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A Draw? (Updated)

As far as the first presidential debate goes, I’m sure most of the blogosphere is on the fisking and fact-checking details right now. The left side will go after George W. and the right side will take on John Kerry. I’ll let them handle it.

I had something else in mind.

The most annoying thing about the 2000 debates between Bush and Gore is that both candidates dodged so many questions. They almost acted as if the “moderator” didn’t exist except to prompt them to spit out their own pre-rehearsed mini-speeches. So this time I decided to keep score. I wanted to know who answers and who dodges the most questions. I gave 2 points for answering, 1 point for half answering, and I subtracted a point for a dodge.

I hate to say this because I know it isn’t exciting but…it was a draw. (You should have tried another angle going into this — ed. Yeah, yeah.) Both of them did pretty well, actually. Each candidate only dodged one question, and each answered most of them completely. I didn’t give them points for the quality of their answers. I just didn’t want anyone getting away with blowing off the moderator Jim Lehrer as if he didn’t exist.

Bush’s answers were better than Kerry’s, I think. But I also tend to agree with Bush’s foreign policy more than Kerry’s.

Still, I thought Kerry did the best he could with what he had to work with. I thought he handled himself very well, about as good as he possibly could have. I scoffed and rolled my eyes a few times, and I’m sure Kerry’s supporters did the same thing to Bush. (Actually, I’ll bet there was plenty of screaming in people’s living rooms tonight.)

Anyway, I have to say that both candidates performed a lot better than I expected – which isn’t saying much, but there you go. I can’t get excited about either of them, but I find it impossible to hate them.

The questions, though. Come on, Lehrer. Ask something tough once in a while.

Here’s what I wanted to hear:

Mr. President, why do you insist Saudi Arabia is an ally in the war on terror when the government spends billions of dollars building mosques and madrassas all over the world in order to export their fanatical Wahhabi ideology?

Senator Kerry, what do you think about Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 911?

Mr. President, why did the commanders in Afghanistan rely on local warlords instead of the United States military in the battle of Tora Bora?

Senator Kerry, what do you think of the fact that only a few days ago the governments of France and Germany announced they will not send troops to Iraq even if you are elected president?

Mr. President, what do you think is the biggest mistake you have made while in office?

Mr. Kerry, why did you dismiss allies like Britain, Australia, and Poland as parts of “trumped-up, so-called coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought and the extorted”?

UPDATE: Dean Esmay says in my comments section:

I will say that in all honesty I’m LESS frightened of a Kerry Presidency than I was 24 hours ago. He managed to convince me that he probably won’t completely screw up. Although I still find his record troublingly inconsistent, I must grant that the life of a Senator is full of such things.

Yeah, I agree with that. But I’ve already tried to talk myself into voting for Kerry in my last Tech Central Station article. I can’t say I was able to turn myself into a Kerry supporter, but I did manage to convince myself that if he wins it will be okay. If Bush wins we’ll be okay, too. Neither of them are any great shakes, but we just didn’t have the option of voting for John McCain or Harold Ford or Rudy Giuliani or Barak Obama this time around. One of these guys will hafta do. And one of ‘em will.

UPDATE: Joe Katzman says both candidates suck and the world will suffer for it.

Fahrenhype 911

Check out the trailer for the new documentary Fahrenhype 911. It looks good. Somebody needed to make a cinematic counterpoint to Michael Moore’s crackhouse propaganda.

I can already see one problem with it, though. It was a mistake to put Ann Coulter in this movie. It isn’t smart to trot out one extremist to counter another. No one who isn’t already a certain kind of right-winger wants to listen to her. There are plenty of people on the right and the left who are interested in seeing Fahrenheit 911 debunked. Most of my friends are liberals and also are former fans of the man from Flint. Those on the left who want to see it debunked need to hear arguments from people they trust.

Zell Miller makes a few appearances in the trailer. It’s nice to seem him talking informally and at ease instead of worked up in a lather.

