Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Most dangerous man in the world

Iran's "president" is playing 'king of the mountain' with Kim Jong Il as to who can be the "most dangerous".. it's the basis for my new reality TV show "Who wants to be the most dangerous dictator?". It's sad to be grateful that this guy doesn't actually call the shots in Iran. If Iran did have fair, free and meaningful elections, would this guy be in charge now? Somehow I doubt it. Democracies tend to elect sane leaders over conspiracy theorists. Today he's denying the jewish holocaust of nazi germany. Tomorrow he'll declare Japan never bombed pearl harbor. The day after, he'll declare that the US has never had a functional nuclear weapon. After that, it'll be time for the sun to revolve around the earth again.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dictators are fully responsible.

Classic misconception here.

First off, he or she (I'll call him/her he for now) seems to think 'hearsay' evidence is inadmissable in an Iraqi court. He admittedly gets this notion from an american TV show. Now I'm not certain why he would think this pertains to an Iraqi court, or why this even pertains to an american court (certain hearsay is admissable, in fact).

Anyways, the big misconception is that somehow, because American tactics have in some cases overlapped with tactics used by the former Saddam regime, Bush must be equally guilty of something or other.

Should Saddam be punished for the work of his minions in terrorizing and torturing his populace, while Bush is given a pass on the Abu Ghraib torture abuses? Simply, yes.
There are a few good reasons, but probably the most important part is that Saddam deprived his people of a mechanism for righting these wrongs. From this perspective, his dictatorship is the main transgression, which makes him responsible for the crimes committed through it.

This is vaguely akin to the felony murder law practiced by many states in the US. If you are committing a qualifying crime while someone dies, even for an unrelated reason, you are guilty of murder.

Here, the crime is depriving a nation of its choice of governance. That other crimes were committed by his regime only compounds his guilt. That he was not the triggerman for some crime or another is irrelevent. He was dictator, and is thus completely responsible.

This brings me back to a previous posting, where I pointed out that democracy is the only way of transferring governmental liability onto its people. That is, in essence, why no US gov't official can reasonably tried for such a crime. The American people have both the responsibility and the power to prevent and correct for such crimes. With them lies the sole responsibility as well.

High level hatchet jobs

Ran across this article.

It attempt to obscure what's really going on in Iraq by refusing to deal with any statistics or other measurable elements. It provides anecdotes alone, which are always the best mechanism for obfuscating an issue. Readers are expected to generalize and accept statements like: "Since insurgents gained control over most of Mosul".
I'd like to see that backed up. Michael Yon would probably beg to differ on that account.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Scheer obfuscates

From his Nov 30th article

It's really not much of a suprise that he parted ways with the LA Times:
Amazingly, in Bush's Iraq, just as in Hussein's, you're a victim or a victimizer – often both. The grim ironies of this Darwinist nightmare are everywhere. For example, while the military is defending the use of white phosphorus on the battlefield – "shake and bake" in U.S. military slang – by citing chemical weapons restriction loopholes, it can't look good to the world that one of the human-rights crimes Hussein himself is charged with is – you guessed it – shelling Kurdish rebels and civilians with chemical weapons in 1991.
He is comparing the gassing of populated villages with mustard gas among other WMDs, to using white phosphorous rounds to 'smoke out' insurgents. It's highly unlikely that US forces killed mor e than a few people in this fashion, while Saddam's atrocities are exactly that, atrocities.

There really is no comparison to make here. Forces in Fallujah were not exercising collective punishment, a favored tactic in the Saddam regime.
The lack of parallel is quite striking. I'm guessing this obfuscation is disingenuous by nature.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Lieberman vs. Kos

Sometimes I don't quite understand articles posted at the Kos.

Funny thing is that he thinks he's helping Israel out by supporting this "transformation" in the Middle East, when all this war did was replace a secular dictator with an Iran-style Islamic regime and Iranian ally.
I'm not certain how the case can be made that a 'secular dictatorship' is in any way preferable to a 'theocratic democracy'. But I don't want to just make that allegation and leave it hanging. I need to explain.
I have taken it upon faith now that a capitalist democracy is the best system of governance yet invented. It espouses the individual rights of people to choose their government, while allowing them the opportunity to gain personal status and recognition without resorting to violence.
There can be no dictatorship (even the most benevolent true dictatorship imaginable) that even approaches the capacity to govern of a liberal democracy. The beauty of democracy is that it delivers a true mandate from the people. With a mandate of the people, a government can make commitments which the people of the country all should and will abide by. No other form of government can effectively transfer responsibility and liability for its actions to its own people.
When it comes down to it, those who hate the US government hate the people of the US. Those who despise the former regime in Iraq can only legitimately despise the former regime.

