Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Cruel, to boot

Whenever I think we've hit rock bottom, the Guardian always proves it can go lower still. In a column about Anna Nicole Smith, Alexander Chancellor writes:
Anna Nicole was described as being "absolutely devastated" by the loss of her son, "her pride and joy and an amazing human being". Daniel can hardly have been as amazing as his mother. Such a woman is hard to imagine existing anywhere but America. Where else could a woman achieve such fame and fortune on the strength of apparently nothing but surgically enhanced breasts?
I am finding it uphill work to share her grief.
William Sjostrom of AtlanticBlog comments:
Chancellor uses the death of someone he does not know, and has never, so far as he knows or is willing to admit, done him or anyone else any harm, as an occasion to vent bigotry and snobbery (he reminds me of Jane Austen's Lady Catherine) toward an essentially harmless woman he does not know, and of course Americans. Chancellor comes across as the sort of creep who would walk into a funeral and remark that the death was really no loss, because, after all, the man read tabloids. (And by the way, snot nose, Baywatch is the most watched TV series in the world, after being dropped in the US for low ratings.)
Apart from the revolting callousness of the feeling expressed, how ridiculous it sounds given my experience of British popular culture:
Where else could a woman achieve such fame and fortune on the strength of apparently nothing but surgically enhanced breasts?
What?! Well, how about in the UK, for one, where a dizzying array of ever-changing soap opera starlets and Big Brother winners (and runners up!) populate the newspapers, television and radio waves. Chantelle, anyone? Not that Italy is any better, mind.
And the point is not that we should welcome this phenomenon, but making it into a critique of the US in particular is breathtakingly idiotic.

And this you call Intelligence?

Following the furore over parts of the latest National Intelligence Estimate which were leaked to the MSM, a summary of the whole estimate has been made public (via Instapundit). The main part that regards the Iraq war reads:
We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.
The Iraq conflict has become the "cause celebre" for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.
This assessment has been sprung upon by the opponents of the war, to claim that the war is failing, and by implication, that the Allies should pull out of Iraq. I find it hard to conceive that one could come up with a more peculiar idea.
Robert Kagan notes in the Washington Post:
For instance, what specifically does it mean to say that the Iraq war has worsened the "terrorism threat"? Presumably, the NIE's authors would admit that this is speculation rather than a statement of fact, since the facts suggest otherwise. Before the Iraq war, the United States suffered a series of terrorist attacks: the bombing and destruction of two American embassies in East Africa in 1998, the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000, and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Since the Iraq war started, there have not been any successful terrorist attacks against the United States. That doesn't mean the threat has diminished because of the Iraq war, but it does place the burden of proof on those who argue that it has increased.
Probably what the NIE's authors mean is not that the Iraq war has increased the actual threat. According to the Times, the report is agnostic on whether another terrorist attack is more or less likely. Rather, its authors claim that the war has increased the number of potential terrorists. Unfortunately, neither The Post nor the Times provides any figures to support this. Does the NIE? Or are its authors simply assuming that because Muslims have been angered by the war, some percentage of them must be joining the ranks of terrorists?
In fact, the question of what actions make us safer cannot be answered simply by counting the number of new terrorist recruits those actions may inspire, even if we could make such a count with any confidence. I would worry about an American foreign policy driven only by fear of how our actions might inspire anger, radicalism and violence in others. As in the past, that should be only one calculation in our judgment of what does and does not make us, and the world, safer.
Do read the whole thing. Also see what Condoleezza Rice has to say:
Asked about recently leaked internal U.S. intelligence estimates that claimed the Iraq war was fueling terrorist recruiting, Rice said: "Now that we're fighting back, of course they are fighting back, too."
"I find it just extraordinary that the argument is, all right, so they're using the fact they're being challenged in the Middle East and challenged in Iraq to recruit, therefore you've made the war on terrorism worse.
"It's as if we were in a good place on Sept. 11. Clearly, we weren't," she added.
"These are people who want to fight against us, and they're going to find a reason. And yes, they will recruit, but it doesn't mean you stop pursuing strategies that are ultimately going to stop them," Rice said.
The summary NIE also underscores that the US has a problem with its intelligence, as Glenn notes:
While we should fire the leakers on general principles, we should probably also fire whoever wrote this -- for producing a meaningless document full of empty bureaucratic twaddle. If the jihadists win, they'll have more prestige! And they will probably use the internet! Do tell. Jesus Christ, if this is the quality of intelligence we're getting, no wonder we haven't won yet.
A thorough critique of the CIA and its problems, by Gabriel Schoenfeld, appeared in the March 2006 issue of Commentary magazine (requires subs.; see here for free version). For further comments see here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Media balance and integrity

