Entre Nous / Musings of a Former Belgian
"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)
   

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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Monday, June 30, 2003
 
It ain't nothing but a Hudna. As Tal G. rightly points out [diacritical marks added]

The Israeli media pretty consistently describes the topic of the current Hamas-PA discussions using the same Arabic word as Hamas itself: hudna. Using the term hudna maintains the allusion to Muhammad's tactical truce with the Quraish tribe that he eventually violated.

(Some background about the meaning of "hudna" in this context.)

When media talking heads start blabbing about the newfound willingness of the Palestinians to make peace, do not delude yourselves. It ain't nothin' but a hound dog^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h hudna...

Friday, June 27, 2003
 
Just when I thought I had lost my capacity to be outraged, I run across something like this.

 
In today's De Standaard (in Dutch, in the for-pay only section), editor-at-large Mia Doornaert comments from the annual "Transatlantic Journalists Forum" in Washington, DC. Some highlights in translation:

If, in the last few months, a single group of people has thrown the [Belgian] national interest to the winds for partisan reasons and in the hope of electoral gains, it has been our political leaders. The TV broadcast during the [electoral] campaign in which the gentlemen [Defense Minister] André Flahaut and [Foreign Minister] Louis Michel were one-upping each other with anti-American statements, achieved notoriety.

Our [sarcasm]brave[/sarcasm] Flahaut did not leave it at that. During a visit to his German colleague Peter Struck, he [Flahaut] proposed that both countries would cancel the so-called "Lines of Communication" agreements with the United States. Struck was startled and said there could be no talk of such a hostile act. His country was already busily trying to mend [its] damaged relations with the US. But Flahaut's clever idea did of course come to the attention of the US.

The French PM [!] had also already warned in [their] Parliament that "we should not start attacking the wrong enemy. No problem, ministers of brave Belgium kept regularly slapping the US in the face. Where the greatness of a small country shows. And our dynamic Prime Minister "was standing by and looking on" [a reference to a popular Dutch children's song about two bears buttering rolls]. [...]

Meanwhile, even the smallest child could see that all these needless provocations further burdened the disagreement with the US about the [universal jurisdiction] law. And meanwhile, our diplomats had already warned repeatedly and insistently that the patch-up jobs on [this] law had not solved the problems with Washington. In this manner, [...] politicians undid years of patient diplomatic work.

[...]
The point isn't that Belgium is not allowed to criticize the US, that it "must not step out of line" [...] Whoever knows the history of NATO, knows it is filled with disagreements between the allies. But needlessly antagonizing allies serves no purposes at all.

Is it because our governing elite was so saturated with years of spin and propaganda about "Belgium [being] on the map again" that they remained deaf for all warning about this? That they also waited until Rumsfeld played such a game of hardball before they started seeing that prior makeshift alterations to the [universal jurisdiction] law made things worse, if at all possible?

She goes on to explain that the procedure under which the [Belgian] government can redirect a complaint not involving Belgian perpetrators or victims to the judiciary of the accused's country -- ostensibly meant to placate US [and Israeli, FB] concerns -- in fact made things worse, since the US has such a strict separation between the branches of government ("scheiding van machten") that they understood nothing at all of this.

And then

It should give food for thought to Belgium that, even in the current anti-American atmosphere, it could not count on a groundswell of solidarity among the European countries after [what she terms, FB] Rumsfeld's blackmail at NATO.

She then quotes an opinion piece in the [Dutch daily] NRC-Handelsblad of June 21:

It is on display as an undiplomatic fight-picker. That is something, considering that Brussels is ranked among the most important diplomatic centers in the world. Noblesse oblige. [...]
By public snubs by government officials who should know better, followed by inept crisis management, Belgium traded its position among the "serious smalls" for one among the "silly smalls".


 
Blogger's new clothes. I almost hate to say it, but Blogger's new interface (particularly the "low-fi" variant, which you get when connecting with Safari on a Mac) actually seems to be an improvement. Posts get checked for unbalanced tags now (lost count of how many times these sent my blog down the tubes), you get to preview and re-edit if you want,... I am sure some bugs and turkeys are lurking around the corner, but so far I'm fairly happy...

 
"Left"ist racial bigotry is not an oxymoron. Both Innocents Abroad and Best of the Web highlight the following statement by NYT columnist Maureen Dowd (writing about the recent Supreme Court decision on [newspeak]affirmative action[/newspeak] at U. of Michigan Law School):

What a cunning man Clarence Thomas is.

He knew that he could not make a powerful legal argument against racial preferences, given the fact that he got into Yale Law School and got picked for the Supreme Court thanks to his race.

So he made a powerful psychological argument against what the British call "positive discrimination," known here as affirmative action. . . .

The dissent is a clinical study of a man who has been driven barking mad by the beneficial treatment he has received.

It's poignant, really. It makes him crazy that people think he is where he is because of his race, but he is where he is because of his race. . . . Maybe he is disgusted with his own great historic ingratitude.

A conservative columnist making the same statements about a black darling of the "left" would have been virtually lynched. Here we have a supposed standard bearer of "enlightened" opinion (one I will always remember writing that when Bill Clinton needed another Monica, women should gratefully put on the presidential kneepads) essentially saying that blacks are too stupid to make it on their own, that they need a liberal sugar mamma to help them, and that they should just say "thank you, mistress" rather than "bite the hand that feeds them".

With friends like these, do blacks need enemies? Let me give the last word to Innocents Abroad:

However much one may favor affirmative action as a remedy for past injustice, it is impossible to sanction Dowd's rhetoric. Her piece is so harsh, shrill, hateful, insensitive, and, yes, racist (strange coming from a liberal, no?) that it should be used as exhibit A by the GOP for courting black voters back to the party.

No conservative pundit could ever get away with writing the things Dowd wrote today. The good news is that no conservative pundit would want to.


Thursday, June 26, 2003
 
The Dutch-language Belgian newspaper De Standaard reported yesterday (and again reports today) on how Belgian FM Louis Michel is seeking to dismiss a Foreign Ministry employee for "trying to stir up a destabilizing plot against the government" by sending out an Email critical of Belgium's handling of its relations with the US in general and concerning the "universal jurisdiction" issue in particular. Michel claims the employee is a "mole" of the Flemish Christian-Democratic Party and that the Emails had gone only to politicians in the latter. The daily is quite skeptical of the "conspiracy" claims and was able to show that the mail had also gone to key people in other parties as well as the Belgian diplomatic corps and the Foreign Ministry.


Today the daily has a transcript of the "conspiratory" Email, which I am translating below.


DE STANDAARD, 25/06/2003

[In Dutch, translation and explanatory comments in square brackets by Former Belgian]

The following E-mail, drafted in Q and A form, was sent on Monday June 16, 2003, by F.J., a nontenured employee of the Belgian delegation at NATO, to (among others) [opposition] Christian-Democratic politicians, a person high up in the [gov’t coalition] Liberal-Democratic Party, and the offices of PM Guy Verhofstadt and FM Louis Michel. Michel saw this Email as part of a Christian-Democratic plot to destabilize the government.
The subject of the E-mail is the US-Belgian row about the [universal jurisdiction] law and the American threat to take NATO headquarters out of Brussels.

1. What is the origin of the problem?



(a) The universal jurisdiction law, which grants our courts authority over persons from foreign countries concerning acts which have nothing to do with Belgium.
(b) This is also the (first) bill we get presented for our attitude in the matters of [US] troop transport [during Gulf War II], Article IV, European Defense, etc.

2. What is the threat?



(a) Ending [US] payments for the new Headquarters
(b) To cease US participation in [NATO] meetings, which de facto will cause them to take place elsewhere

3. Is this a US-only position?



(a) No, meanwhile UK, Spain, and others are surely thinking [this issue] over as well, together with “New European” countries.

4. Is this just a matter of NATO?



(a) No, the same issue arises with the EU when it is receiving [non-EU] visitors in the framework of foreign policy

5. Can we veto a [NATO HQ] transfer?



(a) Yes, in principle. But the official residence could stay here while its activities take place elsewhere. At any rate, an 18-against-1 position in this manner cannot be sustained for longer than a few days.

6. Is there an alternative right now?



(a) Yes, Warsaw, Budapest, Prague, and Barcelona were already brought up today. At last week’s Ministerial [NATO Meeting], the shutdown of more than ten military HQs was decided upon: these countries are in the market for alternatives.

7. Is it not too late, as construction [of the new HQ] has already started?



(a) No, only an architect has been selected, and contract negotiations are in progress. No “point of no return” (English expression in original) has been crossed in any respect.

8. Do they really mean it this time?



(a) Yes, the combination of terminating financing, availability of an alternative, and qualification as “unsafe meeting locations” (aggravated by “unreliable member” status with respect to Articles IV and V) is deadly serious.

