"History occurs twice, once as tragedy, the second time as farce." (Karl Marx)
"As best as I can tell, [antiwar spin] is a parody of Stalin: one person killed by America is a tragedy. A hundred thousand killed by Saddam, or a million by Pol Pot, are a statistic." (Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds)
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Reflections of a former Belgian and "liberal mugged by reality" on politics, the US-European cultural divide, the conflict with Iraq, and the Israeli-Arab conflict.
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LGF wonders "tell me about the roadmap" as Palestinians rename the main square in Jenin in memory of the islamikaze who just blew up four American soldiers.
Speak of LGF, it and a number of the other "usual suspects" are written up in a TIME magazine article on warblogs.
The next few days are going to be light on blogging as it's deadline season at work. Check my blogroll, and the click the Command Post button, if you're looking for stuff to read :-) posted by Former Belgian at 9:12 PM
Peter "O Tool" Arnett is apparently out of a job following this bizarre interview. I was not entirely surprised that NBC sacked him --- even a liberal network has limits --- but to get fired from National Geographic takes some doing. Perhaps al-Ghardiyan may hire him now. Update: the Daily Mirror (al-G's tabloid brother) hired him.
Speaking of which: the once-proud Manchester Guardian has in recent years degenerated into a loony-"left", virulently anti-American, and Israel-bashing screed (with a few token exceptions like Julie Burchill). But even in a publication widely known in the blogosphere as The Daily Wanker (a play-of-words on the name of the Communist Party of Britain newspaper of old), Charles Johnson notes an article that sets a new benchmark for yellow "journalism". C. P. Scott (the founder of the newspaper) must be spinning in his grave. Update:Bill Herbert did some digging and finds out one of the "sources" was a neo-Nazi mag. posted by Former Belgian at 8:14 PM
I do not believe public figures should be immune against being derided. Nor that a public personality belonging to an ethnic minority should ipso facto acquire such an immunity. But just ask yoursef this question: if a conservative or libertarian group would have made a similar poster about Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton (or Kofi Annan, for that matter), how many people would (rightly) have called for their scalp?
Just in case you still harbored the illusion that so-called "left"-ists cannot be racist. posted by Former Belgian at 7:30 PM
Surprise, surprise.Former TotalFinaElf exceutive reveals payments of US$5M to various French political parties, including that of Jacques Iraq. For the uninitiated: TotalFinaElf is a Franco-Belgian oil concern that got sweetheart deals from the Iraqi regime worth as much as US$75 billion. Need I draw a picture? posted by Former Belgian at 6:42 PM
Here in the United States, we tend to think of images only in terms of cameras and television: Photography is separate from narrative. In the Arab world, language is full of images, which cannot be separated from narrative. Arabic is a metaphorical language, rich in shades of meaning.
The image-based style of the Arabic language acts as an excellent interface with pictures. Thus television is terribly important. Consider the effect achieved, for example, when Majid Abdul Hadi, an al-Jazeera reporter in Baghdad, shows a picture of a coalition bombing while referring to Baghdad as the pulsing heart of the Muslim caliphate, a pulsing heart engulfed in flame.
Beneath the Arab modes of visual representation, the Western style is also present. Indeed, Arab coverage often copies the CNN and Fox News formats. Today, just like CNN, every one of the 10 Arab channels I watch, or appear on as a commentator, has a "war room" staffed with retired generals discussing the progress of the war and freely advising the Iraqis how to conduct it. In this way, these veterans of Arab wars are compensating for past defeat with on-air political speeches.
The tone of many reporters in Baghdad is much the same. For example, an al-Jazeera reporter in the Iraqi capital falsely told his viewers on the first day of the air campaign, "Here in Baghdad, a city accused of hiding weapons of mass destruction is being hit by weapons of mass destruction." This kind of repetition is the stuff that has made Arabic poetry so justly admired. Here, the rhythm and sonority of the language act to encourage audience disregard for the true definitions of the words being used.
I remember a rabbi who had grown up in a French colony in Northern Africa bitterly remarking that where it came to getting intoxicated with their own florid language, "les francais, ce sont les arabes de l'occident" (the French are the Arabs of the West). It is hard not to see certain parallels.
One for the road: The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler feels "discriminated against" because he has not yet been indicted for war crimes by a Belgian court, and sent a missive to the Belgian minister of Justice requesting to be indicted.
A reader on LGF drew attention to a PBS debate on the Scottish heritage (transcript here) which contained some interesting observations on the contrast between the Scottish and the French enlightenments:
What [Scottish skeptical philosopher] David Hume does is he shows that far from being this great sort of dangerous weapon, although it can be, that self interest is, in fact, the driving engine of change and progress. The free market is more than just a place where goods are exchanged, that the free market is really the clearing house of civilization because civilization is about exchanged, self interested exchange between customer and business person, between consumer and producers but also the exchange of ideas among scientists, among intellectuals within the larger culture as a whole. That’s the focus that the Scottish Enlightenment gives us, the role of self interest as this driving creative productive force in society.
[...T]he French Enlightenment tends to put its faith not in individuals or entrepreneurs but at those who hold power at the top -- whether they were a monarchical government, as someone like Voltaire did -- or a revolutionary as happens later as the French Enlightenment morphs into the French Revolution. And it’s two fundamental[ly] different points of view, two different views of the future that emerge out of the French Enlightenment, which is one in which a large centralized state is able to bring about and transform society by dictating by enlightened and legislation and guidance versus a Scottish Enlightenment view which says this is ultimately about advocates of individuals pursuing their own self interest and that those two distinct visions have shaped our future in the history of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century ways in a really extraordinary degree. And you could argue that the Cold War was in many ways a confrontation of the principles of the Scottish Enlightenment embedded in American values and in institutions of America and its allies versus the French Enlightenment with its inheritance uh, that it passed on to Karl Marx and to the utopian socialists in the Nineteenth Century and then on to the vision of the Soviet Union and that Communism brought as to what human improvement was about.
There is another characteristic that sets the "Latin" (by extension also German) and "Scottish" (by extension Anglo-American) enlightenment thinkers apart: the fundamentally rationalist, deductive, and idealistic tradition of the former (Descartes, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel,... ) and the fundamentally empiricist, inductive, and utilitarian tradition of the latter (Bacon, Hume, Bentham, John Stuart Mill,...). In fact, this distinction is arguably reflected in the distinct characters of Anglo-American and French scholarship in the humanities almost to this day. There are plenty of exceptions on either side, but an American historian or sociologist of the old school will generally be fact-driven, while his French counterpart will be concept-driven. Both approaches may lead to first-rate scholarship in the right hands, but the latter is much more prone to "the theoretician falling in love with his/her own model" and looking only for facts that corroborate the theory. It is no mere accident that postmodernism (which takes this trend to its logical extreme) and Marxism both developed in the Franco-German intellectual ambit. posted by Former Belgian at 8:51 PM
Pundit roundup: Mark Steyn has a hilarious parody in which various historical generals comment on the "quagmire" the media reporting campaign has hit; Steven Den Beste takes Amnesty International to task for what I shall summarize as practicing "the soft bigotry of low expectations", and hosts a guest entry has by an anonymous retired military officer, who gives a sober commentary on where the campaign stands at this stage; Tom Paine has an absolutely hilarious story about the young Robert Fisk, which he claims is true; but Bill Whittle's essay on History (the latest installment in a book in progress) takes the cake. posted by Former Belgian at 8:32 PM
Pop pundit and lifelong leftist Julie Burchill gives a tongue-lashing to the NIONists ("Not in my name"-ists) worthy of Whacking Day. It is especially noteworthy for appearing in the al-Ghardiyan (a.k.a. The Daily Wanker):
I've always thought that the last place you'd see the vanity of depression in action would be on a protest march, especially one against war in a foreign country, but I do believe that many of the anti-war antics currently taking place are totally egotistical. Those who demonstrated against US aggression in Vietnam and Cuba did so because they believed that those people should have more freedom, not less. But does the most hardened peacenik really believe that Iraqis currently enjoy more liberty and delight than they would if Saddam were brought down? If so, fair enough; if not, then they are marching about one thing - themselves. That's why so many luvvies are involved; this is simply showing off on a grand scale.
