Monday, July 31, 2006
The sun returns to Antarctica
Cool! No. Really cool. The Antarctic Conservation Blog notes the return of just a hint of orange on the horizon. The sun is moving south, and now, in early after"noon", you can see a glow in the sky at the bottom of the world.
The blogosphere is everywhere.
CWCID: Walking the Berkshires.
Another slap in the face
In summer I usually seek diversion in baseball. I guess I picked up the interest from my father, who grew up a New York Giants fan but followed and appreciated the sport, not just his team. Growing up in Iowa, I fell into Cub fandom and I'll never forgive my father for not warning me off it. He certainly knew the sting of sports pain, slamming the Big Peach down in disgust after some egregious Giants loss and announce he was giving up baseball. Why, oh why, did he not steer me towards the Yankees or the Atlanta Braves or the St. Louis Cardinals? When I think of all the pain I could have been spared...
In 1987, a 20 year old pitcher came up with the Chicago Cubs. He went 6-14 his rookie year, but you could just tell he was special. He didn't have blazing heat, but he was smart. You could tell by the way he pitched. He made mistakes, but you could see the potential. He was also an athlete. When it was his turn to bat he didn't swing feebly as the ball snapped into the catcher's mit. He could hit the ball, and could also lay down a bunt when he was asked to do so. He could also field. When the ball came his way he stabbed it with his glove and could reliably throw it to first base for the out. On grounders into the first base hole he sprinted to cover the bag and actually caught the ball when it was thrown to him. He was so fast, in fact, that manager Don Zimmer would actually use this young pitcher as a late inning pinch runner on days when he wasn't scheduled to pitch. He was not just a pitcher, he was a baseball player, and one of the best to ever play. His name was Greg Maddux.
Maddux was great, pure and simple. In 1988 he won 18 games, and came back in 1989 and won 19, helping to get the Cubs into the National League Championship Series, where they lost to the Giants, led by their emerging star first baseman Will Clark, much to my father's pleasure (the Giants would go on to lose to Oakland in the famous earthquake series).
The Cubs would not return to postseason for 9 years, but Maddux was established. In 1992 he won 20 games for the Cubs and won the National League Cy Young Award. And then somehow, inexplicably, the Cubs let him get away and he signed with the Atlanta Braves. He would go on to win the next 3 Cy Young Awards for the Braves, and go on to be one of the greatest pitchers of all time.
In the 2003 the Cubs flirted with their first world series since 1945 on the strength of three young superstar pitchers, Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, and Carlos Zambrano. 4 outs away from the World Series in game 6 of the NLCS, a series of well chronicled events conspired to doom the team. Despite the horrific turn of events, the future looked bright with the dominating young arms forming the foundation of the team. In the off season that year, Cubs management made a move that warmed the bitter hearts of Cubs fans still cursing a poor bastard named Steve Bartman: they signed Greg Maddux and brought him back to Chicago to finish his career where he started it.
Maddux was passed his prime, everyone knew that. But he was still smart, and even in his late 30s was in the top quartile of National League pitchers. Cubs fans drooled at the thought of Maddux in the dugout tutoring the young guns, while nailing down the fourth spot in the Cubs rotation. Alas, it was not to be as envisioned. Oh, Maddux did his part winning 15 games in 2004, and the Cubs nearly returned to the playoffs, but sufferred another inexplicable collapse in the final week of the season, punctuated by the fall and subsequent banishment of the once mighty and beloved Sammy Sosa. In the two seasons since, Kerry Wood and Mark Prior have struggled with injury, and the rotation has never come together as envisioned. This season, the Cubs have been terrible, despite a surprising dominance over the St. Louis Cardinals, whom they nevertheless trail by 15 games.
Still, one of the wonderful things about baseball, and even about being a Cubs fan, is that you can still derive pleasure from little things. One of those little things for me was knowing Greg Maddux was still going to pitch every fifth day, and knowing that he would finish his hall of fame career a Chicago Cub, where he should have been all along. Slim reeds if you're a Cardinal fan perhaps, but Cub fans are used to looking for the bright side.
Tonight when I got home from work I was greeted with the news that the Cubs had traded Greg Maddux to the Dodgers. It makes no sense to me and makes me so sad I want to cry. It puts me in the perverse position of having to seek diversion from the baseball season by watching scenes of war. And that is a terrible place to be.
The rockets go quiet: considering Hezbollah's command and control
According to Stratfor($), Hezbollah did not fire a single rocket during the calendar day July 31, Lebanon time. I have not found a press account that verifies this assertion, but if true it puts Israel in a very tough spot.
Israel got a breather July 31 from the blaring of sirens and steady barrage of Katyusha rocket attacks after nearly 20 days of heavy fighting. Hezbollah has managed to launch an average of 130-160 rockets per day into northern Israel since the conflict began. The grand total of confirmed rocket attacks for July 31 as of midnight Israeli time, however, stands at zero.
From a military standpoint, Israel's cease-fire demonstrated the strength of Hezbollah's command-and-control structure, even after taking a beating by Israeli forces. Hezbollah's communication lines clearly remain intact, as its military commanders evidently managed to signal the group's various units to switch off rocket attacks almost immediately after the cease-fire was declared.
Hezbollah quickly realized the benefits of refraining from attacks during this 48-hour cease-fire. Israel already faced piling international condemnation for its military operations in Lebanon, but the July 30 Israeli airstrike in the Lebanese village of Qana clearly shifted the focus onto the number of humanitarian crises created by this conflict, playing right into Hezbollah's hands.
Hezbollah is operating under the belief that a large toll in civilian casualties will expedite a cease-fire before the Israeli army completes its stated objective of significantly degrading Hezbollah's capabilities. Not only would Hezbollah be able to retain its offensive stature, but it would also claim victory as being the only Arab force capable of standing up to Israeli aggression and forcing an Israeli military defeat. By committing to a temporary cease-fire it is not even a signatory to, Hezbollah is making it exceedingly difficult for the United States to give the green light to Israel to resume its military offensive with full force while Israel is quickly earning the aggressor label around the globe.
Israel cannot afford to scale back its military plans and allow Hezbollah to raise its stature at the expense of Israeli national security. Admitting defeat to Hezbollah and exposing Israel's military weakness after years of building up an image of the most formidable military in the region would carry devastating consequences for Israel, and end up fracturing the ruling government. As Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said July 31, "there is no cease-fire and there will be no cease-fire in the coming days." Movements on the ground already indicate Israel is preparing for a larger ground campaign to root out Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon and to inflict greater damage on Hezbollah forces. This is an operation that is going to take a good deal of time.
But time is something Israel seriously lacks. Israel's air campaign has not achieved its desired results in a timely manner, placing a substantial pressure on Washington to table an immediate cease-fire, or at least to take real steps toward scaling down the conflict. The 48-hour cease-fire, which notably was announced by the U.S. State Department, was designed to ease some of this pressure by allowing Lebanese citizens in the south to flee northward, so avoiding becoming Hezbollah's human shields when Israeli attacks resume. Nonetheless, Israel's actions are putting a serious strain on U.S. relations with its European and Arab allies, which do not have the same tolerance level Washington does for Israel's military campaign, and which are facing mounting political pressure at home to do something to contain the conflict.
Hawks in Israel and the United States have been warning against the consequences of a ceasefire for days now, and Stratfor's description of the situation generally lines up with those who believe that Israel has failed to avoid the strategic trap that Hezbollah set for it. There is no need to belabor the argument, since the die is now cast, at least until it is cast again.
Stratfor does, however, make a very interesting point about the effectiveness of Hezbollah's command and control, both in the abstract and after almost three weeks of combat. It gave an order not to shoot rockets, and all over southern Lebanon the launchers went quiet. These guys did what they were told to do with excellent discipline, just as The Guardian predicted in the story linked through this post. Remember that the next time somebody argues that Hezbollah did not intend to do a particular thing. Its fighters apparently reflect the intentions of their commanders as efficiently as the soldiers in any Western army.
The end of land for peace
The problem is, there is no way to settle this fight between Israel and Hezbollah. Jonah Goldberg describes the conundrum as eloquently as I have seen it written:
It seems to me the inescapable lesson of the current conflict is a depressing one for Israel and the United States. It ain't about land. In the 1990s, we were repeatedly told that Israel's problems could be solved via a geopolitical swap-meet. Everyone get together in back-slapping fellowship and trade land and, abracadabra, we'd have peace. It turns out, in Israel's case, this is nonsense. Hezbollah doesn't want land-for-peace, it wants genocide for peace.... Of course, this generalization doesn't apply to every Arab talking head and potentate. But as far as the militants with the guns and the hearts and minds go, that's the reality. Perhaps there are deal-makers even among the Iranians, but the fact is Hezbollah means what it says and it's stock is going up, not down. That means all of the 1990s illusions about how the Arab-Israeli (now more of a Muslim-Israeli) conflict could be solved through negotiations have been exploded.
