Thursday, November 10, 2005
Meanwhile, the Democrats are heedless of the way in which the increasing rioting in Paris is undermining their whole strategy. The worse things get in Paris the more anxious people here get about our national security in the face of worldwide radical Islamic belligerence. The American people see the proud French being humbled by a situation gone out of control and wonder if the same could not spread to the rest of Europe and to America.
In other words, the worse things look in Europe the more it looks like Bush has been right all along to take a tough stand. For, after all, here in America radical Islamic unrest does not threaten the peace and there have been no serious terrorist attacks since 9-11, unlike Europe, where despite the fact that governments have generally tried to appease the Islamofascists there and in the Middle East terrorist attacks continue and radical Islamic unrest threatens to put ordinary citizens and their property in danger in their own communities.
And, of course, the genesis of the rioting in Paris is complex and rooted in a raft of social problems, but talking about how rioters in France are the victims is going to win NO support from the American people.
Once again the Democrats have positioned themselves on the wrong side of events. They are working hard to gin up a case against the administration with the help of their friends in the mainstream media, but they may end up finding that the people are not behind them. They may find themselves in a tough position in 2006 if the people want tough talk tough about the threat of global and radical Islamic unrest.
Lefties fret about how the rioting in France only works to the advantage the right. Yeah, that's true, because the rioting is darn good evidence that the conservatives have been right about this all along and the lefties with their pacifism, multiculturalism and appeasement have been disastrously wrong.
But in present day Europe the Islamic forces have advanced much further than Abd al-Rahman. In France there are Muslim communities where the police will not go, and now the violence from those communities is spreading into central Paris. In Belgium the police are told not to be seen drinking coffee during Ramadan. In Sweden there are communities where ambulances need a police escort to protect them from radical Muslim violence. In Spain Islamic studies are now taught in the public school curricula. In Denmark radical Muslim youths are burning cars and torching shops and threaten the lives of newspaper reporters and editors critical of Islam. In Holland the native Dutch are beginning to leave their own country in fear of the radical Muslim communities there that are no more integrated with Dutch society than they were three decades ago when they first arrived, members of which have murdered prominent Dutch critics of Islam.
It is a pattern seen all over Europe, all over the world. Radical Muslims move in, taking advantage of the liberal immigration laws, but won't integrate with the rest of society and eventually stop respecting the existing government. They form de facto governments of their own responsive to them and their own traditions and eventually press for seperation as an Islamic state, as was the case in Nigeria, or a complete takeover. And they are often murderously violent toward the host culture, seemingly unwilling to get along with their neighbors.
Of the dozen or so major conflicts in the world today, almost all of them involve Muslims who can't get along with their neighbors. And in almost all cases the Muslims are the aggressors.
It's a World War, and we are losing it. Our nominal allies, the Europeans, have in some cases already bowed to the inevitable and are suing for peace. Europe is descending into a new Dark Ages with permanent conflict.
The French government thought that a policy of appeasement, such as in refusing to join in the Iraq war, would win them peace and keep the problems confined to the ghettos, but the radical Muslims saw that for what it was, a sign of weakness. In fact, the violence has been going on for months now with 9000 police cars stoned since the beginning of the year and three dozen cars torched even on a quiet night. But now the violence has spilled out into Paris itself, and it will not stop in the forseeable future. The French police have already declared themselves overwhelmed.
But because France is not really socialist doesn't mean that it's the residual capitalism that's to blame for France's social unrest, either. It's not capitalism that's at the bottom of that unrest, quite the opposite, and a more vibrant econonomy and less reliance on government transfer payments may turn out to be the best solution to the current set of problems.
But no system of government is going to work without basic social fairness.
Despite all the social programs what is missing from the French approach to dealing with minorities is a means of making sure that they are treated fairly in terms of access to jobs and education and in integration to the rest of French society.
The French government, secular and afraid of religious expression, has attempted to impose standards of conformity on the immigrants in terms of being more French, but they have not encouraged the blending of immigrant populations and native populations. They want the immigrants to be more French and to share French values, but they want them to do it in the ghettos, away from the rest of French society. The French government has combined the worst aspects of socialism -- disrespect of traditional values and beliefs and excessive government intervention that breeds dependence. Coupled with the overall poor performance of the economy which further stifles the dreams of young generation Muslims.
The idea that because the French government is racist and intolerant of social diversity that it is therefore really "right wing" is silly. Socialism and racism are hardly mutually exclusive, and every leftist government that has ever existed has included a strong element of racism and has been intolerant of cultural diversity, especially when it comes to the expression of religious beliefs. French elites seem to think that since North African immigrants are housed and fed by the government that they are being treated fairly and France is a grand and big hearted country. The immigrants themselves know that's not the case.
The immigrant communities around Paris have been deeply alienated from French society for many years. They consist of miles and miles of depressing concrete public housing where the police have long since stopped policing. Muslim young people have long known that they don't dare venture into central Paris for fear of being picked up and beaten or killed by police. Most of the young people there know that they have no chance of ever getting a good job or of moving up in society because of deeply ingrained French racism, the same racism that led Chirac to sniff that America is wasting it's time trying to establish democracy among a people incapable of it.
In the 70's and 80's these communities were communist, but now communism has become less attractive with the fall of the Soviet Union. Islam has to some extent filled the vacuum created by the end of the Cold War.