I've just heard a snippet of the most disgustingly me-me-me anti-war advert by Susan Sarandon, in which she intones, "Before our kids start coming home from Iraq in body bags, and women and children start dying in Baghdad, I need to know - what did Iraq do to us?" Well, if you mean what did Saddam do to [America's entertainment elite], not an awful lot - but to millions of his own people, torture and murder for a start. Don't they count?
Surely this is the most self-obsessed anti-war protest ever. NOT IN MY NAME! That's the giveaway. Who gives a stuff about their wet, white, western names? [...] We don't know the precious names of the countless numbers Saddam has killed. We're talking about a people - lots of them parents - subjected to an endless vista of death and torture, a country in which freedom can never be won without help from outside.
Contrasting British servicemen and women with the appeasers, it is hard not to laugh. Are these two sides even the same species, let alone the same nationality? On one hand the selflessness and internationalism of the soldiers; on the other the Whites-First isolationism of the protesters. Excuse me, who are the idealists here? And is it a total coincidence that those stars most prominent in the anti-war movement are the most notoriously "difficult"and vain - [Barbara] Streisand, Albarn, [George] Michael, Madonna, Sean Penn? And Robin Cook! Why might anyone believe world peace can be secured by this motley bunch?
Anti-war nuts suffer from the usual mixture of egotism and self-loathing that often characterises recreational depression - an unholy alliance of Oprahism and Meldrewism in which you think you're scum, but also that you're terribly important, too. [... T]here are [also] the human shields - now limping homewards after being shocked to discover, bless 'em, that Saddam wanted to stick them in front of military installations as opposed to the hospitals and petting zoos that they'd fondly imagined they were going to defend.
What these supreme egotists achieve by putting themselves at the centre of every crisis is to make the Iraqi people effectively disappear. NOT IN MY NAME! is western imperialism of the sneakiest sort, putting our clean hands before the freedom of an enslaved people. But even those whose anti-war protests started in good faith now know that when Saddam's regime comes tumbling down, thousands of Iraqis will dance and sing with joy before the TV cameras, and thank our armed forces for giving them back their lives.
(Hat tip: Instapundit, although Julie Burchill's "dissent" from the al-Ghardiyan editorial line was first spotted by Tom Paine.) posted by Former Belgian at 8:12 PM
Karl Zinsmeister, chairman of the American Enterprise Institute, spent two weeks with the 82nd Airborne Division in Kuwait. He has some observations on the cultural gap between journalists and soldiers which go a long way to explain the mutual distrust.
In The new anti-Semitism, Melanie Phillips examples the phenomenon of "antisemitism on the left". Of course the phenomenon itself is not exactly new: think of Karl Marx himself, as well as the early social democrat leader August Bebel's memorable definition of antisemitism as "the socialism of fools". But the present inverted situation, where antisemitism is primarily associated with the "anti-racist" "left" and some of the staunchest opposition to it is to be found on the conservative side of the political spectrum (or plane), has no real precedent.
Anti-Semitism is protean, mutating over the centuries into new forms. Now it has changed again, into a shape which requires a new way of thinking and a new vocabulary. The new anti-Semitism does not discriminate against Jews as individuals on account of their race. Instead, it is centred on Israel, and the denial to the Jewish people alone of the right of self-determination.
This is nothing to do with the settlements or the West Bank. Indeed, the language being used exposes as a cruel delusion the common belief that the Middle East crisis would be solved by the creation of a Palestinian state.
The key motif is a kind of Holocaust inversion, with the Israelis being demonised as Nazis and the Palestinians being regarded as the new Jews. Israel and the Jews are being systematically delegitimised and dehumanised — a necessary prelude to their destruction — with both Islamists and the Western media using anti-Zionism as a fig-leaf for prejudices rooted in both mediaeval Christian and Nazi demonology.
This has produced an Orwellian situation in which hatred of the Jews now marches behind the Left’s banner of anti-racism and human rights, giving rise not merely to distortions, fabrications and slander about Israel in the media but also to mainstream articles discussing the malign power of the Jews over American and world policy.
She describes her attendance at a conference over the subject, and discusses at length the virulent nature of Arab antisemitism. She is at pains to distinguish between legitimate criticism of specific Israeli government policies from the delegitimization and vilification of Israel and of the Jewish people qua people.
She then moves on to the role played by the British media:
[...] Israel’s disastrous invasion of Lebanon in 1982 [...] marked the beginning of the media’s systematic inversion of Israeli self-defence as aggression, along with double-standards and malicious fabrications, which have nothing to do with legitimate (and necessary) criticism of Israel and everything to do with delegitimising the Jewish state altogether in readiness for its dismantling.
heard that in France Jews were vilified and excluded from public debate if they challenged the lies being told about Israel. It was shown a devastating French film Décryptage (Decoding) — which has been playing to packed houses in Paris — about the obsessive malevolence towards Israel displayed by the French media. It was told about the way the British media described Israel’s ‘death squads’, ‘killing fields’ and ‘executioners’ while sanitising Palestinian human bombs as ‘gentle’, ‘religious’ and ‘kind’. It heard about the cartoon in the Italian newspaper La Stampa during the siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, depicting an Israeli tank pointing a gun at the baby Jesus who is saying, ‘Surely they are not going to kill me again.’
And of course there was Jenin, the so-called ‘massacre’ or ‘genocide’ reported as such by virtually the entire media, where in fact 52 Palestinians died, of whom more than half were terrorists, while Israel sustained (for it) the huge loss of 45 of its soldiers. This astonishing media distortion was conceded at the conference by the (extraordinarily brave) Palestinian politics professor Mohammad Dajani, who also observed that a distraught Palestinian public was — on this and other occasions — whipped up by biased and emotional Palestinian reporting which showed little concern for the truth. But the big lie of the Jenin massacre is now believed as fact, contributing to the belief that Israel is a criminal state.
Europeans have thus made themselves accomplices to an explicitly genocidal programme. But an even more striking feature is that, while the old anti-Semitism still festers away among neo-Nazis, the new anti-Semitism is a phenomenon of their sworn enemies on the political Left. So, as the Canadian law professor Irwin Cotler observed, we now have the mind-twisting situation where anti-Jewish hatred is harnessed to the cause of anti-racism and human rights, with Israel being compared to both Nazism and apartheid by those who define themselves against these ideologies. Such a travesty of the facts involves, of course, the implicit denial of the truth of those terrible regimes, quite apart from the prelude to annihilation created by such a lethal defamation of Israel. And even more counterintuitively, many Jews and Israelis on the Left also subscribe to this analysis — and even to the demonology of Israeli Nazism and apartheid — handing an effective weapon to those who dismiss the claim of a new anti-Semitism as Jewish paranoia or Islamophobia.
So what is the explanation for the Left’s position? Partly, it’s the old anti-imperialist and anti-West prejudice. Partly, it’s the view that only the powerless can be victims; so Third World people can never be murderers, and any self-defence by Western societies such as Israel must instead be aggression. Partly, it’s the post-modern destruction of objectivity and truth, which has ushered in the hegemony of lies. And partly, as the Left takes an axe to morality and self-restraint, it’s a golden opportunity to pulverise the very people who invented the damn rules in the first place.
A left-wing Polish journalist at the conference, Konstanty Gebert, got the real point. The Left, he said, could not face the fact that they had totally misconstrued the Middle East because this would undermine their whole philosophy. This was founded on the premise that reason could reconcile all differences; all that was needed in Israel was an enlightened government for reason to prevail. The evidence that we are facing a phenomenon which is not susceptible to reason would destroy that world view. It would also give credibility to the hated Sharon, whose demonisation is absolutely vital to the Left as a protection against the implosion of its whole ideological position.
Arafat's Fatah faction dispatched hundreds of suicide bombers to Iraq. This presumably in response to Bush Jr. holding out the prospect of a Palestinian state ;-) I am sure that this gesture will be "appreciated" in the White House ;-) posted by Former Belgian at 11:44 PM
In the "you can't make this stuff up" category: BBC Chief denies bias while speaking to Media Workers Against The War (what's next, David Duke denies racism while speaking to the KKK?), and Eugene Volokh, Professor of Constitutional Law at UCLA, summarizing an "anti-war" "teach-in" at Columbia University that is so over the top that I briefly wondered whether it was a hoax. After having read very similar reports elsewhere, I figured it must be for real. Go read it, but take Prozac first if you still believe the Humanities should be about scholarship rather than agitprop.
