Saturday, August 26, 2006

What Shock is Enough?

Tigerhawk asked the question: What will it take to militarize the West?

Whoa. … That’s a real porcupine, that one. I noticed that no one in the comments section was actually answering the question, and for a very good reason. The premises and implications are much more interesting, although the actual question is not without its charm.

Are We Ready?

First of all, we see the implication that our current state of readiness does not satisfy the definitional requirements, in the Tigerhawk mind, of militarization. It is true that we are not prepared to confront the Cold War Soviet Army as it pours through the Fulda Gap, at least not in the same way. Please note that the Red Army no longer shows the same bellicosity that it did in the fifties. Our state of readiness with respect to the People’s Republic of China is, admittedly, a matter of debate. Thomas Barnett, at least, does not see a modern PRC threat, but it could be and has been argued that the threat is not being adequately addressed. Is this what Tigerhawk is talking about? What conceivable threat is there on this planet that could challenge our military as it stands today? I think we all know what he is thinking. He is looking at the Muslim World and counting heads. One billion Muslims against a mere 300 million Americans, weak, unprotected, soft Americans, not to mention the fifth column in the Heartland.

Americans did not show themselves to be inadequate to the task in World War II. We may have started out soft, unprepared and maybe undernourished, but we prevailed, and IMO, we could have prevailed alone if it had been necessary. The longer we waited, however, the worse it would have been. OK, as Tigerhawk implies in his question, there was Pearl Harbor, which bolted us out of our self-absorbed torpor. If it hadn’t been for that, would we have ever confronted the evil in time? The fundamental time limitation was the Bomb, which Hitler might have built. We, meaning the government, didn’t really understand that limitation until the war had already started. The People didn’t know about it until Hiroshima. Would we have acted differently if we had?

If not for Pearl Harbor, what would it have taken for us to militarize the West in those days? We should question the premise. In fact, we were already doing a lot, especially for Britain. We should have done it sooner, but we were already making war by proxy. We had already started drafting soldiers of our own. We had already started marching them up and down with wooden rifles, and we were already producing real guns as fast as we could. In short, the people in charge were taking appropriate, if inadequate, action. Pearl Harbor was a shock, but it wasn’t really a surprise. My point is that we are in the habit of being ready.

I had an old friend, long dead I’m afraid, who claimed he was working as an Army officer in Louisiana with General Patton some time before the War. He was perfecting a technique of attacking an enemy line with tanks under deliberate friendly artillery fire. The idea was that the suppressing fire would cause fewer casualties than the Germans could if they were allowed to approach the tanks. My friend explained that they gamed with sacks of white powder rather than real shells. (He also claimed that the concept was his idea and Patton stole it without credit.) The point being, we knew the nature of the battle that was coming, we knew who the enemy was and we were planning for that war.

OK, are we as tough today as we were then? Military types have always been inclined to pooh-pooh the qualities of today’s young soldiers. I’m sure a similar tale is inscribed on a pyramid somewhere. My father was an officer in WWII, and I remember his descriptions of the conscripts. Even if he were exaggerating, our young civilians would have to make much better soldiers than those guys. They are, today, healthier, stronger, smarter and better educated by far. If nothing else, they know what war is about. They have watched a hundred war movies and played paintball and videogames since they were two. I know they can’t track a boar through the woods, but they have played on the streets in some tough neighborhoods. Watching the performance of our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, I think our young people are plenty tough enough.

I know our leaders seem like a gaggle of dunderheads, but they have in fact been making appropriate and more than adequate preparations. What worried Eisenhower was the extravagance of these preparations and the associated corruption. We have been preparing for dozens of different wars in the abstract. We have developed whole sciences out of strategy, logistics and communications, not to mention hardware. We outspend the rest of the world by some multiple that I don’t really care to know precisely. Bad things happen in the government. People are sloppy, corrupt, self-ambitious and stupid, but people have not been sitting on their hands.

I’m sad to say that we do not have universal conscription, like the Swiss and the Israelis, but take heart in this. The reason a nation wins wars rests in the power of its economy, not in the size of its Army. We beat the Nazis with factories more than guns. If I have any worries about the readiness of our military today, it has to do with the rough treatment that our economy has received at the hands of a Republican administration and our continuing foolish dependence on oil.

Do We Need More Military?

