Tuesday, August 16, 2005

International

North Korea conducts nuclear test October 9, 2006

North Korea apparently conducted a nuclear test, although what was actually tested remains unclear as of this moment:
The specter of an Asian atomic arms race loomed over the region Monday after communist North Korea shocked the world by announcing it conducted its first-ever nuclear test in a brazen move that fueled global jitters.
Russian intelligence revealed that Pyongyang was prepared to demonstrate the nuclear capability it first announced that it possessed less than four years ago. But the Russians thought it would be months before North Korea would act upon the threat. The Chinese warned it would be sooner. China has the best window into the Hermit Kingdom.

No nation appears to be thrilled about North Korea's reticence. Japan, which led the charge at Turtle Bay against North Korea, has promised sanctions in response to nuclear testing. Former Prime Minister Nakasone's (from '83-87) think tank encourages Japan to go nuclear in response to the growing threat of aggression in the region. The country with the infamously pacifist constitution has the fourth largest military budget in the world. The Japanese historically detest Koreans and the feeling is more than mutual. Tokyo has a host of incentives in military growth and in the acquisition of nuclear weapons. But the argument that kept Japan from going nuclear when it seriously considered doing so in 1995 is the same that threatens to keep it from picking up the ball today:
Tokyo weighed atomic weapons back in 1995 to counter the threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea. But the government ultimately rejected the idea because it might deprive Japan of U.S. military protection and alarm neighboring countries.
That is the same argument the conservatives in South Korea make. I'm with the liberals (the nationalists) in both countries. I don't see how the US benefits from having 30,000 pieces of cannon fodder stationed near the DMZ while the ROK, with a population twice the size, military spending over four times as great, and an economy 24 times the size of its starving, dwarfed northern neighbor, claims that it is threatened by an attack from Pyongyang that it cannot handle without American security guarantees.

China is also irked by North Korea's recklessness:
As international tensions over North Korea have soared, China has deployed extra combat units of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to man the border from the
Yalu River in the south to the Tumen River near Russia - evidently fearing the risk of chaos and collapse.
The PRC faces a refugee crisis if Kim Jong Il does anything to get himself obliterated, like say attack Seoul with nuclear weapons (especially if the South had the ability to respond unilaterally in-kind). Further, China, which wants increased influence in its own backyard, clearly doesn't benefit from Northern provocations that prod South Korea, Japan, and possibly even Taiwan to go nuclear and further increase military spending. Russia, the North's other pal in the region, is in a similar predicament.

The UN Security Council, which of course includes both China and Russia, unanimously agreed that Pyongyang had to drop its plans for the nuclear test. Three days later, Pyongyang gave the impotent international body the middle finger. The vaunted international community will do nothing in response to testing of nuclear weapons--weapons similar to the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in WWII and capable of killing an estimated 200,000 people. The US has little vital interest in doing so and risks embarrasing overextension if military conflict breaks out.

The solution seems to be for the very capable nations of Japan and South Korea to provide for their own defense and act as a counterbalance to the North Korea immediately and to China in the future. South Korea can legitimately site the North's abrogation of the 1991 treaty in which both Koreas pledged not to go nuclear. Kim Jong Il's perverted playboy lifestyle is in jeapordy if either Seoul or Tokyo decide to go nuclear. Suddenly the North would face assured destruction if it launced a nuclear attack while being utterly incapable of matching either nation conventionally (the only things North Korea will has are air power and nukes).

I see no reason for the US to carry the water of Japan and South Korea when the two can do so on their own, and in the process become powerful players with geopolitical goals similar to those of the US. Why not speed up the drawdown and instead of having 5,000 more troops out of the South in a couple of years, have everyone out, while encouraging our friends in the region to arm themselves?


Whites brace for final blow in Zimbabwe (October 6, 2006)

Things have gone downhill for white farmers in Zimbabwe since they lost the protection of the Lancaster Agreement in 1989. This loss began an affirmative action program of land redistribution in which white farmers had their land turned over to the state. The state then proceded to dole it out to well-connected black friends of the Mugabe regime.

With a staggering unemployment rate of 80%, a quarter of the population infected with HIV, a plummeting economy (GDP shrunk 7% last year), ubiquitous poverty (PPP of $2,300), and international disdain, it appeared that desperation might force Mugabe to stop pillaging the only productive residents he had left. As white farmers fled to a welcoming Mozambique, they hastily turned brush into an agricultural bounty. Zimbabwe tried to get them back as well as letting those who remained stick around.

But such overtures lasted only a few months. By June, the Zimbabwean government began forced 'purchases' of white-owned farmland at about a tenth of fair market value. Given a true inflation rate of over 1,000% (although officially it is said to be 267%), that 10% is cut down again by the same magnitude a year later. People who own real estate and the means of production suffer relatively little from rampant inflation, because as prices for labor and material increase so does the nominal value of the property and the price of the goods or services produced. The worst time to sell real assets is during an inflationary period, because the cash received quickly loses value. So Mugabe really ravaged the whites.

Imagine the government 'buying' your $200,000 house from you for $20,000. A year later, that $20,000 is really worth $2,000. Just like that you go from middle class to destitutely poor.

It's hard to see why any white farmers remain. Understandably a farmer does not want to leave the place he's lived for his entire life. He knows the terrain, the climate, his neighbors. Fleeing doesn't just require abandoning home, it also presents big economic hurdles, as Zimbabwe's economy as computed by its official exchange rate is only 11% of what it is if computed using purchasing power parity. Moving to the developed world essentially cuts his wealth down to a tenth of what it had been before he even starts 'rebuilding' elsewhere.

But southern Africa has become much worse since the end of its colonial days. Zimbabwe is poorer today than it was in 1980 when it gained independence following eight years of bloody civil war. Despite previously having been the breadbasket of Africa with the land and conditions that make an agronomist drool, and contemporarily having two-thirds of its workers employed in agriculture, the country is now a net importer of food. Whites, who make up less than 1% of Zimbabwe's population, have been the last refuge of productivity in the country, but they've now had to pay the price that market-dominant minorities so often do when political control falls into the hands of the majority.

Zimbabwe is about to deal the final blow to the whites it has plundered for decades:
A new law about to pass parliament will, in effect, give the regime power in the next 90 days to dispossess the last few hundred white farmers who still cling to their land.
A couple of white families are trying to appeal the eviction notices they've already received. If they lose, the door is open for Mugabe to take everything:
A constitutional amendment passed last year declared every acre of land that has ever been listed for seizure — about 6,000 white-owned farms in total — the property of the state. That move prevented the owners from having any recourse
to the courts.
The families hope to show that the amendment does not override their right to due process. A white investor wonders why what has already been taken by the rapacious government isn't enough:
After the hearing, Daniel Nel, 44, who was a government-approved South African investor, asked: "I am a white African, so why must I go?" He said: "We are operating on about 20 per cent of the land we used to have, but we still produce
many thousands of tonnes of crops, and do so with government loans. So why do they want us to go?"
Because the white population has about a 35 point average IQ advantage over the rest of Zimbabwe's population. That's a gap wider than the one between Ashkenazi Jews and African Americans stateside. Unfortunately, Zimbabwe's wider population simply cannot compete economically with the white elite. So taking from them is the natural 'solution'. Putatively done for the benefit of the unprivileged black population, the result is a contraction of the economy by a full 40% since just the turn of the century.

There is an ecumenical lesson here about how crucial it is for the numerical majority to also remain the economic majority. When those controlling the economy become a minority, the majority will be moved to take from them. This sobering fact should inform the developed world's immigration policies.

Although the White Man's Burden has become a phrase of derision, we can help Zimbabweans and people all across the sub-Saharan. We can encourage economic transparency and discourage corruption through incentivizing good behavior via international loans and aid, and more importantly, NGOs and foreign governmental agencies should, to the extent that they want to help, devote themselves to distributing nutritional supplements, especially iodine, to as many children as possible. Raising the continent's average IQ ten points will do more for it than any number of wealth transfers, vaccinations, and scholarships for natives to study internationally.


Transnistria wants Russia to annex it; lesson for home? (October 2, 2006)

Ethnicity matters. Just ask Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin. Transnistria (often referred to by it's Moldovan acronym 'PMR') declared independence in 1990 but it hasn't been recognized as an independent nation internationally, and Moldova still claims it. The long, narrow strip of land whose shape is reminiscient of Chile's is wedged between Moldova to the west and the Ukraine to the east, and is ethnically split between Moldovans, Russians, and Ukranians, with a total population slightly more than half a million. Although it doesn't actually border Russia, a referendum earlier this month shows that Transnistria's government and its people want to move back under the auspices of the old Bear:
"Transnistria's integration into Russia will proceed in several phases, and it may take 5 to 7 years," said the breakaway Moldovan region's foreign minister, Valery Litskai, to Russia's Interfax news agency earlier this month. "Russian society is now ready to expand beyond the ... borders it has been forced into," he added. "The expansion process has begun."
The fairness of the vote is in question, as the result so overwhelmingly favored independence with the eventual aim of reunification with Russia:
An exit poll released by a Trans-Dniester political party at mid-day said that 96 percent of voters were supporting eventual union with Russia. It gave no margin of error for the polling, which was conducted in face-to-face interviews. Voters came early to cast their ballots as loudspeakers throughout the center of the main city, Tiraspol, blared Soviet-era music and reminders to vote.
Western agencies refused to monitor the referendum (needlessly antagonizing irrendentist elements in the old Soviet world), but it seems plausible that reunification would be desired. Moldova and Transnistria clashed in the early nineties, claiming 1,500 lives, and it was the Mother Country that stepped in to end the fighting (and retains a small troop contingent in the region). Russia's per capita wealth, buoyed in the last several years due to skyrocketing oil and natural gas prices, would open Transnistria up to better services and give it a little more economic clout. Moldova's PPP, at $1,800, makes it poorer than much of northern Africa. Russia, by contrast, enjoys a monetary standard of living six times as great, at $11,100. And a fifth 0f Transnistria's population are already Russian citizens.

The eastern half of the Ukraine is another candidate for eventual reunification with Russia, and Belarus underwent quasi-reunification in 1997. The Weekly Standard excerpt above argues that the referendum is a nefarious thing. Maybe from the perspective of 'benevolent hegemony' advocates, but I fail to see how the US is in any way threatened. Russia is a dying nation, that along with Japan is seeing its population decrease in absolute terms (with a total fertility rate of only 1.28--2.1 is generally considered to be the replenishment threshold). Over 80% of its export economy is based on extracting and bringing natural resources to market. The Islamic incursion into Russia's southwest gives it a stake in the same terror war we are putatively fighting. Russia and the US should, if anything, be natural allies. Russia's nuclear stockpile makes it a strong check against potential Chinese expansionism, and the growth of Chinese settlers in Siberia will probably strain relations between the two countries in the future.

There is a lesson for us here, applicable to the American Southwest. The Aztlan movement, with a goal of reuniting the border states with Mexico, could conceivably see a similar referendum taken up in California in the future. Mexican politicians openly call for Mexicans residing in the US to vote in the interests of the country of Mexico. One-fifth of all people born in Mexico live in the US today, mostly in the Southwest. New Mexico has (likely) recently become the first state with a larger Hispanic population than non-Hispanic white population. The stunningly prodigious immigrant protests earlier this year, where half a million goldens waved Mexican flags in opposition to the enforcement bill out of the House, reveal not an immigration wave, but a settlement wave.

It's difficult to talk about these things without inevitably being called all sorts of nasty names, but we accept the omerta on free speech at our own peril. Texas, after being progressively settled by Americans from the east, declared its independence from Mexico in 1836 and beat back Santa Anna to retain it. Immediately, Sam Houston petitioned for annexation by the US. A decade later, under President Polk, the Lone Star Republic finally had its wish granted and became the Lone Star State. Now we see the process in reversal and are mercifully enacting legislation to stop it.

Ethnic divisions threaten to pull Hawaii away from the Union, the Kurds in Turkey's southeast away from Istanbul, Chechnya away from Russia, Quebec from Canada, Iraq completely apart, and on and on. Ethnicity matters. People get along better with those are like themselves. How many dating services have you stumbled upon that employ the slogan "opposites attract"? It's all about compatibility. The relationship between individuals is a microcosm of the relationship within and between nations.


US troops in South Korea (September 24, 2006)

I favor a draw-of US forces on the Korean penninsula because our presence serves as an assurance policy for the ROK when the South is certainly capable of defending itself from the North (the South's economy is 24 times the size of the North's--a magnitude almost identical to the US-Iranian gap (both in PPP terms)). If Kim Jung Il was dumb enough to launch a conventional attack on the South he would be routed. Although North Korea has a standing army of over a million men, its military equipment is mostly from the Korean War era (T-55 and T-56 tanks) and estimated to be significantly under-functioning.

There are reports from those formerly having lived in the North that military vehicles are often found rusting on roadsides and that ammunition isn't used during training exercises because the military has such a limited supply. The soldiers don't get real practice and the country is shockingly malnourished, with a populous that is over half a foot shorter than their brethren in the South.

