TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE: VIRGINIA POSTREL has a suggestion that she calls "so crazy it just might work:"
How about we tell the Palestinians they can have Saudi Arabia if they'll move and leave the Israelis alone? The Palestinians are hard working and entrepreneurial, unlike the Saudis, so they might actually make something of the opportunity afforded by all that oil. And, while their leaders are thugs, it's unlikely they'd be any worse in the terrorism, oppression, and fundamentalism departments. The Palestinians aren't going to get Jerusalem. Maybe they'd settle for Mecca and Medina.
Given the many reasons for not regarding the Saudis as our friends (many of them outlined above this item on Virginia's page), expect to see more proposals like this. The Saudi royal family has spent a lot of time propitiating the terrorists on the assumption that the United States is far away and doesn't care much. This may turn out to be a colossal error.
And, honestly, just how much would anyone in the region really miss the Saudi royal family?
THIS ARTICLE from tomorrow's Washington Post says that there's a new and more constructive tone in politics, and that it is causing Americans to think more positively of government.
This is true -- but within some very sharp limits. A more accurate statement would be that we've broken a cycle of nastiness and advantage-taking. But although we've hit the reset button, trust in government isn't something that can be taken for granted. That's what got us into trouble the last time.
If you want people to trust the government, the government must be trustworthy. If we go back to the kind of sleazy business-as-usual that marked the pre-9/11 era, trust in government will drop again, and -- because of disappointment -- probably to even lower levels than before.
Don't blow it, guys.
BAIL OUT AMAZON! Forget the airlines. Patrick Ruffini makes a good case for a government bailout of Amazon.com. His interesting point is that Amazon's real value isn't as a bookseller: it's the huge store of information that it makes public (which, he suggests, might more profitably, but less socially usefully, have been kept secret and sold to publishers) -- and now Amazon is making lots of sample chapters available online, too, something that is expensive and that probably won't pay for itself in terms of book sales.
SAUDI ROYAL FAMILY DEEPLY INVOLVED WITH BIN LADEN: That's what Matt Drudge says Seymour Hersh is reporting in next week's New Yorker. This Hashemite-restoration idea is starting to gather some steam.
WHY, EXACTLY, IS THE CAMPAIGN FOR NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT marching against the U.S. raids on the Taliban? If anything, those raids are about enforcing nuclear disarmanent on the Ladenites. This is more proof of the incoherence of the so-called global peace movement -- or, rather, of its inability to cohere around anything other than a simplistic anti-Americanism. Why haven't they marched on the embassies of countries -- like Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Yemen or Libya -- that support terrorism? Or of the North Koreans, who are busy building a nuclear capability?
Don't bother answering -- we all know the reason.
SORRY for the slower posting rate. I've been doing family stuff (we have a lovely pumpkin on our front porch now; I'm going to carve it to look like Osama Bert Laden later). I've also done some minor work on the site, as you may (or may not) have noticed.
BJORN STAERK presents some results of a poll of Palestinians, which he says has made him feel less favorable toward them than he did. His old attitude of neutrality, it seems, isn't holding up well in the face of general anti-Western attitudes.
I see where he's coming from. But (as a recovering political operative) when I read the poll, what I saw were a lot of potential points of attack for political and psychological warfare. 64%, for example, feel that the attacks on American civilians are un-Islamic. Let's hit 'em with that Pro-American Fatwa!
MORE TALIBAN / AL-KAIDA THREATS: They're warning Americans not to fly or go into skyscrapers. Bah. These threats are either designed to misdirect us from some other kind of follow-on attack, or they're meant to scare us because they don't have a follow-on attack. Either way they're worthy of no attention, and some measure of scorn.
UPDATE: Reader Dale Leopold has this response to the Al-Kaida threats: "Stay out of tall buildings and airplanes, huh? Feh! We'd suggest you do the same. Oops--I forgot, you don't have any airplanes or tall buildings left. And you're running out of short ones, too."
IMPISH HUMOR: With the threat of bioterrorism appearing higher, many experts are calling for countermeasures like increased immunization and the stockpiling of antibiotics and vaccines. One such article led WSJ reader Reid Reynolds (no relation) to invoke a comparison with SDI programs by making the following observation:
Of course, the peace lobby will argue that the stockpiling of vaccines or agents of nonspecific immunity is a provocative act that will simply invite our enemies to use their weapons against us before they are rendered impotent.
Another reader on the same page makes a point that InstaPundit has been flogging for days: the anthrax-by-mail attacks have been a bioterrorism dud. Almost their entire effect has been as the result of media hysteria. If these were presented honestly -- as cloddish failures -- it would do a lot to take the "terror" out of "bioterrorism." But the media crowd just can't resist the temptation to hype a fear story, even when they must realize they're playing into the terrorists' hands.
FREE SPEECH ON CAMPUS -- SUDDENLY THE LEFT CARES: As Peter Beinart points out, the left suddenly cares about fighting censorship and supporting free speech on campus -- now that it's leftists who are being targeted. When it was PC-police targeting conservatives or libertarians, free speech was an unimportant value. Now that it's leftist professors being targeted, it matters. This all sounds a tad hypocritical:
A professor who declares that he is voting for Osama bin Laden for president should suffer no retaliation whatsoever from his university. But you don't have much credibility on that point unless you're equally wary of censoring language that offends ethnic and racial minorities. And, for the last 20 years, the left hasn't been wary of that at all -- quite the contrary.
He's right. It's also worth noticing that, in fact, the biggest victim of "censorship" since 9/11 is Ann Coulter, who hardly qualifies as a lefty. I don't think there's anything wrong with what NRO did in dropping her column (and InstaPundit was among the first places to criticize her) but nonetheless, she suffered a lot more for her speech than Bill Maher has suffered for his.
BAY AREA HATEWATCH UPDATE: An interesting account of a group of teen punkers' sort-of apology for defacing the flag at a VFW hall. The VFW guys come off as the more openminded, which may or may not surprise you.
ANTI-AMERICAN PROTESTS IN PAKISTAN are drawing smaller-than-expected crowds, according to this L.A. Times story. The quotes from bystanders suggest they're not exactly lighting a fire under people, either:
Many Peshawar residents stood back on the sidewalks rather than join the protest. One of those onlookers, 43-year-old pharmaceutical salesman Mohammed Mushaq, quietly voiced his disapproval.
"This is a farce," he said. "If they're so upset about all this, why don't they go to Afghanistan and help?"
Some Quetta residents also welcomed the heavy police presence to keep the protests orderly.
"If they want to wage jihad, they should go there to fight and leave us here. Don't disrupt my livelihood," said Ghulam Hussain, a vendor selling pieces of sugar cane from a cart near Quetta's main square.
"I don't support the bombing of Afghanistan, but I also don't support protesters destroying Pakistani property in Pakistan," he said.
UPI COLUMNIST JIM BENNETT writes about my earlier post on the futility of "federalizing" airport security, and the desirability of, instead, "militarizing" it as a separate uniformed branch -- without civil service rules, union grievances, etc. Bennett says:
Right again! One of my pet peeves has been the idea that the Civil Service was something good. It was copied by the Brits from the Chinese Empire: a great formula for a static agricultural pre-industrial despotism. The Western idea has always been something I call the Corps -- small, dedicated to the specific task, high espirit de corps, usually a small academy you go into when you're 18 so the whole officer corps knows each other personally. It works well for the Marines and the Coast Guard. Under military discipline if you are going in harm's way.
An Air Transport Security Corps as a quasi-military service could be under the Coast Guard model. part of a civilian department in peacetime and under the DOD in wartime. It should take over airport security and the air marshall's service. You could actually continue to have routine screening work under private contractors, but regulated, inspected, and disciplined by the ATSC. Maybe one ATSC officer at the screening area overseeing five or ten private employees.
This approach would be highly superior. What it wouldn't do -- and maybe this is the sticking point -- is add new members to the public-employee-union rolls. Has some sort of a deal been cut here?
THE REAL CAUSE OF THIRD WORLD POVERTY ISN'T AMERICA, notes this insightful editorial in the Omaha World-Herald -- it's Third World governments. This is absolutely true, and has been repeatedly demonstrated by economists ranging from David Landes to Hernando de Soto. Here's a good quote:
But anti-American critics are ignoring an important truth: Economic hardship in developing countries stems in large measure from the actions of Third World governments themselves - from their mismanagement and inefficiencies in many cases, from their corruption and greed in others.
In what ways do these governments demonstrate such behavior? By clandestinely siphoning off millions of dollars in foreign aid and dispersing it among cronies. By keeping major segments of the national economy under government control and imposing heavy taxes on the remainder, stifling economic growth. By failing to ensure protection of property rights. By refusing to guarantee an independent judiciary. By demanding bribes. By keeping the government contracting process a secret so that citizens won't discover the bid-rigging. By denying women a full role in the national economy and persecuting members of other religions, steps whose negative effects include choking off opportunities for economic growth.
Specific examples are easily cited. Consider the findings of Shyam Kamath, a professor at California State University at Hayward. He studied India's state-run irrigation system and discovered widespread inefficiencies and corruption.
He wrote: "Public-sector irrigation systems everywhere are typically plagued with cost and time overruns, endemic inefficiency, chronic excess demands and widespread corruption and rent-seeking. In India, government functionaries and system operators - who control the allocation of water supplies - routinely extort high rents from farmers."
Consider how a banker in Bulgaria described circumstances in his country in 1996: "You've got a corrupt system that enabled a group of people to steal other people's savings. ... Banks took people's savings and continued to lend to state-owned enterprises that were making losses and to private enterprises - none of which had any intention of repaying."
Then there is the example of Air Afrique, an airline owned by 11 West Africa governments. In July, a New York Times article quoted an African diplomat who said the airline is so poorly run that it has become easier and often cheaper for African travelers to fly through Paris to another West African country than to use Air Afrique.
The airline, according to the article, is "a political creation, not a business" and "has suffered from many of the political pitfalls that have plagued the region: corruption, nepotism, bloated payrolls and a lack of accountability."
Such mismanagement and corruption are not peripheral economic factors. They lie at the heart of the poverty that weighs so heavily on people in the Third World. Indeed, when anti-American critics shine a spotlight on U.S. actions alone, they give governments in developing countries an excuse to avoid self-responsibility and accountability.
More evidence is that countries that leave behind corrupt, statist regimes inevitably prosper afterwards. Of course, if you happen to be
a corrupt, statist regime, it's a lot easier to spout anti-American propaganda.
THE LOVELY AND TALENTED ANDREA SEE points up this column by Harun Rashid from Malaysiakini.com. For Americans who don't know much about the Islamic world, this should serve as a reminder that there are plenty of reasonable people there, who don't agree with the Ladenites. Quote:
The constitution of the US strictly forbids interference in the affairs of government by the various organised religions, and the government is forbidden to restrict the freedom of the people to worship as they please. Islam is one the beneficiaries of this enlightened policy, and America is now among the many Western countries with a significant and increasing Muslim population.
Muslims are permitted to participate equally in the political affairs of these Western countries. Osama bin Laden and his team of terrorists do nothing to promote the interests of Islam there. On the contrary, his activities are counter-productive, bringing shame and fear to Muslim communities everywhere. There are millions of Muslims in the West, and surely Osama cannot be referring to them as “enemies of Islam”. He seems indifferent to this aspect, and over 1,500 Muslim brothers were killed in the collapse of the World Trade Center. . . .
The world today is still a hospitable place for Muslims, in spite of Osama bin Laden and his team of terrorists. Muslims are being educated in Western universities. All the latest techniques and manufacturing secrets are being shared. Muslims are learning valuable laboratory techniques and other technological skills. They hold executive positions with impressive salaries and learn to use modern management tools. Developing Islamic countries are receiving much more than they are able to immediately repay. Osama and his terrorists threaten to destroy the trust Muslims enjoy in cooperation with the West.
The American press should be reporting more on such moderate Islamic views. And where's the coverage of the Pro-U.S. Fatwa
? I still haven't seen any mainstream coverage. Are they all too busy overreporting anthrax-in-the-mail hysteria?
ANTHRAX HYSTERIA: The media folks are flogging this anthrax-in-the-mail story to death. But it's actually been a near-total bust from a biowar standpoint: one persion dead, a handful of others who need treatment.
From a terrorism standpoint it has done rather better -- and that's entirely because of the media hysteria. By making a huge deal out of this, they guarantee the spread of fear, and they guarantee that lots of copycats, hoaxes, and hysterical false reports will occur, spreading more fear and absorbing valuable law-enforcement and public health resources on unproductive ends.
So far, when it comes to dealing with terrorism the media organizations are the weakest, most hysterical, and least successful element of American society.
STILL MORE ON WOMEN: Reader Marian Booker writes:
I moved to Saudi Arabia when the oil well fires were still burning after the Gulf War. There it is illegal for women to drive, we must dressmodestly when out in public (I was always covered from neck to wrists to ankles), and the religious police (mutawahs) are always on the lookout for a woman who is bending the rules. The mutawah felt free to strike women on the ankles if they were inappropriately covered.
Periodically a mutawah would get frisky and force the police to arrest an American servicewoman who was driving and packing heat. Those men didn't understand that she had the right to shoot to kill any person who was interfering with her orders. It was always a ticklish diplomatic situation when the mutawah was forced to let the woman go. The Saudi government relocated several mutawahs who were
overzealous in their pursuit of the suppression of servicewomen.
I think the worst part for them was their worry that the local populace would be corrupted by the sight, and expect some rights and respect, too. There were several times a bunch of Saudi women got in cars and drove, but these efforts were always put down.
Eventually fewer servicewomen were seen on the streets. I suppose they were rotated back to the U.S., to help keep things quiet.
You are right. Beating the Taliban with girls would be more than a win. It would be emasculation from which they might never recover.
Sounds good to me.
PRO-US FATWA: Five leading clerics have issued a fatwa supporting the U.S. war on terrorism according to Yahoo! News:
An international Muslim religious ruling endorsed the morality of the U.S.-led military effort against terrorists, a statement important because of the prominence of one of its authors. . . .
The new fatwa cited the words of God in the Quran and authoritative Hadith, traditions of the teachings and practices of the Prophet Muhammad.
``All Muslims ought to be united against all those who terrorize the innocents, and those who permit the killing of non-combatants without a justifiable reason,'' the fatwa said.
