Cognative Dissident

Thursday, September 30

No, no. Turkey's version of Islam is the one we like...

Stephen Green links to a post about the inevitability of an "Islamic Europe" in the Weekly Standard, and says that it makes him rethink his support for Turkey's entry into the EU. I'm not sure why it should. The article sites difficulties assimilating the culture, in particular, the fact that it's Islamic:
[One problem] is that immigration is turning the E.U. into "an Austro-Hungarian empire on a grand scale." He alluded to certain great cities that will soon be minority-European--two of the most important of which, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, are in his own country--and warned that the (projected) addition of 83 million Muslim Turks would further the Islamization of Europe.

I agree that Muslim pluralities in major European cities are going to cause problems, but these pluralities are going to develop regardless of whether or not Turkey is admitted into the EU.

And Europe will be a lot better off if those Muslim pluralities are predominantly Turkish rather than Algerian.

As far as I can tell, Turkey is the hope of the Islamic world. Mostly obviously, it's not a home to radical islamists. Though the party which recently came to power has fundamentalist roots, it's hasn't made any nods towards sharia. It provides a clear and real example of how Islam and Western values can co-exist. Isn't that precisely what we're trying to do in Iraq?

Additionally, it's a democracy. Sure, it's not perfect, but it's come a long way in the last 10 years, and more importantly it's going in the right direction. The incentive to join the EU is powerful, and has helped the government make lots of reforms that would otherwise be impossible.

Finally, it's economy is relatively good. Granted, it's much poorer than the average EU country, but it won't be joining for at least 10 years, perhaps more and if it maintains anything like the 13.4% growth it had last year (from the most recent issue of The Economist, but requires a subscription), it's going to be just fine by the time it joins. But beyond that, a growing economy is one that provides disaffected young men with something to do besides blow things up.

And that can't be anything but good.

Uh, no.

I'm not sure I know enough ways to say no to this:
So perhaps it's time to make a modest proposal. If everyone in the world will be affected by this election, shouldn't everyone in the world have a vote?

It may sound wacky, but the idea could not be more American. After all, the country was founded on the notion that human beings must have a say in the decisions that govern their lives. The rebels' slogan of "No taxation without representation" endures two centuries later because it speaks about something larger than the narrow business of raising taxes. It says that those who pay for a government's actions must have a right to choose the government that takes them.

You're goddamn right it sounds wacky. When you start paying tribute, er, taxes to our federal government, we'll think about giving you a vote. Although, on second though, since paying taxes is one of the things you're best at, why don't we just say no and get it out of the way.

From Vodka Pundit via Steyn.

Maybe they should call him "Bureaucracy Sucks"

Let's put aside why anyone would want to name their child afterSuperman. As anyone knows, Batman, Spiderman and hell, even Captain America are all cooler than Superman.

But who the hell are these people to tell parents what they can and can't name their children?
Swedish MPs are calling for legislation on babies' names to be changed after a Gothenburg woman was refused permission to call her son Staalman (or Superman).

The parents wanted their son to be named after the cartoon superhero, because he was born with one arm pointing upwards - as Superman flies.

Local tax authorities refused the request, saying the name could lead to the boy being ridiculed in later life.
Didn't the boy named Sue grow up to be a badass? I guess that explains what's happened to Sweden, where in my experience the women are way tougher than the men.

Guilty is as guilty does

Fox news has a story on what guilty people say when they're caught. It sounds remarkably familiar.
As any police officer or prosecutor will tell you, there is a remarkable consistency in the statements made by people pulled over by police while driving a stolen vehicle.

"I didn't know it was stolen. I just bought it from this guy I met," the driver will say. When pressed for details, the driver will usually insist that he bought the nearly new vehicle for about $1000, almost always from an unknown individual or person whose name doesn't check out, customarily at about 4:00 a.m., on a street whose name he can't recall.

Prosecutors use these statements as evidence of a consciousness of guilt. That, combined with possession of the stolen vehicle, is enough to secure a criminal conviction.
Maybe some one should check out Dan Rather's car.

Wednesday, September 29

Fleeing a communist hellhole

Fourty-four North Koreans jumped the Canadian Embassy's fence in Beijing hoping to be allowed to enter South Korea.

I can't imagine that there's a worse place on Earth to live. When people are fleeing for the relative freedom of China, you know that you've achieved a whole new level of oppression.

Tuesday, September 28

Reaction to Terrorism

Horsefeathers has a letter to Jihadis posted. It's an incredibly harsh description of what will happen if fanatic Islamists push America too far.

It's not nice to acknowledge what we will do if pushed too far, and we will surely be ashamed of ourselves afterward, but it's not an inaccurate depiction of what will happen if a nuclear weapon (dirty or otherwise) goes off in an American city.

Though we're more focused on fighting terrorism than any other Western country except Israel, we're not mobilized. Afganistan, Iraq? That's us half-assing a response. We're trying to strangle Islamic fascism in its cradle and with only minor disruption to the life of the average civilian.

But if another major attack occurs on US soil, and we're compelled to mobilize as we did for WWI and WWII, the results will be unpleasant for all concerned, but much more so for those living in countries which breed terrorists.

