Wednesday, August 27, 2003

From Juan Cole:

*Al-Azhar seminary in Cairo, Egypt, among the preeminent Sunni Muslim religious institutions in the world, has issued a fatwa or legal ruling forbidding Muslims from any cooperation with the appointed Iraqi Interim Governing Council, according to IslamOnline. It gives the text as saying, "“The council lacks religious and secular legitimacy, as it had been imposed on the Iraqis under the power of occupation and does not conform to Islam’s established principle of shura (counseling)." The ruling argued for popular sovereignty: “Iraq is an Islamic country whose government should be legitimate and set up in accordance with the principle of Shura.” This language echoes the ruling of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani saying that the delegates to the constitutional convention must be elected rather than appointed by the Americans. Popular sovereignty appears to have become a key legitimizing idea even among conservative clerics in the Middle East.

I concur. It's a shame that Bremer did not have as much courage of our convictions regarding " consent of the governed" as did ...authoritative Sunni scholars and Shiite clergy ! Managing the constitutional outcome of an appointive process will not result in much different a political system for Iraq than would ultimately derive from letting Iraqis vote - except it will take longer and seem suspect to everyone involved.

The interesting thing about this is that essentially the Muslim world has just capitulated to John Locke on the issue of political legitimacy. They may call it " Shura " in traditional Islamic language but the definitional content of " shura " now means " democratic consent " and in practice, " free elections ". How else will these scholars be able to measure " Shura " and prove their legitimacy to their own people and the world at large ?


Fire this recalcitrant leftist holdover and appoint somebody who will follow the law and not the ideological prejudices of Handgun Control, Inc.

Read this

"The idea that we can solve problems by working more is a big first for our country,"

Ernest-Antoine Seilliere, president of MEDEF, France's leading business federation
Monday, August 25, 2003

American troops are loaded with high-tech, high-impact, long distance weaponry but facing guerilla action in the Sunni triangle and back-alleys of Iraqi cities requires effective, low-tech, reliable small arms - which are in short supply. GI's have remedied Pentagon stinginess by adopting the AK-47. The M-16 vs. AK-47 debate has been going on since the Vietnam War and under less than ideal conditions the latter seems to be a better weapon for combat troops engaged in close quarter fighting. Hopefully, no anal-retentive junior supply officer or P.R. conscious civilian at DoD will ban troops from using confiscated Iraqi rifles to replace what the Pentagon has not supplied.

One is reminded of tthe Czech Legion which did not liberate Czechoslovakia but instead controlled large swaths of...Siberia.

US intelligence has dissected the makeup of the guerrilla groups lurking in Baghdad and points north in an area enclosed by Tikrit, Haditha, Fallujah and Baquba. They have come up with some alarming findings:

1. Since late June, Chechen terrorists have been coming to Iraq to join the anti-American offensive.

2. The intake of Arab fighters entering Iraq from Syria is beginning to outnumber the indigenous Iraqi guerrillas fighting in the northern Mosul-Haditha district and the central Ramadi-Fallujah region.

3. The commanders of the guerrilla campaign, Saddam Hussein or his henchmen, appear to are imparting Muslim fundamentalist characteristics to units fighting the Americans - both as camouflage and to foster greater cohesion. In at least one case, a group was lent a pan-Arab identity. The deposed ruler or his commanders are clearly giving careful thought to the ideological nature and makeup of their following. Therefore they may not be quite so pressured by the pursuit as believed. Their ability to strike simultaneously in different places also attests to military and intelligence capabilities.

The Chechen fighters arriving in Baghdad are not drawn from the ranks of foreign Muslims fighting the Russians in Chechnya but ethnic Chechens. They were assigned to duty in the Sunni Triangle of central Iraq by the Chechen rebels’ Saudi al Qaeda commander, Abu al-Walid, also known as Emir al-Walid, who succeeded al Khatib who died in a Russian ambush two years ago.

Not much is known about the new commander except that he comes from western Saudi Arabia and receives funds from Saudi Islamic relief organizations funneled through Balkan or Central Asian Islamic organizations.

The report notes that the Chechen insurgents reach Iraq through Syria

For the full article go here.

Go here. This trend actually precedes 9/11 - very early in the Bush administration - early summer 2001- a high-level Indian delegation, ostensibly in Washington to discuss trade and economic issues, spent a good deal of time closeted with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.
Thursday, August 21, 2003

Anne Zook welcomes the news that foreign law bodies are demanding civilian trials for enemy combatants held at Guantanamo. The money quote from the article

""We strongly believe that there are now only two legally acceptable courses of action open to the US authorities. Either the US government must return the detainees to their own home countries where they can be tried under their own national laws, or they should be tried in a US civilian court with full guarantees for a fair trial."

