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Works and Days

A World in Flux

June 29th, 2007 - 6:01 am

Immigration Implosion

The President never understood why so many Americans were furious about the bill—witness the administration’s condescension toward, and abuse of, its critics.

There is an elemental anger over the issue, even if poorly articulated and sometimes contradictory. But the furor arises from a weariness with 5-pound bilingual phone books or having to select English over the phone as the preferred language.

People were tired of being told by courts that we are a racist society unless we supply interpreters at great cost to those who do not enroll in English classes. There is rampant fraud in areas that Americans were warned since infancy were the third-wires of our legal system such as authentic Social Security numbers and legitimate names. And the most grating was the complete neglect of immigration laws by city- and local officials due to the sanctimoniousness of the race industry on the left and the profit-above-all of the corporate right.

The average, maligned as a racist, middle-class voter (note the bipartisan rejection of the bill) was tired of having to buy insurance, get a driver’s license, ensure his car registration—and then get on highways where thousands simply chose not to. That they did so, because many or perhaps even most were ill-paid and without apparent resources was ironically an argument against more illegal immigration.

In short—the days of ethnic pressures (remember a trembling Gray Davis in California) to issue driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, or the Orwellian effort itself to ban the use of “illegal alien” for “undocumented worker” are for now over. They may return under a President Hillary, but for now the open borders movement has overplayed its hand.

Someone should interview the public relations genius who thought up the May-Day Mexican-flag waving demonstrations the past two years by illegals that came across as more Hugo Chavez than Martin Luther King. He was probably the same one who made the old Cruz Bustamante commercials here in California, replete with the red flags waving among a shouting audience as the candidate whipped them up in Spanish. (I knew that was a disaster when a liberal friend in the Bay Area, who saw one during the recall campaign, called me and asked, “What the Hell are those red flags and screams about?”)

Where do we go from here? First, close the border and all good things arise—more assimilation and integration, less identity politics, higher wages for low-paid American citizens, renewed respect for the law, and a warning to Mexico we will not subsidize its own failure to reform. When the number of illegals is static, the forces of the maligned melting pot will resume. And we will have time to sort out “earned citizenship”, guest workers, and all the other contentious issues that were to be snuck into law under the current legislation—but only when the forces of apartheid are stopped through border security.

Making the Middle East Irrelevant

It happened once before. By 1500 the ever-expanding Ottoman Empire seemed unstoppable, especially when the West was trisected by Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox sectarianism. The Sultan’s galleys roamed even throughout the Western Mediterranean and with impunity raided the Italian coast. But after Lepanto (1571), and by the end of the 16th century— despite the acquisition of Cyprus and with later inroads into eastern Europe, Austria, and more islands still to come—the handwriting for the Turks was on the wall.

Galleys were increasingly obsolete in the age of ocean-going sail and massive broadsides from cheaply made iron cannon. The Mediterranean was soon seen as hardly the nexus of global wealth and communications (in these pre-Suez days, it was more a bottle-neck that led to nowhere), and so the Ottomans became increasingly irrelevant.

The discovery of the Americas, the transfer of vast wealth from the Old to the New world, the drive for cheap land in the new colonies, and the discovery of trade routes by sea to China and India via the Cape of Good Hope, all made the nations with Atlantic ports or access to the northern oceans—England, Germany, Holland, France, Spain, Portugal—best situated to capitalize on the new discoveries. In contrast, those Mediterranean powers, whether the Italian city-states or the Turkish fleet at Istanbul, without such easy approaches were left to die on the withering Mediterranean vine.

In some sense, should we find alternative energy sources—or even just whittle down our daily import demand by 4-5 million barrels (due to conservation, nuclear power, more drilling in Alaska and off our coasts, domestic production of ethanol, tariff-free importation of Brazilin sugar-based ethanol, and a variety of other measures), then the Middle East would be as strategically important to the United States as is present-day central Africa or Sweden.

Correspondence. Some topics readers wrote about:

RE: The Candidates

I have met only Giuliani, Romney, and Thompson. I thought all three were impressive, gifted speakers, and will soon support one of the three—at least to degree that one can when under contract for syndication with Tribune Media Services. I like John McCain’s principled stance on the war.

Both Obama and Hillary are stronger candidates than Gore in 2000 or Kerry in 2004. And both are vigorous, speak well, and will hold their own or maybe win a debate with the Republican frontrunners.

Edwards can’t win and will be a real liability if he is even on the ticket. His recent fund-raising efforts at using Ann Coulter’s attacks against him would be more convincing had he appealed to bipartisan restraint, and chastised Bill Maher for the same sort of death-wish rhetoric about the Vice President she was replying to.

