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Catfish and Cod
Saturday, August 02, 2003
 
"Please agree not to use your superior weapons until we have them, too."
(Link path: Washington Post)

What a joke. Does anyone really believe we will agree to such a ridiculous treaty?

The U.S. hasn't even deployed a weapon in space. It hasn't even tested a weapon in space. In fact, proposals to deploy weapons in space have been shot down as too expensive and too vulnerable for years. Anyone remember "Star Wars"?

But the Russians and Chinese are "concerned". So they try anyway, full knowing the futility of the excercise. They can't stop us from launching weapons if we want, and they can't follow suit if we do. We are currently dominant in space, and we will continue to be if we don't royally screw up.

The real motivation for this diplomatic insanity is Russian and Chinese xenophobia, and distant memories of foreign invasion. It hasn't really sunk into their minds that the US doesn't want to invade them, and isn't going to. Their nuclear arsenals are plenty of deterrent. They could blow up a hundred US cities if they wished; both Russia and China have enough missiles to overwhelm any defense the U.S. could muster in the next twenty years. And witness the lengths we go to to prevent North Koreans or terrorists from blowing up one American city.

Behold the power of irrational thought.
 
Keep on his case.
(Link path: Boston Globe/AP)

The ECOWAS and US troops aren't going to stop the chaos in Liberia. They might cause it to end indirectly, but that's not their mission.

They're going in because it's the only way Charles Taylor really, actually, finally will step down and accept exile in Nigeria.

Please remember that every day of delay causes more deaths and fighting in Monrovia. I suppose Taylor's still hoping for a victory he can use as an excuse to call off the resignation. I doubt the world will allow that.
 
Murky Palestinian politics.
(Link path: The Grey Lady, free and pointless registration required)

It looks like there are now three power centers in the Palestinian government: Arafat, Dahlan, and Abbas. Arafat has now taken actions directly against Dahlan's public pronouncements. Previously, despite public declarations of fealty, Abbas and Dahlan have both taken actions Arafat would never order.

Dahlan controls security; Abbas controls Palestinian foreign policy; Arafat holds public support and his crony network. It's not clear who Fatah and the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are answering to, but they answer to someone, because they have agreed to the cease-fire. Hamas and Jihad no doubt consider the cease-fire to be a means to re-arm; the Israelis don't like that, but they and we agree for now that Abbas and Dahlan really are too weak to curb the militants, and that we'll have to strengthen the PA. The question is, with politics as murky as this, can the PA be strengthened?
 
Who really blinked?
(Link path: USS Clueless, ABC News; Slate, Washington Post)

Steven Den Beste is running a in-depth positive-spin review of the newest word in North Korean relations. He's an eloquent writer, and you really should "read the whole thing". The upshot of the article is that North Korean negotiations -- indeed, all negotiations with Communist countries -- are based upon brinkmanship. According to Den Beste, North Korea has suddenly capitulated, supposedly under Chinese pressure. The American position of "engaged apathy" has triumphed, and if we just stay the course, North Korea will either make a true deal with the U.S., or be constrained by the Chinese.

Fred Kaplan thinks otherwise. His take on the news of the North Korean agreement includes a reluctant, divided Administration who made a major concession to the North Koreans in a rush of desperation. Kaplan cites a number of North Korean pronouncements favoring multilateral talks, as well as a Washington Post dispatch from Seoul, to bolster his thesis that the Administration only recently paid any real attention to the North Korean crisis at all.

Both gentlemen have an agenda at hand. Den Beste, as a libertarian neocon, believes in the deep planning and execution abilities of the Administration. Kaplan, as a member of the Watergate-bred punditocracy, has a vested interest in attacking the Administration. Both raise valid points and have hard data to bolster their conclusions. Who's right? Will the tru7h be revealed?

Den Beste's argument rests on the conclusion that North Korea has taken a sudden, abrupt about face:

I think the Chinese leadership has finally accepted that North Korea is the problem, and that it can only be solved if China helps apply pressure to NK...There's really no other way to explain why the stated policy of NK changed so radically in such a short time. A change from monumental pugnaciousness to a major concession in just one week could only really have happened if someone capable of applying intolerable pressure actually did so, and only the Chinese have that ability.