This is factually incorrect (as the authors of this letter presumably know being, after all, lawyers) as far as the Geneva Convention is concerned and moreover is a position contingent upon no state of war existing between the United States and al Qaida. NATO has already settled that issue legally by invoking the mutual defense clause in response to the attack on 9/11 so as far as international law is concerned, a state of war exists. Belligerents, to be eligible for Geneva Convention protections, must obey it's protocols which al Qaida does not do, regularly fighting out of uniform and making civilians a primary target of their attacks. These are war crimes punishable by death for good reason. After all,the intent of Geneva is to offer a carrot and a stick to combatants in order to minimize hardship for civilians caught in a war zone and require soldiers to fight soldiers, not women, children and the aged.

The United States is within it's belligerent rights under international law to try al Qaida members before a court-martial or a special military commission or tribunal ( like....Nuremburg). Critics can point to the requirement for a normal military hearing to adjudicate POW or Illegal Combatant status prior to such an extraordinary trial ( which the Bush administration has delayed doing) but that is not what this group is loudly demanding - they want civilian trials as if Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had the misfortune to have been arrested sticking up the local 7-11. It's ill-intentioned utter nonsense by European leftists designed to delay accountability for Islamist terrorist acts for as long as humanly possible, particularly if the death penalty is a possibility. This is the same crowd of jackasses who think a stiff sentence for a psychopathic Bosnian Serb " General" who murders 8000 people is 46 years ( bet you he gets out in 10). These leftwing Euro-lawyers like process and they don't like accountability, justice, the death penalty, George Bush or the United States. Nor do they care a whit for the people al Qaida kills. We should give their letter the credence it deserves.

The United States is not legally obligated to treat war criminals of a paramilitary organization engaged in armed attacks as civilians and citizens when they are neither.


An interesting thread that will not die from Kevin Drum.

" The ' Americans' did not immigrate from Europe; the name of the Florentine geographer Amerigo Vespucci designates to-day not only a continent, but also a people in the true sense of the word, whose specific character was born in the spiritual upheavals of 1775 and, above all, 1861-5."

Oswald Spengler

" Korea is one of those places where the United States has a vital interest in seeing peace and stability. The North Koreans are isolated now that the Soviet Union doesn't exist; they're desperate and, frankly, nuts"

Richard Nixon


Turkish leaders may be seriously miscalculating the effects of playing " diplomatic hardball " with Washington over Iraq.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has penned a critique of Bush policy in Iraq for Foreign Affairs. I was set to do a Fisking of some of her arguments but then, as I read further, her damned intellectual integrity reared it's head, offering this backhanded compliment to Bush:

"Although I was proud of the Clinton administration's foreign policy, and I understand that democracy cannot be imposed from the outside, I regret not having done more to push for liberalization within the Arab world. We did nudge at times, supporting Kuwaiti leaders in their initiative to give women the vote and encouraging the creation of representative bodies in Bahrain and Jordan. But we did not make it a priority. Arab public opinion, after all, can be rather scary. The same Pew survey that detected Arab enthusiasm for democracy also found that the "world leader" in whom Palestinians have the most confidence is Osama bin Laden. Who wants to give people with such opinions the right to choose their own leaders? The answer is us: we should do everything possible to see that they are given that right.

For years, Arab populations have received a distorted message from Washington: that the United States stands for democracy, freedom, and human rights everywhere except in the Middle East and for everyone except the Arabs. The time has come to erase that perception and the reality that too often lies behind it. Democracy will not end terrorism in the Arab world, but neither will it nourish it, as despotism does. Bin Laden's appeal is based on what he symbolizes: defiance. In fact, he offers nothing except death and destruction, and Muslim majorities will reject this if they are offered real alternatives."

Say what you will about the Clinton era, amongst a foreign policy crew of bureaucrats, lawyers and feckless wonks indistinguishable for the grayness of their mediocrity, Madeleine Albright stood out for her determination and moral clarity. Her head is on straight.


Niall Ferguson on The Two Hegemonies.
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

David Horowitz's Frontpagemag.com has been running a series of roundtables on various topics moderated by Jaime Glazov. This latest one on al Qaida was excellent, well worth the investment of time to read. The panelists really honed in on the ideological-movement aspect of al Qaida and there was substantive debate over the magnitude of the threat Islamism poses.

If the panelists erred, it was in rejecting the comparison with Nazism and Communism, doing so on the grounds of the mighty military threats posed by the Third Reich and the USSR. Well, that really wasn't the direct analogy; look at the Nazi Party and the Volkische-nationalist fringe in Weimar Germany circa 1921-1923 or the Bolsheviks, Left Socialist Revolutionaries and Anarchists during the brief rule of Kerenskii's Provisional government and the comparison looks apt.
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Iranexpert.com has two articles today regarding Iran's no-so-secret bomb program. The first is a reaction against Israel and the second article indicates that Supreme Guide Khameini will reject IAEA demands for tougher inspections.

