to nativize itself against teeming hordes of Others, they have already lost.

I know people like to give the example of the Native Americans. Couple things there. First, there was a lot of intermarriage (my ancestors, among them; South Carolina Cherokee.) Second, there weren't that many, WRT to the territory: density was not an issue.

Another example has to do with genocides or ethnic cleansings. Well, the Armenians are back in Armenia and Germans have been floating back to lands outside of Germany for awhile now, and, thanks to the extension of the EU, will be able to buy the old family farms in another 15-20 years.

Demographically, the US is going to become more Hispanic (heavily Amerind south of the border already, BTW), Europe is going to become more Muslim, and greater Israel (Jordan to Med) will probably have a Pali majority in a few years.

All these people are going to want to be treated as equals by the dominant cultures. They will get it, eventually. That's just the way it goes. In Israel's case, they will never be able to "lock out" the West Bank, or Gaza, or their own Arabs. Although today the Palis are proportionally much poorer and less powerful than their Jewish Israeli counterparts, that will change. It just will.

Meanwhile, Israel is becoming more secular. More Israelis are thinking about living elsewhere; even today probably less than half of world Jewry actually live in Israel, I know several nominal Israelis who live in the Northeast who frankly prefer it here, for various reasons.

Meanwhile, the meme that Israel is unwise to Jews because it concentrates too many in one space, or the meme that Israel causes anti-semitism, are both frequently made by Jewish commentators (Tony Judt, et al.)

So I expect that Israel is going to end up as a binational state, or even a blended state of Jews and Arabs. It will be much stronger for it, too. That's my guess.

No One Pays Any Attention to Me: Fine!

Self-originating posts are not my thing right now. I do, however, react to other people's blogs, and I will post them here, as an immortal record of stuff I would have said at random over the telephone or with my mouth half full of food over lunch.

Of course, it's no secret that a lot of internet comm is inter-active based, I mean, people say stuff to get noticed, and to get stroked (or stoked.) That bothers me less and less since, compared to my too hectic family life, it really doesn't matter what people think of what I write. But at least this way I keep in practice.

So, a couple things .....


I have noticed that the news cycles have been going very rapidly in recent weeks. Can it be that it was just 10 days ago that everyone was freaked out N. Korea's missiles? That got Iraq off the pages. Then Iraq came back, no, wait, trouble in Gaza, no, wait, problems on the Lebanese border.

In some vague way the crises are always the same, the outrage is always the same, the call for bold destruction always the same, and then someone changes the channel .....

I would not want to say that we are collectively being played. I would say that most people have an astoundingly short attention span, as well as a willingness to be led hither and thither by whatever news is passed on to them. Is life really worth living when it is so much at the mercy of some reportage of events over which, in fact, we have no control?


I don't disagree that multicult is often used to put a minority POV that is attempting to become dominant on an essentially spurious (because undeserved) equal level with a majority POV. If that's what you are saying. In that case, we might call multiculturalism affirmative action for ideas.

OTOH,as a devotee of individualism, individual rights, and social libertarianism (even privacy rights) as a bulwark against the capabilities of modern governments to control and interfere with the lives of their people, I must say that any shrink-down of executive power is not going to be greeted with unhappiness in this corner.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Geneva Extended to the Bad Guys

In general, I think it’s good, and also good PR, for the US to abide by Article 3. I really see no reason not to. I doubt that treating these people badly has yielded much good intelligence. And, I have heard anecdotally, and know from my own time in service (part of which was in helping run a ship’s brig), that unless there are bright lines there will be abuses.

As I understand it, quite a few of these guys we are holding are suspicious characters who may be dangerous to us. Fine. Hold them for the duration, or, re-write the laws to get it past SCOTUS so they can have a day in court. That will settle it once and for all.

On the other hand, I’m sure a good number of these dudes are hostile sadistic killers. Frankly, treating them under Article 3 will only treat them as well as our sizable national Death Rows which are inhabited by thousands of hostile and sadistic killers, whose deeds are well documented.

People are angry and I understand that. I just don’t see the justification for abuses or interrogation techniques bordering on torture.

