Saturday, October 30, 2004

An oversimplification of Bush's foreign policy

A recent post from one of the co-bloggers at Parableman addresses why he is not voting for Bush this year. The issue of voting aside, here are some comments about the substance of the post.

In response to the point about the invasion of Afghanistan, I would agree that the immediate concern of the Bush administration was not to produce a democratic nation. On the other hand, this doesn't mean that producing a democratic Afghanistan was not a major motivation of that policy over the longer term. The list of demands presented in the 2001 ultimatum to the Taliban goes far beyond merely handing over bin Laden (the Taliban's preferred option as reported in the article). The ultimatum is not even confined to the verified dismantling of the Taliban's entire terror infrastructure; the demands for the release of unjustly imprisoned foreign nationals and the protection of journalists, diplomats, and aid workers are calls for immediate reforms of the Taliban's policy of internal oppression. It is also possible (although not immediately clear from the CNN article that I've linked to) that one or more of these demands were made with the foreknowledge that they would force the Taliban to reject the ultimatum, thus giving the United States an excuse to depose that regime and impose a democratic one in it's place.

Regarding the invasion of Iraq, I think a more accurate statement is that Vice President Cheney never presented solid proof that Iraq was linked to either Al Qaeda or to 9/11. Iraq was definately linked to terrorists. The cash payments offered to the families of suicide bombers, the assassination attempt on the first President Bush with a car bomb(!) as the assassination weapon, and the haboring of infamous terrorists are all cases in point.

Although the decline of democracy in Russia is alarming, it is also a bit of an underestimation of the ambitions that the United States is willing to persue within the borders of the Soviet Union. An article by Nikolas K. Gvosdev & Travis Tanner in the Fall 2004 issue of "The National Interest" (subscriber access only unfortunately) makes clear that the United States is opposed to any attempt by Russia to reunify the newly independent Soviet successor states by force. At the very least, that seems to me to be a pretty hefty committment to at least the independence of the Central Asian states, if not their eventual democratization, for the forseeable future.

The article "In Defense of Democratic Realism" by Charles Krauthammer in the same issue also gives some insight into the limitations for the United States for spreading democracy.

Finally, I'd be willing to bet that Anti-Castro terrorists aren't exactly given an open door in and out of the United States in order to garner votes for the President (regardless of party).

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Krauthammer hits the target

In baseball mythology, this is known as a "called shot". Here is Charles Krauthammer's revelation about the real core of Senator Kerry's foreign policy plans as president:
The centerpiece of John Kerry's foreign policy is to rebuild our alliances so the world will come to our help, especially in Iraq. He repeats this endlessly because it is the only foreign policy idea he has to offer. The problem for Kerry is that he cannot explain just how he proposes to do this.
The mere appearance of a Europhilic fresh face is unlikely to so thrill the allies that French troops will start marching down the streets of Baghdad. Therefore, you can believe that Kerry is just being cynical in pledging to bring in the allies, knowing that he has no way of doing it. Or you can believe, as I do, that he means it.

He really does want to end America's isolation. And he has an idea how to do it. For understandable reasons, however, he will not explain how on the eve of an election.

Think about it: What do the Europeans and the Arab states endlessly rail about in the Middle East? What (outside Iraq) is the area of most friction with U.S. policy? What single issue most isolates America from the overwhelming majority of countries at the United Nations?

The answer is obvious: Israel.

In what currency, therefore, would we pay the rest of the world in exchange for their support in places like Iraq? The answer is obvious: giving in to them on Israel.
Here is an except of an endorsement of Kerry for president from The Economist (hat tip: Instapundit):
John Kerry says the war was a mistake, which is unfortunate if he is to be commander-in-chief of the soldiers charged with fighting it. But his plan for the next phase in Iraq is identical to Mr Bush's, which speaks well of his judgment. He has been forthright about the need to win in Iraq, rather than simply to get out, and will stand a chance of making a fresh start in the Israel-Palestine conflict and (though with even greater difficulty) with Iran.
Israel has been suffering from a disastrous terror war for decades; if you think that the United States can live with terror from the Middle East as a "nuisance", try living in the Middle East for 50 years first. The idea of a "fresh start" with an increasingly more nuclear-capable Iran is pure insanity.

