Tuesday, August 29, 2006


When is the last time the Party of the Self-Made Man actually nominated one?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Misspent Youth

Crime in the North
I had a deep experience - I thought - in Sheepshead Bay, an arm of Prince William Sound in Alaska. Right after college I was working for a guy named 'Shorty' doing long line halibut fishing. Three of us were in a 16 foot skiff drifting down the current, laying a half-mile long set, a rope with baited hooks every six feet. One of the other two guys said he saw orca dorsals across the inlet, a quarter mile away. Since the part of Sheepshead we were working was Orca Inlet and the guy saying it was nicknamed Juice Bruce, I assumed it was just his imagination romanticizing the moment and the place. He insisted, and after a while I saw them too. It was certainly fun to have seen orca in the wild and I was happy to know I would have the memory. Then one of them diverged from the pack to our side of the inlet. This was pretty exciting because his (her) dorsal became more than a black dot in the distance and took a definite shape. He got closer and closer and it became more exciting and more fun. Then he sounded directly behind us about thirty feet away. I saw the white of his underbelly. He was going directly under us. I had heard sourdough stories of orca knocking over small boats with their heads, but hadn't believed them. It suddenly became too exciting and no fun at all. I would have wet myself if I had thought of it. The only thing we had in the boat to defend ourselves with was a .22-short pistol. A long minute later he sounded about twelve feet in front of us, less than the length of the boat or the whale. Later, I assumed that he had just been curious and was checking us out. I realized then that in between Hashem and man there is another kind of being, whom I called a godling, who is beyond our morality and who decides on whim whether we live or die. Perhaps the whale was what Neitzsche meant by an ubermensch, a superman.

Twenty-five years later I was in a cafe in Chile and I met an Alaskan who was, among other things, an experienced fisherman who had also worked Prince William Sound. I told him that story and he explained that it happens all the time. It had not been a chance encounter - the whale was stealing the bait off our set. I was undone to suddenly have this new and obviously correct explanation of what had been an important experience in my life. What I had thought was an epiphany was just a mugging. Which is a lot of what youth is about, attributing deep meanings to ordinary events.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

More Ranting

This time about world opinion
The most consistent theme on the moderate left has been the "ignoring world opinion" one. Historically, and thus with the aid of hindsight, we know that world opinion has consistently been wrong in its judgments and catastrophically wrong in its morals. From the Munich Agreement of 1938, the pro-Soviet anti-nuclear tone of the postwar era, the "Zionism is Racism" UN resolution of 1975, and on and on, world opinion has been consistently both wrong and immoral. More recently, in the ruckus about the Danish cartoons, world opinion was that the problem was the cartoons rather than the Muslim reaction to them.

Contained within the objection to ignoring world opinion is the implication that world opinion is reasonable and responsible in its judgments, and that it is fair-minded and disinterested. Historically it has been none of those. World opinion is generally neither thoughtful nor mature, and it is generally far more narrowly selfish than American policy. Aside from the Wilsonian tradition in our foreign policy, there is also the sheer breadth and variety of American interests. The US has an interest in peace and stability everywhere because it has interests everywhere. The United States has no hereditary enemies and no inferiority complexes. France and other such countries regularly vote for the vilest and most irrational UN resolutions because they know that the US will ignore world opinion and veto. Being the universal world power we are responsible for lots of what happens and must act responsibly. The French and everybody else in the world have no such obligation - and act accordingly.

Everywhere there is the assumption that we ought to listen at least to the Europeans. Consider what happened in the remnants of Yugoslavia in the 1990's. In Europe itself, on their own soil, the last Soviet-style dictatorship was waging a genocidal war in Bosnia. And again in Kossovo. In both cases, Europe was unable to intervene, not because they didn't have the military force - they had plenty compared to the forces deployed in Bosnia and Kossovo - but because they could not agree on a policy that would be politically acceptable at home. Tens of thousands died while the foreign ministries and public opinions of Europe dithered. Finally the United States, a country three thousand miles away across the ocean, with European acquiescence and relief, intervened diplomatically and militarily to end those conflicts because the Europeans could not form a policy.

The equivalent situation would be if Quebec separatism degenerated into a genocidal war and the US was too petty, selfish and incompetent to be able to decide what to do. If Europeans were forced to send troops to the US border because we could not make up our minds, how seriously should our opinions and policies be taken afterwards? That is what actually happened in the 1990's in Europe. Yet they (and American liberals) get indignant if we do not take them as seriously as Europeans believe they merit.

A foreign policy of institutionalized amnesia is no foreign policy at all. And that is what liberal deference to world opinion amounts to.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Middle East

Roots of the Conflict

Hussein Massawi, a former Hezbollah leader:
"We are not
fighting so that you will offer us something, We are fighting to eliminate you."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

How I Got This Way

Growing Up in Santa Rosa

I think part of the impulse for urban middle class young Jews to assimilate comes from the attractiveness of WASP's. They are nice-looking, dress well, speak unaccented English, go to good schools, have good taste, money, and most of all, they are generally somewhat reserved and have good manners. The schtetl manners, culture, and religion of the Jews seemed dowdy and foolish by comparison. We see that envy and longing even among the WASP's themselves. What else is F. Scott Fitzgerald all about in "Great Gatsby" and "Tender is the Night" if not the dazzle of the upper class?

But I grew up on a chicken farm outside Santa Rosa. The relevant author there was Steinbeck and "Grapes of Wrath". The Okies and Arkies of the Dust Bowl emigration didn't vanish when the novel and the Depression ended. They and their children were still living in, among other places, Santa Rosa in the 1950's. It was they I grew up among. The WASP's were ignorant bigoted peasants, unpleasant and generally not too bright. It was unexceptional for our neighbors to get in fights, do poorly in school, to speak with a barely-literate twang, enlist in the army after high school or get pregnant and drop out, aspire to become car mechanics.

