Tuesday, March 16, 2004

le parcours général

I find myself home earlier than usual today because Mrs. Oh called to cancel classes for the whole week. Her younger daughter's in the hospital, having taken very ill; they have my sympathies and I hope she gets well soon.

Let's go for a general parcours, shall we?

I found this amusing, though I imagine Keith Burgess-Jackson would find it distressing: God hates dogs, but apparently, he loooooves boshin-t'ang. Fry that puppy up-- the grill's already there!

Anticipatory Retaliation's BravoRomeoDelta examines a Steven Den Beste post and chews on the question of whether we're engaged in a "little Cold War" with China. Very meaty post.

Winds of Change's (newly wed) Armed Liberal weighs in on the Spain issue and finds reason to fear.

Dan Darling is, as usual, on top of things. Here's a post on Spain. Read the post below it, too.

Annika takes a long view on the Spain question-- an opinion also espoused by Tacitus.

Douglas at Tacitus with a post on North Korea.

John Moore, Conrad, and others are simultaneously flabbergasted and laughing themselves crazy at France's move to perform joint naval exercises with China.

Lorianne spends approximately 1.25 posts worrying about what to wear to her dissertation defense. She's right: for us men, the sartorial decisions are among the easiest in life. My suggestion for a diss defense ensemble:

spiked Madonna-style metal cone bra
pleather corset
thigh-high boots with spiked heels
nothing else (except maybe a crown-of-thorns wrist tattoo)

Proper conduct: sit slouched in your chair, facing the panel. Lean over and scratch ass. Stare challengingly at each panel member in turn, then stand up ramrod-straight like Frau Farbissina of the Austin Powers series and scream, "If you don't give me the doctorate, this bullwhip is going up somebody's ass! THE WHOLE BULLWHIP!" If panel members are too petrified to respond to this display, switch into Zen master mode and shake the bullwhip in front of their faces, screaming, "WHAT IS THIS? SAY IT'S A BULLWHIP AND YOU ASSERT! SAY IT'S NOT A BULLWHIP AND YOU ALSO ASSERT! SO WHAT-- IS-- THIS, GODDAMMIT!!??"

Then open up a Tantric chapter in your Zen school and promise unholy monkey-sex ("Doin' it Hanuman-style, baby!") to the profs who pass you. I think there's an online store that sells Ganesha-shaped, patchouli-scented dildos. Want me to find it?

The Space Between: Lorianne's most recent post appears to be a down-home riff on Dave Matthews-style liminality.

I should write a post on ass-crack liminality and call it The Space Between My Buttocks.

There's a running dialogue going on at Naked Villainy regarding the rightness or wrongness of current action in Iraq. Start here, then move upward to here, then here.

[NB: The Maximum Leader has moved off Blogspot to his own site and is still moving archives into place. If the above links don't work, simply follow the link to his site on my sidebar, then scroll down until you find the post titled "Quick thoughts, just to show I'm reading." Read that one, then move upward to "Rejoinder to Propaganda Minister," then finally to "I'm not James Webb."]

My own take on this is that pulling out of Iraq at this point is folly. A pullout, and/or a UN takeover, would be one massive cluster-fuck. I was against the war, but I'm not in denial about Iraq/al Qaeda connections, for which documentation has been repeatedly found (and debunkings repeatedly attempted)-- ties that have become, if anything, all the stronger since the war, making the original debate moot. Whatever one's interpretation of the pre-war situation, the fact now is that the connection exists, and it needs to be dealt with.

Mike's interlocutor, the Propaganda Minister, also believes that Libya would have turned even if we hadn't attacked Iraq. I don't agree. While Iraq's own status is debatable (I have lingering doubts about how our project there will turn out), there's been an undeniable ripple effect in the Middle East-- even the fundamentalists' desperate grab for power in the recent Iran elections is a sign of this. The Iranian people continue to agitate, more and more loudly, for democracy. Something's going to give. Syria's current teetering (and domestic strife) is also a sign that things have changed. What liberals don't get is that force is a language these powers understand, and while it's unfortunate that we have to resort to force to make our point, we don't live in a post-historical utopia (link courtesy Analphilosopher).

The PropMin's feeling is that the war should be (or should have been) targeted more specifically against the actual terrorists. But as the MaxLdr has argued repeatedly since even before the start of the war, these organizations get their funding from states. At some point, you're going to have to deal with governments, and this is what people are balking at.

