ZENPUNDIT ON LEAVE
The newly minted Mrs. Zenpundit and I are away on a much deserved honeymoon vacation. Posting will not return until the second week of April.
( Of course, as soon as I go on hiatus they'll capture Osama bin Laden or China will have a revolution or something similar.)
THE GREAT AFRICAN COLLAPSE
I'm leaving on vacation shortly so my postings are going to be few for the interim. It's a shame because there are any number of engaging posts going on in the blogosphere that I would love to tackle - reflections on arguments posted by Jeff at Caerdroia and Juan Cole alone could fill several hours of my time, time that unfortunately is scarce.
However I'd like to take the time to point to this column by Arnaud de Brorchgrave on the state of Africa. De Brochgrave
YOU LIVE BY THE BOMB...
You die by it too.
This will cause all hell to break loose in the Mideast but there can be no sanctuary for terrorist leaders, no special passes, no dispensations. Yassin was a legitimate military target as long as Hamas was blowing up Israelis. The world is no poorer having lost this cutthroat in religious garb.
If I was Arafat, I'd be nervous.
WHAT INTERNATIONAL LAW IS NOT
I was recently involved in an interesting debate on an article's comment board on HNN with Chris Pettit, an international lawyer, on the direction and premises of international law
. In light of that dialogue, my attention was drawn to a post by Juan Cole
on Iraq where he took the Bush administration's invasion to task on grounds Chris would probably second:
" It is not necessary, in order to criticize the way the Bush administration prosecuted the Iraq War, to deny that the Baath regime was murderous. Murderous regimes need to be dealt with through international law and institutions. If you just grabbed an unconvicted murderer off the street and lynched him, you would be a murderer in your own right. Vigilanteism is not permitted to individuals; it should not be permitted to individual states, either."
There are a number of problems with this thesis, foremost that there is no mechanism through which international law can effectively deal with murderous regimes except through the countervailing actions of other nation-states. Collective Security is a nice theory with a highly problematic history because it assumes that states will act out of abstract altruism and justice instead of interest. If international law were worthy of the name, then Saddam Hussein would never have been able to turn Iraq into a charnel house in the first place.
The second problem is that the analogy Professor Cole uses here is entirely wrong. I cannot grab an unconvicted murderer off the streets and lynch him because I live in a state with positive laws and a system of justice to enforce them. A far more accurate analogy to international law and Iraq would be shipwreck survivors stranded on a deserted island who have agreed on a basic standard of conduct - however there is no authority to enforce or strictly define these standards. One of the survivors proves to be repeatedly violent, menacing and a danger to everyone else so after several " close calls " with the thug, I pick up a rock and bash in his skull before he can do anyone further harm. Have I committed an act of murder or an intelligent and necessary act of self-defense ?
Most of what passes for " International Law " are simply arguable moral claims advanced by interested parties. The most solidly " legal " core of international law is considered binding because nations-states have agreed almost universally to restrict themselves with certain provisions out of self-interest. Enforcement comes only in the cases of the most egregious violations when the moral outrage of the world can be coupled with the selfish interests of the great powers to intervene. That is about the best we can expect from such a system and if ardent advocates of International Law Theory get their way, we won't even have that much.
International law is best taken with a healthy dose of common sense. Did the nature of Saddam's regime morally justify intervention ? Of course it did. Do we have the resources to intervene everywhere else all at once ? Of course not but we can take opportunities to act where interest, morality and reality coincide.
DEBKAFILE CLAIMS BIN LADEN HAD " DIRECT " CONTROL OVER MADRID BOMBERS
(This must be my day for interesting but not entirely reliable sources - like al Jazeera The DEBKAfile has well connected " spin ")
The DEBKAfile pinpoints Osama bin Laden
as having exercised the planning and operational control over Spain's 3-11 bombing.
IS THE U.S. REBUFFING SECRET TALKS WITH IRAN'S HARDLINERS ?
Al Jazeera is claiming that " hardliners " in the Bush administration are blocking the opening of talks with Iran
to conclude a " grand bargain " that would resolve issues of nuclear weapons and terrorism and lead to a restoration of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
This isn't the first time such stories of Iranian feelers have surfaced. If the report is reasonably accurate, bureaucratic caution may have more to do with " blocking talks " than neocon ideology. While views about Iran differ among working analysts and junior officials at State, the CIA, the NSC and the Pentagon, few senior officials have pollyannish hopes for the nature of the Khameini-Rafsanjani clique. The United States is already supporting an IAEA and EU dialogue with Iran so the Bush administration would have little to lose and much goodwill to gain with allies by allowing exploratory talks with Iran - if the Iranian side's representatives were empowered to conduct actual negotiations. In such an event, negotiations could produce some real progress on moderating the worst behavior of the regime at a cheap price.
