Saturday, November 13, 2004

Developing Morality in War

I just finished reading William F. Buckley's novel, Nuremberg. The book revolved around the life of a German family who emigrated to America, but with only partial success. But the book had additional considerations and historical events worth their own review. One of those was the claim by Hermann Goering, that the International Court convened to try him and the other leading Nazis, lacked legal jurisdiction and authority. The thing is, had Germany not surrendered unconditionally, he might have been right, as German Law did not present any authority for leading government officials to be tried, ex post facto, for crimes defined after their capture. It made the judgment and summary execution of leading Nazis in Nuremberg appear no more legitimate than the judgment and summary execution of captured Allied officers by, say, Japan during the War. The fact that Germany surrendered unconditionally, however, allows for some doubt, since it can be argued that the unconditional surrender allowed for the total and permanent dissolution of the German and Japanese Governments, even to their right to exist, which is supported by the rebuilding of those nations under new regimes, even with new Constitutions.

I am not saying, by any means, that there was no valid reason to try the Nazis for what they did during the Second World War. But it is important to realize that the world changed in the years between 1939 and 1945, enough that old definitions had to be replaced to deal with new conditions. Carpet bombing, the development and use of Atomic bombs, occupation and redirection of previously sovereign nations had to be addressed as actions taken by the Allied forces. Conspiracy and execution of Genocide, Slavery and Rape on a national scale, and unforseen atrocities like organized Cannibalism and deliberate Decapitation as Official Policy, were Axis offenses which had to be considered and addressed. One reason given by a number of WW2 vets for not talking much about their experiences, is that a number of those experiences were too ghastly for the friends and family they knew before the War.

Critics on the Left have spoken out about the morality of the War in Iraq. Certainly, it is wise to discuss a war in detail, rather than casually accept an event which will affect the lives of so many, and which causes so much death and destruction. However, it is not right to ignore the conditions making the war necessary, or to apply old conditions to a situation not suited to them.

When we discuss the War in Iraq, the first obvious topic is WMD. A lot of people on the Left now say, that because we have not (yet) found WMD stockpiles, that the war was wrong. First off, that claim ignores the smuggling of unknown materials across the border to Iran and Syria before the war, during the time Bush was working with the United Nations and negotiating to get Saddam to step down. You know, that delay of several months that the Democrats ignored while claiming he "rushed to war". Also, considering how unstable the country is, the very real possibility that there are WMD stockpiles, which just haven't been found yet. But even granting the absence of WMD, the other reasons for going to war were right, and with what we have discovered since, the war is not a thing we should feel guilty about.

The arguments for and against the war have been done so many times, that I will not dwell on them, but to consider three critical points:

1. Iraq now has a government with the potential to become a full-fledged Democratic Republic, which would stabilize that country better than anytime before in its history. This is not only valuable to the 25 million Iraqis, but also to every nation which has to deal with it. returning to Germany, consider the many wars between Prussia/Germany and her European allies before World War 2, and the stable relationships since. This is the possible future for Iraq, which is also good for everyone in the region.

2. Iraq was a harbor and home for more than a dozen major terrorist organizations before the U.S. invasion, including Carlos the Jackal, Abu Nidal, and Abu Abbas. Despite claims that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11, the fact is clear that only by wiping out these terrorist organizations could the U.S. proceed with the War on Terror. And yes, in case you were wondering, that's why all thsoe terrorists in Iraq are fighting us. When we clear them out of Iraq, it's going to get a lot harder to be a terrorist.

3. When you separate all the noise from the facts, we really did not know that 9/11 was coming, not even the day before. General rumblings were enough to cause concern, but the world really was different. We cannot go back to where we were on September 10. While debate is still very right and necessary, pre-emptive War cannot be rejected for the reasons used in the old wars. We need to find the threats to our nation, and remove them. There is a natural friction against it, and a point where it is not even feasible to be done, but where there is a need and the means exist, we must consider the option of pre-emptive attack on unstable nations.