The text was dated Sept. 27 and released in Washington by the Fiqh Council of North America, an 11-member panel formed in 1986 under auspices of the Islamic Society of North America to offer legal rulings for Muslims in the United States and Canada.
The ruling was requested by Army Capt. Abdul-Rashid Muhammad, the first Muslim chaplain in the American military. Muhammad asked whether it was proper for the 15,000 American Muslims in uniform to participate in retaliation against those thought to have planned and financed the terror attacks and to eliminate their safe haven in Afghanistan and elsewhere. . . .
The five jurists also said Muslims have a duty to speak up about the faith's anti-terrorism stand.
I don't know how much traction this will have, but it can't hurt -- nor can the fact that it was requested by a Muslim chaplain in the U.S. military. It seems to me that we ought to be making as much of this as we can, but so far it doesn't seem to have gotten much attention. I hadn't noticed it until reader Paul Lockwood brought it to my attention, and (I guess it's obvious) I spend a lot of time surfing news sites.
THE PAYPAL DONATION BUTTON that some people have requested is up. Use it in good health!
REPUBLICS AND EMPIRES: Earlier I mentioned some good discussion on the "national greatness" move for neo-Imperialism; now there's a new page on Jerry Pournelle's site where he discusses the subject at length. Like me, he's not in favor of neo-Imperialism, and doubts that the American public wants it. Unlike me, he has some romantic attachment to the trappings of empire anyway, though he's smart enough to see the danger they bring. Worth reading.
STILL MORE ON WOMEN from reader Rand Simberg:
Full-length garb that the Taliban insists that women wear is a good way to stash lots of weaponry, all the way up to an Uzi with extra belts. And the prudish SOB's are too a'skiirt of women's bodies to search them. T'would be poetic justice...
Indeed -- though around these parts we say "askeered" not "a'skiirt."
MORE ON WOMEN: After I posted the item below, it occurred to me: we should be making a big deal about this women-in-combat stuff. Ultimately, the goal is not simply to beat the Ladenites, but to crush their spirits, and the spirits of those who support them. If we simply squash them like bugs, well, maybe they'll feel like retaliating.
But if we beat 'em with women, they're likely to be not only humiliated, but discredited. We should be playing up the roles of female soldiers, not muting them to avoid pissing Islamists off. The people who would be bothered by that stuff already hate us now.
BELLICOSE SOCCER MOMS, CONT'D: The "America United Double Issue" of The Star contains a special section on women and war -- with special emphasis on the role of women in combat from the Gulf War, to women serving today on aircraft carriers, to a sidebar on 17-year-old British female sailor Jodie Jones of HMS Illustrious ("I'm ready for action!"), and a profile of a woman three-star general that concludes "as the nation launches an all-out counterattack on Osama bin Laden and his evil henchmen, we couldn't be in better hands." (There's also a feature on the "defiantly lipstick-wearing" female anti-Taliban guerrillas in Afghanistan.)
Oooh, you know the Taliban would hate this stuff. And when we beat 'em, we can rub their nose in the fact that they got their butts kicked by girls!
Seriously, I think that the female-bellicosity angle is a big, and so far underreported, issue. The emotional and political tone in this country, and in Europe, is largely set by middle-class married women. And -- for reasons that, when you think about it, are perfectly reasonable -- they seem to be exceptionally pissed at the Taliban.
"I WASN'T HAVING CONVULSIONS -- I WAS DANCING!" That's what Raiders placekicker Sebastian Janikowski says, and (as those who have seen me dance will understand) I sympathize completely. On the other hand, if he dances the way I do it's not really fair to blame onlookers for their conclusions, either.
SO MUCH FOR MY HOPES that the House would cool the Senate's hysteria. It has passed the Senate bill with only minor changes, chiefly a 5-year sunset on some of the wiretap provisions. I can't seem to find whether the miserable computer-crime provisions of the bill (which I suspect were snuck in by the RIAA and/or MPAA and which have nothing to do with terrorism) made it to the final version, but I fear the worst.
Congress has shamed itself with this one, but will likely feel no shame.
HOURLY RATES: Reader Glen Hoffing writes:
Hellooooooo, Professor Reynolds!
$500 for one day is a "buck or two an hour"? Maybe on Neptune. No wonder lawyers routinely overcharge. THEY THINK THERE ARE 250 BILLABLE HOURS IN A DAY! I am thinking of reporting you to overlawyered.com.
Chortle. I was actually spreading the money over the entire life of InstaPundit to date, based on my (correct) guess that today would pale in comparison to yesterday (about fifty bucks so far). But Hoffing's comments (which he follows with some very nice words of praise) are very amusing.
Oh, and by the way, at my old law firm, they required 250 billable hours per day. Or at least, that's what it felt like at times. . . .
WHY THEY HATE US: A little while ago, out at Storehouse looking at furniture, I ran into a former neighbor, a lovely Saudi woman who was very reserved and reclusive when her family lived across the street. She now looks extremely chic, is working outside the home, has gone from reserved to outgoing, and, from all visible signs, has become totally Americanized. She is a soccer mom herself.
She doesn't like Osama, either. Which, when you think about it, is no surprise.
INSTAPUNDIT is the lead item in a USA TODAY story on weblogs. The opening makes me sound a bit more bellicose than I really am, but what the heck: they spelled the name right, at least.
SOCCER MOMS AT WAR: Even in Canada, as this item from Patricia Pearson suggests, the impact of terror isn't really what bin Laden wants.
If you're looking for a constituency that may well be in favor of an absolutely genocidal solution to our problems, the "soccer mom" constituency is the one. If bin Laden is trying to scare them, the result may be the abolition of Islam, worldwide, by the most genocidal campaign in history. And no, I'm not exaggerating for effect.
WISDOM FROM VICTOR DAVIS HANSON in the National Review Online:
Our visionaries must be far clearer and more eloquent about the nature of our struggle. In their understandable efforts to say what we are not doing — fighting Islam or provoking Arab peoples — they have failed utterly to voice what we are doing: preserving Western civilization and its uniquely tolerant and humane traditions of freedom, consensual government, disinterested inquiry, and religious and political tolerance. In this regard, we must especially distinguish, in the manner of Roosevelt and Churchill, the historic ties between Great Britain and America — something either ridiculed or forgotten in the current fashions of multiculturalism.
He's 100 % right. But there should be a role for Bugs Bunny, too.
DON'T FEDERALIZE -- MILITARIZE: The Senate voted 100-0 to federalize airport security. This is one of those things that sounds like a good idea, but isn't. It won't be Delta Force doing these screenings. Most likely, it'll be the same bunch of incompetents who are doing it now -- only they'll have Civil Service status and be almost impossible to fire when they screw up. (The Senate version would make them easier to fire -- but you watch how long that lasts if this becomes law). They'll be forbidden to strike, but not forbidden to unionize, which means that they can torment supervisors with grievances.
The model for this won't be Delta Force. It's the Post Office -- which can't even stop its own employees from running amok with AK-47s. Here's my proposal instead. If you're serious about federalizing this, create a new uniformed service. Run it like the Army: military discipline, physical fitness, and no job security if you screw up. No unions, no grievances, no games of intimidate-the-supervisor-with-bureaucratic-bullshit. That would work. It won't be tried.
UPDATE: Stuart Buck points out how lame(r) Paul Krugman's diatribe against "fanatical" Republicans looks after the unanimous vote.
THE HONOR SYSTEM DONATION TOTAL for the first day is just shy of $500. That works out to about a buck or two an hour, but it's pretty damn cool anyway. InstaPundit is a labor of love; the money is just a nice show of appreciation.
Quite a few have requested a PayPal link, and I'll have one up soon. Quite a few (actually, pretty much the same "quite a few") of you don't do business with Amazon because of their idiotic one-click patent attempt, or their protean "privacy" policy. Both are reasonable things to complain about. I've thought about it for some time myself. I think that Jeff Bezos (who I don't know personally beyond an email or two but with whom I have several mutual friends) is a good guy, and I think that Amazon is a great bookstore. For me, that's tempered my unhappiness with these unlovable policies -- but I can see how people might feel otherwise.
KOFI ANNAN GETS THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE? Okay, after the Kissinger/DucTho debacle, and the Arafat debacle, this is no surprise.
And it's sour grapes on my part, too. One of the few perks of being a law professor is nominating people for the Peace Prize. I've nominated Arthur C. Clarke (inventor of the telecommunications satellite and science fiction writer) for the prize twice on the theory that the communications satellite has done more for peace than most diplomacy. I thought he might have a real chance in 2001, for obvious reasons.
What Kofi Annan has done to deserve the prize is beyond me. But then, how long has it been since the prize went to anyone who had, you know, actually promoted peace?
UPDATE: Nice essay on this from Norwegian Bjorn Staerk.
SOCCER MOMS TO WAR: Reader Robert Brooks suggests that anthrax mailings aimed at the National Enquirer and MSNBC are part of an attempt to terrorize soccer moms. Watch out Ricki Lake!
On the other hand, if this email from reader Moira Breen is any guide, the strategy is backfiring miserably:
Thanks especially for the Shapiro, etc. links, as I've been experiencinga rising irritation with the hysterics who are trying to project their jelly-spines onto the rest of us. . . .
I'm not sure of the best way to go about attacking these attitudes; writing cranky letters to, say, the fluffy-heads at CNN hardly seems useful - though they are among the worst offenders, with their "scares"
and their invariably squeaking, querulous tone concerning the war within and without. This morning they introduced a piece on Bush's speech with a photo and a large caption reading "No End in Sight". I had to
scratch my head and wonder what they were trying to convey by that phrasing. Are they suggesting that Americans are so freaking stupid (or weak) that we cannot comprehend or tolerate "long haul" and "no silver bullet"? Or have they reached the limits of their own attention spans, and decided to start informing us that feelings of futility are now replacing our, ahem, jitters? I dunno. I got really...irritated... and
didn't stay tuned.
Do you hear that, CNN? Soccer moms are tuning out!!
If that doesn't shift the tone of their coverage, I don't know what will. (And, he noted smugly, InstaPundit has already predicted that a hysterical tone will shrink audiences).
COWARDICE: One reader writes that he doesn't like my discussions of courage and cowardice, which he views as adolescent name-calling.
I don't think so. What has disturbed me for years is the way -- as Peggy Noonan discusses today -- that our culture has actually elevated cowardice into what amounts to a virtue. We tell people not to get involved, that it's better not to take chances, that if we just give bad guys what they want they'll go away, and that doing so is the "smart thing." I don't think that any culture can survive with such attitudes, and I'm happy to see signs that they're changing. Where's the name-calling in that?
A society in which courage cannot be contrasted with cowardice for fear of being thought adolescent isn't a healthy society.
DIPLOMACY: Okay, you've probably seen this Internet cartoon already. But just in case you haven't . . .
GOOD SENSE ON "FEAR" FROM NEAL BOORTZ:
So, am I afraid about these reports? Well, let me tell you how unafraid I am. Right now my wife is in Florida. Today there will be painters working in my home. This paint crew is from Bangladesh. They’re Muslims --- every one of them. No problem. I know they’ll do a great job and I’m not the least bit afraid of leaving my home in their hands.
Tomorrow I’ll fly to Florida. I don’t particularly like the weather forecast, so I’m booked on AirTran. Worried? Not in the slightest.
No, I’m not afraid. Cautious and maybe a little more aware and observant? Yes, but not afraid. Our fear is a victory for the terrorists. Don’t give that victory to them.
CIVILIAN CASUALTIES: An interesting observation from reader Kevin Shaum:
I notice that the Taliban is now claiming 200 civilian casualties since the bombing started. If nothing else, the Taliban now actually seems to care what happens to their civilians.
In fact, what would you like to bet that in the course of five days of pre-9/11 business-as-usual, the Taliban would have killed at least 200 Afghan civilians, probably a lot more?
Wouldn't it be ironic if an all-out bombing campaign by the United States resulted in a net *improvement* in the safety of the Afghan people?
Hmm. I'd be interested in seeing the "typical" civilian death rate in Afghanistan over the past five or ten years, and comparing it to 200 in 5 days. Shaum's suggestion is highly plausible.
NOW IT'S AN NBC EMPLOYEE WHO HAS ANTHRAX according to this report from MSNBC. It's the not-so-serious "cutaneous" antrax rather than the mostly-lethal "pulmonary anthrax" and it appears to have come from handling "suspicious mail."
This is in keeping with the Ladenite approach. It's low-tech, but cleverly planned to promote panic. Aiming it at the media ensures that it will get a disproportionate amount of attention.
But it should actually reassure people. Anthrax-by-mail is, in biowar terms, a joke. Compared to the mass-death scenarios associated with aerial spraying of sophisticated anthrax mixtures, this is meaningless. And the reliance on stuff like this strongly suggests that it's all they've got.
A REAL ANTITERROR PROPOSAL: Here's a proposed amendment for the "antiterrorism" bill, one that would actually do some good. Let's have a provision that any member of Congress who leaks information about military or law enforcement operations relating to terrorists shall immediately be expelled from Congress and shall be ineligible to hold any government office thereafter.
Does anyone doubt that this would make more of a difference than many of the "antiterror" provisions that the Senate just passed almost unanimously?
Does anyone doubt that there's no chance of them doing this?
Does anyone doubt that this proves they're not serious?
RICH GALEN has an amusing parody of modern media coverage. The press, and members of Congress, seem to be the slowest to grasp the realities of the new situation. Maybe that's because they had the most invested in the way things used to be?
OIL PRICES ARE PLUMMETING, which is not what you'd expect from a mid-east "crisis." What does the market know that the rest of us are missing?
I think the market expects the West to win; if the market foresaw the triumph of Ladenism throughout the region, prices -- particularly futures prices -- would be headed for the roof, wouldn't they? Larry Kudlow credits Russia, and there's something to this, but I don't think it's the whole story.
THE FAILURE OF COURAGE: The Senate passed a hysterical "anti-terror" bill, full of things that have much to do with increasing government power and missing many things that might actually help fight terrorism. Russ Feingold was the only one with the courage to vote against it. Cowards. They're more spooked than the American people. Maybe the cool deliberation of the House will overcome the hysteria of the Senate....
