Monday, January 21, 2008

I have seen the future of Canada, and it works (for the government)

Mark Steyn, proving that Canada's major export industry is comedic wit, skewers his former homeland in his own impeccable style. Asked to speak on the future of the Canadian economy, he opines:

I WAS A bit stunned to be asked to speak on the Canadian economy. “What happened?” I wondered. “Did the guy who was going to talk about the Belgian economy cancel?” It is a Saturday night, and the Oak Ridge Boys are playing the Hillsdale County Fair. Being from Canada myself, I am, as the President likes to say, one of those immigrants doing the jobs Americans won’t do. And if giving a talk on the Canadian economy on a Saturday night when the Oak Ridge Boys are in town isn’t one of the jobs Americans won’t do, I don’t know what is.
...
As we know from 9/11, the Wahabbis in Saudi Arabia use their oil wealth to spread their destructive ideology to every corner of the world. And so do the Canadians. Consider that in the last 40 years, fundamental American ideas have made no headway whatsoever in Canada, whereas fundamental Canadian ideas have made huge advances in America and the rest of the Western world. To take two big examples, multiculturalism and socialized health care—both pioneered in Canada—have made huge strides down here in the U.S., whereas American concepts—such as non-confiscatory taxation—remain as foreign as ever.

My colleague at National Review, John O’Sullivan, once observed that post-war Canadian history is summed up by the old Monty Python song that goes, “I’m a Lumberjack and I’m OK.” If you recall that song, it begins as a robust paean to the manly virtues of a rugged life in the north woods. But it ends with the lumberjack having gradually morphed into a kind of transvestite pickup who likes to wear high heels and dress in women’s clothing while hanging around in bars. Of course, John O’Sullivan isn’t saying that Canadian men are literally cross-dressers—certainly no more than 35-40 percent of us — but rather that a once manly nation has undergone a remarkable psychological makeover. If you go back to 1945, the Royal Canadian Navy had the world’s third largest surface fleet, the Royal Canadian Air Force was one of the world’s most effective air forces, and Canadian troops got the toughest beach on D-Day. But in the space of two generations, a bunch of tough hombres were transformed into a thoroughly feminized culture that prioritizes all the secondary impulses of society—welfare entitlements from cradle to grave—over all the primary ones. And in that, Canada is obviously not alone. If the O’Sullivan thesis is flawed, it’s only because the lumberjack song could stand as the post-war history of almost the entire developed world.

Today, the political platforms of at least one party in the United States and pretty much every party in the rest of the Western world are nearly exclusively about those secondary impulses—government health care, government day care, government this, government that. And if you have government health care, you not only annex a huge chunk of the economy, you also destroy a huge chunk of individual liberty. You fundamentally change the relationship between the citizen and the state into something closer to that of junkie and pusher, and you make it very difficult ever to change back. Americans don’t always appreciate how far gone down this path the rest of the developed world is. In Canadian and Continental cabinets, the defense ministry is now a place where an ambitious politician passes through on his way up to important jobs like running the health department. And if you listen to recent Democratic presidential debates, it is clear that American attitudes toward economic liberty are being Canadianized.


John Kennedy exhorted Americans to "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." But that was at his inauguration, after he had the job. The stiff competition among candidates for that job increasingly has them indulging American's desire to have their country do something for them. I'm beginning to think that it is inevitable for every democracy to travel down that road. Why wouldn't it? Aren't people basically cautious and conservative when it comes to their own security? Isn't a guaranteed "bird in the hand" governmenmental benefit preferable to the uncertain riches of two birds in the economic bush of competitive business? And since we ask the people every two years what they want their government to do, isn't it inevitable that their willpower to resist government largesse for the discipline of self-government eventually erode?

Steyn exposes some of the sadly humorous and unexpected consequences of treating the state like a cargo cult:
In the province of Quebec, it’s taken more or less for granted by all political parties that collective rights outweigh individual rights. For example, if you own a store in Montreal, the French language signs inside the store are required by law to be at least twice the size of the English signs. And the government has a fairly large bureaucratic agency whose job it is to go around measuring signs and prosecuting offenders. There was even a famous case a few years ago of a pet store owner who was targeted by the Office De La Langue Française for selling English-speaking parrots. The language commissar had gone into the store and heard a bird saying, “Who’s a pretty boy, then?” and decided to take action. I keep trying to find out what happened to the parrot. Presumably it was sent to a re-education camp and emerged years later with a glassy stare saying in a monotone voice, “Qui est un joli garcon, hein?”
...
I drive a lot between Quebec and New Hampshire, and you don’t really need a border post to tell you when you’ve crossed from one country into another. On one side the hourly update on the radio news lets you know that Canada’s postal workers are thinking about their traditional pre-Christmas strike—the Canadians have gotten used to getting their Christmas cards around Good Friday, and it’s part of the holiday tradition now—or that employees of the government liquor store are on strike, nurses are on strike, police are on strike, etc. Whereas you could listen for years to a New Hampshire radio station and never hear the word “strike” except for baseball play-by-play.

In a news item from last year, an Ottawa panhandler said that he may have to abandon his prime panhandling real estate on a downtown street corner because he is being shaken down by officials from the panhandlers union. Think about that. There’s a panhandlers union which exists to protect workers’ rights or—in this case—non-workers’ rights. If the union-negotiated non-work contracts aren’t honored, the unionized panhandlers will presumably walk off the job and stand around on the sidewalk. No, wait...they’ll walk off the sidewalk! Anyway, that’s Canada: Without a Thatcher or a Reagan, it remains over-unionized and with a bloated public sector.
...
The third difference is that Canada’s economy is more subsidized. Almost every activity amounts to taking government money in some form or other. I was at the Summit of the Americas held in Canada in the summer of 2001, with President Bush and the presidents and prime ministers from Latin America and the Caribbean. And, naturally, it attracted the usual anti-globalization anarchists who wandered through town lobbing bricks at any McDonald’s or Nike outlet that hadn’t taken the precaution of boarding up its windows. At one point I was standing inside the perimeter fence sniffing tear gas and enjoying the mob chanting against the government from the other side of the wire, when a riot cop suddenly grabbed me and yanked me backwards, and a nanosecond later a chunk of concrete landed precisely where I had been standing. I bleated the usual “Oh my God, I could have been killed” for a few minutes and then I went to have a café au lait. And while reading the paper over my coffee, I learned that not only had Canadian colleges given their students time off to come to the Summit to riot, but that the Canadian government had given them $300,000 to pay for their travel and expenses. It was a government-funded anti-government riot! At that point I started bleating “Oh my God, I could have been killed at taxpayer expense.” Say what you like about the American trust-fund babies who had swarmed in to demonstrate from Boston and New York, but at least they were there on their own dime. Canada will and does subsidize anything.

