Thursday, April 28, 2011

An Analysis of Terrorism

Pat Buchanan's 2004 book "Where the Right Went Wrong: How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush Presidency" contains a wonderful analysis of the history and causes of terrorism.

Buchanan makes a general assertion that the neocons were originally "Cold War liberals" who became disaffected with the Democratic party when McGovern was nominated in 1972, and gravitated to the Republican party. I see no specifics in his book supporting this assertion, but otherwise the book is, as usual for Buchanan, very well researched and documented. He describes how conservatives in the '70's came to see "detente" as a dirty word, and began disregarding George Washington's sage advice to stay out of foreign entanglements. Buchanan says that "Intervention, wars for democracy, and a passionate attachment to Israel are what neoconservatism is all about."

Buchanan examines how the neocons captured the presidency. Bush 2 was particularly vulnerable since he knew nothing about foreign policy and really had no interest in it when he assumed the presidency in 2001.In his campaign he was skeptical of nation-building and seemed to have the instincts of a true conservative. However, once he put his foreign policy team together after being appointed president by the Supreme Court, he peopled it with the likes of Paul Wolfowitz Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser, and others. Buchanan documents how all of these had been beating the drums for intervention in Iraq for ten years prior to 9/11, ever since Bush 1 failed to get rid of Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War.

Buchanan documents how Bush's rhetoric changed after his election. In his 2002 State of the Union address, Bush identified Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an "axis of evil", and issued threats against these countries. Buchanan says that "the Bush threat of war upon nations that had not attacked us was unprecedented". He goes on to say that "Bush had no authority to issue those threats. The Constitution does not empower the president to launch preventive wars."

Buchanan then discusses a speech Bush made in June at West Point, in which Bush "rejected as obsolete the doctrines of containment and deterrence that had won the Cold War". Buchanan notes that "in dealing with nations, containment and deterrence had never failed us". The Bush concept that we will never brook any rival, and that the future is one of permanent American hegemony, is decried as ludicrous. Buchanan notes that "Prudence is the mark of the conservative. Where was the prudence in the president's address at West Point?"

In analyzing the feelings in the Arab world, Buchanan observes that "Interventionism is not the solution to America's problems in the Middle East. Interventionism is the problem. America's huge footprint on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia led straight to 9/11. The terrorists were over here because we were over there. Terrorism is the price of empire. If you do not wish to pay the price, you must give up the empire."

Buchanan undertakes an account of the history of terrorism, introduced by the quote that "Terrorism is the war of the poor and War is the terrorism of the rich." He quotes Thomas Walkom as saying that "History demonstrates two dirty little secrets about terrorism, neither of which governments are anxious to admit. The first is that terrorism is almost impossible to prevent--unless its root causes are seriously and systematically addressed. The second is that, quite often, terrorists get what they want."

Buchanan's account of the history of terrorism starts with the French revolution, goes into czarist Russia, and then really becomes powerful when he writes of the 1916 Irish rebellion against Britain. He writes that 15 of the Irish rebels were executed, and by creating these 15 martyrs Britain sealed its doom in Ireland. The cause was successful when in the early 1920's Irish independence was achieved. Buchanan says that "This would be the pattern for wars of liberation in the 20th century." He later says that "Terrorism often succeeded in the 20th century, and when it did, the ex-terrorists achieved power, glory, and immortality, with streets, towns, and cities named for them. And America today recognized every regime to come out of these wars where terrorism was a common tactic."

Buchanan's forthright conclusion is that "We must give up the empire, bring the troops home, let lapse the old treaty commitments dating to a Cold War ended 15 years ago. As the greatest republic in history, America has never been and can never be an isolationist nation. But we must cease to be a compulsively interventionist one." While Buchanan's observations on domestic policy are somewhat dubious, and frankly weaken the overall quality of his book, his foreign policy judgments are right on, and the U.S. must heed them if it is to remain a strong country.

5/4/11 update.  The assassination of Osama bin Laden presents a number of issues. I was watching the Phillies-Mets Sunday Night Baseball game on ESPN, and the chant of "USA" went up in the stands. The players were baffled, as they had no cell phone access in the dugout or on the playing field. Celebrating the death of another human being seems odd for Christians to do.

