The All-Consuming Fire

Burning Bush brandishes Dostoevsky,” The Guardian, http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,6109,1395563,00.html, 21 January 2005 (from One Good Move).

Having written before on Bush’s Second Inaugural Address, and its historic precedents, I’m delighted by this new info.

President Bush’s Second Inaugural Address
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Not the Reagan Doctrine… but Better
The Reagan Doctrine
The All-Consuming Fire
Bush’s New Order of the Ages

One of the models of American leadership is that of Moses, leading God’s chosen people – then the Jews, now the Americans – towards a promised land, following a pillar of fire. At one point, according to the Bible, Moses was shown a sign: “Behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.”

But the key fire passage in the Burning Bush speech – “We have lit a fire as well; a fire in the minds of men” – actually has its origins in a novel by the 19th century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Devils, about a group of terrorists’ ineffectual struggle to bring down the tyrannical Tsarist regime.

One of the characters declares that it is pointless to try to put out a fire started by terrorists: “The fire is in the minds of men and not in the roofs of houses,” he says.

Nonetheless, it is not clear whether Bush is identifying here with the terrorists – or the tyrants.

Is The Guardian perfect? No. It too easily falls into an anti-Bush mind disease — a syphilis that destroys rational discourse. But here, they are on to something.

Czarist Russia was a monstrosity, a cruel on the world. An out of touch and kleptomaniacal regime moderned their country only enough to steal more from it. Friends of the Czar profited immensley while the people rotted in misery. While not without its high points (Czar Alexander II’s Emancipation Proclamation was a few years ahead of Lincoln’s) it was a blot on the world.

It also fermented terrorism. As Richard Pipes has documented, even Russian liberals were drawn to terrorism, and high state officials were sympathetic. Russian-inspired terrorism was responsible for the Great War, and in the end the terrorism succeeded in ending a liberal experiment.

Who does this remind you of? (A “good job” to anyone who answers “the Saudis.”)

When I first interpreted the fire line, I wrote

The Presient compares freedom to a fire. This is very important, especially considering his earlier analogy of Communism to a ship. Communism was artificial. It was created by men and in calling it a shipwreck it was destroyed by Nature. It could not lost.

But freedom is a fire. It cannot be destroyed It is part of the nature of the world. Even in a nightmare future where all fire is extinguished it has to come back. Through a bolt of lightning it may come anywhere at anytime.

Fire burns its enemies. Fire consums and destroys. It is an elemental force. We are on the side of destructive grandeur of the world.

The analogy also echos the Chicago School of economic thought. During the dark days of FDR and Keynes, the economy was thought of as a giant machine that could be “fine tuned.” The 1970s in the West, and the entire history of the Soviet Union, shows exactly what “fine tuning” does. Chicago economists realized that the economy was an ecological system where there are forces and flows that are impossible to resist.

Today, I also speak anew to my fellow citizens:

From all of you, I have asked patience in the hard task of securing America, which you have granted in good measure. Our country has accepted obligations that are difficult to fulfill, and would be dishonorable to abandon. Yet because we have acted in the great liberating tradition of this nation, tens of millions have achieved their freedom. And as hope kindles hope, millions more will find it. By our efforts, we have lit a fire as well – a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress, and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world.

I stand by what I wrote before. But the hidden Saudi-Czarist tyrant analogy is inspiring. We recognize the nature of the Saudis. We warn of the dangers of terrors. We are watching. And we will act.

President Bush’s Second Inaugural Address
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Not the Reagan Doctrine… but Better
The Reagan Doctrine
The All-Consuming Fire

Shroud of Turin

Shroud of Turin: Old as Jesus?,” New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/27/science/27shroud.html, 27 January 2005.

Without comment

The Shroud of Turin is much older than the medieval date that modern science has affixed to it and could be old enough to have been the burial wrapping of Jesus, a new analysis concludes.

Since 1988, most scientists have confidently concluded that it was the work of a medieval artist, because carbon dating had placed the production of the fabric between 1260 and 1390.

In an article this month in the journal Thermochimica Acta, Dr. Raymond N. Rogers, a chemist retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory, said the carbon dating test was valid but that the piece tested was about the size of a postage stamp and came from a portion that had been patched.