The Boston Red Sox win the World Series*

Last night, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years! No matter which team is your home team, you have to admit that those players earned a year as certified champions.

* Does this mean that the fabled "Curse of the Bambino" has finally been overthrown? Of course not. One just doesn't get cursed, suffer for a while, then get better again. One just doesn't fall under the shadow of a dark power and end up "fine". My gut feeling is that the curse is planning some new, humiliating defeat that will be orders of magnitude greater than merely losing the World Series.

After all, there is one remaining Red Sox fan who is still looking for a big victory this year.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Political Hell Week

Everyone knows that the week before the election is when all the really nasty stories start coming out. This year is only different in the sense that the candidates are launching the mud bombs early.

Case in point: those missing explosives from Iraq. Obviously it's the culmination of the Democrat's "Bush is incompetent" propaganda campaign that they've been promoting since the third presidential debate. In reality, I think this story might actually give Bush a little bit of a boost. After all, doesn't the Saddam-WMD tie gain a little bit of credibility now that it's been revealed that Saddam had a big stockpile of super-high explosives sitting around just in case he wanted to build an A-bomb someday?

Or, to be fair, another case in point: just revealed documents that are claimed to demonstrate that Kerry was a stooge of North Vietnam.

My prediction: desperate politicians will grasp at any straw they can to try and get the last attack in before the election. Even the slightest statement by anyone will be taken as evidence of a sinister conspiracy. If a mainstream news article reveals that President Bush switched from corn flakes to pop tarts for breakfast, for example, look for the DNC to start bashing Bush's carb-heavy lifestyle to go after the undecided-Atkins voters.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Who are the Transformers voting for this year?

doing things with words started it, and it's just way too funny to let go. Here is how it looks to me:

Optimus Prime
Staunchly conservative Republican (He has the impersonated voice of John Wayne, for god's sake!). Saw first hand how appeasement led to the fall of Cybertron; vowed never again to allow a mad dictator to gain a monopoly control of a planet's potential for energon cubes. Resists demands that the Autobot Matrix of Leadership be surrendered to the United Nations.
Completely evil and tricky as hell. Relishes being "banned" by Left-wing political parties. Votes Libertarian straight-ticket to undermine the two-party system and promote anarchy.
Voted for McCain instead of "girly-boy" Bush in her Republican primary. Later discovered that a Decepticon software hack had given her Ann Coulter's brainwave patterns.
Shockwave was endowed with the full personality and intellect of his creator, Al Gore.

Thursday, October 14, 2004


The only way to explain it is to begin at the beginning. During the vice-presidential debate, Senator Edwards felt a need to mention Vice-President Cheney's daughter in response to the Vice-President's statements on gay marriage:
Now, as to this question, let me say first that I think the vice president and his wife love their daughter. I think they love her very much. And you can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It's a wonderful thing. And there are millions of parents like that who love their children, who want their children to be happy.
Then in the third presidential debate, President Kerry brought up the Vice-President's daughter again:
We're all God's children, Bob. And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as.
Serious commentary views this as an amazing blunder by Edwards and Kerry, either on grounds of the obvious creepiness of a below-the-belt debating tactic, or that Edwards and Kerry were trying to hurt Republicans with their conservative base by "outing" the Vice-President's daughter, or that it was a possible appeal to homphobia.

