When is a first strike not a first strike?
When it's Anticipatory Retaliation.

June 30, 2005

Taking Academic Freedom Too Far?


The Academic Left's poster boy, Ward Churchill, advocates fragging "for peace." Well, we know there's no shame. But this can't help CU's fundraising or student recruitment very much. Are there any boundaries at all? I don't know, perhaps we don't want to stand in the way of people making complete fools of themselves and their ogranizations? But at some point won't well-meaning people start to think that if we don't draw the line somewhere, then maybe there's some flaw in the notion of patriotism, or the fight against totalitarianism? Won't they be justified in thinking we're not really serious? Is this a case of boiled frogs?

The irony is that I'll bet if someone advocated just beating the snot out of the guy he wouldn't hesitate to sue. (Hat tip: Instapundit)

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia and The Jawa Report)

Launched by Demosophist at 10:34 PM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (0)
» Mark in Mexico Retaliates with: None dare call it treason

June 27, 2005

Nature v. Nurture v. Stupid

Bravo Romeo Delta

In Lileks' Screedblog, he recently takes on Ken Schram's recent bit of nonsense regarding the notion that people vote the way they do simply as a result of their genetic heritage. Without rehashing the entire deal, let me simply quote Lileks' summarization of the article (or at least the prevailing viewpoint implied in the article): "I mean, there’s no other rational reason why people might have opinions that conflict with my own. They’re either stupid or evil."

Lileks starts to march down an interesting path at the end of his piece:

"So we can also assume that Mr. Schram is genetically predisposed to support racial preferences that fixate on skin color, has some interior code that makes him whoop and hollah hurray whenever he learns a partial-birth abortion has scrambled the limbs of an eight-month old fetus, and is hardwired to oppose limits on punitive damages for med-mal lawsuits. I have to assume this, because our difference of opinion means he is an evil parody of everyone one centimeter to the right of Me, and everyone is a monkey dancing to the square-dance call of our genes"

Well, this got me to thinking. Let's assume that Ken Schram isn't a complete fool and has thought through some of the things his argument implies and is sufficiently comfortable with the full implications to go ahead and give voice to his notions.

There are certain genetic traits which are linked. To take a very simple example, in females, the presence of well-developed lactating breasts in adult primate females is often associated with the presence of female genitalia.

Or to take something a bit more subtle, African-Americans are more likely to be born with Sickle-Cell Anemia.

So, let's take the analysis cited by Mr. Schram at face value - genetics determine behavior.

What, pray tell, would this suggest about, let's say, the propensity for convicted felons to vote Democratic? Or, perhaps, the astonishing number of young African-American males to end up in prison? Anyone here read "The Bell Curve" at all?

Clearly specious nonsense.

So why, exactly, does Mr. Schram feel that specious nonsense is acceptable, just so long as it conforms to his ideological worldview. This, in and of itself, is no surprise.

The thing that I do find more than a bit troublesome, however, is the fact that we no longer live in a world in which one idiot newsman will only affect things in his little neck of the woods. In an increasing global world words count now more than ever. No longer do we have the luxury of being able to confine idiocy to dorm room bull sessions at 3 in the morning. We are now in a world where idiots today are fodder for Al Jazeera and other unreconstructed fools. This sort of rampant nonsense, while nothing new, is a hell of a lot more significant now than it was when we were running around doing things like passing laws about sedition.

I fear that this will push us much closer to a Le May style ending - something no sane creature (regardless of genetics) will want to see.

(Cross posted to Demosophia)

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at 04:07 AM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (1)

June 20, 2005

Into the West


I'm slowly becoming enraged as I watch Stephen Spielberg's latest epic Into the West, which purports to recount the history of a family in Virginia as they migrate westward and merge with the native Americans they encounter. It's hard for me to put my finger on what it is that bothers me about Spielberg's tale, but the essence of the problem is that it's inauthentic. And it's not one single thing that gives me that impression, but more like the fact that I grew up in a family in which the pioneering generation was only once removed from my own. Therefore, the stories really weren't that old when I heard them recounted by people who actually knew the principals. I actually knew my great grandmother, who had become the matriarch of the family by the time I was old enough to toddle around. I actually touched the bridge to that past so inauthentically recounted by Spielberg.

