Sunday, July 29, 2007

Summer Vacation 2007

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I'll be vacationing next week in Washington, D.C., and New York City with my oldest son. Blogging will resume sometime the second week of August. I want to thank my readership for all the great comments and debates we've seen this last few weeks. Upon my return, I pledge to leave a comment on the blog of anyone who comments here.

My son and I have a great itinerary planned: It's pretty much a full day of travel flying from the West Coast to the East. But on our second day of the trip, our first visit will be a tour of the White House. I had to make arrangements for the White House tour through my congressman's office. His staff was very professional and organized. We'll also be having a tour of the Congress on our third day in D.C. I got some tickets for a Washington Nationals baseball game as well, and I'm really excited to visit Arlington National Cemetery.

Of course, one full afternoon will be spent on the Washington Mall, taking in the memorials to the triumphs and tragedy of American history. My dad took me to Washington when I was a small boy, and I promised my son I'd take him. He loves history, so he'll be really receptive to our travels.

We're also spending a few days in New York City. We'll take the train from Washington, and after a day of rest we'll visit the Statue of Liberty and cruise around downtown Manhattan. I've also secured Yankees tickets (which are the most expensive baseball tickets I've ever seen), so we'll visit Yankee stadium before its demise next year. I also want to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as the United Nations.

Well, so far it looks like our days are just packed!

Thanks again to all the wonderful people I've been meeting online! Vacation time is also a blogging vacation - we all need to take a few days away from our computers from time to time.

God bless America!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Facing Iran's Nuclear Challenge

Iranian nuclear proliferation is emerging as one of the top strategic challenge to the United States. What is the appropriate American response to Tehran's nuclear program? It's a difficult question, one that gets bogged down by partisan attacks on the Bush administration and the war in Iraq (can we seriously discuss regime change in Iran while this adminisration remains in power?).

I was pleased, then, to read Colin Dueck and Ray Takeyh's thoughtful
dissussion of the Iranian nuclear challenge in the current issue of Political Science Quarterly (pdf). The article is scholarly but accessible, and it's thankfully brief. Here are a couple of noteworthy points on the nature of Iran's challenge, which capture the interlocking context of Israel and the U.S. in Iranian strategic plannig:

Given the regime’s strident anti-Israeli rhetoric, it is often assumed that Tehran’s animosity toward the Jewish state drives its nuclear determinations....

The question of Israel needs to be assessed carefully, for in this case, rhetorical fulminations conceal more than they reveal. To be sure, Iran views Israel as an illegitimate state, and its continued power as a product of a pernicious conspiracy...However, during the three decades since launching its nuclear program, Iran has pre-ferred to express its disdain for Israel through proxies and has striven hard to wage its indirect war within distinct limits or ‘‘red lines.’’ Indeed, one of the characteristics of this most peculiar of conflicts is that both parties have sought to avoid direct military confrontation....

While Israel may be peripheral to Iran’s nuclear calculations, the American shadow looms large. With the backgound of the perennial tension between the two states, the George W. Bush administration’s muscular unilateralism and calls for regime change as a means of fostering stability have unsettled Iran’s reactionary rulers. For many within Iran’s corridors of power, the only way in which the long-term American challenge can be negated is through the possession of the ‘‘strategic weapon’’... Given the asymmetry of power between the two states, a presumed nuclear capability seems to be the only viable deterrent posture against an adversary that has never accepted the legitimacy of the Iranian revolution and has long sought to
isolate and contain the Islamic Republic.
This is a thought-provoking discussion. Ultimately, Iran's nuclear proliferation regime amounts to a long-range plan to balance American preponderance. Striking Israel - a not so subtle subtext to President Ahmedinejad's anti-Semitic ramblings - appears a lesser objective in Tehran's overall strategic planning.

This has crucial implications for how we conceive the nature of the Iranian threat. Iran sees opportunity in U.S. difficulties in Iraq. Tehran's state leaders see the current correlation of forces as opportune for establishing a great Shiite arch of power across the Middle East. Iranians saw the promise of this opening last summer, with the success of Iran's proxy backing of Hezbollah in the war in Lebanon against Israel.

Dueck and Takeyh nicely lay out the strategic alternatives for the U.S. vis-a-vis Iran. They are probably right to dismiss regime change as an alternative option:

An American invasion and occupation of Iran aimed at dismantling Tehran’s nuclear capabilities is simply not going to happen.
Yet, if that's the case, the alternatives laid out in the article don't look promising. On the one hand, the authors argue that the system of economic sanctions in place since are having limited effect, with Russia and China unwilling to implement truly devasting restrictions on the Iranian economy (oil).

On the other hand, the authors end up arguing that economic sanctions with teeth would be effective in combination with a much more robust strategy of diplomatic and military containment. The key assumption is that the hard-liners in Tehran would not privilege nuclear capabilities over economic stablity:

If presented by the West with a clear choice between nuclear weapons and the avoidance of economic damage caused by truly effective sanctions—or a clear choice between nuclear weapons and genuinely significant economic incentives—the more pragmatic members of Iran’s ruling class, including Supreme Leader Khamenei, could very well choose economic benefits over nuclear weapons. Indeed, the very prospect of such a stark choice might allow a faction of pragmatic hard-liners to outmaneuver the more extreme President Ahmadinejad and thus secure their own power domestically.
This seems a reasonable conclusion. Yet, the case for a comprehensive containment regime, utilizing diplomacy and economic pressure, rests on a degree of economic cooperation among other international actors (Russia and China) that Dueck and Takeyh have already dismissed as improbable.

I'd be surprised if Iran would give up its proliferation regime under a Western policy along the lines suggested by the authors. In the absence of Iranian diplomatic pragamtism - and particularly if Iran ratchets-up its bellicosity - U.S. interests might best be served with preventive airstrikes against Iran's nuclear facilities.

I've discussed this option in previous posts. After reading the Dueck and Takeyh article, I'm more persuaded that U.S. interests would be better served by military strikes that disable Iran's nuclear designs, even if this approach ends up being only a temporary solution.

Supporting the Troops

Do you support the troops? How do you show your support? A. Whitney Brown shows his by writing an essay and creating a YouTube saying they're a bunch of idiots. Here's the video:

To be honest, I don't even know who the heck A. Whitney Brown is. His rants seem to be pedestrian preaching to the radical antiwar choir:

But do I still support the individual men and women who have given so much to serve their country?

No. I think they’re a bunch of idiots. I also think they’re morally retarded. Because they sign a contract that says they will kill whoever you tell me to kill. And that is morally retarded.

Friends, the most important moral decision a man makes in the course of a day is "Who am I going to kill today?"

That’s a decision you should agonize over, dream about, rehearse in your mind for hours, not just leave up to some hare-brained President you didn’t even vote for.

A man’s killing list is a very personal matter. It should be between him and those persistent voices in his head.

So to sum up, I don’t like our troops, I don’t like what they’re doing, I don’t like their fat, whining families, and yet, I support them. Thank God I live in a free country. Thank You.
Brown's entire rant was posted on Daily Kos (where else?). I don't visit that page all that often, and I've never commented there, as one has to be registered, and the thought of it makes my stomach turn a bit. Brown's "supporting the troops" post garnered over three hundred comments, which is no surprise. What is surprising (for a Kos post) is that early in the thread Brown's screed was reputiated by a traditional-thinking American:

It is one thing to disagree with the war in Iraq, there are very justifiable reasons for doing so. It is quite another thing to claim you're a patriot and degrade those who protect our freedoms.

Your post is disgusting and reprehensible. Criticize those who put our troops in harm's way all you want, but do not question the bravery and fortitude of those who put their live's on the line to ensure and protect your freedoms.

And if you choose to do so, do not call yourself a patriot.
I couldn't express my feelings any better. Brown's views are revolting, as is his condescending body language, which seems to imply that if the troops are dumb, those who truly support them are dumb as well.