THE RETURN OF COURAGE III: Peggy Noonan writes about the returning appreciation for traditional manly virtues in OpinionJournal. Very insightfully, she blames Woody Allen for making cowardly schnookism seem not just amusing, but somehow cool. But, of course, it worked for Woody because there were a lot of people -- afraid of the responsibilities that being courageous requires -- who were very pleased to announce that courage is uncool. It's not hard to persuade people to give up responsibilities. But being an adult in a free society carries responsibility with it.
THE VOICE OF REASON: No sooner did I post the item below than I visited Virginia Postrel's site and found this gem: "I've taken four flights since September 11, the first on September 22 to Washington. I'm getting on another plane on Tuesday, to go to give a speech in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Nobody on the planes I've been on seemed the least bit frightened, and the last one was so packed that the best my Platinum status could get me was a last-row window seat. I slept through every flight, same as always.The only flying cowards seem to be talk show hosts. Could someone please tell Chris Matthews to stop whining?" Bravo.
IS THE GOVERNMENT SCARING US TO DEATH? Andrew Sullivan thinks so. He says that these repeated, nonspecific warnings are more about government ass-covering than anything else and adds: "I was feeling fine until this evening. And my low-level anxiety tonight is not going to help anyone. In future, the warnings should be specific or none at all."
I guess he's right -- though I had more low-level anxiety going last night over the fact that State Farm appears not to have gotten my car insurance check (they suck anyway; I think I'm going to switch to somebody else once this is straightened out) than over any vague warnings of terrorist attacks. To be fair, the feds are in a bind. I'm sure that their first instinct is to say nothing about these warnings, but they know they'll be raked over the coals about "coverups" if they keep quiet. And, unfortunately, their intelligence data will usually be nonspecific: we may know that people we're watching are acting like something is about to happen, but it's much harder to know what is going to happen.
That said, I think they're better off restricting their public statements to something like: "We know these people don't like us, and will try to hit back. Watch for suspicious packages, unattended trucks, guys who look like terrorists acting suspiciously." Any upping of alert levels should be directed solely at law enforcement.
The more I think about it, the righter I think Nathan Freeman was about Bush's missed opportunity. Bush should say "The American people aren't wimps. They know there's a risk. But as they've proved in several airliner incidents already, they're ready to respond. I pity the fool who gets in their way." Okay, maybe the oblique "Mr. T" reference is over the top. But, really, ordinary Americans don't seem that terrorized. It's the media and government folks who seem scared. The bad guys will do their worst. It may be pretty bad: conceivably, they'll do something worse than September 11. But this is war, and in war you expect the enemy to do bad things to you if he can. Nobody likes that, but it's not necessary to be "terrorized" by it.
Perhaps the government and media folks are so used to seeing the American people as helpless children -- a staple of pre 9/11 thought in those circles -- that they haven't yet figured out how wrong they are. In this, like the Ladenites, they have a lot to learn.
COURAGE IS IN STYLE, BUT WIMPERY HASN'T GIVEN UP: A British teachers' union decided that Land of Hope and Glory was too "jingoistic" for a time of war (er, but not for a time of peace?) and forced a rewrite of the lyrics. Jeez. It would be a teachers' union, wouldn't it?
COURAGE COMES BACK IN STYLE, PART II: From a Salon interview:
What are you going to do, say, "We're Western. We believe in the dignity of each individual life," and as a result we're not going to do what it takes to protect ourselves? It's stark, raving mad. First we have to secure our own life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. . . .
We've gotten to the point where we're thought of as objects of contempt by tough, warrior-minded people -- like certain Islamic fundamentalists, for example. We're not willing for even one troop to die before we'll leave Somalia. We aren't willing to die anymore, for anything. And when they sense that, they have nothing but contempt for us and will not believe any threats we make. I take it as the decline of our virtue that we can somehow see 6,000 of our citizens blown up and start to make excuses for the people who blew us up instead of first defending ourselves, and getting them back so they don't do it again. I don't want to have too much understanding for the guy who rapes my daughter.
But there is something to be said for not lashing out unthinkingly in a way that makes the situation even worse.
I think that sometimes we have to not be so rational. Sometimes it's more important for moral purposes to punch back and not worry about whether we're making more of a mess. . . .
I do think that there's a certain kind of cowardice that masquerades as high moral principle. I don't want to say sympathy and fellow feeling is not a good thing. It is -- I'm loaded with it myself. But sometimes, it's the veneer we put on cowardice. We feel that if we understand the pain of the other, then we should sit back and cower and cringe and let them beat us to a pulp. That looks like masochism and cravenness to me.
Did I mention this was in Salon?
I told you there was a sea change in attitudes going on.
PROCONSULS? Tom Ricks' excellent article in today's Washington Post about military reform contains this interesting passage:
Nonetheless, the changes being formulated could encounter fierce resistance from the regional "CinCs," who in the post-Cold War era have become powerful proconsuls, jetting from one capital to another as they oversee regional security strategies.
"They're going to hate it," said one person familiar with the contemplated changes, some of which recently were sent to the CinCs in a briefing paper. "They don't want to lose their empires."
Okay, the comparison with the Roman Empire is probably a bit forced, but it's still an unfortunate turn of phrase. Reader Timothy Sheridon, who pointed this passage (which I had overlooked on skimming the piece) has this observation:
Proconsuls is certainly a provocative word. It speaks more to an Empire than a Republic. The libertarian side of the web has long argued (in internet time frames, anyway) that the United States was sliding into empire. Now, it appears, the mainstream press is beginning to adopt the words of empire. This seems to be nothing more than an acknowledgement of the facts. Given the American domination of the Technological, Financial, Entertainment and Military sectors of the planet, the imperial trend is probably inevitable. Our own success dooms us to the course of empire. . . .
It may be that all successful free civilizations turn into empire. They have the organizational skills and the desire to get ahead. Therefore, the real challenge may be, how does one create a libertarian empire? Since our own dominance prohibits a retreat back to the simple yeoman republic of our forebears.
There have been some provocative discussions of this topic over at Jerry Pournelle's website
. And it's something to worry about. But the main difference between a Republic and an Empire (there's something about this that seems to call for capital letters) is the spirit of the people. I don't see an Imperial turn of mind in the United States, and though events might conspire to create one, we're a long way from that at the moment.
A MINOR WORRY: The use of NATO forces to defend the United States (though so far only in the form of 5 AWACS aircraft) is beginning to stir some of the wackier people on the right fringe. Most militia groups, if they're doing anything, are gearing up to volunteer in support of homeland security type stuff (though their offered help is unlikely to be accepted). These folks are, for the most part, harmless.
But here's an email from the "Republic of Texas" forces, supplied to me by one of my many spies:
Let me remind everyone of the seriousness of our situation. The US occupational government is getting involved in things that will drag Texas and her people into dangerous conditions. Our worst fears are being realized and most in the American patriot community are reacting by forming pro-homeland units and aligning with current US policy. There is no evidence of any training or heightened activity besides an increase in emails. The time for talk is over gentlemen. It is time to get serious about defending our nation and our people and do something of substance. I hope you all will give careful thought to your obligations and make the right choice. It is time to stand up and be counted in a just cause. May God bless you all.
This is a bit oblique, but it sounds worrisome to me. The RTX's "Commander Kenney" doesn't seem to like the idea of "aligning with current US policy." One thing that I'm concerned about is that the Ladenites might make common cause with some of the wackier and more dangerous right-wing and environmental groups (some of both have already expressed their happiness at the WTC/Pentagon attacks). These domestic American groups aren't a big threat on their own, but could be very valuable homegrown assets if funded and linked to a richer and more capable foreign organization. With everyone on the alert for "Middle Eastern" types, they could pass scrutiny easily. I hope that somebody is keeping close tabs on them with this in mind.
THE TALIBAN ACCUSE US OF "TARGETING" CIVILIANS, claiming 140 civilian deaths. I don't know if I believe it (they're not very reliable) but if we were targeting civilians, you could add three or four zeros to that, don't you think?
THE RESPONSE TO THE AMAZON HONORS DONATION button has been terrific. I'm moving up from Natural Light to Michelob Lite! In response to many requests, I'll also add a PayPal link in the near future. Thanks for all your support; I appreciate it.
READER NATHAN FREEMAN WRITES (I really need to set up a "Letters" page, don't I?) that Bush dropped the ball in his news conference. When asked about fear among Americans, says Freeman, he should have answered "Flight 93." Freeman goes on to note something that I've observed -- Americans aren't all that afraid! People are living their lives and going about their business. It seems to be the government and the commentariat (present company excepted) who are banging the drum of American fear the loudest.
MILITARY COMMISSIONS: Reader Chuck Blanchard writes:
When I was General Counsel of the Army, we had to deal with the power of military commissions to try crimes of war in resolving a challenge to the conviction, by such a military conviction, of alleged Lincoln assassination conspirator Dr. Samuel Mudd. In that case, the issue for the Secretary was whether a military commission could have jurisdiction over a citizen of a non-belligerent state. We concluded that the military commission did have such jurisdiction. The U.S. District Court for the District of Colombia affirmed our decision after engaging in de novo review. the decision can be found at http://www.dcd.uscourts.gov/97-2946a.pdf. For purposes of determining whether a military commission would have jurisdiction to try terrorists, I agree with you that the Yamashita case is questionable precedent. Far more relevant is Ex parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1 (1942), in which the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a military commission to try the case of several Nazi saboteurs who landed on the east coast by submarine. One of the Nazis was a US Citizen who had moved to Germany to join the German Army. I think Ex parte Quirin offers strong support for the use of a military court to try terrorists--even ones caught in the United States.
Well, terrorists who are not citizens or legal residents, maybe. (If I'm not mistaken, under the law at the time, a U.S. citizen who joined the German army would have automatically lost his citizenship, even in the absence of war.)
TONY BLAIR'S WEBSITE is now presenting his antiterrorism statement in 13, count 'em, 13 languages. We need to do more of that sort of thing in the United States. Thanks to William Dupuy of lefile.com for this point.
THE SAUDIS HAVE A BIG PR PROBLEM. Part of it is due to the, ahem, ill-considered remarks of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Alsaud in New York, in which he blamed the United States' (unspecified) role in the Palestinian problem for terrorism. Actually, Osama bin Laden is much more unhappy with our role in saving the Prince's sorry butt from the Iraqis, and in continuing to prop up his shaky monarchy with our troops to this very day. The talking heads tonight -- even NPR's Mara Liasson on Brit Hume's show -- were savaging the Saudis, not so much for that remark as for their uncooperativeness in things like freezing bin Laden's assets (discussed below on InstaPundit), and their complete ingratitude for said butt-saving.
The odds of a new Hashemite kingdom in Arabia are still slim, but they just increased tenfold.
IDIOCY WATCH: FIRST IT WAS BILL CLINTON, THE FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT; now its America, the first "niggerized" superpower, according to Cornel West. West also criticized the response to terrorism:
"Sounds an awful lot like reparations to me," West said to shouts of "Amen!" from the crowd. "I didn't think America was into reparations."
West was always a showboating intellectual lightweight. Now he's made that clear to anyone who had any doubts.
KEN LAYNE makes an important point:
Something weird is happening in this country, and it's not just Anthrax and suicide hijackers. The rational people on the Right and Left are finding -- surprise! -- that we have very much in common. We like it here, and we like the world. We like writing, we like stirring up some trouble, we like being alive and free to do what we want, even if that freedom can leave us unemployed now and then. We like to make stupid jokes, we like to insult public figures, and we like to bitch about our government and the cops and the IRS. But if some medieval nut sandwich wants to Tread On Me, I will gladly stand up with Joe Farah and Andrew Sullivan and Al Giordano and Tony Pierce and G.W. Bush and Amy Langfield and Matt Drudge and Matt Welch and Maureen Dowd and Chris Rock and Tom Petty and Kobe Bryant and Heather Havrilesky and Jeff Whalen and we will smite any motherfuckers who want to blow up the world.
I found the reference to this on another cool site, Matt Welch's Warblog
. Layne calls me
a warblogger (actually, he calls me a "warblogging machine" or something like that). I didn't mean
for InstaPundit to be a warblog. It's just the main thing to write about right now. I'm trying to touch on other things, and I look forward to the day when things here look more like they looked just over a month ago
. But it's hard to get as excited about the "lockbox" debate right now -- or it would be, if we were having one. I do have plans to do something more on stem cells and cloning when things settle down.
BERKELEY HATEWATCH UPDATE: The Berkeley resolution attacking the Daily Californian passed. Here's a report from a Berkeley observer:
The Senate debates ended too late last night for anyone to have the news, but ASUC Senate Bill 67, the censorship one, passed last night. The final version was a condemnation and call for diversity training, with no practical effects. I don't know the exact language.
No major news media attended, and the whole exercise had a rote quality to it. The supporters flooded the room with tearful Muslim students bearing stories of how friends of their friends were assaulted by racists. The few opponents began their speeches by saying 'The cartoon was inappropriate and offensive, but...' Senators got more incensed over a later spending bill that many felt went overboard.
And the next morning, with the usual post-Senate flurry of e-mails, no one mentioned the bill. This was simply another exercise for them in boring victim-claimancy, nothing new in Berkeley.
And this, of course, is why Berkeley isn't taken seriously. People in Berkeley still think this kind of thing is cute -- the way people in Mississippi in 1955 still thought racist jokes were cute.
OIL! OIL! Robert Samuelson has a pretty good piece on oil. Would reducing our dependence on oil solve our problems? No. But it would give us more flexibility in dealing with them. Most of his suggestions are sensible enough -- he's certainly thinking more clearly than Tom Daschle.
LAW PROFESSOR DOUG KMIEC argues that terrorists can be seized and tried in military courts, rather than under civilian principles of due process. He's probably right about this, though he doesn't help his case by his too-facile invocation of the prosecution of Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita -- who is regarded by many as a possibly-innocent scapegoat whose prosecution was primarily intended to prevent more serious actions against higher-ups in the Japanese government. His invocation of the Supreme Court's opinion is a bit facile, too. Here's an important quote from Justice Murphy's dissent: The case is at 327 U.S. 1 (1946) if you want to look it up.