Why do many Americans think the MSM is biased towards despots and terrorists?
Because it is! Meryl Yourish notes one striking example:
Can you find a news source for the rally against Ahmadinejad at the UN yesterday? Correction: Can you find a non-Jewish media source, or a non-blogger source, for the rally?
I can't. Except for the New York Sun.
I checked AP. Nothing. Reuters. Nada. I checked Google News. Nothing. 1010WINS. Nothing. I checked WABC, NY1, all the New York media sites. Gridlock alerts are the only thing you can find about the march. After all, it's not newsworthy. The fact that 2,000 people marched a day earlier to protest the Iraq war? Oh, yeah, that made the news.
35,000 people protesting against a man who wants to "wipe Israel from the map"? Not newsworthy at all. John Bolton speaking? Who? Elie Wiesel? George Pataki? Who?
If you want to read about the rally, it appears that you have to go to the bloggers who were there, or whose readers sent in pictures. Or the Israeli press. Or the Jewish media. But nowhere else can you find any evidence that 35,000 people protested the Iranian president’s message of hate.
The news media doesn't think that 35,000 people protesting the president of Iran outside the UN is worth a story. But 2,000 people protesting the Iraq war? Now that's news.
And not good ones, I'd say... And let's remember that this is the US media we are talking about, which are much reviled for being "Bush poodles" in Europe. Don't even get me started on the viciousness of much of the European media.
Meanwhile Instapundit has comments about how the media makes itself useful to terrorists:
Cole undermines his case a bit by admitting that there are cases where media people have "behaved inappropriately" -- that is, faked news on terrorists' behalf, but the bigger point, stressed in my post and in the Austin Bay article that I linked, is that media attention isn't just neutral coverage -- the way it generally is with, say, urban crime -- but rather the actual goal of terrorists. In fact, it's their lifeblood. Terrorism is an information war disguised as a military conflict, and media coverage is an essential part of the terrorist plan.
Media people know this, and even admit it, but don't let it affect their coverage -- though as Pam Hess of UPI admitted, they're far more careful about being spun by the U.S. military -- and one reason why they don't let it affect their coverage is that terrorism gives them ratings. That's what I meant by their mutually-supporting relationship. Terrorists provide ratings (and, as we've seen, often via staged news events) and news media provide the coverage that terrorists need. As I've noted in the past, news media are entirely capable of moderating their own coverage when they think the stakes are high -- say, protection of confidential sources, or promotion of racial tolerance -- but here they clearly don't feel that way. If they applied as much skepticism and adversarialism to terrorist behavior as they do to the U.S. military, few of us would be complaining.
Do read the whole thing.

The Guardian does it again

Apparently, the Guardian is not only blatantly dishonest in its reporting, but it also misrepresents books in its reviews. Alan Dershowitz protests in Slate:
I thrive on controversy and have developed a rather thick skin, having had my fair share of both negative and positive reviews.
But in the quarter of a century that I have been writing books, I've never had the experience of a reviewer claiming that I take a position in one of my books that is the exact opposite of what I have actually asserted
A section in my book concerns Israel. It is supportive of some, and critical of others, of Israel's pre-emptive military actions. Christian focused on this section for the majority of her article. She characterized Preemption as an attempt to "justify the Iraq war and even the actions of the state of Israel (which the author, a Harvard law professor, obsessively admires)." First, notice the "even" before Israel, showing that the author assumes the actions of Israel to be particularly indefensible. Second, she misreads the fundamental point of this chapter. I do not try to justify Israel's actions. I analyze its actions, and I conclude that some of them were justified and beneficial, while others were wrongheaded and unnecessary. Finally, had Christian read the book, she would know that I opposed the war in Iraq. She apparently assumed that because I support Israel's right to exist, I also supported America's war in Iraq. It's a telling assumption.
Most egregiously, Ms. Christian claims that "[i]n its concluding chapter the book goes so far as to suggest that theories of 'chromosomal abnormality' should be pursued as predictive of violent crime to justify long-term detention." In fact, I say precisely the opposite. Christian is referring to an appendix in which I reproduce an article I published in 1975. The whole thrust of the article is categorically against the use of the XYY chromosome to predict violence, since I demonstrate conclusively that the XYY karyotype is not predictive and therefore creates an unacceptable risk of "false positives," which are precisely what we most fear when we engage in preventive or pre-emptive action. Here is what I write: "Nor is it likely that the XYY karyotype, even in combination of other factors, could be used to predict violence. There is simply no hard evidence establishing that any combination of factors can accurately spot a large percentage of future violent criminals without also including an unsatisfactory number and percentage of false positives." Christian confuses my strong opposition to using chromosomes as criminal predictors with support for their use, thereby reversing my position. It is hard to believe that this is a simple mistake.
And this passes for serious journalism...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Making aid work