The War in Iraq has cost over a thousand lives of American Soldiers. That is reason to question its worth. However, the claims that "Bush Lied" (or, as if it was somehow less offensive, "misled") simply don't hold up logically. Since the President knew the U.S. would win in Iraq, it follows that he knew any statements he made would be reviewed in the light of that time, it is simply ludicrous to believe that President Bush would make statements (and defend them) which he knew would not hold up later. I mention this, only to show that many on the Left need to explain the morality of their own claims and arguments.

As we approach the second term of President Bush, the War in Iraq is evolving into a new phase. The one point we should be able to agree on now, is that this war should be resolved as quickly and thoroughly as possible. And that means no more hindering of the plans in place by law. The President clearly won the election, and the Republicans made gains in both the House and Senate. The mandate now, certainly includes letting the war be run as it is planned by the men and women in charge. Anything else, and the Liberals are more immoral than any claim they have made about the President so far.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Rise of the New City-State

You wouldn't know it for all the rumors flying around, but the 2004 Presidential Election is over. And to our great relief, we got to know the results by something not far from the Election Night itself.

Along with the clear majority President Bush claimed in this election (his tally crossed sixty million votes today), there have been many posts about "Bush Country", showing the huge advantage Bush has, not only in States won but also by Counties led. But the results show another message, one both parties should heed.

In ancient Greece, power was held by city-states. Small wonder; each city not only represented a focus of military power, but also a center for commerce and art and learning. To read Plato or Socrates, you could easily conclude that no one lived anywhere in Greece, except for cities like Sparta or Athens, but there were a lot of people, in small villages and the like; they just got ignored by the sophisticates. Sound familiar? For all the talk of the heart of Democracy, however, in Greece it amounted to mob rule, and the Greek despots knew how to control large mobs in large cities, and so gain power through manipulation of the masses. A lot of people who think themselves wise in their support for pure Democracy, have never thought through the wisdom of a Democratic Republic, where the whole of the nation, geographically as well as in population, is considered in the administration of power. Alexander Hamilton and George Washington were wiser here, than were Al Gore or Terry McAuliffe.

In the Presidential election just concluded, President Bush took 31 states to Kerry's 19 (Kerry also took D.C.) , but as many have noted, the majority for Bush is much more pronounced when the counties are examined. But it goes even further than that. Take a look at the major cities, and Kerry's strong suit becomes obivous. Kerry took New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit for example, and was strong in Bush states in cities like Miami, Austin, Columbus and Las Vegas. There is a point of demarcation; above a certain concentration or urban development, the Democrat message gains appeal, and where populations are less concentrated, the Republican message is strongly favored.

At first look, some Republicans may be inclined to shrug and note, that since Bush won the election, it's more a problem for the Democrats, and to a degree that's true. If the Democrats don't start listening to the people in the whole country, they will have committed themselves to second-tier as a political party, occasionally taking the White House but gradually fading to irrelevance. Since the Democrats in the main are unwilling to take the hard look at their recent losses (2000, 2002, now 2004), this is a bad situation for them. But Republicans need to be aware of a weak spot for them, signified by their weak results in major cities. Note also that this aligns with minority results; the question is whether poor support from minorities hurts Republicans in large cities, whether the rejection by large cities causes minority results to be low (since minorities still mainly live in cities, rather than in small towns), or some combination of each.

There has been extensive polling throughout this election year, and the information taken can be very useful. Americans have consistently said the top 4 issues in this election were Terrorism, the War in Iraq, the Economy in General, or Jobs in Particular. John Kerry gained by making the War in Iraq an issue, and by questioning Job Security during Bush's first term. Kerry also gained for a while in the Economy overall, but Bush was able to regain much of his losses there. The strongest suits for Bush, the War on Terrorism and National Security in the wake of 9/11, were not only important to all Americans, but Kerry's poor explanation of his plans in those issues hurt him badly. It could fairly be said, that except for 9/11 Kerry could have won this election. That should warn Republicans to pay attention to domestic and economic issues before planning on 2006 or 2008.