“We’re darned sure that part of the cloth was not original Shroud of Turin cloth,” he said, adding that threads from the main part of the shroud were pure linen, which is spun from flax.

The threads in the patched portion contained cotton as well and had been dyed to match.

From other tests, he estimated that the shroud was between 1,300 and 3,000 years old.

Good Politicians

McCain, Clinton Nominate Presidents of Georgia And Ukraine for Nobel Peace Prize,” by Hillary Clinton and John McCain, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton Online Office and U.S. Senator John McCain, http://clinton.senate.gov/~clinton/news/2005/2005126715.html and http://mccain.senate.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=NewsCenter.ViewPressRelease&Content_id=1509, 26 January 2005 (from South Dakota Politics).

Two politicians, neither of whom I want to be President, are both clear strategic thinkers. Either of them would be a good leader in the Global War on Terrorism

Both presidents have displayed a commitment to peace and the rule of law in removing authoritarian governments. Their leadership has allowed millions in Georgia and Ukraine to reclaim their democratic system and to build a society based on law and individual rights.

We believe that the actions of Presidents Saakashvili and Yushchenko testify to the power of peace and human rights in their battle against oppression. Recognizing these men with the Peace Prize would honor not only their historic roles in Georgia and Ukraine, but would also offer hope and inspiration to those seeking freedom in lands still denied it.

The peaceful revolutions in Georgia and the Ukraine are heartening. It shows the continual yearning of eastern Europeans for democracy. From 1989 to 1991 they threw off the bonds of Communism. And now they are liberating themselves from goonish Russian influence. Perhaps soon the peaceful revolutions will spread to Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Muscovy itself.

Good for them. For the Clinton and McCain for coming together to reward them. And good for the world.

Fiscal Imprudence

Pataki for UN?,” by Robert Novak, Townhall.com, http://www.townhall.com/columnists/robertnovak/rn20050122.shtml, 22 January 2005 (from Dayton v. Kennedy).

An advantage of living near Sioux Falls is that during elections, you get triple the fun. The “Sioux Empire” media market extends to Minnesota and Iowa We get Iowa Caucus advertising every four years; additionally, we watched Republican Congressman Mark Kennedy’s rise from the sidelines. As small-government South Dakotans naturally despite Minnesota Democrats, and thus Senator Dayton, this news was all the more interesting

First term Sen. Mark Dayton of Minnesota, who depleted his fortune as Dayton-Hudson department store heir by spending $25 million in four statewide political campaigns, is being targeted by Republicans as the most vulnerable Senate Democrat in 2006.

Dayton spent $12 million of his own money to provide nearly all funding for his election in 2000, and his net worth is now officially disclosed as $5 million to $15 million. Facing the need to raise money for the first time, he recently fired his top fund-raisers after he finished the third quarter of 2004 with just $271,000 cash on hand.

In addition to money problems, Dayton slumped in the polls after he alone among U.S. senators closed his Washington offices because of an alleged terrorist threat. Former Rep. Bill Luther is considering a Democratic primary challenge against Dayton. The senator’s Republican opponent is expected to be a well-funded Rep. Mark Kennedy.

Way to destroy the family fortune, Mark!

Dayton is not sitting pretty. Hopefully Mark can knock him Mark in ’06.

Election, Still Stolen

GOP says it found 300 illegal votes,” by David Postman, Seattle Times, http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2002161949_vance27m.html, 27 January 2005 (from The Corner).

The Kyiv on the Pacific scandal continues to grow

TUKWILA — The state Republican Party said in court papers filed yesterday that it has found 300 illegal votes and more than 400 that can’t be verified in the governor’s election.

With Christine Gregoire winning the governor’s race by 129 votes, Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance says he now has found far more than enough evidence to persuade a judge to nullify the election and call for a rematch between Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi.

Lawyers and Republican staffers are continuing to look county by county for votes cast by felons, in the name of dead people or by people who voted more than once, casting second votes either in other counties or other states.

“I expect this number to literally grow every day,” Vance said.

I’m not surprised at the stolen election. I am surprised about how the issue is being kept alive. It is good for democracy that old Democratic tactics are no longer working. From Jim Crow to union thugs Jackson’s party has instutionalized tainted voting. It’s good they are being called on it.