The problem with the thesis as stated, as Kaplan points out, is that North Korea didn't make a sudden, abrupt about face:

On June 10, a U.S. official, speaking on background, told Japanese reporters that North Korea might soon agree to participate in broader talks -- to include at least Japan and South Korea -- possibly in August. Since Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was in Tokyo on that day, it can be inferred that he or one of his aides was the source.

On July 8, North Korean diplomats held unofficial talks with their American counterparts at the United Nations. A week later, Chinese officials told the Tokyo daily Asahi Shimbun that the North Koreans had said at the meeting that they would agree to five-nation talks (Russia was not yet involved) if Washington guaranteed not to undermine the Pyongyang regime.

On July 12, Chinese and North Korean officials held informal talks on the subject, at the conclusion of which -- as CNN reported at the time -- Pyongyang once again agreed to multilateral talks.

On July 25, New Zealand's prime minister, Helen Clark, after meeting with South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun, said a round of multilateral talks would begin "as early as next month."

So, what's going on here? Why is North Korea's agreement being heralded today as a new development when, in fact, the shift occurred over three months ago�and was reported at the time by some of the same news agencies that are now calling it a breakthrough?


The statements given above can only be reconciled if additional communications, ones we're not privy to, caused some actor in this morality play to change their mind. One way to intepret the data is that, unlike the four previous announcements, the U.S. now had the Chinese assurances they previously lacked. (I expect Den Beste will interpret events this way.) Another theory, advanced by Kaplan, states that the North Koreans (or Chinese) now had the American assurances they previously lacked. In other words, neither North Korea nor China blinked -- we did.

The Post quotes a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman as saying Pyongyang agreed to multilateral negotiations after Washington gave assurances that the two sides could meet one-on-one, separately, during the talks. "Some time ago," the spokesman said, "the U.S. informed the DPRK through a third party that the DPRK-U.S. bilateral talks may be held within the framework of multilateral talks." (DPRK stands for Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the official name of North Korea.)

In other words, if this report is true, the Americans are coming to the talks after making at least as big a concession as the North Koreans. There will be a multilateral framework, but also -- shhhhh! -- some bilateral talks within that framework.


But is this really a concession? How common is this practice? People often hold bilateral talks in a multilateral setting. It's done all the time at the Group of Eight summits, for instance. And Kaplan himself points out that unofficial bilateral talks have occurred twice before already:

After all, during last April's trilateral talks in Beijing, the U.S. and North Korean delegations held separate one-on-one sessions. In fact, many understood those sessions to be de facto bilateral talks�although Bush was unwilling to label them as such�with China serving as host, intermediary, and diplomatic cover.


So how is it that bilateral talks are a diplomatic concession, if we've already conducted them before? Note also that the North Koreans are emphasizing the bilateral talks, hinting that the real discussions will be held there, and that they have thus won an American concession. This statement is as self-serving as the Administration-spun stories that Kaplan is attempting to skewer.

Kaplan, it should be pointed out, believes that the trilateral talks in China were unoffcially bilateral, and the Chinese presence was superfluous. Den Beste doesn't know about (or doesn't believe in) the unofficial bilateral talks, and believes Chinese involvement was critical.

In the Orient, diplomacy is considered to be "war by other means", and vice versa. If that's true, then a "fog of war" has descended upon US-North Korea relations. Both sides believe they are winning, and it's far from clear who really has the upper hand. The only firm conclusion we can draw is that talks will occur in September, with all concerned parties in active participation. That has to be good news, considering that everyone involved has essentially hid from the issues for fifty years.

Finally, a word from the soapbox: Personally, I believe North Korea can't be trusted. They entered into the 1994 Agreed Framework fully intending to break it, and I believe they will break future agreements if they can. Only active involvement and close monitoring by the threatened countries, especially China, can force North Korean compliance. Even so, a North Korean-U.S. agreement will only stabilize, not fix, the situation. In the long run, North Korea will collapse, and either China or South Korea will have to incorporate and rehabilitate it. (I would favor South Korea; for starters, they would want to.) The real issues are, one, to minimize the danger to neighbors when the DPRK time bomb finally blows, and two, to arrange the mechanisms for future North Korean administration. Hopefully, in places the North Koreans can't hear them, the Eastern powers will discuss the future as well as the present.

