Thursday, January 31, 2008

Whose problem is Gaza?

'Wednesday, Egyptian officials said security forces captured a cell of Palestinian terrorists that infiltrated Sinai from Gaza and was in possession of a number of explosive belts. Israeli defense officials confirmed the report and said that additional Gazan terrorists, with plans to infiltrate into Israel, were believed to be hiding in Sinai after crossing into there via the open border in recent days.'

Immediately the border was breached, most commentators from the MSM chortled with glee at what a poke in the eye this was for Israel. People who know about the situation in southern Israel and northern Sinai took a very different view. Tens of thousands of lawless Palestinians wandering around in the Sinai is definitely bad news for Egypt. The authorities know that although many Palestinians just want a can of cooking oil and a sack of flour, many others will be there to cause mayhem and criminal activities. But the Egyptian authorities are hamstrung (if they'll forgive the infidel analogy)- if they crack down on the Palestinians who are there to bomb, buy arms and do criminal deals, the Arab world will come down on them like a ton of Korans. If they don't, the already dodgy Sinai towns will turn into full-fledged criminal bazaars like the towns in the NWFP of Pakistan, and the border towns of Mexico. For very good commercial and diplomatic reasons, Egypt doesn't want the spawning of a criminal economy in one of its major tourist areas.

It also doesn't want its relationship with (much stronger and wealthier) Israel to suffer major damage. So what to do? I wouldn't want to be Mubarak right now.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Borders cause wars (or not)

What do people who can't have original thoughts do? They repeat the lazy groupthink of the day.

'The Allied statesmen gathered in 1919 paid little attention to the needs and wants of the people of these territories they were remaking or, in many cases, creating from scratch - drawing boundaries that today, in the next century, ware [sic] are often defending with our own blood.'

Over and over again, I read this same argument- that the British (and French, Portuguese and Dutch) colonialists created states by randomly drawing lines on the maps. According to the argument, this created artificial states that do not cohere resulting in domination by one ethnic group of other ethnicities, leading in the worst cases to intra-communal warfare. These artificial states are the cause of many conflicts round the world, we're told.

Unfortunately, it's bollocks. Firstly, there is no correlation between the likelihood a country will cause wars, and how arbitrary its borders are. Germany was formed in the 19th century from many small statelets, and immediately began a series of wars of aggression. Nobody pretends its borders are arbitrary. They do a pretty good job of including Germans and only Germans. Iraq is a highly heterogenous state consisting of three large groupings, two Arab and one Kurd. It also has large numbers of Turks. Since its creation, Iraq has initiated two aggressive wars. Russia (European Russia) is a homogenous nation which from its inception fought many aggressive wars and built a large empire. Britain is comprised of at least four groupings, English, Welsh, Scots and Irish. It has initiated many many wars. What can we deduce from this? Heterogenous nations are as likely as non-heterogenous countries of launching conflicts, but not more likely. For every example of an 'arbitrary' state causing conflict, there are many of non-arbitrary ones doing so.

Take India. The British unified it and ran India for about 150 years. What happened when they partitioned it in 1947 to allow the muslim population to have a separate country? The two entities immediately went to war with each other. Given that the British were careful to try to draw up borders that included mostly muslims on the one hand and Hindus on the other, the result should presumably have been eternal harmony, if this argument is to believed. Beyond the original partition war, East Pakistan fought a further war of independence from West Pakistan because they had no real kinship with them despite a shared religion. The British tried to create viable states based on rational criteria, and succeeded. What happened next was up to the people of those new states. My question for the sheep-like repeaters of this stupid argument is this: how many of the 'arbitrary' states created by the British colonial authorities still exist i.e. are viable? The answer is, nearly all of them, including Iraq. In fact apart from East Pakistan (Bangladesh) and West Pakistan (Pakistan) and Somalia, all of them. Which I believe reveals one of the more hidden aspects of countries- even countries arbitrarily created have a tenacity of existence few other institutions seem to.

Blaming intra-communal warfare on national boundaries also can't stand up to scrutiny. Switzerland is fairly evenly divided into German, French and Italian strands. When was the last time they tried the Rwandan method of changing the mix? Despite many conflicts between the ethnic groups in Britain, at no point have we had ethnic cleansing like in Bosnia (unless you go back to about 450 A.D., which is not too bad really). The Highland clearances were a disgrace, but had no ethnic element- lowland Scots wanted Highland Scots land for running sheep, an economic fact. Many African countries are dictatorships in 2008, despite being democracies when they became independent from Britain. Often these dictatorships are tribally based. The Xhosa in South Africa and the Shona in Zimbabwe are two examples. Tribal warfare and empire-building were very old traditions before the British (and Portuguese, Dutch etc) arrived, and are certainly not the product of cartographic activities. In fact, the Zulu empire was on a huge roll before the British came along and stole their thunder.

