War & Its Impact

Morroccans on failed utopian ideas

The WSJ has an article titled “Morocco’s Fragile Democracy Tests U.S. Prescription for World”:

A onetime Marxist who endured torture and 16 years in jail, Driss Benzekri was ushered into a lavish royal palace late last year to meet the son of his tormentor during Morocco’s “years of lead,” grim, gray decades of brutal oppression.

Mohammed VI, Morocco’s monarch since the death of his autocratic father in 1999, wanted to talk about human rights, democracy and what he called “the thorny issue” of the past.

As a result of the unusual encounter, Morocco this month launched the Arab world’s first “truth commission.” Led by Mr. Benzekri, the former political prisoner, it already has a mountain of files to examine detailing 13,000 cases of abuse, from beatings to disappearances.

Mr. Benzekri says the country has “made a fundamental rupture with the past.” He contrasts it with what he says were often cosmetic changes in the early 1990s. Then, newly freed from prison, Mr. Benzekri says he attended an antitorture meeting in Switzerland and found that Morocco’s official delegation included an interior ministry official who, years earlier, had personally supervised his own torture.

Mr. Benzekri, the truth commission’s 53-year-old chief, says the fervor of Islamic radicals recalls the Marxist zeal of his own youth. The Islamists, though, outlasted all their rivals: “All other utopian ideas have failed,” he says. “Islamists are the only ones left.”

I’ve argued in the past that having defeated totalitarian fascism and totalitarian communism, the West is now fighting totalitarian fundamentalism. Utopian ideals require totalitarian implementations. (I took the terms totalitarian fascism and totalitarian communism from one of the best pieces the Economist ever published.)

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Mongolian hordes in Iraq

NYT writes on Mongolians Return to Baghdad, This Time as Peacekeepers:

In 1258, the Mongol general Hulegu, a grandson of Genghis Khan, sacked Baghdad, killing 800,000 people and ending its primacy as the largest city in the Arab world.
This month, the Mongolians returned to Iraq. Ferried into the country on American military transports, 180 Mongolian Army soldiers — all male, all volunteers — are guarding pipelines and working on construction projects under a Polish command.

Keep an eye out for those resourceful Mongols.

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Arafat and Abbas

The NYT reports:

There is a pointed joke making the rounds of Palestinian politicians here. Mr. Arafat is riding in a car with Mr. Abbas, when he spots an obstacle. “Abu Mazen, there’s a tree in the road!” Mr. Arafat cries, using Mr. Abbas’s nickname. But the car continues on its way. Mr. Arafat’s warnings grow more frantic.
Finally, the car hits the tree, and as the two Palestinian leaders stumble from the wreckage, battered and bruised, Mr. Arafat turns to Mr. Abbas and says, “Abu Mazen, I told you there was a tree.”

Mr. Abbas replies, miserably, “But you were driving.”

It has suited the vision of the White House and Israel for the last four months to seek peace as though Mr. Abbas, not Mr. Arafat, was driving.
Unfortunately for the policy, it also suited the interests of Mr. Arafat, according to some Palestinian politicians and analysts. Doing so deflected the blame for Palestinian misery, as well as any failures of the peace effort, to Mr. Abbas.

Unfortunately, democracies (and psuedo ones such as the Palestinian Authority) get the leadership they deserve. Until some alternative Palestinian leader takes power who realizes that the most basic element of a modern state is a monopoly on the use of force (meaning that he has the courage to arrest the gunmen who want to destroy Israel), it is the Palestinian people who will continue to suffer the worst.

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Worst memorial idea ever

In the NYT, There’s Nothing So Closed as an Open Competition includes the worst memorial idea ever:

The panel reviewing proposals for a memorial to victims of the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon, for example, vowed to consider every submission. Yet the members acknowledge that some proposals — say, the full-scale, stainless steel model of an airplane mounted so that it would appear to be about to crash right into the Pentagon — were viewed for only the briefest of moments.

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Is liberalism for sissies?

How to Talk About Israel says:

What Henry Jackson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu and George W. Bush have in common is that they enabled bookish men to feel tough, beautifully, enviably tough. Too much can be made of the connection between the Chicago philosopher Leo Strauss and officials in the current Pentagon, but one aspect of Strauss appears to have rubbed off on them. Born in Germany, Strauss was a liberal rationalist in his youth. He had hoped, he said, that anti-Semitism would end with Jewish assimilation in a liberal democracy. The Nazis taught him otherwise. By the 1920′s he began to regard liberals as weaklings, powerless to stop the violent mob. If one thing ties neoconservatives, Likudniks, and post-cold-war hawks together, it is the conviction that liberalism is strictly for sissies.

While I’m not quite in the liberals are sissies camp, I do feel that liberalism must be defended from its enemies. Anyone who doesn’t believe that fundamentalist totalitarianism is the enemy of Western liberalism has their head in the sand.

I just want to win the war without in the process giving up all of the cherished rights like habeas corpus that give liberalism meaning.

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Why we fought the Iraq war

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said to a Senate committee yesterday: “The coalition did not act in Iraq because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq’s pursuit of weapons of mass murder. We acted because we saw the existing evidence in a new light, through the prism of our experience on September 11.”

As the WSJ’s Best of the Web explains:

Rumsfeld is exactly right, and the Democrats will self-destruct unless they grasp the political ramifications of the national epiphany that was Sept. 11. The response that “Iraq had nothing to do with Sept. 11,” though possibly accurate, is beside the point–the equivalent of arguing in 1942 that Germany had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor. FDR and Truman knew who America’s enemies were, but many of their heirs seem not to.

I’m still deeply troubled by the intelligence failures showing WMD in Iraq, but I do not believe the war will be a successful political issue for the Democrats, and I think we should all agree on the paramount importance of not losing the peace in Iraq.

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Hamas’s long view

Here’s the scariest long-term thing you’re likely to read about Hamas:

“When I interviewed over 100 Hamas activists and all leadership, I was quite astonished because everyone told me that an Islamic state would begin about the years 2022 or 2023,” he said. “I asked them, `What are the conditions?’ They said: `Life after Yasir Arafat. Islamic revolution in Jordan and Egypt. Time and demography are on our side.’ “

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Ending Al Queda

Cheney, speaking after the Saudi bombings, on how to deal with Al Queda:

Vice President Dick Cheney said the United States must continue to aggressively pursue terrorists. “The only way to deal with this threat ultimately is to destroy it,” he said in a speech…. There’s no treaty can solve this problem. There’s no peace agreement, no policy of containment or deterrence that works to deal with this threat. We have to go find the terrorists.”

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The Successors of the Devastating Panzer Divisions of WWII

The Economist writes:

When Germany needed to move troops to Afghanistan to take part in peacekeeping operations there, it had to lease transport planes from Ukraine. Last December, when reinforcements were called for, the Germans found that the Ukrainian planes were no longer available: they had been leased instead to Japanese companies to ship toys to Europe for Christmas.

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Iraq irony

The Administration feels an urgency to attack Iraq this month because it doesn’t want American soldiers fighting in anti-chemical suits in the desert summer heat. By contrast, France will veto any resolution that condones an attack because they don’t believe Saddam is hiding weapons. So, either America is right that he is hiding weapons and therefore correct that we should attack before the heat hits, or France is correct that he is not hiding weapons and so there’s no urgency to attack. Both views seem fairly tautological.

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