Thursday, August 24, 2006

Why at least this "They" hate us

One of the terrorists being pursued in the "alleged" plot to blow up 10 trans-Atlantic airliners is Matiur Rehman who, according to Pakistani officials, was named during interrogation by one of the suspects being detained.

It is worth noting that Rehman is a leader of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a group whose primary activities have been the killing of Shi'ites in Pakistan and more recently, attacks in Kashmir. And it is a fact that most of the people detained in the British-plane plot had ties of birth or ancestry to Pakistan, a nation whose primary beef with the non-Muslim world is India and/or Kashmir.

Now, what was that about Iraq being a Jihadi recruiting poster? Liberals who think that Muslim hatred for the West would be significantly diminished had Al Gore been elected in 2000 and Chimpy McHitler retired to Crawford ... are simply deluded. India and Pakistan would still be fighting over Kashmir, and, through this sort of fertile imagination and conspiracy-mindedness of Western-residing Muslims, the West would somehow be to blame.

Machiavelli 101

The unjustly-reviled Florentine would have snorted at the US behavior in Iraq, and the Israelis in Lebanon. He understood that one must first win unquestionably and establish oneself as master. Once in charge and unquestionably so, you can worry about how to order things. But attempting to calibrate the use of force so as to win "World Public Opinion" and "Hearts and Minds" is a recipe for disaster because it breeds contempt and anarchy.

Because Machiavelli was blessedly free of simple-minded, unidimensional moralism, he could see the paradox that forsaking bloody actions for the sake of wanting to be loved can lead to greater bloodshed and cruelty later on. Particularly in the nuclear era, when the US can slay by the tens of millions at the push of a button, a great power cannot ever be position where it sees the situation as "Them or Us." Any state will choose "Them," and Hiroshima will look like a garden party. All for the sake of "Upholding Our Principles" some years earlier.

From the beginning of Chapter 17 of the Prince:
Descending next to the other qualities set forth before, I say that each prince should desire to be held merciful and not cruel; nonetheless he should take care not to use this mercy badly. Cesare Borgia was held to be cruel; nonetheless, his cruelty reconciled the Romagna, united it, and reduced it to peace and to faith. If one considers this well, one will see that he was much more merciful than the Florentine people, who so as to escape a name for cruelty, allowed Pistoia to be destroyed. A prince, therefore, so as to keep his subjects united and faithful, should not about the infamy of cruelty; because with very few examples he will be more merciful than those who for the sake of too much mercy, allow disorders to continue, from which come killings or robberies; for these customarily harm a whole community, but the executions that come from the prince harm one particular person. And of all princes, it is impossible for the new prince to escape a name for cruelty, because new states are full of dangers. And Virgil says in the mouth of Dido: "the harshness of things and the newness of the kingdom force me to contrive such things, and to keep a broad watch over the borders."¹
Later in Chapter 17, Machiavelli makes the important distinction between being feared and being hated. Machiavelli notes that it is not only possible, it is even the best of all possible worlds, to have the first without the second. Americans don't understand that -- thinking that to be feared is to be hated. And, far worse, they don't understand that others do see things that way, particularly honor-based cultures such as the Arabs, to whom there is nothing more contemptible than weakness.
¹ I quoted from a translation other than the one I linked to, because Harvey Mansfield's translation of the Prince (the one I like best and the one the quote is from) is not available online.

Can we now stop hearing two lies about torture?

A report came out last week that one key to breaking up the terror-planning cell of British Muslims was the arrest the previous week of a Briton, Rashid Rauf, in Pakistan. Immediately, the left-wing Guardian connected the dots.
Reports in Pakistani newspapers yesterday that Mr Rauf had "broken" under interrogation were described by a Pakistani human rights group as confirmation that he had been tortured. Asma Jehangir, of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said that it was obvious how the information had been obtained. "I don't deduce, I know - torture," she said. "There is simply no doubt about that, no doubt at all."
At face value, that is less than persuasive. How does she know? And there are quite legitimate caveats about MSM eagerness to discredit "the 'so-called' war on 'alleged' 'terror'," and the particularly nutburger politics of the Guardian. But with all that duly noted, it is beyond debate that Pakistani officials routinely use at least the "rubber hose," and Rashid Rauf would not have been considered a routine case. Not QED by any means, but the better bet is that Rauf was tortured.

The results seem to have found plenty of smoking guns against most of the initial 20 arrestees -- like martyrdom videos. From the LA Times:
LONDON — In the first unveiling of evidence in the alleged plot to down U.S.-bound airliners, British authorities said Monday that their searches had turned up "martyrdom videos," suicide notes, bomb-making equipment and maps.
The evidence, offered to bolster charges filed Monday against 11 suspects, hinted at a trove of material and leads yet to be examined.
Now there's been debate about the timing of the planned attack -- initial reports were that a dry run was planned within days and the attack could happen days after that. There has been some doubting of that since. But nevertheless, it IS clear that the plot was in motion, and that D-Day would be sooner rather than later. In other words, a ticking time-bomb scenario. Whether the fuse was 6 days long or 6 months is neither here nor there -- luck plays a big role in these things and it pays no attention to calendars.