The North's air power, which is relatively advanced, suffers from a lack of experienced pilots (due to fuel shortages, North Korean pilots only get 10 hours of in-flight training each year compared to several hundred hours in the US).

The footage reels of massive soldier marches in the North create a sense of enormity, but my gut tells me that if a conflict were to break out, the North would quickly be revealed as a paper tiger. The North's annual military spending amounts to $5 billion, while the South spends $21 billion. The South has twice as many people fit for service as does the North. And of course the North, with a PPP of $1700 (as well off as Haiti), has no ability to sustain a military campaign of any duration (I imagine tanks running out of fuel as they push across the DMZ and have to be abandoned).

The biggest threat comes from the artillery aimed at South Korean cities, with several hundred pointed at Seoul, and WMD capabilities. The North has all kinds of nasty stuff from mustard gas to uranium bombs. But there is little 30,000 American soldiers within range of these devices would be able to do to halt a massive barrage if the North let loose. Retaliation in-kind would have to be the response if Kim Song Il, who so loves the life's hedonistic pleasures, was so suicidal.

South Korea was on the road to nuclear weapons in the seventies, but the US applied pressure and it stopped. The North's only way to best the South is through the use of the nuclear weapons it has that the South does not. Let's speed up the removal of an American presence (slated to decrease by 5,000 by 2008) and allow South Korea (as well as Japan, which has an acrimonious relationship with Korea, especially the North) to go nuclear. Currently our personnel is little more than potential WMD fodder. The ruling liberals want us out anyway. Why not oblige them?


Islamic intolerance, hatred, and child slavery (September 16, 2006)

Oh the irony:

The Maamam Allah cemetery, which is at least 1,000 years old, has become a building site.

The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre is constructing a Museum of Tolerance on the cemetery. The centre says the museum will seek to promote "unity and respect among Jews and between people of all faiths".
Bury Islam's past and replace it with an ideology of tolerance? Hah, force tolerance on a society so inherently intolerant and you've a recipe for disaster.

Simon Wiesenthal is among the most well-known concentration camp survivors in the world, and an eponymous museum dedicated to the building of mutual respect between Judaism and Islam is anathema to the Muslim street. There are cemeteries all over Jerusalem, and no one complained when a parking lot was built over a portion of the cemetery a couple of decades ago.

The construction of a wall would do a lot more to ease tensions in this part of West Jerusalem than a quixotic 'tolerance museum', but it'll provide salient ammo for Israeli supporters when the first deadly suicide attack by a religious zealot takes place in a building devoted to religious tolerance.

Speaking of tolerance, Islamic Palestinian thugs demonstrated it by setting several churchs ablaze and shooting at them in response to the Pope's courageous speech:
Palestinians wielding guns and firebombs attacked five churches in the West Bank and Gaza on Saturday, following remarks by Pope Benedict XVI that angered many Muslims.

Say anything and these people start breaking stuff and burning things down. The Islamic world is deeply hostile to free expression. Evincing erudition, their targets included a few Greek Orthodox churches. Someone should inform the thugs that Greek Orthodox don't answer to the Vatican.

Seeing what Muslims do over there shows us why we shouldn't want them here.

Less depressingly, conventional wisdom states that women and children are second-class citizens in the patriarchal Muslim world. However, a few months back I happily reported on the breakdown of the gender barrier in a previously male-exclusive occupation:
A group belonging to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party announced on Monday that it had recruited 100 Palestinian women to launch suicide attacks against Israel.
And Middle Eastern children from Lebanon to the UAE are entering the business and military arenas at young ages:

"Hizbullah established its Imam Mahdi Scouts to attract Shiite children and adolescents, to influence their hearts and minds and to prepare new generations of youth indoctrinated with radical Shiite Islam, which propounds the idea of the return of the Mahdi (messiah) as one of Hizbullah's central principles," states a report by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at Israel's Center for Special Studies. ...

An investigative report published in August by the Egyptian daily Ruz al-Yusuf claimed the scout movement trains “armed militias” in south Lebanon made up of children aged 10-15.

Lesson one: Destroy Israel

The first lesson Hizbullah teaches scouts, stated the Egyptian article, is the
destruction of Israel.

“(This lesson) is always an important part of the curriculum and is always aimed at children and adolescents who are new to the program. (The objective is to train a) high-caliber Islamic generation of children who would be willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of Allah in the campaign against Israel."

Kinda like the Boy Scouts. If a military career is not in the stripling's cards, however, the sports' world offers plenty of opportunities as well:


Dubai's ruling family has been served with a class-action lawsuit in the United States accusing them of masterminding an international child slave trade to provide jockeys and attendants for the popular desert sport of camel-racing. ...

It said that enslaved children "live in an oppressive environment and endure harsh living conditions. They work long hours in temperatures exceeding 100F, live in unsanitary conditions, receive little food, and are deprived of sleep so they do not gain weight."

The State Department said some boys complain of sexual abuse, and others are beaten. "Many have been seriously injured and some have been trampled to death by camels," the report said. "Those who survive the harsh conditions are disposed of once they reach their teenage years. Having gained no productive skills or education, scarred with physical and psychological trauma that can last a lifetime, these children face dim prospects."
Charges that the Muslim world is stuck in the seventh century seem less and less hyperbolic each day.

The class action referred to above is interestingly being brought under the Alien Tort Statute of the Judiciary Act of 1789, which essentially created the federal court system in place today. It basically allows for tort cases to be tried in US federal court so long as some party involved has some relationship (even indirect) with the US. It's international law in reverse (neocons must love it). Because the emirs have holdings in the US (including ownership stakes in the notorious Dubai Ports World), the families of young victims can strike legally at the Persian Gulf from south Florida.

Plunder 'em. While foreigners buy up US assets as we spend beyond our means, we can reclaim our profligate waste by ordering the same foreigners to give it back to us via the court system. Pay up, or you'll get shafted just like DPW. That's leveraging our consumerism! That's the kind of governmental involvement in business a nationalist like myself digs.

In seriousness, why disconnecting from the Muslim world as fully as possible is not an urgent policy goal is beyond me. What a backwards civilization. It can only drag us down.


Iraqi groups refuse to serve broader Iraq (August 29, 2006)

Brigadier General Dana Pittard, the coalition head delegating the mammoth task of training the Iraqi security forces, has confirmed that a group of Shia soldiers has refused to deploy north to Baghdad to help try and root out militias there:

A group of Iraqi soldiers recently refused to go to Baghdad, Iraq’s capital, to help restore order there, a senior American military officer said Monday.
I can imagine Pittard's irritation as he's forced to disingeniously claim that the Shia soldiers felt they could better serve Iraq by staying home:
“The majority of this particular unit was Shia, and they felt — the leadership of that unit and their soldiers — like they were needed down there in Maysan,’’ General Pittard told reporters in a videoconference from Iraq. “Now, that will be worked out by the Iraqi government and the Ministry of Defense, and we’ll be in support of that.”
The band is quite small, numbering around 100 of the 5,000 Iraqi troops the US wants to bring to Baghdad for operation 'Together Forward'. But it might portend the future. Newly minted Sunni soldiers reacted savagely to the news that they would be required to serve outside their own neighborhoods:
The graduation of nearly 1,000 new Iraqi army soldiers in restive Anbar province took a disorderly turn Sunday when dozens of the men declared that they would refuse to serve outside their home areas, according to U.S. and Iraqi military authorities. ...

The protest was triggered by an announcement that the new soldiers, all residents of Anbar province -- widely considered the heartland of Iraq's Sunni Arab insurgent movement -- would be required to serve outside their home towns and outside the province as well.

A separate refusal previously occured among soldiers in the Kurdish north:
A large number of soldiers from a predominantly Kurdish unit in northern Iraq, the Second Battalion, Third Brigade of the Second Iraqi Division, refused to go to Ramadi, where American Army troops have been involved in a tough fight to take the city back from insurgents, General Pittard noted.
Back in April 2004, when US marines went in to clean up Fallujah in retaliation for the brutal deaths of four contractors there, some 15,000 Iraqi troops simply deserted. There are several other more minor instances of desertions, as well as more sinister reports of Shia militias dawning military uniforms (or simply Shia soldiers acting on their own volition) and decimating Sunni civilians and property.

We are spending American blood (2,636 plus almost ten times that amount wounded as of today) and treasure ($3oo billion thus far with another $200-$400 billion estimated to be spent over the next decade) to arm and train disparate Iraqi groups to more effectively massacre one another when support for the unpopular war finally becomes politically untenable and the US begins to pull out (hopefully not far beyond November of this year).

Kurds do not want to participate in Iraqi security outside of Kurdistan. Why would they want to risk their lives to alleviate the intensity of the back-and-forth milita killings between Sunnis and Shia? The Sunnis oppressed them for decades in the past, and a Shia-dominated, Iranian-friendly 'democratic' Iraq might very well do the same in the coming decades, especially given Iran's budding Kurdish problem. Sunnis don't want to go into places like Fallujah and clash with the very groups that are most likely to align with them against the increasing pugnacity of Shia militias like the Mahdi Army. The Shia, happily discovering that democracy in the Arab world means majority-takes-all, have all but forgotten Sistani's pleas for restraint against Sunni atrocities, past and present.

I'm grossly oversimplifying in breaking Iraq down into three factions of roughly 17.5 million Shia, 5.5 million Kurds, and 4 million Sunnis. Middle Eastern tribalism is such that loyalties usually do not extend beyond specific neighborhoods of a single city, let alone beyond ethnic groups or on a national level. I do it mostly because such a breakdown is as convoluted as I can understand. The reality is orders of magnitude more complicated (hopeless).

When I hear the Bush mantra "As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down," I wonder who exactly is going to stand up and what they are going to stand up against. One another? To stop the civil war crescendo, the US would conceivably have to pick sides. But doing that in the past led to the growth of Shia militias and the persecution of the Sunni minority so that now the US is leading a combined US-Iraqi force into Baghdad to try and put down Shia militia there.

There aren't many viable options. Staying put promises continued attrition without any prospects for the future. Pulling out turns the civil war sparks into a full-blown conflagration with all the ensuing instability that entails (oil over $100 a barrel?). In my mind the best option is to have the US facilitate ethnic separation by neighborhood, then by city, and finally to partition Iraq. That is what's likely to occur anyway, but hopefully there'll be less entropy and bloodshed if big American guns are behind it (ew, re-reading that sentences has me straining to remember when big American guns did anything beneficial in the Middle East).

Also, the coalition should explicitly focus on keeping Iraqi oil pumping, as the country struggles to maintain pre-war production levels, and al-Maliki should demand a petroleum dividend for all Iraqis similar to that enjoyed by Alaskans. If ten dollars per barrel were distributed this way, it would amount to a little more than $270 annually per Iraqi, or about an 8% increase in real purchasing power. This might help ameliorate the stultifying infrastructure problems Iraq faces by boosting local economic activity across the country, especially in central Iraq.


South Korea weans itself from US military support (August 12, 2006)

The process of ending US operational control of South Korean military operations if the south faces a wartime situation continues, and has led to a thousands-strong protest in Seoul:

Senior military and security experts were joined by thousands of conservative activist groups on Friday in a rally against Korea’s efforts to take over sole wartime operational control of its forces. Participants said President Roh Moo-hyun and his administration were destroying the Korea-U.S. alliance with efforts to take wartime control out of U.S. hands and called for Roh’s resignation if they persist. Some slogans called for the president to be impeached.
The Korean divide breaks down sharply by age, with older generations (especially military veterans) favoring a continued US presence and younger ones wanting more self-determination. President Roh Moo-hyun is a left-liberal (by Korean standards--notice, incidentally, how confusing the terms 'conservative' and 'liberal' can be, as it is the liberals in Korea who favor more national control while the conservatives want more of an international presence in deciding South Korean actions). So time is on Roh's side. For now, the plan is for parallel commands to be run in the event of hostilities with North Korea or some other cause for military action, presumably China.

Further, the US plans on continuing to draw down its commitments on the peninsula:
The U.S. has proposed returning the wartime operational control of troops to South Korea by 2009, citing the latter's improved defense capabilities, while South Korea hopes to take over the wartime command after 2011. ...

Currently, about 30,000 U.S. troops [in comparison to South Korea's total military personnel of 680,000] are stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the Korean War. The U.S. plans to cut the number to 25,000 by 2008.
Retaining sedentary forces in South Korea is antithetical to Rumsfeld's plan to make the US military leaner, more reliant on precision and satellite-guided firepower, and numerically smaller. Also, the presence of troops feeds public hostility to the US when accidents like the death of two Korean girls who were run over by a tank a few years back occur. It lessens the incentive for Japan and Taiwan--both of whom are threatened by North Korea's unpredictability immediately and China in the future--to do the heavy lifting in counter-balancing the PRC's influence in Asia. South Korea is also threatened by the North, but it's more complicated in that the collapse of Kim Jung Il's regime presents a massive refugee problem for the South to deal with.

