Thursday, February 24, 2005

In Absentia

I'm going to be in D.C. for a few days. Should be back on Monday. Just thought I would have the decency to tell my (few) readers this time rather than randomly dropping off the map like before.

You stay classy, blogosphere.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Nick Kristof of the NYT has some wrenching photographs from Darfur, Sudan. (hat tip: Instapundit) On one level, these pictures, and his writing about the pictures he didn't show, just further illustrate the irrelevance of the U.N. As Kristof says, the President, Congress, and the European Congress have declared the Sudanese government's actions in Darfur to be genocide, yet the United Nations has done nothing. Surprise, surprise. Remember, Kofi was the U.N. official responsible for the genocide in Rwanda.

On a different level, my opinion about U.S. involvement has been changing. For all the times the world has said "never again," there always seems to be an "again." While I'm not sure about the cost of U.S. involvement, and that U.S. intervention should only be undertaken if the financial cost is minimal, I think that it is worth taking a serious look at. The U.S. has tried diplomacy for the past year; the result has been minimal.

Maybe its time for something else.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Dear American Soldier: SUCK IT!

Check out this seemingly innocent New York Post story (hat tip: Greyhawk): New York sixth-graders writing letters to a U.S. soldier stationed on the DMZ in South Korea. So far so good. The story gets nasty when you read what the students wrote:

"One Muslim boy wrote: 'Even thoe [sic] you are risking your life for our country, have you seen how many civilians you or some other soldier killed?' His letter, which was stamped with a smiley face, went on: 'I know your [sic] trying to save our country and kil the terrorists but you are also destroying holy places like Mosques.'"

Ferst of ahl, itz nice to cee tpat ar publik edumacation sistim iz diong such a good jab af edooketang tee netin's cilden (sic). Moving on, why any teacher would let this letter go out is beyond me. Later in the article, the principal makes a limp-wristed statement about how he would "never censor anything our children write." So, if a child wrote that he wanted to murder all of his classmates, you wouldn't censor that? What about if a child wanted to write the White House threatening to kill President Bush? Would you consider censoring the kid then?

The PFC that received these messages is 20 years old. He can't even buy a beer yet, but he is stationed on the DMZ, defending our freedom. It would be nice if teachers back here in the states could teach their students to respect that sacrifice, regardless of their personal politics or who is in the White House.

Free Mojtaba and Arash!

These are the names of two Iranian bloggers who have been imprisoned by the Mullahs for daring to speak critically of the Iranian government. The month old Committee to Protect Bloggers has decided to make today a day to remember these two bloggers, in hopes that they will soon be released by the Iranian government. Here's a link to their website, and here's a link to a news story about them.

Hat tip: Instapundit

Democracy, or the supposed lack thereof

I thought the great readers of this blog, however small that number is, might be interested in reading an essay I did for my American Government class. The assignment was to read an extended essay by Howard Zinn, the famed American Socialist, on how America was undemocratic, and then refute that statement. Enjoy!

Zinn’s “definition” of democracy is inherently flawed, for a few reasons. His view of democracy is an absolute, Marxist equality, which is never what democracy was intended to be. All men should not be made equal in all respects simply because they were created with certain unalienable rights. Also, because of this view of absolute equality, Zinn has a tendency to equate any kind of real or perceived economic inequality with class warfare. Disregarding the inherent flaws in Zinn’s article, his views can be disproven specifically on the three major points of participation of the populace in government, access to information, and wealth distribution.

