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Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Obama administration, as former UN ambassador John Bolton observed yesterday, is taking extreme measures to forestall a prospective Israeli strike on Iran. Since when does one ally tip off an enemy about another ally’s possible route of attack, in this case, via Azerbaijan? The utter fecklessness of the administration’s foreign policy, though, is forcing the Israelis to act, whatever the administration’s concerns about the price of gas.

Insufficient attention has been given to the prospective collapse of Syria as a motivation for an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear program. In the past several days, Israel has sounded public warnings regarding Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, estimated to be the world’s largest. As the Financial Times wrote on March 22nd, Israel has “profound concern that parts of Syria’s vast stockpile of arms, including long-range missiles as well as chemical and biological weapons, will end up in the hands of militant groups in Lebanon or elsewhere. Speaking to the Israeli parliament this week, Ehud Barak, the defense minister, emphasized the short-term dangers posed by turmoil in Syria. ‘We are monitoring events in Syria, with an eye on any efforts to transfer weapons that would alter the balance . . . Events in Syria increase the uncertainty and the need to prepare for any scenario,’  he warned.”

Israeli officials warn that an even graver risk would emerge if Iran were to intervene in Syria with regular forces to support the Assad regime, perhaps in response to actual or perceived Western backing for the Syrian opposition. In that case Iranian regular forces might have control over Syria’s chemical weapons, and with it the capacity to retaliate against any Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear capacity.

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Under the headline “The Vatican’s Twisted Priorities,” the Italian journalist Giulio Meotti published an incendiary denunciation of alleged Catholic anti-Semitism in the March 16 edition of the Israeli news site Ynet. Meotti wrote:

In a special interview with Die Tagespost last week, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, named by Pope Benedict to represent the Vatican in the Jewish State, declared that “Israel’s existence as such has nothing to do with the Bible.” He then compared Christians’ condition in today’s Jerusalem with Jesus’ Passion: “We Christians never forget that even our Lord himself suffered and was mocked in Jerusalem.”

Ynet should hire a fact checker: Fouad Twal represents not the Vatican, but the small and dwindling community of Arab Catholics in Israel and the Territories. The Vatican’s diplomatic representative in Israel is its ambassador, the Italian Archbishop Antonio Franco. That Arab Christians are Arabs before they are Catholic and maintain an implacable hatred for the Jewish State is nothing new. To survive as an Arab minority, they ingratiate themselves with the  Jew-hatred prevalent in the Muslim majority.  But there are only 120,000 Arabs among the 300,000 Christians resident in the State of Israel, and a growing number attend Catholic services in Hebrew.

The irremediable bitterness of the Arab Christians aside, the Jewish people have a friend in Rome in the person of the present pope, as they did with his great predecessor. As Assaf Sagiv, the editor of the conservative Israeli quarterly Azure, wrote after Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Israel, “Benedict XVI—the former Joseph Ratzinger—is actually one of the best friends the Jewish people has ever had in Vatican City.” The Israeli columnist Aviad Kleinberg wrote at the time, “John Paul and Ratzinger buried once and for all not only the accusation of the Jews’ murdering the messiah, but the entire theological theory that the Christians replaced the Jews and are now the Chosen People and that the New Testament annuls the Old Testament. The Old Testament is still valid, declared the two, and the Jewish people is still God’s chosen and beloved people.”

This is important not simply as a matter of accuracy, but because lingering distrust and anger continue to undermine what should be a Jewish-Catholic alliance for religious freedom. As I argued in a February 19 post (“After they come for the Catholic Church, they will come for us”), the Obama administration’s attempt to force the Catholic Church to dispense abortion pills and contraceptives through health plans offered by its institutions violates the First Amendment. To argue that Catholic institutions should accept federal standards because they accept federal money is nonsense, because they have no choice but to offer health insurance under Obamacare. The haredi organization Agudath Israel backed the Catholic bishops, I reported, but not the Orthodox Union, the Modern Orthodox organization.