I would imagine most people in the country know that military service is one of the purest forms of expressive patriotism. But that's just my opinion. Brown has a right to his views, of course, and they are free to compete in the marketplace of ideas. That I can support.

Hat tip to
Thinking Right.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Islam in America: Immigrant Dream or Stealth Jihad?

This week's cover story at Newsweek is a perceptive and balanced analysis of the growth of the Islamic community in America.

My first impression upon reading the banner headline, "Islam in America," was that this was going to be another dopey story of political correctness and blind pro-Muslim orthodoxy. I was surprised and reassured by the straightforward discussion of Islam in the United States, which includes a crystal-clear take on the substantial dangers of home-grown Islamic radicalism for U.S. national security:

Nearly six years after 9/11, the story of Muslims in America is one of overwhelming success. The National Intelligence Estimate released last week warned that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda continue to have their sights set on an attack within the United States. The report also notes a growing radicalism among Muslims in the West. But at a press briefing, intelligence officials were particularly concerned about the threat of homegrown terror cells within Europe's Muslim communities. America, the officials said, has so far provided relatively infertile ground for the growing and grooming of Muslim extremists. "Most Muslims in America think of themselves as Americans," says Charlie Allen, intelligence chief at the Homeland Security Department.

In fact, Muslim Americans represent the most affluent, integrated, politically engaged Muslim community in the Western world. According to a major survey done by the Pew Research Center and released last spring, Muslims in America earn about the same as their neighbors, and their educational levels are about the same. An overwhelming number—71 percent—agree that in America, you can "get ahead with hard work." In stark contrast, Muslims in France, Germany and England are about 20 percent more likely to live in poverty.
The story highlights other, more troubling statistics from the Pew survey: Sixty percent of young Muslims age 18-29 think of themselves as Muslim first, before American. The Pew survey also found that more than a fourth of 18-29 year-old Muslims believed that suicide bombing is justified. Further, 39 percent thought that new Muslim immigrants should remain islolated from the mainstream of American society.

The article quotes Autri Sajadeen, a 21 year-old pharmacy student of Bangladeshi descent:

On 9/11, "it sounds bad to say, but I remember thinking that I didn't care that it happened. A lot of my friends didn't care. I think it's because we're Muslim." For him, the bombing of Afghanistan that followed was much more tragic and painful.
Sajadeen's alienation is apparently representative of a large segment of the American Muslim youth population.

There is something troubling about this information when it's placed in the context of the foundational beliefs of the Islamic religion. Proponents of Islam routinely point out that it is a religion of peace. But an analysis of basic theological holdings of the faith show that Islam's basic creed calls for the destruction of infidels.

According to Bruce Thornton, in a reveiw of Robert Spencer's The Myth of Islamic Tolerance, Islam is not a tolerant and peace-loving religion. It's a faith that seeks to eliminate challenges to its dominance, a religion that sanctions aggressive violence against non-Muslims:

Eager to display their sensitivity to and tolerance of the cultural “other,” [Islam's] apologists...end up arrogantly asserting that millions of practicing Muslims don't understand their own religion. But of course the jihadists know what their religion teaches about non-Muslims: they are categorically inferior infidels, particularly the “People of the Book,” Jews and Christians, “renegades who have rejected this final revelation [of Muhammad] out of corruption and malice and who have exchanged truth for falsehood.” They are accursed, and as such, it is the duty of every Muslim “to fight them,” in the words of the Qur'an, “until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah.” In a later verse this injunction is specifically directed against Jews and Christians: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya [a special tax on non-Muslims] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”

As for those fantasies of intercultural harmony entertained by many Western multiculturalists, consider this verse from the Qur'an: “O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors. They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turn to them (for friendship) is of them.” As Spencer reminds us, “This is the Qur'an that pious Muslims cherish and memorize in its entirety; it is for them their primary guide to understanding how they should make their way in the world and deal with other people. It is nothing short of staggering that the myth of Islamic tolerance could have gained such currency in the teeth of the Qur'an's open contempt and hatred for Jews and Christians and incitements to violence against them.” Spencer's survey of the Hadith, the words and deeds attributed to Muhammed and second in authority to the Qur'an; the interpretations of the Hadith and Qur'an by centuries of Islamic jurisprudence; and the writings of modern Islamic radicals like Sayyid Qutb, the premier theorist of modern jihad, testifies to a consistent tradition of intolerance towards non-Muslims and the divine sanction to subdue them to Islam.
I am not a specialist in Islamic doctrine. I do regularly read policy-driven and academic scholarhip on the clash between Islam and the West. I do believe that America's strength is its vastly more inclusive socio-political system than those of the European contintental democracies.

It would be foolish, however, to discount the radicalism of the Islamic faith's younger cohorts, and it would be unwise to ignore the extent to which
Islam represents a competing ideology determined to prevail over its competitors.

I think the British case serves as a warning to the U.S. Melanie Phillips, a British conservative analyst,
criticized President Bush recently for his tendency to appease domestic Islamic populations. It's contradictory to wage a war on terror, facing radical Islamist forces exclusively, while not speaking out accurately on the forces of extremism in our midst.

We have no interest alienating law-abiding American Muslims who denounce Islamic extremism and place American identity above religious faith. But we cannot kid ourselves in dismissing the considerable dangers on the homefront, be these
migrating threats from European-based mujahideen or the global al Qaeda nework's appeal to Islamist start-ups domestically. It will be good to take of comprehensive approach to understanding Islam in America.

Freedom and Sacrifice

I've had a couple of commenters over on my page remark that young people today place little value on the basic freedoms we enjoy in America - it's all pretty much taken for granted.

Well, freedom isn't free.
Dr. Sanity brings home the point eloquently in her post up this morning. She starts with reflections on Harry Potter, then expands to address the challenges facing the country today:

I have been reading some of the reactions to the last book in the Harry Potter series; and one that keeps popping up in various iterations is, "But WHY did Rowling have to have so many people die in that book? Was that really necessary?"

It strikes me that there is something very significant in that particular reaction to the denouement of the series, because it reflects a particularly 21st century/post-9/11 kind of mindset: the idea that something of value can be achieved without sacrifice or burden or loss.

One of the important themes of the Harry Potter books is that it is important to do what is right, instead of what is easy. Sometimes even, the ultimate sacrifice must be made--that is, if you are truly willing to stand up and defend that which is right and good and decent in the world. And, it is that very truth which in the end destroys evil, because they simply cannot stand against this kind of deep magic.

It is also interesting that the evil we confront in our day and age has even managed to pervert the kind of sacrifice which is made out of love to save lives--specifically by creating the horrific abomination they call a "martyr", and which is in reality nothing more than a brainwashed human bomb, determined to kill and be killed.

I love to read fantasies as much as anyone, but you can easily get lulled into thinking that, in the end, everything will come out ok and none of the good guys will get hurt or have to suffer unduly when they battle evil. In the real world, though, it is more often the case that the good and virtuous whose cause is just will not always win the battle, or even the war.

They especially are not likely to win it if they do not accept that there is a cost that must be paid--in lives and treasure--to secure the blessings of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for one's self and one's posterity.

Those who believe such values are theirs by right and are maintained for free, often show a correspondingly condescending sense of superiority along with their extremely narcissistic entitlement . They have forgotten--if they ever knew at all--how those precious freedoms and the human values on which they are based ever came to be the legacy of America.
Read the whole thing. I can't really add much to what she says, except to say that her message is one that bears repeating, over and over again, so that each generation of Americans will never forget the price of freedom and peace.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Iraq Pullout Risks Falling Dominoes in the Mideast

I've blogged previously on the consequences of a U.S. pullout from Iraq. My earlier reflections on the topic focused on the immediate humanitarian and military aftermath of a precipitous drawdown.