9. What will be the impact [of the move]?



(a) Like before the migration from Paris [when De Gaulle withdrew France from the unified NATO command], NATO and SHAPE [=Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Powers in Europe] are one. If NATO goes, so will SHAPE. Incidentally, the SHAPE buildings are also up for renewal, having built in the same period and from the same material as the old NATO buildings in Brussels. A[n architectural] study is also in progress there.
(b) Directly:
i. There is an annual budgetary mass of 15 billion Belgian Francs [US$400-odd million, EURO 370 million] that is being spent in Belgium
ii. Some 25,000 expats [out of a population of about 10 million] are present in Belgium because one of the partners is employed at NATO, SHAPE, or one of the related agencies.
(c ) Indirectly
i. About 1,500 Belgians are directly employed at NATO HQ.
ii. Dozens of companies (ranging from hi-tech to custodial services) set up business at or near the Organization. Budget and personnel [hard to quantify].

10. Solution?



(a) Abolition of the [universal jurisdiction] Law. As of today the The Hague [i.e., International Criminal Court] Law takes effect, so what is the added value of a separate Belgian law?
(b) Safe passage for “Guests”: in principle already provided for in the [NATO] Residence Agreement.

11. Timing:



Weeks!


As you can see, the Email was not saying anything that anybody with two brain halves to rub together couldn't have figured out for him/herself. Parts of it parallel publicly available reports commissioned by governmental bodies (e.g. the Brussels Capitol Region, concerning the economic impact). Michel simply seeks to punish somebody for telling the truth he does not want to hear. If anybody had any doubt left that Louis Michel is a loose cannon as well as an utter and complete wh*nker, this incident should remove all such doubt.


"Louie Louie, oh baby, you gotta go..."

UPDATE: DOg of Flanders is on it as well.


Wednesday, June 25, 2003
 
This Dave Barry article is probably more representative of what goes on at actual newspapers than most people realize. (Hat tip: Allison Kaplan Sommer.)


Seriously now, The Public Interest magazine has a long, but excellent, essay by Prof. James Ceaser entitled A genealogy of anti-Americanism.


And Mary at Exit Zero has the following to say about blogosphere ideology:


There are [...] some who can grasp the new technology but they use it to express political opinions that remain cast in stone – opinions that haven’t changed since Timothy Leary tuned in, turned on and dropped out.

The people who adapt, whose opinions can be shaped by new information are the heretics - moderates, techies, libertarians and liberal hawks who don’t conform to standard definitions of right or left.

The extremists, or stasists, (anti-globalists, Chomskyites, paleo-conservatives, etc.) may use the internet, but they use it to dust off and recycle the same old ideas they’ve had for decades.

The heretics may pick and choose between moderately liberal ideas and moderately conservative ideas, but they tend to be repulsed by the grim intransigence of the stasists.

Since they don’t seem to be able to process new information and ideas, the stasists will always stay the same - anti-globalists and transnational progressives [FB: more accurately, "transnational oligarchic collectivists"] will continue to believe that a strong, centralized, nonelected (socialist) government is best, no matter how often that idea is proven to be wrong, and paleo-conservatives will always want to live in a Buchananite heaven of fortress America.

(Hat tip: Michael Totten.)

 
Geneticist and radical atheist Richard Dawkins (not without linguistic reason) bemoans the Newspeak use of "gay" for homosexual, but then proposes doing exactly the same thing: introducing "bright" as the PC synonym for "atheist". And guess what the opposite of "bright" is?


I guess humility is not a virtue in "bright"ism. To quote a "gay" writer Dawkins may admire (André Gide):


Dear G-d, please bring me in the company of those who seek the truth and spare me from those who have found it.

(Hat tip: Instapundit.) UPDATE: Angie Schultz administers a fisking and actually thinks the piece is worthy of Maureen Dowd. That's really cruel, Angie!
UPDATE 2: Andrea Harris agrees with Dawkins' campaign, but not on the word: it should not be "bright" but "smug" ("zelfvoldaan/met zichzelf ingenomen").

 
In "The Ornery American", author Orson Scott Card makes some trenchant observations about PC-ism, and the moral/intellectual laziness masquerading as sophistication that is "moral equivalence" mongering. The essay is a must-read. Just one or two highlights:

I had just finished an interview at a public television station, and a staff member was kindly presenting me with a tape of the program, when I saw on a monitor a CNN report that Hamas had declared total war on Israel.


I laughed and said, "And how will that be different from what they've already been doing? Once you've spent a few years blowing up babies and schoolchildren and old people, how can you make your war more total than that?"


To my astonishment, she clucked her tongue and said, "It's getting harder and harder to tell the difference between the two sides."


I couldn't believe she actually meant that. "Israel hasn't been targeting helpless civilians," I said.


To which she contemptuously replied, "They just use the regular army to achieve the same result."


Then she picked up a phone and made a call, rudely turning her back on me. I was, apparently, no longer worthy of serious attention.


Her rudeness, of course, was entirely understandable -- the politically correct are above the rules of ordinary civility, once they have identified you as an unbeliever in their religion.


But I still can't help but be appalled when I find people as morally stupid as this person was.


There have been civilian deaths among Palestinians, caused by Israelis. But Israel has gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent civilian casualties among the Palestinians, while still defending themselves against the terrorist groups that slaughter their people.


Take the case of Jenin. The original reports from Palestinian sources were that Israeli troops had gone into this West Bank town and slaughtered thousands.


And indeed, the devastation in the city was extensive -- lots of buildings destroyed.


But contrary to the lies that were told at first, it was discovered that fewer than a hundred Palestinians had died -- most of them the fighters that the Israeli troops were combatting.


There were civilians killed in the fighting -- as always happens in urban warfare. But more Israeli soldiers died than Palestinian civilians. And anybody who knows anything about urban combat knows that Israel could have wiped out the terrorist fighters without suffering a single casualty -- as long as they didn't care how many civilians they killed.


But they did care, and sacrificed the lives of their soldiers by making them fight street by street and house by house, instead of carpet bombing the area where their enemies were holed up.


This is morally the opposite of the terrorists, who turn their "soldiers" into human bombs and send them to deliberately attack Jews who are not harming anybody -- helpless infants, harmless old people, children on their way to school, teenagers socializing.


And to find that an American who thinks herself very smart is unable (or, as is more likely, unwilling) to recognize the vast moral gulf that separates Israel from its enemies is horrifying to me.


But then, that's the country we live in, where moral judgments are based [almost] entirely on group membership rather than the actions being judged.


For instance, Republicans who treated women as sex objects were vilified and hounded out of office. But when Bill Clinton behaved far worse than any of those Republicans -- not just making unwelcome sexual advances, but then viciously slandering the women who dared to report his behavior -- the very people who had once found such actions morally monstrous now found them completely normal. ("Everybody lies about sex.")


This has gone on for a long time. When Democrats played nasty pranks on Richard Nixon -- making a campaign train pull out of the station while he was still speaking, for instance, or putting out fake documents that were supposedly from the Republican Party -- well, those were funny. But when Republicans played morally identical tricks, they were suddenly "dirty" and the perpetrators went to jail.


Or take the Florida recounts in 2000. We still hear charges of how the Republicans "stole" the election, even though there has not been a credible case made for any stolen votes in the original count. (All the charges have been about "systemic" unfairness.)


But Democrats were openly playing precisely the same games that the [longtime Chicago mayor and local Democratic Party boos Richard] Daley machine had always played in the notoriously filthy politics of Chicago -- selective recounts, "helping" non-English speakers make the right choices inside the voting booth, and making calls to elderly voters to make them think they might have cast their vote for the wrong party, so they would raise a furor about a completely non-existent pattern of errors.


In other words, it is a matter of public record that the only people trying to steal an election in Florida were the Democrats -- and yet people who consider themselves honest and intelligent still fail to make the moral distinction between what the Democrats were openly doing and what Republicans were only charged with having done.


Likewise, when it came to the courts, it was the Florida Supreme Court that tore the law to shreds in the effort to allow the Democrats to steal the election. But when the conservative Supreme Court voted to stop the Florida court from stealing the election, that is what we keep hearing about as "the court deciding the election."


If the Left had not been hellbent on tearing down the laws in order to get the outcome they wanted, the case would never have gone to the Supreme Court.


[...W]e live in a world where we choose up sides first, and make moral decisions afterward, based almost entirely on what will serve the interest of our team.


It makes me ashamed of the Democratic Party that this seems to be the only moral process available to the party's leadership. I used to call myself a "Moynihan Democrat."
[As in the late Democratic senator Daniel P. Moynihan, FB.]


But now that he's dead, I'm reduced to calling myself a "Tony Blair Democrat."


That's because I cannot find a single leader in the Democratic Party who is capable of acting on the basis of what is right, rather than what will make our side win.


A Democratic Party that had any honor at all would not be filibustering judicial appointments, making a mockery of the President's constitutional authority to appoint federal judges with the approval of a simple majority of the Senate.


But "honor," like "patriotism," is a word that the Democratic Party mocks except when they wrap themselves in it to make themselves immune to attack.


I've seen the high dudgeon of Democratic leaders saying, "How dare he say that I'm not patriotic!" Even though that very Democrat has been heard to complain that "patriotism" is an outmoded and dangerous idea.


