When you're right you're right
Friday, January 27, 2006
  Liberals' newfound religion: cheaper than a crackerjack toy
America's most humiliated President is at it again. Jimmy Carter, a man who was so forcefully rejected at the ballot box in 1980, is back with a new book. It's called Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis.

As Frontpagemag.com's Ben Johnson puts it:

After the preliminaries, the interviewers allowed Carter to get to the real
theme of OEV: a rambling diatribe equating Southern Baptists, the Pope,
“Neo-conservatives,” and anyone who supports the war in Iraq or capitalism
with Dixie lynch mobs and the Ayatollah. (No, I’m not exaggerating.) He
claims we were lied into a war in which U.S. troops “decided to violate” the
Geneva Conventions and “torture” detainees, because they saw Arabs as
“subhuman.” Then he showed his keen grasp of the War on Terror, writing,
“The fact is that, unlike during other times of national threat or crisis, the United States of America is not at war.” (Emphasis his.)

Ever since the election of 2004, liberals have made a concerted effort to make their image more palatable to "values voters". "Values voters" were 2004's biggest surprise, and they may have put President Bush over the top.

The phenomenon of the "values voter" is probably not as clear cut as one might think. When exit pollsters asked voters what had motivated their vote, the number one answer given was "moral values". Still, this answer was given by only 22% of those polled. The second and third most burning issues in the voters' minds were "economy/jobs" and "concern over terrorism", with 20% and 19% respectively. Also, only 80% of "values voters" voted for Bush. While this is a significant amount, that means that 20% of values voters voted for Kerry or a third party candidate. Only 17.6% of voters chose Bush because of "moral values". While not as daunting as it may seem, no candidate for president can afford to dismiss 17.6% of the population, especially when elections can be determined by as little as three percentage points.

Given the fact that not all "values voters" voted for Bush, you can see that "moral values" was just one small piece of a very complex election result. I would encourage the Democrats to drop the cheap montra that a misunderstanding about "values" was the only thing that did them in. The Democratic Party has been roundly rejected for years now, and they're going to have to make some real--not just cosmetic--changes, if they want to appeal to middle America. I'll even give them some tips--try your best to pretend that you love America and you want to see Americans win the war in Iraq. Also, stop hanging out with Barbara Streisand and taking your marching orders from the ACLU and People for the American Way.

While the "values voter" may not have been as decisive as originally thought, this was still a jolt for the Democrats. As they watched John Kerry's concessions speech with teary eyes, they must have wondered "what happened?". Not to worry--in the age of cable news, there is always a "talking heads" show to break it down, analyze it, spin it, and serve it up for American consumption. The term "values voter" was born on the political talk show circut in the days after the 2004 election.

Democrats, who had previously dilluded themselves into believing that they're in touch with average Americans (although they hadn't won a popular majority in a presidential election since Jimmy Carter's victory in 1976, a full twenty-eight years earlier) were shocked that they had lost. Then the pundits came to the conclusion that it had been religious conservative "values voters" who had made the difference in Bush's victory.

Democrats were stunned and furious. The "Jesus freaks" had done it again! Then they started talking about getting the heck out of "Jesus-land" and moving to Canada. It never occurred to them that their definition of a "Jesus freak" includes a massive segment of the American population (perhaps even the majority), and they can't claim to be "in touch with America" when they show such blatant contempt for huge swaths of American society.

They realized that they had been singing the wrong tune throughout 2004. Their election strategy had been simple--Iraq is a disaster and the economy sucks. If you want these things fixed, you're going to have to vote this Bush bum out of office.

It didn't work. Bush retained the White House and the Democrats took losses in both the House and the Senate. In the most heated election of my lifetime, the Democrats made the fatal miscalculation of not even knowing what was important to the American people. While they were busy talking Iraq and jobs, Americans were worried about things like gay "marriage", stem-cell research, and abortion.

After an initial hissy-fit, in which Democrats cursed the Heartland and lamented the rise of "Christian fundamentalism" and "the religious Right", the Democrats went back to the drawing board. If they were going to make any gains in 2006, they were going to have to jump onto this moral values train and ride it.

Soon, every prominent Democrat was talking about "morals" and "values". They were shocked--shocked!--that so many Americans didn't equate the party of Ted Kennedy with traditional values. Democrats made a concerted effort to show the nation that the Republicans don't have a monopoly on faith, that Democrats have guiding moral creeds and go to church just like Republicans do. In fact, they're the real Christians, they just don't wear their faith on their sleeves like those phony Republican "Christians".

But there are a few problems with their new-found image. First of all, Democrats don't go to church. Oh sure, a few of them do. But as the Pew Research Center found after the election, people who attend religious services weekly supported Bush 63% to 37%, and those who never attend religious services opposed Bush 62% to 38%. Keeping in mind the large block of black voters in the Democratic Party, who are usually church-going folk, you can see that the Democratic Party is made up mostly of black Christians and white people who haven't been to church since their mothers stopped making them. Okay, so I'm painting with a broad brush, but the truth is that religion and the Democratic Party don't exactly go hand in hand.

Attitudes toward religion and faith are a major public-opinion fissure in this country. Perhaps I'm oversimplifying here, but there are two sides to the culture war we're engaged in now--the approximately Judeo-Christian side, and the hostile Secular Humanist side. People of faith bare almost no resemblance to people of little or no faith. They think differently, spend their time and money differently, raise their children differently, and live their lives differently. It's no surprise that they vote differently as well. And because they don't vote the same way, the are not likely to join the same political party. That's how you get such different attitudes about religion in our two major parties.

Another reason that Democrats have such a difficult time feighning piety is that they're so fake. They're like Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, emerging from that Baptist Church with the Bible under his arm and crocodile tears in his eyes. Reporters were pre-positioned to catch the whole thing. Meanwhile, he was seeking spiritual guidance from the "Reverend" Jesse Jackson, who happened to be engaged in an extra-marital affair himself at the same time.

Or how about Howard Dean, the man who learned how to talk religion in the 2004 campaign, after he angered Southern voters with his comment that "We have got to stop having our elections in the South based on race, guns, God and gays." Dean has a talent for putting a foot in his mouth, and he was later informed that this was not the way to attract Southern voters.

So Howie found God. His conversion to Christianity was cheaper than a crackjack toy, but he was a true-believer nonetheless. He was fond of saying profoundly arrogant things like, "(I)f you know much about the Bible, which I do..." A few minutes later, a reporter asked Dean what his favorite book of the New Testament was, and he replied "the Book of Job".

Jeez, Howie...isn't that in the Old Testament? Well let me refer to my handy-dandy New Catholic Bible here, and...yes it is! Score one for Howard. He confused two books that were written two thousand years apart. But I'm sure he's a real Christian nonetheless. Not like those Republican baby-starvers!

Another reason that Americans don't associate the Democratic Party (and liberalism by extension) with moral values is because they show much disdain for the term itself. Don't believe me? Walk into a room full of liberals and drop the "F" word--"family values" (okay, that's a term, not a word) and see what happens. They absolutely despise the word "values" because they associate it with the Christian right. It wasn't until the election of 2004 that they learned that the term "moral values" doesn't elicit snickering and eyerolling in Kansas quite the same way that it does at Manhattan cocktail parties. Unfortunately for the Democrats, "values voters" didn't gravitate towards the party that sneers at the very word "values" and dismisses anyone who doesn't agree with them as a mouth-breathing hick. By the time the Democrats figured out to change their tune, it was too late. They had already lost.

After the election, the American Left exploded in anger over the phenomenon of the "values voter". Their slogans were trite and predictable, and they tried desperately to redefine themselves while not really changing anything about their pathetic party. They tried to cast all issues as moral issues, of which they were on the right, or "moral" side.

Common phrases from irrate liberals included, "A living wage is a moral issue!" "Isn't there something immoral about forty-five million Americans without healthcare?" "What about welfare? Wouldn't Jesus have supported that?" As dyed-in-the-wool liberal columnist Ellen Goodman predictably wrote after the election, "Well, speaking for the designated 'immoral minority,' there are a whole lot of folks who believe that starting a preemptive war on false premises is a moral issue. There are a whole lot of people who believe that giving tax cuts to the rich and a deficit to the grandkids is a matter of values. " They were just exasperated that abortion, homosexuality, and stem cell research are considered moral issues, but health care, the war in Iraq, and tax cuts are not.

I will help out any confused liberals by explaining to them why their issues are not considered moral issues. The reason is because liberals have always told us that they do not "legislate morality" (a term that very few liberals understand). They always insisted that they believed in keeping their morals to themselves, and made a point of saying so whenever debating any other issue.

