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April 2, 2009
September 11, 2004
My thoughts on this third anniversary ...
September 2, 2004
I remember in 1998 that Red Herring was priviledged to have a former governor of Georgia speak at our Venture Market South conference. While I wasn't very excited about it at first because the only thing I knew about him was that he was a Democrat, when he gave his talk I became an instant fan. It doesn't surprise me, then, that 6 years later he gave the kind of powerful speech that he did. Whether you loved it or hated it, you have to admit it was extraordinarily powerful. It was the most stirring speech I think I've ever heard. Some excerpts:
Now, while young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrat's manic obsession to bring down our Commander in Chief.
What has happened to the party I've spent my life working in?
I can remember when Democrats believed that it was the duty of America to fight for freedom over tyranny. ...
Motivated more by partisan politics than by national security, today's Democratic leaders see America as an occupier, not a liberator.
And nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators.
Tell that to the one-half of Europe that was freed because Franklin Roosevelt led an army of liberators, not occupiers.
Tell that to the lower half of the Korean Peninsula that is free because Dwight Eisenhower commanded an army of liberators, not occupiers.
Tell that to the half a billion men, women and children who are free today from the Baltics to the Crimea, from Poland to Siberia, because Ronald Reagan rebuilt a military of liberators, not occupiers. ...
No one should dare to even think about being the Commander in Chief of this country if he doesn't believe with all his heart that our soldiers are liberators abroad and defenders of freedom at home.
But don't waste your breath telling that to the leaders of my party today. In their warped way of thinking America is the problem, not the solution.
They don't believe there is any real danger in the world except that which America brings upon itself through our clumsy and misguided foreign policy.
It is not their patriotism -- it is their judgment that has been so sorely lacking. They claimed Carter's pacifism would lead to peace.
They were wrong.
They claimed Reagan's defense buildup would lead to war.
They were wrong. ...
I could go on and on and on: against the Patriot Missile that shot down Saddam Hussein's scud missiles over Israel; against the Aegis air-defense cruiser; against the Strategic Defense Initiative; against the Trident missile; against, against, against.
This is the man who wants to be the Commander in Chief of our U.S. Armed Forces?
U.S. forces armed with what? Spitballs? ...
John Kerry, who says he doesn't like outsourcing, wants to outsource our national security.
That's the most dangerous outsourcing of all. This politician wants to be leader of the free world.
Free for how long? ...
From John Kerry, they get a "yes-no-maybe" bowl of mush that can only encourage our enemies and confuse our friends. ...
August 6, 2004
Victor Davis Hanson describes "a return to childhood"--call it the New Immaturity, or perhaps the New Childishness. Some excerpts:
I would never have imagined that journalists, academics, actors, artists, and the intelligentsia in general would have so opposed the end of dictatorship and promotion of democracy abroad. And who would have thought that Vietnam would become the source for Democratic nostalgia, rather than the usual recrimination? Did anyone think the appointment of Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, promises of $15 billion in grants to combat AIDS in Africa, and lectures to the politically powerful Arab world to cease the genocide of black Sudanese would earn George Bush slurs evoking the Taliban, the old Confederacy, and fascism? Have we become children who live in a world of bedtime stories, afraid to face the cruel truth around us? ...
In a word, we have devolved into an infantile society in which our technological successes have wrongly suggested that we can alter the nature of man to our whims and pleasures — just like a child who expects instant gratification from his parents. In a culture where affluence and leisure are seen as birthrights, war, sacrifice, or even the mental fatigue about worrying over such things wear on us. So we construct, in a deductive and anti-empirical way, a play universe that better suits us.
August 4, 2004
"As president," Kerry declared, "I will bring back this nation's time-honored tradition: The United States of America never goes to war because we want to; we only go to war because we have to. That is the standard of our nation."
Sound reasonable? Well it is of course patently not true that there is such a "time-honored tradition" in America, as Robert Kagan points out:
... American diplomatic historians may have contemplated suicide as they reflected on their failure to have the smallest influence on Americans' understanding of their own nation's history. And perhaps foreign audiences tuning in may have paused in their exultation over a possible Kerry victory in November to reflect with wonder on the incurable self-righteousness and nationalist innocence the Democratic candidate displayed. Who but an American politician, they might ask, could look back across the past 200 years and insist that the United States had never gone to war except when it "had to"?One can never be sure with Kerry because he hasn't been all that specific about what his foreign policy will be, but if this rhetoric and his record are to be believed, we may be in store for a new isolationism--and a new unilateralism (which, after all, is what only fighting wars of absolute necessity means.) Kagan:
The United States has sent forces into combat dozens of times over the past century and a half, and only twice, in World War II and in Afghanistan, has it arguably done so because it "had to." It certainly did not "have to" go to war against Spain in 1898 (or Mexico in 1846.) It did not "have to" send the Marines to Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Nicaragua in the first three decades of the 20th century, nor fight a lengthy war against insurgents in the Philippines. The necessity of Woodrow Wilson's intervention in World War I remains a hot topic for debate among historians.
And what about the war Kerry himself fought in? Kerry cannot believe the Vietnam War was part of his alleged "time-honored tradition," or he would not have thrown his ribbons away. But America's other Cold War interventions in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East are also problematic.
