Friday, September 13, 2002

THE ISRAELI NEOCONSERVATIVES: Here's an article describing how many prominent Israeli leftists have been mugged by the reality of the last two years.
Meanwhile, TIME magazine reports that up to 98% of the known Hamas military operatives in the West Bank have been killed or captured since the beginning of Operation Defensive Shield. Who said force would only be counterproductive? Perhaps it isn't "increasingly clear that the costs to broader Israeli interests far outweigh whatever short-term security benefits this military operation may be yielding."
THE DEFENSE OF THE NATION IS POLITICAL: I agree completely with these sentiments expressed by the editors of The New Republic:
...Washington's leading Democrats have neither taken a forthright position on an invasion of Iraq nor seriously answered the Bush administration theory of preemption that justifies it. No one today can honestly say he or she is a Democrat because of what the party believes about the greatest threat facing the United States. The Democrats are a party of bystanders, a party without a position on the issue that matters most.
...[I]f the Democrats succeed, if they make this fall's election a referendum on prescription drugs and pension reform, they will have done the voters a disservice. Elections should be about the most urgent issues facing the country; and compared with war with Iraq, the Democrats' litany of poll-tested standbys is frankly trivial.
The Democrats rationalize their efforts to keep Iraq off the campaign trail by insinuating that the Bush administration, by proposing a congressional vote on Iraq before Election Day, is exploiting the war for political gain (see "Hidden Profit" by Michael Crowley, page 18). But in fact, the real cynics are the Democrats, who are trying to conceal their views on the war until after November 5 and, thus, deny their constituents the information they need to cast an intelligent vote. As a matter of democratic process, the party's position is untenable. And it is self-defeating even as a matter of crass political self-interest. Today's polls may show the Democrats with an advantage on the domestic issues the public supposedly cares about most, but ultimately that advantage will not matter if the party is timid and irresponsible on questions of war and peace. Do today's Democrats really need to be reminded of the political history of the last two decades of the cold war?


The Michael Crowley piece suggests that even from a crassly partisan perspective, the Democrats may not be hurt by a vote. More importantly, accusations that the Republicans are trying to politicize the issue miss the point. What could possibly be a more proper subject for voters to consider than whether a candidate is in favor of a proposed invasion of another country?

Thursday, September 12, 2002

BUSH TO UN: "YOU'RE A BUNCH OF WIMPS:" That's a little bit oversimplified, but not far off from the subtext of his speech earlier today. The flattering introduction to the UN noted how it was formed to be different from the ineffectual League of Nations, and the thrust of the speech was how the UN must act to enforce its ignored resolutions. Bush didn't actually say so, but the clear "or else" was "go the way of the League of Nations." I wonder if the media coverage will pick up on the reference.
LOOKING FORWARD: Another great James Lileks piece. It's worth it just for the picture at the beginning of the article, but the writing's good, too. His conclusion is absolutely right:

I curse the terrorists for their horrible triumphs, but those bastards cannot even begin to count the ways in which they failed.
(Emphasis in original.)
ALICE IN WONDERLAND ALERT: The Economist has an article sympathetically describing Arab discontent with America.
The article is in step with much of the Economist's coverage on Israel-Arab relations. But in one sentence, they outdo themselves:
"Instead of trying to douse extremism, says Raghida Dergham, who reports incisively from New York for a liberal daily, Al Hayat, the Bush administration has seemed intent on inflaming it."
(Emphasis added.)
According to MEMRI, this "liberal daily" has featured a Syrian columnist, Mu'taz Al-Khattib, who wrote on September 30, 2001 that: 1) 4,000 Jews had been absent from the WTC building on September 11; 2) a prescheduled interview of Ehud Barak by the BBC was proof of Israel's involvement behind the attacks;
On September 24, 2001, this "liberal daily" also published (according to MEMRI) a certain Saudi Prince Mamdouh bin Abd Al-Aziz, president of the Saudi Center for Strategic Studies, who wrote the following:

Anyone who even skims through The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Pieces on the Chessboard, or the book The World is a Pawn in the Hands of Israel, and follows current events, becomes convinced that the Jews are behind the world's current 'terrorized' atmosphere.... These three books concur that there is a Zionist conspiracy ... [the goal of which is] to channel everything, as much as possible, towards the interests of world Jewry, primarily those among them called 'Allah's Chosen People'....
Objectivity demands that we ask whether the disasters that have struck at the heart of the Arab and Islamic world over many long years were mere coincidence, or were the result of a conspiracy.... I have no doubt whatsoever that many Arab Islamic countries and organizations, both religious and pan-Arab, that acted in good faith, were infiltrated by the Jews....