Israel has no concession that it can make to Hezbollah to end the fighting, and Hezbollah cannot give Israel what it must ultimately have -- acceptance of its existence and the recognition of specific borders -- without destroying its own legitimacy. Unlike a state -- Egypt, Jordan, Syria or even Iran -- Hezbollah exists for the purpose of destroying Israel and other enemies of the Shia radicals. So how do we settle this fight, rather than simply postpone it? Either (A) we let them fight until one side is utterly destroyed, or (B) we separate them. Since Option A is very unpalatable, the West is being driven to Option B. Unfortunately, the separation will have to be permanent, or virtually so, and certainly much longer than the electoral cycle in any democracy. If enough countries were to contribute enough soldiers, and if those soldiers were vested in rules of engagement that allowed them to prevent incursions, separation might work insofar as it buys time to deal with Hezbollah's roots, the radicalism in the Muslim world. The problem, though, is that Hezbollah would never agree to such a deal because it would prevent them from realizing their mission, and very few countries will have the stones to join an international separation force unless Hezbollah agrees. It is therefore far more likely that the fight is not settled by either decisive victory or separation, but once again postponed to some even bloodier reckoning in the future.
Sistani warns us on Lebanon
The most important man in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has warned that the United States will face dire consequences in the region if it does not move swiftly to broker a ceasefire in Lebanon. Reluctant as I am to say it, Juan Cole has the most interesting analysis of the implications that I have been able to locate:
Sistani is taking such a hard line on this issue not only because he feels strongly about it (his fatwa against the Jenin operation of 2002 was vehement) but also because he is in danger of being outflanked by Muqtada al-Sadr. Sadr's Mahdi Army is said to be "boiling" over the Israeli war on Hizbullah, since after all the Sadrists are also fundamentalist Shiites and they identify with the Lebanese Hizbullah. There have already been big demonstrations in Baghdad against the Israeli attacks, to which Sadrists flocked but probably also other Shiites.
Sistani cannot allow Muqtada to monopolize this issue, or the young cleric's legitimacy will grow among the angry Shiite masses at the expense of Sistani's.
Sistani is not linked to Hizbullah, which is strongly Khomeinist in orientation. Sistani largely rejects Khomeinism. He told an Iraqi acquaintance of mine, "Even if I must be wiped out, I will not allow Iraq to repeat the Iranian experience." When Sistani had his heart problems in summer, 2004, he flew to London via Beirut. He stopped in Beirut several hours, and Nabih Berri came out to the airport to consult with him. Berri is the speaker of the Lebanese parliament and the leader of the Amal Party. Amal is the party of the secularizing, moderate Lebanese Shiites. It was more militant in the 1980s but it mellowed.
So Sistani's political ties in Lebanon go to Amal much more than to Hizbullah. Sistani has many followers or "emulators" (muqallidun) among the Lebanese Shiites, though the hard core Hizbullahis tend to follow Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei of Iran instead.
Cole often draws strange and analytically suspect conclusions, but he equally often writes fascinating "inside baseball" stuff, which is why you have to pump yourself up and go over there and read his blog from time to time. In this case, read the whole thing, and then come back here and offer your comments below.
Hezbollah: Fighting to the last Shia in Lebanon
The Guardian, which does some great stuff even if it is suffused with the paper's lefty politics, is embedded with Hezbollah fighters. The most astonishing thing about linked article is the degree to which Hezbollah fighters admit to outrageous and illegal conduct, confident that the world will simply blame Israel. All emphasis added.
On living with civilians:
Inside a well-furnished apartment in a village on the outskirts of Tyre, with shelves of books piled from floor to ceiling, a black turbaned cleric and three men sit sipping bitter coffee. By the door is a pile of Kalashnikovs and ammunition boxes; handguns are tucked into the men's trousers. The four are Hizbullah fighters, waiting for the Israelis.
On patience, which a Hez cleric correctly identifies as their "main virtue":
"Patience is our main virtue, we can wait for days, weeks, months before we attack. The Israelis are always impatient in battle and in strategy," says the cleric, Sayed Ali, who claims to be a descendant of the prophet. "I know them very well."
I suppose that hints at the planning that went into this war.
On education "abroad" and coming home:
Ali does know the Israelis. He started fighting them at the age of 17 when they invaded Lebanon in 1982. Three years later he was arrested with two of his comrades and spent a few months in an Israeli prison. Within weeks of his release he was fighting them again.That's what he did for the next six years.
For the last five years he has been finishing his theology studies in Tehran. A month ago, he was asked by Hizbullah to return to southern Lebanon. He arrived a week before the fighting began.
Got that? He was summoned back to Lebanon before the fighting began. To put it in World War I terms, Hezbollah is admitting to have mobilized first. If that does not reflect its state of mind just before their attack, I'm not sure what would.
On the equity of Hezbollah's system of "taxation":
According to Ali, Hizbullah operates as "a state within the state", with its own hospitals, social organisations and social security system. "But we are also an Islamic resistance movement, an indoctrinated army," he adds. "I would go and knock the door at someone and say we need $50,000, he would give me [that] because they trust us."
Oh, sure. The Lebanese guy forks over his fifty grand to an "indoctrinated Islamic resistance movement" because he trusts them to provide excellent social services.
On free will, and child labor:
Hizbullah prides itself on its secretiveness and discipline. "We don't take anyone who knocks at our door and says 'I want to join'. We raise our fighters. We take them when they are young kids and raise them to become Hizbullah fighters. Every fighter we have believes that the ultimate form of being is martyrdom." The three men nod their assent.
"Every one of those fighters is a true believer, he has been not only trained to use guns and weapons but [indoctrinated] in the Shia faith and the Husseini beliefs," Ali says.
On the war of the Shia against the Sunnis:
For Ali and his comrades, the latest conflict is a war of survival not only for Hizbullah but for the whole Shia community. It is not only as a war with Israel, their enemy for decades, but also with the Sunni community. Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt have all expressed fears of Iranian domination over the Middle East.
"If Israel comes out victorious from this conflict, this will be a victory for the Sunnis and they will take the Shia community back in history dozens of years to the time when we were only allowed to work as garbage collectors in this country. The Shia will all die before letting this happen again."
Unfortunately for Israel, the typical Sunni does not see it this way. Hezbollah seems to have pulled something over on them.
On the futility of a diplomatic solution:
He says that even if the international community calls on Hizbullah to disarm as part of a peace deal, he and his men will not lay down their arms. "This war is episode two in disarming Hizbullah. First they tried to do it through the Lebanese government and the UN. When they failed, the Americans asked the Israelis to do the job."
On fighting to the last Lebanese civilian:
"Things are going very well now, whatever happens we are winning. If they keep bombing us we will stay in the shelters, and with each bomb more people support the resistance. If they invade they will repeat the miserable fate they had in 1982, and if they hold one square foot they will give the Islamic resistance all the legitimacy. If they want to kill Hizbullah they have to kill every Shia in the south of Lebanon."
On next steps:
And even when the battle with the Israelis is over, he adds menacingly, Hizbullah will have other battles to fight. "The real battle is after the end of this war. We will have to settle score with the Lebanese politicians. We also have the best security and intelligence apparatus in this country, and we can reach any of those people who are speaking against us now. Let's finish with the Israelis and then we will settle scores later."
Bear in mind, this isn't Fox News writing this, it is The Guardian. And yet, the entire world wants Israel to lay down its arms unilaterally. Why? I think we all know the reason. The world supports an organization such as Hezbollah in its fight against Israel for only one reason: deep regret that Hitler didn't finish the job. What other reason could there be?
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Sometimes you need to get away from it all. Really away. On Friday, I took a half day off from work, packed a bag, grabbed the cat, and drove south to Buckingham County and Indian Gap, a rural family homestead where my father planned to retire but which was willed to me when he died. I love it there, I have always loved it there. It is why I moved my family to central Virginia, but it has it’s burdens, not all of which are financial. I grew up visiting my grandparents there. It was the house my grandfather grew up in, was schooled in, retired to and lived in until his death. After he died at 92, my grandmother lived there alone for 8 more years, out in the woods miles from nowhere, until she died at age 93. A caretaker who had lived in a tenant house on the premises since 1965 remained a few more years, until he too died, after which there was no doubt about it; it belonged to me, ghosts and all.