Clifford May, however,
over at the National Review, suggests that a U.S. pullout would cause a dramatic shift toward pan-Islamist militancy across the Middle East.
It's an updated domino theory for the geopolitics of the Iraq war. An Iraq drawdown would cause Pakistan to rethink its alliance with the U.S., allowing fundamentalist forces there to gain an upper hand:
It is probable that Militant Islamists would soon rise to power in other countries as well. Start with Jordan, a nation that already has been attacked by suicide bombers dispatched by al Qaeda in Iraq. Move on to Bangladesh. Add Lebanon, too, a fledgling democracy under intense pressure from Hezbollah, Iran’s longtime terrorist proxy.

Gaza is now ruled by Hamas, a terrorist organization supported by both Iran and Sunni extremists in league with al Qaeda. Its short-term ambition will be to take over the West Bank as well.

Opponents of the U.S. mission in Iraq say they want to “change course.” Most refuse to specify what their new course would be. Others say they want U.S. troops to “redeploy” to friendly countries in the region. But in international relations, nothing cools a friendship like defeat. For any regime to rely on the U.S. for security after the U.S. has abandoned Iraq would be high-risk. In fact, it would soon become apparent that the continuing presence of American forces invites subversion, terrorism and assassination of those in power.

Over time, the only Muslim-majority states to resist the Islamists will be those that accommodate the Islamists. The Europeans, too, will cut their deals.

Israel will hold on — or die trying. You can’t imagine a second Holocaust within a hundred years? Imagine harder.
May goes on to note that Iranian nuclear proliferation would continue full steam ahead, with Iranian predatory designs reaching past the region. Americans could play defense at home, May argues, looking out for both traditional and non-state nuclear threats, and enhancing homeland security.

On the other hand, we could fully support General Petraeus and U.S. forces as they continue routing terrorism in Iraq. And we can sustain full backing of the emerging democracy in Baghdad - an imperfect regime it may be, but one that will thwart terrorism, serving as a key Middle East state holding forth againt the "Islamic empire builders."

The Case of Ward Churchill

Ward Churchill, the radical ethnic studies professor at the University of Colorado, was fired Tuesday by the university's board for plagiarism, falsification, and other academic misconduct.

Hank Brown, the president of the university, explained the Churchill decision in
a column at the Rocky Mountain News. Noteworthy is Brown's emphasis that Churchill was fired for his academic conduct, not for his statement saying the 9/11 victims were little Eichmanns:

The faculty found a pattern of serious, repeated and deliberate research misconduct that included fabrication, falsification, improper citation and plagiarism.

Faculty reviewers unanimously agreed that the evidence showed professor Churchill engaged in research misconduct and that it required serious sanction.
Brown's also got a commentary in the Wall Street Journal today, where he described in more detail Churchill's lack of academic integrity:

The panels found that Mr. Churchill rewrote history to fit his own theories. When confronted, he asserted he was not responsible. According to one report, "Professor Churchill has, on more than one occasion, claimed that certain acts that appear to have been his were instead the responsibility of some other actor: his editor or publisher, his assistant, or his former wife and collaborator." The report goes on to note that "we have come to see these claims as emblems of a recurrent refusal to take responsibility for errors . . . and a willingness to blame others for his troubles."

But his case is about far more than academic misconduct. It is about the accountability that public universities must demonstrate. Mr. Churchill's difficulties in facing up to his academic responsibilities are in many ways emblematic of higher education's trouble with accountability. Too often, colleges and universities tend to insulate themselves in ivy-covered buildings and have not been as diligent as necessary to ensure that the academic enterprise is conducted rigorously and honestly. This elitist attitude is simply outdated, and our university has made tenure reforms -- precipitated by the Churchill case -- that will ensure academic integrity.
Brown concludes by calling on professors in the academy to practice personal responsibility and integrity:

Controversy -- especially self-sought controversy -- doesn't immunize a faculty member from adhering to professional standards. If you are a responsible faculty member, you don't falsify research, you don't plagiarize the work of others, you don't fabricate historical events and you don't thumb your nose at the standards of the profession.
Brown focuses on research, but research informs teaching. The academic enterprise not only expands the frontiers of knowledge, but informs generations of the young. The Ward Churchills of American academe practice anti-American indoctrination, from the elite research institutions on down to the averge community college.

Not all professors engage in these practices, of course.
But educational academies are bastions of the left. Ward Churchill is gone, but it's likely that many other professors will hoist the banner of campus radicalism in his place.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Surge is Gaining Traction in Public Opinion

Today's New York Post highlights a little noticed trend in public opinion polling on Iraq. The Bush administration's new surge strategy is working, and public support for the deployment has been moving upwards as a result:

A new joint poll by CBS News and The New York Times shows that public support for the original invasion of Iraq has risen by a fifth - from 35 percent to 42 percent of those surveyed - over the past two months.

Moreover, there's been a similarly startling drop in those who say the war is going badly, from 45 percent to 35 percent. The number of those who say the war effort is going well is up by about a quarter, from 23 percent to 29 percent.

Back in May, in other words, twice as many Americans thought the war was going badly as thought it was going well. Now the numbers are only a few points apart.

To be sure, the poll shows overwhelming support for a reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq or a complete withdrawal. That's hardly surprising, given the spate of negative reporting from Iraq and the lack of political progress.

So what has changed over the past two months?

Reports from Iraq say that the troop surge is gaining real traction. Indeed, there has been a significant drop-off in suicide bombings. All of which suggests strongly that support for the Iraq effort has long been directly linked to the actual state of the military situation.

Another likely factor: The public's renewed appreciation that the insurgency is linked both to Iran and al Qaeda.

Sure, Americans have serious qualms over the way the war has been prosecuted - and particularly with the seeming inability of the nascent Iraqi government to begin shouldering its share of the military burden.

That's entirely understandable - and not unjustified, either. Even the fiercest pro-invasion partisans are disappointed over what has happened in Iraq since Saddam Hussein was toppled.
But if, in fact, Americans increasingly understand that the invasion of Iraq was justified, that has tremendous political implications for Campaign 2008.

The Democratic presidential candidates, who are falling all over themselves touting their anti-war credentials, may find that running a "Bush lied and thousands died" campaign doesn't resonate as well with voters as they now hope.

If that's the case, it hopefully also holds true that Americans won't allow the Democratic-controlled Congress to undercut the troops by forcing them to cut and run before their mission can be accomplished.
The surge strategy is showing great promise in Iraq. The question is whether there's enough political will in Washington to support the troops on the ground while they finish the job they've begun.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

More Irrationalism and Evasion on the Left

Irrationalism is certainly a crowning mark of the hard-left forces arrayed against the U.S. Sometimes, though, you have to get down in the trenches and engage these whacked-out loonies to experience it first hand (see here and here).

After surfing blogs the other day, I read a post or two over at
Digby's page. I strolled through the comments for awhile. Most of the remarks were little excursions over to Bush-bashing Neverland, which is obviously characteristic of the liberal blogosphere.

I took exception to this comment, though, from N=1, who blogs at
Universal Health:

I believe that the policy of redeploying the Army personnel over and over for 15 months at a stretch is actually a policy of trying to get them killed so that Bush doesn’t incur their lifelong health expenses. I really think he’s using them as literal IED fodder.
The whole comment thread can be found at this post.

After reading N=1's comments, I clicked on her link, and left an objection on her page:

Man! It’s hard to believe that you’d believe such a thing. President Bush has met with thousands of military families, consoling them in their losses. It’s been the hardest part of his presidency. We made mistakes going into Iraq, but we’re there now, and we can win. Thankfully Reid & Co. are so incompetent in their obstructionism, the administration will have some time to see the surge work.
Later, N=1 responded on her page as follows:

Donald: Provide the evidence to support your claims....