As for the Democrats, their solution may be amazingly simple, or nearly impossible. If I were in charge of the Democratic strategy for a Presidential campaign, I would take copious notes from the Clinton campaigns, especially 1996. First off, Bill Clinton had a lot of things working for him in 1992, but one very smart move, was he stayed away from attacking the President he was trying to beat. Every winning President does that. Next, Bill Clinton was careful to note his strengths and weaknesses, and to avoid calling attention to the opponent's strengths or his weaknesses. In the case of Kerry, he did exactly the opposite. It's very possible, that the Democrat's nominee for President in 2008, can win by just learning to go in through the door, not to attack walls. Of course, it could also be that Kerry was facing other opposing factors, not so obvious, and if that is the case, nothing but a complete review and reformation of the Democratic Party will be enough. The evidence for that lies in the way that Republicans took the White House in 2000 in time of peace and prosperity, against a VP in a popular Administration, and in 2002 against the normal historical flow of mid-term elections, and again in 2004 under conditions which have historically ended other Administrations. I like George W. Bush, but he's not articulate or charming enough to explain his streak of wins like that. That suggests an underlying strength for the GOP/weakness in the Democrats that is not immediately obvious.

A lot more looking is in order. For now, though, I would suggest to Republicans to consider tailoring an urban message to win some of those cities, and the Democrats need to take some bitter medicine, and listen to the people in those red states and counties, no matter how much they may hate what they learn.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Evil In Transition

Yassir Arafat is dead. Reaction to his demise has been varied but distinct, and I harbor strong suspicions that many leaders who would prefer to properly denounce the scoundrel and applaud his riddance, have instead chosen to speak "moderately", in hopes of placating, well, violent monsters in their own countries, or those vicious groups of murderers who demand laurels for their cause and figureheads. For my own part, I will not wish evil on a man who has earned so much on his head, yet I find myself praying God that for once, the evil will be interred with the thing which led a people to near obliteration because of his greed and heinous visions.

Reading articles and comments across the world, however, I am struck by the large number of people determined to make Arafat a victim, to somehow excuse his many crimes, and instead, as is the Liberal custom now, to put all at the feet of others, no matter how obscene the claim. Many blame the victims, while many more try to explain away the deliberate murders of so many innocents, including women and children, Palestinian as often as anyone else, for the cause of "Social Justice". Somewhere in his dank astral dungeon as he awaits his final judgment, Der Fuhrer must smile grimly at the knowledge that so many are carryiong his vision of exterminating the Jews. The ways in which murder and deliberate targeting of schoolchildren and civilians are excused and defended by these puerile villains would dismay Orwell.

But, thank God, there is hope. Real hope. The Palestinians have managed to make the wrong choice in every decision of the past 150 years, but there is still a chance for them to have a homeland. Let me be clear, though - there is no right to a Palestinian homeland, because racially there is no 'Palestinian' people. "Palestine" was a name used by the British to define the geographic territory of their Mandate in the Middle East, and has no more historical or cultural significance than, say, Waller County in Texas. Moreover, most of the people who call themsleves 'Palestinian' today, have no direct connection to the arabs who lived in the present-day Israel before 1948. Accordingly, the establishment of a Palestinian state is nothing more or less than a means to resolve old grievances without more bloodshed and rancor. The Palestinians, whether they admit it or not, have an unexpected and powerful ally this time around: President Bush. But to succeed thie time, they must put down the terrorist groups, disavow any and all who would advocate violence and murder for political gain. And the Palestinian Authority must become a legitimate and responsible agency for keeping the peace and protecting all innocents.

Unfortunately, History warns us that even if this comes to pass, there will be more and different troubles later. So long as we humans rule our lives, Evil is not destroyed, but only in transition.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


One issue which showed up from time to time in the Presidential Election just concluded, was the issue of Border Security. Clearly, said many, if we want to protect America, we must secure our borders. Both Bush and Kerry agreed to this idea, but each differed on the best path to such security, and neither candidate went into great detail about their plans to secure the borders. There are good reasons for this silence, actually, though it is time to consider the matter again, in Congress and in the Oval Office.