UPDATE: Welcome to visitors from USS Clueless, and thanks to Den Beste for linking! Feel free to take a look around, ya'll...

UPDATE TWO: Incestuous Amplification has more in-depth coverage. I comment on it above.
Friday, August 01, 2003
 
This should make many a blogger happy.
(Link path: Washington Post)

John Poindexter has resigned.

Poindexter, as many of you may recall, was the mastermind behind Total Information Awareness, lampooned by many a Website as the next step towards Big Brother. Before that, he was convicted of numerous high crimes and misdemeanors for his leading role as National Security Advisor in the Iran-Contra scandal. And previous to that, he had an illustrious career as an officer in the United States Navy.

While I honor Admiral Poindexter for defending my country for many years, his decisions regarding national security and public policy have been repeatedly repudiated by the government and people of the United States. It is my sound and reasoned opinion that he has no business in any "office of trust or profit under the United States", despite the court decision in 1990 to lift such restriction.

One of his out-of-control think-tank's many ideas was the recent Policy Analysis Market. Though the idea is well-regarded in the blogosphere, I oppose the development of such a "terror futures market" under government contract (it's a great private sector idea). However, this additional affront to Congress' sensibility has become the straw that finally broke the camel's back. Poindexter has succumbed to pressure and taken one for the team.

How will my fellow bloggers respond to Poindexter's fall? I predict that the good idea of PAM will not absolve Poindexter, in the blogosphere's eyes, from the utter travesty that arose from the development of TIA. Goodbye, Admiral. And good riddance.

UPDATE: Phil Carter explains why the Administration won't make headway on their brainstorming sessions.
 
The lords of capitalism and the new colonialism.
(Link path: King of the Blogs, Blog Mela @ Gene Expression, Time Magazine)

The most positive thing about the Information Revolution is that information can be moved anywhere. Ideas are now free to travel the world on beams of light, bound by no conveyance. A tank cannon is fired in Baghdad, and a rancher in Wyoming watches live. A blogger in Tennessee makes a comment, and instantly changes the course of the second Iranian revolution.

The most negative thing about the Information Revolution is that many jobs can be moved anywhere. Only physical matters have to be dealt with personally; only physical objects have to be placed in a single location. Any job or business that depends on ideas, however, can be placed anywhere there are people with sufficient skills.

When the ticker was invented, suddenly it was less important to live and work near Wall Street. You could find out what the prices on the NYSE were anywhere in the country. That dispersal of news led to a dispersal of the financial industry: a very welcome development for financial freedom in the age of J. P. Morgan & Son. But the move of banking concerns to Hartford, Charlotte, and elsewhere was a disaster for Wall Street denizens who believed they had a monopoly on large-scale U.S. stockbrokering simply due to their location. The equivalent advances today in the Internet and global shipping have made it possible to send manufacturing, IT, finance, engineering, telemarketing, customer support, and even R&D abroad. Your proximity to your home company has no meaning anymore; and for capitalist companies with no binding ties to their original nation, that means the company has no loyalty to any local employees anymore. The advances in communication and transportation mean that business is less dependent on location.

In the union battles of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, one of the biggest threats that managers and owners could bring to bear against striking workers is the threat of replacement workers. Many managers carried out that threat; the most recent example was Reagan's replacement of striking air traffic controllers in the 1980's. If your labor is not indispensable, then all your offers and threats mean little: your labor is no more valuable than the next man's. In a free market, that means that the cost of labor is set by the man who is willing to work for the least amount of money. In the language of capitalism, you are "underbid".

Replacement workers are only possible in a labor glut. If there are plenty of laborers around desperate for work, you can hire up workers cheap and throw the striking bums into the unemployed pool. But if labor is scarce, then you will find few people willing to work for peanuts. And to hire people away from other companies, you'll have to offer them benefits at least as good as the ones they were receiving at their old job, and potentially better.

When I go on vacation, I often take trips to historical sites all over America. Two locations I've visited on my trips were the Vanderbilt mansions in Hyde Park, N.Y., and Asheville, N.C. On both trips, the tours include a walk through the servants' quarters. In North Carolina, the quarters were cramped, dark, and plain, with very few amenities. In New York, servants had wide corridors, ample sleeping spaces, and crystal and china only a shade less beautiful than the masters'.