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Earlier this week I reviewed Charles A. Kupchan’s new book No-One’s World for the Washington Times.  A former staffer at the Clinton National Security Council, Kupchan drew the admiring blurbs and respectful public television appearances befitting his position. In books on world affairs, I usually start by looking up index entries for things like “Demographics” and “Population.” History, after all, belongs to whomever turns up for it — Thebans instead of Spartans in the 4th century B.C.E, for example, and Romans instead of Greeks in the 2nd century B.C.E, or Goths vs. Romans in the 5th century C.E., and so forth. These are not to be found in Kupchan’s present volume. A number of friends have asked me to cross-post the review here.

NO ONE’S WORLD: THE WEST, THE RISING REST, AND THE COMING GLOBAL TURN

By Charles A. Kupchan

Oxford University Press, $27.95, 272 pages

The future isn’t what it used to be. Never in living memory have foreign policy pundits been father from consensus. China will rule the world, claims Martin Jacques’ 2009 book, or collapse, insists Gordon Chang. America will (or should) remain the world’s dominant power, argues Robert Kagan, or will go down in Armageddon, in Mark Steyn’s latest page-turner. A dozen recent tomes warn of Islam’s march to world’s domination, while at least one (my own) contends that Islam is dying, too.

There is information in the cacophony. Most of the world’s contenders for superpower status have choices to make that could assure their success or seal their doom. Things can’t simply continue as they are. At constant fertility, for example, China’s working-age population will fall by half by the end of this century, and more than half of Japanese will be over 60, according to the United Nations’ demographic model.

Into the fray wades now Charles Kupchan, a Georgetown University professor and a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who proposes to split everything down the middle. If only everyone would be reasonable, Mr. Kupchan enjoins, we would accept that every country is exceptional in its own way and that no country can exercise global hegemony. Mr. Kupchan, who ran the Europe desk at Bill Clinton’s National Security Council, argued in a 2002 book that the European Union would leave America behind. Disappointed, he now selects “None of the Above.”

Democracy promotion tops Mr. Kupchan’s list of Western policy failures; he quotes Robert Kagan’s statement that Western ruling classes “have operated on the ideological conviction that liberal democracy is the only legitimate form of government and that other forms of government are not only illegitimate but transitory,” and counters that “the equation of legitimacy with democracy undermines the West’s influence among emerging powers.”

That is true, as far as it goes, but Mr. Kupchan does not trouble to ask which autocracies might be stable and why. History belongs to those who turn up for it; an alarming number of countries may not. Demographics barely merits a mention in the present book.

Russia has stabilized for the time being, but its working-age population will fall by two-thirds by century’s end if the present trend continues.

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The sad news that James Q. Wilson no longer was with us came on March 3. In this week’s “Spengler” essay at Asia Times Online, I suggest that Mexico follow Wilson’s hugely successful philosophy of crime-fighting in its hitherto unsuccessful war on the drug cartels. Some excerpts:

No political scientist had more impact on the daily lives of Americans than James Q Wilson, who transformed American law enforcement. News of his death came on March 3. Rather than concentrate on kingpins, Wilson argued for controlling petty crime. His classic 1982 article “Broken Windows” argued that maintaining the perception of public order was a precondition for law enforcement; in practice, it implied that controlling petty crime was just as important as arresting the kingpins.

Mexico does what Wilson debunked a generation ago, that is, concentrate on kingpins. But after nearly 50,000 drug-related deaths in the last five years, the problem is worse than before. “The government’s focus on killing or detaining cartel leaders has led younger, more violent criminals into the market,” the New York Times wrote March 18 in a story on Mexican lawlessness…

Libertarians used to argue that arresting criminals was futile as long as crime paid, because there always would be someone willing to take the job; the only remedy, they added, was to legalize drugs, bring down the price and eliminate the economic incentive. The trouble is that the Mexican gangs do not restrict their predations to drugs, as the frightful incidence of kidnapping makes clear…