Border Security in the United States really comes down to four fronts:

[] Air and Sea Port Security
[] Alaska and Hawaii Territorial Security
[] The Canada-U.S. Border
[] The Mexico-U.S. Border

Air and Sea Port Security is not often discussed, much less comprehensively, and I have to admit, a full examination of this facet is beyond me here. Blogs work best with pithy issues and succinct discussions, so I am really only able to provide a sketchy overview, but that may still be useful. The simple fact is, throughout history people have been trying to keep out the unsavory types; locked doors are not indicative of paranoia, nor are metal detectors and bomb-sniffing dogs. John Kerry may have displayed the best example of functional stupidity on the security issue, by comparing the safety of Americans to checking each and every vessel passing through our ports. Rather like stopping every car in traffic, or inspecting every package in the mail; it simply is not feasible, and there are functional alternatives. In the case of nuclear materials, for example, Magnetic Anomaly Detectors can be used by aircraft to scan approaching vessels long before they reach U.S. territorial waters (Kerry suggested we stop ships at the ports themselves, never considering what would happen if a dirty bomb was detonated at the inspection point), which would pick up heavy metals in even minute quantities. Ultimately, though, we depend on the sorts of tools which have always worked in the past, and which we have always needed; common sense protections and good HUMINT. In short, President Bush has done what is reasonable, establishing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and beefing up border security’s budget and tools.

Alaska and Hawaii Territorial Security have not, to my knowledge, been discussed anywhere, and that is a bit alarming. While AK and HI are not geographically joined to the ‘contiguous 48’, they are very definitely U.S. states, and if you show up in, say, Honolulu or Anchorage and board a plane to, say, New York or Los Angeles, you won’t need passports or other proof of citizenship. Fortunately, the DHS and Customs have taken some steps to address that matter, which is why Al Qaeda has not tried to enter the U.S. via the Hula. It’s also why “Whiner John” Kerry couldn’t bring up the extra-continental states as a point in his campaigns.

The Canada-U.S. Border has actually been the historical weak spot for our territory. For all the talk about the Southern border, in World Wars 1 and 2, it was the Canadian border which saw the most enemy infiltrations, and during the Cold War the most Soviet traffic. Also, in the events following the 9/11 attacks, DHS and FBI agents found terrorist support groups in Northern locations near Dearborn Michigan and Seattle Washington, but none near the Rio Grande. The Bush Administration has been working to address this danger with the Martin Administration, but with only limited success. While cooperation between the FBI and the RCMP has been exemplary, deliberate interference and hostility from MP’s like Carolyn Parrish has endangered the security of both nations.

The Mexico-U.S. Border has received the most attention of all these factors, yet it is in many ways the least understood. A good example of that rests in the way President Bush has been heckled by both Left and Right for his plans regarding relations between Mexico and the United States. To understand the matter better, I would like to point out the objectives, some history, and a quick glance at likely consequences of different alternatives.

A lot of people, even on the Left, have made noise demanding that our borders be sealed. Sounds like a good idea, but how practical is that, really? As an example, remember the Iron Curtain, how the Soviet Union sealed its borders? I mean, if you want a textbook for how to use overwhelming military force to seal a border, you look at the USSR. Yet all those guns, soldiers, and missiles did not stop Matias Rust from flying right into Moscow and landing his rented Cessna right in Red Square in June of 1987, did they? I also recall an incident a few years back, where a Mexican shepherd in the Rio Grande Valley came across a National Guardsman on maneuvers. The young man foolishly aimed a rifle at the soldier, who fired in self-defense, killing the Mexican. The fact is, putting guns on a border will likely mean killing people, sometimes by accidents like that one. The fact is, migrants, smugglers, pirates and all sundry of people salesmen have been crossing borders throughout history; there just is no way to stop it from happening. The best answer then, is to control the flow as best you can, and that, to me, means addressing the causes of border crossings.

A lot of people also forget the history of migrant families. While most of us prefer the stability and relative prosperity of settling in one town and country, there are those whose lives have been in constant motion, for a variety of reasons. While many people have only recently been made aware of it, the fact is that migrant workers in the Southwest United States go back several generations. This complicates the issue, because the common stereotypes just don’t work. It doesn’t fit everyone by any means, but it’s obvious to me that any successful plan for controlling the Southern borders means addressing the million or so migrant workers who aren’t going to change their behavior just because someone makes a speech or wins an election. I’m sure that I don’t need to explain the potentially serious cultural and economic effects which would result from suddenly wrecking the system in place now.