Seems to me that we benefit from gradually removing ourselves militarily from South Korea. As the US faces external challenges from the continued quagmire in Iraq and wider Middle East and internal challenges from an incoming wave of entitlement obligations, an aging society, and global competition, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan are going to have to assume greater responsibility as the power balancers in Asia (currently the combined military spending of the three countries comes to $73 billion, about $8 billion short of China but dwarfing the paltry $5 billion spent by the North). The acquisition of nuclear weapons by at least one of these three (in addition to those possessed by India) would be enough to substantially check Chinese military expansionism if that ever arises. By conceding this right to South Korea, the US will be able to win a few PR points in overturning the restriction it put on Seoul when it wanted to go nuclear over thirty years ago.

On the other hand, continued cooperation between the North and South will have a better chance of succeeding without US interference. Some progress has been made:
In terms of inter-Korean relations, considerable accomplishments were made in the first half of 2004: inter-Korean cooperative projects were smoothly carried out; military cooperation was realized; and an atmosphere conducive to resolving the nuclear issue was created, etc. Up until late July, nine occasions of political/military talks, 13 occasions of economic talks, and three occasions of Red Cross/sports-related talks were held (total of 25 meetings).
Busting the North out of Kim Sung Il's terrible centrally-controlled disaster is a long time coming. Despite having an estimated IQ of 106 (although severe malnutrition that has left younger North Koreans several inches shorter than their southern siblings has likely had a deleterious effect on the North's average IQ), the average North Korean suffers a standard of living as measured by purchasing power parity equivalent to that of the average Haitian.


Democracy on the march (July 15, 2006)

The quixotic neocon plan of forcefully spreading democracy continues to be evinced as a dismal failure:
Israeli troops launched a major offensive in southern Lebanon after Hezbollah militants kidnapped two soldiers in a cross-border raid, escalating regional fighting and underscoring the growing ability of Islamic extremists to provoke a broader security crisis.
That is, unless the ultimate objective is conflagration not just in Iraq but in the across the broader Middle East. Hezbollah and Hamas, now with positions inside of Lebanon and control of the Palestinian government, respectively, are throwing down fisticuffs with Israel. US insistence on democracy is propelling these groups into positions of legitimate authority and influence.

As Hezbollah nabs Israeli soldiers, Israeli fighters fly over Assad's residence. Hopes for the stabilization of Lebanon's fragile democracy have been dashed. While Bush and Rice blame Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in Gaza, Olmert doesn't force distinctions between 'the terrorists' and all the rest of the Islamic 'good guys':
Olmert called an emergency cabinet meeting for later today to decide on further military action in Lebanon. "The murderous attack this morning was not a terrorist act, it was a war-like act by the state of Lebanon against Israel in its sovereign territory,'' he said at a press conference in Jerusalem.
Bush can keep pounding on the supposedly progress purple thumbs inherently reveal, but the sympathetic WSJ tersely sums up reality:
Through elections, militants have gained power, Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah in Lebanon. They have been bolstered by the high-profile insurgency in Iraq -- which has offered tactical lessons in fighting a powerful military force, but also fueled broader anger among Arabs against what many see as an Israeli-U.S. regional alliance. Their opposition is fed by regional TV networks that broadcast images of damage and Arab deaths.
The Muslim brotherhood won over a fifth of parliament in recent Egyptian elections while officially barred from balloting and suppressed during voting. Hamas wrested control from Fatah in the Palestinian territories. Iran elected Ahmadinejad. The Shia majority in Iraq is more sympathetic to Islamic extremism than Saddam ever would have been. None of this is making us better off. Not only do these things have a detrimental effect (albeit often overblown) on Western security, they shake the economy:
The unfolding crisis also rattled financial markets. The specter of broad Middle East instability boosted crude oil for August delivery 2.3% to a nominal record of $76.70 a barrel at the New York Mercantile Exchange. That helped push stocks lower, wiping out more than half the Dow Jones Industrial Average's gains so far this year as the blue-chip average slid 166.89 points, or 1.5%, to 10846.29 [10739 as of this posting].
The US is placing responsibility on nefarious targets, trying to reinforce the idea of a struggle between good and evil while minimizing the scope of aggression against Israel in an attempt to deflate a situation that a divided 'world community' cannot possibly handle with any dexterity at all.

Olmert is pinning responsibility on Beirut because that's the best recourse Israel has in combatting asymmetrical warfare. Going tit-for-tat against sporadic raids and missiles fired some thirty miles into Israeli's interior is a sparring match Olmert will have a tough time winning. Israeli retaliation and further provocation will inevitably lead to imprecise carnage that media outlets and populists in the Middle East will harness to foment further anger against Israel. Olmert seems to think the best option available is the application of pressure on Beirut and Damascus to control the situation or face the wrath of the world's highest per capita military spender.

A simpleton, I've fancifully thought (fully aware that my level of knowledge is hopelessly lacking the rigor required to be considered valid) since 9/11 back in my high school days that the US should fight the terror war by starkly warning problematic regimes that if terrorist activity threatening America is uncovered on their soil and they fail to utterly and immediately quash it, we'll topple their governments, kill their families, and devastate their countries. Generally, Olmert appears to be doing something similar.

We need to divert the remaining $200 to $400 billion the CBO estimates will be sunk in Iraq over the next decade (with $300 billion already gone) into alternative energy research to wean ourselves and then the world of Middle Eastern oil so we can leave the miasma altogether. In that happier situation we would be able to help Israel more than we ever can now by simply taking our hands off the desert arena and letting Israel do what it needs to do to secure itself.


Sad state of affairs continues in Zimbabwe (June 26, 2006)

The ovetures made toward expatriated white farmers from the Zimbabwean government have turned out to be hollow:

Zimbabwe's white farmers' union has given warning of an impending "humanitarian catastrophe" after the government reneged on a promise to pay evicted white farmers the full value of the buildings and equipment seized along with their farms, leaving many of them destitute. ...

"They are waiting until people are desperate and then offering them between two and 10 per cent of what it would fetch at auction," said Mr Gifford.

It's a wonder that any whites remain in the country at all. Zimbabwe's unemployment rate is 80%, a quarter of the population has AIDS, and GDP is contracting at 7% a year. Even though two-thirds of the country's workforce is involved in agriculture, Zimbabwe is now a net food importer. After losing white farmers and seeing production drop drastically (tobacco, the biggest export earner, has seen production fall to less than one-third of what it was in 2000), it appeared Mugabe might be trying to entice the white farmers back in. But more reneging on promises that were already unfavorable for whites is showing Mugabe to be completely untrustworthy.

The compensation scheme put forth by the government is extortion. Zimbabwe's inflation rate has topped 1000% per year. Basic goods and services nominally cost ten times more than they did a year ago. The best protection against inflation is owning real assets. The grossly reduced payouts by the government are even more worthless than they seem. They're staggered, and as time passes the buying power they represent declines dramatically:
Ken Fraser, 59, said he was called to a "compensation hearing" on Thursday at which he was offered Zim$14.7 billion (£25,000) for one of the five farms he once owned. "What they were offering me was quite ridiculous," said Mr Fraser, who was almost beaten to death by "war veterans" two years ago.

"We had a shed put up there about five years ago that was worth Zim$13.9 billion
(£23,000), but that's what they are offering me now for the entire farm." He lives on savings and some income from contract work and has refused to leave his last house.
Of course the real loser here is going to be Zimbabwe. The disempowering of whites in Africa has been terrible for Africans. When a place falls into the clutches of groups antagonistic to the productive classes, an exodus of human capital ensues. We've witnessed it firsthand in Cuba, it's going on in Zimbabwe, and it's taking place in Iraq.

There are alarming anecdotal tales of the same thing beginning to happen in the US, although I've not seen them quantified. There's no reason for the US to take such a risk. Although there are pockets in the urban core and increasingly in the Southwest, we do not have huge numbers of relatively destitute groups pushing for robin hood-style plundering. But we are sliding in that direction. We need to completely halt the importation of net-liability immigration and set up an enforceable merit immigration system that brings in only those that are going to increase the standard of living and contribute to US productivity gains. Further, we should consider the implementation of a national sales tax and a scrapping of or reduction in income taxes to make the US a more attractive place for research and production investment and make our economy less reliant on the perpetually increasing consumption of cheap consumables.


Multicultural value of nepotism in Britain (June 12, 2006)

In 1782 Thomas Jefferson astutely noted that immigrants "will bring with them the principles of the governments they leave." They also bring with them the cultural values of the societies they leave. The close-knit clan structure that exists in the Muslim world has come home to roost in London's Metropolitan Police Service:

A secret high-level Metropolitan police report has concluded that Muslim officers are more likely to become corrupt than white officers because of their cultural and family backgrounds. ...

The document was written as an attempt to investigate why complaints of misconduct and corruption against Asian officers are 10 times higher than against their white colleagues.

The main conclusions of the study, commissioned by the Directorate of Professional Standards and written by an Asian detective chief inspector, stated: "Asian officers and in particular Pakistani Muslim officers are under greater pressure from the family, the extended family ... and their community against that of their white colleagues to engage in activity that might lead to misconduct or criminality."
Intense loyalty to an extended kin network is not compatible with the functions of a state governmental structure (which is, very generally, the structure that Western nations use in one form or another for governance). Loyalty (and by extension, identification) needs to be directed toward the denizens under the agency's auspices. If it doesn't extend that far, favoritism (corruption) develops. If it extends beyond that, the state the agency is supposed to represent is neglected as an entity. The state weakens and begins to fall apart. Muslims, as Samuel Huntington has pointed out, more strongly identify at the family level (doesn't extend far enough) and also at the very broad pan-Islamic level (extends too far) than Westerners, who more strongly identify at the national level, do.

The Met's officers need to evenhandedly serve the greater London area's population. But the idea of serving a certain geographical area is foreign to the Muslim world. It's clear in Iraq that the three major factions and the close-knit groups within these factions put little stake into Iraq as a nation. The Kurds are the closest to the Western model, but they want a new (nominally at least) state that is comprised of fellow ethnics (a quite extended family).

Europe needs to realize the difficulty this cultural difference between Muslim immigrants and the continent's natives poses to the effectiveness of its governments.

But I'm not confident it will. The report asserts that British Pakistanis believe "assisting your extended family is considered a duty," yet the Met's suggested counter-measure doesn't inspire confidence:
[The report] recommended that Asian officers needed special anti-corruption training and is now being considered by a working party of senior staff.
Training on how not to be corrupt? Or ethics training with the goal of removing the desire for corruption? What profligacy. Ethics instruction will only work as far as the Pakistanis believe it to ethical. In effect, the Met will be telling Pakistanis that their culture is wrong and in need of fixing. If they don't buy into it, such training will only reveal more ways for officers to benefit their families through (Britain's definition of) corruption.

Multiculturalism is a mess:
The leaking of the report comes at a time when the Met needs the cooperation and
trust of the Muslim community more than ever and as the force tries to contain
the fallout from last week's anti-terrorist raid in Forest Gate in which a man was shot. The first version was considered so inflammatory when it was shown to representatives from the staff associations for black, Hindu, Sikh and Muslim
officers, that it had to be toned down. There are 31,000 officers in the Met -
7%, or 2,170, are black and minority ethnic; among these an estimated 300 are
Muslim.
It's tragic what Britain's done to herself.

This is multiculturalism in action--the importation of principles anathema to the values of the Occident and an accompanying fear of mounting a legitimate defense of its values. There's no dispute that complaints and corruption charges lodged against Asian officers occur at ten times the rate of the force at large. Yet empirically-based reports cannot be issued for fear of offending those who necessitate the report in the first place!

Tolerance has to have limits. Standards have to be enforced. Western liberalism has to find a way to deal with this kind of stuff. If it doesn't, it will die.

In the US, we're told by Republican caciques and their sycophants at places like the WSJ that we can't be honest about Hispanic immigration because there are too many Hispanics already here that will turn against us if we do, that we cannot be opposed to 'freedom' in the Middle East (the freedom to put Hamas in power or throw out Mubarak and replace him with the Muslim brotherhood) because freedom is what we enjoy, that we cannot honestly attempt to understand human biodiversity because it restricts the access (as if the discovery and the cause are one in the same) of many to success in an economically-vibrant liberal democracy that every good person must strive for.

All these omertas are harmful. Stories like the once referenced are symptomatic of the pandemic of political correctness that has engulfed the Western world and is slowly killing it.


Germany finds self by seeing others (May 20, 2006).

The best way to find out who you are is to create a situation in which you're surrounded by people different from you. You're then a microcosm of broader culture, as Germany demonstrates:
Experts fear new conflicts after a study published this week showed most Germans
doubt the Western and Islamic worlds can peacefully coexist. Mistrust of the 3 million Muslims living in Germany appears to be growing. ...

The case of a Berlin "honor killing," a quarrel over two Bonn students who wore burkas to school and discussions concerning increasing schoolyard violence among immigrant children have all made headlines in the German press recently.