America has the world’s highest incarceration rate at 743 per 100,000 of population and holds a quarter of all the prison inmates in the world. And the prison population disproportionately includes minorities…The bad news is always the good news. There are fewer crimes because more criminals are in jail…

In 2010, one of Mexico’s most prominent public intellectuals, Enrique Krauze, compared today’s drug violence to the 1910 revolution, which killed 8% of the country’s people. He wrote, “Every 100 years, Mexico seems to have a rendezvous with violence. We are enduring another violent crisis, albeit one that differs greatly from those of a century and two centuries ago…

If it is to break the hold of criminal gangs on many of its cities, Mexico has no choice but to take a page from James Q Wilson’s book. To undertake the Herculean labor of suppressing criminality from the bottom will have terrible consequences, as in Enrique Krauze’s chilling analogy to the 1910 Revolution. The only thing worse is the alternative. It is not enough to arrest the drug lords; it is also necessary to attrite the ranks of their gunmen. How much will it cost? If you have to ask what it costs, you can’t afford to be a country.

The whole essay can be found here.

Santorum Is Right About Manufacturing

March 18th, 2012 - 12:14 pm

Much as I dislike any sort of interference with market allocation of investments, I have come to the reluctant conclusion that Rick Santorum is right to propose special tax breaks for manufacturing, and hereby retract my January 15 criticism of his plan.

There are four issues to consider:

1) Americans urgently need to save more as the Boomer generation retires. The only way to increase savings without shutting off domestic spending is to export and save the proceeds, and to export, America needs to manufacture more;

2) Americans are terrified of investing in manufacturing as emerging Asia establishes its competence in everything from cell phones to computer aircraft;

3) National security; and

4) A disturbingly large percentage of America’s workforce has been sidelined by the loss of America’s monopoly position as the world’s main destination for investment.

 

The last is the most devastating.

 

Just 40% of working-age Americans without a high-school diploma, and 55% with a high-school diploma but no college, presently are working – against 72% with at least a four-year degree. Nothing like this has happened before, and its consequences are catastrophic.

This is killing American families. More than half of all children born to mothers under 30 are born outside of marriage, As the New York Times reported on Feb. 16, “One group still largely resists the trend: college graduates, who overwhelmingly marry before having children. That is turning family structure into a new class divide, with the economic and social rewards of marriage increasingly reserved for people with the most education.”

Charles Murray’s book Coming Apart has already attracted national controversy. I can’t attest to the accuracy of his conclusions, but he clearly is on to something.

If there are few jobs available for Americans without a college diploma, we will have a permanent, growing underclass. Apart from the dreadful human cost, the cost of the overloaded safety net will make it impossible to shrink the budget deficit.

Santorum’s emphasis on jobs for people like his coal-miner grandfather has to strike a chord under these circumstances. Much as I admire Mitt Romney, and continue to believe that he will be the Republican candidate in November, sometimes he seems to think that the U.S. economy is a Harvard Business School case study. At the moment it is the scene of a vast human disaster.

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The mainstream media has finally noticed the fertility implosion in the Muslim world, the title of David Brooks’ column today in the New York Times. Brooks bases his peroration on a thin paper by Nicholas Eberstadt and Apoorva Shah at the American Enterprise Institute, “Fertility Decline in the Muslim World; A Veritable Sea-Change, Still Curiously Unnoticed.”  What is curious, on the contrary, is that Eberstadt and Brooks didn’t notice it; in fact, the academic demographers have been all over this for years, as have the leaders of Iran and Turkey. One doesn’t need to dig into obscure Shi’ite theology to explain the apocalyptic mood of Iran’s leaders. They are aware that their civilization is falling apart and say so in public.