In any case, his blow-dried, mansionette populist rhetoric lacks the authenticity of Jim Webb’s and Edwards will probably exit the race soon. The advantage for Obama and Clinton is that in the general pubic despair over Iraq, they can enjoy public inattention about some of their more quasi-socialist health care, tax, and spending initiatives.

I assume that the 2008 election will be one of the most distasteful, dirtiest, and unpredictable campaigns in American history.

Chickenhawkism

Some wrote demanding that I keep silent about our policy in Iraq if my son is not currently in the armed services. But his own political views, his current employment, his health, and other issues are his private business, and not mine to discuss. We disagree on a number of issues, and I offer advice and dissent. But it is his life and choice, as in the case of all Americans, to support or oppose the war in Iraq, and likewise the manner in which he chooses to do either.

As for the larger bloody-shirt charge that one cannot support a war that his children are not currently engaged in: if that were true, every time we used force—whether we were in the Balkans or Panama or Iraq—we would expect 3 million parents (say 2 parents for each of the 1.6 million currently in active service) of military professionals to de facto support the war or at least be alone free to comment on it. Meanwhile, the other 100 million or so, as taxpayers, voters, or observers wishing the best for their country, would have no right to weigh in on their nation’s policy.

And why is it more wrong to express support for the policy under which troops in the field are fighting than to oppose it?

In general, I have supported the military’s efforts consistently—and still adhere to a general past admission that when Army and Marine Captains, Majors, and Colonels—who are both in the field and also privy to larger tactical and strategic dilemmas— collectively seem to agree that we should not be in Iraq and cannot win, then that is a most valuable barometer, and we should not be in Iraq and must leave. Still, the war will end not when Democrats say so (a given), but when key Republican Senators this fall, worried about their positions in the 2008 election, defect and thus give the opposition a veto- and filibuster-proof 2/3s majority in matters cutting off funding, reminiscent of Vietnam circa 1974-5.

I had a maternal grandfather who stayed on the farm during WWI when his parents were ill, and later raised three daughters who were in college at the time of WWII. He helped financially, to the degree a small farmer could in the post-Depression, his siblings who had sons overseas, and fed and housed many of his nephews when they returned in 1945. In contrast, my paternal grandfather was gassed in 1918 in the Meuse-Argonne offensive and left a near invalid, and later had his orphaned nephew he raised killed on Okinawa, and his only son fly on 39 B-29 combat missions over Japan. I think each in their own way supported the war effort, and each, given the circumstances of the time, did what he could to empower the country at large.

Analogous arguments might arise that the public could not comment on food safety or policy unless they were directly involved in the realities of farming (currently one of the nation’s most likely sources of serious work-related accidents) and so on. I know that after 8 hours with a tandem disk I still listened to arguments about farming while peddling at nighttime coastal farmers’ markets from professors, activists, and others who could not distinguish a springtooth from flat-furrowers.

As for Iraq, I thought the 1998 letter from the Project for the New American Century urging Bill Clinton to take out Saddam Hussein, along with other calls for pre-9/11 preemption, were unsound. But after 9/11, like many I felt that we were now in a global war against terrorists—and dictatorships that had sponsored or abetted Islamic terrorists of all sorts—and so supported, and do support, the war to replace Saddam with a constitutional government. That support comes not out of bellicosity or some sort of aggressive imperialism, but because I think in the long run fewer American lives will be lost should both Afghanistan and Iraq, given their recent pasts, evolve into something far better. Remember teh former was the placenta of 9/11, and the latter had been in a de facto war with the US for 12 years, was suffering from a misplaced but punishing embargo, knee-deep in a $50 billion UN scandal, and was subsidizing terrorists from the West Bank to Kurdistan. But it is easier to reread the 23 counts of the Senate from October 10-11, 2002, (http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c107:4:./temp/~c107N8n6As)—or replay the impassioned Harry Reid tape urging war.

I have been to several cities in Iraq on one trip last February, was stopped on the second en route a year ago due to a ruptured appendix during a few days stop in Libya and emergency surgery there in Tripoli, but should be well enough to try a return to Iraq later this year.

Angry readers

As far as the hostile email, for the last five or so years, I have received about 10 or so furious notes a week. Most are much worse than the occasional upset comments that are posted publicly at this site. Even obscene phone calls to a listed number, and threats through traditional mail have had zero effect on my views, especially the more vehement and threatening that deal with what I have written on immigration, Iraq, and especially Israel. In some sense, even the most overt threats don’t seem as serious as what I have encountered in the flesh over the last forty or so years growing up and living in rural Central California, where assaults, vendettas, threats, break-ins, fist-fights, and farm dust-ups were pretty common in these parts.

In writing opinion journalism over the last decade, it’s a good idea to follow two general rules: never gratuitously, maliciously, or unfairly personally attack anyone—and never let a serious attack against yourself go unanswered.

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