So why do we hear the argument over and over again that it was the British governors and their map-makers who caused the wars of the late 20th and early 21st century? Its easier than studying peoples histories, I guess, and researching long enough to find out why Arab Iraqis fight non-Arab Persians, for instance. I have another question- why is the Ottoman empire not considered arbitary, while Iraq is? Iraq, as I've mentioned before, is comprised of three of the old Ottoman vilayets (bureaucratic divisions) and a bit of a fourth. Were vilayets arbitrary? The Ottoman empire held within it perhaps two hundred different ethnic groups, from Bulgars to Egyptians. Often, Vilayets had five or six ethinicities within them. Did that mean that the Ottoman empire wasn't viable? Did it mean that it was condemned automatically to intra-communal warfare? Of course not.

What determines the stability and peacefulness of a country is not how many different peoples inhabit it, or whether its borders were determined by a Briton. It is determined by the peaceability of those people, and whether their cultures allow for peaceful co-existence or not. Africa and the middle east seem to have pervasive cultures of tribal annihilation and predatory behaviour. Being a minority in those regions is not like being a minority in Canada. Its sad but true.

Weird and worrying

Welsh celebrate almost murdering English King in Ambush!

'A plaque commemorating a relatively unknown battle in Flintshire more than 850 years ago has been unveiled.
The battle of Ewloe in 1157 saw 200 Welshmen led by Owain Gwynedd, who was then king of north Wales, nearly kill English monarch Henry II.'

Spot the difference: "Henry brought up to 30,000 troops and camped on Saltney marches. Owain Gwynedd led a force of 3,000." I thought it was 200?

Of course, the secret of this 'battle' is it wasn't a battle at all. It was an ambush in the woods. A battle won by 3,000 against 30,000 would definitely have been an impressive feat of arms. An ambush of a few dozen men by 200 in the woods is not very impressive, and showed that the Welsh knew they couldn't win in a straight fight. Why anybody would want to memorialise a failed ambush with a plaque is hard to say...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

That, my friends, is a leader

'The president was in a weak and lonely position. After Republicans lost the Senate and House in the midterm election on November 7 [2006], nearly 200 members of Congress had met with him at the White House, mostly to grouse about Iraq. Democrats urged him to begin withdrawing troops, in effect accepting defeat. Many of the Republicans were panicky and blamed Bush and the Iraq war for the Democratic landslide. They feared the 2008 election would bring worse losses. They wanted out of Iraq too....'

'...[When] the Pentagon said one or two more Army brigades would suffice, the White House consulted General David Petraeus, whose selection as the new commander in Iraq had yet to be made public. Petraeus said he'd need a minimum of five and that's what he got. "I decided to go robust," Bush said. A senior adviser added: "If you're going to be a bear, be a grizzly." For an unpopular president facing a Democratic Congress ferociously opposed to the war in Iraq, it was a risky and defiant decision. Now, a year later, it's clear the surge has been a success. Violence is down, Baghdad mostly pacified, many Sunni leaders have abandoned their insurgency, and Al Qaeda in Iraq has been crushed (though not eliminated).'

I'm going to predict that when history looks back on George W Bush and Anthony Blair, they will be seen as excellent, clear-headed, forceful leaders who took a courageous moral stand. And that they were opposed by the least moral, least insightful, least honest and most pathetic dwarves that democracy has so far churned out. "Leave the Iraqi people to die, we don't care if they all die, as long as not one more of our children dies in Iraq". Utterly squalid and depraved.

What's Left: a blog project

Over the next week or two, I'll be concentrating on Nick Cohen's book "What's Left?". The reasons for that will become apparent, but suffice to say Mr Cohen elucidates many of the same criticisms of the 'left' I have made and continue to make. He does so from the position of someone who has been, and claims still to be, of the left.

"What's Left?" is a compendium of interesting issues concentrating on the decline and in some cases fall of the principled left; some dealt with to my satisfaction and some not, but all of which I'd like to get to grips with. The reason I care so much about the left is because they have formed the opposition to traditionalists and conservatives in Britain for the last 120 years, and if they no longer do so, who will form that opposition? And what will be their alternative vision for Britain, if any?