Likewise, Democrat leaders can't speak of honor without embarrassment -- except when they want to accuse Republicans of accusing them of being dishonorable.


So now these same people of the American Left have decided that the Palestinians are "our team" and therefore even their worst atrocities are to be declared as being "no worse than" what the Israelis do in their own defense.


The same moral geniuses who could find nothing wrong in Bill Clinton's endless lying, in Hillary Clinton's criminal manipulation of the futures market, in Al Gore's cynical attempt to subvert a free election by changing the rules after the fact -- they now stand in judgment of Israel and declare them "no better than" terrorists.


Fortunately for America, most rank-and-file Democrats do not suffer from the abysmal moral stupidity of the current Democratic leadership.


Most Democrats know that there is a vast difference between nations that use military action to protect their citizens and "nations" that deliberately murder innocent civilians within the borders of their enemy.


The fact is that since the Palestinian civilian population overwhelmingly supports the terrorists, the Israelis could make a strong case for indiscriminate retaliation. After all, this terrorism could not continue if the Palestinian people did not encourage it.


But the Israelis continue to show astonishing patience and restraint -- because they still have a moral compass and try to follow it.


[...]

Meanwhile, Israel seems to be taking the only course that is left to them. They are building a Berlin Wall around the West Bank, as they have already done around Gaza. When it is complete, they will simply withdraw behind that line -- as will any sensible Israelis living in settlements on the wrong side of it -- and leave the Palestinians to govern themselves.


The idea will be to patrol that wall and keep any Palestinian from crossing it. That will go a long way toward eliminating terrorism in Israel, since it's that long, permeable border that has allowed the suicide bombers to get in.


Of course, it will also mean a permanent end to Palestinian participation in the Israeli economy. And since it was jobs in Israel that kept the West Bank economically alive, you will hear an amazing amount of whining about how cruel the Israelis are to "starve" the Palestinians.


But Israel has no moral obligation to provide jobs for people who harbor the terrorists who murder Israelis.


All that the Palestinians had to do to keep their jobs in Israel -- or even to bring Israeli investment to the West Bank -- was to reject terrorism, denounce those who plan it, and cease honoring those who carry it out.


[...]
Meanwhile, of course, there will be a loud contingent of morally stupid Americans who will blame Israel for the suffering of the Palestinian people.


But as far as I'm concerned, those who find moral equivalence there are simply confessing that they not only know nothing of either ethics or history, but that they are determined not to learn.


And voters will be perfectly justified in removing all such persons from positions of public trust, for there is no reason why taxpayers should support those who are determined to remain historically ignorant and morally blind.

Of course, Steven Den Beste would argue there already is a term in the politicial lexicon for people like Orson Scott Card: Jacksonian Democrat, as in Democratic Party founding father and president Andrew Jackson. (See this essay by Walter Russell Mead on the Jacksonian tradition.)

 
The Instaman looks at the growing trend of long-distance tech outsourcing to developing countries, which is opposed by a strange (?) bedfellowship between leftist groups, trade unions, and the reactionary right.

[W]hile it's easy to see why labor unions might oppose this sort of thing, it's hard for me to see it as a liberal issue, really. After all, aren't liberals supposed to be for the redistribution of wealth from the better-off to the less-well-off? These jobs don't disappear, after all: they go overseas, to people who probably need them more. Isn't that a good thing? Or, at least, to me it's not obviously worse than, say, taxing corporations in a way that causes them to cut jobs, and then using the money to pay for foreign aid. In fact, it's probably better, overall, since it builds up a corps of educated professionals in other countries, instead of fostering the sort of dependency (and corruption) that usually results from foreign aid.

Hmm...


 
Most interesting. A mathematician applied data reduction techniques to US Supreme Court decisions and found that, among other things,

Analyzing nearly 500 opinions issued since 1995 — the court membership has not changed since Justice Stephen G. Breyer joined it in 1994 — Dr. Sirovich calculates, based on information theory, that 4.68 ideal justices would have produced the same diversity of decision making.

By ideal [in the mathematical sense of the word, FB], Dr. Sirovich means a justice whose voting is uncorrelated with any other's. His measure, thus, points up the high degree of correlation in the court's voting pattern.
[...]
Considering the decisions with another technique known as singular value decomposition, Dr. Sirovich has also found considerably less diversity than might be expected.

It would take nine dimensions for a mathematician to describe the voting patterns of the nine uncorrelated justices. But Dr. Sirovich has found that just two dimensions are needed to describe almost all the decisions of the Rehnquist court.
[...]
Each justice's vote can be regarded as [a] fixed mixture of those two voting patterns, Dr. Sirovich writes. Only three decisions out of 468 are not fully captured by his two vectors. One, Rogers v. Tennessee, split both sides of the usual 5-to-4 vote, with Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist separated from his usual allies Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, and Justices John Paul Stevens and Breyer sundered from Justices David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

He goes on to show that the ideologically very different 1960s court led by Justice Earl Warren was very similar from a mathematical/information theoretical point of view.

 
Leon Uris passed away. I head read most of his books, but this obituary revealed some things about the man I did not know (or thought I didn't know, since "Mitla Pass" apparently was more autobiographical than I thought).


His novels tend to be less historically accurate and more romanticized than those of, say, Herman Wouk writing on the same subject matter, but boy did he know how to spin a yarn... May his memory be blessed.


 
Been too busy to blog for a few days. In today's De Standaard [in Dutch] reports that the mother of all pompous jackasses, Belgian FM Lous Michel, is attempting to dismiss a foreign ministry employee for "being engaged in a destabilizing plot against the government". The guy's crime? He had sent around a mass-Email analyzing the Belgian-US spat over the "universal jurisdiction" law and expressing criticism of the FM's handling of the situation. Michel claims the mail only went to members of the [opposition] Flemish Christian-Democratic Party, a claim refuted by the newspaper.


Expatica reports (hat tip: Instapundit) that the Vrije Universiteit Brussel [Brussels Free University] will award honorary Ph.D.'s to Hans "Two Thumbs Tango" Blix for his "attempts to stop the Iraqi war", and to linguist cum political barking moonbat and (I use this word extremely sparingly) Jewish judeophobe Noam Chomsky. This as part of the University's research program in alternative energy sources: they are attempting to generate electricity from a dynamo attached to [Free University founder and classical Liberal politician] Théodore Verhaegen.





Friday, June 20, 2003
 
Our reader Wim de Vriend (nice website) sent me an article from the Dutch daily "NRC Handelsblad" about the recent escalation in US-Belgian relations. It's a bit too long for a full translation, but here are some salient points:

  • the Belgian ambassador in Washington can't even get access to deputy ministers anymore. He is however summoned several times a week to basically listen to the same point being repeated over and over: the "universal jurisdiction law" has to go
  • Said ambassador keeps reporting this to the Belgian FM, but, as an anonymous diplomat puts it, "Louis Michel only listens to himself". Panic has struck at the Belgian foreign ministry. Michel reportedly loathes the law in that it takes up all his time, but has become the most popular politician in French-speaking Belgium by his anti-Americanism and [pseudo-]ethical pose-striking, and is too narcissistic to back down. Michel travelled to the US last February to meet with FM Colin Powell, but the latter refused to see him.
  • US DM Donald Rumsfeld not only threatened not to chip in for the expenses of the new expanded NATO headquarters in Belgium, but also to boycott any future NATO ministerial conferences in Belgium, and rumors have been spread about possible new NATO locations such as Warsaw, Prague, Bucharest, Budapest, and even Barcelona. The "horeca" (hotel, restaurant, and café/bar) businesses in the NATO headquarters area fear a catastrophe, as the 6,000 employees at the center were their best customers.
  • More fundamentally, the spat calls into question Belgium's role as host of large international organizations --- its primary "claim to fame" in the world.
  • Belgian diplomats show up uninvited at American thinktanks and corporations, and try to explain that following recent amendments to the law, the government may dismiss sensitive cases like those against [US General Tommy] Franks or [Israeli PM Ariel] Sharon. The Americans however argue that even a case that will supposedly be dismissed later still requires engaging lawyers and dealing with blemishes on one's name. The head of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Commission, Pierre Chevalier, reports that several managers told him they would move the Belgian divisions of their companies to other countries, unless the "universal jurisdiction law" is revoked altogether.
  • Aside from the Belgian Minister of Surrender^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^HDefense Flahaut's closing of Belgian air space to US military transports, Michel actually called Bush "worse than Saddam" in a campaign speech.
  • A US diplomat in Brussels is quoted as saying they realized Belgium was on the brink of elections then and that politicians were scrambling to pick up votes from the leftover left, but that over time so many snubs piled up that they no longer could dismiss this as campaign trail pandering, and that even they eventually got past caring about Belgian internal politics.
  • Coalition negotiations are going on, and those are problematic because of the deteriorating economic climate. But an increasing number of voices -- all the way up to the Royal palace -- are going up for the replacement of "Louis le Nain Jardin" [Louie the Garden Gnome] by "a more diplomatic minister" (read: a bull who at least won't bring his own china shop).