My great great grandfather was born in 1831 in Hemstead County Arkansas, into a family of eleven children. He lived with his parents on the farm until 1854 when he got a job as a "bull-whacker" driving an ox team to California. In the sanitized version of the story he simply returned to Arkansas in 1860, without explanation. According to my grandfather, however, he had fallen in with another Arkansan who was making his living as a "horse thief," and when the predation business got too tough this fellow convinced my ancestor to return to Arkansas with him, on the promise that if he did so he could have his pick of a litter of the fellow's sisters. In reality they weren't his sisters, but wards of his parents. The girls had lost their parents during a migration from Tennessee to Arkansas, and had been informally adopted by this fellow's family. So in his mind they were, sort of, his property and he could dispense them as assets.

At any rate my forbear ultimately made his choice, a stern young woman named Rebecca, whom he married in 1861. Shortly after that he and three brothers were conscripted by force into the Confederate Army: the 35th Arkansas Regiment. They served grudgingly, to say the least, until during the middle of January in 1863 one of the brothers was killed. It's not clear whether he died during a battle, but at any rate the three surviving brothers decided they'd had enough fighting for the Confederacy, and lit out with the army in hot pursuit. And I do mean hot. Apparently one of the three, John, was wounded during the chase and died a short time later at his home, at the age of 18. Two of their sisters, ages 16 and 17, were apparently killed during the same violent encounter with the Confederate establishment, but he and Rebecca escaped and headed to Washington State, where they became homesteaders. My grandfather said that the old fellow was "the most hard working man I have ever known." My guess is that he wasn't exaggerating, and that my great great grandfather was really running from that disaster he had barely escaped, for the rest of his life. No doubt he considered hard work a small price to pay.

There's a lot to this story, and I suspect it's not atypical. It's paralleled by many others of the time, but there really isn't much grist for a "politically correct" yarn. When you look at pictures of Joseph and Rebecca it's clear that they were rather stern folk to say the least. Their religion is listed in a number of documents as "evangelical," so I don't imagine that would pass Hollywood's ancestral heroes standard either. And though "decent," the life they led was hardly idyllic. Homesteaders of that era tended to just work themselves to death... which is what one had to do just to keep from going under. One could lose everything with a single bad crop. There aren't many people around now with much appreciation for what that was like, but I know a few hippies who tried homesteading in the '60s and they starved and froze for over a decade before they achieved any sort of stability in their lives. And homesteading in the 1860s must have been considerably more difficult than homesteading in the 1960s, one would imagine.

Into the West is supposedly about a kind of multigenerational, multi-ethnic family epic that must have been a rare exception, if it ever happened at all. Not that there weren't examples of intermarriage between native Americans and white settlers, but the conditions of such merges must have been incredibly difficult and they hardly coursed through the vital guts of either culture. They were fringe histories, and to learn the lessons that such stories have to tell us it's important to represent them accurately. To look at Spielberg's depiction of the Lakota and Cheyenne one would think that the two cultures would have met on equal footing had it not been for the intervention of a few evil men. But the unfortunate truth is that both cultures were naturally brutal, and of the two the native American culture had no moral advantage. It just wasn't as lethal, in the end. When, for instance, the Lakota managed a victory over Custer they savagely mutilated "survivors" leaving them to die in agony, with their scalps, genitals, arms and legs removed.

This is not the stuff of which great PC myths are made. Nor did my great great grandfather desert the Confederacy out of any sense of affiliation for the noble Union cause, although it was no accident that the South filled its ranks with abductees. That was, after all, the nature of the virus. (It's what the "insurgents" are currently doing in Iraq.) Of late the fashion has been to paint the Confederacy in mellower tones, if only to avoid the implication that there's such a thing as a "just war." How convenient. If we understood the Civil War on this level it would become difficult to avoid comparing the anti-war Democrats of that day, the Copperheads, with our present antiwar movement. And it would be impossible to avoid the insight that both seem to suffer from the same lack of moral clarity about the great evil of their own era. There is simply no way to give this story the PC slant it needs, without perpetrating a deep lie.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia and The Jawa Report)

Launched by Demosophist at 07:07 AM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (2)

June 17, 2005

The Naive Fox


The Glittering Eye made the following comment about my distributed post comparing Wretchard's contention that we're approaching a "Hansell-Lemay moment," with Larry Johnson's contention that we're approaching a "looming debacle:"

I think the most important implied point in AR's post [I cross-post to AR as well as the Jawa Report] is the need for the political leadership here to shore up morale and public opinion. This is an area in which the Bush Administration has been consistently weak.

