None the Wiser

"Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think." --J.S. Mill

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Friday, March 28, 2003
Fifth Column Academy Watch

If you are easily enraged, please do not read this account of a six-hour anti-war "teach-in" at Columbia University. Three guesses on the slant of the event. Money quote as follows:

"The only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military," Nicholas De Genova, an assistant professor of anthropology and Latino studies at Columbia University, told the audience at Low Library Wednesday night. "I personally would like to see a million Mogadishus."

Eric Foner, radical historian frequently mistaken for a dick with ears, assures us that

...because of the university's tradition of freedom of speech, it was unlikely De Genova would suffer professionally in any way because of what he said. "A person's politics have no impact on their employment status here, whether they are promoted, whether they are fired or whether they get tenure," Foner said.

Which, of course, is a bald-faced lie. The fact that Columbia has Foner on the same panel as this seditious bastard, and that Foner is furthermore one of the "moderates" in the Columbia history department, puts the lie to this little piece of disingenuous posturing on his part. What never ceases to amaze me is how incredibly principled these professors become the instant one of their intellectual comrades says something so obviously offensive and potentially actionable. You would almost think they were staunch advocates of academic freedom or something. But sadly, they and everyone else who is paying attention knows this is not the case, and that Foner's defense of his colleague could never be expected had his buddy instead wished for "a million Tailhooks."

This is the same Columbia University that is known nationwide for its propensity to engage in political witch-hunts and star chamber proceedings at the slightest hint of "insensitivity" on the part of some student or, heaven forfend, a staffer. This is the same Columbia with the most brazenly unconstitutional speech code in the country. The is the same Columbia who has had several major controversies in the last couple of years surrounding the politicization of its hiring practices and pedagogy. This is also the same Columbia whose judicial proceedings are so selectively enforced, and their "harassment" policies so broadly worded, that its name is literally infamous among advocates of liberty on college campuses. It is, in fact, the same Columbia whose name is the first to escape anyone's mouth when cataloguing instances of political bias, ideological corruption, and total disregard for freedom of conscience in the university system.

I could go on, but if you're reading this you know the score.

Read this little snippet of satire by the estimable John Hawkins. Read it now. Seriously. Git.

Thursday, March 27, 2003
The Vicissitudes of Arab Democracy

Barbara Lerner, who I assume is no relation to Michael, has a piece in NRO today about the nigh-impossibility of a Palestinian democracy.

To anyone who keeps an eye on that conflict, there is little that is really new in the article, but it can't be said often enough: the Palestinian Question is a deliberately constructed, carefully oiled and maintained pseudo-crisis that the Arab world has used to batter Israel for more than thirty years. And it is critical to understand this--thirty years, not sixty, not a hundred, not two thousand, but thirty. It is often said that the Arabs are willing to fight Israel to the last Palestinian, and that's the truth.

But the point of her article is basically that the Palestinians have no genuine national civic life upon which to base anything like a democracy. That process takes a lot of years. Which brings us to Iraq.

Many people point out that the Iraqis do have such a common history, culture, and civic life that could facilitate the trust and willingness to compromise needed for democratic transformation. In this, they are like the Germans and Japanese, the examples we like to refer to hopefully these days as the models for a shining Iraqi future full of ballot boxes and, presumably, Teletubbies. There's a problem with this, though, and it really has me worried.

First of all, it's true that Germany had a common culture and history stretching back a long time, which was a solid foundation for democratic institutions following the de-Nazification of the Fatherland. But German democracy had always been extremely dysfunctional and unstable, with a penchant among the middle classes to cast about in search of some unifying authoritarian force, be it the Iron Chancellor, Kaiser, or Fuhrer. Thus the "Two" in "World War Two." Japanese political life had always been highly centralized as well, but their case was very different because the Japanese were always a xenophobic lot, isolated by treacherous reefs and violent seas, and were therefore united in that isolation. The utter annihilation of their empire was required to bring about change, but it was an empire about which the average Japanese person was enthusiastic, until it vanished altogether. In both cases the common national identity of these peoples was actually a part of the problem.