Fourth point: The Canadian economy is significantly more dirigiste (i.e., centrally planned). A couple of years ago it was revealed that the government had introduced a fast-track immigration program for exotic dancers (otherwise known as strippers). Now as a general rule, one of the easiest things to leave for the free market to determine is the number of strippers a society needs. But for some reason, the government concluded that the market wasn’t generating the supply required and introduced a special immigration visa. To go back to President Bush’s line, maybe this is one of those jobs that Canadians won’t do, so we need to get some Ukrainians in to do it. Naturally, the exotic dancers are unionized, so it’s only a matter of time before the last viable industry in Quebec grinds to a halt and American tourists in Montreal find themselves stuck in traffic because of huge numbers of striking strippers. What governmental mind would think of an exotic dancer immigration category?


I would normally follow this up with a libertarian style rant about how we are slowly being strangled by a statist tyrrany, but I'm beginning to believe that the majority of the people in the world really don't want radical political and economic freedom in the American style:

A century ago, Russia had more political theory-mongers than any other country in history. It was infested with many varieties of anarchists, it had socialists beyond number, and there were armies of radical Christians, Tolstoyans and Communists. Stirred by all this progressive thinking, Russia shed an ocean of blood in the service of Karl Marx's theories.

Remarkably, that didn't make much of a difference. When it was all over, Russia ended up with a czar. Vladimir Putin, the 21st-century czar, may be nicer than Stalin or Czar Alexander III (who reigned from 1881 to 1894) and brighter than Nicholas II (1894 to 1917). But he's still a czar, with a czar's sense of infinite entitlement. Putin believes he deserves to rule Russia, and it appears that most Russians see things his way. Freedom of speech, for instance, is no more important to Putin than to Alexander III or Stalin -- and only a small minority of Russians appear to care.

Nina Khrushcheva was talking about these issues when she visited Toronto last week to appear on TVOntario. She's a political science professor whose scholarship is deepened by personal contact. Teaching graduate students at the New School in New York, she speaks with the unique authority of Nikita Khrushchev's great-granddaughter.

He was a czar, too, until the politburo fired him in 1964. When his great-granddaughter lists Russian despots, she doesn't omit him.

She has nothing but contempt for Putin but knows her fellow Russians don't agree with her. The typical Russian, whom she calls "the lazy Russian Ivan," adores Putin. Russians believe their country should be regarded as a great nation and that Putin is winning back the respect it deserves. If his behaviour scares the West, all the better.


What is the future of freedom in the 21st century? Will peoples vote more for freedoms to or freedoms from?

61 Comments:

Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Steyn would no doubt be surprised to learn that there were beggars' unions back in the Middle Ages and in London at the height of laissez-faire.

And I don't take the point of his remark about Russian political
theory-mongers. He's right, of course. Russia was lousy with them, and lousy with lice, too.

The reason for that was that the theory of government that the Russians suffered under (autocracy with slavery and laissez-faire manufacturing) was a disaster.

The market saw a need for more theorists and the market delivered. What's Steyn's beef?

On a slightly different matter, he seems to be deferring the Khrushchev's spawn. Would he be so deferential to, say, Gamdhi's?

Can we expect a Steyn tip of the hat to the analysis by Gandhi's grandson published a week or so ago on the Washington Post religion blog?

One guesses not.

January 21, 2008 6:46 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Harry, the quotes about Russia came from a separate article, not Steyn.

January 21, 2008 8:08 PM  
Blogger lonbud said...

I wonder if Steyn believes the people of Canada would be better served by their government attempting to maintain the planet's third largest surface navy and a crack air force rather than providing things like healthcare, day care, and education.

Or perhaps he'd prefer the American model, wherein half the budget goes to the military and three quarters of the other half goes to corporate welfare.

January 21, 2008 10:09 PM  
Blogger Ali said...

I wonder how much Canadian economic policies have been affected by being reasonably resource-rich.

January 22, 2008 3:09 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Lonbud, how 'ya been? How goes the revolution? Has fascism arrived in America yet?

Steyn is starting to remind me of those American leftists who swore they would emmigrate if Bush was elected, but never did. This would have been a great rant during the Trudeau years, but I certainly don't recognize what he is describing. In the last few years welfare has been cut, strikes are rare (poetic license, Mark?), taxes have been reduced, military spending was increased significantly, the government is running a huge surplus, Kyoto was renounced, we are fighting in Afghanistan and the economy is humming. A lot of this was done by a Conservative minority government the other parties don't dare defeat because they know they would be creamed in an election. Some of this stuff, like the panhandlers' union is just nonsense.

Steyn is comparing rhetoric, not reality. Every country has a default political rhetoric it uses to base political discussions and ground public debate. Canada's is certainly liberal just as Scandinavia's is socialist, but both run pretty decent countries built on successful market economies and have shown a pretty fair capacity to self-correct with popular support. To answer your question, Duck, libertarianism is almost exclusively an American creed and if you measure freedom stricly acording to its philosophical dictates, then, yes, the rest of the world will frequently take a pass. To their ears it often just sounds like somebody wanting to arm the inner cities and close the public parks. But it is wrong to therefore conclude everybody wants statism and government dependency or is headed irreversibly down that road.

You can certainly point to lots of bureaucratic nonsense up here, especially on social issues, but it's rarely as draconian as being caught in the sights of the EPA or Title IX gestapo under the Dems. A lot of the social engineering stuff that comes out of Britain, particlarly from school authorities and leftist town councils, appalls us as much as you. We may have European tendencies, but we can be almost as supicious of our brights and beautiful people as you, although we do respect accountants and policemen a bit more.

Steyn seems to be a little like a Churchill character who rises heroically to rally the nation in its hour of peril, but who then can't stop figting the Battle of Britain even after it is won.

