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9/11: Five Years On

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On the morning of September 11, 2001, I got a call from my wife that there were reports a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I turned the TV on immediately, and I'm not certain to this day whether it was in time to catch the second plane hit or whether it was a replay I saw of the second plane hitting the other tower. The timing, compared to the later collapse, was about right. But I knew as soon as I saw that second plane hit that we were at a crossroads. Before Al-Qaeda took responsibility, before Palestinians were celebrating in the streets, before Saddam Hussein was gloating over our collective misfortune, I knew, as did many other people. that this was the day that the American people could no longer pretend that we can hide from terrorism behind our oceans.

This wasn't a gleeful vindication. This was sadly wishing I had been wrong. We had been at war with Islamic fundamentalism since at least 1978, probably since 1947, and perhaps as far back as World War I.

Now there is a large segment of the population that believes it was staged by the government. This contradicts so many facts that it isn't worth rebutting them point by point here. Nonetheless, these people find a vast conspiracy of thousands of people easier to believe than the simple fact that nineteen people wielding box cutters took control of four aircraft, and the American public has been so sensitized to the "wait to be rescued" mentality that three of them were able to impact their targets without the passengers - who greatly outnumbered the hijackers, by the way - doing anything to save themselves. Nearly three thousand people died because people had been taught to rely upon authority figures to save them, rather than undertaking the necessary actions themselves. Only on the fourth and final aircraft did the passengers attempt what was necessary, and that because the official response would clearly have been too late. Those people were heroes, and they are rightly lauded as such. But let's turn it around and ask why the people on the other three flights weren't. The evidence was there in front of their eyes. Had any of those jets landed anywhere in North America or the surrounding islands, they would have been easily overwhelmed by the law enforcement of whatever podunk town happened to be closest. Maybe Barney Fife couldn't have done it, but that was only because Andy only permitted him one bullet, and he's fictional in any case. The planes didn't have the fuel to make any other continent. So whatever was going to happen, it had to happen without landing, and without refueling.

A weapon is energy released on target, whether that weapon is a stick or a nuclear bomb. Indeed, whether something is a weapon lies mostly in the head of the person controlling it. It should be no stretch for anyone to believe an automobile can be used as a weapon. Indeed, most of the world has seen such fictional scenarios play out hundreds of times on movie and television screens. Well, an airliner is like that car, except that it's a couple hundred times more massive and traveling four to ten times as fast. Let's choose the middle of the road seven. So two hundred times the mass traveling 7 times as fast, by the kinetic energy function, is nearly ten thousand times more energy released on target. (7 squared is 49, times 200 is 9800). So what happened to those buildings is as if nearly ten thousand cars going freeway speed hit them all at the same time. The miracle is that modern engineers can design to withstand that kind of impact at all. But in addition to the purely kinetic energy, somewhere around 200,000 pounds of that mass was flammable, highly energetic jet fuel. The miracle wasn't just that the towers stood for a while, it was that they stood for so long. Basic physical fact: Steel melts in a hot enough flame, and before it melts it progressively loses its structural strength. Nor was the way in which the floors of the towers pancaked anything more than a design specification. The damage they did coming down was quite enough as it was, but it would have been orders of magnitude worse if they had impacted some of the other tall buildings nearby. Most buildings are demolished at some point, and the architects have long since been informed that they had better design for it, because if they don't any money their design saves will be wasted dozens of times over in the demolition.

So why do the myths about 9/11 persist? People have been told all of their lives that the world is a predictable place, and that people are reasonable and rational, and negotiation will solve all problems. They don't want to believe that crazy people - people willing to sacrifice themselves because they have been taught they will be lauded in the afterlife because of it - exist any longer. Never mind that the history of the world is one long study of people who were willing, if not precisely eager, to make that sacrifice if it was demanded. Read journals of the second world war and before, and you will read the same sort of things thousands if not millions of ordinary Americans wrote about because they understood how implacable that enemy was: "doing their share" for the war effort. We had twelve million Americans out of a population half of today's in uniform, and the vast majority of them were volunteers. The Civil War actually had a higher proportion of draftees than any subsequent war until Vietnam.

But after World War II, the weapons of unlimited conflict became the weapons of genocide, and if the atomic weapons of the Cold War had ever flown, most of the earth would have been turned into a charnel house, with casualties counted by the hundreds of millions. This, of necessity, led to a different, limited approach to warfare. Remember that if your opponent has nuclear weapons, or somebody on their side does, you had to leave them a way out of everything, lest they drag the world down to destruction with them. So negotiate, chivvy, work little by little, and never try to destroy them completely, and don't forget to negotiate. Did I remember to say negotiate?

We've now spent sixty years fighting this kind of battle, and there are few people even alive now who remember anything different. We've grown so used to it that we have forgotten any other way exists, and only historians and the military have any real exposure to other methods. But this method of conflict resolution has a critical weakness: What if your opponent isn't rational? What if they do not care if the world is destroyed so long as they get their way? Suppose they are willing, even determined to die if only to bring the realization of their goals a little closer?

This far different scenario describes the enemy was face today. It is important to understand that our current enemy sees accommodation and appeasement only as signs of weakness, not of civilized restraint in order not to jeopardize the safety of everyone, even those who are not party to the dispute. It is critical to acknowledge that our current enemy is emboldened by the prospect of death rather than deterred by it, and as long as that death occurs with their fingers metaphorically around the throat of the enemies of their cause, they believe they will be rewarded far more richly in the next life than any suffering they may encounter in this one. They have been told this by their priesthood, their media, even their governments and their parents from the time when they first learned to understand language. It is a far more coherent, focused, unified message than we in the United States have ever heard. This message becomes for them like water to a fish - something they take for granted, as a matter of course. Indeed, if you try to remove them from it, they will lash out violently, which is what we in the west have been experiencing for at least the last fifty years from them. This describes both the cause and the effect: They do not wish to hear that what they believe to be divine words of god to which they have submitted themselves (Islam is submission, to the word of god as related by the holy men), are in fact incorrect or incomplete descriptions of events, natural law, or philosophy.

There are moderate Muslims, but the way the political process works in Muslim nations denies them the levers of power. Even should one of them attain a position of authority, their actions are circumscribed by religious authority to a degree that we here in the United States have never known, and indeed, never will - unless the Islamic extremists conquer us. It took over thirty years for New England Protestant ministers to convince half of the nation that slavery was evil, and needed to be stopped. A Muslim religious leader has only to issue a fatwa. This means that powers urging restraint and consideration are likely to be trumped by those urging precipitate action. The fatwa on Salmon Rushdie has been reaffirmed upon at least two different occasions, and only his secretive lifestyle has kept him alive.

So the Islamic extremist sees only opportunity and weakness in our usual mode of responding to their threat, which is negotiation. Negotiation has become so ingrained in our way of life that it is only through willing trades of this for that that any significant business gets done. Indeed, being a successful, knowledgeable negotiator is so much more rewarding in our culture than even being the best warrior in the world that there simply is no comparison. The rewards for the CEO who brings home a billion dollar deal run to tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars. The pay for a four star officer goes as high as $14,000 per month, an E-9 goes only to a maximum of $5400. That's a pittance by business standards. In forty years at those pay grades, they wouldn't make what some CEOs make for three months work.

I would love to resolve this whole Islamic extremism thing by negotiation. I make my living as a negotiator, after all. An ideal negotiation is one where both parties believe they are better off as the result of the negotiation, and would willingly sign the same deal again. And therein lies the problem. The extremists will sign any number of deals we propose to them, but they will not honor them. Unlike a business negotiator, they feel no need to honor them beyond whatever transient benefits may accrue to them through doing so. If the extremists would honor the results of such negotiation, it would be far cheaper than any military action. With what we've spend fighting Islamic extremism thus far, every single man, woman and child in the Muslim world could have at least a couple thousand dollars. We could have built them such beautiful cities, turned their lands into a paradise, and increased their economy at least tenfold. What rational person would refuse such a deal?

The problem is that they are not responding rationally to events, nor will they honor agreements they make one instant longer than they feel it is in their best interests to do so. They have a word for it: Hudna. Hudna is not peace, it really is not even a truce and it is a mistake to translate it thusly. It is a cease fire until circumstances change to favor them. A temporary halt in hostilities until they figure that events have changed in their favor, or can arrange for them to do so. Not peace, not truce, simply a lull in the fighting, hoping that their enemies will be lulled into a sense of security while they continue their maneuvering for advantage. They talk of honor, but it is a far different kind of honor than most of us in the United States and most of the rest of the world are familiar with, although the Japanese samurai would perhaps recognize a certain kinship of ideology, committed to the struggle no matter what it requires. The tale of the forty-seven Ronin (among others) has many parallels to the Islamic extremist, even if the goals and means are vastly different. Their lives were and are unimportant considerations in the face of the accomplishment of the task at hand, which is the recovery or extension of dar-al-Islam, the land of submission.

So while I understand those who would have us negotiate a peace with Islamic extremists, I have seen the vast weight of evidence as being against the idea that it would be effective. They see generosity in terms of tribute, mercy as a weakness, and truce or peace in terms of hudna, waiting for a time when the odds are more in their favor, and the opportunity to arrange for it to be so. They are quite frank about this fact when they think nobody from the west is paying attention.

However, my biggest concern at this moment is our domestic political situation; the will to continue the fight. As I have said before, the will to fight is the most important indicator of eventual victory or defeat. I understand how and why the Democratic party became the party of surrender and accommodation - they want power and it offered a way to appeal to a certain segment of the population that does not understand the war, and is morally certain that it's all some kind of big misunderstanding. It would have been wiser and more in the national interest to appeal to this group on the margins, by being perceived as being more willing to compromise and more in tune with the aims of the antiwar segment, but the Democratic party in recent years has been unable to fathom the political game of keeping the centrists while appealing more to the edge groups than the Republican opposition. Perceiving political advantage in criticizing the administration, they proceeded to take every opportunity and manufacture others. Their opposition to Secretary Rumsfeld isn't because he's doing a bad job - judging by performance of the troops and his policies under fire, he's the best Secretary of Defense we've had since at least George Marshall. It's a way to oppose the administration, politically and visibly, in no uncertain terms, solidifying their support among this segment of the voting population.

Unfortunately, this has the effect of politicizing the war, committing the Democrats to a path that is not in the best interests of the Unites States should they gain control of the government. Had they not staked their electoral future so clearly upon opposition to the administration's conduct of the war, there would be significant room to maneuver for them. But with no room in the Democratic party for even left-wing politicians such as Joe Lieberman who are willing to evaluate the war in terms of what is best for the United States, and stand firm, refusing to criticize the administration and even speaking in their defense, the Democrats will have precisely no room to maneuver on this issue. Should they win the election and attempt to continue the war as it is currently being conducted, their own supporters would cry more loudly for their ouster than they have for that of the president. Treason, after all, is a far more serious charge than principled disagreement, and apostasy and heresy are far more serious than simply being a nonbeliever.

And it is in the best interests of the United States that we win this war. It is in the best interests of everyone, including the Islamic extremists, although they would deny this to the bitter end. Islamic civilization, because it fell heir by historical accident to the largest remaining repositories of Classical civilization, enjoys a reputation for enlightenment that it does not deserve. None of the innovations were theirs; they were only able to preserve the knowledge of other civilizations. Even the mathematical concept of zero, so widely credited to them in popular culture, came from the conquest of Hindus of India, not their own discoveries.

The brand of Islamic extremism that we are fighting in this current war intends nothing less than a mental straitjacket for the world. Whatever the Koran, the Hadith, and the Suras say, that is what shall be. If sharia says women need four witnesses to prove rape and they shall be put to death as adulterers if they fail, then that is what must be done. Sharia law does say this. Since it is my understanding that if there are multiple people present at a rape, it usually means that the others held the woman down while the deed was done, this kind of puts a crimp in accusations of rape. Indeed, the incidence of rape, and other crimes against women, is much higher in the Islamic world. Merely the act of taking a lover prior to matrimony is grounds for a death sentence if the family wants it to be. Even going on a date with someone whom your family disapproves of can be grounds for so-called "honor killings". I do not understand why so-called feminists fail to demonstrate their understanding of this fact, that should the Islamic extremists prevail, the rights that they supposedly hold in such esteem will be subject to the whims of men. The freedom of scientific and philosophical inquiry would also be highly questionable. You might not be compelled to convert to Islam (so long as you are a member of one of their favored religions, pay the dhimmi tax, and accept your status as merely a tolerated outsider rather than a valued citizen), but to question Islamic thought is punishable by death - and on many occasions, is so punished. Those Islamic extremists who kidnap and murder westerners, or even their own countrymen and countrywomen, do so under cover of Islamic fatwa, a fact which the western press frequently glosses over or fails to mention. Thought crime, that horrid crime of disagreeing with official canon out of Orwell's 1984, literally is punishable by death, and often is punished by death, preceded by torture, rape if the victim is female, and all sorts of other things such as deprivation of dignity that the press and certain members of academia get all huffy about when Americans even think about doing. Understand this in your bones: The boundaries drawn by the Geneva Conventions aren't even an issue to the Islamists. It is documented that Americans and our allies have strayed over the lines drawn by those conventions - which explicitly limit most of those rights to those representing participating nations, by the way - and those so accused are immediately put on trial, and punished if found guilty. In the Islamist world, they earn the praise of their fellows, and by the teachings of religious authority to which they subscribe, a smoothed path to a higher level of paradise in the afterlife. This would in no way change if we all became dhimmi, except that the Islamists wouldn't have to pretend it was all in the name of righteous anger. They would just do it, and we would have to put up with it. The documentation from places that they do rule is perfectly clear on this point, among many others.

