"Never give in never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."
- Sir Winston Churchill
"For myself I am an optimist it does not seem to be much use being anything else."
It seems increasingly to me to be a starkly political age we live in. I wasn't all that interested in politics growing up, or even so much in my twenties. But looking around lately, it appears the world is facing an awful lot of dramatic political choices and we're not having an enormous amount of success reaching any kind of consensus about them.
In some cases, these disagreements are due to differences in irreducible fundamental values. For an obvious example, Americans tend to believe in personal liberty, secularism, consensual government, separation of church and state, free speech, freedom of confession, and universal civil liberties for all including those of every race, gender, sexuality, and religion. By contrast, radical Islamists believe in the word and rule of God as revealed by his prophet in his holy book and that the rules therein should be binding on everyone. Fair enough. We'll just have to agree to disagree there.
What I find much thornier, and more troubling, is the differences amongst people for instance the left and the right in the West who claim to share many or most of the same values. The classic example for me is the intervention in Iraq. This seemed to me to be just about the great moral question of the age (I've explained why I think that here.) And you had millions on each side of the issue, who seemed or claimed to have seriously considered moral positions on the issue but who had absolutely no common ground on what should be done. What's to be done, in that case?
I don't know. I suppose send around some summaries of, and links to, articles that I've read recently that make extremely eloquent arguments on these issues. (And on several others, as well there are a lot of starkly moral and political issues going on, as you'll see below, though I'm less competent to commment on some of them, like China and Darfur). Anyway, I've read a number of pieces in just the last couple of days that seem far too fantastic not to share. I hope you find them (or their brief summaries, anyway) entertaining and edifying. (And the evolution of this organ into a proper weblog continues apace . . .)
The ever-compelling Frederick Kagan AEI scholar, military historian, and former professor at West Point takes aim at the remaining arguments of the "bring the troops home" anti-war left, in National Review (warning this one's long but chock full of facts and reality):
"Considering, finally, that the one place American soldiers are actually fighting al-Qaeda every day and decisively winning is Iraq, how, exactly, is Iraq a distraction from the war on terror? This is the war, and we’re winning it. Let’s not decide that we’d rather lose."
Nicholas Kristof, in the New York Times, has been a long-standing and vocal witness of the Darfur genocide. Here, he makes some suggestions on what can be done now. Sadly, intervention seems off the table because, if I'm understanding correctly, it would piss off the Arab World, and particularly the European and American Left, to invade another Muslim country. Good job, Left: thousands more corpses at your feet.
"President Bush seems genuinely troubled by the slaughter in Darfur and has periodically suggested to Condoleezza Rice: Why can’t we just send troops in and take care of it?
Each time, Ms. Rice patiently explains: You can’t invade a third Muslim country, especially one with oil.
And so Mr. Bush backs off and does nothing."
Charles Krauthammer, in the Washington Post, has been one of the few people (along with me e.g. here and here) who has consistently pointed out the obvious regarding Iran and its intentions toward Israel and the horrible risk thereof. In this piece, he concedes what I do not the inevitability of Iran becoming the first nuclear terror state. Nonetheless, he makes what sounds like a good suggestion in case he's right:
"On Tuesday Iran announced it was installing 6,000 more centrifuges they produce enriched uranium, the key ingredient of a nuclear weapon in addition to the 3,000 already operating. The world yawned. President Bush's greatest contribution to nuclear peace would be to issue the following declaration, adopting Kennedy's language: 'It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear attack upon Israel by Iran, or originating in Iran, as an attack by Iran on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon Iran.'
This should be followed with a simple explanation: 'The United States will not permit a second Holocaust to be perpetrated upon the Jewish people.'"
I've always thought the Olympics were kind of crap, personally. And I've been building up my moral indignation against the regime in China. There's a woman in my debate club who broadcasts for the BBC, and the other night when we were debating whether the Olympics should be hijacked for political messages, she went off on this lovely, impassioned rant about China: the rounding up and imprisoning of dissidents, the total lack of freedom of expression or the press, etc. etc. I was moved. And so, subsequently, I've been totally tickled by the torch protests, and China's chickens coming home to roost especially since it seems to bother them so very much, which seems slightly strange for an authoritarian regime. To my mind, the world is getting this one right! Anyway, the Times editorial board surprised me by offering some strongly-worded advice to China on addressing the protests:
"Here’s what you do: Stop arresting dissidents. Stop spreading lies about the Dalai Lama, and start talking to him about greater religious and cultural freedoms for Tibet. Stop being an enabler to Sudan in its genocide in Darfur. Start delivering on the pledge you made to the International Olympic Committee to respect human rights which, by the way, include the freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly . . . China has only itself to blame for messing up its coming-out party."
