Thursday, February 27, 2003

And, while I'm posting articles, this is an excellent argument against my post below. At the least, it creates an extremely compelling argument for seeking international cooperation before going into Iraq. Beyond that, I'm still thinking about implications.

*sigh* So much for leaving politics alone.
In regard to the impending war upon Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, I submit this article. Setting aside the matters of foreign policy, prudence, national sovereignty and risk, I'd like to at least attempt to lay the moral issue to rest. The claim is not in the least that America is morally unstained. Simply that the removal of Saddam Hussein will be the payment of a debt we have owed the Iraqi people for 12 years, since the day we failed to remove their unholy dictator as we should have.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Having a comment feature here would be rather nice. I'm not sure if I've got it working, but this is a test. My apologies for a non-extremist post.
Jonathan Metzger recently posted this parody of a number of Hillsdale-related blogs. Below is his parody of mine.

"3) So, how about the environment then? I�ve been thinking about it, and I think we should just start clubbing baby seals over the head as quickly as we can. First off, they�re cute. This is a seductive danger of the world, which leads us away from our calling to communion with God and our brethren. While their big, soulful eyes may look innocent, we must remember that they don�t actually have souls, and the seeming innocence and love in their eyes distracts us from the maintenance of our immortal souls. Puppies do this too; we should start killing them as soon as we can as well.

Secondly, we should kill the baby seals because they and other wild-life are blocking the pipeline paths to precious oil in Alaska which we�ll need for the two weeks or so that Iraqi oil will be unavailable to us while we�re conquering them. If a baby seal were to wander into one of the pipelines while they�re being constructed, it might die in there unnoticed and its corpse could block desperately needed oil at exactly the wrong moment.

I realize that this may not be a popular position, but I�ve reasoned it out very carefully, and I think this is what we have to do."

Quite humorous, Metzger--but you give me reason to pause and consider. I seem to have managed to paint myself as quite the extremist over the past month. Which is quite a feat, considering the infrequency of my posts over that period--especially considering the fact that I don't really think myself very extreme at all.

Hence (in pursuit of a more civilized moderation) a brief explanation of my basic motivations for what I've had to say. First: the movies issue. My objection is based purely in my personal experience. Entertainment, with its central place in our culture, tickles our fancies but gives no fulfillment. Something is awfully wrong with human life as we see it lived and live it ourselves in this world and age. This is not how men were meant to live. Myself, I have at least some idea what the good life looks like. Movies still threaten to keep me from that life. So I try to avoid them, and try to explain why. If that makes me an extremist, then so be it.

Second, the war thing. That's not so defensible, I suppose. I rather regret writing it at all.Nonetheless, I don't really see much hope for the world down the road if the powers that be in this world do not act decisively in whatever fashion is most effective (and moral) to end the proliferation of those all-too-cliched weapons of mass destruction. My argument below is a primarily a musing (that is, a thinking aloud) on how that might be accomplished--an optimistic musing, hoping that the current American president has in mind this end and has a comprehensive game plan for its accomplishment. This because I am an optimist--I'd like to think that the relative freedom, security and what I honestly think is a concern for the rest of the world and a charity towards it that is unique in human history might endure and spread. Or, for a much less ambitious optimism, I'd like to think that the nations of the world can somehow forestall the sorts of holocausts that such weapons can create. But then, optimism is generally foolish and blind. And pessimism is usually overrated. Perhaps it will all pan out. I really don't know.

With that, I'm going to leave politics alone. It's a generally annoying and imponderable subject that fosters a lot of anger and excessive rhetoric (not least in myself) with little profit. Pretty much, what happens happens politically. We're left mainly with living with whatever may come as best as we can. Which, incidentally, brings us back to movies. Funny how that happens. ;)

So that's where I've been coming from. Now, I'm off to go bash some seals. Nasty, smelly, anti-capitalist buzzards. And they make those gosh-awful noises too. Sure as heck a species worth exterminating.

Thursday, February 20, 2003 more thing. As an actual threat, Saddam may well be negligible. Nonetheless, I submit that, if Mr. Bush is to pursue the policy he has outlined in his speeches since September 11, 2001, he has no choice but to attack Iraq first. Otherwise, every "enlightened" commentator, European, American or otherwise, will charge him with inconsistency in keeping a blind eye turned to the violations of the nation that is already the primary example of American apathy in the '90's. If we count the nations whom we have allowed to flaunt the strictures of the past few decades, Iraq tops the list. North Korea may pose the greater threat, but Iraq has flaunted itself against vain American threats for far longer. If this nation is to regain any semblance of credibility against so-called rogue nations, it cannot allow Saddam Hussein to successfully win another toss.