Why the difference?, I asked the tour guide. The answer was simple. In New York, there was a severe shortage of workers willing to be house servants. (Most immigrants came to the U.S. to get away from such affectations, and native-born Americans were too proud.) In addition, there were multiple wealthy families nearby competing for the same small labor pool. The families had to outbid each other in order to attract well-trained servants; the Vanderbilts were very careful, for instance, to offer twice the salary of their neighbors the Roosevelts. In North Carolina, there were plenty of dirt-poor people, including former slaves who remembered house-service, and no competition at all.

The relative amounts of labor and work determine the price of labor, and hence the standard of living of the laborers. In a labor glut, work is cheap and workers are poor. In a labor shortage, work is expensive and workers are well treated.

The combined forces of exponential population growth, globalization, and the Information Revolution have created the worst labor glut in the history of the world. As a result, companies are free to choose their location and their workers without any regard to local concerns. Austin or Bangalore, the Ruhr or the Siberian Far East; there's no difference. Every town in the world is now in direct competition with every other town in the world.

I've watched this process at work in Mississippi. In order to attract factories and jobs, local governments must offer tremendous bonuses to incoming corporations. Land deals. Free utility connections. Tax breaks. New roads built specifically for companies, at taxpayer expense. Subsidies for worker housing. Education programs directed at training factory workers. All these sweetheart deals are on the table -- indeed, are forced onto the table. Your local government has no choice; if it wants the local economy to grow, it must offer a sweetheart deal, and the bigger the better, because there might be another town or county or state that will give an even better deal and convince the company to abandon you.

And even when the plant is built and the workers hired and a history and relationship established, there's no guarantee that the company won't pull up stakes in just a few years. Because the government contributed heavily to the investments in the plant, there is less investment made by the company. This means smaller losses if the plant is shut down in favor of better labor costs in Mexico or China. The local government must actively continue to woo the plant, and offer even better monetary deals. Less environmental regulation. Less monitoring of labor regulations. Tolerance of migrant workers. Acceptance of layoffs. Approval for toxic waste dumping. And, in effect, tolerance of whatever whims "senior management" choose.

The companies, in effect, hold more power than the government, because they hold the power of the purse over the heads of everyone in the town. In some places, this has held true for hundreds of years. When the company is munificent, shows concern for the local population, and has no intentions of leaving, the result is the happy and prosperous town of Corning, New York. When the company is moneygrubbing, indifferent to local opinion, and ready to leave for greener pastures at a moment's notice, you get the miserable coal-towns of West Virginia.

The old "colonial" system allowed Europeans to extract natural resources and utilize native labor. Because of the overwhelming techonological, economic, and military advantage held by the European powers, local governments from Benin to Bahrain had to accept whatever dictates and forms of government were decreed from the capital. The European powers, on the other hand, were safe from such dictates because they, and they alone, held the factories and skilled laborers that made industry possible. While peoples around the world toiled for whatever improvements they could beg, plead, or borrow from European masters, the labor unions and democrats of the West won concessions and power and wealth and safety.

With population and education on the rise everywhere, the Western populations no longer have a monopoly on industry or even technology. Globalization means that corporations no longer have any affiliation or loyalty to the Western nations that gave them birth. And the information age, plus cheap global trade, means that every land and people on Earth can be freely competed against, for the most efficient generation of wealth.

There are no "colonial regions" anymore, or any "colonizing nations". We are all, now, colonies of the capitalists.
Thursday, July 31, 2003
 
Just what the world needs.
(Link path: Washington Post)

The Vatican, in its ineffable and "infallible" wisdom, has decided to take this opportunity to let everyone know that gay marriage is evil.

The President thinks so too; he's Protestant, but equally conservative.

Liberals, including the Dutch, Canadian, and Vermonter governments, disagree. So does Howard Dean.

I think trouble's a-brewing.

Soapbox: While the conservatives are correct that homosexuality isn't natural -- it's an almost-guaranteed Darwinian disaster, as you have a very low chance of passing on your genes -- it also isn't a conscious choice or rational decision. Thus, its existence has very little to do with morality. (Unless you're a Calvinist, but I think Calvin was off his rocker.) However, there are moral issues associated with homosexuality.