I'm not a regular reader of the New York Review of Books (there is only so much lefty-establishment bile and rubbish one can take on a sustained basis, although - as far as I know - it's still more palatable than the truly appalling London Review of Books). However, every now and again one comes across something interesting there, and at the recommendation of a friend I read a review from the current issue, a balanced and very interesting piece by Nicholas Kristof (of the New York Times) on foreign aid: Aid: Can it Work?.
He makes several points which demonstrate both a healthy skepticism of many current arrangements, and a noble desire to ensure that poor people's lot across developing countries is improved, realistically and efficiently:
Still, on the arguments about the effectiveness of aid, Easterly makes a better case than Sachs—and if Easterly can stimulate a sensible rethinking of aid, he will save lots of lives, too. To begin with, he casts doubt on the very notion of a "poverty trap," where countries need outside resources to generate economic growth. Certainly it's well known that some of the countries that have battled poverty most effectively —like China, Singapore, Malaysia, and others in Asia—have received very little aid per capita. The median ratio of aid to GDP of the ten countries with the highest per capita growth rates between 1980 and 2002 was just 0.23 percent. In contrast, as Easterly shows, the ten countries with the lowest per capita growth rates in that period, all negative rates, had a median aid-to-GDP ratio of 10.98 percent. That says nothing about causation, but it's still not very encouraging.
When it comes to the effects of large-scale aid programs in Africa, Easterly's argument is worth quoting:
Jeffrey Sachs and co-authors previously predicted that large aid increases would finance "a 'big push' in public investments to produce a rapid 'step' increase in Africa's underlying productivity, both rural and urban." Alas, we have already seen this movie, and it doesn't have a happy ending. There is good data on public investment for twenty-two African countries over the 1970–1994 period. These countries' governments spent $342 billion on public investment. The donors gave these same countries' governments $187 billion in aid over that period. Unfortunately, the corresponding "step" increase in productivity, measured as production per person, was zero. Perhaps part of the reason for this was such disasters as the five billion dollars spent on the publicly owned Ajaokuta steel mill in Nigeria, begun in 1979, which has yet to produce a bar of steel.
Even in the poorest countries you see some signs of available money that could be used for investment, and is not. In Kisangani, in the heart of poverty-stricken Congo, wrenching malnutrition exists side by side with brothels, beer joints, and cigarette stands. If one could get the men who spend their money in those places to invest in the simplest of businesses or in their children's education, they could begin to escape the so-called poverty trap.
If Easterly is generally sensible, there's one matter where I think he's catastrophically wrong. That is his hostility toward military intervention. It's true that in the past, military interventions have often been foolish and ended up hurting the people we claimed to be helping. The long American proxy war in Angola was a disaster for everyone. But it's also true that the single most essential prerequisite for economic development is security: no one will invest in a shop or factory if it is likely to be burned down soon. And insecurity is immensely contagious.
The Western failure to intervene early in Rwanda allowed the genocide in 1994 that claimed perhaps 800,000 lives. But that was only the beginning. That chaos in turn infected Burundi and especially Congo, which collapsed into civil war. Some 4.1 million people have died because of the Congo war, mostly from hunger and disease, making it the most lethal conflict since World War II.
Something similar happened in West Africa. Upheavals in Liberia were allowed to fester and spread to Sierra Leone and then Ivory Coast; and now Guinea may be on the precipice as well. Because nobody was concerned to stop the killings in Darfur when they began in 2003, the genocide there is now spreading to Chad as well, and even to the Central African Republic.
So one of the most crucial kinds of foreign aid is simply security. And when we have provided that kind of aid, it has made a huge difference. The most successful single thing the US ever did in Asia, for example, was probably Truman's decision in 1950, after the Korean War began, to send the Seventh Fleet to protect Taiwan. Otherwise China would very likely have invaded Taiwan sometime in the 1950s, hundreds of thousands would have died, and Taiwan wouldn't have existed as a free economy in the 1980s and 1990s to provide both an economic model and investment for the Chinese mainland. The cost to the US of that deployment was negligible, and the benefit to the world was enormous.
Do read the whole thing.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Protesting for Darfur in London