"In view of the diffuse feeling of being under threat, and the suspected intolerance of Islam, the readiness of Germans to show tolerance to the Muslim faith is sinking," Noelle and Petersen wrote.

A philosophical foundation built on tolerance is inherently self-immolating. Unfettered tolerance does not have an answer for intolerance. If tolerance suggests intolerance should moderate, the former is revealed to be a fraud. There are two ways to fight bad intolerance: Combat the bad intolerance with "good" intolerance, or bar the bad intolerance in the first place. Similarly, a functioning democracy requires that a majority of the population support democratic ideals. If the proportion of the population supporting said democratic ideals falls to minority status, democracy dies. Thus, "free" democracies must either amalgamate their supporting elements to fight undemocratic elements within the society, or keep these elements out in the first place. In both cases, the third option is to allow tolerance/democracy to whither away and be replaced by something different.

Of Germany's 82 million people, only 3 million are Muslim. Germans have the luxury of choosing whether to suppress Muslims in Germany, bar more of them from coming in, or allow Islamic culture to increasingly influence Germany's social composition. Recent news doesn't favor the third option:
The case of a Berlin "honor killing," a quarrel over two Bonn students who wore burkas to school and discussions concerning increasing schoolyard violence among immigrant children have all made headlines in the German press recently.
Stepping outside of Germany, we could also add the Muslim riots in France, the Madrid and London bombings, vicious hostility toward other religions in Denmark, Theo Van Gogh's slaying in the Netherlands, the cartoon chaos, clashes between Muslims and Aussies down under, 9/11, ad infinitum. Without even considering the deleterious economic impact a relatively low IQ, welfare-consuming underclass has on free-market-based systems, there is no reason to have lots of Muslims in the West outside of the fallacious argument that diversity is an inherently good thing. That is, multiculturalism not as a means to some end (stronger economy, healthier or more creative or safer society, etc), but a self-evidently desirable end in itself, justifying the burdensome baggage it brings.

Germans overwhelmingly do not view diversity brought by Muslims in a favorable light:
When asked what they associate with the word "Islam," 91 percent of respondents connected the religion to the discrimination of women, and 61 percent called Islam "undemocratic." Eight percent of Germans associated "peacefulness" with Islam.
Many Teutons are willing to exercise option one or two (of the three mentioned earlier) in defense of Occidentalism:
About 40 percent of Germans queried were willing to limit the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion if constricting the practice of the Muslim religion would lead to fewer violent Muslims choosing to live in Germany. Over half of those who took part, 56 percent, agreed with the statement, "If some Muslim countries forbid building churches, then it should be forbidden to build mosques here."
Western nations hold many values and beliefs in common. It's too bad we are not more unified in dealing with threats to those values and beliefs. US leaders tenaciously believe that a salient presentation of these values will make heathens reject their own beliefs and accept ours. Many European leaders claim to want mutual understanding, a real life application of tolerance suggesting intolerance be more tolerant (and really these two approaches are two sides of the same coin). In the Netherlands they even want desuetude of those most loudly sounding the tocsin:
Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been threatened repeatedly with "execution" by Islamist extremists. She lives in an apartment with bulletproof windows, and is driven to work at the Dutch Parliament by armed guards, who vary the route to outfox would-be hit men.

But an unexpected menace emerged closer to home: her own neighbors. They have fought to evict her, complaining that the presence of a well-known terrorist target in their luxury apartment tower in this Dutch city has upset their family lives and reduced the value of their property.

"Once this lady leaves, the problem is no longer there," says Ger Verhagen,
a retired executive who owns a place two floors above the hunted
politician.

Verhagen believes that killing the messenger will make the message irrelevant. His attitude deserves the rhetorical comparison to the appeasement of the thirties so often spuriosly hurled at the critics of the Iraq and Iran hawks. He's like the ignorant open border Republican drones that attack analysts like Steve Sailer for pointing out that current immigration trends are disastrous for the future of the GOP. If the naysayers would just shut up, the things they are worried about would go away. Ed Gillespie even thinks these things would be good if we'd just ignore all the evidence showing how bad they are.

Verhagen's ilk should heed a few words of wisdom from Hirsi and Flemming Rose, the Jyllands-Posten editor responsible for the publishing of the Danish Muhammad cartoons:
"They're just sticking their heads in the sand," responds Ms. Hirsi Ali, who dismisses the report as a "political pamphlet to suit the dreams of people who want to believe there is not a problem." ...

"I think it is very dangerous to give in to intimidation, because it sends a signal: If you threaten enough, we will do as you please," says Mr. Rose.

I'm reminded of The Simpsons episode where Bart buys a delapidated factory. He and Milhouse are rocking back and forth on an elevated platform that is covered in signs warning of the platform's instability. When Milhouse shows unease, Bart pulls down the signs, flings them away, and the two gleefully rock back and forth on the unstable platform.

But I'm encouraged by the thought that if Bart was German, he might not have elected to buy the run-down liability in the first place.


Zimbabwe: I want you back? (May 1, 2006)

Fast track land reforms have put Zimbabwe's agricultural production on a fast track to disaster. After historical farm owners (virtually all white) lost the protection of the Lancaster Amendment in 1990, Zimbabwe began systematically taking land from whites and redistributing it to wealthy, well-connected blacks. Like affirmative action in the US, this did nothing to help the impoverished masses. So in the late nineties and early years of this decade, a fast track resettlement program was implemented that targeted almost nine million hectacres to be turned over to mostly "landless people". As white farmers were forced out of Zimbabwe, many moved to neighboring countries like Mozambique and hastily turned brush into productive farmland.

An unemployment rate of 80%, an AIDS rate of 25%, staggering GDP shrinkage of 7% per year, and conflict with the West put President Mugabe in a desperate situation. Recipients of the transfer program have not even come close to keeping production up at the rate whites did:

By confiscating the white-owned commercial farms, the government transformed a country that was once the breadbasket of Southern Africa into a net food importer.

And despite good rains there is every prospect of another deficit over the coming season, our correspondent says...

Tobacco used to be Zimbabwe's major export earner but production has fallen
from 237m kg in 2000 to 73m kg last year.
That is depressing. Sixty-six percent of Zimbabwe's workforce is employed in agricultural but the country cannot even feed itself.

Mercifully, some of the 4,000 white farmers who lost their land to the kleptocracy may be trying to come back, while those remaining must apply for permission to continue farming:

Buka said 500 white farmers had applied for permission so far.

There's been confusion in recent weeks over unconfirmed reports Zimbabwe had invited white farmers chased from their farms back to the land.

Government ministers have denied this is a dramatic U-turn in Zimbabwe's land reform programme, which has seen up to 4,000 commercial farmers lose their farms in the past six years.

Buka said 'remaining farmers' had to apply for leases to farm, following changes to Zimbabwe's constitution that make all agricultural land required for resettlement state land.
Zimbabweans were better off when their country was called Rhodesia:
Zimbabwe is now poorer than it was at independence in 1980, after it had
survived 16 years of sanctions and eight years of civil war.
Zimbabwe's IQ is estimated at sixty-six. The difference between white and black Zimbabweans (~35), then, is likely greater than the difference between Ashkenazi Jews and African Americans in the US (~30). The result of throwing out 4,000 enterprising whites should have been predictable. African independence from colonial rule has been terrible for Africans.

The government is nationalizing all the farmland and then granting people the right to farm it. The white commercial farmers still operating in Zimbabwe are in a tenuous position, as are those who wish to return. It is obvious that Mugabe is not interested in the whites' well being. Whites in Zimbabwe are a quintessential market dominant minority with little political protection. Mugabe will cater to them only in economic desperation. But political desperation will continue to force him to be capricious toward whites. Sad purges like operation "Remove the filth" are coupled with the plundering of wealthy whites who deflect the ire from Mugabe. Why even one thousand white farmers remain is difficult to understand:
The programme has been mired in controversy following allegations ruling party
officials had seized most of the best farms, while agricultural production has plummeted.

Meanwhile, in central Midlands province, at least six white farmers have been told to leave their farms in the past two weeks, an official from farming pressure group Justice for Agriculture (JAG) said.
Southern Africa demonstrates the deleterious effects on social cohesion, personal liberties, and economic progress that stem from having an impoverished numerical majority that doesn't control the economy. The closest a majority white US comes to this is the prominence of Ashkenazi Jews in industries such as entertainment, media, and banking/finance. But American goyim are not poor, Jews do not have a lock on any industry, Jews are scarcely distinguishable from other whites, and the US celebrates economic success more than anywhere else in the world save maybe Hong Kong. Rather than deporting our brightest, we praise and admire them.
If current demographic trends continue, however, whites will become a market dominant minority as the wind from the South howls northward. The Hispanic underclass does not appreciate American culture and does not revere white accomplishment. We need a wall.

We should also create tax incentives for wealthy natives to have more children. Not only will this raise the national IQ and narrow the wealth gap, it will make the Western way of life sustainable for future generations. The West is dying--the populations of both Japan and Russia are decreasing in absolute numbers, and in all of the developed world only Israel is above replenishment rate. The planet is being populated by dullards--births per woman by country inversely correlates with national IQ at a higher rate than virtually any other variable. Allowing sharp children to take accelerated classes in primary school and burn through college faster will put more years on the other side for making babies. Also, older folks should put money away for their children and grandchildren in high-return, long-term investments. It's a much better gift than sneakers or some electronic consumable.


Drug legalization in Mexico (April 30, 2006)

This isn't going to help achieve to victory in the war on drugs:
Mexico's Congress approved a bill Friday decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine and heroin for personal use.
The Mexican Congress claims that it will allow Mexican authorities to focus on smugglers rather than casual users, but Mexico's endemic corruption and the thirty some-odd billion dollars generated from the drug trade evince the risibility of such a claim. Northern Mexico is still run by drug cartels--legalizing possession is obviously not going to hurt business. Mexico exports drugs and social problems to the US in return for $17 billion in remittances and several billions more in narcotics sales. The Mexican government is not a friend.

These are not innocuous quantities:
The bill says criminal charges will no longer be brought for possession of up to 25 milligrams of heroin, five grams of marijuana — about one-fifth of an ounce, or about four joints — and half a gram of cocaine — about half the standard street-size quantity, which is enough for several lines of the drug.
The bill passed the Mexican Senate by a majority of over two-to-one. Most Mexicans favor this move. This is yet another reason that massive Mexican immigration to the US is bad. Drug use externalities do not benefit society. It hammers lower income, less endowed folks especially hard. We have witnessed the devastation the crack wars of the late eighties and early nineties wreaked upon our urban centers. Why make life even tougher for those already fighting an uphill battle?

Building a wall and militarizing the border will severely cut down on the importation of both underclass liabilities and drugs.


Nukes, India, and fruit (March 5, 2006)

President Bush is about to return home from an eventful trip to India where he championed an agreement to lift the moratorium on nuclear shipments from the US to the world's second most populous country. In return, India will allow international inspectors into 14 of 22 nuclear facilities, none of which serve a military purpose. Congress will still have to approve the measure, which means that it is far from certain. Indeed, some at home are opposed to rewarding India for not being a member to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by giving it more nuclear capabilities while at the same time trying to restrict it from going to places like North Korea or Iran:

Opponents of the deal believe the Bush administration has effectively torn up the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by granting India a special exemption and rights to purchase US nuclear technologies.
Bush is being pragmatic. India has had nuclear weapons for over thirty years now and never signed the agreement because of the fact that China, Britain, Russia, the US, and France already had large arsenals prior to the treaty of 1970. It is implausible to think they are going to somehow be persuaded to give up their weapons today, especially with nuclear Pakistan next door. It is better to have some international presence in the country and open up markets for big US companies like GE than shun Singh for largely ideological reasons.

Nuclear power is the most cost effective form of renewable fuel currently in existence and it is clean. Currently, India is the world's sixth largest consumer of oil, and with an economic growth rate topping 7% that consumption is only going to increase. Backing the drive toward nuclear power (ten reactors are on the way) will weaken the influence of nearby neighbors on India, like Iran.

Nuclear weapon abstinence shouldn't be our goal. Pretending that a democratic, Hindu nation with a British colonial past that is opening up economically to the developed world is somehow comparable to North Korea or Saudi Arabia is silly moral posturing. The country has refused to give nuclear technology to Libya and Iran.

India is strategically located. Armed and on relatively good terms with the US, it can serve as a counterbalance to China and an insurance policy against Pakistan should Musharraf be overthrown.

I am not convinced that India will be able to parallel China's ascent onto the world stage. Despite high-tech pockets, India is destitutely poor (44% of India's population lives on less than $1 a day, compared to 19% in China). Over a third of its population is illiterate (40% in India compared to only 9% in China), and India's average IQ is estimated to be around 81 compared to China's score of 100, while India's PPP is $3,400 to China's $6,200. Of the Indian families I know (a grande sample of three!), two are Brahmin and one is Kshatriya (all three fathers are engineers). These upper castes are probably quite distinct (and enjoy high average IQs) from the meaner ones due to so little mixing of castes in marriage and offspring. India also has a wide spectrum of ethnic groups who are linguistically and culturally disparate. China, by contrast, is 92% Han.