I’m glad the movie was made. I hope it’s a good one. I’d like to see it. But that obligates me to watch Moore’s movie first, which I have to say isn’t something I feel particularly jazzed about at the moment. I’ve seen his other movies and even read one of his books. I’m done.

The Dark Towers of Paris

I went to Europe for the first time on my honeymoon a little more than two years ago. Shelly and I started our trip in France, went south into Spain, and then north up to Amsterdam. She had been to Europe before. I had not, preferring instead to visit Latin America. (I still prefer Latin America. I fight boredom in Europe. It is too much like home.)

I remember looking out the airplane window at the vast expanse of farms over France. It was like magic. I would finally see the storybook land of city walls and bridges, ancient churches and castles. I wished, not for the first time, that I could live there.

And then I got out of the airplane and into a taxi.

The driver pulled onto the freeway and I saw Paris for the first time. It has a sprawling skyline of gigantic concrete block towers. Peering into the neighborhoods I saw a lot of trash and broken glass and little activity. There were no signs of life. Every vista repulsed me. And it went on like that for miles. It didn’t help much that the predominant color was gray and the weather was overcast.

This can’t be Paris, I thought. It looks like a Soviet Republic. Where were the church steeples? The amazing French architecture? The restaurant-lined boulevards?

I became physically depressed. Every last drop of excitement and anticipation drained out of me.

I have always hated American suburbs with their strip malls, fast food joints, big box stores, and inland seas of parking. They’re hideous and I’m glad I don’t live there. I always wanted to know: why can’t we build cities the way Europeans build cities?

That drive into Paris taught me what I should have known all along. Europeans don’t build cities like they used to any more than Americans do. Architectural modernism is a worldwide horror. Everyone who had a hand in building the lovely quarters of Paris died a long time ago.

I was shocked — truly shocked — to discover that suburban Paris is many times worse than Suburbia, USA. I had absolutely no idea. No one ever told me. (Now you can’t say no one ever told you.) No one publishes pictures in travel magazines of those god-awful swathes of modernist blight. Hardly anyone ever writes about what most of Paris is actually like.

The charming old city really is something. If you haven’t seen it I can tell you it is every bit as fantastic as most people say. But that part of the city takes up much less than 50 percent of the surface area. It’s an outdoor museum where some people are lucky to live. It took almost two days before I could shake my first impression of Paris and enjoy the old city the way I wanted to.

Needless to say, I spent no time at all in the outskirts. I had barely even a flicker of curiosity about what lay beyond the peripherique. Walking around in those neighborhoods would have been a deeply depressing experience. It was harsh enough just riding through them in a cab for half an hour.

In the current issue of City Journal Theodore Dalrymple describes what it’s actually like to live in some of those neighborhoods. After reading this I’m glad all over again I live here instead of over there.

Reported crime in France has risen from 600,000 annually in 1959 to 4 million today, while the population has grown by less than 20 percent… Where does the increase in crime come from? The geographical answer: from the public housing projects that encircle and increasingly besiege every French city or town of any size, Paris especially. In these housing projects lives an immigrant population numbering several million, from North and West Africa mostly, along with their French-born descendants…

A Habitation de Loyer Modéré — a House at Moderate Rent, or HLM — [is] for the workers, largely immigrant, whom the factories needed during France’s great industrial expansion from the 1950s to the 1970s, when the unemployment rate was 2 percent and cheap labor was much in demand. By the late eighties, however, the demand had evaporated, but the people whose labor had satisfied it had not; and together with their descendants and a constant influx of new hopefuls, they made the provision of cheap housing more necessary than ever…

The average visitor gives not a moment’s thought to these Cités of Darkness as he speeds from the airport to the City of Light. But they are huge and important—and what the visitor would find there, if he bothered to go, would terrify him.