The main house was built in 1910, and the property is carved out of a larger farm that had been in the family since before the revolution, but no longer is. Generations of Virginia ancestors lie in a nearby plot in the middle of a pasture, surrounded by a stone wall. Of course there have been changes to the house and to the neighborhood over the years, but not so many. You can stand in the woods and listen to the tumbling creek and the song of the wood thrush and imagine that things were not so different 300 years ago. (Well, maybe if you don’t note the wretched kudzu that my great-grandmother planted at the advice of the US Department of Agriculture, and which has been a curse ever since).
So I drove down Friday afternoon. Among other things, I had to retrieve Thing One’s fishing rod for our vacation, but I really didn’t need that as an excuse. It is a restorative place for me, and I go there whenever I can. There is no TV there, no internet, just the sounds of cicadas and bull frogs, acres of fields and woods, and the old house filled with old pictures, and shelves of old books. When I arrived there I took a break from the war, from the disastrous season of the Chicago Cubs, and from civilization itself.
I spent Friday afternoon in the old building we were taught to call “the barn,” although most would call it the garage. Its an old stables, painted dark green and standing apart from the house, and it was where my grandparents kept their car when I was young. It hangs out over a hillside and most of it is held up with pillars of dubious strength, and I’ve been told not to park cars there anymore. It’s still filled with tools that go back to when my grandfather was around, along with the detritus of our house renovation: siding, lumber, old screen doors and commodes, and contractor’s equipment apparently in temporary storage. On Friday, after spending my whole life timidly venturing into the barn occasionally to borrow a tool, I finally made it mine. It was always a mysterious place, and practically forbidden when I was young. It gave me a very strange feeling to be in charge of it, moving things that had not been moved in decades, and deciding where they should go. I hope “poor ole Pop” doesn’t mind too much.
On Saturday I expected company. Pop always kept loaded guns around, shotguns and rifles, propped behind the library door. The family legend is that he received a pellet gun for his 5th birthday, a .22 rifle for his 6th birthday, and a shotgun on his 7th birthday. I have no reason to doubt this. My father unearthed letters Pop wrote to his uncle at age 8 or 9 recounting long lists of animals he had slain in the woods. A collection of old guns came with the house, and since I know nothing about guns, I invited my colleague Rebecca to come down for lunch. Her husband Matt is something of a gun expert and I thought he might be able to tell me something about the 7 guns that were locked in the library closet. I spent the morning puttering around the house, hanging up old pictures that came down in the renovation. Rebecca and Matt showed up about 2:00 PM, and we had some fried chicken and coleslaw before getting down to the guns.
I learned that Pop’s Ithaca single-shot double barrel box-lock 12 gauge can still be fired safely, although it can use refinishing. As can the old .22 that I learned to shoot back in 1976. The old Winchester pump 20 gauge required some maintenance, but was worth restoring according to Matt. The other 20 gauge should never be shot ever again. Finally, the gun I saw fired the most, a single shot 28 gauge shotgun which Pop used to shoot squirrels and harvest mistletoe (and execute a “damn nymphomaniac” cat in a famous story) should not be fired without a major cleaning, and Matt didn’t have anything that fit the rare 28 gauge barrel. He took down all the serial numbers and promised further research on-line, and we then enjoyed Rebecca’s blueberry pie.
While we were looking at the guns the phone rang. It was Percy, the man who mows the grass, and who also happens to be one of the Bell Road Boys, the group I grant hunting permission to every fall. Percy wanted to know if I wanted any tomatoes. I had a big garden full of tomatoes back in Charlottesville, but I hadn’t seen Percy in a while so I said sure, and he showed up a few minutes later with a tremendous bag of tomatoes and zucchini. (A cauldron of fresh tomato sauce bubbles on the stove as I write.) I asked Percy in and his eyes lit up. “Oh, you got the guns out, eh?” he said with a smile. I look for common ground with Percy anywhere I can get it, and wasn’t about to let the opportunity pass. He and Matt enjoyed a few minutes of gun talk, and then Percy excused himself and went on his way. He had a load in his cheek and I suspect he had to spit.
Rebecca and Matt went on their way, and as most of my self assigned chores were done I spent the waning afternoon fishing down at the pond. With a plastic worm I hooked one of the largest bass I’ve had on the line in a long while, but lost it when it ran under the dock.
In the evening I sat on the porch sipping a bourbon, listening to the birds and watching the shadows grow long. After dinner I sat in the library, enjoying the (newly installed) air conditioning, where I put on a Clifford Brown CD and pulled one of the old books from the shelf. It was “Social Life In Virginia Before the War,” and was sentimental look back at Virginia plantation life (in Virginia, there still is only one “war.”) It is one of about fifty books about Virginia-Virginia social life, Virginia military heroes, Virginians and the founding of the nation-lining the shelves, some of them more than 200 years old, collected by generations long gone. It is a treasure trove, but I have to wonder, is there any state in our union more self obsessed than Virginia? I think not. I read and enjoyed the book, and went to bed.
Now I’m back in town, back on-line, checking the news and the blogs, and hearing about the latest horrors in the middle east and everywhere else. I’m really looking forward to next week, when I’ll be back out of touch, once again missing the war and the Cubs, this time in the North Woods teaching Thing 1 how to fish a jitterbug and Thing 2 how to row a boat. One night we'll brave the skeeters and camp in a lean-to, far from even the remote cabins on the lake, and we'll have a campfire and look at stars and listen for owls, and I'll tell them stories about how their great great Aunt Lucy spent the summer camping on that very spot about 90 years ago. And maybe someday one of their kids will clean out the barn at Indian Gap, this time daring to move the things I carefully put just so, for some long forgotten reason.
The orchestration of demonstrations: a survey of the world
Power Line wonders how it was possible for "anti-war" demonstrators in Beirut to have produced a massive banner -- complete with photograph of Condoleezza Rice -- protesting the tragedy in Qana within a few hours of the attack.
What seems odd about this is that the banner was unfurled within hours after the Qana attack took place. The building where the civilians died was bombed on Sunday morning, and the demonstration took place during daylight hours, later the same day. I have no idea what kind of facility it takes to produce a 30-foot-high banner like this one. It is obviously professionally done. It would be interesting to know where this banner was produced; who designed and paid for it; and how its production was expedited so that it was ready for use, on the street, within hours after the event being protested. For example, was the image of Rice produced in advance, awaiting a pretext for its use, with only the script added at the last minute? I've often been curious about the logistics of pro-terrorist demonstrations, and this seems like an especially curious example.
All good questions that I am sure AFP photographer Ramzi Haidar did not think to ask. However, timing is relevant, given the more than seven hour gap between the Israeli raid and the collapse of the building with the children. Maybe an international investigation of the raid is in order.
In fact, the demonstrations around the world are extremely one-sided, virtually all in support of Hezbollah and opposed to Israel. One can conjure quite a selection by searching for the phrase "anti-war" among the news photo captions, even though it is not clear that any of these demonstrators oppose the launching of unguided rockets into Israeli cities.
In Lahore, Pakistan, an "anti-war" demonstrator fails to denounce Hezbollah. Who can blame him, really? If he had, he probably would have been killed by passers-by.
In Dublin, the "anti-war" demonstrators are particularly one-sided.
The sign shows a picture of a baby and reads "Hey, Israel, you missed one!" Delightful. Back at you, buddy: "Hey Europe, you missed a few million."
In London, it is important that Israel keep its "hands off Lebanon," and, by the way, that it shouldn't attack Syria. Nobody seems to think that Syria and Lebanon shouldn't be attacking Israel, which is astonishing, even if not surprising.
According to the caption, the signs read "Israel stop the aggression." It has been trying to "stop the aggression" for a long time.
Then there is Manila, where protestors in a country that has been at war with jihadis know precisely who to blame... Israel:
Of course, we know who the Egyptians despise:
And, finally, Athens:
None of these protestors are asking for an end to war. None ask for Hezbollah to stop firing its rockets, or for Syria to stop shipping in new weapons, or for Iran to stop threatening to go to war. They all demand that Israel just take it. Who are they kidding? Other than the mainstream media, I mean.
Did the building collapse eight hours after the Qana attack?
The IDF is now saying that almost eight hours elapsed between their attack and the collapse of the building at Qana in which so many children died. This much is probably verifiable, at least with accounts from witnesses. So what happened? People stayed inside a building that was not structurally sound, and died when it collapsed from stress after the attack? Did Hezbollah -- the effective government in that area -- encourage the children to stay in the building, or to leave it? Did Hezbollah ammunition or explosives detonate, bringing down the building hours after the Israeli raid?
The interesting question is, if the investigation reveals that Israel may not have been responsible for these deaths, or only derivatively so, will any of the people who so quickly condemned Israel admit that they were wrong to do so?
