Sunday, November 30, 2008

Obama's New Global Architecture?

Fareed Zakaria, as has been noted of late, is perhaps the world's best known foreign policy intellectual and pundit.

Zakaria, expanding on his recent theory of America's relative decline ("
the rise of the rest"), has a new cover story at Newsweek: "Wanted: A New Grand Strategy."

After reading through this I was left pretty much blank ... where is this "new grand strategy" that Americans should expect?

Actually, Zakaria's piece is mostly boiled over multilateral institutionalism (which at the U.N. is a poorly disguised shield for anti-Semitic demonizations of Israel). Also included is a few obligatory reminders of the coming multipolar world - and Americas' need to accommodate itself to "the new realities" - topped off with a paean to aligning American "interests and ideals with those of most of the world's major powers"

The payoff, really, in Zakaria's essay, is the conclusion, where he just comes out as a top Obama cultist of Washington's foreign policy elite:

In a world characterized by change, more and more countries—especially great powers like Russia and China and India—will begin to chart their own course. That in turn will produce greater instability. America cannot forever protect every sea lane, broker every deal and fight every terrorist group. Without some mechanisms to solve common problems, the world as we have come to know it, with an open economy and all the social and political benefits of this openness, will flounder and perhaps reverse ....

The United States retains a unique role in the emerging world order. It remains the single global power. It has enormous convening, agenda-setting and leadership powers, although they must be properly managed and shared with all the world's major players, old and new, in order to be effective.

President-elect Obama has powers of his own, too. I will not exaggerate the importance of a single personality, but Obama has become a global symbol like none I can recall in my lifetime. Were he to go to Tehran, for example, he would probably draw a crowd of millions, far larger than any mullah could dream of. Were his administration to demonstrate in its day-to-day conduct a genuine understanding of other countries' perspectives and an empathy for the aspirations of people around the world, it could change America's reputation in lasting ways.

This is a rare moment in history. A more responsive America, better attuned to the rest of the world, could help create a new set of ideas and institutions—an architecture of peace for the 21st century that would bring stability, prosperity and dignity to the lives of billions of people. Ten years from now, the world will have moved on; the rising powers will have become unwilling to accept an agenda conceived in Washington or London or Brussels. But at this time and for this man, there is a unique opportunity to use American power to reshape the world. This is his moment. He should seize it.
This article was apparently written before the Mumbai attacks (as there's no reference to the barbaric killings), so there's no discussion of where America's future counterterrorism policy fits into this "new" grand strategy.

But we do, actually, know what Obama's grand strategy is going to be, as he announced it in his own essay in Foreign Affairs in 2007: "
Renewing American Leadership."

Like Zakaria, Obama is all about feel-good rejuvenation for America's standing in the world. By "renewing American leadership" those of a multilateralist persuasion primarily propose policies that are anti-Bush: close Guantanamo, repudiate torture, drawdown ongoing military deployments, "repair" our alliances, and abandon liberalism in international trade. It's all about restoring America's "image," and is thus an implicit repudiation of force and moral statecraft.

Unfortunatetly, then, renewing America's leadership looks so far like a grand strategy of retreat.

The fact is - as the full ramifications of the Mumbai attacks sink in - the Obama administration will have Afghanistan - with the corollary of Indo-Pakistan relations - as its Iraq war. That is, in foreign policy, as Iraq was the defining challenge for the Bush administration for most of this decade, Afghanistan will be the Obama's key challenge as this decade gives way to the 2010s.

It will not be an easy or inexpensive transition. Pakistan and India are mortal enemies, and the South Asian continent is the world's contemporary nuclear flash point. Pakistan is a seething hotbed of violence and religious extremism, and to the extent that the Bush administration has accommodated Karachi's foreign policy independence, it has enabled a subterranean and largely unknown role for the regime's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), which is said to have fostered militants who are waging an under-the-radar campaign against Indian control of the Kashmir, not to mention the likely support of pro-Taliban elements and al-Qaeda functionaries in the Afghan-Pakistani borderlands.

How will Obama proceed? It's not unlikely that the Mumbai terror cohorts maintained planning and logistical operations at the border. Will Obama bomb Pakistani camps suspected of launching terror attacks? Will he send in U.S. ground troops to sweep out terror sanctuaries?

What about India? The Indian goverment
may be under intense pressure to launch military operations inside Pakistan, reigniting armed hostilities between the two nations. How will the U.S. respond? How will the U.S. restrain New Delhi.

The policy dilemmas for the new administration won't be solved by attracting hordes of Obama cultists to Nuremberg-style tours of Third World regimes (like we saw at Berlin last summer). The U.S. will need to act decisively. Yet, at present
there is no "multilateral" framework to make progress on the region's intractable and volatile hostilities.

The U.S. cannot simply throw up its hands and refuse a major buildup of troops to Afghanistan in fear alienating the Democratic Party's clueless antiwar base or the international community's appeasement bureaucracies in Brussels and Turtle Bay - not to mention
top U.S. military officials who so far are working the President-Elect like a blob of silly putty.

There will be demands for real action, at some point, even a reckoning, if U.S. and allied intelligence services pin down the perpetrators of the current wave of senseless killings.

In the end, America's "unique role" in a changing world may be a lot like its unique role in the old, unchanging international system of states where a preponderance of power - and the willingness to use it - is the sine qua non of effective international leadership.

Mumbai Victims Were Tortured

I've already blogged much on the Mumbai attacks, but I feel an anger and revulsion in confronting, emotionally and intellectually, the scale of evil we are seeing.

This story on the likelihood that the Mumbai hostages were tortured only deepens my dread at all that has happened:

Doctors working in a hospital where all the bodies, including that of the terrorists, were taken said they had not seen anything like this in their lives ....

Asked what was different about the victims of the incident, another doctor said: "It was very strange. I have seen so many dead bodies in my life, and was yet traumatised. A bomb blast victim's body might have been torn apart and could be a very disturbing sight. But the bodies of the victims in this attack bore such signs about the kind of violence of urban warfare that I am still unable to put my thoughts to words," he said.

Asked specifically if he was talking of torture marks, he said: "It was apparent that most of the dead were tortured. What shocked me were the telltale signs showing clearly how the hostages were executed in cold blood," one doctor said.

The other doctor, who had also conducted the post-mortem of the victims, said: "Of all the bodies, the Israeli victims bore the maximum torture marks. It was clear that they were killed on the 26th itself. It was obvious that they were tied up and tortured before they were killed. It was so bad that I do not want to go over the details even in my head again," he said.

Corroborating the doctors' claims about torture was the information that the Intelligence Bureau had about the terror plan. "During his interrogation, Ajmal Kamal said they were specifically asked to target the foreigners, especially the Israelis," an IB source said.
I expect we'll see some policy-wonkish debates next week in Washington over how a "law-enforcement" approach is the best response to the latest round of terror (blah, blah ...).

Pam at Atlas Shrugs is outraged (and proposes not taking it any more):

I am angry. I am sick in my soul. The West refuses to engage this enemy that has declared all out war on our civilization. The media, the UN, the political elites bow to Islam. They refuse to speak its name. They refuse to stop immigration. They are afraid.