But there is not a suggestion in the findings that petitioner personally participated in, was present at the occurrence of, or ordered any of these incidents, with the exception of the wholly inferential suggestion noted below. Nor is there any express finding that he knew of any one of the incidents in particular or of all taken together. The only inferential findings that he had knowledge, or that the commission so found, are in the statement that 'the crimes alleged to have been permitted by the accused in violation of the laws of war may be grouped into three categories' set out below, in the further statement that 'the prosecution presented evidence to show that the crimes were so extensive and so widespread, both as to time and area, that they must either have been wilfully permitted by the accused, or secretly ordered by' him; and in the conclusion of guilt and the sentence. Indeed the commission's ultimate findings [FN16] draw no express conclusion of knowledge, but state only two things: (1) the fact of widespread atrocities and crimes; (2) that petitioner 'failed to provide effective control * * * as required by the circumstances.' . . .
The failure of the military commission to obey the dictates of the due process requirements of the Fifth Amendment is apparent in this case. The petitioner was the commander of an army totally destroyed by the superior power of this nation. While under heavy and destructive attack by our forces, his troops committed many brutal atrocities and other high crimes. Hostilities ceased and he voluntarily surrendered. At that point he was entitled, as an individual protected by the due process clause of the Fifth amendment, to be treated fairly and justly according to the accepted rules of law and procedure. He was also entitled to a fair trial as to any alleged crimes and to be free from charges of legally unrecognized crimes that would serve only to permit his accusers to satisfy their desires for revenge.
While it's true that the Supreme Court let the execution go forward, still it's (1) not clear that the Court would do something like this today; and (2) very clear that the court regarded the prosecution of Yamashita as very dubious -- just outside the power of the Court to prevent. Not exactly the kind of endorsement that Kmiec makes it sound like.
Yamashita's case was different from that of the terrorists -- who, by waging war out of uniform can probably be shot out of hand under the Geneva Convention anyway -- but Kmiec shouldn't have relied on this decision. It's the proverbial thirteenth chime of the clock: not only wrong in itself, but calling into question everything that has come before.
"WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD BAND NAMES:" The metal band Anthrax reports that:
In light of current events, we are changing the name of the band to something more friendly, "Basket Full Of Puppies". Actually, just the fact that we are making jokes about our name sucks.
In the twenty years we've been known as "Anthrax", we never thought the day would come that our name would actually mean what it really means. . . .
Before the tragedy of September 11th the only thing scary about Anthrax was our bad hair in the 80's and the "Fistful Of Metal" album cover. Most people associated the name Anthrax with the band, not the germ. Now in the wake of those events, our name symbolizes fear, paranoia and death. Suddenly our name is not so cool. To be associated with these things we are against is a strange and stressful situation. To us, and to millions of people, it is just a name. We don't want to change the name of the band, not because it would be a pain in the ass, but because we hope that no further negative events will happen and it won't be necessary. We hope and pray that this problem goes away quietly and we all grow old and fat together.
This is actually kind of, er, sweet. Note that they've renamed their tour with Judas Priest "Operation Enduring Metal." That's actually cooler than "Infinite Justice," isn't it?
MORE OF WHAT BUGS WOULD DO: Reader Alexander Del Castillo sends this link to a story about a firm that's marketing Osama bin Laden toilet paper.
JOURNALISM HATEWATCH: There's a lot of unseemly exulting over Rush Limbaugh's hearing loss from lefty journalists in the letters section of Jim Romenesko's MediaNews. Some time ago I wrote about "selective compassion." Now you can see it at work.
BERKELEY HATEWATCH UPDATE: Debra Saunders brings us the latest on student politicos' efforts to punish the Daily Californian for a cartoon that (in their own, apparently incurably racist, eyes and no one else's) was held to be anti-Muslim. The hero is Daily Californian editor Janny Hu, who is refusing to cave.
MEA CULPA: In my FoxNews.Com piece on Michael Bellesiles' Arming America yesterday, I didn't give proper credit to the National Review's Melissa Seckora, who had a big story on Bellesiles' dubious behavior break on September 11, which caused it to get less attention than it deserved, including from me. (It's also in the print edition of National Review dated October 15). Her piece is extremely thorough and substantive, and I should have mentioned it. If you're at all interested in this topic, you should read it. Quote:
Other scholars who have looked into the matter concur that Bellesiles's allegations are false. Lindgren "utterly devastates Bellesiles's research," says Albert Alschuler, a law professor at the University of Chicago and author of a recent biography of Oliver Wendell Holmes. Randolph Roth of Ohio State University, the leading expert on early-America homicide rates, has looked at Lindgren and Heather's counts of guns in the Providence inventories and found them correct. A third scholar, UCLA's Eric Monkkonen, one of the country's foremost quantitative historians, says, "Lindgren's data show that Bellesiles was not correct."
. . .
Those who have examined Arming America have documented hundreds of possibly intentional misconstructions of sources or outright falsehoods. The probate records aside, Bellesiles has egregious problems in the areas of homicide data, gun censuses, reports on militia arms, hunting accounts, travel accounts, the opinions of the anti-Federalists, and laws governing guns. So far it appears that Bellesiles has not been able to validate any of the challenged portions of his book. Indeed, in a new paperback edition of Arming America being released this fall, he has quietly capitulated on some of the critics' claims, retracting or altering the challenged statements about probate data from Providence.
This is very damning stuff, and these passages only scratch the surface. If you're concerned that academic research in America has become unduly politicized, and that the vaunted "gatekeeping" functions of peer review and professional editing aren't living up to their reputations, then you should read this piece to see your worst fears realized.
UPDATE: this post from a history email list details some other problems with Bellesiles' research, and casts enormous doubt on his claim that some inconsistencies result from his website being "hacked." This one from the same list provides a great deal of additional background, and something of a chronology.
DONATIONS keep coming in to the Amazon Honor System. Thanks. Over the past weeks, several of you have emailed me with Samuel Johnson's famous statement that only a fool writes for anything but money. Hey, maybe I'm not as dumb as I look!
NO YELLOW RIBBONS: Collin Levey writes in OpinionJournal that:
For all the real heartbreak and terror that followed in the wake of Sept. 11, the one thing unexpectedly absent has been the typical U.S. diet of soppy televisual sentimentality. In the early days after the attack, Lisa Beamer, whose husband is credited with helping bring down flight 93 in Pennsylvania, seemed almost to disappoint Larry King with her composure. Now even purveyors of bathos like Rosie O'Donnell are handling things with a greater dignity.
I've noticed this too, and it's a good thing. Frankly, wallowing in bathos is nothing to be proud of in peacetime; it's positively destructive now. Which must be obvious even to Rosie. And bravo to Lisa Beamer for instinctively realizing that despite television's appetite for tears, sometimes a stiff upper lip is the right thing.
IT HAS BEEN A MONTH and a lot has changed. Just look at InstaPundit from the week before the attacks to see how much. There are still a few folks -- like Tom Daschle (where ANWR is concerned) and the reflexive fear-mongers in the media that Walter Shapiro warned about yesterday, who haven't quite caught on to the fact that we're at war.
But we are at war. Risks that seemed frightening a month ago -- like shark attacks at the beach -- are now in perspective. Things that would have dominated the headlines, like plane crashes, barely get a mention.
More people will be killed. Our soldiers. Their soldiers. Our civilians. Their civilians. This is bad (well, except for the "their soldiers" part, which I suppose is sad in the abstract but I must confess doesn't move me particularly at the moment) but it's war. When the inevitable happens -- U.S. helicopters shot down, another act of terrorism in America, or a stray missile hitting a "Baby Milk Factory" or even a real civilian facility -- I hope that the press won't try to treat it the way they do in peacetime. It's war, and these things happen. The most dangerous thing is to chicken out. Safety is to be found only in the complete defeat of those who want to destroy us. It's fine to be magnanimous to a defeated enemy. But only after he's defeated.
SAUDI "STONEWALLING:" That's the term used for Saudi non-cooperation -- they still haven't frozen Osama bin Laden's assets! -- and it's deeply troubling. The Saudis are used to playing this double game, but these aren't normal times, and they are placing their position at risk with this stuff. The only explanation I can imagine is that some senior Saudis actively support bin Laden -- which we've already seen demonstrated -- and that they're still trying to protect him. Uh, guys, if you're on the other side, we could just always change the name to Yankee Arabia, you know. Then Tom Daschle could have his way on ANWR.
Of course, that would be an extreme step. But an oil-rich Saudi Arabia that supports people who are at war with the United States is completely intolerable. It can't be allowed to stand, and it won't be, for long. Would replacing the Saudi royal family with, say, Hashemites (who ruled before the Saudi takeover, and are the traditional overseers of Mecca and Medina) cause more problems? Maybe -- but that won't help the Saudis, who need to remember that what's a potential problem for us is the end of the road for them. Hey, maybe that's why King Abdullah, the last Hashemite ruler, is being so cooperative with the United States....
And what is Daschle thinking, anyway? I must say, I've been an agnostic on the ANWR thing, but I'm now convinced that Daschle is wrong and I'm utterly mystified by his timing in making an issue of this now -- he'll get rolled, or if he doesn't he'll get hammered if there's any sort of oil shortage in the next couple of years, and there will be. It's very much in our interest to have as much non-mideast oil available as possible. There was majority support for ANWR drilling before these attacks, and I don't know what Daschle is thinking by trying to block it now. Is he trying to get votes from the Earth Liberation Front?
WWBBD: What Would Bugs Bunny Do? Well, he probably wouldn't write this dirty limerick about Osama, but, then, his shows were always "G" rated. (Which doesn't explain the cross-dressing, but never mind....)
WHY ARE THE AIRLINES ALWAYS IN TROUBLE? Virginia Postrel answers that question in The New York Times today. Her mezine addresses a lot of other airline problems, too, and asks the big question: why are they going out of their way to chase off customers now?
COURAGE IS BACK IN STYLE, according to this report in The New York Times. The quotes from passengers are absolutely wonderful: "You can't just sit there anymore," ; "It's a sorry man that would sit still during a hijacking now,"; '"In the past, we allowed ourselves to be passive victims because we figured it was safer," said Nina Baker, flying from Seattle to Salt Lake. "Now we know it's not safer. I think anyone who's out to hijack a plane now should expect to be killed."'
These are just a few. This is a major change from what Jeffrey Snyder, in a famous 1993 essay in The Public Interest, called "A Nation of Cowards." The culture of passivity is dead, at least for the moment. I suspect that this will bear fruit well beyond the realm of air travel. The only big loser is Snyder, whose book based on that essay has just been published. But I don't think he'll complain too much.
DANG. IT'S NOT SCOTCH: Reader John Mansfield sends this link to a clearer picture that seems to indicate that the "Scotch" bottle is really just a blurry picture of the ceremonial dagger that Osama wears. Dang.
YESTERDAY'S TRAFFIC broke 15,000! I can't believe this. And thanks to the many people who've already paid in via the Amazon Honor System. I'm delighted that so many people find my ideas worth reading, and even worth paying for.
GET RICH QUICK: An idea from Jerry Pournelle's website: "I have been cruising the country back roads looking at dairy cows with cow pox. When I do find one, some farmer and I are going to make almost as much off of cattle as Hillary did."
BERT & BIN LADEN: Yet another incriminating photo. Poor Osama: from face of terror to figure of fun in about 12 hours, courtesy of the Internet.
I think that Bugs Bunny would do something like this. Don't you?
"Osama Season -- FIRE!"
READER STEVEN GREEN WRITES:
A friend turned me onto your site in the hours following the 9/11 attack, and I've been a daily, hourly regular visitor since. Let me tell you: I'm a huge fan of Virginia Postrel (hooked on her from her long tenure at Reason) and Andrew Sullivan (just because Brits write so damnably well. Or is that racist?) In any case, when it comes to what I want to read for "dessert" during my morning newsfest, forget VP and AS -- now it's always InstaPundit.
Your work is terrific, and four weeks is a reasonable pause before asking for help. It's time you signed up on Amazon's Honor System so that we all might thank you in the one way a writer truly appreciates -- with cold, hard cash.
Your wish is my command. But don't forget VP and AS -- I read 'em all the time, and love 'em. I've even donated money to their
Honor System accounts.
OKAY, IT'S GOTTA BE A MOLE: Here's a blowup of the bin Laden poster. Above Bert's head is bin Laden with a bottle of Scotch. The CIA is behind this. Absolutely. And somebody deserves a raise. Thanks to Ken Layne for this shrewd observation.
HELL, if this kind of stuff keeps up, I'll almost feel good about paying my taxes for this year. Almost.
"GILLIGAN VS. THE TALIBAN:" A cool piece by Cathy Seipp in Reason. Really, with a title like that you can't go wrong. But it's right on target.
STUART BUCK also refers readers to this excellent piece by University of Texas law professor Ernest Young, rebutting the claims of some "opportunists" who feel that the current war is reason enough to abandon federalism entirely.
[W]e cannot separate the need to preserve individual liberties in wartime from the need to maintain constitutional limits on federal power. Our nation was born out of crisis and war. Our Framers chose to create a national government of limited authority, to operate in conjunction with a complex web of state and local bodies, despite the fact that they lived in a dangerous world surrounded by hostile powers. Now is not the time to forget who we are — either as a matter of individual rights or of constitutional structure.
STUART BUCK has a wonderful riposte to Paul Krugman's thuggish diatribe on airport security and right wing "fanaticism:"
But why shouldn't conservatives distrust government? The government's idea of security so far has been to make ticket agents ask silly questions that no terrorist would ever answer truthfully, or to ban curbside check-in temporarily (as if the terrorists got on board by that means). To identify a market failure, in other words, is not to demonstrate that the government's attempts to solve it will make things any better.
Krugman's descent into self-caricature has been painful for me to watch, as I once admired his work, back when he did real economics. And, Paul, we know who the real "fanatics" are these days, so let's not throw that loaded term around quite so loosely, okay?
INTERESTING DEVELOPMENT: The Dutch newspaper where the Osama & Bert photo first appeared has now cropped the photo to cut out Bert. (You can see the original version with Scott Norvell's article here.) Now, why did they do that?
WOW. We've just passed 13,500 hits. Where is everybody coming from? Whatever; I'm glad you're here.