Now the place in the world where the Islamists have the firmest grasp on temporal power is Iran. Outwardly a republic, but no candidate is permitted to run without the approval of the supreme religious leader, who controls the military and all police forces. In this country, it would be as if your choices for President were limited to Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell, and their current president, one of those who stormed the US Embassy during Carter's presidency after the fall of the shah, makes either of those two pimples upon the American body politic look like a rational, intelligent, compassionate human being by comparison. Israel has essentially zero intersection with Iran, and yet Ahmedinejad promised to attack Israel with nuclear weapons. When Ronald Reagan poked fun at the press image of him with a joke in his first term, the press and academia treated it far more seriously, but joking Reagan was, where Ahmedinejad was deadly serious. It would be like George W. Bush making a solemn promise to nuke Sri Lanka, and the entire thing disappeared into the memory hole of nonevents a la 1984 within days. It doesn't fit the press narrative in this country; therefore it vanished within days. When he didn't think the western press was listening, he has also made similar promises to attack American interests with nuclear weapons. Furthermore, Iranian soldiers have been captured aiding the Islamists in Iraq, and Iranian equipment has been captured aiding Hezbollah in Lebanon, as well as dead bodies of Iranian soldiers at the scene of battles with Hezbollah terrorists. All of these are acts of war, dropped down the memory hole by a press whose narrative does not admit that there could perhaps be a reason rational people might feel compelled to go to war with Iran.

Finally, I believe that the time is rapidly approaching when the Iranian regime will need nuclear weapons to control their own people, who are increasingly frustrated with Islamist control over the levers of power. Should a revolt happen, and the regime possesses nuclear weapons, they would consider it as much their duty to use them to maintain their grip on power as they would to use them against the "decadent" United States, against whose cultural ideals Islamist ideals have never prevailed, except when the latter had the threat of force, or its actual use, behind them. Without Iran and its technological base and its oil revenues, the Islamists would be dependent upon far lesser sources of funding. Even the bribery of Wahhabis by the Saudi Royal family has much lesser limits than that.

I would really rather not have to fight Iran at all, but that choice may have been taken out of our hands. The Iranian people are not our enemy. However, the Iranian regime is determined, willing (even eager) to die if only they can take western ideals down as well, they are acquiring the tools to destroy the United States and all of western civilization, and they intend upon taking advantage of what they perceive as our weakness in confronting them. Our choices, as with the rapist murderer who breaks into your home with intent to commit rape and murder, don't have the option of leaving his hands and feet untouched even though it is only his head that means you harm. Your choices are to kill him or be killed, and even if you put your bullets all into his head, the hands and feet and arms and legs will all die also. It is not what we would have wanted, but, willingly or not, those hands and feet and arms and legs were doing the bidding of the head, and should they succeed in following the directives of that head, we would be no less dead for the fact that they did not want to.

Patriotism. The word has come to have all kinds of connotations, many of them negative. Ask ten different people what they think of when they hear patriotism, and you'll get ten different answers. Ask a hundred people, and you'll likely get ninety different answers.

It has become fashionable amongst many who want to be considered intellectual elite to disparage patriotism. Yet Isaac Asimov, the quintessential intellectual's intellectual, author of more than 300 books varying from science fiction classics to mysteries to scholarly works and popularizations in multiple disciplines, had a, well I'd say routine except that it most certainly was not. It concerned our national anthem, and he gave it repeatedly, not just once, explaining the history behind it and actually singing "All Four Verses". I never heard it live, but I heard a recording once. I couldn't find a recording on-line, but if you haven't seen it before, it's well worth reading - you're in for a treat if you click it.

If you've never heard the other verses, and thanks to political correctness and a failed educational system, many have never heard of them, you can be excused for not understanding what patriotism, particularly American Patriotism, is all about. "The Star Spangled Banner" tells a story, of a British invasion that could have crushed the United States, but failed. The first verse tells of uncertainty, the second of triumph. The third may be considered boastful and over the the top by some, but not by me. It does not name the British, perpetrators of that particular invasion, and it does convey a vital sentiment, necessary for any nation to survive. But the real crux of the anthem, the point of the story, is in the fourth verse:

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved homes and the war's desolation,

Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n - rescued land

Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, for our cause is just,

And this be our motto--"In God is our trust."

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Many have disparaged this as symptomatic of a war-mad America, centering their scorn and their case upon one word - "conquer" - in the fifth line. They only betray their astounding ignorance of history, particularly the history of the time when the Anthem was written. Read a military history of Napoleon, whose shadow looms over the entire era, sometime. Conquer was used in the battlefield sense, of one side or another going down in crushing defeat, and the other holding - conquering - the battlefield. Most military histories barely touch upon the aftermath of battle for the losing side, but the term "sacking" should give you an idea. Placing all that was of value - and I do mean all - in a sack and carrying it off home was a time-honored victor's tradition. Many military men throughout history have become wealthy through the act of sacking. Not to mention the "little items" like raping and enslaving the population and burning whatever was left. This practice did not miraculously cease sometime around the Peace of Westphalia; it carries through to today in many militaries. The British did it to Washington in 1814, albeit in watered down form. Haven't really researched it, I'm not familiar with any raping or widespread murder they did. Washington was at the time a very new city - only about twenty years. It hadn't had time to accumulate much in the way of artwork or municipal treasure. The British did, however, set it ablaze as they left. Despite the damage that was done, this basically makes their behavior a marvel of decorum by all but the most recent and westernized of criteria.

Patriotism, to me, is a product of love. If you cannot love, you cannot feel patriotism. It isn't an unthinking unwavering unquestioning sort of love, and our country has certainly done many things in its history for which we ought to be ashamed. But well-founded patriotism, like the love between husband and wife in a strong marriage, becomes stronger from a sense of perspective, not weaker. I may say my wife is perfect, but I am well aware that this is a convenient fiction to make our marriage stronger, and, even if I were given the opportunity, I wouldn't trade her for the world's hottest sex kitten with the wealth of Midas and enthusiasms for doing exactly what I want every time I want exactly when I want, and I feel nothing but pity for those poor souls who would make such a trade for their spouse. Better to have no partner. That's the nature of love. It is always possible to find it, but the path to it can be blocked by your current alliance of convenience.

Similarly, a strong sense of perspective makes my patriotism deeper. One of the most maligned and misquoted lines of all time is Stephen Decatur's, "Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong." Particularly in these latter benighted days when we have no perspective upon the progress of government. At the time when he said it (1816) there literally were no other democracies or representative republics in the world, not as we understand the term today. The United Kingdom came closest, and even there, Parliament was controlled by the great nobles and their houses. There had not been a reapportionment in centuries. This doesn't sound so bad until you consider that in far less time, we have gone from a place where our two biggest states, population-wise, weren't even a part of the system to one where they form roughly 20% of the electorate. How representative do you think our government would be if the electorate was limited to our original thirteen states, in proportions existing in 1787? That was England in 1816.

The tyranny of the majority has been rightly denigrated, using phrases such as "least common denominator," and I admit to occasionally indulging in it myself. However horrible the decisions of majorities may be, however awful the atrocities they may commit, when you contrast them with the things done by rulers and ruling classes who were not majorities, one word leaps out to describe the misdeeds of majorities: limited. They were limited in scope and limited in time. When the worst single event that we can point to is the Moro Crater Massacre, the United States positively shines by comparison with every other major power in the history of the world. The westward expansion of the United States, while suffering any number of shame inducing incidents ranging from the Trail of Tears to Wounded Knee (where a not inconsiderable amount of evidence paints a picture of the Sioux sharing a large part of the responsibility). By comparison with the Russian drive eastward, our westward expansion was a model of enlightened concern. Yet the very fact that such items are a part of national consciousness at all says something overwhelmingly positive about Americans, that we are willing to face responsibility for the misdeeds of our past. Indeed, our bloodiest conflict to date, the Civil War, springs from the fact that our ancestors, collectively, grew this national consciousness and that the majority were becoming increasingly willing to rectify an injustice that was being done to human beings who had the misfortune to be born to the wrong set of parents. The first seeds of the civil war were yet to be sown when Decatur said those words, and yet he, indeed, most Americans from the time of independence onward, was able to recognize that the mechanism for error checking existed in the United States, as it existed nowhere else in the world at the time. The United States was - is - a global pioneer in the process of error checking government. To desire perfection is natural, to demand it as a condition of loyalty is self-defeating. John Quincy Adams made a famous retort to Decatur, "I can never join with my voice in the toast which I see in the papers attributed to one of our gallant naval heroes. I cannot ask of heaven success, even for my country, in a cause where she should be in the wrong. Fiat justitia, pereat coelum. My toast would be, may our country always be successful, but whether successful or otherwise, always right." It is, in the abstract, a seductive vision. Unfortunately we do not and it is unlikely that our descendants ever will live in a world wherein Adams' retort makes sense. Countries that are just but not successful, down throughout human history, have not typically had the opportunity to change become right. There are few enough of them throughout history. Athens, for all her glory under Pericles, was not just, even by its own standards. Countries that are successful but not just, however, have the opportunity to become more just, and the United States has done precisely this any number of times. Better to be both successful and just in the first place, but if you must choose, successful is the critical element, much as it may gall persons of conscience.

But the real kicker is just the every day fact of the nature of being human. Remember that gorgeous wealthy sex kitten I talked about a while back? The one that makes every heterosexual male into a drooling idiot, and incites the green eyed monster within the heart of every communist? How long do you think she's going to put up with Joe Average, to whom the term "six pack abs" means they slosh like the contents of one? And do you think, that in the course of doing whatever it is that she does to earn and maintain her fabulous fortune, that she's going to tolerate you wasting several hours per day in front of the TV or surfing the internet? Unless the male concerned is one of that percentage whose predilections naturally fall exactly into the same boat, that marriage is going to turn into hell very soon, when she tells him to "shape up!" and "Start earning some real money!", and indeed, countries where they pretend their leadership or the country itself is perfection have an extremely strong tendency to turn into the worst hellholes on the planet. For examples, see the communist government of your choice. Pre-1945 Japan. Imperial China. Any number of religiously based states, not the least of which are most modern Islamic governments. When I want to find a good country, I look for one with a solid record of confronting its history and making good upon past injustice, not one where they sweep such events under the rug as nonhistory, or, almost as bad, admit that they happened but shrug them off as part of the overall injustice of the universe, as Mexico and France both make a habit of doing. At the very least, the country must consider the causes of the injustice and take steps such that it is less likely to be repeated. There really is nothing we can do within the framework of a just society to recompense descendants of slaves for the misdeeds against their forefathers, nor is there anything within the framework of a just society that we can do for those who suffered from decades of discrimination. Every such proposal I have heard perpetuates the injustice, rather than removing it. But we have taken steps to rectify the situation, and to prevent it from happening in the future. Those who were discriminated against are now part of the power structure, a power structure that will not allow a return to those days, no matter who is the proposed victim class.

This, then, is why I embrace our country so strongly, why I love it so much I have difficulty communicating the depths of my feelings. Not that it's perfect; it's not, and it is not reasonable to expect or demand it to be. But that we have this error checking mechanism, the ability of every adult citizen to look metaphorically look in the mirror and decide they don't like what they see, the ability of even those who are not adult citizens to convince us of the error of our ways, and a governmental system that responds to the desires of the people to reform themselves and it for the better. Certainly, Plato's philosopher-king might provide better, more just decisions more quickly, but then again, they might not. How do we pick a philosopher king? Looking back over the entire sad history of the human race, I see many examples that claimed to be for the benefit of the governed and those around them; those who lived up to that promise are pitifully few. Furthermore, once they have their hands upon the levers of the state, it is typically hideously expensive, in all senses of the term, to replace, demote, or even restrain a philosopher king.

Who do I credit with the development of this profoundly important country that I love. Well, it rests upon a foundation of each and every citizen. Pat yourself on the back, or better yet, pat your fellow citizen, especially if you disagree with them politically. Much as I might rail against political excesses in the opposition, the fact that the political opposition exists and is unafraid to exercise political opposition is essential, not to mention the fact that we expect the party in opposition to become the party in power periodically, and for the party that has fallen to eventually regain its fortunes. You may hear me calling upon the opposition for discretion in their opposition, never to cease their opposition. Interrelated with this is the fact that our military, both officers and non-officers, is drawn from the entire population. Oh, there are definitely parts with heavier representation than others, and parts with lesser representation than others. But those are freely chosen, based upon who tries and how hard they try, not part of the system of selection. As a result of which, the US military is better integrated with the society it defends than any other military I can name. The thought of using the American military to control Americans (beyond stabilization in the wake of disasters) is ludicrous beyond belief. Indeed, the fact that American service personnel are American citizens first has brought any amount of misconduct you'd care to name into the limelight of our public discussion, where it could be remedied. The American military is the American citizen, brought together under military discipline for the purpose of doing what those same American citizens have decided to do, and anyone who disparages the owners of these websites here, here, here here, and here, should first take a moment and ask whether their preferred organization has participated in the liberation of concentration camps? Has their preferred organization risked life and limb and horrible death against an enemy convinced of their right to conquer the world, and pushed those subhuman scum back into their territorial base and removed them from power so they can never again threaten the rest of the world? Has your preferred organization broken centuries old slavery and piracy organizations? Stood up to and removed mass-murdering dictators? Stopped cold two systems that wanted to enslave the world in the last century, and is it currently locked in a struggle with a third, where their own humanity and restraint towards their enemies means a much higher casualty list among their own ranks than would otherwise be the case? Remember the old Bugs Bunny cartoon where he gets super carrots and becomes Super Rabbit and goes out to face the most anti-rabbit character of them all, and when he runs out of super carrots and faces an opposition that has obtained them, he says, "This calls for a REAL hero!" rushes into the phone booth and comes out dressed as a Marine and singing the Marine Hymn? I've never loved or identified so strongly with Bugs Bunny, that most quintessential of American heroes, as in the moment I understood that cartoon. These men and women don't have super-powers, they aren't perfect little gentlemen and ladies, and they don't serve a system that is perfect, but they do such an awe-inspiring job of advancing the human condition when they are needed, that tears flow every time I think about their contribution to the world, and the advancement of those within it, whether they are Americans or not.