This is not to say I am happy with the policy of the Bush administration thus far towards North Korea. But it seems that, at this early stage in the game, one must admit a certain degree of pragmaticism--as things currently stand, we simply are not capable of dealing with both North Korea and Iraq without suffering high casualties in men and political capital. To win, and win well (that is, with the least damage either to us or the nations we liberate), we need to be able to throw overwhelming force against our enemies. I hope and pray that Bush has a plan for North Korea (after all, my family lives near the west coast, and the range of North Korean missiles is only increasing)...but taking Iraq on first seems to be Bush's only choice.

In my humble opinion, that is.
Hmmm...many many people--that is to say, Daniel Hugger, Daniel Silliman, Jonathan Metzger and Seraphim Danckaert--have written negative comments and refutations of my recent war commentary. Their many criticisms demand a response, but I unfortunately currently lack the time to reply in detail to each of their charges. Here, at least, are a few thoughts.

First, contrary to Mr. Silliman's assertions, I do not like war. It is ugly, brutal and horrific in all its forms. And most of all so in its latest forms as it has developed over the past century. It is first of all a desire to avoid war and preserve life that sparks my musings about potential methods to avoid nuclear holocaust.

Second, my suggestion that the United States is the only force capable of achieving any sort of nuclear disarmament, limitation and security worldwide is based in the fact of the utter impotence of the United Nations in pursuance of that end. My suggestion for a forced disarmament by a single police power is born of a search for an alternative to a bankrupt policy and fifty years of dashed hopes. There is enough cause for fear in the world in which we live today--I shudder to think of the perils of the world we will bequeath to our children and grandchildren in we fail to address the inescapable conclusion of today's nuclear proliferation.

Third, any claims that the United Nations is a legitimate or workable means of achieving world peace and security are nothing but balderdash. You should know better than that, Metzger. The United Nations gives equal voice to every nation in the world, and the most common interest shared by those nations is a desire to be rid of America's limiting influence on their ancient feuds with one another. The best thing I can say about the United Nations is that it provides the pithiest example of a bitter irony I can think of--the nations which have perpetrated the vast majority of histories atrocities, the nations deterred from continuing those atrocities by American might, lecturing America in the words of America's founding philosophies about the rule of law and national sovereignty. And we Americans, caring so much about doing the right thing, shrink and cower and back off, fearing the shrill, empty rhetoric of the impotent powers of the past.

Fourth, I am no imperialist. I would much prefer to sit in a nice, small nation that nobody cared about, living my life, raising my kids and striving towards God, than to live in a nation hated the world over for being powerful enough to save the world's ass whenever some potheaded dictator takes it into his head to raise hell. I refer readers to Kipling's Tommy. "Yes, making fun of uniforms that guard you when you sleep is cheaper than those uniforms--and they're starvation cheap...And it's Tommy this, and Tommy that, and Tommy, 'ow's your soul...but it's 'Thin red line of 'eroes when the drums begin to roll."

Whether or not America ever admits that she is an empire (and I doubt that it will), she will continue to serve as the backbone and muscle of the United Nations or whatever foolheaded council takes its place, and will continue to spill the blood of her sons and daughters on whatever barren battlefield the cowardly nations of Europe, Africa or Asia beg her to fill when their greed and moral turpitude finally leave them at the mercy of threats they ignored for far too long.

More later.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Ok then. How �bout this so-called war?

First off, I�ll admit candidly that my tendency, born of my conservative upbringing and personal recklessness, is undeniably hawkish. But I also plead that I am not blindly so�even the thought of what war means, to the Iraqi people, to the world, etc, gives me pause. After reading Jonathan Schell's latest piece against the war on The Nation�s website, I was quite dovish for a long moment.

Schell paints a picture much starker than any I�d allowed myself to entertain since I first heard of the atomic bomb and Mutually Assured Destruction in elementary school. The picture of rampant nuclear proliferation and inevitable use of the bomb is possibly the most hopeless thought I have ever had. Disarmament began to look quite attractive.

For a contrast, look at this piece, Paul Greenberg�s latest in the Washington Times. He makes telling comparisons (which had not escaped my notice last Friday as I listened to NPR�s coverage of the inspectors� presentation at the U.N. Security Council meeting) with the policies of western Europe in the �30�s when faced with Hitler�s growing threat in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Europeans seem bound and determined to forget history and pursue peace at any cost. I honour their commitment to the protection of human life, but decry their stupidity and bad memory.