The McCarthy Gene and Today's GOP?

I remember in 2003, when I debated the Iraq war with many people on campus, I kept hearing the line, "oh, that's just McCarthyism."

This was the response from leftists who refused to acknowledge that Saddam Hussein's regime had played cat and mouse with international weapons inspectors for a decade, a regime that the Clinton administration pledged to topple in the Iraqi Liberation Act of 1998, and a regime with an opaque nuclear development program that
would not have been been made fully transparent without the U.S. invasion of 2003.

No, it was all McCarthyism, that is, an evil GOP program of demonizing enemies and "supressing" dissent.

Well, with the Democrats returing to power in Washington, Republicans may as well brace themselves for a return of the McCarthy smears. We've already seen it the work of people like
Blue Texan and Dave Neiwert. Now, though, Neal Gabler lays out a model of alleged neo-McCarthyism in today's GOP:

Republicans continue to push the idea that this is a center-right country and that Americans have swooned for GOP anti-government posturing all these years, but the real electoral bait has been anger, recrimination and scapegoating. That's why John McCain kept describing Barack Obama as some sort of alien and why Palin, taking a page right out of the McCarthy playbook, kept pushing Obama's relationship with onetime radical William Ayers.

And that is also why the Republican Party, despite the recent failure of McCarthyism, is likely to keep moving rightward, appeasing its more extreme elements and stoking their grievances for some time to come. There may be assorted intellectuals and ideologues in the party, maybe even a few centrists, but there is no longer an intellectual or even ideological wing. The party belongs to McCarthy and his heirs - Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Palin. It's in the genes.
Notice how the end of the McCarthy line ends with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (never mind that Palin's husband is one-quarter Yup'ik Native American), or that the real racism we've seen all year has been on the Democratic Party side (Jesse Jackson wanted to cut off Obama's ball in a modern day lynching).

That's right: We saw the real fear-mongering and race-baiting throughout the electoral season and beyond on the left (in
John Aravosis, Digby, Josh Marshall, Andrew Sullivan, Gerry Vázquez ... the list goes on).

Webloggin' notes from some time back:
It appears that the left can’t really hide behind the rhetoric because they now have popular websites to remind everyone who the DEMOCRAT PARTY BASE really is.

Daily Kos Blames U.S. for Mumbai Terror

At this point, there's no evidence that global "poverty" caused the attacks in Mumbai. Investigations are ongoing, but the meme that poverty and economic repression is at root of the current attack is picking up steam, for example at the commentary from Fareed Zakaria.

Analysts have long noted that the attacks of this decade have been committed by educated, middle-class terrorists. Mohammed Atta hailed from an educated family of Egyptian professionals. London's 7/7 bombers had access to hundreds of thousands of dollars, most likely through a network of well-funded financial-terror cells. Some research
has suggested that "the stereotype of a terrorist as poor, angry and fanatically religious is a myth."

But note the commentary at
Daily Kos, on the suspected links from the Mumbai attack to Pakistan:

Poverty in Pakistan has aided and emboldened the extremists, so decreasing the poverty must be seen as a key stepping stone to international security and heading off more terrorist attacks. In that respect, the IMF loans to Pakistan must be restructured. Or else when Pakistan is blamed for the Mumbai attacks, it's only fair that we share that blame, too. And don't know about you, but personally, I feel ashamed.
The United States, of course, is the creator and main benefactor of the IMF. So, for the leftists, the causes of terrorism are found in the structure of the international system, with U.S. power and policies held as the causes of the global Islamic jihad. That explains why this writer is "ashamed."

But, again, this is all bull. The leftists blame the IMF and the "causes of poverty" because of their hatred of West. They refuse to place the blame for terror where it belongs: on the evil of the forces of destruction arrayed before us.

Melanie Phillips pins down the true essence of Islamic jihad's war against the West:

The atrocities demonstrated with crystal clarity what the Islamist war is all about – and the western commentariat didn’t understand because it simply refuses to acknowledge, even now, what that war actually is. It does not arise from particular grievances. It is not rooted in ‘despair’ over Palestine. It is not a reaction to the war in Iraq. It is a war waged in the name of Islam against America, Britain, Hindus, Jews and all who refuse to submit to Islamic conquest.
As I noted in my previous post, the left's refusal to espouse a patriotic love of country (and thus to the West) serves only to embolden our enemies. The fight for civilization, unfortunately, isn't just abroad, but is confronting us head on right here at home as well.

Pledging Allegiance

Comments From Left Field beautifully illustrates the postmodern transnationalism that is the foundation for left-wing anti-Americanism:
As far as I am concerned, the Pledge of Allegiance is a loyalty oath, and loyalty oaths are un-American, if not unconstitutional (the latter being a subject for another post). Adding the words “under God” just makes it worse, because now you’re requiring children (in this instance, but it applies to adults as well) to assert a religious belief they may not feel or even understand. That’s a clear violation of the First Amendment.

Obviously, the ideal solution would be to stop declaring fealty to the nation-state every morning. Next best would be removing the phrase “under God.” But if we’re going to insist that American schoolchildren from kindergarten through high school recite “I pledge allegiance to the flag and the United States of America…” each day, the least we can do is include an opt-out provision to accommodate the consciences of students or parents (or both) who believe that this practice is inherently coercive, disrespectful to Americans’ individual religious beliefs (or lack thereof), and offensive to the spirit of individualism and personal liberty that lies at the heart of the American experience.
Read the whole post, here.

All the blather about religion and conscience is mostly bull.

This essay is about hating your country. A statement of refusal to pledge loyalty to the "nation-state" is a statement in solidarity with some kind of ethereal transnational consciousness - "imagine there's no countries..."

When there's no commitment to nation among the people, there's also a rejection of national values, cultures, and traditions. With this comes a refusal to condemn evil, because one's nation-state is no better than any other. It's just one step from refusal to pledge loyalty to nation to endorsing the horror and terror in places like Mumbai, because logically if the nation-states didn't exist, we'd all be one - no competition, no hatred, no violence. But in refusing to condemn evil, societies surrender to totalitarianism, and in that regime there will be no possibility of conscience, only death.

Gavriel Holtzberg Covered Wife With Prayer Shawl at Death

Gavriel Holtzberg managed to cover is wife Rivka with a tallit - a Jewish prayer shawl - moments before he was killed.

initial report brought water to my eyes:
The bodies of Chabad-Lubavitch emissary, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, and kashrus inspector Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum, were found in the Mumbai Chabad House library, with holy books in front of them. According to ZAKA emergency service, the body of the Rabbi's wife Rivka was found covered with a tallit, which her husband had managed to cover her with.

The bodies of the two other women who were killed along with Rivka Holtzberg were found tied with telephone cables. The women had apparently been bound before they were killed.
I recorded my thoughts on the deaths of the Holtzbergs earlier.

However, readers should not miss
Tim Rutten's comments, especially this part:

Mumbai was selected not simply because it was a so-called soft target but because it is a symbol of modernity in the world's most populous democracy ....