What a lot of Americans don't understand about the French newspapers and newspapers in many other European countries is that they don't have the same sort of adversarial relationship with their own countries that newspapers in the US do. If something is an embarressment to France then they just don't cover it or report it. And the existance of these ghettoes created mostly by the poor attitude of the French toward these immigrants is a big embarressment to French intellectuals, especially those fond of looking down their noses at other's problems.
This violence is not new. It has been going on for decades. Dozens of cars were being burned in an average week even when things were supposedly peaceful. The only thing new is the larger scope and range of the violence.
The unrest in France may indeed be taking on a more radical Muslim aspect, and it would be naive to think that this does not play a part, but this would never have started if not for the seperation of the cultures in France that has grown worse with every decade. In those countries where Muslims have a decent chance of bettering their lives within the existing culture there has been much less trouble.
Nevertheless, the point at which the problems go from being mainly about French policies and more about a global war on Western culture is hard to pin down. Clearly, the Arab youths who leave the dispossessed communities of Saudi Arabia to fight in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and even Spain and the US have made it a global war. It is not clear that this sort of thing has happened in France yet, but the radicals are certainly out there to push this process along.
In America, once the problems of racial segregation were recognised and aired out, the majority of whites got behind the effort to make reforms, to promote civil rights. Even Republicans, or more especially Republicans, got behind this effort, because even if they didn't think much of minorities they knew that fair is fair, and unfairness is ugly and evil regardless of all else. The same could happen in France where people are no less offended by unfairness than Americans, but they will first have to stop hiding the problem.
Friday, July 01, 2005
1) They failed to recognize the difficulty of efficient allocation of material resources in a society.
2) They made incorrect assumptions concerning the malleability of human nature and human conduct.
3) Closely related to #2, they failed to turn their analytical tools toward the examination of themselves and their own movement.
In my opinion, these errors have led directly to the failure of one socialist state after another in the last 100 years and cement the impracticality of Marxist ideals.
Point #3 is covered in this previous post of mine.
Regarding the first point:
In capitalist market societies, the most severe penalties are reserved for those who allocate capital in an inefficient manner. The investor who makes an unwise investment will be severely penalized through the loss, in some cases the total loss, of their wealth. As a result, capital is allocated very carefully and with meticulous attention to detail. The task of allocating capital is usually left to super-specialized experts in that field directly related to the project at hand. The effect of this is that very little capital is wasted, and this accrues to the good of all citizens in the society. The worker in a capitalist society can usually rest assured that his or her efforts will go toward the elevation of living standards for the whole society whether it be his or her own living standards or those of others. Very little of their effort will go to waste, and so everyone receives more of the benefit of that wealth creation.
By contrast, the centrally controlled economies of Soviet style governments are usually very wasteful of capital. Allocation of capital is often political and is done by bureaucrats with agendas other than efficiency. The workers can see this and are therefore not motivated to achieve optimal productivity. The overall effect is a lower standard of living for most people than might have been possible. Often the entire economy eventually collapses under this inefficiency.
The error that Marx made and that Marxists continue to make is to assume that capital allocation is a trivial matter. Their assumption is that once capital is in hand it is a simple matter to turn it to good use, but the very opposite is manifestly the case. It is hard to imagine a more motivated group of managers than capitalists who are under the threat of economic ruination if they make a mistake. It is hard to imagine how a group of bureaucrats with a government sinecure could possible match the performance of capitalist investors, and yet that is just the bet that Marxists have always made.
This is an impossibly intractable problem for Marxists. The whole point of Marxism is that allocation of excess wealth produced by workers would be under the authority not of capitalists but of the workers themselves in a "democratic" fashion. But this kind of politics is absolutely the worst way to make critical decisions of capital allocation. The fatal inefficiency of Marxists economies is therefore inevitable.
Well into the third week of the invasion of Okinawa, congressional Democrats criticized the President for poor planning and execution of the invasion.
"The troops are bogged down in the southern part of the island, we haven't made any progress in days. How could this have happened?" said Theodore Kennedy, Mass. Democrat.
Other Democrats questioned the reasoning behind the decision to attack the island in the first place. "It makes no sense to attack this island, everyone knows the Japanese are on the mainland," said one congressional staffer. "The War in Okinawa has turned into a quagmire. We need to get the troops out and turn out attention to what's really important, like finding Tojo."
Democrats expressed their alarm at the magnitude of American casualty figures. "This is completely crazy," said one. "We are losing thousands in one day."
Other Democrats expressed doubt about the likelihood of winning against such an intractable and fanatical foe. "This war is unwinnable. We've lost dozens of ships to suicide rocket-bomb pilots, we can't possibly continue at this pace."
Some even insisted that the President had lied about the reasons for the invasion. "He said that we needed that island as a launching point for air attacks on the Japanese mainland, but we are already attacking the mainland from other air bases."
Meanwhile, reports of prisoner abuse continue to crop up from interviews of Japanese prisoners of war. "It is well known throughout the Japanese Empire that American soldiers rape and kill their women prisoners and eat the livers of Japanese children," a Red Cross representative reported.
In a related matter, for the forth week in a row Democrats demanded hearings into overcharging of the Government by Boeing for high altitude bombers. "Everone knows this war is nothing more that a scheme to enrich the President's friends," said an unnamed source.