But India is progressively instituting liberal economic reforms, increasing spending on education, and making other infrastructure investments. If Japan similarly serves as a counterweight to China, any threat of Chinese expansionism might be contained. We should strive for this sort of balance rather than any military or economic action directed specifically against China. Allowing Taiwan and Japan to acquire nuclear weapons could insure stability in East Asia and the South Pacific.

Finally, having a friend so close to Pakistan can only be beneficial. Although there is a ruckus over Iran's nuclear activities, Pakistan already has nuclear weapons (and has shared nuclear technology all over the place). Musharraf is about the best friend we can expect from that area of the world, but his regime is hated by Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups (and unpopular in the Muslim world in general). He's been targeted by assassins and his regime could be toppled. In that unhappy scenario, a Taliban-like government with nuclear capabilities would come into power in Pakistan.

Oh, and we get mango.


Muslims riot over cartoons (February 5 2006)

More evidence of the incompatibility of Islam and the West:

Muslims all over the world are outraged over a series of cartoons that have appeared in European newspapers in recent months that feature the prophet Mohammed in ways that suggest he condones terrorism.
'Outraged' is to put it lightly. Death threats have been made, boycotts have ensued, property has been destroyed:

Street protests erupted from Lahore to Gaza. Libya, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait withdrew their ambassadors from Copenhagen, calling for an apology and punishment of the editors. Danish products are being boycotted in the Middle East, where state-controlled media speak darkly of a conspiracy against Islam. Palestinian terrorists have declared Danes and other Europeans as legitimate targets. Journalists at Jyllands-Posten have received death threats. Danish flags, whose design is based on a Christian cross, are being burned.
Yesterday, the Danish embassy in Syria was set ablaze by zealots screaming "No God but Allah, Muhammed is His Prophet." The Norwegian embassy also went up in smoke.

What's all the fuss about? See for yourself (at the end of the article--the one depicting Muhammad's turban as a bomb is considered the most 'egregious'). The Koran is largely ambivalent about images of Muhammad:

There is no specific, or explicit ban on images of Allah or the Prophet Muhammad - be they carved, painted or drawn.

However, chapter 42, verse 11 of the Koran does say: "[Allah is] the originator of the heavens and the earth... [there is] nothing like a likeness of Him."

This is taken by Muslims to mean that Allah cannot be captured in an image by human hand, such is his beauty and grandeur. To attempt such a thing is seen as an insult to Allah.

The same is believed to apply to Muhammad.
That extrapolation is enough to ignite violent protests across the Middle East. The conflagration from the cartoons highlights how the values of the Islamic world and the liberal West are intrinsically at odds. Keep in mind that they were drawn in Denmark, not Yemen. When word spread to the Middle East, nationwide boycotts of Danish goods began, Danish property fell under siege, and influential Islamic groups began circulating vicious threats against Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that first ran the cartoons:

The images show bombs exploding over pictures of the newspaper, and blood flowing over the national flag and a map of Denmark...

Jyllands-Posten has been criticised by Muslims for printing the cartoons, and was forced to hire security guards after receiving hate mail and death threats over the
telephone.

Obviously the Muslim street doesn't tolerate freedom of expression at home, which is fine. Populations are different biologically and culturally. Social memes dictate what is appropriate in the native culture even though it may be abhorrent to another civilization. We are not well served by trying to deracinate the ways of a society that are rooted in thousands of years of cultural and evolutionary pressures.

But we are well served in keeping these societies out of our own. Muslims do not see any hypocrisy in excoriating Europe for negatively depicting Islam while news outlets across the Islamic world run cartoons (follow link to see them) portraying Jews as rats, the US eating the Arab world, blaming Israel for 9/11 or in Islamic governments banning bibles and the Star of David. Because they see Islamic law as absolute, there is no dissonance. The idea of tolerating an opposing viewpoint is nonexistent. Fundamentalist Christians in the US are spit upon daily. They are incessantly mocked. When a purveyor of neo-tribal hip-hop is portrayed as Christ, these religious folk do not burn down buildings. While people in the West try to convince others of their views using the pen and the podium, those in the Muslim world use the sword and the suicide bomb.

This, of course, shows a fatal flaw in the multicultural orthodoxy. Tolerance means tolerating the intolerant, who in turn act to squelch the tolerant group's right to an opinion. Consequently, multiculturalism is ripe for ethnic strife and the overthrow of the most tolerant contingents of the society (in the US, that tolerant group which gets little tolerance in return is whites, particularly those of a Christian stripe). In a democracy, it leads to special interests fighting over spoils at the expense of other special interests. In authoritarian countries it leads to the repression of minority interests (or majorities in some cases, Iraq under Saddam being the most salient). The more homogenuous a society is, the easier it is to govern and the more prosperous it tends to be (Iceland and Japan are two great examples).

Europe has been tepid in its response. Some countries, like France, have backed Jyllands-Posten and the right of the press within France to reprint the cartoons. German media have harshly criticized those who would keep them from being published and has called the Islamic world "hypocritical". Others have lambasted the depictions of Muhammad, like Great Britain. The paper itself did apologize for the cartoons after coming under tremendous pressure to do so, but Danish prime minister Rasmussen defended the freedom of the press to run them.

While it's a slow process, Europe finally seems to be waking up to the dangers posed by Islam. Nearly every country on the Old Continent has been hit by Muslims: Theo Van Gogh's murder in the Netherlands, the subway bombings in London, the train bombings in Madrid, the riots across France, the tensions between Turks and native Germans in Germany, and now this. We have plenty of problems with immigration from our neighbors to the south. But Europe is in much worse shape. We should take a hint and end immigration from predominately Muslim countries. By instituting an immigration program based on merit, we can find plenty of productive residents in Europe, Asia, Australia, and Latin America.

++Addition++FNC's Bill O'Reilly points out the hypocrisy of the leftist media in his current column (which can apparently only be accessed for a short time free of charge, hence the liberal excerpting that follows):
The New York Times will not print any of those Danish political cartoons that mock Islamic violence, but it will publish a picture of Mary, the mother of Jesus, covered with dung. What's up with that?Here's what the Times wrote about the cartoons:

"(We) and much of the rest of the nation's media have reported on the cartoons but refrained from showing them. That seems a reasonable choice for news organizations that usually refrain from gratuitous assaults on religious symbols."...

But the next day, the newspaper ran a picture of the dung-covered Mary accompanying an article entitled "A Startling New Lesson in the Power of Imagery." So we can't see the prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban in the Times, but we can see a sacrilegious "gratuitous assault" on Mary that came from a shameful Brooklyn Museum exposition in 1999...

Once again, we have a huge double standard in play in the secular-progressive press. In 1989, the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe, among others, published a picture by photographer Andres Serrano that showed the crucified Christ submerged in urine. Serrano was also featured in a New York Times fashion spread, according to reporting in The Washington Post.

And then there was the play "Corpus Christi," which featured a gay Jesus who had sex with some Apostles. The New York Times opined that folks who protested the play had "contempt for artistic expression."Maybe I'm wrong, but dung on Mary, Christ submerged in urine, and a gay Jesus just might be "gratuitous assaults on
religious symbols."

Some of the NYT's hypocrisy stems from the far-left's disdain for Christianity because of the Church's opposition to the 'culture of death', same-sex marriage, and other leftist social causes. And that around 85% of Americans are at least nominally Christian means they are the majority, and part of the multicult dogma is to reflexively despise the majority. Muslims are a helpless group persecuted by evil cowboys like Bush first and illiberal/intolerant second (if at all). There's also an element of fear (which should really raise concerns about Islamic immigration, especially in Europe)--all twelve cartoonists went into hiding after receiving numerous death threats.

Unfortunately, much of the so-called mainstream media is morally bankrupt. They scream 'free speech' in defence of seditious figures like Cindy Sheehan, Ward Churchill, or Kanye West (which is a strawman argument because criticizing what people say is obviously not at all the same as arguing they shouldn't have the right to say it), but when buildings are burned and people are killed over a few relatively innocuous cartoons, they come down hard on those who exercise free speech.

The cartoon brouhaha provides the strongest evidence yet of how incompatible Islamic culture is with the West. Why should we have to alter our way of life to accomodate another's cultural sensibilities, especially when they refuse to do the same? Our civilization is an amazing one. It is definitely worth saving.


Landslide victory for Hamas (January 28 2006)

Democracy is not a panacea. In many parts of the world, it is better described as a poison:
The surprisingly strong victory of militant group Hamas in Palestinian legislative elections leaves the Palestinian Authority in the hands of a radical Islamist leadership deemed terrorists by Israel, the U.S. and Europe, further complicating the already tortuous Middle East peace process.
The exit polls that predicted Fatah would retain its majority were way off. Hamas now controls 76 of the 132 seats (58%). Fatah was cut down to only 43, although Abbas, a Fatah member, will remain the leader of the Palestinian Authority. Abbas has been outmuscled, unable to deliver on his promise to have Hamas disarm. That task has just been made exponentially more difficult.

Peace between these two disparate cultures has always struck me as a pipe dream. That view certainly meshes with Hamas' view of its Jewish neighbor with whom it will have to 'negotiate':

Other than confirming their refusal to acknowledge Israel's right to exist, they have yet to indicate the approach their government will take in foreign policy.
What's the chance that they'll be willing to agree to a dual-state compromise when one side refuses to grant the other one the right to exist? My guess is somewhere between zero and negative infinity. Newsmax shrewdly points out some highlights to Hamas' oath:

The Hamas "Martyr's Oath":

"Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious...The Movement is but one squadron that should be supported by more and more squadrons from this vast Arab and Islamic world, until the enemy is vanquished and Allah's victory is realized...

"The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: 'The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews. When the Jew will hide behind stones and trees, the stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him...'

"There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.

"The day The Palestinian Liberation Organization adopts Islam as its way of life, we will become its soldiers, and fuel for its fire that will burn the enemies...

"The Zionist invasion is a vicious invasion... It relies greatly in its infiltration and espionage operations on the secret organizations it gave rise to, such as the Freemasons, The Rotary and Lions clubs, and other sabotage groups.

"We should not forget to remind every Muslim that when the Jews conquered the Holy City in 1967, they stood on the threshold of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and proclaimed that 'Mohammed is dead, and his descendants are all women.'

"Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Muslim people. 'May the cowards never sleep.'"
We are better served by keeping democracy out of the hands of many countries. There are prerequisites for the political system to function in a way that's beneficial to human progression and security: A largely homogeneic culture and ethnicity, a PPP of at least $3,000 and preferrably over $6,000 (the West Bank and Gaza Strip combined have a depressing $1,100), at least a moderate average IQ (the correlation between democratic government and IQ has been found to be .54), and perhaps most importantly but most difficult to quantify, a culture that encourages debate, compromise, acceptance of defeat, dispute resolution through non-violent means, and nationalism rather than nepotism (none of which characterize Islamic society). The Palestinians fail dismally in all of these categories. Looking at the situation through this prism, it's not surprising that an illiberal terrorist organization has come to power in the Palestinian territory.

Thankfully the doctrine of spreading liberty, the azoth to all the world's woes, has not so inebriated the neocons that they celebrate this latest democratic triumph:

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said of the victory: "Hamas has a clear responsibility to understand that with democracy goes a rejection of violence."...

The Bush administration has sketched out how Hamas must change to be seen as legitimate: renounce terror, accept Israel's right to exist, endorse an eventual two-state solution, and lay down its arms.
The neocons are contradicting their belief that liberalism naturally follows the democratic process. Theoretically, the election results should be celebrated because the process worked (the election has been certified as fair by all international observers). But quixotic as the Bush administration may be, they retain enough pragmatism to realize that this successful process is antithetical to a successful outcome. Will it start to sink in that democracy in other areas of the Islamic world threaten the global economy and international security?

The Muslim Brotherhood controls around a fifth of the seats in Egypt. Prior to the US push for democracy, Mubarak's unpopular secular and pro-American government squelched the popular Islamic group. Now, as political freedoms increase in Egypt, the fiercely anti-Western Brotherhood is surging:

The Muslim Brotherhood was largely banned from Egyptian public life after taking
credit for a string of terrorist attacks inside Egypt. It was only allowed back after diplomatic pressure from the U.S., which sends Egypt billions of dollars in foreign aid each year.

The elections there last year were widely seen as corrupt and unfair -- Egyptian security forces arrested opposition candidates and beat their supporters -- but candidates linked to the Muslim Brotherhood nevertheless won a fifth of the seats in parliament.

Many outside observers say the party would almost certainly have won an outright majority in a truly free election.
Similarly Hezbollah is the leading opposition force in Lebanon. And in Iraq, the Shia majority, which has largely refused to compromise with their former antagonists, the minority Sunnis, is theocratic and likely to form amiable ties with hardliners in Iran.