The places the killers struck - luxury hotels, a railway station, a hospital for women and children, the Chabad Jewish center - are all powerfully linked in the popular mind with the modern world ....

Like all the totalitarian movements that have come before it, hatred of liberty and Jews is the real foundation of contemporary jihadism, and not the traditions of Islam or its canonical prescriptions.

Finally, there's the particular tragedy incorporated in the murder of the young American rabbi, Gavriel Holtzberg, his Israeli wife, Rivka, and four others, including a rabbinical colleague. Because we are a people of both faith - peacefully expressed in many creeds - and the future, there is something in the American conscience that recoils with a special horror when violence is done to clergy and the young.

The brittle, fanatic minds that could countenance something like the Mumbai massacre are well armored against real-world complexities, like irony and paradox. If they were not, they might have realized that they could not have found a more confounding target for their hatred of Jews than one of the thousands of houses around the world operated by the Chabad Lubavitch movement for which Holtzberg and his wife served as emissaries. The facility they ran is really an observant Jewish version of the old-fashioned settlement houses, a place that simply was there to educate and to help.

Adherents of the jihadi ideology share a common presumption that the modern world in all its manifestations is the implacable enemy of a traditional religiosity. Modernism, in their minds, is built on concepts that pollute: reason, individual liberty, democracy, pluralism. Like all totalitarians, they demand submission to a single pure idea. Difference equals contamination; reason leads to sacrilege.

Check my tags below for my earlier essays, dear readers, and please say a prayer with me for our future.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Our World is Under Attack...

Here's Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's comments on the Mumbai attacks:

There is no doubt, we know, that the targets the terrorists singled out were Jewish, Israeli targets and targets identified with the West, Americans and Britons ...

Our world is under attack, it doesn't matter whether it happens in India or somewhere else ...

There are Islamic extremists who don't accept our existence or Western values.

There's some debate over at Contentions as to the absence of similar statements from American leaders. Jennifer Rubin notes:

The lack of similar moral clarity from the U.S. is troubling and deeply disappointing. One hopes that Livni’s words will not go unnoticed, and will jar both our current President and our President-elect into specific and meaningful statements evidencing a grasp of the event’s significance.
To which Abe Greenwald responds:
Jen, the problem is that the proper post-9/11 stance has been labeled the “politics of fear,” and the U.S. has elected a President who’s promised to deliver the country from all that divisive scare-mongering. But the “politics of fear” accurately reflects a world of terrorism, and is in fact not “politics” at all – but just plain old fear. Like the fear that must have coursed through 150-plus innocent victims in Mumbai, or the fear that must have paralyzed European, Israeli and American relatives waiting to hear from traveling loved ones.
The politics of fear? That's the antiwar left's language of excoriation against conservatives, of course.

But it's even worse than this, as I noted today. Not only have we seen the Democratic-left refuse to condemn the terror in India, the meme on the left has it that it's the "
religionists" of all stripes who would pull the world down into a maelstrom of violence and "regression."

Barack Obama of course condemned the attacks, but then
deferred to the Bush administration, indicating that there's "only one president at at time."

We do know, however, how Obama responds to terrorism. We have, for example,
his comments in response to the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington:

We must also engage, however, in the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness. The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics. Most often, though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.

– Barack Obama, Hyde Park Herald, Sept. 19, 2001.
There's little evidence so far that the attacks in Mumbai were driven by "a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair."

Indeed, I can't help but notice how the targeting of Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, whose ultra-Orthodox Chabad house
was in fact unknown to many of the Holtzberg's own neighbors (but was a target of the killers) is one the best indicator of the legitimate fear that very well ought to haunt Westerners.

A Reminder of World War IV

Dont' miss this essay at Powerline, "Thinking About Mumbai: India's Test":

If Al Qaeda and its terrorist allies wanted to serve a reminder that they declared World War IV on the civilized world (to borrow Norman Podhoretz's formulation), they did so this week when they brazenly attacked the epicenter of the world's fastest-growing economy, targeting Westerners and assassinating key enforcers of the anti-terror law enforcement network in Mumbai, India.

The terrorist attacks on India's commercial center, the bustling 19 million person city of Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay), must serve as a wake-up call to a lethargic and infighting Indian government that has thus far failed to respond aggressively to a series of deadly attacks on Indian soil. Indeed, in over a dozen attacks on India over the past four years, no nation except Iraq has lost more of its people to terrorist attacks. And no less than the battle for Iraq, the battle for India must be won if civilized, democratic, free market economies are to triumph over terrorists.

Sadly, the Indian government has failed its own people in this battle because of infighting, political corruption, and a failure of courageous leadership. But given India's exploding economy -- with an astonishing average growth rate of 8% over the past four years -- in a nation that is soon to be the most populous country in the world, Indian leaders can no longer underestimate the threat terrorists pose to India's security and prosperity. The Indian government must take aggressive action to ensure security on the ground, develop a legal framework to prevent future attacks, and create regional alliances to be a true global partner in the long-term war on terror.
There's more at the link.

Sebastian D'Souza, Mumbai Photographer

This picture of one of the Mumbai terrorists, walking purposively through the city's railway station, illustrates the cold-blooded determination of the killers:

Mumbai Terrorist

The photographer, Sebastian D'Souza, is interviewed at the Belfast Telegraph, and shares his experience:

Sebastian D'Souza, a picture editor at the Mumbai Mirror, whose offices are just opposite the city's Chhatrapati Shivaji station, heard the gunfire erupt and ran towards the terminus. "I ran into the first carriage of one of the trains on the platform to try and get a shot but couldn't get a good angle, so I moved to the second carriage and waited for the gunmen to walk by," he said. "They were shooting from waist height and fired at anything that moved. I briefly had time to take a couple of frames using a telephoto lens. I think they saw me taking photographs but theydidn't seem to care."

The gunmen were terrifyingly professional, making sure at least one of them was able to fire their rifle while the other reloaded. By the time he managed to capture the killer on camera, Mr D'Souza had already seen two gunmen calmly stroll across the station concourse shooting both civilians and policemen, many of whom, he said, were armed but did not fire back. "I first saw the gunmen outside the station," Mr D'Souza said. "With their rucksacks and Western clothes they looked like backpackers, not terrorists, but they were very heavily armed and clearly knew how to use their rifles.

"Towards the station entrance, there are a number of bookshops and one of the bookstore owners was trying to close his shop," he recalled. "The gunmen opened fire and the shopkeeper fell down."

But what angered Mr D'Souza almost as much were the masses of armed police hiding in the area who simply refused to shoot back. "There were armed policemen hiding all around the station but none of them did anything," he said. "At one point, I ran up to them and told them to use their weapons. I said, 'Shoot them, they're sitting ducks!' but they just didn't shoot back."
D'Souza wished he had a gun rather than a camera.

More commmentary,

Chabad-Lubavitch Mourns Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg

The stories of tragedy are still coming in from Mumbai, India. I am personally praying for all of those whose lives were lost, and for their families.

Gavriel Holtzberg, his wife Rivka

Yet, I have been particularly moved by the deaths of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka, who were members of Chabad-Lubavitch, an outreach organization of Hasidic Judaism.