It also seems odd to call it justice". It certainly is not justice in any normal sense of the word. I have no problem with the Navy Seals shooting him after he resisted arrest, as this is standard procedure, but to call it "justice" is a stretch.

To go into Pakistan without informing the Pakistanis speaks volumes about our lack of trust of this country which is supposed to be an important ally of the US in the region. It is questionable whether we should continue to pour in the massive amounts of foreign aid to this uncooperative country.

But now we get to the heart of the matter. Using Buchanan's analysis, it is apparent that killing one individual will have no effect on the problem of terrorism. As Buchanan states, "the terrorists are over here because we are over there". The solution to the problem of terrorism is clear; in Buchanan's terms, it means giving up your empire, because "terrorism is the price of empire".

Early Take on the 2012 Election

News recently is full of Donald Trump, who is full of himself every time he opens his mouth. He kept harping on the long-form birth certificate "issue" for Obama, who released it yesterday. Trump of course claimed huge credit for getting him to "do what he should have done a long time ago". Now Trump is talking of bullying other countries of the world to get our way. Biggest examples he talks about are China and Libya (he says that if we go in, we should seize their oil for ourselves).

The question is how could a nut case like this be at the top of the polls for the Republican nomination? A column by Thomas Sewell provides the answer. Sewell says that "What Trump has that so many other Republicans are so painfully lacking is the ability and the willingness to articulate his positions clearly, forcefully and in plain English". It doesn't seem to matter that he is so often wrong, like last night being interviewed by CNN's John King, when Trump said a CNN poll had him in a dead-heat with Obama, and King countered that CNN had never done such a poll. Trump never got back to King on this, because CNN checked and confirmed that no such poll existed.

It seems people relate to someone, like Palin in the last election, who speaks clearly and unequivocally. People do not relate to someone who, like Breslin said of Dukakis in 1988, talks like a "busted computer". Romney is the Dukakis of 2011, talking in a carefully programmed, pre-packaged way that people have trouble relating to.

The Republican field contains many flawed candidates. I still say that someone like Tim Pawlenty will have to end up getting the nomination, as nobody else can overcome their negatives. Or Gary Johnson, a recent entry who is a strong libertarian. Ron Paul is also a strong candidate based on his clear and principled positions, but lacks a broad enough base. The libertarians really need to have their own party, as the Republican Party has gotten so far away from true conservative principles that a true conservative has no chance anymore. Paul talks more than anybody else in either party about getting away from this fixation on militarism, and bringing our troops home. He and Johnson are probably the only principled candidates in the race.

The same analysis can explain the troubles Obama has in connecting with voters. An insightful piece in the Christian Science Monitor of 1-24-12 explains this. The thesis for the piece is that "no matter how you feel about Obama, his lack of clear philosophical principles is not only a political problem for Democrats but a moral problem for America". His "principles" of change, bipartisanship, pragmatism, etc., are not really principles at all, as they are "so general that they provide little analytical or moral traction." Again, the author states that "there is no well of enduring principle upon which he seems to draw".

The conclusion is that "a nation built on common principle, not common blood, requires its leaders to have a coherent political theory". An article in The New Yorker of 3-15-10 similarly discusses Obama's failure to connect with the average voter, because nobody knows where he stands on anything of importance.

5/13/11 update.  Latest news is the entry of Newt Gingrich into the race. It is impossible to look at this guy without thinking, "slimeball". And when you find out about his background, this impression is only reinforced. He cheated on both of his first two wives, including pressuring his first wife to sign divorce papers while she was in the hospital with a serious illness. His lame explanation is that he was too involved with his country's problems, which in no way justifies his despicable personal behavior. It is reminiscent of Henry Hyde's lame explanation of "youthful indiscretions", to try to explain what he did in his '40's! Do these Republicans have no shame?

5/15/11 update.  Ron Paul is in, Huckabee is staying out. Paul is the most principled candidate by far, as he espouses true libertarian principles, and stresses staying out of foreign conflicts.

