January 31, 2004

The Hutton Report vs. the Cult of Anti-Americanism

From a Latvian friend, sojourning in England:

Since the Hutton report was published the press have trashed Hutton, The majority of the public think it's a whitewash (The Guardian newspaper front page was all blank apart from the word 'Whitewash'), and even though the Chairman and the Director General of the BBC have resigned, all the sympathy is with the BBC. My own view is that the British see the BBC like [cult followers see a cult leader] - they can't possibly have been at fault (or at least not seriously).

The BBC Royal Charter is up for renewal in two years - should be interesting.

I've already begun to see some change. The more rational of my anti-US friends have begun to notice that a lot of what that crowd have been saying (like the rants of John Pilger) just don't make much sense. And they feel distinctly embarassed about having been taken in by Michael Moore. Not that they don't still hate Bush, but they're scratching their heads.

Posted by Demosophist at 09:33 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 30, 2004

The Retro-Progress of Qutb, Marx, etc.

Ideofact contains a running commentary on Sayyid Qutb's Milestones. For those who haven't heard of this patron saint of al Qaeda, he's often considered to have written the Mein Kampf of the Islamist movement. It's more accurate so say, however, that he wrote its Kapital. Bill's commentary on Chapter 4 of Milestones contains the following quote from the book:

As we have pointed out, Islam is a declaration of the freedom of man from servitude to other men. Thus it strives from the beginning to abolish all those systems and governments which are based on the rule of man over men and the servitude of one human being to another. When Islam releases people from this political pressure and presents to them its spiritual message, appealing to their reason, it gives them complete freedom to accept or not to accept its beliefs.

This is simply a reworking of the Marxist concept of "false consciousness," part of the larger doctrine of "alienation" that also includes Marx's rather idiosyncratic definition of "ideology" (anything non-Marxist meant to pull the wool over the eyes of the worker). Marxism, itself, wasn't an ideology. Nosiree!

There are literally dozens of belief systems that map more or less one for one into Marxism, and Qutbism appears to be another. The appeal of these ideologies must come from a deep human longing to cheat our recently discovered limitations of rationality... to return to the segmented societies of our tribal past where anything goes, while making the tribe writ-large and universal. Which in turn seems like a stroke of progressive genius.

Posted by Demosophist at 10:05 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

January 26, 2004

Predicting the Nominee

It's unfashionable to handicap at this point, and there's a line forming behind Kerry, but the problem is that it just hasn't dawned on people that the Bush team has a strategy, and a case, already mapped out to beat the socks off Kerry should he be nominated. And the only person that really inspires any respect at all in their campaign echelon, is Edwards. And he is the only nominatable candidate who is, currently, more or less unscathed by the Copperhead bite. I suppose it's an open question as to whether the primary voters are going to recognize this, and Edward's campaign resources are a bit thin, but as Andrew points out, and as Josh Marshall demonstrates, the press is in love.

Finally, were it not enough that he's charismatic and snake-bite immune--who else? Lieberman's poll numbers are rising, even though it's doubtful he'd have a chance at the nomination. Should be pull out, where would his voters go? The Democrats are desperately trying to find someone who's both nominatable and electable. Suggestion to the Edwards Campaign for a subliminal theme: "I'm the new, slightly improved, Billary."

Posted by Demosophist at 12:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Review of Maximizing Intelligence by David J. Armor

Since the Coleman Commission published its findings some 40 years ago most discussions about the achievement gap between "haves" and "have nots" has focused on reform of the school environment. A question has rarely been posed in a practical way about the role of other elements of society, chiefly the family. This is the case even though Coleman's original findings demonstrated that differences in the home environment were almost certainly far more important to academic achievement than the resource differences between schools. With Maximizing Intelligence David Armor, who himself served on the Coleman Commission, has inaugurated a sea-change in the debate about educational achievement, and the basic "playing field" of a liberal society. His thesis, that the so-called "race gap" can be all-but eliminated by focusing attention and resources on very early childhood (long before children enter preschool), promises to enliven a debate that has become almost moribund. His contribution projects issues of education into a new dimension transcending and superceding the conventional ideological and special interest polarizations that have come to characterize this social issue.

In the first few pages the book sets the conditions and parameters of this new debate: "Today's focus on government programs for improving school achievement of at-risk children--remedial programs in schools, preschool training like Head Start, and special child care programs--may have convinced many parents that the best opportunity for improving their child's academic achievements is in school rather than at home. Parents with at-risk children who fail to understand the critical importance of the early childhood environment and early parenting behaviors, and who wait for school programs to help their children, are probably increasing the likelihood that their children will experience academic failure."

Armor then presents and supports a theory about early childhood development involving a number of "risk factors" that include mother's IQ, various socio-economic and family measures, birth weight, and most importantly cognitive stimulation (rarely considered). He then presents a powerful empirical argument, the most convincing demonstration of which is that the achievement gap between Black, White and Hispanic children measured in the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) for school-age children, very closely matches the pattern representing the IQ gap measured by the Youth Study for five-year-olds. Clearly, whatever the explaination for the pattern as the gap narrows and widens from the 1970s through the 1990s, it could not have been something uniquely happening within the schools themselves. This finding opens the door not only to an alternative explanation of the gap, but to a productive approach aimed at narrowing and eliminating it, while simultaneously "raising all boats."

Subsequent chapters build on various empirical studies, many conducted by Armor and his associates, to flesh out an integrated theory of intelligence as well as an approach to the most uneven of all playing fields: the cognitive abilities with which we all approach the opportunities and challenges of life, no matter what our background or legacy. His theory involves four primary propositions about the malleability of intelligence, the timing of change, the "risk factors" alluded to earlier, and the family as the agent of change. Finally, Armor uses both the constructed theory of intelligence and evidence from various intervention programs already implemented and evaluated (such as Early Head Start) to make recommendations that inform both families and policy makers about optimal strategies.