A kind of anti-society has grown up in them—a population that derives the meaning of its life from the hatred it bears for the other, “official,” society in France. This alienation, this gulf of mistrust—greater than any I have encountered anywhere else in the world, including in the black townships of South Africa during the apartheid years—is written on the faces of the young men, most of them permanently unemployed, who hang out in the pocked and potholed open spaces between their logements. When you approach to speak to them, their immobile faces betray not a flicker of recognition of your shared humanity; they make no gesture to smooth social intercourse. If you are not one of them, you are against them.

Their hatred of official France manifests itself in many ways that scar everything around them. Young men risk life and limb to adorn the most inaccessible surfaces of concrete with graffiti—BAISE LA POLICE, fuck the police, being the favorite theme. The iconography of the cités is that of uncompromising hatred and aggression: a burned-out and destroyed community-meeting place in the Les Tarterets project, for example, has a picture of a science-fiction humanoid, his fist clenched as if to spring at the person who looks at him, while to his right is an admiring portrait of a huge slavering pit bull, a dog by temperament and training capable of tearing out a man’s throat—the only breed of dog I saw in the cités, paraded with menacing swagger by their owners.

There are burned-out and eviscerated carcasses of cars everywhere. Fire is now fashionable in the cités: in Les Tarterets, residents had torched and looted every store—with the exceptions of one government-subsidized supermarket and a pharmacy. The underground parking lot, charred and blackened by smoke like a vault in an urban hell, is permanently closed…

When agents of official France come to the cités, the residents attack them…Benevolence inflames the anger of the young men of the cités as much as repression, because their rage is inseparable from their being. Ambulance men who take away a young man injured in an incident routinely find themselves surrounded by the man’s “friends,” and jostled, jeered at, and threatened: behavior that, according to one doctor I met, continues right into the hospital, even as the friends demand that their associate should be treated at once, before others.

But [state entitlements are] not a cause of gratitude — on the contrary: they feel it as an insult or a wound, even as they take it for granted as their due. But like all human beings, they want the respect and approval of others, even — or rather especially — of the people who carelessly toss them the crumbs of Western prosperity… The state, while concerning itself with the details of their housing, their education, their medical care, and the payment of subsidies for them to do nothing, abrogates its responsibility completely in the one area in which the state’s responsibility is absolutely inalienable: law and order.

No one should underestimate the danger that this failure poses, not only for France but also for the world. The inhabitants of the cités are exceptionally well armed. When the professional robbers among them raid a bank or an armored car delivering cash, they do so with bazookas and rocket launchers, and dress in paramilitary uniforms. From time to time, the police discover whole arsenals of Kalashnikovs in the cités. There is a vigorous informal trade between France and post-communist Eastern Europe: workshops in underground garages in the cités change the serial numbers of stolen luxury cars prior to export to the East, in exchange for sophisticated weaponry.

I’m as interested in the architecture of these places as much as the societies inside them. I believe that, on some level at least, the design of a city influences its culture. Some places make the heart soar. Others — like outer Paris — pulverize the human spirit. So I was not at all surprised to read this from the same essay:

Architecturally, the housing projects sprang from the ideas of Le Corbusier, the Swiss totalitarian architect—and still the untouchable hero of architectural education in France—who believed that a house was a machine for living in, that areas of cities should be entirely separated from one another by their function, and that the straight line and the right angle held the key to wisdom, virtue, beauty, and efficiency. The mulish opposition that met his scheme to pull down the whole of the center of Paris and rebuild it according to his “rational” and “advanced” ideas baffled and frustrated him.

The inhuman, unadorned, hard-edged geometry of these vast housing projects in their unearthly plazas brings to mind Le Corbusier’s chilling and tyrannical words: “The despot is not a man. It is the . . . correct, realistic, exact plan . . . that will provide your solution once the problem has been posed clearly. . . . This plan has been drawn up well away from . . . the cries of the electorate or the laments of society’s victims. It has been drawn up by serene and lucid minds.”

It makes me shudder, in part because I have actually seen the results of this inhuman architectural ideology.