Bankrupt Abortion

Where’s that religious fanatic we elected?,” by Ann Coulter, World Net Daily, http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=42574, 26 January 2005 (from Sibby Online).

I’m a fan of many of Steve Sibson’s comments over at CCK, but I disagree with him here. He quotes approvingly from a Coulter article

The only thing we need to do now is to start “changing laws.” A culture of life cannot even begin – much less be sustained – until we change the law and repeal Roe v. Wade. Only then can we tally up how many hearts have been changed.

If, right now, pro-lifers had already succeeded in changing the hearts of every last person in America – including Hillary Clinton! – abortion would still be legal in every state of the union. It’s a “constitutional right” – taking its place alongside all those other “sad,” “tragic” rights guaranteed by the Constitution, such as religious expression, free speech, freedom of assembly and so on. Who was it who said, “Free speech should be safe, legal and rare”?

After a certain point, abortion is infanticide. And if we call infanticide “murder” the moment after birth, then it is murder the moment before birth. But Coulter’s wrong on two related counts.

She lampons the argument that there is a Constitutional right to abortion, noting how other rights aren’t “sad,” “tragic” or should be “rare.”

But Article I, Section 8, Clause 4 of the U.S. Constitution mandates that Congress protect a right that in a better world would never be needed

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States

Even those who felt the Bill of Rights was superfluous insisted that Bankruptcy be protected by the U.S. government. Under British law, not paying debts meant one would be treated like a thief. Madison wanted to create a society in which bankruptcy was safe, legal, and rare.

Likewise, a culture of life can clearly begin without changing the laws, just as a culture of fiscal prudence can exist without the repeal of a certain clause in the Constitution.

Late term abortion is infanticide. Coulter is a demagogue. Both were true yesterday, and true today, and will be true tomorrow.

Back to Hell

Confusion Over Whereabouts of S. Korean POW ‘Deported’ by China,” Digital Chosunilbo, http://english.chosun.com/w21data/html/news/200501/200501270023.html, 27 January 2005 (from One Free Korea).

A South Korean prisoner, held for half a century in North Korea, is sent back to hell

Seoul on Thursday expressed regret after Beijing said it had extradited to North Korea a 72-year-old South Korean prisoner of war, Han Man-taek, who was arrested by the Chinese police late last year while seeking to escape to South Korea. It is the first time that China deported a South Korean POW who fled North Korea back to the Stalinist country.

Korean authorities said the Chinese government had promised to cooperate in sending South Korean POWs to the South but failed to return Han because it returned him to the North under Chinese domestic law before Seoul made its request for cooperation on Dec. 30.

I posted my thoughts on this over at OFK

I wonder how much of the timing was purposeful by Seoul? And if Beijing interpreted ROK’s quiet as a go-ahead to ship him back to the DPRK.

South Korea is an ally in the Global War on Terror, because it may be a major fource against disconnectness in east Asia. After North Korea falls, they will spend a fortune picking up the pieces. But one shudders with “allies” like this.

Autogenocide

Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,” by the United Nations General Assembly, United Nations, http://www.hrweb.org/legal/genocide.html, 9 December 1948.

Where Have All the Children Gone?,” by Pavel Kohout, Tech Central Station, http://techcentralstation.com/012705D.html, 27 January 2005 (from The Corner).

Note: This post morphed into something unexpected as I was writing it. In its final form, it uses a TCS article on pension reform to attack misuses of the term “genocide.” While I generally agree with the article, one poorly worded sentence undermines its credibility and cheapens history. This post also criticizes the United Nations for helping cheapen true genocides. – Daniel

Second Note: Zen Pundit ways in with his thoughts on the Auschwitz remembrances. As always, he is very worth reading. He has a different take on some examples I use, but our feel is the same. His third sentence sums everything up: The best possible tribute to the victims of Nazi genocide would not be ceremonies or pious incantations of memory but for the world to actually try to stop the next one.

The U. N. defines genocide as

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

* (a) Killing members of the group;
* (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
* (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
* (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

* (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

In that context..