January 22, 2008 3:46 AM  
Blogger David said...

Hey, Lonbud, welcome back.

Of course, nothing like half the budget goes to the military and, as a percentage of GDP, defense spending is at a post-WWII low -- significantly less than, for example, Cuba.

January 22, 2008 7:23 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Steyn thinks you can run the government along the lines of a New Hampshire town meeting, although even in N.H. they expect the gummint to plow the roads.

Still, the Canadian human rights commission is pretty scary.

Like Comstockery or the Watch and Ward Society

January 22, 2008 8:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Yes, it is scary and one of the most glaring, authoritarian examples of how political correctness is happy to destroy free speech and the rule of law. As with family courts and a few other seats of power, the Boomer left still runs this. Steyn and some conservative journalists are currently trying to mount a high-profile jurisdictional attack against it as it goes after some anti-Islamic articles in a national magazine. It's a noble cause and you can track it here.

The problem is that, as is so often the case today, the cause of freedom is running up against the cause of decency. One of the journalists, a libertarian named Colby Cash, is quoted as saying : "If I'm not free to say 'F--K Islam', then I'm not really free." I'd like to imagine most folks would agree with that if the question were put properly, but I am also very aware that most folks don't want to live in a society where a lot of people walk around saying that.

Which brings to mind one of my all-time favourite quotes from the blogosphere, written by Joe Carter at the time of the Danish cartoon kerfuffle:

When I joined the Marines I swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, including the rights to free speech and a free press. For fifteen years I stood ready to take up arms or, if necessary, to lay down my life in the defense of these foundations of liberty. I believe in protecting the freedom of speech, whether it comes from terrorist-wannabes like Ted Rall, know-nothing pundits like Joel Stein, or religious-bashing Danish cartoonists. I believe that, like religious liberty, this is a divinely permitted freedom that demands due vigilance.

But just once I'd like to be called upon to champion speech that is true, honorable, just, and pure. Just once I'd like to defend a freedom that wasn't vulgar, degraded, and profane. Just once I'd like to defend freedom that aspired to the ideals of Thomas Jefferson rather than to the inclinations of Larry Flynt.

January 22, 2008 9:11 AM  
Blogger lonbud said...

Great quote by Joe Carter, Peter; who wouldn't empathize with the sentiment behind it? However, as we all know, often enough people need exposure to the inclinations of a Larry Flynt in order to appreciate the ideals of a Thomas Jefferson.

And speaking of TJ, here's a quote from one of his contemporaries, Jim Bob Madison, who said, in his Political Observations (1795):

"Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes … known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."

David, neither one of us is quite correct in our assertions, but I was more correct than you, and far less disingenuous.

Here is some information on the big picture of U.S. and world military spending. Citations showing U.S. military spending is not actually at a post-WWII low as a percentage of GDP, and are indeed nearly half of all Federal discretionary spending are here.

For a pdf showing both the preposterousness of your comment about Cuba's defense spending, go here.

None of the figures cited above take into account the outgoing administration's predilection for keeping vast sums appropriated for the WOT off the books, a little sleight-of-hand the Decider presumably picked up from his former friend Ken Lay. Nor do they take into account funding for the War on Drugs.

As to the revolution and the arrival of fascism here in the US, well, it's a pretty good bet we won't have a Republican executive nor a majority-Republican Congress to deal with for a while, but I'm none too sanguine about the prospects for any real progress under Clinton or Obama, or with a legislative branch led by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

All in all, though, it's a pretty exciting time politically, and if the carnage on Wall Street can be extended for a while, 2008 should provide for some lively entertainment and discussion.
The early warning signs of fascism are certainly afoot, though, I'm afraid it's the kind of thing most people never really recognize until it's too late.

January 22, 2008 12:06 PM  
Blogger David said...

Ah, Lonbud, I've missed you.

I, of course, was completely right and you were completely wrong. Your correction was disingenuous.

You said, "half the budget goes to the military." I said that it didn't. I was right, you were wrong. You then changed your claim to half of discretionary spending going to the military. That is disingenuous.

In fact, defense spending is a little better than 20% of the budget, just slightly more than non-defense discretionary spending and substantially less than half the budget. (Even if we add in off-budget expenditures for Iraq and Afghanistan, the total is only less than 30% of the budget.)

By way of comparison, approximately 51% of the budget is spend on non-discretionary social welfare programs. So your second claim, while technically true, is disingenuous. Of course, once you've removed social welfare spending, we spend a lot of the balance on defense. What else could we spend it on?

But your point is even more disingenuous than that, because by "budget" you implicitly meant federal budget. But the federal budget is only about 60% of government spending in the US and very little of state budgets (.1%) goes to the military. Most of the $2 trillion in state spending goes to infrastructure, education and social welfare programs. As a result, the United States spends more on education each year than the military, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of the $5 trillion governments in the US will spend this year, only about 12.5% will go to the military.

As for defense spending as a percentage of GDP, did you even read the sources you cite? They agree with me that defense spending, as a percentage of GDP, is at a postwar low, reaching an absolute low of 3.0 in 2000 and, by 2003, up slightly to 3.7%. This compares to the post WWII average of 5.5%. (I should also note that, according to this cite of yours, military spending is less than half of discretionary spending.)

Cuba spends about 4% of its GDP on defense; we spend 3.7%. As a percentage of GDP, Cuba spends more than we do.

January 22, 2008 2:03 PM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

Here's a nice rollover chart (you may have to enable Javascript in your browser) for the FY08 Federal budget. Defense (DoD at $625.2 billion, including the supplementals for Afghanistan and Iraq) plus veterans' benefits ($77.6 billion) plus retirement and retiree medical ($51.5 billion) come out to about 27% of a total total outlay of 2.8 trillion dollars. ( Say that word again: trillion. tarrrrrrillllion. Lovely word. But I digress.) Which is, like, almost half, so lonbud is close enough for lonbud work. Welcome back, by the way.

January 22, 2008 2:23 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'political correctness is happy to destroy free speech and the rule of law. As with family courts and a few other seats of power, the Boomer left still runs this.'

I guess you didn't pick up on my crack about Comstock and Watch and Ward.

What difference does it make whether you're gored by the ox's left horn or his right horn?

