The Discerning Texan

All that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.
-- Edmund Burke
Thursday, December 16, 2004

Defending Tommy Franks

I saw that Andrew Sullivan was howling about what a travesty it was that President Bush awarded the Medal of Freedom to General Tommy Franks. Belmont Club echoes my sentiments exactly on this matter:

Shame and Disgrace

Andrew Sullivan has criticized the decision to award Tommy Franks, George Tenet and Paul Bremer the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The ceremony was described by ABC News:

President George W Bush has bestowed the highest US civilian honour on three former top officials, sidestepping their ties to controversies over the Iraq war and its aftermath. In a televised ceremony at the White House, Mr Bush awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former CIA director George Tenet, retired General Tommy Franks and the civilian overseer for Iraq, Paul Bremer. "This honour goes to three men who have played pivotal roles in great events and whose efforts have made our country more secure and advanced the cause of human liberty," the President said in prepared remarks.

Sullivan felt that the awards were not only undeserved by given despite their failure and incompetence.

The presidential medal of freedom goes to George "Slam Dunk" Tenet, Tommy "We Have Enough Troops" Franks, and Paul "Disband the Iraqi Army" Bremer. It's one thing never to punish error, but to reward it so magnificently!

The accuracy of Sullivan's characterizations of George Tenet and Paul Bremer are best left to the reader to judge. But it seems unjust to characterize Tommy Franks, the commander of Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom in such disparaging terms.

A more accurate appraisal of Franks' campaign was articulated at a recent seminar at the American Enterprise Institute held to discuss an Army War College postmortem of operations in Iraq. The ensuing discussion recognized OIF's achievements without minimizing the shortcomings which now evident in hindsight -- achievements and shortcomings that are General Franks' to a certain extent.
The basic indictment is that while the President's strategy called for a campaign of "regime change" military plans were drawn up for "regime removal". The question is whether Franks could have done differently.

The decisions made to limit the size and the capabilities of the invasion force had unintended, but at least predictable, consequences. Almost from the start the desire to fight a just-in-time war meant that even small surprises--the resistance of the Saddam Fedayeen or even the terrible sandstorm of late March--sapped the strength of a force that was just large enough to, essentially, conquer Baghdad. And in particular, disrupting the normal deployment procedures deprived the force of the logistics wherewithal necessary to continue operations beyond Baghdad. By the time that force got to Baghdad, its reserves had been committed, it was fully absorbed in trying to pacify the capital itself. And the question of whether the force had the necessary means, the strength, to push out beyond Baghdad, and particularly into the so-called Sunni Triangle, I think, is a very debatable proposition. In my judgment, to use a military term of art, the attack essentially culminated in and around Baghdad. ...

Just the centrality of winning the war in the Sunni Triangle appears, certainly from this vantage point, to have been what a campaign planner would describe the center of gravity. This was a goal that was not conceived in the war plan and, I have argued, was beyond the abilities of the invasion force as it found itself in early April. You can only speculate about what effect the 4th Infantry Division might have had if the Turks had permitted an attack through northern Iraq. There's no guarantee that there wouldn't have been an insurgency of some sort--Moqtada al-Sadr and his Iranian sponsors would still be a problem, jihadists everywhere would still be outraged and just as willing to kill Americans as they have proven otherwise. But you have to say that the Sunni heartland did not feel the full shock and awe of the invasion, and the problem there persists.

The study recognizes that the mismatch between American goals -- "to rebuild an entire region" -- and its means, an armed force whose manpower and doctrine were legacies from the Cold War, not only constrained Franks at the start of the campaign but persists to a large extent today. Military bloggers have noted that pre-OIF photographs show few troops in body armor because it was not then widely issued. Nearly all the logistics vehicles, the Humvees and trucks, were unarmored at the start of the campaign. Arabic translators were comparatively scarce, rear echelon troops were not expected to see combat in the halcyon days of February, 2003. That was the army Franks had. Nearly all of that has changed. But while many of those equipment defects have been redressed, the basic problem of force size -- the number of brigades the US military can field -- has not. Critics often forget that the call for 'more boots on the ground' really amounts to a number that can be sustained until the job is done. In this respect, the ground forces have now exchanged places with the Navy, which for most of the 1990s rotated Task Forces in and out of the Persian Gulf enforcing pointless embargoes, sometimes for nearly a year at a stretch, wearing out ships and sailors. People who complained of having only two carriers forward were apprised it took at least six, allowing for transit and the refurbishment, to keep that presence in place.

it's not so much about the immediate level of forces in Iraq or anything like that, but ... whether the right number is 100,000 or 150,000, our ability to sustain that over a long haul. And also to do the other strategic tasks both in the region and elsewhere in the world that we ask our military to do, I think, is, again, just fundamentally out of whack.

General Franks was the CINC of Central Command and while Iraq was the major theater of operations, he had the responsibility to prosecute the ongoing efforts in Afghanistan, then where Iraq is now, and maintain a reserve against contingencies. But to set against these shortcomings lay one fact: the US military had toppled the Saddam regime and was on its way to winning against the Baa'thist insurgency. That achievement was in large part due to General Franks.

Those disappointed with the invasion itself for not producing the anticipated quagmire have found a little more food for speculation in the fighting of the past year and certainly the fighting of the past month, and especially in Fallujah. But I have to confess that, in my analysis and, I would say, by pretty much any historical standard, this has been a pretty successful counter-insurgency campaign. And I measure that in two fundamental ways: First, it does appear that insurgents in Iraq, the rejectionists, have had very little luck in shaking American political resolve to stay the course. ... Secondly, the insurgents have also failed to provoke a civil war in Iraq, which, to listen and to remember the expert commentary prior to the war, sounded like the easiest thing in the world to do. And journalists are constantly discovering that civil war is about to happen, but, at least in my eyes, it hasn't happened yet. ... Now, the insurgency has had one notable strategic success. I can't say quite what it's bought them, but you have to grant them that they've fractured the international coalition that backs the United States in Iraq.

Probably the most eye-opening suggestion that the United States has moved to the permanent offense, not only inside Iraq but within the region was made by
Marc Ruel Gerecht, who argues that the Iranian mullahs are now facing a mortal geostrategic threat from a post-Saddam Iraq which they now cannot hope to prevent but at best to misdirect.

Today in Washington there are many within the foreign-policy establishment expressing their fear--and hope--that America's entanglement in Iraq may well compromise the Bush administration's ability to confront the Islamic Republic's quest for nuclear weapons. ... But does this reasoning make sense? Are Iraq and Iran so intertwined that America is essentially handcuffed in its dealings with Tehran's mullahs? In all probability, not at all. Indeed, the current interplay between the peoples of Iraq and its eastern neighbor actually ought to encourage the Bush administration to be more hawkish toward the clerical regime's growing interference in Iraq and pursuit of nuclear weapons.

The strongest trump playing in favor of America and against Iran is Iraqi nationalism. ... Iraq's Shiites are the progenitors of modern Iraqi nationalism. They, much more than their Sunni Arab compatriots, who were the driving force behind pan-Arabism in Mesopotamia, have shaped an Iraqi Arab identity which is distinct from the Sunni Arabs to the west and Shiite Iranians to the east. ... Which brings us to the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq. Clerical Iran's primary objective is to ensure that Iraq remains destabilized, incapable of coalescing around a democratically elected government. Such a government supported by Iraq's Shiite establishment is a dagger aimed at Tehran's clerical dictatorship.

If Gerecht's analysis is correct, OIF stands within an ace of not only achieving its operational goals, but is on the verge of winning its initial strategic goals.

The clerical regime is currently handcuffed to Iraq's democratic process and timetable. All of the principal groups through which Iran hopes to exercise influence in Iraq--the Iranian-created Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the Dawa (or "Islamic Call") party, and the Sadriyyin, followers of Muqtada al Sadr, the young clerical firebrand who has been engaged in a spiritual tug-of-war with the country's traditional clergy--are committed now to the election process. Iran has probably been pouring money into Iraq, to all three of these Shiite groups, which don't share much affection for each other, and in the case of the Dawa and the Sadriyyin, have had distinctly mixed, often hostile, emotions about things Iranian. Both the Dawa and the Sadriyyin have regularly belittled Grand Ayatollah Sistani for his "Persianness" and snarled at clerical Iran's habit of talking down to the Iraqi Shia. Tehran's motivation in giving aid to these parties is to encourage some dependency and, more important, keep the three most provocative Shiite groups in the forefront of Iraqi politics.