People also forget the fact that there are real limits on what we can accomplish in the immediate future, and to understand that, you have to recall a bit of Mexican history. Before I go into that, take a look at the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Governor of California. Was he everything a rock-solid Conservative would like in a Governor? Of course not, but he was a distinct jump up from the previous fraud, Gray Davis, or the Democrats’ choice to replace him, Cruz Bustamante. You take what you can get, and that applies to the border issue, as well.

Most Americans forget that Mexico did not become an Independent nation with her own President until 1824. In fact, many Americans are unaware that Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana, a man known as the villain at the Alamo massacre, is revered in Mexican history as a great patriot, and was once Mexico’s President (1833, again in 1834-1835). The problem was, that Mexico lacked the unity of the American system, wherein a strong central government also embodied protection of individual rights, and a Federal government enjoyed the respect and cooperation from the states. Mexico had an army, but beyond that the government was often unable to enforce the laws enacted. Even today, there remain revolutionaries in the country, attempting to assassinate and overthrow the existing government (the Zapatistas, for instance).

But a great obstacle to true reform in Mexico was the monster known as PRI, the “Institutional Revolutionary Party” which came to power following the 1921 Revolution and came to control every major office in Mexican government. I could go on, but there has been a potential watershed event; the election of Vicente Fox. Fox is the first “opposition-party” candidate to be elected President of Mexico since 1910, and he represents an opportunity Bush knows very well. Fortunately, President Bush was Governor Bush of Texas at the time Fox was elected, so he knows better than most the conditions in Mexico, as well as the opportunity for growth in relations and opportunity on both sides of the border. Fox has had to overcome stubborn resistance from PRI holdouts (to say nothing of attempts on his life at least 3 times) to institute critical reforms in Mexican government. We are fortunate that Fox is also determined to root out narco-terrorists, who have established fortified complexes in a number of towns on Mexico’s north and south borders, and the FBI has assisted GAFE in ridding a number of regions of these threats to both the U.S. and Mexico. Fox and Bush have met numerous times, and the media has somehow failed to recognize that cooperation between the two leaders has been handled adroitly and quietly. Professionals often receive less credit than they deserve, and that is certainly the case here.

Now, as to the “guest worker” issue, some people would like to see an “iron fist” approach, but all that would do, really, is prevent people from cooperating with authorities. Let me elaborate on that.

There are, in basic, four classes of people who want to cross our border from Mexico:

[] People who want to come here for a better life
[] People who want to come here and sell their products, expanding their range of business (NAFTA)
[] People who want to smuggle things or people in, like drugs
[] People who want to come into the U.S. to commit violence

Think for a moment about those people. Do they all think alike, and would they all want the same things? Obviously not. More, it’s just reasonable to think that the first two groups are far more numerous than the other two, and are also the most likely to notice people in the last two groups. So, it would seem to me that the best course of action is to establish a situation, where the first two groups are encouraged, at least well enough that they would work to expose the last two groups.

I’m not saying that people who break the law to get into the USA should get rewarded for it, but I do think there is a problem, where a citizen who drives drunk may be treated more leniently than a man who comes into our country to try to help feed his family. And I know there’s a problem, when people who could be helping authorities catch the really bad guys, run at the sight of a badge, because they have no reason to expect any kind of break.

Is the “guest worker” concept the best solution? Maybe not, but think. We already know that passing laws to punish illegal aliens doesn’t really stop them from coming across; we just make life really hard on the ones we catch. We know that we need to catch terrorists and smugglers, and the people who know where to catch those guys are afraid of the INS and DHS.

If we put a bunch of soldiers and guns on the border, the terrorist will just look for an easier way (like planes from other countries, or that Canada border I talked about), we’ll spend a ton of money and sooner or later some people will get killed in an incident, and Vicente Fox will look to the Mexican voters like a man who can’t protect Mexicans. Yeah, the Democrats play up the story that Bush is a unilateralist, but in point of fact, Bush is thinking more about helping our allies than any Democrat I know.

No, there won’t be a wave of happy Mexicans rushing to work with the United States, but gradually there can be a foundation of trust. And frankly, something has got to be done about this problem, which respects not only our need for National Security, but a fair and effective resolution which improves conditions for the nation as a whole. It will help Mexico stabilize, which improves their chances for becoming a First-world nation, which is, all in all, the best and quickest way to stem the tide of illegal immigration. When a man can make a life for his family without crossing borders, then he won’t have that motive. And no, it’s not a handout, but simply recognizing that helping Mexico now in 2004 will pay our nation dividends in generations to come.