Beyond left and right? My main annoyance with the "left-right" classification of political opinions (or its US counterpart, the "liberal-conservative" spectrum) is twofold. First of all, there is its one-dimensional character which in my opinion is no longer descriptive of the political playing field nowadays (if it ever was in the first place). Secondly, the overuse of "left extremist" and "right extremist" as rethorical bludgeons for political opponents has largely robbed these terms of their stable meaning.
So did anybody ever come up with alternatives? The Wikipedia gives a (not totally accurate) summary with links.
The terms "left-wing" and "right-wing" originally derive from the pre-revolutionary French National Assembly, where the representatives of the nobility and clergy (the First and Second Estates) would be seated on the right and the representatives of "the rest of us" (the Third Estate) on the left. Thus, the division reflected both a socio-economic distinction, as well as, generally, a tendency to conserve the established order on the part of those sitting on the Right and a desire to change or overthrow it on the part of those sitting on the Left.
Over time, the meaning of these terms transfigured: for instance, laissez-faire economics is now supposedly a "rightist" policy while it originally was associated with the "left" (with what some call "classical liberalism").
An early alternative to the left-right scale gained currency in the 1950s, at the height of the Cold War (for reasons which will be obvious): it placed political opinions on a circle rather than a line. Thus, Communism (nominally "extreme left") and Fascism (nominally "extreme right") both found themselves at 12 o'clock as "totalitarian" ideologies. The opposite of totalitarianism on this scale would be political democratic centrism at 6 o'clock, with social democracy at the 3 o'clock and conservatism at the 9 o'clock positions, respectively.
An elaboration of this concept led to a two-dimensional scale, where political opinions are rated on two axes. One variant, the World's Shortest Political Quiz, was popularized by a Libertarian group. Its two axes are degree of state regulation/control in (1) economic matters (left-right, or liberal-conservative) and (2) personal matters (up-down, or libertarian-autoritarian). The quiz divides people in five categories, four of which represent extreme positions on one of the two axes, and the fifth of which, "Centrist", represents those taking middle-of-the-road positions on both axes.
Rightly or wrongly, the WSPQ came under considerable criticism as being designed to recruit voters for the Libertarian Party. Its general principle was considerably refined by The Political Compass, which uses a similar two-axis classification but employs more questions and more qualified answers. It also maps present and past politicians on the basis of their policy positions. Contrary to the WSPQ, the Political Compass authors distinguish between Left Libertarianism (which they identify with anarcho-syndicalism) and Right Libertarianism.
I am aware of only one attempt at a three-dimensional scale. It was proposed by
The Friesian School: following Isaiah Berlin, it distinguishes between the two "negative freedoms" (freedom from control) of the Political Compass (which determine their x and y coordinates), and the "positive freedom" of input in the governing process, which is their z coordinate and spans a scale going from tyranny over oligarchy, representative democracy, and direct democracy to anarchism (i.e. equal distribution of decision power).
Finally, let me mention the Quizilla Which Political Stereotype Are You quiz that has gained some popularity in the blogosphere. It classifies people among eight political stereotypes (each with a paradigmatic politician): (1) fascist (Hitler); (2) communist (Stalin); (3) Democrat (FDRoosevelt); (4) Republican (Reagan); (5) Socialist (Eugene Debs); (6) Libertarian (Thomas Jefferson); (7) Green (Ralph Nader); (8) Anarcho-syndicalist (Noam Chomsky). One thing that annoyed me about this quiz is the stereotypical character of the answers: I tended to agree with part of one answer and part of another. Depending on which combination I picked, I ended up as either Roosevelt or Reagan :-) (On both the WSPQ and the Political Compass, I came out as a Centrist.)
Speaking of which, I am always somewhat amused by the utter disdain in which self-anointed "intellectuals" hold people who actually make things --- whether it's an idiotarian dissing Steven Den Beste as "somebody who thinks the whole world is a cellular phone"> (15 minutes of reading Den Beste will convince you that the guy, well, just knows how to use his brain), or culinary writer and restaurant critic Daniel Rogov poking fun at TIME magazine's "Person of the Century" contest for having awarded 13th place to Linus Torvalds, "a guy who knows something about computers". Conversely, I personally know one engineer for whom the most deadly insult was (and is) not accusing somebody of nonhuman ancestry or incestuous relations, but to call him/her a "French intellectual"... posted by Former Belgian at 3:59 PM
Friday, March 28, 2003
French author Pascal Bruckner (PB) gave an interview in Le Figaro (LF) that, well, is very "un-French" :-) Cinderella Bloggerfeller has a translation. A few choice excerpts:
LF:Is Europe currently in the process of leaving history, as Robert Kagan, a man close to the American administration, claims?
PB: Europe is characterized by the desire to leave history for good, including its own history. One of the most obvious signs was its passivity in the face of the Yugoslavian crisis, which it only emerged from in 1995, in Sarajevo, then in 1999, in Kosovo, thanks to American intervention. In 1999, in the Kosovo affair, Europe was so insistent that NATO strikes on Serbia and Montenegro should be kept to a minimum that the American general responsible for operations exclaimed: “No more interventions with partners like this!”
LF: What is France’s position in this Europe of renunciation?
PB: France is a concentrate of all the European contradictions – the wish to appear a great power on the one hand and not to get its hands dirty on the other. I’m really astonished that Jacques Chirac, so lucid when it comes to internal security problems – when faced with gangs and hooligans only force pays- shows himself so Rousseauist in the domain of international relations which, as Raymond Aron saw in 1948, remain marked by the law of the jungle. It would be a pity if the French executive succumbs to a belief in angelism. Only recourse to military action can bring a tyranny to heel. There comes a moment when a population is so permeated and crushed by a dictatorship that it is no longer able to revolt. It must wait for outside help.
LF:In your opinion, why is it that it is America that has shown itself to be “Aronian?”
PB: America, the home of capitalism, paradoxically knows how to spend colossal sums (as in the case of the Iraqi expedition) on taking care of the world. Europe, which now has no more than a market definition of itself, believes with Adam Smith that commerce and exchange will guarantee the peace of nations forever.
LF: Where does this paradox come from?
PB: Europe behaves towards the rest of the world just as the Fifteen [members of the EU] do amongst themselves, without raising its voice and valuing negotiation and courtesy above all. Europe can only afford itself this luxury – living in the middle of a storm zone as if it were in a sanatorium – because it is protected by the American nuclear umbrella. We are endlessly protesting against this state of dependence. Europe is speeding towards “Helvetization” [i.e. turning into Switzerland, a multi-lingual, neutral state], it lives first and foremost in a perpetual remorse for its own history and tends to consider its own past as nothing but a series of crimes and abominations. The ideology of “the tears of a white man” dominates not only the recent pacifist demonstrations, but it thoroughly permeates our surrounding culture. It is blended with the twilight philosophy of disillusion, the certainty that we will never recover our power again and that in future we will always be the wise and good ones in the great arena of history, in other words, inactive.
The New York Review of Books has a very long essay by prominent author Doris Lessing about Zimbabwe and what Chiraq's pal Robert Mugabe turned it into. A must-read. Here are the opening paragraphs
"You have the jewel of Africa in your hands," said President Samora Machel of Mozambique and President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania to Robert Mugabe, at the moment of independence, in 1980. "Now look after it."
Twenty-three years later, the "jewel" is ruined, dishonored, disgraced.
One man is associated with the calamity, Robert Mugabe. For a while I wondered if the word "tragedy" could be applied here, greatness brought low, but Mugabe, despite his early reputation, was never great; he was always a frightened little man. There is a tragedy, all right, but it is Zimbabwe's.
Mugabe is now widely execrated, and rightly, but blame for him began late. Nothing is more astonishing than the silence about him for so many years among liberals and well-wishers—the politically correct. What crimes have been committed in the name of political correctness. A man may get away with murder, if he is black. Mugabe did, for many years.
Go read it all. And see how "the soft bigotry of low expectations" is quite literally a 'kindness' that can kill.
A few days ago I quipped that there was no French word for chutzpah because a fish has no word for water. Another reason we can't use that word is that it is inadequate; it's like describing an ocean as a "really big puddle". The latest diplomatic moves by the French demonstrate truly unmitigated and unprecedented gall.