On Sunday a friend of mine and I went to the Day for Darfur protest in London. It started in front of the Sudanese embassy which is just off the end of Pall Mall; there was some chanting and several interesting (but occasionally unintelligible) speeches. After that we walked towards Downing Street, taking the long route along Piccadilly. Here are some pictures I took while walking down Whitehall, looking back towards Trafalgar Square:

and forward towards Westminster:

There were more people than I expected, and despite my cynicism the worldwide protests may be having some small positive effects:
Sudan is expected to withdraw its deadline for African Union peacekeepers to leave the war-torn western region of Darfur at the end of this month, when AU foreign ministers discuss the mounting crisis in New York today, according to senior officials in Khartoum.
Sudanese president Omar al Bashir's ultimatum for an AU troop pull-out threatened to leave the huge area with no international monitors and provoke a major escalation of a three-year war which has already left a quarter of a million people dead.
A special "global day for Darfur" yesterday saw protesters in several dozen cities around the world call for an end to the fighting and warn of impending genocide.
Those who know me won't be surprised to learn that I favour a more vigorous approach:
Led by the United States, the UN security council has called for international forces to replace the AU troops with better equipment and a stronger mandate. Although the resolution says the troops require the consent of Sudan's government, President Bush hinted at the weekend that they should go in regardless.
"What you'll hear is, well, the government of Sudan must invite the United Nations in for us to act. Well, there are other alternatives, like passing a UN resolution saying we're coming in with a UN force in order to save lives," he said.
I doubt that will happen, but I firmly believe that if the international community is any more conciliatory than that, it will be condoning the continuation of genocide (once again).

Monday, September 18, 2006

Chirac is a dangerous idiot

In case you weren't aware of this, Chirac is an idiot:
French President Jacques Chirac has said referring Iran to the UN Security Council is not the best way to resolve a crisis over its nuclear programme.
"I don't believe in a solution without dialogue," Mr Chirac told Europe-1 radio, urging countries to remove the threat of sanctions against Iran. The US is leading calls for sanctions to be imposed on Iran if it refuses to suspend uranium enrichment.
Independently of what one thinks would be the best strategy to convince Iran to abandon its nuclear programme, Chirac's statement seems to be aimed specifically at ensuring the failure of any diplomatic effort. In fact, I think this policy has two effects: on the one hand it weakens the incentives that Western diplomacies have at their disposal, making it easier for Iran to flout international pressure and obtain nuclear weapons. On the other hand, assuming there are still Western countries determined to impede Iran's nuclear armament, it will make future armed intervention or conflict with Iran much more likely. This is the same pattern that emerged with Iraq: had France, Germany and others presented a united front with the US, a war could easily have been avoided.
What is "I don't believe in a solution without dialogue" supposed to mean anyway? What is this, the Afternoon Tea theory of international relations?! Is there anyone, at any point, with whom Chirac would have refused to have an unconditional dialougue? Hitler? Stalin? And why does he think we always have to have a dialogue with our hands tied behind our backs, while our opponents operate under no restriction whatsoever? For crying out loud, this nutcase is opposing referral to the UNSC, for possible discussions of potential economic sanctions! What would he have proposed be done in the face of Nazi armament and aggression in the 1930's? Dialogue without any consequences? Surrender without a fight? Oh, wait a minute... that's precisely what France did do. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Oriana Fallaci: a full life

Last night Oriana Fallaci, one of the most famous and cotroversial Italian journalists, passed away. Wikipedia has a comprehensive and balanced biography of her. From the introduction:

Oriana Fallaci (June 29, 1929 in Florence, Italy - September 15, 2006) was an Italian journalist, author, and political interviewer.