Heterosexual society has two problems with homosexual society: (1) they're afraid (even if unconsciously) of homosexual rape; and (2) they're afraid of what happens to their children if they suddenly and randomly turn up homosexual. Homosexual rape should be dealt with in the same way as heterosexual rape, that is to say, very harshly. Public hangings are not outside the realm of propriety in such cases. The issue of cultural mores for gays is a more difficult issue. Since homosexual culture is smaller, oppressed, and more fluid than the majority heterosexual culture, it's much harder to form a stable relationship, settle down, and "have" (adopt or host-parent) children. The mores aren't established. That problem, in turn, is caused because homosexuals are the eternal minority. Unlike race, gender, or religion, homosexuality is genetically determined to be low in the population, kept low by Darwinian selection, and moving elsewhere or trying to change your mind doesn't help.

The ancient Greeks solved the problem by making homosexuality mainstream: culturally enforced bisexuality. The Abrahamic religions revolted against that; that revolt fuels conservative movements even today, from Methodist Alabama to Catholic Italy to Muslim Pakistan. It makes no more sense to culturally force bisexuality than heterosexuality; but Western Civ is the first arena culturally tolerant enough to *try* and create a stable homosexual subculture.

Is it possible? I don't know. Statistics show that homosexuals tend to be more promiscuous and given to domestic violence; but, of course, the statisticians could be culturally biased. What I do know is that it should be *tried*. Creating a stable homosexual mores -- gay marriage, civil unions, whatever you want to call it -- would solve a lingering biological/cultural problem that's been bugging our species for thousands of years. The only rational alternative solution I can think of is genetic elimination of the homosexual trait from the population by genetic engineering; but that would mean serious invasion-of-privacy and right-to-procreate issues, as well as the possibility that homosexuality can't be eliminated in that manner. (It might be caused by multifunctional genes that also control other elements of brain development.)

I don't mind gay people; I have a number of gay friends. I do want them to keep their courting to themselves, but that isn't much of an issue except for loudmouths. And I don't really see the need to ban or demote civil unions, except the fear of a breakdown in the social contract. The Vatican, like much of the Muslim, evangelical Christian, and orthodox Jewish world, operates on the assumption that the social contract is mortared and bound by Holy Scripture. That's why they oppose civil unions: the social contract must be defended at all costs.

I operate on a different principle: the social contract is amendable. The Founding Fathers were the first to articulate this principle and found a society based on it. Considering that said society (my society) rose to world domination in only two centuries, I'd say it's at least worth considering.
 
CBN: Cuteness Broadcasting Network.
(Link path: The Bleat)

I wonder what's going to happen when Natalie Lileks realizes she has a million wannabe aunts and uncles all around the world, all of whom think she's the best thing since sliced bread?

Hillary Clinton says, "it takes a village." Gnat gets two: her own little hamlet in suburban Minneapolis, and (thanks to her father's generosity and eloquence) the whole of the Blogosphere too.

Happy Birthday, Natalie!
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
 
Insistence on multilateralism.
(Link path: The Agonist, ABC Radio Australia)

Despite the evidence that North Korea has a second, secret, operational nuke plant churning out processed plutonium 24/7, the Bush administration continues to up the pressure and insist on multilateral talks.

Why don't they just negotiate a deal? Because the Administration has zero belief in North Korea's honor, and with good reason: the NK's end-ran the Agreed Framework and started generating high-grade uranium. The North Koreans have (they believe) a reason to doubt the Administration's good faith as well: America dragged its feet installing the new light-water nuclear reactors promised under the Agreed Framework.

Only by having third parties oversee the implementation of a new deal will any deal be possible. This logic explains why the Administration has insisted that China play an active part in the negotiations: China is to enforce North Korean policy. Given that North Korea would not exist today but for Chinese intervention, this plan seems logical. For the sake of good Western relations, China will play along.

The real issue to be determined is whether the Administration intends to try and buy more time by signing a new deal with the Kim dynasty, or to talk China into forcing the issue by denying economic aid to North Korea. The first policy is safer in the short term, more dangerous in the long term; the second policy is vice versa. Which will the Administration (Bush, Cheney, Rice, Powell, and Rumsfeld) choose?