Even though the subject matter of the book is complex and may be unfamiliar at times, this is, perhaps, the most approachable of David Armor's published works in the field. Furthermore his explanations of methodological and starkly empirical topics are straightforward and intuitive, even to readers not familiar with the literature. However, this is not light reading. The reader should expect to do some serious work to reap the rewards this book has to offer.

In conclusion, I highly recommend Maximizing Intelligence. It could become a major turning point in the often heated debate on education and equality of opportunity in the US.

Posted by Demosophist at 10:28 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 23, 2004

The Pacifists' Choice

There's a thoughtful and interesting thread on The High Road, the firearms advocacy forum, about pacifism. I think you can read the posts without registering. Here's the post that started the thread:

thought on pacifism

Was discussing with a semi-liberal but interested in at least trying to shoot friend. Seems slightly fed California prepackaged thoughts on self-defense and so forth. In the discussion pacifism came up and I responded something that stumped him but he may ponder and respond tomorrow. So, I'm hoping some of you can argue the point and others help defend it if it is defendable. This was the statement:

"Pacifism is actually irresponsible since it creates a greater pool of easy victims and therefore increases the need for men and women to risk their lives to defend those victims."

Posted by Demosophist at 09:49 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 22, 2004

The Regional Ideological Distribution

I'm taking a few liberties by answering Anticipatory Retaliation's comment here, rather than in the comments section. But it's my blog, so I can do what I like. Here are a few modest thoughts on the regional aspect of the soul of the nation: its "true center."

Well, strictly speaking I'm mixing my "central tendancies." The 50th percentile rank is associated with the median, rather than the mean. The median is supposed to be less influenced by outliers, so it's a more "robust" decription of the ideological center, on the left/right dimenionsion. And you're raising the issue of whether "local centers" are moving closer to the natonal center, or farther away. (Something like that, anyway.) After all, the over all society may be more devisive even though the center stays the same. But my main point is that the primary axis of the American Ideology isn't left/right, it's liberal/illiberal. And in some sense the strength of the nation is that it can, therefore, tolerate rather large ideological divisions in other (lesser) dimensions.

I think if I remember my Lipset correctly things were moving closer to a national consensus prior to 2001, which means essentially that we're paying more attention to the real axis of American Ideology, and less to the European superimposition that derives conspicuously from the French Revolution. I'm not sure about what's happened since, although I suspect we're on the same course. There is certainly increased polarization, but it remains to be seen whether that's regional and whether the polarization is more than superficial.

Daniel Elazar concieved of American Ideology in somewhat different terms than Lipset. He saw it as three bands of political culture, moving from North to Middle to South. The North was "Moralistic,' believing that the role of government was essential in creating a good society (influence of the Puritans, etc.). The Middle was "Individualistic," essentially believing that the government's role had to be minimal, and that it plays only a small role in the lives of people. The South is "Traditionalistic" and tends to defer to "ascriptive" hierarchies based on family and lineage.

So everything started out in these three bands, before the Westward Expansion, but became somewhat intermingled as things moved westward, resulting in pockets of "pure types" as well as local cultures that are variations and mixtures of two or more of the "basic three." Elezar's classic thesis is called the "American Mosaic." He even had a highly detailed map, down to the village level.

This is useful, but I think one has to maintain awareness of the overall unity of belief, or what Lipset called the "American Ideology." It's basically Lockeanism with some Religious Sectarianism thrown in. And my sense is that the consensus is growing, rather than shrinking, in spite of the present polarization. More importanty, the Republicans seem to embody it more than the Democrats at the moment, possibly because they were never really on the "right" in the first place. The whole American Experiment is "leftist" in the sense that it's implicit and sometimes explicit goal is equality of opportunity, or a "level playing field." No so-called "leftist" society has ever done any better than the US at achieving this goal.

Posted by Demosophist at 07:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Where's the Center?

I'm baaack...

A friend of mine with impeccable conservative credentials observes.

There is a HUGE difference between a liberal and a leftist, as I've said before. The problem is that there are damned few liberals left in the democratic party. Most of the leadership in that party is so totally to the left, that they couldn't find the center if their butts were planted on it.

I think my friend has intuitively hit the heart of the bottom, to borrow part of a line from the immortal Peter Lorre in Casablanca. This is an empirical question upon which I can probably shed some light. The average Democrat candidate is two standard deviations to the left of the average Republican candidate, overall. And that suggests that voting isn't as futile as it's cracked up to be. I know this important detail because I did the math (which involves some rather exotic statistics, like factor analysis of responses to polling data) as part of my dissertation. And the fellow who stands at the exact statistical center of the American electorate is Dick Gephardt. He's at the 50th ideological percentile, dead on. If you want to know what the current mean looks like, "Milky's" your man. Some Republicans are actually to the left of him, like Connie Morella (now out of office).

But the point I really need to make here is that the "center" of American politics is not the statistical mean between left and right. The center of American politics is a set of specific beliefs that could be called "Lockeanism" after John Locke, or "classical liberalism." That's because Lockeanism is the ideology of the founding, and the location of the statistical left/right mean may or may not have much to do with that. So the overall ideology of the country has drifted slowly to the left since 1900, and especially since 1930, and the trauma of current events has compelled us to look more carefully at the real center of our identity, rather than the simple mean of a left/right continuum. That's why the Democrats are in trouble.

And here, it's really difficult to find any current candidates that express that center very precisely. Bush is, basically, too statist to be a classical liberal. He spends too much money, or rather he's insufficiently careful about money. (That's probably a legacy of his having been a rich kid, more than any ideological thing.) What's conspicuously absent from the current Presidential race is a candidate who really expresses the center of the American Identity. I don't think Kerry has a shot at it any more, because he has too much history as a result of his intense opposition to the Vietnam War and his choice to let those associations define his political identity. Perhaps Edwards has a shot. We'll see. I doubt it, because he has that whole "trial lawyer" thing going on. And I haven't heard a single word from the Democrats in decades that indicates they have a clue.

But there's a big hole sitting there, waiting for someone to fill it.