Democrats also renewed their demands for disclosure regarding the super secret Manhatten Project. "Hundreds of millions of dollars have gone into a secret military project that we aren't even allowed to examine. As far as we can tell not one dime of that money has gone to anything practical for the war effort."
Thursday, June 30, 2005
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
How totally un-cynical to think that way. I am embarrassed.
With the Terri Schiavo case I am forcefully reminded that right-wingers are capable of exactly the same sorts of things.
Ginning up a crisis? Ignoring ethical guidelines for the sake of emotionalism? Boy, you should hear some of these talk radio people hitting the emotional hot buttons or look at conservative online forums. That a person has the right to refuse any treatment has been established law for many years now, that a person's autonomy should not be violated is a conservative ideal, and yet they want to throw this out the window.
Refusing to face the truth? There is no therapy, there is no test, and there is nothing whatsoever that is going to make any difference in her condition. An MRI of her brain will tell us nothing that will do any good. She has been this way for fifteen years. The way she is now, however you want to describe it, is the way she'll be for the foreseeable future. That's just the fact of it whether some people want to face the truth or not. The possiblity of some sort of miraculous recovery is nill.
Distorting the issues? We are getting one red herring after another from the right-wingers on this matter. Whether or not Terry is actually in persistent vegetative state, whether or not she got an MRI of her brain, whether or not a miracle is possible, whether she got this or that type of therapy are all irrelevant. The only thing that has any relevance is what Terri would want to have done if she could tell us.
Unfairly smearing people? The way in which the husband has been smeared is despicable. He has been accused of neglecting Terri, of refusing to provide "necessary" treatment, of refusing to have "necessary" tests done, of wanting her dead for his own selfish reasons. All of these allegations have been shown to be false in the courts.
Refusing to abide by the rules? Disregard of due process? The whole issue of whether the husband is the one to tell us what her wishes would be given his current situation is relevant, but the court has considered that very matter carefully already. We ought to respect that process. The people who in good faith spent the hours actually going over all the evidence of her status and attendant issues have been denigrated by the idiotic, ill-informed second-guessing that some conservatives have been doing.
If you're going to play the oldest established permanent floating transnational crap game for laughs, might as well pick an act with plenty of material. What I love about Bolton, America's new ambassador to the U.N., is the sheer volume of "damaging" material.
"There is no such thing as the United Nations."
"If I were redoing the Security Council, I'd have one permanent member: the United States."
"It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law."
...Sending Bolton to be U.N. ambassador is like . . . putting Sudan and Zimbabwe on the Human Rights Commission. Or letting Saddam's Iraq chair the U.N. Conference on Disarmament. Or sending a bunch of child-sex fiends to man U.N. operations in the Congo. And the Central African Republic. And Sierra Leone, and Burundi, Liberia, Haiti, Kosovo, and pretty much everywhere else.
All of which happened without the U.N. fetishists running around shrieking hysterically. Why should America be the only country not to enjoy an uproarious joke at the U.N.'s expense?
The granting of an injunction hinged only on whether or not the Schindlers were likely to prevail on appeal. There was just nothing that supported that contention. All of their previous appeals to federal court has been turned down, and they provided nothing new to support a new appeal. In the hearing the judge was practically pleading with the Schindler's lawyer to come up with something that justified an injunction.
Conservatives have always said that they want judges to apply the law and not make it. But if judges just apply the law as written or established then they will unavoidably make rulings that even they don't like. It's only the activist judges who get to change the law to get the outcome they want.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Having observed all of this my impression is that the only way to impose rationing is to do it across the board all at once, and the government will have to do it. The government is the only entity with enough power to make it stick. I don't think that we have the political will in this country to do that yet, and things will have to get much worse before we do.
This is not a perfect solution, of course, because the government will be susceptible to political pressure to inject nonsense and idiocy into the system. For example, there are categories of disease recognized by US government health entities that received recognition as real biological disease states only because the people who think they have those diseases, which are in fact most likely psychosomatic, have pressured the government into that position. Not because there is any actual evidence of an objective, biological abnormality.
The health care system of a certain Scandinavian country is at the verge of crisis over this sort of thing, in which a large proportion of the population is claiming disablity for having a disease that does not actually exist but that the system was politically forced to recognize.
We do have rationing in this country, make no mistake about it. And the rationing is of the form that poor people don't have access to the range of options and convenience of care that wealthier people do.
You might think that with medical insurance that you have access to the "best" care. It's not true. There are levels of care above you that you could only dream about, that only the very rich elites of this country can get. For example, if you need, say, a hemorrhoid removed you can use your company supplied insurance and go see a physician, get tests done 3 weeks later, surgery scheduled 6 weeks later, get kicked out of the hospital on the day of surgery and deal with any problems that arise between then and your next follow up visit yourself at home. If you can afford to forget the insurance you can fly somewhere and the whole thing will get done in 2 or 3 days, and nobody will rush you out of the door after surgery.
But don't worry, the care is more convienient and the doctors are more likely to humor you, but the rich are no healthier for it. Take a look at Michael Jackson's face if you doubt it.
Having been involved in the charity care end of the profession for many years I happen to think that the care provided by public hospitals is often the more rational because patients are generally not in a position to strong arm health care workers into providing unnecessary or extravagent care. Yet most of the time the care is quite adequate for the purpose of actually keeping people healthy, and because there is often more organization and more continuity those poor people generally get better care for chronic problems like hypertension and diabetes.
