Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Upper class sociopathy

What's amazing isn't the sociopathy of our ruling class--it's the proven fact that roughly half the voters side with them, election after election. These are also the voters who believe Saddam Hussein planned 9/11 with his partner Osama Bin Ladin; that President Obama isn't a Christian; that we're descended from a dab of mud in the literal Garden of Eden; that foreigners have cooties...I could go on, but it's too disheartening.

Never forget that Obama's "landslide" was only 52% of the popular vote. He knows he has to bring these people along, somehow. I think that's one reason why he acts so conciliatory.

The boss class has convinced many, many voters that the only alternative to ownership of business by government is ownership of government by business. The former is Socialism, pronounced syllable by syllable to emphasize its demonic character, as "So-Shul-Is-M" drawing it out to instill the full horror of the term to these people.

We need an equally catchy word for the current situation (ownership of government by business). Any ideas? Anyone?

Monday, January 26, 2009

When nations should intervene in other nations' internal affairs

My spouse and I spent 10 days on a boat on the equation far from any large land masses a few years ago. The boat held four American divers, four German/Austrian divers, and an Indonsian crew. One of the Germans was quick to point out that America was at fault for pretty much everything bad these days, and the others seemed to concur.

I asked her what America should do if Communist China invaded Taiwan. She said absolutely nothing. It was none of our business.

She was invoking the doctrine of national soverignty--that no nation has the moral right to interfere with other nations' actions regarding their own citizens. Of course in this case many would argue that all mutual defense treaties were also immoral and should be abrogated, since many of us believe that Taiwan is a country, not a part of China.

One way or another, it's not surprising to hear Germans espousing MYOB. After all, they interfered in other nations affairs not all that long ago, and they set a standard of immorality few can match.

And our fortunately former president did his best to give war a bad name, not through being evil like Hitler, but certainly venal.

Nevertheless. the world's nations are slowly coming to recognize that no nation has a right to murder its own people or anyone else for that matter. I said murder, not "kill." They're different, despite the mistranslation of the relevant commendment in the King James Bible.

In a better world an intelligently run and empowered United Nations would intervene in Somalia, Haiti, the Darfur, Zimbabwe, Burma, and China (at the very least over its military invasion of and slo-mo ethnicide in Tibet).

I consider myself a patriotic American, and I don't want America subsumed in a world government. But the community of civilized nations, to be moral, needs to come up with a way to deal with rogue and failed states.

Even on a purely selfish basis, such states are sources of infection for the rest of the world. Look at Somali piracy and Mexico's virtual conversion into a narco-state. Both affect many other nations. At the same time a bunch of nations are quickly destroying the ocean floor in Somalia's territorial waters, preventing their fishermen from earning a living, with no functioning government able to stop the foreign trawlers. We must intervene in both the piracy from Somalia and the trawler incursions into Somali territory.

Isolationism is impossible unless a nation withdraws into itself and imports and exports nothing. We'd have to go back to an 18th century agrarian economy to do that.

And American exceptionalism is also impossible, as Bush proved. The stronger a nation is, the more polite it needs to be to its allies. Otherwise they gang up on you. Again, it's both the right thing to do and the self-interested thing to do.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Give both sides a right of return--Arab and Jew

My response to a Washinton Post op-ed piece about the Gaza war by an Israeli novelist and peace activist:

And being a novelist makes one an expert on military strategy how?

I just finished reading a long article detailing the years of preparations and training the Israeli Defence Force carried out prior to this incursion. They build a huge training facility to ensure that both reservists and active military are knowledgeable about urban warfare. In particular the widespread use of UAVs (pilotless drones) and smart bombs (laser or optically guided, using GPS technology) has helped them kill the ones they want to kill (Hamas fighters and leaders) and avoid those they want to spare (everyone else).

Now of course Hamas' goal is as many Palestinian deaths as possible, preferable with cameras running, for publicity purposes. If the Israelis were the genocidal butchers the whirly-eyed letter writers on this thread purport them to be, they could easily exterminate everyone in Gaza.

Civilian deaths in war are inevitable. As General Tecumseh Sherman said, "War is hell." But Sherman didn't have smart bombs and UAVs. The Israeli's didn't hesitate to blow up houses housing Hamas leaders and groups of fighters, but it did extraordinarily well at avoiding hitting adjacent houses.

And can anyone deny that Hamas stores weapons and fighters and command centers in mosques, hospitals and schools? If the Israelis really were genocidal Hamas wouldn't do this. They do it because they know the Israelis don't want to strike such targets.

Not to mention Hamas fighters fleeing battle scenes in clearly marked ambulances. Very clever. But don't blame the IDF for shooting up ambulances leaving battle scenes in the future.

Odd that few of the letter writers here decry Hamas' use of civilians as human shields.