In fairness, Al-Hayat has apparently also published a number of articles arguing against suicide bombings, at least on tactical grounds (click here and here for translations). So relative to its competitors, Al-Hayat may indeed be "liberal." However, what does it say about a society where even a "liberal" publication publishes items like the two excerpted above?
P.S. The Economist article also has the following money quote:
“Take Israel out of the equation,” says a businessman in Jeddah, “and, poof, we’ve basically never had a problem with America.”
That sentence just begs to be read in multiple ways.
FORWARD TO THE PAST: I forgot to blog this letter from James Lileks to his one-year-ago self. He summarizes what has happened in the year just concluded:

Does the World Community support this next phase?
What do you think? Of course not. We had their sympathy when we were down on one knee bleeding, but that evaporated with the Afghan campaign. The world likes America with a bloody nose, and hates us when we smash the hand that smacked us. Now only Britain stands with us without reservation: surprise. Europe dithers and fumes - one of the interesting pieces of collateral damage from the WTC attack was the relationship between ordinary Americans and Europe; many here now sense the open animosity the European intelligentsia has towards Americans, and Europe no longer feel like an ally. Remarkable, but true. It’s not that Americans don’t like them; we just don’t care what they think anymore. (Get this: the president will be quoted, second hand, as not “giving a shit what the Europeans think.” It’s come to that.) We realize we’re going to have to go it alone - and in most respects this feels right. No one cares much about the UN anymore, particularly since they elected Libyans to chair the Human Rights division.
Stop laughing; I’m serious. That’s the world in a year from now. Colin Powell will be booed at an international conference for criticizing Mugabe, who’s starving his people. Trust me: 9/11 will drive the collectivists, the fascists, the Luddites, the whole cotillion of idiotarians into a big soggy box, and from this box a great and ineffectual wail shall sound every day. It will dissuade the US not a whit. Great clarity will come from 9/11, and those who persist in seeing the US as the globe’s greatest malefactor will rant themselves into corners.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

MORE THOUGHTS ON MORAL CLARITY: Here's another Mark Steyn piece (I'm making up for lost time.):

On September 12, the Ottawa Citizen ran a column by Susan Riley headlined "At Times Like This, We Thank God That We're Canadians". Oh, God, I groaned, not the usual moral preening. But no, Ms Riley skipped that and went straight for naked self-interest: "Our best protection may be distancing ourselves a little more explicitly from US foreign policy … pursuing a reasonable and moderate course in the world's trouble spots."
I've heard it a thousand times since and I still don't get it. By "distancing yourself" from the victims of September 11 you move yourself closer to the perpetrators, closer to barbarism. It may be "reasonable and moderate", but it's also profoundly self-corroding.
This isn't a "clash of civilisations" so much as a clash within civilisations - in the West, between those who believe in the values of liberal democracy and those too numbed by multiculturalist bromides to recognise even the most direct assault on them; and in the Islamic world, between what's left of the moderate Muslim temperament and the Saudi-radicalised death-cult Islamists.
I don't want to be "moderate and reasonable" in the face of Mohammed Atta. A world that "distances" itself from the US to get closer to him is a world that's more misogynist, bigoted, corrupt and superstitious.


And here's an excellent article by Martin Walker. It's tempting to quote it in its entirety, but here are some choice excerpts:

...Osama bin Laden's shock troops zeroed in on a haunting paradox of the modern world; that a strong and rich and self-confident America is good for a world that increasingly resents it.
... [A] weakened, chastened America is bad for a world that nonetheless loves to see the American colossus restrained and cut down to size -- even if the price is a global recession.
This paradox may be seen in the jeering response to America's first black secretary of state at last week's global summit in Johannesburg. It was on display in last week's meeting at the Arab League of foreign ministers whose regimes often rely on American support, and can constantly be encountered in the opinion pages of liberal European newspapers that should know better. And all of them seem to assume that America will continue to sit back and take it, like the good global citizen that America has tried to be in the last 60 years of defeating Fascism, Nazism, Communism and helping spread more wealth and more freedom to more people in more places than ever in human history.
They are wrong. The real effect of Sept. 11 is that American patience and tolerance for its global critics, most of whom do rather well out of America's benign hegemony, seems just about exhausted. And however it was that Osama bin Laden expected what he has called "the American Empire" to react to his murderous assault, if indeed he thought that far ahead, he seems not to have calculated that America might react by tearing up the old rule book of international affairs.


