Monday, December 26, 2005
But, Americans have short memories. They also seem to have very poorly developed reasoning skills. That’s why two opinion pieces in this AM’s Dallas Morning Fishwrap scare me. There seems to be a concentrated campaign to reshape America’s scariest woman and purge the memories. First, we’ve got Richard Cohen: Damned with Faint Praise He seems to be saying that Hillary is way wrong with a pandering bill to outlaw flag burning. Yet, if you were a bit paranoid, you might spin that as an attempt to show how “conservative” she is and help to make her just a teeny bit more palatable to the moderate mainstream.
Then there’s Kathleen Parker. I like her columns usually, but today she paints a Hillary that sincerely wants to shed the far left abortion position for something much more palatable to moderates. Try this: Praising with Faint Damnation Yes, there’s good ol’ Hil’ feeling the pain of pregnant women, yet acknowledging the sanctity of life and seeking to really solve the problem for them without being either pro-life or pro-choice. It’s an example of Clintonian triangulation at its finest. Have it both ways and draw votes from everywhere.
Yep, there’s reason for paranoia this morning. I’ve got nearly a full page of opinion in my major metropolitan newsrag that labels the argument as opposing sides but really is an orchestrated effort to groom the witch for a run at the White House in ’08. I knew she was coming, but I didn’t realize the level of the indoctrination that would be part of the campaign. I’m paranoid. I’m afraid they might even get me liking her and respecting her ideas. Nahhhhh, that ain’t gonna happen. Fellatio ain’t no peck on the cheek and Hillary ain’t no moderate. She wasn’t then and she won’t be in two years. But I’m scared.
Friday, December 16, 2005
We had a chapter in the Introduction to Political Science course that I taught which dealt with “correlates of democracy”—the factors of the political environment which contribute to success for a democratic form of government. It was enlightening and should be included in any serious political science curriculum.
Most Americans will offer the knee-jerk opinion that democracy is the best form of government and will often add the Winston Churchill witticism that “democracy is the worst…except for all others.” The truth of the matter is that democracy requires a lot of things to come together. The chapter of the textbook we used offered a list of factors and I likened it to a checklist for democracy. You could go down the list and the more factors that were present the greater probability of forming a stable democratic government.
Events in Iraq make this discussion relevant. Using the checklist, it is easy to come to the conclusion that there is little hope yet the landmarks along the path since the overthrow of Saddam seem to indicate that the Iraqi people are defying the odds. Yesterday’s election and the accompanying news coverage of smiling, dancing, exuberant men and women at the polling places lead me to the conclusion that incredible progress is being made.
One of the most critical correlates for a successful democracy (one which, by the way, defies America’s obsession with diversity,) is that a society should be homogeneous. Take a society with ethnic, cultural, religious, historic, philosophical, moral, and language similarities and you’ve got a better chance of establishing democracy than in a society that is fractured in any of those characteristics. Iraq clearly fights an uphill battle in this area.
Historically, Iraq is a colonial construct of the British. They carved out a nation with little regard for the regional differences of Kurds, Shi’ia and Sunni. There are deep differences between the religious and tribal views of these groups, yet they are bound together today inside a border drawn by a regional outsider. Despite this, they have in the past two years come together to attempt a difficult task. Most impressive has been the shift over the last eight months of the Sunni segment of the population from boycott of the provisional election to enthusiastic participation in the recent polling. Recognition that the process would go on with or without them, they chose to join and become a player in the government.
Other correlates, though not as distinct as the issue of homogeneity in society, include:
a.) History of democracy—not much to build on here.
b.) Democratic neighbors—decidedly absent in the Middle East, unless you’re willing to count the theocracy of Iran.
c.) Plurality—an uphill fight for a region with intense religious influence in all political matters. Building coalitions on various issues from hugely divergent religious sects is incredibly difficult.
d.) Sense of nation—the colonial history followed by the years of autocratic minority Ba’athist rule denies a strong identification with the nation. Individuals are having to overcome identification as Shi’ia or Sunni and think of themselves as Iraqi.
e.) Free market economy—good results in the Kurdish sector and some influence in the south, but an uphill battle for entrepreneurs in much of a previously state-centric economy.
f.) Fair taxation—governmental services cost and there needs to be confidence in equality of burden-sharing. Not a historic strongpoint for the region which still sees the excesses of Sadaam’s palaces.
g.) History of freedom—political process takes freedom. Free speech, free press and free assembly are basic. These have been absent for a long time.
h.) Political parties—it’s tough to know what a representative stands for. Parties fill that need by defining an agenda. For years, Iraq has been a one-party system. Now it’s a system of hundreds of parties, many of which are not yet clearly defined. This will need to evolve and better sooner than later.
i.) Civilian control of the military—here’s an area where the coalition influence on rebuilding can have great dividends. Modeling the new security system on ours and making them responsive to the new government will be a difficult task.
j.) Independent judiciary—always difficult to establish. The people must have faith in the rule of law and not of the privileged class.
k.) Middle class—a strong plus here for the urban areas of Iraq. As rebuilding proceeds, the middle class should stabilize and grow, creating a buffer between the historic privileged and the downtrodden breeding grounds for insurgency.
These are a few of the “correlates” and it is easy to understand the magnitude of the task of building a democracy in Iraq. They’ve got few of the success factors in place, yet they have come from total dictatorship to a provisional government, a constitution, and now free elections for a permanent government in a matter of months. Progress has been impressive.
The unifying factors vary, but whether it is a desire for power-sharing, a patriotism seeking to build a modern, free Iraq, or a simple desire to stabilize the nation and open the door for the coalition forces to leave; the result is good.
It will be interesting in the next few days to see how the failure-mongers of the left will try to make lemonade out of these very sweet lemons.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Has this man no shame?
Unfortunately there are far too many who are willing to believe the worst. They love the thought that America’s elected leadership; in collusion with the highest level military staffs would direct a policy of targeting women and children. They like the guilt and shame that would be associated with that sort of disgrace. They fervently believe that those who don the uniform of their country would follow such blatantly unlawful orders. They want to think that anyone who serves willingly and values his nation and our heritage is some sort of thug. Where does such misguided thinking come from? If you reflexively jumped to the conclusion of the mass media, Hollywood dim-stars, pointy-headed university pseudo-intellectuals and pandering politicians I am not about to attempt to disabuse you of such a notion.
So, here we have Senator John Kerry, the man who wrapped the mantle of patriot and war hero around his shoulders during his presidential bid once again showing his eagerness to discredit America’s military. He’s the whiz kid who stood before an audience and uttered that fateful quote of “voting for the war before voting against it,” apparently hoping to be able to have it both ways. He’s the one who tried unsuccessfully to distance himself from his Senate testimony from long ago in which he accused us all of committing to a policy of atrocity. Now, he’s still willing to paint America’s heroes as the terrorists of Iraq.
And, if one really wants to point out the moral bankruptcy of Sen. Kerry, you need only to consider the implications of his full quotation:
"And there is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the – of – the historical customs, religious customs," Kerry said. "Whether you like it or not ... Iraqis should be doing that."
Yep, he goes on to suggest that the terrorizing of women and children is really kind of OK. It’s merely that we should be out-sourcing the task. This guy shouldn’t be allowed out alone. He’s going to hurt himself.
I can’t wait for the Senator to kick off his next presidential bid.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Well, the foolishness about crèche displays on City Hall lawns has gone on for a long time. Yet, there are plenty of shepherds and Magi being arranged in public places for reminding us about the holiday. I know I’ve used “Xmas” as shorthand for Christmas for many years and somehow knew all along that the derivation of that abbreviation related to the Greek spelling of Christ. It didn’t seem problematic to me.
Christmas trees didn’t originate in Bethlehem, but are a more pagan or Druidic expression of the season. Doesn’t bother me. I enjoy the display.
Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Reindeer and Santa the Fat Guy all seem harmless enough, even though they never appeared in the stable around the manger. They all give me an opportunity to feel good and it’s nice for little kids to have fun with them.
Gift giving is a wonderful expression of love and affection. Families coming together are good whether the reason is a sharing of Christian faith or a Hanukkah celebration or a Kwanzaa teaching of principles of life, or even a Costanza family tradition of Festivus. It actually IS a holiday season and offering an inclusive wish for happiness in no way demeans Christians.
Why then does John Gibson have to flog his narrow-minded book every single day? I mention my books when the subject seems appropriate, but I don’t feel the need to interject “When Thunder Rolled” or “Palace Cobra” into every conversation. Gibson, of course has the benefit of the very bully pulpit of a national broadcast news network. He’s also got the team of willing allies like O’Reilly and Shep Smith and Greta and Geraldo. They mention his book this week and when they have their book released, Gibson will return the favor.
But, it’s all a non-issue. It’s a trumped-up charge. Two nights ago I watched ABC air “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” for the 40th time. Note the title and if you watched the show, you also noticed the very prominent bible quotations solemnly intoned by Linus. This is major network stuff and if there were some sort of war on Christmas, I’m certain ABC would be in on the strategy.
John Gibson is going to sell a lot of books. A lot of concerned Christians are going to studiously boycott Coke for replacing Santa Claus this year with a bunch of polar bears and penguins. (Why Christians would prefer one secular cuteness for another escapes me at the moment.) Wal-Mart is going to sell a lot of Christmas stuff as will Best-Buy, Sears, K-Mart, Circuit City, Toys-R-Us and the other big and little box stores. Many clerks will say Merry Christmas and many will wish us Happy Holidays. The distinction between the intent of the greetings is not major.
That’s why I liked Mike Straka’s brief editorial on the subject. His “Grrrr…” pieces usually hit the nail on the head. The oblivions he routinely identifies won’t change their behavior because of his columns and the religious folks supporting Gibson won’t change their thinking about the secular conspiracy, but Mike says it well and just the way I’ve been thinking about it. Take a look here: Couldn't Have Said it Better
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Here’s an individual who, without the byline, we would quickly describe as an objective, non-partisan observer. Consider that for a moment. If you didn’t have the name and didn’t recall the leadership position in his party, you would be hard pressed to think the report was coming out of our Senate.
He actually was on site, not writing from an ivory tower of academia or a bastion of pacifist idealism. He went and drew his own conclusions. Notice that there is a recommendation to get over the continual talking point emphasis about what was the reason for going to Iraq in the first place. Quite correctly, Lieberman points out that it really doesn’t make any difference anymore whether we accept the reasons or the revisionism. We are there and there are more good reports than bad reports when you actually consult with the people on the ground—both coalition and locals.
Maybe there is hope after all.