Headquartered in Brooklyn, Chabad's West Coast headquarters is located in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Times
has this biographical information on the Holtzbergs:
Gavriel Holtzberg was born in Israel and moved with his family to Crown Heights when he was 9. He held dual citizenship, and studied at yeshivas in New York and Argentina, also serving as a rabbinical student in Thailand and China. Rivkah was born and raised in Israel before relocating to New York.

The couple met through a matchmaker, and they moved to Mumbai soon after their marriage to serve the region's small Jewish community of businesspeople, tourists and residents and help impoverished and drug-addicted people in the neighborhood. They raised money to purchase a five-story building, which became known as the Nariman House, in the tourist neighborhood of Colaba.

The couple ran the synagogue and Torah classes. Gavriel also conducted Jewish weddings, circumcisions and ritual slaughterings. Since kosher meat was not available in India, Gavriel, a kosher butcher, prepared the meat for himself and the rest of the Jewish community there, said his cousin, Rabbi Dovid Holtzberg, 32, of Monterey, Calif.

Dovid grew up and attended school with Gavriel in Crown Heights. Speaking on the telephone from Monterey, he said: "I'm in disbelief. I cannot believe that I'm talking about my cousin in the past tense."

Dovid Holtzberg said his cousin told him life in Mumbai was busy, and that many people came to see him. About 10 days ago, Dovid and his cousin connected on the Web networking site Facebook.

The Holtzbergs were working to establish Chabad centers in other parts of India, said Dovid Zaklikowski, a friend in New York, who spoke regularly with Gavriel.
The Wall Street Journal's story notes how the Chabad members had no official relationship with the Israeli government, and hence no security against anti-Jewish terrorism:

Despite its tight connections with Israel, the Chabad House was a soft target - much easier to hit than tightly guarded Israeli diplomatic missions or the offices of Israel's El Al airline. "Chabad has no official association with Israel, so they did not have any protection," Mr. Belotserkovsky said.
The official reference is to Eli Belotserkovsky, Israel's deputy chief of mission in India.

See also, "
Remembering Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg."

Mumbai: India's 9/11

Gary Fouse published these phenomenal comments, at Findalis' blog, regarding the Mumbai attacks:

I was going to wait until the tragedy in Mumbai (formerly Bombai) India was over before writing my thoughts down, but I couldn't wait. As I write this, it is said that over 150 people are dead. The courageous Indian commandos are still fighting their way through the Taj Hotel clearing out the remaining terrorist murderers and still rescuing hostages. The exact group that is responsible for this mass atrocity is still unclear, but one thing is clear; they are Muslims. Their targets were Westerners, British, Americans, and yes, Jews. One of the locations raided was Chabat House, a Jewish center. According to news reports, hostages, including Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife,Rivki, were murdered in cold blood as commandos closed in. (Their two-year-old son miraculously escaped.) I am outraged, and I am fed up with the excuses. It is long overdue, but we need to call a spade a spade and demand that the Muslim world rise up and remove this evil from its house.

By any means necessary.

Mumbai is now India's 9-11. We have suffered ours. We reacted, and at least, we can now say that two murderous regimes have been driven from power. Spain had their own 9-11. They reacted and elected a cowardly government that promptly pulled their forces out of Iraq. Britain had theirs and now prostrates itself at the feet of a hateful Muslim minority that spits in the face of British society as they demand Shariah law.

This latest incident is pretty much the final blow for me personally in trying to appeal to decent Muslims to take a stand. It is not easy. I know decent Muslims. I teach Muslim students, mostly from Saudi Arabia, who seem quite nice. I listen to the words of American Muslim leaders who speak of moderation and say they condemn terrorism. I have heard President Bush describe Islam as a religion of peace as he meets Muslim leaders. One of those leaders, whom he has invited to the White House, is Imam Muzammil Siddiqi, former head of the Islamic Society of North America and now head of the Islamic Society of Orange County-himself an Indian.

Last week, I attended a joint Jewish-Muslim discussion at Chapman University, where Dr Siddiqi spoke for Islam. (See post of last week). Dr Siddiqi is considered a "moderate Muslim", who decries terror. Yet, he has made statements in the past regarding Jihad and Shariah that many Westerners might find troubling. In the 1990s, he hosted the "Blind Sheihk" Rahman at his mosque. Let's just say I wasn't convinced at Siddiqi's words last week.

I have just checked the websites of CAIR, the Islamic Society of North America, and the Islamic Society of Orange County. Only the Islamic Society of North America has a statement on Mumbai, condemning the attacks and offering prayers for the victims. That is all well and good, but nowhere-nowhere is there any mention of the fact that the perpetrators were Muslims. There is also no mention of the attack on Chabat House. This is insufficient. As for CAIR and the Islamic Society of Orange County, there is nothing on their websites about Mumbai (as of this writing). What will they eventually say? What will the Muslim Student Associations at our US universities say about Mumbai when they have their next "Islam Awareness Week"? Will they continue to claim that they are not anti-Jewish, only anti-"Zionist"? That is the constant disclaimer they use, yet the raid on Chabat House puts the lie to that. It is clear that the killers wanted to include Jews (in India) among their targets. Why?

Because they hate Jews.
There's more at the link.

Compare Gary's comments to those of Geert Wilders, the Dutch parliamentarian and
filmmaker, interviewed today at the Wall Street Journal:

Since 9/11, American political leaders have struggled with the question of how to describe the ideology of the enemy without making enemies of the world's billion or so Muslims. The various terms they have tried -- "Islamic extremism," "Islamism," "Islamofascism" -- have fallen short of both clarity and melioration. Melioration is not Mr. Wilders's highest priority, and to him the truth couldn't be clearer: The problem is Islam itself. "I see Islam more as an ideology than as a religion," he explains.

His own view of Islam is a fundamentalist one: "According to the Quran, there are no moderate Muslims. It's not Geert Wilders who's saying that, it's the Quran . . . saying that. It's many imams in the world who decide that. It's the people themselves who speak about it and talk about the terrible things -- the genital mutilation, the honor killings. This is all not Geert Wilders, but those imams themselves who say this is the best way of Islam."

Yet he insists that his antagonism toward Islam reflects no antipathy toward Muslims: "I make a distinction between the ideology . . . and the people. . . . There are people who call themselves Muslims and don't subscribe to the full part of the Quran. And those people, of course, we should invest [in], we should talk to." He says he would end Muslim immigration to the Netherlands but work to assimilate those already there.

His idea of how to do so, however, seems unlikely to win many converts: "You have to give up this stupid, fascist book" -- the Quran. "This is what you have to do. You have to give up that book."

Mr. Wilders is right to call for a vigilant defense of liberal principles. A society has a right, indeed a duty, to require that religious minorities comply with secular rules of civilized behavior. But to demand that they renounce their religious identity and holy books is itself an affront to liberal principles.
Exit Question: Will America's "liberal principles" of openness and tolerance be the nation's Achilles' Heel?

Daniel Drezner, Stupendously Wrong

All of us bloggers goof now and then, publishing throwaway posts here and there, based on fraudulent information or underdeveloped reasoning.