Just to be clear, I'm not sure that all we need is a better sales job by the Bush administration, because part of the ineffectiveness of the current effort is that the administration is afraid to ask very much of the US public, which misleads them into believing that the threat is far less grave than it is. This, in turn, leaves the public open to a certain "degradation of moral clarity" such that we start worrying more about the way we handle the Qu'ran than whether we're defeating a pack of fanatical cutthroats bent on our destruction. If we could manage to get the job done by just using our pinky finger then that'd be fine, but one ought to recognize that the outcome is less certain and the cost may be much higher (in terms of American lives) than we thought. On the other hand, if we act decisively now and keep up the pressure there's every chance that we'll utterly destroy the enemy. That's the real implication of the good news we've been hearing.

There's an old Chinese story about a foolish immature fox who ran across a frozen lake in mid-winter and then, just as he was about to reach shore, relaxed and allowed his tail to get wet. The tail froze fast in the lake and he starved to death, unable to move. It seems to me that this story applies, or could apply, to Israel's recent indulgence of the Palentinian leadership, as Bill Roggio points out in his excellent piece: Abandoning Success. For seduced yet again by the lust for peace they seem to have stopped short of utterly annihilating Hamas and IJ, as though they could trust the newly elected Palestinian leadership to finish the job seemingly only a short hop away.

But the parable could also apply to the US effort, which seems to be a little complacent as it registers some encouraging trends toward democratic reform as outright victories. Meanwhile the enemy successfully appeals to the more foolish of our citizens, convincing them to legitimate the enemy's own propaganda. And make no mistake, they're mainly concerned with the impact that this retenchment of purpose on our part has on their own "strategic rear." In a word, the faithful repetition of the "Qu'ran flushing" and "Gitmo gulag" themes not only undermines our sense of purpose, but more importantly it freezes public will in the Middle East regarding democratization, and gives anti-democratic and totalitarian forces there an opportunity to regroup, recruit, and redeploy.

At some point Americans in general, and not just the military, are going to have to make a few sacrifices in order put totalitarianism under our feet for good, and the sooner we realize what that will take the better. Otherwise, even with all our success, we could end up like that foolish fox, wasting away in sight of shore.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia and The Jawa Report)

Launched by Demosophist at 04:13 PM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (0)

June 15, 2005

The Hansell-Lemay Turning Point


It's compelling to compare the analyses of two popular bloggers who are frequently at odds, and both of whom think the current effort in Iraq may be falling short of expectations: Wretchard, at The Belmont Club and Larry Johnson, at the Counterterrorism Blog. These represent, at least superficially, somewhat differing perspectives on strategic policy. On the one hand Johnson depicts US policy in the Middle East as a "looming debacle." These are words that we tolerate only if their justification is obvious and irrefutable, for good reason: because they can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. We might be better disposed to such language if the ideas they expressed contained clear alternatives that led to some conclusion other than "debacle," but we still tend to distrust them because they belie what appears to be a short-sighted insensitivity to the public good, whether that perception is actually true or not.

Larry starts and finishes his critique of US policy in his post by observing that Lebanon is set to break our hearts, and then suggests supplemental material that recounts the history of failed British and French attempts to bring self-government to Arab populations. This may not seem like a critique of US policy in Iraq, but it is... and not just because Larry has described Iraq as a civil war elsewhere. The reason is that both Wretchard and Larry are concerned about the "strategic rear," of the enemy.

Wretchard's assessment of the situation in Iraq, somewhat different than Larry's, is directly informed by an analogy with a famous turning point in WWII. He feels that we're approaching a "Haywood Hansell-Curtis Lemay moment." His assessment may be more palatable because he doesn't tout the altenative as a "debacle," but just as a rather costly and drawn-out campaign of attrition that sells short our service men and women. And he begins by observing that the level of combat intensity in Iraq is increasing overall, rather than diminishing. That is, the level of intensity confronted by US forces is about the same as it was a year ago, but the intensity faced by Iraqi forces is much greater. This is less significant in itself than in its implications about the success of our overarching strategy: democratization of the Middle East. From Wretchard:

But the constant rate of casualties in Iraq is an objective reminder that however successful US attempts have been within the theater [and we've had some significant successes that he recounts], the enemy strategic rear -- especially in Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia -- has been merely damaged -- not destroyed.

What he doesn't say, and what might be equally relevant, is that the intensity level in Iraq might very well be part of the enemy's efforts to impact our strategic rear, a design with which it has recently had some success in the holy-book-flushing and "American gulag" departments. Keep your engines running.