I realize the WOT is very frustrating but we won’t get to where we want to be by thumping or offing people. Mainly because that’s not the purpose of the WOT. The aim is to get the people in the Middle East to change their minds and change their ways. That’s a supra-military task. It will take a long time. But, quoting Pope, “A man convinced against his will remains unconvinced still.”

An Odd Silence Amid Bloody Fantasies of Revenge

I have noticed since the release of the latest videotape, showing the desecrated and mutilated remains of the 2 American GI's in Mahmoudiya, that the right wing has been rather quiet on related matters, and unwilling to say anything explicit about the charges against 5 Americans for the rape, murder and desecration (by burning) of an Iraqi family. Granted, the jihadists may be attempting an ex post facto justification. But why not at least mention the terrible accusation against our own soldiers? Perhaps they are afraid of being accused of moral equivalence.

Meanwhile, the right wing is seething, and insists that we wreak a terrible vengeance on any and all Iraqis who may have had a hand in this outrage against our troops. I will leave it to your imagination as to how they would react if, say, their neighbor's family was raped, murdered, and desecrated .....

Latest Video of Mutilated American Soldiers

Many years ago, when I was a kid in the '60's, I read a book called "The Curtain Rises" by Quentin Reynolds. I remember when I picked it up I thought it was going to be about plays, or something. Actually, it was a book of Reynolds' reportage during WW2, and in this volume, mostly about the US arrival in North Africa.

One thing that struck me was the casual mention of a torture that local Arabs had inflicted on wayward GI's who had been dumb enough to have sex with an Arab woman. Their genitalia were cut off, and placed in their mouths, and then their throats were cut. I don't know if this is true, but it definitely turned me off to Arab chicks.

I do recall that Reynolds mentioned this, and that the Americans talked about it, there was no discussion about retributively killing all Arabs if or when something like this happened. It was just a cautionary tale.

Anyway, in a possible attempt to cash in on a recent case in which Americans are accused of rape and multiple murders, Iraqi terrorists have released a video of 2 Americans who were tortured, killed, and mutilated. I wrote the following somewhere:


I don't know if I would call our guys "dupes", but there's definitely something about this case that looks like retribution to me.

The rape murder happened in March. The ringleader gets a discharge in April. The 2 guys get kidnapped and mutilated in June.

One can say that no one had a clue about the March incident, but, frankly, I think that's naive.

I don't think it's just a coincidence that the guy who was the main accused perp in the rape murder was discharged soon after. Nor do I think it's a coincidence that our 2 guys were killed and mutilated when they were in the time line. Outside of those 4 contractors in Fallujah -- and that was 3 years ago -- I can't think of a single time US troops were ambushed, then slaughtered, then mutilated. Given that -- going back to the US in North Africa in WW2 -- it is well known that Muslims will kill and mutilate in retaliation for sex crimes, I'm sorry, but I think that's what this is.


I will say a bit more. The discharge of this guy is suspicious to me. It looks like there was a deliberate intent to get rid of him. Normally, once you are discharged, you are not going to be charged for any crimes you committed in uniform. That's why most of the people at My Lai were never charged: they were long gone out of the service. Charging this guy was extraordinary. Which suggests that, if not for the blowback, retaliations, and confessions, this dude might have gotten away with this scot free (assuming he did it, of course.) That's a spooky thought.

On the other hand, if the Army had any suspicions about this incident, the very last thing they would do, for PR purposes, is broadcast it. Yes, a case like this might be a discrete act of madness by a handful of Americans, etc. etc., but every ONE case like this defames all of us, and, yes, endangers the people we have there as well as all of us at home. Committing crimes of passion against Iraqis, or any Muslims, in these days, is to give major agitprop victories to the other side. That's just the way it is. We have to be clean, not only because it's right, but because otherwise, we lose.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Deb Frisch and Jeff Goldstein

I don't have a lot of time for blogging. It's not that I don't think my views are important, but I am bit more fact-oriented than that, and, when doing I have the time I tend to focus on other things.

Pretty much each day, I read selected sites. I read Drudge, for breaking news. WaPo, NYT, WSJ; NRO, Andrew Sullivan, like that. I also read Michelle Malkin, not because I think so highly of her stuff but because the far right interests me.

Anyway, today, Michelle had a post about a guy named Jeff Goldstein who had a denial of service attack in conjunction with some gal making pornographic comments about his child. So, I followed up on that.

