Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Anti-Americanism on the rise?

This just reinforces my perception that an anti-American is someone that is unable to live in the US. (via Instapundit)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Blowback?

A common complaint about the American trade in technology and arms is that we are arming our enemies. By selling weaponry to other countries, the possibility of blowback arises, wherein Americans are killed by weapons supplied by America. This seems, at first glance, to be a legitimate concern.

However, "The New Face of War,"by Bruce Berkowitz, makes an insightful point:

Sometime in 2000 China's Huawei Technologies sold Iraq fiberobtic communications components, which Iraq used to improve its air defense network. This was a violation of the UN embargo on trade with Iraq, but what really made many pundits and politicians in the US angry was that Huawei had originally obtained the fiberoptic technology from Motorola, an American company. After the press reported the incident, these pundits and politicians cited the Huawei case as evidence of the need for tougher export controls. They seemed to miss a minor point: the original sale wasn't to Iraq; it was to china. Did they want to ban all exports of the technology? And if not, how did they expect to prevent Iraq from getting the technology through a third party?

But here's the crunch issue: When U.S. military officials were planning air strikes for a war against Iraq in 2003, which would have been better-for Iraqis to be equipeed with a communications system that was totally foreign to the United States? Or one that American engineers understood in detail, and understood how to neutralize? [emphasis added]


If we are supplying weapons to other countries, then we know more or less what to expect from them. Blowback can be an unpleasant, and outright deadly, irony, but the opposite danger--ignorance about an opponent's arsenal--might possibly be even more dangerous.

update:
The book summarizes a paragraph later:
Today the ability to command information is almost always more important than firepower and speed, and information technology is so widely available that it is almost always impossible to control. So, [...] today it is usually better to have insight into--or, even better control over--your adversary's information technology than to stop him from getting the technology.

A Civil Rights Victory in Kansas

No, we haven't desegrated bathrooms yet--gender apartheid continues apace--but last Thursday governor Sebelius' veto on the concealed weapons bill was overturned. It's now legal to carry concealed firearms with a permit (with some limitations, of course).

One argument used by the liberal opposition to conceal and carry struck me as awkward, at least from their usual philosophical perspective. From a Kansas City Star article:

Still, local law enforcement agencies worry about the law’s potential effect. Prairie Village Police Chief Charles Grover said officers will now keep in the back of their minds the idea that there are more guns on the street.

“For me, I don’t think guns have ever solved anything,” Grover said Thursday. “They create more issues than are ever solved. … I worry about safety of my officers and safety of the general public.”


The argument itself is not flawed. It is not, however, a liberal argument. This is the type of argument that law-and-order conservatives make; that is, that rights should be restricted to better provide security. That's why many conservatives are irked by officers having to read the Miranda Rights or jump through hoops to attain a search warrant, measures that liberals applaud despite any adverse affects to officer or public security.

Liberals make the above argument not out of concern for the safety of police officers, but out of the belief that carrying a gun is not a natural right. However, there can be no more basic right than the right to self-preservation, and to deny that people have this right (and the rational capacity to exercise this right) is the first step down the road to an oppressive paternalism.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Yale Taliban and Diversity -- The Jollies of an Intellectual

I’m sure you’ve heard about Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi by now, the former Taliban spokesman that Yale eagerly admitted to its prestigious campus. As a spokesman for the brutal theocracy of Taliban-era Afghanistan, Hashemi was an excuser of atrocity, and the announcement of his admission surprised and outraged many. But this should come as no surprise, and the outrage should amount to no more than a knowing bitterness—this was not unexpected. This is simply the fruition of the diversity movement, the next logical step of a self-mutilating ideology that measures its success cut by ragged, cut inflicted on the classical liberal values that underpin this nation.

We must face the truth: Hashemi was not admitted to Yale despite his background as an Islamofascist-apologist and enemy of America—he was admitted because of it.

The Yalies must’ve been salivating at the prospect. This man actually fought against America’s imperialist hegemony! His values sneer in the face of polluting, globalizing Western values. The diversity! Here, the postmodernist can experience the ultimate frisson of pleasure: the flirtation with the primal forces of intolerance and unbending belief. Tolerance of the intolerant; what a subversive pleasure! The vicarious thrill of abandoning rationality, suspending belief in one’s own values, and consciously alienating one’s self, can all be experienced through Hashemi. He is the conduit through which jaded Yale faculty, themselves long divorced of any deeply held beliefs, can feel the vigor of belief once again.

Leon Wieseltier at the New Republic detailed this perverse pathology in a response to noted postmodernist Stanley Fish. Fish wrote an op-ed taking the side of the Muslims in the Muhammed cartoon/caricature controversy, and consciously setting himself against the liberal value of free speech. Fish derided a belief in liberalism as no less a faith than faith in Islam. He took this further, arguing that at least Muslims hold their beliefs strongly, whereas liberals have no such intense devotion to their faith. Thus, through some will to power, Muslims deserve respect for this belief, merely because it is strongly held (not, notably, because it is right or good in some sense—merely, solely, because it is strongly held).

Wieseltier cuts through Fish’s relativist muddle, and identifies Fish's motivating emotions:

For this reason, it is Fish's geeky paean to people who are happy to hurt other people, his anti-liberal envy of muscles, that is perfectly contentless. He recommends the radicalism of the Islamist protesters, but he does not care whether there is no God but Allah or whether Mohammed is His Prophet. The philosophy means nothing to him. He wants only the action. He mocks liberals as editors, but he is himself just a spectator. And he is demanding his thrills. He is living vicariously through the absolutism of others. Those are not the jollies of a democrat.

