December 31, 2006
"We fight not to enslave, but to set a country free, and to make room upon the earth for honest men to live in."
-- Thomas Paine (The Crisis, no 4, 11 September 1777)
December 30, 2006
When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary.
-- Thomas Paine, 1776 - Common Sense
How we will win in Iraq
US CENTCOM has this article posted about Army engineers bringing joy to an Iraqi orphanage.
27 December 2006
By Mohammed Aliwi
Gulf Region South District
AN NASIRIYAH — Orphanages recently received numerous packages of stuffed animals delivered to promote goodwill between Iraqi and U.S. children and help the rebuilding effort in Iraq.
“The children were extremely happy and did not believe that the stuffed animals were given especially for them,” said Edmay Mayers, a program analyst with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
An Iraqi associate told Mayers the headmistress of the orphanage welcomed the team that delivered the toys and appreciated what the Americans were doing for the Iraqis. On her first tour to Iraq, Mayers visited one of the elementary schools and saw a beautiful interaction between the Americans and the children. “The children of Iraq have stolen my heart,” Mayers said. “They are precious, young and innocent, and if only a child remembers that an American, British, South African or Australian person gave them something that made them feel special as a child, then we have done our part to help these little ones.” For her, the children need these toys as much if not more than the school supplies.
They need something to hold close to them and love, and these stuffed animals have a lot of love left in them for these children, she said.
“I wanted to tell all that we are receiving tons and tons of stuffed animals, toys, school supplies, clothes, et cetera,” Mayers said. “All are being given to Iraqi children in schools, orphanages, clinics and now the Basrah Children’s Hospital. I am so thrilled that so many individuals have opened their hearts to the mission in Iraq.”
Robin Parks, a project manager with GRS, said all children love stuffed animals. They are brightly colored, soft and huggable, and can provide cheer and comfort to children. “Everyone involved in this exchange wins, but the person who is happiest is the lucky Soldier or civilian who has the honor of actually giving that toy to a child,” Parks said. “They probably feel like Santa Claus. One day the Iraqi children may remember that a stranger gave them a favorite gift.” Mayers said countless Iraqis are displaced and have been unable to restore their lives, but they still see the children smile in spite of all the bad living conditions that surround them. “We put the toys, animals and candy into plastic baggies to give to the children,” Parks said. “Sending the stuffed animals makes the people at home happy to be a part of this effort; receiving the animals makes the children here happy; and I am happy that I can help in some small way to make this exchange happen. Everyone wins.” Mayers typed into a Web browser the words “free stuffed toys” and came up with an Internet hit saying that someone was looking to give away “gently used” stuffed animals. “I e-mailed the (Web site manager) and she immediately posted it to her Web site and called it ‘Spread the Word,’” Mayers said. “It is now on approximately 50 or so Web sites. It also has been announced on a radio station in North Carolina, and an article in a newspaper in Troy, NY. People have read the Web sites, newspapers, listened to the radio and opened their hearts to these beautiful children. I have also been in touch with a gentleman in (England) who has lots of toys to send us.”
According to the Air Force 1st Lt. Richard L. Hallon, a project engineer with the Thi Qar Residence Office of Gulf Region South, a stuffed animal is like a companion to the children; it helps them when they are scared of the dark and helps them to fall asleep.
“One day, I saw a 4-year-old Iraqi child looking up at a Soldier, smiling with wide eyes, trying to communicate with hand signs and gestures. His little shiny eyes were not directed to me, but stopped me from thinking about war,” Hallon said. “If a smile can do this, imagine what a toy can do. It is in an effort symbolizing the notion of people helping people regardless of beliefs.”
December 29, 2006
My confidence is that there will for a long time be virtue and good sense enough in our countrymen to correct abuses.
-- Thomas Jefferson, 1788 - letter to Edward Rutledge
December 28, 2006
If Virtue & Knowledge are diffused among the People, they will never be enslav'd. This will be their great Security.
-- Samuel Adams, 1779 - letter to James Warren
As you have undoubtedly noticed, my blogging has been rather light the last few days. My family and I are on a holiday break until after the new year, so I've been taking it easy on the blogging front. I'm not reading or watching much in the way of news -- or even other blogs. I'm just being slothful for a few days.
However, I'll be back. ;->
December 27, 2006
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indespensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism who should labor to subvert these great Pilliars of human happiness.
-- George Washington, 1796 - Farewell Address
December 26, 2006
I pronounce it as certain that there was never yet a truly great man that was not at the same time truly virtuous.
-- Benjamin Franklin, 1728 - The Busy-body, No. 3
'In Hoc Anno Domini'
I missed this column posted yesterday at OpinionJournal, and feel that I just have to reprint it here. It was written by Vermont Royster in 1949, and it is about the freedom Christ brought to our world 2000 years ago.
I put it in the extended entry.
In Hoc Anno Domini
Vermont Royster's annual Christmas message.
Monday, December 25, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST
This editorial was written in 1949 by the late Vermont Royster and has been published annually since.
When Saul of Tarsus set out on his journey to Damascus the whole of the known world lay in bondage. There was one state, and it was Rome. There was one master for it all, and he was Tiberius Caesar.
Everywhere there was civil order, for the arm of the Roman law was long. Everywhere there was stability, in government and in society, for the centurions saw that it was so.
But everywhere there was something else, too. There was oppression--for those who were not the friends of Tiberius Caesar. There was the tax gatherer to take the grain from the fields and the flax from the spindle to feed the legions or to fill the hungry treasury from which divine Caesar gave largess to the people. There was the impressor to find recruits for the circuses. There were executioners to quiet those whom the Emperor proscribed. What was a man for but to serve Caesar?
There was the persecution of men who dared think differently, who heard strange voices or read strange manuscripts. There was enslavement of men whose tribes came not from Rome, disdain for those who did not have the familiar visage. And most of all, there was everywhere a contempt for human life. What, to the strong, was one man more or less in a crowded world?
Then, of a sudden, there was a light in the world, and a man from Galilee saying, Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's.
And the voice from Galilee, which would defy Caesar, offered a new Kingdom in which each man could walk upright and bow to none but his God. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. And he sent this gospel of the Kingdom of Man into the uttermost ends of the earth.
So the light came into the world and the men who lived in darkness were afraid, and they tried to lower a curtain so that man would still believe salvation lay with the leaders.
But it came to pass for a while in divers[e] places that the truth did set man free, although the men of darkness were offended and they tried to put out the light. The voice said, Haste ye. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you, for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.
Along the road to Damascus the light shone brightly. But afterward Paul of Tarsus, too, was sore afraid. He feared that other Caesars, other prophets, might one day persuade men that man was nothing save a servant unto them, that men might yield up their birthright from God for pottage and walk no more in freedom.
Then might it come to pass that darkness would settle again over the lands and there would be a burning of books and men would think only of what they should eat and what they should wear, and would give heed only to new Caesars and to false prophets. Then might it come to pass that men would not look upward to see even a winter's star in the East, and once more, there would be no light at all in the darkness.
And so Paul, the apostle of the Son of Man, spoke to his brethren, the Galatians, the words he would have us remember afterward in each of the years of his Lord:
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
[Used with permission from OpinionJournal.com, a web site from Dow Jones & Company, Inc.]
December 25, 2006
How many observe Christ's birth-day! How few, his precepts! O! 'tis easier to keep Holidays than Commandments.
-- Benjamin Franklin, 1743 - Poor Richards Almanack
"Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas."
-- Calvin Coolidge
"I have always thought of Christmas time as a good time. A kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time. The only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely."
-- Charles Dickens
"There has been only one Christmas - the rest are anniversaries."
-- W.J. Cameron
"He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree."
-- Roy L. Smith
"I heard the bells on Christmas Day. Their old, familiar carols play. And wild and sweet the words repeat. Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."
-- Norman Vincent Peale
"A good conscience is a continual Christmas."
-- Benjamin Franklin
"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."
-- Charles Dickens
"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?"
-- Theodor Seuss Geisel
As we celebrate the birth of our Lord today, I would like to wish you all a very merry Christmas!
December 24, 2006
Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private, and public virtue is the only foundation of republics. There must be a positive passion for the public good, the public interest, honour, power and glory, established in the minds of the people, or there can be no republican government, nor any real liberty: and this public passion must be superiour to all private passions.
-- John Adams, 1776 - letter to Mercy Warren
December 23, 2006
"We have therefore to resolve to conquer or die: Our won Country's Honor, all call upon us for vigorous and manly exertion, and if we now shamefully fail, we shall become infamous to the whole world. Let us therefore rely upon the goodness of the Cause, and the aid of the supreme Being, in whose hands Victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble Actions."
-- George Washington, 1776 - General Orders
I just had to pass this on. It's a pretty good joke from chicpilot.
A teacher gave her fifth grade class an assignment: get their parents to tell them a story with a moral at the end of it. The next day the kids came back and one by one began to tell their stories.
"Johnny, do you have a story to share?"
"Yes ma'am. My daddy told a story about my Aunt Sheila. She was a Pilot in Desert Storm and her plane got hit. She had to bail out over enemy territory and all she had was a bottle of whisky, a pistol and a survival knife. She drank the whisky on the way down so it wouldn't break and then her parachute landed right in the middle of twenty enemy troops. She shot fifteen of them with the gun until she ran out of bullets, killed four more with the knife, till the blade broke and then she killed the last Iraqi with her bare hands."
"Good Heavens" said the horrified teacher. "What kind of moral did your daddy tell you from this horrible story?"
"Stay the Hell away from Aunt Sheila when she's been drinking."
chicpilot is an Air Force flight instructor who has some interesting posts on her blog. I hope that you can go and check out her blog.
December 22, 2006
"I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death."
-- Thomas Paine, 1776 - The American Crisis, no 1
Every bit of strategy that is being discussed is based on the idea that we are losing. The Democratic opposition is based on the idea that we are losing. The media mantra is that we are losing. What if we are not?
Go read the rest. He points out some very real positive changes in Iraq's economy that cannot be ignored.
[Via Glenn Reynolds.]
George Packer has an excellent article in The New Yorker about knowing our enemy. He showcases a few independent thinkers who have some impressive ideas on how to conduct effective counterinsurgency operations against the jihadists.
Just before the 2004 American elections, Kilcullen was doing intelligence work for the Australian government, sifting through Osama bin Laden’s public statements, including transcripts of a video that offered a list of grievances against America: Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, global warming. The last item brought Kilcullen up short. “I thought, Hang on! What kind of jihadist are you?” he recalled. The odd inclusion of environmentalist rhetoric, he said, made clear that “this wasn’t a list of genuine grievances. This was an Al Qaeda information strategy.” Ron Suskind, in his book “The One Percent Doctrine,” claims that analysts at the C.I.A. watched a similar video, released in 2004, and concluded that “bin Laden’s message was clearly designed to assist the President’s reëlection.” Bin Laden shrewdly created an implicit association between Al Qaeda and the Democratic Party, for he had come to feel that Bush’s strategy in the war on terror was sustaining his own global importance. Indeed, in the years after September 11th Al Qaeda’s core leadership had become a propaganda hub. “If bin Laden didn’t have access to global media, satellite communications, and the Internet, he’d just be a cranky guy in a cave,” Kilcullen said.