The Bush has been pursuing international support with some success to stop the Iranian nuclear program, this avenue should continue. If the hardliners absolutely reject the course of cooperation and inspections with the IAEA then the Bush administration should be prepared to launch an Osirak raid on a grand scale, using " deep -penetration", bunker-busting weapons. States cannot be allowed to sign the NPT under false pretenses simply to gain access to nuclear technology they themselves could not invent in order to build nuclear weapons that the NPT is designed to prohibit. Nor can the hardline Islamist clique that runs Iran be trusted with nukes.
Sunday, August 17, 2003

"Liberty without learning is always in peril"

John F. Kennedy

The debate over neoconservatism and what it exactly stands for continues to rage on the blogosphere including on Calpundit and Brad DeLong's site. Part of the resultant confusion about neoconservatism is generational. The thinkers, bureaucrats and politicians idescribed as " neocons" today are generally not the same people in the original neoconservative movement and even when they are, as in the cases of Wolfowitz and Perle, they're grappling with a completely different world in 2003. A fact the neocons grasped way back in the 1990's but one that more or less still eludes their critics on both the radical left and in the elite foreign policy community.

Neoconservatism was born in the 1960's as a reaction to the Soviet threat by some Left intellectuals- Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Jeanne Kirkpatrick and many others-who moved rightward rather than join the young radicals of the New Left in their reflexive pro-Hanoi, pro-Castro, anti-Americanism and anti-anti-Communism. The original Neoconservatives contributed much intellectual firepower to the " Reagan Revolution " through vehicles such as the Committee on the Present Danger and Commentary magazine. One neocon active at the CIA and NSC, Constantine Menges, conceptualized " The Reagan Doctrine" and pushed hard for the invasion of Grenada and Contra aid. Menges in particular, was an advocate of using military force to initiate regime change for the purposes of establishing democratic rule so in a sense he contributed to " the Bush Doctrine" of preemption as well, at least by precedent.

Most of the original Neocons were a tightly knit group of intellectuals, often Jewish though not exclusively, with shared assumptions about the world as a result of having lost faith in " the Cause" of socialism. Many of the prominent individuals now considered as " neocons" like Max Boot or Bill Kristol, had not been leftists and never made that kind of intellectual evolution to the right. In any event, they are also too young to have taken a role in influencing national policy in the 1970's and 1980's. These younger neocons, like Andrew Sullivan, also adhere to a more libertarian perspective in social and economic matters than one finds in reading say Gertrude Himmelfarb or William Bennett.

To further cloud matters, older, experienced statesmen like Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, are now often lumped by critics with the Neocons. Ironically, both were originally Nixon-Ford men ( Cheney was a Rumsfeld protege)- Rumsfeld in particular was a " tough", Nixonian realist while Cheney went on to be a socially conservative GOP leader in Congress and Secretary of Defense in the first Bush administration. Neither were associated with the Wilsonian-type idealism that fires neocon theories about spreading democratic rule but with hardline stances on U.S. defense policy.

What Rumsfeld, Cheney and Rice share with Perle, Wolfowitz and Kagan is not idealism but the acceptance of risks in handling foreign policy problems with military force, philosophically reinforced by their mutual experience with the neocons as fellow anticommunists during the Cold War. They oppose, as do the neocons, the Beltway foreign policy bipartisan establishment preference for " managing" problems and preserving the status quo, no matter how bad the present circumstances might be in a given region, rather than risk the unknown by provoking change. (This opposing " stabilitarian" perspective is well represented by Colin Powell, Brent Scowcroft, George H.W. Bush, Henry Kissinger, Lawrence Eagleberger, Anthony Lake, Warren Christopher, Sandy Berger, most of the Foreign Service and not a few people at the CIA)

How to define the ideology that is currently called " Neoconservative " ? It might be simplest to recognize that what we are seeing after 9/11 is a broader-based, foreign-policy centered movement best described as " Second Generation Neoconservatism " to distinguish it from it's narrower and more philosophically coherent parent. In some cases, with Bill Kristol and Daniel Pipes, we mean " second generation" literally; in others, as with Dick Cheney, the term signals movement to accepting and advocating Neocon policy positions. Second Generation Neocons are playing offense against Islamism, terrorism and rogue states, not trying to rally a flagging defense against Soviet expansionism as in the late 1970's. Spreading democracy is of greater importance to Second Generation types than to First Generation Neocons - recall Jeanne Kirkpatrick's famous moral and strategic distinction between authoritarian and totalitarian regimes and contrast that with today's Neocon criticism of the Saudis. Domestic policy does not excite this group to the extent it did Moynihan, Himmelfarb, Kemp and Bennett, so you are not going to hear nearly as much about virtue, welfare or polarizing social issues like abortion.