Finally, if you're saying blessings, add one in there for George Washington. One of the better generals of his age, he had the opportunity for power and turned his back on it. Forget Jefferson, and Madison, and Patrick Henry, and all of the other founding fathers and their noble words, and those magnificent founding documents the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. Any number of successful revolutions in this sad sorry world have had high rhetoric. The vast majority fell from within, to the successful revolutionary who led the battles and then decided to retain that power through their control of the military. Washington stands almost alone among those who had or could have taken that power, and declined to abuse it beyond the natural and intended span when it was given. Two centuries on, his example stands not only as a beacon to follow, but as a stark statement of the fact that there is no irreplaceable leader, and any president who failed to follow in his footsteps of relinquishing power would never be able to hold onto it, being displaced from power by the very military they would have relied upon to maintain it.

This, then, is my reflection upon patriotism. It comes from a desire for a just society, requires the mechanism of a country whose power structure confronts not only current events, but past deeds with an eye as to the errors that might have been made and avoiding them in the future. I love this country, not because of the happy accident that I was born here, but because of what it is and what it has done and what it stands for. Because it knows it makes mistakes, and makes the best possible effort to rectify them and prevent them from happening again. Because of this, we do the best we can with what we have when we have it. It isn't elitism, it's simply the desire of the common person to make the situation as good as it can be made right now. It's not to be afraid of war or conflict, although anyone who is rational is. But there's a little bit of Rodger Young in anyone that can understand his story and why he undertook the series of actions that ended up costing him his life.

For those who cannot, you have my most sincere pity.

I recently discovered the film Secondhand Lions. Robert Duvall, Michael Caine, and Haley Joel Osmont. Beautiful tightly plotted movie, highly recommended, and if it hadn't been up against Return Of The King it might have won Best Picture. Robert Duvall and Michael Caine are a pair of brothers, old coots who disappeared for forty years before turning back up in Texas. Everyone knows they've got money, and everyone's got their theories as to how they got it. One person thinks they were mobsters, another bank robbers, a third contract killers. Nobody knows where the money is, and everybody wants to get their hands on it. Walter (Haley Joel Osmont) is their great nephew dumped off with them by his mother for the summer. Over time, Michael Caine starts telling this fantastic story about where they were all that time, what they were doing, and incidentally, where they got their money. Along the way, we see how the two old brothers treat the world around them, and the boy starts to get a sense that there really is something to their story, no matter how many people tell him otherwise because it's too fantastic. Nothing out of science fiction or fantasy, but quite a bit of the stuff that romantic fiction is made of. The imaginations of the adults simply will not stretch far enough to believe what you as the observer suspect more and more along the way is the truth. They're older, "wiser", and "not that naive." But the story Michael Caine's character tells is not only compelling, but has all the little elements that make it believable and fits with the way the brothers treat the world around them, and when the major confrontation happens, Walter decides he believes his great uncles rather than his mother (who's lied to him for convenience many times) and her latest sleazy boyfriend, who are trying to justify stealing the two brothers' money.

There is eventual corroboration of main theme of the brothers' story just as the picture ends, after a twenty year fast forward, but by that point the viewer who has been watching carefully doesn't really need it, and the point of the corroboration is elsewhere. The watchers of the movie have seen the evidence. No matter how unlikely, we know it's the truth, even if those characters stuck in denial on the silver screen do not. If Michael Caine has possibly embellished the details a bit, that's not really important. You know that the basic story happened, where the on-screen adults refuse to believe.

This happens in the real world, also. When Heaven's Gate group suicided, the local rag ran a transcript of the sheriff's call. The first officers at the scene just could not understand what happened, despite it being fairly straightforward logically. Their minds just could not make the deduction. Their prejudices refused to believe 39 people could commit mass suicide, and they asked for back-up partially to figure out what had happened.

The real world happens, and it cares not a whit for our prejudices and experiences. It just is. It doesn't matter whether we believe there is an express train coming down the track or not. We're just as spectacularly dead either way when it hits us.

We have once again reached a point in history where many people believe that their perception is everything, despite it missing a large number of data points and ignoring another large number of them. People who would have no problem demanding immediate action if a group of neo-nazi skinheads took over the government of Germany, changed the flag to a swastika, built up their army, and started saying things like lebensraum and Drang Nach Osten and Judenfrei, nonetheless have a failure of imagination when it comes to the Islamists. When you're talking about the Nazis, I don't imagine anyone would have any problem extrapolating what would happen next. It's all happened before, and most of us have heard stories about it and seen movies and television ad nauseum (Hollywood has no problem with Nazis as bad guys; after all, they attacked the communists and almost won). Indeed, many folks believe something very similar has happened here in the United States, despite the vast weight of the evidence to the contrary. For example, instead of metaphorically "scapegoating the jews" so to speak, we are going quite a distance out of our way not to hold those of the ethnicity that was responsible for the most recent atrocities, despite the fact that a not insignificant proportion have actively worked to advance the cause of those who perpetuated the atrocities, and yet we refuse (mostly correctly) to allow our law enforcement and counter-terrorism units to concentrate their efforts on this ethnicity. We have yet to restrict them in any fashion, or treat them in any way disfavorably as compared to any other group. Compare and contrast this to the treatment that the Jews received in Nazi Germany, even before Kristallnicht. Consider that we are gearing up for Congressional elections, not burning the Reichstag, and that it is accepted by all concerned that our current president will leave office in January 2009 while having no apparent successor currently in sight. Indeed, for the first time in 56 years, we will have neither a sitting president nor vice-president on the ballot in 2008.

Why, if we are so intent upon manufacturing threats and conspiracies, are we unable to believe the publicly stated intentions of a large faction of a major world religion? They make no secret of their Islamist doctrine, and conquest for the sake of spreading their religion is embedded far more strongly in the dogma of Islam than it ever was in Christianity, yet a significant portion of our population completely discounts this threat while obsessing about the "establishment of a theocracy" here in the United States, presumably of the fundamentalist or evangelical Christian stripe. Despite their words, despite their actions, it's almost as if these people have dismissed the islamists as being unimportant, much like the British Empire of a century ago dismissed the request of one chinese mandarin who inquired as to when this barbarian chieftainess Victoria was going to come do homage to the Son of Heaven? The world today is different in many ways, but one of the most important is the damage a small group of dedicated people can do.

There is the fact that there have been christian theocracies, many of them spread all over europe. There is also historical favoritism towards protestant christians in this country. However, there hasn't been a single christian majority nation which has been believably a theocracy since at least the Spanish Civil War, and not really since the French Revolution. Protestant favoritism has never been legally based in this country, and its social practice in this country and elsewhere have been dying since the end of World War II and in another generation you'll have people who don't even realize that protestants used to be favored.

Compare and contrast this to Islamic nations, where the dhimmi tax is the order of the day, non-moslems are severely restricted in their opportunities and not allowed to do certain things. There is no imagination required to believe Islamists intend exactly what they say; these are typical practices in those countries that are officially islamic.

Consider the treatment of non-islamics in islamic countries, and historic militant expansionism of islam. Dhimmi is real. It is happening today. The pressure to adopt Islam is intense, starting with increased taxes and going from there through being unable to bring any kind of legal action against a Muslim, not being allowed to testify against them in court. If ever you give in, and accept Islam, not only do the imams have dominion over you forever, but you are never permitted to give it up. If you are raised in an Islamic household, you will be required while still a child to profess islam, and once you have done so, there is no recognition of the fact that you may have done so under coercion, or before the age of consent. You are moslem forever. Not even in the darkest, most repressive days of christianity did the christian priests go so far. Several muslim countries still enforce the death penalty for apostasy - attempting to leave the islamic faith.

So far, I have ignored the militant nature of Islam, how it carried the religion at the point of a sword all the way from Arabia to the Philippines and Morocco and Spain, most of it within a century or so after founding, and how it wants to do so today. Indeed, it is doing the best it can towards that purpose. Christianity a hundred years after the death of Jesus, or Paul, was a small sect, and if not generally persecuted to the degree portrayed in christian mythology, was officially forbidden and hid in the shadows where nobody looked. The reason we have so few examples of early christian lore, or buildings, is because they were forced to hide from official notice. For nearly three centuries, this was how christians lived. The christian philosophy has developed in accordance with this fact; it does not need official sponsorship from the state in order to attract believers.

Islam has never done anything of the kind. Indeed, they would likely have become something more akin to christianity if they had had to live thus. What they did in India was in no way atypical. I'm not going to pretend the Crusaders were saints, but the moslems, in general, gave at least as good as they got in terms of atrocities (there were some exceptions). The conquest of Cyprus, Syria, and Persia all had their atrocities. Not to mention the destruction of most of the remnants of classical civilization in Africa. Vlad Tepes was mostly noteworthy for being one of the few non-moslems willing to be savage enough to give them pause. Here's one more link just to drive the point home.

"So what," you say, "The last major offensive of the Islamic world was in 1683." True enough, but it was the last because they ran out of the means to carry them out, not because they had renounced conquest in the name of religion. The europeans had built their own civilization, and their technology, both civil and military, surpassed the Ottomans. By the time of Lepanto in 1571, it was only greater numbers that made them formidable, and when the southern european powers of the Mediterreanean combined against them to generate approximately equal numbers, the Turks were beaten. By the time of their last assault on Vienna, even superior numbers were insufficient to achieve their objective.

Not only have the Islamists today never given up on the goal of spreading their religion through conquest and force, the laws in the islamic countries hobble any who would speak against them or moderate their influence. It is a mistake to think of an islamic ruler as having the same sort of power that an absolute despot in most of the rest of the world. The real power lies in the mosque, which may grant the ruler some leeway, but nonetheless rules with an iron hand, and there are few islamic rulers who have successfully defied their priests. It is probably closer to the mark to think of their nominal rulers as administrators, because although they have discretion and authority of their own, there are boundaries they cannot cross if they wish to retain their position or their lives, as both Nasser and Sadat of Egypt, to name the first examples that spring to mind, demonstrate. Neither the ruler nor anyone else can fight sharia, and sharia supports the Islamists. There are a number of courageous moslems, primarily in the west, who have spoken out against Islamism and various parts of Islamic law. To date, I cannot point to a difference they have made in the overall islamic mindset, and many of them are under fatwas of death. I respect and admire them for speaking out, but thus far I cannot see that they have had much effect.

In short, this situation is in no way, shape, or form comparable to what limited efforts that christians have made to promote their values through legal-based means. The Islamic theocracies might be very comparable to Nazi Germany, if the Nazis had been in power for 1400 years and essentially every german was a true believer in Nazism and the virtues of the master race. This was not the case, as is demonstrated by the actions of Oskar Schindler and the White Rose group, among many others. China under Mao, the greatest mass murderer in history, comes closer, but even that falls short of the degree to which Islamic society proscribes disagreement with, and debate about its religious precepts, let alone the penalties for acting against those principles. If any imam has yet disavowed or spoken against world conquest by Islam, it's news to me. I just executed searches on several major search engines, and didn't come up with any. I seem to recall the pope apologizing for the crusades and indeed, christians have questioned them almost since they happened. I haven't heard of any reciprocation from moslems for their co-religionists' deeds in the same places, before, during, and after.

With all of this evidence readily available, if not precisely trumpeted by the guardians of our national discussions, the media, I cannot put the failure to comprehend the threat down to a failure of imagination. The data, the explanations, have been laid out quite solidly any number of places and they are easily findable on any search engine (except perhaps the ones based in Islamic countries, which are censored much the same as Google, MSN and Yahoo drew so much fire for accepting and cooperating with in China). Those sheriff's deputies who encountered the Heaven's Gate bodies I mentioned earlier did figure it out for themselves, although it took them a bit longer than you might think if you'd never been in a similarly worldview stretching situation. But they did manage to stretch their worldview to accommodate new facts. Those who do not believe in the war on terror are being presented with new facts that contradict their worldview, and instead of adapting their worldview to the new facts, they pretend those facts do not exist. Instead of believing in quite open and blatant islamist conspiracies for world domination, they insist upon creating ones which do not stand up under the comparison with known facts. This is not a failure of imagination. This amounts to nothing less than a willful denial of evidence, much like any number of scientists in the past refused to believe theories which described the world better than existing theories and correctly predicted subsequent events, much as the islamist hypothesis has correctly predicted everything from the arrests and other activity in Egypt to Iran wanting to join Pakistan in the nuclear club to the actions of the Wahhabi priesthood in Saudi Arabia.