Mia Doornaert, in [the Flemish daily] "De Standaard" in fact reported on June 13, 2003 (no permalink) that Rumsfeld made a Freudian slip of the tongue by saying something like "we don't feel like coming to Baghdad, er, Brussels under these circumstances".
And Luc van Braekel reports that a Belgian libertarian think tank started an online petition against re-appointment of Michel and Flahaut.


UPDATE: Poetic justice. The Washington Post reports that a small Belgian opposition party [the Flemish nationalist N-VA, formerly Volksunie] filed a suit under the Belgian "universal jurisdiction/crimes against humanity" law against... Louis Michel, for allowing an arms sale to Nepal, which is engaged in a bloody guerilla war with Maoist rebels. Charles Johnson can barely contain his schadenfreude ("leedvermaak"):


And oh, how the poodle is snapping and yapping:

Michel, an outspoken critic of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, was furious about the allegations against him.

"This is extremely irresponsible. It's completely crazy and irrational," Michel told reporters at a European summit in Greece.

"It will ridicule Belgium on the world stage ... I'm accusing them of blackening our name."

"La Belgique, c'est moi"? Is he a reincarnation of that other Louis [XIV]?!?

Wednesday, June 18, 2003
 
To put in perspective the eagerness of Belgium to lecture other countries (particularly the US and Israel) on morality in the war against terror, and its willingness to act as the world's "supreme court for crimes against humanity", it may be revealing to read this article (translated below) in today's De Standaard [Dutch-language Belgian daily] about widespread "involuntary euthanasia" in Belgium. What I read is quite consistent with what Belgian doctors have told me off the record.


There are some anti-idiotarians (particularly libertarians) who advocate legalizing euthanasia: even they, however, are strictly concerned with euthanasia at patient's request. Anyhow, here follows my translation, which speaks for itself, I believe.


Euthanasia [in Belgium] often NOT at patient’s request
by Hilde Van den Eynde en Guy Tegenbos
“De Standaard”, June 18, 2003

BRUSSELS – In 2001, more than one thousand Flemings died after administration of a “euthanizing” medication. This corresponds to about 1.8 percent of all deaths. But only 175 of them (0.3 %) had requested this themselves. Only in these cases it is a matter of legal [in Belgium] euthanasia. In the remaining 840 instances a doctor terminated the lives of the patients in the absence of an explicit request by the latter.

Assisted suicide – not explicitly regulated by the “euthanasia law” but implicitly allowed according to many [presumably legal specialists] – only sporadically occurs.

All this is revealed by the Flemish section of a European inquiry into euthanasia practices and other forms of medical “end-of-life decisions”. The inquiry covers the year 2001, in which the “euthanasia law” had not yet been enacted.

The “euthanasia law” only permits euthanasia if the patient explicitly and repeatedly requests it. This is manifestly not true for the 840 [aforementioned] cases [i.e., 5/6th of all “euthanasia”s!]. Regulations under which patients can state beforehand, in writing, their desires concerning the terminal stage of their lives might [so the authors argue] reduce the number of “euthanasia without request” [scare quotes in original]. The [government] authorities have already designed a form for this purpose, but has made no arrangements for registering these [“living wills”].

The number of cases of “euthanasia without request” is high, but dropped dramatically since 1998, when 3.2 percent of all fatalities [!!] was identified as such. This caused consternation [at the time]. In 2001, this had dropped to [“only”] 1.5 percent. This drop probably is related to heightened ethical and judicial awareness following the discussions about the “euthanasia law”.

The number of cases of “true euthanasia”, [i.e.,] at the patient’s request, has also dropped between 1998 and 2001. In parallel, the number of cases increased in which potentially life-shortening pain management techniques were applied. This technology has been improved somewhat since, and has particularly gained greater acceptance in medical circles. In a number of hospitals “sedation” is often applied, causing the patient to lose consciousness until (s)he passes away “naturally” [scare quotes in original].

Since the”euthanasia law” has been enacted practices have probably drastically changed again. No results of new inquiries are available [as the time span is too short for a meaningful sample, presumably]. From several sides calls are heard for a new inquiry into all forms of medical “end-of-life decisions”, not only about euthanasia in the narrow sense of the word as it only covers a limited number of situations.

The European inquiry reveals that in all countries [covered, presumably EU] one-fifth to half of all fatalities are direct or indirect consequences of medical decisions. In Flanders we are talking about approximately two out of every five patients. Legislation definitely affects medical practice. But also that which is not legally allowed is carried out: in countries where euthanasia is not legally allowed it is still carried out.

I can just picture the US or Israel filing suit with the International Criminal Court against Belgian medical professionals for crimes against humanity. After all, what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and there has been at least one major precedent of a trial in which an "involuntary euthanasia" program was part of the indictment.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003
 
Blogger is a pile of [barnyard expletive deleted] and people are jumping ship in droves, including many in this blog's blogroll. Also Allison Kaplan Sommer, who herewith has my vote in the New Blog Showcase of The Truth Laid Bear.

ProperWinston (my vote) tries to give a voice to the non-ideological among us: being a former leftist turned not so much "neoconservative" as profoundly ideoskeptic by my "reality mugging", he strikes a familiar chord with me.

Appearances can be deceiving, shows the self-described "hyper-educated soccer mom" of Suburban Blight.

And then, from my former home country, there's Dog of Flanders.

Saturday, June 14, 2003
 
Swingtrack (no permalinks) has an interesting comparison of the US constitution with the EU draft:

Here is a great primer on the history and structure of the European Union. And, here is the yet to be ratified, perennial work in progress, EU Constitution.

Let’s compare the EU constitution to the US constitution.

I don’t mean this to be a lesson in U.S. civics, but I just want to demonstrate some differences between the U.S. constitution and the EU constitution.

1. Article 1 establishes the Senate and the House of Representatives.
2. Article 2 establishes the Executive branch, the President.
3. Article 3 establishes the Judiciary.
4. Article 4 says all states must honor the laws of others, and that citizens in one state are citzens in all states.
5. Article 5 details the method of amending, or changing, the Constitution.
6. Article 6 guarantees that the United States would assume all debts and contracts entered into by the United States under the Articles of Confederation. It sets the Constitution and all laws and treaties of the United States to be the supreme law of the country. Finally, it requires all officers of the United States to swear an oath of allegiance to the United States and the Constitution when taking office.
7. Article 7 details the method for ratification, or acceptance, of the Constitution – 9 of 13 states had to ratify.

That’s it. 7 articles. Since it’s ratification, there have been a grand total of 27 amendments. There are the original 10 amendments, The Bill of Rights, and 17 others.

1. freedom of religion, assembly, speech and the press.
2. protects the right to own guns.
3. guarantees that the army cannot force homeowners to give them room and board.
4. protects against unreasonable search ans siezure.
5. protects against double jeapordy, testifying against yourself, and guarantees due process.
6. guarantees a speedy trial, an impartial jury, that the accused can confront witnesses against them, and that the accused must be allowed to have a lawyer.
7. guarantees a jury trial in federal civil court cases.
8. guarantees that punishments will be fair, as well as not cruel and unusual.
9. states that other rights other than those listed may exist, and just because they are not listed doesn't mean they can be violated.
10. states that any power not granted to the federal government belongs to the states or to the people.
11. defines the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
12. redefines how the President and Vice-President are chosen by the Electoral College, making the two positions cooperative, rather than first and second highest vote-getters.
13. abolished slavery in the entire United States.
14. removed the three-fifths counting of slaves in the census. It ensured that the United States would not pay the debts of rebellious states. It also had several measures designed to ensure the loyalty of legislators. (i.e., if you start another civil war, we won’t let you back in here.)
15. ensured that race could not be used as a criteri[on] for voting.
16. authorizes the United States to collect income tax without regard to the population of the states.
17. shifted the choosing of Senators from the state legislatures to the people of the states.
18. abolished the sale or manufacture of alcohol in the United States. This amendment was later repealed.
19. ensures that sex could not be used as a criteria for voting.
20. set new start dates for the terms of the Congress and the President, and clarifies how the deaths of Presidents before swearing-in would be handled.
21. repealed the 18th Amendment.
22. set a limit on the number of times a President could be elected - two four-year terms.
23. grants the Washington D.C. the right to three electors in Presidential elections.
24. ensured that no tax could be charged to vote for any federal office.
25. clarifies the line of succession to the Presidency, and establishes rules for a President who becomes unable to perform his duties while in office.
26. ensures that any person 18 or over may vote.
27. requires that any law that increased the pay of legislators may not take effect until after an election.

27 amendments since 1788. The work that governs a country of 280 million (and growing) people is seven articles with twenty seven amendments.

Now, let’s compare that to the EU constitution that is, in its current state, 77 articles long. Most of it is fairly straightforward language that does much of the things we would expect. (everyone is equal, everyone has the right to life, etc.)

Intertwined with these basic statements, however, are statements of social agenda that are more or less harmless, but seem unnecessary. (The union will respect the elderly, the union will make sure that the disabled can participate) Is that really necessary? In the absence of those statements, would the union fear a disrespect of the elderly?