He identifies the diversophile sentiment in a nutshell: “What excites Fish about fervent belief is the fervor, not the belief.” Diversity is the praise of difference itself, not the praise of the content of different opinions. Content is irrelevant. The only possible mediator between differing claims is the fervency of those that hold those claims to be true—objective truth cannot be appealed to, as every belief is as much an article of faith as the next. It is all about emotional satisfaction. Beliefs, under diversity, are simply a matter of boutique preference.

The admission of an enemy of America to one of America’s premiere university isn’t surprising to anyone that’s took measure of the intellectual currents flowing therein. The postmodernist ideology of diversity—that is, the urge to dabble in illiberal fantasy through the representing of anti-liberal perspectives on college campuses—is surely a serious threat, but one that has been percolating for some time.

Surprised? No. This is the culmination of diversity. This is no accident.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Great moments in Epistemology--Nuclear Holocaust Edition

From the WaPo:

President Bush plans to issue a new national security strategy today reaffirming his doctrine of preemptive war against terrorists and hostile states with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, despite the troubled experience in Iraq.

[...]

The preemption doctrine generated fierce debate at the time, and many critics believe the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has fatally undermined an essential assumption of the strategy -- that intelligence about an enemy's capabilities and intentions can be sufficiently reliable to justify preventive war.


Has the realization that our intelligence on the state of Iraq's WMD program was faulty really undermined the case for preemption? Sure, it should inspire skepticism on the state of our knowledge on Iran's nuke programs.

But which way does this cut? We know our intelligence isn't entirely reliable, but this means only that our intelligence isn't entirely reliable; we don't know in what ways it isn't reliable (if we knew this, then our intelligence would again be reliable). It could be the case that Iran is further along than we suspect; there's no reason our intelligence necessarily overstates affairs. The realization that our intelligence is flawed should inspire even more fear of Iran's pursuit of nukes.

But, in any case, whether a preemptive war is justified (not in some moral or ethical sense, but pragmatically) turns not just on the state of our knowledge on the enemy's current WMD programs, but also our perception of our enemy's motives and their ability to eventually acquire WMD.

Is preemptive war against Iran justified on pragmatic grounds? I don't know, but it should remain on the table, and definitely shouldn't be jettisoned based on unrealistic epistemological standards.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Where's Waldo?


Click for larger

No, seriously, where is that stripe-wearing freak? Here we are, all lined up for a picture, and he's nowhere to be found. I mean, he's there, then we turn our head for one second, and *poof!*, the guy's meandering through some bustling beach-scape, Medieval castle seige, or, God forbid, a landscape populated entirely with his near-exact doppelgangers.

What's his problem? Does he have a condition? Somebody should frickin' kneecap him, I swear. "Hey look at me, I'm an iconic pop culture figure from the nineties! I think I'll lose myself in a crowd! Maybe string some personal items about here and there... you can find them for me, it'll be a blast!"

And don't even get me started on Carmen Sandiego. Frickin' transients.

Blurry picture with irrelevant commentary



From NCWA Nationals up in Michigan.

Technical note: I just had him tilted here for three near fall points, but later he was able to get an escape, after I panicked and abandoned it. My arm is pinned in in this picture, so I can't unsheath my broadsword. I also failed my saving throw in over-time and lost the match.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Dubai-based companies get contracts from Pentagon

Time Magazine has an article about the existing deals with Dubai-based companies. Not only do they operate ports, but some are getting defense contracts, one "to be the prime vendor for maintenance and repair operations for troops in the U.S. Central Command region, which includes the Middle East."

The world is becoming increasingly globalized and interdependent--and this is a good thing. As noted in the previous post, free trade melts animosities between people. I have trouble seeing the Dubai ports kerfuffle as anything but an instance of small-minded isolationism and narrow bigotry.

I hate assigning base motives to actions, especially prejudicial ones--that is an old Liberal tactic, one unbecoming of libertarians, conservatives, indeed anyone that is a friend of thoughtful debate. But what else could be at play here? Simply because a company is from the UAE it is suspect? Is everything and everybody from the Middle East to be held suspect?

I just hope the repercussions aren't too serious for our Mid East relations, and that this isn't indicative of an isolationist, anti-globalization trend among the American population.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

An e-mail to Steve

Steve,

Re: the ports deal--that's horrible news. I was befuddled by the reaction that many had to it in the first place. Foreign companies own a lot of US enterprises. One reason why we have a "trade deficit" is because of the large amount of foreign capital pouring into the US. This Dubai deal certainly lends credibility to the accusation that Americans are impelled by an anti-Muslim bigotry, however unfair such a characterization may be.

It seems to me that having deals such as the port deal with the UAE are the best way to reduce conflict. Free trade breeds interdependence: when Muslims realize that their jobs are dependent on the success of US enterprises, the theory goes, animosity melts away. With globalization, we're all in this together.

The sinking of the port deal also reinforces my libertarian perception of our representatives in Washington as shameless demagogues--at least THEY should've known better, even if the populace was momentarily blinded by its demotic passions. Our certainly politicians are, as PJ O'Rourke put it, a "parliament of whores."

Oh well...here's to Chief Justice Roberts!

Grant