But Dan Drezner, an expert in international affairs at the
Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, who is routinely feted as one of the country's top "public intellectuals," has published a note on the Mumbai attacks - commentary that should be considered in his field of expertise - that is profoundly, stupendously wrong, to the point of ignominy even.

Here's Drezner yesterday, in his "
Open Mumbai Thread":

Comment away on the terrorist attacks that have stunned Mumbai over the past 48 hours. I don’t have a lot to add, except that this doesn’t feel like a linked-with-Al Qaeda attack. While there’s been carnage, these attacks have also been sloppy and messy. Because of the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., the timing of these attacks guaranteed a low level of American targets and a low level of Ameican attention.
The "sloppy and messy" part is particulary throwaway, considering that the emerging consensus among terror experts is that the attacks were "meticulously planned."

This additional comment about "the timing of these attacks" is also lame. One of Drezner's readers responded in the comments:


I have been a reader for years, discovering your blog while I was a political science graduate student at the University of Mumbai in 2003. I am an Army Infantry officer who was the first Olmsted Scholar to India. I lived in Mumbai with my family from May 2003 to June 2005, including three months in the Taj Mahal hotel while I searched for a suitable apartment. Two of my children were born at Breach Candy Hospital in Bombay. My Masters degree is from the University of Mumbai. Neither my wife nor I are of South Asian extract, but we love India (warts and all) and it is in many ways our second country.

I dispute your notion that this event has received a low-level of attention. The news channels were full of coverage. However, we are, as a nation, so unaware of India as it really is. We think because we have seen CITY OF JOY and MONSOON WEDDING and enjoy curry and samosas that we “know” India. We have ceded interest to the very important, and economically influential, diaspora here. If we are smart, India could be an ally to us in the years to come akin to the British of the 20th Century. As to the attacks, they were executed with precision and the targets were well-chosen. That this is till ongoing, over 48 hours after the initial attacks, shows that the mujahideen who executed this were well-prepared and not amateurs. Imagine this type of attack taking place simultaneously in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. That is what Mumbai is to India.
Drezner currently has two brand-new published essays at the National Interest, "Oil Dependence As Virtue," and "Leading by Appointment."

I'll let readers go visits those pieces to see if Drezner's more hopefully deliberative commentaries are worth the time.

Mumbai and the Ideological Challenge to the West

The seige of Mumbai is now coming to an end, and answers to the horror are still being sought. It remains unclear, for example, if this was an exclusive operation of a full-blown al Qaeda affiliate or that of a newer, more localized terrorist organization, perhaps focused primarily on the Indo-Pakistan balance of power.

Mark Steyn reminds us to focus on the forest rather than the trees:

In the 10 months before this atrocity, Muslim terrorists killed more than 200 people in India, and no one paid much attention. Just business as usual, alas. In Mumbai the perpetrators were cannier. They launched a multiple indiscriminate assault on soft targets, and then in the confusion began singling out A-list prey: Not just wealthy Western tourists, but local orthodox Jews, and municipal law enforcement. They drew prominent officials to selected sites, and then gunned down the head of the antiterrorism squad and two of his most senior lieutenants. They attacked a hospital, the place you're supposed to take the victims to, thereby destabilizing the city's emergency-response system ....

What's relevant about the Mumbai model is that it would work in just about any second-tier city in any democratic state: Seize multiple soft targets, and overwhelm the municipal infrastructure to the point where any emergency plan will simply be swamped by the sheer scale of events. Try it in, say, Mayor Nagin's New Orleans. All you need is the manpower. Given the numbers of gunmen, clearly there was a significant local component. On the other hand, whether or not Pakistan's deeply sinister ISI had their fingerprints all over it, it would seem unlikely that there was no external involvement. After all, if you look at every jihad front from the London Tube bombings to the Iraqi insurgency, you'll find local lads and wily outsiders: That's pretty much a given.

But we're in danger of missing the forest for the trees. The forest is the ideology. It's the ideology that determines whether you can find enough young hotshot guys in the neighborhood willing to strap on a suicide belt or (rather more promising as a long-term career) at least grab an AK-47 and shoot up a hotel lobby. Or, if active terrorists are a bit thin on the ground, whether you can count at least on some degree of broader support on the ground. You're sitting in some distant foreign capital but you're of a mind to pull off a Mumbai-style operation in, say, Amsterdam or Manchester or Toronto. Where would you start? Easy. You know the radical mosques, and the other ideological front organizations. You've already made landfall.

It's missing the point to get into debates about whether this is the "Deccan Mujahideen" or the ISI or al-Qaida or Lashkar-e-Taiba. That's a reductive argument. It could be all or none of them. The ideology has been so successfully seeded around the world that nobody needs a memo from corporate HQ to act: There are so many of these subgroups and individuals that they intersect across the planet in a million different ways. It's not the Cold War, with a small network of deep sleepers being directly controlled by Moscow. There are no membership cards, only an ideology. That's what has radicalized hitherto moderate Muslim communities from Indonesia to the central Asian 'stans to Yorkshire, and co-opted what started out as more or less conventional nationalist struggles in the Caucasus and the Balkans into mere tentacles of the global jihad.
Be sure to read the rest of Steyn's piece, for this is about as clear-eyed a take on events as you'll find.

In fact, contrast Steyn to the nihilists at
Down With Tyranny, who argue that the terrorists in Mumbai are no different from Mormons in California (meaning those who contributed to a political initiative campaign in a democratic election):

Whether it's hate-infused, self-righteous Mormons or Muslims or Hindus or Christians or Jews, there really is no place for religionist fanatics in a civilized community. These primitive, barbaric belief systems are something that will have to be dealt with if mankind is going to survive as a species. It's long past time we stop coddling and even honoring these dangerous fanatics among us. Their path will only bring on repression and regression to their own barbarism. Religionist fanatics should be treated as the mentally deranged and sick people that they are - and should be treated, compassionately, for their illness.
I want readers to sit for a few minutes and take in the meaning of this: If Down With Tyranny is correct, we are to understand logically that Marjorie Christoffersen, the Mormon restaurant manager at El Coyote in Los Angeles, who gave $100 dollars in support of California's Proposition 8, is no different from the gunman who took seige of the hotels and Jewish centers to kill hundreds in a reign of terror this week.

That is to say, people like Marjorie Christopherson, or Mitt Romney, for that matter - who is also Mormon - are "dangerous fanatics," "religionists" who will unleash "repression," "regression," and "barbarism."

I can't say this enough: Here we can see the moral difference between conservatives - who identify and repudiate evil unequivocally - and leftists, who not only refuse to denounce evil, but combine anyone who resists their program of hegemonic neo-Stalinism as "mentally-degraded" and "sick."

And it is not just the folks at Down With Tyranny (who, not surprisingly, have
no problem with demonizing neoconservative gays).

Take a look around the blogosphere: Yesterday
Digby slammed the press because U.S. journalists had the temerity to report on AMERICANS who were killed in the terror: "Not everything is about the United States."