What you will get from the Second Generation Neoconservatives is foreign policy like a laser beam. Their ambition is epochal, on par with the magnitude of the changes that took place in the aftermath of the Second World War where the foundations of the postwar era - the UN, Bretton Woods, the IMF, NATO, the GATT, the EU - were set. The collapse of the USSR and the Cold War world and the rise of rogue regimes and non-state actors like al Qaida have undermined the old structures of the international community as surely as Germany, Italy and Japan once defied Versailles and the League of Nations. In defeating terrorism and thwarting the proliferation of WMD Second Generation Neocons will attempt to organize new international institutions that will reflect and reinforce in international law individualist and market values and political democracy instead of collectivism, autarky and authoritarianism.

This is why there is so much sound and fury among the elites and on the left; the Neocons might succeed.

Freedom House has compiled it's annual report on the world's most despotic regimes and gross abusers on human rights. This year's " winners" are as follows:




Equatorial Guinea





North Korea

Saudi Arabia








First I want to thank Geitner Simmons for the link and commentary on QUANGOs which I think we'll be hearing more about from the Democrats in the general election once they settle upon a nominee. I've linked to some new blogs - Discipulus Legis and Peevish. The former is John Jenkins, a conservative law student recommended by Geitner, I found his site to have feisty posts worth reading ( though he's clearly in the dark about what Libertarianism is - it's clearly not an attempt to sound intellectual and avoid the stigma of being called " conservative"). Anne Zook at Peevish ( who kindly links here) is on the liberal side of the equation and has an impressively designed site - very aesthetic- and her posts also show spark.

Finally, check out BusinessPundit and what he has to say about " Neuromarketing " .
Thursday, August 14, 2003

Israeli officials signal grave concerns about Iran's nuclear facilities

No, it's not an imported car, a type of bikini or an Australian animal. " QUANGO" stands for " Quasi-autonomous non-governmental organizations " and it is emerging as the hot, new idea of " Third Way " liberalism. An excerpt from The Progressive Policy Institute:

"An even more far-reaching reform would be to shift federal responsibilities to independent, nonprofit corporations -- what the British call Quangos (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organizations). Unlike PBOs, which remain government agencies, Quangos are independent but are in part publicly funded and governed by a government-appointed board. Ideally, these organizations combine the entrepreneurial spirit and competitive drive of the private sector with the public purpose of the government sector. For example, to give the federal government a catalytic role in boosting the skills of the American workforce, we should create a nonprofit National Skills Corporation governed by a board appointed by Congress and the president. ( for full article go here)

Well, that would be the ideal and most of us would support more innovative and entrepreneurial thinking in government; QUANGO's however are not required to achieve that goal nor is that their primary purpose. In practice, QUANGOs will mean, after setting up a few apolitical service organizations, quietly broadening the rubric to include the existing constellation of Left-wing and transnationalist NGOs. Once affixed to the Federal trough outright, these ideological allies of the Democratic Party will be able to use your tax dollars to lobby for greater regulation, higher taxes, less sovereignty, gender feminist social policy,more gun control, multicultural propaganda in education, animal rights..... you get the idea. Now try to imagine a conservative President trying to cut off federal funds from NOW or the Sierra Club if they achieve QUANGO status and you understand the Trojan Horse potential of this idea.

QUANGOs are completely without any legitimate pretext as Congress may create independent agencies for major tasks whose employees are subject to both ethics requirements and more importantly, the Hatch Act -neither of which would apply to QUANGO's. The educational, political and social service activities that these organizations carry out are already well served by securing tax exempt status from the IRS and soliciting voluntary contributions and grants from private foundations and the state and Federal governments for specific projects.

If liberal policies are so popular they do not need the government to reach into my wallet to fund their lobbying campaigns.


I often post articles to make a point, generally a " neocon" one, about the War on Terror and the threat posed by Islamism to core Western values of individual liberty, tolerance, free expression, democracy, capitalism and equality. As a blogger I'm far from unique in that regard and the overall tenor of public debate in it's many forms has put considerable pressure on the less militant( i.e. non-violent) Islamists who unlike al Qaida seek to pursue the establishment and expansion of Sharia rule through legal means. As an example of this phenomena is a website " The Wahhabi Myth" which, in addition to pushing sales of a book of the same name, seeks to obfuscate the connections between the extreme Salafism of Saudi Arabia and the terrorism of al Qaida. Even as allegedly positive propaganda the ideology found here, while presented in a voice designed to reassure the Western ear, remains quite scary.
Monday, August 11, 2003

Following on the heels of Rush Limbaugh's high profile analysis of Arnold Schwarzenegger not being a true conservative came a thoughtful post on Rush vs. The Blogosphere by Eric at Classical Values ( Eric also links to the king of blogging, Instapundit)