Hitler should be remembered well by the world as it faces Saddam Hussein. Likewise, the entire 20th century should be kept in mind as the world considers what to do in the post Cold War world of nuclear proliferation. A century has shown that inspections simply DO NOT WORK. Disarmament is a wonderful dream, but there is no hope that it will actually happen. As was pointed out to me last night by a friend, the argument for disarmament is the same argument as that made by gun control advocates. It would leave us with a lot of powerless nations terrorized by a few nuclear criminals.

Disarmament, however, remains the preferred method for many of preventing nuclear holocaust. The theory is that gradual, bilateral surrender of nuclear weapons could eventually reduce the nuclear stocks of the nations of the world first to a less dangerous quantity, then to a negligible quantity, and finally to nothing at all. A nice idea indeed. But one entirely overlooking the realities of human existence. If the technology exists, someone will use it. Ensuring that the civilized, law-abiding nations of the world do not possess it only guarantees that, when (not if) rogues such as North Korea or Iraq acquire such weapons, the rest of the world will be at their mercy.

The alternative to America leading the way in peaceful disarmament (which common sense assures us is a recipe for disaster) is ensuring that the only people possessing the bomb are trustworthy. Which, ideally, would mean that only we would have it. Unfortunately, we don�t. The one opportunity we had to ensure that passed over 50 years ago. (yes, I am suggesting that it would have been better to invade Soviet Russia the moment it became evident what they were seeking; yes, I am suggesting that we should have seized empire the moment World War II ended, when it could have been done relatively easily and peacefully with the threat of the bomb and our overwhelming conventional military superiority).

But we didn�t, and now the situation we face is far worse than it ever was with Russia. It seems that practically every nation with the slightest beef against us has, or is in the process of acquiring, the technology for nuclear weapons.

But we retain an overwhelming superiority to the rest of the world in both nuclear and conventional weaponry. Our culture and ideals are sweeping the world. There is at least the theoretical possibility of a true new world order, enforced by America, not for imperialistic gain, but for our own simple security.

Thus, Bush�s National Security Directive of last year makes a lot of sense. Recognizing September 11�s writing on the wall guaranteeing that, sooner or later, someone will acquire and use nuclear or chemical or biological weapons against America, Bush is seeking to commit the United States to maintain completely unmatchable military superiority over the rest of the world. In this way alone can larger nuclear nations such as Russia or China be deterred�in this way alone can we possess the ability to safely neutralize rogue nations such as Iraq or North Korea.

But this path will lead to empire� it demands the manipulation and abandonment of the United Nations, NATO or any former alliance that stands in the way of American interests. And it is a path for which, if the last few weeks are any indication, we may not be ready.

This for two reasons. First, while we are powerful, most would admit that we are not powerful enough to take on the entire world in an all-out rumble. And even if we were, that price is far too high. Second, the American psyche is not adapted to the notion of empire. Isolationism is still a strong force here�and too many Americans cannot stomach the idea of running roughshod over the nations of the world in pursuit of our self-interests, even if those interests are simple survival. The true peril of our position still escapes the vast majority of Americans, as it does the rest of the world.

But the facts remain. Nuclear weapons will continue to proliferate among the nations of the world. The mini-arms race between Pakistan and India over the last few years bodes ill for the future. Eventually, someone will use the bomb again�probably in a regional conflict. Then someone else will�a smaller nation against a larger, even against Europe or the United States. The crossed sabers of past military maps and conflicts will be replaced with little mushroom clouds all around the world. And the only force with even the slightest hope of stopping this is the United States.

For Schell�s point, that proliferation is a natural and inevitable consequence of possession of nuclear weapons, might prove to be untrue in only one situation. If one nation possessed such superiority that it would be pointless and wasteful for any other to even make the attempt�and particularly if the good will of that nation was well established�others would cease to seek the bomb. The others could be brought to give them up if it were clear that they could gain nothing from their possession.

So essentially, I am still arguing for disarmament�but disarmament forced by the United States, which would remain the only nuclear power. Indeed, I admit the necessity of a one-world government�but it is clear to me that that government must be controlled by, and indeed BE, the United States. Such is ultimately the only way to ensure our security.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Yes, I know, I'm talking far too much about movies. The topic has taken on a life of its own--but I am happy to say that it looks like it's about finished. I am fairly content with my most recent argument against the things, and got a lot out of last night's Fairfield Society presentation and discussion. I presented against movies, Daniel Silliman for, and then the entire society hacked the issue out for awhile. I think my position is less extreme than before, better considered and more liveable. Which is to say, I'm ready to stop blathering about it and go on to something more important. I'll post the basics of my presentation sometime in the next few days, and call that sufficient. I need to do some thinking about the nature of faith, and this seems as good a place as any to get some thoughts out. Expect that in the next several days.

Until then...