I am, of course, willing to consider alternate solutions. I just haven’t read or heard any. Whining by people unfamiliar with the issue doesn’t count. Carping by people trying to get in a cheap shot is even less acceptable.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


"There are none so blind, as those who will not see"

I should know the person who said that, and yeah, I'm probably misquoting it slightly too, but for here it's enough to dwell a bot on that thought.

One week removed from "The Most Important Election in Our Lifetimes" (so says Senator Kerry, after all) , it's interesting to watch the direction each faction takes in digesting the results. Particularly interesting to me, is to speculate on the future of the Old Media.

Earlier this year, I wrote that we should not expect to see radical or sudden changes in the way most people get their news and information; while the New Media is a real force, and in time will simply abolish those bastions of elitism and blatant bias in the guise of objective journalism, it's a gradual process, and in any case, we will always need to be careful about trusting everything we read or hear, no matter the source. Also, since the Main Pain Media is the only source for most front-line reporting, hairspray and condescension will be in sharp focus in many television sets for the forseeable future. But then again, maybe not as long as I originally thought.

As you have doubtless heard from countless Home Entertainment salepeople, we are entering the where it is possible to integrate all your electronics, from cell phones to televisions to CD players and computers... you get the idea. What I find interesting is that sites like Ananova make it possible for you to specialize your news, and that's a trend worth thinking about. In a future world, Joe 'Merican is going to be able to program his news for the category, style, you name it. Imagine a world where you can program your computer to seek links to verify statements made by the newscaster, or where you can submit search queries to balance, say, CBS against positions by Little Green Footballs or Instapundit? Imagine programs which score the veracity of news aencies by measuring their claims against support? The simple fact is, the technology is already there, and the audience is heading there. It's entirely possible that the MPM will choose not to go there, fearing the loss of their influence, and so abrogate the evolution of Information Retrieval to a new competitor, as yet unnamed.

Wait and see, I guess. But I would remind Dan Rather, et al, that their game plan has been tried before. And there's a reason people speak dismissively of anyone who is a 'dinosaur'.

Sunday, November 07, 2004


To understand the climate and territorial imperatives in Washington D.C. today, take a look back at April 1974.

Richard Milhous Nixon had stunned the Establishment. A man elected with barely 43% of the Popular Vote in 1968, who seemed unable to proceed with anything not supported by both the Republican Party leadership and the majority of the House and Senate (both dominated by Democrats), Nixon had managed to end the war in Vietnam, establish the Environmental Protection Agency, reach critical new agreements with both the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, and survive a recession without significant consequences. In his re-election bid in 1972, Nixon took more than 60% of the Popular Vote and all but one state in the Electoral Vote. Nixon had centralized Federal power in the White House beyond the dreams of most Presidents, and certainly far beyond the expectations of any Congressional Republican or Democrat. The Congress, to put it plainly, did not like this balance one bit.

While the excesses of the Nixon Administration are clearly inexcusable, it bears noting that Nixon may reasonably be compared to Lyndon Johnson or Bill Clinton in his arrogance of power, yet neither LBJ nor Clinton was ever in significant danger of losing their office (yes, Clinton was impeached, but even a number of Republicans in the Senate said they were not sure about voting for conviction. In the event, less than half the Senate voted to convict Clinton). The difference, among other factors, was that both Johnson and Clinton made sure to mend fences in key relationships, while Nixon took on all opponents full-bore.

Many Democrats might like to compare the characters of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush, but there is no such similarity. However, just like Nixon, then Reagan, Dubya finds himself in time of rising power at his hand. If he is careless in his positions, then challenges like the one shot by Arlen "Benedict Arnold" Specter will be repeated, but if Bush is careful to build his coalition and make clear that the heart of the GOP comes from his support (remember the effect of Bush campaigning in 2002, and the coat-tails acknowledged even by Dan Rather this year), then the President may proceed to accomplish more lasting effect than any Republican President in a century.

It's not only the Democrats who need to look at that Election results map by County, and note that the title is "Bush Country".