Hamas might moderate once in power, assuming the EU and US wisely wield the economic stick over the Palestinian territory. The Palestinians are almost completely reliant on foreign aid (GDP is only $1.8 billion, while the territory receives an estimated $2 billion a year in aid) that if cut could lead to a backlash against the new Hamas government and force them to yield to Western demands. But that will only foment popular resentment against the new government (much like it did with Fatah) and lead to another extremist group taking power. It's a vicious circle.

If there is a silver lining here, it is that Israel may be prodded into hastening the construction of its enormously successful security fence, pulling out of undefendable settlements in the West Bank, and closing itself off to the Palestinian Authority with the excuse that it cannot possibly deal with a government that does not even recognize its right to exist:

Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday convened his top security officials to discuss the results. Late in the day, his office issued a statement saying: "The State of Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian administration if its members include an armed terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. In any case, Israel will continue to fight terrorism with a heavy hand, everywhere."
Oh, and it might be a seminal moment in America's realization that pro-US, pro-market dictatorships that repress radical elements in ways the West won't stomach are better than popularly elected, anti-Western terrorist organizations. Instead of pouring money down the sewer hole that is the Middle East, we should throw that money into alternative energy resource (and domestic fossil fuel production like drilling in ANWR) and drastically restrict immigration from the Middle East and illegal immigration in general with the construction of fortifications on the borders.


Iran flouts the international community (January 12 2006)

Iran has given the world the figurative finger:

Iran has removed international seals from a nuclear facility to begin research defying foreign pressure.

The move ends a two-year suspension of research, and could result in Tehran being referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.
This comes on the heels of Tehran's decision to resume nuclear conversion last August. When that broke, it was supposed to be as far as Iran would go:

In conversion, yellowcake is turned into UF-6 gas. In the next stage of the process - which Iran has said it will not resume for the time being - the gas is fed in centrifuges for enrichment. Uranium enriched to a low level is used to produce nuclear fuel; further enrichment makes it suitable for use in an atomic bomb.
The 'time being' lasted a whopping four months. The Iranians claim, of course, that such research is solely for energy generation purposes. But in a country that exports 2.5 million barrels of oil per day, this claim appears dubious. It would be like Kansas wheat farmers moving toward rice cultivation--it makes no sense economically and would strain relations with Japan (or in the case of Iran, most of the non-Islamic world). And Moscow has offered to allow Iran to enrich uranium in Russia, a proposal that Tehran has rejected.

Obtaining nuclear weapons might make Iran the de facto leader of the Islamic world. Currenly, only Pakistan has them, and Musharraf's government is a (tenuous) US ally. Obtaining such potency would make Iran a substantial player in world affairs, especially within the Middle East. And those plans for the Middle East might well involve the destruction of Israel. Iranian President Ahmadinejad has denied the Holocaust as well as, ironically, calling for its reinactment by wiping Israel off the map. An ayatollah and former Iranian leader certainly hinted at that last month:


Two-times former Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani said earlier this month that the Muslim world would win a nuclear exchange with Israel, aggravating fears Tehran's quest for atomic weapons indeed has one purpose: the annihilation of what it calls the Zionist “cancer.”

“[The] application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel - but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world,” Hashemi-Rafsanjani was quoted as saying by the government-controlled Iran Press Service.

I am torn when it comes to Israel. Ashkenazi Jews have contributed enormously to the progression of humanity. They have, as a group, been more persecuted than any other in the history of the world and yet they have tenaciously continued to out do their neighbors everywhere. Israel is the third wealthiest, most modern, and most amiable country to the West in all of the Middle East, despite being smaller than New Jersey and having no oil. The nation is the canary in the coal mine when it comes to Islamic terrorism--innocent Israeli women and children being blown to bits in Tel Aviv buses might become New York City commuters if Israel is wiped off the map.

On the other hand, we have plenty of problems at home. The borders are open, health care costs are out of control, the tax code is arcane, a greying baby boomer generation is set to retire, ad infinitum. Getting mucked up in Middle Eastern politics has at least in part led to the Iraq debacle. If we could wean ourselves of oil, the Middle East would be as strategically important as sub-Saharan Africa and we could quit pouring so many resources and men into the miasmi. Further, Israel has done things to antagonize us, such as selling weapons systems to China.

The US is not happy with Iran's latest developments:



The US and EU immediately condemned the latest move.

Gregory Schulte, the US ambassador to the IAEA, said it showed Iran's "disdain for international concerns and its rejection of international diplomacy".
The so-called E3 (Germany, France, and the UK) are putatively taking the lead in negotiations with Tehran, but with oil going for $64 a barrel and Iran pumping 4 million barrels per day (coming to $256 million in revenue every 24 hours, or some $93 billion annually), threats of economic and diplomatic sanction have no teeth.

France and Germany do not strike me as hawkish enough to take military action against Iran. Great Britain is tied down alongside the US in Iraq. Russia, while feigning concern over Iran's actions, is trying to reestablish itself as a major force in global politics and has little reason to go to bat for the West. And China, with an insatiable appetite for energy that matchs its stellar economic growth, has a vested interest in staying on good terms with Tehran (the PRC's animosity towards the US doesn't make it any more difficult for China to support Iran, either).

The hapless UN should, not surprisingly, be ruled out as an effective source of stick as well. With China and Russia both permanent UN Security Council Members, there is no way a resolution of worth will be passed (any of the 15 members can veto a resolution).

This leaves three viable options:

1) Allow Iran to enrich uranium and continue on the path towards creating nuclear weapons. In response to international pressure, Tehran has not even flinched:



Iran threatened on Friday to block inspections of its nuclear sites if
confronted by the U.N. Security Council over its atomic activities. The hard-line president reaffirmed his country's intention to produce nuclear energy.
(Giving responsibility to the UN to halt Iranian nuclear activity is tantamount to allowing the country to enrich uranium). The risk is obvious here. Iran also has strengthening ties with Chavez in Venezuela, which could bring the threat closer to home. although a nuclear Iran poses a much more direct threat to Israel and Europe than it does to the US.

2) Execute a NATO blockade of the Persian Gulf and shut off all marine transit therein. Economic sanctions, which would likely only be taken up by a few European countries and the US, belong under option #1--Iran sends less than 4% of its exports to the EU3 or the US. The only way to hurt the Persians economically is to physically stop their trade with the rest of the world. This risks retaliation by other countries, particularly China--the second largest recipient of Iranian exports and the fourth largest exporter to Iran. It would also accentuate tensions between the Christian West and the Islamic world.

3) Tacitly approve of Israeli air strikes. Israel may appear chaotic at the moment with Sharon down and probably out, but it is inconceivable that the country will allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. Israel considers Iran its gravest threat, and recent comments by President Ahmadinejad have augmented that opinion. But an Iranian target would not be as soft as Osirak was in 1981. Tehran's nuclear facilities are bunkered deep underground and difficult to penetrate by air (although Israel has recently acquired "bunker busters" from the US, designed to do just that). Instead, Israel might be forced to attack other Iranian targets.

The third option appears optimal to me. It also makes the first option unlikely. Israel can scarcely be loathed by the Islamic world more than it already is. Trying to compromise has gotten the country nowhere, as the Oslo Accords and stepped up Hamas terrorist activity following Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip show. The second option risks escalating into a broader conflict, pitting the Muslim world and the Sinic dragon against the West, with Russia going either way or more likely remaining neutral.

++Addition++ The US is abnegating the leadership role in dealing with Iran to Europe. Ostensibly this is a conciliatory move, but with over 130,000 troops tied down in Iraq, a ground strike would require a large coalition (probably NATO) or the removal of US forces from other places of current station. The Iraq war is not, however, consuming most of our forces. There are 1.4 million active duty personnel and some 860,000 reservists--Iraq is thus currently home to about 6% of the US' total military manpower.

Presumably the deployments in South Korea and Japan will stay, although I'd like to see the US draw down forces in Asia while encouraging Japan to continue its substantial military spending--now third in the world behind only China and the US--while tacitly giving Koizumi's government the nod for nuclear weapon development if Japan should so choose. But there are 90,000 service people in Europe alone.

A military incursion would fully ignite the incendiary relationship between the West and the Islamic world. Declining birthrates in Europe and the growth of Islamic immigrants have brought to light a cultural and ethnic fault line developing on the Old Continent. As Europe grays and becomes more inundated with Muslims, reversing the trend will become more and more difficult. A showdown now might provide an impetus in Europe to halt Islamic immigration.

Unfortunately, that's a pipedream given Europe's political elites suicidal love affair with multiculturalism. Somewhat encouraging is a recent Reader's Digest survey of Europe that found "80% across the eight countries felt that immigrants should be required to learn the language, history and culture of their host country. The Germans (93%) backed this the most enthusiastically, followed by the Dutch (90%)."

Even if fullscale military operations were taken against Iran, it's questionable as to how that would benefit the US. Overthrowing the mullahs in Iran might weaken the reinforcement that hardline Shia in Iraq get, but an Iranian insurgency would probably be worse than the one in Iraq. The threat of production disruptions across Iran and Iraq, which account for more than six million barrels of oil daily, could send prices upward and slow the global economy.

Another reason Europe is being given the leadership position on Iran is that, fairly or not, the US intelligence community has lost credibility internationally, same for the Bush administration domestically. It is politically inconceivable that the Administration would try and gin up support for harsh action--someone else will have to take the lead.

Finally, where does Saudi Arabia come down on Iran's breaking of the UN seals? Persian, Shia Iran is arguably one of the two influential poles in the Islamic world. Sunni, Arab Saudi Arabia is the other:


Iran has a tradition of being the cultural leader of the Persian plateau, but it lost its position with the emergence of Islam. Other political and military revolutions also overshadowed its position. However, the 1979 Islamic revolution signaled the cultural revival of Iran, and after the breakup of Soviet Russia in 1991, Central Asian republics naturally gravitated toward Tehran, and since then it has actively courted them.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is the leader of the Wahhabite form of Islam, which is particularly anti-US, and in this capacity it supports movements for Islamic revival all over the world. The logical climax of these movements is jihad. (These movements define jihad as the struggle to uproot man-made systems and install divine guidance on earth.) The obvious result of this school of thought is controversy, conflict and war. Palestine, Kashmir and the Philippines are prime examples, and Saudi Arabia has openly funded the Philippines' Moro National Liberation Front, the Hamas in Palestine and the Lashkar-i-Taiba in Kashmir.
The idea of an Iranian invasion into Saudi Arabia has been tossed around before. Does the House of Sa'ud put any credibility into that threat? It doesn't appear that they've said anything publicly about Iran's latest move. My guess is that the country will try and keep a low profile as the Iran-West tensions play out.


Berlin circa 1938? (January 4 2006)

No, it's Stockholm circa 2006:



The situation has become so bad, they report, that "Jews in Sweden today often feel compelled to hide their religious identity in public: necklaces with stars of David are carefully hidden under sweaters, and orthodox Jewish men change their kippot [skullcaps] to more discreet caps or hats when they are outdoors. Jews in Sweden nowadays get secret telephone numbers to avoid harassment. In Sweden. Today."
Rabid anti-Judaism did not vanish when the Third Reich came to an end. Today, Hitler's incarnation resides in the Middle East, and it's spreading as Islam expands outward. The little Hitlers in headscarfs take a page right out of the old Madagascar Plan:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has described the Holocaust as "a myth" and suggested that Israel be moved to Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska.
But Ahmadinejad, president of a country of 70 million people, is a bit anachronistic. Two months before suggesting Israel be airlifted to somewhere in the infidel hinterland, he called for its utter annihilation:

"As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map," said Ahmadinejad, referring to Iran's revolutionary leader Ayat Allah Khomeini.
Still, he'd no doubt be pals with Goebbels. And he's not alone:

Jewish congregations in Sweden have noted a sharp increase in "harassment, threats and attacks by Arabs and Muslims against Jews in Swedish society during the last few years," the report states. "The problem is furthermore aggravated by the almost complete silence which surrounds this form of Jew-hatred. If anti-Semitism among Arabs and Muslims in Sweden is discussed at all in Swedish media, it tends to be in the form of trivializations or denials of the problem."
Muslims cause problems everywhere they go. This throws a wrench into the leftist worldview that once everyone is immersed in tolerance and freedom they will become liberty-loving and tolerant. Consequently, it is hidden or trivialized.

In the French riots, the hoodlums were routinely referred to as "youths" disenfranchised by French culture's inherent chauvinism. Of course, the destroyers were Muslim Africans who lived in a system without racial quotas or affirmative action policies. The identities of the aggressors are hidden, and racism/discrimination is assumed to be the cause without any evidence (how do you prove groups are being discriminated against when no statistics are kept?)

But if your head is buried in the sand and you foolishly ignore human biodiversity, what else might cause such inequity? A qualified cultural variation that has no genetic grounding, of course. And the multicult right and blank-slate left predictably hashed it out during the French riots with the self-evident understanding that the actual rioters might have been the problem.