It is Iran and Syria, not the United States, which may now find itself embedded in an Iraqi quagmire. Leaving aside Mr. Gerecht's impressive credentials, how much of this analysis is accurate and how much wishful thinking? That question returns us to the central fact that both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom have been victorious campaigns. Their defeat of the Taliban, Saddam and the Ba'athist insurgency bodes fair for the prospect of success against the Mullahs. Victories are not proof, as some have suggested, that defeat is imminent. It can be rightly pointed out that OIF could have benefitted from more armor, troops, better plannning and fewer casualties. It has been argued that Osama should never have escaped Frank's net. And all of those criticisms can be true. Yet none of those criticisms can erase the essentially successful nature of the campaigns. We are not talking about the pitiful remnant of Lord Elphinstone's Army of the Indus arriving
haggard at Jalalabad; nor about Lord Chelmsform finding Lieutenants Chard and Bromhead lonely survivors at Rorke's Drift; nor about listening to General Christian de la Croix de Castries's pathetic final message from Dien Bien Phu. We are talking about Tommy Franks, the victor of Afghanistan; the nemesis of Saddam; and the man who may have set the possible stage for strategic victory in the entire theater. We may no longer like the British, style victorious general officers Viscount Nelson of the Nile or Lord Kitchener of Khartoum. But in justice, General Franks deserves better than the title of opprobrium Tommy "We Have Enough Troops" Franks.

Ditto. I would go so far as saying the title: "President Franks" would fit him well. I think he would be one hell of a leader for this country.

DiscerningTexan, 12/16/2004 10:15:00 PM | Permalink | |
Saturday, December 11, 2004

The Horrors uncovered in Fallujah

Thanks to Chester for pointing out this story about the horrific discoveries by the Marines who liberated Fallujah. To me the press looking the other way while all this went on in Fallujah (i.e. before liberation) was no different than the UN standing by (and doing little else) while millions died in Darfur. Why are we not hearing about these atrocities every night on the Nightly News? Oh, that's right: if America's enemies are commiting crimes against humanity, it isn't "news"...
DiscerningTexan, 12/11/2004 07:16:00 PM | Permalink | |

Hidden Treasure at DOE

There is reason for optimism about President Bush's latest appointment as Energy Secretary. A.M. Mora y Leon tells us why (from The American Thinker):

When Sam Bodman’s name appeared in the news as President Bush’s choice to lead the Department of Energy, the dominant reaction the press was to treat him as “unknown.” But he is a man of great accomplishment, as an engineer, a scholar, and businessman, and as a brilliant official in a sub-cabinet position. As it happens, I instantly recognized his name, because of the praise he had received from one of the intellectual giants of our age.

Last May, I had the dazzling honor of interviewing the great economist, Hernando de Soto. He is my hero, so for me this was a dream come true. De Soto's work shows that simply institutionalizing property rights for the world's poorest people has brought untold stability and prosperity to every country that's seriously tried to implement his findings. His own country, Peru, where his ideas are firmly in place, recently reported its 37th straight month of economic growth and continuing peace. You never hear of any trouble coming out of Peru these days? The quiet of Peru gives the Nobel Economics Committee lots to ignore, it seems. So the nomination of Sam Bodman to the Energy Department deeply intrigued me.

What does this have to do with de Soto? In the interview, de Soto told me that Bodman was one of the finest minds he knew of in the U.S. government, and he knew quite a few. I had never heard of Bodman, and made the great man spell Bodman's name out for me. Our conversation went something like this: "We will be hosted by State and Treasury," said de Soto.

Q. "But given some of the poor advice Treasury has spread around the world in the past few years, how can you convince people like that of anything? Isn't talking to Treasury about the critical importance of property rights a waste of time?" I asked.

A. "No. At Treasury there are good people - especially Sam Bodman. He's very impressive to us. I know him very well, and he understands these ideas. He’s going to be hosting us," de Soto said.

De Soto added that he was in a different league from many people in the Bush Administration who were friendly, but who didn't precisely get the point of his ideas.

"Even though they are good friends, they can be paying more attention to this by understanding that when we talk about property rights, we are not talking about land tenure or titling in themselves, but about using property rights to create rule of law - it's a different approach," he said. He pointed out that Bodman was a notable exception.

What does this have to do with being an "unknown" nominee for head of the Department of Energy? It suggests that Bodman has a discriminating mastery of powerful economic ideas, a head for broad picture strategy, and an understanding of how markets work. These capabilities will serve him well in today's climate of volatile oil prices, speculation, and the threatened use of oil as a weapon in dodgy countries like Venezuela and Russia.

Bodman, as a matter of fact, is very well-qualified to lead the Department of Energy for less abstract reasons as well. His background is in chemical engineering, a specialty that's requires an extremely high degree of critical thinking and mastery of a demanding education. He was good enough in the subject to teach it at M.I.T., one of the world’s premier universities in engineering.

It's also a specialty that's nearly invisible to most Americans, most specifically media types who, in the words of an acting dean of Columbia University’s Journalism School, "became journalists because you can't do math." Don't expect the media to have a clue as to Bodman's capabilities. De Soto has tipped us early about the Treasury Department's hidden treasure. I greatly look forward to what he can do at the Department of Energy.
DiscerningTexan, 12/11/2004 07:06:00 PM | Permalink | |
Friday, December 10, 2004

The scandal of "international law"

The truth is, "international law" is a figment of collectivists' wishful thinking. Andrew McCarthy makes an overwhelming case for disallowing the abrogation of American self-determination to an anti-American legal mob. We can't allow this to happen. McCarthy's outstanding artice in National Review:

It is high time for the American people to ask: Just what is international law? Is it a body of obligations, rooted in the principles of consent and comity, that provides sovereign nations with a path toward avoiding provocation and bloodshed? Or is it a subversion by which foreign entities and their activist nongovernmental organizations trump democratic choices and sovereign self-determination?

The latest, but by no means the only, occasion for posing these questions is the leak to the New York Times last week of an internal U.S. government memorandum which relates an explosive charge by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that the United States has employed interrogation methods that are "tantamount to torture" against foreign enemy combatants detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The weaseling use of tantamount to is no accident. It is meant to blur significant definitional lines — all the easier to force on the United States the ICRC's utopian vision of "binding" international law, and end-run the actually binding laws that the American people, through their own constitution, have enacted in pursuit of their own security.

Why tantamount to? Why not just accuse us of torture? Because even the Geneva-based ICRC — a once indispensable force for humanity which has sadly devolved over a half century into just another self-absorbed NGO — perceived the need to pull its punch. Concededly, the techniques the organization is said to have found — humiliation, solitary confinement, "temperature extremes" (which evidently means turning the air conditioning up high to cause discomfort to nude, or inadequately clothed, detainees), loud noise, bright lights, and use of forced positions — are unpleasant. But they do not come close to the severity of discomfort necessary to constitute actual torture.

As it happens, there is binding international law on this subject, as well as U.S. domestic law. The former stems from an important treaty, the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (hereafter, "UNCAT"), which the U.S. ratified in 1994. The treaty defines torture as any act, done at the direction or with the knowing acquiescence of a public official, by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind. [Emphasis added.]

U.S. domestic law is even more stringent. It brands as "torture" (under Section 2340 of Title 18, U.S. Code) any act by an official that is "specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering...upon another person within his custody or physical control" (emphasis added). In other words, unlike the UNCAT, a person can be guilty of torture under U.S. law even without proof that his abusive act was motivated by a purpose to obtain information, to punish, or to intimidate. Still, however, the pain inflicted must be extreme before any discussion of torture is triggered.

A person convicted of torture in this country — as opposed to in, say, Switzerland — may be imprisoned for 20 years, or, if the victim dies, may receive the death penalty or a life sentence. That is because the abuse of human life, even if the human life happens to belong to a terrorist, is considered serious business in the United States — too serious for grave terms like torture to be tossed about cavalierly by unaccountable propagandists at the ICRC.


It is frequently argued that some latitude in the matter of interrogating detainees is appropriate in the so-called "war on terror" — a confrontation against barbarians who make a mockery of the civilizing impulses behind international law, and which puts a premium on intelligence-gathering to prevent mass civilian slaughter. As I have contended more expansively here and elsewhere, a new legal paradigm is urgently needed for handling matters such as detention and interrogation, sensibly balancing national-security imperatives with due process principles. We must, however, face the uncomfortable fact that the reason we need a new paradigm is that the old one still exists. Where we have given our word, we are honor-bound to adhere to established strictures. But, crucially, only to the extent we have actually consented to do so.