The second premise in Tiger Hawk’s question is that we need to improve our military in order to withstand the onslaught of the madmen of the Middle East. This idea is absurd. For one thing, with the exception of Iran and Syria, these countries are our allies! The governments of Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are just as uncomfortable with the lunatics in their midsts as we are. They are all living on the brink of chaos, but we are helping them hold it together and they are helping us. Iraq and Afghanistan require constant attention, and will require attention for many years to come, but only because of the objectives of the operation and the rules of engagement. These battles have been won, though perhaps not as neatly as we would like. The only place, the only place, we can lose them is in the living rooms of America. The financial cost is very high, but we can afford it (or we could if politicians had the guts to raise taxes). The cost in lives is painful but light when viewed with some historical perspective. The cost in military capacity is, as far as I can tell, non-existent.

Think about it. While we have been fighting in Iraq non-stop, we have been improving everything that gets sent over there, building better barracks, better armor, better medical facilities. Am I wrong? We helped out in a big way in Indonesia during the tsunami crisis in Indonesia and sent, I don’t know, was it hundreds of helicopters to Pakistan after the big earthquake in Kashmir – not to mention the supplies themselves. These were logistical triumphs. We were there firstest with the mostest at four places on the far side of the world, and we had sufficient resources to monitor N. Korea, persuade the PRC to stay out of Taiwan and man the biergartens in Germany. Contrary to the urban legend, we also had a strong and competent military response in the aftermath of Katrina. Did you know that somebody is dealing with the pirates off of Somalia and in the Malacca Straits? Who do you suppose that is?

I believe that, depending on the rules of engagement, we also have the military capacity to do whatever we want to Iran. That’s the point. We don’t have the desire to do anything to Iran. We want to do something for Iran, which is a more complicated problem, just as it is in Iraq and Afghanistan. Addressing our problems with the current government of Iran requires us, once again, to adjust the thinking in the living rooms of America. The President’s hands are tied at the present time. Americans, frankly, trust the Mullahs more than the Bushes, and that is the concern that motivates Tigerhawk’s question. Most people are not particularly afraid of Iranian nukes because 1) they don’t believe it, and 2) we lived with the Soviet’s nukes for a long time. People are, however, afraid of our own government because, time and time again, it deceives us and tries to circumscribe our freedoms.

Is There a Threat?

The People of the US are truly in charge. But their judgment is poor and our representatives know it. The two reasons that the government deceives us and hides its actions are 1) to do the right thing and 2) to do the wrong thing. The right thing is, unfortunately, preparing for war. The wrong thing is the usual nonsense about lining pockets and earmarks. Does the wrong thing involve massive conspiracies that run over decades? I say hogwash again. The government is disperse, inept and lethargic. The Press is invasive and energetic. Secrets have a half-life measured in minutes unless they are plainly justified. Guys like the junior senator from Wisconsin are aberrations. But even there, think about what he was doing. He was representing a significant sentiment of the American People. Our government is not the problem.

What is the right thing with regard to so-called Islamic fascism? First of all, let me assure you that I think the threat is very real. I think that most of us, at least on the liberal side, underestimate the extent of the threat drastically.

Some see our own country as the bigger threat. This is based, for the most part, on historical misinterpretations of US actions in the past. These misinterpretations stem fromthe secretive nature of the Cold War and the residue of liberal myopia toward the evils of World Communism. Another issue is the liberal suspicion of bias and reactionary scheming. We see racism, sexism and challenges to the Bill of Rights behind every tree. We see Big Money interests behind every door in Washington. This is all, well almost all, hypersensitive reactions to the chronic patterns of government. Today, whenever a politician is caught in a crime, it is almost always penny-ante chiseling, sex and drugs, or questionable campaign finance activities. Power trips are the coin of the realm, but guys like J. Edgar Hoover and McCarthy are rare, and Nixon’s crime was just a juggling act to cover up the aforementioned campaign finance activities. Even he wanted to do the right thing. The paranoid scenarios about Bushhitlerchimp parceling out Iraqi oil rights to his Big Oil buddies contain no truth. Wag the Dog is only a movie. Impotence is the big problem with our government.

In fact, radical Islam is a highly contagious memeplex. It has the dangerous glimmer of religious madness, madness that has conquered the world in the past. We think we are above this today because we, in the US and Europe, have such strong countermemes. Naziism and Communism were similar memeplexes. I don’t have to tell you how dangerous they were. Christianity has been the same, but is now partial to civilized norms. Contrary to our contented assumption of homogenous goodwill, however, we actually have so many different radical groups in the United States that they almost cancel each other out – not that they don’t keep the FBI busy. It has always been this way. We are constantly juggling with live coals, but never catching fire.