My view is that, at the very least, this is a serious mistake on simple decency grounds: how many parents would want their son or daughter being used as a political football on nationwide television? But the real key to understanding the real meaning of this controversy is to recognize it as another manifestation of political correctness. One of the most extreme tenets of political correctness is that only members of a "community" are entitled to voice an opinion about political issues that affect that community (i.e. men have no right to talk about banning abortion because they can never give birth). If we postulate that both Edwards and Kerry both share that fundamental belief, and if we further postulate that capitalizing on a visible disagreement between Cheney and President Bush was a goal for their debating peformances, then the reason for their statements about Mary Cheney emerges: anything Cheney says that in any way concerns homosexuality is, ipso facto, completely irrelevant until his vital connection with the homosexual community has been established.

Welcome to the club

Blogger Vodkapundit discusses the growing list of the Democratic Party's attacks on republican government. His conclusion is one that I got to in time for the 2000 election (my third election and the first that I voted the Republican Party line):
Now, I know this is an angry essay. However, I don't mean to imply that all Democrats are evil and all Republicans are sweetness and light. Far from it. But for the first time in 16 years, I'm going to vote Republican straight down the line. If I have to punish a couple of local Democrats I'm fond of, then so be it, but I have to try to get a point across: The national Democratic Party is bad for this country.

Friday, October 08, 2004

The other famous Titan

Another Titan-inspired hypothesis is what I call the "Atlas Hypothesis", named after the Objectivist novel Atlas Shrugged, which is the simple question "Has Atlas shrugged yet?" If you haven't read the novel, the question is asking whether or not the growth of the American welfare state has finally reached the critical point where a ruinous totalitarian regime has been made inevitable. Presumably the canonical Objectivist answer would be something along the lines of "not yet, but soon".

For a glimpse at where mainstream conservatism stands on the Atlas Hypothesis, George Will has an explanation of the impact of Bush's second term could have on structural institutions of American goverment.

A Titan infiltrates the blogosphere

The evolution versus creationism debate has finally infiltrated the mainstream blogosphere: both Andrew Sullivan and Kausfiles have links to Planet with a Purpose. This article is supposedly "bad news for athiest devotees" in which noted Darwinian philosopher Daniel Dennett purportedly conceeds that "life on earth shows signs of having a higher purpose."

Doing Things With Words has a great critique of "Planet with a Purpose" on philosophical grounds. What I find amazing is that creationism has somewhow decided that The Gaia Hypothesis is somewhow the way to go in attacking evolution. To be fair to serious geologists, the legitimate Gaia Hypothesis merely states that biological responses regulate the Earth's environment. Planet with a Purpose goes a little further than that when it's author Robert Wright writes:
Meanwhile, as the human species is becoming a global brain, gradually assuming conscious control of the planet's stewardship, other species—also descended from that single primitive cell that lived billions of years ago—perform other planetary functions. Trees are lungs, for example, generating oxygen.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Another case of "The dog that didn't bark"

A new case of blog versus blog skirmishing back and forth across the Right/Left border has broken out over John Kerry's "global test" statement from the first presidential debate. Here's the statement at the center of the controversy (taken from the
debate transcript at The Washington Post:
The president always has the right, and always has had the right, for preemptive strike. That was a great doctrine throughout the Cold War. And it was always one of the things we argued about with respect to arms control.

No president, though all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America.

But if and when you do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.
The George W. Bush Campaign Blog has already started attacking Kerry over it, with some bloggers generally concurring in one way or another, either on "flip-flopper" or "wimpy Frenchman" lines. On the other hand, the Left-wing bloggers are alleging another Republican dirty smear campaign has been launched and are even citing the Declaration of Independence to defend Senator Kerry's statements. Compare JustOneMinute's and Brad DeLong's opinions on the subject, for example.

I think there is one slight detail (i.e. the dog that should have barked, but didn't) that Kerry and the liberal bloggers have overlooked that discredits their arguments. Simply put, military necessity alone already provides legitimacy for military action. Of course, military necessity is not always a clear-cut thing to establish in advance of a preemptive strike, and it is definately not a blanket justification for any and all military actions. On the other hand, a nation's determination of the level of risk necessary before a preemptive strike is legitimized is not something that some other nation can accurately determine. The sheer fact of the uncertainity of conflict should give a nation some independence in determining the need for preemption of a credible threat.