(Photo source) A former antifascist partisan during World War II, she had a long and successful journalistic career.
As a young journalist, she interviewed many internationally known leaders and celebrities such as Henry Kissinger, the Shah of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, Lech Wałęsa, Willy Brandt, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Walter Cronkite, Omar Khadafi, Federico Fellini, Sammy Davis Jr, Deng Xiaoping, Nguyen Cao Ky, Yasir Arafat, Indira Gandhi, Alexandros Panagoulis, Archbishop Makarios III, Golda Meir, Nguyen Van Thieu, Haile Selassie and Sean Connery.
After retirement, she wrote a series of articles and books, critical of Islam and Arab culture, that have roused significant controversy.
After a decade of self-imposed silence she returned to the Italian public discourse with a long and fiery essay expressing her thoughts following the September 11th attacks on the United States. Entitled La Rabbia e l'Orgoglio (The Rage and the Pride, translation here) it was published by Corriere della Sera on 29 September, 2001. I remember reading it that day, at my parents' home in Milan and feeling admiration for her plain-speaking and vigorous attack on the enemies of the West, both internal and external. Her occasional lack of distinction between radical Islamists and Muslims in general, was in my view totally inappropriate, but her critics often fail to note that her vitriolic attacks are quite consistently indiscriminate: the Italian people, the EU etc. also come in for their share of criticism without any distinctions being made.
The essay was expanded into a book which was followed by a sequel, and she continued writing articles, never leaving the public eye.
As I noted, there are fair and serious criticisms that can be made of her rhetoric, without dishonestly minimising the threat that is in fact posed by Islamist fanatics. I certainly do not agree with all of her positions (for instance, I am absolutely in favour of open immigration – although I believe a certain degree of integration and assimilation should be expected of newcomers).
In a relatively balanced piece for Reason, Cathy Young quotes a critique of Oriana's book by Christopher Hitchens - certainly no apologist for Islamists - published in the Atlantic Monthly:
Written in the hot flush that overtook her on September 11, and originally published as a screed in the Milan daily Corriere della Sera, this is a sort of primer in how not to write about Islam. Fallaci claims in her introduction that in order to shorten the diatribe for newspaper purposes she "set aside the most violent passages." I wonder what those passages can have been like; the residue is replete with an obsessive interest in excrement, disease, sexual mania, and insectlike reproduction, insofar as these apply to Muslims in general and to Muslim immigrants in Europe in particular. A sampling, which preserves her style and punctuation and spelling:
The fad or rather the hypocrisy, the shit, that calls "local tradition" the infibulation. I mean the bestial practice by which, in order to prevent them from enjoying sex, Moslems cut young girls' clitoris and sew up the large lips of the vulvas. All that remains is a tiny opening through which the poor creatures urinate, and imagine the torment of a defloration ... thank God I never had any sentimental or sexual or friendly rapport with an Arab man. In my opinion there is something in his brothers of faith which repels the women of good taste.
In other words—and there are a great many of them—Fallaci ignores her own pro forma injunction to remember that Islam is a faith, not a race. Her horror is for the shabby, swarthy stranger who uses the street as a bathroom (she can't stay off this subject) and eyes passing girls in a lascivious manner.
Although I think this characterisation is rather overwrought and unfair, it has some truth to it and it is this kind of thing that is the source of the mixed feelings I have towards Oriana Fallaci: on the one hand I deplore her lack of clarity on what should be legitimately attacked and what can only be termed prejudice, on the other I feel that in the West there is an intense dearth of commentators and public figures who are willing and able to defend the basic principles on which the West is based, and Oriana Fallaci's writings, despite all her flaws, have, for some people – many of whom I'm convinced are not bigots – served as a wake up call to the threat under which these principles are, and I would call that a good thing. Only a few months ago the New Yorker published a beautiful article about her, which I think portrays her fairly, while depicting her contradictory nature.
A good exposition of the very serious problems that Europe is facing has been written by Bruce Bawer, who - in my experience - strongly expresses the moral clarity which Oriana Fallaci partly lacked. I am currently reading his new book, While Europe Slept, which is very interesting and well-written (also see this excellent book by Claire Berlinski). He explores many of the themes of the book in an essay he wrote for the Hudson Review (see here for pdf version), which also quotes Oriana Fallaci:
The messenger [Pim Fortuyn] was silenced—but his message lived on in the writings of other heterodox Europeans who, stirred by 9/11, began to find their voices. Legendary Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, for example, responded to 9/11 with The Rage and the Pride, a cri de coeur in which she wrote: "I am very, very, very angry. Angry with a rage which is cold, lucid, rational . . . . I spit in their face." "They" being not only the terrorists but also the European elite, which, she demanded, must shake off its fashionable anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, recognize where the real threat to Western freedom lay, and act to defend that freedom. Civilization, America, freedom, individualism, the West: for Fallaci, all these things are indivisible, and those who defend them are heroes, those who fail to recognize their preciousness are fools, and those who seek to destroy them are a peril not to be taken lightly. In passionate, rambling, highly personal prose, Fallaci, a longtime left-winger, decried her fellow leftists' affection for Arafat, praised Rudolph Giuliani, condemned Muslims’ treatment of women, and recalled interviewing Pakistani leader Ali Bhutto, who, tearfully telling her of the marriage he was forced into as a child, concluded, "No religion is as oppressive as mine."
As Bawer writes elsewhere for the fifth anniversary of 9/11 (emphasis mine):
On 9/11, the free world was powerfully reminded of its freedom. In Europe, alas, that day's spirit has been steamrollered by an establishment that – apparently having already accepted the inevitability of Europe's Islamization – routinely turn the truth on its head, representing aggressors as victims and self-defense as inflammatory. That upside-down picture needs to be set aright, and the spirit of 9/11 resurrected. For the bottom line is simple: if we don't cherish our liberties with the fervor that the jihadists treasure their faith, we'll lose.
And that is why Oriana Fallaci's fervor was, depite the misgivings, welcome to me.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Guardian's dishonesty