And, as Johnson points out it's not just the effect of our policies in Syria, Iran and S.A., but also in Lebanon, that are disappointing. Both writers are concerned about the "strategic rear" of the enemy, though Wretchard is a bit more clear about expressing that in detail. The consequence would be a "debacle" only if we've read the trend correctly and either do nothing or do the wrong thing about it. But even Johnson sees some change:

Wishful thinking is no substitute for empirical analysis and a policy grounded in reality. The Bush Administration is coming slowly and uncertainly to this realization, particularly in Lebanon. Now that the premature euphoria about the birth of democracy has collapsed under the weight of the political realities of that godforsaken country we will now see whether the Administration can keep its counter terrorism policy intact.

In a war that has no strategic front it's not surprising that the policies dealing with the strategic rear take on special importance. So, I want to be clear about something. Unless we have a policy that promotes democratic and "liberal" reforms (the rule of law, free press, markets, etc.) in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East we have no effective policy to engage the strategic rear of the enemy. We're stuck in some version of attrition, with a strategy directly analogous to the high altitude bombing employed by Curtis Lemay's predecessor, General Haywood Hansell, during WWII. Moreover, it appears that the "realism" promoted by some in the "foreign policy establishment" is more directly analogous to a "hands off" policy that accepts the inevitability of authoritarian rule. In terms of the analogy with the WWII bombing campaign, we'd be increasing the altitude of the bombing runs, and attacking with less discrimination and effectiveness, rather than more. Can there be any doubt that if we pursued such a "realistic" course we'd be mired even deeper in attrition? By reestablishing the old status quo that gave birth to the modern totalitarian movement during the post-colonial period one could hardly say that we'd be placing much stress on the enemy's strategic rear. Effectively, we'd be admitting that such a strategy is impossible.

I'm not saying that this is what Larry thinks appropriate. Indeed, he gives some evidence of understanding that we need "boots on the ground" whose sole purpose is to secure the civil society necessary to nurture a turn toward self government. If I have a difference with him it involves that knee jerk distrust of the Ellsberg-like use of the term "debacle," because I think we could probably reap a costly and less certain success by simply pursuing our present course. This is no longer the Arab world of T.E. Lawrence or of the Algerian revolution, nor are we the British or the French empire. But it seems to me that both Johnson and Wretchard are right in their observation that there's another course of action that involves more than the superficial mobilization of the US power and ingenuity we've seen so far. That course of action, to "get down an all fours" with the detailed and sometimes messy business of nation-building, creating both military and civilian career archs, and cadres of professionals with expertise in such a project, seems the better approach if we really want to ensure that this alternative to "total war" succeeds.

My uncle served under the command of Curtis Lemay during WWII, and on his General Staff at Scott AFB during the Cold War. He passed away a month after we invaded Iraq in 2003. I know what the Lemay strategy would really entail, and it's not Wilsonian. For if our Sharansky-inspired benevolent advance on the enemy's strategic rear fails then I'm afraid we'd be left only with the Lemay paradigm as a last resort: no longer a mere analogy, but the strategic reality of a carefully constructed, targeted and implemented annihilation. That's the reality that lies behind the talk of realism and freedom. That's the real cost of failure, the real "debacle." And my imagination falls far short of doing it justice.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia and The Jawa Report)

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» The Glittering Eye Retaliates with: Catching my eye: morning A through Z

June 10, 2005

So, Will Andrew Sullivan Change His Mind Now?


As I've observed before, Andrew Sullivan's argument in support of gay marriage has been inconsistent. On one hand he argues that it's a matter of fundamental right, on par with opposition to the anti-misogenation Jim Crow laws. But on the other hand he argues that it's a matter of federalism, and that adoption of gay marriage in Massachusettes or California imposes no institutional onus on other states to honor such marriages. Objections to this soft-pedaled federalism ran along the lines that gay marriage could not be extended via the Commerce Clause, because the clause was about regulation of commerce, not regulation of everything that effects commerce. It seems to me that the implications of marriages in one state have a far more significant and certain effect on interstate commerce than six home-grown marajuana plants, so if the intervention of the federal government has already been justified on those grounds the precedent has been set. Once gay marriage is officially recognized and sanctioned in one state it automatically becomes a federal issue.

No, Andrew won't change his mind. He may have been logically inconsistent, but he always knew what he wanted.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia and The Jawa Report)

Launched by Demosophist at 09:22 PM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (0)



maudlin chick

The epitome of being cute and ghastly at the same time. Thank God the long national nightmare of the Jackson trial is almost over, and we can get back to more conventional sappistry.