The Basis of War

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(This was originally going to be part II of Is the United States Worth Defending? but that got too long to continue.)

What are my political priorities? Quite simply, I want to make the world as a whole and the United States in particular better places to live. I want people to live longer, richer, safer, happier lives. I want people both here and in the rest of the world to be able to do what they want as long as it doesn't mess up anybody else, and by anybody else I mean people.

Part and parcel of making the world better is not allowing it to get any worse. We have scratched and clawed our way up from the primordial slime, and whether you're talking 750 million years since life began on earth, or just the last hundred thousand or so when our species has identifiably existed, it was a long hard brutal slog up the slope, and the further down we fall, the harder it will be to start our way up again. Only in the last few hundred years have we come up with the idea that as we learn more about the world around us, maybe we know more than our ancestors. It's only been a couple of centuries since we started to drive out the idea that the people with the important ancestors are the important people. They certainly can be as is witnessed by any number of families of brilliant people, but this fallacy is to blame for the slowness of progress throughout most of human history. If your daddy was a peasant, you were a peasant, and if you didn't want to break your back to grow food for the rest of your life, you'd damned well better do it anyway until you prove that you can do something else - and because your daddy was a peasant, nobody believes you can be anything more, either. If your daddy was a king - even a king who accomplished nothing more than falling asleep and drooling on himself, the supposition that you deserved to be important also was overwhelming. History is largely the study of those people who made themselves important. It's only by oblique examination of the attitudes of the time that you find out how truly amazing the exceptions were.

It's only been a couple hundred years since the notion of democracy really took root, first in western culture, and recently spreading elsewhere. The idea that perhaps the sum of everybody's wisdom was greater than any one person's is a profound conceptual change. The idea of patent and copyright, that someone who invented something that potentially made everyone's life easier was entitled to some of the good of their invention, as opposed to it being just taken over by whatever noble (i.e. those who already had the resources to take advantage of it) first saw the uses, was likely what really ignited the industrial revolution.

It's been less than a century since people first really began to practice the idea that perhaps we ought to give everyone those same chances, not merely those who happened to be of the ruling sex, race, class, or ethnicity. It's only been a few decades even here in the United States where it has really been practiced. It's only been a few decades that sciences from medicine to physics to chemistry started advancing rapidly.

I could go on for hours, but the point I'm trying to make is that the ideals and elements of western civilization, and the United States in particular, however unpopular they may be with certain elements (who, I might add, would never give them up!) are worth defending. Hell, they are worth circling the wagons and retreating into the mountains and fighting guerilla style as our enemies have done and fighting to the last man, woman, and child, if we have to, rather than giving them up. If you don't substantially agree with me on this point, you might as well stop reading right now. I am not giving up our Freedoms which permitted all of this to happen. Not a chance in anybody's hell. And there are whole armies of people, good decent people who spend their lives as schoolteachers and police and firefighters and scoutmasters and military defenders of our country, and even bureaucrats, who will not allow it either. I am humbled by the knowledge that they would even permit me to stand with them if it came down to the necessity, and yet there is no doubt in that they would, and that they would be similarly humbled that I would permit them to stand with me.

The beauty of this society that we have built here in this country just beggars the imagination, and every time I think I understand it all, something comes along and knocks the feet out from under me and picks me up and slaps me around and shakes me and rubs my nose in the fact that we live in the most wonderful society anywhere throughout human history, and I am moved by the experience every time. Because of the great ideas of our civilization and our country, and the fact that they are so beautiful, so enabling of human dignity and human worth, they are so contagious that half the world wants to be an American, and most of the rest and a good deal of the first half wants to create an America wherever they happen to be. They may not speak English, they may never have so much as seen an American in the flesh, but they understand that they want to be American, and in that moment they have taken the first step in becoming Americans. Every year, millions of people want to be Americans so much that some of them will wait decades for the opportunity and come here to start all over again at an age when most people figure they have earned the right to take it easy for the rest of their lives. And millions more want to be Americans so much that they will break our laws, and risk, at least threoretically, a lifetime banishment in order to start becoming Americans right now. These people are more counterweight than the Chomsky brigades and other "America is Eeevil!" apologists can ever make up for even if they did put their lives where their mouths are and vote with their feet by actually going to live in one of those Fifth World hellhole "paradises" they keep telling us about, that would be wonderfully glad to have them and give them positions of privilege and importance, insulated from the everyday realities of life there, where they could rail to the world about how evil America is, and how wonderful their new homelands are, all the while living off the blood, the sweat, the tears of those who never were and never will be given any of the opportunities that these useful idiots take for granted. And yet these people haven't left, and more new Americans cross our borders every day. That tells me something quite profound.

Unfortunately, the rest of the world is not America. In fact, the entire idea of America, and western civilization in general, is supremely dangerous to those who are powerful in many areas of the world. The idea of democracy, that says we will choose our leaders based upon the one who persuades us that we want to go the way they want to go, mocks and undercuts those who are leaders because their grandfather was a leader, and their grandfather's grandfather before that, and instills no little amount of fear that perhaps they will not always be a leader. The idea of evolving wisdom based upon learning how the world works in ways that can be repeated, time and time again, and get the same answer no matter who conducts the tests, mocks and undercuts the idea of revealed wisdom, the idea that the Answer is always going to be the same because some priest hundreds of years ago said that was what God wanted, and instills no little amount of fear that perhaps the answer that priest put in God's mouth may not be correct. The idea that anyone can become wealthy, important, one of our leaders if they only have good ideas, work hard, and stick to it, mocks and undercuts those who are wealthy and powerful because their family has owned the port concession for the past seven generations, and instills no little amount of fear that perhaps someday, someone else may be given another port concession and manage it enough better so as to put them out of business, or even that there may be no port concession and so whomever wants to run the port can try.

These people we threaten by spreading our ideas are not blind or stupid. If they were, they would have lost their positions of power and wealth and privilege in favor of a new leader who really is as inspired as grandpa was. They are typically competent enough, and it's much easier to hang on to a position than to get it, and grandpa made certain daddy knew enough to hang on, and daddy made certain they did. But they feel threatened because however great a man grandpa, or grandpa's grandpa was, they know deep down that they personally are nothing special. They know that any number of people could do just as well, given their positions starting from wealth and privilege and having connections that most people do not.

But however unintentional the threat may be, the threat that American values represent is nothing short of devastating to their way of life. The fact that this powerful man is the son of a line of chiefs going back to the days of the prophets means very little to people who have been infected by our ways of thought. It still means something, even here in America, else the Kennedy and DuPont and Ford families (among others) would not have the cachet they do. It's a sign that it's more likely that there may be something here worth watching. But not even being a member of those families will get you anything if you're a loser (in fact, it will get you derision for being a waste of an opportunity), and it won't get you any opportunities that someone from outside them cannot get, even if they have to work harder than you do.

But even this mode of thought is supremely threatening to the man who is what he is because he's the son of the last king, or the son of a line of influential priests. Evolving wisdom, based upon experiments and observable, verifiable results, are a direct and immediate threat to the world of Revealed Wisdom and the Word of God (according to some priest or another, of course). Competition is anathema to those who have always been insulated from it, whose position depends upon being the only one with the ability to do some good or necessary thing, however artificial that ability may be.

So they want to stop these ideas, and the only way to stop them is at the source. So long as America and her allies stand strong and proud, America's ideas are going to, as they see it, "infect" the rest of the world. But let America be humbled, let her confidence be broken, above all let her ideas be defeated, and these people can retain their positions of wealth and power and privilege, and maybe even expand them.

That the desire to strike at us is understandable in no way, shape or form means that I think it should succeed. It should not, in fact, if we want the world to continue to become a better place, it must not. It only means that these people are not, by their own lights, necessarily evil.

Just because they do not see themselves as evil does not mean that their prescription is the one the world should be following. Indeed, in the free competition marketplace of ideas, their method of striking back tells us that they know their ideas will lose. They cannot convince us by rational process, and they know they cannot really convince us by force, either. Their strength is a fraction of ours.

Where they do see a light of hope for their cause, however, is ironically in the very successfulness of our ideas. Our ideas are so successful that not even our grandparents grandparents had any significant war or violence across an entire continent that their parents had conquered. It has been 140 years and counting since any large proportion of our population saw war "up close and personal" the way large proportions of most generations in the rest of the world have. There are still a large number of living Chinese who remember the events of the Communist Revolution. The violence of the Partition of India was contemporaneous with that. We sent something like ten million uniformed troops overseas in the second world war, but people from North Africa to the whole of Europe to the entire Western Pacific watched the war ravage their cropland, bomb their manufactories, and squash their homes. The generations since in Central and South America, all through Africa, and large swaths of Eurasia, have seen war just as closely. We have not. Many of us do not understand war. Many of us don't understand the nature of war. Many of us don't understand what it's like, what it means, to have war come to you, and be fought over your land. Most of us especially don't understand what it means to lose a war. It's been too long since it really happened.

In this lack of understanding, our enemies see a window of opportunity. If they can just convince us that it's not worth fighting, they can win. Indeed, if they convince us it's not worth fighting, they will win. Once we concede that we're not fighting any more, they automatically win. And because of the casualties and the allies we betray and the treasure we have wasted, if we later decide that we were wrong, it becomes much harder to change our minds. The South Vietnamese we encouraged to stand straight and tall and resist communism, and whom we then left to die because Democratic congress wanted to strike back at a Republican administration for domestic misdeeds were the genesis of the communist successes of the later seventies, when it seemed that the whole world was turning Communist. Angola, Mozambique, Nicaragua, the role call of countries that fell, or almost fell, goes on and on. Established, stable allies like Columbia and Venezuela fought off determined marxist insurgencies, both military and political, that sowed the seeds for modern troubles in those countries. The communists saw that they could bluff their way to victory, and those who would have opposed them saw that we left our allies to die when it became politically convenient to do so. So our enemies became emboldened, and our allies became fearful.

We rescued ourselves from that one, or actually Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher rescued us by restoring our confidence. A good thing, too, else we probably would have learned all too soon what it's like to really lose a war, in a way that we escaped with Vietnam, because it was so unexpected and our enemy never thought that we were really that stupid until we proved that we were, and next time we won't be likely to be nearly as lucky. Losing a war means real, long term consequences. Just ask Germany, or Japan, and reflect that we treated them far more kindly than any other defeated adversary had ever been treated, any other time in the history of the world. Ask the Nationalist Chinese, or any of the losers from dozens of revolutions around the world in the last two generations. Ask the Bosnians, the Croatians, the Rwandans, the Angolans, the Sudanese, the Cambodians, both the Pakistanis and the Bangladeshis, ask the Afghanis. Only where the victorious armies were themselves civilized, and subject to morality based claims of right and wrong, as with the United States, Britain, and the Israelis, have any of these hard facts been somewhat lessened.

I would rather not be in this war. War is a nasty, dehumanizing business that makes people die unpleasantly, wasting lives and resources and treasure that might have won real advances for us as a species. Like it or not, though, one determined enemy makes a war - it is peace that takes the cooperation of both sides. The other side has been at war with us, whether they realized it or not, since at least the 1970s and perhaps since the 1930s. That we as a group did not wake up to this until September 11, 2001 in no way alters these facts. Consider the way that any Americans captured by them have always been singled out for special attention. Not Swedes, not Danes, and not Greeks. Americans. The only nationality which draws anything like the same degree of attention is Israeli, and I think we all understand why that is. Israel represents the presence in their area of the world, but the United States stands behind that.

Unfortunately, there is no way that we can not threaten this group of opponents. Our very way of life provides the threat, and we cannot change this without changing our way of life, the thing that makes us American, and therefore worthwhile. The threat we represent has nothing to do with our military, which although it may be the most advanced and most capable in the world, it in no way, shape or form threatened them prior to September 11, 2001. Okay, we had bases in Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the region. Our actions said, as clearly as it can possibly be said, that we had no territorial ambitions in the area, and that so long as our mercantile interests were not threatened, we just weren't going to do anything. Why else would we have let Saddam Hussein off the hook the first time? We even went a far distance out of our normal ways to respect their ways of life and customs. I knew military women who were stationed in the middle east in the early 80s, ten years before Desert Storm, who were ordered to wear extra clothing in the desert heat so as not to offend their mores. Christians were told to keep their religion as low key as they possibly could, and public activities such as worship discouraged. And unless you yourself were Islamic and therefore permitted, for crying out loud don't go anywhere near the holy places! (By contrast, our great ideas have no problem with the idea of nonbelievers visiting Bethlehem, or Jerusalem, or Rome, and even the Mormons have no problems so long as you stay out of the "sealed" areas of their actual churches. Indeed, no small number of converts have been won by precisely this approach!)