France can worry all it wants about the problems of immigration. And they can start by asking what they themselves have done to contribute to such extreme feelings of alienation among their newest of citizens. I am not trying to blame all the problems on the native French themselves. But I have to wonder how often, if ever, they question the way they treat the non-white non-Western people in their midst. We will let anyone become an American. But can anyone become French?

Even if France is somehow able to resolve its ethnic and social problems, I can’t help but think the people who live totally cut off from the mainstream of society in hideous Stalinesque blocks are going to continue feeling mentally out of sorts. Suffering that landscape for 30 minutes drained me of hope. And I was on my honeymoon. Perhaps I over-reacted because of my own inflated expectations and the fact that I’m a big fan of architecture — the good stuff, anyway. Either way, I’ll never believe again that the people who live in France now are somehow superior in their cultural and aesthetic tastes than we are on this side of the ocean. They constructed themselves a physical Hell, and it doesn’t surprise me a bit that it turned into a social Hell, too.

Hat tip: Sean LaFreniere and Winds of Change.

UPDATE: I’m corrected in the comments. The City Journal article isn’t current – it’s two years old. Whoops. Sorry. Well, I just now saw it for the first time so it’s “current” for me…

UPDATE: Dan G., who has a brand-new blog called Sound and Fury, published an extremely well-written response to this post about New York City’s own tyrant of modernist planning – Robert Moses.

The President of Everybody

Marc Danziger, aka Armed Liberal, still doesn’t know which way to jump in this election. (He’s the Armed Centrist!) That makes it a bit easier for him in these days of hyper-polarization to say he’ll accept the election of either one of these mooks. I know it’s fun for some people to hunker down in their respective partisan trenches and fire off mortars at the Treasonous Liberals and the Imperialist Right. Still, take a break for five minutes and read Marc’s heartfelt plea for national unity. I promise it won’t hurt.

Left-wing Fascism Watch (Updated)

I thought about fisking Arundhati Roy’s comments in her latest interview at Outlook India. But what’s the point? She is self-evidently an unhinged crazy person who managed to turn left-wing pablum into outright fascism. Her books are prominently displayed at the bookstore down the street from my house. Pardon me for finding that creepy.

Here’s a taste from her latest. And there’s plenty more where this came from.

Personally I’m not prepared to pick up arms now. But maybe I can afford not to, at whatever place I am in now. I think violence really marginalizes and brutalizes women. It depoliticizes things. It’s undemocratic in so many ways. But at the same time, when you look at the massive amount of violence that America is perpetrating in Iraq, I don’t know that I’m in a position to tell Iraqis that you must fight a pristine, feminist, democratic, secular, non-violent war. I can’t say. I just feel that that resistance in Iraq is our battle too and we have to support it. And we can’t be looking for pristine struggles in which to invest our purity.

The fact that she wishes the likes of Al Qaeda’s Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is even remotely capable in any alternate universe of fighting a “pristine, feminist, democratic, secular” war is mind-boggling enough. What’s even more astonishing is that a person who supposedly believes in the values of feminism, secularism, and democracy can get a warm fuzzy feeling by cheerleading Islamofascists who would cut off her own infidel head and dump her body into a ditch. And hasn’t she ever bothered to notice that the Iraqis who are democratic, secular, and feminist are pro-American?

Ugh. Fisking her point by point is a waste of my time. Her books sell well in my neighborhood, though, so I can’t let this pass without some kind of comment.

Hat tip: Marc Cooper.

UPDATE: On reflection this reminds of me an essay Nelson Ascher wrote a few weeks ago about people like Roy. It really stuck with me. Read the whole thing, but here’s the pertinent part:

They think they have outgrown and discarded religion. They don’t think of themselves as religious, but rather as post-religious people. But they are not. And I’m not talking here about their attachment to what are sometimes called “secular religions” (communism, Nazism etc.). What I’m saying is that they, though unaware of this, are still, in a certain way, conventionally religious. Actually, they’ve discarded only half of religion, its theology, but kept more or less intact the other half, its demonology. The demonology of the secular Left and that of radical Islam, despite many terminological differences, coincide, if just for the time being. The leftists do not believe in God, but they doubtlessly believe in the Devil or Devils and their Devils happen to be Khomeini’s Satans, both the big and the little one.