Monday, March 14, 2005
From the very beginning of the socialist experiment in Russia the farms were problematic. Lenin personally felt it necessary to demand that peasant farmers be summarily executed because they were refusing to fall in line with the communist program. Stalin starved rural peoples to death in order to avoid the trouble they were causing with his control of the economy.
It's a phenomenon that illustrates the way in which leftist ideas have sprung not from the experience of ordinary country people, who have learned through experience the lessons of human nature, the necessity of private property, and the necessity of a free market, but from the elite urban intellectuals, who have been seperated from nature and rural life all of their lives, often for several generations.
It is, in fact, only from the minds of people who have no experience in practical matters, unavoidable in rural life, that ideas like collectivism and central economic control could possibly originate. Only from the mind of people like Marx, unable to do anything but research and write in a library, supported by rich fools like Engels, could the Communist Manifesto spring.
Every farmer knows the importance of establishing boundaries between his land and the land of his neighbors and enforcing those boundaries and knows what will happen if this is neglected, human nature being what it is. Every farmer knows what happens to land on which the flocks of several farmers graze, human nature being what it is. Every farmer knows and can deal in the market and knows the importance of being able to quickly sell his produce in a fair market and of having the flexibility to respond to changing conditions of the weather, the market, insect threats, and other factors. Every farmer knows what happens to people who are denied the benefits of their own production, who have no stake in their work on in the land.
Only the urban intellectual is unaware of the importance of these things or could possibly even imagine that command control of all of these things or collective property is possible. Only an intellectual completely ignorant of basic human nature could think a thing like the "new Soviet man", unconcerned about private property and working only for the common good, could ever arise.
It was only with the most brutal force that farmers in the Soviet Union were made to conform to central control. And the farmers never, ever gave up the market, which continued in an illicit form for seventy years. What little land they were able to call their own they used to the utmost, and it was said that the little gardens tended by farmers supposedly for their own use outproduced all the other land that was held in common.
A LOT OF PEOPLE are noticing this story from the New York Times about prepackaged fake news from the Bush Administration. But if you read the whole thing, to coin a phrase, you come upon this passing acknowledgement:
The practice, which also occurred in the Clinton administration, is continuing despite President Bush's recent call for a clearer demarcation between journalism and government publicity efforts.
Funny, but I don't remember much of a stink about it when it happened during the Clinton Administration.
The Instapundit article goes on to point out that a big proportion of the news stories we see in the papers and on TV were written by trade, industry, union, consumer, and other interest groups for that very purpose, i.e., to further their own agenda. It has become, more or less, a standard way of communicating with the public for any interest group, and a big part of an editor's job at a news organization consists simply of wholesaleing these outside sources of copy.
A paper's "slant" is increasingly determined by which of these sources of copy that they are willing to use. Thus, the New York Times, say, is loath to use anything produced by the Administration but will lap up anything cranked out by the DNC or anyone else in their leftist orbit. A large proportion of the left wing organizations out there exist for no other reason than to produce and send out these "press releases" which are in fact prepackaged stories that reporters can make their own simply by inserting their by-line at the top.
For example, if you see a story about a defective product on the market that is harming people you can almost bet that the story was mostly written by the group of lawyers who want to put together a legal action. For another example, many of the stories you see about global warming and the environment are mostly written by environmentalist groups pushing this agenda.
Thus, the idea that the Administration somehow violated the principles of an "independent" press is laughable. A Jeff Gannon type reporter in passing stories on from the Administration would be doing nothing more or less than exactly what other reporters do all of the time.
Given this background, one is inclined to wonder just where it is that the New York Times gets all this concern about the sanctity of the press. Rather than ask why the Bush or Clinton administrations do this it might be more to the point to ask why it is that the Administration alone from all interested parties should have this avenue of communication closed to them.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Why are so many Westerners, living in mature democracies, ready to march against the toppling of a despot in Iraq but unwilling to take to the streets in support of the democratic movement in the Middle East?
Is it because many of those who will be marching in support of Saddam Hussein this month are the remnants of totalitarian groups in the West plus a variety of misinformed idealists and others blinded by anti-Americanism?
Or is it because they secretly believe that the Arabs do not deserve anything better than Saddam Hussein?
Those interested in the health of Western democracies would do well to ponder those questions.
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Better to make your cynical peace with the worst aspects of human nature than to pretend that free men will always choose good over evil. Much better to make a mutually profitable trade-off behind the scenes than to expose political decisions to the popular will. What evidence is there that the people actually know what is best for them? Most charitably, the European philosophy of government - shortly to be permanently installed under the EU constitution - is paternalistic. At worst, it is arrogant and authoritarian.
But whatever it is, it no longer has a belief in real democracy of the kind that Americans recognise - government of the people, by the people and for the people - at its heart.
Europe has traded liberty for security, democracy for reasurring bureaucratic control and over-regulation. European hatred of the US stems in good part from jealousy of American self-belief and from European shame over their lost ideals. To them, American talk about spreading freedom is a reproach.
Anyway, europeans have found something better than personal freedom. They have found the wealth one gets from spending nothing on national defense. So now they are not even fit to defend themselves or sort out problems in the own back yard like the Balkans. They have neither the will nor the military resources to help America spread freedom to anyone.
