Sunday, August 31, 2003
This is the same man who made waves in the 1980s by promoting a home eye test kit to help parents detect and deter drug use by their children. Parents were supposed to administer the test every few days, beginning when their kids were about 7. No one could have accused Forest Tennant of being soft on drugs.
True. That makes it all the better that he has changed his mind. Hopefully this is just the beginning. That the war on drugs is a complete failure cannot have gone unnoticed and that's why I hope that its supporters swallow their pride and admit that they were wrong. This is as good a space as any to link to the Cato Institute's classic on drugs legalization.
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
One reason why the Conservative Commentator is happy about this development is because it would advance a socially conservative agenda without the Tories having to do so. Given that this is one reason why the Conservatives have had so much difficulty in regaining their electoral fortunes I can see what he's getting at: let the church do the social bit of a conservative comeback and the Tories don't need to bother about it and can win back middle Britain. I'm not sure that would fly and I don't like the idea much of transforming the C of E into something out of line with its traditions just to get Ian Duncan Smith into Downing Street.
Monday, August 25, 2003
PARIS The intensification of violence in Iraq is the logical outcome of the Bush administration's choice in 2001 to treat terrorism as a military problem with a military solution - a catastrophic oversimplification.
But is this really an oversimplification? The roots of al Quaedaism are mainly ideological and are the result of an internal struggle within Islam. How exactly does Pfaff imagine the Bush administration and America's allies could do anything about this? Starting to tell Muslims how they are to interpret their faith so they fit into Islington dinner party society would rightfully be interpreted as an illegitimate interference and would only strengthen the fanatics who could then say they are the true defenders of the faith. Pfaff goes on:
Choosing to invade two Islamic states, Afghanistan and Iraq, neither of which was responsible for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, inflated the crisis, in the eyes of millions of Muslims, into a clash between the United States and Islamic society.
What?! "Neither of which was responsible for the attacks of Sept.11, 2001". Is Pfaff mad? I can see the point about Iraq (see post below), but Afghanistan? So where does Pfaff think al Quaeda sat around for several years training thousand of wannabe jihadis and planning in great detail the 9/11 attacks? As for his charge that the crisis has been inflated, well, that's what happens in a war when one side belatedly decides to start hitting back. There was no choice to taking on al Quaeda militarily. The fact that according to Pfaff millions of Muslims see this as a clash between America and Islam is hardly a relevant factor for policy consideration; it's just a further burden we have to bear in this war. In any case it's not the US and the West that is at fault here but Pfaff's “millions of Muslims” who are wrong about the issue at hand. The West is so obviously disinterested in religion that anybody who seriously believes our governments' policy is driven by religious motives either has no idea what he's talking about or is purposefully ignoring the facts.
The two wars did not destroy Al Qaeda. They won it new supporters. The United States is no more secure than it was before.
It's true that al Quaeda is still a problem but that's no reason that we shouldn't try to destroy them. As for the claim that it has won new supporters, where's the evidence? The assertion that the US is less safe is obviously stupid. The US is far safer today with al Quaeda's training grounds and operational headquarters destroyed and its remnants on the run.
The wars opened killing fields in two countries that no one knows how to shut down, with American forces themselves increasingly the victims.
"opened killing fields"? Either Pfaff is a liar or completely uninformed, two characteristics that should disqualify him as major newspaper columnist. Afghanistan's killing field has been open since the late 70s and in fact is today the most peaceful it has been since then. Same in Iraq where the fallen coalition troops are a sad distraction from the fact that Saddam’s murder regime is gone and in fact everything else is looking up (see this Stephen Pollard piece for an argument that Iraq is better than before the war).
There is no victory in sight, not even a definition of victory. If Saddam Hussein were captured or killed, Washington would claim a victory, but that isn't a victory over terrorism.
No, but it would be victory in Iraq, wouldn’t it, silly Willy? Perhaps, though, Pfaff has got something right:
…the neoconservative project, taken up by President George W. Bush with seemingly little or no grasp of its sources, objectives or assumptions.