I confess to being only an occasional listener to Rush but there have been times where he has been both insightful, deft of argument and witheringly funny all at once. Limbaugh has been the gold standard of talk radio for a long time, particularly conservative talk radio and he earned the success and fame that he has acquired. Much of Rush's vast popularity has come from his being more in tune with the average radio listener than the liberal media elite and politicians he regularly lampoons. However, taken together Rush's contempt for the blogosphere and his disdain for Arnold's allegedly insufficient conservatism may be signs that Limbaugh's enduring, stratospheric success may be eroding his connection to more ordinary folk, especially those in the relatively wide spectrum of thought called " conservative " who are not primarily " social conservatives " but are libertarians and moderate, small business, type conservatives. For example, today on his radio program Rush defended his remarks on Schwarzenegger by saying:

"Are there better qualified people on the ballot than Arnold? I happen to think so. Who are they? In due course, my friends. That's why this thing has to spell out here. There are some people out there that have an (R) by their name who are pretty damn good.”

That may be, but unfortunately they most likely don't have the financial resources that Schwarzenegger has to launch a serious -i.e. one likely to result in a GOP victory- campaign. What Rush is really arguing is that Arnold is not conservative enough and the implicit message is that Schwarzenegger isn't a true conservative because he doesn't loathe gays or want to ban all abortions. One wonders if El Rushbo remembers Barry Goldwater ? Is the GOP standard bearer going to have to be Russell Kirk in order to get the seal of approval from the EIB network ? Because if so, Republicans should get used to losing elections with purity, going down with banners flying.

But hey, at least that will bring back the Buchanan crowd.

Post-script: David Horowitz gets it even if Rush doesn't.


Jeff at Caerdroia has a brilliant observation on the Boomers and the War on Terror. The money quote:

"The War on Terror is the first crisis the Boomers have faced. Their parents fought and won the Cold War, and suffered the consequences of Viet Nam and Watergate. The Boomers sat on the sidelines theorizing, and cheering on ideological ideals without any sense of personal responsibility. Bill Clinton in many ways was the avatar of personal irresponsibility - nihilism made manifest. Now that the crisis is upon the Boomers, the instinctive habit of many is to return to their youth, and shift responsibilities once more to the grownups. Sadly, the real grownups are not in the international community, but in the generation younger than the Boomers."

I think this also neatly explains the reflexive tendency in Congress and the media ( both dominated by the Fifty-something age cohort) to reference any and all foreign policy problems through the lens of the Vietnam War experience, a reference totally lost on anyone under thirty and is relatively irritating to those over seventy whose formative war experience was WWII.


From the Christian Science Monitor. Soft-pedals the Sadrists but basically a good summary.

JB at Riting on the Wall has blogged extensively on this topic as have I to a lesser degree. The end of Sunni Baathist dominion over Iraqi Shiites and the freedom fostered by the American occupation is allowing the schools of Iraq's holy cities to reemerge to contend with Qom for religious authority. This has significant implications for Iran's hardline rulers because " Supreme Guide" Khameini does not command the same personal respect among Shiism's Grand Ayatollahs as did his predecessor Ayatollah Khomeini while Khameini's authority rests only on Khomeini's quite radical doctrines, heavily supplemented by Pasdaran thuggery.
Friday, August 08, 2003

From Zogby.

No wonder they're so mad over on Calpundit's comment boards.

A heavily footnoted paper from The Federalist Society.

Reason on Schwarzenegger

Sheesh. A computer genius I am not....at least it seems to be working.
Thursday, August 07, 2003

Courtesy of Tacitus.

It's not too often I find myself in agreement with Eric Alterman on H-diplo but I'm pleasantly surprised with his post today debunking the recent nonsense by Nicholas Kristoff.

A key tenet of neoconservative analysis regarding the nature of Islamism and the War on Terror was echoed by Ayatollah Khatami, the reformist President of Iran.

In this war, ideas matter at least as much as smart bombs and special operations. Christopher Hitchens, who in the face of much criticism correctly identified the nature of the threat after 9/11, should be proud.

I rarely blog on domestic politics but I pontificated on this eventuallity way back on April 11th. Barring some humiliating or legal scandal ( Arnold's zest for life is legendary in the bodybuilding community) I predict a Schwarzenegger victory by a healthy margin.

Arnold is a popular media figure who revels in poking fun at his own " Terminator " action hero image, clowning around during TV interviews and donating significant amounts of time to charitable causes like the Special Olympics. However there is another side to Schwarzenegger - a ruthless and monomaniacal competitor who is driven to win, be the best and conquer new worlds. Arnold's apparent about-face on running for governor of California which left close friend Richard Riordan twisting in the wind after the Tonight Show was textbook Schwarzenegger.