And regarding a recent conference of US and European officials:

From reports that have leaked from the usually confidential sessions, senior Bush administration officials had a blunt message to deliver. The European allies (the British excepted) were not pulling their weight in the alliance.
...But then the Europeans seem deaf to American arguments, whether over Iraq, or the reliability of Yasser Arafat as a peace partner or anything else. They brush aside Washington's cogent criticisms of the Kyoto Protocol as a cosmetic exercise that does not include the real pollution threats of the 21st century, the fast-growing and energy-hungry demographic giants of China and India. The Europeans were deaf to American appeals that an exception be made in the land mine treaty for the South Korean border, where fewer mines would require more troops to protect it. Only grudgingly did the Europeans accept that America as the only credible global policeman might have a unique difficulty with an International Criminal Court, after the Europeans had rejected a reasonable American compromise to submit cases to the UN Security Council.
"When the Europeans demand some sort of veto over American actions, or want us to subordinate our national interest to a UN mandate, they forget that we do not think their track record is too good," a senior U.S. diplomat said recently in private. "The Europeans told us they could win the Balkans wars all on their own. Wrong. They told us that the Russians would never accept National Missile Defense. Wrong. They said the Russians would never swallow NATO enlargement. Wrong. They told us 20 years ago that détente was the way to deal with what we foolishly called the Evil Empire. Wrong again. They complain about our Farm Bill when they are the world's biggest subsidizers of their agriculture. The Europeans are not just wrong; they are also hypocrites. They are wrong on Kyoto, wrong on Arafat, wrong on Iraq -- so why should we take seriously a single word they say?"


Good question.
ONE YEAR AGO, AND RELATED THOUGHTS: My son was born in the early morning of September 9, 2001.
Because the birth occurred so early and was wholly uncomplicated, mother and child were allowed to leave the hospital in the afternoon on September 10. We were all experiencing the daze that comes with the birth of a child – a feeling of “Is this really happening?”
The next morning was our daughter’s first full day of pre-school. Preparations for it ran later than I wanted. As I left the house, I was grousing over the fact that I was making a later train than anticipated.
As I was walking to the train, someone called out to me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.
Like an idiot (see above re: daze) I continued walking to the train. (It did not register on me that Manhattan would be locked down, as there was no such reaction in 1993.)
As the train passed Yankee Stadium, I craned to see the familiar view of the World Trade Center. It was no longer familiar. I will never forget the smoking sight.
The train pulled into Grand Central and I tried to get into the MetLife building for work. The building was already closed down. I encountered a partner from my firm leaving the building who told me about the attack on the Pentagon.
Having finally realized what was happening, I tried to get on a train back home. A minute before the train was to depart, they announced the immediate evacuation of Grand Central. I will never forget the panic in the voice of the person making the announcement. A number of people were panicking as we tried to get out. Fortunately, we were very close to an exit and were able to get to the street in short order.
My mobile phone was not working. I walked to a restaurant which I regularly frequent, which allowed me to use their phone. After trying for a while, I was able to reach my family.
The restaurant had no television. I listened to the radio’s account of the towers’ collapse and of the crash of United Flight 93.
I finally walked to my brother’s apartment on the Upper West Side, where I spent many hours staring slack-jawed at the television.

The evening of my son’s birth had marked the beginning of the period preceding Rosh ha-Shana in which Jews say certain prayers of repentance every day (“Selikhot”). The rabbi had delivered a sermon before those prayers began, bemoaning the horrible year of terrorism in Israel which had just occurred and expressing hope that the upcoming year would be more peaceful.
We soon found out that certain evil men had other ideas.
At my son’s circumcision the next week (the “brit mila” or, colloquially, “bris”), the atmosphere was surreal. As the bris was taking place, the realization was sinking in that a prominent member of our synagogue had been murdered by the terrorists in the World Trade Center.

Rosh ha-Shana is usually viewed as an impetus for change – to review what you’ve been doing and resolve to do better. I looked at this Rosh ha-Shana as an impetus not to change; to resolve never to allow the meanings of September 11 to be diluted by time, or to be effaced by the rationalizations of so-called “sophisticates” who cannot confront the reality of evil.
Those lessons can endure, if we are vigilant enough.
My son provides daily motivation for being so.
P.S. My daughter often stretches bedtime for far longer than it should go, and I am often tempted to resist her entreaties for another story. But then I think to myself: "What if tomorrow is the day they nuke Midtown?", and she usually gets the story.