What makes the secular western Left so naïve is the fact that its members truly believe that a common demonology is more than enough to cement a long term alliance. It is not. To be wholly accepted by the fundamentalist (and, likely, the other) Muslims, you have to share both their demonology and their theology. If you don’t accept the latter, you’ll eventually become part of the first. Or, to translate it into more political terms, while the leftists have allied themselves strategically with the radical Islamists, these have only allied themselves tactically with them. Interestingly, the results of such an incongruent alliance could have already been clearly seen (where else?) in Iran, that is, Persia, when Khomeini himself, after being helped in his revolution by secular leftists, turned against them and exterminated them as soon as he got hold of power.

In short, there has been a pact made with the devil, but it wasn’t the secular Left that made it, but the radical Islamists. When the secular leftists discover that, in the eyes of their soon-to-be former allies, they are devils too, I wouldn’t like to be in their skins.

Department of Duh

John Kerry must know the truth about France and Germany. He’s a senator. He’s been around a while. Our two “allies” didn’t refuse to help the coalition in Iraq because they don’t like Bush’s cowboy talk or because Rumsfeld said they’re old. They didn’t lend a hand for their own reasons that have nothing to do with the Bush Adminstration’s alleged lack of diplomacy.

So I doubt he’s surprised by today’s news in the Financial Times unless, like me, he’s surprised at the timing.

French and German government officials say they will not significantly increase military assistance in Iraq even if John Kerry, the Democratic presidential challenger, is elected on November 2.

Mr Kerry, who has attacked President George W. Bush for failing to broaden the US-led alliance in Iraq, has pledged to improve relations with European allies and increase international military assistance in Iraq.

Kerry’s entire anti-Bush strategy rests on convincing the American public that Bush did not try, or did not try hard enough, or did not try properly, to get the French and Germans to help. But Jacques Chirac was never going to say to a President Kerry or to an alternate-universe President Bush: “Oh, you want our help? We’d love to. Thanks for asking.”

You’d think that if the leadership of France and Germany hopes Kerry wins the election they would have kept this to themselves. Instead they knocked out the legs from beneath his campaign.

I doubt this is the reason, but it’s an interesting bit nevertheless:

In fact, high-ranking German officials are privately concerned at the prospect of Mr Kerry becoming president, arguing it would not change US demands but make it more difficult to reject them.

Bush, apparently, is a convenient excuse for inaction.

It could not have been more obvious all along that the Germans and French wouldn’t help no matter what. But I’m glad all the same they did us the favor of clearing it up for those who thought otherwise.

Saudis: Eradicate Us!

The government of Saudi Arabia proposes self-eradication.

UNITED NATIONS – Saudi Arabia announced plans to host an international conference on combating terrorism but said on Monday that all Middle East security efforts will fail if Israel clings to policies that are “totally incompatible” with the peace process.

[...]

Saudi Arabia hopes the conference’s outcome “will constitute an important addition … to eradicating the roots and causes of this dangerous phenomenon,” Madani said. [Emphasis added.]

(Hat tip: SoCalJustice in the comments.)

In Defense of Heretics

I’ve spent a lot of words in this space smacking “the left” upside its own head for embracing or at least tolerating ranting neo-Stalinist goons while trashing liberal hawks as heretics, traitors, and (gasp) conservatives. It’s one reason among many why George W. Bush is likely to be president next year.

In all this time hardly any anti-war left-liberal person I know of has been able to see how asinine and counterproductive it is. It works great as a Republican recruitment drive, not that most of these people really care. Results are immaterial. Purity is everything.

Marc Cooper gets it. He might be the only one. And so I have to link him today and say thanks. Read what he has to say. I’ve waited too long for this.