If Iraq wants to have mullahs from one sect or another determining laws on how they should run their lives, that is *their* business. The only business of Democracy (whereas in this context Democracy = all real democratic nations) is an obligation to defend the most fundamental rights of the Iraqi people that allow them to choose to change their government.
This would include the right to political association, freedom of speech, and freedom to participate in an elected government.
This is our mission in Iraq. Our mission is not to make a christian-friendly state out of Iraq, or even a shia-friendly state. It is only to guaranty that Iraqis will always have the power to choose their government free from the influence of overwhelming violence.

North Korea and brinksmanship

I don't understand how people come to these conclusions.

This quote disturbed me:
To overcome present-day hurdles, the United States could announce it will cancel the next round of annual joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises, which continue to rile the North Korean regime. If North Korea reciprocates by suspending activities at Yongbyon
One second. This has been done before. As the author mentions earlier in the article, Bush Sr. did exactly this. Much later North Korea announced that it had been pursuing a clandestine nuclear weapons program the whole time. If this approach is taken, North Korea will be free to continue developing clandestine nuclear weapons.

It continues:
the United States might also pledge to withdraw some of its strike aircraft from the region to demonstrate its commitment to its pledge in the Joint Statement that it has no intention to attack or invade the North.
But again, we are dealing with a dictatorship which has consistently failed to live up to its agreements. What is the motivation for abandoning our strongest military ally in the region? Does South Korea want us to remove forces from South Korea? No, they do not. We should not be bullied into abandoning our allies.

And there are other flaws present:

Despite the breakthrough agreement in September on a Joint Statement of Principles outlining a series of action-for-action steps to denuclearize North Korea in a verifiable manner, the main antagonists are again at odds over the substance and sequencing of the deal.

Notice the portrayal of the US merely as one of the 'main antagonists' alongside North Korea. The implication is that the US and North Korea are equally legitimate governments, and should be dealing with each other as though both were fair and reasonable legitimate governments. The author cannot make any inroads into objective opinions, until he is able to clearly differentiate between which involved power is actually legitimate.
There is only one 'antagonist' here. The US only cares because it is vital to global security, a point with which everybody generally agrees, but at the same time, nobody else is going to do anything about it.

Several mistakes are repeated:

Enough already. To break the cycle and test Pyongyang’s seriousness, President George W. Bush should borrow a page from his father’s playbook: unilateral, reciprocal actions that demonstrate the good faith of both sides and improve the likelihood of success.
The author gives no justification for why the US should unilaterally effectively appease North Korea, he merely alludes to an anecdote. However, North Korea's inability or unwillingness to follow through with those reference commitments is precisely why this failed mechanism should not be attempted again. The author needs to make clear what he believes the difference is this time. Why are these unilateral concessions going to succeed where all previous unilateral concessions have failed? (Both the Bush Sr. and Clinton actions were met with subterfuge and continued nuclear weapons development. If that is of contention, we need to compare facts.)

Notice in the following quote, how the author refuses to acknowledge blame in the collapse of previous nuclear agreements with North Korea. The implication of the text is that these failures had no cause, as though it was some sort of natural occurence that agreements like this collapse. In fact, the North Koreans never took these agreements seriously in the first place, as evidenced by their continued development of nuclear weapons. The North Koreans kicked out inspectors and restarted Yongbon. The North Koreans acknowledged their clandestine work on nuclear weapons during time covered by the agreement. This author loses a lot of credibility by avoiding placing blame for this failure squarely on the shoulders of the responsible party. Instead, the article leaves the issue floating in the wind, as though the breakdown of previous agreements was an unavoidable act of god, when it was merely an unavoidable act of Kim Jong Il/Kim Il Sung.

We cannot give security guarantees to dictators. Among other problems with this concept, it represents an unconstitutional limitation upon the powers of the executive branch as commander in chief of US armed forces. And there obviously will be no constitutional amendment guaranteeing such a thing for North Korea.

We are in a real bind here. There is no peaceful solution to the stalemate, and the involvement of nuclear weapons makes military action quite a difficult undertaking. The solution is not nearly as simple as this author attempts to make it, primarily because a solution does not exist.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Breaking through to the other side.