Arnold, who was a millionaire from real estate deals and bodybuilding promotions even before his action films began grossing billions could hypothetically flood the California media markets with campaign ads and simply drown out his multitude of opponents, one of whom already exited the race in tears. Democratic leaders appear to be at a loss as to what to do to stop Schwarzenegger who can be expected to be as aggressively dominating onstage with the other serious candidates and who can be expected to follow a populist-moderate campaign modelled on the successful run of Jesse " the Body"Ventura, the former governor of Minnesota and ex-WWF wrestling star.

Californians should buckle their seats.
Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Good news does exist.

This is a satellite imagery via Adobe Acrobat so if you have dial-up you might want to go out for a sandwich while this downloads.

It occurred to me just now that China cannot initiate any new nuclear tests without the United States and india wondering if they aren't actually testing Pakistani or North Korean atomic devices. India of course, is worried about China's nuclear program on it's own merits aside from any help the Chinese might be extending to Islamabad.
Monday, August 04, 2003

In a thoughtful post on Caerdroia :

"I really like our Constitution as is, but I suspect that I am in the minority. The reality is, we have not actually been following large portions of the Constitution since the 1930's. The Federal government has been increasingly becoming intrusive on private Liberties, and the States have increasingly been becoming puppets of Federal laws and regulations. (Hence, a State may pass a medical marijuana law, but not prevent the enforcement of Federal regulations banning the use of marijuana.) The combination of redistribution of income (both to individuals via various welfare programs, and to States using mechanisms such as highway funding) and the removal of limits to Federal power (via doctrines such as "interstate commerce refers to anything that happens that might effect the economy" and "the government has a compelling interest to do anything it says it has a compelling interest to do" and "a limited time means any time which is not actually infinite, up to and including 3 billion years" and so on and so on)."

I share Jeff's dismay at the current state of Constitutional affairs which themselves may have contributed to decline in public support for our basic liberties. Or selective non-support, since most people are more interested in curtailing the rights of groups of people they dislike rather than waiving their own freedoms. Jeff continues:

"It is clear to me that, no matter how much I hate the idea, it is time for the States to invoke their authority under Article V and call a Convention for the purpose of rewriting the Constitution. It is far better for us to have a mediocre Constitution that we actually follow, than an excellent Constitution which we ignore at our leisure.

I hate the idea too. Not because Caerdroia's Constitutional Convention idea isn't intellectually honest -it is - it's just that given human nature and the overweeening will to power of the progressive Left and the zanies of the religious right they won't respect an accurate but mediocre version of the Constitution either. In fact, they'd respect it less because whatever new Frankenstein monster hodgepodge that might be left after a Convention shredded our system of government would not have an ounce of the sanctity in the public mind of the old version. Today at least, the Supreme Court occasionally acknowledges the existence of the Tenth amendment and treats with some seriousness the phrase " Congress shall make no law...". After a modern Convention ( you think there are a lot of kooks running for Governor in California ? Call a Convention and watch who files papers) we might as well simply have a small directorate rule by decree because that would be the long term result in fact if not in form.

Octavian became Augustus and Republican Rome became an Empire not by revolution but by doing new things under hallowed old names.


David Horowitz's Frontpagemag.com has had a lively series of roundtable symposiums on controversial topics. Generally, the discussion is of a substantive quality and ideological diversity unseen since " The Firing Line " and certainly missing in the mainstream media, including on Left-Right match-ups like Crossfire or even the much vaunted Sunday morning talk shows. The current one on Iraq is no exception and features James Woolsey, Jacob Heilbrunn, David Kaiser and Stan Goff.

I had an interesting exchange with my prolific counterpart at Prometheus 6 on the nature of libertarianism that was sparked by comments made by Brad DeLong and John Constantine

I commented on Prometheus 6's site:

Speaking for the Libertarians, if such a thing is possible, most are *not* as extreme as Murray Rothbard's zero regulation " anarcho-capitalism".

Most libertarians broadly defined and thinkers who influenced them including Ayn Rand, Friedrich von Hayek, Milton Friedman and the " Chicago School" of Economics generally acknowledge the value of the rule of law and an orderly if sharply limited government. Not buying into government ownership of Amtrak or confiscatory tax rates is not to be equated with a desire to restore feudalism or become a gun-totin'warlord in a Hobbesian fight to the finish.

Prometheus6 replied:

I understand that. My point, or John Constantine's with which I agree, is that the results of paring the government back to the point that your average libertarian-on-the-street promotes will result in social chaos.

Your problem is that the meaning of "libertarian" has been hijacked just as surely as the true meaning of "conservative" has been. We live in an age of extremists, Mark. Though for different reasons than Dickens, we can just as surely call this "the best of times, the worst of times."