I estimate that I agree with Mr Cohen on about 90% of the issues he discusses. What are the implications of that, given that I deem myself to be on the right (although what that means today is almost as murky as Mr Cohens 'left')?

I will be taking the issues in the order they appear in the book, and then moving on to the reviewers and critics responses to them. Needless to say, I have been deeply impressed by the book, and hope that my comments might encourage other people to read it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Scott Beauchamps sad little lies

For those of you who followed the Scott Beauchamp/New Republic saga, these military documents will hold great fascination. For they hold within them the kernels of truth which Scott Beauchamp then turned into publishing dynamite (love those mixed metaphors). His fanciful stories about grotesque US soldiers mocking war-damaged Iraqis, covering up mass-murder and killing innocent dogs(I know, what?) shocked middle-of-the-road America. Confronted by the statements of other soldiers in Scott Beauchamps unit, the New Republic stood by its author (whose wife worked at New Republic) and his story. It carried on standing by them long after everybody else was satisfied that the stories were politically motivated fabrications.

The military soon tracked Beauchamp down, and he was interrogated. These documents are the record of that interrogation. They show what 'inspired' the callow youth in his creative writing. Now, I like shaggy dog stories, creative writing and even textual boondoggles. But these invented stories brought the whole US army into disrepute with the people who vote on whether they should be in-theatre or not. Thats a great big nest of hornets to stir up. I get the impression he was talked into this by his wife, who is presumably of the Harry Reid/Cindy Sheehan school of 'truth'. But the 'truth' has a very hard time up against the truth.

The New York Times does truthiness

'The government, Ms. Greenhouse said on the NPR audio version of her speech, "had turned its energy and attention away from upholding the rule of law and toward creating law-free zones at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Haditha, other places around the world, the U.S. Congress, whatever. And let's not forget the sustained assault on women's reproductive freedom and the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism." She later added, "I feel a growing obligation to reach out across the ridiculous actual barrier that we seem about to build on the Mexican border. . . ."'

'Ms. Greenhouse told me she considers her remarks at Harvard to be "statements of fact" — not opinion — that would be allowed to appear in a Times news article. She said the Times has not suggested that she avoid writing stories on any of the topics on which she commented in June. "Any such limits would be completely preposterous," she said.'

A while back, I poured as much scorn as I could muster on this illiterate ignoramus. What is astonishing and sad is that what Courtney Martin wishes for ('...folks who ...abandon the old-school idea of objectivity and tackle ... issues with a verve for making change, not just reporting on it') Linda Greenhouse gets permission from her editorial staff to do day in and day out. The New York Times is the most august newspaper in America. That thought should worry everybody in America, and many more outside it. If The New York Times doesn't do objectivity, straight reporting and getting the facts out, who will?

The right to offend

'It is difficult to anticipate the content of the film, but freedom of expression doesn't mean the right to offend,' said Maxime Verhagen, the Foreign Minister,'

That is possibly the best definition of freedom of expression there is- the right to offend.

(Hat tip: Instapundit)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Gaza and Kafka

I don't like using the word 'kafkaesque' because it gets used by a lot of sophomoric writers as a synonym of 'weird'. Which is isn't. But this story is kafkaesque.

The Hamas government of Gaza is at war with Israel. It says it right there in its founding document. Its main goal in life is the destruction of the Israeli state, and as many of the jews living in it as it can manage. It also depends for virutally all its vital daily needs on that self-same Jewish state. So there is a perpetual-motion sequence of action and response; the Hamas murderers send forth the rockets hoping to blow up perhaps a jewish housewife or schoolchild, the Israeli government convenes its committees and sends over a helicopter gunship or closes the border crossings. Then Hamas go bleating to the international media about how repressive and nazi-like the Israelis are for rocketing them and shutting their borders, and the whole cycle starts again.

If thats not Kafkaesque, what is? I hope that there is an out from this situation that doesn't involve the deaths of a large proportion of the 1.4 million Gazans, but I'm not sure.

Morally illigitimate

An open letter to the jihadis at

Morally speaking, you are not allowed to use the following arguments:

1. Criticising lobby groups. Lobbying is a function of liberal democracy, which Sharia abhors and would destroy if allowed to supersede British law. Therefore, do not comment on what you would destroy if you could.

2. Lobbying. No muslim group should be allowed to do this. islam is a religion, not a political party. Sharia does not recognise earthly authorities like secular governments and the officials who man them. Lobbying is trying to influence those people, and given that they wouldn't even exist under sharia, you can't participate in that process.