Does torture always work ... in the sense of always getting good, actionable information? No ... which distinguishes it from no other human action. Can it be abused? Absolutely ... which still doesn't distinguish it from any other human action. If one simply wishes to fiat a priori that any interrogation or coercion is always intrisically evil, that's at least coherent and clear -- make your case. But don't lie -- don't say (1) that torture categorically cannot work -- of course it can; or (2) that the "ticking-bomb" scenario is only for people who watch too much 24 -- as the head Torture Pharisee™ at St. Blogs regularly sneers. This case (redundantly) undoes both notions simultaneously.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Religion of Peace™ update ... maybe?

If you're in Bombay, I hear there's a good place to get pastries, pizza and salad in the northern suburb of Navi Mumbai — the Hitler's Cross restaurant. In deference to Der Fuehrer, I hope the pizzas are vegetarian.

(UPDATE: The day after I posted this, the restaurant owner decided to change the name. Good. I still think much of what follows stands ... with the caveat that I'm more confident that the owner is a Hindu, or at least a non-Muslim, and that the last couple of grafs refer only to the initial act, and how it might be possible.)

Appearances aside, I really am curious what is the religion of the owner of the Hitler's Cross — named Puneet Sablok (which in my inexpert opinion is probably a Hindu name). I find it curious that no mention is made of this, given that India has the world's largest population of a certain religion that has luxuriated in anti-Semitism and Hitler-love recently. If the owner is a Muslim, that fact is surely relevant. And if he isn't, one would think that the not-unreasonable inference that he might be would make a disavowal appropriate.

Of course, the swastika is an ancient Hindu symbol of good luck, and I realize that this makes it hard for Indians to react to it as post-WW2 Europeans do. I'm not saying they should. And if a restaurant in India were called the Good Luck Swastika (or however one says that in Hindi or Bengali or whatever), I'd even tell a Jew taking offense that he'd be wrong to do so. But not when the place has the name "Hitler's Cross" — that don't wash. We also get the owner's pathetic excuse — "It's just to attract people. There is no intention to hurt anyone." Well, the reason the name might attract people is because Hitler is like ... I think, bad or something. And people will (and should) be attracted against that too.

Christopher Hitchens once made an interesting point about the Columbine killers — who supposedly deliberately committed the massacre on Hitler's birthday. That if they were typical American teenagers, Harris and Klebold had little or no real knowledge of who Hitler was — except as a generic symbol of absolute evil, which might be worse than knowing nothing at all. If all you know about a man is that he's evil, that's gonna make him more attractive, not less — or at least perversely fascinating.

Which is why an Indian might see nothing wrong with Hitler's Cross pastry shop and pizzeria — in his nation, he's just a name whose generic badness Indians can acknowledge without drawing conclusions from it. In fact, just for fun, I decided to see if I could Google any restaurants in the West named after Genghis Khan. I could.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Elsewhere ...

I've been posting quite a bit about the war, national security and related issues on my other blog, which is nominally mostly about movies. I shoulda put the items here in the first place. But here are the links, in reverse chronological order:

The Great Evil Of Our Time, as demonstrated by Thursday's arrests -- ethnic profiling;

The second and third bullets in this short-items roundup are (2) writer-director David Mamet on anti-Semitism; and (3) Japanese "hatriotism";

A link-heavy description of what would be missing from Oliver Stone's September 11 movie -- celebrating Palestinians, recycled and doctored photos, and what passes for education in the Muslim world.

The Democrat spin

OK, let me see if I can get this straight.

I can understand, as a matter of absolute possible principle,¹ that one could make the argument that the war in Iraq is distracting and tying down US forces from pursuing the "real war on terror" against Al Qaeda or other Islamist groups; "Germany must not fight a two-front war"; military assets are never limitless, etc.