France is not only willing to forgive the US, France is also willing to forgive the UK, as long as it, too, apologizes and stops misbehaving. All that the UK has to do is to stop striking out on its own, toe the "European" line, and let the French speak on behalf of Europe, and everything will be hunky-dory. His speech made clear that European unity was vital, and also made clear that the French were right in all of this, which implies that the only way for European unity to be regained is for everyone to acknowledge the superior wisdom and morality of France's point of view.
I can't decide if this means that de Villepin is deluded, desperate, or utterly contemptuous of our mental processes. Likely it's a bit of all three, actually, but there's a strong strain of desperation here. France is in deep trouble.
The new theory is that the US and UK will fight the war, and will spend the money to pay for it (upwards of $70 billion), and that once the war is over we'll happily turn post-war administration of Iraq over to the UN [while footing the bill].
So in an address delivered in London, Monsieur de Villepin has offered the US an olive branch, after a fashion. All we have to do is apologize and repent, and France won't hold our misbehavior against us. They'll let bygones be bygones. After all, given that France considers the US such a deep and valuable friend of long standing, it certainly can't hold our recent misbehavior against us, as long as we acknowledge the error of our ways and promise not to do it again.
France is not only willing to forgive the US, France is also willing to forgive the UK, as long as it, too, apologizes and stops misbehaving. All that the UK has to do is to stop striking out on its own, toe the "European" line, and let the French speak on behalf of Europe, and everything will be hunky-dory. His speech made clear that European unity was vital, and also made clear that the French were right in all of this, which implies that the only way for European unity to be regained is for everyone to acknowledge the superior wisdom and morality of France's point of view.
For example, de Villepin emphasized how critically important it was for the "oil-for-food" deal to restart immediately. His claim was that this was needed for humanitarian reasons, but it is important to note that the majority of that program has been administered by French companies. TotalFinaElf has primarily been responsible for selling the oil, and other French companies have been primary sources of the food and other supplies which have been shipped in.
[...pages and pages of great stuff, which "fair use" copyright doctrine prohibits me from quoting. Just go read the whole thing...]
de Villepin's speech in London sets an all-time high for chutzpah. It breaks the Olympic medal for gall. The arrogance and contempt required to even be willing to deliver that speech goes beyond anything I think I've ever encountered. de Villepin, and his boss Chirac, are deeply in need of a rude awakening. Fortunately, there's every reason to believe that they're going to get one, very soon.
When young, I used to be a Marxist, and surely in the depth of my soul I still take seriously some of the bearded grandpa's insights. Thus, I believe that the objective, material, conditions of life have some kind of influence on the way people think. Nowadays, the European youth is as removed from any productive or creative activity as the youth in Saudi Arabia, for instance. Instead of reading the Koran, they read Le Monde and Jean Baudrillard, and instead of the Islamic green, they fight for the ecological green. But we have in both parts of the world the same explosive combination of an unproductive way of life with highly elaborate but sterile ways of thinking converging in a kind of disdain and, in the end, hatred for those people who keep material production going. Alisa will probably remember the Russian writers of the mid-19th century, like Gontcharov, Turgenev and Dostoyevsky, who wrote about the superfluous men, the unproductive petty aristocrats and state bureaucrats who, because they knew they were useless, became nihilistic and turned the hatred they felt for themselves against the wider society. I think that in the long term the only existing cure for both the Arab and the European youths is hard productive work. When you spend your day building something you won't feel by night the urge of destroying it.
Fox News is openly making fun of Hans "Clouseau" Blix as we speak, particularly his insistence that Iraq does not have the missiles beyond the allowed range that the US came under fire from.
Right now US ambassador to the United Nobheads, John Negroponte, is being interviewed. He explains why he actually walked out during the speech (demented freakazoid rant is a more accurate description) of the Iraqi ambassador (as the latter started accusing the US of planning the genocide of the Iraqi people). Perhaps Negroponte and Tex at Whacking Day could have traded places for the day? posted by Former Belgian at 7:17 PM
Turkey's refusal to let US troops cross through its territory has cost them a lot of US aid money and desperately needed loan guarantees, and definjitely necessitated rethinking the whole battle plan, and in all probability cost the Coalition forces a number of lives. But something has been under the radar: it was the islamist-led coalition that was in favor of the package deal, and the secularist opposition that was against. The latter is rather "counterintuitive" to say the least: now Michael Ledeen in the New York Sun offers the following observations
The Turkish government, which for the first time since the fall of the Ottoman Empire is based on an Islamic party, fully expected that Parliament would approve its proposal that America be given the use of Turkish air bases in the Iraqi war.The government was so confident that the party failed to demand internal discipline, and thus several deputies voted against the resolution.
But that does not account for the failure to approve the government’s proposal.
Primary blame for the defeat of the measure lies with the opposition — the secular, Kemalist parties that have governed the country since Ataturk.
Contrary to expectations, the opposition, responding to orders from party leaders, voted unanimously against the government’s position.
The leaders insisted on a disciplined "no" vote because of pressure — some would call it blackmail — from France and Germany.
The French and German governments informed the Turkish opposition parties that if they voted to help the Coalition war effort, Turkey would be locked out of Europe for a generation. As one Turkish leader put it, "there were no promises, only threats."
Need I say more? For obvious economic reasons as well as a deeply rooted desire to be regarded as "European" on the part of the Turkish elite, Turkey would do literally anything to be admitted to the EU. But if the price is becoming EUnuchs in the harem of the Western world's most contemptible politician, perhaps they ought to reconsider. "The one thing you cannot trade for your heart's desire is your heart." (Lois McMaster Bujold, "Memory".) posted by Former Belgian at 7:04 PM
Quote for the day:
"War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.
A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
Thousands of Palestinians have marched to protest about the war in Iraq and urged Saddam Hussein to strike Israel with chemical weapons. In the West Bank towns of Tulkarem and Tubas, nearly 4,000 Palestinians marched through the streets, holding posters of Saddam and waving Iraqi flags.
The best allies that opponents of a Palestinian state have continue to be the Palestinians themselves.
B.L.O.G.G.E.R. .S.U.C.K.S. .E.S.K.I.M.O. N.E.L.L. posted by Former Belgian at 11:28 PM
Walid Phares, Arab-American professor comments on al-Jazeera. He warns people not to get fooled by their occasional exposure of corrupt Arab rulers (which is "shooting fish in a barrel" anyhow). Go read it all. posted by Former Belgian at 11:22 PM
Still no way to keep up with the rapidly evolving battlefield situation. But my curiosity about the lack of news from the Northern Front just got answered: Fox news reports that a 1,000 strong paratroop contingent has safely parachuted in the North. I would not be surprised if much of what is going on now has the intention of drawing as many Saddamite troops as possible to the South so a movement from the North can happen. (The hi-tech Fourth Infantry Division, which was originally supposed to go through Turkey, is now scheduled to arrive this weekend.) <br> <br>Of course, from Sod-Damn Insane's perspective, what he needs is not to <i>win</i> the war (he can't, anyhow), but to drag it out long enough that his "useful idiots" can apply enough domestic and international pressure on the US to accept some arrangement which guarantees the survival of his regime. His "Ministry of Truth" will then spin this into a 'victory' just like the whacking he received in 1991. And remember: no war crime or other Amalekite stratagem will be too vile to be used for keeping Saddam in the saddle. posted by Former Belgian at 11:22 PM
Walid Phares, Arab-American professor comments on al-Jazeera. He warns people not to get fooled by their occasional exposure of corrupt Arab rulers (which is "shooting fish in a barrel" anyhow). Go read it all. posted by Former Belgian at 10:52 PM
According to an AFP dispatch, the Belgian lower house of parliament voted an amendment to the controversial law that grants universal jurisdiction to the Belgian courts in war crimes cases, whether or not there is any Belgian involvement. The English is rather bizarre "reverse Franglais": by translating into French and back into standard English, I obtain:
Under the amendments passed, the lawsuit will proceed automatically if any of the following apply: (a) the alleged crime was perpetrated in Belgium; (b) the alleged perpetrator is either a Belgian subject or is physically present in Belgium; (c) any of the victims are either Belgian subjects or have resided in Belgium for at least three years.
In none of the above applies, the "public prosecutor" [Belgium's equivalent of a District Attorney] will decide on the competence of the Belgian courts. The Belgian minister of justice has the authority to pass on the case to the judiciary of the country of the accused.