This is a long article, but you should take the time to read the whole thing.
[Via Jack Kelly at Irish Pennants.]
Santa: An Engineer's Perspective
I received the following email from a dear family friend. He evidently thought I, as an engineer myself, am anal enough to appreciate the attention to detail. I did, indeed, appreciate this note, but drew the line at actually checking the calculations. I will leave that as an exercise for the reader . . .
> SANTA CLAUS: From An Engineer's Perspective
1. There are approximately two billion children (persons under 18) in the world. However, since Santa does not visit children of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or Buddhist religions, this reduces the workload for Christmas night to 15% of the total, or 378 million (according to the Population Reference Bureau). At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that comes to 108 million homes, presuming that there is at least one good child in each.
2. Santa has about 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 967.7 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with a good child, Santa has around 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left for him, get back up the chimney, jump into the sleigh and get on to the next house.
3. Assuming that each of these 108 million stops is evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false, but will accept for the purposes of our calculations), we are now talking about 0.78 miles per household, a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting bathroom stops or breaks. This means Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second, and a conventional reindeer can run (at best) 15 miles per hour.
4. The payload of the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium sized LEGO set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying over 500 thousand tons, not counting Santa himself. On land a conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds.
5. Even granting that "flying" reindeer could pull ten times the normal amount, the job can't be done with eight or even nine of them. Santa would need 360,000 of them. This increases the payload, not counting the weight of the sleigh, another 54,000 tons, or roughly seven times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth (the ship, not the monarch) - 600,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance. This would heat up the reindeer in the same fashion as a spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer would absorb 14.3 quintrillion joules of energy per second each. In short, they would burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second, or right about the time Santa reached the fifth house on his trip.
6. Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a result of accelerating from a dead stop to 650 m.p.s in .001 second, would be subjected to centrifugal forces of 17,500 g's. A 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 lbs of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs and reducing him to a quivering blob of pink goo.
7. Therefore, if Santa did exist, he's dead now.
8. ..but Merry Christmas anyway!
December 21, 2006
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
-- Thomas Paine, 1776 - The American Crisis, No. 1
Cutting back on spending
If this article is correct, I will feel a little better about a Democrat-controlled Congress.
Republican leaders left behind just enough spending authority to keep the government operating through mid-February, less than halfway through the 2007 fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Democrats have signaled that when they take control of Congress in January they will extend that funding authority for the remainder of the year based largely on the previous year's spending levels, which will result in many cuts in programs.
The Democrats also will do something that is certain to anger many lawmakers but cheer critics of excessive government spending: They will wipe out thousands of lawmakers' pet projects, or earmarks, that have been a source of great controversy on Capitol Hill. In the past, lawmakers have peppered individual spending bills with earmarks benefiting special interests. But the funding resolution the Democrats intend to pass in lieu of spending bills will be devoid of earmarks.
When the government spends less money, the government gets smaller. And the government is something this country can use less of.
Bill Roggio, currently imbedded with the US Marines in Iraq, discusses the details of standing up the Iraqi Army.
The relationship between the Marines and the Iraqi Army has changed over the past year. The 1st Iraqi Army Division is now in the Fallujah region, and the 1st Brigade's sister unit, the 2nd Brigade, is now operating independently, with embedded Marine Military Transition Teams. Major David McCombs, the executive officer of the 3-2-1 MTT, said their mission is to “advise, assist and mentor the Iraqi Army, and what they do with this is up to them.” There is 1 MTT at the brigade level, and 1 MTT for each of the 3 light infantry battalions in the brigade.
The Marines of the 3rd Recon Military Transition Team (or MTT), advises the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Brigade of the 1st Division (3-2-1). The 3-2-1 MTT is made up of 15 personnel (11 trained MTTs with 4 augment Marines), who are embedded withing an Iraqi battalion (about 500 troops).
He provides a balanced assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the MTT as well as the Iraqi units, and then makes some recommendations.
A Kurd's response to the ISG report
Masrour Barzani, currently director of the Intelligence and Security Agency of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq and a high-ranking member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, has posted a rebuttal to the ill-conceived ISG report. And he's not being nice.
The Iraq Study Group's recommendations will accomplish nothing in Iraq. Its expressions of "gratitude" to those of us Iraqis who fought on the battlefield for freedom and liberty ring hollow. The report ignores our accomplishments, dreams and sacrifices in favor of a concern for those whose ultimate goal is the destruction of democracy.
Our federal constitution, which the majority of the Iraqi people voted for, is treated flippantly, as though it were a negotiable document rather than the hard-fought result of lengthy negotiation among those willing to participate in the new Iraq. Further, the study group's approach is driven by the concerns of the countries in this region rather than by the concerns of the Iraqi people.
Many Iraqis, especially the Kurds, are justifiably concerned about this. No one from the study group visited Iraqi Kurdistan, which the group admits is safe and pro-American, and where there has not been a single U.S. casualty since the war. Kurds not only fought alongside Americans but lost some of our best men to American friendly-fire incidents. Yet we staunchly support the work of the coalition and are eternally grateful for the sacrifices the American people have made for our future.
The report is right to acknowledge that part of the problem in Iraq is America's inability to distinguish friend from foe. Unfortunately, Baker-Hamilton fares even worse in this regard. This comes as little surprise, since it was partly written by those who orchestrated the saving of Saddam Hussein in 1991.
Go read the whole thing.
December 20, 2006
"An honorable Peace is and always was my first wish! I can take no delight in the effusion of human Blood; but, if this War should continue, I wish to have the most active part in it."
-- John Paul Jones, 1782 - letter to Gouverneur Morris
Marines from space
Popular Science has an article outlining a Marine proposal for a Small Unit Space Transport And INsertion (SUSTAIN) capability that would couple the Marine's mission to a suborbital transport in order to deliver US Marines to any location on Earth within two hours.
As any battlefield commander will tell you, getting troops to the fight can be as difficult as winning it. And for modern-day soldiers, the sites of conflict are so far-flung, and the political considerations of even flying over another country so complicated, that rapid entry has become nearly impossible. If a group of Marine Corps visionaries have their way, however, 30 years from now, Marines could touch down anywhere on the globe in less than two hours, without needing to negotiate passage through foreign airspace. The breathtaking efficiency of such a delivery system could change forever the way the U.S. does battle.
Bill Roggio provides a description and analysis of his experiences as an embedded reporter in Fallujah.
The Military Transition Team for 3 Company, as well as the rest of 3rd Battalion, have truly moved into an advisory role. “They advise, assist and mentor the Iraqi Army, and what they do with this is up to them,” said Major David McCombs, the executive officer of MTT for 3rd Battalion. The other two MTTs for 1 and 2 Companies have the same role as 3 Company's MTT.
The Iraqi soldiers, or jundi, in southwestern Fallujah run multiple patrols on their own; the Marines do not accompany the jundi every time they leave the wire. They provide for their own food, ammunition, “3 Company gathers their intelligence, plan and execute their own operations,” said Lt. Cortez, the lead adviser at The ROC.
These soldiers are volunteers, and are highly motivated to kill “Ali Baba” - the name they give the insurgents. There are major shortcomings with the Iraqi Army in Fallujah: logistics, pay and the lack of heavy weapons hold the jundi back from being fully independent (this will be covered in more depth along with the police in future posts on the MTTs/PTTs). But a fighting spirit is not one of these shortcomings.
This is the kind of boots-on-the-ground information that we desperately need in this country to make an informed decision about our current and future involvement in building a democratic Iraq.
Hope for democracy
The Futurist looks at the Age of Democracy. And makes a couple of observations:
1) The Western Hemisphere has done a much better job of establishing democracy than the Eastern Hemisphere, with 90% of Western Hemisphere residents living in green count[r]ies.
2) India is hugely important to any discussion of increasing democracy in the world, given its size and what it is surrounded by. The US would do well to cultivate broader ties with India as quickly as possible, and India would do well to cooperate rather than revert back to 'non-aligned' nonsense.
Graphics and charts are a part of the post. Generally, things are looking up from this perpective. Go check it out and see if you agree.
December 19, 2006
"I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm's way."
-- John Paul Jones, 1778 - letter to M. Le Ray de Chaumont
Author, professor, and Iraq veteran, Austin Bay, has compiled a must-read list of books concerning foreign policy, national defense, military history, and more.
It's well worth a look . . .
December 18, 2006
"Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"
-- Patrick Henry, 1775 - Speech to the Virginia Convention
Clive Crook, over at National Journal, has a good op-ed about Milton Friedman's unfinished work.
Enormously influential as he was, and triumph as he invariably did in debate with his intellectual opponents, I don't know if you could say that Friedman was on the winning side in the 20th century's great battle of ideas. Communism collapsed, to be sure, but in Europe and the United States, economists like Friedman saw a lot of ground surrendered to higher taxes and public spending, and to an ever-proliferating web of economic regulation. There were interruptions now and then (notably Ronald Reagan in the United States and Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom), but interruptions is all they were. Over recent decades the trend in America has been toward gradually diminishing economic freedom.
It's a good look at economic freedom in this country. Recommended.
It seems that the Iraqi government has hundreds of volunteers who would like to be Saddam Hussein's executioner.
Lisa Beyer, over at Time, has an op-ed that discusses the big lie about the Middle East. Here's how she begins:
No sensible person is against peacemaking in the Holy Land. Applause and hopefulness would seem the reasonable reaction to the Iraq Study Group's recommendation that the Bush Administration "act boldly" and "as soon as possible" to resolve the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. But as a front-row observer of similar efforts over the past 15 years, I could muster neither response. In lumping the Iraq mess in with the Palestinian problem--and suggesting the first could not be fixed unless the second was too--the Baker-Hamilton commission lent credibility to a corrosive myth: that the fundamental problem in the Arab world is the plight of the Palestinians.
She is absolutely correct in regards to this. It's not about the plight of the Palestinians. It's about survival of the tyrants and despotic power-holders in the Middle East. Even such benevolent rulers as the Saudi royals are more concerned with preserving their power than with the plight of the Palestinians.
December 17, 2006
"With hearts fortified with these animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare, that, exerting the utmost energy of those powers, which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverance employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live as slaves."
-- John Dickinson and Thomas Jefferson, 1775 - Declaration of the Cause and Necessity of Taking up Arms
Merry Christmas to our troops
Crosscards has a nice animated Christmas e-card for our troops nice animated Christmas e-card for our troops.
Go check it out.
World economic future looks bright
James Peron discusses a World Bank report, Global Economics Prospects 2007, that was released today and projects that the poor will be getting richer, faster.
The report expects the world economy to grow from last year's $35 trillion to $72 trillion by 2030. And this "is driven more than ever before by strong performance in the developing countries." Only two decades ago the poor nations provided only 14 percent of wealthy nations' manufactured imports. Today they provide 40 percent and by 2030 they are projected to provide over 65 percent.
As it was over the last 25 years it is the poor who will benefit the most. "The number of people living on less than $1 a day [in constant dollars] could be cut in half, from 1.1 billion now to 550 million in 2030." And the number living on less than $2 per day will decline by an estimated 800 million.
December 16, 2006
"It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our children and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives."