Another casualty of war
My cousin Tim Abbott, proprietor of the thoughtful ecology blog Walking the Berkshires, writes about another casualty of the war, the ecology of Lebanon. Read this post about the Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Preserve and Tim's friend Nizar Hani, who works there. Unfortunately, the Al-Shouf preserve lies along the main road to Syria, and is in the center of Israel's strategic campaign. Yesterday, Tim received an email from Nizar:
Israeli aircrafts are constantly roving in the sky and they don’t hesitate to shoot at any moving vehicle...(The Reserve) was bombed three times, and the continuous shelling targeting the highways linking Lebanon to Syria is only 100 meters away from the Reserve...People are sometimes desperately running away from the shelling taking shelter anywhere they can especially those who find themselves attacked on the road. Pretty soon we won’t be able to keep the gates closed...The wildlife of the forest is already stressed from direct attacks, the very loud sounds of shelling and military airplanes and the air pollution resulting from the explosions.
This war, like most, is hell. If in my disgust at Hezbollah and outrage at the world's hatred of Israel I sometimes seem hard-hearted, then I am not leaving an accurate impression of my feelings for the victims of the war. I don't even know him, but I very much hope Tim's friend Nizar stays safe, and that Lebanon's relatively fragile ecology survives.
Nork notes: the Taepodong-2 blew up
Remember the North Korean missile test of July 5? The original reports said that the Taepodong-2, the putatively long-ranged missile that in theory could hit the United States, flew around 400 kilometers before falling into the Sea of Japan. Now Japanese intelligence is saying that in fact the Taepodong-2 did not get much beyond the launch pad:
Sources quoted by Kyodo news agency said the missile exploded in mid-air within 1.5 km of the launch site, either in a northeastern region of North Korea or in its territorial waters on the edge of the Sea of Japan.
Experts have said the missile is potentially capable of hitting parts of U.S. territory.
The problem was most likely due to difficulties with the missile's boosters, sources quoted by the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said.
A Japanese government official quoted by the Yomiuri said the new analysis, which will be included in a report to be issued by the government early next month, indicated that North Korea's missile technology was still immature.
"It will likely take a long time for North Korea to launch a Taepodong-2 again," he added.
The question is, why did it explode?
Five years ago...
...we were more secure than we are today, according to John Kerry.
Funny he should say that. Five years ago today, Mohand al Shehri flew from Ft. Lauderdale to Boston. The next day he flew to San Francisco on the same type of plane as that flown on United Flight 175, which he would help to hijack 42 days later.
Kerry and other Democrats who allege that we are less secure today may or may not be right -- since attacks are virtually always surprises, there really is no way of proving him right or wrong. For all we know, there are al Qaeda operatives casing American targets right now, hoping for the mother of all anniversary attacks. We have, however, gone just under five years without another mass casualty attack on American soil, something that nobody in either party or in the American security establishment would have predicted in the fall of 2001. This, despite the best efforts of our news media and the loyal opposition to expose the means by which we might snare other soldiers in al Shehri's army.
Is the United Nations a credible mediator?
Not if the caption to this picture is accurate:
Hezbollah supporters furious over an Israeli airstrike in Qana that killed up to 50 refugees, are surrounded by smoke from a fire after breaking through glass to storm their way into the main United Nations building in Beirut, Lebanon Sunday, July 30, 2006. Thousands of Hezbollah supporters, many burning U.S. and U.N. flags, scaled fences, smashed bulletproof glass, and threw rocks at the building before storming through barriers and entering the ground floor of the building itself.
Sheesh. Even I have no urge to burn down a United Nations building.
Do not expect to see any condemnation of this attack, though. The soft bigotry of dual racism will give Hezbollah a pass, and chalk it up to that force of nature without a will of its own, the Arab "street."
Civilian casualties and the dual racism
An Israeli airstrike has killed a big cluster of civilians -- more than 50 -- including a large number of children. This is a great tragedy, but the Israelis say that Hezbollah was firing rockets at Israeli civilians from the village that Israel hit -- "hundreds" since the beginning of the conflict. There is not yet any reason to doubt Israel on this. Nevertheless, leaders of countries that have done worse are protesting, and Condoleezza Rice has postponed her next trip. They are pandering to the worldwide hatred of Israel. On the facts known this morning, culpability may just as easily lie with Hezbollah. Of course, it should never go unsaid that Hezbollah targets Israeli civilians without even bothering to justify its attacks on them as incidental to a military purpose. Killing Jews is quite sufficient, thank you very much. Every launch of every Hezbollah rocket into every Israeli city should earn similar denunciations, but they do not. Why? The dual racism that holds Israel to a higher standard than the rest of the world, and Arabs to a lower one. And, by the way, no profession is more culpable in the perpetuation of this dual racism than journalism. Even politicians do a better job of trying to play it fair.
Much in this most troubled part of the world would become more clear if we just held everybody to the same standard of behavior. It can be a high standard or a low standard, but let's just agree on what it is. Does the intent to kill civilians matter, or not? Does the wearing of uniforms matter, or not? Should an army prosecute those of its soldiers who violate law and morality, or hail them as heroes? Let us shake off this habit of giving insurgents a pass in these things because it seems useless to condemn them. It is not. It is corrosive to our civilization, not their's, when we uphold their values at the expense of our own.
MORE: See "the photos that damn Hezbollah" from the Sunday Herald Sun. As Blue Crab Boulevard writes in his post "caught red-handed," every one of these pictures depicts a war crime. Of course, there will be no condemnation from the world, no investigation from Amnesty International. Why? The racism that simply does not expect Arabs to be civilized.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
The death of childhood
There has been a long (and occasionally tedious) discussion at The Corner over child-rearing, a subject that my generation (Boomer - "X" frontier) flogs like an old nag. However, John Derbyshire today wrote a paragraph that speaks precisely to my greatest regret as a father, that my children are not growing up with the freedom that I did:
I've been aware for some time, and reading that made me freshly aware, of my own great good fortune in having been in the last (actually, I think, about last but one, or last but a half) generation of Western children to have a real childhood: roaming over fields and through woods, falling out of trees and into ponds, experienced with firecrackers, roller-skates, airguns, and slingshots, being bullied and occasionally beaten up by older boys, playing "British Bulldog" in the schoolyard, sailing model boats and flying model planes, playing complicated street games handed down intact from ancient Rome—-and all with never an adult in sight! How lucky we were! How miserable our children must be!
Apart from the "British Bulldog" thingy, I did all of that, and I bet Derbyshire never skinned his forearms up to his wrists diving for a touchdown pass on the sidewalk that formed the goal line in the vacant lot gridiron across the street.
Why do we oppress our children so much? By virtually every metric, with the possible exception of traffic, most suburbs today are at least as safe as they were in our childhood, if not safer. The police blotter in Princeton consists of two types of offenses -- trivial property crimes, and the arrest of losers who are foolish enough to drive through town on the trek between New Brunswick and Trenton (why the local cops just don't let them drive through is beyond me). Many of the most dangerous toys -- lawn darts and wrist-rockets and diving boards and such -- are off the market, and hardly anybody leaves guns around to play with. So why do our children have so little freedom? I don't know the answer, but ask that question at a suburban potluck supper and conversation screeches to a halt and everybody looks away with visible discomfort, or forces out a laugh like you just made a joke that hits too close to home. With all the willingness to talk about this subject, you might as well go ahead and announce that you sort of like Dick Cheney.
When I was 15 years old in that delightful year of 1977, I got on a bus in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, rode it to the Port Authority Terminal in New York, walked down 42nd Street to Grand Central Station, figured out how to buy a ticket for the train to Bronxville, actually found the train to Bronxville, and visited my grandparents for Thanksgiving. Alone. My son is the same age today, and we would no sooner allow him to do that than to get on a plane to Cairo, even though the crime rate in the area between the Port Authority and Grand Central has probably fallen by 90% in the last 30 years. Why not? The only reason I can think of is that he has not had nearly the same experiences that I had had up to that point, so he is far less able to fend for himself out in the world. I can't, however, give you an a priori reason that explains why we have sheltered him so. My only defense for this crime against my son is to claim that we are not nearly as safety-paranoid as most of the parents we know.
For what it's worth, our parents' generation -- the people who had us rattling around loose in the back of the station wagon -- think that we fortysomethings are nuts. They are right.
Caption This! (Saturday afternoon "sweeps week" edition)
TigerHawk bonus: The link to the A.P.'s Pamela Anderson/Kid Rock pre-wedding party slideshow.