Plus ca change . . .

Anyhow, if you feel a bilious attack of fascism coming on (south of the border, anyway), I recommend a couple of Lileks screeds and a good night's sleep. It will be sunny in the a.m.

January 22, 2008 7:13 PM  
Blogger lonbud said...

Thanks for the cordial reception, my fine feathered friends, and for the lesson in budgetary accounting. I will humbly admit to having spoken in hyperbole.

I will also point out that in actual dollar terms, the U.S. spends more than any country in the world on military affairs. The $625 billion for FY08 is almost double what it was six years ago ($328B).

Cuba, on the other hand, ranks 77th, and even if it also doubled its expenditures from FY02, would only be at right about $2 billion.

China, the #2 spender on military amusements doesn't have an exactly transparent accounting system, but it's safe to say FY07 expenditures were at or less than $100 billion.

Per capita spending - more meaningful IMHO than spending as a % of GDP - puts the US at #3 behind Israel and (lord knows why) Singapore, at nearly $1000 per citizen.

Burma, which readily crushed a popular uprising calling for freedom and democracy last year, gets 'er done for $0.83 a head.

Go figure.

January 23, 2008 1:21 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

"If I'm not free to say 'F--K Islam', then I'm not really free." I'd like to imagine most folks would agree with that if the question were put properly, but I am also very aware that most folks don't want to live in a society where a lot of people walk around saying that.

Granted, routinely using the F-bomb in public discourse is not something worthy of applause.

How, then, would you put the statement properly, considering Islam is OK with killing infidels?

In light of that, it is hard to come up with a formulation sufficiently strong.


lonbud:

The $625 billion for FY08 is almost double what it was six years ago ($328B).

And?

That comparison is meaningless, as are all the comparisons with other countries' military spending, for a couple reasons.

First, many countries, those who largely share the US strategic priorities, are free riding on US military spending; e.g., Canada and all of Western Europe.

Second, and more importantly, defense spending only has meaning within the context of strategy.

Is the size of the US military consistent with US strategy?

If not, which has to change, the size of the military, or strategic goals?

Without discussing the correlation between strategy and military resources, decrying the dollar figure is to make an argument without a point.

January 23, 2008 4:33 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

lonbud:

Call me an old-fashioned warmonger, but I am strangely reassured that the U.S. spends more on defence than Cuba, China and Burma. Would you be happier if they were leading the pack or is this some kind of tranzi even- playing field you are advocating?

Skipper:

How, then, would you put the statement properly, considering Islam is OK with killing infidels?

I try to ignore what that pesky, scary Islam says and just talk to Muslims instead.

January 23, 2008 5:40 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

The U.S. also picks up over half the tab for the UN, which might not be a plus for several folks here but ought to get props from lonbud, you'd think.

(You'd be wrong.)

It also invents about 100% of the medicines used to treat AIDS in Africa, for which it also ought to get a nod.

I wish we had a much, much bigger army and used it more ruthlessly.

January 23, 2008 8:24 PM  
Blogger lonbud said...

Hey Skipper: I would argue for a reduction in the size of our expenditures on military affairs as well as a reassessment of our strategy. Why should Canada and Western Europe get a free ride at yours and my expense?

Peter: I'll commend you once again to James Madison's thoughts on warmongering and let it go at that.

January 23, 2008 8:26 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Unfortunately, Canada and Western Europe get a free ride because they'd rather lose than contribute their share. We, the American Street, would rather carry along that dead weight than lose. Therefore, free rides. I just wish we'd stop pretending otherwise.

As for military spending, you're hitting the wrong crowd with that. We all strongly disagree on what the government should do, but if we each made a list, "peace through superior firepower" would be on every one.

P.S. As Mr. Burnet notes, Canada is shifting and there is the possibility that they'll be a real contributor once more. They've done good work in Afghanistan, although the continuation of that is very undetermined.

January 24, 2008 7:20 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'just talk to Muslims instead.'

Don't you sorta have to be careful which ones?

+++

That Canadian army that assaulted the 'toughest beach' at Normandy did not include (m)any French-Canadians, who had to be exempted from conscription because of riots.

January 24, 2008 8:46 AM  
Blogger lonbud said...

Peace through superior firepower may be fine for some. I prefer Peace through being peaceful.

The superior firepower of the US military has brought precious little peace to Iraq or Afghanistan to date.

Should it be called upon to bring peace to Pakistan and/or Iran, lord help us.

January 24, 2008 7:43 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Not true, Harry.

January 25, 2008 2:55 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Thanks for the link, Peter.

A namesake of mine, probably a distant cousin, a Omer Duquette from Warwick Rhode Island, was a crewman on one of the Doolittle Raiders.

January 25, 2008 4:42 AM  
Blogger David said...

SH: Free riding Europeans are a feature, not a bug.

January 25, 2008 4:45 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

The superior firepower of the US military has brought precious little peace to Iraq or Afghanistan to date.

Iraq was not peaceful before we intervened, and neither was Afghanistan. Saddam had to kill thousands on a regular basis to stay on top of the pigpile.

More accurately the statement should be freedom through superior firepower, for peace without freedom is worthless. The peace of a slave's life is not worth it.

January 25, 2008 4:46 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Peter, note I wrote '(m)any.'

The 22nd wasn't at Normandy. French-Canadians were allowed to enlist but the government had to suspend conscription following riots in Quebec.

So Max Hastings, 'Armageddon,' anyhow.

January 25, 2008 8:42 AM  
Blogger lonbud said...

Freedom is a condition of one's internal awareness rather than of one's external circumstances.

Where were the calls for deployment of freedom-fighting, democracy-spreading American superior firepower last year when the people of Burma rose up in defiance of their tyrannical government, one of a few remaining that subjects its people to endure actual slavery?

The silence was deafening.

Then again, Burma does not sit atop an ocean of oil.

January 25, 2008 1:39 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

No, Harry, wrong again. Conscription was much opposed in Quebec and was therefore much delayed. The riots of which you speak were to oppose the introduction of conscription (which had almost split the country in WW1), not react to it. It was delayed as long as possible and finally introduced very late in the war. The French were excempt? Are you kidding? Does it make sense to you that the mothers of the rest of the country would have accepted that?

BTW. I've always felt the far-more-numerous-than-Anglo-history-records Quebecers who signed up and fought bravely were the bravest of the brave. They lived in a badly divided society and had little of the family and community support the rest of the country had. I've read tales about how when the Canadians were captured at the disaster of Dieppe, Vichy French tried to offer the Quebecers special treatment to separate them from their Anglo compatriots (who, in today's terms, weren't that compatriotic). No deal.

lonbud:

Freedom is a condition of one's internal awareness rather than of one's external circumstances.

Don't tell us that, man. We're hopeless, imperialistic, Western conservative toadies. You have to inspire the young. Tell that to the young teenage Afghani girls from the Kandahar region trying to going to school and get a basic education under the menacing eyes of bearded Islamists who have made it very clear that once the Allies are gone, it will be over. Would you like us all to repeat that shibboleth to them as we pull out under their panicked eyes? Or should we try and make them feel better by promising them another UN conference on human rights?

You are far too bright a guy to just feed us that peace-at-any-price pap. If that is what Madison meant, he would have opposed the American Revolution. After all, 18th century British colonial rule in North America doesn't exactly top the all-time historical oppression list. But Hussein and the Taliban, now they are in the running, no?

Why are the beautiful people of the Western left always urging the rest of the world to make their peace with atrocious, murderous regimes they know full well they wouldn't put up with for five minutes themselves?

January 25, 2008 4:47 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

BTW, Harry, the reason there were no Quebec regiments at D-Day is that they were slogging their way up the Italian peninsula on that day--a major, horrific campaign history has allowed Northerm Europe to overshadow. A few months later they were transferred to the British-Canadian forces under Monty, backed up by the world's second and third largest navies and third and fourth largest air forces respectively. I think about a million men, which also gives at least a partial answer to your assertion elsewhere that if FDR hadn't "insisted" on a Western presence in Europe, there would have been nothing to stop the Russkies.

January 25, 2008 5:08 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I won't lecture you on Canadian history.

lonbud -- Burmah Oil Co.

Nobody but me around here has been drumming for a big army, but if we had one maybe we could have invaded Burma. It is contradictory for people like lonbud to demand unilateral disarmament while also demanding that we 'do something' in Burma, Darfur, South Slavia etc.

Anyhow, I would not advocate invading Burma in order for the Burmese to revolt, which they haven't done.

If they revolt, then, yes, maybe.

There is a bigger issue, worth the bones of more than a few grenadiers, although nobody cares: The Burmese Buddhists are running a small but effective genocide against the pagan tribes in the hills.

It isn't being reported because reporters cannot get in, but I have interviewed one who went as close to the border as he thought prudent.

A few groups are running refugee camps and schools in northern Thailand for those hillmen who can make it out.

The Burmese army torches their villages, which forces these subsistence farmers/hunter-gatherers to evacuate.

The army then picks off the adults and sells the children to brothels in Bangkok and elsewhere.

lonbud, if you can get anybody to sign on -- including resumption of the draft -- I will write free publicity for the Free Burma Movement.

January 25, 2008 6:52 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Speaking of the free Burma movement, I just got back from seeing "Rambo", which was shot in Thailand near the border with Burma. Stallone mentioned in interviews of the refugees from Burma that he had seen, missing limbs and what not.

In the movie Rambo is asked by some Christian missionaries to take them upriver and drop them off in Burma so they can take medicine and Bibles to a Christian tribe there that is being hounded by the government.

My favorite line from the movie: Rambo asks the missionary "are you bringing weapons?" The missionary says, "of course not!" Rambo says "you ain't changing nothing!"

Of course he ends up taking them, they get captured, Rambo goes in with a platoon of mercenaries hired by the church to rescue them and makes some changes on the way out.

That's what I like about Rambo: he's an "agent for change".

January 25, 2008 7:13 PM  
Blogger lonbud said...

peter:

Your expression of concern for the plight of Afghan girls warms the cockles of my bleeding heart. For an imperialistic, Western conservative toady, you seem considerably more evolved than, to name just a few others, Doug Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, or Dick Cheney.

Rest assured, too, I am working on inspiring the young. I should have my California teaching credential soon.

harry:

Perhaps you missed it, but the Burmese did revolt (again), last year, and were gunned down in the streets for their trouble, with nary a peep from the legendary coalition of the willing.

If you're interested in catching up, go here and here.

You are quite mistaken to the extent you read me as demand[ing] unilateral disarmament while also demanding that we 'do something' in Burma, Darfur, South Slavia etc.

I have simply pointed out the naked hypocrisy of hiding our affairs in Iraq and Afghanistan behind the notion of "preserving freedom" or "spreading democracy" while standing idly by as a bona fide democracy movement like the one in Burma is ruthlessly quelled by a corrupt and tyrannical government.

And while there may indeed be a small but effective genocide being carried out against the pagan tribes in the hills of Burma, it is most emphatically not being carried out by Buddhists. By ruthless elements of the Burmese military, perhaps, but not by actual Buddhists.

duck:

So glad to hear you liked "Rambo", but I fail to draw the connection between Sly Stallone's Hollywood fantasy and anything having to do with real life or real warfare.

January 25, 2008 10:54 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

All or nothing, eh? Anyone who donates to one charity and not all charities is therefore a hypocrite? Which are you then, uncharitable or hypocritical?

January 26, 2008 5:36 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

lonbud

There are several real life aspects to the latest Rambo movie. First, there are people and governments in the world that are radically evil, radically evil and not American. We are not the source of evil in the world.

Second, if you think you will change things for the better for the victims of these governments without force, you are mistaken. You ain't changing nothing.

If you are going to cry "hypocrite" at the current administration, realize that they are there through the democratic process, and can only do as much as the people will let them get away with. First and foremost the American military is tasked with the duty to protect American citizens and American interests. True, we only get to liberate peoples when it is in our interests, but that doesn't negate the nobility of doing so. Also, we aren't, contrary to popular opinion, militarily omnipotent. We can't intervene in remote parts of the world without the support of, or at least the acquiescence of, the regional powers and expect to get away with it. China has thwarted us in Korea and Vietnam and would do so again in Burma.

January 26, 2008 7:46 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Gerson reminds me of the clueless leader of the missionaries in the Rambo movie who thinks he can change conditions there peacefully:

Fortunately, however, the regime's aging, increasingly feeble leadership is also capable of extraordinary stupidity. After the pointless construction of a new capital in a remote part of the country and the building of luxury housing for the military elite, Burma's government is cash-strapped. So it increased fuel prices by up to 500 percent, causing bus fares and the cost of basic commodities such as rice to spike. All through the summer, the democratic opposition has wisely focused its critique of the junta on the collapsing economy -- a collapse the regime is doing its best to hasten. After 40 years of military rule, Burma's per capita income is about one-fifth that of its neighbor Thailand, and child malnutrition is widespread.

Poverty doesn't destabilize dictatorships, it strenghtens them. Revolutions are started by the upper middle classes, not the poor. The poor only worrying about getting by day to day. Self government is a luxury that they don't have the time to indulge in even thinking about. Don't expect a revolution from the peasants and the laborers.

January 26, 2008 7:59 AM  
Blogger lonbud said...

SH:

The obliteration of nearly $500 billion in national treasure, the killing of nearly 4000 US soldiers and catastrophic injury to nearly 60,000 others, in addition to the death and destruction of Iraqi lives and fortune that yet goes uncounted is a form of charity?

Remind me to stop paying income taxes and to increase my direct contribution to people and organizations that do not have "gotta be cruel to be kind" as their guiding philosophy.

duck:

I agree with you there is evil afoot in the world and that the American government's foreign and economic policies are not the source of it. A source, most definitely, but not the.

Don't get me wrong. America, Americans, and American interests are also a source of much that is good in the world. The US is a big place and the world an often chaotic, and always complex one.

However, that our impetus for invading Iraq was in any way charitable, or founded in any policy to liberate the Iraqi people (let the women drive cars! let the girls go to school!), is a pure fiction.

We invaded Iraq because Dick Cheney had a pathological hatred of Saddam Hussein and a megalomaniacal desire to control Iraq's oil reserves.

The wisdom of permitting Cheney's mental illnesses to inform and direct the power and policy of the US government can be debated, and may well be unknown for years to come. However, insisting upon some charitable instinct in the American people as the basis for what has gone on there really keeps any kind of intelligent debate from even getting started.

I agree with you, too, that revolution is not likely to be born of the mean lot of peasants and laborers. I also believe neoconservatives and certain elements within the Republican party understand that, which is why their policies are founded in a wish to diminish the American middle class and increase the population of our peasants and laborers.

I hope you and all likeminded, reasonable, and intelligent people will remember your little paean to the democratic process when elections later this year bring changes to instincts and impetus informing the US government's policies.

January 26, 2008 9:57 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

They're Buddhists, lonbud, just as the Japanese monsters who raped and murdered their way across China were Buddhists.

All religions are, in the end, the same.

January 26, 2008 11:32 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Note to self — never be anything but literal with lonbud.

lonbud, your claim was that if person A claims to be doing X in situation Y, then he's a hypocrite unless he does X in all situations like Y. For instance, if the USA claims to be promoting democracy in Iraq, then the USA is hypocritical unless it also intervenes in Burma. By this logic, if you donate to a charity but not to all charities, you are a hypocrite. I was wondering if you had an actual principle here, or were just America bashing.

P.S. I suppose it was Dick Cheney's bottomless hatred that got a bipartisan majority and former President Clinton to make regime change in Iraq the official policy of the USA back in 1998, a couple of years before Cheney became vice-President? That's some kind of hate.

January 26, 2008 1:43 PM  
Blogger lonbud said...

harry:

Buddhism is not a religion. Unlike Christianity, or Judaism, or Islam, wherein a person may claim to be, and may well be accepted by others as a member of the faith, Buddhism is proscribed by distinct habits of mind and action.

It is a way of being, with very clear precepts. If one is engaged in small, but effective genocide, one is, ipso facto not a Buddhist.

SH:

I never sought to lay out any sort of tautology, you sought to impose one on my comment. I merely endeavored to give the lie to Bush administration claims that what we are trying to do in Iraq is preserve freedom or spread democracy.

While it's true the Clinton administration desired regime change in Iraq, it never committed the full faith and credit of the United States to try and achieve it.

Bush and Cheney have led an unhinged, incompetent cabal of self-important ideologues on a vision quest that has weakened our internal cohesion and dissipated our international credibility in a way that will take several generations of right-minded Americans to cure.

January 26, 2008 7:20 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Bush and Cheney have led an unhinged, incompetent cabal of self-important ideologues on a vision quest that has weakened our internal cohesion and dissipated our international credibility in a way that will take several generations of right-minded Americans to cure.

Oh I think our credibility is in fine shape. No third world crackpot will take our lack of resolve for granted for some time to come. Until the next Jimmy Carter takes the White House and fritters our credibility away again, that is.

If you want to know what a nation without credibility looks like, look here and here. And here.

January 26, 2008 8:05 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

The congregation at the Makawao Hongwanji Mission around the corner will be most surprised to learn they are not members of a religion, with priests, bishops etc.

Even if we were to accept you idiosyncratic definition of 'religion,' that does not answer my original point, which is that Buddhists are committing genocide in Burma.

This is incontestable.

January 26, 2008 8:06 PM  
Blogger David said...

Lonbud: We have to find within ourselves respect for all cultures, no matter how unhinged they might appear to our uneducated eyes. You wouldn't want to be judgmental, would you? After all, the WASPs have been invading and subduing other nations for centuries. It's just their way.

January 27, 2008 8:00 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

lonbud;

You perhaps should review the standard definition of "tautology".

My point is that your only "evidence" of your claim was that the current administration hasn't intervened elsewhere. If that's your standard, then by exactly the same logical process, one is not charitable if one doesn't provide charity in every deserving situation.

January 27, 2008 9:32 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Yes, David, we do love to invade and subdue. Thank goodness we have forces for peace like Dick Cheney around to define and limit our self-interest and keep everything under control. With lonbud and his pals, once you persuade them there is absolutely nothing for the U.S. or the West at stake, they start wanting to bomb and strafe all over the place. Scary.

January 27, 2008 9:42 AM  
Blogger lonbud said...

harry:

Infinite is man's capacity to label and judge; unlimited his ability to pretend and imagine. Man's true nature, however, is immutable, unwavering, and pure.

A simple web query on Buddhism and religion returns a wealth of interesting considerations of the topic, though I think this one puts it in fairly plain, easily understandable terms.

You may call the men engaged in genocide in the hills of Burma by whatever name you like. No Buddha would recognize them as Buddhist. In a similar vein, Jesus Christ would hardly recognize a fraction of the people in this world calling themselves Christian to be followers or adherents of his teachings.

david:

Touche. Mine is a difficult path. I'll endeavor to cultivate more understanding and compassion for the way of the WASP.

SH:

The "evidence" of my "claim" is that apologists for the US adventure in Iraq paint a picture of blameless liberators bringing freedom to an oppressed people and spreading democracy in a land thirsting for its promise of self determination.

As a matter of observable fact, few people in Iraq outside its Kurdish minority ever expressed any desire for "self determination".

What we have brought to the country and its people are widespread death and destruction, and an exchange of oppression by one faction for that of another.

My "standard" is not that the administration hasn't intervened elsewhere so much as that it has completely misrepresented the intervention it has undertaken.

I only gave the example of Burma to highlight an opportunity for the administration to have actually supported an oppressed people's desire for freedom and democracy should that be its true calling.

You can't send Donald Trump a check and call yourself a charitable man. You could, however, drop a dollar in the cup of the mendicant on the corner to stake such a claim.

I never said one could not claim to spread freedom and democracy unless one did so at every opportunity -- you attempted to make that claim for me.

January 27, 2008 1:50 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Religion is what its adherents do, lonbud. There is no religion with humans.

'What we have brought to the country and its people are widespread death and destruction'

In other words, no change; except we did arrange for three mass murderers to be shot or hanged. Seems like a plus to me.

January 27, 2008 2:43 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Apologies for the late comments, but the PRC got in the way.

-----------------------

Peter:

I try to ignore what that pesky, scary Islam says and just talk to Muslims instead.

How wonderful for you.

Unfortunately, the point in question is not about Muslims (whom, I am sure, have absolutely nothing to do with Islam), but rather Islam (which, I am sure, has absolutely nothing to do with Muslims).

The question is: considering that Islam insists upon literal interpretation of its canonical texts, and that those texts are quite explicit in their calling for death to infidels and apostates, how would you put that statement properly?


lonbud:

I would argue for a reduction in the size of our expenditures on military affairs as well as a reassessment of our strategy.

You need to both get your cause and effect straight, along with avoiding glittering generalities and empty questions.

The cause is our national strategy; the effect is manning, equipping, and training our armed forces so there is no strategy - resource mismatch.

That means you must first address strategy, using specifics. Shall we drop our commitment to freedom of navigation? How about our explicit defense provision for Japan. Yes, we could drop that, but what effect would that have upon the Japanese defense posture, and the consequent reaction of other countries on the region, who have yet to forget WWII? Is it better to convince the Chinese we have the ability to thwart any attack upon Taiwan while leaving them in the dark about whether we would do so, or remove any doubt by foresaking that ability in the first place?

I could go on, but those examples will suffice. (Full disclosure: I spent three years on the Pentagon in a policy and plans position; I am not without a certain expertise in this area.) Insisting upon a reduction in military expenditures is a null argument -- a favorite tactic on the Left -- unless you step up to the plate and clearly address what you expect the military to both do and not do. A null argument, which is all you have posed here, relieves you of having to defend any consequences. Which, as SH has observed, also characterizes the Left: it is all about intentions, and nothing to do with consequences.

Asking why Canada and Europe should get a free ride is a completely empty question. It is in their interest to do so; indeed, it is often in their interest to rhetorically oppose policies of ours that, in fact, benefit them. It is completely cynical (where it isn't stupid or ignorant), of course, but that is the nature of international relations.

We put up with it because the alternative is worse. Unfortunately for the Europeans and Canadians, free riding is ultimately enervating. Just like copying someone else's homework is unlikely to be adequate preparation for the final exam ...

What we have brought to the country and its people are widespread death and destruction.

SH has made quite a few insightful observations about the Modern American Left.

One of them is that the MAL eliminates agency from all groups and countries except American and Americans.

While you pay lip service to America not being the cause of all the world's problems, your quote above gives the game away.

What America brought to Iraq was the removal of an obscenely brutal dictator with unprecedented ease.

At that point, the Iraqis could have gotten together and built a civil society. Had they done so, we would have long since been out of there.

Instead, Sunnis and Shiites vastly preferred slaughtering each other (and, pointlessly, killing American soldiers) to the civilized alternatives.

That is on them, not us.

January 27, 2008 6:22 PM  
Blogger lonbud said...

Hey Skipper:

I need point no further than Iraq to illuminate a strategy - resource mismatch.

In addition, I reject your contention that one must pose ready alternatives in order to criticize current policy and practice.

Would you have reviewers submit alternate manuscripts prior to publishing opinion on a play or a book, or paint or sculpt their own works of art before hearing their review of something the public is asked to buy or admire?

With respect to the limited folly of our adventure in Iraq, if we did what we went there to do (removal of an obscenely brutal dictator with unprecedented ease), and the Iraqis' subsequent behavior (slaughtering each other and, pointlessly, killing American soldiers) is on them, not on us -- why are we still there?

January 27, 2008 9:24 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Skipper:

OK, ok, so eventually we will have to wipe out Islam (in self-defence, to be sure), but in the short term, don't we need them to protect us from Harry's murderous Buddhists?

So much to do, so little time.

January 28, 2008 3:10 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Skipper/SH

Re: Canada's free ride. Are you aware that Canadian combat deaths in Afghanistan are, on a per capita basis, much higher than anyone else's, including the U.S? Are you also aware that Canada outmourns Australia 78-6 in overall combat deaths in the war on terror (Afghanistan + Iraq)? Quite the little shift, no?

Unlike in Western Europe, you have no troops or bases here and no financial or human investment in our defence that doesn't apply equally to yours. What load do you think Canada could lighten for you? Under what circumstances can you imagine the Pentagon announcing defence cuts on the basis that Canada has picked up the slack?

January 28, 2008 5:52 AM  
Blogger David said...