3. Bemoaning Web censorship, censorship, anti-hate-crime legislation. Using the language of civil rights is completely unavailable to you. Where islam has sway, civil rights, such as the protection of free speech, do not exist. The punishment for blasphemy under sharia is death, no muslim group can morally protest about being censored. So just shut up.

4. Producing Propaganda. 'I'm not scared of terrorists, I'm scared much more of the government'. ( In a sharia state, no organisation would have the ability to propagandise against the authorities. Therefore no muslim group has the moral right to propagandise under our regimes. So cease and desist from propagandising now.

5. Hate speech. Whilst constantly proclaiming that there is some massive worldwide 'islamaphobia' plot against them, muslims constantly launch zionistphobic comments, racist comments against jews, and hate literature full of crazed lies against Zionism and Israel. This hypocrisy deprives them of any legitimate right to complain about victimisation.

6. Violent Racism. According to the statistics, acts of violence against Jews in Britain outnumber those against muslims by 5 to 1. Not only that, most of the perpetrators of the violence are muslims, not neo-nazi skinheads. This is explained away by MPAC and the other sewage out-pipes as over-exuberant youths who really really feel the pain of the Palestinians. Whatever the reason, violence against the person is illegal here in Britain, so unless you want the whole population of Britain down on your case, stop now.

Try to keep this in mind: using the freedoms of Britain to foist a medieval thugocracy on it will bring you automatically to the attention of our policemen, judges, spies and eventually, hangmen.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Iraqi reconciliation

'Iraq's parliament has passed a law that paves the way for members of Baath party to return to public life.'

Since the violence in Iraq has subsided to half-of-Venezuelas levels, the mainstream media outlets have not had much to say about Iraq. The two main preoccupations of these august institutions now seem to be whether/when violence gets back to smash-Bush-over-the-head levels, and the lack of any political progress (the glass isn't even half empty!).

So it was with great surprise (NOT) that I discovered that this highly significant piece of legislation had been passed, with very little opposition if Al-Jazeera are to be believed. This act, and the act which distributes the oil revenues between the various segments of Iraqi society were considered by the US government the keys to a viable future. So 50% of that legislation is in place, and the priority given to this story by the big media outlets? Undetectable.

Monday, January 14, 2008

When assertion just won't do

'My take on the Iraq war has been settled for a while: The decision to invade was a huge mistake, but cutting and running would only make things worse.'

The above is an unexceptional position for tens of millions of Americans, both on the right and left. What strikes me is that although bloggers and journalists very often go on to explain the latter statement, virtually none feel the need to explain the first proposition. Its not good enough.

It is far from settled that 'invading' Iraq was a huge mistake. I think I know why people don't explain their reasons though: they don't KNOW why it was a huge mistake, they FEEL that it was a huge mistake. After four years of hearing everybody from the leader of the House of Representatives to the KosKids screeching that 'Iraq was a huge mistake', it seems beyond most peoples capacity to hold that it was a good idea. And in their defense, even the original proponents of an intevention seem to have gone very quiet and wandered off into the undergrowth (much to my disgust). So why was the Iraq intevention not 'a huge mistake'?

First of all, the festering of cruelty and corruption in the last years of Saddam needed to be stopped. Iraqis were suffering terribly from the awful situation engineered by the UN and Saddam, a grotesque circumstance where Oil was traded for food which never got to the people who needed it, and Saddam took the opportunity to kill many of his own people by pretending that international sanctions prevented him from providing food and medicine. Russian, French and German government officials who were bribed by Saddam with oil contracts provided the latter with both a conduit for his twisted propaganda, and a buffer against those countries who would not take Saddams dirty money. Destroying that sordid and murderous thicket was a major reason for destroying Saddams regime.

Secondly, the Baathist rule of Iraq was a danger to its neighbors, in particular Saudi Arabia. The Iraqi army was huge and experienced, two things nobody would accuse the Saudi army of. About a quarter of the worlds (not just America's) oil comes from Saudi. If that stops, or falls into the hands of an antagonistic despot like Saddam, the world stops. Simple as that.

Thirdly, Iraq is pivotal in the middle east. Although not the most populous (Egypt is), nor the best endowed (Saudi is), nor the most problematic (Lebanon is virtually not a country) it sits in the middle of the middle east. Its in the middle both psychologically and physically. All the crucial middle eastern countries border it. What goes on in Iraq, for good or ill, is immediately apparent to virtually everybody in the middle east. So if we look forward five years, to a possible future where a strong, prosperous and law-abiding Iraq hums and crackles with life and hope, putting into stark relief the battened-down, miserable, poverty-stricken lives of its neighbors populations; that is huge motivating force to remove the crappy despotic regimes of Syria, Iran and Egypt and replace them with something that works for the average Joe.