The neoconservatives believe that destruction produces creation. …
They believe that the United States has a real mission, to destroy the forces of unrighteousness. They also believe - and this is their great illusion - that such destruction will free the natural forces of freedom and democracy.
In this, they are influenced by the Trotskyist version of Marxist millenarianism that was the intellectual seedbed of the neoconservative movement. But their idea is also very American, as they are credulous followers of Woodrow Wilson, a sentimental utopian who really believed that he had been sent by God to lead mankind to a better world.
Ok, I could agree with a lot in there. I think the necons are excessively optimistic. While it is right that we should destroy our enemies we should not believe that the destruction of evil automatically brings in good; it can just as easily bring in a different evil. Branding Woodrow Wilson as a "sentimental utopian" strikes me as odd though. So he wanted to create a better future for humankind. How bizarre. Now I could understand this derision of idealistic foreign policy if it came from a conservative realpolitik hardhead. But from William Pfaff?
On the other hand, he does seem to be dissatisfied with the prospect that the US might pull out of Iraq if there is little sign of progress by next year’s US presidential election. A few weeks ago Edward Luttwak made a quite convincing case that this might not be a bad idea, as the Iraqis aren’t taking up the opportunities the coalition has offered them and we can’t and shouldn’t stay in Iraq indefintely. We don’t need another Kosovo or another Vietnam for that matter. We’ve done most of what we need to do, only the wmds are missing (if they ever existed that is).
Sunday, August 24, 2003
IF THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION had been out to hype the threat from an al Qaeda-Saddam link, it stands to reason that it would have used every shred of incriminating evidence at its disposal. Instead, the administration was restrained in its use of available intelligence.
Though that is just the problem of course, isn't it. The Bushies were indeed "restrained" in the use of the available intelligence to the extent that they showed us virtually none, and consequently it was hard to believe there was a linkage. On the other hand many reports in the press had presented stories that suggested this link did really exist. The problem with this was however that no one quite managed to prove the existence of the link beyond doubt and that the link was systematic and long term rather than on a sporadic basis. Part of the pro-war governments' problem was that the public was only interested in al-Quaeda. This is wrong as the terrorist threat is not limited to al-Quaeda and there is fairly hard evidence that Saddam has been pretty busy in that respect:
Iraqi defectors had been saying for years that Saddam's regime trained "non-Iraqi Arab terrorists" at a camp in Salman Pak, south of Baghdad. U.N. inspectors had confirmed the camp's existence, including the presence of a Boeing 707. Defectors say the plane was used to train hijackers; the Iraqi regime said it was used in counterterrorism training. Sabah Khodada, a captain in the Iraqi Army, worked at Salman Pak. In October 2001, he told PBS's "Frontline" about what went on there. "Training is majorly on terrorism. They would be trained on assassinations, kidnapping, hijacking of airplanes, hijacking of buses, public buses, hijacking of trains and all other kinds of operations related to terrorism. . . . All this training is directly toward attacking American targets, and American interests."
Well yes, but what about al-Quaeda? The problem is that governments can’t go around justifying all sorts of domestic security measures with the threat of bin Laden striking again just because that is the only face that Western publics are capable of putting to the notion of international terrorism. Governments need to put more effort into explaining that the conflict we are in is not about finding Ossama bin Laden but goes far wider than the narrow issue of al-Quaeda. Broadly speaking it is about creating a new global security order that has become necessary since the end of the Cold War but that was neglected until September 11, 2001, because it was nearly impossible to mobilise public support, particularly in the US where it matters most. But of course it might well be that the dwindling support for the war could be resuscitated by showing the Saddam-al Quaeda linkage now. After all, as Hayes writes:
Some administration officials argue privately that the case for linkage is so devastating that when they eventually unveil it, the critics will be embarrassed and their arguments will collapse. But to rely on this assumption is to run a terrible risk. Already, the absence of linkage is the conventional wisdom in many quarters. Once "everybody knows" that Saddam and bin Laden had nothing to do with each other, it becomes extremely difficult for any release of information by the U.S. government to change people's minds.