“A war-mongering, death-worshipping thug”

While we’re on the subject of Che Guevara (see the next post down), Ken Wheaton wonders why on earth any pacifist-leaning middle-class American would exalt a man who fought to the death against everything they stand for and believe in.

Hanging With the Cool Kids

I dearly love living in Portland. Almost everything about it is great – the city, the neighborhoods, the restaurants, the coffeehouses, the arts scene, the microbreweries, the friendly people, the lush scenery, the ocean and mountains nearby, and the climate. But I do have one complaint. It isn’t much of a writer’s town.

Los Angeles is a writer’s town. So it’s a great place for me to hang out. I spent a long weekend down there at La Casa de Roger L. Simon and got to enjoy the company of some of L.A.’s finest writers and bloggers: Roger (obviously), his wife Cheryl, Matt Welch, Emmanuelle Richard, Marc Danziger (aka Armed Liberal), Cathy Seipp, and the Dark Lord himself Charles Johnson. Marc Cooper and Megan McArdle (who lives in New York) were scheduled to be there, too, but they couldn’t make it. Both were missed.

It’s normal to write in Los Angeles. At least that’s how it feels when I’m hanging out in a room full of writers. In Portland it’s strange. I can’t talk shop when I’m home unless I do it by email or phone.

So thanks, y’all, for having me down there and indulging me. Don’t take each other’s company for granted.

Totalitarian Chic

Paul Berman is one of the best left-liberal writers and thinkers around. His book Terror and Liberalism is the best I’ve yet read about the meaning of the attacks on September 11. He issues a liberal call to arms, on properly left-wing grounds, against what he calls the new totalitarians, the Middle Eastern inheritors of the Nazi, fascist, and Stalinist legacies.

Unlike me, he is still on the left. But he is a besieged minority within it. And today in Slate he blasts The Motorcycle Diaries, the new film about Che Guevara, and the standing ovation the audience gave it at Sundance.

Berman shouldn’t expect his fellow lefties to take up arms against the new totalitarians until they stop applauding the old ones.

The Gender Gap Vanishes

John Kerry is the Energizer Bunny of losers. He takes a licking and keeps on sinking.

Not only do men prefer Bush to Kerry, women now prefer Bush to Kerry, too.

In the last few weeks, Kerry campaign officials have been nervously eyeing polls that show an erosion of the senator’s support among women, one of the Democratic Party’s most reliable constituencies. In a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last week, women who are registered to vote were more likely to say they would vote for Mr. Bush than for Mr. Kerry, with 48 percent favoring Mr. Bush and 43 percent favoring Mr. Kerry. [Emphasis added.]

A five point difference isn’t huge. It is almost within the margin of error. But the Democratic Party has had a lock on the female half of the population for as long as I’ve been paying attention to politics.

September 11 really has changed a lot. And the Democrats, supposedly the pro-change “progressive” party, are stuck in the past.

The Republicans have proven themselves a lot more flexible and adaptive. It’s partly an accident of history. They happened to be in power when the jets hit the towers. If the Democrats were in charge on that day I expect the Republicans would be scrambling to keep up with the shift in America’s mood. It’s hard to adjust to instant change when you’re stuck in the opposition. You feel obligated to oppose everything new.

In any case, John Kerry is trying to get his gender gap back.

It was no accident that John Kerry appeared Tuesday on “Live With Regis and Kelly” and recalled his days as a young prosecutor in a rape case. Or that he then flew from New York to Jacksonville, Fla., to promote his health care proposals. Or that on Thursday in Davenport, Iowa, he will preside over a forum on national security with an audience solely of women.

These appearances are part of an energetic drive by the Kerry campaign to win back voters that Democrats think are rightfully theirs: women.

He doesn’t get it. I mean, he really doesn’t get it at all. The world changed, okay? A campaign that would have been effective on September 10 doesn’t resonate with people today.