I can score a few points these days with my left-leaning housemates when talking with them about how this administration is the first to put democracy ahead of short term gains at the hands of a dictator. But it's really not enough.
What I think I really need, in order to make significant inroads, is a way to explain to them the magnitude of the problem and risk we are facing. Let them come to their own realization that yes, Bush was wrong... or maybe, just maybe he was spinning the evidence... doing a salesman's job... but that all pales in comparison with doing what is right abroad, and genuinely encouraging the spread of democracy.
How do I convince someone that when it comes down to it, democracy is not just our best weapon, but it's pretty much our only weapon in this struggle? Convince is not the right word. I cannot convince. I can only show them my reasoning. They may choose to convince themselves.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

From nothing to Israel in 60 years.

Instead of studying this morning, I spent it reading about various perspectives on the formation of what has become Israel. Many of these were British government papers and opinions varying from the late 1800's through the '48 war.
What I don't see, is any well documented version of the supposed 'palestinian side'. I can certainly read between the lines and see where the authors on the israeli side are meticulously choosing their words to avoid things that are probably facts working against them, but in general, they're well written and easy to follow. The numerous palestinian sites were all laced with incredible amounts of rhetoric and absolutely lopsided hysterical comments. It takes little guessing to know that neither side of this conflict was peopled entirely with angels, so that attitude really doesn't fly.

From what I can tell, the british accounts, while attempting to be equitable to both sides, were just hopelessly misguided. They almost never reference any democratic principles, instead leaving the style of government and guarantees of rights to whoever wins the power struggle.
While we certainly defeated the british, they absolutely failed to learn anything from that defeat.

Over all, one author put it best: Israel is an international affirmative action program for jews. Many people supported this out of general support for the jewish culture... while others supported it out of antisemetism.
But everybody in the world seemed to be quite supportive of this. Even most arabs apparently were, until they realized that they had sold too much of their land too cheaply.

The jewish affirmative action program is still ongoing in Israel. This is implemented in terms of demographic control through segregation through immigration. It's not fair, but the world has thus far felt this affirmative action program to be necessary.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

From the article:

Even on Wednesday, Bush was at his least persuasive when he tried to justify the war. "If we were not fighting and destroying this enemy in Iraq, they would not be idle," he said. "They would be plotting and killing Americans across the world and within our own borders." This is an unknowable assertion of course, and not very convincing in any case. The invasion of Iraq has caused thousands of Muslims who otherwise might merely have disliked the United States to take up arms against us. That's not an apology for the insurgency or its disgusting tactics. It's just true.

But isn't the rebuttal 'caused thousands of Muslims ... take up arms against us' also an unknowable assertion?
Judging the intentions and motivations of our enemies is extremely difficult. We have to step into their shoes and realize that many in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere are fed a constant stream of propaganda. As such, those "joining the jihad in Iraq" could be joining for all kinds of reasons, even complete misunderstandings of our intentions in Iraq (there are at least a few confirmed cases where captured foreign terrorists actually did not know that the US did not want to continue its presence in Iraq).

Over all, the quoted article is pretty decent. I'm just trying to make sure people's assumptions are clearly defined.

Ramblings on propaganda and persuasion

Though I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, it's very difficult to believe that these misinterpretations of events were not deliberate. I'd really rather think of this authors as being uninformed rather than openly devious. This showed up on, of all places:

Response to Bush' latest speech at the naval academy

Here we go:

Bush continued with his Tal Afar fairy tale by saying:

    Iraqi forces not only cleared the city, they held it.

But if you're measuring "progress," you have to keep in mind that just around the time Bush gave his speech, insurgents were blasting the hell out of Ramadi, directly attacking U.S. bases and government offices in that city just west of Baghdad with mortars, rockets, and riflemen.

This comes just 15 days ahead of the next scheduled election in Iraq. But the smoke in Ramadi didn't get into Bush's eyes.

One confirmed mortar round does not justify a 'blasting the hell out of' tagline. Just the whole tactic of using temporal proximity of events is bunk in itself. It's just a cheap ploy that wont float in even the most slightly critical perspective.

This does represent a larger problem. Many people are no longer attempting to persuade their opponents. Reading the rhetoric of the Daily Kos or Little Green Footballs, you find direct appeals to outrage and other emotions targetting the existing core audience of each site. Do either one of them appeal to the middle, or attempt to lure over their opponents through education? Not hardly. It's just flame after flame after flame.

The only legitimate tool of persuasion is education. To educate someone, you must put their interests first and relate the material to them, not yourself. You must also be disciplined in teaching without being condescending, resorting to rhetoric, or resorting to generalizations.

It guess part of the problem involving the two aforementioned sites is that their continued relevance and incomes are dependent upon the furthering of friction between the two sides.