Take abortion for example. It's absolutely morally indefensible to kill one third of the American population in the womb. I would compare the slaughter of forty million unborn children since Roe v. Wade to the Holocaust, but the Holocaust just doesn't measure up to abortion in terms of pure evil. Liberal "pro-choice" (their word, not mine) advocates don't even try to defend it on moral grounds, because they know they don't have an inch of moral ground to stand on. Instead they tell you to keep your morals to yourself, to butt out of a woman's "private decision" (to salt poison her unborn child), to "keep your laws off of my body". In other words, when the debate turns to the obvious immorality of our current policy, they invariably try to shut you up. Lucky for me, I don't allow liberals to dictate the rules of debate to me, because I know that they will win every time if I do.

So if liberals claim they never "legislate morality", then why are they surprised that people don't find their issues to be moral issues? To put it another way, if healthcare is a moral issue, and liberals want to legislate healthcare, then liberals want to legislate morality. They're "shoving their morals down our throats" as they so frequently accuse the Right of doing. And because everyone knows that liberals never bring their morals to the political debate, then it must be assumed that healthcare is not a moral issue.

This is the pickle the Democrats have put themselves in. They still want the moral argument against abortion (and other issues) to be off-limits to pro-lifers. Meanwhile, since their 2004 humiliation, they've wanted to turn every issue into a moral issue.

Take welfare for example. I am a conservative, but even I am not entirely opposed to a sensible welfare program at the state level. I don't know too many conservatives who are dead set against welfare in any shape or form. But I do know Libertarians who are. In fact, being opposed to any type of government assistance is basically what Libertarianism is all about.

My Libertarian friends all have jobs. Whenever they pick up their paychecks, they are infuriated that the government takes some of their money in order to give it to someone else. They see it, not incorrectly, as hard-working people being forced to pay their money to non-working people.

A Libertarian friend of mine told me that he really became a Libertarian when he was a young man just graduated from high school, living on his own, and barely making ends meet. He was working three jobs just to stay afloat. One of his jobs was at a convenience store, and he was always infuriated to see people come in and pay with food stamps. He couldn't understand why some people didn't have to work and were given money for free, while other people worked three jobs and got no handouts. To make matters worse, at the end of the month, the guy with three jobs had money involuntarily deducted from his check, in order to give to the person who doesn't work. To this day, he still believes that welfare is robbery and no legislative body has the right to enact wealth redistribution programs.

Now enter the liberals with their new-found love of religion and "moral values". Their newest tactic is to portray welfare as a moral issue, and Republicans as phony Christians because the obviously want to starve children. After all, is that what would Jesus do? Well they're right--Jesus's message was one of love and charity. But he did not say that charity had to be a function of the government. He was commanding individuals to love their neighbors, not governments to give handouts. As abolitionist and philosopher Lysander Spooner once said,

"Man, no doubt, owes many other moral duties to his fellow men; such as to
feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick,
protect the defenceless, assist the weak, and enlighten the ignorant. But
these are simply moral duties, of which each man must be his own judge, in
each particular case, as to whether, and how, and how far, he can, or will,
perform them."

In other words, charity is up to each individual's conscience. But liberals don't like it that way. They think that people should be forced to give their money to the less fortunate, whether they want t0 or not. And lately, they've even gone as far as to say that it's a "moral issue". Once again, I'm not a Liberatarian, and I am not entrirely opposed to welfare, but I must play the devil's advocate here. If welfare is such a moral issue, and all of you Democrats are such church-going folks, then do your charity through your church. Also, do your charitable works with your own money, not mine. And most of all, don't expect the government to do the Lord's work--that's "legislating morality", and everyone knows that it violates the ficticious "seperation of church and state" that liberals invented to ensure that they win every debate.

Well, that's how my Libertarian friends feel about it anyway. They have no problem with charity, but they do have a problem with welfare. And when they hear some Democrat go off on his "we have morals too" tirade, they think about all that money missing from their checks every month. The Democrats are legislating their morality with money they involuntarily took from people who work.

After the "values voter" election of 2004, I naively believed that the Democrats new strategy of mentioning the word "values" in every breath would mean that they were finally willing to admit that the morality of a particular issue--abortion for example--is not out of bounds. After all, if Democrats have morals too, then it must now be okay to talk about values without a liberal jumping down your throat. Wrong. Even though every Democrat from Jimmy Carter to Hillary Clinton is now on the "moral values" bandwagon, it's still not okay to for a conservative to use the term in connection with something like abortion. For years, too many conservative pro-lifers have been too timid to call America's greatest evil--our infanticide mills that we euphemistically call "women's health clinics"--by their name. And their name is 'Evil', with a capital 'E'. Fortunately, I'm not timid. I tell people what I think, and I call evil by its name.

But nothing really changed. It's now quite fashionable for a liberal Democrat to drop the "V" word all over the place. But they also jealously guard it for themselves, and chastise any conservative for even questioning the relative morality of a forty million murdered unborn children.

I wish Democrats would just quit it. In my opinion, we should throw out the old debate rulebook that tells us that "moral values" are not permitted to affect how a person votes. Or should I say, how a conservative votes. Let's write a new rulebook that allows all people of all political stripes to vote their consciences, and no one will throw a fit and hurl accusations that conservatives who do so are a threat to democracy and need to be stopped before we all return to the days of the Spanish Inquisition.

Once we have our new rulebook, I say we have a national debate on all issues. The conservatives will present their values, and the liberals will present theirs. Then we'll let the people decide whose values they better identify with.

The American people would surely decide on a mixture of liberal and conservative values. In my estimation, however, their mixture would be a bit heavier on conservative values than on liberal ones.

But we can't do that right now, because the Democrats won't allow it. While they're busy running off at the mouth with their "values" talk, they still think that morality is not permitted to affect the hotbutton issues of the culture war, abortion in particular. In other words, the only people who can talk about morality are the Democrats. It's time we told the Democrats that they don't own that word, and they don't determine who can and can't use it, and in what contexts.

 
Thursday, January 19, 2006
  "Defense is more important than opulence."
French, German, and British diplomats have come to a dead-end with Iran. The three nations, as representatives of the European Union (sometimes called the EU-3), have been negotiating with Iran for two and a half years in order to get them to stop enriching uranium. Though the the Iranians did agree to a temporary pause in uranium enrichment (and it was temporary, lasting from October 2003 to July 2004), they have always mantained that they have a right to enrich uranium. They perceive Western attempts to halt their nuclear program to be interference into internal Iranian affairs.

Iran claims no aspirations to joining the nuclear club. Its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, they claim. Its sole purpose is for the production of nuclear power. And if you believe that, I have some oceanfront property for sale in Arizona.

Iran's nuclear ambitions are not peaceful. For one, Iran concealed two of its nuclear reactors from the world. These two facilities--Natanz and Arak--were state secrets until Iranian defectors revealed them to the world in August 2002. I'm not sure why a harmless nuclear power plant might be a state secret in Iran, but that sounds a little fishy to me.

Iran keeps shooting its mouth off too. In a 2004 Iranian military parade, the government showcased a range of ballistic missles draped with slogans such as "Crush America" and "Wipe Israel off the map". Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the The World Without Zionism Conference that "The establishment of the Zionist regime was a move by the world oppressor against the Islamic world." He continued, saying "As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map." (Emphasis added). Ahmadinejad's use of "the Imam" is a reference to the Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran's revolutionary leader who seized power in 1979. He also commented that "...the annihilation of the Zionist regime will come." In response to a question about the September 2005 Gaza pull-out, he responded, "We should not settle for a piece of land."

In another context, President Ahmadinejad threatened to wipe Israel off the map only if Israel attempted to strike at Iranian nuclear projects.

I have little faith in promises from Tehran. I doubt that their nuclear ambitions are strictly peaceful, for a number of reasons. But if they are only trying to make a nuclear power plant, then they need to cooperate fully with inspectors. To date, cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) has been spotty. Though Mohamed ElBaredei, head of the IAEA, claimed in 2003 that there is no evidence that Iran is making a bomb, he later admonished Iran for not being cooperative with inspections. By June 2004, he was calling Iranian efforts "less than satisfactory" and demanding "accelerated and pro-active cooperation" from Tehran. In November 2005, ElBaradei criticized Iran, saying that it was blocking access to key military sites. "Iran's full transparency is indispensable and overdue," he wrote in a report.

The position of the EU and the United States is that Iran should not be enriching uranium for any purpose. This is not because they have a problem with nuclear power, but because they don't believe that Iran has peaceful intentions. I agree.

Just recently, the EU-3 gave up. Two and a half years of diplomatic initiatives, and they never achieved the central goal of permanently halting Iranian uranium enrichment. From here, the plan is to refer the situation to the almighty UN Security Council, an organization that has an amazing track record for solving international disputes. Just kidding.

It isn't likely that the UN Security Council has any magical answers either. One reason why the involvement of the Security Council could be disasterous for the situation, is that Iran has vowed to stop its (less than satisfactory) cooperation with the IAEA if it confronted with the Security Council.