Islam, however, has breached our shores without suffering our history. The countermemes are not yet in place. There are large populations in Western countries that have no loyalty to the West. There are many more whose first loyalty is to Islam. I, personally, don’t like this at all, but it is really nothing new. We have Amish and Hutterites and Hasidics and, presumably, polygamist Mormons who feel the same way. We also have terror groups who use violence to further their goals, such as white supremacists, PETA activists, Earth Firsters, anti-abortion extremists and homophobics with poor impulse control. So why is radical Islam any different?

It is different because some of the core values of the religion are antithetical to western ideals. It is different because the Islamic population in the West is no longer small and is growing fast. The interface is under tremendous stress. It is different because it is new to us. It is new and attractive, it is new and frightening, and its tendencies are not completely understood. Muslims, whether immigrant or not, find the West to be new and confusing and threatening as well. The money and values of the West, and the prominent decorative aspects of our civilization, are squeezing out traditions that have been very resistant to change. We, in the West, have already been through those changes, with comparable resentment, but the changing is largely complete.

So, Islam is not comfortable with us. Its discomfort is conducive to the spread of Radical Islam, which is different than all our other ideological enemies today. It is a committed, passionate, devious and intelligent enemy. We, on the other hand, are still mostly indifferent to this enemy, not caring, not believing, not respecting, all this despite 911. This is precisely what Tigerhawk is talking about. If 911 didn’t wake us up, what will? He sees that we have not yet made the kind of commitment that Pearl Harbor engendered.

How Should We Respond?

We are presently seeing concerted efforts to have the Secretary of Defense fired. Everyone from Joe Lieberman to John McCain is calling for it. Leftish Democrats would like to see him shot. Yet it is this same individual who has given us the clearest summation of the threat. We can kill a hundred terrorists a day but get nowhere if the Madrassas are pumping out a thousand. So what do we think he’s doing about it? And what should he be doing about it?

I have discovered, in my random walk around the Internet, that the Left gives me very little insight into the conduct of the War. There is a lot of accusation, but very little illumination, heavy on the diatribes. There are some individuals, members of the military analysis genre of blogs, who consistently surprise and educate me. Many of the accusations from the Left turn out to be baseless. Much of the speculation of the other group turns out to be true, at least as far as I am able to evaluate it. The fact that I am still learning from the one group, but not the other, leads me to believe that there is a great deal of hidden strategy yet to be learned. In other words, the Government is not showing all its cards. It has plans. It has strategies. It understands thereal root causes and is taking steps to address them. These actions may be expensive and may not be. They may involve building hospitals in Sudan or training bumblebees to locate minefields or writing inspirational songs in Farsi. I don’t know what the steps are. I have confidence that something is being done. I hope it doesn’t involve invading Cambodia and leaving the Khmer Rouge in charge, but I trust the Administration to make wise decisions.

So what should our response be? It should be to let the President, no, help the President to do his job. Encourage him to pursue the policy he had laid out in the Bush Doctine. He’s no genius, but he has some pretty bright people working for him. If he has the elbowroom he will make the right choices, choose the right weapons, make credible threats and impose painful punishments. If he has the support, he will do the right thing. Remember. Like it or not, we elected a President. If he doesn’t have the authority to do his job, we have no government at all. I think we need one about now.

But Iraq, you say, is not Radical Islam. Fair enough. It was, however, a fascist state. For me, that is reason enough to have it overthrown. Bush would never have done it without 911. He looked at the Middle East and saw a thousand more 911s in the making. What to do?

Iraq was actually a bulwark against radical Islam. Saddam flirted with it, but he only let it out for his own purposes. His cynical group had no interest in such things. His rules of engagement were such that these fanatics were no threat to him. But Bush was repulsed by the future he saw over there. Eternal repression, limitless cruelty. The only hope he could see for the Arabs was for us to share our vision, to give them the understanding of what is possible, to show them the way out of the choice between fascist tyranny and the consequences of religious absolutism. Our way is a better way. Denying that is after the 20th century is not rational, and failure to intervene in Iraq was almost morally unjustifiable. It was not a hard decision to turn it into a project, a demonstration project. We are going to turn Iraq into a modern democracy that will be characterized by liberty and tolerance. Or at least, we are going to turn it into a place than can eventually mold itself into such a paragon.

