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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.

The Hawkish Case for Kerry

I promised to write two essays: the hawkish case for John Kerry and the liberal case for George W. Bush. The first is published today as my newest Tech Central Station column. Have at it!

UPDATE: Centerfeud partly agrees. Patrick Lasswell dissents.

“Militant” = Terrorist

Nelson Ascher, for those of you who don’t know, is a Brazillian journalist based in Paris who also writes in English at his blog called Europundits. He speaks, reads and writes, gosh, I don’t know how many languages. He is also a poet and a professional translator. He has forgotten more about languages than I have ever learned with my quarter-knowledge of Spanish and my minimal understanding of Arabic.

So when he writes about words and languages, as he often does, I pay attention. Today he posted an interesting essay about the mainstream media’s use of euphemisms for “terrorist,” such as “militant,” “rebel,” and even “dissident.” I’ve always figured the use of such words, especially “dissident,” unintentionally slanders the likes of the French Resistance, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Those people do not deserve to be lumped in with the likes of Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Baathist dead-enders.

Anyway, Nelson Ascher thinks the use of these euphemisms isn’t working as the media intends because it simply changes the meaning of the euphemisms themselves. That goes hand in hand with what I’ve always thought, but he takes it a step further. Those of you who cringe (as I do) when a gang of thugs who cut off the heads of innocents are called anything other than terrorists are encouraged to read what he has to say.

Don’t Abandon Iraq

I was going to write something about why we should not leave Iraq prematurely, even though it’s looking pretty grim again at the moment. But Victor Davis Hanson said what I wanted to say, and he said it better than I would have. His column is your homework for the weekend.

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