The insistence on multilateralism is logical in this case, just as insistence on unilateralism was logical in the invasion of Iraq. The failings of the Administration center not on Grand Strategy (where the Democrats currently assail him), but on diplomatic finesse. The Administration has done a terrible job of selling the new American strategy to our friends and allies. The failure is partly Bush's and Rumsfeld's, for having big mouths; partly the neocons, for overambition; partly the diplomatic corps, for exhibiting a mind of its own and acting in a slightly different matter from the Administration's dictates. But Colin Powell must take partial blame as well. Despite his high liberal and international cred, the General is a General and not a trained diplomat. And it shows.

I'm not saying Colin needs to be fired; he's more competent than many a Secretary of State. But in this time of crisis, America deserves better diplomacy than its servants have exhibited lately.
 
Public idea futures: I must dissent!
(Link path: King of the Blogs, the New York Times [free and pointless registration required])

"Faced with know-nothing criticism from members of Congress, the Pentagon has abandoned its plans for a "futures market" to predict terror. How dumb is this?"

Not at all!

That stance won't win me kudos from the King of the Blogs, but it's the only proper response for those who believe in strong but limited government. Everyone seems to be drawing parallels with the Iowa Electronic Markets and other private-sector uses of the "idea market" concept. Why can't the Pentagon use the same idea for predicting public events?

(1) Death profits. Unlike predicting economic/political events such as sports, the weather, or the election, the items the Pentagon wants people to bet on include assassinations, bombings, and WMD attacks. People detest betting on such matters viscerally. No one wants people to profit from other people's death; the idea elicits images of looters on the battlefield and mafiosos gunning down competitors. In addition, the charge could be brought that Osama and similar creatures could profit by driving down up the price of a future (say, bombing of a plane over Africa) and then immediately enacting the disaster described, in the same way that Osama presumably profited from the post-Eleventh stock bounces.

(2) The government is not the private sector. People seem to be makng the argument that people should get over their concerns and enact the futures market anyway. Indeed, they point to Tradesports.com's current events market, which seems to be fulfilling a small part of the role the Pentagon was envisioning. The problem is that the Pentagon isn't some random company; it represents the people of the United States. If Joe Schmoe turns out to have profited from, say, the death of Hosni Mubarak, then he alone gets the acclaim and the disdain. But if the Pentagon oversaw the transaction, then the People of the United States will get the extra bad press, no matter who actually did the deed.

(3) Potential for abuse. Whenever a new government program is introduced, it is prudent for the citizenry to ask, "What's the worst that could happen?" With the addition of Homeland Security to our nation's defense/security portfolio, domestic events could be considered fair game for the Pentagon's "idea market". How many kooks might raise the price of the "Presidential Assassination" or "Chemical Attack in San Antonio" stocks? What if one or more of them personally decided to collect? And, in the worst-case looney-Orwellian scenario, what if an eeevil Pentagon or intelligence agency started using the futures market to encourage measures and events as "they" desired?

The current-events futures market idea did, and does, have potential. But the U.S. government cannot publicly be involved in such activities. The government could get around this restriction by quietly encouraging the development of private current-events markets and quietly monitoring the results. Surfing the Web is a great way to gather intelligence, as the IAEA Niger investigators know. Maybe they should read blogs, too...
 
Palestinian reform: civil war or velvet revolution?
(Link path: The New York Times [free and pointless registration required])

"Palestinians have to want to get rid of Hamas and Islamic Jihad as military groups for their own reasons. You cannot build a new state with parties who believe that it is O.K. to take the flower of Palestinian youth, wrap them in dynamite and have them blow themselves up in Israeli pizza parlors. Nothing normal can come from that. "

Ding!

The basic problem is that Hamas, Jihad, PFLP, and Hezbollah have to go. One half of the plan to get rid of the terrorists is to cut their funding. Hamas and Jihad get their money primarily from Saudi Arabia; PFLP and Hezbollah from Iran. (Syria/Lebanon and Egypt are also players, but bit ones.) The other half of the plan is to undercut their support by showing that the PA is the future. Once people love what Abu Mazen can do for them (get the Israelis off their back), support for Hamas and Jihad (who get them blown up and shot at) will drop. Or so the thinking goes.