WHEN THIS DIDN'T SEEM LIKE A BIG DEAL: From Brad DeLong:
9/11 AND AGUNOT: Under Jewish law ("halakha"), if a married man disappears, there are extremely high standards of proof that must be satisfied before the man can be declared dead and his wife allowed to remarry. In the aftermath of 9/11, these issues had to be dealt with. Here's an article from a December issue of Ha-aretz describing the issues and the status of the efforts to deal with the widows' situations, and here's an article from today's Ha-aretz stating that all such men had been declared dead under the halakha.
FISKINGS (THE ANNIVERSARY EDITION): Charles Austin presents the 50th edition of his "Scourge of Richard Cohen" series, using this especially illogical Cohen special on Iraq as a jumping-off point.
In the tenously-existing Salon, Andrew Sullivan demolishes a recent NYT Op-Ed by Susan Sontag.
MORE REFLECTIONS: N.Z. Bear says it best:
"One year ago today the world changed not at all, but our comfortable perception of it shattered forever. "
This is not true for those who lost loved ones on 9/11, but the larger point is true; we were forced to confront the war which had been declared on us long ago.
He continues:

I fear that our remembrances this year will be dominated by resignation and passivity; will avoid the hard reality that the deaths of our fellow citizens were not accidents, but rather deliberate acts of murder by an enemy whose forces are still at large, and continue to covet American blood.
As you watch today's ceremonies, ask yourself: if you did not know the truth, could the speech you are watching; the ceremony you are witnessing, be equally appropriate if those two towers had collapsed in an earthquake?
If the answer is "yes", then my fears have been borne out.
Perhaps I will be proven wrong, but the track record up until this point is not good. We seem to be embracing the role of victim; not just commemorating it, but celebrating it. We are in danger of remembering what occurred a year ago today as a tragedy that just "happened".
But what is being overwhelmed in the cult of victimhood is that forty men and women refused to accept their role as passive victims. They saw the face of the enemy; they learned the evil it had done already and the work it still had left to be done on that day.
And they said "no more". They drew the line: this far, and no farther.
Flight 93.
And suddenly, there it is. Amid the senselessness of that day, a clarity appears: a meaning that can be drawn from the death and madness.
The conflict we face now did not begin last September. Whether you define the war against Islamic fascism as beginning in 1979, or in 1993, it had been with us for years; we simply failed to acknowledge that there were indeed fanatics who were sworn to kill us. And so, as horrible as the loss of life was in the Towers and at the Pentagon, as events they were unique only in degree, not in kind.
But something unique did happen that awful day. Something the murderers did not expect; something they had not planned.
We began to fight back.
It deserves a name of its own. Whether you call it the "Battle of Shanksville", the "Battle of Flight 93", or just "The Turning Point", it was an event inexorably tied to --- and yet distinct from --- the black sorrow of the rest of that day. And it should not be subsumed under the easy grief that we have come to associate with "9/11".
For it marked the first time in this war that Americans had fought back. In those few scant minutes after the first hijackings, American society finally woke up, analyzed the threat, and acted. Forty people gave their lives in the effort, but the battle was won. There would be no third target on that day; the only harm that Flight 93 would do would be to a deserted field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Years from now, I hope the emphasis with which we commemorate the events of this year past will have changed. The loss of life and grief should not be forgotten or minimized. But I think that given time, and perspective, it will become clearer that the event that we should remember most keenly on this day is not the massive loss of life that the terrorists inflicted on us.
It is that one, small battle that occurred over the skies of Pennsylvania, where a group of unarmed American civilians stared their murderers in the face, and in refusing to quietly accept their fate, earned our nation its first victory in this war.


START MAKING PERMANENT VACATION PLANS, SADDAM: In other Iraq-related news, U.S. Central Command is moving from Florida to Qatar. Shouldn't be long now...
REFLECTIONS: The always reliable Mark Steyn writes:

September 11th was, according to CBS' special commemoration, "The Day That Changed America." Fox, slightly less passive, has gone with "The Day America Changed." But the best proof that nothing has changed are the networks' day-that-everything-changed specials themselves. My pleas not to Dianafy September 11th have fallen on deaf ears. The all-star sob-sisters will be out in force with full supporting saccharine piano accompaniment. The networks have decided America's anger needs to be managed. It's a very September 10th commemoration of September 11th.
So be it. Nations do not change in a day. The only change that occurred on September 11th was a simple one. When Osama bin Laden blew up the World Trade Center, he also blew up the polite fictions of the pre-war world. At Ground Zero, they've been working frantically to clear away the rubble. Likewise, at the UN, EU and all the rest, they've also been working frantically not so much to clear away the mess but to stick it back together and reconstruct the great fantasy world as it existed on September 10th, that bizarro make-believe land where NATO is a "mutual defence alliance" and Egypt and Saudi Arabia are "our staunch friends." Even in America, some people are still living in that world. You can switch on the TV and hear apparently sane "experts" using phrases like "Bush risks losing the support of the Arab League."
...Everything that mattered after September 11th -- Bush's moral clarity, the Afghan innovations and the crystal-clear understanding that this is an enemy beyond negotiation -- was present in the final moments of Flight 93. They're the bedrock American values, the ones you don't always see because everyone's yakking about Anna Nicole or the new "reality-based" Beverly Hillbillies. But we know that when you need them in a hurry they're always there.
Bush will need them in the years ahead because he has chosen to embark on the most ambitious change of all, a reversal of half-a-century of U.S. policy in the Middle East. The polite fictions -- Prince Abdullah is "moderate," Yasser Arafat is our "partner in peace," the Syrian Foreign Minister is as respectable as New Zealand's -- will no longer do. They led to slaughter.
Europe, for one, hasn't caught up to September 11th: When it comes to Saddam, the Continentals are like the passengers on those first three planes; they're thinking he's a rational guy, just play it cool and he won't pull anything crazy.
But America learned the hard way: it's the world of September 10th that's really crazy.


The great British military historian John Keegan ruminates on Iraq:

Saddam is deeply anti-Western, if only because it is the western States, particularly America, which frustrate his ambition to become a regional warlord and leader of the Arab Middle East. He has undoubtedly financed terror in the past, finances and supports the Palestinian suicide bombers and covertly endorses terrorism as an anti-Western program.
Moreover, if allowed to proceed to the development of nuclear weapons, Iraq could be enabled to support terrorism with impunity. Hence the urgency of the Bush program to overthrow the Saddam regime while the opportunity still exists.
Once the Iraqi nuclear program is complete, invasion of the country will become perhaps impossible and certainly very difficult and fraught with terrible risk. Saddam would then possess the means to devastate any sort of ground force launched against him, either from land bases or by an amphibious operation in the Gulf.
He already possesses the necessary rocket launchers, crude and relatively short-range as they are. He only needs the warheads, which he may soon possess.
THOSE stark facts make Western opposition to the president's anti-Saddam policy difficult to understand. Those who argue that new United Nations approval for an attack is necessary or that a pre-emptive offensive would be an offense in international law are living in the past.
...IN the circumstances, it seems incomprehensible that sensible Westerners can possibly doubt the need to prevent Saddam acquiring nuclear weapons. Those in the United States who oppose military action seem motivated by short-term fears, particularly that action might make things worse. Those in Europe who oppose it reveal an old-fashioned anti-Americanism.
In Britain, where a solid minority supports President Bush, his most vocal opponents are often former members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, who, at the height of the Cold War, wanted the United Kingdom to give up its nuclear weapons as a gesture to promote general disarmament. It is paradoxical that they now, in effect, support Saddam's efforts to become a nuclear warlord in his own right.
...WORDS of caution may seem wise at the moment. How will they sound when Saddam has the bomb? It will be too late then for the opponents of action now to say that they meant well. Saddam does not mean well at all.



OUR BRITISH FRIENDS: Click here and see the pictures.
ZAKHOR: Click here for one of the most prominent and fanciest memorial websites.
Read this Dave Barry column on Flight 93:

You've been on planes. Think how it feels, especially on a morning cross-country flight. You got up early; you're tired; you've been buckled in your seat for a couple of hours, with hours more to go. You're reading, or maybe dozing. You're essentially cargo: There's nowhere you can go, nothing you can do, no role you could possibly play in flying this huge, complex machine. You retreat into your passenger cocoon, passive, trusting your fate to the hands of others, confident that they'll get you down safe, because they always do.
Now imagine what that awful morning was like for the people on Flight 93. Imagine being ripped from your safe little cocoon, discovering that the plane was now controlled by killers, that your life was in their bloody hands. Imagine knowing that there was nobody to help you, except you, and the people, mostly strangers, around you.
Imagine that, and ask yourself: What would you do? Could you do anything? Could you overcome the fear clenching your stomach, the cold, paralyzing terror?
The people on Flight 93 did. With hijackers in control of the plane, with the captain and first officer most likely dead, the people on this plane got on their cell phones, and the plane's Airfones. They reached people on the ground, explained what was happening to them. They expressed their love. They said goodbye.
But they did not give up. As they were saying goodbye, they were gathering information. They learned about the World Trade Center towers. They understood that Flight 93 was on a suicide mission. They figured out what their options were.
Then they organized.
Then they fought back.