The biggest problem that I foresee with the EU constitution is its apparent codification – for the whole of the EU – the permanent establishment of a quasi-state in the mirror image of the form that it exists in the most powerful countries now - which are welfare states.

The EU constitution makes large headway into the codification of the welfare state as the EU state. In article 8, there are several statements that guarantee services and social benefits. (Everyone has the right to social security, everyone has the right preventive health care, etc.)

As these things become rights, the EU is automatically hampering those countries that might pursue a different agenda in regards to social benefits. The choice of social benefit agenda is fundamentally removed from the member nations. In other words, you must sign up to this guarantee of social benefits if you wish to participate in the EU. This is very powerful.

Imagine a country such as The UK. Since the days of Thatcher, the U.K. has aggressively moved away from the government sponsored social safety net and towards a more privately driven solution. Sidestepping the argument for or against these changes, think about what ratification of the EU constitution means for the U.K. in regards to their legislation of social benefits. What if, at some future date, the U.K. decided that it wanted to do away with national pensions and completely privatize the process? Under this constitution, they could not. Social Security is a guaranteed right for citizens in the EU member states.

Furthermore, this helps diminish any competitive advantage a nation might gain by not carrying a social benefit structure that guarantees health care and other entitlements. By including this in the constitution, a minimum level of the welfare state is guaranteed to live on in the EU.

As an American, including welfare programs as [constitutional] rights is quite amazing to me.

So, as France battles its way through its current mess of dealing with an unsustainable social benfit structure, the EU constitution is taking steps towards making that same entitlement structure a permanent part of the EU structure.

On a much more fundamental level, the U.S. consitution sets up the government, establishes the basic rules for governance, and establishes basic rights, period. The EU constitution is trying to establish more than the basic rules. The EU constitution is trying to establish the social agenda for Europe. Another way to consider it - it's trying to prevent divergent social agendas.

Even if one happens to believe the big welfare state to be a good thing (as many Europeans do): is this really something that ought to be encoded in the constitution rather than be a pragmatic matter of policy?

Friday, June 13, 2003
 
Airbus bribery scandalThe Economist has a lengthy story about, how shall I say, "ethically different sales tactics" at Airbus. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)

Thursday, June 12, 2003
 
Moral inequivalenceMoral inequivalence. James Lileks comments on the latest events in Israel:

I haven’t written much about the "Roadmap to Peace" for the same reason I wouldn’t write much about attempts to crossbreed a llama with a vacuum cleaner: I don’t think it’s going to work. I never thought it would work. The only question is how many dead Israelis it will take before the point is made, for the 3,234th time.

The top-of-the-hour radio news played today's news just as you’d expect - everything shoved through the tit-for-tat template. Israel attempts to take out a terror leader; Hamas "responds" with a bombing. As if they’re equal. As if targeting the car that ferries around some murderous SOB is the same as sending a blissed-out teenager to blow nails and screws through the flesh of afternoon commuters so he can bury himself in the heaving bosom of the heavenly whorehouse. Cycle of violence, don't you know.

They don’t have helicopters, we're told, so they use suicide bombers. If they had helicopters, they would have strafed the bus and everyone waiting at the corner. Give them a nation where Hamas runs unchecked, and they’ll have helicopters. They won't be Apaches. The bill of sale will be calculated in Euros and the manual written in French. By then the excuse for the terror won't be oppression; it'll be "the legacy of oppression." Sometimes I swear the mainstream media won't take a look at the Palestinian's horrid death-cult subculture until we learn that a suicide bomber played "Doom" at an Internet cafe for five minutes. And then they'll blame Intel.


The other James (Taranto) in today's Best of the Web edition:

It's time for a ban on the phrase cycle of violence. Not only is it a journalistic cliche--a substitute for thought--but it paints a fundamentally false picture of what's going on in the Middle East. (Though not everyone who uses the phrase is a liberal ideologue; watching the fair-and-balanced Fox News Channel, we also heard a correspondent use the phrase.)

"Cycle of violence" suggests that Israel and its enemies--in the most recent case, Hamas--are somehow equivalent. Israel attacks Hamas leaders in response to a Hamas attack on Israeli civilians, which itself was a response to an Israeli attack on a Hamas leader, and so on. Who knows, who cares, where it all began? It's a destructive cycle, and it must stop.

But this is nonsense. [...] Consider the stark moral unequivalence here. After scores of terror attacks, Israel is only now getting around to vowing to wipe out Hamas, a group whose raison d'être is to wipe out Israel--that is, to murder every Jew who remains in the Middle East. Israel is practicing self-defense; Hamas is practicing genocide. Palestinian civilian deaths are a tragic but unavoidable side effect of Israel's defending itself; Israeli civilian deaths are Hamas's goal. They are no more caught up in a "cycle of violence" than are America and al Qaeda.

Just a point of language James T.: the linguistically correct form of "unequivalence" would be "inequivalence". Otherwise, you said in a few sentences what I was about to write several pages about.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003
 
Albert WohlstetterThe Boston Globe has a profile of strategy guru Albert Wohlstetter.

 
Hans "Two Thumb Tango" Blix is retiringMatt Howell (via Instapundit) comments on the retirement of Hans "Two Thumb Tango" Blix.

So Blix is retiring, and he's got some words for the "bastards" in the Bush Administration. Yes, those are his words. Most of it's typical retiring-Swedish-civil-servant blather, so I won't go into it here, but I thought I might point something out to the genius who failed twice at finding Hussein's WND programs.

"There are people in this administration who say they don't care if the U.N. sinks under the East River, and other crude things," he continued, adding that some in Washington viewed the international organization as an "alien power, even if it does hold considerable influence within it."

"Such feelings don't exist in Europe, where people say that the U.N. is a lot of talk at dinners and fluffy stuff," he added.


Doesn't that jerk get it? The very reason why Americans wish the UN would drop off the face of the earth is precisely because all it is is talk at dinner parties and other assorted "fluffy stuff."

Nearly every square inch of Manhattan island is dedicated to one purpose -- a distinctly American purpose -- and that one purpose alone: PRODUCTIVE WORK. If you're going to park your cars in its garages and use up space in its buildings, you'd by god better be doing something worth the space you're taking up. In the real world, you'd be evicted in a month for living that kind of life, and yes, we the American people resent that.

We don’t like it when people do nothing all day. We dislike it even more when they get the most extravagant privileges of wealth without having to do anything for it. And we get pushed over the line into that zone of Hating Your Guts when those same people then insult us for our "simplisme".



 
And againAnd again. 13 dead in Jerusalem islamikaze bombing.

 
Kurtz on RainesHoward Kurtz on the NYT's rain[es]y days.

 
Baghdad museum looting bollocksLost from the Baghdad museum: truth. Even the al-Guardian now admits that the "170,000 objects gone" Iraq museum looting was a load of fertilizer. The beginning of Howard Kurtz's "A small correction" in the Washington Post likewise deals with 170,000 lost or stolen artifacts turning into... 33 (thirty-three).


(Hat tips: Merde in France, Instapundit.)


Tuesday, June 10, 2003
 
Fisking FrentiLive from Brussels delivers a well-deserved fisking to the lyrics of Michael Frenti's "Bomb the World".

 
George Orwell onlineGeorge Orwell online. Blogger Oliver Kamm (whom I am going to be reading more of) quoted the following from Orwell's famous essay Notes on Nationalism

"[T]here is a minority of intellectual pacifists whose real though unadmitted motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration of totalitarianism.

I Googled to see what other works by George Orwell are available online, and found the site
orwell.ru, which has his collected works available for online reading or download (HTML, RTF, plain text) --- both the originals and the Russian translations. (I have no guilt feelings about downloading any of it, as I own almost all of it in hardcopy --- including the first American edition of "1984"...)



Monday, June 09, 2003
 
The GulagWashington Post columnist Anne Applebaum recently published the book "The Gulag". A transcript of her lecture on the book at the American Enterprise Institute is available on the website of same.

 
Leo Strauss, the new bugbearConspiracy theorists have found a new bugbear: the late Prof. Leo Strauss, a U. of Chicago professor of classics, who happens to count many neoconservative intellectuals among his pupils. (Well duh --- it's like saying many Caltech alumni were pupils of [the physicist] Richard Feynman --- who insisted on teaching freshman courses in physics.)


J'lem Post editor Bret Stephens comments on his former teacher, as does Robert Bartley in the WSJ.


Instapundit rounds up recent coverage of the horrible famine in North Korea which includes credible reports of cannibalism. Glenn sarcastically ends on a Leo Strauss quote:


If all values are relative, then cannibalism is a matter of taste.




 
Brink LindseyBrink Lindsey (whose book "Against the Dead Hand" I am now reading) explains why his political views are not trivially pigeonholed:

Let me make clear that I'm not wild about calling myself a libertarian. First, I have to clarify that I'm a "small-l" libertarian -- i.e., I have no affiliation with the Libertarian Party, which I consider to be a cringe-inducing embarrassment. Second, I'm not a hard-core ideologue, as many self-described libertarians are. I think anarchism is absurd, and I don't believe that the so-called "minimal state" is an intellectually tenable construct. I'm interested in expanding the frontiers of real-world liberty, not spinning utopias.