Huckabee has some attractive aspects to him, but has damaged himself with right-wing comments on his TV show. Otherwise, he would be an appealing candidate as he stresses Christian compassion, not just dictating to others how to live.

The candidate who will get the nomination has not surfaced yet, IMO. Ones prominent now all have too many negatives. Look for Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, or the guy from New Mexico to make progress.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Letter to Tom Usher

Two points about your column. First, part of the Hall's entrance requirements involve sportsmanship and respecting the game. It is not just about numbers. Seen in that light, Manny should not expect induction, regardless of any steroid issues.

Second, how in the world can you mention Manny, Barry, Mark, Rafael and Sammy without mentioning Roger Clemens?? Clemens is right near the top of the list of no-good SOB's who should be denied despite their numbers.

4/23/11 update.  Mr. Usher's gracious response: "I totally agree with you on Clemens. He is also a bum and a cheater.

I was just thinking of the hitters when I made my list. I didn't mean to leave him off. That's my bad for not putting him on there.

He is a complete and utter cheater. The next time I write about these clowns, Ill be sure to list him.
You are right. I have no respect for Clemens.

Thanks for reminding me."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The NFL Labor Impasse

My first impulse is to enjoy the NFL labor impasse, because I have heard so many people complain about the baseball strike, and how they were not going to follow baseball anymore because of it. In point of fact, the other major sports have all had labor disputes at least as serious as the baseball one, yet nobody ever complains about them. Let these fair-weather fans now eschew football!

The dispute has been characterized as how to divide up a $9.3 billion pie, for that is the yearly revenue generated by football. This is basically an accurate characterization, as the other issues are minor. Thus, it is like a divorce case in which the only issue is division of property. I had one like that (which still required over 70 hours of my time to resolve), but most divorces are much more complicated, involving division of debts, spousal support, child support, and child custody issues in addition to the relatively simple division of property issue.

With division of this huge pie being the only issue, one would think a resolution could be had, but both sides have dug in their heels for a fight. As with any labor stoppage, both sides will sacrifice huge sums of money due to their intransigence. But it is hard to feel sorry for either side, as it is billionaires fighting against millionaires.

That football is so popular is a sad commentary on the American culture, for it is a game of violence. Besides that, it is unwatchable, unlike baseball and most other sports. One simply cannot follow 22 players moving in 22 different directions for a few seconds. At least with baseball the actions come linearly, one after another, and you can actually watch it and enjoy it. My conclusion is that the country would be better off without football. Let us put our efforts into non-violent pursuits, and forget football. My hope is that the labor dispute is never settled.

4/26/11 update.  Analyzing the Judge's decision issued yesterday lifting the lockout, the Judge reviewed the history of the NFL litigation, starting with the 1976 Mackey case, in which the Rozelle Rule (regulating free agency) was found to be an anti-trust violation.

The Court then reviewed other litigation to date, and then went through a boring discussion of procedural issues, before finally concluding it had jurisdiction. On page 68 of the 89-page decision, it finally got to the merits.

The Court noted the test for granting preliminary relief is irreparable harm and chances of success on the merits in the underlying lawsuit. The irreparable harm test is easily met because of the shortness of the average career of an NFL player. The Judge then concluded the players had established "a fair chance of success on the merits". Hence the injunction gets issued.

4/29/11 update.  Another sports anti-trust issue was presented recently when MLB took control of the Los Angeles Dodgers. This raises the question of whether MLB is a single entity for business purposes, and if so, when is it going to lose its antiquated exemption from anti-trust laws? If the Commissioner can forcibly take control of an owner's property from him, how can it be said that each club is a separate legal entity? It seems to me that baseball is skating on thin ice here.

Football is also skating on thin ice, as the NFL looks like a single legal entity when it sets rules and employment conditions collectively, instead of team by team. The American Needle case saw the Supreme Court ruling 9-0 that each NFL club is a separate legal entity, but when the NFL insists on operating as one entity, as it does when dealing with the players, it really starts to look like it is running afoul of anti-trust laws.