That includes in treaties, such as the UNCAT. With respect to it, the U.S. solemnly accepted not only the afore-described sweeping proscription against torture, but also the UNCAT provision abiding absolutely no exceptions — even if, say, the non-lethal infliction of severe pain might induce a captured terrorist to reveal details needed to prevent the imminent detonation of a nuclear device in New York Harbor. As the UNCAT puts it: "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture." Manifestly, this high-minded guideline did not anticipate modern terrorism, particularly terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction. Nonetheless, we did agree to it. If we no longer do, we should forthrightly say so, explain why, and change our laws. We shouldn't try to lawyer our way out of our agreements.

All that said, though, we did not agree to everything in the UNCAT. This brings to the fore why it is becoming increasingly necessary to be skeptical when "international law" is invoked by interest-group NGO's like the ICRC — as well as by many European capitals, the Organization of Islamic States, the Non-Aligned Movement, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, the New York Times, American legal elites, and other trailblazing members of the self-styled "international community." This global village's idealized vision of U.S. obligations is often importantly different from our actual obligations.

How can that be? It stems from organic differences in lawmaking. With international law, saying with certainty what a nation's duties are is an elusive proposition. This is because while written agreements — treaties, conventions, and other formal, multilateral compacts — may be the backbone of international law, they do not constitute the entire corpus. Rather, they are supplemented (or, confusingly at times, contradicted) by: (a) what are claimed to be "customary" principles and rules that may not be written down but are said to reflect universal understandings; (b) principles expressed in multi-lateral treaties and protocols even if they have not been ratified by all states; (c) tracts written by specialists in various areas of international concern; (d) opinions and resolutions issued by international bodies; and (e) judicial decisions by international tribunals.

The problems this presents are manifold. In reality, there are very few immutable, universal understandings down here on Planet Earth. The condemnation of genocide may be one (although you'd never know it from watching the U.N. dither over Darfur), but the condemnation of, for example, global warming certainly is not one — even if it has become a popular fetish to fret about greenhouse gases. Yet, because the international community has sold the world on the notion that its law is largely uncodified, and that even the written parts are "evolving," there is abundant opportunity for mischief.

Cabals of self-interested countries, NGOs, scholars and, of course, "international law experts," convene. They announce some agenda-driven set of euphonious aspirations, and repeat them over and over again. Soon these aspirations, transmogrified into principles, begin to seep into the mainstream editorial pages or, increasingly, federal judicial opinions. Voila, you have a claim that "international law," binding on Americans, has been created. Ditto when the U.N. General Assembly (where the despots and dysfunctionals vastly outnumber the free and self-determining nations) stirs itself to spew some warped enactment, or the U.N.'s International Court of Justice issues a ruling in some obscure legal proceeding.

While it risks banishment from polite company, and certainly from American campuses, to observe such a thing, it is necessary to point out that no one in the United States voted for any of these people. Nor did we consent to be generally bound by their assertions of law, the precedents developed in their tribunals, or the pieties divined by their experts. The international community may insist that we are under the sway of its airy customs and principles, but we are not except to the extent we consent to be, in a manner consistent with the American constitutional order.

In the United States, we adhere to strict limitations on the applicability of international law. The global village may perceive many wrongs, but under our constitution, offenses against the "Law of Nations" are limited in Article I, Section 8, to what Congress chooses to define and punish. More significantly for present purposes, the president is empowered, in Article II, Section 2, to enter treaties, but such agreements govern in the U.S. only after Congress weighs them, and only to the extent Congress consents to them.

This is critical to understanding what the ICRC is trying to do here. The UNCAT does not just govern torture. Its drafters well understood that there are forms of abuse — much like what the ICRC reports having found at Guantanamo Bay — that, while falling well short of torture, so revolt myopic humanitarian activists that they can conceive of no circumstances (like obtaining intelligence that might save the lives of thousands of moral innocents) in which resort to them would be warranted. So they went on to require each UNCAT signatory state to "undertake to prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment" even if they are not so severe as to "amount to torture[.]" (Emphasis added.) This is where the ICRC's "tantamount to torture" charge comes from: in the organization's view, because the treaty as written puts "degrading" treatment on a par with "torture," the ICRC is free to label such treatment as if it were torture even if it results in no pain, let alone severe pain.

Not so fast. It bears observing that the United States did not recklessly rush aboard the UNCAT. A full decade elapsed between the treaty's promulgation and our nation's ratification of it. Among the hold-ups was precisely this concern: was liability for "torture" being drastically enhanced by the inclusion of conduct defined by such subjective and unsettled terms as "cruel, inhuman, and degrading"? In Europe, for example, the death penalty is thought to be "cruel and inhuman." And who is to say what the limits of "degrading" may be?

This profoundly worried Congress. Thus, while it eventually ratified the treaty, it insisted on stringent caveats, expressly preserving capital punishment, and generally limiting our acceptance of the proscription against "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment" to the relevant understandings already enshrined in American law through the jurisprudence of the "Fifth, Eighth, and/or Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution."

These were significant limitations. The Eighth Amendment bars "cruel and unusual punishments." American courts have limited its application to judicial proceedings — essentially, to the penalties meted out after conviction for a crime. It has never been thought to extend to aliens who do not have Bill of Rights protections, much less to foreign enemy combatants captured overseas and detained by the military in wartime. Similarly, aliens have no generalized claim to Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, and even if they did, the relevant guarantee of due process of law ensures, literally, only the process that is due under the unique factual circumstances. It is simply not the law of the United States that a foreign terrorist, with no entitlement to Geneva Convention protections, captured by the military during hostilities, has a due process right not to be subjected during interrogation to harsh treatment that falls short of torture.

What the ICRC purports to do here is compel Americans to accept the expansive construction of the UNCAT that has been adopted by the ICRC (as well as most of the international community) rather than the one ratified by the United States under our constitution. The organization's theory is that, regardless of what U.S. law may say, the treaty as originally written — i.e., absent Congress's caveats without which the U.S. would not have ratified the UNCAT at all — has come to reflect customary international law and is therefore, by the ICRC's lights, binding on the American people.

This offensive use of international law to chip away at sovereignty and democratic self-determination, especially in the U.S., is not merely an ICRC gambit. As just the last few months demonstrate, it is a wider and more perilous trend. In November, for example, federal District Judge James Robertson, in Washington, D.C., boldly extended prisoner-of-war safeguards to al Qaeda operative Salim Ahmed Hamdan (reputed to be Osama bin Laden's driver) who is also held in Guantanamo Bay. To do so, the judge not only had to rewrite the Geneva Conventions into something vastly different from the treaty ratified by the United States in 1949; he also had to ignore that the U.S. has considered and has for over a quarter-century expressly refused to ratify a treaty (the 1977 Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions) that would grant POW protections to non-state militias.

Judge Robertson, whose decision is being appealed, may well believe the U.S. should have a POW treaty with beasts who, far from shining lights in the eyes of their captives, tend to behead them. We, however, have resolutely declined, it would be a delusion to think we would ever democratically adopt one, and the notion that such an agreement was actually contained in the third Geneva Convention but simply escaped everyone's notice for the last 55 years is untenable. In our system, moreover, the conduct of international relations is predominantly a political process, not a legal one. Under our constitution, the role of the U.S. courts is to apply international law to the extent it is adopted by the political branches consistent with the elaborate procedures of Articles I and II. It is not to impose on the American people by judicial fiat novel international obligations which, as Protocol I illustrates, they never would have agreed to had such duties been squarely proposed. The Hamdan court, nevertheless, felt free to ignore the U.S. constitutional procedure in favor of such authoritative sources as "general international understandings" and a decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The ICJ does indeed see itself as the final arbiter of what international law dictates. It is staffed by jurists from such bastions of freedom, justice and human rights as China, Russia, Egypt, Jordan, and Sierra Leone. In an outrageous and much trumpeted ruling this summer, it decreed that Israel's security fence — which has stanched suicide terrorism and saved both Israeli and Palestinian lives — is actually a violation of international law. In so doing, the ICJ reasoned that acts of even passive self-defense are illegal unless there has been a first-strike attack against one country by another country.