Finally, our economies need oil. How are you going to drive yourself to the next NoWarForOil rally without some gas in the tank? How are you going to stock your Vegan food hall without trucks to ship the produce in? How are you going to write your HateBushitler Blog without a computer manufactured largely of plastic? Its a toughy I know...

The Last straw?

'Eight Thai soldiers have been killed by suspected Muslim separatist rebels in the violence-hit south, according to an army spokesman.
The soldiers were on escort duty in Narathiwat province, which borders Malaysia, when the ambush took place.'

Having kept an eye on this insurgency since I found out about it perhaps three years ago, it seems to me that this may well represent a turning point. The Thai government have tried very heavy military presence, planes full of origami swans, light-handed military presence and nothing has worked. Knowing that the Thais are peaceful in the extreme, apart from when provoked enough, I'd say that the point of sufficient provocation has just been reached.

This is bad news for the young jihadis of far southern Thailand. The beheading brigades ('Officials say one soldier was beheaded, and one report quotes an army spokesman as saying attempts were apparently made to behead the others too') will now be destroyed, as will many innocent co-religionists of the jihadis. The blood of the innocent, both Buddhist and Muslim, is on the latters heads.

Its very difficult not to see the many Muslim insurgencies and terrorist operations round the world as a many-headed hydra. From the Phillipines to Mauritania, groups with apparently the same goals and the same psychopathy murder and assasinate and blast their way to... well nothing really. Apart from engendering hatred for Islam in general, its hard to see any goals of theirs which have been realised. Apart from the Gaza strip and a few little fiefdoms in the mountains of north western Pakistan, they control no territory. Yet I can walk a few hundred yards from here in West London and listen to men with exactly the same world view and playbook. It is very disturbing to know that the 2% actually doing the 'martydom' operations (has there ever been such a cynical euphemism?) have a huge pool of 'talent' growing up all over the world for future activities.

What will happen in Thailand? And is it what will be happening in Britain in ten years?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Venezuela- twice as murderous as Iraq (nother hat tip to Instapundit)

'Venezuelan Politics blog reported that an average 33 Venezuelans were murdered each day last year, which comes to 1000 murders per month.

Iraq’s and Venezuela’s populations are roughly comparable: 27.5 million versus 27.7 million. In the last three months, there have been 1498 civilian fatalities in Iraq. During this same time, roughly 3000 Venezuelans have been murdered.'

Take a moment to digest those facts. Think about the language used by the big media organisations about Iraq (I'm thinking here especially about the naysayers of the Surge) and Venezuela. The fact that Venezuela has amongst the highest murder rates in the world virtually never gets remarked upon in the many paeans to Mr Chavez in the worlds media. Which is weird because if there were as many murders in Iraq as there are in Venezuela everybody would be shouting 'quagmire' 'vietnam' and 'civil war'. Funny how the world is, as opposed to how the world is discussed...


Actually, the stats are WORSE than the ones I've quoted.

Helping the worlds poor and terrorised (Hat Tip: Instapundit)

This is quite hilarious. At some points I had to stop reading so I could tone down the belly laughs. But this last quote really got up my nose:

'Lest this sound trite, let me add that the mystic's love is not blind to the complication and suffering in the world. It is all-embracing, using the full human experience as fuel for the raging fire of awakening. Our modern lives are difficult. We face social injustices, environmental crises, war, economic imbalances, poverty, hunger, a vast array of suffering across our planet.'

One of the biggest problems in my view about writers like Stacy Lawson is that they DON'T have to 'face social injustices, environmental crises, war, economic imbalances, poverty, hunger' except in the most theoretical way. In her own words, these things are 'distant and separate'. Wherever she lives in the US, she is at this very moment warm, safe, overfed and by the rest of the worlds standards, immensely rich. For people who have spent a lot of time in poor countries, what is noticeable about poor people is the complete absence of overblown, mellifluous crap like Stacy's column. They don't have the time or the energy to create these steaming piles of horse excrement. I am embarrassed on Stacy's behalf, despite the fact that she declares herself so fervently as part of the grand 'we'. She is deluding herself- she is so far above the morass of the worlds poor and powerless she can't get a good grip on how far.

I vastly prefer in life the taciturn men who go to countries like Haiti, Kirgizstan and Bangladesh and help the poor with their engineering skills and know-how. A thousand thousand Stacy Lawsons don't contribute as much.