As I quoted Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in my book, How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam is Dying, Too)

On September 10, 2010, the Iranian president declared during a meeting with officials in Alborz province, “Two children” is a formula for the extinction of a nation, not the survival of a nation . . .   The most recent data showing that there are only 18 children for every 10 Iranian couples should raise an alarm among the present generation  . . . .  This is what is wrong with the West. Negative population growth will cause the extinction of our identity and culture. The fact that we have accepted this places us on the wrong path. To want to consume more rather than having children is an act of genocide.

“They want to eradicate the Turkish nation,”Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan averred in 2008. “That’s exactly what they want to do!” The “they” to whom Erdogan referred in his speech to a women’s audience in the provincial town ofUsakmeans whoever is persuading Turkish women to stop bearing children. Turkeyis in a demographic trap. Its birth rate has fallen, and its population is aging almost as fast asIran’s. Speaking as a “worried brother” to his “dear sisters,” Erdogan implored his audience, “In order that our people may remain young, you should have at least three children.” No one listened. “Erdogan asked women to have three children, and demand for contraceptives went up,” sniffed a prominent Turkish academic. Behind the fertility data, Erdogan sees nothing less than a conspiracy to destroyTurkey.  “If we continue the existing trend, 2038 will mark disaster for us,” he warned in May 2010.

The implications of the demographic collapse, properly understood, are that the United States can’t live out the Wilsonian rescue fantasy of exporting democracy to the Muslim world. I explained why seven years ago in an Asia Times Online essay, reproduced below.  The obtuseness of the mainstream media (as well as parts of the conservative establishment) is willful and self-induced.
As I reported in 2005, literacy explains most of the variation in fertility among Muslim countries. Since then, Wolfgang Lutz of the Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, one of the world’s most prominent demographers, showed in a 2008 study, “Education and the World’s Most Rapid Fertility Decline in Iran,” demonstrated that educational differentials explain the fertility collapse in Iran. I reviewed Lutz’ work and other academic research pointing to the same conclusion in my book.
Education is a proxy for modernity. This result has tremendous implications: It shows that Muslim countries (at least most Muslim countries) cannot make their way out of the backwardness of traditional society, for the cure is toxic to the social fabric. As soon as Muslim girls escape the stifling embrace of the traditional Muslim family, with its wife-beating, genital mutilation, honor killings and related forms of disintegration, they turn their backs on the family altogether. They shift directly from pre-modern tribalism to post-modern infertility and anomie. In short, the Muslim world cannot be fixed by nation-building, liberal democracy, and other Utopian gadgetry.

 

The demographics of radical Islam
By Spengler

August 23, 2005

General staffs before World War I began war planning with demographic tables, calculating how many men of military age they might feed to the machine guns. France preferred an early war because its stagnant population would not produce enough soldiers a generation hence to fight Germany. Only Israel’s general staff looks at demographic tables today, to draw prospective boundaries that will enclose a future Jewish majority.

Demographics still provide vital strategic information, albeit in quite a different fashion. Today’s Islamists think like the French general staff in 1914. Islam has one generation in which to establish a global theocracy before hitting a demographic barrier. Islam has enough young men – the pool of unemployed Arabs is expected to reach 25 million by 2010 – to fight a war during the next 30 years. Because of mass migration to Western Europe, the worst of the war might be fought on European soil.

Although the Muslim birth rate today is the world’s second highest (after sub-Saharan Africa), it is falling faster than the birth rate of any other culture. By 2050, according to the latest UN projections, the population growth rate of the Muslim world willconverge on that of the United States (although it will be much higher than Europe’s or China’s).

Falling fertility measures the growing influence of modernity upon the Muslim world. Literacy rates, especially female literacy, best explain the difference between the very high fertility rates of pre-modern society and the moderate fertility rates of industrial countries, as I showed in a recent study (Death by secularism: The statistical evidence, August 1, 2005).

This is clearly the case in the Muslim world where the lowest rates of adult literacy correspond to the highest population growth rate. Literacy alone explains 58% of the variation in birth rates among Muslim countries.