The hesitancy is legitimate. When your terrorism policy (still being formulated, I think, as conditions change) has a preemptive aspect, it already looks bad on the government-level. I had and still have real problems with preemptive policy. When your policy, on top of being preemptive, sets a whole country in its sights, there are reasons to worry about diplomatic capital and what this bodes for us, economically, politically, etc. But while hesitation to step on other people's toes is a valid worry, should it override more crucial considerations, i.e., national self-interest?

The PropMin sees John Kerry as the man to bring us back to our senses regarding Iraq policy. I think it's possible that Kerry might bring us back on track economically (anyone is more fiscally responsible than Bush at this point-- Bush has disappointed his own rank and file with some of his economic decisions), but Kerry has his head firmly up North Korea's ass when it comes to foreign policy: he doesn't even think we're in a war. That, to me, pretty much nullifies anything constructive he might say about foreign policy right there. An inability to see the current situation clearly is not a quality I treasure in a presidential candidate. The same might go for Bush, 'tis true, but that criticism applies more to economic and social policy than to foreign policy.

I've contended several times on this blog that our voting choices will come down to a decision between economics and foreign policy-- which you think is more important is what will decide your vote for Bush or Kerry (unless you're an unthinking party-liner, in which case current events don't really factor into your decision). Like my Dad, I agree that economics and foreign policy are inextricably linked, so of course the reality isn't that simple. But the nature of the two candidates' platforms pretty much forces us to make this choice. Which priority first? My contention was and remains that Americans are clever, hard-working people. We'll figure a way out of an economic mess: we'll live. Consider how fat and well-fed many of our poor are, then compare those poor folks to the real poor out in the world. No-- economic straits in America will mean, for the most part, thinner poor people, not massive death (no matter how operatic the claims of various poor-advocacy organizations) as would be the case in other parts of the world. So I think foreign policy takes priority, and if you put a gun to my head and forced me to vote only for Bush or Kerry, I would, with great reluctance, choose Bush. Bush, at least, realizes we're in a war.

The liberal side asks two contradictory questions simultaneously: (1) are we safer (usually asked mockingly)?, and (2) aren't we just jumping at shadows?

The "are we safer?" question arises from a misunderstanding of what we have and still hope to accomplish. It assumes that our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, coupled with our constant pursuit of al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, were somehow supposed to lead automatically to greater security. It's a stupid, useless question, because any observant person can see that we're nowhere near the end of this: it's going to take decades, as Den Beste contends. Whatever my misgivings about Bush, he's been quite clear that we're engaged in a long-term project. It is, effectively speaking, a new kind of war being carried out not only on many fronts, but in many modes. It involves intel, diplomacy, and the military. I'd like to think it also involves dialogue, the main point of which is, these days, to coax out the "moderate Muslims" and get them to speak out against acts which should be called by their true religious names: unholy, sinful, godless-- name your theological epithet.

The "aren't we jumping at shadows?" question isn't usually posed directly, but it's implied in a number of ways: complaints about "unnecessary" encroachment on civil rights, for example. The general feeling that, since attacks haven't happened on US soil since 9/11, they won't happen at all. The thinking that John Kerry will steer us the right way is based very much on this general feeling: we can let our guard down now, reprioritize, elect a president who understands that this isn't a war, it's only a series of police actions-- a bit like the way Vietnam has been "officially" characterized: police action, guys, not war. Besides, Bush is just using 9/11 and terrorism as a cover to push through all sorts of ugly legislation, right? The implication behind all such sentiments is that things are safer now. People who give the economy a higher priority in their thinking have also reached this conclusion.

While there's plenty of cognitive dissonance on the conservative side, liberals need to deal with this internal paradox before they can present a coherent position (and by implication, a viable choice at the polls). Figure out first whether we're safe enough to start focusing intensely on the economy. While the liberals are usually more inclined than conservatives to say, "The situation's more complicated than that" (and I suspect Kerry will be saying that a lot as president), the stark choice in November will come down to what you ultimately consider more important-- defense or the economy. Why? Because Bush is all about defense but seems to run roughshod over the economy, while Kerry might have decent plans for the economy, but keeps debating with his colon polyps about whether we're actually at war.

From where I sit in Korea, Bush looks like the better choice because he makes North Korea angry and nervous. Bush, to the Norks, is unpredictable and unstable. He has staffers like John Bolton who blurt out that North Korea is a "hellhole"-- the type of rhetoric no Democrat-sponsored diplomat would have the brass balls to say. I predict that a Kerry presidency would lead to a "deal" with North Korea in which, once again, NK gives us its assurances of good behavior, we give NK a ton of money, and NK farts in our collective face, reenergized and uppity as ever. We'll turn around, smile like the suckers we are, and call that a victory for our side.