The vision described by horsefeathers is not one I look forward to. So here's to hoping that we can keep islamofascism from spreading.

History Repeating Itself

I'm currently reading ?"Colossus" by Niall Ferguson and finding it an interesting retrospective on American Imperial tendencies. But I came across this passage, which terrifies me:
[The relative failure] in the Philippines has unfortuately proved to be far more typical of American overseas experience than what happened in Hawaii and Puerto Rico. To be precise, seven characteristic phases of American engagement can be discerned:
  1. Impressive inital military success
  2. A flawed assessment of indigenous sentiment
  3. A strategy of limited war and gradual escalation of forces
  4. Domestic disillusionment in the face of protracted and nasty conflict
  5. Premature democratization
  6. The ascendency of domestic economic considerations
  7. Ultimate withdrawl
Scary, isn't it?

Monday, September 27

Violence begats...

One of the lines I hear repeated most often by those who are against fighting terrorism with the agressive use of force is something along the lines of, "Well sure, I'm all for killing terrorists, but it just breeds more terrorists, and doesn't bring us any closer to a solution."

On its face, it's a good argument. It doesn't open one up to charges of being soft on terrorism, but still condems the use of force. The trouble is, there's no evidence that it's actually true. As intuitively appealing as it may be, available evidence indicates that the use of force against terrorists does in fact deter terrorists:
Yet it's now undeniable that the "military solution" that so many believed could not work has brought Israelis an interlude of relative peace. In 2002, 228 Israelis died in 42 suicide bombings; in March 2002, as Sharon launched his offensive, 85 died in nine attacks. This year there have been 10 suicide bombings and 53 Israeli deaths; last week's bombing in Jerusalem was only the second such bombing in more than six months. While the prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement remain dismal, and no one expects the violence to end, life in Israel has returned to something approaching normal.

I've always been skeptical that there is an indefinite supply of people willing to kill themselves in anger and vengence, but more than that, it's necessary to realize that by itself the desire to strap on a belt of C4 doesn't mean that you'll be able to get the C4, get past the new security fence or the IDF, who are pretty damn good at foiling suicide bombers, or manage to kill anyone when you blow yourself up.

Israel, instead of acting to reduce the pool of potential bombers, has instead been very aggressive about preventing those potential bombers from getting the training and organization required to make them dangerous to Israeli citizens. The policy of assassinations has almost certainly raised the level of anger among Palestinians, but it's gotten a lot harder for Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatwa to turn pissed-off, disaffected, young men into killers.

Pro-War responses to Orin Kerr

Orin Kerr from the Volokh Conspiracy asks questions of bloggers who were advocates of the war in Iraq. I wasn't a blogger at the time, but I've been meaning to start a blog after my wedding on the 9th of Oct. and finishing law school applications.

And if I waited that long, I'd miss a great chance to be part of the discussion on what is, to my mind, the most important issue of the day. I’m a bit embarrassed about the lack of even a basic blogroll, and the fact that I don’t have trackbacks set up yet, but I guess I’ll just have to grin and beg forgiveness from the blogosphere ;-)

Orin asks 3 questions of pro-war bloggers, which I'll paraphrase as:

  • Given you supported the war initially, how do you feel about it today?
  • What do you think about the recent spate of bad news?
  • Going forward, how should we define and measure success?

Since I don't have a pre-war record available, you'll just have to take it on faith that I was (and am) basically hawkish. My support for the invasion of Iraq was predicated on three things (in order of importance).

First, I believed that it was imperative to prevent Saddam from acquiring nuclear weapons. I was always less worried about him passing those weapons on to terrorists than I was about what a nuclear armed Saddam would mean for the Middle East. A nuclear Iraq under Saddam Hussein would have been able to invade Kuwait, northern Saudi Arabia (i.e. where the oil is) and southwestern Iran (again, where the oil is) with little fear of retaliation from the US or the rest of the world. That would give Saddam direct control of something like 20%of the world's oil production capacity and a huge chunk of the world’s known reserves. Given that the world economy (and the American economy in particular) runs on oil, giving Saddam that big a lever was not an acceptable option.

Second, I believe that Saddam’s regime was a neo-Stalinist dictatorship that had no place in the modern world. Saddam Hussein, his sons, and his goons gassed his own citizens, decapitated husbands in front of their wives, raped wives and daughters in front of their husbands and fathers, brutally tortured people on a whim, and terrorized hundreds of thousands of people. The regime re-sold baby food bought under the oil-for-food program to other countries and used pictures of the children he starved as propaganda. Saddam was a dominant figure in the current pantheon of dictators previously populated with the likes of Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Mao, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Kim Jong II, Slobodan Milosvic and the current leadership in Khartoum. He was evil, and I felt that removing him from power was a moral good.

Finally, I thought that the idea of building a pluralistic, democratic Iraq was a good strategic move in the long-term effort against fanatic Islamic terrorism.

So, with those positions laid out, here are my responses to Orin’s questions:

Would I support the invasion of Iraq today?

