Friday, June 13, 2003

Putting down Living History
Matt Labash beats the snot out of Living History. I admit I haven't read it, but given the reviews I've seen, I don't want to. It's telling that neither the Nation nor the American Prospect have any sort of book review on their websites. Are they embarrassed?

If you're interested, Slate has tips on how to quickly read the juicy parts (if you can call them that) in the bookstore without actually buying the book. How ironic, then, that at the bottom of the article there's a link to purchase the book from Barnes and Noble.
Bush's (sort of) conservatism
Jonah Goldberg tells us President Bush is a "big-government conservative", gives plenty of examples of why this is so but doesn't pass judgement. I thought there was, truly, no such thing as a big-government conservative. It makes as much sense as saying someone is a small-government socialist or a freedom-loving despot. Bush caves too much to liberal interests to deserve the "conservative" label.

That being said, given the alternatives, I'm glad he's our President. I can't bear to think of what the U.S. response to 9/11 would have been had Al Gore been President. And the guy I voted for, Harry Browne, well...let's just say he'll never get my vote again. I can forgive Bush for not acting ideally on domestic issues when our nation's security must be of highest priority, but I wish he displayed the same moral conviction and principles with the economy as he does with defense.
Israel's had enough
Ariel Sharon has declared open season on Hamas, including its leadership. At least now Israel is getting some support from the Bush administration, though that support should be more obvious. For instance, what does "signaled support for a crackdown on the Islamic militant group Hamas" mean? I want to hear President Bush say, "We support Israel's right to defend itself, to rid the terrorist threat, wholeheartedly. Go get 'em!"

My current issue of National Review has an article by John O'Sullivan (sorry, I don't think theres an online version of it, though there is a synopsis) wherein he argues no peace can last when the leader(s) on one side cannot commit to stopping terrorism. Well, we have that situation in the Mideast. Mahmoud Abbas has said he cannot hinder Hamas from continuing their terrorist ways, and thus the road map to peace is doomed. As I've said before, there must be fundamental change on the Palestinian side before peace will be possible. Perhaps Israel will successfully act as a catalyst for that change by proving terrorism cannot succeed, that it only leads to death for the terrorists themselves. We'll see...

Thursday, June 12, 2003

More on WMD
National Review Online has an article that gives a balanced appraisal of the current situation in Iraq and our inability to locate weapons of mass destruction, at least so far. The key sentences:

If the weapons are not found or accounted for, American credibility will suffer a heavy blow: and it will be harder to trust intelligence reports about North Korean or Iranian threats. Allies who relied on our information will be chastened, or worse.
Which is all the more reason that there should be a investigation into the intelligence we had showing Iraq had WMD, an investigation some Republicans are resisting. I don't believe the Bush administration intentionally misled us and would be surprised and angered if such an investigation showed otherwise. But it is clear that something went wrong, that there's a disconnect somewhere in the intelligence channels that needs to be corrected. I'm hopeful that such an investigation would lead to improvements, make conclusions from the intelligence community more reliable and help regain lost confidence in those conclusions, both domestically and abroad.
More on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict
Capitalism Magazine carries an article by Daniel Pipes that echoes a few of the points I made yesterday. The Palestinians need something more fundamental than regime change - they need a philosophical change.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

When does self-defense becomse self-defeating?
In other words, how far does a country have to go to defend itself to truly end the threat? If the country does not act harshly enough, those that threaten the country will only find strength in their enemy's apparent weakness. On the other hand, can a country respond too strongly and spark a greater conflict? Hamas has taken responsibility for a bus bombing that killed 16 people and wounded 70 more, and soon after Israel responded by launching missiles at a car containing some Hamas members, killing them but also wounding 30 or so others.

On the one hand, I don't think Israel responds harshly enough to make a difference. When they kill a couple of terrorists, that only makes the terrorists' buddies more determined to do what terrorists do. I suspect it actually makes the situation worse. On the other hand, though, Israel can't occupy all of the Palestinian territory, as much as I'm sure they'd like to. For reasons I have yet to understand, the rules are different for Israel. It's okay for the United States to occupy Afghanistan and Iraq to protect itself, but Israel isn't allowed to defend itself in like fashion. I would not be surprised at all that, if Israel resorted to such action, President Bush would intervene on behalf of the Palestinians.