Zinn’s first major point, that
America is undemocratic because of a lack of participation by the populace in government, has three main sub points. The first is that the United States is not democratic because it has a republican form of government, which necessarily puts governmental power, derived from the masses, in the hands of a relative few. Winston Churchill’s quote that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others,” would seem to apply here, substituting “a republic” for “democracy.” Zinn’s criticism is a non-starter, because there is no viable solution for his criticism. While a true democracy would be the purest form of government, it is unrealistic in dealing with a population of hundreds of millions. Zinn’s second sub point, that the influence in the political process is concentrated in a wealthy minority of the population, is linked with the first. This sub point descends into class warfare rhetoric when Zinn explains, in speaking of the powerful wealthy minority and the repressed poor majority, that there is “a gulf so wide between the haves and have-nots that there was no ground on which to dispute.” This statement is shown to be false by the countless cases of rags to riches stories throughout American history. Zinn also discounts the large middle class that is present in the population. The third sub point is that the two main parties are so similar that neither presents a clear difference. One only needs to look at the recent election to realize that the two main parties present a clear difference in political philosophy and issues. Even in areas in which they fundamentally agree, such as the need to stay the course in Iraq, they have extremely different ways of going about that course.

Zinn’s second major point is that America is undemocratic because only the wealthy have lobbying clout with the government because of their superior access to information, and the information that the general population does get has been heavily censored and processed, by both the government and the wealthy elite that control the media. While it is true that lobbying groups in
Washington often have quite a bit of money and influence, one should consider where that money and influence comes from. Often, in the case of such organizations as the NRA or NOW, that money and influence comes from the organization’s large membership. The majority of these organizations’ budget comes from relatively small donations spread across a membership of millions of people. This same large membership is what gives the organization clout in Washington. In addition, representatives are still accountable to the people they represent. The writer has personally written letters to Senator Hagel on a few issues, and has always received an original, non-form letter in return. While it may appear possible to brush off a few letters from constituents, consider the recent uproar over Sen. Arlen Specter being given the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee. One conservative blog, The Corner, made the suggestion that its readers call or e-mail Sen. Frist and their own state’s Senators, expressing their displeasure with the decision. Because of this one post, Specter was almost denied the chairmanship and has been forced to make public statements renouncing his previous positions. Zinn’s second point, the censorship of information by the government and media, is easily disproven by the recent war in Iraq, and by the power of the internet. Reporters were embedded with the troops and gave live reports from the battle field during Operation Iraqi Freedom, in stark contrast to Zinn’s day, when HQ in Saigon gave the same overly-optimistic briefing every day to the press. In addition, if the government is somehow managing the media, they are doing a very poor job. The only news out of Iraq on the three main networks seems to be overwhelmingly negative, while the country is currently having a debate on how far captured terrorists should be interrogated. Neither of these seems like things the government would have allowed in Zinn’s day. As for the media having total control of information, one only needs to look at the recent scandal involving CBS and some faked memos to see that the media is not capable of putting forth a lie as news. They tried, and it was foiled, thanks to a large network of bloggers, connected by the internet.

Zinn’s fifth major point is that
America is undemocratic because it has great wealth disparity. Setting aside the fact that America was also founded on capitalism, and that setting aside a capitalist economy would be just as bad as setting aside a democratic form of government (as Zinn alleges the country to have done), this point has very little to do with actual democracy. As stated in the introduction, men should not be made equal simply because they were created alike, with certain unalienable rights. This is not, as Zinn alleges, “an inexcusable breach of the democratic principle.” The citizens of this country have a right to life and liberty, in the most literal sense of the words, and the right to PURSUE happiness, not the right to have it provided for them. If Zinn wishes to advocate a socialist style economy, with more severe income redistribution than under the current income tax system, he is free to advocate that. But the lack of income redistribution is not cause to accuse the United States of being undemocratic. As long as its citizens are ruled by a government of their choosing, and have the right of life and liberty, they are living in a democracy. Economic disparity has nothing to do with it.

Setting aside the fact that Zinn’s definition of democracy is inherently flawed, his views on the specific areas of the participation of the populace in government, control of information by the government and the media, and economic disparity have been disproven above, showing that his assertion that
America is undemocratic is false.

Europe and the War

In the interest of fairness, here's a link to a post at the Belmont Club that shows Europe's leaders aren't as bad as I stated least not now.

That is a good thing.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Sharansky and Democracy, among other things.

Terribly sorry about the long absence. School, and other things, have been kicking my butt lately. Anyway, on with the post.