Knowing what I know today, I would still support the invasion of Iraq. That’s not to say that I support all of the decisions that the administration has made, or that what we’ve got now is anything like a “best case” scenario—far from it—but I don’t believe that the absence of WMD has invalidated the case for removing Saddam from power.

Whether or not he possessed an active nuclear program, Saddam had demonstrated a long-term desire to acquire atomic weapons. The sanctions had become politically untenable, and given his successful corruption of the Oil-for-Food program, it was only a matter of time before the attention of the world was elsewhere and he would use his ill-gotten gains to quietly start reconstituting his WMD programs.

An argument can be made that we could have dealt with him once he actually did restart those programs, but given the poor quality of intelligence we had about Iraqi weapons programs, I wouldn’t have been comfortable waiting until we knew that Saddam was trying to build nukes. Additionally, even if we had high-quality intelligence, we can see how well the “wait and deter” strategy is playing out at this very moment in Iran.

So, based on my first rationale for the war in Iraq—preventing a nuclear Iraq from gaining regional dominance, and hence a scary and disproportionate influence on the global economy—the invasion has been successful.

As for the moral calculus based on the good of ending Saddam's regime vs. the casualties and damage caused, I believe that we’re ahead. Final success on this count will depend on the long-term Iraqi government being better than Iraq’s Ba’ath party, and whether Iraq more resembles Turkey or Syria. But to date, even if we used the obviously biased estimate of15,000Iraqi civilian casualties, that is many fewer than would have been killed had Iraq spent the last year-and-a-half under Saddam. And I don't think any reasonable observer would assert that Iraqis are less free now than they were.

Iraq’s place in the War on Terror is much harder to judge, given how things are going right now. I continue to hope that 1-5 years from now, Iraq will be firmly on the path to modernity, but right now, it’s far from clear that will be the case.

How do I feel about the recent news in Iraq?

Obviously, I’m not at all pleased with what is going on right now in Iraq. Despite some good news, it doesn’t seem like things are improving in Iraq, and quite possibly getting worse. I don’t really trust the MSM to provide an accurate picture of what’s happening, but I have the feeling that if things were really good, we’d mostly be hearing stories about how bad the economy is under Bush. There’s a reason that the MSM and the Kerry campaign are harping on Iraq, and that’s because it’s where they believe the news is worst. Given their ability sniff out bad news, if they can’t find anything worse than Iraq, things probably aren’t going well there.

I think that a substantial proportion of this bad news is owed to poor planning and mismanagement by the administration. They didn’t think much past the “Hulk Smash” stage of the invasion, and we’re reaping what’s been sown.

I’m also extraordinarily disappointed with Bush’s reluctance to communicate directly with the American people about Iraq. We’re not dummies, we knew that this war would be difficult and that there would be casualties. But we want more than platitudes about “staying the course.” Staying the course is great when you’re winning. When you’re losing, doing the same things that got you behind in the first place is a really bad idea.

I want Bush to do more than say he “trust[s] the American people," I want him to demonstrate his trust and level with us about how things are going. If there’s a set-back, I want him to tell us what happened, what it means, what we’re doing about it, and how we’re going to try and prevent it from happening again. That, so far, he hasn’t done.

How can we define and measure progress?

As to what metrics we can use to know whether or not we’re winning or losing in Iraq, it’s really hard to say. Since my primary reason for invading Iraq was fulfilled when Saddam was captured, I want to be able to measure how the government in Baghdad compares to Saddam, and how likely Iraq is to help in the War on Terror.

For both of these, it will be fairly clear in the long term whether we’ve won or lost. If Iraqi society remains relatively open, doesn’t tolerate terrorists in it’s midst, and begins to modernize, our actions will have been successful and ultimately helpful. If the central government turns out to be oppressive and corrupt, or if Iraq collapses into civil war and becomes a breeding ground for terrorists, then we’ve clearly lost.

Whether or not Iraq able to hold elections in January, and to what degree they are viewed as free and fair will be good indicators which of these two situations we’re closer to.

Continued participation in the Iraqi economy is another potential indicator of success. If there are opportunities for people and they are taking them, it pushes Iraq towards modernity. A growing economy also provides jobs, which drains the pool of people willing to plant IDEs for a couple hundred bucks.

The successful disbursement of reconstruction aid and the completion of infrastructure projects are also potential metrics. If aid is being successfully given out, and infrastructure rebuilt, it demonstrates that the insurgency isn’t preventing Iraq from moving forward.

The efficacy of the new Iraqi army and the police who have recently been trained are also critical ingredients to avoiding a collapse into chaos.

What I don’t think are good measures are US casualties, Iraqi civilian casualties caused by coalition forces, insurgent casualties, or number of violent attacks on coalition forces. These all have some effect on the final outcome, but while declining casualties probably means that things are going well, increasing casualties doesn’t necessarily mean that things are getting worse. This will be particularly true when we try to clear out Fallujah. Unfortunately, the casualties are more readily countable, and, in the absence of battles where MSM can report a clear win/loss, they're what we end up using to judge the direction of the war in Iraq.

Thursday, September 23

First Post

First post to a new blog. I hate "hello world" type programs, but I don't have time for anything more substantive so:

Hello world!