The ruling not only radically rewrites the United Nations Charter (i.e., the treaty whose terms, as originally understood, we agreed to in 1948), but its logic would render as violations of international law, for example, U.S. military operations against al Qaeda, and any U.S. pre-emptive strike against an enemy (whether a rogue nation or a terror network) that was readying a WMD attack against us. Not surprisingly, it was not long after the ruling that the ever-dependable Kofi Annan dutifully pronounced that the U.S. had violated international law by deposing Saddam Hussein.

Thus used, international law portends breathtaking derogations of sovereignty, self-determination, and democracy. Its proponents couch their impositions in the loftiest of inspirational rhetoric, cleverly casting naysayers as the enemies of justice and human dignity. But this is a wolf in sheep's clothing. For the sake of our security and authority to forge our own national destiny, we must begin to push back.
DiscerningTexan, 12/10/2004 10:56:00 PM | Permalink | |

...and WE are paying for the Pharmaceutical Company ads
DiscerningTexan, 12/10/2004 09:39:00 PM | Permalink | |

The next "must read"

You have to hand it to Michael Crichton; he isn't worried about being politically correct. Crichton has always been about writing novels based on the leading edge in science...perhaps that is why his latest novel is about the fraud that is the hype-global warming crowd:

Jurassic Park author pours cold water on global warming

Michael Crichton's new techno thriller fantasises a world free of the pall of greenhouse gases Patrick BarkhamSaturday December 11, 2004

He is most famous for his far-fetched tale of how dinosaurs could be brought to life with DNA from mosquitoes trapped in amber. Now the bestselling author Michael Crichton has written a thriller about ecoterrorism which the critics say is equally fantastic in its refusal to accept that global warming is a clear and present danger.

With 2m copies of State of Fear hitting bookshops across the world, Crichton's thesis that the "interminable yammering of fearmongers" about climate change is being used to keep ordinary people perpetually anxious will reach a huge audience.

As diplomats and scientists gathered at the tenth international convention on climate change in Buenos Aires yesterday to discuss where to go from Kyoto, the 62-year-old author of Jurassic Park and Rising Sun arrived in Britain to promote his 600-page "techno thriller".

The story of a South Pacific island which launches a multimillion pound lawsuit against the US, and green terrorists who plot to manufacture a series of earthquakes, underwater landslides and tsunamis to prove that global warming is happening, has an unusual denouement: a 14-page bibliography and a five-page authorial note explaining his extreme scepticism about global warming.

Crichton fills his latest with graphs and "facts" against global warming. Rather than warning readers about the dangers of dinosaurs, nanotechnology or rising Japanese power, he bolsters his argument by citing the work of prominent climate change sceptics, including the political scientist Bjorn Lomberg.

"The current near-hysterical preoccupation with safety is at best a waste of resources and a crimp on the human spirit, and at worst an invitation to totalitarianism," he concludes.

Highlighting a "natural warming trend" currently afflicting the globe, he estimates that in the next century temperatures will rise by just "0.812436C", well-below the 1.5-6C estimated by the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC).

Calling the scientific consensus on climate change "creepy", he told the BBC yesterday: "Science has nothing to do with consensus. Politics is about consensus."

Scientists and environmentalists greeted his arguments with derision yesterday. Even his hero Mr Lomberg disputed his calculations.
Tony Jupiter, director of Friends of the Earth, said: "It's interesting to see how climate change sceptics have truly entered the world of fiction.

"They've been in that world for some time, but they've been positioned as factually based. The fact that these arguments are presented as a novel puts them in their correct place in society.

"Go to the basic model prepared by the Hadley Centre. [It shows] a very clear relation between rising concentrations of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere and rising temperatures. These temperature increases could be very considerable in a very short period of time.

"That's not scaremongering. It is based on the scientific consensus."
The global temperature has risen by between 0.6C and 0.7C in the past century. Globally, the 1990s were the hottest decade, and the seven hottest years since 1861 all fell in that decade.

Vicky Pope, head of the climate predictions programme at the Hadley Centre, the globally renowned climatic research institute, said "very few" scientists disputed the latest IPCC report.

"The consensus on warming since the 1850s is that a large part is due to man's activities," she said. "That's the line of the IPCC report and that position is strengthening. It is a very widespread consensus.

"There are a few very vocal people who are sceptics, only some of whom are actually scientists. Sceptics obviously have a place in the community.

"It is an important part of the scientific process to question peoples' results scientifically. If it is good science, it needs to be aired. It is frustrating if it is not good science."

In Buenos Aires Mr Lomberg, author of The Sceptical Environmentalist, said: "We have to be careful about getting our scientific knowledge from fictional material.

"I argued strongly against the movie The Day after Tomorrow - it's a great movie but it's got very, very little to do with reality. I wouldn't want to take our understanding from that movie and a Michael Crichton novel."

While Mr Lomberg dismissed Crichton's calculations, suggesting that a rise of 2-3C was most likely, he welcomed his critique of the "precautionary principle" in environmental science.

"The 'better safe than sorry' approach seems like such a good idea but there's always 'nothing ventured, nothing gained'.

"If you're always better safe than sorry you don't actually move forward, you don't invent new things, you don't achieve greatness.

"Worrying has its costs. If we over-worry about some things, we under-worry about others. If the Crichton story can help us to say we do over-worry about global warming, then maybe it does serve some good purpose."

Writer's message on 'climate of fear'
Crichton on climate change. Extracts from "author's message" in State of Fear;

· In every debate, all sides overstate the extent of existing knowledge and its degree of certainty

· Nobody knows how much of the present warming trend might be a natural phenomenon

· Nobody knows how much warming will occur in the next century. The computer models vary by 400%, de facto proof that nobody knows. But if I had to guess - the only thing anyone is doing, really - ... the increase will be 0.812436 degrees C

· For anyone to believe in impending resource scarcity, after 200 years of such false alarms, is kind of weird. I don't know whether such a belief today is best ascribed to ignorance of history, sclerotic dogmatism, unhealthy love of Malthus, or simple pigheadedness

· Most environmental "principles" (such as sustainable development or the precautionary principle) have the effect of preserving the economic advantages of the west and thus constitute modern imperialism toward the developing world. It is a nice way of saying: "We got ours and we don't want you to get yours, because you'll cause too much pollution"

· We desperately need a nonpartisan, blinded funding mechanism to conduct research ... Scientists are only too aware of whom they are working for

· Everybody has an agenda. Except me.

DiscerningTexan, 12/10/2004 09:03:00 PM | Permalink | |

Miracles do happen

Perhaps it is merely coincidence, but I was watching my DVD of "Miracle" again last night (about the US Olympic Hockey win over the USSR in 1980...) and thinking in general about just how fortunate we all are to live in such a special place. Then today I saw this column by Charles Krauthammer...and I realized that the United States pulls off miracles all the time:

''Miracle begets yawn" has been the American reaction to the inauguration of Hamid Karzai as president of Afghanistan. Before our astonishing success in Afghanistan goes completely down the memory hole, let's recall some very recent history.

For almost a decade before 9/11, we did absolutely nothing about Afghanistan. A few cruise missiles hurled into empty tents, followed by expressions of satisfaction about the "message" we had sent. It was, in fact, a message of utter passivity and unseriousness.

Then comes our Pearl Harbor and the sleeping giant awakes. Within 100 days, al-Qaida is routed and the Taliban overthrown. Then the first election in Afghanistan's history. Now the inauguration of a deeply respected democrat who, upon being sworn in as legitimate president of his country, thanks America for its liberation.

This, in Afghanistan, just three years ago not just hostile but untouchable. What do liberals have to say about this singular achievement by the Bush administration? That Afghanistan is growing poppies.

Good grief. This is news? "Afghanistan grows poppies" is the sun rising in the east. "Afghanistan inaugurates democratically elected president" is the sun rising in the west. Afghanistan has always grown poppies. What is Bush supposed to do? Send 100,000 GIs to eradicate the crop and incite a popular rebellion?

The other complaint is that Karzai really does not rule the whole country. Again the sun rises in the east. Afghanistan has never had a government that controlled the whole country. It has always had a central government weak by Western standards.

But Afghanistan's decentralized system works. Karzai controls Kabul, most of the major cities and much in between. And he is successfully leveraging his power to gradually extend his authority as he creates entirely new federal institutions and an entirely new military.

Again, what should Bush have done? Send another 100,000 GIs to put down warlords with local roots, local legitimacy and a ton of firepower?