Also, I found (via a commenter on Little Green Footballs) a television archive site which has portions of the live TV coverage of the attacks from numerous sources. I personally watched this clip from ABC's Good Morning America. I was struck by the following two feelings:
1) How utterly shallow and stupid the show was before the news broke; and
2) Wishing that the stupidity and shallowness would continue, rather than be blown away by the intrusion of the horrible reality that could no longer be ignored.

Charles Johnson also has pictures and links regarding the Palestinian celebrations on 9/11, many of which were removed from their original sources after Palestinian threats.

To clarify: "Zakhor" is Hebrew for the imperative to remember.
UPDATE: Apparently the Palestinians are importing lighters commemorating 9/11.
Here's a picture.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

I COULDN'T HAVE SAID IT BETTER MYSELF: In an apparent attempt to come out against war with Iraq without actually saying so, the NY Times' editors praise the doctrine of deterrence:
...Some of the debates that preceded its adoption sound strikingly similar to arguments being made today. During the Truman administration, some strategists suggested attacking the Soviet Union while it was still militarily weak to prevent the rise of a nuclear-armed Communist superpower. Wiser heads prevailed, and for the next 40 years America's reliance on a strategy of deterrence preserved an uneasy but durable peace.
One advantage of deterrence is that it induces responsible behavior by enemies as a matter of their own self-interest. Even dictators tend to put certain basic interests above all else — pre-eminently their survival in power, with their national territories and a functioning economy intact. Aggression becomes unattractive if the price is devastation at home and possible removal from power. By contrast, the threat that America will strike first may give foes an incentive to use their military forces, including unconventional weapons, before they lose them.
The logic of deterrence transcends any particular era or enemy. It has worked, for example, to restrain further North Korean aggression since the Korean War. A decade ago, a clear message of deterrence delivered by the first Bush administration persuaded Saddam Hussein not to use his chemical and biological weapons against America or Israel during the Persian Gulf war.
...[B]y and large, we believe that deterrence can still be a powerful force in managing many of the threats the United States faces. Protecting America's security requires weighing all available policy options and choosing the wisest. Deterrence, the least risky and most time-tested tool in America's national security arsenal, should not be hastily discarded.


I agree. And that is why Saddam Hussein must not be permitted to gain weapons that would enable him to deter us from checking his aggression, even if that means war.
As an aside, the debate over Saddam has eerie similarities to the debate over missile defense, in the refusal of most people on both sides to acknowledge that a main issue was not our ability to deter others, but others' ability to deter us. See this Lawrence Kaplan piece and this Robert Kagan article. Also see this skeptical Bill Keller article.
RATIONALIZATIONS, PART XLVI - THIS TIME, IT'S PERSONAL: In my absence, Steven Den Beste posted a couple of attacks on pseudonymous blogging.
Obviously, I'm a self-interested party to the discussion. In my heart, I agree with much of what Den Beste said; you should not be afraid to own up to your opinions, and an observer is certainly entitled to give more credence to the blogger using an (alleged) real name, rather than the name of a superhero from a somewhat-dated but still classic comic series. I agree with Glenn Reynolds: "If you want to blog anonymously, fine. That's your privilege. Responding to your anonymity differently than they would respond to your True Name is other people's privilege. You pays your money, and you takes your choice."
I do think that Den Beste is still too harsh on the phenomenon. Would I lose my job if I used my real name on the blog? Probably not. But I felt that I could be freer with my opinions if I didn't, and blogging is meant to enable people to freely express and elucidate their opinions. (At least that's the way I see it.) There are some bloggers whose jobs may truly prevent them from using their names, and the blogosphere would be much poorer if the option of pesudonymnous blogging was not viable. See, for example, "Mindles H. Dreck," "Robert Musil" and "Max Power," all of whom blog pseudonymously for what I believe are work-related reasons.
I would not be presumptuous enough to compare my far-too-irregular posts with those of the aforementioned bloggers, but pseudonymous blogging allows quality contributions to the debate which would otherwise be blocked.
I'll agree that blogging in your own name is the ideal. But pseudonymous blogging should be actively encouraged as a second-best solution. Whatever increases contribution to the marketplace of ideas is good.