We have tried being low key and inoffensive. It hasn't worked. The people we are fighting are threatened not by our guns, but by something a thousand times more powerful: our ideas. Indeed, it has finally become apparent to both sides in this war exactly what it is we are fighting over. This great clash between civilizations is over nothing less than the future direction of the world. Forward looking, evolving wisdom based upon observable reality, or Revealed Wisdom of words put into the mouth of God by a priest over a thousand years ago. Finding leadership in whichever of our citizens can best provide it, or looking to the sons and grandsons of chiefs. Remember, our enemy is not evil by his own lights, I would even argue that the vast majority are not really evil at all, but instead merely threatened by ideas that they cannot counteract with ideas of his own. Indeed, the thought of allowing those ideas to do battle in the intellectual marketplace is itself alien and threatening to him. Nonetheless, our enemy must be defeated. However imperfectly we practice and however recently we have come to it, the idea of allowing any citizen to lead who can convince us that they are worth following trumps the idea of following the son of the last leader. The idea that we should all be free, within limits of not harming others, to do what we want trumps the idea that our actions are prescribed by the place in society where we were born. The idea that members of all groups should have at least the same opportunities as anyone else trumps the idea that that the tribe that has always ruled gets all the goodies. The idea that women can make their own roles trumps the idea that women are housewives and mothers whose role is to support their husbands and raise their sons to treat their wives in the same way ("Women should not be beaten with a stick thicker than your forefinger"), second class citizens in every way. The idea that everyone can, should, must be allowed input into the decision-making process and that the daughter of a bricklayer may be more correct than the son of our leaders for the last hundred years trumps that the idea that the nobles and educated elite should make all the decisions because their clans have always led us and always been educated. You see, the real reason why they are losing the war - why they've already lost it, unless we throw away the victory by refusing to fight, or refusing to follow up the victories that have already been won - is that they waste so damned much of the human capital they are given, and that alone is more than reason enough why they must be defeated, and gives us ten thousand times more justice and right than our real enemies will ever have on their side. Not to say that we don't waste any, but they cannot hope to beat us except by becoming like us, and that in itself spells defeat for them, or by seducing us into a forfeit. The system we have beats anything that has come before it so hollow that there is no competition, which is why millions of ordinary people every year want to become Americans, and why we are a example held out as a symbol of hope by those fighting opression elsewhere in the world. It is not to the Secretary General of the United Nations that they appeal, not to the head of the EU, nor even to the executive of NATO, but to the President of the United States. It is to his eternal credit, and ours, that he has shown he understands what really is at stake here and has shown himself willing, et enormous risk and cost to himself, to take the proper actions.

The question of where anyone's priorities are begs the question of "Where do your loyalties lie?"

I am loyal first to the long term good of humanity. I want as many people as possible to live the best lives possible. I realize that this makes me sound like some sort of socialist or communist. Nothing could be further from the facts. As I've said before:

Except for killing tens of millions of people, sending large portions of the world economy backwards, causing billions to live in crushing poverty, setting the cause of personal liberty and human rights back decades, enriching and rewarding tyrants who oppress the people worse than any capitalist ever thought about doing, causing multi-decade famines in areas that once were breadbaskets, failing to feed its people for decades at a time, expanding the system of gulags worldwide, causing deadly and widespread environmental damage, literally destroying the means of production it inherited from its capitalist predecessors so nobody (except the rulers) got anything, stymieing the contributions billions of people could have made to the world,and doing its best to cover all of this up, including habitual executions of innocent people who simply stumbled on the wrong piece of evidence, I guess communism wasn't so bad.

At least the nobles in feudalistic societies A) didn't know any better, and B) Come the war, had an obligation/reason to stand in the front lines...

Each and every time it's been tried, communism has ended up in the exact same place. It's time to stop pretending this is a freak occurrence.

What's the definition of insanity again?

and socialism is like communism lite. Oh it's got high ideals and everything, but the facts are that it invariably ends up in stagnation and stratification of society, slow economic growth (if any), and little opportunity for people to advance themselves, leading to all sorts of problems. There is a thing called the socio-economic pyramid. It's triangular in shape, with the point at the top. There are a few people at the very top, more a little lower down, more still the farther down you go, until at the bottom you get the largest number of people living in crushing poverty with no power to improve their position. Historically, this triangle has been the shape of every human society until the last couple of hundred years, and the majority of human societies even today.

Today in the United States and similar places with a market economy and a more or less free society, we can see indications that the triangle has become shaped more like a pear, or even a diamond if you're an optimist. It is very plausible that within our lifetimes it may become apple-shaped. We still have a few people at the very top, then progressively more people until you get to a certain point, then you start seeing fewer again, and fewer still as you lower into the lower economic strata. What this means is a lower proportion of people who are poor by current standards.

This is a very good thing. It means we are making more effective use of our human capital than any society ever before in the annals of history. It means there are fewer members of the lowest economic strata (poverty level and below) than there are middle class people. It means more opportunity for those at the lower levels to climb into higher economic strata. As a percentage of the population, participation in the investment markets is higher than any other society any time in the history of the world. This means that we have spare wealth to invest in our own economic betterment. This means there is more wealth for investment to grow the economy, and more sources of more wealth if you have an idea that you can persuade people might Make Them Money. Furthermore, this means further developments that benefit us all, of whatever nature, are going to continue to come more and more quickly. I want my children to be able to explore the solar system, and their children to be able to explore the galaxy, and deal with whatever they meet on the best terms possible. It's a matter of belief with me that other sentient species are out there, and that we are going to meet them eventually. It would be much better for our children's children to meet them ten thousand light years away in ships that can do everything you hear talked about in science fiction, than in low earth orbit with present capabilities. Such is the case even if they're so advanced that they are like magnanimous gods in their conduct towards us. If they are something less advanced and more predatory and our descendants are scrabbling over who has more subsistence level manual labor farms because we've exhausted earth's resources, that could be deadly embarrassing. Not to mention that we're all living better lives in the meantime.

I'm open to other systems of course. But those that have been tried repeatedly with the result of retaining, or returning to the old pyramid model, I'm not going to consider. It's all very well and good to hold yourself out, as most socialists and communists do, as noble and promulgating the common good, but if the predictable effects of trying your socio-economic model are a return to the pyramid with yourself as one of the nobles, then we all know what is paved with good intentions and I hope you travel it soon.

One lesson that is consistent across history is that government is a horrible allocator of resources. Sometimes it may be the necessary allocator of resources, but that does not mean we shouldn't look for alternatives. Government can be, and usually is, unduly influenced by those with current political power to keep them in their current position or improve it. Lest anyone think I'm talking purely about the wealthy, I'm not. Agricultural subsidies were not begun in the era of corporate farms, and they have created quite a few wealthy farmers. Indeed, the largest pieces of our government budgets are allocated for those who are powerful because of their large aggregate number of votes. Politicians aren't afraid of offending the wealthy, they preach class warfare to the detriment of all of us quite often. They are afraid of offending large groups of voters, particularly organized voters. NAACP. NOW. AARP. Those are the names that cause politicans hearts to tremble in fear, not Rockefeller, Kennedy, and Ford, or even Gates or Buffett.

Nor is government efficient. Indeed, the primary goal of government officers seems, predictably, to be improving their own position. More money, larger budgets, supervise more employees, more highly paid - it's time you got a raise! and a promotion! Never mind that the job could be done by a fraction of the personnel and at a fraction of the cost. Government is not set up to reward this. Until it's spending its own money instead of taking it from the people, this will continue. Since government's only source of significant revenue is taxation, that will be roughly never. Until government officers are spending their own money, they will endeavor to increase their budgets regardless of need. There are things government must do, but they should be as few as practical.

If it sounds like I'm talking economics rather than politics, the reason is that economics, usually bad economics, with bad history, is behind a large part of politics. A lot of people who do not understand it well denigrate capitalism because a few get very wealthy while many do not. Well, until recently, being wealthy was a very human capital intensive thing. This has changed, and is changing further, and capitalism and the free market economy have brought about the conditions for change. Everybody knows and has heard that democracy is the worst form of government except for everything else that's been tried. Similarly, free market capitalism is the worst system - except for everything else that has ever been tried. Yes, it allows people to fail, sometimes spectacularly, but it is this freedom to fail together with rewarding those who succeed that causes the system to succeed. People respond to a system of rewards and punishments, particularly when they are incremental and fairly immediate. When they can succeed greatly, and be rewarded commensurately, they are more likely to take the kind of risks that benefit us all. The difference between 2 percent growth - like Europe is seeing - and 3.5 to 4 percent growth like the United States is not 1.5 to 2 percent. It is 75 percent plus. It's the difference between 50 percent growth in a generation and hundred percent growth. Over a working lifetime of forty years, it's the difference between doubling the economy and quadrupling it.

This has implications in the lowest economic strata as well as the highest. Poverty level in the United States is extremely well off in most of the rest of the world. It may take some time, but a rising economic tide really does lift all boats. Not only do people make more money here, but the necessities of life are cheaper. This further raises the effective standard of living. Poverty stricken people in the United States live as well as the middle class in most of europe. Why? Because our model is more free market than theirs. Because we try more things than they do. Because we are free to fail. A certain number of ideas are always going to be failures, but we try them because we have reason to believe that they will succeed. We aren't required to prove to professional skeptics that it will succeed. And more of them do succeed than most people realize. Everybody quotes the old saw about only one business in five making it. But it isn't true. Indeed, the fastest growing segment of our economy is those individuals who make a living selling their own expertise, and the reason they eventually go out of business is that someone in corporate america makes them a job offer too good to refuse.

I am also loyal to the United States. Yes, I want to improve it. But I also think the place where all of these reforms first came to be practiced, and where they are most assiduously practiced today, is worth defending. Especially as our main rivals practice governmental or economic systems that have been shown to be less advantageous or even a step back into the dark ages. Those we are at war with would take us back to a tribal society of city-states, where the priesthood has the real final say in all matters of justice, or societal norm, of what is and is not to be tolerated. Those at the top of their hierarchy may be civilized cosmopolitan men of the world, but those at the base are little different from medieval peasantry in ther attitudes. We are forward looking, always trying to find a better way to do something. They would force us - all of us - into a cultural straightjacket that hardened in the eighth century. Those few at the top that we see, by virtue of their power and wealth, can get away with challenging their culture. For the vast majority of their culture, those in the lower economic strata of their pyramid, it is a straightjacket of thought, of behavior, and of any chance of advancement. This includes not only women, but all minorities, and all members of any other religions, or those who have none. They may grudgingly tolerate the presence of Christians because Mohammed told them to, but you are also distinctly second class citizens who had better keep to your place. Atheists and agnostics are not "peoples of the book" and their place in Islamic society is dependent upon being perceived to be members of the christian community.

So what we have achieved here in the United States is worth defending. The more so because cultures are subject not only to something akin to entropy, but also because despite the fact that the United States is the most powerful nation in the globe, we are not nearly as powerful as the rest of the world together. The high point of American power was right after World War II - had we wished to, we could have made a much stronger attempt at militarily conquering the world than Germany and Japan did. We would have failed, but that we didn't try, and instead came home and had it handed to us because most of the rest of the world wants to be Americans. If they didn't find our culture attractive, all of the Madison Avenue Marketing Gurus and all of the television shows and all of the movies in creation could not make them want it. Every salesman knows that you can't sell people something that they don't want. People want better stuff, and they want more individual, as opposed to governmental, control over their own lives. That they do want it is illustrated by how much American culture they have bought. I'm not certain there is any place in the world where you can't find something American. Certainly nowhere I've ever been, or any of the people I've talked to about their travels. From Coca Cola to Hollywood to McDonalds, American stuff is everywhere, and american ideals with them. Indeed, it's so ubiquitous worldwide that most places are now making American style stuff of their own, and living increasingly American lifestyles. There are even signs that a certain number of less developed countries are imitating the United States so far as to changing the economic pyramid into something pear-shaped.

That they have copied our model is one reason why they have kept up with us, indeed, nearly caught up with us in the case of several Asian countries. They did this - their entrenched powers allowed it or encouraged it - because they could see that they would be overwhelmed if they did not. They saw a more successful, more competitive model, and imitated as much of it as they could make themselves comfortable with. But certain of our ideals, specifically contempt or questioning of authority, the idea that everyone should have the same opportunities, the idea that anyone can come up with worthy ideas, and especialy the idea that no one is below being rewarded or above being punished, are very dangerous to those elites, whether wealthy, educated, or religious. They know that these ideas spell doom for their class, and have insulated their societies from them to the extent practical. The more socialist model prevailing in most of europe holds itself out to be superior, but clearly is not competing as well, and their elites can only retaliate by despising us.

One important feature of competitive evolutionary models is that the introduction of one example that competes better forces all of the other members of the system to become more effective, more competitive - or face evolutionary disadvantage. And evolutionary disadvantage, in the long term, is a fancy way of saying extinction. Societies must adapt to changing conditions or they die. The elites ruling in Asia made the choice that they were going to compete on the same level. The elites of Europe, perhaps because they are our parental society, are in denial that their current rules have a lot in common with those made by feudal lords protecting their peasants.

But if we remove the United States, the motivation to compete with us vanishes, along with the american style reforms. In only a few places is it rooted deeply enough that it would survive without us competing with them. Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. Australia. Eastern Europe and India if they get another generation. Maybe one or two other places. Except for maybe India, all of these are more subject to being overwhelmed from without than we are. The older systems are still strong, and they are practiced in a much larger number of places.

So is the United States worth defending? Yes. Is it worth defending the cause of global freedoms, and global innovation? Absolutely. Is our society worth defending? You bet. Is defending the United States in the War on Terror a good thing for all of the above? There can be no other answer but yes.