-- John Adams, 1756 - Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law
Claudia Rosett has penned the farewell speech that Kofi Annan should have given. Here's how it begins:
Thank you for that generous introduction. I don’t deserve it. Please hold your applause until you hear what I have to say. This is not false modesty. I am quite serious — I don’t deserve the honor of speaking here today. At least once in every life there comes a moment of honesty, and for reasons I cannot fathom — perhaps the shock of looking back at just what a self-serving failure I have been — this is mine.
During my decade as secretary-general, and indeed for some time before that, I have indulged in more than my share of half-truths, quarter-truths, cover-ups, immoral inanities and staggering hypocrisies. I have shuffled paperwork while ignoring genocides, I have rushed to shake hands with tyrants while deriding democrats; I have suffered from memory gaps while adroitly recalling just enough to know what needs covering up. I took office promising to reform the U.N., and instead produced a record that deserves to be summed up by such phrases as peacekeeper rape, procurement bribery, and Oil-for-Food.
I have praised a “reformed” Human Rights Council that functions as a complete farce. I have demanded “peace” deals and pushed for a brand of morally blind diplomacy that has paved the way for a terrorist takeover of Lebanon, worsening turmoil in the Middle East, and a nuclear-armed Iran. In contradiction of the U.N. charter, which describes my role as the U.N.’s “chief administrative officer,” I have styled myself, in my own phrase, as “chief diplomat of the world,” setting up a vast array of opaque trusts, projects, partnerships, and programs which have massively expanded the U.N. beyond any provisions for oversight, while providing me with opportunities for patronage, and places to park my cronies. At the same time, while entrusted with a budget of billions, and a world stage, I have shirked all responsibility for my own failures, shifting blame especially to the United States.
Frankly, it’s an insult to the memory of President Harry Truman, who oversaw the founding of the U.N., that I have staged this farewell speech here today, coming to the Truman Presidential Museum and Library with the express purpose of singling out for criticism not the leaders of Iran, or Syria, or North Korea, or even China or Russia, but of America, and — by extension, since this is a democracy — America’s voters (who also happen to be the taxpayers who have made my U.N. career possible). In truth, if Harry Truman had foreseen the swollen, corrupt, and anti-American reality of today’s U.N. — including my own efforts to meddle in U.S. politics — he might have scrapped the whole project.
Now we're getting much closer to the reality of his tenure in the U.N. I wonder if he will ever acknowledge it?
Compare and contrast . . .
Victor Davis Hansen does a little of that when he looks at the war in Iraq today and WWII 65 years ago.
Suffice to say that when the Democrats allege incompetence because we are not yet victorious, they forget we have lost 50 soldiers a month since September 11, not 8,000 as was true of every month during World War II. And it is much easier to carpet bomb Tokyo, as horrendously difficult as that was, than to go into Fallujah and sort out the terrorists from the “innocent” under the glare of a hostile globalized media, and a disunited American public, some of whom believe that Cindy Sheehan or Michael Moore should be consulted for their superior wisdom.
As a nation, we no longer know what it means to fight a defensive war with unrelenting resolve to eliminate the threat posed by our enemies.
In fact, with the notable exception of our military, we no longer know how to even fight a war as a nation.
We, deliberately or inadvertently, have empowered our enemies this last month or so by the Rumsfeld departure, the grandstanding comments about failure in the Gates confirmation hearing, the Bolton resignation, and now the Iraq Study Group, all of which conspired to convey the image of an overripe, juicy American plum easy to be picked off by assorted enemies.
I apologize for the pessimism in this post, but what, on Earth, is this nation coming to? What has happened to us?
December 15, 2006
"No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffusd and Virtue is preservd. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauchd in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders. "
-- Samuel Adams, 1775 - letter to James Warren
Supporting the troops
Australian vocalist, Beccy Cole, sings a song of gratitude and pride to the Aussie troops (diggers). This music video has been around for awhile, but I thought I'd go ahead and post it. It's well worth listening to again.
Americans in Iraq
Bill Roggio has a post up describing how Spirit of America is working to help the kids in Anbar. This is another one of those things you don't see reported by the mainstream media.
Major Britt Rosenberry, the Army Special Operations Liason officer serving in Fallujah, has just placed an order with Spirit of America for bulk of school supplies. The order consists of several thousand backpacks filled with notepads, books, pens, pencils and other school materials for the children throughout the Al Anbar Province. I met Major Rosenberry at Camp Fallujah and discussed the difficult situation with the schools and how the supplies will help the children throughout Al Anbar Province.
This is another one of those things you don't often see reported by the mainstream media.
Go read the rest.
A formula for success -- the Patriquin Strategy
Patterico has a post up that discusses a technique incorporating cooperation and support with the sheiks in Iraq.
The post has several links that you should follow, including one to a power point pesentation prepared by Captain Travis Patriquin that illustrates his tactic. Cpt. Patriquin died last week in an enemy attack.
But his tactic is proving to be an effective one. Let's hope that we can implement it all across Iraq, and make that a gesture of respect and gratitude for his sacrifice.
Islamic anti-jihadist speaks out
M. Zuhdi Jasser has an op-ed at the Free Muslims Coalition website that urges American Muslims to step out in faith and oppose the murderous jihadists -- more publicly and more energetically.
As a devout Muslim, I have watched this painfully protracted saga unravel, fearing what comes next. The media, especially print media, have bent over backward to hear minorities' fears. Yet public opinion has not seemed to budge in favor of the imams. The lesson here lies in why. It has to do with credibility.
We are all creatures of passion. This fiasco has stirred the passionate cry of victimization from the Muslim activist community and imam community. But where were the news conferences, the rallies to protest the endless litany of atrocities performed by people who act supposedly in my religion's name? Where are the denunciations, not against terrorism in the abstract, but clear denunciations of al-Qaida or Hamas, of Wahhabism or militant Islamism, of Darfurian genocide or misogyny and honor killings, to name a few? There is no cry, there is no rage. At best, there is the most tepid of disclaimers. In short, there is no passion. But for victimization, always.
Only when Americans see that animating passion will they believe that we Muslims are totally against the fascists that have hijacked our religion. There is only so much bandwidth in the American culture to focus upon Islam and Muslims. If we fill it with our shouts of victimization, then the real problems from within and outside our faith community will never be heard.
We need to support this voice in the wilderness. And nurture this sentiment. Not all practitioners of Islam are fascists.
December 14, 2006
"Cherish, therefore, the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, Judges, and Governors, shall all become wolves."
-- Thomas Jefferson, 1787 - letter to Edward Carrington
A culture of victory
In stark contrast to the cut and run crowd, a group of military experts were consulted by the White House and said that reducing troops was the wrong answer.
White House officials emphasized that although the experts gave a bleak assessment, they still believe the situation in Iraq is "winnable."
"I appreciate the advice I got from those folks in the field," Bush said after emerging from the morning session. "And that advice is . . . an important component of putting together a new way forward in Iraq."
Progress in Iraq
Lt. General Peter W. Chiarelli is preparing to hand over the reigns of the Multi-National Corps - Iraq to his successor tomorrow. He held a roundtable interview session with the press and had some interesting things to say:
“I happen to believe that we have tremendous strategic interests in what we're doing over here,” said Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, MNC-I commanding general. “I happen to believe this is the most important conflict that we've been involved in the last 50 years.”
During the interview session Chiarelli expressed his views on the overall situation in Iraq.
“I hope we can start to focus with the new government, as it continues to get its legs underneath it,” Chiarelli said. “And I think it's absolutely essential that we give the Iraqis an opportunity to do exactly what they want to do, and that's to form their kind of democratic government here in Iraq. And no matter what we say back home, it's going to take time.
It doesn't sound like he thinks cut and run is a viable strategy, either.
ISG report -- a dissenting view
David Frum is not terribly convinced that the ISG has gotten it right. In fact, he takes exception to the ISG linking the Israel-Palestine conflict with the conflict in Iraq. Here's how he starts:
Have you seen the sly "demotivational" posters produced by Despair.com?
They look exactly like traditional motivational posters--pictures of lofty mountains, soaring eagles, etc.--but with subversively unexpected messages. My favourite: a poster that shows a half-dozen hands--male and female, black, white and brown--clasped together in solidarity, over the words: "None of us is as dumb as all of us."
I could not think of a more apt description of the just released report of the Iraq Study Group, also known as the Baker-Hamilton commission. The group included genuine Washington eminences like former secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger and shrewd players like Vernon Jordan. I doubt that any one of them on his or her own could have produced anything quite so feeble and unconvincing as they have all produced together.
He then proceeds to back up his assertion with some convincing arguments.
Don't sweat the small stuff
As a resident of Texas, I have been completely unaware of blind people who want to hunt here. I certainly hope our Texas legislators try to tackle some of the important issues that this state faces today -- and stop playing around with nonsense like this!
December 13, 2006
"Law and liberty cannot rationally become the objects of our love, unless they first become the objects of our knowledge."
-- James Wilson, 1790 - Of the Study of the Law in the United States
The Iranian threat
That's the reason why all of this talk about wiping Israel off the map has to be taken seriously, even apart from Iran's nuclear program. When nations repeatedly talk about wiping other nations off the map, history shows that they usually follow through. Stoking anti-Semitism through bogus symposiums starring such hatemongers as David Duke fans the political fires they need to eventually take action to match their rhetoric.
With Ahmadinejad's popularity dropping, he may feel pressed to take that action sooner rather than later. Do we know how we will react to an Iranian attack on Israel?
Well, do we? We need to knowthat answer, because we are going to have to act on it someday in the not so distant future.
And we need to be prepared.
A culture of defeat
Mary Katharine Ham reports on the accolades given to the Iraq Study Group report. She also attempts to bring a more realistic interpretation to the table by pointing out those who disagree with the study group recommendations.
I know a Marine. He sits on a low bench at Walter Reed Hospital, white paper crinkling beneath him as he works his left knee back and forth. Below the knee is about 12 inches of tibia, wrapped at the end in gauze and tight bandages while the wound heals.
His left foot took its last step in Ramadi. It landed on an IED instead of Iraqi sand. He was on his way to clear a tower of an insurgent sniper when it happened. His fellow Marines—some double amputees jogging on treadmills and lifting weights—rib him, calling the injury a “flesh wound.”
These are Marines who are fighting for our life, liberty, and security. They are part of a culture of victory in this country -- one, unfortunately, that is sadly diminished.
And who, you may ask, are a part of this country's culture of defeat?
Tim Russert. Harry Reid. Joe Biden. Carl Levin. George Stephanopoulos.
You would think they would know better. Anybody remember the silly movie, "Advance to the Rear?" That's these guys spin on things.
MKH has it right when she says:
Only in a Washington TV studio, perfumed with hairspray and haughtiness, could running away before the job is done be considered tough and resolved.
She talks about other Marines, too.
I know a Marine. He is packing his stuff this week. On Saturday, he will bend down, kiss his wife good-bye, and deploy again for Iraq. He will not leave with a mind to allowing the collapse of Iraq’s government, a humanitarian catastrophe, a propaganda victory for al Qaeda, the diminishing of America’s global standing, or negotiations with the enemy, just because it means we can get out of Iraq quickly.
He’ll go with a mind to win, and he will not find boldness, passion, toughness, glee, or honor in anything less. That is a practice for Washingtonians, not Marines.