Urbanization, literacy, and openness to the modern world ultimately will suppress the Muslim womb, in the absence of radical measures. In a new volume of essays on modern Islamic thought, the Islamists Suha Taji-Farouki and Basheer M Nafi observe, “Rather than being a development within cultural traditions that is internally generated, 20th century Islamic thought is constitutively responsive; it is substantially a reaction to extrinsic challenges.” [1] The challenge stems from the transformation of Muslim life:

In the Middle East of 1900, for example, less than 10% of the inhabitants were city dwellers; by 1980, 47% were urban. In 1800, Cairo had a population of 250,000, rising to 600,000 by the beginning of the 20th century. The unprecedented influx of immigrants from rural areas brought the population of Cairo to almost 8 million by 1980. Massive urbanization altered patterns of living, of housing and architecture, of the human relation with space and land, of marketing, employment, and consumption, and the very structure of family and social hierarchy. [2]

The sharp fall in the Muslim population growth rate expresses the extreme fragility of traditional society. Translated into the Islamist vocabulary (citing again Taji-Farouki and Nafi), this means that:

A Muslim sense of vulnerability and outrage is further exacerbated by the seemingly unstoppable encroachment of American popular culture and modes of consumerism and the transparent hypocrisy of the American rhetoric of universal rights and liberties. It is also stoked by Western ambivalence towards economic disparities in the world. [3]

Rapid urbanization, to be sure, produced growing pains in every case on record. Britain transported its displaced population to America and then to Australia, including the “clearing” of entire Scots villages forced onto ships for Canada. But Britain’s urbanization coincided with rapid economic growth and improving living standards. The Arab world’s urbanization has only created a stagnant pool of urban poor. As the London Economist summarized in the United Nations Arab Development Report for 2002:

One in five Arabs still live on less than $2 a day. And over the past 20 years growth in income per head, at an annual rate of .5%, was lower than anywhere else in the world except sub-Saharan Africa. At this rate, says the report, it will take the average Arab 140 years to double his income, a target that some regions are set to reach in less than 10 years. Stagnant growth, together with a fast-rising population, means vanishing jobs. About 12 million people, or 15% of the labor force, are already unemployed, and on present trends the number could rise to 25 million by 2010. [4]

Excluding Indonesia, the Muslim’s world literacy rate stands at only 53%, against 81% for China; Arab literacy is only 50%. Only 1% of the population owns a personal computer. It is delusional to believe that the Arab world, which now exports (net of oil) as much as Finland, might come to compete with China, India and the rest of Asia in the global market for goods and services.

Just as the Muslim population peaks, the one bounty that nature has bestowed upon the Arabs, namely oil, will begin to diminish. According to the US Department of Energy, conventional oil production will peak just before 2050 at the present 2% rate of production growth.

In short, the Muslim world half a century from now can expect the short end of the stick from the modern world. It has generated only two great surpluses, namely people and oil. By the middle of the century both of these will have begun to dwindle. But at the moment it has 25 million idle young men. No leader can remain in power who does not give them a destination to march to.

By no means does that imply that all of these 25 million will become suicide bombers, but a great many of them are likely to emigrate to Europe, including Eastern Europe, where populations are stagnant and about to decline. A Muslim takeover of Western Europe surely is a possible outcome.

Notes
[1] Suha Taji-Farouki and Basheer M. Nafi, Islamic Thought in the Twentieth Century (Tauris: London 2004), p 9
[2] Ibid, p 2
[3] Op cit, p 14
[4] Economist, July 4, 2002

Obama’s Purimspiel

March 7th, 2012 - 5:35 am

Tonight begins the Jewish holiday of Purim, the epicenter of silliness in the Jewish calendar. It’s hard not to think of the Obama administration.