So, What Will It Take to Militarize the West?

Let us rephrase the question thusly: What will it take for the peoples of the West to truly recognize the threat of Radical Islam and to allow appropriate action to be taken? I think that’s what Tigerhawk really should be asking. Because, what does military development really mean in such asymmetrical warfare? What does it mean in the Hobbesian world of Iraq? What actions correspond to mobilization when there are no targets? And how can we respond when we don’t know what the outcome will be? We don’t even know what the desired outcome could be. So how do we know we even need to respond?

There are lots of people trying to clarify these issues, but willful partisan blindness keeps us from settling on consensus policies.

Here’s how it’s going to be settled, and Tigerhawk knows it. There will be further incidents. Despite the best efforts of our government agencies, some dramatic and tragic event will take place. Our defense is persistent, but their offense is more so. When they get so many shots on goal, they will eventually score, and somebody’s death will serve as an irrefutable message, a clarification of implacable intent. It could be Salmon Rushdie or Bruce Willis. It could be children in a grade school as it was in Chechnya. It could be a nuclear power plant or the Golden Gate. Something will happen. And if it doesn’t do the job, then something else will happen. Eventually we will get the message that these people do not want to be our friends.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Soviet Threat Compared

Belmont Club has been talking about Solzhenitsyn and how his words seem so apropos to today's situation in the Middle East. He has excerpted an entire speech in his post. There are as usual many comments, some insightful. I'm struck by how despairing the speech is. Wretchard, who is on the right in his politics, should reflect on how wrong Solzhenitsyn was about our will to resist the Soviet Union.

Here's my Readers' Digest version for you:

Alexander Solzhenitsyn - speech at Harvard, 1978

A Decline in Courage

may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party and of course in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course there are many courageous individuals but they have no determining influence on public life.

Legalistic Life

Western society has given itself the organization best suited to its purposes, based, I would say, on the letter of the law. …

…If one is right from a legal point of view, nothing more is required, nobody may mention that one could still not be entirely right, and urge self-restraint, a willingness to renounce such legal rights, sacrifice and selfless risk: it would sound simply absurd. …

… I have spent all my life under a communist regime and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale but the legal one is not quite worthy of man either. A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man's noblest impulses. …

… A statesman who wants to achieve something important and highly constructive for his country has to move cautiously and even timidly; there are thousands of hasty and irresponsible critics around him, parliament and the press keep rebuffing him. …

… Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil. …

… And what shall we say about the dark realm of criminality as such? Legal frames (especially in the United States) are broad enough to encourage not only individual freedom but also certain individual crimes. The culprit can go unpunished or obtain undeserved leniency with the support of thousands of public defenders. When a government starts an earnest fight against terrorism, public opinion immediately accuses it of violating the terrorists' civil rights. There are many such cases.

Such a tilt of freedom in the direction of evil has come about gradually but it was evidently born primarily out of a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which there is no evil inherent to human nature; …

A Fashion in Thinking

Without any censorship, in the West fashionable trends of thought and ideas are carefully separated from those which are not fashionable; nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges. Legally your researchers are free, but they are conditioned by the fashion of the day. ... a selection dictated by fashion and the need to match mass standards frequently prevent independent-minded people from giving their contribution to public life. … This gives birth to strong mass prejudices, blindness, which is most dangerous in our dynamic era. There is, for instance, a self-deluding interpretation of the contemporary world situation. It works as a sort of petrified armor around people's minds. … It will only be broken by the pitiless crowbar of events. …

Shortsightedness

… However, the most cruel mistake occurred with the failure to understand the Vietnam war. Some people sincerely wanted all wars to stop just as soon as possible; others believed that there should be room for national, or communist, self-determination in Vietnam, or in Cambodia, as we see today with particular clarity. But members of the U.S. anti-war movement wound up being involved in the betrayal of Far Eastern nations, in a genocide and in the suffering today imposed on 30 million people there. Do those convinced pacifists hear the moans coming from there? Do they understand their responsibility today? Or dothey prefer not to hear? The American Intelligentsia lost its [nerve] and as a consequence thereof danger has come much closer to the United States. But there is no awareness of this. Your shortsighted politicians who signed the hasty Vietnam capitulation seemingly gave America a carefree breathing pause; however, a hundredfold Vietnam now looms over you. That small Vietnam had been a warning and an occasion to mobilize the nation's courage. But if a full-fledged America suffered a real defeat from a small communist half-country, how can the West hope to stand firm in the future? …