Update--the "why" of this post:

For the "huh?" people: There's a "bread and circuses" feel to the Nancy Grace/Greta VanSustern phenomenon (except that the power offering the distraction is the ancien regime of the mainstream media). How do people like this maintain celebrity status? I watch these maudlin women spew their slushy pseudo-professional claptrap and it makes me even more acutely aware of the fact that the media aren't covering some of the most critical news about the project to rescue civilization, and what they do cover they nearly always do so badly.

I also, for the life of me, can't figure out how any of the stuff these queens of ghoul cover is even interesting. How the deuce does anyone watch the Jacko coverage and stay off life support? I nod off so quickly I'm afraid of a neck injury. And just for the sake of gender-correctness I feel exactly the same about Larry King. I think he even puts himself to sleep.

By way of what ought to be a shameful comparison for the folks above, consider Linda Vester's Dayside. The woman even has a decent blog!

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia and The Jawa Report)

Launched by Demosophist at 05:06 PM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (3)

June 07, 2005

Shane, Grey and Williams: Are They Human?


In a storming article for Tech Central Station Frederick Turner, who would be the leading candidate for Philosopher Laureate of the United States, were there such an office, rains on the authors of the NYT story that revealed details of the private charters used by our intelligence services in Iraq and Afghanistan. Turner asks: "Why would they do it?" And concludes that they might not be quite human:

If the authors were just publishing their article to get a chance at a Pulitzer, I really have no moral quarrel with them at all, any more than I would have with a crocodile that eats a child or a raccoon that raids my larder. However, if they do have a moral identity as human beings, they should know that, if a certain civilian plane comes down over an unnamed Middle Eastern country, and all the US personnel aboard are killed, there is one compatriot who will regard them as murderers. May they think of this as they look in the mirror.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia and The Jawa Report)

Launched by Demosophist at 01:54 PM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (1)

June 04, 2005


In a recent post on Qu'rangate I speculated that there might be a silver lining:

But sometimes I wonder if Muslims, the deeply religious and the fanatical alike, shouldn't be a little more worried that we might just fly off the handle once in awhile. I worry that our apologists have been too successful at convincing them we're nice, even-tempered barbarians.

Well, I'm not kidding. And a recent post by The Belmont Club demonstrates why it's important.

Wretchard updates a series of classic posts that began with Three Conjectures, and a Postscript. The subject of his first two posts concerned the calculus of retaliation by the leaders of the US and/or other western nations to a possible WMD attack by Arab terrorists. Essentially the advantage of decentralized control and asymmetrical war becomes a disadvantage if Arabs want to limit the escalation of retaliatory consequences. The conviction that we would limit or measure our retaliation to the scale of the original attack is an assumption as naively misguided as the conviction within our own peace movement that Al Qaeda would be satisfied if we met a few simple demands.

The The Fourth Conjecture takes this logic a step further, in response to the fact that the first WMD retaliation by an anti-jihadist has already taken place. Anthrax spores were apparently mailed to an Indonesian embassy in Australia in retaliation for a jihadist who was sentenced to a mere 30 months in prison for the murder of 100 Aussies, while an Aussie received a 20 year sentence for drug abuse in the same court system.

Apparently the Aussie street is "mad as a cut snake." There are limits to the patience of citizens in English settler societies, and attacks may not bear a return address.

It could be the case that the ability of human associations (tribes, cities and nations) to think forward to the ultimate consequence of their actions, and then reason back to a solution, might prove to be the most important human capacity manifested since that ancient Adam learned to put the blame on his girlfriend. MAD kept us on the edge of our seats for generations, but the recognition of the consequences, in part, allowed us to prevent them. However let's not overestimate ourselves, because this is an entirely different situation. Throughout the critical years of the Cold War we had a mainline electronic evesdrop on the Kremlin, so we didn't have to guess about their intentions. The absence of uncertaintly played no small role in allowing the logic of Mutually Assured Destruction to work. We no longer have that luxury. Yes, we know their intentions. What we don't know are their capabilities. They, on the other hand, know our capabilities, but they take our intentions far too much for granted.

Beliefs are more malleable than people think. Sometimes beliefs lead a design, but they more often follow. I am not convinced that Islam is inherently any more unreasonable or dangerous than any other religion. Hamas members once believed that killing noncombatants was a sin, but they adapted that belief to suit the political situation within a matter of weeks, becoming the most effective Palestinian terrorst movement, when their design changed. That's both the bad, and the good news. If the World of Islam can appropriately perceive the threat they really face then they may be able to think forward to the consequences, and reason back, to a fundamental change.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia and The Jawa Report)

Launched by Demosophist at 07:02 AM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (1)

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