Back in the 1970s, Robin Williams used to bring down the house with a nightclub impression of Jimmy Carter addressing the nation on the eve of World War III: “That’s all, g’night, you’re on your own!” But President Carter is a giant next to the present occupant of the Oval Office. In Washington earlier this week, my PJ Media colleague Michael Ledeen reminisced with me about the good old days of the Carter administration, when grown-ups still were in charge: Harold Brown at Defense, James Schlesinger at Energy, Michael Blumenthal at Treasury, Ed Muskie at State, as well as Zbigniew Brzezinski at NSC. That did not obviate the Carter administration’s colossal blunders in foreign policy, which led to a burst of Soviet aggression and a near-fatal weakening of the Western alliance, not to mention a devastating stagflation at home.

Compared to the Carter cabinet, though, the Obamoids are a kids’ Purimspiel, a put-on by the peanut gallery masquerading as adults — a clown show, in plain English. Macbeth was never so beguiled by his witches as is McBama by the witches who surround him: Iran-raised Valerie Jarrett, human-rights mavens Susan Rice and Samantha Power, the resentful Michelle, and the Pink Pantsuit at the State Department. What’s her name again? She used to be somebody important.

I stand by my February 2008 profile of Obama as a sociopath dominated by strong women. Obama and his coven suffer from up-close-and-personal identification with the putatively oppressed peoples of the Third World. That goes far beyond the academic prejudices that liberal college students absorb from post-colonial theory. One has to live in the Third World, as Obama did during four of his formative years and Jarrett did in early childhood, to understand the rage and despair of the losers. Many times during visits to Third World countries, I sort of wished that I were a Communist. You see cruelty and indignity that shouldn’t be visited on a cockroach.

To round out the list, we have Leon Panetta at the Department of Defense, a political operator and accountant whose job is to cut the budget. Timothy Geithner? The Stan Laurel half of a duo with the departed Larry Summers. Tom Donilon as national security advisor? His biggest job was six years as chief lobbyist for bankrupt Fannie Mae.

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The Sunday morning edition of Germany’s Die Welt reports that Western intelligence agencies detected two nuclear weapons tests in North Korea in 2010, and that one or both of them might have been conducted for Iran.  Die Welt sets the reported nuclear tests in the context of new documentation showing that the Iranian regime began its drive for nuclear weapons as early as 1984, under the direct orders of the late Ayatollah Khomeini. The author is the respected German analyst Hans Rühle, whose evaluation of Israel’s capacity to cripple the Iranian nuclear program created a stir last month.

The Die Welt report reads like a line-by-line refutation of the reported U.S. intelligence evaluation that there is no “hard evidence” that Iran is building nuclear weapons. That is a noteworthy reversal: the Obama administration’s intelligence chiefs claim that Iran is not an imminent threat, while a former top German official warns of immediate danger to the Jewish state.  The fact is that there are some Germans who do not want to be responsible for a second Holocaust.

Rühle, who headed the German Defense Ministry’s policy planning staff during the peak of the Cold War in the 1980s, deplores the “credulousness of Western experts” who accept Iran’s protests that its nuclear program is peaceful.

Many Western experts still give credence to these representations. Despite numerous indications to the contrary, they give Iran the presumption of innocence, arguing that a nation’s intent to weaponize nuclear power is not proven until it has carried out a nuclear test. But what if Iran had already tested a nuclear weapon, and not on Iranian territory, but in a place where nuclear tests are conducted without regard for world opinion, and where nuclear expertise and technology have long been exported in exchange for hard currency payments–in North Korea?

Evidence of the 2010 nuclear tests in North Korea was published Feb. 3 in Nature magazine, citing the work of the Swedish nuclear physicist Lars-Erik de Geer. The Swedish scientist analyzed data showing the presence of radioisotopes that betrayed a uranium bomb explosion.  De Geer took the radioisotope data and compared them with the South Korean reports, as well as meteorological records. Nature reports, “After a year of work, he has concluded that North Korea carried out two small nuclear tests in April and May 2010 that caused explosions in the range of 50–200 tonnes of TNT equivalent. The types and ratios of isotopes detected, he says, suggest that North Korea was testing materials and techniques intended to boost the yield of its weapons.”

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