But here's my problem, and the problem of the intolerant cookie-cutter-brains who want to read me out of libertarianism: If I'm not a libertarian, what am I?

Am I a conservative? Let’s see -- I support the legalization of drugs and prostitution, abortion on demand in the first trimester, and the use of early-stage embryos in scientific research. I think that a flag-burning amendment and the restoration of prayer to public schools are dumb ideas. I don't subscribe to any organized religion. And I'd argue that much of the social and cultural ferment of the 1960s was positive. You think the conservatives will have me?

Am I a liberal? Actually, that's how I think of myself. But calling myself a liberal in early 21st century America doesn't make much sense. I support a flat tax, full Social Security privatization, and school vouchers. I can call myself a free-market liberal [FB: which is what "liberal" traditionally means in Europe], and I sometimes do, but that still doesn't clear up the confusion. After all, I’m for capital punishment, and I oppose racial preferences. I favor restrictions on abortion after the first trimester, and an outright ban on late-term procedures. And I find bobo prejudice against red-state America [FB: rural states generally carried by Republicans in elections] to be insufferable. Who will understand what I mean when I call myself a liberal?

There's the rub: There are three labels that are strain to cover the whole range of American political opinion. Three boxes do not exactly make for a rich and nuanced taxonomy. It's inevitable that sizable groups of people will find it difficult to label themselves satisfactorily.

In the discussion thread there's the usual preaching of all persuasions going on (some of it illustrating the First Law of Former Belgian, "A rigid ideology and twenty-five cents will buy you a phone call" ;-)). Other people do attempt to come up with labels, such as "Neoconservative" (US), "Neoliberal" (Europe, South America), 'South Park' Republican (US),...


Now if people want to put a label on yours truly, try "radical centrist" :-)


Sunday, June 08, 2003
 
Belgian "news" mediaLive from Brussels' Maarten Schenk reports that the Belgian state radio news is now reporting the Guardian "revelation" about Paul Wolfowitz (see further down) as "news", the day after the Guardian was forced to print a retraction and apology.


Wait for the Belgian media to broadcast a retraction. Until, say, Texas sees snow in May...


 
A point of terminologyI remember some right-winger wondering whether judeophobia was a new PC-fied term for antisemitism, presumably by analogy with "homophobia". A point of linguistics and etymology here.



The term "antisemitism" was coined in the late 19th century by the German anti-Jewish pamphletteer Wilhelm Marr, who was looking for a more "Salonfaehig" and pseudo-scientific substitute for the word "Judenhass" (Jew-hatred). (Ironically, Marr himself would have been a Mischling of the first degree under the Nuerenberg laws.) Other anti-Jewish activists were quick to pick up the term.


Arab Israel-bashers often claim that they cannot be antisemites since they themselves are Semites. (And Arabic is a Semitic language --- I'd say about as close to Hebrew as English to Danish.) Obviously, there was no Arab community worth speaking of in late 19th-century Germany or even Austro-Hungary, Germany had no Arab colonies, and Wilhelm Marr never meant anything other by his term than his stated purpose for it --- a euphemism for Jew-hatred. Every linguist knows that a word's etymology literal meaning and its current meaning in everyday language do not necessarily coincide: the American epithet "n*gger" for a black person and the Russian "Zh*d" for a Jew are extreme examples. Another examples, less well-known, is the Dutch word for miscreant ("ellendeling"), which etymologically derives from an archaic word for foreigner ("elder-landeling") .


In addition, since the Third Reich the term "antisemitism" in the narrow sense has become strongly associated with its racial variant --- what I would call "genetic" or "biological" judeophobia .
For these reasons, sticklers for precise (not PC) language sometimes prefer the term judeophobia --- literally, an irrational hatred or fear of Jews and things Jewish --- as it leaves no room for confusion, and can readily be applied to political as well as religious variants (not just pseudo-scientific racial ones) of the world's most stubborn bigotry.


Saturday, June 07, 2003
 
Judeophobia: mutating virusMutating virus. Somebody Emailed me Edward Rothstein NYT article on the changing nature of antisemitism: I found an online copy here. The following passage gave me a feeling of déjà vu:

But why have newer forms of intellectual anti-Semitism become so familiar in Europe? Why have they thrived even when traditional anti-Semitism is forthrightly condemned?

At the YIVO conference, Mark Lilla, who teaches European intellectual history at the University of Chicago, argued that in the past outbursts of anti-Semitism had often been associated with political crises: with the conflict between church and state in the Middle Ages, with the Enlightenment in the 18th century, with the rise of totalitarianism in the 20th. Now, he continued, another transformation is taking place. Throughout Europe a rebellion is under way against the very idea of the nation-state and its sovereignty.

In European consciousness the nation-state is associated with the evil forces of nationalism, xenophobia and fascism. After the Second World War, Mr. Lilla argued, Europe was able to avoid thinking about sovereignty altogether; the United States and NATO picked up the burden. As a consequence, Mr. Lilla said, the "idea of Europe" has received an "uncritical embrace," while nongovernmental organizations are regularly appealed to as political ideals. In the midst of this, Israel is an anomaly, a nation-state of recent vintage, insisting on its status, strength and sovereignty, violating the spoken pieties of contemporary international life. This may be one reason that at the United Nations Israel has been treated as a pariah, unable even to serve on the Human Rights Commission (whose chair is Libya) or subject to resolutions that affirm the legitimacy of armed struggle against it.

Mr. Lilla is extending recent arguments made by Robert Kagan about the differences between America and Europe. Indeed, both anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism oppose modern nation-states that insist on older ideas of power. Even when Europe addresses issues of sovereignty — in affirmations of inviolable borders or in arguments for a Palestinian state — they are rarely examined seriously, Mr. Lilla said: "Even sympathy for Palestinians has an oddly apolitical quality in Europe." Proposed solutions are little more sophisticated than imagining, as Mr. Lilla put it, "Hans Blix zipping around Palestine in his little truck."

These phenomena are, if anything, exacerbated in a country with no national identity to speak of (Flemish people generally consider themselves Flemish first and Belgians a distant second, if not third after regional loyalties), with almost no sense of national pride, and for whom the myriad international organizations headquartered in Brussels (first and foremost the EUnuchs) are their meal ticket. (From a perspective of collective self-interest, Belgium has every reason to go at European integration hammer and tongs. Whether that includes being France's chocolate poodle or the world's judicial Bozo the Clown is another matter. Not to mention whether that includes the "transnational oligarchic collectivist" dystopia-in-the-making as a vision of what the EU should be.)

(ISomewhat off topic: when some British bloke used to rib me with the well-worn joke about naming famous Belgians, my announcement that Beethoven was a 2nd-generation expat Belgian often had them wondering if I'd gone off my meds. But really, the "van Beethoven" family were instrument makers in the Mechelen/Malines area (you still find "van Beethoven"s listed in the phone books of the Mechelen and Leuven/Louvain area codes), and one of them sought his fortune in Germany, where he fathered his immortal son. Obviously, Beethoven had no "Belgian" or "Flemish" identity in any meaningful sense of the word.)

Back to more sober(ing) matters:

[The above] is not just a matter of political ideology. Alain Finkielkraut, the French intellectual, suggested that in the wake of the Second World War Europe was haunted by a "never again": "Never again, power politics. Never again, nationalism. Never again, Auschwitz." While America could forthrightly celebrate itself, for Europe remembrance opened "an abyss." So Europe imagined a new world, "a world so humane, so unprejudiced, so open-minded" that the very idea of an enemy is not taken seriously.

But then, in the midst of this idealistic dream, the Jews intrude. Only this time they "are not accused of clinging stubbornly to their Jewishness but of betraying it." Israel's nationalism, its military and its particularism offend Europe's left-wing universalism and anti-globalization sympathies and recall the catastrophic past. Any whiff of right-wing anti-Semitism is still treated as inexcusable. But these new condemnations are considered virtuous, even though, Mr. Finkielkraut speculates, they invoke the oldest traditions of anti-Semitism: "Seeing the Jews as a people so intoxicated with its own chosenness that it refuses the idea of universal humanity."

This "progressive" judeophobia is thus really a throwback to the variant existing in the Roman Empire. Is there really nothing new under the sun?



 
Pierre Manent on French foreign policyInnocents Abroad summarizes an interview in Le Figaro with French foreign relations specialist Prof. Pierre Manent. (Nice name, at least in Latin.)

n terms of France’s position, Manent goes after French diplomacy on some key points. First, he notes that France’s primary fault was that in opposing the US it gave de facto support to Saddam, one of the worst tyrants on the planet. Manent goes on to point out that, in its efforts to have an independent foreign policy, France has a nasty habit of siding with the most barbaric dictators, a position which blatantly contradicts its claims on behalf of democracy.