War on Terror: I think Scrappleface sums it up completely:

Bush Pushes Funding of 'Fear Gene' Research

by Scott Ott

(2005-11-18) -- Reacting quickly to new a study, published in the journal Cell, that shows timid mice can be made bold by removal of a single gene, President George Bush today urged Congress to provide $10 billion of immediate funding for the research "for the benefit of America's fearful rodents."

During a week in which Senate Republicans approved a bill on the Iraq war that was written largely by Democrats, and House Republicans defeated their own budget bill, Mr. Bush said, "It breaks my heart to think of those little mice as they cower in the corner with their whiskers twitching as they read the polling data."

The president acknowledged that the $10 billion for the 'fear gene' research is "a big chunk of change," but he justified the spending as a short-term measure that would be paid back ten-fold if the therapy works beyond mice.

I know. It's supposed to be satire.

Makes me want to repost a link to this Vodkapundit article.

I wonder if we have gotten so lost in our own concerns that we no longer have the ability to wage a war.

My copy of "Art of War" is in storage currently, but here is a link to an online version.

Sun Tzu is not some arcane figure from the annals of military history, like say, Hasdrubal Barca, whose miserable failure in Spain may have been the reason why his brother Hannibal was never able to lead Carthaginian forces to conquer Rome. Sun Tzu is the rough equivalent of Archimedes for scientists. This is basic, "hit the baseball with the bat" level stuff. His work is so pivotal, so important to everyone who came later, that Project Gutenberg has five different translations. Knowing Sun Tzu alone will not win you battles against modern foes with knowledge of those who have built on Sun Tzu's work.

But if you've forgotten (or don't apply) Sun Tzu's lessons, then you are doomed.

It's kind of like forgetting that 2+2=4 when you're doing calculus. Forget the building blocks that enable you to compute the correct answer, and the problem falls apart, disastrously.

The single most important lesson of this work, the earliest basic text on which all military science is based, is the lesson of effective warfare. In the original work, if you're not careful you will read past this very short passage without noticing that it is even important, much less how important it is. "Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

This has been expanded greatly in the 2500 years since. Judging by the entire long, sorry history of warfare, the one sentence that I can come up with that best distills this point is that "A war or a battle is lost when the will to fight it is broken." Not until. No matter how hopeless it looks, so long as the will to fight is there, there is hope.

Lose it, and your cause is dead.

It may flop around for a while, doing a huge amount of damage, spewing blood everywhere, and generally leaving wreckage in its wake, all to no good purpose because it's already dead.

The corollary is that so long as you have the will to fight, there is hope. A lot of hope, if you look at the history of such figures as the Dutch struggle for independence, the Swiss struggle for independence, and our own Revolution. Each of them was greatly outnumbered, out-equipped, and even out-generaled in most instances. They won when the opposition lost the will to contest the issue. So long as you have one person willing to continue the fight, you are "in the game."

History is replete with superior armies, winning armies, defeated because they lost the will to continue. From battles at Cannae and Hastings to entire wars, the struggle is lost when the will to fight is lost.

On historical battlefields, and in historical wars, after this point is where the real carnage begins. However bad it gets, however horrible the casualties before the losers collapse, they usually become an order of magnitude worse afterwards. Roman casualties before the troops panicked at Cannae weren't large. If they had instead of panicking managed to hold cohesion they could have aborted the majority of the Second Punic War right there by breaking Hannibal instead of him breaking them. The well-documented barbarities of the combatants upon the populace in Thirty Years War in Germany, the whole history of the Russian front in World War II, and countless other conflicts are more historical norm than anomaly, and had far longer casualty lists that the battles themselves.

The struggle we are fighting now is no different. Our opponent is not constrained by, indeed, makes no pretense that they are constrained by any consideration of "civilized warfare." They have told us repeatedly, by their actions, that they do not consider civilian targets to be "off limits," indeed, their attacks on civilians, and the number of civilian casualties, greatly outnumber their attacks upon our military and our military casualties.

Furthermore, they have told us repeatedly exactly what their strategic goals are: nothing short of the annihilation of our society and way of life as it exists. This is understandable, as our civilization's great memes are in direct conflict with theirs. Evolving wisdom as opposed to revealed historical wisdom. Individual freedom of religion as opposed to enforced submission to the rule of one particular religion. However recently and imperfectly we may have come to it, respect for women and minorities of all sorts, and participation in our ruling bodies, versus subjugation of women to men, subjugation of others to the dominant religion, heavy ongoing penalties for those outside the favored class of the ruling religion.

That western civilization has wronged islamic civilization is true, and yet so utterly misses the point as to be non-germane to the struggle. Both the chinese and russian empires (for that is what they are) have oppressed and wronged the islamic civilizations far worse than we; the islamics have not declared jihad towards them. Nor have all of the wrongs been unidirectional, indeed the far greater weight of wrong lies in what islamic civilization has done to western. They did not spring up as a major world religion in less than a century, dominating the world from the Pyrenees south through Africa and into Central Asia, from the Carpathians to Indonesia, by peaceful conversion. The Byzantine Empire did not fall to, and Eastern and Central Europe did not quiver under fear of Turkish missionaries for four centuries. Lepanto, and Cyprus, and Malta were not battles fought by ravening Christian hordes against randomly wandering peaceful preachers bound to spread the word of the love of Allah. All of these territories were won by islamic "missionaries" at the point of a sword. All of these battles were waged, at islamic insistence, with sword and gunpowder rather than sweet reason and exhortation, and had western civilization not fought them and won, the world would be a much poorer place than it is today. The very notion of "I disagree with everything you say, but will defend your right to say it," is not only completely alien, but anathema to them. The notion that observable reality trumps interpretation of scripture, however difficult it was to wring from the Catholic Church (among others), is now well established in Christian doctrine, Judaic doctrine, and every other world religion. The official position of Islam remains that if Mohammed said it, it must be true, and any representation with implications to the contrary must be heresy and therefore punished.

I do not fool myself that I can live with allowing the islamic civilization to win this war. They would demand our society make changes that I could not live with. I have two daughters and a wife I love; what the requirements of the society the islamicists would impose upon them I will die before I allow them to take place.

Nonetheless, there are those in our society who cannot abide or agree with any of the reasons that mandate this war, which has been going on since at least 1978 and possibly as far back as the 1930s. That we in the United States did not widely recognize it as a war until our faces were rubbed in it on September 11, 2001 in no alters the fact that this conflict is far older than that. But whether these people cannot believe any war is necessary, whether they would rather lose than fight any war, that they cannot believe this war is necessary, or if they simply wish to remove the political opposition from power and opposing this war is one obvious way to do that, they name themselves as allied to the enemy.

Lest I be misinterpreted, I am not claiming treason in general and I am not naming them traitors in aggregate, although there are certainly those in this country who have crossed that line into treason. But they are nonetheless useful to our enemies, and therefore, allies of our enemies in this war. There are even those who would rather be thought of as allied to the enemy than supportive of our own efforts in this war, and I do not call them traitor. You see, they are protected by our societal meme of political free speech, and where every other nation in the history of the world would name them traitor and expel them or more likely execute them, here they are protected, and rightly so, by this meme.

This does not mean that they are not exploiting this meme against us, the very civilization of which they are, theoretically and legally if not factually or emotionally, members.

Some day, we may have a perfect world of love and peace and rationality, but I really doubt it. We definitely are not there yet. Responses and actions that, no matter how noble their motives, do not consider real world constraints are foolish at best, contemptible at worse. Gandhi's methods of resistance to the British freed India because the British saw themselves as civilized people with a deeply engrained sense of limits upon the power and ability of the state to use force. Had India been a German possession, he would have been hanged or given a bullet to the back of the head before anything noteworthy happened, and gone down in history as a figure of derision such as Peter The Hermit (Additional article here). Had India been still in Mogul hands at the time, not only Mohandas K and his followers would have been executed, but likely their families and a large number of innocent bystanders to make certain of the lesson. Lest you have any doubts, our enemies in the War on Terror are, if anything, less civilized and constrained by their conscience than the Germans; perhaps less so than the Moguls. That they have failed to kill every Jew in the Middle East is more a measure of Israeli competence and determination than any moral constraint that our mutual enemies place themselves under.

Despite all of this, there are those who, for whatever reason, would rather the United States lost the current struggle. This is partly a measure of how long it has been since we really lost a war or had it fought on our own territory; not since the Civil War has any large swath of the country seen military action or the consequences of losing a war. They are immense, and if you're not familiar with them, I suggest you do some research. Within the last century, France during and after both World Wars, Russia and Poland and Japan and Italy and most especially Germany have all been devastated. Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire are defunct because of the First World War. This one would likely be worse than either of those; this is a religious war, at least from the opposition viewpoint. They see themselves as Holy Warriors, sacred in the eyes of God because they are working towards the advancement of their religion. The christian conquistadores and other colonizers of the rest of the globe labored under greater constraints than these.

Despite our impressive military success and work towards democracy in Iraq, we are under daily assault from those working on behalf of our enemies. These assaults have the intent of breaking our will to fight, and not all of them use bullets or explosives. By far the worst, and most effective of them, are undertaken by people who are theoretically and legally members of our own civilization that would have us lose this war.

Thus far, I have observed three categories of those opposing the Iraq War.

The first is those who are opposed to any war, any violence, ever. They can be told by the things such as candlelight vigils before the war, and lines such as "All we are saying is give peace a chance." Well, you are entitled to your opinion and your viewpoint is worthy of a certain respect, but peace was given at least fifty chances over the twelve years between Gulf War I and Gulf War II. At some point, those of us who live in the real world where there are real Wolves circling about the edges of civilization looking for the chance to swoop in and gather some sheep for the slaughter are going to simply ignore you because your assertions do not match observable reality. I admire Gandhi and Martin Luther King greatly, without Dr. King in particular it is my opinion that we would have had a second civil war. Nonetheless their famous mode of response will not serve where the opponents are not themselves civilized.

The second is those who have always been opposed to this war in particular, as opposed to any war. They think it is possible, even likely that some war is justified, but not this one. They may even point to one specific example, so long as it is sufficiently far in the past. World War II is their usual example. They have always been against the war in Iraq, on the eve of it they were doing the same sorts of things as those in first category. They claim Iraq was not threatening us, unfortunately for their point of view neither was Germany at the point we went to war with them. In fact, Hitler was trying to do everything he reasonably could to keep the United States out of the war, ignoring many American actions that would have constituted a valid causus belli, and he quite likely regretted his alliance with Japan from the moment he got the news of Pearl Harbor onwards for the rest of his life. Churchill summed it up perfectly when, upon hearing word of Pearl Harbor, he exclaimed, "The War is Won!" Our role against Germany in World War II was entirely offensive, they staged not one single attack against the laws of war prior to the declaration of war; unlike Iraq, they did not even provide assistance or bases or training or money for such. They staged precisely zero attacks upon United States territory or possessions for the duration of the war. The only thing that war against Germany had going for it that war against Iraq does not is the Germans underlying almost frightening level of competence, driven by the Prussian war machine with its tradition and evolving doctrine that went back at least to Frederick the Great. Not for nothing was Von Clausewitz Prussian. After the Prussians had their metaphorical butts kicked all over europe by a Corsican Colenel for twenty years, as soon as they had a spare moment they sat down and analyzed what had gone wrong and figured out how to fix it. The Iraqi machine, by contrast, rose on its best days to the level of bumbling bozo. The men were brave enough and reasonably well equipped, but most of those leading them and ordering them were worse than a waste of space. Also, given the anti-western intellectual climate in many places, it doesn't hurt the publicity angle that the Germans were considered members of western civilization while the Iraqis are not. Note that this makes essentially no difference factually, it is a difference in perception only. The mental label you apply to gravity makes no difference to the fact that it remains within a fraction of a percent of 9.81 meters per second squared everywhere upon the surface of earth.

The third categry I observe is those that have either forgotten or choose to ignore the extensive case that was made against the war. These people are recognized by their adherence to and repetition of the "Bush lied!" meme. These people are worthy of no respect. The vote to authorize force was bipartisan and a majority of democrats joined in no matter their subsequent revisionism. It listed sixteen separate reasons for the war and the truth of fifteen have been established beyond dispute. The final claim, of "Weapons of Mass Destruction," is subject to significant dispute, but that does not invalidate or in any way lessen the truth of the other fifteen. You cannot fight fifteen sixteenths of a war. You're either in for the whole thing, or you are better off not fighting at all. Furthermore, there is significant evidence that Iraq was working on WMDs, as well as more evidence that they might have gotten some such devices well enough hidden not to be found or even over the border into Syria and the custody of their fellow Ba'athists. We gave them the better part of a year to hide them. Given that long for them to hide the damned things, the amazing thing thing would have been if we actually found any. The strongest claim that may stand up under scrutiny is that the Iraqi Ba'athists were not as far along as we thought they were.

