Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam Is Dead – Why That Matters

Within a few hours of receiving custody of Saddam Hussein from American authorities, the Iraqi government put him to death. Doubtless this will cause howls of protest from leftists everywhere, that a man proven to be a mass murderer on a most gruesome scale would himself be executed without years of delay and double-talking meant to subvert justice itself or at least deny the victims’ families the chance to believe that such men as Saddam would ever be treated as they deserve. But the execution of Saddam Hussein served a compelling notice, one the Left will deny but which is true for all their bitterness; the Rule of Law has come to Iraq.

The Left has tried very hard to deny that truth. The mainstream media revels in showing video of bombings and reporting kidnappings, never noting the stability and economic growth in many parts of Iraq. Kevin McCullough has written a compelling article to show that Iraq is, by any reasonable standard, a clear success. The notion that Iraq is becoming a foothold for democratic republicanism is terrifying for the Left. Enough so that they will denounce even its possibility, much less the growing evidence for it.

The Middle East has not enjoyed many attempts at freely elected government. Small wonder. Without turning this essay into a history lesson, the region has historically been a target for conquering empires. That’s one big lie the Left doesn’t want folks to learn, that even if none of the world’s oil came from there, there would still be wars and unrest. For thousands of years, the Middle East has been the juncture between three continents (which comprised the entire known world for most of our written history) and control of key locations meant military and economic success. That truth meant that tyrants, emperors, and puppet leaders controlled by invaders were the norm, all the way through the Ottoman Empire. After World War I, Great Britain tried to establish some nominal national identities, but in many places the lines drawn were too artificial and ignored critical demographics. The resulting mess allowed the Germans and Italians to invade the region with little trouble, which is one reason Mussolini tried to colonize Ethiopia through invasion. Following World War 2, the immediate polarization between Soviet and Western spheres meant that the Middle East was denied a chance to build truly representative governments; the governments in place were largely free to continue as they had. It is only in very recent years, therefore, that the tide of young Arabs and Farsis and Kurds have begun to demand their right to vote on popular candidates instead of figures hand-picked by mullahs or oligarchies, and it is only recently that the region began to show signs of universal law. That is where Saddam’s fate makes such a difference. For many years, a man who became a tyrant might be killed by another tyrant taking his place, but more often passed on his wealth and power to a chosen successor, or if deposed was often allowed to simply live in luxury somewhere else. The south beach of France is still littered with relatives of the former Shah, of the entourages of former strongmen and would-be aristocrats from oil-producing nations. The reader may recall that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia offered such a package to Saddam and his family in hopes of avoiding the war. This was because the Saudis recognized a signal shift in the order of things, and were becoming desperate to deny or delay that change. The arrest, trial and now the execution of Saddam Hussein were all accomplished in a manner which undeniably demonstrates that the new government in Iraq intends to conduct itself through universal law, law which applies to all Iraqis regardless of station. No other government in the region, save Israel, is so committed to the Rule of Law. This demonstrates a clear victory in the development of democratic republics in the Middle East.

I personally took no pleasure in the death of Saddam Hussein. I watched the video of the noose being put around his neck, and I could read in his face that he knew his death was coming, final and irrevocable. It would be a cruel man indeed who could look at that and not feel a tug of compassion and pity for a man so condemned, alone and hopeless. Especially knowing the many evils he committed in his life; if Saddam believed in even half of Islam, he knows that a terrible fate awaits him. But his death proved the truth of Iraq law, that no one, not even the former absolute ruler of Iraq, still followed by thousands of ruthless minions, can escape answering for his crimes.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Founding Father Discusses Iraq

At a time when their habitations were in flames, when many of their citizens were bleeding, and when the progress of hostility and desolation left little room for those calm and mature inquiries which must ever precede the formation of a wise and well-balanced government for a free people, it is not to be wondered at, that a government instituted in times so inauspicious, should on experiment be found greatly deficient and inadequate to the purpose it was intended to answer.”