NK is a very good metric for foreign policy. Colin Powell has been quite firm about what NK needs to do if it wants help, and as always the magic word is verification. Will Kerry insist as strongly on this point, or will his staffers let NK get away with murder yet again? Will Kerry bring us back to bilateral negotiations with NK, thereby playing right into NK (and SK) hands? I think he would. I see him completely reversing the Bush doctrine (such as it is)-- espousing radical multilateralism in the Middle East and a bilateral, NK-US approach on the Korean peninsula. (God knows what Kerry wants for Taiwan.)

The PropMin is right to say that we need to take the fight to the terrorists, but that's only one aspect of a much larger war. I don't think Kerry'd have the first clue about honing our intel and signing off on dozens of covert operations per month. I envision him as the Diplomatic President, the Great Negotiator. So long as we can sit down with some old fat guys and sign a piece of paper and shake hands, all will be fine and dandy. And hey-- flip-flopping and post hoc rationalization are just all in a day's work!

Anybody remember Clinton's early-90s "triumph," getting Arafat and Rabin to shake hands? Yeah-- see how that turned out. True: Bush's "roadmap to peace" was a big, fat, steaming turd as well-- but consider the larger picture and see whether Bush's overall priorities skew toward Clintonian diplomacy or Big Stick diplomacy. I think Big Stick is better than Limp Dick. Compare this, too, with Clinton in Somalia, Haiti (good Lord, look how that's going), and even the Balkans, where we still have troops (Clinton's leftover quagmire?). When Bush's roadmap crashed and burned, the flameout was quick and the policy's death was swift. Meantime, I'll bet there are still lefties who think Clinton's 1993 handshake moment was a real coup. Just like the vaunted 1994 Agreed Framework for the Korean peninsula. Yeah, another good one, Bill.

With a leftist reaction against conservatives here in Korea, and a huge leftist backlash in Spain, it's all the more important to make sure we have someone in office who won't lose sight of the larger project. If that means reelecting a stubborn, possibly-stupid, possibly-crazy, inarticulate guy whose main virtue is that he'll pull the hangman's lever to cut short a condemned man's final bullshit speech, then maybe, just maybe, Bush is our guy. Kerry, at that same hangman's lever, would listen raptly and forget to hang the guy. "Slightly wounded three times"-- who cares, if you're just a smarter version of the same idiot?

I'm still no fan of Bush, and since I'll have the option of writing someone in come November, I'm still quite likely to write in Daffy Duck. But you never know. If by some miracle Bush begins to see the light about the economy, backs off his asshole stance on the marriage amendment, and maintains his focus on the Middle East while keeping up the pressure on NK, then I might just be persuaded to vote for him. Kerry, in the meantime, has to prove he's not a jellyfish on all the important issues. And liberals need to answer for themselves the question about whether we're indeed safe enough to reprioritize our thinking. And answer the question that dogs Kerry: whether we're actually at war.

Some Andrew Sullivan snippets:


What the Europeans refuse to understand is that there is no proximate cause for this violence. It is structural; it is aimed at the very existence of other faiths; it wishes to purge the entire Muslim world of infidels (which means the annihilation of the Jews), and eventually to reconquer Europe. You can no more negotiate with these people than you could negotiate with Hitler. And by negotiation, I don't just mean direct talks. I mean attempts to placate by occasional withdrawal of troops from, say, Iraq or Afghanistan, or withdrawal of troops from Saudi Arabia or abandonment of Israel. All such tactical shifts are regarded purely as weakness. They are invitations for more massacres. How many more will die in London and Rome and Berlin and Paris before the old continent fights to defend itself?

Replace "Europeans" with "American left" and it reads about the same.


But there's the real ironic twist: if the appeasement brigade really do believe that the war to depose Saddam is and was utterly unconnected with the war against al Qaeda, then why on earth would al Qaeda respond by targeting Spain? If the two issues are completely unrelated, why has al Qaeda made the connection? The answer is obvious: the removal of the Taliban and the Saddam dictatorship were two major blows to the cause of Islamist terror. They removed an al Qaeda client state and a potential harbor for terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. So it's vital that the Islamist mass murderers target those who backed both wars. It makes total sense. And in yesterday's election victory for the socialists, al Qaeda got even more than it could have dreamed of. It has removed a government intent on fighting terrorism and installed another intent on appeasing it. For good measure, they murdered a couple of hundred infidels.


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