The Jewish chicken farmers were communists or other kinds of socialists, well-read, mostly European intellectuals or at least with intellectual pretensions. Their children, my generation, were expected to go to good universities and generally did. As the chicken business collapsed at the end of the Korean War all were equally poor, so it was a true difference of social class, not of economic class.

I had never thought of it before but ut was then that I internalized the notion that what was Jewish was generally better than what was not. While no one was particularly religious, we were all definitely conscious of being Jewish.

When I grew up and become conscious of WASP's, I thought of them as the East Coast Elite, as exotic as Zulus, not as objects of emulation.

These were also the years in which Israel was founded. For a few capital C Communists, Zionism was just more nationalism. But for most in Santa Rosa the creation of Israel was a continuation of the fight against, and victory over, fascism. After the war, as socialism became less important, Zionism became more important.

And that explains the odd contradiction I have lived with and often noticed but never thought through until now. I am conscious of being a Jew, I am devoted to Israel, but am only perfunctorily observant. I had not until now understood why that was. I am a pure product of my upbringing.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Consequences of the Peace

It is very hard to know much because the news reports are mainly conjecture, rumor, and opinion. Facts are few. The one important fact that I think ended the war was the impending American delivery of M-26 cluster bomb barrage rockets and bunker-buster bombs to Israel (New York Times a few days ago). Had Israel had those at the beginning of the war, each Hezbollah Katyusha rocket crew would have died within minutes of launching their rockets and their launchers and rockets would have been destroyed as well. But Lebanese civilian casualties would have been in the thousands or even tens of thousands, which I suppose is why the US delayed delivering them.

I think the timing of events confirms that theory. Nasrallah was defiant and willing to fight forever. Then the impending transfer of M-26's and bunker-buster's was announced and Hezbollah immediately agreed to a ceasefire. I have not seen a followup to the story about the M-26's so one does not know whether they have actually been delivered or are being delivered or what. I think it is like one of those movie scenes where the heavy pulls back his jacket just enough for you see the pistol. The threat was enough.

The significance of the ceasefire cannot be known without knowing what the actual outcome of the battle was. There are no credible reports of the casualties and damages suffered by Hezbollah. The reports were always the same, "fierce fighting" but no indication of the outcome. The only indication of the degree of damage is that they were able to maintain a rocket barrage against northern Israel in spite of the bombing and artillery bombardment, and that Israel felt obliged to send in the infantry. Both facts suggest that the damage to Hezbollah was not fatal.

As to how the world is going to deal with Islamofascism in the future, I think we just saw. We are going to have to kill enough of them to get deterrence. We are going to have to choose between inflicting large civilian casualties and defeat. The war with Iran will be like the war with the Soviet Union - fought through proxies.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Why France?

Hidden in Plain View
The US and France reached agreement today on a proposal to put before the UN to end the war between Israel and Hezbollah. The United States represented Israel in the negotiation because the US supports Israel as a friend and ally. What does that say about France and Hezbollah?

News to Me

Antimissile weapon exists
"There is no military solution to the conflict." How often have we heard that and almost believed it? It sounds good but it isn't so. Many, perhaps most, major conflicts have had military solutions. Nazism was defeated, not negotiated out of existence. Slavery was abolished by Union battlefield victory. Islamofascist insurgencies in Morocco and Algeria have been destroyed by force and no longer threaten those countries. The Taliban was overthrown by force.

The destruction of Hezbollah's cache of rockets and their launch crews and their subsequent unwillingness to fire more rockets would be a military solution.

The weapon which will do that exists. It is the M-26 artillery rocket. Its warhead is a cluster bomb which divides into many bomblets over its target. The M-26 rockets are fired in barrages of dozens at once. It does not prevent the launching of rockets by the enemy. Instead it kills everybody within a substantial radius around the launch site and prevents them firing a second rocket ever again.

These M-26 rockets are scheduled to be shipped to Israel and should end the rocket bombardment of Israel and end the war.

To absolutely no one's surprise, the perennially pro-Arab State Department is doing everything it can to thwart the shipment. The reason they give for their opposition is that the Arabs won't like it. But they're not supposed to like it. Isn't that the point of the weapon? For them not to like it? Not like it so much that they end their bombardment of Israel, or are unable to continue?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Haifa and

It is deeply ironic that the city that has suffered the most from the Hezbollah rocket bombardment and suffered the most casualties should be Haifa. Haifa, historically known as "Red Haifa", has been the stronghold of left Labour and Meretz and the Communist Parties (Israel has two). Their position for decades has blamed Israel for Arab aggression on the undying "If we're nice to them they'll like us" theory. There is a saying that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. One can hope that even Haifa leftists are capable of a similar learning process, but I doubt it.

In what sounded like a bizarre echo of 1948, Sheik Nasrallah whose speech was on C-Span, called on the Arabs of Haifa to leave the city because Hezbollah was going to destroy it.

As much as it is commonplace to say that there is no military solution to this problem, there clearly is. When the US arms industry creates an effective defense against small short range missiles this will stop happening. The US Navy already has a system in place that protects our ships from missiles. The publicly acknowledged system is called Phalanx, which creates a curtain of shrapnel which destroys incoming missiles in flight. It is beyond question that there are additional systems the existence and nature of which are secret.

Without such systems large warships would be obsolete. The destruction of HMS Sheffield by a single French-made missile during the Falklands War illustrated this clearly. The existence of the US and British navies is proof that missiles can be defended against. The development and deployment of such systems will go a long way toward stabilizing the Israel-Arabs situation by imposing involuntary disarmament on Hezbollah.