There has to be a happy medium, some course of action that would eliminate the terrorist threat without resulting in Israel crushing the Palestinian people as a whole. Yet, I tend to believe the solution will have to come from the Palestinians themselves. It would be helpful if the Palestinian leadership would take a role in eliminating terrorist entities, but Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has said he won't do that, "warning it could spark civil war, and is trying to persuade them to stop attacks". Perhaps, but if that's what it takes...

The Israelis just want to live in peace but have no choice but to respond violently to the violence brought upon them. It is the belief that Israel has no right to exist that is at the root of the problem. Unfortunately, too many Palestinians believe it. Israel can give all the concessions imaginable and there will never be acceptance as long as Israel's right to exist as a nation is denied. Therefore, the Palestinian people need to undergo a fundamental shift in ideas. It may require a civil war of sorts to cause the shift, a war between the Palestinian Authority and terrorists. But that belief must be discredited one way or the other. They key is, can the Palestinian people survive a short-term, intense conflict amongst themselves in order to achieve long-term peace and prosperity, or will they settle for the status quo? They showed at interest in change by electing Abbas as Prime Minister. Will they follow through?
Who lied about WMD?
Right Wing News has a good roundup of all those who said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction back in the day, but seem to have forgotten their statements today. I fear it won't matter though - the public tends to forget any politician's former positions and doesn't care to be reminded.
Frickin' Induhviduals
The latest Dilbert newsletter begins with a call from Scott Adams to debase Al Qaeda by referring them as "frickin' Induhviduals" from now on. So far, I had been referring to them as "freakin' morons", but that works, too.

Here's the part that made me chuckle a bit:
For the Induhviduals, it must look as if Americans are really dumb to have the most awesome arsenal in the history of the world and still be unable to stop terror attacks. They don't realize that the way Americans look at it is that, so far, we're "really mad," but not yet "REALLY, REALLY mad." Oh, there's a difference. Americans understand that somewhere between "inconvenient air travel" and "complete breakdown of Western civilization," the "REALLY, REALLY mad" part kicks in. I won't give away what happens then, but remember you first heard the phrase "New Iowa" in the Dilbert Newsletter.
Noted.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Recognizing a useful idiot for what he was
The Pulitzer Board is considering revoking the Pulitzer Prize awarded to Walter Duranty in 1932. The board has reviewed this before and let it stand, but in the wake of the New York Times/Jayson Blair mess I'm betting the award will be revoked. We'll see...
Take a stand, Rush
I listened to a bit of Rush Limbaugh over the lunch hour. A caller voiced his concerns over President Bush's reaction to the Israeli attack on Abdel Aziz Rantisi this morning, essentially telling the Israelis that they shouldn't defend themselves. This prompted Rush to talk about an article from Ha'aretz that quotes Bush as saying he has a problem with Ariel Sharon but thinks the Palestinians are just peachy.

Now, here's where I have a problem: Rush said something like (sorry, quoting from memory): "If this had been Bill Clinton behaving like this, we would have thrown everything we have at it, but with President Bush I just don't know what to think." In other words, had Bill Clinton been playing friends with Mahmoud Abbas and telling Sharon to stick it, Rush would have attacked and attacked hard. But since this is Bush, he doesn't know what to do and in fact expressed utter confusion on the issue. Rush acknowledged that it appears U.S. foreign policy, particularly as it applies to terrorism, does not apply to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but then said there must be things going on behind the scenes that would make sense of all this if we knew about them.

Whatever, Rush. If you think it's wrong, then say so. If your principles tell you it's wrong to deny Israel the right to self-defense, especially when the United States has become so proactive, then let your voice be heard. I used to think you were a conservative first and a Republican second, but maybe that isn't so.

[Update]: Rush could have said something like this.