The face the whirly-eyes can't face is how hard the IDF worked to avoid civilian casualties and how hard Hamas worked to cause them.

The irony is that the IDF's technology used in killing Hamas fighters and leaders was so much better than Hamas anticipated that afterward Hamas ran around executing numerous innocent people suspected of being informers.

And of course if the Palestinian equivalent of this article's author had written a mirror image of this article declaring that Hamas should negotiate with Israel and learn to live with the know what would happen to him, don't you?

Actually you don't, because most Americans are ignorant about what Hamas and its ilk do to people before they murder them.

It's so very easy to decry violence when it isn't your town getting unguided bombs flying in daily with the only purpose being to kill civilians.

And it's so very hard to forget the footage of Palestians dancing in the streets with joy on 9/11 and handing out sweets. Even enemy countries like Iran mourned the event.

But you want constructive? Here's constructive: have the Arab nations accept as many Palestinians as the number of Jews they expelled in 1948--along with all of their descendants, of course. And compensate them for the land and businesses the Arabs stole from the Jews when they expelled them. In exchange the Israelis would grant any Palestinians left over full citizenship in an Israel that would include the current Palestinian lands.

Since that number is equal to or greater than the number of Palestinians who fled Israel it should be a wash.

Of course the Palestinians breed like rabbits, so you'd also need a one child per family rule like China has, applied to Israelis and Arabs alike. The ultra-Orthodox Jews would hate that with a fiery passion. so it would be a big compromise.

How's that for a solution?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Israel butchers of Gaza--or vice-versa?

Comment posted to an Economist opinion piece on the war in the Gaza Strip. (The photo shows a map from a Palestinian textbook that omits Israel):

The Arab world reject's Israel's claims to its territory, based on prior claims of Palestinian Arabs to the territory Israel occupies.

But here's something not mentioned so far, I'll wager: the Kurds' ancient lands are claimed by the Arabs of Syria and Iraq and the Persians of Iran and the Turks of Turkey. In these Muslim countries the Arabs and Persians and Turks often treat the Kurds vastly worse than the Israelis have ever treated Arab Israelis or Palestinians in the occupied territories. It was Arabs who used nerve gas on Kurdish villages, remember.

So--when these countries volunteer to give the Kurds' lands back to them and thus grant Kurdistan "countryhood" I'll take their assertions about Palestine more seriously. Then there's the "right of return." It's a historical fact that when Israel declared its independence, all the Arab countries--every single one of them--expelled their Jews, many of whom had been living there for over a millenium. And took their lands and homes and businesses without compensation.

So--when the Arab world grants a "right of return" to all the Jews they'd expelled--and their descendents--and gives them back the lands, homes, businesses and money they stole from the Jews in their countries--then I'll take their chatter about a "right of return" seriously. As for the present situation: it's a big lose-lose for Israel.

Hamas has stated unambiguously that its goal is the conquest of all the land Israel occupies and the explusion or murder of every Israeli. I'm guessing this includes the Israeli Arabs, who Hamas' principles would require treating as collaborators. So how can Israel deal with Hamas?

To put it simply, Hamas has declared, in effect, total war on not just Israel but on every human being living in Israel.

What would you do if a hostile foreign state was regularly lobbing missles and mortar rounds into your community, not to mention suicide-murderers? What would you say if others said, well, they're not that many and they're not that accurate? (Actually they're exactly accurate, since they're intended to kill civilians and terrorize the civilian population.)

How many rounds would be lobbed into your community before you demanded that your government put a stop to it, by whatever means necessary? And what if your enemy used its own civilians as human shields? Would you then tell them they're welcome to kill you and your family rather than have your army hurt their civilians being used as human shields?

I pity your family if you do.

All this said, it's obvious that the Israelis have been conducting a stealth campaign to take and occupy a good deal of territory beyond what they had before the 1967 war. I don't have a dog in this fight. There are no angels here. The territory being fought over is miniscule by American geographical standards (I'm writing from Palo Alto, California).

Oh, and while Gazans voted in Hamas, that doesn't mean they're all fanatics. Fatah was and is monstrously corrupt, so the Palestinians faced a Hobson's choice. Plus they only get one-sided news, and moderates tend to be murdered as collaborators. So their consent to Hamas' rule was not informed consent in the Western sense.

I'm guessing that President Obama will try to broker a painful compromise that will involve Israel leaving territory it would really like to hang onto (though not everything it has occupied outside the 1967 borders) while demanding that the Palestinians formally recognize Israel and forswear violence--something along those lines.

But Hamas is fanatical. Regardless of Palestinians' material grievances, Hamas' theological position is absolute: that Allah demands that they always fight to expel every Israeli from "Arab lands." Period. You can't compromise with that. It just means that any truce = time to regroup/rearm.

So if I were running Israel I just might choose to take the P.R. hit and keep on grinding down Hamas.