Part of this debate revolves around whether we are discussing " Libertarians " or " libertarians". The former are usually adherents of the Libertarian Party or are self-described, closed system Objectivists ( some irony to this as Ayn Rand repudiated the Libertarians and their guru Murray Rothbard) clustered around Dr. Leonard Peikoff, Rand's heir and successor. Both groups, despite their differences tend to promote a systemic and uncompromisingly radicals-for-capitalism critique of American society. Whatever their intellectual, moral or cultural influence, large-case " L " Libertarians have next to none politically - even Congressman Ron Paul has switched back to the Republicans.

The reason for this is that their uncompromising, all-or-nothing, philosophical position is poorly suited for the American legislative process and their Free-market vision, however laudable, would be a total shock to the average American if suddenly enacted in toto. In a democratic society a libertarian legal-economic framework must be supported by a wider acceptance of libertarian values, an ethic of freedom and it's corrollary of personal responsibility. America has made tremendous strides since 1980 in terms of elevating Freedom and Free markets to pride of place but I would suggest that as a whole, we are still somewhat lacking in the self-responsibility department. Wanting low taxes and unlimited information, entertainment and educational choices combined with massive middle-class entitlement spending and government regulation of pornography, "hate speech", campaign commercials, abortion and prayer is not merely unreasonable - it's schizophrenic.

That's why I am a libertarian, small case " l ". Moving America in the direction of greater freedom in the sphere of economics and politics requires a sense of realism about the workings of our Constitutional democracy and no small measure of patience. Like Ronald Reagan we need to be prepared at times to take half or even a quarter of a loaf so long as we have the persistence to return to the bargaining table later on for more. There will also be a finite limit to the public acceptance to the extent of Free-Market prescriptions, most of which will sell themselves if enacted in a reasonable format. The electorate is simply not going to tolerate seeing examples of extreme Third World style poverty in a nation as rich as America regardless of how much screwed up individuals may have brought their condition upon themselves. And if we advocates of Liberty try to force that issue in the name of ideological purity the electorate will swing Leftward to folks whose agenda has a lot more to do with social control and maximizing their political power than actually helping the poor move upward.

Most libertarians are Republicans for the same reason that most socialists are Democrats instead of Greens. It's better to work within a larger party-coalition and lose some battles ( outside of the tax cut libertarians aren't doing so hot in the GOP lately - and even the tax cuts aren't what we'd like them to be) than to lose chronically as marginalized outsiders. An acceptance of a permanent but narrowly tailored social safety net constructed on libertarian principles that emphasize opportunity rather than governmental dependence is certainly far more palatable than someday reading Cato Institute reports on the wastefulness of President Hillary Clinton's new Department of National Child Care.

So, John Constantine is wrong to equate most libertarians, certainly a more numerous group by far than Libertarians, with fanatical idealists who would unleash some kind of wild anarchy. ( Frankly, I don't even think that description applies to most members of the Libertarian Party or Objectivists either). Perhaps the more pragmatic libertarians need to, as Prometheus suggested, speak up a bit louder than our more ideologically rigid cousins.

That way at least, we will be less likely to be confused with Men of Straw.


Has an outstanding issue- " The Lost World of Atlanticism ?" on the stands right now with articles that touch upon many issues currently topical with the blogosphere. I would direct readers to three in particular - "The Old-New Anti-Semitism" by Robert Wistrich; "Money and Power" by Richard Rosecrance; and " Stopping the Iranian Bomb " by Geoffrey Kemp. Note that The National Interest maintains an online magazine as well but it differs somewhat in style as well as in content from it's dead tree counterpart.
Sunday, August 03, 2003

Juan Cole had some interesting comments on Saturday regarding a proposed Iraqi constitution:

"The only question is whether an Iraqi constitutional convention can draft a constitution in only six months or so. Of course, they have some models, not only past Iraqi constitutions but also those of other countries. I personally think they should avoid as models other Arab constitutions, which seem to me deeply flawed. And, they should think seriously about taking some leaves from the US constitution. It is important that each of the 19 provinces has its own elected legislature and governor, and that two-thirds of the provinces approve any subsequent change in the constitution. A bicameral Federal legislature with a senate would allow Sunni Arabs and Kurds to be slightly over-represented, guarding them from a tyranny of the Shiite majority, whereas a lower house could be based on population. And, they should think seriously about adopting some form of the US first amendment. I know they will probably want to make Islam the religion of the state, so the Establishment clause is unlikely to be in there, but they can still require tolerance for non-Muslims. (The UK has a state religion, Anglicanism, but Catholics, Baptists and Muslims are not necessarily ipso facto mistreated there). "

I agree with much of what Professor Cole has written here. While on the surface granting each province it's own legislature might seem excessive, the future Iraqi state needs to be balanced by independent local governments and a healthy and vibrant civil society. Bremer and an Iraqi Convention face three key problems in crafting a Constitution - limiting the central government's traditionally repressive grip on Iraqi citizens, preventing the territorial disintegration of Iraq on ethnic and religious lines and preventing one ethnic/religious group from highjacking the machinery of government to dominate Iraq and reimpose a dictatorship.