What has happened in Afghanistan is nothing short of a miracle.

Who is responsible for it? The New York Times gives the major credit to "the Afghan people" with their "courage and commitment." Courage and commitment there was, but that courage and commitment was curiously imperceptible until this administration conceived a radical war plan, executed it brilliantly, liberated the country and created from scratch the structures of democracy.

The interesting question is: If we succeeded in Afghanistan, why haven't we in Iraq? One would have thought Afghanistan, with its obviously less-developed human and industrial infrastructure, to be far less conducive to democracy. It is more tribal, more primitive and has even less of a history of modern political development.

Yet that may have been an advantage. Iraq has for decades been exposed to the ideas of political modernism — fascism and socialism as transmuted through Baathism (heavily influenced by the European political winds of the 1920s and '30s) to which Saddam Hussein added the higher totalitarianism of his hero, Stalin.

This history has succeeded in devaluing and delegitimizing secular ideologies, including liberal-democratic ones. In contrast, Afghanistan had suffered under years of appalling theocratic rule, which helped to legitimize the kind of secularist democracy that Karzai represents.

Furthermore, Afghanistan had the ironic advantage of having just come out of a quarter-century of civil war. As in Europe after World War II, the exhaustion that follows is conducive to pursuing power by peaceful political means. In contrast, Iraq's Baathists, fresh from 30 years of unimpeded looting and killing, are quite prepared to ignite a civil war in pursuit of the power and privileges they have lost.

And finally, Afghanistan's neighbors have kept largely out of the postwar reconstruction. The most powerful and active neighbor, Pakistan, was made an ally in this effort and has supported the democracy project.

Iraq's neighbors are hostile to America and to our democratic project. The Baathist insurgents are heavily supported by Syria, from which some of the sheltered leadership provides funding and operational directives for guerrilla operations in Iraq. Behind Syria stands the Arab League, composed mostly of Sunni monarchs and dictators, carrying water for Iraq's Sunni minority that had ruled for 80 years.

On the other side is Iran, funneling money, fighters and, by some reports, even voters (waves of immigrants) to help elect not only a Shiite government, but a theocratic Shiite government. As Iraq becomes the cockpit for the regional rivalries, internal divisions are greatly exacerbated.

This does not mean we cannot succeed. It does mean that Iraq will be very difficult. It also means that against all expectations, Afghanistan is the first graduate of the Bush Doctrine of spreading democracy in rather hostile places. We should take a moment to celebrate a remarkable success that had long seemed so improbable.

DiscerningTexan, 12/10/2004 08:36:00 PM | Permalink | |
Tuesday, December 07, 2004

An epiphany: don't take it so damn personally...

Today's posting is going to be restricted to a great column I saw today by Dennis Prager. I wouldn't say it is an absolute, but it is definitely one interesting theory:

Blue America: The land of the easily offended

Commentators on our country explain our blue-red division in many ways -- liberal-conservative; secular-religious; North-South; coasts-heartland; singles-married with children.

I propose one more explanation: the easily offended-the not so easily offended.

With the acknowledgment that there are many individual exceptions, a major defining characteristic of modern-day liberalism is the ease with which liberals take offense personally and/or on behalf of others.

Liberals regularly portray as offended women, African Americans, Jews, American Indians, gays and every other group liberals declare a minority, i.e., any group that votes Democrat -- no group that votes Republican, such as Mormons, Cuban Americans and Vietnamese Americans, is considered a "minority." All other groups are constantly warned that almost anything they say that is not patronizing of those groups is offensive (and therefore subject to litigation).

Having given thousands of lectures across the country and on all seven continents (yes, Antarctica, too) over the past 30 years, I can vouch for the personal-offense element. I am continually astounded at how often members of the audience (usually liberal women) will say they are offended by something I said, when what they really mean is that they don't agree with me.

It is most unlikely that conservative men or women speak that way -- saying, "I am offended" -- when they hear liberal speakers.

For one thing, conservatives are so used to being labeled as stupid, bigoted, ignorant, racist, homophobic, sexist, insensitive and intolerant that it is almost impossible to offend them. Moreover, the culture does not allow them to feel offended, since they are not an officially designated minority.

For another, liberal positions are far more emotion-based than reason-based.

To cite but one of many examples, take the widely held liberal slogan "War is not the answer." It is pure irrationality. War has ended more evil than anything the left has ever thought of. In the last 60 years alone, it ended Nazism and the Holocaust; it saved half of Korea from genocide; it kept Israel from national extinction and a second Holocaust; it saved Finland from becoming a Stalinist totalitarian state; and according to most of the people who put "War is not the answer" stickers on their bumpers, it saved Bosnian Muslims from ethnic cleansing.

The list of irrational, feelings-based liberal positions is almost as long as the list of contemporary liberal positions. The relevant point here is that people who take positions based on feelings will of necessity take disagreement more personally and feel offended more often than others.

Liberals' claims of being offended themselves or on behalf of a selected group are almost endless.

Liberal Jews and non-Jews claim that "Merry Christmas" offends Jews and other non-Christians. That 90 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas is of no importance to the easily offended.

Liberal blacks and other liberals see racism almost everywhere in America. To cite a typical example, the absence of black musicians in major orchestras has frequently been named as an example of white racism, despite the fact that many orchestras audition musicians behind a curtain. To non-liberals, the reason probably lies in the fact that few black kids learn to play the oboe or viola. And the sad result of liberals taking offense at so much white behavior is that many whites now talk very guardedly and unnaturally to blacks.

Liberal American Indian spokesmen and other liberals regularly tell us how offensive Indian names of sports teams are. The latest polls show that most Indians have no problem with such names, but liberals are still offended on their behalf. To make the point of how offensive the name "Indians" is for the Cleveland baseball team, one liberal caller once asked me, "How would you feel if a team were named 'Jews'?" I told him that it would be a great day in Jewish history -- for 3,000 years, Jews have been looking for fans.

Part of America remains the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. An almost equally large part is now the Land of the Easily Offended and the Home of the Hypersensitive. Which land we become is a big part of the second American civil war we are fighting.

DiscerningTexan, 12/07/2004 05:13:00 PM | Permalink | |
Sunday, December 05, 2004

click to enlarge
DiscerningTexan, 12/05/2004 09:56:00 PM | Permalink | |

The Case for War

Outstanding essay from James Schall of the Hoover Institute which dispels the notion that it is never "worth it" to fight a war. Here is a portion of that article (there is much much more--read it all):

We thought that we had founded a system to prevent wars, especially small ones, in addressing theological and spiritual problems. MacArthur seemed to assume that such a perfect system could be established. But in this he was something of a utopian, not a realist. Since he spoke these words some 60 years ago, we have seen thousands of wars of varying degrees. The spirit and means whereby we believed many small wars could be stopped — the work of converting the whole world to a better “system”— actually resulted in little being done when needed on a scale that would be effective, often a small scale.

My argument derives from Jacques Maritain’s assertion that “justice, brains, and strength” can and should belong together.
2 We need not collapse before tyranny or terrorism or those who sponsor either, but we must effectively do something about them. “Peace and dialogue” do not work in the absence of a force component. The more the reality of measured force is present, the more dialogue and peaceful means — including religious means — are present. In practice, this “doing” peace must include adequate and intelligent force. The intense concern that weapons of mass destruction not fall into the hands of Muslim or other leaders is not fanciful. Every holiday since 9/11, some email comes, warning of the possible use of “dirty bombs” in some American or world city. That they have not been used, I suspect, is more because those who would use them have actually been prevented by force. Units that would blow up major installations, if they could, do exist. All they lack are delivery capabilities.

Further, I argue that our main problems are not too much force, but too little. A peaceful world is not a world with no ready forces but one with adequate, responsible, and superior force that is used when necessary. The failure to have or use such forces causes terror and war to grow exponentially. Unused force, when needed at a particular time and place, ceases to be force. But force is meaningless if one does not know that he has an enemy or how this enemy works and thinks. That latter is a spiritual and philosophical problem, not a technical one. Many an adequately armed country has been destroyed because it did not recognize its real enemy. Nor is this an argument for force “for force’s sake.” It is an argument for force for justice’s sake. I am not for “eternal peace,” which is a this-worldly myth, but for real peace of actual men in an actual and fallen world. Peace is not a goal, but a consequence of doing what is right and preventing what is wrong and, yes, knowing the difference between the two.