Sharon doesn't really care about Palestinian political stability; what he wants is Israeli security. In the 'good old days' of the Yom Kippur War and the invasion of Lebanon, that meant General Sharon pressing forward on invasion fronts to prevent the invasion of Israel from the south, east, or north. But now Egypt and Jordan have peace treaties, Iraq is under US occupation, and the Syrian/Lebanese forces have a MAD relationship with Israel. Invasion is no longer a threat. Improving Israel's security now means stopping the suicide bombings. (That's why Sharon has flip-flopped on creating the state of Palestine: he's no longer worried about Saddamite legions marching through Jericho.)

But Sharon wants the bombings stopped ASAP, and Abu Mazen is balking. Sharon wants to share the 'stop terror' mission with the PA. The problem is that the PA starts looking like an Israeli stooge if it openly fights with Hamas; and if they try to destroy Hamas, the people's loyalty will be split and the Palestinians will have a civil war. In the chaos, so goes the thinking, the Israeli settler movement will move in and steal even more land. (Sharon, it should be noted, was a founder of the settlement movement.)

The key to undermining Hamas/Jihad support is education and propaganda. The PA, formerly the PLO, has supported anti-Israeli memes since time immemorial. (Examples: the "Israel doesn't exist" meme, the "Israelis are moneygrubbers/theives" meme, the "Jews sacrifice babies" meme, the "full right of return" meme.) The PA's textbooks don't show Israel, and they contain derogatory slanders against Jews. In short, the Palestinians have raised a generation taught to hate. But the PA can turn around. A year of determined effort has produced a PA Finance Ministry with tight controls on the money flow, a far cry from the days of corruption and underhanded terror funding. A similar effort must be made to reform the PA Education and Information Ministries.

The Palestinian people, demoralized, might respond to new memes: "prosperity together", "solidarity", "suicide is prohibited in Islam", "a new future", "freedom", "democracy". Will Abu Mazen and his allies have the courage to try them?
Monday, July 28, 2003
 
Danegeld.
(Link path: USS Clueless, MSNBC)

Den Beste points out that the Saudis have been paying off the Wahabbis and thus contributing heavily to the Islamist movement:

The Sauds have been using some of that river of money to pay for what in 1925 in Chicago was known as "protection".

Another time this phenomenon occurred was 925, a thousand years before Al Capone. It was called "Danegeld".

The Vikings were a force to be reckoned with in Europe in the tenth century. Armed and fanatical, they plundered and attacked without fear of provocation anywhere along the coasts of Christendom. Their attacks were fiercest in England, an island easily accessible from the Viking homelands. (In Saudi Arabia, the Wahabbis began their purges with areas the House of Saud conquered, back in the 1920's.)

To prevent the Vikings from burning and looting everything, the English tried bribing them. The bribes, Danegeld (Danish gold), were dutifully sent from Anglia and Wessex and Northumberland year after year. They didn't work; and they kept rising as well, to the point at which the economy of England could not support it. Yet the English sent them anyway. (The Wahabbis have been taking ever-increasing donations from the Saudis for seventy years, near-compelling them with the shame-extortion racket of the Muslim tithe requirement. Yet their militants continue to insist on attacking the Saudi government.)

Then another idea occurred: allow the Vikings to use England as a base, and perhaps they will see us as a homeland to protect, and leave us alone. This was tried; the King of Northumberland, after a brief fight, submitted to the Vikings, and the Danelaw was established over northern England. That didn't work either. The Vikings treated the people poorly and continued to raid, both within and without the Danelaw. Eventually, the people revolted, and Anglo-Saxon kings regained the Danelaw. (Saudis may have allowed camps far away in the Empty Quarter near Yemen, where their hold on power is weak; and they certaintly encouraged the bases in Afghanistan.)

Looked at another way, the Danelaw was part of a five-century fight between peoples of Germanic/Nordic inheritance (Danes, Jutes, Angles, Saxons, Normans, Norwegians, etc.) for control of England, a fight which started with the retreat of the Britons to Wales and Cornwall after the battle of Mount Badon (Arthur's final victory before his decline) and ended at Hastings in 1066 with unquestioned Norman rule. This fight was pricipitated directly by the power vaccuum caused by Roman collapse. (The Ottoman Empire pulled out of Arabia in the late eighteenth, North Africa and the Balkans in the nineteenth, and the Fertile Crescent in the twentieth. In all three cases, the place hasn't been the same since.)