Thank God for our Marines, Soldiers, Airmen, and Sailors. I just wish there were more like them in our nation's capitol.
UPDATE: MKH has received many emails in response to her piece referred to in this post. You can read several of those responses right here. Here's one of them:
I know a few Marines as well, and I no longer am able to know a few others.
I sadly shake my head at the turn taken by our government, and by our elected leadership. We get whet we elect. The Press is well beyond reproach, yet we have never seen them happier. It is like living through Viet Nam all over again (my fight, 4 years USN).
We have much to repair, it is time to begin to work even harder...
Bill Roggio, currently in Fallujah, has a post up about the propoganda war in Iraq. Here's how he begins:
FALLUJAH, IRAQ: The information front in the Long War is perhaps the war's most vital. And it is one front where the West is perceived as losing. While Coalition forces and Middle Eastern allies face shadowy transnational terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and its affiliates on the battlefields of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere, the battle for hearts and minds is being fought on the Internet, print, cable and satellite television, and other forms of media. In Iraq, the al-Zawraa satellite television network is broadcasting insurgent propaganda 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
This is where we are losing against Islamic fascists -- not just in Iraq but throughout the world. Even some of our own citizens are beginning to believe this deceitful propaganda.
Scary, isn't it?
A 2002 perspective
Larry Miller has a humorous and insightful, albeit 4.5 years old, op-ed about the Arab-Israeli conflict. He also makes some good points. Here's his synopsis:
The Palestinians want their own country. There's just one thing about that: There are no Palestinians. It's a made up word. Israel was called Palestine for two thousand years. Like "Wiccan," "Palestinian" sounds ancient but is really a modern invention. Before the Israelis won the land in war, Gaza was owned by Egypt, and there were no "Palestinians" then, and the West Bank was owned by Jordan, and there were no "Palestinians" then. As soon as the Jews took over and started growing oranges as big as basketballs, what do you know, say hello to the "Palestinians," weeping for their deep bond with their lost "land" and "nation." So for the sake of honesty, let's not use the word "Palestinian" any more to describe these delightful folks, who dance for joy at our deaths until someone points out they're being taped. Instead, let's call them what they are: "Other Arabs From The Same General Area Who Are In Deep Denial About Never Being Able To Accomplish Anything In Life And Would Rather Wrap Themselves In The Seductive Melodrama Of Eternal Struggle And Death." I know that's a bit unwieldy to expect to see on CNN. How about this, then: "Adjacent Jew-Haters."
Go read the whole thing.
December 12, 2006
"It is an object of vast magnitude that systems of education should be adopted and pursued which may not only diffuse a knowledge of the sciences but may implant in the minds of the American youth the principles of virtue and of liberty and inspire them with just and liberal ideas of government and with an inviolable attachment to their own country."
-- Noah Webster, 1790 - On Education of Youth in America
The Associated Press has a surprisingly balanced article about the tough situation in Ramadi.
"Operation Squeeze Play" is proving easier than expected considering this 20-block section of southeastern Ramadi _ known as "Second Officer's District" because it's home to so many former leaders of Saddam Hussein's army _ was not so long ago a no-go zone for U.S. troops.
"You used to look at a map and it'd be like the Columbus-era, 'South of here lies dragons,' because nobody ever went there," said Capt. Jon Paul Hart, assistant operations officer for the Army's 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment. "All we knew was that it was really bad, really dangerous."
Ramadi, the capital of the western, overwhelming Sunni Arab province of al-Anbar, has seen some of the bloodiest street battles of the war. Sunni insurgents remain well-entrenched here and continue to move freely through parts of downtown where Americans often dare not set foot.
At least six U.S. troops were killed in fierce fighting in the province on Wednesday, the military said.
But as the White House faces calls to revisit its Iraq policy, U.S. forces in Ramadi insist their strategy here _ taking ground and holding it _ is proving effective.
"You have to occupy ground and stay there," said Capt. Greg Pavlichko, commander of a company involved in "Squeeze Play." "You have to live where you're fighting and let the people see you're committed to an area."
Commanders also say that any progress in Ramadi will evaporate almost overnight if U.S. forces pull out of the city. There is speculation the U.S. may scale back its operations here and throughout Anbar to focus on the violence and chaos in Baghdad.
"I think to give up on Anbar would be to give up on Iraq," Hart said. "It would be giving up all that we've worked very hard, sacrificed a lot of lives, to gain."
This agrees with other reports written by journalists who are currently in Ramadi.
Go read the whole thing.
Jeane Kirkpatrick was a stalwart advocate of America's leading role and responsibility in the global community. National Review Online has brought together tributes to the Iron Lady from those who worked with and observed her through the years. Here is a snippet from Vin Weber's thoughts:
Jeane Kirkpatrick was a warm, wonderful, witty human being. She was a devoted and loving wife, mother, and grandmother. She was a good friend.
And she still found time to help save the world.
A great American. A great woman. A national treasure.
She will be missed.
Astronaut Bill Oefelein is circumnavigating the globe every 90 minutes, or so, and is blogging about it.
December 11, 2006
"A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."
-- James Madison, 1822 - letter to W.T. Barry
The bully Senate?
OpinionJournal has a good op-ed about an implicitly threatening letter from two senators to the CEO of ExxonMobil.
Here's a brief excerpt from the letter:
Climate change denial has been so effective because the "denial community" has mischaracterized the necessarily guarded language of serious scientific dialogue as vagueness and uncertainty. Mainstream media outlets, attacked for being biased, help lend credence to skeptics' views, regardless of their scientific integrity, by giving them relatively equal standing with legitimate scientists. ExxonMobil is responsible for much of this bogus scientific "debate" and the demand for what the deniers cynically refer to as "sound science."
A study to be released in November by an American scientific group will expose ExxonMobil as the primary funder of no fewer than 29 climate change denial front groups in 2004 alone.
The op-ed response to this letter is in the extended entry.
Global Warming Gag Order
Senators to Exxon: Shut up, and pay up.
Monday, December 4, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST
Washington has no shortage of bullies, but even we can't quite believe an October 27 letter that Senators Jay Rockefeller and Olympia Snowe sent to ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. Its message: Start toeing the Senators' line on climate change, or else.
We reprint the full text of the letter here, so readers can see for themselves. But its essential point is that the two Senators believe global warming is a fact, and therefore all debate about the issue must stop and ExxonMobil should "end its dangerous support of the [global warming] 'deniers.' " Not only that, the company "should repudiate its climate change denial campaign and make public its funding history." And in extra penance for being "one of the world's largest carbon emitters," Exxon should spend that money on "global remediation efforts."
The Senators aren't dumb enough to risk an ethics inquiry by threatening specific consequences if Mr. Tillerson declines this offer he can't refuse. But in case the CEO doesn't understand his company's jeopardy, they add that "ExxonMobil and its partners in denial have manufactured controversy, sown doubt, and impeded progress with strategies all-too reminiscent of those used by the tobacco industry for so many years." (Our emphasis.) The Senators also graciously copied the Exxon board on their missive.
This is amazing stuff. On the one hand, the Senators say that everyone agrees on the facts and consequences of climate change. But at the same time they are so afraid of debate that they want Exxon to stop financing a doughty band of dissenters who can barely get their name in the paper. We respect the folks at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, but we didn't know until reading the Rockefeller-Snowe letter that they ran U.S. climate policy and led the mainstream media around by the nose, too. Congratulations.
Let's compare the balance of forces: on one side, CEI; on the other, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense, the U.N. and EU, Hollywood, Al Gore, and every politically correct journalist in the country. We'll grant that's a fair intellectual fight. But if the Senators are so afraid that a handful of policy wonks at a single small think-tank are in danger of winning this debate, they must not have much confidence in the merits of their own case.
The letter is so over-the-top that we also wonder if Mr. Rockefeller in particular has even read it. (He and Ms. Snowe didn't return our call.) The Senator hails from coal-producing West Virginia, where people know something about carbon emissions. Come to think of it, Mr. Rockefeller owes his own vast wealth to something other than non-carbon energy. But perhaps it's easier to be carbon free when your fortune comes from a trust fund.
The letter is of a piece with what has become a campaign of intimidation against any global warming dissent. Not only is everyone supposed to concede that the planet has been warming--as it has--but we are all supposed to salute and agree that human beings are the definitive cause, that the magnitude of the warming will be disastrous and its effects catastrophic, that such problems as AIDS and poverty are less urgent, and that economic planners must therefore impose vast new regulatory burdens on everyone around the world. Exxon is being targeted in this letter and other ways because it is one of the few companies that still thinks some debate on these questions is valuable.
Every dogma has its day, and we've lived long enough to see more than one "consensus" blown apart within a few years of "everyone knowing" it was true. In recent decades environmentalists have been wrong about almost every other apocalyptic claim they've made: global famine, overpopulation, natural resource exhaustion, the evils of pesticides, global cooling, and so on. Perhaps it's useful to have a few folks outside the "consensus" asking questions before we commit several trillion dollars to any problem.
Imagine if this letter had been sent by someone in the Bush Administration trying to enforce the opposite conclusion? The left would be howling about "censorship." That's exactly what did happen earlier this year after James Hansen, the NASA scientist and global warming evangelist, complained that a lowly 24-year-old press aide had tried to limit his media access. The entire episode was preposterous because Mr. Hansen is one of the most publicized scientists in the world, but the press aide was nonetheless sacked.
The Senators' letter is far more serious because they have enormous power to punish Exxon if it doesn't kowtow to them. A windfall profits tax is in the air, and we've seen what happens to other companies that dare to resist Congressional intimidation. It's to Exxon's credit that, in its response to the Senators, the company said that it will continue to fund free market research groups because "there is value in the debate" that helps promote "optimal public policy decisions." Too bad that's not what the Senators care about.
[Used with permission from OpinionJournal.com, a web site from Dow Jones & Company, Inc.]
I find it disturbing that two senators from this country would try to suppress dissenting voices in a critically important scientific debate.
MG William B. Caldwell IV recently visited Fallujah and reports that security and stability have greatly improved there.
If you follow the news coming out of Iraq, you have seen too many headlines about the bloodshed in Baghdad in recent days. As American servicemen and women prepare to spend a fourth holiday season trying to help build a new Iraq, these headlines have led some people to conclude that our mission may be hopeless.
However, my recent visit to Fallujah has reaffirmed my strong conviction that as bad as the situation may sometimes appear, there is still reason to be optimistic for Iraq’s future.
Although it has been out of the headlines for some time, take a minute to recall why the name Fallujah resonates so strongly in our collective memory. Perhaps the most disturbing images of Operation Iraqi Freedom emanated from Fallujah on March 31, 2004, as the bodies of four murdered American contractors were desecrated and the charred corpses hung off the Euphrates River Bridge for the world to see. The “Fallujah Brigade,” a unit comprised of former Iraqi army officers, failed to prevent warlords allied with Al Qaeda in Iraq from effectively taking over the city. Foreign fighters and terrorist insurgents imposed a Taliban-like regime over the city, torturing and beheading innocent people who just wanted to enjoy the freedoms that resulted from the fall of Saddam Hussein. (One torture chamber later uncovered included cages in the basement and a wall covered with bloody handprints). With more than 100,000 explosive rounds stockpiled in weapons caches throughout the city, these invaders of Fallujah exported scores of suicide bombers bent on mass murder. The population of Fallujah fled in droves, reducing the number of residents to only 50-60,000. By October 2004, Fallujah was a city without security, without stability, and seemingly without hope.