By the way, I've made a fundamental shift in my own identity, with the decision to become "armed." As a result my actions and sentiments have allowed the conviction that possession of a legal firearm and the right to bear arms, fundamentally changes the relationship between the individual and the state. It shifts the citizen away from "implicit trust" in the state, toward "conditional trust." That's a good thing.

As with any complex issue there are tradeoffs, but I find the people who deliberately bear arms reflective and stimulating, on the whole. Those people who regard them as right wing chumps do so at their political peril.

Posted by Demosophist at 05:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 19, 2004

Light Posting

I may be coming down with this flu thing, but hard to tell. Bad headache, aches and paints, ear problems, slight nausea. But it's not full blown, just like a really bad hangover. Maybe the vaccination is helping me fight it off... or not. Anyway I'll probably be posting fairly lightly for awhile.

Posted by Demosophist at 02:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 18, 2004

Poll on the Extinction of the Democratic Party

The Democratic Party will implode and self-destruct, as per the prediction below, in 2004. Is this (choose one):

1. very likely
2. likely
3. possible
4. unlikely
5. very unlikely
5. impossible

I tend to think it's possible at the moment. I'll wait until after the primaries to decide whether I think it's likely, and note that I said it really depends on the kind of Presidential campaign that the Democrats run. If it is infused with the same sort of over-the-top rhetoric as the 1864 Lincoln/McClellan contest, or if the sort of hyperbole one finds at Indymedia somehow seeps into the race, I'd move that prediction up to "very likely."

And I'd feel fully confident in doing so.

Right now, however, it looks like the Democrats might be on the verge of coming to their senses. In which case I predict the further marginalization of the Marxisant Left (Transnational Masochists, Dan?), banished forever to the dark corners of the moon, or San Francisco/Marin County.

If the Democrats survive but don't win, then 2008 might very well become a Hillary/Rudolph thing. In which case both parties will have succumbed to the "Empire State," literally. (This might be touted by the Marxisant, Transnational, Masochistic Left as the "Ascension of Empire"--motion picture to be released shortly).

Now, there are other issues on the table, including the seven trillion dollar national debt, the distribution and magnitude of tax cuts, the prevalence of predatory lending (especially credit card debt, with Chase leading the way), and the lack of health care coverage. But how do you tame the nutcases willing to cite George W. Bush for crimes against humanity long enough to make the case if you're a responsible Democrat? As a friend of mine says, those of us willing (and indeed able) to criticize Bush effectively are reluctant to add to the list of false grievances by mentioning real ones. We'd rather just vote the fellow back in, until there's a decent choice available and the corpse-eating zombies have been forced back within the San Francisco/Marin limits.

Did I use my outdoor voice there? Sorry.

Posted by Demosophist at 04:46 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Complaining Their Way to Power

The current anti-Bush "pre-election spin" to insure against the possibility of a Bush electoral blowout in 2004 (which, I'm afraid, is looking more and more likely) involves the claim that the Bush "regime" has realized a scheme to establish rigged electronic voting computers in key states across the land. But what they don't seem to get is that rather than insuring against anything, that spin just makes them look excessively juvenile and unfit to wield the levers of power.

Right after the 2000 Florida debacle I was invited to attend a symposium sponsored by the Center for Voting and Democracy. This wasn't because I was some sort of political uberpundit, but because both the director of the organization and myself had written reports on the 1996 Congressional elections, which had been published in 1998. We therefore knew one another. At that time I was more or less incensed at what I saw as the obstructive tactics of Katherine Harris in Florida, and really wanted to do something to ensure that votes were counted fairly and accurately. It seemed imperative to avoid such a bureaucratic train wreck in the future. So I did my best to get the Democratic Party activists who attended this meeting on Capitol Hill (next to the Supreme Court Building) to start discussing legislation about electronic voting and accountability, etc. Well, I just got the "blind stare" from everyone. They weren't even remotely interested. It seemed that once the election had been decided the consensus was to shelve the issue until it could be raised in the next campaign. So, guess who picked up the ball that the Democrats let drop, and used the momentum provided by the 2000 elections to actually do something? Jeb started working to set up electronic voting in Florida almost immediately, and virtually all of the pent up momentum for voting reform was scooped up by Republicans. Boy was that a surprise! The Democrats were sure they owned that issue by some kind of transcendent political right. (Similar to the presumption that they own the issues of descriminatory race, gender, and sexual preference policies and attitudes, and education reform.)

There are currently some guidelines published by NIST for the implementation of electronic voting machines, but they're voluntary for the states, and it's at the state level where decisions are made about implementation. I'm not sure how many states will adopt the NIST guidelines eventually, but those guidelines essentially call for a record of the vote count that can be followed later. Good idea. It ought to eventually be implemented everywhere, but possibly not by 2004 because, well, this stuff costs money, except on Big Rock Candy Mountain (obscure trade union reference).

So the bottom line is that the Democrats sat on their duffs when they could've used the 2000 momentum to do something, and now that there are some issues regarding vote verification they're all over it, not to fix it of course, but to complain and set up spin for post-November. It's almost like they planned it that way, except that's a little like planning to lose your job so you don't have to pay the rent. In this era where national security and the War on Totalitarianism 3.x trumps everything the race just doesn't go to those who complain the loudest. Someone needs to explain that, apparently.

Posted by Demosophist at 03:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 17, 2004

Are Blair, Clark and Bush Brothers?

At least they seemed to be, until Clark decided to run for President. A short time ago he thought Saddam had WMD, and was unwilling to take the chance that he didn't. He was willing to go it alone, if the UN demurred. He thought the Saddam/Qaeda link was genuine. All pretty decent positions, I think. So what did the little green men do to him that changed his mind? First he was pro-war, then anti-war, then pro-war again, then anti-war again. (Those damn ETs!) As Andrew Sullivan observes: "He's a colossal phony." I'd prefer Dean over this guy.

Allah snapped a nice picture of him though.


Sort of has that mysterious quality voters are sure to love, don't you think?

Posted by Demosophist at 08:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 16, 2004

Daily Dish Final Update

When I click on Andrew Sullivan's Blog I get a page that says:


With a link that I neglected to click, for fear I'd get some sort of internet worm.