Wishing something was so does not make it thus. Repeated lengthy deployments - and record length 15 month deployments - using troops who have been exposed to repeated concussive blasts, and to whom inadequate mental health care was and is offered, let alone adequate armament and equipment - is not a logical plan, by all accounts - military leadership, civilian leadership, the troops themselves, and the informed public. It boils down to three main possible rationales: desperation, willful ignorance and negligence or intentional manslaughter to contain casualty expenses.
Then she came over on my blog to leave a comment:

You hijacked a comment thread on my blog to post several claims without supporting evidence. Please revisit and provide evidence which you find compelling. And next time, please be courteous and place comments on the appropriate associated blog post(s).

Why all the name calling on your blog? Radical - what is the definition of radical? Nuts - why use derogatory terms and ad hominem attacks on people? Argue the ideas, the underlying evidence, and the logic of arguments.

The purpose of debate is to bring opposing arguments to bear, not to destroy other people. Debate is no warfare. It is logic, argument, strategy and congruence of principle and virtue.
I responded on her page, saying that I had not "hijacked" her post. Indeed, I noted that no one had commented at all to that point, so there was nothing to hijack. I also pointed out that "radical" was a maintream term in the literature on ideology, and thus I wasn't name-calling. Finally, I noted I'd back up with evidence any point I made, and left this quote on President Bush from Newsweek, which was one of the sources for my remarks:

"I don't think Congress ought to be running the war," he told reporters before the House voted, largely on party lines, to require that the United States withdraw most combat troops by April 1, 2008. "I think they ought to be funding the troops." Privately, however, he was more reflective. Talking to Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon about another matter, the president got on to the subject of burying dead kids, a highly personal topic for Smith, whose 21-year-old adopted son committed suicide in 2003. Smith says he told the president that his opposition to the war was based in part on "knowing what it's like as a parent to bury a child." Smith pointedly added: "And we're doing a lot of that in this country now." Bush responded, "I understand, because I've talked to several thousand families." Smith tells NEWSWEEK: "He didn't say this, but I know that's the hardest part of his job, and I know how personally this all grieves him."
This wasn't enough for N=1. She rejected my response in an e-mail later, and then deleted the exchange from her blog:

I am taking this conversation off blog as it does not pertain to the parent post.

Thank you for providing the quote from Newsweek. That Bush stated he visited several thousand troops is without independent verification, though. My counter to that is that he exaggerated, and that the number is far fewer. Perhaps the White House would like to put dates of visits and number of those visited in writing, and then we all could assess the veracity of that assertion.

You didn't cite the source of your definition of radical, hard left, reactionary, etc. I would like to know the sources for these terms, as they are used so freely - not solely on your blog, but in many fora.

And yes, inserting a comment randomly after a non-related post is thread hi-jacking, in my book. It doesn't demonstrate respect for the author, and my posts are all easily found via the categories, tag cloud or via the search functions all placed conveniently on the left column of my blog....

I welcome legitimate debate, but not ad hominem attacks or unsupported speculation or propaganda presented as fact. As a first time visitor to a blog, I read the blog rules, if any, read several posts to try to gain an understanding into the blog's intent and the author's style and interests, and then I respond accordingly. Drive by comments aren't something that lend themselves to further consideration and discussion.

You are welcome to visit and comment, but please stay on topic and provide sources where appropriate.
Well, there you have it. Not once did N=1 attempt to support her outlandish original claims regarding the administration. No, her ploy was to assume the attack mode from the start, using the most freaky, non-existent rules of blog ettiquette to evade and obfuscate a simple challenge to her allegations. The finale, of course, was to delete the exhange, elimating from outside review her shifty legerdemain.

When you're dealing with the far-lefties such as this, no amount of or evidentiary argumentation will break them free from their paronoid-style dissonance. I could have given N=1 a peer-reviewed article on the administration's public relations with military families, only to have it rebuked as "propaganda."

I left it alone after that, but it left me thinking:
1) You just can't make this stuff up! 2) N=1 needs some help. She's apparently a nurse writing a socialist medicine blog, so perhaps we can reasonably assume she'll know a good psychiatric clinic.

All in a day's work exposing the left - it's getting to be a big job.

Japan Steps Up to Military Power

Yesterday's New York Times reported that Japan's security policies are increasingly shifting away from the nation's post-WWII pacifist tradition. The latest indicators of Japan's move to great power military status are found in U.S.-Japanese live-bombing training on Farallon de Medinilla, a small Western Pacific island, about 150 miles north of Guam:

The exercise would have been unremarkable for almost any other military, but it was highly significant for Japan, a country still restrained by a Constitution that renounces war and allows forces only for its defense. Dropping live bombs on land had long been considered too offensive, so much so that Japan does not have a single live-bombing range.

Flying directly from Japan and practicing live-bombing runs on distant foreign soil would have been regarded as unacceptably provocative because the implicit message was clear: these fighter jets could perhaps fly to North Korea and take out some targets before returning home safely.

But from here in Micronesia to Iraq, Japan’s military has been rapidly crossing out items from its list of can’t-dos. The incremental changes, especially since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, amount to the most significant transformation in Japan’s military since World War II, one that has brought it ever closer operationally to America’s military while rattling nerves throughout northeast Asia.

In a little over half a decade, Japan’s military has carried out changes considered unthinkable a few years back. In the Indian Ocean, Japanese destroyers and refueling ships are helping American and other militaries fight in Afghanistan. In Iraq, Japanese planes are transporting cargo and American troops to Baghdad from Kuwait.

Japan is acquiring weapons that blur the lines between defensive and offensive. For the Guam bombing run, Japan deployed its newest fighter jets, the F-2’s, the first developed jointly by Japan and the United States, on their maiden trip here. Unlike its older jets, the F-2’s were able to fly the 1,700 miles from northern Japan to Guam without refueling — a “straight shot,” as the Japanese said with unconcealed pride.

Japan recently indicated strongly its desire to buy the F-22 Raptor, a stealth fighter known mainly for its offensive abilities such as penetrating contested airspace and destroying enemy targets, whose export is prohibited by United States law.

At home, the Defense Agency, whose profile had been intentionally kept low, became a full ministry this year. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe used the parliamentary majority he inherited from his wildly popular predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, to ram through a law that could lead to a revision of the pacifist Constitution.

Japan’s 241,000-member military, though smaller than those of its neighbors, is considered Asia’s most sophisticated. Though flat, its $40 billion military budget has ranked among the world’s top five in recent years. Japan has also tapped nonmilitary budgets to launch spy satellites and strengthen its coast guard recently.
Read the whole thing. Japanese politics and security policies demonstrate a near-astonishing degree of pro-Americanism. At a time when America-bashers routinely cite international polling data to show how far America's prestige has collapsed under the Bush administration, Japan - a key power in the international system - has firmly allied its interests to those of the United States.

(Pro-Americanism is a more profound trend than media outlets report, and in fact countries said to be decisively anti-U.S.
have strong demographics showing natural affinity to American world leadership.)

Japan is inclined to see its regional neighborhood as a threatening environment, with rising challengers (China) and rogue regimes (North Korea) providing the systemic impetus pushing the Japanese state to greater strategic independence.

Globally, as the article points out, Japan is a key U.S. ally in Iraq and the war on terror. The Japanese state's transformation from pacifist power to top strategic partner to the U.S. is an encouraging sign.
Great power politics has returned to the international system, with Japan's moves reflecting a policy of bandwagon with the preponderant power in the international realm.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sheehan Protests: Impeachment is No Fringe Job

Didn't Cindy Sheehan quit the antiwar movement a couple months back? Her time in the spotlight was obviously up, and her pain had pretty much served out its usefulness to the hard left factions angling to destroy the Bush presidency.

But no!
The Washingon Post reports that Sheehan was arrested today after marching on Capitol Hill and demanding the initiation of impeachment proceedings against President Bush (via Memeorandum):

Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan was arrested Monday at the Capitol for disorderly conduct, shortly after saying she would run against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the California Democrat's refusal to try to impeach President Bush.