The question of why fertility has been falling so dramatically in continental Europe has been food for thought for both demographers and economists. The answer must be looked for in several important factors, which, to further complicate matters, do not simply add up in their impact. Nevertheless, it can be said with a fair amount of certainty that the existence of pay-as-you-go pension systems has had a very negative impact on birth rate. The National Report on Family published by the Czech Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in August 2004 says:

“In terms of intergenerational solidarity, the importance of the child as an investment for material support in old age has been limited by the social security and pension insurance system, which has eliminated people’s immediate dependence on children. The importance of the child’s role in relation to its parents has transferred to the emotional sphere, which reduced the direct material indispensability of children in a family, while also allowing for them being replaced with certain substitutes bringing emotional satisfaction.”

When a modern young European has to choose between setting up a family of his own and a comfortable life without children, he is very likely to pick the latter option — unless he belongs to a social class which regards children chiefly as a source of social benefits. A high amount of taxation combined with ill-functioning labor and housing markets is a truly genocidal mix. That is the case of Italy, but also Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. Its impact cannot be corrected by all sorts of government subsidies paid out to young families. On the contrary, under certain circumstances the benefits for families may even lead to a drop in birth rate.

Clearly pension reform is important. And poorly designed public institutions may negatively affective the birth rate. But to call it “genocidal” cheapens the term. The murderous government of Sudan has been called genocical, when its not, just as Monty Python’s Black Knight Milosevic was, when he was not. The most eggregious case of this is the so-called Armenian Genocide, where oriental incompetence and multicultural adoption laws are compared to the Holocaust.

There are real genocides. The Shoah was on. And there are real autogenocides, like Pol Pot’s nightmare in Cambodia. One Free Korea and NK Zone have been documenting the crimes of the DPRK, which may be an autogenocide.

But let’s save the meaning of words. Social Security is not genocidal. Not even this is.

America’s Secret War?

Epilogue,” by George Friedman, America’s Secret War, http://www.americassecretwar.com/about_book_finalchapter.html, 4 October 2004.

Coming Anarchy must be on a George Friedman kick, first with a dual-review of America’s Secret War and Thomas P.M. Barnett’s The Pentagon’s New Map, and then with a shout-out to his dated The Coming War With Japan.

I do not know what to make of Friedman. While my reaction to The Pentagon’s New Map was the sort of rah-rah enthusiasm I last had for The Lexus and the Olive Tree, and I met Embracing Defeat was the slack-jawed horror similar to We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Murdered With Our Families, the epilog to America’s Secret War was a strange combination: slack-jawed enthusiasm. I do not know what to make of it. I will need to buy the full book to understand the author’s arguments (unlike the ignoramouses at Washington Monthly, I like to know what I am talking about). But for now, some excerpts with minimal comments

The Two Foes

BETWEEN AUGUST AND OCTOBER 2004 , all eyes were focused on the Iraq campaign. The basic strategic reality, however, on October 1, 2004, is this: Al Qaeda has failed to achieve its strategic goals; there has been no rising in the Islamic world; virtually all Muslim intelligence services are working with the United States against Al Qaeda; and Al Qaeda’s credibility and operational integrity are being questioned everywhere.

On the other hand, the United States has not achieved its own fundamental strategic goal: It cannot guarantee the security of the United States against an Al Qaeda attack. It has not broken Al Qaeda with any degree of confidence. Indeed, in the worst-case scenario, it has not been able to guarantee that Al Qaeda
does not have weapons of mass destruction.

The Most Dangerous Month

Credibility, timing and the reality on the ground made it imperative for Al Qaeda to do something, and to do it before the U.S. election. Now, there is a peculiarity about American political life. In the immediate wake of any national crisis, a president’s approval rating soars, as Americans rally around him. Over the next months, depending on the president’s performance, that approval can bleed off rapidly. Therefore, attacking immediately before the election would increase Bush’s chances of winning. Attacking weeks or, better yet, months ahead of the elections could potentially destroy his chances of winning.

The United States is not Spain. The question among analysts was whether Al Qaeda knew this. After
studying the documents about Spain, most analysts were unprepared to dismiss Al Qaeda’s intellectual
capabilities. It was assumed—with good reason, considering the sources in the United States—that Al Qaeda
had a sophisticated understanding of American political culture. This meant, in practical terms, that Al Qaeda
would attack—if it could—by August 31, in order to allow enough time for Bush’s support to bleed off. In
fact, the assumption was that the ideal time was in early August, simply from the standpoint of political
effectiveness.

