Thursday, June 13, 2002

DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL INSECURITY: Is Colin Powell merely playing the good cop (as far as the international community & media are concerned) or does he actually believe the BS he is shoveling? I used to think that it was primarily the former (see this article for a good summary of why) but based on Ari Fleischer's criticism of the idea for a "provisional" Palestinian state, I'm not so sure.
Regarding the idea, I find it hard to see any benefit to it. Will it make negotiatins over the shape of the new entity less intractable? No. Will it encourage intransigence on the part of the Palestinians? Almost certainly. And if (when) negotiations fail and the Palestinians resume terrorism (assuming they stop for the negotiations), will the state be "cancelled?" I didn't think so either.
Much more on the subject later.
WORTH THE WAIT? Sorry for the absence of posts. Here's today's must-read: a speech by Charles Krauthammer on the Messianic roots and failings of the "peace process." You can also follow a link on the page to listen to the speech in streaming media. (Via Charles Johnson.)

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

MORE ON GREAT MOMENTS IN 9/11 PREVENTION: Mark Steyn is even better than usual in demolishing the clueless loan officer who encountered Mohammed Atta before 9/11:

Ms. Bryant has come forward now because she thinks "it's very vital that the Americans realize that when these people come to the United States, they don't have a big 'T' on their forehead." No, indeed. In some cases, they have a big "T-E-R-R-O-R-I-S-T" flashing in neon off the end of their nose. Ten days ago, I pointed out that these fellows made virtually no effort to blend in. They weren't in "deep cover," they were barely covered at all. Atta was the brains of the operation, and he did a marginally better job of it than Leslie Nielsen would have. His one great insight into Western culture was his assumption that he could get a government grant to take out the Pentagon. Yet no matter how dumb he was, officialdom was always dumber.
"If they watch this interview and they see the type of questions that Atta asked me," Ms. Bryant told ABC News, "then perhaps they will recognize a terrorist, and make the call that I didn't make." Meanwhile, here are some signs to look for:
1) He threatens to cut your throat.
2) He talks about the destruction of prominent landmarks.
3) He enquires about security at said landmarks.
4) He hails Osama bin Laden as a great leader.
...The good news is we're up against idiots. The bad news is we're also up against the suppler idiocies of current Western orthodoxy. Thus, the U.S. government's new plans to photograph and fingerprint visitors from countries "believed to harbour terrorists" have already been attacked by Mary Robinson, the UN Human Rights honcho who's never met an Arab dictator she didn't like. Islamists want to kill us in the name of Islam. Regrettable, but there it is. If we pretend otherwise, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Canadian Islamic Congress and the Islamic Society of Britain might be nice to us. But, speaking personally, I can't say I care. If Islamic lobby groups throughout the Western world really want to hitch their star to a bunch of psychopathic morons, good luck to them. It's a free country. Hey, we'll even give you a government grant to tell us how racist we are.

ENDING THE CONFLICT? Here's a poll indicating that a majority of Palestinians see the elimination of Israel as the goal of the intifada.
SPORTS-FAN MANIFESTO: A fabulous list by Eric McErlain. I agree with everything except #20.
WHAT IS AND WHAT SHOULD BE: A great prescription from Strategy Page for the ultimate shape of the war on terrorism. I think this piece is more prescriptive than descriptive of current U.S. thinking:
President Bush indicated in a recent speech that all governments which continue to use terrorism as instruments of state policy, if only to deflect their own people's anger away from themselves towards us, will be forcibly replaced. He did not, however, mention what will happen when replacing a government won't improve the situation, which will usually be the case with failed/failing states.
Their fate will be extinction. I.e., failed and failing states which have served as terrorist sanctuaries will be conquered and occupied by a friendly country (us if necessary) with the means and ruthlessness to root out terrorist infrastructure.
This is a fundamental change in the post World War II order. Borders will change and whole countries cease to exist. The world will be rearranged to further our domestic security, and we will act preemptively rather than waiting for attack. These are logical and necessary implications of America's new policy, i.e., we'll get there eventually despite claiming the contrary now. Great events and major policy changes by Great Powers are dynamic instead of static. They create new environments which foster further changes.