- John Jay, The Federalist No. 2, 1787

In actual fact, Mr. Jay was addressing the new American government and the many complaints made against its early structure. It serves as a reminder that new democratic republics often seem less than equal to the task, but that in no way makes the venture unwise or wrong. So too in Iraq, the high cost and unstable chances the government faces, are still worth the effort.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

More Football – Politics Comparisons

The Houston Texans did something very strange Sunday. They beat the Indianapolis Colts. The Texans were not supposed to be in the same class as the Colts, and were not supposed to have any reason to be competitive, especially after being thrashed 40-7 against the Patriots the week before. The Colts, for their part, had clinched their division but were playing for a first-round bye in the playoffs, and so were expected to be well-motivated. Yet the Texans jumped out to a 14-0 lead, and scored a field goal as time ran out to beat the Colts for the first time ever. The next day the Dallas Cowboys played the Philadelphia Eagles, in a game which the Cowboys were expected to win handily, yet the Cowboys were consistently blown off the line of scrimmage and were completely embarrassed on Christmas Day.

As you might expect, Cowboys fans and Colts fans were less than pleased with the results, and overwhelmingly blamed their teams for losing. This is common in sports, the fair-weather fan who cannot accept that their team does not always win, or that the other team might have been the better team that day, or at least had a good plan for that one game. I see the same thing happening in politics. The Democrats beat the Republicans in the midterm elections, and we are reading and hearing all sorts of crazy theories based on that one event. Never mind the elections in 2004, 2002, and 2000 we are told, this one is the only one that matters. That folks is just a combination of wishful thinking by the Donks, in the same way that there are bound to be Texans fans who forget the ten losses our team has, and believe that winning this one game has somehow righted a lot of wrongs the team has to face, and Republicans who just gave up and turned rodent about it. Optimism is a nice thing, but too much leads to rash thinking and poor decisions. I visited the Indianapolis newspaper’s online site and found a lot of Colts fans ready to fire their coach and retool their team. A playoff-bound division winner, and they want to can the coach. But we see that among Republicans, as well. President Bush is responsible for tax cuts,. Two worthy Supreme Court picks and a bunch of solid federal court nods, for putting people in the right place to improve things at Defense and State, and for a forceful response to 9/11 that can fairly be said to be part of why there has not been another 9/11 since then. Yet Republicans started to desert him as soon as MSM-biased polls started suggesting that Dubya was not popular in New York or other liberal bastions. The RINOS like McCain and DeWine left first, followed by weak Republicans like Frist and Hastert, and then the extremists quit when they decided they could not get what they wanted by supporting the President or their party; rogue egotists like Tancredo began attacking the republican leadership, willing to put Democrats in power simply because they were denied the power to hijack the agenda and initiatives. The Republican Party will endure, indeed it shall thrive, not least because it is generally willing to meet its challenges and face its needs for change. But in the meantime, we all would do well to pay attention to those who advance the ideals of the nation and the party, and pay no heed to those who can only support the team when they get what they want and expect.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

BusinessWeek Blunders

On the last page of the December 25/January 1 issue of BusinessWeek, Jack and Suzy Welch wrote a disappointing answer to a valid question. In their column entitled “The Boardroom Bunker”, they begin with a question from an anonymous reader who asked, “Do you think boards today are running better or worse than before?”. A valid and important question, but the Welches made no serious effort to answer it. Instead, they changed the question and launched yet another indirect attack on Sarbanes-Oxley, saying that too many boards “are running scared”. Even that might have opened the door to an interesting examination of governance options, but the Welches had other intentions, specifically to whine and complain. Instead of a cross-section of executives and managers who have to deal with the Sox reality, the Welches focused on CEOs, and it was not long at all before the Welches were unloading cheap shots on Accountants in general. The money quote? “The same accountants who failed to flag the scandals are now the biggest beneficiaries”. That is the same sort of logic which blames the police for criminals, hospitals for disease, or our defense forces for our enemies. And yet the Welches blame other people for paranoia.

The Welches made no attempt to support their accusation, not that they could find much evidence for their claims. No, they delivered a sort of whiny homily, basically blaming the problems of boards on everyone else. I found it strangely reminiscent of Mr. Skilling’s defense strategy. But after consideration, I realized that the Welches had done at least one service. They have demonstrated that five years after the passage of Sarbanes-Oxley, far too few people in the high end of business are willing to seriously examine their responsibility and accountability, even when they pull a check from BusinessWeek magazine.