WISE WORDS FROM WALTER SHAPIRO: "Panic in the face of potential terrorism isn't a call for action; it is a destructive response that can jeopardize the bonds that hold us together as a free society. At a moment when Americans are more jittery than we have been in decades, the last thing that's needed is for well-intentioned experts to heedlessly sound alarm bells."
I hope Shapiro's fellow newsies take this advice. I've noticed that an awful lot of media coverage -- and not just on 24-hour cable channels, but also in The New York Times -- has been big on telling Americans how "scared," "terrified," or "jittery" they are. Actually, most people don't seem especially scared to me: they know that bad things can happen, but that they'll probably not happen to them or to their families, and that there's not a lot that can be done. This is a war after all.
But in a war, you don't spend a lot of time telling your own people to be scared. The hyping of fear is a hallowed peacetime media trope: aflatoxins in peanut butter: oh noooo! alar on apples: certain death! defective toys in happy meals: murder on a bun! It's stupid and destructive even when it's silly season. But it's not silly season, and media people need to restrain the hype reflexes that they've been honing over years of peace and comparatively little danger.
This is a war. People will be killed. They will be our civilians, and our soldiers. They will be other people's civilians, and soldiers. In some sense, all (well, most) of these deaths are tragedies. But they're also part of war, and they don't need to be hyped. In fact, the hyping is destructive, and disrespectful of both the dead and the living. I also think that, unlike peacetime, it will also chase audiences away, rather than sucking them in. The thrill of fake fear is one thing. The real thing is something different.
"I HAVE ALWAYS DEPENDED ON THE KINDNESS OF AMERICANS:" Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, did something unusual, as reader Steven Den Beste points out. The Taliban's own radio stations have all been knocked out by American air strikes, but Omar wanted to deliver a speech to the people of Afghanistan and surrounding countries. So what's a Mullah to do? Why it's obvious: He taped his speech, and delivered the tape to the Voice of America and the BBC. Think about this for a minute. As Den Beste points out, "What's remarkable about this is that he asked. He actually asked his mortal enemies to help him communicate with his own people. Deep down, where even he doesn't let himself realize it, he knows that we're decent and fair."
And, of course, we did broadcast it, even though it was calling on Afghans to fight us to the last drop of blood, yada yada yada. But, you know, the knowledge that people presume upon us like this, under circumstances where they would certainly not return the favor if positions were reversed, is one reason Americans sometimes show a degree of exasperation that others sometimes read, not quite correctly, as arrogance.
I'VE GIVEN MONEY TO "Medecins Sans Frontieres" in the past, but after this stupid statement I won't be giving any more. Perhaps they should change their name, as reader Jay Cornell suggests, to "Humanitarians Against Humanitarian Aid."
What's really going on is simple: they know that there won't be serious US reprisals for these dumb statements, but that such statements will curry favor in Afghanistan and other nasty places where they do business. Well, as I said, they won't be getting any money from me, and I think their reputation will be tarnished in general.
SORRY FOR THE DELAYS: Blogger is still acting up. Sorry -- though we're already at nearly 11,000 today (yes, you read that right) so it's obviously not causing major problems.
A MILITARY READER WHO REQUESTS ANONYMITY MAKES THIS POINT ABOUT DEPLOYMENT CYCLES:
The six-month unit rotation has certainly been an improvement over individual rotations. But in Bosnia and Kosovo (the two deployments I've spent most of my time looking at), these six-month stays have created their own problems.
Four months turns out to be about exactly what units need to become acclimated to their surroundings, their missions, and their allied military and civilian partners (and keep in mind the allied military forces are there for a year or more, and the civilians for the duration, more or less). In fact, I've talked to more than a few soldiers from Balkans deployments who felt the six-month deployment cycle was a huge impediment to the mission there, since their units never really had a chance to get fully ramped up. The fact that these cycles are staggered (so that Unit A spends its last month helping to get Unit B acclimated in its first month) helps somewhat, but not as much as you would think.
Consider then, that our troops in Central Asia will likely need to forge solid relationships with military reps from the Northern Alliance and with allied and friendly militaries. The language barriers will certainly make personal relationships here incredibly important. The unfamiliar terrain (both geographic and pol-mil) will ttake a long time to get accustomed to. In the likely event of a Taleban collapse, US forces will almost certainly take part in humanitarian missions that will require close cooperation with NGO workers disinclined to work with military types.
A normal combat deployment is a full year long. The six-month cycle for Bosnia and Kosovo was, like so many of the caveats and blandishments that have surrounded the Balkans deployments, a rather sneaky admission by political leaders that such deployments were somehow unworthy of great sacrifice and toil (you can argue for or against these deployments, but it seems to me -- to break out the old cliche -- that something worth doing is worth doing right).
And now the six-month cycle will be the default in Central Asia. Yikes. Such a policy badly underestimates the ability of US military personnel and their families to bear the hardship of extended deployment, especially when the stakes are so much higher than in the Balkans. In Bosnia the cost of shortened deployments has been confusion, inertia and the failure to return tens of thousands of refugees. In Afghanistan, the cost -- in lost intelligence, capability and relationships -- could be far greater, and the consequences far more dire.
I hope that this issue is getting serious attention. One hopes, of course, that things in Afghanistan will be settled in less than six months. But only a fool plans for that -- and, in fact, planning for a short stay is one of the surest ways to have a long stay.
FOXNEWS' Scott Norvell has the story on Bert and Osama. InstaPundit reader Shane Bodrero notes that if you perform this Google image search you get a Bert 'n' Osama image on the first page. But it's not the same one that's appearing on the posters -- it's reversed right to left and the relative sizes of Bert and Osama don't match, among other things.
I think this is CIA psychological warfare. We want Osama to know that we have moles everywhere, and that we're corrupting his message before it gets out. The war of nerves will escalate Coming soon, we'll be substituting this image for those sent by Osama to Al-Jazeera TV. BUWAHAHAHA!
Say, isn't this the kind of thing Bugs Bunny would do?
SOME INTERESTING PARALLELS between the Barbary Pirates and the Ladenites are provided in a post to a history professors' discussion list. I'm not sure, though, that the ideological component was the same, though it may well have been.
ANTITERROR LEGISLATION: Slashdot features links to this table comparing various antiterrorism provisions, and to this definitive treatment in The Onion.
The biggest threat to military secrecy seems to come from leaking members of Congress and their staff. How about some laws providing strict penalties for them?
MUSLIM SCHOLARS IN YEMEN BACK THE TALIBAN in a statement by 172 of them. Yemen, which has been in low-grade civil war ever since it was united, is likely to be a trouble spot.
FROM THE HOIST-BY-YOUR-OWN-PETARD DEPT.: Reader Timothy Sheridon points out that Sunera Thobani, America-hating Canadian feminist, has now been charged with a hate crime, namely inciting hatred against Americans.
Against Americans? Everyone knows that hate crime laws aren't supposed to prohibit that! This is certainly Thobani's view:
"This is just pure harassment," she said. "They are trying to silence dissent in this country."
Thobani said her speech was intended to explain how U.S. foreign policy has affected life in many countries of the world.
"If you point to the factual record of U.S. foreign policy, you are now accused of spreading hate," she said. "It really is unbelievable."
Ah, well, neither truth nor good intentions have ever been a defense where charges of "hate" are involved. How could Thobani have overlooked that?
Naturally, I'm against "hate speech" laws, since their primary purpose is, in fact, to silence people. But although I'm against the laws, I'm all for them being enforced with absolute evenhandedness where they exist -- because that's that best way to get an unfair law overturned. It is, of course, the case that evenhanded enforcement will be of great disadvantage to the Left, since it is the Left that is generally making nasty racial and national-origin remarks these days. But that's not my fault.
READER CHARLES BLANCHARD WRITES:
You are correct that rotation of troops in Vietnam was a huge problem--largely because it interfered with unit cohesiveness essential to warfare. The Army's current rotation system, however, doesn't rotate individual soldiers--the Army rotates entire units. this allows an entire unit to be trained for the mission before deployment, and maintains unit solidarity. This has been done with great success in the Sinai MFO mission (where most Americans don't know we still have 2 battalions), Bosnia, Kosovo, and Kuwait. Given the logistic issues involved in rotation, I predict that the Army will use the 6 month rotation now used in Bosnia and Kosovo.
I find this encouraging.
BAY AREA SENSE WATCH: Hey, intelligence seems to be breaking out. Just read this item from Rob Morse:
In the Bay Area, folks are always saying history teaches us that answering violence with more violence only leads to more death and destruction. Well, duh.
The question is, whose death and destruction does it lead to? Hitler's violence had to be met with violence. Love bombing wouldn't have worked against Tiger tanks.
Killing bin Laden and his gang seems like a pretty good idea. However, bombers are clumsy, overpriced tools for stopping terrorists armed with box cutters. Bombers tend to kill innocents and harden an enemy's resolve.
Declaring peace won't stop terrorists either. History teaches us (pardon me) that you can't abolish violence. You can decry American imperialism, but wake up and breathe the anthrax -- you're still a target. You're an American and these guys hate you. You may be tolerant, but they aren't.
"UP WITH WOMEN! DOWN WITH THE TALIBAN!" This was one sign at a counter-protest at Dartmouth that dwarfed the "peace" protest that set it off. Very interesting.
SPOTTING THE LOSERS: Reader Brian Alletto calls my attention to this 1998 article by LTC Ralph Peters from Parameters, the journal of the Army War College. It's called Spotting the Losers: Seven Signs of Non-Competitive States. I read Parameters occasionally (I'm a big fan of Charles Dunlap's articles on civilian/military relations) but I had missed this -- because I'm sure I'd remember it if I had read it. Now I have read it, and you should too. But since you may not have time, here are the seven signs:
Restrictions on the free flow of information.
The subjugation of women.
Inability to accept responsibility for individual or collective failure.
The extended family or clan as the basic unit of social organization.
Domination by a restrictive religion.
A low valuation of education.
Low prestige assigned to work.
This explains a lot about why the Islamic countries (except, to some degree, Indonesia and Turkey) have lagged behind other countries, like, say, South Korea, over the past half century. Osama bin Laden, of course, would only make these things worse. Note this prophetic passage (italics mine):
As a final note, the biggest pitfall in international interactions is usually mutual misunderstanding. We do not understand them, but they do not understand us either--although, thanks to the Americanization of world media, they imagine they do. From mega-deals that collapsed because of Russian rapacity to Saddam's conviction that the United States would not fight, foreign counterparts, rivals, and opponents have whoppingly skewed perceptions of American behaviors. In the end, military operations and business partnerships are like dating--the advantage goes to the player who sees with the most clarity.
ROBERT SCHEER is put in his place by Spinsanity. I like the Spinsanity guys even though we sometimes disagree -- but they care about the truth, which sets them apart from, well, people like Scheer.
THE BIN LADEN / BUGS BUNNY CONNECTION: No, this isn't like the Bert thing. Back on September 22, I noted an excellent piece by Jesse Walker of Reason on options we could take in the war. I favored what Walker calls the "Bugs Bunny Option." I noted that "Bugs is extremely clever, and has a good sense of humor, as well as the ability to use his opponents' anger, self-absorption, and single-mindedness against them. As a result, Bugs, in many ways the quintessential American figure, might actually be a pretty good role model. "
The more I think about this, the more sense it makes. I was reminded of it by Andrew Sullivan's comments about humor today:
Can you imagine Bugs versus the Taliban? No contest. . . . As to finding humor in the conflict itself, I don't think we've made enough fun of bin Laden himself yet. Like Hitler, bin Laden is not just evil, he's ridiculous - and seeing his absurdity is a critical part of overcoming fear. Maybe it's because I'd just seen (for the umpteenth time) "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" but that video of the turbaned maniac surrounded by characters out of central casting struck me as faintly hilarious. Where are the knights that say "Ni!" when you need them? I see no reason why we shouldn't laugh at bin Laden's preposterous medievalism, with that microphone perched in front of him, like a cross between Phil Donahue and the Ayatollah Khomeini. Laughter is a vital response to terror: it neutralizes fear.
Osama bin Laden does
look, and talk, like something out of Monty Python and Saturday Night Live. I think we should take advantage of that. Americans are very good at making fun of people, and he's an easy target. Deflated, he's no threat; he can't inspire terror, and if it's clear he's being mocked, he'll have trouble inspiring people who want to terrorize the West. Extra credit assignment: find a way to make fun of him that will resonate with muslims, especially Arabs.
BERT'S TERRORIST CONNECTIONS: It turns out, as several readers have emailed me, that Bert is a pretty unsavory character who has shown up in pretty dubious company before. He's also been known to associate with Osama bin Laden in the past.
Best theory: somebody involved with those protests either (1) was grabbing Osama photos off the web in a hurry and didn't notice what was in the image until it was too late; or (2) has a wicked sense of humor and not much love for bin Laden. Or, my favorite, (3) is a CIA mole and is sending the signal "Target Osama at LOCATION BERT."
TRAFFIC: 9,659 yesterday -- and not mostly by crazed search-engine robots. Cool!
JIHAD CALLS FAILING: The call for "Jihad" isn't resonating much. This should come as no surprise, really. The Islamic world talks a lot about unity for the same reason Berkeley talks a lot about freedom of speech -- they don't actually have much of it, so they have to substitute talk for reality.
Remember when Bosnian Muslims were being killed in camps by the Serbs? Who got angry enough about that to do something? The Islamic world? Nope, they hardly said a word. It was the United States. If honest-to-God genocide against Muslims (European Muslims, it's true, but still Muslims) wasn't enough to stir them up, going after bin Laden isn't likely to do it.
IF I WERE WRITING A NOVEL SET IN THESE TIMES, as someone undoubtedly will in a few years, I would use this summer's spate of shark attacks as foreshadowing, and a metaphor for terrorism. These deadly creatures, lurking in the depths, once hated and feared but now protected and with their man-eating character explained away or even justified by defenders in government and academic circles, suddenly emerging to savage the innocent.... You get the idea. If I did that, I might use this item about Australia's new shoot-on-sight policy for deadly sharks as a piece of background to show the, er, sea change in attitudes.
NOTE TO NOVELISTS: You're welcome to steal this idea. Just stick in a mention of InstaPundit somewhere and I 'll consider myself fully compensated.