So what options does that leave? The EU-3 already tried the tactic of just asking nicely. It didn't work, and that's why we're in the predicament we're in now. What about sanctions? Don't bet on it. Russia and China have already said no, and French foreign ministry spokesman has said "We, like our partners, like the British and the Germans, consider that this co-request for sanctions is premature for the moment." (actually, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw contradicted the French on this point, saying that the option of sanctions was being considered). Of course the French think that talk of sanctions is "premature". They already lost their lucrative oil contracts with Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime. They can't afford to embargo Iranian oil. It only takes one veto to crush a particular proposal and this one already has three (France, China, and Russia) lined up to vote 'no'. So the question of whether sanctions would work or not is moot, because the option is not even being considered. There will be no sanctions.

So what's left--war? Not likely, and the only nation that has explicitally threatened so is Israel. "Israel will not be able to accept an Iranian nuclear capability and it must have the capability to defend itself, with all that that implies, and this we are preparing," said Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz. He also stressed that a peaceful solution is best, and that any military approach would have to be part of an international effort. If he's thinking that the UN Security Council is going to authorize such a thing, he has another thing coming. As they already showed us during the pre-Iraq War diplomtic theater, nothing will make the United Nations get off its rear-end and do its job. Meaningless resolutions are about all it can do. Considering the fact that the UN is stacked with nations who sympathize more with Iran than with Israel, the possibility of a UN sanctioned-strike on Iranian reactors is remote at best.


As British Foreign Minister Jack Straw commented, "This can only be resolved by peaceful means. Nobody is talking about invading Iran or taking military action."

Just like the EU-3, the UN Security Council, and the US Department of State, I don't know of any simple solution to this problem. Iran seems intent on refining uranium, and likely making a nuclear weapon, and there isn't a lot we can do about it.

While there are no simple solutions, there is a more complex, long-term, and difficult one--we resurect an old concept called "collective security". Oh sure, we still pay lip-service to the idea, but collective security in the West has been breaking down since who knows when. It's hard to put an exact date on it, and maybe it never did quite work the way it was supposed to.

Collective security is based on the idea that allies should stick together, strengthen their own militaries, and face the enemy with a united front. In Europe during the Cold War, this took the form of NATO. Though NATO was originally formed to counter the Soviet threat, we need NATO now more than ever.

Unfortunately, NATO is not popular in Europe today. In the eyes of the European Left, it represents American hegemony. Many Europeans are calling for an end to Altanticism--the relationship that has bound the US, Canada, and Western Europe since the end of Nazi Germany. According to these people, it's time for Europeans to choose their own path, to do things their way.

Ironically, it was "their way" that failed so miserably in Iran. Negotiations between Iran and the EU-3 commenced at about the same time that America and her allies were invading Iraq-- a move France, Germany, and the EU all opposed. The two neighboring countries--Iran and Iraq--would become a labrotory for testing the different approaches of the United States and the European Union.

While some say that the United States "rushed to war", and eschwed any effort at diplomacy, this is fundamentally not true. Only after seventeen resolutions at the UN, twelve years of noncompliance, pleading our case at the UN for a year, and a UN resolution calling for complete cooperation with weapons inspectors or "dire consequences" did the United States invade Iraq. Nonetheless, the option was on the table, and eventually we had to do what we had to do. Our solution to the Iraqi problem was diplomacy followed by military action if necessary.

But the Europeans, in their infinite wisdom, knew that war was the wrong course. Convinced that a few of Europe's savviest diplomats could get the job done without the spilling of blood, the EU-3 sat down to talks with Iranian leaders. They were going to accomplish their mission the European way, without the disaster of war. According to them, Europe has real leaders who know a little something about statesmanship and diplomacy. The United States only seems to know one solution to its problems--bombing people. So their solution to the Iranian problem was diplomacy, followed by more diplomacy, followed by still more diplomacy.

The Iraq War wasn't as quick and clean as it had been expected to be, and no weapons of mass destruction have been turned up yet. Self-satisfied Europe snickered at the stupid Americans. "Look what happens when you elect a crazy cowboy like George Bush?" they said. It seemed that their way of doing things was a heck of a lot better than ours.

I would snicker now myself--we certainly deserve to--at the recent capitulation of European diplomats. Diplomacy hasn't been working, and now even the EU-3 has had to admit that. But I had hoped I was wrong, and whatever satisfaction I get from watching snotty European nations fail is outweighed by the fact that Iran is increasingly resembling a no-win situation for the whole planet. So no, I don't revel in the failure of European diplomats in Tehran.

From the beginning, it seemed clear to me that the Europeans were approaching the problem from the wrong angle. I saw it as a question of how to disarm Iran. They saw it as a question of how to avoid a war at all costs. If I had been in charge, I would have told the Iranians quite simply: "You can do this the easy way, or you can do this hard way. But you're going to disarm one way or another."

Is that just my American tendency to solve all problems through violence? Not at all. I want a peaceful solution as much as the next guy. But allowing Iran to develop a nuclear weapon is not an option. In fact, I believe that this approach is probably the only peaceful solution. Iran didn't respond to European nicities, as I suspected they wouldn't. Only the threat of force would get the idea through their heads that their current trajectory is unacceptable. So no, I'm not saying that we shouldn't try diplomacy. I'm saying that we should negotiate from a position of power. Unfortunately, when the EU-3 were negotiating with Tehran, the Iranians held all the high cards. As Fredrick the Great once said, "Diplomacy without force is like music without instruments."

This is probably a point of confusion for liberals. I'm saying that we should have gradually come to the "hard line" with Iran. In a society that only seems to understand violence, this would have been the only way to get Tehran to fold. If Iran had given in at the mere threat of force, this would have been the peaceful solution that so eluded European diplomats.

If it hadn't worked, then we would have had to have gone to war, a horrible and not very realistic possibilty. More on that later. But we can't bluff either; if we threathen to do something, we have to do it. So we may never know if my peaceful solution would have worked, or if we would have been forced into war. But we do know that the European solution did not work.

In my view, a nuclear Iran is out of the question. In the European view, war is out of the question. Iran knew this of course, and prescisely because of it, they felt no compulsuion to agree to any European proposals.

Europe would never admit to this. They told us that they were just as adamant as anyone else to reign in Iran. They just believed that threatening--the so-called "hard line"--was the wrong way to do it. And if the diplomatic way fails? "It won't fail," said Europe. Yes, but what if it does? What's plan B? "There is no plan B. Iran will come around to our way of seeing things." And what if they don't? What then?

Europe had no plan B. They put all their eggs in the diplomacy basket, and diplomacy seems to have failed.

I expressed my frustration to a liberal colleague of mine just last month before the EU-3 officially called it quits. "So how are things going with those negotiations in Iran?" I asked. "Are you worried about it? I'm not worried about it," I said sarcastically. "A crack-squad of European diplomats is all over it." It's times like these when you wish Europe had a few more crazy cowboys in power. My liberal collegue just groaned.

The juxtaposition of Iraq and Iran--the American way of doing things and the European way of doing things--was supposed to demonstrate European superiority. Europe was so sure that it had the smarter way, the saner way of solving geopolitical problems. Now I want to ask Europe one question. Now that your diplomats have conceded defeat, do you still think your approach was saner?

Sadly, most Europeans would probably answer yes. As I mentioned before, the EU-3 were never adamant about solving the Iranian problem. They always considered resigning themselves to a nuclear Iran to be an option, even if they would never admit it. Well I disagree. The European approach was not saner or smarter for the simple reason that there is nothing sane or smart about accepting a nuclear Iran. That is the real insanity.

Of course, I have to take reality into consideration as well. The hard truth is that neither side of the Atlantic alliance is as strong as it used to be, or as strong as it should be . If the EU-3 had taken the "hard line" with Iran, who would have provided the troops to back up the threat?

No one is in a position to stage a war on Iran at the present time. The US and Great Britain have their hands full in Afghanistan and Iraq at the moment. Who else does that leave? The mighty Belgian army? Does anyone really believe that the combined forces of the EU could simply walk in and make fools of the Iranians? Not likely, and the European public would never support it.

So while I realize that we are not strong enough right now for a showdown with Iran, I am not willing to accept that as a permanent condition. If we are truly too weak right now to even consider military actions against Iran, then we need to do something to remedy the situation. This is unacceptable.

This brings us back to collective security. Both the US and Europe need to make serious, difficult, and longterm investments in their armed forces. We need to stick together and we need to let the Third World dictators know that we will not allow a wedge to be driven between us.

Beefing up our militaries is not a popular position on either side of the Atlantic. The problem with restoring our militaries to their proper strength faces two obstacles--money and manpower.

Money is less of a problem in the United States. We do spend quite a bit of money on defense (about $330 billion), much to the chagrin of the Left. Yes, some of it is wasted in the form of pork barrel legislation, and I can understand some outrage over that. But anyone who thinks that the military is overfunded should go take a look at our military housing, our military hospitals, and the paycheck of a young E-2. It's hardly lavish.