We are in the position of mainland Europe in the tenth century. The Vikings plagued not just England, but France, Spain, and Italy as well. The Islamists bomb and terrorize Arab Muslims, but also Jews, Arab Christians, Europeans, Americans, Indonesians, East Africans (the latter two are Muslims but not Arabs), and others. Unlike Europe in the tenth century, who had no naval power to rival the Vikings' longboats, we have the ability to stop the outpouring of funds and bases and support. The Danelaw must be abolished; the Danegeld must end.

Our ability to stop the Danegeld depends on our ability to pressure the Saudi government. Den Beste thinks that's now a piece of cake:

I think part of the plan... was to gain control of Iraq's oil fields. Not... to let Bush's oil buddies in Houston get rich, but rather because we could use Iraqi oil output to compensate for declines in Saudi oil shipments... [w]hich means that we no longer have to ignore the Saudis. We have pulled most of our troops out and the rest will follow soon. And now we can, and should, start pressuring them to stop financing terrorism and unrest.

But freedom from Saudi dictates means ready access to Iraqi oil. And with Ba'athists still able to blow up oil pipelines, Iraqi oil supplies are not yet certain. Without the surety of Iraqi oil, the Saudis could still cause oil problems and worsen the Western economic downturn substantially. In a few months, we'll have Iraq safe enough that the spice will flow, but not just now. I think the strategic-economic concerns in Iraq, not the concern over Saudi blowback, are the real reason behind the classification of the twenty-eight pages that everyone agrees implicate the Saudis. It's not concern over embarassing an ally; the leak to the Washington Post did that, and now the Saudi ambassador is publically calling for declassification. It's because we won't start the public campaign against Saudi backroom ties to 9/11 and al-Qaeda until we're sure it won't hurt us more than we hurt al-Qaeda.

I, too, support the release of the twenty-eight pages; but not until the Iraqi pipelines are secure. Then batten down the hatches; there'll be a blow coming in soon.
 
Ding dong, the boys are dead.
(Catch of the day)

The general air of satisfaction around the blogosphere needs no additional echo. They're dead, and good riddance. But why does the Left consider that bad?

Consider this enlightening discussion with co-workers. I pulled up one of the portal sites to do a websearch, and noted a story titled, "Was the killing of the Hussein brothers legal?"

Legal? Legal? The incident was initially conducted as a house search, no different from any we've done in Iraq for months now. We were fired upon, and fired back until the snipers were dead. We were not at all certain, until we actually got to their bodies, that Uday and Qusay were among the defenders. (We hoped, but we didn't know.)

Whatever the Left may say, this was a legal war according to the Constitution, authorized by Congress and conducted by the President. The legality under UNSCR 1483 is debatable, but it's not at all clear that it was illegal under the UN Charter. As to the Geneva Convention, the rules regarding occupation and treatment of prisoners have been rigidly adhered to. See for yourself.

So we didn't break any rules regarding the war. (The war support was gained on dubious grounds, I agree; but it was agreed to nonetheless.) And as long as a war exists, shooting people that shoot back at you is perfectly legal. (In fact, shooting first is generally considered a sufficient declaration of war, whether or not one existed before.)

But that doesn't matter to the Left. I said to my lovely co-worker, "Who could think it wasn't legal?"

She said, "One man's terrorist is another man's patriot. Who can tell?"

I was astounded. Well, in propaganda, I said, that can be true. But terrorism is usually defined as attacking innocent civilians for political purposes. Can't we agree on an objective definition of terror?

"No."

"So things like terrorism and patriotism are complete social constructs? No reality to them at all?"

She nodded, and another co-worker nearby agreed.

Since terrorism is a social construct, with no real meaning to them, anyone can be a terrorist, or a patriot. Which means that those two words have no deep meaning to my co-workers: they're simply synonyms for "fighters I oppose" and "fighters I support". That's how the Left can call Bush a terrorist and consider Hamas and Ba'athists patriots: they're not using the same dictionary I am.

Now all I have to figure out is why anti-Americanism is a virtue to the Left. More on that later.