A "STORM" OF HIJACK ATTACKS: That's what the Ladenites are threatening, and some are making much of it. Big deal. Two points: First, we already know that they're going to do as much harm as they can manage, making threats of harm pointless. (Besides, such bombast is typical third-world tinpot-leader posturing, since they think we're dumb enough to listen -- remember the "Mother of All Battles?") Second, if they're promising hijackings, it probably means that they're really planning something else anyway.
The big news is, they've now admitted everything. This point should be made -- forcefully -- to any sympathizers in the Islamic world who are still demanding "proof," or who are pretending to believe that this was a plot of the Mossad, the French, or whatever.
WORRISOME: This item in the Washington Post mentions a plan to rotate our troops in and out of Central Asia every three months or so. This "tour of duty" policy was disastrous in Vietnam. I hope that people will keep that in mind.
MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU: "Jedi Knight" has made the list of religions on the UK census. It rivals such better known positions as "atheist" and "wiccan." Hey, better Jedi than Taliban.
OSAMA BIN LADEN HAS TAKEN AN AMERICAN ICON HOSTAGE, notes Fredrik Norman, and so far no one seems to notice. Look at the poster in this photo and look behind Osama's left ear. Is someone having fun with Photoshop? Maybe -- but look at this photo and this one and you can see the same thing. Maybe it's a mole with the Taliban? This is just too weird.
MUSHARRAF is a Turkophile, who spent some of his formative years in Turkey. He is, in fact, a great admirer of Mustafa Kemal, better known as Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern, secularist Turkey.
I think this is why he has been so cooperative with the United States. Consider: if he wants a secularist, Turkish-style Pakistan, he has to neutralize the Islamists in Pakistan. That's easier to do if he has (1) an excuse; and (2) outside help. Now he has both.
I suspect his ambitions go beyond this. The Central Asian countries around him (the "stans") all have Turkic majorities or pluralities, and many observers have wondered when some sort of Turkophile movement would get going there. I doubt that Musharraf's ambitions go so far as the creation of a big, Central Asian version of Turkey (though they may), but I suspect that he at least sees himself as the leader of a Pan-Turkic movement or confederation in the region.
This is all probably good for the United States, and everyone else except the mullahs, so long as it doesn't get out of hand. Turkey has been a reliable ally, and by far the freest and stablest majority-Muslim country. Spreading that kind of thing throughout this troubled region would be a stabilizing influence. That would be especially important if Central Asia turns out to have as much oil as some people think, because some people think it may turn out to have reserves on the order of Saudi Arabia. A set of stable, secularist governments sitting on top of that much oil would make a lot of things in that region better.
NO, I DON'T HAVE ANTHRAX, as someone wrote to ask. I've actually been posting as often as usual, but Blogger is having some server issues and my stuff has been sitting in queues. Things seem to be working now -- but they've seemed that way a couple of times. Meanwhile, check out Tony Adragna's response to antiwar gays. As a gay ex-serviceman, Tony has the standing to say what he says.
LEFTY MATT WELCH takes apart Michael Moore's latest idiocy. And it's sweet.
BAY AREA DUMBNESS WATCH: Okay, there's no real hate here, but boy is this dumb. Check out this exchange:
[O]ne student said, "Afghanistan is a country without television. How can we communicate?"
Another, favoring peace, said in the heat of argument, "Look, it's not like they attacked the U.S."
"They did," a pro-USA student replied.
"Uh, oh yeah, they did," the other said, flashing an embarrassed grin.
At least he had the decency to be embarrassed.
I'VE GOT ANOTHER FOXNEWS COLUMN -- and this one has nothing to do with 9/11. It's here.
BERKELEY HATEWATCH UPDATE: Several leading cartoonists are taking Berkeley student government types to task for their efforts to initiate reprisals against the Daily Californian for a cartoon that these students are apparently too dumb to understand. The letters are priceless.
PAUL BERMAN argues that this is not, in fact, the first war of the 21st Century, but the last war of the 20th: a war against a totalitarian mindset not so different in its desire for purification and ideological uniformity from those of Nazis, Stalinists, etc. Pretty muscular for The American Prospect.
THE LONDON TIMES IS REPORTING that most of the hijackers may not have realized it was a suicide mission, with only the ringleaders being aware of that.
If this is true, it's good news, since (1) it indicates that the supply of suicide hijackers is smaller than we thought; and (2) it's likely to give other operatives second thoughts if they haven't signed on for a one-way mission.
FURTHER PROOF OF THE UN'S IRRELEVANCE: ' “People must distinguish between combatants and innocent people who are not,” said Stephanie Bunker, spokeswoman for the Office of the U.N. Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs in Afghanistan.' Perhaps, but bombs can't. These are people in a war zone -- which it was even before the United States was attacked. Mostly this has produced claims in the press by unnamed "aid workers" in the area that this "undermines" the United States' case that it isn't attacking civilians.
Hey, aid workers: you're in freaking Afghanistan! Wake up! It's not safe! Why should you expect it to be safe from American attacks when it's not safe from anything else?
Hey, people who support "aid" projects: why give your money to people this stupid?
This is a war. It's "raid, not aid." Get used to it.
A UNITARIAN READER SENDS ME THIS SERMON as proof that "not all Unitarians are bozos." Excerpt:
This said, to pray only for peace right now is unwittingly to pray for a war more unimaginable than awakening to the World Trade Center smoldering in ashes. After a day's worth of breathless repetition, we may be tiring of the Pearl Harbor metaphor, even finding it dangerous. Yet, if anything, the comparison is too comforting. After simmering for decades, yesterday World War III commenced in earnest, against an enemy more illusive and more dangerous than any we have ever known before. Good people here in American and around the world must join in a common crusade against a common enemy. From this day forward, any state that sequesters terrorists as a secret part of their arsenal must be held directly accountable. The only way the world as we know it will not end in a chaos of nuclear terror is if, first, we take every appropriate measure to destroy the terrorist henchmen themselves; and if, then, we make any cowardly nation state that finances and protects terrorists so manifestly answerable for this crime that they will never commit it again. Both challenges are daunting. I am not in the least confident that success in either or both will prove possible. And I know that the effort to curb terrorism will shed more innocent blood, claiming the precious and fragile lives of children and parents, lovers and friends, falling from windows, crushed under buildings. But the future as we knew it ended yesterday. Even as Churchill not Chamberlain answered the threat of Hitler, we must unite to respond to this new threat with force not appeasement.
Wow. Yale Law School and now the Unitarian Church, both sounding Churchillian. Note to bin Laden: You're in deep doo-doo.
A READER WRITES ON DREHER & OPRAH:
Oprah is guilty of being touchy-feely, but given the wildly negative misconceptions most Americans hold towards Islam (I don't agree that Americans other than a few academics romaticize it a bit), such perspectives serve to mute, not feed, extreemist thinking. Oprah's stuff is also valuable propaganda material right now. Think what a disaster it would be if Muslims really decided the US was out to get them. We need to work hard to keep this from being a Huntington-esq clash of civilizations -- because that way lies global disaster.
As for the idea of an "Islamic 5th Column", I would point to the fact that there have been no individual acts of jiffy-pop resistance among American Muslims (not even dopy adolescents). No pro-Taliban grafitti, no Muslim-American suicide bombers, etc. This, so far, is a pretty good sign that there are no substantial anti-American tendencies among American Muslims. I repeat my earlier comment that Terrorism should not be made a "thought crime."
Excellent points, all, from a voice of reason. Which it's never easy to be, especially in times like these.
EXCELLENT OBSERVATIONS BY GREGG EASTERBROOK in The New Republic:
Contrast the care taken by the United States and Great Britain to avoid civilian casualties with the way the self-declared champion of Islam, Osama bin Laden, behaves. Wherever bin Laden goes, Muslims die. Sudan was wracked by Muslim-on-Muslim killing when bin Laden was present. Muslim-on-Muslim killing intensified in Afghanistan when bin Laden arrived. Now he delights in sending Muslims off to commit suicide, and he seems to hope that he'll incite Western massacres of Muslims in Afghanistan and trigger Muslim-on-Muslim killing rampages in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. This is what hadith, or Muslim spiritual tradition, warns that the servants of Satan will attempt: to cause global upheaval that kills Muslims. Hadith also warns that their reason will be that they serve the Devil, not Allah.
I hope we're making these points in Arabic, somewhere.
WALTER OLSON WRITES that the Washington Post column about the jubilant muslim employee may not be true -- that is, the column is real, but the information in it may not be. He's investigating, and has appended a notice on his site (see link below).
BACK TO NORMAL: Just took another walk around campus. It's an absolutely gorgeous, crisp fall day (sunny, clear, low '60s). When I got in this morning the campus smelled of roasting coffee, courtesy of the JFG Coffee roasting house nearby. The wind has shifted and it's just clear and clean. Still a lot of flags, but otherwise no real sense of anything unusual. It felt good.
INEPT ANTHRAX ATTACK? That's what I said yesterday afternoon ("Prediction: it's terrorist action, but they got the spray wrong and produced droplets too big to be easily inhaled, so they spread the stuff but didn't cause many cases"), and that's what this article suggests. This is actually good news, if it pans out.
ANTHRAX FACTS: Reader Doug Turnbull notes the following:
The first is that the anthrax microbes in the Florida outbreak are susceptible to penicillin. The Soviet germ warfare labs developed strains that are resistant to penicillin and so are harder to treat. In contrast, Iraqi strains show no such resistance. The second, and perhaps most vital info, is that the CDC may, by using DNA sequencing, be able to trace the origin of the anthrax spores. I don't know how specific this could get, but it could provide a "smoking gun" linking Iraq (or Sudan, or wherever) to the support of these terrorists. I think these criminals didn't have any conception of just how sophisticated forensic science is, and what evidence and traces they were actually leaving behind.
I'm sure I don't need to spell out what will happen to Hussein and Iraq (or any other government) if he's linked to a WMD attack on the US. If its true, the limits of "proportionate response" just got a lot wider.
Yep. And it doesn't matter how you pronounce it.
OH, JEEZ: Overlawyered.Com reports on a company where a female muslim employee literally jumped for joy on seeing the September 11 attacks, shouting "yes! yes!" When people complained to the HR department, they were told, essentially, to shut up for fear of a harassment claim. It gets worse. Read the whole item.
Note to American Muslims: this kind of behavior is the sort of thing that I suggest below is a bad idea.
FLU VACCINE: They need to be pumping this out as fast as possible -- imagine the problems if everyone with "flu-like symptoms" demands to be checked for anthrax. Unfortunately, I believe there are shortages.
WHEN I SEE "OPRAH" IN A HEADLINE I tend to tune out. That occasionally causes me to miss items, like this nugget from NRO by Rod Dreher, Islam According to Oprah, just pointed out to me by an alert reader:
Watching Oprah's "Islam 101" program, I thought of the Lebanese Catholics at my church, who stopped me after a prayer service for the World Trade Center dead to talk, on the record, about the anti-Arab persecution they feared coming.
They all said they knew plenty of Muslims here in New York who were peace-loving people, and that it would be wrong to think ill of them. I asked these Arab Christians if these Muslims supported terrorist organizations, monetarily or otherwise. Every one of them said yes, sheepishly. After the interview was over, the group asked me not to use their last names. They were afraid of being physically attacked by Muslims in their neighborhoods — this, for standing up for America in print.
"That's amazing," I said to them. "You are all Christians living in the United States of America, yet you are afraid to have your names attached to patriotic statements, out of fear that your Muslim neighbors, the same people you are defending to me, will attack you. What does that say about the reality of Islam in America?"
Dreher also mentions this:
In Sunday's New York Times, a reporter wrote of interviews she had with Muslim American students right here in my own Brooklyn neighborhood. One of the male students said, on the record, that he would abandon the United States and give his own life to back an "observant Muslim who is fighting for an Islamic cause." Oprah honey, this is called sedition, and if there is an Islamic fifth column in this country, the American public needs to know about it. [I believe that this is the story he means].
Note to American Muslims: if very many of you feel this way, and act on it, Ann Coulter will win and the internment camps and mass deportation won't be far away. And if this really represents the feeling of a large part of the American Muslim community (which I doubt, see this New York Times
story for a different perspective), it will be justified, this time.
UPDATE: Looking at this post again, I don't like it. But I'm not sure how else to say this. Before World War Two, the Germans set up a rather extensive spy network in the United States, which immediately collapsed upon the declaration of war because its members -- who had been able to tell themselves that they weren't really betraying their country when it was peacetime -- just stopped working. Some even came forward to cooperate with authorities. One of my colleagues tells me that this is one reason why the Justice Department didn't go after German Americans very hard. I hope, of course, that Ladenite sleeper agents in the United States have done the same thing. But if the Muslim community looks like a hotbed of sympathy -- and support -- for anti-American terrorism, things are likely to go badly. Leaders of the Muslim American community need to be clear on this, and to act appropriately. All of the current talk about most Muslims being loyal, peace-loving, etc., will actually backfire if the public decides that it was never true, as nobody likes to feel that they've been had.
VANESSA LEGGETT UPDATE: Vanessa Leggett, a staple of pre-9/11 InstaPundit, is still in jail. Her contempt sentence should end on October 12, when the grand jury whose subpoena she is refusing ends its session. Now prosecutors are seeking a six-month extension of her jail time. Leggett has already set the record for length of time a journalist has been held in jail under these circumstances, and trying for an extension seems -- like a lot of what's going on here -- to be suspiciously vindictive. When law enforcement needs all its credibility intact for matters of national security, it shouldn't be squandering it on one U.S. Attorney's wounded-ego witch hunt, which is what this is starting to look like. Got that, Mr. Ashcroft?
ISLAM'S KU KLUX KLAN: That's what Iraqi dissident Kanan Makiya calls the Ladenite heresy. And Makiya says that the entire Islamic world will pay the price.
I am not talking about the next war in Afghanistan or greatly redoubled efforts to hunt down Muslim and Arab terrorists from Boston and Hamburg to Cairo and Karachi. The price I am talking about is not paid in blood or by being the victim of the kinds of humiliating slurs and racist attacks that are everywhere on the rise in the West. It is the much greater price brought about by continuing to wallow in the sense of one's own victimhood to the point of losing the essentially universal idea of human dignity and worth that is the only true measure of civility.