The amendments will affect only cases filed after July 1, 2002 -- like the one against Bush Sr. -- and only those in which the country of the accused has war crimes legislation. [To my knowledge, the US does.]
The dispatch goes on to say:
Fears that a war crimes lawsuit over the Iraqi conflict could be brought against the current US president have further strained relations between the United States and Belgium, which has been a fierce critic of the war on Iraq and was at the center of an unprecedented crisis at NATO over the conflict last month.
The changes to the law came only a week before Belgium's parliament was due to be dissolved ahead of a general election scheduled for May 18.
According to parliamentary sources, the parties in the ruling coalition were divided over how to amend the law.
Verhofstadt's Liberals, backed by Flemish-speaking Socialists, had proposed a "diplomatic filter" allowing the government to pass on any cases to the country where the alleged crimes took place, providing it is democratic.
Francophone Socialists and Greens feared that the law would be rendered toothless if the amendments were too radical.
Read: they are afraid it would deprive them of a vehicle for judicial auto-eroticism over their favorite whipping boy (hint: born in 1928 as Ariel Schneiderman).
I continue to be amazed how a country with one of the most incompetent judiciaries in the Western world would have the chutzpah to in effect declare its courts to be the world's supreme court. (That's Lawrence Peter's "percussive sublimation" management strategy taken to absurd extremes.) But then again, the principle that "a badly crafted or unenforceable law is worse than no law at all" is as counterintuitive to the Belgian statist as it is self-evident to any American not on the political lunatic fringes.
But let's look at the half-full part of the glass: a classic piece of "Barney legislation" has just been semi-sanitized [assuming the Senate approves the amendment]. I have much less of an issue with Belgium seeking jurisdiction in cases involving Belgian citizens or territory (several other countries have such laws on the books).
Update: the vote was only in the Chamber Commission, not in the plenum. A still more restrictive version that also eliminated the "grandfather clause" was voted through the Plenum. posted by Former Belgian at 9:26 PM
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has compared himself to Adolf Hitler.
At the state funeral of one of his cabinet ministers, Mr Mugabe said: "I am still the Hitler of the time. This Hitler has only one objective, justice for his own people, sovereignty for his people, recognition of the independence of his people, and their right to their resources.
"If that is Hitler, then let me be a Hitler tenfold. Ten times, that is what we stand for."
Mugabe has wet dreams about being Hitler, Saddam of being Stalin and Salah-e-Din (Saladin) in one, Arafat will settle for Saladin alone, and their friend Chiraq harbors similar delusions of grandeur of being either the new De Gaulle or the new Louis XIV. One truly knows a man by the company he keeps. posted by Former Belgian at 4:30 PM
[Napoleon] had one prodigious advantage - he had no responsibility - he could do whatever he pleased; and no man has ever lost more armies than he did. Now with me the loss of every man told. I could not risk so much; I knew that if I ever lost five hundred men without the clearest necessity, I should be brought upon my knees to the bar of the House of the Commons.
It seems that everybody is dissing the BBC these days. Andrew Sullivan has been calling it the "Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation" for months. Now others are joining in.
Rand Simberg blames BBC snobbery on upper-middle-class sensibilities, and I think he's almost right. It's really a case of New Class sensibilities.
I can't help but notice that anti-Americanism, and the various manifestations of what some have called Transnational Progressivism, are most common among people who, well, have state-supported managerial or intellectual jobs, the people who made up what Milovan Djilas and others called the "New Class" of bureaucrats and managers in the old Communist world. Not surprisingly, the New Class was deeply concerned with matters of status and position, and deeply opposed to things that might have led to competition on merit. There's nothing new about such a view, which predated communism: As David Levy and Sandra Peart note, it's an attitude that even in the nineteenth century was characteristic of anti-capitalists and anti-semites - and, nowadays, there's a lot of overlap between anti-capitalists, anti-semites, and anti-Americans.
A common thread among anti-semitism, anti-capitalism, and anti-Americanism is the fear of being outdone by people willing to work harder. It's not surprising that such a fear exists among a disproportionate number of those who take state-supported jobs. It's thus not surprising, then, that New Class sensibilities are so often anti-American and anti-capitalist, and increasingly (or perhaps I should say, once again) anti-Semitic, too. The New Class, in this regard, as in many others, is like the old haut-bourgeoisie.
WHACK! (Sound of cluebat hitting my head.) I have been a "progressist" all my life, and (in consequence) a social democrat of the old school for most of it. But much of what calls itself the "new Left" these days is objectively a deeply reactionary movement posturing as "progressive". And many "progressive" ideas I have always embraced (equality of opportunity, the marketplace of ideas, scientific and technical progress as vehicles of individual and collective empowerment) have become part and parcel of "neoconservative" doctrine. Could this be the "Umwertung aller Werte" (revaluation of all values) Nietzsche was predicting?
As much as I understand the feelings and frustration behind "freedom fries", "freedom toast", French wine flushing parties, and proposals to boycott French goods, they are both a bit childish and --- the one cardinal sin of the engineerist --- ineffective. John Fund proposes hitting France where it really hurts --- with a special issue of Green Cards to fuel the "brain drain" of talented Frenchmen. I propose an amendment: extend the proposal to Belgium.
The other day at the pub, I overheard an expat Belgian being asked by an American what the prevalent political philosophy is in Belgium. He quipped "national-castrism". He hurried to explain that this was not a reference to Fidel Castro... posted by Former Belgian at 9:22 AM
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
Law student and former US Military Police captain Phil Carter predicts what will happen to the "fragger":
Prediction: SGT Akbar will likely be charged with capital murder and a number of other military offenses in such a trial. He will have a right of defense counsel, a right to cross-examination, and a right to put on his defense -- all the rights that a criminal defendant would have in L.A. County. Akbar will have the right to a military jury, which at his option can include enlisted members and officers. That jury must find him guilty by unanimous verdict. If convicted, Akbar can appeal to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals, and then to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces -- both of which will be mandatory appeals if he receives the death penalty. After the CAAF, he can appeal his case to the Supreme Court. In total, he has one more court of appeal than civilian defendants do. Ultimately, I predict that Akbar will be sentenced to death and executed for his heinous crime which took the life of CPT Christopher Seifert.
He also points to an article on findlaw.com refuting some common myths about the military justice system. posted by Former Belgian at 11:20 PM
WW II historian John Keegan apparently works for the Daily Telegraph as a defense (or defence, for Tony Blair :-)) editor. See his comments yesterday and today, for instance.
TV is off the air in Iraq now, and part of Baghdad is shrouded in darkness. Something is about to happen... posted by Former Belgian at 10:16 PM
And in The New Republic, expatriate Iraqi dissident Kanan Makiya has some choice things to say:
The bombs have begun to fall on Baghdad. Iraqi soldiers have shot their officers and are giving themselves up to the Americans and the British in droves. Others, as in Nasiriyah and Umm Qasr, are fighting back, and civilians have already come under fire. Yet I find myself dismissing contemptuously all the e-mails and phone calls I get from antiwar friends who think they are commiserating with me because "their" country is bombing "mine." To be sure, I am worried. Like every other Iraqi I know, I have friends and relatives in Baghdad. I am nauseous with anxiety for their safety. But still those bombs are music to my ears. They are like bells tolling for liberation in a country that has been turned into a gigantic concentration camp. One is not supposed to say such things in the kind of liberal, pacifist, and deeply anti-American circles of academia, in which I normally live and work. The truth is jarring even to my own ears.
If you want to understand the perceptual chasm that separates how Iraqis view this second Gulf war from how the rest of the Arab-Muslim world views it--or from how these antiwar elites here in Cambridge or, dare I say, in Turtle Bay or Paris or Berlin view it--then you must begin with the war that has already been waged on the people of Iraq by their own regime. Then you will know, horribly, how the explosion of a JDAM can sound beautiful. For Iraqis, the absence of this new American-led war is not the presence of peace. Years before the first American cruise missile exploded in a "safe house" of the Iraqi leadership, the people of Iraq were living through a war. They have been living through that war since 1980, the year Saddam Hussein launched his futile war against Iran. Since then, one and a half million Iraqis have met a violent death. Between 5 and 10 percent of Iraq's population has been killed, either directly or indirectly, because of decisions made by its own leadership. The scale of such devastation on a people is impossible to imagine. Think of Germany or France after World War I. Think of the Soviet Union after World War II. The peoples that are thrust into such a meat-grinder are never the same when they emerge. Is it any wonder that we Iraqis do not look at this war the way so much of the rest of the world does?