Saturday afternoon listening and reading
If you have a stray 20 minutes and broadband, listen to Allison Kaplan Sommer's interview with Hebrew University Professor Reuven Hazan on the impact of the present war on Israeli politics. It is deeper and more nuanced than anything you are likely to see on television, and an indication of the power of distributed civilian media.
Also, read Charles Moore's column in the Telegraph examining the European media's coverage of the Israeli-Hezbollah war.
Niger "yellowcake" and the precautionary principle
Christopher Hitchens, who has been doing first rate work on the extent of Saddam Hussein's hunt for yellowcake in Niger, isolates the question that any American president would have had to consider carefully in 2002:
To summarize, then: In February 1999 one of Saddam Hussein's chief nuclear goons paid a visit to Niger, but his identity was not noticed by Joseph Wilson, nor emphasized in his "report" to the CIA, nor mentioned at all in his later memoir. British intelligence picked up the news of the Zahawie visit from French and Italian sources and passed it on to Washington. Zahawie's denials of any background or knowledge, in respect of nuclear matters, are plainly laughable based on his past record, and he is still taken seriously enough as an expert on such matters to be invited (as part of a Jordanian delegation) to Hans Blix's commission on WMD. Two very senior and experienced diplomats in the field of WMDs and disarmament, both of them from countries by no means aligned with the Bush administration, have been kind enough to share with me their disquiet at his activities. What responsible American administration could possibly have viewed any of this with indifference?
Of course, there are policies that lie between "indifference" and launching an invasion of Iraq, but they were increasingly difficult to sustain, what with all the international opposition to and subversion of the containment regime that had prevailed since 1991.
In an unexplainable lapse, I have not linked to the new O'Quiz for several weeks. This week's has been up a few days, but I am linking because I scored 9 out of 10, a monster score on a quiz with a 4.74 average.
"...I'd like one elastic loaf with pepperoni and sausage, please."
Shooting Jews in Seattle
Most every newshound knows that a man walked into the largest Seattle-area Jewish center yesterday, announced that he was a Muslim who was angry at Israel, and began shooting women with an automatic weapon (see the Pajamas Media coverage). The thing is, the authorities will not acknowledge that the phenomenon is what it obviously is, Islamic terrorism. Andrew McCarthy, who knows more about prosecuting Islamic terrorists than virtually anybody, says that we ignore the character of such incidents at our peril:
So what happens? The police don't even want to admit that he's Muslim ("You could infer that," the police chief tells the reporters who press this patently relevant question). And the FBI insists it's not terrorism.
Now, it could not conceivably be more clear that it is terrorism. If the FBI is saying they can't link him to any known terrorist group, that doesn't mean it's not terrorism. It's too early in the investigation to have run down whether the guy has ties to known groups; even if he doesn't, not all terrorism is committed by known groups (sometimes the acts of terror are how we get to know them); and even if he is acting alone, federal law recognizes the concept of lone-wolf terrorism.
It is terrorism because it is a sneak attack — in this case against civilians — which is motivated by a purpose to affect government policy and/or further a political/social/religious cause. The shooter was not there to rob the register or kill someone he knew over some private dispute.
This is militant Islam in action, but we don't want to think or talk about Islam, so we'll pretend that the fact he's a Muslim is irrelevant ("terrorists come in all shapes and sizes" is the official PC postion of government), and if we can't attach a known group to the shooter we'll close our eyes to the fact that he might have reason the understand that his religion impelled him to act.
On November 5, 1990, at a hotel in Manhattan, Sayyid Nosair murdered JDL founder, Rabbi Meir Kahane, as the latter finished a speech. The chief of detectives for the NYPD immediately pronounced that the homicide was the work of a lone gunman. No meaningful investigation had yet been done into Nosair's background, and the police could not quickly connect him to any known terrorist organization. It turned out that he had been a member of a nascent jihadist militia with connections the Egypt's Islamic Group (Gama'at al Islamia) for several years. Two years later, from his prison cell — which militants flocked to because the Kahane murder turned him into a hero in what they saw as an ongoing jihad — he helped plot the bombing of the World Trade Center.
Sometimes, homicidal maniacs are just homicidal maniacs. Other times, such as when a large group of them belong to a particular religion, read the same propaganda, share the same political views and slaughter the same people, they are an insurgency, whether they plan operations together or not. The longer it takes us to recognize this, the bloodier the ultimate war will be, and the greater the risk that the West will lose.
MORE: In a follow-up, Andy explores the shooter's background.
Friday, July 28, 2006
Is Nasrallah hiding behind Iranian skirts?
Intelligence reports indicate the leader of Hezbollah is hiding in a foreign mission in Beirut, possibly the Iranian Embassy, according to U.S. and Israeli officials.
If this is true, it is hilarious. If it is false, it is probably misinformation put out on purpose to make Hassan Nasrallah look like a coward. Which is even more hilarious. Either way, the story needs more play.
The United Nations self-parody watch: standing up for the District of Columbia
The United Nations Human Rights Council has determined that the United States Constitution is inconsistent with international law because...
...the District of Columbia does not have a voting member of Congress.
I shit you not.
The Human Rights Council includes among its members the People's Republic of China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Cuba, and a half dozen African countries which don't even understand enough about government to pretend to democracy. Naturally, the most pressing item on its agenda is whether the residents of the District of Columbia have a voting member of Congress.
Why does anybody care what the United Nations thinks about anything?
CWCID: K-Lo, who begs for this story to be a joke. It is a joke, but it is also true.
American economic growth, in perspective
American GDP growth came in at "only" 2.5%, which has triggered no end of hanky-twisting in the media and the financial markets. Stratfor provides a little perspective($):
Annualized U.S. gross domestic product growth in the second quarter of 2006 came in at 2.5 percent, according to a July 28 Commerce Department report. Market commentators, disappointed with the figure, immediately warned that U.S. growth was tanking and the Federal Reserve was clearly finished with the growth-cooling tactic of raising interest rates.
Anytime a highly developed economy such as that of the United States exceeds a 2 percent growth rate, it should be cause for celebration. Unlike developing economies, which experience massive growth shifts in line with whatever commodity prices are doing, the U.S. economy is huge, diverse and relatively even-keeled. Assuming the Commerce Department's figures are correct, the 2.5 percent growth in the second quarter added about $80 billion -- roughly the amount of the entire Algerian economy -- to the U.S. economy. Not bad for three months' work. Claiming the growth is not good enough is like a child crying that he did not want that Nintendo for his birthday.
The eurozone has only achieved 2.5 percent growth in three of the past 15 years. The United States, in comparison, has only failed to hit the 2.5 percent mark in two of the past 15 years.
Besides, the number is almost certainly an understatement of actual U.S. growth, and the Commerce Department itself notes that this is only a preliminary estimate. Compare that to a "real" number: collected federal tax receipts. Those receipts are up 13 percent for the first nine months of the current fiscal year. The idea that receipts are up so much but growth is only up by 2.5 percent is a bit disingenuous. Commerce will issue its first revision at the end of August.
Here's a longer term look at the almost unbelievable strength of the American economy:
The American economy is strong not because America has great natural resources or even because our people are particularly skilled -- Russia and Africa have more of the former and Europe and Japan more of the latter. Our economy is strong because we relish change and remain flexible. If we lose that, we will lose all.
Hezbollah hits a hospital
Hezbollah has hit an Israeli hospital with one of its rockets. We wait for the worldwide condemnation with 'bated breath.
Also, Hezbollah has announced the use of a new, long-range missile that it has named the "Khaibar-1." According to the A.P., it is "named after a famed battle between Islam's prophet Muhammad and Jewish tribes in the Arabian peninsula."
It has been a long war.
The Netanyahu barometer and Israel's intentions
WILLism's Ken McCracken is very unhappy with Israel's strategy of apparent restraint, which he believes is doomed to failure. Maybe, and maybe McCracken is more broadly correct that Ehud Olmert does not understand the stakes involved. I doubt it, though. Why? The lack of criticism from and indeed overt support of Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli right wing. If Netanyahu, who believes that Hezbollah must be excised from the body of Lebanon, were unhappy with the strategy, scope, and duration of this war as planned in Omert's cabinet, we would have heard about it. Whether or not Prime Minister Omert says conciliatory things, we should assume that Israel is going to go after Hezbollah with all hammers and all tongs until Benjamin Netanyahu stops articulating the government's position and starts complaining about it. Watch Netanyahu.
Backward culpability and radical chic
Apart from its structural and conceptual difficulties, one of the United Nations' biggest problems is that it attracts officials who say absolutely asinine things. United Nations humanitarian chief Jan Egeland revealed yesterday that his morality is utterly different from mine:
United Nations humanitarian chief Jan Egeland accused Israel on Wednesday of committing "catastrophic mistakes" in its attack on Hizbullah, which have caused civilian casualties and alienated the Lebanese public.