Worst-Case Scenarios

It came down to this. It had to be assumed that there was a direct threat to the United States. You had to go with the worst-case scenario. You didn’t know for sure who was a threat and who wasn’t. In the best of all worlds, you would wait until you got clarity. But in the summer of 2004, waiting had become an unaffordable luxury. Moving against known networks, regardless of how uncertain the knowledge, might disrupt an attack. Waiting and watching might improve knowledge in the long run, but the long run was a long way off. Therefore the argument was decided in favor of the security people. The United States was going to try to disrupt al Qaeda’s network using imperfect knowledge and imprecise tools.

U.S. intelligence had a blurry vision of Al Qaeda, but it wasn’t completely blind. On the other hand, al Qaeda could not be certain exactly how much the United States knew. Since it was risk-averse, it also drew worst-case conclusions. An interesting statistical game began. In July, the United States, working with regional intelligence and security services, began arresting suspected Al Qaeda members. From Pakistan to Virginia, people who had been on watch lists were being interrogated, arrested, deported to other countries and generally rousted about.

The United States knew that many of them had little or no connection to Al Qaeda. On the other hand, it
had enough intelligence to know that statistically, some of them had to be deeply involved. Precisely who was
involved was unclear, but the odds were that some of those being interrogated or arrested were involved.

The United States knew that Al Qaeda was watching the global operation—and that while the United States might be unclear on who was who, Al Qaeda was not unclear. They knew if the United States had captured someone significant. What they did not know is if the United States knew who they had. Neither did they know if the person might have talked. However, working from worst-case, they had to assume both, and therefore any operation that these people might be involved in or have knowledge of had to be aborted.

That was the U.S. goal. They did not expect to destroy Al Qaeda. They did expect to disrupt its security system sufficiently to abort operations that were planned prior to the election. Starting in July and peaking in early August, the United States and its allies rolled up network after network—with the networks being generously defined. Some intelligence was gained, but the hope was—and this was reasonable—that Al Qaeda’s knowledge of its own network would cause it to shut down operations.

Our real Iraq goals, Iran’s real Iraq goals, Sistani’s real Iraq goals?

As we have discussed, the primary point of the war was not to stabilize Iraq, and certainly not to democratize it. The primary goal was to create a base of operations that would bring overwhelming pressure to bear on Saudi Arabia, as well as on Syria and Iran. The administration’s surprise over guerrilla war in Iraq caused it to lose its balance and allow mission creep—from strategic bases to democracy. But beneath the perception, the reality of Iraq, while not pleasant, was not as bad as it appeared.

The last three months have been spent on three issues. First, and most important, they were spent in defining Iran’s role in Iraq and the role of the Shiite community. In April 2004, the United States reversed itself on guarantees made to the Iranians and Iraqi Shia about domination of the Iraqi government. This occurred in the context of a rising by Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army in Najaf. The rising was encouraged by Iran and the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Both were hoping that the rising would be crushed by the Americans, but would increase U.S. dependence on Sistani and Iran. The exact opposite happened: The United States refused to deal with Sadr, leaving him to fester, and refused to deal with Iran and Sistani.

The weaking insurgency? The worst insurgency? The clock-work insurgency?

There had been three major guerrilla offensives in Iraq. There was the Ramadan offensive of October-
November 2003. There was the Fallujah-Najaf offensive in April. And there has been the September-October
election offensive. It is interesting to note that the offensives were divided by four months, end to beginning.
That is not accidental.
It took that long to recruit and train fresh recruits. It was also interesting to note that
each offensive was weaker than the preceding one.

The Ramadan offensive was a massive surprise, and created near panic in the U.S. command structure.
While geographically contained, it was intense and effective, involving larger units as well as small units. The
April offensive had a relatively lower level of violence, although more widely dispersed. The election
offensive, while perceived to be uncontrolled, was actually significantly weaker in small unit operations and
concentrated on relatively low-risk bombings and kidnappings.