To argue, as many Arabs and Muslims are doing today (and not a few liberal Western voices), that 'Americans should ask themselves why they are so hated in the world' is to make such a concession; it is to provide a justification, however unwittingly, for this kind of warped mindset. The thinking is the same as the 'linkage' dreamed up by Saddam Hussein when he tried to get the Arab world to believe that he had occupied Kuwait in 1990 in order to liberate Palestine. The difference being that if the argument was intellectually vacuous then, it is a thousand times more so now.
Worse than being wrong, however, it is morally bankrupt, to say nothing of being counterproductive. For every attempt to 'rationalise' or 'explain' the new anti-Americanism rampant in so much of the Muslim and Arab worlds bolsters the project of the perpetrators of the heinous act of 11 September, which is to blur the lines that separate their sect of a few hundred people from hundreds of millions of peace-loving Muslims and Arabs.
But it is now up to Arabs and Muslims to draw the line that separates them from the Osama bin Ladens of this world just as it was up to Americans to excoriate, isolate, outlaw, imprison and eventually root out the members of the Klan from their midst.
Well worth reading in its entirety.
A MAN WHO TRIED TO FORCE HIS WAY INTO A COCKPIT on an airliner yesterday was quickly subdued by passengers. "The stewardess yelled, `Get that guy!' And I want to tell you, people just reacted so incredibly quickly," said one passenger, adding "You know Americans will never be led to slaughter again on an airplane. . . . Everybody was used to just sitting down and being quiet and doing what people said. And you know that, they're just going to fight to the death now, truly."
This is exactly the right psychology. A diffuse threat like terrorism requires a diffuse defense. Wendy McElroy has some interesting additional thoughts along these lines.
TRAFFIC: Over 8200 yesterday. Wow. I'm speechless, and that doesn't happen much.
"REINTRODUCED TO THE DISCIPLINE OF HISTORY": I said this wasn't Vietnam, and I said that the American public doesn't expect to get out of it on the cheap. But this essay by Tony Kronman, Dean of the Yale Law School, makes it clear just how far that sentiment goes:
We can no longer afford the illusion, nourished by the Gulf War and the Kosovo bombings, that we can defeat our enemies with no risk to ourselves. The risks this time are real and large. American lives are likely to be lost in Afghanistan. American lives are likely to be lost in America. But it would be foolish to think we can avoid these risks by being more understanding or agreeable, by withdrawing our troops from Saudi Arabia, or lifting the sanctions on Iraq, or demanding (as if that were within our power) that Israel give Palestine all it wants.
We could do these things, and the risk would remain because our enemies hate the civilization we represent and that civilization is not ours to bargain away. No compromise could have prevented the attack on Sept. 11, and none can eliminate the risks we face now. This is a sober fact, but not a new one, for every nation, every people, that has ever been forced to defend its highest values and deepest interests has faced risks of this sort. We have simply been reintroduced to the discipline of history. For the last 12 years, since the end of the Cold War, American values and interests have appeared to be unchallenged. But they are not. And now we must meet the challenge.
When the Dean of the Yale Law School starts sounding Churchillian, you know that the country has gotten serious. Speaking as an alumnus, the moral clarity of this statement makes me proud.
OLIVER STONE IS AN IDIOT or else this quote is out of context:
The six companies [Viacom, News Corp., Disney, Bertlesmann, Sony, and Time Warner-AOL] are gonna decide what people see and they own all these small companies and there's...a control of ideas. We are in a dilemna. We have too much order. The revolt on September 11 was a f--- you [to the New World Order].
I don't think the Ladenites' problem is that there's not enough choice on cable. Call me crazy.
THE ANTHRAX SCARE: This is actually probably good news. Let me explain. First, it appears to have been sent in the mail, an idiotic method for spreading anthrax, suggesting that they didn't have a better one. Second, it appears that it was probably sent by the now-dead 19. That suggests that Al-Qaeda doesn't have a lot of resources in the States. Combining operations like that is dangerous, and ordinarily you wouldn't do it if you didn't have to -- had anyone caught on to the anthrax ploy, which was a sideshow, the whole operation could have been blown. So there are only two reasons why you might combine these operations: (1) you're stupid; and (2) you don't have enough resources to do it any other way. I'm betting on (2), because while these guys are stupid in the larger sense -- I guarantee, the end result of this won't be anything the Ladenites like -- they aren't stupid in the tactical or operational sense.
A PAKISTANI PROTESTER WHO BURNED AN AMERICAN FLAG WAS ENGULFED IN FLAMES, presumably as a result of too-exuberant application of gasoline. You can see the story and photo here. This is likely a metaphor for the whole Ladenite endeavor.
"ROB RECTOR raises this question (based on an LA Times piece):
One big worry of retired Maj. Gen. James Guest, a former commander of the Army's Green Berets, is what might happen if the Taliban captures a Green Beret. Guest says terrorists have tortured Russian prisoners--sometimes skinning them alive and sending videotapes of the horror to the victims' hometowns. What, Guest asks, would happen to public support for this war if tapes of Americans being tortured were shown on television?
I think that Guest, like the peace protesters, is stuck in the wrong war. In Vietnam, or some other conflict where the public felt that there wasn't much of a stake, the result of such a tactic might have been pressure to end the war. Here, I think it would be pressure for vengeance -- vengeance served cold, perhaps, but vengeance nonetheless. This isn't some half-assed endeavor we can quit when we want: nobody's going to stop crashing our planes or mailing us anthrax because we go home. Quite the contrary. This is war, and it ends when the enemy is unable to hurt us. Most of the public seems to understand that. I guess the "opinion leaders" will catch up eventually.
THE ALWAYS-INTERESTING TONY ADRAGNA has this shrewd observation on his new site:
bin Ladens taped remarks are informative for what's not on them - his own submission to the will of Allah. Muslims may correct me, but my understanding is that all things in Islam are subject to the will of Allah, but bin Laden seems to assert that Allah is looking out for what bin Laden wills. Bin Laden says "may God" do things, and swears an oath "by God", but never uses the formula "if God wills". Sounds like a megalomaniac to me.
I hope someone from the Psychological Warfare outfit reads this and can make hay out of it.
WOW! I hadn't checked the counter in a while (busy updating my virus protection, etc.) and it's now already at 6350, blowing past the previous record with many hours to go. Thanks for reading my electronic scribbles.
THE SUNERA THOBANI AWARD for today goes to Guardian columnist Madeleine Bunting:
War propaganda requires moral clarity. . . . Both Bin Laden and the Taliban are being demonised into absurd Bond-style villains, while halos are hung over our heads by throwing the moral net wide: we are not just fighting to protect ourselves out of narrow self-interest, but for a new moral order in which the Afghans will be the first beneficiaries.
Okay, here's a challenge for Bunting: explain how bin Laden and the Taliban have been "demonised" by writing an entire column that defends them. No fair skittering off into attacks on America, the West, or anything else -- just write an entire column on how the Taliban and bin Laden aren't really so bad.
I can't help suspecting that what she -- and the rest of the "antiwar" Left -- really hate about this is the "moral clarity" part. Their entire approach to life depends on undermining moral clarity. For if there is moral clarity, someone, somewhere might expect something of them, which is just an intolerable thought.
INSTAPUNDIT IS IN Best of the Web today, for the Kaybee toys story from Saturday. Cool!
WINNERS & LOSERS: My brother has been wondering if the religious strictness of the Taliban will produce a backlash against religious moralism in the United States, making Jerry Falwell an even bigger loser than he already is. There's some evidence for that proposition in these remarks by conservative activist Patrick Ruffini:
On another nerve-touching note, I have to say that all this has soured me quite a bit on the religious right. It's not that Jerry Falwell's and Pat Robertson's reprehensible remarks are representative of all Christian conservatives, and it's not that they are comparable in any way to the Taliban. But it seems to me that if you want to take the strongest possible stand against terrorism — and the sick brand of religious extremism that fuels it — you must vigorously oppose each and every claim the terrorists make, including their attack on the "decadent values" of American society. The fact that the Taliban stone homosexuals should only make us more ardent in their defense at home and abroad. The attacks exposed the bright line dividing morality and evil for all to see, and the faults of American social liberals many of us on the Right criticized for so long seem utterly immaterial to that divide. In principle, I find myself suddenly more accepting of anything we could do to thumb our noses at the terrorists — whether that be invoking the hand of Allah in carpet bombing them into oblivion — or allowing ourselves a little more of the social permissiveness they hate.
NOT SUCH AN ISOLATED INCIDENT: There's evidence of more anthrax exposure -- though no more cases -- in Florida today. Prediction: it's terrorist action, but they got the spray wrong and produced droplets too big to be easily inhaled, so they spread the stuff but didn't cause many cases. This was what happened with Aum Shinryiko in Japan. Either that, or we'll see a lot more cases shortly. It's still barely possible that there's no foul play involved, but that's not the way to bet.
BAD NEWS FOR THE "SOLDIERS OF ALLAH" -- They're featured on an Internet Radio Station dedicated to anti-Osama songs. The number-one tune is "I Wanna Bomb Osama" (to the tune of "La Bamba") which features some rappin' by GW Bush. No, really. This can't make them happy.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Best of the Web" serves up this gem:
Jonathan Alter on the "antiwar" intelligentsia: "Talk about ironic: the same people always urging us to not blame the victim in rape cases are now saying Uncle Sam wore a short skirt and asked for it."
FOR DECADES, AMERICANS HAVE COMPLAINED that we send troops and planes to defend Europe, but that Europe doesn't do the same for us. Well, as reader Dale Amon notes, now Europe is returning the favor by sending five NATO AWACs planes to patrol American skies, so as to free up some American planes to go elsewhere. I expect that their crews will find Americans quite friendly.
READER ROBERT CRAWFORD OBSERVES:
Let's see -- Moslems kill 6,500+ civilians in America, and, in a nation of 270 million, there are a few dozen idiots who attack Moslems.
When the US retaliates, and appears to have accidentally killed a few dozen civilians while attacking _military targets_, 12,000 people go on a violent rampage through the streets of Quetta, Pakistan -- a city of 1.5 million.
MOVE OVER "OPERATION RESCUE:" The Alliance for Justice, having failed miserably to see its anti-gun agenda enacted into law and seeing its stock fall still further as gun sales boom after September 11, is taking a page from the (also failing) anti-abortion movement's playbook: it's sending people to gun stores to hand out literature and hassle customers as they go in. This is desperation, pure and simple. Perhaps they're hoping to provoke violence that they think will help their position -- though one doubts that this will work, or that it will get much sympathy if it does.
SOME INTERESTING OBSERVATIONS, AS USUAL, FROM ANDREA SEE:
Read this, it makes sense (and it's funny). It makes even more sense since Mr Osama said the US is "full of fear". Mr Osama, I really think not. The guy seems to have no idea how nucking futs American people will get when they see an attack on their country. Obviously, he thinks people who live in the US (or are secular, capitalist types like Blair) are so corrupt they wouldn't band together like this. Or he wants the military retaliation to destroy Afghanistan and martyr himself.
I think he wants both. But I also believe he is scared shitless. If he was such a warrior and leader, he wouldn't be hiding.
I'm going to have some more thoughts of my own on Central Asia, but I'm busy with an oped for FoxNews.Com (I'm picking up a slot as a columnist there, starting later this week) so it will have to wait a while.
"I CALL JIHAD AGAINST TERRORISM:" A READER FORWARDS THIS THOUGHT off the Anthro-L email list:
These words that people banter about for the impending and now initiated "campaign against terrorism" have been bothering me. Despite the military action against Afghanistan yesterday, I don't think overall this is a "war". Nor do I like the connotation of "crusade", although in hindsight that may prove to be the truth. But perhaps we could really diffuse the supposed anti-Islamic angle some have proposed and call this a "jihad"... Is this not a defensive action, to protect the US nation..? Just a thought.
MORE CLAPTRAP: A reader points up an Andover, Massachusssetts Unitarian minister's sermon that is posted on the Unitarian Service Committee's main website. Among other things it blames the United States for Chinese massacres in Tibet (huh? -- oh, I see, it says that American influence reaches everywhere, so I guess that means we're responsible for everything that happens) and, amidsts a confused, cliche-ridden ramble, lets forth this gem: "We must acknowledge that democracy and capitalism are irreconcilable forces."
Yes, the world has so many non-capitalist democracies. Let's see, there's... uh, ... well, never mind. Here's another gem: "If your efforts are striking true there is always a saboteur in the shadows." He's talking about peace activism (natch) but think about the implications here: the United States' efforts must be striking true, since we're encountering a lot of "saboteurs in the shadows." Has he considered this inconsistency? Of course not. Such considerations are beneath the morally superior.
Do these people think? At all?
What's disturbing is that the Unitarians put this up on their national website, presumably indicating that they think it's the best they have to offer. The sad part of that statement is that it may be true.
AND ANOTHER THING: I keep seeing signs in coverage of peace protests calling it a "Racist War." As best I can tell, "racist" has become an all purpose term for anything the Left dislikes. Therefore, a war that the Left dislikes must be racist. Jeez.
JAMES ROBBINS WRITES: "So the World Trade Towers had to come down because some psychopath can't come to grips with the end of World War I? Basically, yes. In bin Laden's universe, that was when everything started to go wrong." Yep. An awful lot of these guys think that the end of the Ottoman Empire, and Ataturk's abolition of the Caliphate in 1924, were the big bad event. (Don't believe me? Listen to this Muslim fundamentalist rap tune by the "Soldiers of Allah," called "1924.")
This seems absurd to Americans, who are (in my opinion) more blessed than cursed by their lack of a sense of history. But these guys really believe it.
But here's my observation: if the Caliphate still existed, providing an overarching structure for Islam throughout the Muslim world, these guys would be staging a revolt against it. First the revolutionary; only then, the cause.
I'M LISTENING TO AN NPR STORY from Seattle, in which a peace protester there is saying that she was "more sickened" by the U.S. strikes on Afghanistan than she was when she heard about the September 11 attacks. Sadly, I believe her.
EUROPEANS: "Bush isn't as dumb as we thought." Well, duh.
THE HOLLOWNESS OF THE PEACE MOVEMENT is shown in this quote from a New York Times story today:
Asked about alternatives to war, she said: "We have international standards. We don't need to attack the Afghani people."
