Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
I guess I haven't had much to say as of late and I've been dedicating some time to some good old fashion books - some of them rather heavy. But here are some good articles/blog posts I have come across in the last few days.
First, a couple of good posts from Vinod. The first one covers some brilliant psy-ops being used in Iraq by the fledgling Iraqi government, think modern day pillory and stocks.
The second post from Vinod links to a couple of great articles on the oil bogeyman. As Vinod notes:
"One of the things that turns people off about economic literature is its preference for abstraction and really weird aggregate measures. It's theoretically precise, perhaps but far from a real mass medium. By contrast, speak like a business man and your message rings clear and true."
Indeed, no economics degree is required to take away from the piece the lesson that oil is dirt friggin cheap and why starting an economic war with Saudi Arabia et al, by trying to reduce our oil dependency on them is, by a longshot, a losing proposition for us.
Born in Iraq, raised in America is a piece by an Army journalist on an American soldier, Razaq Almusowi, born and raised in Iraq until about 1991 when he was 11 years old. At the time his father, a tank commander in Saddam's army, was imprisoned for plotting to overthrow Hussein just before the first Gulf War. As his father was awaiting his execution, an American bomb hit local military facilities and allowed he and his family to escape through the desert amidst the chaos. They were eventually rescued by U.S. soldiers. When it became apparent that regime change was coming to Iraq in 2003 Almusowi enlisted, wanting to give back both to the United States for rescuing him and to help re-build his native country. A fascinating tale.
Now for some of the heavy hitters:
This is a delicious bit from Mark Steyn (via LGF)
The obsession of the anti-Americans misses the point: it's not about America. Surely even Fisk and the other "experts" aren't so obtuse that they can't see that the one undeniable fact of the election is that there are millions of Iraqis who want change. That doesn't mean they want to turn Basra and Kirkuk into Cleveland and Buffalo, only that they want something other than the opposing cul-de-sacs of secular pan-Arabist dictatorship and death-cult Islamism, which dead-end alternatives are all the region's had to offer for decades....
Now I take the point that "democracy" - as in elections - isn't every thing. In the development of successful nations, the universal franchise is usually the last piece of the puzzle, as it was in Britain. Anyone can hold an election: Mugabe did; so did Charles Taylor, the recently retired Psycho-for-Life of Liberia. The world's thugocracies have got rather skilled at being just democratic enough to pass muster with Jimmy Carter and the international observers: they kill a ton of people, put it on hold for six weeks and then, when the UN monitors have moved on, pick up their machetes and resume business as usual.
I prefer to speak of "liberty" or, as Bush says, "freedom", or, as neither of us is quite bold enough to put it, capitalism - free market, property rights, law of contract, etc. That's why Hong Kong is freer than Liberia, if less "democratic". If I had six or seven centuries to work on things, I wouldn't do it this way in Iraq or Afghanistan. But the "war on terror" is more accurately a race against time - to unwreck the Middle East before its toxins wreck South Asia, West Africa, and eventually Europe. The doom-mongers can mock Bush all they want. But they're spending so much time doing so, they've left themselves woefully uninformed on some of the fascinating subtleties of Iraqi and Afghan politics that his Administration turns out to have been rather canny about.
There word urine appears several times, go read the whole thing.
And finally, a man who is becoming one of my favorite writers/thinkers/columnists, Victor Davis Hanson hits another home run. It's a rather lengthy article so here are some lengthy highlights as he relentlessly exposes hypocrisy and channels the frustrations of the left:
Do we even remember "all that" now? The lunacy that appeared after 9/11 that asked us to look for the "root causes" to explain why America may have "provoked" spoiled mama's boys like bin Laden and Mohammed Atta to murder Americans at work? Do we recall the successive litany of "you cannot win in Afghanistan/you cannot reconstruct such a mess/you cannot jumpstart democracy there"? And do we have memory still of "Sharon the war criminal," and "the apartheid wall," and, of course, "Jeningrad," the supposed Israeli-engineered Stalingrad - or was it really Leningrad? Or try to remember Arafat in his Ramallah bunker talking to international groupies who flew in to hear the old killer's jumbled mishmash about George Bush, the meanie who had ostracized him.