Obviously, this woman should not have said these things. Just in general people should not make death threats or child porn threats. Of course, it can actually be dangerous. But I've seen it before; it's usually people who for one reason or another have lost control of themselves. In other words, it's not dangerous but it's still disgusting and legitimate source of shame.

But I also think I would leave it there. Apparently, this woman has already lost her job as a result of this; what more is useful? Money? Please. Jail. Double please. I hope she gets help, I think she needs it. I wouldn't go after it.

On the other hand, I don't know what Jeff Goldstein is going to do. As a father, I can recall when my kids were little how I would have reacted as he did: by, apparently, making a federal case of it. However, now that the perp and her circumstances should be pretty obvious to any observer who isn't blind; I'd let it go. There's no point in being impolite to a woman who insists she has balls.

The other thing I can't help but note is that too many people in the blogosphere take themselves way, way, too seriously.

Peace out.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Post Zarqawi

I am glad that Zarqawi is dead. Truth be told, he was already irrelevant because his taste for sadistic violence had marginalized him, but it's good he won't be doing any more killing.

On the heels of his death Bush has now gone to Iraq, and once again I have to ask, what exactly are we doing there? We recall that the invasion was justified on the grounds of toppling Saddam, and getting the WMD's. All that was done in three weeks. Not only that, but by the end of the year, Saddam was in prison and his sons were dead, so there was no chance for a succession crisis.

Why are we there now? Basically, we are there to hold the "new Iraq" together. That could take a long, long time. Furthermore, that's not how the war was sold. Indeed, the war, as a war, is long over. If we are going to stay in Iraq as long as there is sectarian violence, then the odds are not only that we will be there for a long time, but we are allowing the violent Iraqis to control the time of our departure. Indeed, if I were an anti-American operative in the Arab (or Shi'ite) world, I would make sure that there was just enough violence to keep the US tied down -- forever. And I don't think it would take a lot of effort, either.

We no longer have the initiative, which, in battle, is fatal. In a counter-insurgency, where our motives for remaining are entirely about politics and saving face, the lack of initiative is perhaps not fatal but there is such a thing as death by a thousand cuts.

Response to a Haditha Response

Thanks for your comments. I just don't have a whole lot of time for this blog stuff.

On the subject of "Four Hours in My Lai", no question that was a massacre. What I found most unforgiveable there, however, was that the Army was intentionally carrying thuggers, muggers and rapists and putting them in fire teams and/or squads to just do their thing. Disgraceful.

The latest on Haditha is that the E-6 in charge of this op has admitted, through his lawyer, to all of the killings, but in addition he has claimed that he used proper rules of engagement.

Two things here. First, these could not have been official rules of engagement (ROE), that makes our armed forces look trigger happy and clueless. So, they could have been unofficial ROE, which is why three officers in the chain of command were relieved of duty.

But even if "shoot first, identify targets later" was the unofficial ROE, it is clear in this case that the squad leader, and his troops, if they did not act out of revenge and rage (as was originally maintained)then, put plainly, they still over-reacted, perhaps out of fear.

I mean, I can accept the idea that, after an IED goes off, you might finger a house and decide to storm it, especially if you (think) you are taking fire from that house. And I can understand, barely, if the unofficial ROE entitles you to toss grenades and shoot anything moving in a house if you think you are in mortal danger.

But how do you go about shooting up the second house, after shooting up the first one, and knowing that you just killed a bunch of civilians? That makes no sense.

To compound the matter of wasting two households, and then sitting on the roof for several hours and shooting anyone who looks suspicious. The whole thing is atrocious and an embarrassment. All these people should be kicked out of the Corps. However, no hard time. These guys did not create the situation they were put in.

Now, if the ROE were "changed" at battalion level, then there probably was a cover-up and not a "miscommunication" as stated. You cannot have that either. Those officers involved should also be made to resign their commissions.

Actually I have less sympathy for the killings now, than I did when I thought it was a hot massacre. Those things do happen in war. If, however, the ROE's were changed such that basically every guy had a license to kill any Iraqi at any time, that is wanton violence, inexcusable in any war, and especially in a counter-insurgency, when you need hearts and minds.

We'll see how this plays out.