Justice and force require one another in the actual world. Too often they are placed in opposition in a way that renders both unbalanced and ineffective. It is not a virtue to praise justice as if it need not be actually enforced or defended. The greatest crimes usually are grounded in a utopianism that is blind to living men, that does not see how to limit and control disruptive forces that continually arise in human life. Though I argue mainly about military force, the same argument includes police power. These are not substitutes for the virtue of justice, but this difficult virtue relies also on the existence and proper use of force for its existence. Contrary to much rhetoric, we do not live in a world in which diplomacy, dialogue, diversity, and law, however valuable, have replaced force. We can hopefully reach an adequate public order, but the failure to understand that law and dialogue need the presence of reasoned force ends up creating not more peace but less.

The failure to fight

In late spring, in Baltimore, I walked to the end of Chestnut Street where it meets Joppa Road. On one corner was a large official-looking residence called “Mission Helpers Center.” On both sides of its entrance gate were large blue and white signs that said, “War Is Not the Answer.” These placards recalled many too-simple slogans I have seen in recent years about war, often, like this one apparently, from religious sources: “War is obsolete.” “War is never justified.” “The answer to violence is not more violence.” “War does no good.” “No one wins a war.” “Love, not war.” “Diplomacy, not war.” “Dialogue, not war.” “Stop violence.” “Justice, not war.” “No war is legitimate.” “Everyone loses in war.” “War, Never Again.”

When I saw the “War Is Not the Answer” sign, I said to myself, “what is the question to which war is not an answer?” Is there no question to which war is the only sensible answer? Must we be pacifists and draw no lines in the sand? Does nothing ever need defending? Can we choose not to defend what needs defending and still be honorable? If war is not the “answer,” what is? How do we rid ourselves of tyrants or protect ourselves from ideologies or fanatics who attack us with their own principles and weapons, not ours?

Machiavelli advised that a prince should spend most of his time preparing for war. The prince was not pious except when it was useful to his staying in power. If we are this prince’s neighbors, do we take no notice of his preparations? Do we give him the answer he most wants to hear from us, namely, “war is not the answer”? Those who practice this doctrine of no war make easy targets. The prince thinks war is an answer. It can help him in his goal of acquiring and keeping power. We may have to suffer a defeat at his hands, but we should not choose to bring one on ourselves.

Though much carnage and chaos happen in any historic war, and on every side, still we cannot conclude from this that “war is not the answer.” It may not be the only answer. But no valid alternative to war can be a mere ungrounded velleity, a frivolous hope that nothing bad will happen no matter what we do or do not do. Any presumed alternative to war, by other supposedly more effective methods, has to stop what war seeks to prevent by its own reasoned use of measured force. The general opinion of most sensible men in most of history is that war certainly is one answer, even a reasonable answer, in the light of what would likely ensue without it. Not a few unfought wars have made things considerably worse. Not a few fought wars have made things better. The honor classically associated with war heroes is expressed in the proclamations: “Our cause is just.” “Give me liberty or give me death.” “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” “Walk softly but carry a big stick.”

We often, and rightly, ponder the horrors of war. Doing so is a growth industry particularly for those who do not choose to fight in them. Soldiers usually know more about the horrors of wars than journalists. They also know more about what it is like to live under a tyrannical system. The uncovering of gulags and concentration camps ought also to cause us to reflect deeply on what happens when unjust regimes acquire and remain in power.

9/11 could have been prevented with but a small use of force had we known that we had an enemy who would utterly surprise us by using passenger planes as weapons of war.

A follower of Nietzsche, who thought Platonism and Christianity had failed because both lauded weakness, will see a certain nobility to wars and power for their own dramatic sakes. Like many moderns, Nietzsche did not find any order in the universe except that imposed by his own will. Still, most sensible people can see that to prevent the rise of unlimited power or to remove it, once established, requires the legitimate use of adequate force against it. Often we perform this reflection about war’s atrocities in isolation from real situations and without balance, for peace is not simply the absence of war. “No war” can, and not infrequently does, end up meaning the victory of tyranny and the subsequent disarming of any opposition to itself. “No moral use of war” can, by the same logic, result in no freedom, no dignity.

We need more serious reflection on what happens, both to ourselves and to others who rely upon us, when we lose wars or when our failure to act causes something worse to happen. Those who cry “peace, peace” often have unacknowledged blood on their hands because they failed to use adequate force when needed; “To the victors go the spoils” is an ancient principle of fact, not rightness. Cowardice has never been considered a virtue. Nor has “turning the other cheek” served as an acceptable excuse for allowing some evil — one we could have stopped except that our theories or fears prevented us from trying — to continue or conquer. Not a few worthy things have been eradicated forever because a war was lost. Eternal vigilance remains the price of liberty and much else that is worthy.

In reading ancient history, as we should and for this very reason, we can still meditate with profit on the enormous cultural consequences of a success by Xerxes in Greece had Sparta and Athens not successfully defended themselves against his armies. Nonetheless, good causes do not always win wars; neither, to say the same thing, do bad causes always lose them.

Fortune is difficult to conquer. Nor do its consequences guarantee justice. St. Paul, as Dawson reminds us above, even suggests that wars and the sword punish our wrongdoings. The pope observes that we live in a world in which we want to deny that we commit any wrongs or sins and hence we lack any impetus for correcting them within ourselves. Sins have dire consequences even if we call them virtues, as we often do.

Still, we are not free not to think about this consequence that failure to act can make things worse. Nor can we deny that there is a comparative difference between “bad” things and “terrible” things. We can be as immoral and as inhuman by not acting as by acting. The history of lost wars is as important as the history of victorious ones, perhaps more so.

The idea of an absolutely warless world, a world “already made safe for democracy,” is more likely, in practice, to be a sign either of utopianism or of madness, and a world in which war is “outlawed” is more likely to mean either that we are no longer in the real world or that the devils and the tyrants — who allow us only to agree with them and do as they say — have finally won. We are naïve if we think that formal democratic procedures, lacking any reference to the content of laws, cannot have deleterious effects.
A democratic tyranny is quite conceivable, many think likely, and on a global scale. Globalization is not neutral. Not a few of the worst tyrants of history have been very popular and have died peacefully in bed in their old age amidst family and friends.

More than anything else, the frontiers of most states of the world are where they are because of wars, won or lost. This is true even of, say, the relatively peaceful Canadian-American border, whose drawing, whose very existence, is related to the American Revolution, to the War of 1812, and to “54.40 or Fight!” The northern Mexican border does not include California, Texas, Arizona, or New Mexico, as it once did, because a war was lost. I have seen Mexican maps that still include these states within Mexican frontiers. This suggests that many Mexicans think present borders are unjust and that therefore we are not wholly at peace. Lord Acton thought that had the South won the American Civil War, it probably would have taken over Mexico.

The “evil empire” covered a quarter or more of the globe because of war and revolution. Ironically, it got its start when Lenin precipitously pulled out of bloody World War i to eradicate his domestic enemies on the right and the enemies of his Bolshevism on the left. The demise of the Soviet Union surprised all the social scientists in that it was not destroyed by war or by any force in their analytic methods. However, as we were reminded by the Reagan funeral, a major cause of the demise of communism, besides the spiritual one for which the Polish pope stood, was the massive American preparation for war, including nuclear war. This was sufficient to convince the Soviets finally to recognize communism’s own internal bankruptcy. Many, at the time, thought this buildup was itself “immoral.” Had it not occurred, the Soviet Union might well still be in existence and its demise might not have been so peaceful.

In the case of World War ii, we can surely thank the early unpreparedness and initial unwillingness of the French and English to engage in war for the fact that in the end a more lethal war had to be fought and could be won only with the aid of others. “Peace in our time,” the slogan of the British prime minister, led to World War ii. War was not an answer? What is the “answer” to terrorism if not war at some level? Terrorists, as they often testify, think that terrorism is a legitimate, even God-commanded duty. Is capitulation the answer? Roman history, in fact, is filled with such wars and capitulations.

It may well be true that noncombatant alternatives to war are always available, but there are things worse than war. Not to know what they are is tantamount to losing any real contact with or understanding of human experience or history. Not for nothing was the “history of war” studied by Machiavelli. Many “peaceful” alternatives to war are unhappy ones. One of them consists in being conquered by a hostile power, another in complete civilizational destruction. We read of Muslim and Mongolian armies before whose swords we would not like to fall, knowing that if we do, our culture, religion, and way of life, not to mention many of our lives, would disappear.