For someone who professes to seek better relations with the rest of the world, Kerry's doctrine of necessity would base American foreign policy on narrow, selfish interests far more than the alleged "unilateralism" of the Bush administration. Some Europeans have been quietly worrying that what they consider Bush's overambitious foreign policy will be followed in the United States by an isolationist backlash. After hearing Kerry's speech, they may worry a bit more.Though I suspect that if Kerry were to take office, his attitude would change. Bush's certainly did--though his retreat from wariness of "nation-building" has more to do with 9/11 undoubtedly than anything else--but consider that Clinton bombed five sovereign nations without permission from the Congress or the UN. My biggest problem here: who knows WHAT to expect from a Kerry presidency?
July 28, 2004
Some thoughts on the 9/11 Commission from Hoover's Charles Hill which I agree with. One could be forgiven for thinking, listening to the self-important commissioners, that we are talking about meteors, not terrorists, hitting the US. There is a sense that these attacks are an inevitable part of nature, and the best we can hope for is to improve our early warning system and play better defense. Feels like 1930s Europe as it contemplated Nazi Germany or the pre-Reagan Cold War, in which "detente" was the best most hoped for. Yes, American's should seriously ask ourselves whether we should have spent the 1990's adjusting to the post-Cold War world and developing a new foreign policy that actually listened to the terrorists screaming their battle cry as they took on the WTC in 1993, the Kobar Towers, the African embassies, the Cole and the like. But I think this was THEIR fault, not ours. And I think that we can win this struggle, though it may take decades. Excerpts:
The commission has succumbed to the temptation to react to any major governmental problem with a recommendation for structural or institutional remodeling. ...
Intelligence collection and analysis is a very imperfect business. Refusal to face this reality has produced the almost laughable contradiction of the Senate Intelligence Committee criticizing the Bush administration for acting on third-rate intelligence, even as the 9/11 Commission criticizes it for not acting on third-rate intelligence. ...
Focusing so relentlessly on the overriding importance of intelligence about 9/11 or weapons of mass destruction has obscured the reality that we are waging this war in the Middle East because decades of dysfunctional rule across the region have produced Islamist terrorism; Saddamist-style hijacked states; and regimes fearful of subversion, such as Saudi Arabia, whose policies have inflamed the situation and increased the danger to itself. We are at war in the Middle East to prevent its takeover by a revolutionary ideology that aims to destroy the established international system, the United Nations, international law, human rights and all. ...
The Commission is a centerpiece of a larger American self-obsession, all about what did we do wrong, what we should have known, how we must do better. Necessary, without doubt -- but media fixation and the 9/11 Commission's lust for the limelight have crowded out attention to the nature of the enemy we face. Instead, it's we who haven't caught bin Laden; our presence in Iraq has created an "insurgency"; and if only we could change our policies (e.g., pressure Israel), all would change for the better.
June 30, 2004
I enjoyed Christopher Hitchens's thorough fisking of the latest work--a clear embarassment to any thoughtful anti-war position--of Michael Moore, that huge, and corrupt, war profiteer. Excerpt:
To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery.
June 4, 2004
Victor Davis Hanson describe the "New Defeatism" in National Review Online. There is a staggering amount of pessimism going around--especially for a country that not long ago won what had been for decades seen as an unwinable struggle: the Cold War. One might add "The New Scapegoating" to go along with this new pessimism--and perhaps even "The New Bigotry"--as a worrying number of Americans are becoming positively European when it comes to their attitude towards Jews and Israelis. Supporters of the war will find this perspective refreshing. Opponents will hate it. Excerpt:
We do have a grave problem in this country, but it is not the plan for Iraq, the neoconservatives, or targeting Saddam. Face it: This present generation of leaders at home would never have made it to Normandy Beach. They would instead have called off the advance to hold hearings on Pearl Harbor, cast around blame for the Japanese internment, sued over the light armor and guns of Sherman tanks, apologized for bombing German civilians, and recalled General Eisenhower to Washington to explain the rough treatment of Axis prisoners.
We are becoming a crazed culture of cheap criticism and pious moralizing, and in our self-absorption may well lose what we inherited from a better generation. Our groaning and hissing elite indulges itself, while better but forgotten folks risk their lives on our behalf in pretty horrible places.
Judging from our newspapers, we seem to care little about the soldiers while they are alive and fighting, but we suddenly put their names on our screens and speak up when a dozen err or die. And, in the latter case, our concern is not out of respect for their sacrifice but more likely a protest against what we don't like done in our name. So ABC's Nightline reads the names of the fallen from Iraq, but not those from the less controversial Afghanistan, because ideological purity — not remembering the departed per se — is once again the real aim.
May 8, 2004
I've been getting a lot of Google hits from people who seem to be looking for information on R2I (that is the letter "I") but are typing in the number "1" instead--and getting this site. R21 and R2I are totally different things--couldn't be more different actually, the former being a site dedicated to the cause of freedom the latter being an interrogation technique. For more on R2I, see this this piece in the Guardian Unlimited: UK forces taught torture methods.
May 3, 2004
Niall Ferguson urges patience in Iraq. Excerpt:
In an important but under-reported speech in June 2003, the former leader of the British Liberal Democrat party, Paddy Ashdown, reflected on the "principles of peace-making" he had learned in his capacity as the international community's high representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina. His seventh point was: "[To] avoid setting deadlines, and settle in for the long haul. . . . Installing the software of a free and open society is a slow business. It cannot be done . . . in a year or so. . . . Peace-keeping needs to be measured not in months but decades. What we need here . . . is 'stick-to-it-iveness' . . . the political will, the unity of purpose, and the sheer stamina . . . to see the job through to lasting success. That means staying on, and sticking at it, long after the CNN effect has passed."