The fact is, our president did not lie. Members of both political parties here in the United States had been making the same claim based upon the same intelligence for the better part of a decade. Every major foreign intelligence body in the world believed that the president's assertion about Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction to be fact. The president's claim was based upon this intelligence, which predated 9/11/01 by several years, and it is a matter of undisputed fact that Iraq had, in point of fact, deployed chemical weapons upon their own citizens. The pre-existing intelligence of Iraqi weaponry was not based upon this later claim. Public reports of the intelligence go back further than George W. Bush even declaring that he was running for President, and the left's sainted Clinton duo both made repeated claims on precisely this point, a fact that Bill Clinton has decided to conveniently and politically forget. To be quite frank, those in this category are political opponents of the president hoping to capitalize upon collective amnesia and encouraged by the fact that through long dedication their adherents hold control of our largest aggregators of collective memory, the legacy media. They are, at best, fairweather friends who were trying then to take advantage of public sentiment for increased personal popularity. At worst, they are scum, lying for purposes of political opportunism. They are trading in the well being of us all in exchange for the hope of capturing power, much as the Ducases of Byzantium and with much the same results should they succeed (There are eerie parallels between the Ducases and the Kennedys, IMHO).

Nonetheless, the fact that we have nearly fallen prey to these people for the second time in living memory, when most registered voters still remember (whether they are happy with such memories or not) the consequences of following their siren song of surrender and defeat has caused me to stop and consider: Have we the capacity to wage any war of the future to its full conclusion?

Wars are not, in general, quick affairs of a few months and then over. If they are, then they are most likely part of a larger series of conflicts such as the British (and Portuguese, and French, and Dutch) saw in India from the time of their first involvement right up to independence, North-West Frontier Province was never pacified for five years in a row, and anti-european agitators were never entirely absent from even the major cities. If those major cities were nonetheless safer than cities in Iraqi's Sunni Triangle today, it is because the weapons the Indian insurgents had access to were much less powerful and the British - the civilized British who allowed Gandhi to win India's independence rather than lose their opinions of themselves as civilized human beings - had far fewer qualms and constraints upon their actions than we do today.

The War in Vietnam from lasted from at least 1952 to 1975. World War II in europe lasted, at minimum, from September 1939 to May 1945, over five and one-half years, and had Germany not been so exhausted at the end and in denial until Spring 1945 about whether they were losing the war, the Werewolf resistance would have been much longer and more effective than it was. We never signed an actual treaty ending the war in Korea, merely an armistice. The revolutionary war lasted from April 1775 to September 1783, almost eight and one half years.

In all recent wars of the United States, there have been those who are against the United States fighting, continuing to fight, or prosecuting the war to its proper extent. They begin as soon as any prospect of violence is in the public forum, they continue with unabated criticism, justified or not, until we either collectively admit that they were correct in their viewpoint by quitting the war, or the point becomes moot, as during Gulf War I. By their actions, they are consistently attempting nothing less than the undermining of our collective will to resist, making them, by clear application of Sun Tzu's work, enemies of the United States and traitors de facto although not, because of the incredibly wonderful nature of our society which explicitly defines this heinous crime more narrowly than any other nation in the history of the world, traitors de jure.

But the reason that the point becomes moot, as in Gulf War I, was that our leader at the time caused us to quit and walk away on his own hook, having been too much exposed himself to the Doubting Thomases of antiwar hysteria. And so, having made the investment in lives, treasure, material and alliances necessary towards solving the problem, he deliberately allowed it to remain a problem for another person, another day, another investment of lives and treasure and alliances more dearly bought because he betrayed many of the ones we had on that day. War is not, in general, over within 100 hours or even 100 days, not unless it's a war of a sort such as to utterly destroy the enemy with nuclear weapons or similar arsenal. I do not want our defense policy limited to "Nukes or nothing!", and if those who have opposed every war in the last fifty years thought about it, I'm certain most of them would agree. Nonetheless, this is the de facto goal they are driving our defense policy towards.

Perhaps they would have us fight only defensive wars. This ignores everything history has taught us. First, no purely defensive strategy has ever won a war. Not once. At most, it has played for time while other things happened in the background with the eventual hope of taking the war to the enemy and giving them a reason to stop the war. Purely defensive strategy is a 100 percent pure, guaranteed loser. Second, from a strictly utilitarian viewpoint, if a war must happen, far better it be fought elsewhere. If our country is largely undamaged, we can far more afford to rebuild the enemy, as we did in Germany, Japan, and Italy, than if the war is fought here. If it's fought here, it's certainly a possible indicator that we have already lost. If we lose and our opponent is victorious, evidence is strong that they will not help us rebuild, indeed "reparations" are the historical norm, and (to our eternal credit) we are the only country to have ever

not only forgone reparations but actually given our former enemies the means with which to rebuild stronger than ever. I believe the reparations this particular foe would demand would be heavy indeed. Certainly the evidence of their stated goals points in that direction.

If we must fight only purely defensive wars, better not to bother. No such war has ever been won. Better to honestly decide not to fight. That way we suffer no devastation beyond what our enemies would require be inflicted upon us as a condition of our defeat. That way, at least, we will not squander our treasure upon a military we have no intention of allowing to win any fight. At least this will allow our warriors to choose to join other countries who could profit from their efforts, and perhaps we could even acquire some geld with which to pay our modern day danes by selling off our miltary capabilities. Not that it will make any long term difference. But the more danegeld we start with, the longer before the collapse, translating to more time and opportunity to enable those of us not too far gone in denial to evacuate the country elsewhere before its inevitable conquest.

The alternative? Not really that different from today in fact, but a world of difference in tone. We must respond (in the aggregate) more definitely, more immediately, and more activly to those who would have us bare our civilization's throat to the barbarian knife. Luckily, while the defeatist controlled mainstream legacy media still has all of the advantages in the fight, there now exist not only those outside of the media, but even those media who are not controlled by the defeatists (Ironically enough, the most obvious of these, the media outlet most maligned and yet most loyal to the interests of our country, is currently foreign owned!). There is a whole Community of Milblogs, many of whom are eyewitness reporting from the front lines on what is actually going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the news is much different, not only in tone but in content, from what is seen in the legacy media, which is neither unbiased nor even competent in the main to report this story. I certainly cannot name an editor or reporter for any major legacy media with relevant combat or military experience. There are many websites, of which I particularly recommend Mudville Gazette, Austin Bay, Indepundit, Michael Yon, fellow Raging RINO Argghhh!, Blackfive, Froggy Ruminations, and ROFASix (who is retired). From these you can certainly find others who speak to something you understand.

But if you really love this country, appreciate everything she has done for this world (a long laundry list in her short history), and want it to continue to help the world be its best, informing yourself is not enough. You must also refuse to allow those who ally themselves with our country's enemies to control the discussion. Do not allow them to spread their lies, misinformation, and propaganda. They are counting upon the average citizen's unwillingness to confront them, the meme of tolerance that they have twisted to mean the silence of their opposition while they spout their poison - while they regularly turn around and censor the same opposition who allowed them to speak, heaping abuse and allegations of "insensitivity" and "offensive speech" and just plain sarcasm, but rarely debating the actual issues. They can talk, but we, their opposition, have the same right to decry the nudity of their ruling ideas as they do of ours. Indeed, that their emperors are more naked than ours ever thought about being is the root of their "insensitivity" and "offensive speech" memes. Once they allow their ideas, memes, and assumptions to come in for critical analysis based upon observable facts, their emperor is indisputably naked. It is not cruel to do this despite the fact that their feelings may be as hurt of those of a small child. Small children do not grow to being responsible adults without learning the intellectual tools of defending an idea based upon fact, not because they "really really want to believe in it." They certainly do not become adults without the capability of abandoning a closely held precious idea because it does not conform to observable reality.

This work is never done, never over, but it is necessary. It may not be at the soldier's level of "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance," but it is certainly a lesser part of the same equation. If you're not willing to pay it, then get the hell out of the way of those who are.

Gods of the Copybook Headings

The concluding stanzas:

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man

There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.

That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,

And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins

When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,

As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will bum,

The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return.

Rudyard Kipling, 1919.

(HT to Volokh Conspiracy for reminding me of the Kipling)

UPDATE: Minor editing correction by inserting words "do not" into paragraph beginning "The struggle we are fighting" where they had been accidentally deleted.

UPDATE II (12/6/2005): I've been reminded by artki that there was a group of eight German saboteurs that were landed upon our shores via U-Boat in 1942. This invalidates the line about "zero attacks upon our territory or possessions during the war" as there was at least this one, albeit after war was declared on both sides and combat was joined. I do not believe it makes material difference to the argument, but it must be acknowledged.

Done With Mirrors had a post that gave me the idea for this, and alerted me to an excellent article illuminating the subject at Donklephant

I want to compare and contrast the history of Islam with that of Christianity.

Christianity was founded in a time of a strong civilization and empire. At the time of Christianity's birth, Rome was not merely the strongest polity in sight - her might was unchallengeable. By the time of the actual Roman conquest in 63BC, Rome had already been the power broker for the whole eastern Mediterreanean for a century. After Actium and the Egyptian conquest, there was no power capable of challenging Rome anywhere around. Military conquest wasn't just out of the question; it was so far fetched as to be ridiculous. If it was a dream (and it was, a fact of which the Romans were well aware, which made the area completely unremarkable as far as the Romans were concerned), it was a dream clearly beyond reach for now.

It was into this situation that Christianity came into being. Certainly, given a chance, worldly power has always been one of the aims of any priesthood. However, military solutions were out of the question, and so the holy writings of Christianity, while certainly conducive to forceful conquest, emphasized individual faith, individual missionary work, and the powers of persuasion rather than of forcible conversion. In its early years, Christianity's story was a story of persecution, of hiding in the shadows, at first from the entrenched Jews, later and more importantly from the Romans. Now, the degree to which they were persecuted by the Romans is frequently exaggerated by the Christians. But if they didn't have to worship quite in secrecy, they were unable to worship publicly, much less forcibly convert others.

When Christianity became the official religion of the empire in Constantine's reign (the preceding persecution by Diocletian being one reason the meme is so entrenched in the religion), it certainly had no problem with conversions by means other than persuasion (followers requiring conversion for advancement, among other motivations). But the roman empire was soon on the wane. First invasion ended the western empire, then Christianity found itself under attack from the north (Viking raiders), east (the Byzantines were in a war of survival from the eighth century onwards), and west (the Iberian peninsula was conquered), as well as riven by internal conflicts between church and state (beyond the scope of this essay, but consider the conflicts between the Fredericks of the Holy Roman Empire and the papacy.) These conflicts became the hothouse that bred the Renaissance and technological advances, and as soon as the Europeans figured out that there was a whole world out there a lot easier to conquer than their fellow Europeans were, they took advantage of it. Nonetheless, by this time the groundwork had been laid for some tolerance of religious differences, and by the time of the Peace of Westphalia this had been solidly grounded, at least in regards to religion not being used as a justification to invade other states.

So by the time of the colonial period, the rights of the various Christian sects to coexist had been basically accepted. If some were not encouraged or accepted so much as others by a given state, at least there was a level of tolerance between sects won on the battlefields of Europe. Later, even non-Christian religions became more accepted in Europe, and even the predominantly European colonies such as the United States and Canada. There are limits, strong limits with strong historical precedent, to the imposition of Christian faiths. Conquering the heathens and bringing the faith to them were regarded as two separate items upon the agenda, and if they were often prosecuted at the same time and one often used as an excuse for the other, the part about bringing the word of god was regarded as an opportunity for the natives, not as a mandatory "convert or suffer the consequences" sort of thing.

Islam was born in a region and era when the city state dominated. There was no overarching, overwhelming worldly power that could not be challenged. As a result, Mohammed was able to build in a large component of "spread the word upon the point of a sword." Mohammed drew a much starker line between believer and non-believer than the early Christians would have been able to consider. Whereas in the Christian worldview, there are those that believe and those who have a chance to convert and be saved. God and the church are not one in the christian worldview. There is very little of this distinction in Islamic thinking.

The very name Islam translates as submission - submission to the will of god as dictated by his priests. Islamic priests. The concept of the person completely outside the faith does not enter into their thinking, as it does with Christianity as evidenced in Dante's Inferno, among other classical references to "virtuous pagans," who may have been good men and so are not punished, but are not admitted into what Christians see as god's grace in the afterlife. The Islamic worldview divides starkly into those who have submitted to the will of god, and those who have not. Those who follow the word of god through his priests must follow the teachings or be damned unto the realm of Iblis. Islamic rulers are in many ways puppets of the priesthood. If the priesthood says that a certain act is against the teachings of Islam, then it will not be allowed.

The concept of the missionary - a preacher who converts the unbelievers by persuasion, rather than at the point of a sword, was present in Mohammed himself, but at no subsequent time in Islam until the modern era. Whether westward from the Arabic peninsula into the (then Christian) north coast of Africa and thence into the Iberian peninsula, north into what was Christian territory in modern day Turkey and thence into central Asia, India, and into present day Indonesia, Islam was brought and enforced at the point of a sword. Existing religions in conquered areas that qualified as "peoples of the book" (Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians) were not quite forcibly converted, and dealt with fairly up to a point, but were still (and are still) subjected to extra taxations as well as limitations upon their right to practice their religion, ability to advance outside their narrow community (The famous Alfred Dreyfuss would never have been permitted to serve an Islamic power, nor Benjamin Disraeli to hold his office. Israel, hated and vilified as the enemy of all Islam that in their media, has Islamic parties in the Knesset and Muslims throughout the government, including upon their Supreme Court), and flatly prohibited from making converts (As witness the Saudi treatment of Christians). It is to be noted that unlike Christianity, Islam has nothing analogous to excommunication or walking away from the faith. It is simple to become a Muslim - their simple profession takes less than ten seconds, and can be stated anywhere, anytime. But at least within the eyes of Islam, it is impossible to sever yourself from it. Once you take the pledge, you are bound forever in their eyes. Christianity, at least in theory, has always had the ability to leave the faith. In Islam, it is not even a theory. Once you make the profession of faith, you are Islamic forever, and the priests will always have dominion over you. You may be a heretic or apostate, but you are never beyond the reach of the priests, who understandably consider the cessation of practice as a matter to be urgently addressed. As an outgrowth of this, once an area is Islamic, it must forever more be considered Islamic in their eyes.