But serious defense spending, a prerequisite for collective security, is lacking in Europe. Jed Babbin writes in Inside the Asylum:

Since the fall of the Soviet Empire, almost all of the European nations have failed to devote any significant part of their national budgets to building and maintaining their armed forces. The United States usually devotes about 3 to 3.5 percent of our GDP to defense spending. In Europe, only Britain and France spend a like percentage. The rest--like Germany, which spends about 1 percent of its GDP on defense, and Italy, which spends about 0.9 percent--simply refuse to invest in defense at an adult level.

In short, the [EU has] disarmed to the point that they couldn't defend themselves. Despite everything they do to thwart American policy, they still expect that we will defend them.

Ironically, most Europeans wear their small defense budgets as badges of honor. They have other priorites, such as "human needs" (i.e. handouts). For these nations, NATO has failed to achieve its goal of collective security. Rather than an alliance of nations, large and small, that contribute proportionately to their collective defense, we see a number of nations who use NATO as an excuse not to spend anything on the military. After all, why spend money on defense when you've got NATO? And because NATO resources are overwhelmingly US resources, what they're really saying is, "Why invest in our own defense? That's what America is for!" Meanwhile, they take every opportunity they can to denounce the militarist American hyperpower.

The end result is that NATO consists of a single superpower (the United States) with various miltary allies that are all but useless. After all, in order to be a military ally, it usually helps to actually have a military. Meanwhile, the United States is running all over the world, trying to put out fires in Haiti, Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Korea. We're cleaning up New Orleans and distributing aid to tsunami victims in Indonesia. Everywhere we intervene, we are accused of war-mongering and doing so for selfish motives. Everywhere we don't intervene, we are accused of being isolationists and doing so for selfish motives.

But a small defense budget is not the mark of the superior society. When nations fail to properly fund the militaries, you get what we have in Iran --a cocksure dictator who laughs at soft diplomacy and has absolutely no fear of military consequences; and if the West doesn't like, they can all go take a hike. Having no military assets gives a nation fewer options when dealing with Third World dictatorships, and leaves its diplomats without any real bite to back up their bark. Not surprisingly, they are not taken seriously and fail to persuade other nations to change their courses.

The other obstacle to a formidable collective seurity arrangement is manpower. Here, both the US and Europe are falling down. On both continents, fewer and fewer young people are volunteering for the armed forces. Our American forces are spread thin--holding down the 38th Parallel in Korea, looking for Al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan, and sweeping for roadside bombs in Najaf. We're utilizing our Reserve and National Guard forces like never before, and fresh troops are hard to come by.

It's going to take a real change of attitude to fix this problem. The American and European Nintendo generation needs to change its attitude about the military. It might require college kids in the US and Europe to take their nose rings out and pick up rifles, but that's okay. As Adam Smith said, "[D]efense is more important than opulence."

I'm not suggesting a draft. I'm suggesting a national change of heart. Selfless-service, sacrifice, and the welfare of the mankind need to be restored as Western values. Failing this, I forsee a number of Iranian style "no win" situtions in the near future. Once the dictators know that we're helpless to stop them, that our young people won't put on a uniform for any reason, we will see more of them getting uppity. And when they do, the inmates will be running the asylum.

Europe is doing nothing to build its armed forces. Germany, for example, recently reduced its minimum service requirement from ten months to nine. To put that in perspective, the service requirement during the Cold War was two years, almost three times as long. At the same time, more and more young people are opting for the civil service alternative to serving a measely nine months in the Bundeswehr. What good are military allies who don't have militaries?


In the aftermath of the Cold War, a euphoria swept the western world. We foolishly believed that the planet was entering a new era of peace in which defense spending would be obsolete. We were wrong, and we should remand ourselves for being so silly. There will always be threats to world peace, and our best defense against them is to be prepared. When you aren't prepared, and when you foolishly believe that all problems can be solved simply and easily between diplomats, problems creep up.

The Soviet Union perished fifteen years ago, but plenty of other thugs rose to power just in time to fill the gap the Soviets left behind. Iran and North Korea spring to mind. China looks like a potential threat on the horizon. Either Europe and America will unite together against these threats, or we can learn to live with the biggest bullies running the world.
 
Monday, January 16, 2006
  "I know all about America, I saw it on TV!"
I've lived in this country now--on and off--for twenty-seven months. I live in Germany, a wondeful country with a troubling history and a fascinating culture. Over time, I've thrown myself feet first into the society--learning the language, studying the history and politics, engaging the culture.

It was really a happy accident, I suppose. If you had told me at the age of fifteen, that I would be a German major at the age of twenty-five, I would have thought you were daft. Uncle Sam sent me here as a young soldier, and I decided that I liked it enough to take up German as my major after I left the service. Now I'm back in Deutschland.

Unfortunately, most Americans' only knowledge of this country comes from old World War II movies which aren't particularly accurate. Not surprisingly, the American image of the average German shares a heck of a lot in common with the archetypal nazi. Germans are, according to my countrymen: cold, calclutaing, meticulously organized, stern, punctual, and efficent. They have difficulty relaxing, never smile, and their langauge is harsh and ugly, usually pronounced with a barking cadence. Oh yeah, and they make great beer too.

It's easy to see how World War II might influence our views of German society. If the only time you ever heard the German language was coming from the mouth of Adolf Hitler, you might think that German is always harsh and ugly, and always barked. After all, Hitler was a harsh and ugly man, with a fondness for giving orders.

But if we learned everything we ever needed to know about Germans by watching Hogan's Heroes, the Germans aren't much better. Their view of our country is colored by the dubious sources from which they attain it--MTV, Hollywood, a shamelessly biased German media establishment, and the deity of pop anti-Americanism, Michael Moore.

The major difference between Americans and Germans, or between Americans and non-Americans, is that they think they know all about us, where as we're a lot more comfortable with our ignorance of foreign cultures. As a South African restaurant owner once remarked, non-Americans “have an advantage over [Americans], because we know everything about you and you know nothing about us.”

Plenty of Americans feed the flames of this arrogant attitude. On a tour of Europe, Michael Moore was speaking to a packed house in London, when he used a cheap parlor trick to convince the public that Americans are morons. He challenged a non-American and an American in the audience to stand up. Then he asked the non-American to name the president of the United States, and our capital. He bet that an American wouldn't be able to name the capital and head of state of the other person's country. "The dumbest Brit in this room is smarter than than the smartest American," he quipped. Did it ever occur to Michael Moore that comparing the United States to Bengladesh is like comparing apples and oranges? George W. Bush is the most famous man in the world, and our capital is well-known because we are a superpower (although, come to think of it, my Langenscheidt's German dictionary mistakenly names New York as the capital of the United States. Wonder how those smart Germans screwed that up?).

But if it will make Michael Moore happy, I will gladly name the capital and head-of-state of Great Britain without the aid any reference: London and Tony Blair. Come to think of it, I could do the same for Canada, Mexico, China, Australia, Germany, Sweden, France, Italy, Spain, North Korea, Jamaica, Liberia, Cuba, Venezuela, Libya, Russia, and Israel. But no, the head-of-state of Bangladesh isn't on the tip of my tongue. Silly me, I'm such a stupid American.

Do they really know everything about us? Well, they think they do. And that's something that I've never liked about Europe, and something I may never grow used to. Their attitude seems to be--"I know all about America, I saw it on TV!"

Of course, it isn't just Germans I'm talking about. Maybe it's Europeans as a whole, or even most people in the world outside the United States.

Like small children, foreigners says the darndest things. A Spanish friend of mine recently remarked to me, "Before the Iraq War, many of our Spanish celebreties spoke out against it. I can't even imagine that happening in America." Can't imagine that happeing?! So
I named off a few "anti-war" celebreties for my poor, misinformed, Spanish friend: Sean Penn, Madonna, Janeane Garofolo, Tim Robbins, Fred Durst, Danny Glover, George Lucas, Susan Surandon, Barbara Streisand, Al Franken , Eminem, Cameron Diaz, Martin Sheen, and the list goes on.

Where the heck did he get an idea like that? Well, it's common "knowledge" among Europeans, that dissent in America is not tolerated, and that young Americans are raised to be blindly patriotic. The problem with this idea, of course, is that there is plenty of dissent on this issue of Iraq in the United States. In Europe, however, there is virtually no disagreement, and woe to he who speaks out in favor of the Iraq War. Be prepared for harsh verbal attacks, to be called a stool pigeon of Big Oil, a baby killer, a Muslim hater, and just about every other name in the book.

My Spanish friend continued, saying "And your universities are very conservative as well." Yes, when I think of bastions of conservatism, Amherst, Berkley, and Boulder all leap to mind. No, my friend, most American college towns are stocked with fruits and nuts from across the left side of the spectrum.

Another friend of mine, a Turk, has told me on numerous occasions, that I'm not very American. I've never known whether to take that as an insult or a compliment. I know that his image of Americans is not positive. So should I be flattered that I don't fit that image, or insulted that he thinks so poorly of my country? I asked him what it was about me, that he found to be atypical of Americans.

