Friday, August 10, 2007

Iraq, Iraq, Iraq

We're all sick of the talk of it. But that changes nothing.

I've been struggling with the current truism, that the only solution to Iraq is political, not military. Even St. David Petraeus has been known to mouth that one. No justice, no peace, it's been formulated in another context.

But by "military" we really mean "security." There is no security solution, then?

Those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither, said Ben Franklin. But is that really true outside the United States? (Like in the UK, where what the ACLU considers egregious abrogations of civil rights are routine, and people love them.)

Folks are fully willing to sacrifice freedom for security all over the world, and that's the fact. It's why there are so many dictators still in power, and dictators are the rule not the exception throughout the fractious Arab world.

The prophet Sting advises us that there is no political solution to our troubled evolution. I'm not a disciple, but I think he was onto something there. What I can glean from the confusing reports from over there is that Iraqi society is moving ahead of its government, as successful societies always must. (The medieval Muslim philosopher al-Farabi notes that first there is a common ground, an ethos, that defines a nation or a people. Politics simply follows.)

The Iraqis have no choice, but I dunno if the American polity will give the situation until January '08 to leave more divinable tea leaves, although our generals are already making those noises. Is the surge "working"? Even some Democrat senators think so. But what is this "surge"? What does "working" mean? Language devolves into nonsense so quickly these days.

A>B has been the conventional wisdom, that political agreement will result in stability. Or maybe it's A>B>A+, that stability will result in political progress will result in greater stability. I'm not sure the Arab world (or human society at its most naked, as Iraq's is) works that way, as previously noted. Politics, as we in the West have grown to understand it, is not what politics is when practiced at the tribal/sectarian level.

Maybe A is simply A, and B is only a corollary. If people want peace, they tend to get peace, even if you tend to have to kill most of those who don't want peace first. Politics might simply be those who are left standing writing up the details.

I ran across a contemporary Muslim philosopher who said that the West are the children of Rousseau, but the Islamic world is Hobbesian. (Life is nasty, brutish and short, and one simply does what one must do to survive.) Jihadism certainly stands in opposition to that, and indeed supplies an acceptably Islamic answer to Hobbes' insufficiency for the human spirit.

But, if the Taliban hadn't been enough proof, the barbarity and outright obscenity of bin Ladenism as exhibited in Iraq has turned all but the most self-annihilating of Muslims against this latest centennial round of Islamic eschatology.

So, what remains is Hobbes, and as bin Laden himself noted, people go with the strongest-looking horse, the likely winner.

We are continually told that we must keep our eye on the real ball, the real villain, the real threat, Osama bin Laden. I submit that his real defeat has been not in forcing him physically into a cave somewhere over the Pakistan border (or killing him), but in Iraq, where his ideology has been shown for what it is, and appears to be finding increasing rejection.

Whether that's because it offends Rousseau in aesthetics, or whether the strong horse of our military is enforcing Hobbes, I don't care. Probably a lot of both.

9-11-01 was designed as a clarion call for global jihad, the re-establishment of the caliphate, blahblahblah. In 2007, I think Europe---from within---has more to worry about from jihadism than the Muslim world itself.

Oh yeah, there's still Iran. Dang.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Amateur Hour 2008

At yet another Democrat presidential debate the other day, Barack Obama referred to "the president of Canada."

Did you hear about it? Maybe if you're an internetable newshound, but most people didn't. They weren't watching the debate in record numbers, and the non-partisan American press so far hasn't found it very newsworthy. Although the Canadanadians seem to have noticed.

But it's OK. I'm sure this Harvard Law School grad knows how to spell potatoe, which we have a lot more of than Canadanadians. He'd make a perfect VP. Do you want fries with that?

Christian Socialist Authoritarianism

Via Jason Kuznicki at Positive Liberty, a very interesting website, "The Stiftung Leo Strauss." Something there to like and hate for everyone.

The Stiftung long argued that Bush-As-Spirit-Of-The-Age is perhaps
not entirely comically absurd. Christian Socialist Authoritarianism in
the U.S. came from somewhere. True, the Movement's various strands
took advantage of 9/11. And true, they together routed and used the
hapless Democrats as props and sock puppets until 2006. But the extent
of the regime's transformation of American social fabric, mores,
politics and destiny was not wholly imposed top down. The Joe Kleins
of the world didn't and still don't get it.

The Enlightenment was always a thin veneer in America before 2001. It
is thinner still in 2007.

Nice formulation, that: "Christian Socialist Authoritarianism" would be entirely defensible by someone like Leo Strauss, I think, as preferable to Jacksonian democracy, civil war, The Gilded Age, Progressivism, and Wilsonianism, as well as a thousand other bad ideas from the world at large.

It's been said that the American Jewish messiah looks a lot like FDR, and Strauss, a Platonist-Jew, dug him bigtime, or so I've heard.

Christian Socialist Authoritarianism certainly fits FDRism, I think, and "compassionate conservatism" seems pretty close, if only running on FDR's fumes.

Was the Founding Era America's Golden Age? Hard to tell, as things got unsettled before they got settled. Regardless, it didn't survive democracy and Andrew Jackson, so its tenability is in doubt, as Strauss and a number of others might observe [if they indulged in a bit of historicism]. Christian Socialist Authoritarianism seems to
round the bases of electorates throughout the West.