UPDATE: Kanan Makiya is the author of "Republic of Fear", originally published under the pseudonym Samir al-Khalil.
Neil Cavuto: The Shi'ite has hit the fan. It's now official: the Iraqi population rose up against the remaining Saddamites in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city.
Fox also reports that Special Republican Guard units are dressing up in US (or other Coalition) uniforms, "accept" Iraqis willing to surrender, and shoot them. Iraq continues to pile one perfidy upon the next.
"Perfidy", in fact, has a very specific meaning in the context of international law. There is a common misunderstanding among Belgian journalists (see e.g. the example cited today by Live in Brussels) that disguising combatants in civilian clothes, feigning surrender,... are mere ruses of war. In fact, under international law, there is a very sharp distinction between permissible ruses of war (feints, camouflage, disinformation, decoys, interception and/or jamming of communications), and perfidy, which constitutes a gross breach of the laws of war. According to, e.g., Article III.37 of the 1977 Protocol Additional of the Geneva convention:
1. It is prohibited to kill, injure or capture an adversary by resort to perfidy. Acts inviting the confidence of an adversary to lead him to believe that he is entitled to, or is obliged to accord, protection under the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, with intent to betray that confidence, shall constitute perfidy. The following acts are examples of perfidy:
(a) the feigning of an intent to negotiate under a flag of truce or of a surrender;
(b) the feigning of an incapacitation by wounds or sickness;
(c) the feigning of civilian, non-combatant status; and
(d) the feigning of protected status by the use of signs, emblems or uniforms of the United Nations or of neutral or other States not Parties to the conflict.
Other examples are the use of human shields, disguise in the uniform of the opposing party,... Perfidious conduct on the part of one warring party is generally considered to forfeit the abused protection (see e.g. the following analysis by international law scholar Prof. Louis Rene Beres).
Newsweek has the inside story about how the "decapitation strike" that opened the war came about. Apparently the Coalition had a top-level informer who told them where Saddam would be sleeping that night. (Hat tip: the Command Post gang.)
Incidentally, like Andrew Sullivan, I am of the opinion that the Iraqi behavior of the last day (shooting POWs, "surrendered" troops opening fire,...) may be a conscious attempt at provoking the Coalition forces into less discriminate tactics (like carpet bombing), so the Iraqis have some civilian casualties that they can trot out for emotional blackmail.
Seven in 10 said the anti-war rallies have not changed their opinion on the conflict. One in five-20 percent-said the protests have made them more likely to back the war, while 7 percent said it has increased their opposition to the conflict.
There's no way I can keep up with all the war news here by myself ;-): even Instapundit gave up. THE COMMAND POST is a new warblogger collective that has literally up-to-the-minute info around the clock. See also the button over on the left. posted by Former Belgian at 6:34 AM
Sunday, March 23, 2003
The other day I heard that old Rush favorite, "Something for Nothing" (from the album 2112). It occurred to me that the chorus is a very concise statement of my personal philosophy of life:
You don't get something for nothing
You can't have freedom for free
You won't get wise, with the sleep still in your eyes
No matter what your dreams may be
The first line is the most basic law of economics, also known as the TANSTAAFL ("There ain't no such thing as a free lunch", Robert A. Heinlein) principle.
The second line is Thomas Paine's famous opening to "The Crisis" (see below), reduced to one line.
The third line can be read to mean: wisdom can only be acquired by checking theory against objective reality.
And this applies to all ideologies, no matter where on the political map they come from (the fourth line).
These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.
One of the longest LGF threads ever concerns the report that a sergeant of the legendary 101st Airborne Division (of D-Day fame, entre autres) threw three hand grenades at his commanding officers, killing one and wounding a dozen. The perpetrator is said to be a Black American convert to Islam, although his motivation is not clear at this stage (a psychopath nursing a grudge, or one of the political variety).
As anybody remotely familiar with people in the combat military (especially those in elite units like the 101st) can imagine, soldiers who "frag" their mates (as this type of act is known in army slang) and would be handed over to the survivors would probably beg to be put to death by firing squad instead. My prediction however is that the US Army (for image reasons) will classify this as a psychiatric case and that the perp will be bundled off to a "looney bin".
Update: several referred me to the Rudyard Kipling poem/song Danny Deever
"What are the bugles blowin' for?" said Files-on-Parade.
"To turn you out, to turn you out", the Colour-Sergeant said.
"What makes you look so white, so white?" said Files-on-Parade.
"I'm dreadin' what I've got to watch", the Colour-Sergeant said.
They are hangin' Danny Deever, you must mark 'im to 'is place,
For 'e shot a comrade sleepin' -- you must look 'im in the face;
Nine 'undred of 'is county an' the regiment's disgrace,
While they're hangin' Danny Deever in the mornin'.
WATCHING THE SHOW: I was watching CNN last, and they did a phone interview with John Burns, an obviously British-born reporter for the New York Times, currently reporting from Baghdad. Burns has been watching, from a half a mile away, the "coalition of the willing" destroying government buildings. Burns said that not only did he feel perfectly safe, he said that many Iraqis were going outdoors to watch. He perceived it as Iraqis having great confidence both that our bombs and missles would land only on military targets, and that we would do our best to avoid hitting civilians.
Maybe Burns is wrong. Maybe, in spite of who Burns works for [a reference to NYT's blatant liberal bias, FB], he's a closet pro-American journalist. But it is somewhat gratifying to think that in spite of Iraqi media efforts to portray the U.S. as a bunch of bloodthirsty killers, there are Iraqi civilians who know better.
Paul Johnson accuses Jacques Iraq of having dealt fatal blows to three international institutions for no other reason than "amour propre".
We have to face the ugly fact: Internationalism--the principle of collective security and the attempt to regulate the world through representative bodies--has been dealt a vicious blow by Mr. Chirac's bid to present himself as a world statesman, whatever the cost to the world. France is a second-rate power militarily. But because of its geographic position at the center of Western Europe and its nominal possession of nuclear weapons, which ensures its permanent place on the U.N. Security Council, it wields considerable negative and destructive power. On this occasion, it has exercised such power to the full, and the consequences are likely to be permanent.
The first body Mr. Chirac has damaged, perhaps fatally, is the U.N. The old Security Council system will have to go: It is half a century old and no longer represents reality because three of the world's most important entities--Japan, Germany and India--have no permanent place on it. More important, however, the United States, whose support for the U.N. is essential to its continuance, has lost confidence in its usefulness in moments of real crisis, as the Azores summit showed. The Security Council will now be marginalized and important business will be transacted elsewhere. Indeed, it may prove difficult to keep the U.S. within the organization at all.
Mr. Chirac's heavy hand has also fallen on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. By trying to manipulate NATO against the U.S., its co-founder, principal member and chief supplier of firepower, France made a fundamental mistake. Both the U.N. and NATO were originally created precisely to keep the U.S. committed to collective security and the defense of Europe, and to avoid a U.S. return to isolationism. America's victory in the Cold War meant that there was no longer a case for keeping a large proportion of its armed forces in Western Europe.
It now makes much more sense, militarily and geographically, to base America's rapid-reaction force for the European theater in reliable Britain, and on this basis construct practical bilateral deals with all the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, whose freedom and democracy depend on U.S. goodwill. In this new system, France will become irrelevant. We will see then what Germany will do. My guess is that it will come to its senses and scuttle quickly under the U.S. umbrella.
The third organization Mr. Chirac has damaged is the European Union. Although under French pressure the EU has been scrambling toward monetary and constitutional union, the Iraq crisis--which has split the EU into a dozen fragments--shows that it has made no progress at all toward a common foreign policy. The only country that joined the Franco-German axis is Belgium. Two of the five major members, Italy and Spain, sided with the U.K., as have most of the newcomers and aspirant members--thereby earning the East Europeans personal abuse from Mr. Chirac. This is the man who likes to be called "the first gentleman of Europe."