"It will create a generation of hatred," he said in an interview held with The Jerusalem Post after he had concluded tours of northern Israel, Gaza and Lebanon.
"I'm talking more as a friend of Israel than as an aid worker," said Egeland, who noted that he studied at Jerusalem's Hebrew University as a Truman Fellow, while his brother lived on a kibbutz.
I think that if there is one thing that all sides of this debate acknowledge, Arab and Muslim hatred of Israel has only deepened in the years since June, 1967. Israel's actions in this war could not have alienated the Lebanese public. A goodly proportion of the Lebanese public voted Hezbollah into the government, and Hezbollah is committed to Israel's destruction. Lebanon, like all Arab countries, seethes with hatred for Israel, and did before July 12. The Pew Global Attitudes Survey(pdf), conducted March through May 2006, found that only 1% of Jordanians and 2% of Egyptians sympathized with Israel in its struggle with the Palestinians, after the Palestinians had elected a government dedicated to Israel's destruction. The numbers for non-Arab Muslim countries were virtually as low (Lebanon was not surveyed, but it is hard to believe more than 5% of Lebanese ever had anything good to say about Israel -- yes, some of the Christians and other minorities may have hated Hezbollah more, but after years of occupation by Israel in the 1980s I simply do not believe that they liked Israel.) That same survey reveals that healthy pluralities of Arabs in Jordan and Egypt want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon so that it will drop it on Israel (revealing, once again, the widespread Arab contempt for the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who will die when that happens). Arabs have been fed a steady diet of paranoid, anti-Semitic dialogue about Israel that it cannot redeem by failing to respond to Hezbollah attacks. There are many grounds on which to appeal to Israel, but Egeland reveals a twisted and ridiculous understanding of that part of the world if he thinks that Israel's conduct of the war has changed Arab opinion in any way that matters. OK, so it has gone from "intense fear and loathing" to "very intense fear and loathing." Of what relevance is that trivial difference?
Egeland does not, unfortunately, stop there:
The UN's under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, Egeland called for an immediate cessation of hostilities. "The rockets have to stop. The terror has to stop. But please remember that for every civilian killed in Israel there are more than 10 killed in Lebanon. It has to stop on both sides." He charged that Israel had used "excessive" and "disproportionate" force in violation of international humanitarian law, and dismissed Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's contention that proportionality is measured in relation to the threat posed by a force.
"You cannot invent new kinds of proportionalities. I've never heard that the threat is supposed to be proportional to the response," he said. "Proportionality is there in the law. The law has been made through generations of experience on the battlefield. If you kill more civilians than military personnel, one should not attack," he said.
Since Hezbollah has been shooting inaccurate weapons indiscriminately at civilian targets and Israel has at least been aiming at military assets, there are only two reasons why more Lebanese civilians have died than Israeli. First, Israelis have built bomb shelters and safe houses, because they know from long experience that they are at grave risk of enemy attack. Israel is a hardened target, even though it wishes it did not have to be. Given its own history of allowing combatants to take refuge behind its border, Lebanon should also be a hardened target, but Arab governments are too incompetent and care too little about their own people (except when be used as props for anti-Zionist propaganda) to have made similar provision. This is hardly Israel's fault. If Israel had not done this and hundreds more Israelis had died, would the world's complaint about "proportionality" be any different? Nobody honest thinks that it would.
Second, Hezbollah wants Israel to kill Lebanese civilians precisely because it knows that fools like Egeland dominate the media coverage. Everybody also knows this.
Then there is the question of refugees. The world cares more about Arab refugees -- there are about 600,000 displaced Lebanese compared to 250,000 displaced Israelis -- because the world believes, with good reason, that Arabs are not competent to deal with refugees and Israel is. Arab regimes feed this perception by "hyping" refugee status. Israel deals with refugees by resettling and reintegrating them. That was true in the years following 1948, when there were almost as many Jewish refugees from Arab countries as Arab refugees from Israel, and it is true now.
The most horrifying implication of Egeland's statement, however, relates to the conduct of war. According to the Egeland principle, culpability for the use of civilians as shields or camouflage lies not with the soldier who disguises himself, hides among the people, and shoots from residences, schools, and mosques, but with the uniformed soldier who by dint of his uniform marks himself as a legitimate target. If this is established international law, as Egeland says it is, then international law is contemptible. Under the Egeland principle, the more an enemy soldiers shields himself with civilians -- innocent or otherwise -- the less the enemy may respond. Under that logic, Israel should round up a few thousand Lebanese to scatter among its tanks and infantry when it goes after those rocket batteries. Will the world then think that Hezbollah commits a crime when it shoots back?
It amazes me that the international law fetishists, who will cry foul at the slightest alleged infraction by the United States or Israel, do not object to entire military campaigns conducted in violation of centuries-old standards. This idea that insurgents that do not wear uniforms are somehow not responsible -- or not as responsible -- for the collateral damage caused by uniformed soldiers fighting back is deeply insidious. My own opinion is that this strange sympathy for soldiers who fight from behind civilians springs from the left's romantic attachment to Hezbollah's military ancestors, the Maoist guerrillas of the Cold War. The middle-aged elites who dominate the media, universities, and international agencies do not in their gut hold Hezbollah responsible for civilian deaths because, deep down, they also think Che Guevara t-shirts are cool.
UPDATE: Joshua Brook of The New Republic weighs in with a very useful primer (free reg. req.) on the law of "proportionality," and how various human rights groups and others have twisted it to condemn Israel:
On Wednesday, U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland became the latest human rights advocate to butcher the concept of proportionality. "Proportionality is there in the law," he said. "The law has been made through generations of experience on the battlefield. If you kill more civilians than military personnel, one should not attack." In fact, this one-to-one principle has no basis in the law. There are plenty of scenarios under which the proportionality principle would permit such a strike--say, an attack that killed two Hezbollah operatives about to launch a missile, while also killing three civilians who were being used as human shields.
Brook does not hammer home the obvious implication: that the human rights chief of the United Nations is either ignorant of the law of war, or deliberately misrepresenting it to make a point of propaganda against Israel. In other words, Jan Egeland is incompetent or lying. One struggles to imagine what the third explanation might be.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
"Both Sides Now": Hezbollah edition
[Note that I wrote this post having had nothing to eat tonight other than a half bag of chips, some ice cream, and a much too strong margarita, which accounts for its transporting lameness. In fact, you might just want to keep scrolling. - ed.]
So this evening I stumbled across the blog Keep the Coffee Coming, which has lots of entertaining Boomer stuff including a classic folk song mp3 every day. Today's is the Judy Collins smash pean to naval-gazing, "Both Sides Now" (if you can't stand to listen, lyrics are here), which got me to thinking: What would the Hezbollah version sound like? I scribbled out one quick stanza, but obviously could use with a little help:
Rows and rows of Jewish dead,
And Cru-sa-ders full of dread,
And panic in Israeli air,
I've looked at bombs that way.
But now they only blow up us,
They drop and smash and us they crush,
And though Kofi does make a fuss,
The bombs got in our way.
I've looked at bombs from both sides now,
From front and back and still somehow,
It's bombs' destruction I recall,
I really don't know bombs, at all.
Time to hit the rack. Obviously.
Ned Lamont's generous spirit
Regular readers know that I have not been paying a lot of attention to the Lamont-Lieberman Senate race in Connecticut, except to read the debate on the right about what this means for the Democratic Party in the next election cycle. Either way, Connecticut is going to have an exceedingly liberal Senator next year.
However, regular readers also know that I always enjoy picking on The New York Times, and few do it better than Tom Maguire. Today Maguire wonders why the Times, for the first time in its history, is not interested in the admission practices of a private country club. Indeed, Maguire managed to write his highly entertaining post without even citing the Grey Hypocrite's obsessive coverage four years ago of the Augusta National Golf Club's admissions rules. That it should conveniently fail to examine Ned Lamont's membership in Round Hill, mindlessly republishing the campaign talking points, is at least a little hilarious.
So is this other bit linked by Maguire under the subtitle "bonus laughtrack":
Ned Lamont, the Greenwich multimillionaire who is challenging Senator Joseph I. Lieberman in next month’s Democratic primary, had an adjusted gross income of more than $2.8 million last year, according to the 2005 tax return his campaign released yesterday.
But that money is only a fraction of Mr. Lamont’s wealth, which his advisers estimate at around $200 million. The returns did not include the income of his wife, Annie Lamont, who is a partner at a Westport-based venture capital fund and considered a millionaire in her own right....