The first rule of any negotiation is not to allow oneself to be drawn in to a charade with powerless intermediaries where the other side's true decision makers sit removed in order to enigmatically veto the results of each round of talks in order to cajole further concessions. Iran most likely has not put up a figure of credibility yet who can deliver on promises and has instead suggested a series of shadowy, unofficial, middlemen to talk to American officials. If that is what has occurred it's either a stalling tactic with an eye on our upcoming elections or a preliminary fishing expedition by the Iranians to sound out potential American negotiating positions. Or both.
THE NEVILLE AWARD
"It is clear that using force is not the answer to resolving the conflict with terrorists."
European Commission President Romano Prodi
Perhaps he will lead the West's surrender delegation to Osama's cave. It's time to stop pretending that leftist EU officials like Prodi are anything but al Qaida's fifth column. They are neither allies of the United States in this war nor willing defenders of their own people. They can go their own way if they wish but appeasement will not buy safety or peace from Islamist terror
UPDATE -NEVILLE AWARD HONORABLE MENTION:
A NICE HAT TIP FROM CLIOPATRA
Oscar Chamberlain, one of the contributors to the HNN blog Cliopatra
gave me an honorable mention today - much obliged Oscar !
I have to apologize for my light posting of late. I have impending nuptials this weekend and the overwhelming " to-do " list composed by the future Mrs. Zenpundit for the upcoming affair has proven more than either one of us can manage well. Particularly me. Hopefully, I can get a few more items posted tonight while I still have any readers left.
PUTTING SPAIN'S CONTRIBUTION IN IRAQ INTO PERSPECTIVE
It is unfortunate that al Qaida has managed to effect the outcome of a democratic election to at least some degree through terrorism to bring anti-war Euro-Left Socialists in to power in that country. The blogosphere is in a fury over the subject ( see Calpundit's comment board
) with polar opposite views represented well by Micheal Radu
and Juan Cole
I hasten to point out that the sky has not fallen on the War on Terror - in Iraq, Spain's contribution was much appreciated by Washington but it was relatively modest
. The Spanish and our other allies are in Iraq partially because of America's Rumsfeldian determination to fight the war with a peacetime army - had we spent more on soldiers we might be spending less on Iraq because fewer problems might have emerged after Saddam's fall.
Spanish capitualtion to the Euro-Left opposition on Iraq is more significant as propaganda than it is in military terms - I'm sure jihadis, Salafist radicals and other Islamists took heart - as have left-Liberal anti-war Democrats - but that's about it.
THOUGHTS ON THE ISLAMIC WORLD BY JAMES Q. WILSON
This article appeared on Frontpagemag.com
over a year ago but since Wilson's points on the centrality of freedom and modernity bear repeating, I thought I'd post the link
. A quote:
"The central question is not why freedom of conscience failed to come to much of Islam but why it came at all to the West. Though Westerners will conventionally assign great weight to the arguments made by the defenders of freedom, I do not think that the ideas of Milton, Locke, Erasmus, and Spinoza—though important—were decisive.
What made religious toleration and later freedom of conscience possible in England was not theoretical argument but political necessity. It was necessary, first in England and later in America and much of Europe, because rulers trying to govern nations could not do so without granting freedom to people of different faiths. In the words of Herbert Butterfield, toleration was “the last policy that remained when it had proved impossible to go on fighting any longer.”
MASSACRE IN SPAIN ! WAS IT THE ETA OR AL QAIDA ?
In a scene of horrific carnage reminiscient of Bali, hundreds of Spaniards are killed and injured in a massive terror bombing.
Spanish authorities are pointing the finger at the notorious ETA but that group has been devastated by arrests and infiltration in recent years. Possible connections to al Qaida should not be dismissed lightly or ETA-al Qaida cooperation on the model seen with other unrelated terror groups like the IRA and FARC.
Yep, it's al Qaida
HERE'S A GOOD PLACE TO DIRECT SOME OF THOSE BILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF HIGHWAY PORK
THE HIGH COST OF ISLAMISM
Iran suffers the world's worst case of " brain drain "
according to the IMF.
DEFENSE HAWKS VS. DEFICIT HAWKS
The coming Congressional crack-up for the GOP
THIS ONE IS FOR CAERDROIA
A great, great, reference website
on all things constitutional. It may have to go on the blogroll.