The crisis demonstrated plainly enough that the EU's armed forces do not exist and, on present showing, never will. Mr. Chirac could not hold off the Anglo-American option of force because he could not make a significant contribution. Anglo-American commanders have learned, from their experience in the Balkans, not to trust the French forces. So, having no "war card" to play, Mr. Chirac played the "peace card," the only one he possessed. As a result, a dozen or more EU members, or would-be members, are now rethinking their commitment to the EU. The U.K. is wondering, for instance, whether its future is with Continental Europe. Once again, for the British, the Channel has proved wider than the Atlantic.
Mr. Bush has a busy time ahead. Not only must he and Mr. Blair devise a workable post-war settlement for Iraq (and plan the next move against terrorist states like North Korea and Iran), but America has to construct a vision of a safe world which can get by without NATO and with a marginalized U.N. It is high time that America began the "agonizing reappraisal" that the former U.S. secretary of state John Foster Dulles once threatened.
In it, America must think hard whether it can offer a viable alternative to European states that no longer wish to commit themselves to a European Union dominated by a selfish and irresponsible France. Today, in 2003, I see no reason why this reappraisal should be agonizing. On the contrary, it is welcome and overdue, and can be constructive and exhilarating.
A priceless op-ed in the subscriber-only section of the Wall Street Journal by chess world champion and contributing editor Gary Kasparov:
Past war-time leaders have similarly faced critics, nonbelievers and those who would appease evil. Much has been said about the dismissals that similarly greeted Winston Churchill's warnings of the destruction Hitler would unleash. As a long-time student of American history, I am struck also by the parallels with another Republican Party leader who was pilloried for launching a war that his critics claimed was reckless: Abraham Lincoln.
At the time of the Civil War, his critics were numerous and viscious, the ultimate price of war was terrifying and peaceful alternatives were on the table. Indeed, despite the overwhelming battlefield success of union armies his democratic opponent Gen. George McClellan mounted a strong presidential challenge in 1864 on a platform of immediate peace and reconciliation, abjuring intervention into the affairs of the southern states. Democrats then, not so unlike those of today, were more concerned with slavery in economic terms than the underlying principles that animated Lincoln.
But there are crucial differences between the challenges that confront today's war-time leaders. Their detractors are highly organized and have access to a broadly sympathetic media. I wonder if Lincoln would have preserved his 10% lead in the popular vote had the public then had CNN reporting live from Atlanta. When the media take at face value mass demonstrations in Iraqi cities to support our "beloved Saddam" one tries to imagine whether anyone would have given similar credence in Lincoln's time to a parade of black slaves on the streets of Richmond demonstrating in support of the Confederacy.
What makes today's demonstrators and anti-Bush media so implacable is that their actions are underpinned by a grossly inaccurate reading of history that emerged from the left-wing movements of the last century. The belief system and indeed vocabulary of this movement have become woven into the fabric of modern political discourse. Thus news readers speak of Cuban "President" Fidel Castro and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, but Chilean "dictator" Gen. Agusto Pinochet.
In the mental history book of many of those opposing American action in Iraq, there is no page on the sacrifice of 38,000 American soldiers who perished in the Korean Peninsula. There is no chapter on American protection of Taiwan, saved from Mao's blodbath by U.S. warships. Though there are plenty of lessons offered on the dirty "imperialistic" war in Vietnam, there is no mention of the fact that the U.S. withdrawal from Southeast Asia opened the gates to the unspeakable horrors of Pol Pot's genocide in Cambodia and the massacres and mass exodus in South Vietnam. (One might even argue that the tragedy that befell the people of Southeast Asia was a direct result of the success of the anti-war movement.)
In these circles, it's unfashionable to talk about the true origin of the Arab-Israeli conflict, of the naked aggression of Arab states in 1947 aimed at the elimination of all the Jews in the region. Or that the policy of Arab spiritual leaders targeted moderate Arabs as well as Zionists. That policy was successfully inherited by the so-called liberation fighters in Algeria, another cruel and dirty war. No injustice by French troops there could be compared to the mass liquidation of innocent civilians, both Muslim and Christian, executed by anti-colonialist fighters after their departure 1962. Similarly, it is taboo to speak of the wrongdoings of Salvador Allende or the Republican terror sponsored by Stalin's secret service in the Spanish Civil War.
And in the absolute required reading category, David Brooks' essay Saddam's Brain. I will just quote the opening paragraph:
WHEN FACULTY MEMBERS at the Sorbonne gather to discuss who should get the prize for most evil alumnus, they probably rehash all the familiar names--Pol Pot, mastermind of the Cambodian genocide; Abimael Guzman, leader of Peru's Shining Path guerrilla movement; and Ali Shariat, the intellectual godfather of the Iranian revolution. But they really should give serious consideration to Michel Aflaq.
It was Aflaq, a Syrian intellectual and political organizer, who founded the Syrian and Iraqi Baath parties. It was Aflaq, too, who in 1963 elevated Saddam Hussein to the Regional Command in Iraq's Baath party, and so set him on his course to dictatorship. And it was Aflaq who laid down the ideology that continues to dominate Saddam's thinking today. Saddam Hussein, after all, isn't a general who took over a government by means of a military coup. He's not only a thug, a ruthless tribal leader, a Don Corleone-style Godfather, a power-mad dictator. He is first and foremost a political activist, a party man.
Go read the whole thing. posted by Former Belgian at 6:08 PM
I just see a telling split-screen on Fox. On the left the Iraqi ambassador to the Useless Nabobs is reading off some incoherent rant about "the communist-capitalist American Zionist oil mafia". On the right you can see (carefully selected targets in) Baghdad being bombed. Well, the poor sod[damite] ambassador may only be trying to save his relatives from being immersed in vats of acid. posted by Former Belgian at 10:38 PM
A group of American anti-war demonstrators who came to Iraq with Japanese human shield volunteers made it across the border today with 14 hours of uncensored video, all shot without Iraqi government minders present. Kenneth Joseph, a young American pastor with the Assyrian Church of the East, told UPI the trip "had shocked me back to reality." Some of the Iraqis he interviewed on camera "told me they would commit suicide if American bombing didn't start. They were willing to see their homes demolished to gain their freedom from Saddam's bloody tyranny. They convinced me that Saddam was a monster the likes of which the world had not seen since Stalin and Hitler. He and his sons are sick sadists. Their tales of slow torture and killing made me ill, such as people put in a huge shredder for plastic products, feet first so they could hear their screams as bodies got chewed up from foot to head."
Chirac souspasse [sic] soi-meme de nouveau ("underpasses" himself again). Then again, I agree with Glenn Reynolds that the further the United Neocolonialists/Useless Nincompoops are kept from Iraq, the better for the country and the world. posted by Former Belgian at 7:33 PM
"Shock and awe" finally started, at least the first part of it. The images are unlike anything I've ever seen. There seems to have been a lull (at least in Baghdad) while Rumsfeld and Meyers were holding their briefings, possibly to give Iraqi commanders "sitting on the fence" a chance to change sides.
Fox News reports that Turkey finally allowed US military overflights. Apparently they were waiting for the decision to be published in the Turkish equivalent of the Federal Register/Het Belgisch Staatsblad/Le Moniteur Belge.
An article in "The Atlantic Monthly" turns the tables on the "internationalist" jetset and exposes their neo-colonial lifestyle. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
The next wave is now starting to hit.
Live from Brussels reports that the Belgian media (of all sides) have been saturation-bombing their audiences with anti-war coverage, but are not proposing any serious alternatives, except more of the same failed approaches. He also notes that people he talked to privately express a certain satisfaction that the world will shortly be rid of the Saddamite regime. Well, garbage cleanup may be a low-prestige position, but somebody has to do it. Although what seems to be going on in Iraq looks more like a tumor being removed with painstaking care not to damage the healthy tissue.
The peace of the slaves for the West, peace of the grave for Israel "anti-war" movement has been immune to parody since masturbateforpeace.com was first brought online. Yet even they have just outdone themselves with a vomit-in at a federal building. (Hat tip: lgf.) posted by Former Belgian at 3:35 PM
The Libertarian Samizdata has a much less positive appreciation of Tony Blair than I do. For them, his "doing the right thing" in the War on Terror is overshadowed by his Euro-enthusiasm. Their admittedly somewhat alarmist post links to an analysis from the Cato Institute (a Libertarian think thank) that raises many concerns that the present non-Libertarian happens to agree with. Not to mention the very fact of a Constitution being drafted by Giscard d'Estaing (how about the "unalieanable right" of Central Africans not to end up in Bokassa's cooking pots?). What's next, Bill Clinton drafting a Vatican encyclical on chastity?