Sheehan was taken into custody inside
Rep. John Conyers' office, where she had spent an hour imploring him to launch impeachment proceedings against Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Conyers, D-Mich., chairs the House Judiciary Committee, where any impeachment effort would have to begin.

"The Democrats will not hold this administration accountable, so we have to hold the Democrats accountable," Sheehan said outside of Conyers' office after the meeting. "And I for one am going to step up to the plate and run against Nancy Pelosi."

Sheehan and about 200 other protesters had walked to Conyers' office from Arlington National Cemetery. She said Conyers told her there weren't enough votes for impeachment to move forward on the issue.

Forty-five of Sheehan's fellow protesters also were arrested. Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said that after they are processed, the arrested activists could each pay a $50 fine to be released.

"Impeachment is not a fringe movement, it is mandated in our Constitution. Nancy Pelosi had no authority to take it off the table," Sheehan told her group of orange-clad activists before they began their march from the national cemetery.
When a prominent and ideologically pure anti-American activists declaims that "impeachment is not a fringe movement," you know it's time for the other side to rest its case.

For more whacked-out Bush-bashing radicalism, head on over to another of the day's more humorous left-wing rant meltdowns, at
The Blue Voice. The Blue post laments:
The transition is complete folks, we no longer live in a free nation. For those of you who still believe that America is the home of the free, have another beer and turn on the TV. You'll be fine as long as you don't protest the war, and keep quiet while Democracy gets fucked. If you say nothing about American crimes and illegal war, you get to keep your bank accounts and your house, and all of that stuff that you worked so hard to acquire.
A police state? I'll keep my coat ready, so I can can get dressed quickly when the SS henchman knock in the night, ready to take me away.

Democrats Show Contempt for Constitutional History

In todays' Wall Street Journal, John Yoo offers a penetrating rebuttal to Democratic attacks on the Bush administration's assertion of executive privilege. Yoo points out the top Republicans need to speak out in defense of this long-standing presidential prerogative, for a constitutional showdown is brewing:

Rather than run from this fight, supporters of the constitutional system ought to stand firm with the president. Presidents, Congresses, and the courts have long accepted a president's right to keep internal executive discussions confidential. Even when the Supreme Court ordered Richard Nixon to hand over the Watergate tapes, it recognized "the necessity for protection of the public interest in candid, objective, and even blunt or harsh opinions in Presidential decisionmaking."

Without secrecy, the government can't function. No one thinks conversations between federal judges and their clerks, or members of Congress and their staff, ought to be aired publicly without good reason. The same goes for presidents--even if their poll ratings are low.

Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Jackson, Polk, Lincoln, both Roosevelts, Truman, Eisenhower (whose administration invented the phrase "executive privilege") Kennedy and Reagan, among others, have kept executive deliberations secret from congressional inquiries, usually over matters of diplomacy, national security and law enforcement. Courts have recognized that discussions among their senior advisors, not just meetings when presidents are in the room, also receive protection.
Yoo notes that Bush's invocation of executive privilege involves traditional matters of presidential policy-making, unlike the case of President Clinton's claims to executive privilege in the 1990s:

Mr. Clinton was fighting claims of sexual harassment brought by Arkansas state employee Paula Jones, an independent counsel corruption investigation into Whitewater, and his extracurricular relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Mr. Clinton asserted executive secrecy to protect his personal affairs. This is legally important because the federal courts of appeals have held that the privilege only applies to communications between the president and his advisers on "official government matters."

Mr. Clinton's personal recklessness undermined executive privilege for all future presidents. At worst, today's flap might ultimately show some lax management, or partisanship, but the hiring or firing of U.S. attorneys for any or no reason is squarely within a president's constitutional prerogative. Mr. Clinton's groundless claims of privilege don't invalidate assertions of executive privilege for all time. Pundits who imply otherwise are just blowing partisan smoke.
Liberal pundits also ignore history:

...executive privilege traces its lineage to George Washington. In 1796, the House of Representatives demanded all his papers related to the controversial Jay Treaty with Great Britain. Washington refused, saying that the Constitution barred the House from the making of treaties. Firing U.S. attorneys and any other executive officers, including those requiring Senate approval, rests beyond the constitutional powers of Congress, and totally within those of the presidency. This has been true since the first cabinet departments were established in 1789....

That doesn't mean the president's power is limitless. Congress can conduct oversight needed to pass legislation. On the fig leaf that Congress is superintending the Justice Department's funding or statutory authorities, DOJ has accommodatingly turned over thousands of documents and made its senior staff available for testimony. Congress can always engage in good old-fashioned horse trading to get its way. If Senate Democrats really cared to see any of Mr. Bush's communications, as opposed to lobbing allegations of "scandal" endlessly on the front pages, they could refuse to confirm any new U.S. attorneys, high officials or judges until they got what they wanted. Not bothering suggests that there is no real wrongdoing here, just an intent to keep the scandal machine running.
That's really the key, here. The Democrats aren't satified with winning the congressional majority. They have no interest in making substantial legislation. Rather their game is to damage Bush, satisfy the hard left crowd, and win the White House in 2008. The perpetual Democratic scandal-machine is key to those efforts.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Anti-American Dogma

I've been reading Dr. Sanity's blog this weekend. I like the good doctor's posts very much, especially her generous links to earlier entries from the archives. After skimming this post, I checked a couple of the links, and came across an incisive entry on the left's anti-American dogma.

Dr. Sanity draws on
a piece from the American Thinker, which outlines the etiology of the radical left's comeback after the end of the Cold War. J.R. Dunn, the author of the article, thought the 9/11 attacks would silence the anti-Americanism of the radical fringe, and for a moment he was right:

But after what in retrospect appears to be a pitifully short period, they were back, and in force, and they have never retreated since. Contrary to consensus belief, it didn't begin with Iraq. It began with Afghanistan, starting only a month after the attacks, and built up from there. Moore, the Dixie Chicks, Cindy Sheehan, Cynthia McKinney, Durbin, Murtha... The list could go on for page after page, all of them speaking in identical terms, all repeating the same code words - Halliburton, blood for oil, Abu Ghraib - all tearing into their country in a fashion unseen even in the Vietnam era.
Dunn argues after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the radical left's "hegemonic" paradigm dropped below the radar, but never went away completely:
Hegemonism was kept alive by people like Noam Chomsky in his endless series of books and pamphlets, Howard Zinn, whose "People's History of the United States" is the standard classroom history, and Oliver Stone's paranoid cinematic fantasies. It remained a central concept of the entertainment world and the media, was encysted within the Democratic Party, and acted as the motivating force of the anarcho-syndicalist anti-globalism movement.

When the towers came down and the U.S. went on war footing, it emerged intact and complete in every detail, as if it had never lain dormant. It has set the terms of the argument since late 2001 - unspoken, unacknowledged, and undebated. The conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11, with their faceless mass murderers manipulating a cooperative military and intelligence sector, are purely hegemonist. So is the entire effort to undermine the Iraq War, with the endless echoes of Blood for Oil, accusations against Halliburton, and attacks on "neocons" by people who have no idea what neoconservatism is or could name a single one of its tenets.

The Iraq War was a godsend for the American left, something they'd have had to invent if it hadn't happened on its own. It allowed the entire War on Terror to be chopped and fit into the already existing intellectual template, enabled all the old slogans to be revived, all the dusty concepts to be trotted out anew. It has turned the overall war, one of the most justified conflicts in this country's history, a belated defensive response against an ugly and murderous enemy, into the traditional shadow play of murderous military officers, bloody-handed CIA operatives, and cackling businessmen, all overseen by a bulging-browed Karl Rove, operating from some Goldfingeresque headquarters buried far beneath the Crawford ranch. The result is a nation slowly edging toward the same paralysis that afflicted it during the 1970s.
The American Thinker article is good, but I especially liked Dr. Sanity's conclusion to the post:

Let us stop apologizing for being the greatest, most noble country in the history of the world. Let us stop apologizing for being the most productive and free people in historical memory; a people who willingly, generously and honorably shoulder the burdens and problems of the world-- and get little or no thanks for doing so; on the contrary, they are heaped with scorn and are the objects of unceasing malevolence.