If the Democratic Party has an official line on the war -- that is it (along with "Iraq is a Jihad recruiting poster"). Sure enough, it was trotted out almost immediately on Thursday by Dems in their reaction to the terror arrests in Britain and Pakistan.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid:
As a result of mismanagement and the wrong funding priorities, we are not as safe as we should be and we still have not implemented the bipartisan 9-11 Commission’s recommendations to secure our ports, airports, and chemical plants. The Iraq war has diverted our focus and more than $300 billion in resources from the war on terrorism and has created a rallying cry for international terrorists. This latest plot demonstrates the need for the Bush administration and the Congress to change course in Iraq and ensure that we are taking all the steps necessary to protect Americans at home and across the world.
Ohio US Senate candidate Sherrod Brown:
Today's failed attacks underscore the need to refocus our resources on fighting the war on terror. Iraq has diverted billions of dollars from our defense budget and drained our military's capacity. Our success in the war on terror depends on having the available manpower and resources to hunt down terrorist networks around the world.
Connecticut US Senate candidate Ned Lamont in the Stamford Advocate:
“I just think that this Bush administration confuses a comprehensive attack on the terrorists with the invasion of Iraq,” Lamont said in a telephone interview yesterday. “I think the invasion of Iraq was a terrible distraction.”
OK ... Bush launched a war that's tied us down -- to avenge his daddy, because he's stupid, to get Halliburton profits, because the Learned Neocon Elders of Likud told him. Whatever narrative floats your boat -- it doesn't matter for this purpose.

But. Didn't. The. Arrests. Happen. ???

And aren't we in Iraq -- shedding blood for Halliburton, avenging Bush-41, doing the Joooooz's bidding, whatever -- and are thus tied down. While. The. Arrests. Happened. Turns out that the West can walk in Iraq, and chew Homefront-Counterterrorism Gum at the same time.

These arrests prove it. The Democrats' primary narrative on the Iraq War is false.
¹ I am not saying I buy this argument as applied to the status quo, mind you. People have been known to walk and chew gum; certain powers have even had the capacity to fight two wars successfully. All I'm saying is it's not an a priori stupid claim that could never be correct.

Victory for terrorism

One step forward ... two steps back.

We (i.e., the West, Christendom) foil a terrorist plot on Thursday, and then on Friday we surrender to Hezbollah. The Shi'ite pawn of the millenialists in Tehran got what it wanted, an immediate cease-fire (or "hudna," for which there is much precedent in Islam). And, as Andy McCarthy explains, Hezbollah wins de facto recognition as a sovereign entity, by being addressed in a UN document. Here's the best line in his Corner post:
Maybe we should vacate Iraq but have the new Iraqi army and the UN guard the country while we call on al Qaeda to disarm. That's apparently a winning formula, right?
Israel signing onto this is bizarre. The UN as an organization is corrupt (not that that would benefit Israel, no oil-for-food program to buy off), absolutely feckless, and anti-Israel to the core. No guarantee from it is worth the paper it's printed on. Why does anybody think that the UN would lift a finger (or more precisely, take a hangnail in the finger) for a country that it, as a corporate body, quite patently hates?

Don't the Israelis remember the last time they invaded Lebanon to remove a terrorist state-within-a-state (1982)? To be replaced with a multi-national force. How effectual did that turn out -- almost 250 dead Marines (plus another 50-odd dead French paratroopers), prompting the West to flee and provide another example to the Islamists and Muslims that the West was a paper tiger; Syria wound up becoming the dominant power in Lebanon from a decade and a half; and when Israel withdrew from its southern buffer zone in 2000, Hezbollah both filled the vacuum and intensified its attacks.¹

The UN force in Lebanon that was supposed to, among other things, guarantee the security of northern Israel after the Jewish state withdrew from most of Lebanon in 1985, was an objective enemy of Israel and no incident points that out more undeniably than the 2000 kidnapping of four Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah. It's not simply that the kidnappings happened, but that the UN had complicit in it to some degree, hampered Israel's efforts to get its soldiers while at least enabling Hezbollah.

Then there was The Videotape, which the Israelis thought (rightly or wrongly) could aid them, but that (1) UN officials, up to and including Kofi Annan, lied to Israel for months about whether the tape even existed; and (2) when the UN did turn it over, it did so only in an edited version with the Arab faces on it blurred, and still withheld other information.

Ironically, there's also quite recent precedent for feckless foreign forces under a UN flag being responsible for protecting Muslim civilians -- to the detriment of those Muslims. I'm referring to Srebenica, the worst crime committed against Muslims by Christians in my lifetime.

The reason so many of us on the right admire Israel is its splendid indifference to the United Nations (of "Zionism is racism" fame) and the so-called "court of world opinion."² It was a state that acted like a state. That had no globaloney illusions. I mean -- if (1) a president of the US from the more-conservative party is going to prattle about "Islam means peace" and "we want an effective UN" and (2) if Israel, the one nation in the world that must seriously face the prospect of being wiped out overnight, is going to accept the 582357109th UN peacekeeping force as a guarantor of security ... where is the hope for the world?

¹ This all began a decade before Bush even became governor of Texas, for the benefit of the born-yesterday, blame-the-neocons-for-why-they-hate-us set.
² Of course, really just meaning the court of the decadent cosmopolitan elites of the West, their deracinated Third World stooges, and the colonized masses they oversee.