Mr. Clinton himself was, of course, re-elected. Otherwise, since his ascension, the Democrats have lost two Presidential races; lost control of the House of Representatives; lost control of the United States Senate; lost, on balance, more state legislatures and governorships than they have gained.
Granted, given all the variables—national trends, local idiosyncrasies, the giant sea change that was Sept. 11—it would be ridiculous to lay all this rubble entirely at the feet of the former President. But it is much more ridiculous to sculpt it, somehow, into an argument that America is longing for more of him.
Yet this is precisely the argument that whole swaths of Democrats will make....
Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy cited "the weight of the expansive penumbra surrounding the historically emerging and prevailing opinions of tribal shamans from Lesotho to Myanamar" in issuing the historic ruling in American Cattleman Association vs. Modern Bride, Helverson, et al.
In a scathing and sometimes caustic dissent, Judge Antonin Scalia wrote that "Holy. Freakin'. Sh*t."
In keeping with the desire of the court to consider international opinion regarding the law, the court also found:
=That signage on U.S. Interstate Highways must be translated to both French and Flemish by 2007.
=That starting Friday, motorists may drive on either side of American roads.
=That prevailing Nepalese-Canadian-Yemeni standards should be considered in opening the way for legalized stonings at arranged gay marriages.
=That although it reversed death sentences for prisoners convicted of crimes committed while juveniles, states may voluntarily terminate prisoners as "extremely late-term abortions" under Roe v. Wade.
=That a previous decision by a European panel should be overturned, and Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg should be declared winner of the 2003 Eurovision Song Contest.
=That, considering the tradition of international courts of ignoring US court rulings, this ruling itself was unconstitutional.
Let us look again at the man who's been vilified by Michael Moore and the rest of the infantile left, who's been condescended to by the people who consider themselves foreign policy grown-ups, and who has become the focus of much anti-Semitism in the world today - the center of a zillion Zionist conspiracy theories, and a hundred zillion clever-Jew-behind-the-scenes calumnies.
...it's time to step back and observe that over the course of his long career - in the Philippines, in Indonesia, in Central and Eastern Europe, and now in the Middle East - Wolfowitz has always been an ardent champion of freedom.
This story details a conversation with Dr. Que, a pro-democracy dissident in Vietnam that the authorities there, under international pressure, have recently released from prison.
Dr. Que does not have access to the daily diet of news that feeds the free world. But given the feats of modern technology to spread information, he knows enough about what is now happening in the Middle East so that he wished to share his views on how America's intervention in Iraq is like the war in Vietnam, and how it isn't. The similarity, he says, "is the same fighting spirit for freedom." The difference, he adds, is that in the fight for freedom, the side America is on "will triumph this time."
"The world is changing," says Dr. Que. "There are more opportunities than ever."
He is right, and if the world is changing, it is because the U.S. is hardly alone in prizing freedom.
Sunday, February 27, 2005
This is what the Left has left. They were enraged by the "stolen election" of 2000. Many of 'em opposed war in Afghanistan. Lost. They campaigned hard for the Democrats in 2002. Lost. Opposed war in Iraq. That happened anyway. They hoped for a quagmire. The statue came down in three weeks. They celebrated the hard times in Iraq. But they didn't last forever. They bet all their chips and threw every last bit of effort into The Most Important Election of Our Lifetimes (TM)...and lost. And lost pretty resoundingly -- the Left had to resort to hyping and celebrating Obama's victory over Unmedicated Alan Keyes.
And now they see Iraqis happily voting.
Their entire worldview has collapsed. They've been left with nothing. No sign that the House or Senate will get any closer anytime soon. They've been shown evidence that they don't have a majority of the American people; the great revolution just isn't going to happen. And so they're bitter. All they've got is hate.
And they're looking for somebody to hit. Larry Summers is one. Susan Estrich's explosion at Mike Kinsley is another example of this phenomenon. Jeff Gannon.
But this is what they've got...
The Republican Party was in this situation not that long ago. They came out of it, but not before losing some of the old guard and modifying their ideas and their agenda.
If you are puzzled by the reference to Susan Estrich, that is explained in this link:
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
(2) The suffering of the Iraqi people was mainly due to the effects of UN sanctions: If that was true, how was it that, on all the standard indicators – infant mortality, standards of literacy, public health provision and so on – the Kurds in the Northeast were measurably better off than the rest of the Iraqi people, despite being subject to the very same sanctions? The suffering of the Iraqi people was mainly due, sanctions or not, to the misgovernment and brutality of the Ba’ath regime, which, unlike all too many such regimes in former colonies, was not installed with aid from the West, or the former Soviet bloc, or China, but was entirely indigenous in origin, apart from its borrowings of ideas from the writings of various western fascists. The western “left” bears a heavy responsibility for its utter failure to recognise the regime for what it was: the rebirth in the Middle East of Nazism, in opposition, not just to “Jews, Persians and flies”, as a notorious Ba’ath pamphlet proclaimed, but to all the heirs of the Enlightenment, from liberals and social democrats to revolutionary socialists and anarchists. The people of Iraq tried to tell the western “left” what it was inconvenient for them to hear, but their pleas for aid, just like those of the people of Bosnia and Kosova, fell on deaf ears. Thus, yet again, an oppressed people who had a right to expect help from the western “left” were compelled to turn to western capitalist states for help instead, with all the reactionary side-effects that that implies.