The author is accurately facing the great unanswered question of conventional U.S. thinking - it's one thing to say that we cannot live with the current government of Iraq, for example, but what if the domestic alternatives aren't any better? One option is the current paralysis affecting the U.S. vis-a-vis Arafat; that is not feasible when the U.S. is the direct target. The alternative is for America to act like an empire with regard to such states. It won't be pretty, but what's the alternative?
Regarding the priorities of the war:
The extent of Iraq's biological weapons threat cannot be known until after its conquest, but Iraqi intelligence agents with quasi-mythical abilities, using anthrax spores of the quality used last fall, could theoretically kill several million Americans. A Pakistani nuke in terrorist hands could kill 80,000 - 100,000 Americans, while a fizzly ex Soviet nuke might kill several thousand.
This huge disparity in potential harm dictates the magnitude and order of action. Iraq's immediate conquest has the highest priority. Elimination of Pakistan's nuclear threat need not take a military form. We should, however, immediately start formulating strategies towards that end.
Threat elimination next in priority starts with terrorist-supporting states possessing chemical weapons - Iran, Syria-Lebanon and Libya. Iran's regime might not last the year even if we do nothing, and will almost certainly be overthrown by its pro-American people when we conquer Iraq. Libya recently offered a billion dollars compensation for the Lockerbie bombing to buy its way off this list. Syria's regime continues to support Lebanese terrorists so it must be destroyed, possibly with Turkish and/or Israeli proxies.
Then we must eliminate Saudi Arabia's regime as it is the chief source of Islamic terrorist funding. That might not be enough, though, as Saudi culture has an Islamic extremist base of several centuries' standing. Elimination of Saudi terrorist funding will likely require that its people be denied the physical means, i.e., the U.S. will control Saudi oil-producing areas and use the revenue to fund America's new empire.

Don't tell the State Department, but people in the U.S. are now considering such overt imperialism much more seriously. Why, Bill Kristol has even admitted as much in public to a European audience!
EVERYTHING YOU NEVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT "DIRTY BOMBS" AND AL-QAEDA'S CAPABILITIES: An indispensable primer from Joe Katzman, regarding the ramifications of yesterday's arrest. Also, William Saletan has an excellent description of the consequences of the all-too-likely panic that would ensue.
In his chapter on nuclear power from the book A Moment On the Earth, Gregg Easterbrook refers to the debate over nuclear power as "trans-rational," where the logical factors concerning the subject are "not just ignored, but actively shunned." The risks of most radiation exposure are much less than people think, and the anti-nuclear power advocates (with their allies in the media) have encouraged such hysterical thinking over the last few decades. If a "dirty bomb" is detonated, we may see the consequences of enocuraging such untruthfulness.
(This is not a recommendation to build more nuclear power plants; they make very little financial sense because of the costs and time required to build - not to mention their current role as potential terrorist targets. As Easterbrook wrote: "Nuclear power was supposed to be dangerous, dirty and cheap. Instead, it is safe, clean, and expensive.")
(Note: All Easterbrook quotes are from memory - the book had a lot of good quotes that are easy to remember. If I have not rendered a quote with 100% accuracy, I will correct it when I get home and can retrieve my copy of the book.)
UPDATE: More on the same from Strategy Page.

Monday, June 10, 2002

"WAS THERE EVER A TIME WHEN PEOPLE WITH WHOM YOU DISAGREED WERE SO GLORIOUSLY STUPID?" James Lileks asks the question in a Bleat too funny to excerpt. New Yorkers will appreciate another aspect of the piece: the frighteningly accurate description of the local real-estate market.

ABOUT TIME: Charles Johnson has the scoop: the European Union has stopped funding the Palestinian Authority in response to the lawsuit of a terrorism victim. Who said lawsuits have no beneficial consequences?
UPDATES: This Ha'aretz piece (via Tal G.) has more details; it does not mention the lawsuit, attributing the decision to Israel's persuasive skills (or, more likely, evidence that became to much for even the EU to ignore). Also, this report idnicates that the suspension of funding is only anticipated to last until June 19. If that is correct (far from certain; the Ha'aretz piece does not say so and it may be more reliable than the Arutz Sheva report), it's too bad; being cut of from the EU's largesse could be the killing-blow to the PA.
A LARGE OCEAN MAKES CRUSTY NEIGHBORS: I've been meaning to write about this fabulous article by Robert Kagan for a while now. Kagan describes the differences between the American and European approaches to the war on terrorism. It's a serious piece, and he is more willing to give credit to the European position than he usually is. As previously noted, the European skepicism of military force is not based on crude calculation of interests, but in a powerful form of idealism - but one which ignores certain inconvenient realities. Steven Den Beste explains what those realities are.
DUELING AMBULANCES: Try this juxtaposition on for size; I don't think it's one the New York Times will be using as a story basis anytime soon.
First, check out this moving story about Israeli teenage girls who volunteer for ambulance duty in Jerusalem, and how they deal with having to respond to terrorist attacks on a regular basis.
Second, check out this account of a Palestinian terrorist who tried to escape detection by traveling in an ambulance.