"Oh, you know, I never see you eating hamburgers and drinking Coca-Cola," he said. Then he broke into his American impression--leaning way back as he walked, swinging his arms, and shouting out his favorite Americanism--"Hey, what's up motherfuckers?"

What he leaves unsaid, but I suspect that he believes, is that I'm not as dumb as he origanally expected me to be. I speak German fairly well (better than he does), have a handle on French, and could probably get by in a Spanish-speaking country if I had to. I read ravinously, and I enjoy history and politics. In his mind, these are not American traits. We're just dumb.

Wherever you go in Europe, there seems to be a concensus that American stupidity and distasteful national attitudes can be traced back to "the corporate media", i.e., "the right-wing" media.

What they don't know, is that our "right-wing" media is anything but. Some polls show as many as 90% of American reporters voting for the Democrats. American media kingpins--with the possible exception of Rupert Murdoch--are invaribaly liberal.

Pinch Sulzberger, publisher of The New York Times and chairman of the the New York Times Company (which owns twenty-five American newspapers including The Boston Globe, eight local television stations, and two New York radio stations) was a 1960's radical.

After a young Pinch was arrested (twice) protesting the Vietnam War, his father asked him an honest question. If an American soldier and a Vietnamese soldier come across each other in the jungle, who would you like to be shot?
"I would want to see the American get shot," said the young man who today controls The New York Times. "It's the other guy's country." I guess it didn't occur to him that the Vietnamese soldier would likely be an invader from neighboring North Vietnam, not a native of South Vietnam. And I'm sure that his attitudes in no way effect the reporting his twetny-five newspapers do about the Iraq War. Well, in any case, this guy is apparently part of the vast right-wing conspiracy that is brainwashing us all because it really loves war, oil, and George W. Bush.

In my entire life, I haven't seen a media assualt quite like the one I've seen since George W. Bush took office. And it doesn't matter what it's about either, it always comes back to Bush. Frequently, the accusations are unfounded, usually distorted, and always repeated like a bad Britney Spears song on the local top 40 radio station. Whether it's missing weapons caches in Iraq (2004's October Surprise), Abu Ghraib, "torture" in Guantanamo, the Downing Street Memo, body armor, humvee armor, or "secret spying", they never fail to portray the man as the worst president ever. They aren't even above using obviously forged documents (Bush National Guard memos) or causing riots half a world away with phony stories of Koran abuse (thank you, Michael Isikoff).

So if Bush really is their golden boy, they have a strange way of showing it.

Not to sound like a broken record, but the United States is the nation where disagreement is fierce. In Europe, it is non-existent, or at least when it comes to the Bush foreign policy. Who's brainwashed here--them or us? If our media is secretly trying to make us all fall in line behind President Bush's foreign policy, they aren't doing a very good job of it. Half the country hates the man.

An interesting comment on European media came from my sister, who recently studied in Ireland. "They think that we're all controlled by our media," she said. "But the reason they know this, is because their media tells them so." Truer words have never been said.

I like this country, and I like this continent. But nothing makes me angrier than a European who thinks he knows who I am, and where I come from without first getting to know me. A few have a clue, but most have never even set foot in the United States. Others think that they've experienced America because they visited popular tourist destinations like Manhattan, Las Vegas, and Disney World. And most of them never spend a second of their busy lives trying to find out what people think on the other side of the water. We're just inbred, brainwashed, Bible-thumping, gun-owning hicks, and that's all they care to know.
 
Sunday, January 08, 2006
  Media Matters and the Canadian government: Nix Rush Limbaugh
Rush Limbaugh is banned in Canada. That's right, the CRTC (Canadian Radio-televison Tellecommunication Commission) has decided that Canadian ears cannot hear the voice of America's most famous broadcaster.

Rush Limbaugh--love him or hate him--is a deity in the pantheon of radio. My personal opinion of him varies from day to day. Sometimes he really hits hard with well thought-out points. Other days he can be the bag-of-wind that his critics accuse him of being.

Still, whether or not I like Rush Limbaugh is immaterial to whether I think he should be allowed on the airwaves. Fortunately, I'm not Canadian so I can listen to Rush Limbaugh by simply switiching on the radio dial. Or I can listen to Jim Hightower, Al Franken, Sean Hannity, car talk, Christian programming, NPR, Howard Stern, or anything I'd like to listen to. That's how we do things here in America. We call it freedom. Canadians tend to scoff at the idea that Americans are free, but if they don't believe me, I point to the existence of Canadian censorship as exhibit A.

A Canadian by the name of Peter Worthington called his cable provider in Toronto one day to ask why they didn't offer Fox News. He had become a fan of the news network after an extended visit to United States, and he didn't want to give up his Fox News Channel simply because he moved back to his native Canada. His cable provider's response? "Ask the CRTC or, better still, ask the CCTA (Canadian Cable Television Association)." At the time, the CRTC was still blocking Fox News in Canada, but allowed Euro News, the BBC, and CNN. Al-Jazeera would go garner Candian approval a full six months before Fox News was given the A-Okay (although no cable provider has yet to offer al-Jazeera).

The CRTC finally granted a license to Fox News in November of 2004, though there was some controversy. Some liberal Canadians wanted the CRTC ban on Fox News to continue. The Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) opposed licensing Fox News. Others, like Globe and Mail televison critic John Doyle, believed that Fox should be allowed so that "so that we can all take a look, and get a laugh."

I congratulate the CRTC for finally allowing some alternative viewpoints to penetrate the little bubble of Canadian culture. Still, I don't understand why Canada needs a government agency, that for all practical purposes, is a censorship commission. Yes, we in America have our FCC, which does indeed "censor" the airwaves, if you consider banning profanity and nudity to be censorship. But we don't have a commission that decides that a certain type of politcal speech, or a certain news network, cannot be broadcast anywhere within the country.

Can you fathom the outrage that would happen if the FCC acted in the same way as the CRTC? What if the FCC decided that lefty radio commentators like Al Franken and Jim Hightower, and left-leaning news networks like CNN, were simply not allowed? It would be the next chapter of "Bush's fascism comes to America". We would never hear the end of it. But that is exactly the way the Canadian government operates. To make matters worse, Canada is--according to liberal Americans and most Canadians I've ever met-- the model society that America should emulate. They aren't fascists like us.

The Canadians shouldn't surprise me. I've told a few liberals I know that Rush Limbaugh is banned in Canada, and I usually get a shrug of the shoulders, or a hearty "as it should be". Others accuse me of lying, and say "Not in Canada!" I've never seen a liberal react with, "That's horrible! As a liberal, I am a champion of free speech, and I stridently object to the blatant censorship of the Canadian government!" No, that never happens.

Liberals will tell you that they are the guardians of free speech, but I'm not buying it. I have reason to believe that the liberals would do the same thing in the United States, if they thought they could get away with it.

Besides the Canadian government, another self-appointed censor of Rush's program is David Brock at Media Matters for America. Brock's organization sent sent two letters and a petition of at least 25,000 signatures to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, asking him to remove Limbaugh from the American Forces Radio (AFR). Not surprising that 25,000 liberals don't want Rush's voice heard. "Not only is it unacceptable that our troops are being conditioned with this destructive propaganda, it is abhorrent that the American taxpayer is now paying for the broadcast of a reckless radio host who called the torture of Iraqi prisoners 'brilliant' and 'effective'," said David Brock. In his letter to Rumsfeld, Brock writes, "I ask you to consider removing Mr. Limbaugh from the radio network to protect our troops from these reckless and dangerous messages."

Less adamant about getting Limbaugh off of AFR is Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). Though he has frequently been misquoted as saying that he wants Rush Limbaugh's show booted from the AFR lineup, he has never said such a thing. He simply added an ammendment to the 2005 Defense Approprations bill, a "sense of the Senate" resolution, that stated that the Department of Defense should do a better job balancing political programming. The ammendment did not mention Limbaugh by name, but Senator Harkin immediately took to the Senate floor after his ammendment had been proposed, to give a rousing tirade against Rush Limbaugh.

I can't be entirely critical of Harkin here. Unlike David Brock and his organization, Harkin is not asking to gag Limabugh. He's only asking that AFR adopt an alternative liberal broadcaster to balance Rush. Al Franken might fit in here.

Critics of the Harkin ammendment claim that AFR already has plenty of liberal programming, due to the abundance of National Public Radio segments. Liberals scoff at this, saying that NPR is non-partisan, although I don't believe that for a second. NPR is anything but non-partisan, and NPR's Fresh Air (which is broadcast on AFR) is a liberal opinion show. So when calculating the "balance" of liberal vs. conservative airtime, I believe that Rush's measely five hours per week should be compared to NPR's copious airtime. At very least, we should classify Fresh Air as a liberal talk-show, because that is exactly what it is.