The right blamed the quasi-socialist, business unfriendly European environment while the left fingered French ethnocentrism as the culprit. That Middle Eastern countries are characterized by IQs roughly a standard deviation below that of France suffered from its perennial omerta and was not mentioned, nor was Islam's incompatibility with Western society (except in the veracious 'fringe' sites). (Similar prevarication followed Hurricane Katrina's devastation, as the popular media ignored mostly white towns that were hit harder than New Orleans but experienced no rioting, the vicious racism directed at whites in the Superdome, and the incompetence and corruption of New Orleans inner city police force).

Immigration from Muslim countries should be subject to extreme vetting or stopped entirely. It simply is not necessary. East Asia and some areas of southern and southeast Asia like Bangalore and Singapore offer better educated, more intelligent, less criminally prone, and less culturally pathological people. Western Europe's economic malaise is going to continually make the US look like a good destination.

Jews should not have to suffer the same harrassment and persecution that their grandparents did under Nazi Germany. Buses should not be blown up in London. Dutch filmmakers should not have their throats slit in the street for criticizing Islam. Disabled women in France should not be burned alive by rioting miscreants. Subway trains should not be blown to bits in Madrid. Commercial planes should not be flown into American skyscrapers. The West should not absorb hordes of Muslims.

The recently passed HR 4427 calls for the elimination of the Visa Lottery system, which randomly allows in immigrants from places like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, and Yemen. But the Senate does not share the House's push for immigration reform and instead wants a 'guest worker program' (which is a euphemism for 'amnesty').

We need a merit immigration system that allows the US to take advantage of the some 1.5 billion people worldwide who desire to live in the states by picking the cream of the crop: Those with some level of wealth and education, above average IQ (112 perhaps? That's generally considered to be college material--if you want a rough estimate of your own IQ based on SAT or ACT scores, look here and here), value-adding occupations, English language proficiency, no criminal record, and more qualitative data (like if they've been attending Wahhabi mosques on a regular basis).


Russia backs down for now (January 3 2006)

Russia backed off its nascent halting of distributions of natural gas to Ukraine, pressured by big European consumers. Because the gas must travel through pipeline in Ukraine to reach Europe, Yushchenko was not powerless:




Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine Sunday after Kiev refused to agree to Gazprom's demand for an end to the below-market prices Ukraine has paid for the last 15 years. Early Monday, Gazprom accused Ukraine of "stealing" gas valued at about $25 million from the European-bound exports Gazprom shipped across its territory since Sunday. Ukrainian officials denied the allegations.
That's comical. Gazprom expected to shut off gas to Ukraine but maintained that Ukraine must continue to allow the stuff to flow underneath the feet of its shivering citizenry to the West? Putin probably hoped that Europe would blame Ukraine for the shortage (some places in Europe reported shortfalls of as much as 50% of normal supply from the cutoff on Sunday), but Russia felt the heat instead:




Germany, Russia's biggest customer in Europe and, through gas company E.On Ruhrgas AG, a shareholder in Gazprom, warned that Moscow's handling of the pricing dispute raised questions about Russia's ambitions to supply even more of Europe's growing demand for gas.

Russia is trying to coerce Ukraine back into its sphere of influence, disrupted last year by Yushchenko's victory. So long as the gas must flow through Ukraine to arrive in Europe, Russia's threats are empty. Ukraine claims it is entitled to part of what flows through the line headed to Europe since it does not otherwise charge Gazprom:




Ukraine says it is entitled to 15% of gas that goes through its pipelines in lieu of transit fees from Gazprom. And so far at least, Mr. Putin isn't getting much support in Europe. Germany's new government has blamed Moscow, and yesterday Russia reacted to that criticism by saying it would pump more gas through the pipeline to accommodate Europeans suffering an especially cold winter.
So for now, this looks like hollow power politics. However, Ukraine's strategic pipeline is not a perpetual panoply. Russia is already looking to circumvent its uncooperative neighbor:




Former German Prime Minister Gerhard Schroder, meanwhile, has taken a job as chairman of a Gazprom-controlled venture that will build pipeline under the Baltic Sea to bring Russian gas directly to Germany.
Ukraine cannot count on Western European support forever. The former Soviet state is mostly Orthodox and culturally much closer to Russia than the West. When it stops hurting at the wallet, don't expect Western Europe to go to bat for Ukraine unless the western (geographically and culturally) part of the country moves for secession sometime in the future. Of course, the more stress the Kremlin can put on Ukraine's delicate economy, the more likely it becomes that Yushchenko's coalition loses power and a pro-Russian block takes over.

While this plays out, Russia is getting settled in as head of the G8. Putatively, the organization of economic giants promotes (and its members, with the exception of Russia, are practitioners of) liberal democratic and free-market policies. Consequently, Russia was not admitted until the close of the 21st Century in hopes of bringing her into the liberal camp.

In terms of GDP, Russia is the second smallest member (Canada trails slightly, although our northern neighbor only has 33 million people to Russia's 143 million) and the country's steady move towards state-controlled totalitarianism makes it the group's salient outsider. Russia is now designated as "not free" by Freedom House, enjoying the company of cohorts such as Zimbabwe, Iran, and North Korea. This isn't surprising. Putin burst onto the political scene by taking a hardline against rebels in the second Chechen war and was a former member of the KGB.

As the West declines, so will everything the Occident stands for: Liberalism, democracy, human rights (as we define them), individualism, freedom of expression and religion, just to name a few. Demographic trends portend the coming preciptous drop in Western influence on the world. India and especially China, together comprising over a third of the world's population, are going to increasingly define global politics as they enjoy wild economic growth.

Russia suffers from many of the same problems faced by the Western Europe and the US. But Moscow has actively pursued closer ties with nations hostile to the West like Iran and China. As global warming makes the enormous, resource rich and sparcely habitated land east of the Urals more accessible, Russia stands to become wealthier and by extension a power player (once again) on the world scene. Russia will challenge the West and those in its orbit (like Ukraine under Yushchenko) more, not less, as time goes on.


Chilly in Ukraine (December 30 2005)

Things are getting hot in the Ukraine. Or rather, they're about to get very cold:




Russian authorities refused to ease their tough stance in a politically charged dispute with Ukraine over gas prices Friday, issuing a stern new threat to halt supplies to its neighbor on New Year's Day and criticizing Kiev's call for more time reach a deal.
Last year Russian President Vladimir Putin, who supported Viktor Yanukvych, was embarrassed by Viktor Yushchenko's victorious Orange Revolution. Yushchenko enjoyed widespread Western support, pushing for economic and media liberalization and for Ukrainian membership in NATO. The Kremlin backed Yanukvych who has close ties to the Russian government. After three elections and a bout with dioxin that malformed the previously handsome prime minister, Yushchenko was declared Ukraine's new President.

Putin has come under increasing fire for nationalizing Russian industries, clamping down on free media and jailing journalists, and most saliently for essentially throwing out foreign NGOs. Russia is once again breaking from the West, and is determined to take the old Orthodox Soviet states with it (Ukraine's 48 million people are just over half Christian Orthodox with slightly less than half being Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish). As the 2004 election showed, Ukraine is pretty evenly split, with the country's western half supporting liberal reform and the east half backing closer relations with Russia. Yushchenko, of course, represents the former.

In response to Ukraine's slide westward, Russia's state-owned Gazprom is letting the country know that if it likes Europe more, so be it:







Russian authorities are demanding that Ukraine pay $230 -- more than four times
the current price of $50 -- per 1,000 cubic meters of gas. Ukraine wants a more gradual increase that would bring what it pays closer to world prices and says $75 to $80 is a fair price for now. The price Russia wants Ukraine to pay is far higher than it is charging other former Soviet republics, even those that are seeking, like Ukraine, to shake off Russian influence and integrate with the West.
Instead, the price is in line with what Gazprom charges most of Europe. If that isn't enough, Russia recently signed a deal with nearby Turkmenistan (as well as with Kazahkstan and Uzbekistan) to purchase gas from Turkmenistan to limit available supply to Ukraine, which gets a third of its natural gas from Russia and 45% from Turkmenistan.

Yushchenko's administration has had a rough year, suffering allegations of corruption and internal bickering. Economic growth, which has been stellar for the last half decade is teetering and such a shock in the dead of winter could be devastating.

There are parliamentary elections coming up in March. Russia is timing this to hurt Yushchenko's block at the polls with the ultimate goal of putting him out of power and someone with an affinity for the Kremlin back in.

The Clash of Civilizations is upon us. Russia, who will get the rotating G8 leadership position in 2006, is asserting itself as a major player in the heart of Eurasia, distinct from the Sinic East and liberal West. It wants to exert its influence on its cultural brethren in the Balkans and other former states of the Soviet Union, and economic coercion is one way to do it.

Of course, Russia has its share of problems. It's enormous natural resource base remains underdeveloped yet still comprises 80% of the country's economy leaving the country vulnerable to abrupt price swings, its fertility rate is well below replenishment at 1.27 births per woman, and rampant alcoholism and disease contribute to an average life expectancy of only 67 years (among the lowest in the world outside of Africa).

Currently, Yushshenko is flouting Gazprom's demands by threatening to restrict use of the gas lines that run through eastern Ukraine. If the winds shift in favor of those close to Russia, it is likely that the Kremlin will bring back the substantially discounted prices it gives to other former Soviet states. This is what Putin is hoping will happen.

If fissure becomes realistic, the West should back western Ukraine in splitting with the east. The gas pipelines, however, make this seem farfetched.

(International)



One-two-three punch for France (November 09 2005)

The rioting in France has three miasmic elements: A low IQ population visibly distinct from the market-controlling group, a quasi-socialist state that stifles entrepreneurial activity and job creation, and Islam. Independently, each of these elements are troublesome enough. Combined, they give rise to mayhem.

Perhaps a fourth ingredient to top of it all off is the risible response by the government. By the end of the first night, the order on rioters should have been shoot to kill. Unfortunately, Sarkosky initially backed off his hardline. He appears to have regained his composure out of desparation as the riots approach a fortnight in duration:









The interior minister called for the deportation of foreigners convicted in the wave of unrest that has spread throughout France.

How many of the thugs are foreigners? The government may be in denial, much like Britain was following the London bombings and the Dutch were after the Van Gogh murder. Soon the Second City will wakeup to realize that it has a self-created homegrown problem.

No Western country has been as favorably inclined to the Muslim world as France, opposing the US at every turn, yet her cities are burning. Appeasement isn't going to stop the Muslim hordes. The developed world gains nothing by bringing in swarms of the third-world underclass, especially those from the Middle East. It takes a wall and a stick.

The folks in the US get it, where a majority of the citizenry wants an end to illegal immigration for economic, cultural, and security reasons. What about Europe? The right in France may gain some traction from the melee:









Anti-immigrant sentiment is particularly high in France, which is struggling against unemployment of 9.8 per cent.
"Marked on the Left by Dominique de Villepin, Sarkozy must capitalise on the Right and even on the Right of the Right," Liberation newspaper commented.
No one should gloat over the situation, but hopefully the tocsin has finally been heard. The clock is ticking on Europe's ability to save its civilization as low native birth rates and Islamic immigration show a very different Europe in by mid-century.

US politicians should get a clue as well. Unskilled Hispanics do not pose a threat near the magnitude of Middle Easterners in Europe--They share many values with natives (religion, family-orientation, etc) and do not have idle hands. But the cultural and economic fault lines still exist. We need the wall and the implementation of a merit-based immigration system.

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Is global warming the ticket to a vacation in Greenland? (Oct 17 2005)

The question of whether humans are substantially contributing to global warming is still in the air, although most scientists believe humans bear at least some responsibility. Roughly a quarter of the world's oil is in the Arctic, yet oil likely requires animal and (especially) plant life to form. Obviously this oil did not materialize underneath an icy tundra. It was warm there at some point in time, long before any SUVs or Exxon-Mobil. It is only speculation as to whether or not humans are significantly affecting climate change, because the earth has been through warmer and more turbulent times than the less than one degree rise in average temperatures we've seen over the last few decades.

Also, let's be pragmatic. Of the 162 venerable countries that signed on to Kyoto, how many have met their obligations thus far? Would you guess a whopping three?! And two of those (Germany and France) have had stagnant economies. Pretty easy to keep emissions down when no one is producing any extra (the third country is Great Britain). Obviously China and India are concerned with economic growth, not limiting pollutants (unless of course it hurts economic growth, which is a problem in some places in India especially). No country (outside of Western European nations, which have an incredible threshold for economic self-destruction) is going to needlessly carry the ballast of forced restriction. Technological innovation is the ticket. Any negligible gains (reductions) in emissions are going to be more than negatively offset by the prodigious growth in these Asian giants (from the CSM):









"So much for Kyoto.

The official treaty to curb greenhouse-gas emissions hasn't gone into effect yet and already three countries are planning to build nearly 850 new coal-fired plants, which would pump up to five times as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as the Kyoto Protocol aims to reduce...

By 2012, the plants in three key countries - China, India, and the United States - are expected to emit as much as an extra 2.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide, according to a Monitor analysis of power-plant construction data. In contrast, Kyoto countries by that year are supposed to have cut their CO2 emissions by some 483 million tons...