Mr. Lamont paid $621,213 in federal taxes and $43,074 in real estate taxes in 2005. He claimed $5,385 in charitable contributions.
Mr. Lamont had a salary of $546,044, and received capital gains of more than $1.7 million, according to the tax returns.
Only five grand in charitable contributions on an adjusted gross income of $2.8 million? Well, what do you expect from a statist? He believes government should do all the stuff that charities now do.
If one were to tweak Maguire and offer up a defense of Lamont, it is that his family foundation gave away $213,750 last year. The Times does not report the assets in the foundation, but by definition they would not have been included in Ned Lamont's $200 million net worth. No matter. Either the foundation is equally cheap, or it is a miniscule operation compared to Lamont's net worth. If we assume that the foundation gives away 5% of its net worth every year, which would keep its total assets growing at around the rate of inflation, the foundation only has about $4,000,000 in it. Lamont is a skinflint no matter how you measure it.
The Falklands War and The Hezbollah War
Let's first acknowledge the enormous and important differences - from participants to terrain, strategy, tactics - in every way, the two conflicts seem and are vastly different.
And yet, I see important parallels as to wagers made, miscalculations and potential fallout which may be worth dwelling on. This is especially true if you accept Wretchard's core thesis that Hezbollah has made a series of strategic and tactical errors; that Israel is beginning to capitalize on those errors to the detriment and perhaps ultimate defeat of Hezbollah; and that Israel has been given time and space by the US and the relevant international community to complete the mission. I would urge you to read it all.
If you read up on the history of the Falklands War, you may be struck by some interesting, though imperfect, parallels:
Legitimacy and External Enemies
1) Argentina was not at the time a democratically led country. Political control had been seized by a military junta in 1975 and the current reigning General in 1982 was a fellow named Galtieri. He was under domestic and international pressure to liberalize the country and improve the economic fortunes of Argentines. As the leader of an illegitimate government, Galtieri needed and sought external enemies and objects to stoke nationalist fervor and generate legitimacy. In Argentina, the nationalist object of choice was the Malvinas Islands, a disputed group of islands known to their British steward as the Falklands.
2) Lebanon's government has taken strides towards legitimacy as reflected in the Cedar Revolution and the withdrawal of Syrian troops. But the Lebanese government remains illegitimate in the sense that it fails to have a monopoly on the force of arms. Hezbollah military dominance of Lebanon, and therefore its effective ability to dominate the conduct of foreign affairs and project power, make it the de facto military ruler of Lebanon until disarmed. Hezbollah derives its sole source of legitimacy from its avowed goal to destroy Israel and associated with this is its goal of projecting its fascistic, pan-Islamic vision.
3) Fueled by the Malvinas objective, its militaristic nationalism and its need for legitimacy, Galtieri landed on and assumed possession of the Malvinas. He calculated that the islands were a worthless possession to Britain; too far away to be worth the investment in treasure and people with which to bother; that Thatcher was perhaps too new to the job (we won't speculate on his sense for the strength female leadership) to muster sufficient political support in the British democracy to go to war; that the US would at worst be neutral in the war, and may even offer support and protection for Argentina viz. the Monroe Doctrine. Galtieri thought he was taking relatively little risk for a big nationalist payoff, especially for a military leader.
4) Nasrallah, fueled by a desire for greater political legitimacy within Lebanon, launched a crossborder raid to seize Israeli soldiers, of which the ostensible objective was to secure the release of a significant number of Lebanese prisoners. Nasrallah felt compelled to prove his political and military worth to Lebanon in a world in which Lebanon was under pressure to disarm Hezbollah. Nasrallah's long term objective was to consolidate his military power with complete political legitimacy. By delivering Lebanese from Israeli prisons, Nasrallah intended to defend his military presence and secure his political future. The history of Israeli responses, even under the mighty Sharon, had been to swap prisoners after a modest reprisal, not launch a massive assault. And even under these limited circumstances, international condemnation was heaped on Israel and cease fires were forced upon it. Israel had negotiated with terrorists because the US and the international community forced it to.
5) Britain launched a full scale military assault to reclaim the Malvinas. The US was nominally neutral and ultimately supportive of Britain, blocking UN action aimed at cease fire and negotiation. Though suffering losses (a ship sunk ironically by a French exocet missile -- sound a little familiar?), Britain defeated the Argentines and reclaimed the Falklands.
Military governments don't launch nationalist wars, lose and retain power. If the army can't win a war, it certainly can't run the government. Argentina's military junta collapsed shortly thereafter and the government of Argentina hasn't posed a threat to its domestic population or foreign governments since then (other than via utter economic mismanagement).
6) This bit relies on Wretchard's wonderful speculation (and my wishful thinking). If Wretchard is correct, and Hezbollah has elected to stand and fight the IDF from fixed positions as a proper Army, the IDF will defeat Hezbollah. It will come at a grave cost in Israeli life, but if Israel is committed through ground action to defeating Hezbollah (and it seems to be), and Hezbollah does not elect to run, the IDF will win. Since Hezbollah derives its standing from "the fight" with Israel, it is difficult for them to run, even if it preserves their lives, it may not preserve their legitimacy.
The consequences of Hezbollah's military defeat by the IDF, should it be completed, will be dramatic -- the Shi'ite Islamist military capacity to dominate Lebanon will be gone. Lebanon will now be free to build on its Cedar Revolution against Syria and consolidate its democracy, in all likelihood without a Civil War (since Hezbollah would have been disabled militarily).
Let's hope these parallels aren't mere speculation, and we can look forward to a Lebanon sans a militarized Hezbollah.
Bully For Him
A couple of days ago, Screwy and I had a back and forth on the conflict between Israel and Lebanon in the comments section which devolved rapidly away from discussion and debate, and instead resulted in Screwy calling me a name. It starts with D. It rhymes with Rick. I don't even think Screwy disagreed with me much. He just wanted to call me a D---.
The article about John Bolton somehow reminded me of that exchange, so I thought I'd throw it up for fun. I won't bother mentioning that CNN said the Democrats called Bolton a "Bully," notably within quotation marks, and then of course failed to attribute the quote. Then of course I saw this regarding Howard Dean referring to Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq as an anti-Semite, a comment widely reported yesterday.
Must be something in the kool-aid, this name-calling bit, without substantive critique of qualification, substance or capability.
Did you know that John Bolton and I attended the same high school? Great place!
Answering Andy McCarthy on democracy and terrorism
They're back to talking about democracy, democratization, and terrorism over at the The Corner. (See my "realist case" for the democratization strategy, which includes links to the earlier discussion a couple of weeks ago.) Last night, Andy McCarthy asked whether the apparent difficulty in changing Arab culture did not also suggest that democratization was doomed to fail (editorial notes added here):
Something is bothering me about our exchanges today.
What is the logic that would give the Muslim world and its leaders a pass by saying, essentially, that you can’t expect them to evolve beyond rampant, irrational anti-Semitism but which nevertheless holds that we should bet the ranch on their evolution to something we would recognize as a democratic culture (e.g., freedom to choose any religion or none, freedom to convert away from Islam, equality between men/women and Muslims/non-Muslims, right of free people to make laws that diverge from Islamic law/doctrine, separation of church/mosque and state, etc.)?
Mind you, I don’t think anyone's come close to establishing that democracy actually reduces the incidence of terrorism. [It doesn't, but that's not the reason why it is essential to the war on the Islamic jihadis. - ed.] But even if we accept that proposition for argument’s sake, what is the process of mind that would make one open to one kind of cultural change and not the other? Or, turned the other way round, if they can't get beyond the hatred, why do we assume they get to functioning democracy?
This is a good and important question, and Andy's implication that Arabs cannot get behind either democratization or a tolerance of Jews may well prove to be true as a practical matter. However, I hope he is wrong. There are several points that might be made in response.
First, Andy sets the bar rather high. Secularization or perfect religious freedom as developed in almost 400 years of American social and legal evolution need not accompany democratization, especially in largely homogeneous countries. I believe democracy can succeed in a society that few Americans would want to inhabit. Democracy does not suddenly turn a country or a culture secular, tolerant, or otherwise pleasant. Look at India, which has struggled with all of this in the presence of a vibrant democracy for two generations. So why is democracy good? Because it legitimizes the government in the eyes of the people. Right now, we have illegitimate governments that are understood as such governing people who turn to a fusion of Islam, fascism, and an unreconstructed hatred of the "other" for legitimacy. They are in desperate need of an alternative mechanism for legitimizing their governments. New democracies will not be immediately more tolerant, but they will be legitimate (at least if they win their founding civil wars, which may have to be fought first).