BOUNDED RATIONALITY: One of the most common and seemingly persuasive arguments against going to war with Iraq is based on an appeal to Saddam's rationality. It's not a joke, as expressed by Jim Henley ("Saddam has been successfully deterred in the past. Saddam has never used "weapons of mass destruction" against an opponent capable of responding in kind.")
among others. This argument doesn't accomodate:
1) The expansion of options rationally available to Saddam once he gains nuclear weapons (such as invading Kuwait and using his nuclear weapons to deter us from acting against him, a context for action at least as rational as the "green light" the U.S. allegedly gave him in 1990);
2) The likelihood that Saddam could dodge responsibility for giving weapons to Al Qaeda or the like, at least for long enough for the chorus of respectable voices to attempt to dissuade us from hasty action. Just think about it: it takes the CIA & FBI a year to make the link, and then the editorials are cut and pasted about how "international support for the U.S., so strong a year ago in the wake of the attack, is now fading..." If that doesn't convince you, then how are we doing on finding the anthrax culprit? And why might Saddam not rationally take comfort from the stumbles of our law-enforcement agencies in figuring what he can get away with?
A final problem with the argument is that it ignores at least one prominent episode in our relations with Saddam: the attempted assasination of George H.W. Bush in 1993. That would have been an attack against an important American target (at least symbolically), with clear state-sponsored links, notwithstanding our massive deterrent edge. (And remember the pinprick response, which can only have emboldened Saddam.) Shouldn't that example make us hesitate before getting too confident that Saddam would never, for example, pass biological weapons to Al Qaeda?
In fact, the attempted assassination may have been more important to Saddam than we give it credit for. To put it mildly, Sadddam obviously has an extreme case of Sun King syndrome. ("L'etat c'est moi.") An attack on the former President of the United States, the leader of the country which defeated Iraq in war, may well have been intended by Saddam as an attack on the United States to a far greater degree than it would have been seen by Americans. (If so, the low-level response to the attempt may have been viewed as an even weaker gesture than we realize.)

Monday, September 09, 2002

ANGRY ABOUT 9/11? GOOD: I thought James Cramer was a good financial writer, but he can do other subjects, too. This is a lengthy quote, but it's worth it:

Now I can't get it out of my head how unsafe we are. I can't get it out my head how much I believe that unless we destroy this enemy with the same deliberate force that we used to destroy our enemies in World War II, including the use of unthinkable weapons when it was clearly necessary to do so, my dreams of what my children and their children will want are, quite simply, so much pipe smoke.
And my belief colors everything I do. I go by the World Trade Center's mass grave every day, and it surely is as much a grave as those Civil War battlegrounds that I have seen in Gettysburg, Pa., and Antietam, Md.
I think these acts of war in 2001 were mere warnings of what is to come. Because the terrorists' success -- and they were far more successful than Pearl Harbor's attackers -- emboldens a whole movement to believe that the U.S. can be erased from the earth. That such a fate could come to pass seems almost fanciful as we debate whether we should attack Iraq -- a worthy debate given that the hijackers were mostly from Saudi Arabia and tacitly backed by that cowardly regime, not Iraq -- but to me, the Ground Zero site I go by each morning reminds me that such a nightmare can become fact, not remain fiction.
I keep thinking that these same terrorists -- don't forget, they are alive and uncaptured -- are thinking, now, for irony's sake, let's get an El Al airplane, hijack it, bring a nuclear device on board and crash it into a children's hospital for a few laughs. Laughing all the way to our Armageddon.
I now regard our great bulwark of laws that protect individual rights against the right of a potential intrusive government as a plaything of our enemies. I regard the defenders of the Middle Eastern status quo, where the hijackers got their sponsorship as appeasers, as the kind that Winston Churchill faced in Neville Chamberlain and his appeasement policy. I regard the dissent from the war effort against the nations that hide and nurture Al Qaeda terrorists as a flirtation with treason. And I think the way to remember the dead is not so much to view them as the casualties of a horrid moment but as a precursor to what will happen to you and me if we act as if this were a matter of law enforcement for a free society.
Stop the mourning, and start the bombing, if you want it in the plain Wall Street way we are taught to express ourselves. If we act like this is business as usual, just another enemy like the Soviets during the Cold War, or yes, even the Nazis of World War II, we will be playing into precisely the hopes of the terrorists: that we approach their unconventional American genocide with a conventional, and ultimately, Vietnam-like, war effort, one that ends with us exhausted and them triumphant.
We can't let that happen.
Strong military? Can't make it strong enough. I hope my children join up when they are old enough, and I wish I were younger so I could serve. Heck, I want my kids to go to the military academies. Strong FBI and CIA? I regret that these organizations have been so emasculated by organizations and politicians I once supported. The need to vanquish our enemies? It's life or death to me -- their deaths, not ours.
So, we talk about Sept. 11 in dulcet tones and worried voices. We tiptoe around what happened. We mourn. The media's still grieving, for heaven's sake, even as the victims' families are trying so hard to move on.
But for me, it is a day that will be repeated again and again in our country unless we recognize that the evil we fight is just beginning its assault against us. And the masterminds, again, alive and well in radical mosques and cells around the world, aren't happy so far with what they have accomplished.
They, the enemy, have much more to do. Meanwhile, some of us are still trying to figure out whether this enemy is really worth fighting because perhaps there is some sort of just cause behind the enemy's movement, or worse, because it is inevitable that the enemy will strike again, so what can we really do about it?
The terrorists' cause is not Islam, it is not even radical Islam. It is nihilism. The terrorists believe in absolutely nothing other than destroying the lives of others. That's the terrorist creed; think of it as if the devil himself finally had a home team, and don't for a moment try to understand them or reason with them or believe our laws are meant to protect them.
Yes, my heart has been hardened by what my head saw on that awful day and it will remain hardened until the good guys -- and don't doubt for a moment who they are, either -- wipe out all of the bad guys. Do we have to go it alone? Who cares? England went it alone. Our allies weren't attacked as we were. They don't know what it's like or have long forgotten what it's like to be bombed as we were a year ago.
How can one justify such a swing in thinking on the basis of just one day's worth of attacks? Go back in history. Look at the people in this country who were opposed to fighting the last Axis of evil that proclaimed us as an enemy. In the U.S., we had isolationists and pacifists and disarmament types galore in the 1930s and even in the first year of a new awful decade, 1940. Then Pearl Harbor happened, and only the cranks and the fools stayed that course. The nation united in recognizing the need to preserve and defend itself at all costs.
That's where we are now. For those of you who don't know that yet, I recommend you go see the sailors of the battleship Arizona in its permanent lagoon tomb. Or take a look in my closet, where I keep the pair of Rockport wingtips that I wore Sept. 11, untouched, because I know what made up those gray ashes wedded to the soles and the uppers that fateful, horrible day.
In years to come, there will be people who stayed pacifist or ignorant or oblivious to what has happened, and they will be looked upon in later history as cowards or dreamers or fools. And then there will be the people who saw Sept. 11 for what it was, a declaration of war against us, and acted accordingly. I want nothing more than to be in the latter camp, if only because yesterday was and always will be Sept. 11 until our enemies are vanquished.