Loss of Willpower

… And yet -- no weapons, no matter how powerful, can help the West until it overcomes its loss of willpower. In a state of psychological weakness, weapons become a burden for the capitulating side. To defend oneself, one must also be ready to die; there is little such readiness in a society raised in the cult of material well-being. Nothing is left, then, but concessions, attempts to gain time and betrayal. …

… Western thinking has become conservative: the world situation should stay as it is at any cost, there should be no changes. This debilitating dream of a status quo is the symptom of a society which has come to the end of its development. But one must be blind in order not to see that oceans no longer belong to the West … The next war (which does not have to be an atomic one and I do not believe it will) may well bury Western civilization forever.

… Liberalism was inevitably displaced by radicalism, radicalism had to surrender to socialism and socialism could never resist communism. The communist regime in the East could stand and grow due to the enthusiastic support from an enormous number of Western intellectuals who felt a kinship and refused to see communism's crimes. …

… As long as we wake up every morning under a peaceful sun, we have to lead an everyday life. There is a disaster, however, which has already been under way for quite some time. I am referring to the calamity of a despiritualized and irreligious humanistic consciousness. …

Wretchard also has an excellent post comparing two well-written viewpoints demonstrating the crucial distinction in American thought concerning the Clash of Civilizations.

Posted:

8/17/20064:24 AM

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Nix the Fix on Vox Populi

At one time I thought that Common Cause was an organization that could really solve our problems. It understood the crux of the problem of governance. Politicians are not the problem. Many of them are decent, intelligent, even outstanding leaders. The problem is that influence flows deeper and broader on the banks of commerce than through the tight channels of electoral representation.

So Common Cause spent a lot of effort trying to build levees against the flood by controlling the money. It was nominally successful. Unfortunately, its efforts have been subverted by everyone but John McCain, who has had unique training in the art of sales resistance. It seemed like such a good idea to have a group of knowledgeable insiders representing the People's interest in Washington, our very own PAC to keep an eye on Congress for us. I still don't know how it went so wrong, but the effort has backfired. Many people today actually see campaign finance reform as an anti-democratic attack on the First Amendment. Tom Delay undid most of the good work and the rest of the congresscritters are less cooperative and collegial than they ever were.

Common Cause, however, has once again put its finger unerringly on the true pulse of Liberty. Today, that pulse flows through the Internet and the biggest threats are once again, say it with me, Special Interests. I deplore the rapidity with which people have sought ways to undo the Internet revolution. Copyright and patent enforcement, supposedly designed to increase creative contributions to our culture, have been the leading wedge of today's Pinkertons, but there are many more to follow. Boing Boing has posted a description of Common Cause's efforts at preserving open access to the People's Voice.

8/12/2006 3:29 PM

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Jihad We Can Live With

A fellow named Jihad el-Khazen – an apparently respectable Arab name – is what you might call a moderate in the Middle East. He despises Israel and thinks the US is an Israeli puppet. He compares Israel to a cancer caused by smoking. He has provided, in this article, a list of pro-Israeli extremists (such as Pipes, Ledeen and Luttwak) along with the outrageous accusations these wicked people have made. (He particularly dislikes the term "Islamofascists".) Nevertheless, he has made two statements that absolve whatever hard feelings he may engender with these remarks.

1. He is against suicide bombing: "If suicide operations targeted soldiers exclusively, I would not object to them, were it not for the fact that they often hurt innocent bystanders along with the criminal. Therefore, once again, I call for them to be stopped."

2. He is for Israeli existence: "I do not want Israel wiped out, but I simply want it isolated behind the very exclusion wall it has built to isolate this cancerous tumor away from us."

I wonder how many more there are like him. And I wonder whether he would be embarrassed to know that the average Israeli would embrace him like a brother and kiss him on both cheeks.

8/12/2006 1:07 PM

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Don Quixote Had it Easy

Don Quixote Had it Easy

One of my numerous niblings lives in the South where he raises children and builds racecars. He’s a serious Christian and an extremely intelligent young man. He has not, however, subjected himself to much formal education and skepticism does not come naturally. From time to time he sends me links to posts he finds interesting. I usually don’t know whether he’s sounding me out or pulling my chain, but I always answer seriously.

