Saturday, November 19, 2005

Smoking crack about Iraq

As my friends know, one of the things I find fascinating is how political debate sometimes leads to elaborate, almost ridiculous neoogisms. A case in point is the word "Finlandization" that I encounted in the old game "Balance of Power", which is intended to refer to the submission of a weak nation towards a powerful neighbor (for example, Finland and the Soviet Union during the Cold War). Another favorite is "Liebermanization", referring to the process by which a Democratic Politician destroys his or her political support by adopting a hawkish stance on the use of military force.

A New York Times article (hat tip: Ann Althouse) reporting on the symbolic defeat of a bill calling for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq offers another interesting neologism: the word "Swift-boat" is now a verb.

The article is interesting in another respect:
On Thursday, Mr. Murtha called for pulling out the 153,000 American troops within six months, saying they had become a catalyst for the continuing violence in Iraq. His plan also called for a quick-reaction force in the region, perhaps based in Kuwait, and for pursuing stability in Iraq through diplomacy.
Let's think about this for a second. The terrorists in Iraq are, at the very least in part, functional elements of Al Qaeda's global terror network. Al Qaeda certainly views American troops in Iraq as a catalyst for more violence. Al Qaeda views American troops in Kuwait, or anywhere in the Arabian peninsula for that matter, as a catalyst for more violence. Al Qaeda views me, the overweight American non-muslim who has nothing to do with Iraq, as a catalyst for more violence. The war on terror is being fought in Iraq, like it or not. Until the Iraqi government is stong enough to suppress the terrorist insurgents on its own, a total withdrawal of America's military from Iraq can only be construed as a defeat in the war on terror.

Of course, one suspects that Mr. Murtha suspects this himself, which is why he offers up the smokescreen of a quick-reaction force based in Kuwait or some other host country in the area. If I remember correctly, the idea of a quick-reaction force of American troops based in Kuwait was a Clinton-era proposal designed to deter Saddham Hussein from launching another invasion of either Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. Obviously, that strategic underpinning of a quick-reaction force no longer exists. I'm also not convinced that a quick-reaction force in Kuwait can intervene in Iraq more rapidly than, say, forces stationed in Iraq proper. And, of course, when the terrorist insurgents shift their attacks from Iraq to Kuwait to counter our quick-reaction force -- they are puported catalysts for violence, after all -- our withdrawal from Iraq to Kuwait will have accomplished exactly nothing.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Random Thoughts

Every blogger, sooner or later, needs to clear out those ideas that didn't quite make it into full posts but that didn't quite get dismissed either.
  • Betsy Newmark (hat tip: discusses the progressively increasing wimpiness of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. It's hard to disagree with that assessment given that Frist instinctively plays the Elmer Fudd to Senator John McCain's Bugs Bunny. The only good aspect to Frist's wimpiness is that he is likely to be relatively harmless in the Republican 2008 primaries. Does anyone really believe that the "Frist for President" campaign could survive losing the Iowa primary to McCain (or anybody, for that matter)?

  • George Will recently assessed the future of conservatism and concisely expressed a neglected truth about the conservative movement:
    But, then, the limited-government impulse is a spent force in a Republican Party that cannot muster congressional majorities to cut the growth of Medicaid from 7.3 percent to 7 percent next year. That "cut'' was too draconian for some Republican "moderates.''

    But, then, most Republicans are moderates as that term is used by persons for whom it is an encomium: Moderates are people amiably untroubled by Washington's single-minded devotion to rent-seeking -- to bending government for the advantage of private factions.
    Incidentally, this is another reason why conservatives shouldn't be backing McCain's presidential bid in 2008. Remember how McCain broke with the Senate Republicans to support President Clinton's publicly waged shakedown of Big Tobacco?

  • Charles Krauthammer also agrees with George Will that creationism and intelligent design are political embaressments for Republicans.

  • By the way, it occurred to me today that intelligent design is self-refuting as a scientific theory. The only way to empirically prove intelligent design would be to observe the postulated "Intelligent Designer" in the act of creating a new species. But as the proponents of intelligent design take pains to admit, intelligent design theories provide absolutely no information about the identity of the Intelligent Designer.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

String theory and religion

Professor Lawrence Krauss discusses how religion is similar to string theory in certain respects. This comparison, for the most part, is essentially a matter of human nature for Professor Krauss, which he speculates is itself a byproduct of human evolution:
In my own field of physics, theorists hotly debate the possible existence of an underlying mathematical beauty associated with a host of new dimensions that may or may not exist in nature.

School boards, legislatures and evangelists hotly debate the possible existence of an underlying purpose to nature that similarly may or may not exist.

It seems that humans are hard-wired to yearn for new realms well beyond the reach of our senses into which we can escape, if only with our minds. It is possible that we need to rely on such possibilities or the world of our experience would become intolerable.
And as Cosmic Variance points out in its discussion, Professor Krauss does not surrender the position that falsifiabilty is an essential difference between science and religion.

The really interesting thought that this article evokes is prompted by the statement that "Religious belief that the universe is the handiwork of an all-powerful being is not subject to refutation." One form of athiest thought is that religious belief can be refuted, at least in the sense that one can demonstrate such beliefs to be irrational. Or to put it another way, the proposition that god exists could be demonstrated to be false on purely logical grounds even if one accepts that the existence of god has no material consequences. It seems, then, that the real difference between science and religion, in this light, is that science accepts physical experimention as a decisive method of falsifying hypotheses.