And that job's going to be ever more difficult the longer they wait and the longer those wmds don't start appearing Iraq. Our governments' behaviour has been a real cause of annoyance for those who try to support their security policy efforts.
Saturday, August 23, 2003
If New Labour keeps on winning it is quite clear to me that Rowan Williams will have been the last Archbishop of Canterbury selected by the Prime Minister. It is also impossible that a future Conservative government would reverse disestablishment, so I think that we Anglicans need to start thinking about a future in which the CofE will no longer exist as a unified and institutionalised church. I agree with Hobson that this will bring a religious reawakening to Britain. I just find it disappointing that it doesn’t seem to be possible that this can happen in a unified Anglican church. Unlike Hobson I am also more concerned about the possibility that in places where the church used to bind people together, such as in rural areas or abroad where I am at the moment, the need to choose either the evangelical path or the more traditional one, will split communities to the extent that they won’t be large and strong enough to even maintain a proper church. That is in essence where my main fear for Anglicanism lies I suppose. On a positive note, I have to say that all these conflicts and problems don’t impact on actual everyday church life and that’s a good reason to be optimistic.
Tuesday, August 19, 2003
Saturday, August 16, 2003
[A]s a gentleman farmer you might produce nothing more than a few pints of goat's milk for your friends, but that does not matter under the new CAP so long as you can convince officials that you are in the farming business. This will not be difficult. Indeed, it is possible to give the impression of being a farmer without doing anything at all, ... the arduous tasks one associates with farming become entirely unnecessary when one abandons any hope of making money from the enterprise.
What taxpayers won't get for their 43 billion euros is the justification for setting up the CAP in the first place: a guarantee of food security in times of war. Were war to break out in Europe in future, Europeans would turn to their land and discover some very contented animals, some very well-tended meadows looked after by some very leisurely farmers, but no guarantee that any food is produced at all. In fact, the incentive would appear to be to produce anything but food.
Now I've never bought the line, that Europe desperately needs this policy to have a guaranteed food supply in times of war. What kind of a war could that possibly be? The only scenario would be for a war, which dragged on for years in which a blockade managed to shut down all import routes to Europe. Historically this happened to Napoleonic France about two centuries ago and to Germany in WW1. Given that these two countries are the main axis that drives on the EU, I can see how their politicians would have been animated by the trauma of national defeat to ensure that they were never again put into such a position.
Strategically though it never made any sense. If the Cold War had turned hot there were two scenarios. In scenario one the invasion by Warsaw Pact troops would immediately be escalated into nuclear firestorms by in which case we wouldn't have needed any food because there wouldn't have been anybody left to feed. In scenario two Nato and the Warsaw Pact would have clashed conventionally on the territory of West- and East-Germany. If the war wouldn't have been over due to a complete communication breakdown after a few hours it would not have lasted no longer than perhaps the two to three weeks that would have been needed either to re-create the pre-conflict stalemate or for American reinforcements to force the Warsaw Pact into capitulation.
Whatever scenario had occurred in all of them an established agricultural sector with the prospect of long-term production stability is unnecessary. In today's security environment it looks no more convincing. A large-scale blockade of the EU isn't going to happen, very simply because there is nobody who could do it. Could terrorists block transport lanes? They could try but escort shipping like in WW2 and the same actions that were taken against pirates should suffice to solve the problem.
The only slightly realistic possibility is that a coup or other breakdown of order would end the flow of goods from one supplier country. Now if others couldn't fill the gap, wouldn't this be an irresistible incentive for the EU to conduct a real foreign policy that has meaning other than sticking its tongue out at George Bush. If our food depends on order and development in the poor countries, particularly in Africa, which are far more suited to agriculture than modern day Europe, the European Union's policies would be forced to focus on actually helping these countries.
