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The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria
Polyarchy by Robert Dahl
The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen
Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
The Man Or The Idea?
I've always thought there was something missing from Howard Dean's campaign for president. He has quite a following and his supporters are overwhelmingly motivated by his campaign. Yet it's becoming apparent that little of this emotion actually has to do with Howard Dean himself. His supporters love the concept of the Dean campaign, not necessarily Dean himself. They go to his rallies for the same reason they go to rock concerts: because all the cool kids are doing it. Then, the next day, they go out and brag about how, like, totally awesome it was, man! Duuuude!
The whole Dean phenomenon is just a bit off. If the Deanies really looked hard at their candidate they would see he's not all that great. Compared to his competition he's woefully inexperienced (Vermont should not be used as an example of 'what he's done', it's 600,000 people), and in person he's somewhat dull.
It's great that his campaign is rallying people who haven't voted before or are fed up with George W. Bush. That's fantastic. But an idea (if it even is that) can't carry the day. In the end Howard Dean himself is going to have to do the heavy lifting. Hopefully his supporters will get their heads out of the clouds long enough to see that there's no cream filling in this Ho-Ho.
POSTSCRIPT: This cartoon was the impetus for this post. Man do I love the Boondocks.
"Nobody ever said compassionate conservatives are colorblind. On the Bush '04 campaign's new Web site, there is a "photo gallery" feature for each of the president's policy priorities. In the "compassion" photo gallery, 16 of the 20 shots feature Bush with non-white faces (the other four are studies of Bush). By contrast, all 16 of the photos in the "environment" gallery display what appear to be white complexions."
Oh, so that's what compassion is: getting your picture taken with a bunch of African-American and Latino kids before running off to a $500,000 fundraiser with the oil and spurs crowd for a weenie roast. How pathetic.
I did my weekly check of what's new from the neo-conservative standard-bearers at the National Review, and I stumbled across this piece by Victor Davis Hanson. He says that after U.S. military successes in Afghanistan and Iraq (military yes, overall no) our grand war against all things evil has morphed into a final defining conflict between good and evil. He calls it the "third phase":
"We are indeed entering a third phase. But it is not quite what most people think, since it has brought a brutal clarity to the conflict that the terrorists may not have intended. For those who were still unsure of the affinities between the West Bank killers once subsidized by Saddam, Baathist fedeyeen, the Taliban, and al Qaedist terrorists, the similarity in method, the identical blood-curling rhetoric, and the eerie timing of slaughtering during peace negotiations and efforts at civil reconstruction should establish the existence of a common enemy. It has been fighting us all along — a general fascism, now theocratic, now autocratic, that seeks to divert the Middle East from the forces of modernization and liberalization.
"Contrary to the latest round of punditry, the liberation of Iraq did not stir up a hornet's nest nor create ex nihilo these terrible alliances. No, they are natural expressions of the hatred manifested on 9/11 that will continue until either we or they are defeated."
Victor, there is no "brutal clarity". Never has been, never will be. While it certainly would be nice to have a world in which all the Dr. Evils of the world would unite into one comglomerate of oozing hate, the world simply does not work like that. Our world works in a complicated way and it is doubtful that will ever change.
There is no "common enemy". There is a reason no evidence of an Iraq-Al Qaeda link has been developed: because there never was one. They don't get along, even when it comes to hating Uncle Sam. Hate is not a two way street where I hate you and you hate me and that's the end of it. Hate is a whole city of winding, curving intersecting roads, back alley's and avenues. Victor, you must be lost in that big city.
There is little commonality of method between the various groups that have a grudge against the U.S. and its efforts at making the world better. While the Baathist fedeyeen have shown a tendency towards suicide attacks, as have Palestinian terror groups like Hamas, their goals are fundamentally different in scope and size to the suicide hijackings of September 11 which redefined how American policy looks at the far corners of the world.
Remnants of the Baath party see a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, but the fail to see that its only the train. They envison a glorious return of Saddam's rule and they act on nationalist urges for what they twistedly believe is the good of the Iraqi people.