It is truly a pity to see how appallingly dishonest and shoddy the Guardian, considered by some Britain's foremost daily, has become in its reporting. William Sjostrom at AtlanticBlog illustrates a recent despicable example. The article begins:
George Bush last night admitted that Saddam Hussein had no hand in the 9/11 terror attacks, but he asked Americans to support a war in Iraq that he said was the defining struggle of our age.
The president conceded some crucial ideological ground, formally disavowing the neo-conservative accusation that Saddam had played a role in the attacks on September 11 2001. But he was unapologetic about the decision to invade Iraq.
AtlanticBlog notes:
Is the Guardian really this incompetent, that neither its reporter nor its editors pay attention to their own stories, or is something else going on? In 2003, the Guardian says Bush "admits", then three years later does the same thing, in neither case saying when Bush made the claim. Any suspicions that the Guardian is a newspaper rather than a tiresome propoganda rag are once again eliminated.
Do read the whole thing. Harry's Place also mentions this and notes:
The Guardian story in a nutshell: Bush has once again 'admitted' that something he and his administration never said, wasn't the case.
Also see Melanie Phillips' comments, where she expands on the Al Qaeda-Iraq question. Elsewhere, in regards to the Lebanese Red Cross ambulance story, Tim Blair makes a good point:
Mayes, reasonably enough, allows for "inconsistencies and anomalies" in reporting from war zones. Perhaps, then, the Guardian's initial report should have indicated some fog-of-war doubt over the claims made to their correspondent instead of stating as fact: "Israel's rocket strike on two clearly marked Red Cross ambulances on Sunday night set a deadly new milestone [...] Two ambulances were entirely destroyed, their roofs pierced by missiles."
Great work, Clouseau.
Do read the whole thing. And then journalists wonder why the MSM is not trusted...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Lighting candles of truth

There seems to be a tendency among people who are, for whatever reason, opposed to George W. Bush, to minimize any scourge he turns his attention to, be it the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Iranian nuclear armament, terrorism or fundamentalist Islam. Martin Amis has a long essay in the Observer (the Sunday edition of the Guardian; via Instapundit) in which he explores what should be self-evident:
I will spell this out, because it has not been broadly assimilated. The most extreme Islamists want to kill everyone on earth except the most extreme Islamists; but every jihadi sees the need for eliminating all non-Muslims, either by conversion or by execution. And we now know what happens when Islamism gets its hands on an army (Algeria) or on something resembling a nation state (Sudan). In the first case, the result was fratricide, with 100,000 dead; in the second, following the Islamist coup in 1989, the result has been a kind of rolling genocide, and the figure is perhaps two million.
Do read the whole thing. Glenn also cites Amit Varma, who says:
I don't fully agree with either Amis's pessimistic appraisal of Islam in general today, or his optimistic prognosis of the future. Unlike him -- and perhaps because I am in India -- I see plenty of "moderate Islam," as he terms it, around me, though more and more Muslims are certainly getting radicalised, for a variety of complex reasons. Equally, I am not convinced that Islamism is "the death agony of imperial Islam ... the last wave - the last convulsion." I think Amis writes those lines more in hope than in rational conviction, giving in to the twin human instincts of believing that all problems have solutions, and that progress is inevitable.
In many respects the West really does not seem to have internalized this message. One of the many small signs of this is the MSM's insistence in calling Mohammad Khatami a moderate. Pajamas Media has an interesting video with Richard Miniter about him, entitled Murder at the Cathedral. Clearly fundamentalist Islam (which I generally call Islamism) must be combatted urgently (particularly in Europe). There has been a general debate about how to go about this, most starkly regarding the decision whether Islamist terrorism should be seen as an act of war or as a law enforcement matter. It does not exactly fall into either category and I think the best attitude is illustrated by Richard Posner's position, whose Glenn & Helen Show podcast I listened to recently, and whose new book has been garnering positive reviews (via Instapundit): in the Washington Post and in the Weekly Standard. As (the non-neocon) Dahlia Lithwick says:
The real power of Posner's effort is that he stands back and measures whether Guantanamo Bay and wiretapping are really worth it. It's proof that the best cure for partisan shrieking is a good old-fashioned game of cost-benefit analysis.
Do read both reviews.
While we fine tune in what way to best fight Islamist fundamentalism, there is another extremism which all rational and moderate people should be worried about: Western extremism. Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at New York University the other day and made a few points I emphatically agree with (though I don't always agree with him). PJM correspondent and Atlas Shrugs blogger, Pamela, has videos and commentary:

Netanyahu exhorts us to:
"...repel the lies. I will not go back to those gas chambers. Not those physical ones, not those of the poisoned wells and slanders.The only way that a free society can defend itself aside from taking up arms is also to light those candles for truth.
What I ask of you tonight is for each of you to light the candle of truth. You know how you do it ...flip on the internet and light many many candles of truth."
Do watch the whole thing.
If there was any doubt that this ("lighting candles of truth") was badly needed (after the countless scandals and biases, which seem to always go one way), this story (via Instapundit) should clinch the deal:
Saddam Hussein had a very trusted source inside AP, according to the translation of another of the thousands of documents captured by U.S. forces that are only slowing being made public. In this particular document, the source inside AP tells Hussein about the formation of UNMOVIC, the UN weapons inspection team.
As Ed Driscoll says:
After Eason Jordan's "The News We Kept To Ourselves" admission, and Reuters' cozy relationship with assorted freedom fighters terrorists, I'm not at all surprised.
Amongst numerous media other scandals, add to the list CBS's RatherGate, ABC's eagerness to be censored, Newsweek's Koran in the Can fabrication, and of course, all of the New York Times' woes, and you've got an Elite Media whose credibility across the board is crumbling.
And this is the "respectable" US media we are talking about... (which Europeans always say are pawns of Bushitler). I cringe to think about the rest. That's why there is a need to fight and "light candles of truth."

Threatening license revocation?

I have not seen the much talked about ABC 9/11 miniseries, however, whatever its flaws, I am appalled by some of the overwrought reactions I have seen from some of its critics.
As Professor Bainbridge notes:
Of course, in a way, I can understand the Democrats' outrage. They are so used to Hollywood being a reliable part of the Democratic propaganda machine that the very idea of a network movie making any criticism of a Democratic administration must come as a serious shock to the system.
The letters from Democratic lawmakers to ABC implictly threatening ABC affiliates broadcastig license, however, are an unacceptable infringement of First Amendment values.
This seems to me a terrible move on two levels. Firstly, it seems like the Dems want to stifle free speech:
I think this may be the biggest miscalculation I have seen this election season. I mean this one is positively biblical. The Senate Democrats just threatened to go after ABC's broadcasting license if it airs The Path to 9/11. Not fix it, not alter it. Kill it or they will come for you.
Do they have any idea what they look like to the average American? They look not like defenders of the truth, they look exactly, precisely, like they are trying to hide something. This is an absolutely stunningly stupid move. This may play well to the true, hard-left believers, but to average Americans you just hurt yourselves very, very badly.
Secondly, while the Clinton Administration (as well as the current Administration) can hardly be blamed for not realizing how dangerous Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda were going to be, the record is not exactly prisitine: apart from the Sandy Berger shenanigans, see this post from Power Line, and this column from Investor's Business Daily. Ann Althouse points out that while the miniseries may be inaccurate, these ferocious attacks are bringing renewed focus on some uncomofortable hard facts, such as this NBC News clip, with Tom Brokaw, who is hardly a Republican stalwart:

Also see this Power Line post, which underlines why it is important that we not forget what went wrong before 9/11 under the Bush as well as the Clinton administrations: the Democrats seem to want to go back to the old system. Do read the whole thing.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Who's willing to stand up?