Update: When I click http://andrewsullivan.com which used to take me to the Daily Dish I still get the above. However, when I enter http://www.andrewsullivan.com I get Andrew's site. Not sure what's going on there. Some subtle router thing no doubt.

Update to the update: OK, now all the URLs, including http://andrewsullivan.com work.

Posted by Demosophist at 12:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Michael Moore Endorses George McClellan

A friend of mine who has been adamantly opposed to the War in Iraq, and was an ardent Bush-hater, had a lucid moment spurred by an intemperate John Pilger article that's making the rounds of antiwar blogs. It stridently compares George W. Bush to Hitler, and recommends some sort of Nuremberg reckoning for him. Besides referring to Pilger as "a stupid prat" my friend observed:

I'll freely admit I have never liked Bush, nor respected him, nor understood how he got to be president, but thank Christ..., Bush isn't remotely like Adolf Hitler. If he were, the world as we know it would stand little chance. Let alone democracy, human rights, etc.

And I will give credit where it's due: Bush's pledge last year to spend millions on fighting Aids in Africa was both surprising and admirable, and hardly a Hitler thing to do. Under the Nazis, 'cripples' and infirm were more likely to be sent to death camps, at the very least, denied basic social support and medical care.

When his maximum term runs out in 2007(?) Bush will step down. Of course he will. A Democrat might take over, maybe not. And I probably won't respect him (her?), either. But the 'Third Reich', Hitler's brain-child, was conceived to last for one thousand years, with no fixed-terms or free elections. Whatever we might think about vote-rigging in Florida (and they won't try that one again!), I believe the concept of democracy is still held paramount in the States, as in Australia, Canada, Western Europe, former commonwealth countries etc. For as long as it remains so, comparing any elected leader in any of those places to a genocidal dictator is, shall we say, pushing the envelope?

The statement seemed encouraging because, to be frank, I'm a little worried about the consequences of the sort of Presidential campaign the Democrats appear to be gearing up for. If they persist in what amounts to a Copperhead campaign (which is looking fairly likely since Michael Moore endorsed George McClellan's direct ideological descendent) then it's quite possible they'll soon cease to be a viable opposition party altogether. And I'm not sure what happens after that. With no Democratic Party does the Republican Party maintain the two party system by splitting into factions: T.R. Progressives vs. big business and religious conservatives?

In the period leading up to and during the American Civil War the Democrats committed themselves to an anti-war stance that was just as immoral, strident, and self-indulgent as the current anti-war movement. And they paid for it by being barred from political power by the voters for generations. From Lincoln to Herbert Hoover (inclusive) 15 men served as President of the United States, only two of whom were Democrats (Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson). The Republicans all but dominated politics everywhere except the South, where the collapse of the Southern Whigs' plantation culture and the affinity between the Copperheads and the South's regional interests led to the dominance of the Jim Crow "Dixiecrats," for generations. That probably saved the Democratic Party from extinction. But there is no such regional enclave today that could provide a comparable reprieve or sanctuary.

One thing is for sure, the "progressive wing" of the Democratic Party, the one that idolizes Chomsky and Moore and sees Dennis Kucinich as a visionary (even though he holds up pie charts to illustrate his points to radio listeners) is in serious trouble. Most of its adherents won't awaken from their slumber until there's nothing but wreckage left of their hopes and plans. And what will they do then? Some, I think, will be susceptible to Chomsky and Pilger and a few other "stupid prats" and, spinning out of control, will launch a western anarchist/terrorist movement, something S.M. Lipset has been predicting for years.

As I said, I was encouraged by my friend's comment because I thought it meant not everyone with a left-lean to their walk had gone completely nuts. And then I remembered that my friend is British.

I reconsidered this scenario in light of Dan's and Myria's comments below. I now think that if the Democrats self-destruct the Republican Party probably would factionalize along the lines of the three founding values: classical liberalism and anti-statism, religious and social conservatism, and finally equality of opportunity (the TR Progressives). Somehow those three will resolve themselves into two parties, and since I think the religious component doesn't need to be political in order to preserve its values in the absence of the Marxisant-left I expect their direct involvement in politics will gradually decline. The former Democrats will either join one of the two remaining factions or will splinter into radical opposition. They'll "Europeanize."

This would ultimately leave us with a party system that's more representative of the country than the misnamed "conservatives" versus the equally misnamed (Marxisant) "liberals," which really reflect distorted European factions rather than American. But of course where the Democrats go is the wild card. And that would probably depend on the specific programs and policy prescriptions of the remaining factions.

Posted by Demosophist at 01:36 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

January 12, 2004

Sane Talk about Zionism and War

Michael J. Totten has inaugurated a prolific discussion about total war. But since there are so many comments I wanted to post a couple of throughts on my own blog, as well as dropping my small contribution into that vast ocean.

First, there seems to be some genuine confusion about the meaning of the term "total war" as implying either "maximizing warmaking capacity" or requiring the use of a standing conventional army. The term "total war" has nothing to do with maximizing "warmaking capacity." It means, simply, targeting the civilian population that (albeit perhaps not universally) supports the warmaking capacity. Of course total war is "morally repugnant." The point is that in certain situations it's the lesser of evils that are left on the table. There isn't any doubt that the folks the BBC chattily refers to as "Palestinian militants" are engaged in total war against Israelis. Just consult any suicide bombing story in any newspaper on any given day in Israel.

And although it may be crass to say this, the only reason there are any Palestinians left in the territories is that their warmaking capacity is so inept it doesn't demand a response in kind.

Aside from the apparent confusion about the meaning of the term "total war," there's another common flaw in the comments. In a world of the "super-empowered individual or group" with potential access to WMD it isn't necessary to have an army in order to wage an effective war. But it does require some broad popular support (for instance, to hide the Bin Laden's in the larger population). In the event of a successful WMD attack on the US there'd be two areas that might initially be targeted for broad retaliation, should the population continue to shield the offenders. Those are the "tribal areas" of the Northwest Provinces in Pakistan and in Saudi Arabia. They would probably, at the very least, become hostage to a thermonuclear retaliation.