Islam, in short, does not have the historical limitations of proselytization placed upon it that Christianity does. Whereas Christian doctrine requires a good Christian to treat with all persons in good faith so long as they act in good faith, Islam does not. It has only the concept of a grudging truce between believers and non-believers, and this must only be done when there is something to be gained thereby (for instance, the Israelis do not conquer Damascus, Cairo or Baghdad within the next few weeks). In such instances, Islam permits its practitioners to make truce, and even to pretend it is permanent, but not for it actually to be permanent. As spoken by Islamic leaders from the very beginning to the religion and continuing today with every notable modern leader, the only permanent "peace" countenanced by Islam is when all the non-believers have been converted. Check out the translations provided by MEMRI for all of the evidence as to this which you should need. But the truce is exactly that - a breathing space meant to allow the Islamic soldiers time to force a more favorable situation, which they will then use to resolve the conflict in their favor. They are not giving up. Their religion does not permit them to give up. It's only one more way to continue with the conquest of the dar-al-Harb.

Indeed, this situation is written into the Koran itself in ways which put the Old Testament to shame. Whereas the Israelites conquered themselves a homeland and proceeded to defend it, the Koran writes conquest and conversion into the very fabric of the religion, as from Mohammed's days forward they were a religion of conquest. It is not clear to me that there is an available mechanism to change this. Unlike Christianity, it is the explicit injunction of the Koran that Islam value the pronouncements of living priests over that of dead ones, but this does not extend to the pronouncements of Mohammed, whence all of the Koran flows. Since it is with the pronouncements of Mohammed that we, the civilized west, have issue, we must accept that there may not be a way short of the extermination of Islam to permanently resolve the issue.

There are, to be certain, what we would call moderate Islamics. There is even, in modern Turkey, a secular state dominated by Islam. However, the continued existence of Turkey as a secular nation has been anything except easy since it's creation after World War I. It has several times required the Turkish army to support governmental change or even to take over and run the country itself. I do not know how the meme that "Turkey is a secular nation" became engrained in their army and officer corps to the extent it has, but would be fascinated to learn it, if someone can point me at a good source or six. The process whereby it occurred could bear serious examination with an eye to adapting it elsewhere.

But despite the singular example of Turkey, the rest of the Islamic world remains locked in a jihad mindset, which if somewhat analogous to the Christian crusades on medieval times, both predates it and is much stronger in both religious and cultural senses of the term (Christians have always believed that a crusader who is evil will be banished to realms of punishment in the afterlife. Muslims do not and never have; the act of jihad is, in itself, a redemption). If individuals do not wish to join the jihad themselves, they are nonetheless required to admire and support those who do. Jihadists are to be allowed to preach, to convert, and to recruit. To do otherwise is contrary to the teachings of Mohammed, and woe betide the secular leader who wishes to hinder it, as the Saudis are discovering right now.

For us to win the war on terror without necessarily exterminating all Muslims, this has to change. And this reform can only come from within Islam. I have seen a few encouraging signs, but not nearly enough.

For those of Islam reading this, I do not wish a war of extermination between us. Despite all of the problems I see with Islam, it has aspects of tolerance and moral teaching lacking in many other faiths, including Christianity. I would like to see a broader understanding of your faith worldwide. But it must be done by the peaceable exchange of ideas, and those of other mind must have equal opportunity to convert you to their point of view. Your co-religionists cannot be permitted to continue jihad, and if you conspire with and support them, I must consider you their ally. It is not enough that you remain silent. You must remove the doubt that silence allows, and stand with the forces of civilization and tolerance for all, or with the forces that wish to bring the world back under the dominion of a priesthood that still has not left the dark ages behind. If you stand on one side, you will be among our most valued citizens. If you stand on the other, giving us a choice between submission and a life lived according to precepts that hardened in the eighth century, or death, then you must be stopped. All we ask is that you forswear the idea of conquest in the name of your religion. This is something that every other major religion has managed. It is now your turn.

Victor Davis Hanson put a great essay on his website a few days ago. I only just got to it now, on the lessons of Vietnam. towards the end, he makes a point that I want to quote again:

Sacrifices are judged senseless by factors beyond sheer carnage. While we are, of course, tortured over the American dead of the Civil War, World War I and World War II, we nevertheless find solace that those lost ended slavery, restored the Union, stopped the kaiser, eliminated Adolf Hitler and Hideki Tojo, and made possible present-day South Korea.

On the other hand, we agonize as often over the much smaller losses of Vietnam, Beirut or Somalia precisely because we are not sure whether they led to any permanent improvement.

Those who evoke Vietnam should think carefully of the entire lesson of that tragedy. We hear daily how we once foolishly got into that chaos but rarely the lessons on how we got out.

To put this in context: The US lost about 126,000 killed, 234,000 wounded and 4500 MIA in nineteen months in WWI. It was horrible, it was awful, and Wilson et al pissed the victory away, but the threat was defeated.

(Source here)

The US lost 300,000 killed or MIA and 300,000 wounded in three and a half years of WWII. It was horrible, it was awful, and we should have confronted Stalin at the end, but we won, and made the world safe from Hitler and Naziism, Tojo and his Greater East Asia Co-prosperity sphere, and Mussolini and his fevered dreams of ressurecting to Roman Empire.

(Source here, Additional Source)

The US lost 36,516 killed and 92,134 wounded and 8176 unaccounted for thirty-seven months in Korea. It was horrible, it was awful, and and we didn't kill the Kim regime. But we won the independence of South Korea, and it's still there today.

(Source here)

The US lost 58,226 killed in Vietnam in about eight years of major operations (Source), and it was for NOTHING. We wasted their sacrifice, we wasted the sacrifices of those who were maimed or wounded. We wasted the sacrifices of those held prisoner. We wasted all those resources that could have been used for other things. Why did we waste them? Well, first off we didn't stop Johnson from escalating the war. But more importantly, we wasted them because we didn't have the political vision to finish a job that was mostly done. We wouldn't - didn't - support our allies who had staked their lives on our word with the material support we promised them in order to salve our consciences when we cut and ran. We allowed ourselves to be manipulated by those with agendas other than our national interest. We cut and ran on our allies and left them to death and disaster.

Prospective allies and enemies took note. Things didn't improve when we similarly cut and ran from Lebanon in 1983 or Somalia in 1991, didn't do anything about the Iranian embassy in 1979, and were so wussy-footed about getting our hands dirty in Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Rwanda. I have liberal acquaintances that brag "we suffered no combat deaths!" there - but how many died in ethnic cleansing as a result? I value the lives of American soldiers. I may even value an American soldier's life more than that of some Bosnian thug who certainly wasn't blameless for what happened there. But we had thousands - hundreds of thousands - of mostly innocent human killed at least twice because nobody was willing to put their foot down forcefully enough to stop it. It was plain to even casual students of the situation in the former Yugoslavia about what was going to happen. If we didn't have the will to get involved to the degree necessary, we should have ignored the situation altogether. That way, at least the perpetrators of systematic slaughter would have had uncertainty of our intentions to deal with, which would have been much more help than we gave the victims with what we did. And it's not even like our forces were being used elsewhere at the time. Had we intervened forcefully from the first, the overall casualty list would have been a fraction of what it was. I love our American soldiers and sailors and marines as much as anybody. But their job, willingly accepted, is to go in harm's way when ordered. Compare this to Bosnian or Rwandan children.

To date, we have lost some 1700 killed and about 13,200 wounded in Iraq (Source). It is horrible, it is awful, and I wish the situation was otherwise. It isn't, and wishing will not make it so. Our immediate goal is a democratic Iraq, which may not sound like a lot until you consider that it is surrounded by Islamic and Ba'athist dictatorships of a repressive nature, and Wahhabist Saudi Arabia (and for all the stuff similar to this and this and this I heard before during and after the Gulf War, you might think this was more important to the left than it seems to be today). Iraq is the strategic linchpin of the whole area, as anyone with a modicum of history knows, and anybody who's bothered to haul out a map can plainly see. If Iraq becomes a stable democracy, it is a dagger pointed at the heart of many of our worst other enemies in the war on terror - the Assads in Syria, the mullahs in Iran, and the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, as has been more than adequately documented in many places, Iraq and al-Qaeda had extensive links and mutual support, and even if we cannot conclusively prove significant co-operation between them on the 9/11 attacks, 9/11 was only one shot in this war, which had been going on for a long time whether or not the majority of the American public realized it. If you take nothing else away from this essay, take this and engrave it upon your soul: The War on Terror is not about 9/11 any more than WWII was about Pearl Harbor. It is much broader than that. We cannot prevent another 9/11, many more 9/11s, things much worse than 9/11, without eradicating terrorism worldwide, all of the regimes that shelter or countenance it, the sick idealisms behind it, and the very thought that terrorism is a legitimate means of making war. It isn't, in case you were unclear on the concept. (Aiming at military targets through asymmetric warfare is not terrorism.) There is no shelter for civilization short of this goal. It is going to take a long time, and we're going to have to fight and bleed and die and kill and spend and build in more places and the world is going to have to pitch in and help if they like the idea of living in a civilized, technological society rather than scrabbling upon the ruins in a real life game of Aftermath. A state from which the human race will never recover because all of the easily gotten resources of the planet have already been used. The means of mass destruction are becoming sufficiently available - smaller, more deadly, cheaper, easier to make, conceal and use with readily available tools - that if we do not fight this war and win it now, in a generation it will be orders of magnitude more expensive, in all senses of the term (civil rights, lives, treasure, standard of living, state of mind). If we wait to fight this war, the terrorists will acquire weapons beyond their wildest current dreams, and many of us will awake one otherwise unremarkable morning not too far in the future to discover that they have used them to devastating effect. The only ones who don't awake to this discovery will be dead.

Getting back to the point: So far we've lost 1700 plus killed and about 13,200 wounded, and $300 billion dollars. We cut and run, and it will all be for nothing.. Worse than nothing, because the mullahs in Iran and Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia will make certain Iraq becomes a terrorist state of the same sort as Iran, if not worse because Iran at least pretends Hezbollah et al are not following its orders and not under its pay, and doesn't want Hezbollah able to actually get too strong. The terrorists will have more time - their most precious resource - to find funds, reorganize, recruit and come back stronger, with more devastating weapons and more dire consequences to the rest of the world. The meme of the lazy stupid americans who won't follow through on foreign wars and won't stand by our allies will get more reinforcement, and every little bit of reinforcement it gets makes it three times as hard to destroy. We are in need of every ally we can get, and this makes it harder for us to get them every time it happens. We have to fight this fight now, whether with every civilization and country in this world as our ally or all on our own (We're not on our own. We actually have more committed allies than I thought we would on 9/11, and I'll bet we get more now).

The alternative is to poke our heads back into the sand and pretend we're comfortable like these useful idiots would have us do for a few more years, until one fine day a generation from now the toll for a day is four major metropolitan areas and forty million dead instead of four airliners and a couple of buildings. All of our sacrifices and hard choices that we have to make now in order to confront this evil will pale beside what we have to do then.

For the sake of our old age, for the sake of our children, for the sake of the future of civilization and Earth and humanity, we cannot quit now, close up shop in Iraq and the War on Terror and go home. The price is simply too high.

UPDATE: After I finished this, but prior to publication, Mr Hanson puts up another article: Jihad Is Knocking: Another Episode in the War between Christendom and Islam, supporting some of what I write.

Additional update: I'm informed that one of the three sites (daily Kos) has now taken action to disavow a certain brand of conspiracy theorist.


Most of us have lived through this scene once, and we made the wrong choice then. Which is why I find it so frustrating that a certain very vocal segment of the population apparently has amnesia about the consequences of that decision, and wants us to make the same damned mistake again. We got lucky last time when Reagan saved us. Remember the national mood of the late 1970s? Remember how precarious our position in the Cold War, and the world in general, appeared? If you're too young, ask someone who does remember - don't take my word for it.

For those who want me to go on the record about Vietnam, it may have been a Huge Mistake to commit our resources to it the way Johnson did. Actually, I'll go further and say it was the second worst mistake we've made in the last fifty years. But it was the all time grand champion, retire the prize because there will never be another mistake this boneheaded moment when having won on the battlefields, we allowed ourselves to be bluffed into cutting out on our allies. I would rather have been drafted on my eighteenth birthday and spent the next twenty years on a battlefield than what we went through then.

Our enemies today haven't forgotten that we were that stupid once. They are hoping they can convince us to be that stupid again. I'm a fat middle aged guy in questionable health with a young family. But I love that family enough that I refuse to allow my head to be placed in the sand so I can hope I'll be comfortable for a few more years when my daughters and their children would then have to deal with the consequences of my choice. Which wouldn't be pretty, and would be orders of magnitude worse. I'll buy my own equipment, pay my way over there, and spend the rest of my no-doubt short life trying to finish the job first. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?

As Instapundit said a few days ago, if I cannot label such people asshats, the word has no justification for existing.

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