Firedoglake took this logic further:

We're told that Westerners - Brits and Americans - were singled out, and tragically some have been listed among the dead. That's one way of extending the coverage in Western news media beyond the initial attacks: isolate and focus on specific victims with whom the American audience may, for better or worse, more easily identify ....

It wasn't simply a single terror attack - it is an ongoing effort to engage our media's attention at a time they had very little else to talk about. Were our cable stations really going to air more mindless speculation about which hypoallergenic dog would be best for the Obama girls when there was blood spilled, Americans dead, and hostages still at risk? ....

Again, we're not at the center of this terror. The horror-stricken people of Mumbai are. But we are a critical part of its masterminds' very carefully selected audience.
The point for Digby and Firedoglake is to champion international solidarity with the downtrodden and oppressed. Screw the Americans who were the ultimate target of the nihilist mayhem.

Of course, the leftists are full of pure bull. The Los Angeles Times ran
a front-page article yesterday on the globalization of the death and dislocation, looking at the victims of the attacks from all corners of the globe, Britain, Spain, Germany, and Israel - and the piece was careful to note:

The prize for the gunmen may have been Westerners, but as in past attacks, locals bore the brunt of the violence. Most of the dead were Indians.
But just visit any of the top blogs across the leftosphere, in any case. There's little, if any, condemnation of the terrorists, only astonishment that an attack on the West would be reported as such. See, for example, Daily Kos, Newshoggers, Open Left, or Steve Clemons, especially, who can't resist using the Mumbai attacks to denounce "U.S. forces" who kill "innocent people" ... "breeding blowback and rage."

This is how democracies perish, folks. By refusing to identify evil when it looks us right in the face.

Let us pray to God the new Obama administration repudiates the netroots hordes, who would utterly destroy the United States faster than you can say Gavriel Holtzberg.

Sarah Palin, Online Superstar

The Politico has a great story on the enduring appeal of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin:

Three weeks after the Republican ticket suffered a sweeping defeat at the polls, Sarah Palin continues to dominate search engine queries, cable news and online video sites.

The only American politician who generates comparable interest is President-elect Barack Obama. No one else is close.

Palin was the most popular Lycos search from the week she joined the ticket continuously through last Sunday, some two weeks after the election, when she was dethroned by Paris Hilton, the celebutante whom John McCain famously compared to Barack Obama.

The Alaska governor now ranks fourth, just one spot below Obama, on the weekly Lycos 50 list.

“People are still searching for her in record numbers,” said Kathy O’Reilly, a spokeswoman for Lycos. “How bizarre is that? Obama is the president-elect after the most historic election of all time and you’d think he would be dominating search activity and he only now is going ahead of her.”

Palin has been the subject of intense online fascination since her introduction as the Republican nominee on Aug. 29. In September, the Anchorage Daily News reported a 928 percent spike in traffic, according to Nielsen Online. Her mid-October “Saturday Night Live” appearance drove the show’s highest rating in 14 years, and her Oct. 2 debate with Joe Biden was the most watched vice presidential debate ever — drawing more viewers than any of the three presidential debates between McCain and Obama.

The scope of the GOP ticket’s loss — and the role her critics assigned to her in that defeat — hasn't cooled interest in Palin. She ranked as the No. 2 top news search at this week and No. 2 (after Obama) among newsmakers on the AOL 2008 year-end hottest searches list, and she occupied two slots on Politico’s list of the site's 10 most searched terms. Palin also ranked fourth among Yahoo searches, behind “Black Friday,” a Czech model and a contestant on the hit television show “Dancing with the Stars.” She was the only politician on the Yahoo top 20 list.

A recent YouTube clip that featured her being interviewed while, unbeknownst to her, a turkey was slaughtered in the background was the site's most-viewed clip over the last week. Two of the top 10 video moments of 2008, according to Truveo, an online video search engine, also involve Palin — a “Saturday Night Live” skit that mocks her and the governor’s ill-fated interview with Katie Couric of CBS.

“It’s astounding that someone who should have faded into the background after the election is not only making headlines but being searched for in record numbers online,” said O’Reilly. “People still have a fixation with her, for whatever the reason.”
The reason is obvious: Sarah Palin is now recognized as the face of the conservative future, and as a threat to long-term Democratic dominance.

The is why the nihilist left demonizes her so aggressively, and why
conservatives are mobilizing around her as the standard bearer for 2012.

Krugman's Depression

In an earlier essay, "War Mobilization Ended the Great Depression," I noted the strange veneration on the left for Paul Krugman because of his huge advocacy for a new round of New Deal-style spending programs.

It's funny, of course, that Krugman, a Princeton University economist, and Nobel laureate in international trade theory, is not a recognized expert on Keynesian pump-priming. No matter, just the mention of his name adds some kind of liberal legitimacy for those on
the radical left.

In any case, Amity Shlaes, who has written a book on the Depression, takes up the debate at today's Wall Street Journal:

Paul Krugman of the New York Times has been on the attack lately in regard to the New Deal. His new book "The Return of Depression Economics," emphasizes the importance of New Deal-style spending. He has said the trouble with the New Deal was that it didn't spend enough.

He's also arguing that some writers and economists have been misrepresenting the 1930s to make the effect of FDR's overall policy look worse than it was. I'm interested in part because Mr. Krugman has mentioned me by name. He recently said that I am the one "whose misleading statistics have been widely disseminated on the right."
Mr. Krugman is a new Nobel Laureate, teaches at Princeton University and writes a column for a nationally prominent newspaper. So what he says is believed to be objective by many people, even when it isn't. But the larger reason we should care about the 1930s employment record is that the cure Roosevelt offered, the New Deal, is on everyone else's mind as well. In a recent "60 Minutes" interview, President-elect Barack Obama said, "keep in mind that 1932, 1933, the unemployment rate was 25%, inching up to 30%."

The New Deal is Mr. Obama's context for the giant infrastructure plan his new team is developing. If he proposes FDR-style recovery programs, then it is useful to establish whether those original programs actually brought recovery. The answer is, they didn't. New Deal spending provided jobs but did not get the country back to where it was before.
This reality shows most clearly in the data -- everyone's data. During the Depression the federal government did not survey unemployment routinely as it does today. But a young economist named Stanley Lebergott helped the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington compile systematic unemployment data for that key period. He counted up what he called "regular work" such as a job as a school teacher or a job in the private sector. He intentionally did not include temporary jobs in emergency programs -- because to count a short-term, make-work project as a real job was to mask the anxiety of one who really didn't have regular work with long-term prospects.

The result is what we today call the Lebergott/Bureau of Labor Statistics series. They show one man in four was unemployed when Roosevelt took office. They show joblessness overall always above the 14% line from 1931 to 1940. Six years into the New Deal and its programs to create jobs or help organized labor, two in 10 men were unemployed. Mr. Lebergott went on to become one of America's premier economic historians at Wesleyan University. His data are what I cite. So do others, including our president-elect in the "60 Minutes" interview.