And another distinction might be in order. Total war need not mean genocide. The objective is to bring home the price of support to the civilian population engaged in such support. Only if the enemy proves utterly implacable and bent on genocide themselves does genocide become a self-defensive necessity.

And mutual genocide may not be the only justification. Genocide has been necessary in at least one historical instance: the eradication of the Thuggee Assassin culture in northern India. The program involved not only mass executions, but where feasible mass internments and restrictions against reproduction. Many of the Thuggees so interned lived out their natural lives in peace and relative security, but they were the last generation.


Shadow Merchant suggests some potent alternatives:

Well, one thing I expect to see in case of a nuclear or biological disaster would be expulsion of Arab and Muslim non-citizens from the United States (and perhaps other countries: France is slowly awakening to the fact that they will be living under Sharia law in two more generations if something is not done, and a nuclear detonation would provide them all the excuse they need to round up millions of troublesome North Africans and send them home.)

Immigration and most travel from Muslim lands to the West would be eliminated. Even some naturalized citizens might find themselves deported. The Muslim world would find itself quarantined, and probably destitute, as we would most likely occupy the major Arab oil fields for the benefit of ourselves and the rest of the world.

Those who think we would unleash nuclear weapons or other terrrible violence on the Muslim world in general are wrong, however. We would certainly give Pakistan a very brief deadline to turn over all its nuclear weapons and submit to intrusive inspections, or face destruction of its military forces and infrastructure. We would probably do likewise to North Korea. But we would not bomb cities or intentionally try to kill civilians.

Very good points. I'd argue that we need to do at least some of those things now, in order to make the deterrent message much clearer. As I've said elsewhere I think a strategy is emerging for a new "cold war" that sends a powerful message to the people of the Middle East. It is very dangerous for them to misread us as too benevolent to retaliate.

But I also think that holding the tribal areas hostage until the perpetrators of an attack are surrendered (perhaps to an international tribunal) might be another stopgap on the way to total war. I don't know how effective such a threat would be, but perhaps we ought to think about that now rather than later.

And what I mean is this. If the UN is not an adequate institution to play such a supranational role the time to establish an alternative body, composed entirely of liberal democracies, is now... before an attack.

Posted by Demosophist at 12:21 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

What Did He Say?

What's Powell doing, issuing a statement that includes the confusing answer to this rather obvious challenge:

QUESTION: On the subject of weapons of mass destruction, Mr. Secretary, one of the other conclusions of that report was that there was no evidence of a connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida and that there was no evidence of a likelihood that he would transfer weapons to al-Qaida.

What do you think about that, looking back? And I know that, you know, hindsight is 20/20, but to think back --


QUESTION: Do you think that there were ways other than war to have handled this threat and that the -- that it was not an imminent threat to the United States?

SECRETARY POWELL: My presentation on the 5th of February when I talked to this issue made it clear that we had seen some links and connections to terrorist organizations over time, and I focused on one particular case, Zawahiri*, and I think that was a pretty solid case.

*Correction: "...and I focused on one particular case, Zarqawi,..."

There is not -- you know, I have not seen smoking-gun, concrete evidence about the connection, but I think the possibility of such connections did exist and it was prudent to consider them at the time that we did.

Now, given that the press has been almost single-mindedly committed to ignoring any evidence of links between al Qaeda and the Hussein regime, is not a statement like the one above (especially with all the past tense) playing into the hands of those predisposed to a rather stifling "consensus view" about such links? And why would an administration official play into that perception, given the enormous significance of such a link to any justification for the war? The immediate impression sewn by the press was that Powell had finally admitted that there were no ties between al Qaeda and Saddam. I doubt that Powell intended such an admission, but if not isn't this a rather dull-witted and irresponsible response? What was he thinking?

Dan Darling has some thoughts. Key graf:

I agree with Pete that it looks like he's answering off the cuff, for example referencing Ayman al-Zawahiri rather than Abu Musab Zarqawi. However, I still don't think that it's remotely defensible for him to say what he said without immediately issuing a correction or a clarification, especially given what the press is doing with this.

I agree with Dan. This is a real pisser. Very good people have been busting their humps trying overcome what amounts to a widespread meme about the notion that a secular totalitarian would never kiss a religious totalitarian on the lips, which is a very dangerous meme to just let lie. And here Powell actually contributes to the confusion. How out of touch is that? I know he didn't attend any of the military academies, but if he had I'd be asking about his class rank right now.

Posted by Demosophist at 12:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 11, 2004

Qutbism Unmasked

Well, not completely. But as Dan Darling notes in a comment below Ideofact has some great stuff on Qutbism.

Posted by Demosophist at 01:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 10, 2004

Before the Wave

But absent from Friedman's article (let us see what the four remaining parts bring) is a realization of how close-run President Bush's effort is. He forgets that the natural conclusion from the premise of intractable Islamic hatred is that the West may be forced not so much to befriend its tormentors as destroy them utterly. Friedman's own article is proof of how steadily, yet imperceptibly, the tides have risen in the course of the war itself. What would have been unprintable in any major American newspaper in November, 2001 -- immediately after the attack on New York city -- now seems so hopelessly weak that one cannot but wonder how close the crisis point is. And it is Islam, not the West, that is skirting the edge of the abyss. Unlike the reluctant Friedman, many Islamists, caught up in their invincible ignorance and the fantasy engendered by controlled media, will never know how paper-thin is the wall that stands between them and the roaring waves they have conjured until it bursts in on their poor world, upon unfortunate children in their evil playhouse. Now has the last race between the requirements of humanity and urgings of necessity begun. Let every man do his utmost. -- (Wretchard at the Belmont Club, reflecting on Tom Friedman's NYT piece)
Is this too alarmist? Perhaps, but just barely.