Kerry fails to understand that women, at least a significant number of those in the center, are more likely than before September 11 to admire toughness and strength. It’s not that he’s been neglecting “women’s issues” and needs to catch up. Rather, “men’s issues” are more important to most people now.

I hate to put it that way, and I apologize if it seems ridiculous. I don’t think of myself as a “man” when I vote. I have never asked myself who’s the most manly? and voted accordingly. (“Women’s” candidates have always won my vote anyway.) And I seriously doubt the women who moved to the right did so because they think Bush is “girlier” than Kerry. What a laugh! For one thing, hardly anyone actually thinks in those terms. And if they did Kerry would still have his edge among women. George W. Bush is not more “feminine” or “nurturing” or “caring” than John Kerry.

But Kerry seems to believe people do think that way. And that’s precisely why he’s losing support among women right now. “Women’s issues” still matter, and they matter to me. But they are not front and center this year.

Terror and Victory

Back in January I tentatively planned to visit Iraq during this coming winter. I changed my mind for reasons that ought to be obvious, as I mentioned in this space before. Some parts of that country are the most dangerous places in the world right now, at least for foreigners. For a while there, though, I thought I would be safer in Iraq than I would be in Israel. Iraq wasn’t a quagmire. But Israel/Palestine was.

It’s amazing what a difference a year can make.

Take a look at the cover for this week’s New Republic.

Intifada_Is_Over.JPG

In one of the cover stories Yossi Klein Halevi and Michael B. Oren (author of the indispensable Six Days of War) explain how Israel beat back the intifada. Here’s the short version.

Israel’s triumph over the Palestinian attempt to unravel its society is the result of a systematic assault on terrorism that emerged only fitfully over the past four years. The fence, initially opposed by the army and the government, has thwarted terrorist infiltration in those areas where it has been completed. Border towns like Hadera and Afula, which had experienced some of the worst attacks, have been terror-free since the fence was completed in their areas. Targeted assassinations and constant military forays into Palestinian neighborhoods have decimated the terrorists’ leadership, and roadblocks have intercepted hundreds of bombs, some concealed in ambulances, children’s backpacks, and, most recently, a baby carriage.

At every phase of Israel’s counteroffensive, skeptics have worried that attempts to suppress terrorism would only encourage more of it. [Emphasis added.]

The doom-mongers were wrong. Period. Just as they were wrong when they predicted disaster in Afghanistan. Just as they were wrong when they predicted disaster in Iraq the first time around. Just as they were wrong when they (although it was mostly Republicans this time) predicted disaster in Kosovo.

Those who keep insisting we or one of our democratic allies will actually lose a war have been wrong for a third of a century now. I am thirty four years old. The last time the doom-mongers were right I was three. They have been consistently wrong throughout my entire living memory. (Am I forgetting something? Have we lost a war since Vietnam?)

It’s always the same refrain. Only the details are different.

That doesn’t mean they are necessarily wrong about Iraq. Iraq could turn into an actual quagmire. It does happen sometimes. And they aren’t crazy to look at Iraq now and thinks is a mess. It is a mess, and it’s a bad one. I’m not in denial about it. I planned to visit, then I changed my mind, so I am well aware that the country has deteriorated.

My point here is that the pessimists among us were guaranteed to declare regime-change in Iraq counterproductive and/or a quagmire no matter what actually happened short of an instantaneous transformation of Mesopotamia into Belize.

It wasn’t at all long ago that I barred myself from visiting Israel. I didn’t expect to get killed if I went there. I would almost certainly have been fine. But I didn’t want to sit in a coffeeshop clicking away on my laptop and be consumed with worry about whether or not I was sitting at the “safe” table. I would visit today and hardly worry at all. If all goes well I’ll be in Libya over Thanksgiving, and that doesn’t scare me in the slightest. (Though it does worry my mother a bit.)