A few years ago he pummeled me with the famous NASA conspiracy theory where "evidence" suggested that the US had never landed anyone onto the surface of the moon. The whole thing was staged, goes the story, in order to impress the Soviets. Now, I hope no one reading this finds the concept credible, but I spent some time and effort trying to convince my nephew that Neil Armstrong was for real. Eventually he gave up. I don’t know whether he was convinced or lost interest, but it took a long time. You should see some of these web sites. They are unbelievably detailed and carefully documented. If you’ve ever purchased a Rolex watch in a train station or a timeshare anywhere, you might easily be susceptible to this sort of thing.

Lately my nephew has been fired up again on the subject of Global Warming. I think his love of automobiles and proximity to thickets of Republicans have made him reluctant to accept it without a battle. He has been reading a lot on the Web and has fetched up a few interesting links. One article demonstrates, quite correctly, the Problem with using Hydrogen. The production, transportation and usage of hydrogen as a fuel are all inefficient operations that consume energy. If you were to use fossil fuels to power these processes, you would be dramatically increasing CO2 production.

He has also pounced on me with the recent discovery that trees produce methane under normal circumstances, implying, therefore, that everything the "liberals" advocate is wrong!

Methane from Trees - Links: Nature, Financial Times (subscription), The Guardian

I’m making the assumption, when I answer him, that he is quite capable of finding both sides of the argument if he wants to. What I try todo is put a little perspective on the issues, to pry him loose from right wing dogma, without writing a technical tome. Here are some of my responses:

You may not have noticed the revised version of the Guardian article, which has to following update: The following correction was printed in the Guardian's Corrections and clarifications column, Monday January 16 2006

The headline above overstated the more circumspect case outlined in the article below, which said that plants emit up to 30% of the methane, a greenhouse gas, entering the Earth's atmosphere. Scientists have just discovered this, but to conclude that it is a new cause of rising temperatures is mistaken.

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The Earth's climate system has been in near equilibrium for a long time. It's the changes in that equilibrium that matter. There are so many causal relationships that it is hard for scientists to keep track of where particular components of the atmosphere come from and where they go. We're still learning. Think of how children recognize when something is wrong.

And what do we know? We know only that the equilibrium no longer controls the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, that average temperatures are rising and that these effects are significantly due to human activity. The rest is informed speculation.

We also don't really know what to expect in the future. We have models that run on supercomputers (extremely expensive models) that predict certain patterns, but different models predict different outcomes. So the scientists fight over the differences. What they don't fight over, at least most of them, is whether something is wrong.

The methane finding really tells us that there are still very important things about the climate system that we didn't know. It's kind of like using DNA tests on people who were convicted of murders before DNA tests were used. It gives us a pretty good picture of how badly our justice system has worked in the past (and probably still does). We are not very good at catching the right guy, but I think we are still pretty sure that someone was killed.

To be honest, we don't know for sure which actions will be helpful and which will be harmful. This is one reason a lot of scientists don't necessarily support Kyoto per se. It is fairly safe to assume, however, that anthropogenic effects can be reversed by looking at what people do and stopping orreducing those activities. People cut forests. CO2 concentrations are going up. Maybe something about the forest, if not the trees, is sequestering CO2. Who knows? Maybe our best strategy will turn out to be that we need to cut the forests down. I remember the Woody Allen film Sleepers where the guy wakes up a hundred years in the future and everybody makes him smoke cigarettes to improve his health. Meanwhile, I personally think it's best to stop cutting the forest down.

At any rate, it's certainly reasonable to expect that burning fossil fuels, at least, has something to do with upsetting the equilibrium. We haven't been doing that for very long. So let's find ways to reduce it. Fill your tank with nuclear energy -- that's the policy that I support. It may be completely wrong, but if we wait until we are absolutely sure of the science, like the cigarette smokers in the 60's and the 70's, it may be too late.

------------------

Global Warming Refutations - Links: Patrick Bedard in Car and Driver, September 2006. Not available online, but you can see a discussion of it here.