I could take exception to the opinion that Friedman would not have written such a piece in November, 2001. I'm pretty sure this article is not a radical departure from his long term position, in spite of the fact that he once called the Iraq War "optional." But I did write an Op Ed for the Washington Post on Sept. 11, 2002 that was never published. In retrospect it seems slightly naive to have written such a piece back then, but I post it here in the interest of "doing my utmost."

Before the Wave Scott Talkington - September 11, 2002 DRAFT

Perhaps mainstream Americans have become blind to the appeal of what Jerrold Post calls "the psychology of political paranoia" because we tend to treat our social ills as projects, rather than sources of shame demanding a "total solution." Or perhaps it is the confusing association with an unfamiliar religion that gives familiar pathological patterns religious camouflage? Or maybe by its very nature totalitarianism looks cartoonish and trivial, until it becomes a full-blown nightmare? But whatever the reason, a conspicuous silence emanates from US decision makers on what could easily become the most important issue in the War on Terrorism: the broad appeal of a malignant panacea in Islamic culture. Beneath the camouflage this may be less a "clash of civilizations" than a sequel to an old familiar problem, seen most recently in the Balkans and Rwanda.

Why are we always astonished that a wounded society can be so vulnerable to paranoid totalitarian "therapy," or that the compulsion to look outward for causes that lie within can become so irresistible? More than 70 years ago National Socialism made its debut. But not until Kristallnacht, almost a decade later, did many understand that Germany, one of the most highly educated and diverse societies in the world, would prove to be so vulnerable to a concept as superficial, immoral and simplistic as: 'If we rid ourselves of the scum known as Jews, we will have solved the social problems of the nation." The difference now is that the seduction could involve a culture with a quarter of the world's population... and the scapegoat is the US.

The term "Islamic World" implies a uniformity that isn't entirely an illusion. Even though the "Caliphate" exists only in a romanticized and distant past, more than any other religious or cultural tradition Islam sees itself as a "community" that transcends the enormous ethnic, geographical, and even sectarian diversity it embraces. This Islamic World has a growing gap between expectation and reality that could be larger than any since German hyperinflation gave Adolf Hitler his golden opportunity. And in the midst of looming economic and social crises, the Middle East has little tolerance for self-criticism, and a growing appetite for blame.

Fawaz Gerges, a leading Middle Eastern Studies scholar at Sarah Lawrence, suggests that even though the terrorists are a miniscule proportion of Islamists, who are themselves not yet a majority in any nation, complacency is dangerous: "I have yet to meet a person in the Middle East who doesn't say that Osama bin Laden makes sense." He goes on to emphasize: "I can't tell you how difficult it is for an Arab or Muslim intellectual to say anything positive about America. To be politically conscious in the Arab and the Muslim world today is to be anti-American, to be suspicious of American motives, desires, even American culture and society." So ultimately, why do they hate us? Because it's convenient and easy... and the alternative isn't.

The implication of our inability to locate many of bin Laden's intimate operatives (if not the dark lord himself) is simple and ominous: they have disappeared into a sea of sympathetic souls. [We have, since this was written, made a number of "high value" arrests, but the largest fishes in that sea still elude us.] And like a tidal wave that remains imperceptible as it flashes across the open ocean, the speculative paranoid associations already exist in the minds of many mainstream Muslims; awaiting landfall before the wave breaks and the ideas entertained more or less privately and tentatively fuse into a mass movement.

It is difficult or impossible to imagine a realistic "war on terrorism" that doesn't start from this premise, frankly acknowledging the fact that we are not merely losing the war of ideas, but losing it spectacularly. And it ought to be equally obvious that what we need to do is make the alternative a bit easier, and contempt for the US a little less convenient. Fortunately, beneath an intimidating socio-political context permeated by Islamist anti-American discourse lies a silent fascination with, if not admiration for, the US. As Bernard Lewis has observed, this is clearest in Iran, where the "state institution" is not friendly toward the US. And this anomaly suggests that decoupling US policy and rhetoric from support of the autocratic regimes that people so despise may be the only way to cancel the impending wave, in time.

In this context our deliberate confrontation with Iraq is surprisingly "on message" but probably not compelling for many Muslims, given the fact that we appear to say little about human rights abuses by the so-called "friendly" regimes. Worse, if we aren't able to engage in a direct conversation with the "community of the faithful" the discourse will surely be dominated by those willing to sew sympathy for Saddam and hatred for the US. It may be time to just bypass the conventional foreign policy intermediaries, addressing the Islamists' audience directly, with a respect and deference that they clearly don't expect, and that even their own governments appear to lack. We can do that.

As a culture we're still pretty good at plain talk. And there's a pretty straightforward message to deliver. Furthermore, since access to telecommunications is more unavailable in the Arab world than in many parts of Africa it may not be advisable to wait for the full resources of the fancy new Office of Global Communications to get things rolling. It is not the sophistication of the medium but the content and clarity (and moral consistency) of the message that's important, and such a message can be delivered convincingly through relatively crude means. Certainly the challenge is enormous, but this is war isn't it?

Yes, I know it was a bit naive. But even at the time I had little inkling that we'd have come as far as we have in transforming Iraq into a demonstration project for the "counter-wave." While imperfect, that process has been spectacular (and little reported). What's disappointing is the extent to which the US has been unable to utilize media to send its message. And now I agree with Wretchard that the most important message we need to send to this constituency in the short term is how close they are to the abyss.

Posted by Demosophist at 12:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 09, 2004

Den Beste's "Three-Way War" Typology

At the moment Steven Den Beste is wrestling with the Angel of Philosophical Typologies in a number of posts about a "three-way war." Some of what Steven says seems intuitively on the mark, including some of the notions about the radicalization of humanities departments within universities as a kind of "ghetto-ization" (my term obviously) that practitioners of non-empirical disciplines have heaped on themselves. But if he makes a convincing case for a three-way war between philosophical factions, he has only provided definitions for two. Islamism, or Islamo/Fascism seems to be hanging out there without a clear identification either as a sect of Islam or as a fundamentalist backlash. Steven does seem to recognize an affinity between Islamism and his philosophical-idealist (p-idealist) faction, and even acknowledges that the former seems idealistic in the terms he feels important. But it's not quite clear whether we have two or three "factions" at work, or (if there are three) where the boundaries lie between them. It's a provocative typology, with some problems.