In order to rescue the people of Fallujah and eliminate it as a base of operations for Al Qaida, Coalition forces launched Operation Al Fajr, or “The Dawn.” Led by American Marines, Coalition Forces battled 2-3,000 terrorists in fierce and sustained urban combat. Although Fallujah was liberated, half the city was decimated by the intense combat.
What has happened to Fallujah since that ferocious battle?
Last week, I saw a city of 350,000 people who have made incredible progress over the past two years. In the aftermath of Operation Al Fajr, in March of 2005, there were 3,000 United States Marines and only 300 Iraqi Security Forces in Fallujah. Today, the people of the city are protected by 1,500 members of their own Iraqi Security Force and only 300 Marines. The police are comprised of native Fallujans, and enjoy strong support from the local population. They are able to patrol their own neighborhoods, enforce their own laws, and handle the transition to responsibility for their own security and growth. Despite the sectarian violence which plagues other parts of the country, I saw the commander of the local Iraqi Army unit, a Shi’a, sit and work productively with the local police chief, a Sunni – a relationship few would have believed possible in Fallujah just a year ago.
I attended a city council meeting, where a democratically elected mayor and city council led the deliberations about the peoples’ business. To be honest, the Council’s discussion of traffic control was not exciting. But the mundane business of a functioning democracy can be uneventful when its institutions are working properly. At the same time, it was exciting to witness democracy in action on soil that once seemed entirely inhospitable. Membership of the Fallujah Business Association has grown from only 20 members last February to over 350 today, demonstrating optimism for economic growth. I even saw a processing center where Fallujah welcomes persons displaced by instability elsewhere.
Fallujah’s transition has not been easy. Terrorists and insurgents are waging a brutal campaign of murder and intimidation against the city’s government and police force. Unemployment remains high, and there is still much rebuilding to be done. But Colonel Larry Nicholson and the young Marines of Regimental Combat Team-5 firmly believe they have turned Fallujah into a model of what Iraq can become. Iraqis themselves support this hope, as families have been arriving in Fallujah en masse to seek shelter from instability in other parts of Iraq.
In October 2004, the world saw the incredible courage of the Coalition Force, as Marines did their part to create hope for Iraqis. Today, visitors to Fallujah can see the courage of Iraqis for themselves.
Difficult times remain ahead for the U.S. and Coalition Forces in Iraq . Many sacrifices remain to be made by both U.S.servicemen and women and their Iraqi partners in Fallujah. But the city is an example of what can be achieved when courageous leaders, brave security forces, and hard-working citizens unite for a common goal – a secure and unified future. The progress in Fallujah demonstrates that with time and effort, recovery is possible in Iraq in the wake of brutal violence.
Photo Caption: Soldiers from the Iraqi Special Forces, Shawanis Brigade, raise the Iraqi National Flag in front of the office of the Mayor of Fallujah, Nov. 10.
Bill Roggio is currently embedded with the 'Gators,' the Marines of Bravo Company, 2nd Assault Amphibious Battalion, commanded by Captain Eric Dominijanni. He is in the Anbar province and gives us some background and a situation report about accompanying a patrol on Route Mobile.
Today I patrolled Route Mobile with the Marines of 2nd Platoon, 3rd Section, lead by Staff Sergeant Joshua Meyers. The section calls itself The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. There a four tracks to a section, and 2nd Platoon, 3rd Section's AAVs are aptly named White Horse, Red Horse, Black Horse, and Pale Horse. I accompanied Red Horse, commanded by Sergeant Joseph Borgard.
This route can be dangerous. Insurgents drop roadside bombs out of cars, place them in craters or dig holes and bury them, in an attempt to kill Marines and destroy their vehicles. Four AAVs have been disabled in the three months since Bravo Company has been in theater, and the company was hit three times over the past week. A Marine was killed during one of these strikes.
Go read the whole thing.
December 10, 2006
"Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom."
-- John Adams, 1787 - Defense of the Constitutions
Suppy & demand: labor
Thomas Sowell does a good job pointing out some basic economic truths to Hollywood types. Here's his conclusion:
What the Third World needs are more multinational corporations, not less.
As more multinational corporations move into a poorer country, the people there not only get additional economic opportunities, they acquire skills and job experience that raise their productivity and earnings potential, even if that outrages the economically illiterate in Hollywood.
Go read how he got there.
December 09, 2006
"As riches increase and accumulate in few hands, as luxury prevails in society, virtue will be in a greater degree considered as only a graceful appendage of wealth, and the tendency of things will be to depart from the republican standard. This is the real disposition of human nature; it is what neither the honorable member nor myself can correct. It is a common misfortunate that awaits our State constitution, as well as all others."
-- Alexander Hamilton (speech to the New York Ratifying Convention, June 1788)
We bleed maroon
The President of Texas A&M University, Dr. Robert M. Gates, has a farewell message for all Aggies:
To the Aggie Family:
The United States Senate yesterday voted to confirm me as the 22nd Secretary of Defense. I will be sworn in and take office on December 18th, and will resign as the 22nd President of Texas A&M that same day. And so it is final. My last official act as President will be to preside at the commencement ceremonies on December 15-16. You already know that I am leaving this incredible University reluctantly and with a heavy heart. By the same token, Aggies - more than anyone else - understand why I must do so.
Our University is in good hands and on an upward course. All the major initiatives - expanding the faculty, new undergraduate degree programs, greater diversity, more than half a billion dollars in new construction – 90 percent of it for academic facilities, and unprecedented involvement of faculty, staff and students in decision-making - are on track, taking us to new heights of academic excellence. It is now also evident that our athletic program is on track to reach a new level of national competitiveness. As the end of my service as President draws near, please know that: for the rest of my life I will always be an Aggie. Wherever I am, whatever I am doing, as long as I live I will bleed Maroon.
A final request to all in the Texas A&M family. Never forget who we are and where we came from. Never forget the Aggie Code of Honor. And never forget the obligations of duty and honor and country. God bless all of you, God bless Texas A&M, and God bless America.
Gig 'em Aggies.
Until we meet again.
Robert M. Gates, President
Texas A&M University
Good luck to you, Dr. Gates. And may God bless you and guide you in your service to our country.
Shop at Sears
My father-in-law forwarded me an email that said some pretty good things about Sears. I found out at Snopes that the email has been floating around cyberspace since 2003, and I also found out that the email is true. Here's an excerpt of that email:
I assume you have all seen the reports about how Sears is treating its reservist employees who are called up? By law, they are required to hold their jobs open and available, but nothing more. Usually, people take a big pay cut and lose benefits as a result of being called up...
Sears is voluntarily paying the difference in salaries and maintaining all benefits, including medical insurance and bonus programs, for all called up reservist employees for up to two years. I submit that Sears is an exemplary corporate citizen and should be recognized for its contribution.
Suggest we all shop at Sears, and be sure to find a manager to tell them why we are there so the company gets the positive reinforcement it well deserves.
Pass it on.
On their website, it is obvious that Sears goes the extra mile in support of our troops. But this is where I discovered one innaccuracy in the email.
Reservist/National Guard employees who are called to active duty and deployed are paid the difference between their military pay and their salary at Sears. Sears Holding Company Life/Medical/Dental insurance continues, as do annual merit increases and incentive pay. And Sears holds their job for them. And all of this for five years!
It turns out that Sears changed their military benefits policy in 2004 -- by extending the benefits from 36 months to 60 months.
Talk about supporting our troops!
I'm going to do more of my shopping at Sears from now on. I urge you to do the same.
December 08, 2006
"I acknowledge, in the ordinary course of government, that the exposition of the laws and Constitution devolves upon the judicial. But I beg to know upon what principle it can be contended that any one department draws from the Constitution greater powers than another in marking out the limits of the powers of the several departments."
-- James Madison (speech in the Congress of the United States, 17 June 1789)
Little Green Footballs provides an excerpt from an interesting book about the post-9/11 wars and the resultant press coverage.
I think I've found something for my Christmas list.
Larry Kudlow has an optimistic outlook for the American economy in 2007. Here's his summary:
Markets are better forecasters than economic pundits and the models they cite. Rising stocks — helped along by lower energy prices, spectacular profits, and rock-bottom tax rates on capital — are telling us that a soft-landing growth scenario is in the works for next year. Lower bond rates are saying we can bank on lower inflation and an easier Fed in 2007.
I’m still betting on Goldilocks.
Go read how he can to that conclusion.
He should be missed
Rich Galen sums up John Bolton's tenure at the United Nations. Here is how he begins.
Elections have consequences. The Democrats will control the US Senate, so, the President had to choose between either getting Robert Gates confirmed for Secretary of Defense or John Bolton confirmed for Ambassador to what is officially, if erroneously, called the United Nations.
I'm saddened, but not surprised that so many of our national leaders are pleased by this resignation. John Bolton has worked diligently to represent the United States of America's interests to the UN. And he has done a good job. His efforts to make the UN more accountable and more relevant to the global community were admirable -- and made some small headway.
I regret his departure.
December 07, 2006
"Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties, and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of people, it shall be the duty of legislators and magistrates... to cherish the interest of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them."
-- John Adams (Thoughts on Government, 1776)
Pearl Harbor Day
65 years ago today, on 7 December 1941 the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked America's military installations in Hawaii -- primarily the naval base at Pearl Harbor.
I have a post related to this in mind, but am swamped at work, so cannot put it together right now. Until then, I leave you with some links to good sources of information about that day of infamy.
NASA has released photographs that suggest that water still flows on Mars.
NASA photographs have revealed bright new deposits seen in two gullies on Mars that suggest water carried sediment through them sometime during the past seven years.
"These observations give the strongest evidence to date that water still flows occasionally on the surface of Mars," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program, Washington.
Ralph Peters, in his normal in-your-face way, once again provides his perspective on the un-civil war going on in Iraq. Here's how he begins:
YOU can call her a blond, but she's still a redhead. The endless spitting match over whether Iraq is in a state of civil war is a media-driven grudge fight that ignores the complex reality. It's name-calling, not analysis.
A lot of this is just "get Bush" stuff from journalists whose biased reporting helped shape the dismal reality in Iraq and who now crow that they were right all along - the media as a self-licking ice-cream cone.
The good news - and, unfortunately, the bad news - is that Iraq is not in a state of civil war in the textbook sense. If it were, our military and political mission would be easier.
In a civil war, you have clearly defined sides struggling for political power, with organized military formations and parallel governments. You know who to kill and who is empowered to negotiate with you. You can pick a side and stick to it.
Unleashed, our military could smash any enemy in an open civil war. Even our diplomats would have trouble preventing an American victory.
But the violence in Iraq comes from overlapping groups of terrorists, militias, insurgents, death squads, gangsters, foreign agents and factionalized government security forces engaging in layers of savage religious, ethnic, political and economic struggles - with an all-too-human lust for revenge spicing the mix.
He says some difficult things, but he makes some good points.
And what he says is consistent with what some of our generals are saying.
Go read the rest.
Listen to this general
Since Rumsfeld's critics maintained that he did not listen to his generals, perhaps they will listen to the CENTCOM commander.