No one in the decade before the sudden appearance of Mohammedan armies in the seventh century could have imagined the configuration of the world map today, a configuration in many areas due precisely to the permanent conquests of these earlier and later armies. The modern integrity of Europe is unimaginable without two victories over Muslim forces: one at Tours, one at Vienna.

DiscerningTexan, 12/05/2004 08:58:00 PM | Permalink | |

Global Warming Fear = Religious Belief: MIT Prof

How inconvenient for the devotees of doom and gloom:

An MIT meteorologist Wednesday dismissed alarmist fears about human induced global warming as nothing more than 'religious beliefs.'"Do you believe in global warming? That is a religious question. So is the second part: Are you a skeptic or a believer?" said Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Richard Lindzen, in a speech to about 100 people at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C."

Essentially if whatever you are told is alleged to be supported by 'all scientists,' you don't have to understand [the issue] anymore. You simply go back to treating it as a matter of religious belief," Lindzen said. His speech was titled, "Climate Alarmism: The Misuse of 'Science'" and was sponsored by the free market George C. Marshall Institute. Lindzen is a professor at MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.

Once a person becomes a believer of global warming, "you never have to defend this belief except to claim that you are supported by all scientists -- except for a handful of corrupted heretics," Lindzen added. According to Lindzen, climate "alarmists" have been trying to push the idea that there is scientific consensus on dire climate change."With respect to science, the assumption behind the [alarmist] consensus is science is the source of authority and that authority increases with the number of scientists [who agree.] But science is not primarily a source of authority. It is a particularly effective approach of inquiry and analysis. Skepticism is essential to science -- consensus is foreign," Lindzen said. Alarmist predictions of more hurricanes, the catastrophic rise in sea levels, the melting of the global poles and even the plunge into another ice age are not scientifically supported, Lindzen said."

It leads to a situation where advocates want us to be afraid, when there is no basis for alarm. In response to the fear, they want us to do what they want," Lindzen said. Recent reports of a melting polar ice cap were dismissed by Lindzen as an example of the media taking advantage of the public's "scientific illiteracy." "The thing you have to remember about the Arctic is that it is an extremely variable part of the world," Lindzen said. "Although there is melting going [on] now, there has been a lot of melting that went on in the [19]30s and then there was freezing. So by isolating a section ... they are essentially taking people's ignorance of the past," he added.

'Repetition makes people believe 'The climate change debate has become corrupted by politics, the media and money, according to Lindzen. "It's a sad story, where you have scientists making meaningless or ambiguous statements [about climate change]. They are then taken by advocates to the media who translate the statements into alarmist declarations. You then have politicians who respond to all of this by giving scientists more money," Lindzen said. "Agreement on anything is taken to infer agreement on everything. So if you make a statement that you agree that CO2 (carbon dioxide) is a greenhouse gas, you agree that the world is coming to an end," he added. "There can be little doubt that the language used to convey alarm has been sloppy at best," Lindzen said, citing Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbles and his famous observation that even a lie will be believed if enough people repeat it. "There is little question that repetition makes people believe things [for] which there may be no basis," Lindzen said. He believes the key to improving the science of climate change lies in altering the way scientists are funded. 'Alarm is the aim' "The research and support for research depends on the alarm," Lindzen told following his speech. "The research itself often is very good, but by the time it gets through the filter of environmental advocates and the press innocent things begin to sound just as though they are the end of the world.

"The argument is no longer what models are correct -- they are not -- but rather whether their results are at all possible. One can rarely prove something to be impossible," he explained. Lindzen said scientists must be allowed to conclude that 'we don't have a problem." And if the answer turns out to be 'we don't have a problem,' we have to figure out a better reward than cutting off people's funding. It's as simple as that," he said. The only consensus that Lindzen said exists on the issue of climate change is the impact of the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty to limit greenhouse gases, which the U.S. does not support.

Kyoto itself will have no discernible effect on global warming regardless of what one believes about climate change," Lindzen said.

Don't expect to see this on the cover of the New York Times.
DiscerningTexan, 12/05/2004 08:49:00 PM | Permalink | |
Friday, December 03, 2004

DiscerningTexan, 12/03/2004 11:33:00 PM | Permalink | |

Know thy enemy...

...also known as the United Nations. From IMAO:

The United Nations has shown itself to be increasingly corrupt and an impediment to the United States of America (the best United States of all). Thus, I sent my crack research team to find out all they could about the U.N.


* The U.S. created the United Nation in 1945 in an effort to centralize pointless squabbling.

* The job of the U.N. is to make other nations feel like they have a say in things while the U.S. goes ahead and does whatever the hell it feels like.

* The U.N. has expanded its job to getting kickbacks for their members and hating Israel.

* Most of the voting in the U.N. is for non-binding resolutions that hold no weight. It's like internet polls with more Jew-hating.

* The main power in the U.N is held by the few members of the Security Council who can vote and have vetoes. For some strange reason, France has a permanent seat at that council. It's their last semblance of having any influence whatsoever in this world, and they guard it as protectively as Frenchmen can.

* The main job for the U.N. is "peacekeeping" which usually means "whining at the U.S."

* While the U.N. never actually stops massacres and genocide, they do have endless debate about them. And isn't that better than nothing?

* No, it is not.

* The U.N. is full of dictatorships who get to vote on issues. Voting for them is new, but they realize how much better hating the Jews is when you pass a full resolution.

* The U.N. headquarters in N.Y. and is technically not U.S. property. If you beat up some U.N. guy, the U.N. police would be the ones to try and arrest you. All you would have to do is then step out of the building and they wouldn't have jurisdiction over you. Then you could tell a NY cop, "I just beat up a U.N. guy!" and he'd be like, "Cool!" Then the U.N. police would yell from their front door, "He beat up some guy here. You extradite him back into this building!" And the cop would answer, "No." Heh, that's funny.

* U.N. people have silly names like Boutros Boutros, Kofi, and Kojo to reinforce how useless they are. It's sad that some countries are so backwards they don't know those names are silly.

* Well, I guess it's not technically "sad" since I'm laughing.

* The U.N. sometimes holds councils in other countries on topics such as women's rights or the environment. Whatever the original topic is supposed to be, they main order of the day is always U.S. and Israel bashing.

* The U.N. has had some of the worst human right offenders head their council on human rights. If they were told to guard a henhouse, they'd probably appoint a fox.

* U.N peacekeepers have blue helmets. While not strategic for camouflage, U.N. peacekeepers never do anything anyway, so they might as well have colorful helmets.

* If attacked by U.N. peacekeepers, find the portal out of the strange dimension you got yourself trapped in.

* When dealing with U.N. members, remember that their greediness is only matched by their cowardice. Try shaking them to get what you want.

* With such scandals as the Oil for Food program, the U.N. shows itself to be both inept and corrupt. On the other hand, its building is shiny.

* In a fight between U.N. and Aquaman, the U.N. would endlessly talk about deploying peacekeepers against Aquaman but never actually do it. Thus Aquaman would win by default. Yes, there is at least one entity in this world more impotent than Aquaman.

* While the U.S. dropping out of the U.N. would cripple the corrupt organization and save the U.S. money, it would make lots of whiny nations angry at us... which, come to think of it, isn't really a change.

* Plans for turning the U.N. headquarters into an IHOP are on the table, but nothing has been finalized.

DiscerningTexan, 12/03/2004 11:26:00 PM | Permalink | |

A Texas Marine's story

I found this on the political discussion board of, which is a community of University of Texas Longhorn supporters. The marine "AO" posts multiple times in this thread. The first post is reprinted here, but I would recommend reading the discussion afterwards just to get a feel for where the level of political discourse is in this country.

We are incredibly fortunate to have men and women who are willing to volunteer to put their lives on the line for us in this war. As has been the case throughout history, without a robust military and multiple Presidents Washington, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson, FDR, Reagan, and George W. Bush who have taken an unpopular stand where others feared to tread, this country as we know it would not exist. And I am proud as a Texan and Longhorn that men like this are out there:

Boots on the Deck in Fallujah

Ok. I just got back from the fight of my life. It was absolutely the craziest experience of my life. Urban combat is probably the scariest environment for any offensive unit to attack but we did so with honor and valor.