One way to help would be to drop the CAP, which bars poor farmers from exporting into the EU, while simultaneously making European farmers to overproduce and then dump the excess on the world markets. There on the world markets the subsidy-sponsored Euro-products help, along with their Japanese and US counterparts, to make African farming produce uncompetitive and thus shut down the most promising route open for these poor countries to start a proper course of economic development and stand on their own feet rather than being on the mercy of the EU's aid budgets and the other transnational welfare bureaucracies.
As an ending I'll post this little gem Clark has for us, about the different absurdities that the CAP has brought forth in the past:
My favourite concerns Italian cattle farmers who were offered a subsidy for slaughtering cattle which officialdom deemed to be surplus to EU requirements. Since payment was made upon the presentation of a pair of bovine ears, it wasn't long before a strange new breed of earless cow started to appear in the fields.
And all that 43 billion euros. What a load of CAP!
Thursday, August 14, 2003
Thank to Stephen Pollard for the link.
I think one of the reasons why people like Hudson and me don�t see eye to eye, is in part a romanticised view of the Cold War era, that completely blanks out the memory of the hot wars at the periphery of that global struggle. Also, it is certainly true that for domestic western Europe it was a time of geopolitical clarity which in a way must seem comforting in hindsight. But this view is hopelessly eurocentric and is simply an attempt to ignore the dilemmas of interventionism versus indifference that we have to deal with in the post-1989 world. Here's Hudson's opener:
The legality of the war against Iraq remains the focus of intense debate - as is the challenge it poses to the post-second-world-war order, based on the inviolability of sovereign states.
Historically this is wrong. This inviolability was inserted into official declaration such as the UN-Charta and it may have held true for Western countries, but beyond there, sovereignty was worth nothing, and both Nato and Warsaw Pact member states violated countries' sovereignty where it was deemed strategically necessary. In any case, if this inviolability was really the basis of order �if there was any order to speak of at all- how would Hudson explain the dozens of wars that have occurred since 1945?
Leaving that aside there is also a question moral goods trade offs to be made. In both cases it was a question of the credibility of the information about the problem at hand. Hudson and her ilk may complain and oppose the intervention in Kosovo and in Iraq because the evidence was ambiguous. But such evidence and arguments are always ambiguous. A quick glance through 20th century history shows that this was the case for example for the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust and and the rampage in Rwanda. In all these cases there was evidence that proved to the outside world what was really going on, but there was also a lot of unclear and contradictory information. In historical hindsight of course we can clearly see that those who warned of grave crimes were right and those who denied or downplayed them were wrong. In Kosovo and perhaps Iraq, hindsight suggests we were wrong. To those who disagree I say, just imagine Milosevic really was about to unleash a fullly fledged genocide upon the Albanians and we just stood aside and did nothing. What that would have done to the grand rhetoric of Nie wieder Auschwitz, that we would never tolerate another Auschwitz in Europe.
In conclusion I would say, that one hundred percent guarantees can not be given in the here and now. We can only make an informed guess. Given the stakes though, it is clearly more prudent to intervene in such unclear cases.
Monday, August 11, 2003
The BBC reports:
A Nepalese former Gurkha working for a civilian security company was shot dead in an ambush as he was delivering mail for the UN on Sunday.
How come? I thought the Iraqis were yearning for the UN to replace our troops and now they're attacking the UN. Could it possibly be that the Iraqis don't care much for the UN? I wonder.
Sunday, August 10, 2003
And I am increasingly suspicious of those who, from Left or Right, want to go backwards. Aren't they the same people who are always moaning? Don't they regret the passing of the days of stoicism at the same time as complaining about one inch of snow, one inch of floodwater or three days of heat?
Now that you didn't get in the Fifties, when thousands of men who'd survived the trenches were still in their early sixties and the country was full of men and women who'd been through the Blitz. They didn't spend their time longing for the return of the workhouse and public hangings.
Indeed, time for us today to be a little more grateful of what we have, to keep it in its right perspective and do our bit to maintain it, whether it be by force of arms or by improving our political systems or whatever may be needed.