I hope the pessimists are wrong about Iraq, and I also hope they hope they’re wrong. The reason I’m pointing out their track record isn’t to say the optimists are right. No one yet knows. (If you’re certain you do know, can I borrow your crystal ball? Pretty please?) Nor am I saying we should do exactly what Israel did. We couldn’t even if we wanted to. We can’t wall off Baghdad.

I understand why people look at Iraq today and are overcome with a sinking feeling. It happens to me sometimes too. It’s so easy, especially if you opposed the invasion of Iraq in the first place, to look at the horrible things that happen and think they represent the whole story or are part of a trend that goes only one way. But remember Israel. They had a horrific spike in terrorism awfully recently. You could have predicted that trend would keep rising indefinitely. And yet it did not. The reason it didn’t is because Israelis fumbled around until they found a strategy that actually worked. Then they implemented it. Now the intifada is over.

A few days ago I linked to Victor Davis Hanson who started off his essay by quoting Georges Clemenceau:

War is a series of catastrophes that results in victory.

Indeed. It isn’t always this way. Sometimes, albeit rarely, we do lose wars. We lost in Vietnam, after all. But we almost always win. And when we do it is first by enduring a gut-wrenching series of catastrophes.

It isn’t all going to be rainbows and sunshine, though, no matter what happens. Israel’s victory came at tremendous cost. And I don’t just mean the lives lost on both sides in the fighting. Orem and Halevi continue:

The price Israel has paid for its victory has been sobering. Arafat may be a pariah, but Israel is becoming one, too. Increasingly, the legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty is under attack. Former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard, for example, has called Israel’s creation a “mistake.” In Europe, an implicit “red-green-black” coalition of radical leftists, Islamists, and old-fashioned fascists has revived violent anti-Semitism. Along with the desecration of Jewish cemeteries by neo-Nazis and the assaults on Jews by Arab youth, some European left-wingers now sense a sympathetic climate in which to publicly indulge their anti-Semitism. In a recent interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Greek composer and left-wing activist Mikis Theodorakis denounced “the Jews” for their dominance of banks, U.S. foreign policy, and even the world’s leading orchestras, adding that the Jews were “at the root of evil.” In the Arab world, a culture of denial that repudiates the most basic facts of Jewish history–from the existence of the Jerusalem Temple to the existence of the gas chambers–has become mainstream in intellectual discourse and the media. Government TV stations in Egypt and Syria have produced dramatizations based on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Boycotts of Israel are multiplying: The nonaligned states recently voted to bar “settlers”–including Israelis who live in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem–from their borders. Among young Israelis across the political spectrum, there’s growing doubt about the country’s future and widespread talk of emigration.

Just in case you don’t know what the authors are driving at, here’s the next sentence.

In its victories and its defeats, Israel is a test case of what happens to a democracy forced to confront nonstop terrorism.

Israel’s present may be our future. Best get used to it now.

For Fear of Being Rathered

According to Jeremy Brown, Hugh Downs thinks news reporters will censor themselves even more than they did before because they’re afraid they’ll be Rathered by the blogosphere.

Eh. What a silly thing to say. Jeremy found the perfect analogy.

You’re sitting in the back of a bus. You and some of the other passengers begin to notice that the bus is not actually going anywhere. You walk up to the front of the bus and you see that the driver is simply turning the wheel back and forth and saying “vroom-vroom-vroom” to himself, and screeching once in a while. You say, ‘excuse me…you’re not actually driving this thing, are you?’ and he says, ‘Look, buddy, I’m an experienced bus driver and you’re just a passenger. Besides, I can’t do my job if you people are going to keep bitching at me.’

A Note to Commenters

I recently had Mt-Blacklist installed on this site to weed out annoying corporate spammers from my comments section. And I noticed that a few comments were automatically deleted that were left by regular people.

It has been several months since I last banned anyone from posting here. So if you try to leave a comment and you get a message that says you were banned all of a sudden, that was probably a mistake. (You would know if I banned you anyway. I don’t do it quietly.) Please email me and let me know if this happens to you.

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