(3) Hostility to Saddam’s regime was “really” hostility to the “Arab world” and/or to Islam: The West is undeniably permeated by suspicion and distrust with regard to Islam, which is reinforced by widespread ignorance of, and contempt for, the countries in which Islam is dominant. What is also undeniable, however, if Islam is what you claim to care about, is that the western powers did more than any Muslim government did to help the largely Muslim peoples of Bosnia and Kosova; that Saddam’s regime killed more Muslims than any other regime in history; and that Muslim minorities in western countries are treated at least as well as, and often much better than, non-Muslim minorities in Muslim countries are. But so what? Religious affiliation is no more reliable a guide to political and economic relations now than it has ever been, and the “Muslim world” is as internally divided as the “Christian world”. As for the “Arab world”, only a fanatic (such as Robert Fisk of The Independent) could believe in such a mirage, not only in the face of the obvious political, economic and social differences between (say) Iraq and Kuwait, Egypt and Bahrain, Algeria and Jordan, but also in the face of the presence in almost all these countries of non-Arab peoples (Kurds, Berbers, Turcomen and others, not to mention the slaves of Mauritania), whose mistreatment the western “left” has been silent about for too long. Just as 19th-century Pan-Slavism degenerated from its liberatory origins into being a vehicle for Russian imperial expansionism and Serbian ultranationalism, so Pan-Arabism fragmented long ago into traditionalism (as in Saudi Arabia), fascism (as in Syria) and Stalinism (as in Libya), and now has nothing to offer to the Arabs or the other peoples of these countries as they start to move against the assorted regimes that currently control their lives. In that respect the liberation of Iraq has at least the potential – which, of course, may not be realised – to assist the process of democratising and modernising Islamic countries in general, and Arab countries in particular. Compromise and collusion with any nationalism, or any religion, in these countries or anywhere else, can only delay and undermine that process, and give comfort to fanatics and reactionaries.
(4) The western powers kept Saddam in power, armed his troops and funded his foreign ventures, so they cannot be trusted now: The left used to have a better grasp of history, and of its importance in shedding light on the present: this highly slanted, selective version of the recent past sheds no light at all. For a start, which western powers are being referred to? While Britain had virtually no contact with the Ba’ath regime up to 1979, and the United States had no diplomatic relations with Iraq until 1984, France (and the Soviet Union) started making deals about oil and arms in 1972, and none other than Jacques Chirac himself first visited Baghdad as long ago as 1974. In any assessment of the 35 years that Saddam and the Ba’ath were in power, the French (and Russian) record of 31 years of continuous and very close relations weighs a lot heavier than either the US record – six years of cynical and ineffective collaboration against Iran versus 29 years of hostility – or even the British record of 11 years of opportunistic trade deals versus 24 years of hostility. The behaviour of Jimmy Carter, Margaret Thatcher and their colleagues was certainly hypocritical and repulsive, but taking the present governments of the United States and Britain to task for the crimes of their predecessors is analogous to blaming Winston Churchill for the errors of Neville Chamberlain. Meanwhile, what adjectives are left to describe the French government’s wholly unprincipled objections to the war, which attracted the wholly predictable support of the depressingly gullible western “left”? As for trusting any of the western powers, that is not even a serious proposition: our concern as historical materialists is to judge states, political movements and individuals alike not by what they say but by what they do. From that perspective, liberating Iraq from barbarism, whatever the motive for doing so, counts as a greater good than helping the Ba’ath regime to carry on, which is what the French government and its allies, including the western “left”, were effectively doing for as long as they could.
(5) The war against the Ba’ath regime was a violation of international law: The British Liberal Democrats demonstrated the sheer silly irrelevance of this claim by asserting before the war that it would be “illegal” without a second (in fact 18th) resolution of the UN Security Council, and then, during the war, that its legality could be determined only by an international court once it was over. We expected this kind of unprincipled opportunism from that party of shallow, complacent, vaguely left-leaning but ultimately timid petit-bourgeois idiots, but we are still baffled by the readiness of those who regard national laws as bourgeois illusions to treat “international laws” as if they are any different. In this internecine dispute between some bourgeois lawyers and politicians and others of their kind, the US and British interpretation was probably right, and the French and German side was probably wrong. The willingness of such lawless dictatorships as China’s to go along with the latter merely confirms that conclusion. But that is a problem for liberals (and Stalinists) to sort out, and should have nothing to do with socialists’ attempts to assess the rights and wrongs of the war. Some day in the unknown future, a democratically elected world authority may perhaps be in a position to make and enforce genuine, socialist international laws. Until then Marxists need to be at least as realistic about relations between states as those states’ own policy-makers are. If that means making temporary alliances with bad capitalist regimes against even worse ones, then so be it.