Another criticism of the Harkin Ammendment is that it will have the effect that the "Fairness Doctrine" had in previous years. Being forced to balance Limbaugh against a liberal like Franken, they will receive listener complaints, people will stop listening, and AFR will react by shunning all things political. In otherwords, Harkin's ammendment is a backdoor attempt to get Rush Limbaugh pulled from AFR airwaves. I'm not so sure that I buy this argument, but it's interesting.

But I do know that David Brock and 25,000 of his liberal friends want Rush off the air, or at least they did at the time that they submitted their petition. Why not open competition? Put your guy (Al Franken, the far-left Jim Hightower, the failed Mario Cuomo, the perpetually bitter Al Gore) up against our guy. See who the troops choose--the guy who's telling them that their mission is a fool's errand, that they can't win in Iraq, the guy who minimizes the accomplishments in Iraq in order to make room for the daily body count? Or the guy who tells them good news even if the liberals don't want them to hear it?

The military is disproportionately conservative. That's not to say that every American soldier is a die-hard ditto-head. Some are apolitical, and a few lean a little to the Left. In my experience in the military, however, I rarely if ever met a solid liberal. This isn't hard to explain--liberals have a certain distaste for the military that they carry with them from the days of Vietnam.

When I was in high school, I knew a girl who was thinking seriously about joining the National Guard. Was she a liberal? Oh boy, was she. She gave me two reasons why she wanted to join--first because she thought the recruiter was cute, and second for the college money. But there was no way she was going to be fighting in any wars, or anything silly like that. Eventually she ran the idea by her liberal father, who told her that no child of his was going to be joining the military. Eventually she dropped the idea, and remarked "What the hell was I thinking?"

Flower children just don't want to put on the uniform. There's something inherently anti-militaristic in their thinking. It's no surprise that the military vote goes to the Republicans year in and year out. This a problem for liberals, who claim to be the ones who "really support the troops". It begs the question: if you support the troops so much, then why don't they support you? It's a source of embarrassment for the Left that military folks keep voting for the Republicans.

So what can they do about it? Well, one thing they can do is to kick Limbaugh off the air. After all, there can be no good reason why the troops (or anyone else for that matter) would be voting Republican, unless of course, they are having their heads filled with brainwashing propoganda from the likes of that Limbaugh guy. In the eyes of liberals, the only reason you could possibly disagree with them is if you're either stupid or uniformed. Or both. Which is I guess what they think about our servicemen and -women.

According to Media Matters for America, it isn't enough to get another whole hour of left-wing commentary to balance Limbaugh's commentary from the right. Brock needs to "balance" AFR by getting Rush thrown off. Why? Because he knows that in a head to head competition, Rush would clean house.

Even in the domestic civilian market, Rush dwarfs all others. He's the most successful broadcaster in the history of radio. His success revived AM radio, and created an entire talk-radio phenomenon. In 2001, he signed a a $300 million contract, the largest contract for a radio personality in history. On any given day, he has twenty million listeners. Ever since his rise to power in the early 1990's, liberals have sought to find a liberal broadcaster who could match him as a so-called "Limbaugh of the Left". Many auditioned for the part--Jim Hightower, Mario Cuomo, Al Sharpton--but none have ever equaled Rush's success. Perhaps the closest thing the Left has ever had to Rush is Al Franken. He's still on the air, while most "Limbaughs of the Left" lasted all of about ten minutes a piece. Still, Franken is the shining star of a lackluster radio network, and his ratings have never even come close to Limbaugh's.

Now imagine Franken, the only "Limbaugh of the Left" to last more than the shelflife of milk, going up against the most popular broadcaster in history--competing for a market of disproportinatly conservative soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. Who do you think would win? Exactly. Franken doesn't have a chance, and Media Matters knows this. That's why they favored "balancing" AFR by exlcusion (removing Rush's program) rather than inclusion (giving a lefty a shot).

I don't believe that liberals really care about free speech. Oh they say they do, but they seem to define free speech to mean that anyone can say anything they want, so long as it's liberal. Offend a liberal, and you can be sure that David Brock and the Canadian government will try to put a muzzle on you.
 
Friday, January 06, 2006
  "These are the best and brightest of their societies in many ways"


"Poverty is the root cause of terrorism." That is the everpresent refrain heard from liberal/left circles. Until we defeat poverty, they claim, the world will always be plagued with terrorism.

Until recently, I cautiously believed this statement. Though certainly no liberal, even I could see that the source of almost all terrorism in the world--the Muslim World--is predominately poor and unquestionably miserable. It doesn't take a stretch of the imagination to imagine a destitute young man, lacking hope for the future, strapping on a suicide vest and blowing up an Israeli bus.

One reason that I always resented this statement, however, was because it allowed liberals/leftists to claim that they are the ones who are really concerned with winning the War on Terror, when it seems plain as day to me that they couldn't care less. They could confidently state they are absolutely against terrorism, but simply have a different plan for defeating it. Their plan usually involves socialist policies that have always made the people poorer wherever they have been tried, and the throwing open of the doors of the US Treasury to the world. It shouldn't surprise me, because that's their solution to just about everything.

Secondly, I resented liberals/leftists and their "different approach", because I knew that the economic approach and the military approach are not mutually exclusive. We can do both. We can improve the life of the average Middle Easterner while at the same time ferreting out al-Qaeda members wherever they hide. We can provide food and medicine to the people as we did in Afghanistan, and still find time to put terrorists in body bags. It's not one or the other, it's both.

To be sure, changing the dynamic of the Muslim World has always been our goal. Those who believe that the Bush Administration's policy in the War on Terror is as simple as "let's just kill all the terrorists" are tragically uninformed.

The Bush Administration's policy is multi-faceted. Nonetheless, most liberals can't even tell you what the name of the policy, much less have read it. It's called "The National Security Strategy of the United States of America (2002)." Read it here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss.html

The policy is a lot like "The Domino Theory" of yesteryear. During the Vietnam War, US State Department officials coined the term, meaning that losing Vietnam to the Communists would result in losing the rest of Southeast Asia as well. They would tumble, one after another, into the arms of the Soviets and the Chinese.

As Vietnam dragged on, critics of the war scoffed at the Domino Theory, saying that it would prove false in the end, and it was a flimsy excuse to continue fighting a war that was, in their opinion, immoral and unwinnable.

The State Department's theory was eventually vindicated. The fall of South Vietnam led directly to the seduction of Laos and Cambodia into the communist camp. What happened in Cambodia under Pol Pot was a nightmare that I have a hard time even imagining. To this day, Vietnam and Laos are communist states and brutal dictatorships.

But the dominoes can fall both ways, and eventually they would. The whole communist system in Europe collapsed, domino after domino, between the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, and the collapse of the mother of all communist states--the USSR--in December 1991.

Poland was a catalyst. Its Solidarity Movement of the 1980's was a thorn in the side of Communism. The Poles were notoriously restless, and usually the most resistant to edicts coming from Moscow. They were an embarrassment to a system that purported to provide a "worker's paradise".

Poland made her neighbors nervous. East German dictator Erich Honecker once remarked to his secret police chief, Erich Mielke, "one could not completely dismiss the possibility that the Polish germ could spread to East Germany." The "germ" he was referring to was freedom.

Whether the Domino Theory is applicable to the Muslim World remains to be seen. There is evidence that it is working already--election reforms in Egypt and the expulsion of Syrian troops from Lebanon to quote two examples.

So we are trying to attack "the root cause" of terrorism. As then National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice said to Congress, "It's not that Saddam was somehow himself and his regime involved in 9-11, it is the rise of ideologies of hatred that lead people to drive airplanes into buildings in New York ... and Iraq is a central front, because, if and when, and we will, we change the nature of Iraq to a place that is peaceful and democratic and prosperous in the heart of the Middle East, you will begin to see change in the Middle East." Iraq is the first of the dominoes.

But in order to combat poverty, we have to get rid of the thugs in power. Dictators and prosperity are completely incompatible, and one never exists alongside the other. So while the Left accuses President Bush of "not going to the root cause of terrorism" (i.e., poverty), I accuse the Left of not going to the root cause of poverty (i.e., oppression). Throwing money at the Middle East will solve nothing if the dictators soak it all up.

But I have come to doubt that terrorists are motivated solely, or even primarily, by poverty. After all, the vast majority of terrorism comes from the Muslim world, but the Muslim world does not have a monopoly on poverty. Central America is poor. Africa is poor. India and China are poor. Still, I can't remember the last time I heard of a Chinese or Congolese terrorist.

Professor Sean Wilentz of Princeton says, "To say that poverty explains terror is to slander those caught in poverty. [Terrorists] are not the oppressed, but they are the parasites on oppression." He further concludes that, after looking at the biographies of the 9-11 hijackers, "money, education, and privledge" are more likely to cause terror.

Osama bin Laden comes from one of Saudi Arabia's wealthiest families. It is sometimes said that Osama bin Laden's fortune is about $300 million. That is a myth. That is how much he would be worth if he had not left his powerful family years ago to take up Jihad against the West. A better estimate is that he is worth about $40 million. Still not a paltry sum. Yes, he has lived much of his life in the rough terrain of Afghanistan, but that is a life he chose.