It is time to go on the rhetorical and political offensive against the political left, before their strategies succeed in destroying the soul and will of our country, leaving us even more vulnerable to the Islamofascist enemy who--if they cannot possess or enslave our soul--intend to wipe us off the map.
As I've said before, I never cease to be amazed at the ahistoricism and irrationalism of the radical left forces. Indeed, I'm reminded of it each and every day.

Academic Radicals

I got a good kick out of Cinnamon Stillwell's commentary over at American Thinker yesterday. Stillwell exposes the intellectual poverty of America's Middle East studies programs at U.S. colleges and universities.

Stillwell notes that after 9/11 the country could have benefited from the expertise of this group of scholars. On the contrary, the Middle East studies departments have been seething grounds for venting the pent-up anti-Americanism that was released with America's response to Islamic jihad's declaration of war on the country and our people.

Stillwell mentions the activities of Daniel Pipes and his organization
Campus Watch. The organization has become a leading academic group countering the disinformation and McCarthyism of hard-line Middle East scholars, America-bashers, and Israel-haters. Stillwell points out that the current agenda for Campus Watch is to focus on radical professors on the West Coast, where some of the largest Middle East studies programs are located.

Here are some examples of the kind of statements Campus Watch is monitoring:

"As far as I can tell, American empire is safe and secure, despite my best efforts to topple it (although Musab al-Zarqawi seems to be doing a good job in Iraq)." -- UC Irvine history and Islamic studies professor Mark LeVine

"Israel is an 'apartheid state' and a 'colonial state,' but Hamas and Hezbollah are 'liberation movements.'" --
Diablo Valley College Middle East studies instructor Imam Amer Araim
Stillwell adds this analysis:

Unfortunately, such sentiments are par for the course at California colleges and universities where a culture of political correctness has allowed apologists for radical Islam to dominate Middle East studies.

Instead of offering college students the historical basis and intellectual tools to help them better understand the realities of a changing world, far too many Middle East studies professors engage in indoctrination. The classroom has become merely a tool for pushing a political agenda.

At the same time, students that dare to buck the prevailing orthodoxy often find themselves the victims of intimidation and suppression at the hands of their own professors and administration. Professors that diverge from the party line can also face ostracism and, at times, discrimination.
Stillwell's remarks ring amazingly accurate with my experiences as a college professor.

There's a radical contingent of faculty members and students on my campus. Since 2003 -- in college forums and townhall meetings -- I've spoken out in favor of the Bush administration and the Iraq war. Such advocacy generates little gratitude among the hard-left forces at my school. In fact, the reactions against me
have hardened my resistance to the left's irrationalism, and have opened my eyes to the multifaceted nature of contemporary anti-Americanism, at home and abroad.

Rising Dragon: China Joins Top Three Economies

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The Los Angeles Times reports that China's surging growth rates have placed that nation among the top three economies in the world:
China's economy grew at an extraordinary rate of 11.9% in the second quarter, the fastest clip in more than 12 years and a pace that puts the nation on track to overtake Germany this year as the world's third-largest economy.

For the last 35 years, the United States, Japan and Germany have ranked 1-2-3 in gross domestic product, but as growth in those mature economies has slowed, China's has accelerated, powered by foreign investments and trade amid a global shift in production activity to the Far East.

Just 12 years ago, China's economy ranked No. 8, behind Brazil's, and was less than one-third the size of Germany's.
Chinese productive dynamism is causing concern among trading partners (China's unfair trade practices are at issue), and the overheating of Chinese economy could result in contractionary policies destablizing to the Chinese state.

What's interesting about China's rise, though, is how the strong economic numbers outstrip indicators of social indicators of prosperity and sustainability:

While China's economic transformation has lifted millions out of poverty, its 1.3 billion people have a long way to go before their standard of living catches up with those of the other top economies.

The government's intense focus on economic growth has led to environmental degradation and violent clashes as farmland is appropriated for development.

Shoddy manufacturing and tainted food products from China have recently damaged its reputation worldwide.

Ordinary Chinese were incredulous at the notion that China's economy, by any measure, could surpass Germany's....

Despite China's overall size and growing clout in the global economy, Chinese officials and scholars say the country is still developing and grappling with critical issues of lifting millions out of poverty and reducing the widening income gap between the city and countryside, where most Chinese live.
These quality of life issues -- foundations of a nation's economic and productive dynamism and competitive longevity -- are important factors in evaluating the significance of China's rise for international politics.

As noted in yesterday's post, the international system is returning to more traditional patterns of global balance-of-power competition. Russia and China (especially) will be key rivals to U.S. unipolarity, and their strategic intentions will be at odds with the post-Cold War settlement of unrivaled American leadership in the dominant organizations and regimes of global life.

Both states will use their wealth and regional influence to block the power of the U.S. and its allies in their backyards. For China, though, reaching the ranks of the top three is a particularly important step in establishing significant countervailing pressure.

The rise of the Chinese state will continue to raise questions of the appropriate American response. Should we contain or engage the rising dragon? As China has key interests in closer cooperation with the West -- and in maintaining access to Western markets -- a worst-case overreaction by the U.S. would be a mistake. China is decades away from deploying a world-class blue water navy, and its strategic nuclear capabilities are still dwarfed by the techological superiority of the U.S.

Nevertheless, recent Chinese anti-satellite missile tests, and the nation's long-range goals of reaching parity, demonstrate the tenacity of Chinese balancing tendencies. So, while engagement of the rising dragon is in America's interests, it's always prudent to hedge one's bets concerning China's aspirations to genuine great power status.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Return of Great Power Politics

International politics has returned to normal. The near two-decade spell of end-of-history, intitutionalist dreaming has given way to robust indicators of historic balance-of-power dynamics, a process perennially characteristic of the international system.

This is the theme of Robert Kagan's
important new article in the Policy Review:

The world has not been transformed [since the collapse of Soviet Union in 1991]...Nations remain as strong as ever, and so too the nationalist ambitions, the passions, and the competition among nations that have shaped history. The world is still “unipolar,” with the United States remaining the only superpower. But international competition among great powers has returned, with the United States, Russia, China, Europe, Japan, India, Iran, and others vying for regional predominance. Struggles for honor and status and influence in the world have once again become key features of the international scene. Ideologically, it is a time not of convergence but of divergence. The competition between liberalism and absolutism has reemerged, with the nations of the world increasingly lining up, as in the past, along ideological lines. Finally, there is the fault line between modernity and tradition, the violent struggle of Islamic fundamentalists against the modern powers and the secular cultures that, in their view, have penetrated and polluted their Islamic world.
I expect Kagan's article to become a benchmark reference for international relations scholarship in the years ahead. He handily puts away some of the recent speculation on the decline of American global leadership, a staple of realist theory, and found most recently in arguments that U.S. power has been badly damaged by the Iraq war:

Yet American predominance in the main categories of power persists as a key feature of the international system. The enormous and productive American economy remains at the center of the international economic system. American democratic principles are shared by over a hundred nations. The American military is not only the largest but the only one capable of projecting force into distant theaters. Chinese strategists, who spend a great deal of time thinking about these things, see the world not as multipolar but as characterized by “one superpower, many great powers,” and this configuration seems likely to persist into the future absent either a catastrophic blow to American power or a decision by the United States to diminish its power and international influence voluntarily.
This is not to say the United States is omnipotent, only that its current preponderance is not in jeopardy by recent foreign policy challenges.