Later, Lee Ohanian of UCLA studied New Deal unemployment by the number of hours worked. His picture was similar to Mr. Lebergott's. Even late in 1939, total hours worked by the adult population was down by a fifth from the 1929 level. To be sure, Michael Darby of UCLA has argued that make-work jobs should be counted. Even so, his chart shows that from 1931 to 1940, New Deal joblessness ranges as high as 16% (1934) but never gets below 9%. Nine percent or above is hardly a jobless target to which the Obama administration would aspire.

What kept the picture so dark so long? Deflation for one, but also the notion that government could engineer economic recovery by favoring the public sector at the expense of the private sector. New Dealers raised taxes again and again to fund spending. The New Dealers also insisted on higher wages when businesses could ill afford them. Roosevelt, for example, signed into law first his National Recovery Administration, whose codes forced businesses to pay an above-market minimum wage, and then the Wagner Act, which gave union workers more power.
There's more at the link.

Hat Tip:

Friday, November 28, 2008

Wal-Mart and the Crisis of Capitalism

Certainly, Wal-Mart will incur legal liability for the death of one of its employees in the stampede at the company's Nassau County store this morning. This tragedy is not the first time the company has seen shopping stampedes, and given the combination of increasingly crass commercialism amid the frenzy of low-priced bargains, Wal-Mart may indeed be criminally negligent not to have corporate crowd-control detachments in place for Black Friday openings.

That said, there's plenty of blame to go around in
today's New York melee, not least of which should focus on the unruly mass of bargain-hunters lining up in front of the store. Indeed, initial reports indicate a violent mob mentality had taken over the crowd of shoppers, some of whom who had broken through plate-glass windows just before the store opened its doors. Pictures of the stampede can be seen, here.

Of course, like all things in American life these days,
the tragedy is already being politicized, and Wal-Mart's being excoriated for its corporate practices:

I've hated that store and what it stands for for a really long time, probably since I lived in Fayetteville, AR, which is pretty close to the epicenter of evil that is the Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville. So it should come as no surprise that I hold Wal-Mart largely responsible for the the tragic events at one of their stores on Long Island this morning.

But this story is bigger than just Wal-Mart. This is a story that really shows just how desperate people are getting to continue the lifestyles they've become accustomed to during the last two bubble economies. We've spent the better part of my adult life being told that we, as a nation, can have it all: a strong economy built on outsourcing manufacturing, offshoring profits, and processing, slicing up and securitizing debt. We're told we can have the brand new cars, the huge house in the exurbs or the loft in the city (or both), all filled with the latest gadgets, because we've found yet another way to beat the system. And when, as is inevitable, the system beats us, we don't want to admit it, so when a company like Wal-Mart (and they are far from alone - they're just the trendsetter as the largest) says that if you show up at 5:00 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving, we'll give you one more hit of what you want, we shouldn't be surprised when the public reacts the way it did.
This author makes the obligatory statement, "oh sure, responsibility should be shared, of course," then continues to rail away against "capitalist exploitation" with the classic anti-globalization rants of today's neo-Stalinist left:

Shopping on Black Friday (which has a slightly different meaning to a lot of people now, I think) has been a tradition for quite some time now, but every year, the stakes get higher, and the early shoppers get more desperate. That someone died today wasn't surprising - the only surprise was that it hadn't happened earlier. For crying out loud, the Sawgrass Mills mall opened at midnight, and there were over 30,000 people there in the first two hours.

30,000 people, all chasing a limited supply of deals.

And the deals are all lies, because we never actually get to see the real cost of any of these items. We don't hear about the labor conditions the people who make this stuff have to work under. We don't see the polluted groundwater or the carbon emitted into the air. We especially don't see the damage being done to our own economy as we continue down this road of unsustainable debt. We just see cheap plasma televisions and Coach bags and trample people in order to get to them.

Desperation makes otherwise reasonable people into monsters, and I'm afraid we're only seeing the beginning of the desperation.

Compare the anti-capitalism of this essay with the lead article at the current International Socialist Review, "Capitalism’s Worst Crisis Wince the 1930s."

Then contrast these structural interpretations with the individual-level analysis at the Anchoress, "
Black Friday and Love."

Humans make choices, and moral responsibility goes both ways. Rejection of mass-mob consumerism will do more to reform capitalism than a wave of corporate malpractice lawsuits, and that's to say nothing of leftist hopes for bringing about the proletarian revolution.

Mumbai Probe Focuses on Pakistani Groups

American intelligence officials are focusing the Mumbai terror investigation on Pakistani militant groups, most likely Lashkar-e-Taiba, and perhaps another cell operating out Kashmir, Jaish-e-Muhammad.

The government of Pakistan
is resisting speculation that the Mumbai attacks orginated in the Pakistani state.

Meanwhile, the targeting of
the Chabad-Lubavitch organization, where American Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka were killed, is one of the most disturbing elements of the attacks. The siege of the Chabad would seem an unlikely focus of exclusively local terrorist activity (Hindu-Sikh violence, for example). Plus, as many as 7 of the Mumbai terrorists have British origins with suspected ties to London's 7/7 subway attacks in 2005 (which was an al-Qaeda operation).

Scott at Powerline
published this e-mail from a reader, discussing the targeting of Jews in India:

As the Indian terror event reaches it tragic end with reports of the killing of all the Jewish hostages in the Chabad House (Nariman House) there are important points that must be made. The marathon terror campaign was horrible and deadly. Despite in-depth coverage, its presentation in the Western world raises serious questions.

From the start British and American coverage concentrated on the hotels with stress of the targeting of British and Americans. The Jewish target was ignored until day two and day three. The two luxury hotels were selected by the terrorists because they are occupied by tourists. People who escaped from the hotels claimed that the terrorists asked for British and Americans. However, they were selected because they were foreigners.

Nariman House was selected by the terrorists because the Chabad building was a specific Jewish target that also included Israelis. Let me make this clear. Chabad House was the only target chosen by the terrorists in Mumbai because of its specific character - Jewish and Israeli. Hostages in Chabad House were killed because they were Jewish and Israeli.
Further indications of the anti-Western nature of the attacks are the reports that Muslims worldwide are celebrating the killlings.

See also, Bill Roggio, "
Mumbai Attack Most Significant Since Sept. 11 Attack on U.S."

Gay Rights and the Postmodern Agenda

I did not know Steve Clemons was gay. In fact, the only thing I knew about Clemons, from reading his columns occassionally, was that he seemed like one more classic leftist nut spewing BDS across the blogosphere. The erudition of Clemons' essays did nothing to disguise his representation of the essential nihilism of today's postmodern left.

Clemons' Thanksgiving essay, where he discusses his sexual orientation, and his frustrations with Barack Obama, is one more example of how radically left is the progressive agenda of today's Democratic Party base:

Yes, like everyone - I'm pleased that Barack Obama won the White House. But it is only a small beginning in the right direction. But with Barack Obama, we also got Proposition 8. We have him talking about Iraq as the "bad war" and Afghanistan as the "good war". We have political appointments in both security and economic policy that either will be the height of brilliant personnel and policy maneuvering or alternatively could end up as a paralyzed cabinet and government disaster. There is only fog ahead, much yet we don't know.