This brings us to another problem. France talked a great deal about preserving democracy and about the importance of international law. But, as Manent notes, France, like Europe in general, has become obsessed with a politics of pacifism. Despite Chirac’s denial that his country is essentially pacifist, Manent notes that there is no other name for it when the President of France declares that war is always the worst solution. As Manent points out, war is sometimes the best solution, especially when it’s the only solution available. To say that war is the worst solution is trite humanitarian ideology and incredibly dangerous.

Manent also takes France to task for its excessive support of the United Nations. France spoke and behaved as though the UN is the representative of democratic humanity. But, as Manent notes, there is no such thing as democratic humanity, there are only democratic nations, and at the UN democratic nations are in the minority.

Manent goes on to make one other point about France’s position that is worth noting. He says that it is meaningless to oppose American “unilateralism” to French “multilateralism” as though these were policy positions. That the world is multilateral is simply a fact. There are approximately 200 nations on the planet of which the US is the strongest, but by no means can we say that the US simply acts on its own. Indeed, the US rarely acts entirely on its own. More likely is a scenario whereby it allies itself with local players and some combination of European allies when engaging in a particular part of the world. To say the US is following a unilateral policy is simply rhetorical posturing that has no relation to reality, and feeds into the old worn out Marxist-Leninist vulgate that tries to paint the large capitalist powers as bent on dominating and oppressing the entire world. It’s an unthinking and juvenile view of the world, one that animates the anti-globalization types, and has no place in international relations.

Of course these bad ideas are all related and form part of the ideological baggage that dominates the European Union. Manent describes himself as a Euro-skeptic precisely because he feels that the EU contributes to the delusions we saw coming from France. So often we hear of the need for a common European mechanism that will allow for the formation of, in turn, a common foreign policy. But this view is based on a hidden prejudice that assumes that national foreign policies are not only inadequate to counter the US, but dangerous in themselves. It’s transnational progressivism [FB: or what I'd rather call "transnational oligarchic collectivism", since it's arguably a regressist, rather than a progressist, ideology] back at work. As a result, any common EU foreign policy will necessarily be anti-American because the political form, or better yet, the anti-political form of the European Union will determine the content of the common foreign policy.

In contrast, Manent calls for co-operation between Europe’s three big players – Britain, France and Germany. This may seem unlikely considering the bad blood between Paris and London, but it is actually rather sensible. In terms of the individual countries, Manent notes that each one presents a slightly different picture. With France, its international ambitions are bigger than its means and so it has a habit of sacrificing principles and forming alliances with despots in order to regain some of its lost glory. In doing so it also tries to compensate for its rotten allies by invoking some sort of pseudo-Marxist moralism to hide its perfidy. Germany by contrast is in the opposite position. It has significant means but low ambitions, due in large part to the fact that when it has historically tried to follow its ambitions it has produced enormous disasters. As a result it tends to be unpredictable and immature which is still largely the case today. By contrast with France and Britain, Germany is still a fairly young nation, but it has a long tradition of robust moralism and impressive strength. It simply hasn’t learned what to do with them. Britian, as Manent points out, follows its traditional good sense and seems to merge its means seamlessly with its goals which is proof again why Britain remains, to this day, a model of political sobriety. For Manent, the only reasonable and practical common European policy would be one formulated by these countries. This would not mean creating some sort of artificial framework that binds them together, nor would it mean ignoring the rest of the smaller European nations. It would simply mean adjusting ends to means and living according to reality, which in turn would mean that Europe would be able to see that the US is not a unilateral giant requiring some sort of pacifistic EU to act as counter-weight. Rather, it would mean that France, Germany and Britain could follow independent but related paths, sometimes in tandem with the US, sometimes at variance, but avoiding both utter subservience and total hostility.

As a priceless Dutch rhyme on adjusting ends to means goes: Zet uw tering naar uw nering, of uw nering krijgt de tering (Literally: "Adjust your consumption to your business [earnings], or your business will contract consumption [i.e., TB]".)


 
To Blogger or not to BloggerSteven Den Beste has a long post (oops, tautology) on the merits and demerits of Blogger vs. Movable Type and the Windows-based CityDesk (a commercial product which he uses).


He also has a long letter from France (by one "Adrian") about the economic/strike situation there. Many of the observations made are equally relevant to Belgium. Claire Berlinski (Instapundit's de facto foreign correspondent) files another report.


 
Palestinian nationalism: political "creatio ex nihilo"History's twists and turns, by Diana West, looks bitterly at the road map. In passing she notes:

In a recent interview in the Atlantic, terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman explained that one strategy of such terrorism is "to provoke the [Israeli] government into undertaking actions that the terrorists feel they can manipulate for propaganda purposes" — such as crackdowns by the Israeli Defense Forces — "which will also portray them as victims rather than as perpetrators." He continued: "I think that's where the Palestinian terrorist groups have been remarkably successful, not necessarily with public opinion in the United States, but certainly in Europe." As Mr. Hoffman put it, "terrorists have gotten people to sympathize much more with the perpetrators of the violence than with the victims."

I personally was never fooled by this tactic: having had some personal experience with what I call "emotional blackmail" has made me recognize the tactic when I see it, and on people like me it generally backfires. But unfortunately it is the sort of thing that works all too well on "touchy feely" people as well as on those with next to zippo background information.


The Israeli security establishment are no fools, and pretty much immediately realized Mr. Hoffman's point. Which is one reason why they were and are --- relatively speaking --- pulling their punches and doing their best to avoid giving Arafat what he wants. Jenin was his best shot, and he desperately tried to spin the Israeli incursion into a massacre, with the connivance of some Western yellow "journalists" --- although he largely succeeded in preaching to the choir of those already pro-Palestinian, and probably lost a few fence-sitters. (I personally lost whatever respect I still had for the Palestinian national movement in that period.)


 
Mark Steyn back from Iraq, Part IIMark Steyn back from Iraq, Part II. Great reading as always, although the fnniest bit is neither intentional nor by Mark Steyn:

Dominique de Villepin, the ubiquitous Frenchman, declared the other day that Paris was indispensable to postwar reconstruction because it had so much experience in Africa. I don’t know about you, but I think Iraq deserves better than to be the new Chad or Ivory Coast.

That's roughly the equivalent of saying that when you wanna record a Led Zeppelin tribute album, you gotta hire the local seventh-rate blues band because they have 25 years of "experience" playing in dockside houses of easy virtue. Experience without talent and with a track record of nothing but failure will get you a phone call -- if you bother to add 25 cents.


 
Will the bleeding hearts go after "hardcore" queer-bashers already? Of course not.Here is another one for the Museum of Sanctimonious Hypocrisy in today's so-called humanitarian so-called "left" movements. (Hat tip: Merde in France.)


Thursday, June 05, 2003
 
Chag sameachTo my Jewish readers: happy Shavuot!


 
NYT editor resigns; Guardian retracts storyWhen it Raines, it pours (1) NYT editors Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd resign in wake of plagiarism/fabrication scandal; (2) The Guardian retracts, and apologizes for, story insinuating that Jack Straw and Colin Powell did not believe there were WMD in Iraq. In addition, Instapundit notes another Guardian story making the sort of allegations about Wolfowitz that the reactionary "left" desperately wants to believe, has been removed from their website and a retraction may well be forthcoming.


UPDATE June 10, 2003: Self-identified far-leftist Christopher Hitchens accuses his fellow leftists of engaging in attempted character assassination on Wolfowitz.


 
Italian journalist assisted suicide bombers(Recovered from Bloggeritis crash:) According to Haaretz (hat tip: LGF, discussion thread with more relevant links), the two British-Pakistani suicide bombers at the "Mike's Place" beachfront busic café in Tel-Aviv were not just assisted by ISM (International Solidarity Movement, a.k.a. Idiots Shilling for Murderers) but also by an Italian journalist. My punishment for this "porca miseria" would be to lock her up for a week in Oriana Fallaci's apartment in Manhattan. It would do wonders for her unprintable Italian vocabulary ;-)


 
Aqaba summitBoth the Jerusalem Post (conservative) and Haaretz English Edition (liberal-to-loony) have extensive coverage of the Aqaba summit.


One half of me is convinced this is just another helping of plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose (the more things change, the more they stay the same).


The other half, however, wonders if a new beginning could truly be made here, learning from the mistakes made in previous peace initiatives. One thing is for sure: if anybody can sell the Israeli center-right and right on a land-for-peace deal, it's Ariel Sharon. I have spoken with enough such people of various social backgrounds that it has become clear to me that many of them realize that a Palestinian state is a historical inevitability and that at least part of the settlements will have to go eventually, but that they are simply wary of making "land-for-piece-by-piece" deals with a PLO that never formally repudiated its "doctrine of [destruction of Israel in] stages", or making moves that can be (mis)interpreted as withdrawal under armed pressure, in an environment where any such move amounts to "putting out a fire with gasoline". In addition, a Palestinian state run along the same kleptocratic lines as the Palestinian Authority is doomed to economic failure regardless of its territory, and the only survival strategy for its regime would be fanning the flames against Israel again. (Arguably that's exactly how Intifada II started.)