Likewise, Hamas sends its suicide bombers on their way in the same manner. They see the only possible end result that will produce peace as total Arab control of the Holy Land. They dream of watching the Jews retreat into the sea. Only then do they believe peace would be possible. With this kind of world view, the only way to acheive peace in Israel is for the Palestinians to get tough on themselves and shut down Hamas and its nationalist, racist vision of that region.
Both the Baathists and the Palestinian terror groups act on a localized dynamic of hate and terror. If it does expand beyond that sphere, it will only be because of the attention such dramatics would earn for their cause.
On the contrary, al Qaeda has shown itself to be largely without a physical target of attainment. We announced we were moving American soldiers out of Saudi Arabia, one of the three main points of contention listed by bin Laden in one of his religiously weighted rants against the "Jews and Crusaders". One of his other points was the effect of sanctions on Iraq. Now that Iraq is free of sanctions (though not how he envisioned it I'm sure), that should leave al Qaeda with just the Jeruselem issue.
This of course is too logical for a terrorist group of al-Qaeda's magitude. Now that two of it's three major complaints have been resolved though, al Qaeda should have become no different than Hamas in a single vision of the land of Palestine completely in the hands of Arab Muslims.
But that has not happened. Al Qaeda and its affiliate terror groups have struck targets around the world for what seems like just the hell of it. Their purpose should have withered, and they should be left wondering, "what now?" Were they indeed one and the same as all the other groups of hate that Hanson lists they would be left with just the Jeruselem issue and would cease to be a global terrorist network. But alas, they remain as dangerous as ever, with the ability to strike nearly anywhere, and with little evidence of giving up any time soon. Their purpose is one of global ambiguity. It is a goal that is vague enough to allow for nearly any insurgency by things-they-don't-like as a motivation for more violence and more unnecessary and fruitless bloodshed. Al Qaeda has formed itself nicely as far as terrorist groups go. It has mastered the art of moving the goal posts.
Hanson makes a simple and somewhat hopeful mistake. He longs for a common enemy, a central purpose to rally behind, an evil to confront. Sure the evil is there, but is not as crisp and defined as Hanson would like it to be. Having read Hanson's work before, I'm amazed he managed to go a whole article without a reference to a Roman phalanx. Not everything boils down so nicely. Not even ancient Rome.
Remember the Iraqi unmanned drones? The ones that could supposedly carry unconventional weapons to targets around the globe and which Secretary of State Colin Powell said might even be able to get into the airspace of a major American city and dispense poison gas or other lethal agents onto an unsuspecting public? Yeah, that was all a bunch of nonsense:
"Huddled over a fleet of abandoned Iraqi drones, U.S. weapons experts in Baghdad came to one conclusion: Despite the Bush administration's public assertions, these unmanned aerial vehicles weren't designed to dispense biological or chemical weapons.
"The evidence gathered this summer matched the dissenting views of Air Force intelligence analysts who argued in a national intelligence assessment of Iraq (news - web sites) before the war that the remotely piloted planes were unarmed reconnaissance drones.
"We didn't see there was a very large chance they (UAVs) would be used to attack the continental United States," Bob Boyd, director of the Air Force Intelligence Analysis Agency, said in an AP interview. "We didn't see them as a big threat to the homeland."
"Boyd also said there was little evidence to associate Iraq's UAVs with the country's suspected biological weapons program. Facilities weren't in the same location and the programs didn't use the same people.
"Instead, the Air Force believed Iraq's UAV programs were for reconnaissance, as are most American UAVs. Intelligence on the drones suggested they were not large enough to carry much more than a camera and a video recorder, Boyd said.
"Postwar evidence uncovered in July in Iraq supports those assessments, according to two U.S. government scientists assigned to the weapons hunt.
"We just looked at the UAVs and said, 'There's nothing here. There's no room to put anything in here,"' one of the scientists said.
Man, I hate being lied to. This was one of the many reasons, along with all those gosh darn weapons of mass destruction, why we went to war. Now the claims Powell made at the U.N., the one that largely convinced me to support the war (though for somewhat different reasons), are coming up short time and time again. Trust is a dangerous thing to mess with, especially when it's the trust of the American people.
It was nuclear weapons yesterday, it's drones today. What is tomorrow's surprise?