We have wars going on in the Middle East that shouldn't be going on. I have friends there now being shot at - and helping to kill others - and this wasn't what the 21st century was supposed to be about.

I have been writing here for some time -- far before the National Intelligence Council's Global Trends 2025 report came out chronicling America's global decline - that America's mystique as a great nation had been punctured by the invasion of Iraq. We showed key limits in our military and economic capacity, leading allies and foes respectively to count on us and fear us less. The economic crisis is the punctuation point in America's fall from its once significant global perch. I'm worried about all of this - making a traditional thanksgiving very uncomfortable.

Our new president preaches inclusion, which is a good thing -- and I think he has the potential to be one of the great stewards of the White House and the executive branch authority we have given him.

But how could people who helped deliver this man to the White House also spit on my decision to enter into marriage with someone I have been with for 17 years? Europe has embraced adjustments in marriage easily and in a socially healthy way, and yet we still stoke embers of nativism and fundamentalism in this country. Barack Obama's voice was used on anti-gay marriage robocalls to African-American and Hispanic voters in California. To my knowledge, he didn't ask for his voice not to be used.

I think intolerance is what undermines the glue of a nation, stirring up fear and violence at home and in wars abroad. We have a lot of intolerant Americans who helped elect George W. Bush twice to the White House, and now we have many other intolerant Americans who have come into their civic responsibilities as voters and have tainted the hope that people like my partner and I have for a better and more just nation that recognizes our relationship in the ways it should be recognized.

I'm going to see the movie Milk today starring Sean Penn reprising brilliantly the life of the assassinated first gay elected politician in the United States - and no matter what Proposition 8 thought it achieved, I'll be wearing my ring.

So, this is an uncomfortable Thanksgiving holiday, and I hope that those who read this today do embrace their family and friends - all of them, gay ones too - and remember that this nation needs to stop dragging when it comes to bigotry.

I've written much on gay rights and the unhinged left's backlash against the majority vote on Proposition 8 (which Clemons conveniently omits).

Here I'll simply refer readers back my post on marriage and tradition, "
Marriage and Procreation: Bodily Union of Spouses."

As for the rest of Clemons' rant, I'm a little surprised he's resorting to the same smears of intolerance and bigotry used by every other 9th tier leftist on the web.

Or, perhaps I shouldn't be surprised: The gay marriage movement has nothing more to argue for it than to demonize those who oppose them, which is essentially a temper-tantrum masquerading as argumentation. Leftists may indeed win the battle over marriage in the long run - with all the intimidation and claims of "rights" - as society proceeds along the path to hegemonic secularism. What's interesting here is how Clemons' gay marriage advocacy fits right in with all the other outrages against GOP governance over the last eight years.

For every action there's an equal and opposite reaction, or so they say. Conservatives are planning now for their comeback, and 2010's not too soon to make the case that the push for gay marriage is just one pillar of the larger radical program intent to destroy center-right traditionalism in this country.

Responding to Mumbai

Experts and media commentators are still determining the identity and affiliations of the terrorists behind the attacks on Mumbai. It's early, but I don't believe the perpetrators a directing their attacks exclusively against Hinduism, as has been true in previous terrorist incidents in India.

I'll have updates on this, but for now I simply want to note Matthew Yglesias' knee-jerk reaction against the use of force in combating the violence. In particular, Yglesias argues that India's violence should not occasion a reappraisal of the doctrine of preemption, which saw its most monumental use in the toppling of Saddam Hussein in Iraq:

A lot of basically sensible people, including folks like these and these who may well find themselves with positions in the Obama administration, have suggested that maybe we don’t want to throw the alleged baby of preventive war out with the bathwater of Bushism. I always think people thinking along these lines need to keep in mind that the United States isn’t the only country on the planet. I don’t think we want a world in which India claims to have a U.S.-endorsed right to launch preventive military strikes on Pakistan, or a world in which Pakistani policymaking is dominated by fear of a potentially imminent preventive Indian military attack.
Government officials are still working to resolve the crisis on the ground, and we see Ygelias - the preeminent spokesman for pacifism in Democratic Party foreign policy - already ruling out the use of force as a potential policy in responding to this round of terrorism.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Socialism, Straight from the Horses Mouth

Folks should read this piece on the economic crisis from the International Socialist Review, "Capitalism’s Worst Crisis Since the 1930s." Here's a note from the conclusion:

The disaster of the free market makes it easier for us to argue about the failure of capitalism and the need for an alternative based on human needs. The free market, which supposedly triumphed in 1989 and brought us the “end of history,” has led to nothing but misery and the ruin of millions of people, who are mired in poverty, hunger, unemployment, and ill health, but thanks to the free-market mania of the past decades, face a shredded safety net that doesn’t begin to address these problems.

People will also be forced to ask: what does government intervention mean when this is a government not of the workers, not of the masses of people, but a government that represents the interests of the owners, the bankers, and the industrialists? The state is being used for state capitalist purposes, in order to reorganize capital, even to curb some of its excesses. But its aim is to keep capitalism and its social relations going—relations in which labor is dominated and exploited for the profits of a few. Part of the restructuring will involve, as we’ve said, an even harsher attack on working-class living standards. At the same time, nationalization opens up space for us to argue against wholesale privatization, for the defense of public schools against privatization, and even to argue for nationalized health care. But we have to be clear that state capitalist nationalization—that is, the intervention of the state in order to prop up the bankers and the industrialists at our expense and without any democratic control over the process—is no great improvement over what went before. Liberals will accept that kind of state intervention. We must demand the kind of state intervention that will come only with mass pressure and control from below—intervention to improve health care, education, unemployment benefits, to prevent foreclosures, and so on.

The Left has to operate on two levels. First, a Left has to be built, or rather rebuilt, in this country that is prepared to fight on every front in defense of working-class interests, whether it is against layoffs, against foreclosures, or against cuts in health care and social services. Second, the Left must be prepared to take part in any struggles to defend the interests of the working class, as well as creating a political and ideological alternative to the free market and its defenders, conservative or liberal. The Left must utilize the crisis to conduct an ideological offensive against capitalism and to argue for a socialist alternative.
People who keep arguing that Barack Obama is "socialist" should read the full essay carefully (the authors reject the notion that the Wall Street bailout is "socialism," since the massive infusion of capital to banking and insurance giants is designed to delay the capitalist crisis and preserve American imperial hegemony - Hank Paulson, for instance, is a banker and former executive at Goldman Sachs, a member of the financial vanguard).

But let me add two points: (1) Obama is trained in radical ecomomics and postmodern ideologies, but he's now poised to govern incrementally from the center-left. While we will see some movement toward essentially European-style social-democratic policies, Obama nevertheless remains a "running dog" of the "capitalist ruling class" as far as the folks at ISR are concerned. Yet, (2) the policy regime presented above is virtually identical to those advocated by today's progressive netroots blogs (see
here, here, and here, for the tip of the iceberg).

So, interestingly, once in office, the degree of repudiation of the radical netroots will be a key indicator of how far an Obama administration is willing to openly advocate an objectively socialist (i.e., anti-capitalist) policy program.