(6) The war was opposed by majorities of the populations of Britain, the United States, Australia, Arab countries, Muslim countries, the whole world, and, if the Pope can be trusted, Heaven as well: The western “left”, having spent years denouncing opinion polls as just another part of the capitalist propaganda machine, suddenly took to citing them when they briefly seemed to go their way, then just as suddenly took to denouncing them again when they showed large majorities in many of the coalition countries supporting the war. Equally inconsistently, the British “left” dropped all their hostility to “parliamentary fetishism” for as long as it looked as if the House of Commons might vote against the war, then reverted when the Commons voted in favour of the war, twice. But who really knows what most people support or oppose? Are demonstrations really more reliable guides to popular feeling than parliamentary votes or media campaigns? What if the government, in any of the coalition countries, had called their critics’ bluff and arranged a snap referendum on whether to go to war? The chances are that they would have won a convincing majority – and that the “left” would have denounced it as manipulated and unreliable. Why can’t the “left” simply argue its case strictly on its merits, regardless of whether it has majority support or not? It might then gain some more respect, and possibly a larger audience, than it does at present with all its lies and bombast.
As for claims to be able to discern Arab or Muslim public opinion, either in general or within any one country, they must all be regarded as highly suspect. These are societies controlled by regimes that do not permit free media (even Al-Jazeera and Abu Dhabi TV are by no means as “independent” as they or their new fans claim they are); that impose severe restrictions on political activity; and that give religious fundamentalists privileged positions from which to spread their poison. There is thus no genuine Arab public opinion to be discerned, and not much in most other Muslim countries. Perhaps most Arabs do feel humiliated by the coalition’s actions; perhaps they feel far more humiliated by the actions of Arab regimes; perhaps they are much less concerned about the fate of Iraq than we might wish them to be. In the absence of reliable evidence we refuse to trust any of the self-appointed experts, especially when their reading of Arab public opinion just happens to coincide with their own views and/or depends on applying monolithic stereotypes to millions of people – if that isn’t racism, what is?
(7) The war was “really” all about US control of the world’s oil supplies: Of course the US ruling class is as capable of stupidity and ignorance as any other ruling class, but historically it has shown a keener sense of self-interest than this crass economistic nonsense suggests. If the fate of the oil industry was the overriding concern then the US government and the oil companies with which it is closely connected could and would have carried on as before, collaborating with the Saudis and others to keep the oil flowing. The fact that US oil companies are now being awarded contracts for work in Iraq indicates only that they are the leading players in the industry, their only serious rivals being French and Russian – and is it any surprise, or cause for indignation, that US and British decision-makers prefer to deal with US companies rather than companies from two of the countries that were close to the Ba’ath regime before and during the war?
Meanwhile, we are not so naive as to suppose that, because oil was not the main motive, the liberation of the Iraqi people was. The US administration and the other governments in the coalition, with their customary cynicism, exploited that goal, and the issue of weapons of mass destruction, to promote their shared vision of an international order that is safer for capitalism, implying, among other things, more liberal democracies, with more compliant governments; more “free” trade, in oil as in other commodities; and more effective joint action against terrorism. There is every reason to think that they are insincere about much of this programme, and that their definitions of such terms as “democracy” or “terrorism” differ from ours. There is no reason, however, to think that they are insincere about all of it – the western “left” has no monopoly on self-deluding idealism – and it makes more sense to assess each scene in this continuing drama on its own merits, by the light of the doctrine of the lesser evil, than to either buy into the whole deal or reject it out of hand simply because it isn’t revolutionary socialism. Given the widespread popularity of capitalism and the vanishingly small support for socialism in the contemporary world, it would be stupid to expect anything more radical. On the other hand, as long as we are to be ruled by capitalist states, which would you rather be ruled by: a coalition of liberal democracies that pay at least lipservice to free speech, or any number of ruthless genocidal dictatorships that want to revive the worst aspects of the Middle Ages (and we don’t mean folk songs or William Morris wallpapers)? If you can’t or won’t answer that question, how can you claim to be interested in contemporary politics, as opposed to useless dreaming about the politics of the distant future?
(8) Invading a country in order to remove its regime from power was an unprecedented violation of “state sovereignty”: Like the fake “left”, we few remaining adherents of the real, Marxist left can easily list all the bad precedents, from Vietnam onwards, although we utterly reject the selective approach that allows ageing Stalinists and “Trotskyists” alike to go on and on about the Bay of Pigs, an invasion that failed, while evading discussion of the invasions of Hungary in 1956 or Czechoslovakia in 1968, or the Serbian campaigns that first destroyed the Yugoslav federation, and then came close to destroying Bosnia and Kosova. But what about the good precedents, that is, the invasions that genuinely liberated millions of human beings from barbarism and helped them to establish replacement regimes that, though inevitably falling far short of Utopia, were certainly significantly better than what went before? Well, now: Italy and France in 1944, Germany, Austria and Japan in 1945, Uganda in 1978, Cambodia in 1979, Afghanistan, paradoxically enough, in 1979 and 2002 ... If “state sovereignty”, or any other piece of rotten bourgeois rhetoric, stands in the way of liberation from barbarism, then let it be disregarded. But what on Earth is such rhetoric doing in the mouths of people who still insist, despite all their posturing, inconsistency and laughable arrogance, on deluding themselves and others that they have anything in common with genuine Marxism?