And while admitting that the recent upturn in sectarian violence in Iraq is disturbing, Abizaid said politicians cannot set arbitrary deadlines for the withdrawal of American troops.
"We all want to leave when we can, but the most important thing must be the stability of the region. We must stabilize Iraq. It's vitally important to us," he said.
Abizaid also admitted that the challenges in the Middle East extend far beyond Iraq's borders, and it will require a concerted effort by several countries - including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia - to meet them.
"We must defeat the extremism of bin Laden and his associated movement. It's murderous. It's ruthless. It's very capable. It's got strength as a network unlike any nonstate actor has ever seen before. We've got to defeat it," he said.
"Think of it as an opportunity to confront fascism in 1920 if only we'd had the guts to do it then," he continued. "I believe that if we don't have guts enough to confront this ideology today, we will move toward World War III tomorrow."
Let us hope and pray that the powers that be in Washington, D.C. are, in fact, listening to our generals.
AP integrity (or lack thereof)
Jules Crittenden, over at the Boston Herald website, posted an op-ed that essentially calls for news agencies to boycott the Associated Press's shoddy product.
When a company defrauds its customers, or delivers shoddy goods, the customers sooner or later are going to take their business elsewhere. But if that company has a virtual monopoly, and offers something its customers must have, they may have no choice but to keep taking it. That’s when the customers, en masse, need to raise a stink. That’s when someone else with the resources needs to seriously consider whether the time is ripe to compete.
Go read the whole thing.
December 06, 2006
"[T]he flames kindled on the 4 of July 1776, have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism; on the contrary, they will consume these engines and all who work them."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Adams, 12 September 1821)
Peggy Noonan talks about grace under pressure.
We will need grace to get through this time: through the discussion of the Baker-Hamilton report, through debate on the war, through a harmonious transfer of legislative power in January, through the beginning of the post-Bush era.
I've reprinted the whole piece in the extended entry.
Grace Under Pressure
Difficult times call for less-contentious politics.
Friday, December 1, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST
We're going to need grace. We are going to need a great outbreak of grace to navigate the next difficult months.
America is turning against a war it supported, for the essential reason that no one is able to promise a believable path to a successful outcome, and Americans are a practical people. It is not true that Americans are historical romantics. They are patriots who, once committed, commit on all levels, including emotionally. But they don't wake up in the morning looking for new flags to follow over old cliffs. They want to pay the mortgage, protect their children, and try to be better parents in a jittery time. They are not isolationist. They want to help where they can, and feel called to support the poor and the sick wherever they are. They are also, still, American exceptionalists, meaning they believe the creation of America--the long journey across the sea, the genius cluster that invented the republic, the historic codifying of freedom--was providential, and good news not only for us but the world. "And the glow from that fire can truly light the world."
Much has been strained. We were all concussed by 9/11--we reeled--and came down where we came down. For the administration, extreme events prompted radical thinking. American exceptionalism was yesterday. They would be universalists, their operating style at once dreamy and aggressive: All men want the same thing, and we're giving it to them whether they want it or not. Now the dreamers hope to be saved by men--James Baker, Vernon Jordan--they once dismissed as cynics. And the two truest statements on Iraq are, still, Colin Powell's "You break it, you own it" and Pat Buchanan's "A constitution doesn't make a country, a country makes a constitution." Iraq has a constitution but not a country.
When history runs hot, bitterness bubbles. Democrats who should be feeling happy are, from what I've observed in New York and Washington, not. The closest they come to joy is a more energetic smugness. Republicans are fighting among themselves--or, rather, grumbling. They haven't, amazingly, broken out in war, and if they did, no one would be debating if it were a civil war. It would be like Iraq, like a dropped pane of glass that is jagged, shattered, dangerous.
We will need grace to get through this time: through the discussion of the Baker-Hamilton report, through debate on the war, through a harmonious transfer of legislative power in January, through the beginning of the post-Bush era.
People often speak of an absence of civility in Washington, but that's not quite the problem. Faking civility is a primary operating style: "My esteemed colleague."
What is needed is grace--sensitivity, mercy, generosity of spirit, a courtesy so deep it amounts to beauty. We will have to summon it. And the dreadful thing is you can't really fake it.
A very small theory, but my latest, is that many politicians and journalists lack a certain public grace because they spent their formative years in the American institution most likely to encourage base assumptions and coldness toward the foe. Yes, boarding school, and tony private schools in general. The last people with grace in America are poor Christians and religiously educated people of the middle class. The rich gave it up as an affectation long ago. Too bad, since they stayed in power.
The latest example of a lack of grace in Washington is the exchange between Jim Webb and President Bush at a White House Christmas party. Mr. Webb did not want to pose with the president and so didn't join the picture line. Fair enough, everyone feels silly on a picture line. Mr. Bush approached him later and asked after his son, a Marine. Mr. Webb said he'd like his son back from Iraq. Mr. Bush then, according to the Washington Post, said: "That's not what I asked you. How's your son?" Mr. Webb replied that's between him and his son.
For this Mr. Webb has been roundly criticized. And on reading the exchange I thought it had the sound of the rattling little aggressions of our day, but not on Mr. Webb's side. Imagine Lincoln saying, in such circumstances, "That's not what I asked you." Or JFK. Or Gerald Ford!
"That's not what I asked you" is a sentence straight from cable TV, from which many Americans are acquiring an attitude toward public and even private presentation.
Our interviewers and anchors have been taught, or learned, that they must show who's in charge, who's demanding answers, who's uncompromising in his search for truth. But of course they're not in search of truth; they're on a search for dominance.
Interviewers now always, as you have noticed, interrupt the person they're interviewing. Yes, they are trying to show who's in control of this conversation, and yes, they're trying to catch the interviewee off guard in hope of making news. They are attempting to keep trained and practiced politicians from launching unfruitful filibusters and boring everyone.
But interviewers also interrupt their subjects because they don't want the camera on the subject. They want the camera on themselves. They interrupt to keep the camera where it belongs. If they don't, the camera will stay on the interviewee and not the journalist, which will not help the journalist rise. They know their bosses, after all. They do not want the boss to say, "What an enlightening interview, who did it?" They want him to say, "You looked great, you were all over that guy, you grilled him!"
The Dominance of the Face leads to the inevitability of the interruption:
"Why did you vote 'no'?"
"But why'd you do it?"
"Well, the implications of the question, and the merits of the arguments seemed--"
"That's not what I asked you!"
Because of this style, no one in America has been allowed to finish a sentence in the past 10 years. And it is not confined to cable but has spread to the networks, to government, and is starting to affect regular people, encouraging in them a conversational style that is not friendly or graceful, but depositional.
This has not contributed to the presence of grace in our public life. And too bad, because right now and for the next few months we'll need grace more than ever.
Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father" (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Fridays on OpinionJournal.com.
[Used with permission from OpinionJournal.com, a web site from Dow Jones & Company, Inc.]
The flying imams - revisited
Richard Miniter does some investigative journalism and provides a a more fleshed out story concerning the six imams' strange behavior on a U.S. Airways plane a couple of weeks ago. Mr. Miniter provides a different view of what transpired, but he also documents his facts.
Pauline revealed to Pajamas Media that the six imams were doing things far more suspicious than praying - an Arabic-speaking passenger heard them repeatedly invoke “bin Laden,” and “terrorism,” a gate attendant told the captain that she did not want to fly with them, and that bomb-sniffing dogs were brought aboard. Other Muslim passengers were left undisturbed and later joined in a round of applause for the U.S. Airways crew. “It wasn’t that they were Muslim. It was all of the suspicious things they did,” Pauline said.
Here is her story, along with corroborating quotes from the U.S. Airways spokeswoman Andrea Rader and the official report, another Pajamas Media exclusive.
The Young Conservatives of Texas -- University of Texas Chapter is planning to display an 'ACLU Nativity Scene' this Chrismas.
Way to go, Longhorns!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Conservative Students to Display “ACLU Nativity Scene”
Young Conservatives of Texas at UT Austin
November 29, 2006
Contact: Tony McDonald, Chairman 512.923.6893
AUSTIN, TX – The Young Conservatives of Texas - University of Texas Chapter announced today that they will be displaying an “ACLU Nativity Scene” on the West Mall of the University of Texas campus on Monday and Tuesday, December 4th and 5th. The group’s intent is to raise awareness on the extremity of the ACLU, and bring to light its secular-progressive efforts to remove Christmas from the public sphere. The display, the first of its kind in the nation, will feature characters that are quite a bit different than the standard crèche.
“We’ve got Gary and Joseph instead of Mary and Joseph in order to symbolize ACLU support for homosexual marriage, and of course there isn’t a Jesus in the manger,” said Chairman Tony McDonald. “The three Wise Men are Lenin, Marx, and Stalin because the founders of the ACLU were strident supporters of Soviet style Communism. The whole scene is a tongue-in-cheek way of showing the many ways that the ACLU and the far left are out of touch with the values of mainstream America.”
The scene will also display a terrorist shepherd and an angel in the form of Nancy Pelosi.
“The ACLU and other left-wing extremist groups are working diligently to destroy American’s rights to the free expression of religion,” said Executive Director Joseph Wyly. “We’ve already seen in Chicago an attempt to censor the nativity by a city government this week. It’s just more evidence that there is a War on Christmas being waged by the far-left in this country.”
Young Conservatives of Texas, a non-partisan conservative youth organization, has been fighting for conservative values for more than a quarter century in the Lone Star State and publishes the most respected ratings of the Texas Legislature. YCT has chapters at universities across Texas including Texas A&M University, West Texas A&M University, Baylor University, University of Texas at Austin, Southern Methodist University, Midwestern University, Texas State University, University of Texas San Antonio, University of North Texas, Hardin-Simmons University, Texas Tech University, and Stephen F. Austin University.
December 05, 2006
"Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition."
-- Thomas Jefferson (Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XIX,,
The military and the media
Bill Roggio, currently in Iraq, has a post up about the perceived dichotomy between what our media is reporting and what our military is experiencing in Iraq.
In nearly every conversation, the soldiers, Marines and contractors expressed they were upset with the coverage of the war in Iraq in general, and the public perception of the daily situation on the ground. The[y] felt the media was there to sensationalize the news, and several stated some reporters were only interested in “blood and guts.” They freely admitted the obstacles in front of them in Iraq. Most recognized that while we are winning the war on the battlefield, albeit with difficulties in some areas, we are losing the information war. They felt the media had abandoned them.
This is well worth following. Recommended.
Civil war in America?
Perhaps not entirely out of the question.
Glenn Reynolds discusses a new book:
Is America in danger of civil war? Not immediately, perhaps, but famed science fiction writer Orson Scott Card thinks that we're in enough danger that he's authored a cautionary tale entitled Empire that's set in more-or-less present times.
In Card's novel, which is straight thriller fiction a la Jack Bauer rather than the science fiction for which Card is generally known, shadowy forces use terror and assassination to trigger a civil war in an America sharply divided along Red/Blue lines. In the Afterword, Card writes:
"Rarely do people set out to start a civil war. Invariably, when such wars break out both sides consider themselves to be the aggrieved ones."
Go read the rest.
An alternate view
Marine officer Josh Manchester has some good ideas on how to press forward in Iraq.