(I will put in a plug for Fred Thompson here, whose noises on federalism are the most Founder-like thing I've heard in my lifetime.)

(And I think the linked essay trickles into la-la-land a little [a lot], but I admire its boldness.)


Adventures in Parenting

We discovered a real treasure in CD of American folk songs. Our kids love them and they're pretty easy on parents' ears to boot. But they will sometimes get you an odd look in the grocery store, especially when your five and three-year old are skipping through the grocery store singing "Follow the Drinking Gourd." It's an old song supposedly sung about the Underground Railroad (though this site throws some doubt on the story). You can find the lyrics here and hear the song (after a bit of a lesson) here. The "drinking gourd" refers to the big dipper, by the way,...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Glenn Reynolds and John Lott

I sent the following note today to Glenn Reynolds, the ineffable Instapundit and self-appointed referee of all things scholarly:

Dear Professor Reynolds,

I notice that your blog has shined virtually no light on Steve Levitt's utterly embarrassing letter to John McCall, a letter that most scholars with a shred of dignity would write only after having crawled into a deep hole. (As best as I can tell, all you have done is offer an "update" posting with a link.) In case you missed it: Levitt admits that even as he claimed that the special issue of the JLE that Lott put together was not refereed, Levitt himself was one of the referees. Second, Levitt's claim that Lott invited only authors whose views were consistent with his was undermined completely by his admission that he had been invited to submit a paper. (As, by the way, were others with views differing from Lott's.) And, third, the comedy highlight of Levitt's letter is his claim that "[Levitt] did not mean to suggest that Dr. Lott did anything unlawful or improper in arranging for the payment of the publication expenses for the Conference issue." Of course not; precisely what, then, did he mean to suggest?

Perhaps you could offer some of your usual musings on that. More generally, your rather loud silence on this latest development in the Levitt/Lott controversy is interesting, particularly given the massive amounts of attention, quotation, and credibility over these past few years that you have deemed appropriate for those attacking Lott's integrity. Now, why is that? Could it be that you simply are far less objective or "fair" than you like to pretend?

No obfuscations, please: A straight answer would be appreciated. Feel free to post this note if you wish.

Benjamin Zycher

I Want My Liberals Back!

Some of them were OK.

The New Republic was the reliable bastion of America's liberals---the center-left, if you will---since the 1950s. But over the past few years, its circulation has dipped, and it cut back from a weekly to a bi-weekly. It was also slipping onto the (ever-growing) "not-approved" list among the leftist netroots. Now, these folks can't get within five feet of a copy of National Review without breaking out in a cold sweat, but when their epistemological limits shrink past TNR, it's time for alarm.

So this Beauchamp business at its inception hit me as a shabby attempt to get relevant again. What concerned me was that it illustrates how much the intellectual center-left has collapsed, represented for 2008 only by Joe Biden and God help us, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The question isn't of the apparent fabrications in the "Scott Thomas" reports, but why TNR went with them in the first place. To help the war effort? Hell no, to undermine it and our troops themselves, and get back in the left's good graces, such as they are.

We see stories from all over the world about UN forces raping children and worse. But they're on page A94 of the papers. After all, we can surely conclude nothing bad about the UN's efforts as a result of these anomolies: they're not inherently meaningful. The front page is reserved for good news about the UN's deployments, and if TNR had been "reporting" rather than agitating, they'd be printing whatever good news is coming from Iraq as well as the even worse stuff the UN forces do.

No, we all know what's going on here. It's only a stroke of luck that Beauchamp couldn't resist embellishing. It could all have been true, let's face it.

With 35% of Democrats believing that Bush had some foreknowledge (or worse) of 9-11, the crank factor on the American left may be approaching an all-time high. Most are unreachable, but to focus on them is to abandon all hope of sanity for our nation. I'll continue to concentrate on engaging the remaining 65%, although it's tempting to drive the nuts even nutser. It doesn't take much, and it's a lot more fun, but duty calls.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Show Me The Monet

This is why you should never rely on first impressionists.

Five masked men took the "Cliffs Near Dieppe". Worse yet, they took the "Lane of Poplars Near Moret". My question is: if the cops know their route so exactly, why can't they follow them back to headquarters?

Which painter is stolen more than any other? You guessed it: Monet. Now the question is, what about country music shoplifters? Do they favor Cash?

Monday, August 06, 2007

For the record . . .

. . . I will not be joining the Blogger's Union.

Interesting Description

So the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), one of the big civil rights groups, plans on honoring Michael Vick (the Atlanta QB who has been indicted on dogfighting charges) during its upcoming conference. Well, that's just dandy, since he's clearly just the sort of role model we would all want our children to emulate: likely involved with a rather unsavory and cruel practice, caught flipping off Atlanta fans when he got a few boos, caught spreading around STDs.

Notice, though, how Sports Illustrated describes the SCLC: as a "Christian Group" that's going to honor Vick. Now, in some ways, that's true. The SCLC has long ties to black churches. But when was the last time you saw it described as a "Christian" organization, as opposed to a "civil rights" one? Interesting choice, wouldn't you say?