Second, while religious freedom is not an essential feature of democratic government, particularly in places where virtually everybody is nominally Muslim, reasonably free political speech is. If we are to measure the success of democratization in the region, the right metric should be freedom of the speech, press and internet access. Freedom of speech will, over time, open up the public discussion in the region in ways that undermine the credibility of the official story and the assumptions of the older generation. Yes, it will make it hard for externally "friendly" regimes such as the House of Saud to control their own people, but we will also see the development of a genuine civil society that will include challenges to the old regional propaganda, including the paranoid anti-Semitism. Democracy -- best measured by freedom of speech, press and keyboard rather than the perfect counting of ballots or rising secularization -- is the solvent that will eventually change the "rampant, irrational anti-Semtism" that dominates public discussion today.
I agree that this will not happen quickly. If India and other developing world democracies are any indication, it will take a generation or two or three. It must happen eventually, though, or we are doomed. We (and they) are better off if we start sooner rather than later.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Hezbollah's policy of "death to America"
We've been writing a bit about the importance of good threat-making, particularly when you design the threat to deter attack. Then I stumbled across an article that Michael J. Totten wrote about his encounters with Hezbollah at the end of last year. It was widely linked at the time and most righty blog readers probably at least skimmed it, but it is absolutely worth reading again in the context of the present war. Among other gems, there is this:
“Honest to God,” [the Hez press guy] said, “it is against our principles to threaten people.”
But it isn’t. He had threatened me just two days before. Hassan Nasrallah recently said “Death to America was, is and will stay our slogan.” After the invasion of Iraq, he went even further. “Death to America is not a slogan. Death to America is a policy, a strategy and a vision.” What the hell is that if it isn’t a threat?
Got that? "Death to America" is "a policy, a strategy, and a vision" of Hezbollah. Why isn't the United States entitled to take that at face value? If you have no good answer, remind me why we should give a rat's ass that Kofi and some Europeans want us to "rein in" Israel. Practical considerations aside -- and regular readers know that I do not actually cast aside practical considerations -- is there any moral or even legal reason why we could not be shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel in the war against Hezbollah? I can't think of one.
Don't forget to read the whole thing.
CWCID for the Totten link: Solomon's House.
Was the United Nations a legitimate military target?
A Canadian general suggests that it might have been.
Separately, I know that I've been nothing but a shallow link-machine today -- sorry, lots going on.
John Hawkins examines it closely.
The most brutal lefty blog post of the week
Those Firedoglake meanies are cruel, nasty people, and they are picking on somebody with whom I agree far more than I disagree (and who has sent me some friendly linkage, to boot). There is therefore no better proof of my defective character than that I both deplore this post and laughed out loud -- all the while cringing -- while reading it. Ouch.
New York Times lede of the week
From the home page of the New York Times online:
The good news is that without too much effort you can, believe it or not, create an admirable taco at home.
Of course, by this they mean hi-ho blue state tacos that appeal to "taco afficionados." Who read the New York Times.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Apropros this afternoon's debate about "proportionality" and deterrance, Hezbollah has admitted that it did not expect Israel to respond forcefully when attacked:
A senior Hezbollah official said Tuesday the guerrillas did not expect Israel to react with an all-out offensive after the capture of two soldiers, the first acknowledgment by the group that it had miscalculated the consequences of the raid two weeks ago.
Mahmoud Komati, deputy chief of the Hezbollah's political arm, also told The Associated Press in an interview that the Shiite militant group will not lay down arms.
"The truth is — let me say this clearly — we didn't even expect (this) response ... that (Israel) would exploit this operation for this big war against us," said Komati.
He said Hezbollah had expected "the usual, limited response" from Israel after the two soldiers were seized by guerrillas on Israel's side of the border on July 12.
Hezbollah attacked on July 12 because deterrance failed. By Hezbollah's own testimony, deterrance failed because Hezbollah had come to expect a "proportionate" response from Israel. While the Associated Press characterizes this as Hezbollah's miscalculation, it is actually Israel's. The Jewish state allowed the credibility of its threat to retaliate to degrade to the point that Hezbollah did not believe it. Westerners and dovish Israelis who pressured Israel to show restraint also bear responsibility, for they undermined the one thing that stood a chance of keeping the peace: the credibility of the threat that Israel would retaliate against Hezbollah with overwhelming, disproportionate force. Neither Israel nor the West should make that mistake again.
MORE: Power Line and various of my commenters seem to think that Hezbollah is dissembling, or at least being disingenuous, when it says it is surprised by the intensity of the Israeli retaliation. Why would it insincerely confess that it screwed up? Sure, Israel led Hezbollah down the garden path by undermining the credibility of its own threat to retaliate over a period of years, but ultimately Hezbollah's admission reveals its own stupidity, incompetence and folly. Who would brag about that? The only reason to do so would be to avoid the alternative explanation -- that Hezbollah triggered this fight on purpose -- because it was too unpopular. But war with Israel is Hezbollah's raison d'etre, so if it is now denying that it launched the war on purpose it must be because it believes it is losing the propaganda battle. So, the alternative explanations for Hezbollah's statement today are (i) Hezbollah is sincere in its admission, thereby confessing tomfoolery and incompetence, or (ii) Hezbollah is insincere, and only claiming "miscalculation" because the truth -- that it started the war intentionally -- has turned out to be far less popular among Arabs who count than Hezbollah must have predicted in its planning. Either way, this is good news, even if it springs from the bad news that Israel allowed the credibility of its threat to retaliate to weaken to the point of war.
Cartoon of the day
How "proportionality" destroys the best chance for peace
The criticism that Israel is not acting "proportionally" is so unbelievably asinine that I cannot help but pound away at it in post after tiresome post. Fortunately, I have friends and allies. Ed Morrissey takes the proportionality myth outside and just beats it senseless:
[I]f someone is stupid enought to bring a knife to a gunfight, it doesn't mean that those holding the guns have a moral obligation to fight with knives instead. Proportionality demands exactly that, and it leads to nothing but longer and more destructive wars. Part of the reasons nations build strong militaries is to deter people from committing aggressive acts against them. The United States did not build the military it has just to provide "proportionate" reponse. Such a limitation would invite any tinpot dictator or kleptocrat to attack us, knowing that we would only respond in proportion to their ability to attack. It makes every fight even-up from the beginning, odds that would encourage a lot more fighting, not less.
For too long, the world has expected Israel to fight with one hand behind its back, even when others commit acts of war against them. Israel withdrew from Gaza and from Lebanon to avoid the implications of occupation, where Israel had to act in a law-enforcement mode where proportionality makes more sense. Now, however, Hezbollah invaded Israel, killed eight soldiers, and captured two others -- an act of war that no other nation would abide, with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter's United States, circa 1979.
If Hezbollah finds itself holding a knife in a gunfight, then the blame falls on Hezbollah and the Lebanese government that granted then de facto sovereignty in the south. Wars do not get fought through "proportionality," and they certainly do not end that way. They end when one side overwhelms the other with superior force and dictates terms to the loser, or when one side decides they've had enough and sues for peace. Demands for proportionality lead us to where we are today -- long, bloody wars of attrition that solve nothing and embolden asymmetrical warfare.
The left claims that the powerful states of the world, especially the United States and Israel, need not fear for their security because they can use their military power to deter aggression. To a post-Cold War lefty, the magic of deterrance supposedly obviates the need to intervene preemptively, or to remove regimes that commit "petty" acts of war against us or even declare themselves to be our enemy. See, e.g., the most frequently offered reasons why we should not have removed Saddam, or should not consider military options to deal with Iran. We can, after all, obliterate any power that actually attacks us, so why worry?
What your basic anti-defense lefty does not admit, however, is that effective deterrance requires not only the capability to retaliate, but that the threat to retaliate be credible. The former without the latter is worthless.
The requirement that retaliation be proportional reather than "massive" destroys the credibility of the threat to retaliate and therefore the effectiveness of the deterrance. Why? Because it allows the attacker to determine the price he will pay for launching the attack. If the attacker knows that he can absorb a blow equal to the one he delivers, then he will not be concerned that the defender has the capability to retaliate massively.
This is like limiting the penalty for property crimes to restitution. Why not rob the bank? If you're caught, you only have to give the money back.
The advocates of "proportionality", therefore, are undermining the effectiveness of threatened massive retaliation as a means for preventing war. If the left succeeds in promoting this ridiculous idea as a new norm of international behavior or requirement of international law, it will have destroyed the effectiveness of deterrance, the one means that we know reliably prevents war in the first place. Surely this is not what the left and the Europeans hope to accomplish.
Now, since all of this is so obvious that one is almost embarrassed to mention it, there is but one real reason why the left and various nettlesome countries are demanding that Israel's response be proportional. They want Israel to lose.