Meanwhile, James Lileks understands when something is truly "for the children:"

Tonight I was googling around looking for a picture of Christine Hanson, the daughter of Kim Ji-Soo and Peter Hanson. She was two. The family was flying to Disneyland when the terrorists slaughtered the flight attendants, stabbed the pilots to death, and drove the plane into the building.
...Little Christine was Gnat’s age, give or take a month; bin Laden’s lackeys killed her - and did so to ensure that other fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters died as well, preferably by the tens of thousands. This little girl’s death wasn’t even a comma in the manifesto they hoped to write. They made sure that her last moments alive were filled with horror and blood, screams and fear; they made sure that the last thing she saw was the desperate faces of her parents, insisting that everything was okay, we’re going to see Mickey, holding out a favorite toy with numb hands, making up a happy lie. And then she was fire and then she was ash.
I feel the same anger I did on 9/11; I feel the same overwhelming grief. Nothing in my heart has changed, and God forbid it ever does.

UPDATE: Like Prof. Reynolds, I should have noted the objectionable part of Cramer's piece: "I now regard our great bulwark of laws that protect individual rights against the right of a potential intrusive government as a plaything of our enemies." I don't think that's correct; though they can be if we are not careful; I would understand Cramer's statement as an exhortation not to let that happen.
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ON REFUGEES AND RESETTLEMENT: Here's a useful primer.
WHY DIDN'T I TRY THIS CAREER? There is a young boxer who is a budding star and an observant Jew, thanks to Lubavitch. (Thanks to Mighty Max Power for the link.)
IRAQ ROUND-UP: In my various absences, many harder-working bloggers have been having the "robust debate" called for by just about every editorial board in the country, albeit at a level of quality that would be unrecognizable by most such editorial boards.
I'll take my own stab at the arguments later. Here is a very incomplete list of some of the better entries:
Anti: Jim Henley has done a great job here, here and here. Hesiod tries here. Via Jason Rylander, here's a not-too-convincing piece from The Progressive.
Pro: Stephen Den Beste has been very prolific on the subject. Examples are here, here and here. Joe Katzman has plenty of great stuff; try this one.
HITTING HOME AND HEARTH: I ate at this place many times.