According to the Gazet van Antwerpen (in Dutch, does not require registration or an online subscription), the EU-summit on the war was apparently quite stormy, and ended in a split. The UK and five other countries (The Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Denmark) came out in favor, while vehemently against were, you guessed it... France, Germany, and Belgium. In the same newspaper, a report on Belgian PM Verhofstadt's favoring an integrated Belgian-French-German military in the light of this crisis. I am sure the Belgian military will make a fearsome addition.
Sarcasm aside, it is a mystery to me why, of all people, Verhofstadt (who largely built his political career on being Belgium's answer to Margaret Thatcher) seems to think Belgium's meal ticket consists of acting like France's chocolate poodle. True, Belgium's national elections are at the gates, but I always considered Verhofstadt to be one of the few principled Belgian politicians, as much as I (a social-democrat for most of my conscious political life) used to disagree with him on socio-economic matters.
I am not mystified in the same manner by the behavior of his foreign minister, Louis "le nain jardin" Michel --- a living example of the Churchillian epithet "the only bull who brings his own china shop".
Washington Post: US officials convinced Saddam was in bunker hit. A former mistress of Saddam is said to have declared the 'Saddam with glasses' reading the speech was a double. (hat tip: Belgravia Dispatch blog.)
Two choice bits from The Australian: (1) an open letter by an Iraqi refugee; and (2) a piece of commentary by journalist and former MP Winston S. Churchill Jr. posted by Former Belgian at 11:54 AM
There is something surreal about the campaign. Resistance is almost unbelievably light, which could mean one of fouir things: (1) the US psychological warfare campaign aimed at encouraging Iraqi forces to give up without a fight has succeeded beyond expectations; (2) an `in-depth trap' is being prepared for the Coalition forces; (3) the Iraqi leadership has indeed been knocked out by the `decapitation strike'; (4) Saddam is suffering from a psychological `knockout' similar to that of his role model, Josef Stalin, in the first weeks after Operation Barbarossa.
Meanwhile, B-52 bombers are reported to take off from bases in England. This could either mean they are being brought forward to bases closer to the theatre of operations, or that the much-hyped `shock and awe' massive smart bombing strike may start as early as tonight. (The very hype may have been disinformation to put the enemy on the wrong foot.) posted by Former Belgian at 11:43 AM
I am currently listening to military SciFi-author and former paratrooper John Ringo, who is explaining on Fox News why the military --- which traditionally has held mainstream media reporters at arm's length --- has made a 180-degree turn for this campaign and is actually allowing reporters to ride with the front-line troops and reporting in real time. The bottom line: the journalists --- who live like common `grunts' for the duration --- now feel first-hand what it is is really like to be a soldier, and this type of reporting leaves nearly zero room for 'spin' on the part of the journalist.
Speaking of a "preventive strike" on hostile public opinion. Incidentally, it appears that the "phone-cam" images are being watched as intently in the Pentagon as by armchair strategists around the globe :-), as it allows fact-checking rumors from other media.
The first direct combat fatality (a US Marines officer) has been reported.
One unique aspect form the present war is the presence of 'embedded' civilian correspondents who report in real time for their employer media. Fox News in fact has live video via satellite phone from some of their people.
Meanwhile, Caroline Glick, embedded correspondent for both the Chicago Sun-Times and the Jerusalem Post (both newspapers of the Hollinger Group) has some choice remarks about the tenacious attempts of the Kuwaitis to block her press accreditation (as well as those of other people with Israel connections).
A few hours before I was set to depart for Kuwait on a flight from Washington, DC, I began to realize that I would be in for a rough ride. I read on the Internet that the Kuwaitis issued a statement telling the international press corps in Kuwait that anyone transmitting reports to the Israeli media would face criminal prosecution.
On the face of it, the Kuwaitis could have easily passed over my name and not bothered with me. I am an American citizen. I applied for my Kuwaiti visa with a letter of accreditation from the Chicago Sun-Times. For the Kuwaitis to go after me they would have to really want to.
The US army's public affairs officers were told by the Kuwaitis ahead of my arrival that they would not accredit me to work in the country. The State Department's agreement with Kuwait stipulates that the US army will not accredit journalists not already accredited by the Kuwaitis. For the rest of the international press corps, Kuwaiti accreditation was a formality.
The information office had a table right across from the army's public affairs counter. But for me, it was an insurmountable hurdle. And non-accreditation meant that I was stuck, prevented from doing my job.
For their part, the Kuwaitis were moving as well, but so was I. In the late afternoon hours I sat down at a table in the Hilton lobby waiting to phone a helpful foreign service officer at the US Embassy named Jim Moran. A stranger sat down at my table and said, "You're Caroline Glick from the Chicago Jerusalem Post Sun-Times."
"Who are you?" I asked.
"I'm Yigal, Hungarian from Peruvian television."
So I met Yigal Zur, another hounded Israeli. Yigal introduced me to an army officer who had been helping him. The officer told me to pack my bags and move out of my hotel room immediately. "If you stay there on your own the Kuwaitis can escort you to the airport, no problem," he said. "And I know that is what they want to do."
What followed was like a movie scene. Yigal and I got into a cab and drove to my hotel. He waited in the cab while I ran up and packed my gear and checked out. We then returned to the Hilton, paid in cash for a room under his name so no one would know where to find me.
In the meantime, I received a call from Jim Moran at the US embassy. The State Department had worked out a compromise. The Kuwaitis would accredit me if I signed a paper promising not to report for any Israeli media outlet while in Kuwait.
The next morning, before they gave me the statement, a Kuwaiti official (born and raised in Virginia) began interrogating me. He wanted me to agree not to write for the Israeli media not only in Kuwait, but in Iraq as well. I couldn't believe his nerve. I replied politely that I could only discuss with the Kuwaiti government my plans for while in Kuwait and that a decision where to place my articles was made by my company, not by me.
After signing the statement, I was immediately loaded on a bus with other journalists. Yigal from Peruvian television spent the next two nights in a room registered under my name waiting to go himself. I was sent to the Army's 3rd infantry division's first combat brigade.
I looked at the other journalists on my bus and wondered about them. Would they be angry if they knew what I had to go through in order to join them on this bus? Did they care when they saw that the Kuwaitis had put a notice on the bulletin board of the Hilton's media center prohibiting all news organizations from publishing their reports in the Israeli media? Would it bother them if they knew that I had just spent the last night in hiding?
Not knowing the answers to any of these questions, I kept my own counsel on the bus, introducing myself as a Sun-Times reporter only.
Eventually she resumed reporting as she crossed into Iraq. She continues:
For me, the main lesson from this odyssey is that to refer to the Middle East conflict as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is to ignore the truth.
The truth is that at its root the conflict is about the Arab world's obsession with rejecting Israel. Kuwait hates the Palestinians. The Kuwaitis kicked the Palestinians out of their country :[a few bparagraphs up she clarified:] You can't find any Palestinians in Kuwait anymore. All 250,000 of them were deported in 1991 after the coalition forces liberated Kuwait.
The way I was treated had nothing to do with Beit El or Netzarim. It has to do with Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and the Bible.
She also comments:
The drive from hotel to hotel lasted 25 minutes during which the taxi traversed Kuwait City. The most remarkable aspect of Kuwait City is the absence of Kuwaitis. They leave the work of running their kingdom to foreigners Filipinos, Indians, Pakistanis, Egyptians and Bangladeshis mainly. [...]
Kuwait City looks like a run-down version of [the Israeli towns of] Afula or Beersheba with one primary difference. There is nothing going on. No one is going anywhere or doing anything in Kuwait City. Whereas Israeli cities teem with life and energy, Kuwait City is lethargic, bereft of human vitality.
The opulence of the beach front suburb was an indication that Kuwaitis actually live there. But its wealth made it no more appealing than the dead cityscape. At first glance, the villas recalled Herzliya Pituah, but upon closer examination, they lack character. The palaces stand like algae in a motionless pool.
My cab ride to the Hilton showed me that the Kuwaitis care little about cultivating their own country. My experience after arriving at the Hilton showed me that the Kuwaitis care very much about hating Israel.