Beyond this, Kagan lays out the central elements of the contemporary great power political system. Two key actors: China and Russia, who exemplify classic cases of traditional autocratic regimes, jockeying for power and position in international affairs. Their location and aspirations in the current system are reminiscent of the nationalist great-power dynamics of the 19th century. China and Russia are revisionist powers, opposed to the post-Cold War settlement, abjuring the institutional niceties characteristic of the EU's Franco-German led global profile.

Kagan also puts in perspective the ongoing global war on terror. Radical Islamists are enraged by civilizational threats from modernization and transnationalism. It is true that Islamist extremism -- the potential source of another catastrophic attack on the homeland -- is one of greatest near-term threats to the U.S. Yet Kagan describes this danger as somewhat out of place in the broader realm of great power politics:

It is odd because the struggle between modernization and globalization, on the one hand, and traditionalism, on the other, is largely a sideshow on the international stage. The future is more likely to be dominated by the struggle among the great powers and between the great ideologies of liberalism and autocracy than by the effort of some radical Islamists to restore an imagined past of piety. But of course that struggle has taken on a new and frightening dimension. Normally, when old and less technologically advanced civilizations have confronted more advanced civilizations, their inadequate weapons have reflected their backwardness. Today, the radical proponents of Islamic traditionalism, though they abhor the modern world, are nevertheless not only using the ancient methods of assassination and suicidal attacks, but also have deployed the weapons of the modern world against it. Modernization and globalization inflamed their rebellion and also armed them for the fight.
Read the whole thing. Kagan states the traditional neorealist case for the continuity of international political conflict among nation-states, the key actors of global life.

Kenneth Waltz famously observed, balances of power recurrently form in the international realm. And while, today, a counterbalancing coalition has not yet successfully emerged to challenge American preponderance, Kagan's point is that the world system's interactions today reflect more the distribution of capabilities at the end of World War II than the constellation of hopes that underpinned the end-of-history proclamations of the early post-Cold War era.

The Democrats' Phony Debate

Today's Washington Post provides a concise editorial on the Senate Democrats' obstructionism on the U.S. military strategy in Iraq. Here's some of the piece:

THE SENATE Democratic leadership spent the past week trying to prove that Congress is deeply divided over Iraq, with Democrats pressing and Republicans resisting a change of course. In fact that's far from the truth. A large majority of senators from both parties favor a shift in the U.S. mission that would involve substantially reducing the number of American forces over the next year or so and rededicating those remaining to training the Iraqi army, protecting Iraq's borders and fighting al-Qaeda. President Bush and his senior aides and generals also support this broad strategy, which was formulated by the bipartisan Baker-Hamilton commission. Mr. Bush recently said that "it's a position I'd like to see us in."

The emerging consensus is driven by several inescapable facts. First, the Iraqi political reconciliation on which the current U.S. military surge is counting is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Second, the Pentagon cannot sustain the current level of forces in Iraq beyond next spring without rupturing current deployment practices and placing new demands on the already stretched Army and Marine Corps. Finally, a complete pullout from Iraq would invite genocide, regional war and a catastrophic setback to U.S. national

The decision of Democrats led by
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) to deny rather than nourish a bipartisan agreement is, of course, irresponsible. But so was Mr. Reid's answer when he was asked by the Los Angeles Times how the United States should manage the explosion of violence that the U.S. intelligence community agrees would follow a rapid pullout. "That's a hypothetical. I'm not going to get into it," the paper quoted the Democratic leader as saying.
The Post argues that the futile result of Democratic obstructionism is to delay a decision on future Iraq strategy until after the Petraus report in September -- which is exactly what the president wanted to do in the first place! Democrats ultimately want a precipitous pullout, with the Iraqis taking over primary security responsibility rapidly:
There's no guarantee that Mr. Bush can agree with Congress on those points or that he will make the effort to do so. But a Democratic strategy of trying to use Iraq as a polarizing campaign issue and as a club against moderate Republicans who are up for reelection will certainly have the effect of making consensus impossible -- and deepening the trouble for Iraq and for American security.
There you have it, from the mainstream press even: The Democrat majority under Harry Reid is endangering national security. While Republicans are working to develop an acceptable plan to ease the U.S. into a drawdown while preserving security in Iraq, the Democrats are "praying for failure," and mounting every parliamentary trick they can find to bring it about.

Since January the Senate Democrats under Reid's leadership have pushed nine votes to withdraw the troops or hinder military operations. Eight measures passed the chamber, and Congress's emergency war-funding bill with timetables was vetoed by Bush.

The American public can largely thank the Democrats' hard left antiwar faction for the endless obstructionism on Iraq policy. It's clear the Dems are driven by political calculations rather than sound military strategy. The troops in the field, the Iraqi people, and the average American voters are paying the price.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Morality of Existence: A Life of Reason

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I finished Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged yesterday. I actually started reading it last summer while on vacation in Las Vegas. I read about half of it, but got busy with my teaching responsibilities last fall, and became distracted by a couple of other books of non-fiction as well (especially Juan Williams' Enough, probably the best recent book on African-American politics I've read).

Atlas Shrugged is a long tome, 1,069 pages in the
Signet Centennial paperback edition. I don't actually enjoy reading books that long -- indeed, I've joked to many friends that I had easier time wading through Tolstoy's War and Peace!

In any event, I usually post a few analytical reflections after I've finished a book. With Atlas Shrugged, though, it's hard to pick out any one section or quote that's representative of the work. I also don't want to give the story away, which is what Betsy Newmark does in a post she wrote about the book (her post is a spoiler,
so don't click here if you'd rather not know the book's climax).

My thinking about Rand was piqued this morning, however. I've had an exchange here with a radical commenter named "Dave." In typical antiwar fashion, Dave
ridiculed one of my recents posts as fodder for "neo-fascists."

In response to
another post, Dave became flummoxed in the debate thread -- utterly unable to think or respond -- and then wrote an irrational post on his own blog, copying most of his information from a lousy Wikipedia entry on anti-Americanism. These exchanges are always educational for me, and they tend to demonstrate the deep irrationalism among those on the far left, America-bashing fringe. Here's Dave attacking me in all of his frustration:

Your feeble minded nonsense is evident [of] empty arguments....It was no surprise to find Ayn Rand among your favorite authors. Oh, surprise, surprise.

I mention Ayn Rand as one of my favorite authors in my Blogger profile, so that's the source for Dave's attack.

Why do I like Ayn Rand? My reading of Atlas Shrugged (not to mention The Fountainhead) has strongly consolidated my belief in the power of Rand's ideas. Toward the conclusion of the book, John Galt, the masterful hero of the novel, lays out his philosophy of life. I think the following excerpt from Atlas Shrugged is an appropriate summation for the foundations of some of my recent writings on the poverty of irrationalist ideology:

Accept the irrevocable fact that your life depends upon your mind. Admit that the whole of your struggle, your doubts, your fakes, your evasions, was a desperate quest to escape from the responsibility of a volitional consciousness -- a quest for automatic knowledge, for instinctive action, for intuitive certainty -- and while you called it a longing for the state of an angel, what you were seeking was the state of an animal. Accept, as your mental ideal, the task of becoming a man....

Learn to distinguish the difference between errors of knowledge and breaches of morality. An error of knowledge is not a moral flaw, provided you are willing to correct it; only a mystic would judge human beings by the standard of an impossible, automatic omniscience. But a breach of morality is the conscious choice of an action you know to be evil, or a willful evasion of knowledge, a suspension of sight and of thought. That which you do not know, is not a moral charge against you; but that which you refuse to know, is an account of infamy growing in your soul. Make every allowance for errors of knowledge; do not forgive or accept an breach of morality. Give the benefit of the doubt to those who seek to know; but treat as potential killers those specimens of insolent depravity who make demands upon you, announcing that they have and seek no reasons, proclaiming, as a license, that they just "feel it" -- or those who reject an irrefutable argument by saying: "It's only logic," which means: "It's only reality." The only realm opposed to reality is the realm and premise of death.
Rand's case here brings to the written page a vibrant affirmation of the heartful and unspoken inner core of my being -- an affirmation of a life of the mind as the natural right of personal existence. Further, her writings ring the bells of recognition and confirmation for all of those thinkers who command a personal ethic of modernist achievement and industry. I do not agree with everything Rand writes, for even her objectivist philosophy has its own elements of idealism. But her charge that the life of reason is the essence of man's nobility -- that reason is his only absolute -- is a powerful rule of guidance for those seeking a path of personal attainment and meaning.