YOUR Marine Corps is as strong as it has ever been and we proved it out here. My unit was assigned to be the main effort for the attack and we were given the Jolan District of the city. We actually split it with another Marine Infantry unit (3/5) and the Army 2/7 Cavalry. 2/7 is heavy mechanized (tanks and Bradleys) and they were the initial unit in and took the foothold by destroying any obvious targets or obstacles. They also controlled the main streets in the city.

3/1’s job was to move in right behind them and clear every house (over 3000) in our sector from North to South and kill any insurgents who challenged us. There is nothing more heart pounding than entering a building and knowing there is a good chance as soon as you turn a corner or enter a room a bullet is coming at you. That is why they invented the hand grenade. We used a lot of them. It is my weapon of choice in an urban environment (that and the D-9 Bulldozer). To be honest 2/7 Cav did not see too much of a resistance. For the insurgents, there is no honor in being martyred by an Abrams Tank or a Bradley. They wanted the face-to-face fight and we gave it to them.

The estimates are out there and they are accurate I guess. I did not keep a tally of all the dead guys I saw. We did thoroughly check each one we killed and gained whatever info we could. No doubt there were hundreds of foreign fighters. This was “the show” for terrorists. Believe what you want, but we are killing terrorists over here by the truckload. For those who say there are no terrorists here, I can give you the proof that states otherwise. We found passports, Ids, money, documents, instructions or orders, we found contracts (if you kill 5 Americans we will give you $$$$), computers, CDs, photos of them in the act of committing terrorists acts!!!!, and so on. There were Chechnyians, Moroccans, Syrians, Saudis, etc… The Chechnyains we killed were professionals. I have a few photos of them. They had really expensive weapons, utility type uniforms, magazine vests, and they knew tactics. They were very well trained compared to most.

We found torture chambers, propaganda videos of suicide bombers (really sick), a lot of kidnapped victims personal affects, thousands and thousands of pounds of weapons and ammunition (mostly stockpiled or staged in various patterns), vehicle IEDs, and many other items I can’t think of right now.

For the most part their tactics were like this: Booby trapped doors, car bombs, trip wires, dropping grenades through spider holes in the rooftops, pre-positioned machine guns, RPGs, snipers from the rooftops and minarets (mosque steeples), mortars, and landmines. They would hide in the most complex areas of the houses. The spots that gave them the best geometry to fire on us without us seeing them. These guys were smart, well trained and worst of all, willing to fight to the death. These were not the nickel and dimers we have been facing on the outskirts during the months leading up to this. They knew how to fight us in an urban environment. They would move house to house and fall back as we approached. They had weapons/ammo staged in every house.

We cleared the Jolan and south of it 3 different times. The insurgents would move around to stay alive. After the third time through most of them were dead or had given up. I am sure 1-2 are still running around. They will die eventually. There is no place for them to go. We haven’t let the mass population back in yet. They will run out of food and water if nothing else.

The civilians that came to us for refuge were all treated fairly. They all get tested for gun powder residue and interrogated with different questions. My Battalion gave these guys the fight of their lives without a doubt. We knew it would be dangerous and it was. 22 young Devil Dogs in my Battalion gave their lives for their country on that battlefield but not before they all gave the terrorists a piece of hell. We all owe those guys every ounce of gratitude we can muster. One of them was from Austin. They are real heroes and true warriors. They are also good friends, brothers, sons and grandsons. God bless them all and their families. Almost 200 in my Battalion will receive a Purple Heart from this fight due to their injuries. Our Navy Corpsman kept us in the fight and did a wonderful job keeping us on our feet.

My Battalion had NBC News’ Kevin Sites along for the ride. It was a Marine in my Company who allegedly murdered and insurgent. It is under investigation and I will leave it at that. I am confident the military will make the correct findings.

The day before we step off on the attack, my Battalion had the 1st Annual Ben Hur Thundering Third Chariot Race. You might have seen a few pictures on the news. It was the tension breaker we all needed. We had confiscated some horses and carts a while back. We dressed up a number of Marines to look like chariot drivers (Spartans, Romans) and race the horses. These horses were in terrible shape. One was named "Ribs" for obvious reasons if you had seen the horse up close. Eventually only one horse would race so we had time trials to determine the winner. It was hilarious. I will never forget it. Ok.

That is about it. It is hard to write about every little engagement or every area of the battlefield. I will try to answer your questions if I can.

Read the rest. You'll find that most of the people responding to this Marine's post were grateful and heartfelt. And you will also find that on the left there is a lot of misdirected hate and hostility, still. You can clearly see why the left is losing power in this country: they seemingly still have nothing but negativity to offer us.
DiscerningTexan, 12/03/2004 11:25:00 PM | Permalink | |

If you hate political debate, join a university faculty

The Economist:

If you loathe political debate, join the faculty of an American university
TOM WOLFE'S new novel about a young student, “I am Charlotte Simmons”, is a depressing read for any parent. Four years at an Ivy League university costs as much as a house in parts of the heartland—about $120,000 for tuition alone. But what do you get for your money? A ticket to “Animal House”.

In Mr Wolfe's fictional university the pleasures of the body take absolute precedence over the life of the mind. Students “hook up” (ie, sleep around) with indiscriminate zeal. Brainless jocks rule the roost, while impoverished nerds are reduced to ghost-writing their essays for them. The university administration is utterly indifferent to anything except the dogmas of political correctness (men and women are forced to share the same bathrooms in the name of gender equality). The Bacchanalia takes place to the soundtrack of hate-fuelled gangsta rap.

Mr Wolfe clearly exaggerates for effect (that's kinda, like, what satirists do, as one of his students might have explained). But on one subject he is guilty of understatement: diversity. He fires off a few predictable arrows at “diversoids”—students who are chosen on the basis of their race or gender. But he fails to expose the full absurdity of the diversity industry.

Academia is simultaneously both the part of America that is most obsessed with diversity, and the least diverse part of the country. On the one hand, colleges bend over backwards to hire minority professors and recruit minority students, aided by an ever-burgeoning bureaucracy of “diversity officers”. Yet, when it comes to politics, they are not just indifferent to diversity, but downright allergic to it.

Evidence of the atypical uniformity of American universities grows by the week. The Centre for Responsive Politics notes that this year two universities—the University of California and Harvard—occupied first and second place in the list of donations to the Kerry campaign by employee groups, ahead of Time Warner, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft et al. Employees at both universities gave 19 times as much to John Kerry as to George Bush.

Meanwhile, a new national survey of more than 1,000 academics by Daniel Klein, of Santa Clara University, shows that Democrats outnumber Republicans by at least seven to one in the humanities and social sciences. And things are likely to get less balanced, because younger professors are more liberal. For instance, at Berkeley and Stanford, where Democrats overall outnumber Republicans by a mere nine to one, the ratio rises above 30 to one among assistant and associate professors.

“So what”, you might say, particularly if you happen to be an American liberal academic. Yet the current situation makes a mockery of the very legal opinion that underpins the diversity fad. In 1978, Justice Lewis Powell argued that diversity is vital to a university's educational mission, to promote the atmosphere of “speculation, experiment and creation” that is essential to their identities. The more diverse the body, the more robust the exchange of ideas. Why apply that argument so rigorously to, say, sexual orientation, where you have campus groups that proudly call themselves GLBTQ (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and questioning), but ignore it when it comes to political beliefs?

This is profoundly unhealthy per se. Debating chambers are becoming echo chambers. Students hear only one side of the story on everything from abortion (good) to the rise of the West (bad). It is notable that the surveys show far more conservatives in the more rigorous disciplines such as economics than in the vaguer 1960s “ologies”. Yet, as George Will pointed out in the Washington Post this week, this monotheism is also limiting universities' ability to influence the wider intellectual culture. In John Kennedy's day, there were so many profs in Washington that it was said the waters of the Charles flowed into the Potomac. These days, academia is marginalised in the capital—unless, of course, you count all the Straussian conservative intellectuals in think-tanks who left academia because they thought it was rigged against them.

Bias in universities is hard to correct because it is usually not overt: it has to do with prejudice about which topics are worth studying and what values are worth holding. Stephen Balch, the president of the conservative National Association of Scholars, argues that university faculties suffer from the same political problems as the “small republics” described in Federalist 10: a motivated majority within the faculty finds it easy to monopolise decision-making and squeeze out minorities.

Read the rest here. (Thanks to PrestoPundit for the link.)
DiscerningTexan, 12/03/2004 11:01:00 PM | Permalink | |