Bin Laden is also educated. He received a civil engineering degree from King Abdul Aziz University in Saudia Arabia in 1979.

Mohammed Atta is the most famous of the Septmeber 11th hijackers. His "Hamburg Cell" of terrorists did most of the planning for the attacks. It is called the "Hamburg Cell" because it was based in Hamburg, Germany. Atta met other Muslims at the Technical University at Hamburg-Haburg. At this point, Atta already held a degree in architecture from Cairo University in Egypt.

His compatriots were all enjoying the lifestyle that a welathy Western European nation could provide them. Hamburg is the second wealthiest city in Europe, and Atta was living with a German host family. Again, Atta and his co-conspirators were being educated and were living a lifestyle far above what they would have been living in their native lands.

Plenty of experts agree that poverty is not the root of terrorism. University of Pennsylvania's Professor Marc Sageman has compiled one of the world's most extensive databases on terrorists. He was surprised to find out how wealthy and educated most terrorists are. Studying four hundred terrorist profiles, he was looking for common bonds that might explain their behavior, just the same way he had done as a forensic psychiatrist studying run-of-the-mill murderers.

Sageman reveals, "...three quarters of my sample came from the upper middle class. The vast majority--90 percent--came from caring, intact familes. Sixty-three percent had gone to college, as compared to 5 or 6 percent that's usual for the Third World. These are the best and brightest of their societies in many ways."

Among Sageman's sample, he finds terrorists with backgrounds in science and engineering. He finds policemen and mechanics.

Nasra Hassan corroborates Sageman's point. Hassan spent three years (1996-1999) interviewing Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip. "None of them were uneducated, desperately poor, simple-minded, or depressed. Many were middle-class, and unless they were fugitives, held paying jobs. Two were the sons of millionaires."

Princeton economist Claude Berrebi studied the profiles of 285 Palestinian suicide bombers. He found that sixty percent had attended or completed college, compared to just twenty percent of the Palestinian population.

Terrorists do not come from the lowest ranks of society. They are not the victims of a grinding economic system, merely lashing out. They are middle-class or higher. They are often students, and many have studied at Western universities. Most have travelled extensively in the West. This is not cheap.

This all makes a lot more sense to me now. When I was a soldier driving my humvee in Iraq, I was often told to keep an eye out for expensive cars. Though I was never attacked on the highway, I did notice a disproportionate number of dirty looks coming from the guys in the shiny black BMW's. This is not a coincidence.

These were the former Ba'athists. They were the elite few who had profited handsomely from the Saddam regime. They did not welcome liberation. In fact, they're still angry about it, and they're working dilligently to return to the Age of Ba'athism.

Not every terrorist in Iraq is a Ba'athist. Others are aligned with the governments of Iran or Syria. Some are part of bin Laden's al-Qaeda network. Still others are associated with various Palestinian terror groups, and some are followers of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

They are not monolithic. But despite their differences, they have one thing in common--they fear the new Iraqi state. Just as Erich Honecker feared the "Polish germ" infecting Europe, they fear the "Iraqi germ" infecting the Muslim world. All of those purple-fingered Iraqis are making despots all over the Middle East wonder if their population might like to vote some day as well. If the dominoes fall in the Middle East, they have good reason to believe that they will be crushed beneath them.

They are not "freedom fighters" as numerous Leftists have described them. They are guardians of the Middle Eastern status quo--tyranny, oppression, and poverty. Like the Ba'athists, they are the few who prosper while the masses suffer. They represent Islamic fundamentalism.

Yes, terrorists usually come from oppressive societies. But by and large, they are the wealthy and the oppressive, not the poor and the oppressed.

For this reason, I support the war in Iraq. To date, 2188 American troops have died. Each death is tragic. But as an Iraqi Freedom vet myself, I believe that the best way to honor the fallen is to complete the mission. The struggle is worth it, just the same way it was worth 407,300 American servicemen to free the world from Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo.

Defeat is not an option. Seeing the mission through, supporting those who resist Islamofascism, and hopefully knocking down the first in a series of dominoes is the course we should be taking. Beyond speculation, this is the best course of action for the people of the United States, the people of the Muslim World, and the people of the planet Earth.

 
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
  Mary Mapes: Truth is not her standard

Mary Mapes is back. After losing her job at CBS News a year ago, Mapes is back in the spotlight again with--you guessed it--a book deal. She has recently granted an interview to ABC News's Brian Ross.

In September 2004, Mary Mapes and her crew at 60 Minutes were caught red-handed trying to pass off fake documents to the American public. It was an attempt to embarrass President Bush at the height of the most impassioned election year of my lifetime.

But don't expect Mary Mapes to apologize. To hear her tell it, she's done nothing wrong. She's a martyr, a good reporter who was fired for doing what all good reporters should do--getting to the truth. The fact that what her show broadcast was a lie is inconsequential to Mapes.

Mapes relishes in her role in the victim. "If I was an idiot, it was for believing in a free press that is able to do its job without fear or favor” she explains. No, Mary, you were an idiot because you thought you could do your job without facts.

This is what grates me about reporters. They do a piss-poor job of informing the public, and when you complain about their work they respond with the same defense every time. They're just reporters doing what reporters are supposed to do--keeping politicians honest, informing the public, bringing the truth to light--and those who dare to criticize the press obviously have sinister motives. Those who take issue with the American press are obviously against all of these things. They don't want politicians to be honest, they don't want want the public to be informed, and they don't want the truth to be brought to light. In other words, those who don't like journalists don't like the truth.

Sorry, but I don't have a problem with the truth. I have a problem with reporters who lie. I have a problem with reporters who think that the purpose of the media is to get Democrats elected. I have a problem with reporters who allow their personal feelings on controversial issues to color their reporting. I have a problem with reporters who go after some public figures like attack dogs, and let other public figures get away scot free. I have a problem with reporters who throw out all accepted practices of journalism and standards of truth just to pursue a story because the reporter personally wants it to be true so badly that nothing will keep it off the air. And worst of all, I have a problem with reporters like Mary Mapes who, when caught with their hand in the cookie jar, respond with martyr theatrics and claim to be the victim of powerful forces that want to keep the truth under cover.

Mary Mapes is completely unreprentant. From her point of view, she is the victim here. As every good liberal does, when caught red-handed, she used the "W" word--witchhunt--to describe what happened at CBS News after her bogus story aired. "Friendships were destroyed, trust was abandoned, and it was a very, very dark time. It was a very dark time. I mean, it was like having a little mini-witchhunt within the corporation. " Yes, it was the dark night of fascism descended upon America again.

And yes, she invoked the name of Joseph McCarthy to get herself out of trouble, just the same way every liberal does.

Writing in Truth and Duty, “Conservative bloggers are part of the story. They have vilified me, mounted a 'wilding' attack against me…we were, it seemed the first victims of a new kind of digital McCarthyism, which uses the same techniques as the old McCarthyism–rumors, slurs, false charges and ugly attacks–but now employs the Internet, talk radio and cable TV echo chamber to ricochet information around the world..."

Yes, it is McCarthyism to demand that our media tell us the truth. It is McCarthyism to demand that journalists not rush to air with false charges against a sitting president for the sole reason that you really hate the guy and you're trying to make sure that his opponent wins. The bloggers caught her red-handed, and that is why she hates them so much. The old-fashioned media establishment, an exclusive club if there ever was one, does not like this new medium--the most egalitarian medium in the history of the world--because they checked up on her. Mary Mapes, and indeed the rest of the media establishment, are not used to be fact-checked by the public. They've had a taste of it, and they don't like it.

To underscore her victimhood, Mapes brings her son into it. "I had people driving by my house and taking pictures. I have a little boy, seven years old, and..." "What did you tell him?" Ross asks. "Not much," replies Mary Mapes.

So there it is. Don't be so harsh on Mary, she has a seven-year-old boy at home, for crying out loud! So I guess that's the standard now. It's verboten to level any type of criticism at anyone who has children. I guess President Bush could use his twin daughters as a shield, and Mary Mapes and her crew would leave him alone. After all, it's only decency.

If Mary Mapes isn't up to the task of telling her son why she got fired, then I will do it for her. Sorry kid, you're mom's a liar. She's a poor journalist who uses her position to influence the public mood and get her favorite candidates elected. She sees the world through her own little prism, and as producer of news program, she makes her audience see the world through that prism as well. And most of all, she has no respect for established journalistic norms.

Let's see what kind of journalistic norms she broke.