Yesterday Instapundit had a small but worrying roundup of recent developments in the increase in anti-Semitic attacks. In that context he repeats something he has pointed out before:
If they [the Jews] had the habit of blowing things up, they wouldn't face this problem.
The point is that Islamist terrorism wouldn't be so widespread if us Westerners didn't make it so effective by our limp and subdued response. Which is underscored by the Mark Steyn column he quotes today:
Consider, for example, the bizarre behavior of Reuters, the once globally respected news agency now reduced to putting out laughably inept terrorist propaganda. A few days ago, it made a big hoo-ha about the Israelis intentionally firing a missile at its press vehicle and wounding its cameraman Fadel Shana. Shana was posed in an artful sprawl in a blood-spattered shirt. But it had ridden up and underneath his undershirt was spotlessly white, like a summer-stock Julius Caesar revealing the boxers under his toga. What's stunning is not that almost all Western media organizations reporting from the Middle East are reliant on local staff overwhelmingly sympathetic to one side in the conflict -- that's been known for some time -- but the amateurish level of fakery that head office is willing to go along with.
See here and here for more details on the specific case. Mark Steyn concludes:
It doesn't matter how "understandable" Centanni and Wiig's actions are to us, what the target audience understands is quite different: that there is nothing we're willing to die for. And, to the Islamist mind, a society with nothing to die for is already dead.
As Niall Ferguson predicts (via Harry's Place), they will probably be proven wrong, but that happy outcome would certainly not be the merit of the Al-Reuters and multiculti crowd.

Podcasts, finally

I have finally moved into the real world: for the first time I have listened to a podcast, and I really enjoyed it! The podcast in question was the last installment of the Glenn & Helen Show, in which they interview Richard Posner (who has his own blog here), about terrorism, the constitution and his latest book Not a Suicide Pact: The Constitution in a Time of National Emergency. Posner and his hosts make a number of interesting points and I highly recommend listening to the podcast.

Mel Gibson, eat your heart out

I don't really follow sports, but this is the funniest video I have seen in a long time (via Harry's Place):


Friday, September 01, 2006

International law, only if it fits the agenda

I have mentioned before that I am somewhat skeptical of international law and international organisations. I have recently seen two cases which underline one of my concerns. Many of the most ardent supporters of international law and its apparatuses, often seem to be more interested in using the principles involved to further what can only be termed nakedly political ends, while completely ignoring any principles or precedents which are unhelpful or contrary to those ends.
The first example I encountered this week comes from the Claremont Institute blog, The Remedy, and has to do with the right to self defense:
Glenn Reynolds alerts us to this U.N. Report which denies that there is such a thing as a right to self-defense in international law.
No international human right of self-defence is expressly set forth in the primary sources of international law: treaties, customary law, or general principles.
[...]People writing reports for the U.N. should consider what the founders of the modern ideas of the law of nations had to say about the subject. Hugo Grotius was quite clear on the subject. Emmerich de Vattel was too.
The U.N. is therefore wrong to say, "primary sources of international law: treaties, customary law, or general principles." Clearly the U.N. has cut international law off from its root.
Of course, as I have noted before the U.N., has grown to be hostile to the natural rights foundation of the United States by its very nature. At the foundation of the U.N.'s understanding of law is an idea that is irreconcilable with the natural rights foundation of the U.S. Hence the U.N. does not grasp the necessity of a natural right to self-defense, a right of inestimable importance to us, and formidable only to those who would be tyrants.
Do read the whole thing.
The second instance regards the West Bank, and the fact that some people claim Israel should not be allowed to enact a unilateral withdrawal. Apart from the fact that I find it unlikely that someone in good faith could expect Israel to establish its final borders in negotiation with an entity which does not recognize its right to exist tout cour and advocates its destruction, there was an article in the July-August issue of Commentary, Why Israel Is Free to Set Its Own Borders by Michael I. Krauss and J. Peter Pham (requires subs.), which explores some of the international law issues which are involved. It goes over the relevant history and has a concurrent legal discussion which is particularly interesting. Here is the conclusion:
None of this is to suggest that Israel's legal and historical claims to sovereignty in the West Bank require it to remain there. But neither is it required to consult either the Palestinian Arabs or the self-appointed representatives of the "international community" if it decides to withdraw from some territory and determine its own borders. As Ariel Sharon and now Ehud Olmert have argued, it may well be in Israel's national interest to disentangle itself, as much as prudence requires, from the Palestinians and the territory in which they predominate. As many Israelis see it, to do any less might court the risk of Israel itself becoming an "occupied territory"- and at the hands of a far less benign power.
It would be best to bring about any such disengagement through negotiations with a credible and well-meaning Palestinian counterpart. But for now and the foreseeable future, the seat on the other side of the table remains empty. In this circumstance, exactly as in the 1967 war of aggression that attempted its annihilation, Israel, if it chooses to do so, has every legal right to act alone.
A copy of the article can be found here (pdf). Do read the whole thing.