Of course, if Abu Mazen turns out to either be powerless to stop the terror, or simply to be fronting for behind-the-scenes terror masterminding by Arafilth, then the whole process goes back to square one, but with hopefully a few more eyes having been opened in the process. For Israel, going along with the Road Map (during a time of unprecedented mutual trust between Washington and Jerusalem) is a win-win situation. For the Palestinians, it opens up an opportunity to put an end to their serial squandering of opportunities. And if and when they gain a state, it will be in spite of the psychopath who led the PLO for almost all of its existence, not because of him.


 
North Korean WMD whistleblower silenced by South Korea, flees to USFeature article in today's WSJ: A North Korean researcher in their WMD program defects to South Korea in 1997, only to be told to keep his mouth shut by the South Korean secret police. Apparently the South Korean government fears that a collapse of the North Korean dystopia (understatement of the month) would cause the economic collapse of South Korea. The Korean defected again --- to the US, where he published this article under a pen name to protect his surviving relatives.


Yes, I know this is "far from my bed show" for most of you. But just imagine that in former East Germany people had been dropping like flies from starvation while all the money was being squandered on developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and that the West German BVS would tell a defector to shut up because the Bundeskanzler feared that the collapse of the East German regime would bring an economic catastrophe (rather than an opportunity to save millions of their kinsmen from certain death).


Quite unimaginable. Indeed. Go read the whole thing.


 
Quote of the WeekQuote of the Week
In a WSJ article on journalists at al-Jazeera (such as the editor who was recently forced to resign, ostensibly for unrelated reasons) and other Arab media being in the pay of the Saddamite regime:

A top Egyptian editor told The Wall Street Journal in 1991 about a fascinating conversation he had with Saddam: "I remember him saying, 'Compared to tanks, journalists are cheap--and you get more for your money.' "



Wednesday, June 04, 2003
 
Jayson Blair is still nothing(On Screen, as Den Beste would say, via Instapundit.) You thought Jayson Blair was embarrassing for the New York Times? It's still peanuts compared to what happened 70 years ago. Then a NYT journalist named Walter Duranty knowingly covered up the famines caused by Stalin's "Great Collectivization", and actually got a Pulitzer Prize for his mendacious reporting. Now a campaign is going on to revoke the Pulitzer.


Malcolm Muggeridge of The Guardian (in those days a respectable liberal newspaper --- founding editor C. P. Scott must be spinning in his grave lately), while being a leftist himself, showed that it is possible for a leftist not to be "blinded by the [red] light". He managed to elude his secret police minders, and gave a major scoop to his newspaper by first revealing what historian Robert Conquest has come to call "The Harvest of Sorrow".


Tuesday, June 03, 2003
 
Chess revival in AfghanistanHope sometimes rests in small things. Among the many things the Taliban outlawed as "immoral" was the king of board games. Now Chessbase has an article on the revival of the chess game (including women's chess) in post-Taliban Afghanistan. Some images from downtown Kabul literally unimaginable under the Taliban:


(Hat tip: Whacking Day.)


 
The real Salam PaxThe real Salam Pax. Journalist Peter Maass hired an Iraqi interpreter for two weeks, unaware that he was non other than that enigmatic celebrity of the Blogosphere, Salam Pax.

Monday, June 02, 2003
 
Arafilth calls for more child martyrs on Int'l Children's DayInternational Children's Day was marked by Yasser Arafilth in the following fashion:

Israel Television Channel Two News correspondent Ehud Yaari showed a tape this evening of the meeting Yasser Arafat held in Ramallah with children to mark International Children's Day.

Arafat devoted his remarks to encouraging the children to be "shahid" (die for the cause), noting that one shahid who dies for the sake of Jerusalem has the power equal to 40 of the enemy dying.

Yaari noted that Arafat said nothing in his remarks about peace or reconciliation.

And yet every bleeding heart Sandalista in Belgium is still drooling over this murderous bastard "child lover" as if he were the new Nelson Mandela.

 
Libertarian SocialismDepartment of Qué? Wablief? Quoi? Chto? British Labour politician Peter Hain (best known for heinous Israel-bashing) just invented something very sharp-dull (literal meaning of "oxymoron"): Libertarian Socialism. Ne punimai, tovaritch ("i do not understand, comrade.") needless to say, the Samizdata folks are having a field day with this one.
12:03 AM

Sunday, June 01, 2003
 
Angie, AngieAngie, Angie. While commenting on a Lileks "bleat" and the different Star Trek series as a reflection of the spirit of the times in which they were written, Angie Schultz suggests

Maybe us more hawkish liberals ought to start calling ourselves the James T. Kirk Brigade, or [something].

Best one I heard all day :-)

 
Uday and Qusay de SadeFrom TIME: an account of the "amusements" of Uday and Qusay. The Marquis de Sade would have recognized a kindred soul --- or maybe even he would have been grossed out.

 
anti-Israel exhibit in EUnuch parliamentAnd you wondered why Israelis mistrust the EU.

 
Mark Steyn back from IraqMark Steyn just came back from Iraq. Make sure not to miss it! Just some of the good bits:

[...W]hen the naysayers started moving on to claim that the whole post-war scene was going disastrously for the Yanks, I honestly didn't know what to make of it. As a general rule of thumb, when two non-government organisations, the French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, the BBC and the New York Times agree that the whole powder keg's about to go up, it's a safe bet that things are going swimmingly. But who knows? Even these guys have got to be right once a decade or so. So I decided to see for myself.

[...T]he most basic thing about post-Saddam Iraq: for all the "anarchy", no one's fleeing. In the course of my trip, I drove as far east as the outskirts of Baghdad and as far north as Kirkuk. I spent a pleasant evening prowling round Saddam's home town of Tikrit, where I detected a frisson of menace in the air, but marginally less than in, say, Stockwell, south London. Come to think of it, I was wearing a suit and tie (the Robert Fisk look isn't really my bag) and carrying substantial amounts of hard currency, which I'd never do after dark round Tottenham. I had an illegally acquired firearm but, even in Tikrit, I was relaxed enough to leave it in the glove box.

In the western towns, which were relatively unscathed by the war, it's the almost surgical removal of the regime that you're struck by. Every Main Street roundabout has its empty plinths where the Saddam portraits stood. There are generally a couple of large blocks plus a compound and maybe a fancy house with elaborate decorative stonework with their doors and gates hanging off the hinges and the odd goat or donkey defecating over the interior: these are the Ba'athist buildings, and they're the sole target of highly focused looting. Everything else is untouched - the poky grocery stores piled high with boxes of soda you could boil a lobster in, the ramshackle auto shops with their mounds of second-hand tyres, all these are open for business, and in the end they're more relevant to the future of Iraq than the legions of unemployed Saddamite bureaucrats in Baghdad or the NGO armies in their brand new, gleaming white Chevy Suburbans and Land Rovers cruising the streets touting for business like drug pushers in search of junkies.

Last Saturday, I was back in Rutba, a town I rather like in its decrepit way, and stopped for a late lunch at a restaurant with big windows, a high ceiling with attractive mouldings and overhead fans, and a patron who looked like a Sinatra album cover, hat pushed back on his head. As I got out of the car, I noticed across the street a big, white sports utility - a sure sign that someone from the welfare jet set was in town. This one was marked Oxfam. "Hmm," I thought. "Must be some starvation in the neighbourhood."

[...] I managed to determine that the Oxfam crowd was holding a meeting with the Red Cross to discuss the deteriorating situation. But just what exactly was "deteriorating"? As my groaning table and the stores along Main Street testified, there was plenty of food in town. Was it the water? I made a point of drinking the stuff everywhere I went in a spirited effort to pick up the dysentery and cholera supposedly running rampant. But I remain a disease-free zone. So what precisely is happening in Rutba that requires an Oxfam/ICRC summit? Well, the problem, as they see it, is that, sure, there's plenty of food available but "the prices are too high". That's why the World Food Programme and the other NGOs need to be brought in, to distribute more rations to more people.

Can you think of anything Iraq needs less? If prices really are "too high", it's because storekeepers are in the first flush of a liberated economy. Given that the main drag in Rutbah has a gazillion corner shops lined up side by side, competition will soon bring prices down to what the market can bear, if it hasn't already. Offering folks WFP rations will only put some of those storekeepers out of business and ensure that even more people need rations. But perhaps that's the idea.

And perhaps that's why I found rather more hostility towards the WFP, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees et al than towards the military. "Americans only in the sky," one man told me, grinning as a chopper rumbled overhead. "No problem." Down on the ground, meanwhile, the new imperial class are the NGOs. They shuttle across the globe, mingling with their own kind - other SUV users - and bringing with them the values of the mother country, or the mother bureaucracy. Like many imperialists, they're well-meaning: they see their charges as helpless and dependent, which happy condition has the benefit of justifying an ever-growing aid bureaucracy in perpetuity. It will be very destructive for Iraq if the tentativeness of the American administration in Baghdad allows the ambulance-chasers of the NGOs to sink their fangs into the country.