Denial runs deep. There are three arguments implied here. 1) Water vapor has a dramatic impact on the climate system. People who study the climate forgot to include the effect of water vapor because they are stupid. There is nothing to worry about. Let's keep burning fossil fuel as fast as we can. 2) The climate in the past has been so cold that it was unfavorable to humans. Now it is warmer, which is nice. Maybe if it were warmer still it would be even nicer. There is nothing to worry about. Let's keep burning fossil fuel as fast as we can. 3) The Kyoto Protocol is a bad plan that is economically unfavorable to the US. Therefore, any change to our current energy generation scheme is bad for the US. Any plan to limit CO2 production is probably a conspiracy of liberals and foreigners to weaken us. The only thing to worry about is political change, not climate change. So let's keep burning fossil fuel as fast as we can.

It may turn out, though I strongly doubt it, that all of these arguments represent the essential truth. Even so, I believe we should err on the side of caution and start acting asif there just may be a potential for destructive climate change related to our activities. Considering what we have to lose, I think we should err on the side of caution. The plan I support is to replace current generators with nuclear power and to transition our national car fleet from gasoline to electric. This would not be so terribly painful and would have several benefits. The air would be cleaner. The US would not be hostage to foreign oil supplies. Conversion to potential future energy sources, such as fusion, space-based solar power collection, geo-thermal, fuel cell, tidal, wind, solar, or hamster-wheels, whatever, would be simpler. I think it would actually be good for our economy since a huge chronic drain of currency would disappear.

Well, I don't know whether he wanted to hear all that, but I not good at knowing when to quit. Wish me luck.

8/11/2006 1:19 AM

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Hitchens and Hanson

I have been depressed by a lot of things, as I said before, and I have been remiss about posting. But I have been reading and commenting online and have seen a lot of good stuff. Belmont Club and Michael Totten, in particular, have been good. Frank Warner has also been posting a lot. The best is his discussion of Christopher Hitchens' article, "Scorched Earth", in the Weekly Standard. FreeFrank suggests that Iraq needed the kind of cleansing violence visited on Germany and Japan in WWII in order to be open to change. I disagree and left a short response.

Victor Davis Hanson, the military historian, has a good article excoriating the smug self-satisfaction of modern America. We have it so good, he says, that we forget the fragility of Civilization. He compares our times to that of the Five Good Emperors of Rome and concludes that human progress is cyclic. I certainly agree that our happy current situation is fragile, but I am afraid that Progress is not marred by variability alone. It is, in fact, revocable. The Greek and Roman flowering was snuffed out for a thousand years. If not for the peripheral blossoms in Ireland and Baghdad and Spain, there would have been no second chance for the particular blessings of the Classical World.

8/9/2006 2:03 PM

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Mel Tolls for Me

I always liked Mel Gibson from the first time I saw him on the Mad Max films. He projects a very warm persona. I have seen him serious and goofy and liked him either way. My question is, am I allowed to still like him?

His film, the Passion of Christ, has been badmouthed by a lot of nanny liberals and thin-skinned Jews. I certainly wouldn't go see it myself. For one thing, I don't think I could endure the suffering portrayed. I didn't like the aroma of bigotry either. Passion plays have often, throughout European history, been an excuse for violence against Jews. But I do think this one was an honest attempt to portray historical events as many people believe them to have occurred. I was impressed, in particular, by the decision to use Aramaic as a spoken language on the screen. Gibson believes in the Passion and all of the things that it implies, including the forgiveness of sins. He spent a lot of effort and money, and took a lot of risk to share it with us.

He has been lambasted in the press pretty severely for his recent adventure, even by Christopher Hitchens (who has given him previous lashes), based on the assumption that, in his drunken state, Gibson was expressing his true feelings. Clinton Taylor has a piece in the American Spectator questioning that assumption of vino veritas. I would go further than that and say, even if the man honestly believes, when sober, in the guilt of the collective Jew in murdering his Savior, then we must hold him to the injunctions of his own beliefs. As a Christian, he is required to forgive the Jews for seven times seventy repetitions of such a transgression. In fact, Gibson has begged forgiveness for himself from those very Jews whom he has offended and has asked for their help, as well. I think, from what I have read between the lines, that he is asking them to teach him, to help him understand and forgive. I think this is remarkable.

One of the problems with political correctness is that it requires us to think a certain specific way. Gibson has his own point of view. I am not empowered to say whether he is right or wrong, but I believe he is entitled to it, and I suspect I will continue to regard him with affection.

Words are not bullets. Thoughts are not guns. By his deeds he will be known. I am more inclined to fault him for driving drunk, but I accept his apologies as genuine. I hope others do, as well, and I predict that he will show his remorse in a dramatic and constructive way.

8/2/2006 6:57 PM

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