Meanwhile a couple of comments by Anticipatory Retaliation to my post about Osama's Wahhabist bona fides seemed to beg some questions, the answers to which might shed some light on the problem. A.R.'s comments focus on the difference between ideologies and religions, but he also talks about the difficulty of "eradicating religions," and opines that it may be somewhat easier to "eradicate" ideologies. And that also raises another important question about ideological sects: Is Islamism a radical sect of Islam or a radical sect of philosophical-idealism? The curve that has been thrown us involves the particular way the Islamists have merged religion and western philosophy. But it's not the first time such a thing has happened, as the history of both pre-modern and modern Spain tells us. (It is, ironically perhaps, the only Western European nation that was ever under Moslem rule.)

Edward Feser, in a recent article in TCS talks about Marxism and Nazism/Fascism as "sects" of the same ideology, so we're apparently all tuning to the same wavelength even though there's still a lot of interference:

The bafflement only grows when one considers that Hitler's movement was not called "National Socialism" for nothing, much as lefties like to ignore the fact. It is true that Hitler was personally far more interested in exterminating the Jews than he was in implementing any economic program; but it is also true that he and the other Nazis regarded capitalism as no less odious a manifestation of the power of "world Jewry" than, in their view, communism was. They hated capitalism for the very same reason they hated communism: its internationalism, its tendency to dilute one's allegiance to Nation and Race; Nazism was, one might say, the original anti-globalization movement. Hence the national in National Socialism: one's comradeship ought, in its conception, to be primarily with fellow members of one's Nation or Race, rather than with an international Class. But the socialism was no less important, and featured centrally in the minds of such prominent Nazis as Ernst Roehm, Gregor Strasser, and Joseph Goebbels. As Stanley G. Payne notes in his magisterial A History of Fascism 1914-1945: "Much was made by Marxist commentators, during the 1930's and for nearly half a century afterward, about the alleged capitalist domination of the German economy under National Socialism, when the truth of the matter was more nearly the opposite." The suggestion, sometimes heard from Leftists even today, that Nazism was an outgrowth of (or at least inherently sympathetic to) capitalism is thus a myth, another lie propagated from Moscow during the war years and faithfully parroted by Communists, their sympathizers, and their spiritual descendents. The truth is that Marxism on the one hand and fascism and National Socialism on the other are rival interpretations of the same basic socialist creed, their differences analogous to the differences between rival sects within the same religion. To the sectarian, such differences are all-important, and anyone who dissents from them is a heretic, worse even than a non-believer; to the outsider, they seem far less significant than what the various sects all have in common.

So there are two competing typologies here, one that would attempt to incorporate apparently secular totalitarian ideologies as "religions," and the other that would need to incorporate fundamentalist religions as "ideologies" (or philosophical schools of thought). And for my money which one makes more sense depends on the context of the problem we're trying to solve. We are not, after all, attempting a comprehensive typology of either religion or philosophy, but are looking at a set of extremely troublesome movements in the 20th and 21st Century that all have one thing in common: a totalitarian outlook.

And eventually Islam will need to ask itself an analogous question: Is Islamism an apostate sect of Islam, or a sect of a false ideology? Or both?

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January 07, 2004

Biggest News in Washington, DC.

Capture of Bin Laden? Nukes in Iran? Discovery of "dirty bomb" plot? Nope, Joe Gibbs.

Posted by Demosophist at 06:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 06, 2004

Apparently Osama Isn't a Wahhabi

At least according to this book he never even learned the tenets of the Wahhabi faith. He is, rather, a Qutbist (which is what Paul Berman contends, as well):

The Existence of Qutbism as an Ideology

In an article titled "Terror, Islam and Democracy," Ladan and Roya Boroumand correctly state that "Most young Islamist cadres today are the direct intellectual and spiritual heirs of the Qutbist wing of the Muslim Brotherhood."

They state that: "When the authoritarian regime of President Gamel Abdel Nasser suppressed the Muslim Brothers in 1954 (it would eventually get around to hanging Qutb in 1966), many went into exile in Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria and Morocco. From there, they spread their revolutionary Islamist ideas - including the organizational and ideological tools borrowed from European totalitarianism."

Expanding upon the link between European revolutionary ideologies and the dogma of Qutbism, The Independent's John Gray argues in an article entitled "How Marx turned Muslim" that Qutbism is not rooted in the Islamic tradition, but rather, is very much a Western based ideology.

I would add that it's a western-based totalitarian ideology. I'm not sure just how good a source this book is, but the notion that Osama is not considered a "fundamentalist Muslim" might well turn out to be a huge vulnerability for the Islamists. If the Islamic World could somehow cut these Qutbists out of the herd they might save their society. The problem is that this rather optimistic scenario assumes that fundamentalist Islam really is the big influence in the Islamic World. And what I fear is that this underestimates the popular appeal of Marxist-related Qutbist ideology for it's own sake. It doesn't really need much cover to pass itself off as fundamentalist Islam, because the Arab world is ripe for a Westernized belief system dressed in Muslim garb. They're willing to be seduced and to overlook discrepancies.

What concerns me is that this really is not a religious conflict, but an ideological one. And if that's the case it's really going to be a kind of final exam for the Europeans. I'm pretty sure that liberalism would have no problem chewing and swallowing fundamentalist Islam without any indigestion. It regularly gobbles up fundamentalist and orthodox beliefs of all sorts, with little ill-effects. Orthodox religion just isn't the threat it's cracked up to be.

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January 03, 2004

An Emerging Theme?