Canada is something of a special case, because you can't protect the continental US without protecting Canada. Similarly, although we're not likely to be attacked by ballistic missiles flying over Mexico, everyone knows that we would step in to stop an invasion of Mexico. Ergo, there will be no invasion of Mexico.

As for Europe, I still think that the enervation of France and Germany was the point of our post-War strategy.

I'm curious about what Lonbud makes of Korea. The Korean war was, on the one hand, a United Nations production. On the other hand, the whole problem was caused by our neocolonialism at the end of WWII. On the third hand, the opposite of neo-colonialism would have required us to stand down Stalin, probably militarily, in both Asia and Europe. On the fourth hand, we ended up fighting for "our" military dictatorship against "their" military dictatorship. Then, hey presto, 35 years later Korea suddenly became a rich democracy, albeit one with lots of American troops guarding its artificial internal border.

So, Korea? Quagmire or success story?

January 28, 2008 6:48 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Iraq is not a strategy/resources mismatch, although we do not have enough infantry there.

As a nation, we have chosen always to not have enough infantry.

What happened in Iraq is that instead of warfare, we allowed ourselves to be bullied into lawfare.

That took our infantry substitute (terrifying firepower) off the table.

Bush also made a strategic mistake by attempting to appease Islam instead of recognizing it as the enemy (co-enemy if you prefer).

All this shillyshallying did not obviate the need for a decisive war, it merely postponed it.

What Churchill said of appeasers is a general argument: The gentlemen had a choice between dishonor and war. They have chosen dishonor. They will have war.

January 28, 2008 8:39 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

Islam endorses killing those who won't convert, what response appropriate to that fact will both support the cause of freedom without running up against the cause of decency?

Anodyne Danish cartoons clearly weren't decent enough ...

I reject your contention that one must pose ready alternatives in order to criticize current policy and practice.

I reject your contention that you can argue for a reduction in our military without acknowledging cause and effect -- your criticism is completely empty.

... why are we still there?

Because the alternative (just as in the Iraq status quo ante) is the least bad of the options on offer.

In both cases, the Left has had nothing but null alternatives.

January 28, 2008 8:42 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Mr. Burnet;

Yes, which is why I specifically mentioned Canada's efforts in Afghanistan as a counter-trend to free riding.

January 28, 2008 8:48 AM  
Blogger Ali said...

I don't know if there's a shortage of infantry in Iraq. The regular army's main purpose is to bludgeon away an enemy through massive firepower. It isn't really cut out for counter-insurgency work. That's more the Marines' and Special Forces' territory.

January 28, 2008 12:38 PM  
Blogger lonbud said...

peter:

Korea is certainly more success story than quagmire, but is comparable to Iraq in the way persimmons are to dates. Or dogs to sheep, if you prefer.

Truman certainly didn't declare "mission accomplished" in June '51, when UN forces established the Main Line of Resistance. And fighting involving US forces was finished within 3 years.

Yes, we've maintained bases and forces in Korea for more than half a century, at the behest and welcome of the people of South Korea -- hospitality that has been growing thin and strained in recent years, it should be noted.

In addition, the people and economy of South Korea proved open to and intuitively felicitous with our vaunted western "free" trade principles, whereas the people of Iraq, god bless 'em, find the whole idea of "our way of life", shall we say, foreign.

Hey Skipper:

Are we supposed to take on faith your assertion that remaining in Iraq, despite our having already accomplished the stated objective (deposing a horrible despot) is the least bad alternative on offer?

I have an alternative that would be far better for America and American troops, if not possibly for Iraqi citizens as well -- we could leave.

If the Iraqis choose to continue slaughtering one another, c'est la vie.

We will still be the most fearsome military and economic power on the planet and will be far more capable of responding to real threats against our interests worldwide and at home than we are with the manpower and material currently pledged to and wasting away in the quagmire that is BushCo's poorly chosen, badly executed failure of an adventure in nation building.

January 28, 2008 2:26 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Are you aware that Canadian combat deaths in Afghanistan are, on a per capita basis, much higher than anyone else's, including the U.S?

Oh Canada! I doff my cap for thee!

Seriously, I do. I did not know that statistic. Jolly good show!

January 28, 2008 5:08 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

lonbud:

Are we supposed to take on faith your assertion that remaining in Iraq, despite our having already accomplished the stated objective (deposing a horrible despot) is the least bad alternative on offer?

Ummm, actually, no.

I should have said that given the experiences in Yugoslavia and Rwanda (among others) which are analogous, I think it is at least arguable that the cost in both human lives, and the eventual outcome, will be worse if we leave.

January 28, 2008 6:15 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

If war is the continuation of policy by other means, then you have to start by having a policy.

Bush II's policy has failed. As I said before it started, Arabs are not interested in democracy (pace Bassem Tibi).

Nor are they interested in leaving in peaceable miserly with the unArabs.

Now, there's a problem. Lonbud's idea won't work, because the Arabs have shown no inclination to murder only each other.

January 28, 2008 7:04 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'leaving in peaceable miserly.'

dunno how I did that. Should have been 'living in peaceable misery'

January 29, 2008 8:39 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Harry:

As I said before it started, Arabs are not interested in democracy (pace Bassem Tibi).

I think it is safe to say that Islam, like Christianity up to roughly two hundred years ago, is utterly hostile to freedom of conscience and, by extension, democracy.

Saying Arabs are not interested -- by which you must mean "cannot ever be interested" -- is no more defendable than saying the same about Europeans of the 1600s.

If the Arabs can find a way to selectively ignore the totalitarian death cult nonsense of Islam, why wouldn't they be capable of democracy?

Nor are they interested in leaving in peaceable miserly with the unArabs.

Now, there's a problem.


Like I said, our policy in Iraq and Afghanistan is the least bad of the available options.

January 29, 2008 10:58 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

That's a mighty big if.

Bernard Lewis, who is a great one for pointing out the obvious that everybody else (are you listening, George?) ignores, points out that for almost all of their Muslim period, Arabs have been ruled by kings, not usually even Arab kings, and they showed little discontent over that.

Even a non-murderous iteration of Islam does not by itself work in favor of democracy. The religion has very powerful supranationalist motives. In practice, these never succeed in creating superstates, but they are pretty effective at ruining incipient national polities.

January 29, 2008 8:26 PM  

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