(9) The coalition forces have met with stiff resistance from the Iraqi people: “Stiff resistance”, if it means anything at all, suggests months or even years of sustained and at least sporadically effective opposition to an invading force. That was not what happened in Iraq, where deserters (wholly to their credit) heavily outnumbered those few conscripts who stayed at their posts, while a few fanatics, many of them not even Iraqis, spent a few weeks killing and injuring a few American and British soldiers, and trying to avoid being killed or injured, not only by the coalition forces, but also by the people they had helped to oppress for decades. The “Iraqi people” means some 23 million human beings, about one fifth of whom, namely the Kurds, have indeed been putting up stiff resistance for decades, not to any western forces, but to the Ba’ath regime, which tried to eliminate them from the planet while most of the western “left” either ignored all Kurds or romanticised the struggle of the Kurds in Turkey, who have certainly been mistreated but have at least not been gassed.
Yes, of course, except for a day or two in Basra the Shi’as chose not to rise up against Saddam when the coalition forces arrived. But then, they had been betrayed back in 1991, and they had also been told not to rise up by their imams and by the coalition forces this time round. Accordingly, the only people who were surprised at their passivity were the western “left”, once again caught out confidently making useless predictions on the basis of shallow dogma rather than sober analysis.
Yes, of course, many Iraqis, both during the war and since it ended, have visibly expressed at best wariness and at worst outright hostility towards the coalition forces: who but a western “leftist”, vocally antiracist but unconsciously deeply in thrall to racist stereotypes, would expect a uniform response, favourable or not, from so many human beings with so many different interests, backgrounds, hopes and fears? Nevertheless, it is equally plain that many Iraqis have expressed joy and gratitude for their liberation, although the western “left” has been quick to deny their existence even so, partly because so many “leftists” belong to that tribe of self-satisfied bourgeois pseudointellectuals who regard it as beneath their dignity to watch television at all, and so missed what everyone else saw. We do not know which response represents the feelings of the majority in Iraq and, unlike those commentators who deliriously predicted the course of the next few years within a week of the war ending, we do not claim to be able to know. Suffice it to say the following. First, whatever they are feeling now, the majority of Iraqis would certainly not want to see the Ba'ath regime restored, and it was the coalition forces that removed it. Second, we shall all know what they are feeling when the first democratic elections in the lifetimes of most Iraqis are held in their country – yet if the western “left” had had their way those elections would never be held at all.
It sticks in the throat to have to admit that for once the western powers have done more to promote justice than the western “left” has. It is nauseating to find “Marxists” trying to ensure that any human beings should go on living under a dictatorship. Such are the contradictions of advanced capitalism.
...Just as Stalin's “Communist” dictatorship destroyed the lives and hopes of so many socialists of an earlier generation, the complicity of the “left” in the growth of Ba'athism, “Pan-Arabism”, Islamic fundamentalism, “Third Worldism” and the other anti-democratic ideologies that have brought us to this point has helped to destroy all prospects of any advance beyond liberalism for another generation at least. We cannot forgive these charlatans and renegades their betrayal of the very tradition they pretend to uphold, and we are confident that the working class will go on seeing them for what they really are. Then again, given their remoteness from any contact with working-class people, their embedding in academia, journalism and other marginal outposts of the capitalist system, and their total incapacity to realise that they have made stupendous errors, let alone learn from them, it is already abundantly clear that the western “left” no longer has anything in common with the working class – and that, somewhere behind their smug masks, they know it.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
If a leftist could show me how their ideas would end up with the kind of just society that they want, then I could go along with it. But those ideas won't and they can't, and I think that history has more than definitely shown that again and again.
For every group of leftists today who think that they are different, that their agenda is improved and smarter and won't bring us yet another totalitarian state, there is the story of an identical group of idealists who thought the same thing 30, 40, 50 or 70 years ago but whose ideals put them on the road to the killing fields of Cambodia, the mass starvation of the Chinese cultural revolution, the millions killed in re-education camps in Vietnam, Stalinist Russia, and so on.
And yet they just can't or won't see that.
They can't see that behind the idealism of any radical there is an ordinary human being with ordinary human nature, who will act as human nature dictates, in selfish ways and in cruel ways to get his way if given that power. No, they think that they are different, so much better than any of the leftists before them, so much better than anyone at the other end of political spectrum, better than those who will acknowledge the unavoidability of selfishness in human affairs. They can't believe that their honest good intentions could ever produce an undesirable outcome.
But we have an exemplar of all of this in the present day, that is, Venezuela. It is the sickening slide of a nation and a people into a totalitarian nightmare of oppression, degradation, and possibly starvation.
Venezuela's Marxist dictator, Hugo Chavez, has begun confiscating farms and ranches, a violent act worthy of Zimbabwe's ethnic cleansing, marauding socialist tyrant Robert Mugabe. Like Mugabe, his made his first target a wealthy British aristocrat. But unlike Mugabe, who openly reveled in barbarism, Chavez is using stagecraft calculated to create a melodrama that will excite his supporters, while putting the rest of the world to sleep. And he's doing it to conceal reality.The land is supposedly going back to the people after being taken from a rich landowner in Britain. In reality it's being given to 25 of Chavez's friends, and so many of the poor people are not happy with what Chavez is doing.
So, in the end what has happened in Venezula is that one group of elites led by Chavez has taken control of the country from the old elites, and the people at the bottom are still screwed.
All with the best of intentions, of course. Chavez knew he could not just give parcels of land out to poor people because he knew that food production would go to zero in that event, and so he came up with this scheme to keep the land in competent hands. Most likely, food production will go down regardless, and it will be the common people who suffer, as always, in that case.