Note the absolute meaninglessness of this statement. What "international standards" does she mean? No answer there. (The usual international standard, embodied in Article 51 of the UN Charter, is to destroy those who attack you). Attacking the "Afghani People?" I don't think we are -- I think they're the ones we're dropping food and medicine on, while we drop bombs on the Taliban. But change it to the truth, so that it reads, "We don't need to attack the vicious, torturing, misogynistic, homophobic Taliban government," and it doesn't sit so well, especially in the mouth of a self-described leftist. (And what's this "Afghani" business?
Last I checked, there were no Afghanis, only Afghans. Could this woman even find Afghanistan on a map?).
And, of course, notice the failure to answer the question. "International standards" aren't an alternative to war, because they don't exist. Their only function is to keep the speaker from having to answer a question about alternatives, because the peace movement doesn't actually have any.
The peace movement, at this point at least, isn't about alternatives. It isn't about solving problems. It's just about opposing military action by the United States (the only kind of military action, apparently, that threatens "peace"). Wake up folks, it's not Vietnam.
ARMING PILOTS: An interesting point from reader Alex Knapp. "My question regarding a potential pilot's strike is this -- will the radical left support a strike by these workers who feel that their working conditions are unsafe?" This should be amusing to watch, though I doubt it will reach that point.
READER PATRICK PHILLIPS WRITES:
I must admit that you are doing considerable damage to my (negative) biases about college professors and lawyers. Again, keep up the good work, everyone needs to have their biases challenged.
Aw, shucks, I'm blushing. But, as I say, the people who give professors and lawyers a bad image -- like the people who give muslims a bad image -- are a small but noisy and self-absorbed minority.
Concerning the remains of Mr. Atta, which are in the care of the U.S. government. Mr. Atta seems to have left some very detailed directions in his will on how his body is to be treated. Have you noticed that Mr. Atta seems to have been very confident that his dead body would be treated respectfully by the infidel dogs whose countrymen he would soon murder?
Yes, I think that one reason Americans get so annoyed at all the anti-American vaporings is that, when push comes to shove, everyone assumes that they can rely on the kindness of Yanks. And, of course, they're mostly right. God help them if that ever ceases to be true.
THEY DON'T MENTION INSTAPUNDIT but the Washington Times mentions the ELF and their arson manual in this editorial.
AIRPORT SECURITY: NO BETTER. At least that's what this report on successful efforts to get all sorts of weapons past security indicates. Great quote: '"We don't have better airport security in this country," said Michael Boyd, an aviation consultant from Evergreen, Colo., when told of The News' investigation. "This kind of test proves it. All we have is more inconvenient security."' But it's hell on nail clippers. Here's another quote from a voice of sanity: '"Yes, we have to ensure items don't get on the plane, but the more important issue is not what gets on a plane, but who," said Ray Kelly, former NYPD commissioner and now chief of global security for investment giant Bear Stearns.'
AIRLINE PILOTS ARE THREATENING TO WALK OFF THE JOB if they are not allowed to arm themselves, according to this report.
THE BIN LADEN DOCTRINE: That's a term of Virginia Postrel's (yes, she's got some new stuff up on her page tonight!). The Brezhnev doctrine, you may recall, was that no communist country could ever go non-communist. It's what led the Soviets into their disastrous invasion of Afghanistan. Ironically, bin Laden seems to take the position that no muslim country can ever go non-muslim, and that any kind of tolerance or heterogeneity leads inevitably to becoming non-muslim, which has led him to undertake his -- prediction here -- equally disastrous assault on the West.
The more I look at it, the more I think that Ladenism has the classic hallmarks of what anthropologists call a "revitalization movement," the surge of energy produced by a dying culture that tries to save itself by reinforcing old traditions and adopting loony new versions of same. (Compare with the Ghost Dance and Bear Shirt movements among Native Americans). Such movements are dangerous, for a time, but they have one key characteristic: they always fail.
THE UNITED STATES HAS SOME OF THE HIJACKERS' BODIES, reports the Times of London. But what to do with them?
My first inclination is to sew them inside of pig carcasses. But I suppose that would be more provocative than useful.
MICHAEL BARONE hits the nail on the head in his latest column. Though a lot of people are suggesting that this war will lead to the kind of government growth we experienced in World War Two and the Cold War, he suggests otherwise. This is, in many ways, a "decision curve war." The terrorists got inside the government security apparatus's decision curve, changing tactics faster than those who were tasked with stopping them them. But as I noted on 10/5 in my discussion of Brad Todd's excellent "109 minutes" column about United Airlines Flight 93, American civilians, using civilian technology, got inside the terrorists' decision curve very rapidly -- in, as Brad Todd points out, 109 minutes. Barone makes this point, too:
This war seems likely to require the things postindustrial America is good at. It requires high-technology weapons and information technology. It requires relatively small, highly trained, readily adaptable military units. It requires an openness and ability to deal with people who are different from us. Victory in World War II built confidence in big government and the other big units of industrial America, confidence that lasted another two decades until big government performed poorly in Vietnam. Success in the war against terrorism should build confidence in our supple, creative, small-unit postindustrial America–not in a big government we don't need.
He's exactly right.
WORLD SHOWS LITTLE SYMPATHY FOR TALIBAN: And that's as it should be. No doubt Sunera Thobani will speak out in their defense, though.
MORE STRIKES IN THE UNITED STATES? We've been warned to expect them, so people should be extra vigilant. Politicians seem worried that Americans will panic. But this is war. Londoners didn't panic in the blitz, and I doubt that Americans (or anyone else who is targeted) will panic. Certainly most of the prospective panic I've seen has been from TV commentators.
BACK, BACK ON THE SET, AND COVERING ALL BETS: The smart bombs appear to be falling in Afghanistan now. This is all I know at the moment.
SUPERB PIECE BY ANDREW SULLIVAN in today's New York Times Magazine. It may not be a religious war to us, he says, but it certainly is to them. And, in a sense, it is even to us, though it's our civic religion of freedom that is at stake:
The security against an American Taliban is therefore relatively simple: it's the Constitution. And the surprising consequence of this separation is not that it led to a collapse of religious faith in America -- as weak human beings found themselves unable to believe without social and political reinforcement -- but that it led to one of the most vibrantly religious civil societies on earth. No other country has achieved this. And it is this achievement that the Taliban and bin Laden have now decided to challenge. It is a living, tangible rebuke to everything they believe in.
AN INTERESTING ESSAY, inspired by the movie The Dish, notes:
The men and women of the space program, and their legions of scientific antecedents, spent countless hours acquiring the knowledge and developing the moral values that led to the moon landing. Not many years later, Osama bin Laden and his fellow terrorists also spent many hours of planning, sitting not in laboratories and libraries, but in tents and caves, with one goal: not to create, but to annihilate human creations. The scientists measured their success by how much they could produce. The terrorists measure their success by how much they can destroy. The space program represents life; bin Laden represents death. That is the philosophic choice the two sides represent—and the choice we all have to make. . . .
There are too many terrorists worldwide for their actions to be explained as psychotic. Whether they are Osama bin Ladens or Ted Kaczynskis, they take their philosophy seriously. For them, evil lives in the form of Western man, in a capitalist society, using his own mind to reshape the world to achieve his own happiness. The terrorists want to destroy that.
Their ideal world, the Eden envisioned by these nihilists, is a negation—a world absent of things: no skyscrapers, no space program, no science, no technology. It is a world devoid of the products of the rational, independent human mind. It is a world of self-abnegation, submission and subservience. It is a world of living death.
At first I thought this was overstatement. Then I thought about the Taliban's version of the world, in Afghanistan -- and about the Earth Liberation Front
with their online arson manual. Maybe there's something to this after all. (I found it via Fredrik Norman
READER BILL RUDERSDORF thinks the LA Times editorial I cited earlier was "galling in its condescension" toward Native Americans, by acting as if loyalty on their part was somehow unusual:
Native Americans certainly have had a hard time of it, much at the hands of the gulag-style Federal administration of reservations for much of their existence, but almost never remembered, much less shouted from the rooftops is the simple fact that, during WWII and Korea at least, Native Americans had the highest enlistment rate of any of our citizens.
They distinguished themselves wherever they went. The Pacific war would have been even more horrific had it not been for Navajo Code Talkers' brilliant work, and one of the handful of men in Joe Rosenthal's famous photo of the flag raising at Iwo Jima was a Pima from Arizona. He wasn't there to make a quota, he was there like tens of thousands of his fellow Native Americans.
MICKEY KAUS POINTS OUT this New York Times story by Danny Hakim on the 2-1 loss by the UAW in efforts to organize Nissan's plant in Smyrna, Tennessee. Kausfiles is right to knock the story for its one-sided nature (it asks UAW folks why they lost -- why not ask workers?). I stand by what InstaPundit said on October 4, and August 23: the real problem is that unions are seen as things that get in the way of doing the job, even by workers. The workplace, and workers, have changed. Unions haven't.
BANNER WATCH UPDATE: Steve Chapman notes the absence of the Banner in a column today:
You may be under the impression that "The Star-Spangled Banner" is the national anthem. Lately, though, you're about as likely to hear it as you are to hear "The Internationale." Instead, "God Bless America," written in 1918 by Irving Berlin for a Broadway musical, has become the patriotic tune of the hour. . . .
In any case, there's no reason to abandon "The Star-Spangled Banner," which has virtues that may not be obvious. It was written by Francis Scott Key after he witnessed the British bombardment of Ft. McHenry during the War of 1812--an event of more historical note than a Broadway musical.
His composition is distinctive. It has heft, drama and complexity, qualities that keep it from growing stale. It has high notes and low notes, which are spine-tingling, even if they're a bit of a challenge to sing. It's proud without being triumphalist. It's more rousing than its rivals, and it works as well during a war as it does in peacetime.
There's nothing wrong with having more than one patriotic song we can sing, depending on the occasion.
But when "God Bless America" begins to bore us, "The Star-Spangled Banner" will still wave.
THE LOS ANGELES TIMES finds today's patriotism to be of "startling sophistication and vitality." I guess if you've been brought up to regard all flag-wavers as ignorant rednecks, it might be startling, at that. Actually, though, it's an excellent editorial. I highly recommend it. Excerpt:
Suddenly it hit: Democracy and freedom are not just afloat in a sea of equals; they are the ideals to which repressed and downtrodden people worldwide aspire, and when the best hope for ever achieving them is assaulted, nuanced solidarity becomes a rational form of self-defense.
FREEDOM IS NOT ENDANGERED, says James Q. Wilson. He notes that there's nothing like the hysteria and official fear-mongering that accompanied World Wars One and Two, or the McCarthy era.
He's right -- but I think a lot of that has to do with the swift reaction of civil liberties advocates on the left and the right. Peter Jennings, et al. lost no time in pronouncing an end to American liberty within hours of the attacks on September 11 (funny, I thought the press was supposed to protect freedom). Freedom, we were told in so many words, was a childish thing, and we would now have to put aside childish things and get serious. Had there not been a swift counterreaction, the hysteria ball might well have gotten rolling, and we would no doubt be looking at legislation much more like what we saw in World Wars One and Two.
In fact, however, Americans were a lot more balanced about this than the folks in the bigshot national press. Which makes the press's frequent posturing as a defender of liberty rather dubious, doesn't it?
TERRORISM'S SECONDARY EFFECTS: This report from Vonore, Tennessee, a small town between Knoxville and Chattanooga, shows how far worries have spread. Sounds like a bit of an overreaction to me -- evacuating a two-mile radius for an unaccounted-for suitcase -- but maybe they thought it was one of those missing Soviet "suitcase nukes." Sure did tie up traffic, though.
FROM THE NEWSPEAK DEPARTMENT: Excerpts from a fictitious Reuters style memo, published in today's Washington Post:
• No more "Jack the Ripper" references. London's most famous mystery man (the term "murderer" is no longer acceptable) will henceforth be referred to as "Jack the amateur tracheotomist and abdominal surgeon."
• The word "assassin" will not be applied to John Wilkes Booth. He will be described as "an actor who briefly visited President Lincoln's box at Ford's Theatre."
John Wayne Gacy will now be known to Reuters as -- oh, hell, never mind, this is too easy.
TAKING THE OFFENSIVE: Some gun rights organizations are demanding that the Justice Department enforce and protect Second Amendment rights with the same zeal it showed in protecting civil rights during the 1950s and 1960s. Very interesting.
READER MARTIN PRATT WRITES to contest Jeffrey Rosen's story on surveillance cameras, referenced yesterday. He says that they have, in fact, caught some terrorists (though Rosen quotes a British official saying they haven't). He also says that they have led to a drastic reduction in terrorist attacks.
I'm not sure I'm persuaded, but I noticed another post on Slashdot, where there's a thread about this, saying much the same thing. No doubt we'll be hearing more on this as things develop.
In truth, ubiquitous surveillance is probably inevitable within 20 to 30 years. The real question -- as David Brin wrote in his superb book The Transparent Society -- is how accountable the surveillance, and the use of the data from the surveillance, will be. Brin suggests reciprocity -- that we should be able to watch the authorities as freely as they watch us, and that we should be able to see what data they're gathering and where it's going. An essential read for the coming decade; it was even before September 11.
A READER WRITES WITH QUESTIONS:
Love your site. I have these comments and criticisms:
1) You don't sleep much do you? :)
Not enough, but more than when I was practicing law.
2) I would like your postings to appear in larger fonts; I have bad eyes. I use IE 5.0.
Dang. I had hoped the redesign would help this. The problem with larger fonts, though, is that there's a lot of stuff here, and when I go to a truly bigger font there's so much scrolling it causes problems of its own. And there's something about Blogger, which I use to compose this, that seems to prefer fixed font sizes.
3) Why is your e-mail address not a link?
I was getting hit with the Sircam worm constantly, which I discovered can extract email addresses from pages in people's hard-drive caches. This seems to have stopped it.
4) I'm curious how the bills get paid, as I see no ads. Am I getting put on mailing lists?
No mailing lists. I've gotten a lot of requests to put up micropayment links via Amazon and PayPal. I'll get around to it; it just seemed somehow like capitalizing on disaster to stick 'em up right after September 11. In the meantime, for anyone with a burning desire to give me money, email me and I'll tell you where to send a check.
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