Mapes believes that it is not her job to prove that her story is true before it goes on the air. In fact, it is the responsibility of her critics to prove that it is not true. Meanwhile, when indisuptable evidence is presented that her story is faker than a three dollar bill, she will go into martyr mode and attack anyone who dares to prove that her story is unfounded. Don't believe me? Check out this exchange between Mary Mapes and ABC News reporter Brian Ross:

ROSS: Do you still think the story was true?
MAPES: The story? Absolutely.
ROSS: This seems remarkable to me that you would sit here now and say you still find that story to be up to your standards.
MAPES: I'm perfectly willing to believe those documents are forgeries if there's proof that I haven't seen.
ROSS: But isn't it the other way around? Don't you have to prove they're authentic?
MAPES: Well, I think that's what critics of the story would say. I know more now than I did then, and I think -- I think -- they have not been proved to be false yet.
ROSS: Have they proved to be authentic, though? Isn't that really what journalists do?
MAPES: No, I don't think that's the standard.

She doesn't think that that's the standard! Is this what they taught her in J-school? What university gave this woman a diploma, anyway? I did a little research, and I found out that the University of Washington has that dishonor.

Mary Mapes based the entire Bush National Guard memos on a single source--a man named Bill Burkett. As any good reporter will tell you, basing any story a single source is risky business. It had better be a really good source. So how reliable was Bill Burkett?

Bill Burkett suffered a mental breakdown, and was hospitalized in the late 1990's. Bill Burkett has compared George W. Bush to Hitler. Bill Burkett has a rare tropical disease that he contracted during National Guard service in Panama, and he blames the Texas National Guard and George W. Bush for not paying for his treatment. Bill Burkett demanded, in exchange for the documents, cash, relocation assistance, and direct contact with the John Kerry campaign. And last, but not least, Bill Burkett had been telling stories about George W. Bush every election year since time immemorial, and all of his stories have fallen apart under scrutiny.

This is the one guy that Mary Mapes based her story on. I'm not kidding.

On this point, Mapes becomes a little unclear. Until the release of Truth and Duty, Mapes had always contended that Burkett was a reliable source "solid," "without bias," and "a Texas Republican." He is none of these.

But in the pages of her book, she reveals "I knew Burkett didn't like Bush. As governor, Bush didn't do what Burkett thought was needed to clean up the Guard's endemic corruption. And I knew Burkett was bitter over what he felt was unfair treatment with regard to medical problems he said he developed while stationed in Panama for the Guard. But bitterness, medical problems, political differences, and an angry departure from a workplace don't disqualify someone from serving as a source. In fact, those are often defining elements for a whistle-blower." (Emphasis added). Also, she writes "He [Burkett] was generally viewed by the press as an anti-Bush zealot. That is how I regarded him, too."

Hardly consistent. Is he "without bias", or is he "an anti-Bush zealot"? You can't have it both ways, Mary. And yes, I do believe that being "an anti-Bush zealot" disqualifies a person from being a source, never mind the sole source, for this damaging story.

Mapes also admits that she knew that earlier Burkett tall-tales had fallen apart. She didn't care. "In February 2004, Burkett had gone public with a tale about witnessing what he called a 'cleansing' of Bush documents at Texas National Guard headquarters in Austin in 1997, while Bush was governor. One of the people Burkett relied on to back him up had denied all knowledge, leaving Burkett to twist in the wind."

In other words, that story fell apart too. And yet this reporter, who prides herself on her skepticism, believed him anyway. It's not that Burkett was caught in a lie, it's that his source had left him "to twist in the wind". Only a few months later, Mapes herself would be twisting in the wind for trusting Burkett. I'm no journalist, but even I know that reporters shouldn't believe a source simply on faith, and then conclude, after the source's source fails to coroborate the story, that the original source was left "to twist in the wind".

Mapes didn't seem the lest bit concerned that Burkett presented three different explanations as to where he had gotten the documents. His first story was that he had recieved them anonymously in the mail. Some mysterious Texas "Deep Throat" had decided to mail the documents, quite randomly, to a guy who just happens to have been making up stories about Bush for as long as Bush has been in politics. Interesting...

Later, he would say that he received the documents at a livestock show in Houston, from a woman named Lucy Ramirez. No one's even sure that Lucy Ramirez exists. Again, who is Ms. Ramirez, and why would she give the documents to Bill Burkett at a livestock show?

By far, his best explanation was that Chief Warrant Officer George Conn had given them to him. He warned Mary Mapes not to try to contact Conn, because Conn would deny it. In other words, he would be caught in a lie again, just as he had been in a in February 2004. In fact, Bill Burkett had tried to use Chief Warrant Officer Conn as a source before, and he had denied Burkett's claims. Mapes later told the CBS News investigating committee that she "did not consider Chief Warrant Officer Conn's denial to be reliable." Conn, the only person in the world who could have proved Burkett was telling the truth, was simply not asked if he had given the documents to Burkett, because Burkett had used him as a source before and he had denied Burkett's claims. So Conn is not to be trusted.

Again, isn't it the job of a reporter to insure that Burkett's claims are reliable, not Conn's denial? And they gave this woman a Peabody Award? I guess that this is what it takes to rise to the top of your field in journalism.

In yet another example of Mary Mapes lying through her teeth, Mapes claims that she had given the documents to an expert and that he had given them the A-Okay before the broadcast of the original story. The CBS News investigating committee later determined this to be false; the expert had approved one signature on one document.

All of this seems to indicate a trend--Mapes was going to put these documents on air no matter what. Nothing, especially not the truth was going to stop her. But to hear her tell it, she worked very hard to make sure that these documents were authentic. In Truth and Duty, she writes: "I had spent weeks trying to get these pieces of paper and every waking hour since I had received them vetting each document for factual errors or red flags. "

Well here's a red-flag that you missed, Mary: the documents were written with Microsoft Word! An Air Force IBM typewriter from 1972 could not possibly have written these documents. Does anyone really believe that Mary Mapes was sitting in her office, poring over these documents, meticulously checking every detail, to ensure that she did not go to air with anything less than the truth? I know I don't believe that. Ms. Mapes was too deeply in love with the documents, and the election was a scant eight weeks off. She had an opportunity to swing the election against a man that she deeply hated, and she wasn't going to let the opportunity go to waste.

To make things worse, Mary Mapes tacitly admits that she has been doing hatchet journalism like this for years. In her interview with Brian Ross, she says "I don't think I committed bad journalism. I really don't. I don't think I've done a good job for 25 years, woke up on the morning of September 8th and decided to commit professional hari-kari."

On this point, I believe Mary Mapes. For her, this is journalism-as-usual. The journalistic practices that she applied to the Bush National Guard story were the same that she applies to every story. This is how Mary Mapes has always operated: using a single source, not checking her source's source (George Conn), trusting a known Bush-hater who just happens to have had a mental breakdown, not checking her documents with a document expert, and believing a man who offered three separate explantions as to where he had gotten the documents.

Need I remind you again that this woman blazed her way to the top at a rather young age, producing news programs for the network of Murrow and Kronkite. She was awarded the prestigious Peabody Award.

Mary Mapes refuses to believe that she has done anything wrong. She refuses to believe that the documents are fakes, because no one has proven it to her yet that they are. And no one ever will, because no amount of evidence will ever be enough for Mary Mapes. She's already excluded the possibilty that they are anything but authentic, and she believes that Bush didn't do right by the National Guard. She doesn't need any evidence to that fact, she simply believes it. When "evidence" comes along to prove her already pre-conceived notion, she rushes the story to Dan Rather's desk, breaking every time-honored journalistic standard. And she thinks she's a heroine for doing so.

This is what I called Woodward-and-Berstein journalism. Get the bad guys, bring down Tricky Dick. Or maybe we can call it Peter Jennings journalism. As the deceased Canadian journalist once said (besides admitting to being raised "with anti-Americanism in my blood") that "We [reporters] may tell you all the time that our principal aim in life is to communicate and assist, inform. But if you see injustice and you can get people to do something about it, ahh, it's just a glorious feeling…. There's nothing a reporter likes more than to have an effect on policy." (emphasis added).

There's something arrogant about that. Whether it's Mary Mapes, Peter Jennings, or the Woodward and Bernstein duo, I have a problem with journalists on a crusade. I don't like journalists who think it's their job to have an effect on policy. It's their job to inform me, the citizen, and then I can have an effect on policy. Unfortunately, I believe that Jennings's idea of what journalism should be is commonly taught in journalism schools across the country.

I wonder what would happen if a whole generation of young conservatives invaded journalism schools with a distinct desire to battle every "injustice" (Peter Jennings's word, not mine) in our culture. What if conservative reporters wanted to "have an effect on policy"? Would the liberals cry foul if conservative reporters did story after story about the terrible phsyical and psychological effects that abortion has on women? What if conservatives used the anchor's chair to combat gun-control, homosexuality, and the relentless secularization of our culture? And what if conservative journalists whipped up fake documents to frame a liberal Democrat, and then claimed afterwards that it isn't the responsibility of a journalist to prove that the story is true?

I doubt that Mary Mapes will ever fess up. She really thinks that she's done nothing wrong. After all, she was just trying to have an effect on policy, that's all. That makes her a heroine, doesn't it? No. But until all of Mary Mapes's twins are removed from the media, I will continue consume my news with a bit of caution.
 

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