Those who might have followed my unbidden rant on economics and poverty, and the lively follow-on discussion, will note that I noted parenthetically that it has been widely noted that you need a few things in place before you can get decent economic growth (the only ender of poverty known to work): a reliable, uncorrupt justice system to enforce contracts, a reliable infrastructure of telecoms, roads, and power, etc. Here's a really innovative suggestion for how to start spreading these things, Hong Kong style, by Ken Hagerty in the Weekly Standard.
"It's time to apply the same kind of analysis that empowered Federal welfare reform to a re-thinking of our foreign aid system . . . We need a way to harness market forces to jump-start non-corrupt, globalized private sectors inside impoverished countries. Free Cities is a new development paradigm that would allow the United States to offer millions of people in the third world the same kind of hope, freedom, and prosperity that the people of Hong Kong enjoy today."
I recently spent the better part of a couple of weeks rounding up good news from Iraq post-surge, and five years on. This required collating a distressingly large number of tiny news sources, and a distressing amount of effort. It made me feel like there's a mainstream media conspiracy to paint the ugliest picture possible. On the other hand, it made me feel like I was doing something useful by painting a more accurate picture. On the other hand, it may reasonably be suspected that I'm not entirely unbiased in picking out these items of good news. Here's Barham Salih, Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, in the Washington Post who is in a rather better position to know, and who I hope is a more credible witness to the progress in Iraq.
"Liberation offered us the opportunity to construct a new state, based on the rule of law and democratic principles . . . against all odds, Iraq has closed its fifth year of freedom with tangible improvements thanks to interlocking steps on security, the economy and national reconciliation . . . The transition to freedom has been exceptionally painful for Iraqis and Americans alike . . . While Iraqis have been frustrated, the threats pale in comparison with the horrors that they, and the region, endured under Hussein's tyranny . . .
- When we assumed sovereignty in June 2004, the Iraqi security forces were almost nonexistent. Today our security forces are nearly 600,000 strong, and Iraqis are primarily responsible for half of Iraq's 18 provinces.
- Al-Qaeda, the great spoiler in Iraq and the region, is on the run.
- Core inflation has gone from 36 percent at the end of 2006 to 14 percent this month.
- Iraq now funds almost all of its reconstruction and the lion's share of the costs for its security forces.
- Economic growth rate is expected to top 7 percent this year.
More than 4,000 Americans have given their lives to secure the freedom of 26 million Iraqis. It is a debt that we acknowledge with humility and gratitude."
For good measure, here's Michael Yon a man who has seen it all in Iraq in the Wall Street Journal.
"I may well have spent more time embedded with combat units in Iraq than any other journalist alive. I have seen this war and our part in it at its brutal worst. And I say the transformation over the last 14 months is little short of miraculous."
Finally, if you're the type who can bear to get weepy at the same time George Bush is getting weepy you might want to watch the Medal of Honor Ceremony for fallen Navy SEAL Michael Monsoor. Here's the text and a direct link to the video.
Ditto the President's Speech on Iraq two days later text and video.
Oh as long as I'm being all bloggity bloggy, I can't resist linking to a few things I've started reading religiously lately. If you're feeling at all right-wing nutjobby, as I am, you'll definitely enjoy these. (Less so, if you're not though, you will get the benefit of a different perspective.)
Kate is Queen of the Right-leaning blogosphere in Canada. She's especially good on the frightening free speech issues in Canada (as menaced by their so-called Human Rights Courts), and questioning the Global Warm-mongers.
Sounds goofy, but they do a great line on tracking creeping sharia, noting and supporting the heroism of the western troops and also organising homegrown efforts to counter cyber-jihad. Crazy, but true. Oh, also great, highly amusing, embedded videos only some of them of insurgents being blown to smithereens by Predator-launched Hellfire missiles.
There are a ton of fantastic military blogs out there most of which illustrate what thoughtful, committed, reasoned observers our men and women in uniform are and give the lie to this Democratic party line that the troops are poor dupes of Bush and Cheney's Oil War. Here's a great one I've discovered recently. Mike is about to go back for another tour in Iraq, so we can expect a great view of the new realities on the ground.
Not new at all Mark Steyn remains my very favourite right-wing nutjob columnist, and a daily read, so I should mention him explicitly. Also, his book America Alone
is out in paperback this month. Strongly recommended.
As always, the comments section is completely open to anyone in the world who wants to explain why some or all of the above is complete bullshit. (I prefer it if you can argue a case for why it's bullshit, but if you just want to call it bullshit and me a what was it? a "chicken hawk neo-con gasbag" well, knock yourself out.