THE PROPHET MUHAMMED AND THE JEWS OF MEDINA
In light of al Qaida and other extreme Islamist demonizing of the Jews, I thought it might be interesting to look at what the Prophet Muhammed thought regarding Muslim-Jewish relationswhen he became a political ruler in Medina. Yes, this is an English translation
, not Arabic but I believe the gist comes through clearly enough. It will sound foreign to modern American ears of course but judging from the views propagated in Saudi supported madrassas from Pakistan to Chicago it's a different tune than we are used to hearing.
Osama bin Laden is not merely a fanatic, a totalitarian fascist, a sociopath and a terrorist - he's also a bad Muslim.
ON MY READING TABLE
I'm currently ploughing through three very different books at a very uneven pace ( I also have the habit of randomly picking up old books off the shelf, opening to a page and then read from there - I did that yesterday for some reason with an Andrei Amalrik book) but enjoying them all enough so far for a recommendation to be given out. They are:
Islam in History
by Bernard Lewis
by Charles Murray
The Adams-Jefferson Letters
edited by Lester J. Cappon
The intellectual power of Adams and Jefferson in their later years is simply stunning, even if you get the impression that Jefferson is not entirely truthful when he writes that he had given up newspapers for Thucydides. Their ideas on revolution and history, particularly classical history, are worth the price of the book alone and have inspired me to pick up a copy of Defense of the Constitutions of the United States
in the near future.
SAUDI WOMEN STRIKE A BLOW FOR REFORM
Showing more bravery and determination than many male moderate Muslim intellectuals, Saudi businesswomen have defied Islamists and Matawain (thugs from the Virtue and Vice ministry) to appear, unveiled, at an economic conference in Jeddah - and received television coverage by the regime.
( Link via Frontpagemag.com
We can speculate on the causes - economic empowerment, the prospect of democratization in the region as a result of the invasion of Iraq, indigenous political efforts by Saudi women - but it is evident that this move had support in high places in the house of Saud.
BLOWING MY OWN HORN DEPARTMENT - THE DEBKAFILE ECHOES ZENPUNDIT
One of my predictions for 2004
, that al Qaida would turn toward assassination as prospects for catastrophic terrorism diminished, is now being echoed by the DEBKA file
- the news outlet connected to Israeli intelligence.
NOTHING MAKES HISTORY LESS INTERESTING THAN A HISTORY TEXTBOOK
A comprehensive look at major history and social studies textbooks by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.
History textbooks and their publishers are frequently the subject of harsh criticism in the media for giving students books ladled with gross inaccuracies, anti-American multicultural bias, insipid prose, shallow or nonexistent analysis, cowardly avoidance of controversial topics and an obvious kowtowing to parochially minded screwball activists in a few big states. That criticism is, in my professional opinion, an accurate one though I would add another:
LACK OF NARRATIVE WRITING:
History is interesting as a discipline because it consists - when done well - of intriguing stories to tell and think about. The human mind is hard wired to enjoy a good yarn, which is why almost every human culture develops myths, oral traditions and in more advanced civilizations, great literature. Despite this, textbook publishers persist in using the dry, bloodless, expository style of a computer manual in relating historical events, which quite naturally, turns off adolescent minds and perpetuates the public image of history class as the boring memorization of names and dates. Since a majority of public school teachers are not actually qualified to teach history or political science, not having majored in either subject, the poorly written textbook inevitably becomes for the newly hired assistant basketball coach, the entirety of the course. These unqualified folks are also the people who end up, in smaller school districts, making the decision on which textbook series the district is going to purchase and lacking much in the way of content knowledge they lean to whatever new book seems much like the old one. Since each sale of a series can mean from tens of thousands upwards to millions of dollars for a publisher they have every financial incentive to keep new textbooks substantively mediocre.
( Publishers have done a somewhat better job with their support materials and technology/internet resources that are sold, usually as part of a package or separately, with their textbooks as optional upgrades. This of course consists in part of some of the interesting or controversial material that ought to have been included in the main text. )
IRANIAN NUCLEAR FUEL OF RUSSIAN ORIGIN, DIPLOMATS CLAIM
THE BLOODY HISTORY OF HAITI
For those, who like Kerry and Edwards, argue that Haiti's latest outburst of anarchic, political violence began with George W. Bush, I recommend they read this
has a link to a description of Aristide's removal from power by American troops.
Pentagon denies removing Aristide
If Aristide had stayed there would have been a bloody street battle during which he'd have been killed or he would have fled leaving his followers to be massacred afterwards. He's a complete nut and a thug. His opponents are thugs, drug dealers and fascists. Haiti is a good candidate for a revival of UN trusteeship on a longer term version of the East Timor model.
THE OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT POSITION ON HAITI:
From the State Department.