His six-part plan goes like this:
1. Dramatically expand the training and advisory efforts.
2. Create a crash program to develop a massive Arabic linguistic capability within the US military.
3. Give Maliki 60 days to remove the Shi'ite militias from positions of influence in the government.
4. If he can't do it, then declare Iraq's security forces to be in receivership.
5. Create combined US-Iraqi forces.
6. Redeploy as many FOBBITS as possible.
He does a pretty good job of fleshing the plan out. To learn more of the plan, (and to find out what FOBBITS are), check out the whole column.
Heroine, 17th Cav
Annika highlights CW3 Lori Hill being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Go on over and read about how she earned it.
[Thanks for posting on this, Annika!]
December 04, 2006
"No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency."
-- George Washington (First Inaugural Address, 30 April 1789)
The enemy we fight
Those who viciously murder people for daring to educate girls provide us another reason to fight This murderous brand of Islamic fascism.
The gunmen came at night to drag Mohammed Halim away from his home, in front of his crying children and his wife begging for mercy.
The 46-year-old schoolteacher tried to reassure his family that he would return safely. But his life was over, he was part-disembowelled and then torn apart with his arms and legs tied to motorbikes, the remains put on display as a warning to others against defying Taliban orders to stop educating girls.
Beware the doomsaying about Iraq!
The Washington, D.C. Examiner has a cautionary editorial about the media's rush to judgement about Iraq.
President Bush was right to declare yesterday in Latvia that he will not withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq until the “mission is complete” because “we can accept nothing less than victory for our children and our grandchildren.” It appears Bush’s characteristic Texas stubbornness is the only thing standing between victory and the U.S. defeat that has all but been proclaimed by Washington’s foreign policy establishment and its friends in the mainstream media like “60 Minutes” reporter Lara Logan. She insisted in her weekend interview with Gen. John Abizaid that “managing the defeat” is America’s only option.
Go read the rest.
An inside look . . .
. . . into the collapse of the Soviet Union 15 years ago. Der Speigel posts an article by Christian Neef that provides a look inside the Kremlin during the endtimes of the USSR. Here is how he begins:
As has so often been in the case in history, there was little separating victory and defeat, joy and fear, euphoria and depression. And yet there couldn't have been a greater difference between the events in Berlin and in Moscow in October 1990.
The Presidential Council, a key group of advisors to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, met at the Kremlin at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 17. It was a sunny day. But it was far from a routine meeting. As Anatoly Chernyayev later said, it reminded him "of the situation in October 1917 in St. Petersburg, when the Bolsheviks were threatening to storm the Winter Palace." In 1990 foreign policy expert Chernyayev was something on the order of Gorbachev's Henry Kissinger.
A storm also seemed to be on the horizon on that Oct. 17, but this time it was Gorbachev's archenemy, Boris Yeltsin, who was behind the sense of foreboding. Yeltsin, the then speaker of the Russian parliament, who had left the Communist Party three months earlier and had since emerged as the shining light of the great Soviet republic, had given the Kremlin an ultimatum the night before: His republic would no longer consider itself subservient to the Soviet leadership. Yeltsin was threatening Gorbachev with secession.
This article provides a fascinating perspective of the collapse of the Soviet superpower.
[Via Betsy Newmark.]
December 03, 2006
"[T]o exclude foreign intrigues and foreign partialities, so degrading to all countries and so baneful to free ones; to foster a spirit of independence too just to invade the rights of others, too proud to surrender our own, too liberal to indulge unworthy prejudices ourselves and too elevated not to look down upon them in others; to hold the union of the States on the basis of their peace and happiness; to support the Constitution, which is the cement of the Union, as well in its limitations as in its authorities; to respect the rights and authorities reserved to the States and to the people as equally incorporated with and essential to the success of the general... as far as sentiments and intentions such as these can aid the fulfillment of my duty, they will be a resource which can not fail me."
-- James Madison (Second Inaugural Address, March 1813)
The Enlightenment is darkening
Victor Davis Hanson has a brilliant essay over at OpinionJournal about how our civilization is losing the Enlightenment.
I've reprinted the whole thing in the extended entry.
Losing the Enlightenment
A civilization that has lost confidence in itself cannot confront the Islamists.
BY VICTOR DAVIS HANSON
Wednesday, November 29, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST
Our current crisis is not yet a catastrophe, but a real loss of confidence of the spirit. The hard-won effort of the Western Enlightenment of some 2,500 years that, along with Judeo-Christian benevolence, is the foundation of our material progress, common decency, and scientific excellence, is at risk in this new millennium.
But our newest foes of Reason are not the enraged Athenian democrats who tried and executed Socrates. And they are not the Christian zealots of the medieval church who persecuted philosophers of heliocentricity. Nor are they Nazis who burned books and turned Western science against its own to murder millions en masse.
No, the culprits are now more often us. In the most affluent, and leisured age in the history of Western civilization--never more powerful in its military reach, never more prosperous in our material bounty--we have become complacent, and then scared of the most recent face of barbarism from the primordial extremists of the Middle East.
What would a beleaguered Socrates, a Galileo, a Descartes, or Locke believe, for example, of the moral paralysis in Europe? Was all their bold and courageous thinking--won at such a great personal cost--to allow their successors a cheap surrender to religious fanaticism and the megaphones of state-sponsored fascism?
Just imagine in our present year, 2006: plan an opera in today's Germany, and then shut it down. Again, this surrender was not done last month by the Nazis, the Communists, or kings, but by the producers themselves in simple fear of Islamic fanatics who objected to purported bad taste. Or write a novel deemed unflattering to the Prophet Mohammed. That is what did Salman Rushdie did, and for his daring, he faced years of solitude, ostracism, and death threats--and in the heart of Europe no less. Or compose a documentary film, as did the often obnoxious Theo Van Gogh, and you may well have your throat cut in "liberal" Holland. Or better yet, sketch a simple cartoon in postmodern Denmark of legendary easy tolerance, and then go into hiding to save yourself from the gruesome fate of a Van Gogh. Or quote an ancient treatise, as did Pope Benedict, and then learn that all of Christendom may come under assault, and even the magnificent stones of the Vatican may offer no refuge--although their costumed Swiss Guard would prove a better bulwark than the European police. Or write a book critical of Islam, and then go into hiding in fear of your life, as did French philosophy teacher Robert Redeker.
And we need not only speak of threats to free speech, but also the tangible rewards from a terrified West to the agents of such repression. Note the recent honorary degree given to former Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami, whose regime has killed and silenced so many, and who himself is under investigation by the Argentine government for his role in sponsoring Hezbollah killers to murder dozens of Jewish innocents in Buenos Aires.
There are many lessons to be drawn from these examples, besides that they represent a good cross-section of European society in Denmark, England, France, Germany, Holland, and Italy. In almost every case, the lack of public support for the threatened artist or intellectual or author was purportedly based either on his supposed lack of sensitivity, or of artistic excellence.
Van Gogh, it was said, was obnoxious, his films sometimes puerile. The academic Pope was perhaps woefully ignorant of public relations in the politically correct age. Were not the cartoons in Denmark amateurish and unnecessary? Rushdie was an overrated novelist, whose chickens of trashing the West he sought refuge in finally came home to roost. The latest Hans Neuenfels's adaptation of Mozart's "Idomeneo" was apparently as silly as it was cheaply sensationalist. And perhaps Robert Redeker need not have questioned the morality of Islam and its Prophet.
But isn't that fact precisely the point? It is easy to defend artists when they produce works of genius that do not challenge popular sensibilities--Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" or Montesquieu's "Spirit of the Laws"--but not so when an artist offends with neither the taste of a Michelangelo nor the talent of a Dante. Yes, Pope Benedict is old and scholastic; he lacks both the charisma and tact of the late Pope John Paul II, who surely would not have turned for elucidation to the rigidity of Byzantine scholarship. But isn't that why we must come to the present Pope's defense--if for no reason other than because he has the courage to speak his convictions when others might not?
Note also the constant subtext in this new self-censorship of our supposedly liberal age: the fear of radical Islam and its gruesome methods of beheadings, suicide bombings, improvised explosive devices, barbaric fatwas, riotous youth, petrodollar-acquired nuclear weapons, oil boycotts and price hikes, and fist-shaking mobs, as the seventh century is compressed into the twenty-first.
In contrast, almost daily in Europe, "brave" artists caricature Christians and Americans with impunity. And we know what explains the radical difference in attitudes to such freewheeling and "candid" expression--indeed, that hypocrisy of false bravado, of silence before fascists and slander before liberals is both the truth we are silent about, and the lie we promulgate.
There is, in fact, a long list of reasons, among them most surely the assurance that cruel critics of things Western rant without being killed. Such cowards puff out their chests when trashing an ill Oriana Fallaci or a comatose Ariel Sharon or beleaguered George W. Bush in the most demonic of tones, but they prove sunken and sullen when threatened by a thuggish Dr. Zawahiri or a grand mufti of some obscure mosque.
Second, almost every genre of artistic and intellectual expression has come under assault: music, satire, the novel, films, academic exegesis, and education. Somehow Europeans have ever so insidiously given up the promise of the Enlightenment that welcomed free thought of all kinds, the more provocative the better.
Yes, the present generation of Europeans really is heretical, made up of traitors of a sort. They themselves, not just their consensual governments, or the now-demonized American Patriot Act and Guantanamo detention center, or some invader across the Mediterranean, have endangered their centuries-won freedoms of expression--and out of worries over oil, or appearing as illiberal apostates of the new secular religion of multiculturalism, or another London or Madrid bombing. We can understand why outnumbered Venetians surrendered Cyprus to the Ottomans, and were summarily executed, or perhaps why the 16th-century French did not show up at Lepanto, but why this vacillation of present-day Europeans to defend the promise of the West, who are protected by statute and have not experienced war or hunger?
Third, examine why all these incidents took place in Europe, where more and more the state guarantees the good life even into dotage, where the here and now has become a finite world for soulless bodies, where armies devolve into topics of caricature, and children distract from sterile adults' ever-increasing appetites. So, it was logical that Europe most readily of Westerners would abandon the artist and give up the renegade in fear of religious extremists who brilliantly threatened not destruction, but interruption of the good life, or the mere charge of illiberality. Never was the Enlightenment sold out so cheaply.
We on this side of Atlantic also are showing different symptoms of this same Western malaise, but more likely through heated rhetoric than complacent indifference--given the events of September 11 that galvanized many, while disappointing liberals that past appeasement had created monsters rather than mere confused, if not dangerous rivals. The war on terror has turned out to be the torn scab that has exposed a deep wound beneath, of an endemic Western self-loathing--and near mania that our own superior education and material wealth have not eliminated altogether the need for force and coercion.
Consider some of the recent rabid outbursts by once sober, old-guard politicians of the Democratic Party. West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller insists that the world would be better off if Saddam were still running Iraq. Congressman John Murtha, of Pennsylvania, rushed to announce that our Marines were guilty of killing Iraqis in "cold blood" before they were tried. Illinois Senator Richard Durbin has compared our interrogators at Guantanamo Bay to Nazis and mass murderers, while Massachusetts Senator John Kerry said our soldiers have "terrorized" Iraqi women and children. The same John Kerry warned young Americans to study or they would end up in the volunteer army in Iraq--even though today's soldiers have higher educational levels than does the general public. But furor as well as fear, not logic, drives us in West to seek blame among the humane among us rather than the savagery of our enemies.