To Professor Cole's list I would add restrictions on the future Iraqi state's ability to monopolize and regulate Iraq's economy. Unlimited statism which has been the economic model for much of the Arab world has served primarily as an engine of impoverishment, oppression, corruption, debt and war for the peoples of the Mideast. A freer market economy in Iraq will alow civil society to accumulate capital for private enterprise, educational and non-profit institutions, all of which will serve as interests to counterbalance the tendency toward authoritarianism and central control. An Iraqi version of the Federal Reserve, relatively independent of the executive, will stand a better chance of ensuring a sound currency and preventing a future government from expropriating the wealth of the citizenry via devaluations and inflation, as happened in post-Soviet Russia.

Go here

The wisdom of the Framers reveals itself every time some hot-button issue provokes a special interest lobby into a half-cocked and ill-considered plan to amend the Constitution. Were it not for the very high bar of getting two thirds of the States to go along with a proposed amendment the nation might have amendments dealing with gambling addiction, discrimination against the obese and the " right " to various goods and services we would like to enjoy but pay for by taxing somebody else.

In addition to religious right demands for a Constitutional amendment banning " Gay Marriage", Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. ( D-IL) has proposed no fewer than eight Constitutional amendments including the " right " to " balanced economic growth " and " a sustainable environment". Representative Jackson also in the past has expressed ( in an interview to GQ magazine) a desire to enact major revisions to the Bill of Rights, excising or limiting the scope of the 1st, 2nd, 9th and 10th amendments.

"Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., of Illinois, brought down the house with a vociferous condemnation of federalism. He said that the nation’s greatest problem is “a separate and unequal system” of “50 separate and unequal states and 3,067 separate and unequal counties [that] must be rooted out root and branch.” “The enemy here is the Tenth Amendment, the unenumerated rights” which permits inequalities to exist. Jackson said the only solution is a much stronger central government for “one America,”

I have to commend Congressman Jackson on one point; his position is a at least a consistent and intellectually honest one. Jackson seeks to sweep away all of the Constitutional barriers to unlimited Federal power but he at least respects those barriers as real and genuine legal obstacles to his dangerously statist program. I cannot say as much for those of my conservative bretheren who claim to revere the Constitution and then propose amendments that mangle bedrock Constitutional liberties or principles to make some momentary political statement on Flag-burning, Gay-marriage or some other triviality.

Thank you Mr. Madison for saving us from ourselves.

From Ted Rall:

"It's time to stop throwing good lives after bad. We came for Iraq's oil, but we'll never extract crude without seducing Iraqi hearts and minds. That war was lost before we fired the first cruise missiles in March, for a few simple reasons. First, Iraqis spent the '90s dodging American bombs and trade sanctions. We never knew their pain; they'll never forget it. Second, our invasion allowed looters and rapists to take over the cities. Anyone who is short a car or a daughter rightly blames us for their loss. Third, we've transformed one of the Arab world's few semi-modern secular states into an anarchic Third World dump. Iraqis hate us. They trust us to do the wrong thing each and every time."

Ah Ted, thy name is self-referential. Please try to sell that message in Basra and see how the average Iraqi reacts. Quite a few residents of Iraq seem to blame Uday for loss of their daughters, wives, sisters...

There is no evil in the world so terrible in which America's activist Left cannot find a silver lining if it is also the enemy of the United States

From Frontpagemag.com. It's good.

Caerdroia has had some fine posts up lately, I particularly enjoyed the one on " rented mules ". Check it out.

There has been much written about the 28 redacted pages detailing the often intimate relationship between highly placed persons in the House of Saud and the Saudi government and al Qaida, including several 9/11 highjackers. It is important to recall that this is a phenomena not exactly new in Saudi history and that the administration ( and it's critics) need to continue to hold Crown Prince Abdullah's feet to the fire.

The founder of Saudi Arabia, King Abdul Aziz had an analogous relationship with the grandfather of today's Islamist terrorist networks, the Ikhwan. These militant warriors of Wahhabist Islam operated with the support of Abdul Aziz in attacking the King's enemies. When their fanaticism and aggressive raiding provoked the superpower of that era, Great Britain, into a military response Abdul Aziz would disavow any official responsibility and order some punishments be applied for excesses. Like al Qaida, when the Ikhwan eventually turned against Abdul Aziz the King broke them as a military and ideological threat to his rule. But until that point, the Ikhwan were useful agents of Saudi Arabia's foreign policy and continually harrassed Abdul Aziz's many enemies. When they became a liability to the regime the Ikhwan were destroyed.

Something to consider when evaluating the nature of Saudi friendship and their ties to al Qaida because it illustrates how that regime really views the rest of the world. Saudi Arabia is an important but dependent link in America's international security system but let us have no illusions on how they would behave if they were strong rather than weak.
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