So there was something else at work which made the democratization of these countries possible, besides a national history on which they could pin some hope and pride. Two things jump out immediately. The first is ethnicity. In Germany and Japan, national citizenship is largely a function of blood. To this day, German citizenship practically requires a genealogical connection to the Volk, and in Japan even those foreigners who manage to get membership in the Nihongo club are rarely looked upon as authentically Japanese.

Iraq has no such ethnic unity. There is not a sense that one is a "Kurdish-Iraqi" in the way there might be an "Iraqi-American." Religious division is also a source of violent conflict. It has to be remembered that the borders of Iraq were drawn up in a nearly arbitrary fashion after the Great War, and to compare this to the fluid but comprehensible approximate boundaries of Kleindeutsch Germany is fallacious. In Germany, furthermore, the Confessional Divide may have produced consistent disunity and repression, but never anything like the seething hatred that boils between the shores of Sunni and Siite Islam--a hatred, incidentally, exacerbated by the last two decades of Saddam's rule. In Japan, religious identity was never the kind of marker it is in the Middle East, and though clan loyalties were and remain important to Japanese society, the likelihood that those remaining blood feuds would break out into open civil war was remote in 1945. Again, they were Japanese first, even if it took foreign occupation to drive the point home. Iraqis--not so much.

The other notable difference that comes to mind is territorial boundaries. Japan, obviously, is a series of islands. There were no "sensitive" borders to deal with, and there is a fair amount of evenly-distributed natural wealth all over the place. It was surrounded by extremely bitter and hostile powers in every direction. Pacification was a matter of national survival, since it was certainly better than what the Chinese or the Koreans would have had in store for them. Germany was split in two, and while it's true that the Republic was funded on our side of the Wall, it's also true that Germany was pinned in by ethnic and national enemies with major grievances to nurture. Its only sensitive borders lay east, but those were in Soviet hands. And while the Soviets didn't care to see liberalism (finally) get off the ground in West Germany, we had a conventional and nuclear stalemate to work with.

The Iraqis have sensitive borders in every direction, including to the West. Syria may not have any ethnic or territorial gripes with a fledgling Iraqi democracy, but it has a very real problem with the very concept of a pacified Iraqi democracy in the first place. The same is true of Iran, possibly the Saudis, and we all know about Turkey's little Kurdish issue.

My concern here is that we are not democratizing some ethnically homogenous and politically isolated state, surrounded by powers with a vested interest in the success of our enterprise. Quite the opposite. So when people make the comparison to German de-Nazification or the erasure of Imperial militarism in Japan, I'm a little concerned that they haven't really thought the differences through. Maybe I'm wrong. I am sure, after all, that nothing I have said is at all new to the powers-that-be. But I wonder if we won't look back and regret the assumptions we're working on now with regard to Arab democracy. Some will say that it is racist to question the possibility, and they would be right if I were casting aspersion on the notion of Arab democracy, as a matter of principle. But no, I'm worried about Iraqi democracy, right here and now.

Is this just the first step in a very, very bold and ambitious plan for the liberalization of the Middle East? If so, Bush has a wheel-barrow full of balls. I hope they have the good sense to see that project through, if that's the case. Whatever the outcome, I know that the war in Iraq is the right thing at the wrong time, and here's hoping and praying we can square that circle really quick, and get our boys home.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003
This Just In: Feminist Crusade for Relevance Continues Unabated

Thanks to Clubbeaux for pointing out this bit of incoherent inanity:

Martha Burk, of Masters Golf Tournament fame, has now declared that if CBS airs the tournament that it will be an insult to all our women serving in the armed forces overseas. You know, because of the men-only membership policy and all.

Now exactly what connection there is here is a little elusive. Does that mean that the women-only policy of the local women's gym is an insult to all the men serving in Iraq? Or would it be only if there were television cameras inside? (Hmmm...)

I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, and I'm guilty of the occasional ill-considered gaffe, but I believe this cannot but be intentionally foolish and offensive. One wonders if Martha really supports the troops, but she doesn't say. What is clear is that Burk, a notorious publicity whore and shamelessly self-aggrandizing opportunist, has decided that since the events in Iraq have crowded her pathetic little crusade off the front page of the NY Times indefinitely, she had better make some kind of gambit to tie it in with events that are actually meaningful. That she has chosen to do so in this way, however, only brings the trivial and frivolous nature of her sad little tantrum into sharper relief.

It takes an impenetrably stupid and narcissistic woman to actually buy into Burk's rhetoric, and to think that there is some kind of substantive relationship between her sorry little self-promotion scam and the blood of our troops overseas (except insofar as the latter is the guarantor of the former). That she would choose to sieze upon this occasion of war to inflate the significance of her dying brand of irrational feminist radicalism, and that spoiled middle-class college girls with an unjustified chip on their shoulder all across the country will nod their heads in fuzzily indignant concurrence, is all the demonstration you need of the intellectual and moral poverty into which the present Grrrl Power movement has managed to sink.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003
Stephen den Beste has a succinct post that is absolutely delicious. It says in its entirety:

The government of Syria calls for the "the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of U.S. and British invading troops from Iraqi territory."

Would that be "immediate" and "unconditional" as defined by Saddam's immediate and unconditional compliance with Res 1441? Hmmm?

OK, so here's the plan. Syria can go before the UNSC and have them draft a resolution, say, Resolution 1442. It will call for our immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all forces from Iraq. If, after several weeks, we are still subduing the country, then we can sign on to some agreement promising to comply with 1442. Failing that, the UNSC can send in "inspectors" to verifiy that we are in fact pulling out all of our forces. If we continue to bomb and strafe and otherwise wage war on Iraq, then Hans Blix can report to the UNSC that we are in material breach of 1442. This will trigger 1443, which calls for a tougher inspection regime and twelve more weeks of inspections. If after that length of time we are still occupying Iraq, waging war, and otherwise operating militarily, 1443 stipulates that "serious consequences" will result. Prefferably, these will take the form of another 30 days during which time the UNSC, led by France, can give the inspections more time to "work."

Anyway, ha ha, you see where I'm going with this.

Via the Corner, a story that makes my blood boil. Firemen ordered to take down their American flags for fear of enflaming anti-war protestors? Are you fucking joking me?? Granted, this is Portland, OR. But the last I checked Oregon was still a state of the union.

A crowd of spoiled and impenetrably ignorant adolescent thugs burn the flag, and in response our rescue teams are told to fold it up and hide it from view? Right now, as soldiers fight and die under it? I am literally stunned. What a damned idiot that fire chief is. What a craven, cowardly, sniveling, gutless pussy you would have to be to make a deliberate decision to accede to these people. Who does he think is supposed to be ashamed in this situation? The firemen?

Something tells me this won't stand. This story will spread farther and faster than Madonna's ankles and there will be outrage and indignation a-plenty. Expect the order to be rescinded soon, God willing.

UPDATE: Was I right or what?

A couple of links to tide you over, since I just know you're sweating and panting in anticipation of my next real post:

First, a great bit of satire from the blogosphere's greatest newsman, Scott Ott.

Then we have a true Shaolin Verbal Take-Down, in the signature Arctic Fisk technique of the dreaded Harp Seal Style, of a particularly empty-headed hate-mail correspondent. Clubbeaux has always got the goods.


Very slow posting wise, will be back up to speed soon. To tell the truth, it's hard to know what to say that hasn't been said four hundred times in the last twelve minutes. But do have a couple of thoughts that I haven't seen elsewhere, so more later.

Sunday, March 23, 2003
The POW's

Ok, now here's a good test for the anti-war left: The video of American POW's is a flagrant violation of international law, the Geneva Convention specifically. How many of them will loudly condemn it as such? We all know, after all, that in their minds there is no higher principle than "international law and order" and "human rights." So? Anybody on the left game for an anti-Iraqi protest? Come on, I'm down.