Then we were told that if we dared invade the ancient caliphate, Saddam would kill thousands and exile millions more. And when he was captured in a cesspool, the invective continued during the hard reconstruction that oil, Halliburton, the Jews, the neocons, Richard Perle, and other likely suspects had suckered us into a "quagmire" or was it now "Vietnam redux"? And recall that in response we were supposed to flee, or was it to trisect Iraq? The elections, remember, would not work - or were held too soon or too late. And give the old minotaur Senator Kennedy his due, as he lumbered out on the eve of the Iraqi voting to hector about its failure and call for withdrawal - one last hurrah that might yet rescue the cherished myth that the United States had created another Vietnam and needed his sort of deliverance.....
....Then there was our media's hysteria: Donald Rumsfeld should be sacked in the midst of war; Abu Ghraib was the moral equivalent of everything from Saddam's gulag to the Holocaust; the U.S. military purportedly tried to kill reporters; and always the unwillingness or inability to condemn the beheaders, fascists, and suicide murderers, who sought to destroy any shred of liberalism. Meanwhile, the isolation of a corrupt Arafat, the withdrawal of 10,000 Americans from a Wahhabi theocracy, the transformation of the world's far-right monstrosities into reformed democracies, and the pull-back of some troops from Germany and the DMZ went unnoticed.
What explains this automatic censure of the United States, Israel, and to a lesser extent the Anglo-democracies of the United Kingdom and Australia? Westernization, coupled with globalization, has created an affluent and leisured elite that now gravitates to universities, the media, bureaucracies, and world organizations, all places where wealth is not created, but analyzed, critiqued, and lavishly spent.
....There is something else to this shrillness of the global throng besides the obvious fact of hypocrisy - that very few of the world's Westernized cynical echelon ever move to the ghetto to tutor those they champion in the abstract, reside in central Africa to feed the poor, give up tenure to ensure employment for the exploited lecturer, or pass on the Washington or New York A-list party to eat in the lunch hall with the unwashed. Davos after all, is not quite central Bolivia or the Sudan.
First, there is a tremendous sense of impotence. Somehow sharp looks alone, clever repartee, long lists of books read and articles cited, or global travel do not automatically result in commensurate power. So what exactly is wrong with these stupid people of Nebraska who would elect a dense, Christian-like George Bush when a Gore Vidal, George Soros, Ben Affleck, Bruce Springsteen, or Ted Kennedy warned them not to?
If the American Left is furious over the loss of most of the nation's governorships and legislatures, the U.S. House, the Senate, the presidency, and soon the Supreme Court, the Europeans themselves are furious over America's power - as if Red America is to Blue America as America is to Europe itself. Thus how can a mongrel culture of Taco Bell, Bud Light, and Desperate Housewives project such military and political influence abroad when the soft, subtle triangulation of far more cultured diplomats and sophisticated intellectuals from France, Germany, and Scandinavia is ignored by thugs from Iran, North Korea, and most of the Middle East?
Why would the world listen to a stumbling George Bush when it could be mesmerized by a poet, biographer, aristocrat, and metrosexual of the caliber of a Monsieur Dominique de Villepin? Why praise brave Iraqis lining up to vote, while at the same hour the defeated John Kerry somberly intones on Tim Russert's show that he really did go into Cambodia to supply arms to the mass-murdering Khmer Rouge - a statement that either cannot be true or is almost an admission of being a party to crimes against humanity if it is.
Second, political powerlessness follows from ideological exhaustion. Communism and Marxism are dead. Stalin and Mao killed over 80 million and did not make omelets despite the broken eggs. Castro and North Korea are not classless utopias but thugocracies run by megalomaniac dictators who the world prays will die any minute. The global Left knows that the Cold War is over and was lost by the Left, and that Eastern Europeans and Central Americans probably cherish the memory of a Ronald Reagan far more than that of a Francois Mitterrand or Willy Brandt.
Perhaps the result of this frustration is that European intellectuals damn the United States for action in Iraq, but lament that they could do nothing in the Balkans. Democrats at home talk of the need for idealism abroad, but fear the dirty road of war that sometimes is part of that bargain - thus the retreat into "democracy is good, BUT..." So here we have the global throng that focuses on one purported American crime to the next, as it simmers in the luxury of its privilege, education, and sophistication - and exhibits little power, new ideas, intellectual seriousness, or relevance.
There's much more where that came from.