Dan Darling has a post about Saudi Arabia that describes a society so dysfunctional it coud give the word "society" a bad name. But rather than suggest that we pick sides, he advises that we regard the whole mess the way we saw Naziism, and just crush it completely. He isn't taken in by the affected westernization:

Hassan Turabi, the NIF ideologue who reintroduced slavery to Sudan and helped to stir up a genocidal war against Christians and animists in the southern regions of the country, was once hailed as "Westernized" because he had been educated in France. The same goes for Prince Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, the member of House Saud that according to Gerald Posner's account of Abu Zubaydah's interrogation, was named as the key contact between al-Qaeda and the royal family. Before Posner's book came out, the late Prince Ahmed was mainly remembered for the fact that one of his horses won the Kentucky Derby in 2002.

Well OK, but just how is it possible to crush the Saudis without igniting a global conflict between Islam and the West? I mean, I'm game if someone can tell me how that works. Reinstall the Hashemites? What?

You see, I'm not really so extreme after all. And Wretchard at the Belmont Club feels we need to declare forever illegitimate "all payments of tribute and inducements to dhimmutude," which clearly includes oil revenue to Saudi Arabia. That's not just an effort to "manage the problem," but a commitment to permanently erase Wahhabism. Tantamount to an Emancipation Proclamation? I like the sound of that, but it makes me tremble.

Do these posts, plus the Victor Davis Hanson piece about a new iron curtain constitute an emerging theme? It's a lot more radical than what we're doing now, but way short of total war. God help me, I find it appealing, and as I said, vastly preferable to the "dominant solution."

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January 02, 2004

Armed Liberal, Justifiably Pissed.

Armed Liberal, on Winds of Change, has an excellent post that takes on several related memes of the anti-war-Marxisant-left. Here's one thought that suggests some haunting parallels with the 1930s:

Second [meme infection], the notion that simplisme is the root of the desire for war, and that one who understands the complex, rich broth of history would take a different position:
[Arthur Silber]: According to the brave, fearless, always-typing warbloggers, we had spread before us an old-fashioned morality play: on one side, we had pure, untarnished good -- the noble, honorable, uncompromising United States, which stands only for truth, justice, freedom and liberty for all. And on the other side, we had a monster like Saddam Hussein -- and anyone who expressed a "but" clearly had placed himself on Saddam's side, and on the side of torture, the murder of innocents, the gassing of children, rape rooms, and innumerable other crimes against humanity. There was no middle ground, no complexity, no nuance here -- it was one or the other. You were either on the side of the typing warbloggers and of Pure Good, or allied with the forces of Unadulterated Evil.

Second, no, the issue isn't the acceptance of nuance, but the inability to see anything in the other side's facts or argument that can simply be accepted - as it makes sense to accept that Saddam's capture was good - without a left-handed attempt to devalue it. Again, it's about devaluing an opponent's arguments so that no real weighing can take place. I fully accept the idea that war is a bad thing - that innocents (and innocence) die; that events seldom play out according to plan; that plans themselves are incomplete and contingent.

I'm just weighing the scales differently, and am willing to accede both the goodwill and intellectual probity of those who disagree with me. Doesn't mean I don't think they aren't wrong; people often are.

Well, clearly, however evil you imagine the US has no impact whatsoever on the weight one must throw against Saddam on the scales, no matter how finely one measures it, nor does it change one's essential position regarding that regime very much. Even if one had to choose between an autocrat of the flavor of Chile's Pinochet and Saddam, the choice as well as the order of triage would be non-controversial for anyone whose thoughts and perceptions aren't clouded. Would a more precise measurement render Saddam less, rather than more, monstrous? How? One would have thought this so obvious it hardly needs saying, but the fact that it does suggests something more than a simple disagreement. There's also a cognitive dysfunction at work here, that needs to be explained and understood.

If only absolute evil is visible, then any sort of "nuance" that actually exists will operate as an effective "cloaking device" that leaves the observer unaware that a certain class of "bad guys" are really bad. Basically, any bad guy who manages to place himself in opposition to the US might as well be an angel from heaven, for all the effect his acts are likely to elicit from this group of self-assessed savants. And isn't the "nuance" that we're really supposed to be impressed by more along the lines of the Fauristes pre-WWII arguments, that Paul Berman summarizes as "the fog of peace" or "liberalism as denial?"

They [the followers of the Socialist Party's General Secretary, Paul Faure] were eager, they were desperate, to find a description of reality that did not point to a new war in the future. They grew thoughtful, therefore. They did not wish to reduce Germany in all its Teutonic complexity to black-and-white terms of good and evil. The anti-war Socialists pointed out that Germany had been wronged by the Treaty of Versailles, at the conclusion of the First World War. The anti-war Socialists observed that Germans living in the Slavic countries to the east were sometimes cruelly treated by their neighbors, and that Germany in the 1930s had every right to complain about its neighbors, and that Germany's people were, in fact, suffering, just as Hitler said....

[According to the anti-war Socialists in France] the truest danger came from the warmongers and arms manufacturers of France itself, as well as from the other great powers--the people who stood to benefit in material ways from a new war...

And so, listening to the Nazis make their wildest speeches, the anti-war Socialists, in a thoughtful mood, asked themselves: what is anti-Semitism anyway? Does every single criticism of the Jews reflect the superstitions of the Middle Ages? Surely it ought to be possible to criticize the Jews without being vilified as anti-Semites. Hitler ranted about Jewish financiers. He was excessive. Still, France's Socialists were, by definition, the enemies of financiers. Some financiers were Jews. Should Jewish financiers be exempt from criticism, simply because they were Jews? -- (Terror and Liberalism, pp. 124-6)

Nuance,... indeed..

Posted by Demosophist at 04:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

New "Soldier Blog:" Stryker Brigade

Here's a new soldier blog for the Stryker Brigade (3rd Brigade, 2nd Division out of Fort Lewis, Washington). Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for posting the link. I'm posting this in part because I grew up in Washington state, and still have family there who sometimes read my blog. (Hi, to the Paxtons, the Rojases, the Joneses, the McFarlands, and the Copenhavers, as well as anyone else from the Evergreen State that I left out.)

Note that there's supposed to be a special on ABC News Nightline tonight about the Stryker Brigade, at 11:45 PM.

Posted by Demosophist at 01:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack