Saturday, July 29, 2006

"The Curse of Democracy"

Ibrahim Totanji, a reporter for Al-Hayat, the Arabic-language newspaper published in London, chafes about the fact that there is (or, once was) a journalistic imperative to be objective in presenting both sides of a dispute.

Such novices. They just need to watch the BBC some more to see how to subvert this imperative.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

As the Cedars Bleed

Another of the great misconceptions promulgated by Leftist demagogues is the idea that the election results empowering Hamas in Gaza are somehow a failure of large-D Democracy rather than a perversion of it. Close on the heels of this canard is the justified fear for the survival of Democracy in Lebanon. Underlying the leftist narrative is a sentimental misunderstanding of Democratic principles. Most of the liberals I have conversations with have a very primitive conception of Democracy; it most closely resembles Athenian Democracy (only without all the slaves and exclusion of women, etc.).

The political dynamic established in Lebanon by that ol' UN Resolution 1559 recognized the nature of the soil in which it was sown; namely, a geographical zone dominated by sectarian and racial armed gangs. All gangs were directed to disarm in order to head off an extra-constitutional armed takeover. And all militias and parties generally complied with this except for Hezbollah.

It was with great alarm that pro-Israeli folks contemplated the recent air campaign and invasion of south Lebanon: here was an infant democracy snuffed in the cradle, and there was the IDF, generating enmity among Lebanese Sunni, Shia, Maronites, Druze, Greek Orthodox, etc. Michael Totten (you should read all his stuff) seems to suggest most Lebanese know who the Real Problem is, and it ain't the guys with the funny blue star on the white flag. The implication is that Leb might slide back into civil war.

I guess that depends on 1.) the degree of residual war fatigue in the Lebanese polity, and 2.) whether enough institutional memory will persist after this brief experience with "Confessional Democracy" to lead parties back to the table. The composition of the Lebanese Parliament after the elections of 2005 shows that Shia do not monolithically support Hezbollah; its support is greatest in the current theater of IDF ground operations. Of 25 Lebanese Shia MP's, 9 are Hezbollah. There is nothing to suggest Syria is the only entity capable of filling the power vacuum Olmert is attempting to create.

UPDATE: It is now about one month after I posted this, and Amir Taheri seems to confirm many of my hunches!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Return of Total War...

...or How Rumsfeld's Strategic Misconception may be of No Comfort to Liberals.

A series of columns in the past few days illuminates the sea change that has taken place regarding the ethical justifications of Democracies waging war. As a starting point, let's look at John Podhoretz's recent column which questions whether liberal democracies have evolved into entities incapable of warfare,

demonstrated by the Left's insistence that American and Israeli military actions marked by an extraordinary concern for preventing civilian casualties are in fact unacceptably brutal? And is also apparent in the Right's claim that a war against a country has nothing to do with the people but only with that country's leaders?

Can any war be won when this is the nature of the discussion in the countries fighting the war? Can any war be won when one of the combatants voluntarily limits itself in this manner?

As someone with a background mostly in biomedical pursuits, I was immediately struck by the use of the word "evolved" by Podhoretz. Disdaining the term "Islamofascist", I have for some time been using Mutant Islam as an umbrella term for the virulent form of Islamism with which we are currently at war. As noted by such luminaries as Bernard Lewis, Wahhabism/Qutbism/ has the same relationship to Islam the Ku Klux Klan and other "christian" neo-nazi movements have to Christendom. Much like in a biological system, in intellectual evolution a meme (or "thought gene") can arise spontaneously, and achieves influence according to whether it confers increased survival abilities to its possessors.

So the type of people who can't resist putting "Darwin" medallions of fish with feet on their cars, in parody of the christian Ichthys, likely believe they represent a "more evolved" or enlightened conception of human rights by advocating the minimization of civilian casualties during warfare. The morally obtuse left provides a reductio ad absurdum to this philosophy by representing the argument out to an extreme of pacifism.

The problem is, this kind of thinking is a mutation, too. Let's call it Mutant Humanitarianism. And a mutation is not necessarily "more evolved" until it demonstrates its utility in conferring survival advantage. Likewise, the utility of some "more evolved" phenotypes are utterly useless in certain biological niches; for example, an opposable thumb is unlikely to enable a horseshoe crab to better fit into its biological niche, nor to enhance its abilities to procreate and thus propagate its genes.

So if Donald Rumsfeld re-orients the warmaking capacity of our armed forces to fight insurgent wars with precision-guided munitions and light infantry forces rather than the materiel and manpower required for large unit warfare in Europe, he does so based on anticipated needs strongly colored by Mutant Humanitarian principles. And if these forces and this strategic doctrine begin to fail in the real-life laboratory of warfare, this should force a reconsideration of the doctrine, particularly if the opposing force prevails by adhering to savage behavior basically unchanged since the Turks threatened Vienna.

"War is not the Answer" chant the greying Hippies and their e-tard Raver progeny, ignoring how War solved a bunch of problems for their totems Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro. I'm afraid the rejoinder is "Mutant Humanitarian War is not the Answer; the Only Thing that Seems to Work is Total War."

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Fear Mongering

"You engage, and then you wait and see." [On s'engage, et alors on voit]

So said Napoleon Bonaparte to Montholon at St. Helena. The Israelis have engaged, and now wait to see whether they have created an exploitable situation.

Newt Gingrich has been accused of fear-mongering this past weekend when he characterized the GWOT as World War III. Other pundits (and I struggle to remember which of that multitude planted this in my head -- can't provide a link) believe a president gets five years to wrap up a war, because FDR was able to dispatch the Axis in that time span, and this supposedly set the standard.

Gingrich is merely re-phrasing something that George W. Bush has been saying for some time now: that the GWOT is a generational struggle, that (as he told the 2006 graduating class at West Point) the "war began on my watch, but it will end on yours." To date I have seen no convincing evidence that the societal evolution required to stabilize the middle east is something that can be achieved in 5 years. In fact, there is much wrong with the contention that only wars which can be wrapped up in 5 years are worth fighting. You can start by observing that anyone who is willing to fight for SIX years can kick your ass.

So if it is "fear-mongering", it is only because you 1.) don't understand what FDR meant when he said fear itself is the only thing we have to fear, and 2.) are utterly incapable of comprehending the nature of the threat to civilization.

The significance of the recent Israeli operations in south Lebanon lies in the simple fact that the Israelis are now engaged. They have defied the Powell doctrine; can anyone tell from the cryptic statements of the Olmert government whether the IDF have achievable end-points and an exit strategy? They cannot be simply aiming to set-up shop again like they attempted prior to the 2000 pullback, as this cannot be expected to confer any advantage. I can only speculate that this is the opening move of a long-contemplated Israeli strategy to regionalize the war and force a confrontation of Sunni Arabs with Tehran, and where this begins to resemble World War III is best described by Wretchard:

The strategic problem facing any Israeli ground commander in Lebanon is that his key objectives are not located within the theater. The enemy center of gravity is located outside of Lebanon. The callup of another three brigades worth of troops can either be interpreted as insurance against any unforseen setbacks in an extended campaign against Hezbollah up the Bekaa or an acceptance of a strategic objective outside Lebanon. Yet as Chester points out, Israel has much to fear in the long run by collapsing the Syrian regime. Without a stable successor state Syria may become a gigantic terrorist playground and rockets can be launched from the decaying husk of Syria just as well as from Lebanon. It is an unfortunate fact that ground taken doesn't stay taken unless it is occupied by your own or a friendly force. And where will you find a friendly force in Lebanon or Syria? Taking on the Hezbollah may imply the necessity of restarting the Lebanese Civil War to create an end state where Hezbollah or groups like it are permanently driven from the scene. The same will go for Syria but on a far larger scale.

Do not fear World War III, because it has been upon us now for some years, maybe since the bombing of the USS Cole. People and institutions who do not realize this -- the NY Times comes to mind -- need a swift kick in the ass, or the lucidity that comes from staring up at the ceiling having just been decked.