The fact that Senator Kerry emphasizes that a global test of legitimacy as a further precondition for preemptive action weakens his earlier commitment to preemption as a presidential right. Suppose that Saddam Hussein's Iraq had posed an imminent threat to the United States in early 2003. Would Senator Kerry have supported preemptive action against that threat or would he have argued that some other global test had not been satisfied? If President Bush determined that an indisputably imminent threat from Iraq had made military preemption necessary but world opinion decided that deterrance or appeasement was the more legitimate action, what policy would Senator Kerry have adopted?

Actually, if you'd like an even better example of when the "global test" can lead to disastrous consequences, examine what happened to Czechoslovakia in 1938.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Time for a little perspective

I didn't view the debates last night, but I did take a look at the New York Times today. Paul Krugman's latest column
America's Lost Respect stood out on the Op-Ed page as another furious criticism of the Bush Administration. Krugman's argument appears to be that President Bush has thrown away America's moral standing and tarnished America's international reputation to such a degree that Krugman offers a prediction:
In fact, let me make a prediction: if Mr. Bush gets a second term, we will soon have no democracies left among our allies - no, not even Tony Blair's Britain. Mr. Bush will be left with the support of regimes that don't worry about the legalities - regimes like Vladimir Putin's Russia.
In other words, the next four years of a Bush Presidency will somehow see the United States kicked out of NATO and alienated from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Spain, Canada, etc. Obviously this prediction is absurd: South Korea and Taiwan would no longer exist if we were not allied with them, and how many members of NATO do you think would want France and the United Kingdom to be their sole nuclear deterent against the still-sizable Russian nuclear stockpile?

As far as Krugram's claim that the estimated 10.5 million registered voters exceeds the eligible population of Afghanistan, there must be some caveat to this statement that he forgot to mention. The CIA World Factbook states a population of 28,513,677 for Afghanistan, a median age of 17.5, and that the country has universal sufferage with a voting age of 18. That gives roughly 14.26 million people above the age of 17.5, and even if we assume that 20% of the population if between the ages of 17.5 and 18 years old, that's still better than 10.5 million.

Another paragraph from the article that seemed wrong was
Since then, Iraq has demonstrated the limits of American military power, and has tied up much of that power in a grinding guerrilla war. This has emboldened regimes that pose a real threat. Three years ago, would North Korea have felt so free to trumpet its conversion of fuel rods into bombs?
First of all, a reason why the United States has such a small military force in place in South Korea is to provide a credible nuclear deterrent to an invasion from North Korea. In other words, North Korea is less likely launch a massive onslaught against South Korea if that "forces" the United States to launch nuclear weapons to protect their obviously insufficient ground troops. Removing a few thousand American soliders from South Korea is not necessarily going to radically change the deterrence structure already in place.

Secondly, wasn't North Korea vigorously denying that it had nuclear weapons until the Bush Administration revealed intelligence proving that North Korea had an illegal weapons program in place? If the whole point of North Korean nuclear weapons is to deter their use by the United States against North Korea, then of course they're going to be bellicose when their secret gets out. But "outing" North Korea as a nuclear threat at the cost of bellicose rhetoric from Pyongyang doesn't seem to be such a bad idea if the alternative for the United States is pretending that North Korea is a good nuclear neighbor while covering up the details of its clandestine weapons development.

As far as the allegations that Bush has somehow destroyed America's moral standing in the world, look at the historical perspective. The Left's critique of the United States is that it has condoned slavery and the international slave trade, committed genocide in its westward expansion to the pacific, engaged in unashamed imperial expansion, the violent political, economic, and sexual oppression of women and the capitalistic oppression of the poor, dropped nuclear bombs to deliberately wipe out hundreds of thousands of civilians, and probably committed a lot of other crimes that I haven't even heard of yet. After all that, Krugram now asks us to believe that it was only when President Bush got elected that America's image started to make a downturn. Yeah, right.