Like I said in a previous post, I've been reading Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky's book "The Case for Democracy." The book's basic premise is that democracy is for all peoples, regardless of ethnicity or region. Sharansky believes that the world is currently split into two spheres: free societies, which are countries that pass the 'town square' test: its citizens are free to enter the town square, speak their mind, and criticize the government; and fear societies, which are countries that do not pass the town square test. Free societies are the way of the future, while fear societies only breed terror and conflict.

While we may have what seem like unbridgable political divisions in the free world, these divisions are nothing compared to the chasm between free and fear societies. In the free world, while ideologies differ sharply between Republican and Democrat, and between France and the United States, we agree, for the most part, that civilized discourse is the way to solve differences and understand each other; opposing someone politically in a free society will, at worst, earn you a sharp retort, and maybe a nasty attack ad in the next election. In a fear society, differing in any way from the ruling group’s (be it government or a terrorist group that is control of an area) position will at best earn you prison time; at worst, it will end with you appearing on al-Jazeera begging for your life before your head is sawed off.

The reason I bring this up is that so many in the West, particularly on the left, and particularly in Europe, fail to grasp this basic concept. One only needs look at the various polls in Europe which say that Europeans feel that George W. Bush and the U.S. military are a bigger threat to world peace than Islamic extremism, or Sen. Kennedy’s statements that U.S. soldiers are the cause of the violence and insurgency in Iraq, and that the sooner we leave, the better. I am not sure whether it is incredible stupidity or political hubris that compels people to make these arguments, but they are deadly: deadly to themselves, to others, and to Western civilization as a whole. These statements put the defeat of your political opponents over the defeat of the despicable ideology that wishes to destroy our civilization. If this point of view is allowed to take hold, there can be no victory in the war against Islamic extremism.

Even more despicable than those who value the defeat of their political rivals more than the Islamofascist murderers are those that intentionally side against the security of their nation for political gain. Sadly, most of the Democratic Party currently falls into this category. While there are numerous exceptions to this, the most notable being Sen. Lieberman’s principled stand on foreign policy and Sen. Clinton’s recent statements regarding security in Iraq, the embrace of “minuteman” Michael Moore and the election of Howard Dean to party chair show the true colors of the Democratic Party: as long as the Republican Party is for the security of America, they will be overtly or tacitly against it, as the situation permits, in order to gain politically.

The last group of people who fail to, or choose not to, grasp the difference between free and fear societies are those who make moral equivalency arguments. Those who say that we had it coming on 9/11. Those who say that the United States has done as much bad in the world as Islamic extremism. Those who say that al-Qaida has legitimate grievances. This kind of idea is even worse than the ideas listed above, because this idea goes so far as to make free societies and fear societies equal. Losing moral clarity makes waging a war against this evil impossible.

When you get down to it, the basic premise of the current war is one of free societies versus those who wish to sustain fear socities. Islamic extremists view the war in exactly the same terms; the only difference is that the roles are reversed. In our model, there will be peace only when free socities have triumphed and fear socities have been vanquished to the dust bin of history. In Osama's model, the world is divided into two spheres: Dar al-Islam, the House of Islam, and Dar al-Harb, the House of War. Dar al-Islam is the sphere where Islam reigns supreme, where there is peace, and where sharia law is implemented. To put it bluntly, think Afghanistan under the Taliban. Before Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan was the epitome of Dar al-Islam. This is what Osama and his merry band are fighting to implement. In their dream world, the entire Middle East would be a greater caliphate; the realization of Dar al-Islam. Dar al-Harb, on the other hand, is the rest of the world. In Osama's worldview, this sphere of the world will be in eternal conflict until it is assimilated into Dar al-Islam. To Osama, there will only be "peace" when the entire world is in Dar al-Islam.

Which means that to Osama, there is no peace until the entire world is united under extreme sharia law. Something to consider the next time you hear a talking head on tv talk about 'engagement' with the extremists.

Well, that's all I have time for now. Expect the continuation of this post in a few days.