This, then is the message for those who would attack my views as "neo-fascist," for those who would castigate me as another Eichmann. Such rants are ultimate representations of the "insolent depravity" exposed and condemned by Rand. I cannot live my life in such depravity. I can, though, continue in my own idealism, an idealism in which a commitment to enlightening others -- as a teacher and mentor to those of open mind -- is a part of my own crowning ethic of personal modernism, discovery, and knowledge.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

An American Grand Strategy for 2009?

Charles Kupchan and Peter Trubowitz have a great article in the current Foreign Affairs analyzing today's partisan divisions in Washington, and their implications for American grand strategy:

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the collapse of bipartisanship and liberal internationalism did not start with George W. Bush. Bipartisanship dropped sharply following the end of the Cold War, reaching a post-World War II low after the Republicans gained control of Congress in 1994. Repeated clashes over foreign policy between the Clinton administration and Congress marked the hollowing out of the bipartisan center that had been liberal internationalism's political base. The Bush administration then dismantled what remained of the moderate center, ensuring that today's partisan divide is every bit as wide as the interwar schism that haunted [Walter] Lippmann [who is cited in the article's opening paragraph]. Democratic and Republican lawmakers now hold very different views on foreign policy. On the most basic questions of U.S. grand strategy -- the sources and purposes of U.S. power, the use of force, the role of international institutions -- representatives of the two parties are on different planets.

Most Republicans in Congress contend that U.S. power depends mainly on the possession and use of military might, and they view institutionalized cooperation primarily as an impediment. They staunchly back the Bush administration's ongoing effort to pacify Iraq. When the new Congress took its first votes on the Iraq war in the beginning of this year, only 17 of the 201 Republicans in the House crossed party lines to oppose the recent surge in U.S. troops. In the Senate, only two Republicans joined the Democrats to approve a resolution calling for a timetable for withdrawal. In contrast, most Democrats maintain that U.S. power depends more on persuasion than coercion and needs to be exercised multilaterally. They want out of Iraq: 95 percent of House and Senate Democrats have voted to withdraw U.S. troops in 2008. With the Republicans opting for the use of force and the Democrats for international cooperation, the bipartisan compact between power and partnership -- the formula that brought liberal internationalism to life -- has come undone.

To be sure, the Republican Party is still home to a few committed multilateralists, such as Senators Richard Lugar (of Indiana) and Chuck Hagel (of Nebraska). But they are isolated within their own ranks. And some Democrats, especially those eyeing the presidency, are keen to demonstrate their resolve on matters of national defense. But the party leaders are being pushed to the left by increasingly powerful party activists. The ideological overlap between the two parties is thus minimal, and the areas of concord are superficial at best. Most Republicans and Democrats still believe that the United States has global responsibilities, but there is little agreement on how to match means and ends. And on the central question of power versus partnership, the two parties are moving in opposite directions -- with the growing gap evident among the public as well as political elites.
With polls showing Americans favorable to the Democrats heading into 2008, the pull of the Democratic Party's activist wing threatens the foundations of American internationalism and military readiness. Thus, with the prospects of a Democratic presidential win next year, the Kupchan and Trubowitz article provides a useful template for a centrist American grand strategy, providing a step back from the utopianism of the Bush foreign policy, but retaining a sense of realism in America's indispensibility to world prosperity and security.

Read the whole thing. Kupchan and Trubowitz offer a six-point plan for restoring political equilibrium to American grand strategy amid current poliltical polarization.

The authors propose the move toward greater burden-sharing with America's allies; the renunciation of regime change in favor of a policy of targeting discrete terror cells and networks; rebuilding American hard military power; greater diplomatic engagement with the international system's great powers; greater energy independence; and the increased reliance on informal, task-specific working groups of international conflict management, rather that continued emphasis on traditional formalized international institutions of the Cold War era.

The Kupchan/Trubrowitz grand strategy is attractive in its pragmatism. It promotes continued internationalism, but doesn't discount the reality and necessity of power in international life.

If I had any disappointments with the framework I'd say that the neglect of democracy promotion would be too large a step back from the Bush revolution in foreign affairs. Promotion of democracy -- using the means laid forth within the Kupchan/Trubowitz template -- is entirely reasonable and promising. Military democracy promotion is out for the short-term, but
America's insistence on democratic norms and systems as the basic principles of international cooperation and political development should not be discounted.

I think Democrats and Republicans can unite around such an agenda, and visionary leadership can give the approach a guiding hand.

Panic in Detroit: The Urban Crisis After 40 Years

This week's U.S. News has a special report on the urban riots of 1967. Detroit and Newark erupted in flames amid economic dislocation and racial tensions in the inner-city. Detroit's infamous 12th Street Riot was the worst in American history, only surpassed in its destruction by the Los Angeles riots of 1992.

In the following years, Detroit has seen four decades of urban decay, with double-digit unemployment and the growing despair of many of the city's longtime black residents. The Detroit Riot was preceded by one week by deadly race-rioting in Newark, New Jersey. The U.S. News piece provides some analysis of the aftermath:

Views on the riots run the gamut: While some see the work of simple criminals, activists describe the disturbances as empowering, as a turning point for African-American clout. In 1970, Newark became the first major northeastern city to elect a black mayor; Detroit followed suit in 1974, and African-Americans have held City Hall in both cities ever since. In Detroit, leaders organized New Detroit Inc., an organization that still works with the business and black communities to soothe racial tensions in the city. In Newark, black leaders negotiated with the city to dramatically limit the size of a medical school that threatened to displace city residents. "When we sat down to negotiate, we had that nameless and faceless brother with the brick standing with us," recalls Junius Williams, then an organizer in the black community and now head of the Abbott Leadership Institute at Rutgers-Newark.

But many white residents took a different message from the "nameless brother"—get out. The year before the riots, 22,000 residents, predominantly whites, left Detroit. By 1968, it reached 80,000. Both majority white in 1960, Newark's white population now stands at 22 percent and Detroit's at 11 percent.

Ghetto palms. The riots also made suburbanites wary of traveling downtown, crippling businesses. In Newark, 13 percent of the stores in the riot area closed immediately, and an additional 19 percent within a year. Coupled with the decline of manufacturing jobs and the surge of gang violence in the following decades, both cities increasingly became synonymous with urban decay.
Read the whole thing. The orgins of the Detroit Riot had legitimate origins in racial discrimination. Yet, white flight from the urban areas preceded the long, hot summer of 1967. An anti-business municipal tax structure contributed to a decline in employment, and the Black Power Movement lifted the hopes of many urban blacks for fundamental change by any means necessary.

Today, Detroit's Mayor, Kwami Kilpatrick, notes that deindustrialization has hit Detroit's current black population hard, but he adds:

"I think that a lot of our problem is also spiritual," Kilpatrick says. "We've got to get off our asses and stop being so woe-is-me."
Detroit's 12th Street was renamed Rosa Parks Boulevard in 1976. With the street today showing nothing more than urban blight, I doubt that's the legacy Rosa Parks had hoped to inspire.

Update: Blazing Cat Fur has graciously forwarded this link to a fascinating photo gallery on the deindustrialization of Detroit (with many photos of Ford Motor Company's former industrial plant).