Billionaire leftist philanthropists seem to be confused about the nature of American society and politics that gave them everything they so sumptuously enjoy. Ted Turner of CNN fame and fortune said he resented President Bush asking Americans, after 9/11, to take sides in our war against Islamic terrorists. George Soros claimed that President Bush had improved on Nazi propaganda methods. Dreaming of killing an elected president, not a mass-murdering Osama Bin Laden, is a new national pastime. That is the theme of both a recent docudrama film and an Alfred Knopf book.
What are the proximate causes here in America that send liberal criticism over the edge into pathological hysteria? Is it only that George Bush is a singular polarizing figure of Christian and Texan demeanor? Or is the current left-wing savagery also a legacy of the tribal 1960s, when out-of-power protestors felt that expressions of speaking bluntly, even crudely, were at least preferable to "artificial" cultural restraint?
Or does the anger stem from the fact, that until last week, the Democrats had not elected congressional majorities in 12 years, and they've occupied the White House in only eight of the last 26 years. The left's current unruliness seems a way of scapegoating others for a more elemental frustration--that without scandal or an unpopular war they cannot so easily gain a national majority based on European-based beliefs. More entitlements, higher taxes to pay for them, gay marriage, de facto quotas in affirmative action, open borders, abortion on demand, and radical secularism--these liberal issues, at least for the moment, still don't tend to resonate with most Americans and so must be masked by opponents' scandals or overshadowed by a controversial war.
Just as the Europeans are stunned that their heaven on earth has left them weak and afraid, so too millions of Americans on the Left are angry that their own promised moral utopia is not so welcomed by the supposedly less educated and bright among them. But still, what drives Westerners, here and in Europe, to demand that we must be perfect rather than merely good, and to lament that if we are not perfect we are then abjectly bad--and always to be so unable to define and then defend their civilization against its most elemental enemies?
There has of course always been a utopian strain in both Western thought from the time of Plato's "Republic" and the practice of state socialism. But the technological explosion of the last 20 years has made life so long and so good, that many now believe our mastery of nature must extend to human nature as well. A society that can call anywhere in the world on a cell phone, must just as easily end war, poverty, or unhappiness, as if these pathologies are strictly materially caused, not impoverishments of the soul, and thus can be materially treated.
Second, education must now be, like our machines, ever more ambitious, teaching us not merely facts of the past, science of the future, and the tools to question, and discover truth, but rather a particular, a right way of thinking, as money and learning are pledged to change human nature itself. In such a world, mere ignorance has replaced evil as our challenge, and thus the bad can at last be taught away rather than confronted and destroyed.
Third, there has always been a cynical strain as well, as one can read in Petronius's "Satyricon" or Voltaire's "Candide." But our loss of faith in ourselves is now more nihilistic than sarcastic or skeptical, once the restraints of family, religion, popular culture, and public shame disappear. Ever more insulated by our material things from danger, we lack all appreciation of the eternal thin veneer of civilization.
We especially ignore among us those who work each day to keep nature and the darker angels of our own nature at bay. This new obtuseness revolves around a certain mocking by elites of why we have what we have. Instead of appreciating that millions get up at 5 a.m., work at rote jobs, and live proverbial lives of quiet desperation, we tend to laugh at the schlock of Wal-Mart, not admire its amazing ability to bring the veneer of real material prosperity to the poor.
We can praise the architect for our necessary bridge, but demonize the franchise that sold fast and safe food to the harried workers who built it. We hear about a necessary hearing aid, but despise the art of the glossy advertisement that gives the information to purchase it. And we think the soldier funny in his desert camouflage and Kevlar, a loser who drew poorly in the American lottery and so ended up in Iraq--our most privileged never acknowledging that such men with guns are the only bulwark between us and the present day forces of the Dark Ages with their Kalashnikovs and suicide belts.
So we are on dangerous ground. History gives evidence of no civilization that survived long as purely secular and without a god, that put its trust in reason alone, and believed human nature was subject to radical improvement given enough capital and learning invested in the endeavor. The failure of our elites to amplify their traditions they received, and to believe them to be not merely different but far better than the alternatives, is also a symptom of crisis in all societies of the past, whether Demosthenes' Athens, late imperial Rome, 18th-century France, or Western Europe of the 1920s. Nothing is worse that an elite that demands egalitarianism for others but ensures privilege for itself. And rarely, we know, are civilization's suicides a result of the influence of too many of the poor rather than of the wealthy.
But can I end on an optimistic note in tonight's tribute to Winston Churchill, who endured more and was more alone than we of the present age? After the horror of September 11, we in our sleep were also given a jolt of sorts, presented with enemies from the Dark Ages, the Islamic fascists who were our near exact opposites, who hated the Western tradition, and, more importantly, were honest and without apology in conveying that hatred of our liberal tolerance and forbearance. They arose not from anything we did or any Western animosity that might have led to real grievances, but from self-acknowledged weakness, self-induced failure, and, of course, those perennial engines of war, age-old envy and lost honor--always amplified and instructed by dissident Western intellectuals whose unhappiness with their own culture proved a feast for the scavenging Al-Qaedists.
By past definitions of relative power, al-Qaeda and its epigones were weak and could not defeat the West militarily. But their genius was knowing of our own self-loathing, of our inability to determine their evil from our good, of our mistaken belief that Islamists were confused about, rather than intent to destroy, the West, and most of all, of our own terror that we might lose, if even for a brief moment, the enjoyment of our good life to defeat the terrorists. In learning what the Islamists are, many of us, and for the first time, are also learning what we are not. And in fighting these fascists, we are to learn whether our freedom can prove stronger than their suicide belts and improvised explosive devices.
So we have been given a reprieve of sorts with this war, to regroup; and, in our enemies, to see our own past failings and present challenges; and to rediscover our strengths and remember our origins. We can relearn that we are not fighting for George Bush or Wal-Mart alone, but also for the very notion of the Enlightenment--and, yes, in the Christian sense for the good souls of those among us who have forgotten all that as they censor cartoons and compare American soldiers to Nazis.
So let me quote Winston Churchill of old about the gift of our present ordeal:
"These are not dark days: these are great days--the greatest days our country has ever lived."
Never more true than today.
Mr. Hanson is a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution, a distinguished fellow of Hillsdale College, and author most recently of "A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War." This article is adapted form a speech he delivered at the Claremont Institute's annual dinner in honor Sir Winston Churchill.
December 02, 2006
"All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth-that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid?"
-- Benjamin Franklin (To Colleagues at the Constitutional Convention)
Voice in the wilderness
Michael Fumento makes a good point in this lamentation about two "journalists" who publish summary judgements based upon illicitly obtained (and incomplete) classified information and the opinion of an anonymous source.
Will the real Ramadi please stand up?
By Michael Fumento
"The U.S. military is no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency in western Iraq [Al Anbar Province] or counter al Qaeda's rising popularity there, according to newly disclosed details from a classified Marine Corps intelligence report," began a front-page article in yesterday's Washington Post by Dafna Linzer and Thomas E. Ricks. It concerned the so-called "Devlin Report," a five-page document allegedly filled with gloom and doom. It contrasts completely with my article Return to Ramadi, in the Nov. 27 Weekly Standard, in which I write that the largest city in the province is slowly being reclaimed from al Qaeda. By coincidence, the day my article hit the stands the Times of London published an extensive article coming to the same conclusion as mine. But for the timing, you'd practically think one of us had plagiarized the other.
Why such different conclusions between our articles and the Post's and whom to believe?
It helps to know that the Times writer and I both went to and reported from Ramadi. We didn't summarize classified documents or quote unnamed sources. Linzer and Ricks stayed home and reported from Washington, relying entirely on an unpublished document in addition to quoting a "senior intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity." I have recently ripped the media's "Baghdad Brigade" for pretending it can cover a country the size of California from a single Iraqi city. What does that say about those who think they can cover Al Anbar from Washington?
All of this illustrates a point I and others have desperately tried to make, that you cannot understand the Anbar if you haven't been there. That's why I went three times to the province and twice to Ramadi itself. It wasn't to attend a beerfest. It may also help explain things that Ricks has a recent book declaring the war a "Fiasco," and hence is already inclined towards a pessimistic view. Top-notch milblogger Bill Roggio at The Fourth Rail declares, "Military and intelligence sources that I spoke to who have read the [Devlin] report indicate that they largely agree with [it] . . . but not as presented by the Washington Post." (Emphasis his.)
Alas, as much attention as my article has gotten it's hard to compete with a Post A1 article. Further, as Vietnam's Tet Offensive proved, guerrilla wars are as likely to be decided in the media as on the battlefield. It's looking like Iraq will prove no exception.
(Michael Fumento maintains a hybrid website at Fumento.com with blogs from his last two trips to Al Anbar, photos from all three trips, and two major articles from his trip earlier this year. Especially recommended is "The New Band of Brothers," which contains links to much combat video.)
"All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea -- whether it is to sail or to watch it -- we are going back from whence we came."
-- John F. Kennedy, Speech given at Newport at the dinner before the America's Cup Races, September 1962
December 01, 2006
"[N]either the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt."
-- Samuel Adams (essay in The Public Advertiser, Circa 1749)
The Boston Globe has an encouraging article about the privacy protections built into NSA's terrorist wiretapping program.
Board members said that they were impressed by the safeguards the government has built into the NSA's monitoring of phone calls and computer transmissions, and that they wished the administration could tell the public more about them to ease distrust.
"If the American public, especially civil libertarians like myself, could be more informed about how careful the government is to protect our privacy while still protecting us from attacks, we'd be more reassured," said Lanny Davis , a former Clinton White House lawyer who is the board's lone liberal Democrat.
Alan Raul, a former Reagan White House lawyer and the board's vice chairman, said he also was impressed.
"We found there was a great appreciation inside government, both at the political and career levels, for protections on privacy and civil liberties," said Raul, author of a book of civil liberties. "In fact, I think the public may have an underappreciation for the degree of seriousness the government is giving these protections."
Let's get this behind us now and go fight our real enemy.
Another danger of open borders
An article by Heather Mac Donald in the Autumn 2006 issue of City Journal provides an alarming look at one aspect of our immigration problem.
Unless the life chances of children raised by single mothers suddenly improve, the explosive growth of the U.S. Hispanic population over the next couple of decades does not bode well for American social stability. Hispanic immigrants bring near–Third World levels of fertility to America, coupled with what were once thought to be First World levels of illegitimacy. (In fact, family breakdown is higher in many Hispanic countries than here.) Nearly half of the children born to Hispanic mothers in the U.S. are born out of wedlock, a proportion that has been increasing rapidly with no signs of slowing down. Given what psychologists and sociologists now know about the much higher likelihood of social pathology among those who grow up in single-mother households, the Hispanic baby boom is certain to produce more juvenile delinquents, more school failure, more welfare use, and more teen pregnancy in the future.
It's a bit long, but well worth reading. And pondering.
"The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the Nation’s greatness, but the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power or power uses us."
-- John F. Kennedy, Amherst College, Oct 26, 1963