China is the dominant player. The country is on track to add 562 coal-fired plants - nearly half the world total of plants expected to come online in the next eight years. India could add 213 such plants; the US, 72."

What is often overlooked in this debate is that the developed world is much cleaner than the developing world. Better to have them modernize now and then become more green via market-driven efficiency.

Finally, global warming could be a boon rather than a disaster. Russia east of the Urals has around 8 million people (if memory serves) scattered over an area larger than the US. Canada's metropolitan areas are concentrated along its southern border--few people live in the north. Greenland is three times the size of Texas yet it has a population (~50,000) half the size of Green Bay. All this land is too frigid to live in now. Warmer temperatures will potentially open all of it up.

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Jared Diamond in National Geographic (September 26 2005)

Jared Diamond has become the media’s new darling with his theory that humanity’s modern makeup is a product of certain groups being in the right place at the right time. The sentiment certainly seems plausible enough. But it is absurd to believe that 100,000 years of life in totally different environments has left human populations the same, and that the various evolutionary forces did not build upon one another as natural selection rewarded different traits for different circumstances.

In National Geographic’s September 2005 special issue on the continent of Africa, Diamond has a piece entitled The Shape of Africa. What follows is a short list of a few contentions with Diamond’s piece:

-Diamond mentions in passing that our ancestors, Homo sapiens, who emigrated from Africa some 100,000 years ago may have interbred with Neanderthals (Europe) and Homo erectus (Asia) but fails to consider that this may have had something to do with the subsequent developmental paths of various human groups, most notably the relative distinctiveness of “Caucasoids” (Europe), “Negroids” (Africa), and “Mongoloids” (Asia). The physical dominance of Africans today may conceivably shed light onto how Homo sapiens were able to overtake (and to some extent combine with) the other two species.

-The most trenchant rough spot in Diamond’s argument involves animal domestication. He writes "[Africa’s] own native animals—with the exception of guinea fowl and possibly donkeys and one breed of cattle—proved impossible to domesticate." Yet in the comparative blink of an eye the zebra, ostrich, and warthog have all been domesticated. Even hyenas have been essentially tamed in a single generation. Keep in mind that the equine species now geographically ubiquitous have been under domestication for around 50,000 years and yet within a single generation can become feral and as wild as gazelles. What a sight the first domestication must have been! The Mongolian horse, the Przewalski, now nearly extinct, appears to be the roughest equine out there (look at that beast). It is more than vacuous speculation to assume Africa potentially had the greatest animal resources in the world. Southern Africa is probably site of the world’s most fertile land today, although I am no agronomist and cannot say what advantages it may have had relative to other farming areas thousands of years ago. Diamond does concede Africa has abundant natural resources, especially in the temperate zones.

-Jocularly, Diamond continues: “History might have turned out differently if African armies, fed by barnyard-giraffe meat and backed by waves of cavalry mounted on huge rhinos, had swept into Europe to overrun its mutton-fed soldiers mounted on puny horses.” He is missing the elephant in the room, pardon the pun. Diamond leaves out Hannibal’s excursions against Rome, where elephants were used in battle and also crossed geographical nightmares like the Alps.

-He makes the observation that various ethnic groups in Africa coexist “far better than they do in many other parts of the globe.” Maybe, although the litany of conflicts, from Hutus against Tutsis to the prized meat of Pygmys (though not widely known, cannibalism is pervasive in Africa like nowhere else on earth), the continent is not immune to the ills that plaque us all.

Diamond's theory makes sense, and I'm only nitpicking potential problems that clearly do not sink the argument, but suggest that environment left a biological impression on the people it affected that is not instantly irreversible (assuming it would even be a wise thing to do). As far as that obdurate sujbect goes, cheap DNA sequencing will lead to an explosion of research and correlation analysis to determine what exactly does what. There are some three trillion base sequences in the human genome, and if my math is right that's around infinity billion possible combinations. Finding sequence similarities among the very upper echelon 175-IQers will allow for the understanding of what makes people smart (and in every other area of life--just pondering the possibilities is tiring). The idea of free-will may even be fatally challenged. Who knows?

Diamond ends optimistically about Africa’s future. I am more skeptical, given the continent’s low IQ scores. However, destitute situations are the ones with the most opportunity for improvement, and the industrialized world has made a substantial commitment—some $50 billion in fact. Diamond is spot on when he says development, not just aid, is needed. Insuring nutrition alone could significantly boost cognitive abilities, and would be relatively cheap to distribute. Rhodesia was brutal, but economically it worked. Removing the brutality and replacing it with humanitarianism might do wonders. Another obvious solution to help pull people up, at least in the oil rich west, would be for African countries to instigate an equal dividend based on petroleum revenues to all its residents once per year (or more frequently) like Alaska does here in the US.

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Gaza pullout was a mistake (September 12, 2005)

The simians couldn't even wait until the Israeli Army finished razing the settlements of Jews who had been there since Israel's victory in the Six Day War:













Jubilant Palestinians planted flags on the rubble of Jewish settlements and set fire to synagogues on Monday as Israeli troops pulled out of the Gaza Strip after 38 years of occupation.

"This is a day of happiness and joy that the Palestinian people have not witnessed for a century," President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters in Gaza City.


On the virulently antisemitic and antiwestern Al Jazeera network, a report claiming the pullout is a "first step", a Hamas enthusiast ebulliently describes how crucial the terrorist group was in kicking out the Jews:















"Many people are trying to evade the truth and downplay the efforts of the resistance in achieving this victory," said Hania, in reference to the Palestinian Authority.

"This is our historic moment in our fight with the enemy, and the first step in the road to building a state with Jerusalem as its capital.

"This is the beginning of the end of the settlement enterprise for Israel."

They would not even accept Oslo, which gave the PLA all it wanted short of physically pushing the Jews into the sea. Of course, compromise is not in the nature of middle eastern culture. Hopefully Netanyahu will oust Sharon in November 2006. It's bad enough that 90% of what the Palestinians live off of is foreign aid--we don't need Israelis pulling out of the Strip and the "West Bank" so that these areas can deteriorate further, especially to appease cold-blooded murders.




Finding out who our friends are in crunch time (Sept 07 2005)
The State Department released a list of countries who have showed varying levels of munificence on behalf of the US following Katrina:

Afghanistan: $100,000
Armenia: $100,000
Australia: $7.6 million
Azerbaijan: $500,000
Bahamas: $50,000
Bahrain: $5 million
Bangladesh: $1 million
Belgium: Medical/logistics teams to Red Cross
Canada: 2 helicopters, 32-person rescue team, Air Canada evacuation flights, medical supplies
China: $5.1 million cash and relief supplies
Djibouti: $50,000
Finland: 3 logisticians to Red Cross
France: Tents, tarps, Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), water treatment supplies
Gabon: $500,000
Georgia: $50,000
Germany: MREs and high speed pumps
Greece: Cruise ships, private offer of an International Committee of the Red Cross Web-based tracing system
India: $5 million
Israel: Tents, first aid kits, baby formula
Italy: Generators, water pumps/purifiers, tents, medical supplies
Japan: $1 million cash, generators, tents, blankets, bottled water
Kuwait: $400 million in oil, $100 million cash
Maldives: $25,000 cash
Mexico: Bedding, MREs, baby care items, personal hygiene kits
NATO: Coordinating European assistance offers
Norway: $1.54 million in relief supplies
Organization of American States: $25,000 cash
Qatar: $100 million cash
Republic of Korea: $30 million cash and in-kind donations
Saudi Arabia: $255 million from Aramco
Singapore: 3 helicopters
Sri Lanka: $25,000 cash
Taiwan: $2 million cash, medical supplies
Thailand: Large amounts of food
United Arab Emirates: $100 million cash
United Kingdom: MREs
U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: U.N. Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team and logistics support
U.N. World Health Organization: Public health officers and logisticians
Venezuela: Up to $1 million to Red Cross

Just days ago on Good Morning America President Bush implied that he did not expect a huge outpouring of assistance:


Bush said the United States had the resources to cover the massive rebuilding costs, and was not looking for foreign aid.
"I'm not expecting much from foreign nations, because I haven't asked for it. I'm expecting sympathy and maybe some will send cash," he said.
Well, as the aformentioned list shows, some nations opened their wallets anyway. Middle eastern nations with amiable ties to the US came delivered substantial amounts. Most notable is Kuwait, which alone has offered half of world aid to the the hurricane-devastated areas. That works out to an astounding $215 per Kuwaiti (Norway, in contrast, gave about 25 cents a person--and she was among the most generous in Europe!). Cynically it can be said that the turbans in charge are trying to mollify their big-ticket customers; nonetheless, that little country with a population smaller than that of St. Louis covered a day's worth of the first few most expensive ones, when FEMA was spending half a billion every 24 hours. The tiny country of Qatar gave just over $115 per person as well.

Most trenchant to me is how much impoverished nations offered to the big bad US and the corresponding paucity offered to America by her economically prosperous "allies". Bangladesh, a mostly Muslim country with 45% of its population below the poverty line gave as much as the world's third largest economy in terms of total GDP, Japan. Outside of Australia, which has been a phenomenally reliable ally of the US in the last five years and South Korea which came showed resilience even as that country turns away from her Pacific protector, the West gave but a pittance.

We give Israel $2.6 billion a year in aid, the most of any country on the planet (for good reason, as 6 million Jews potentially have some 400 million or so Arabs bearing down on them--and the former bring a greater absolute number of profound innovations than the latter). And they give us generators? Tents and tarps, Chirac? India gave a cold $5 million to a country whose citizens have twelve times as much as they do. Arkansas is just a state over--Walmart has plenty of camping supplies available. How about a little green? Sri Lanka, poor and convalescing from the tsunami, scraped together $25,000. The EU wants to compete with the US--it is no longer a legitimate friend outside of Great Britain, Poland, and to some extent Italy. We need to cut out losses and insure that

The billion-plus dollars pledged is pleasantly surprising, although it is dwarfed by the $10.5 billion Congress appropriated to relief efforts. It should't be blown out of proportion, as the US doles out $19 billion in foreign aid each year. An overwhelming majority of the sweat and resources it will take to recover (and rebuild?) New Orleans and the surrounding areas will be on the backs of Americans. It will be an arduous process, as most of the people remaining in the Big Easy are poor, black, addicted, and of low intelligence--an incredibly difficult amalgamation to deal with. Still, it's nice to know who your pals are in a time of trouble.

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Kansan attack on Bolton misleading, sophomoric

Here's an open letter to the KU newspaper's opinion page and my riposte to a typical strawman, misleading op/ed piece contained therein.

Miss Kimball,

A few things to consider that might temper your near-rabid excoriation of John Bolton and his appointment to the UN: The US provides a quarter of UN general funding (over four times that of France, Britain, or Italy, and eight times that of Canada or Spain) and a majority of the special agencies and programs of the body are picked up by the American taxpayer, yet many of the most despotic, illiberal members consistently vote against US interests, and a recent Rasmussen poll showed that 42% of Americans have a unfavorable view of the UN compared to only 37% who have a favorable opinion of the organization, while an opinion/dynamics poll showed that 40% of Americans believe the UN is anti-American while only 31% held that it was amiable to the US.

Perhaps you are aware of the UN's atrocious failings in enforcement/intervention: Failing to condemn slavery in Sudan, the disaster in Somalia (which led to the impotence in Rwanda), the Hutu massacres of Tutsis in Rwanda that Dallaire was forbidden by the UN to stop, the racist policies of Robert Mugabe and the subsequent deterioration of the already-troubled Zimbabwian economy, ignoring atrocious human rights abuses in North Korea, the slaughter of Muslims in the former Yugoslavia, the inability to keep the feeble Taliban government in Afghanistan from pillaging Buddhist relics, countless resolutions targeting Israel (not surprising given the slew of antisemitic sentiment in many of the member nations nor is Bolton's indignation of this fact to be surprising given that he is an Ashkenazi Jew himself), and the dereliction of duty in regards to enforcing any one of the seventeen UN resolutions Hussein thumbed his nose at (of course, Kofi Annan's own son was taking a cut so who is to be surprised?), just to name a few--certainly not an exhaustive list. Instead, countries consistently circumvent the UN to get things done (which Bolton alluded to on several occasions).

As for the most blatant prevarication concerning UN reform, allow me to supplement your opinion: A vast majority of world opinion (including, of course, the US) believes the UN is desperately in need of reform, in no small part a reflection of disgust at the seismic oil-for-food scandal that has implicated several of the pooh-bahs that work on the top ten floors of the organization's headquarters.

And of course, a majority of Senators did support Bolton, as evidenced by the 54 to 38 vote to end debate (ie filibuster, which historically has not been used for Presidential ambassador appointments) and bring Bolton to a vote (which he would have won, as those same 54 would have given him the thumbs-up). He did not get to the floor because 60 votes are required to bust the filibuster. Thus, he received a majority of the US Senate's confidence to be placed into the position deemed suitable by President Bush, who was elected by the majority of the American population.

The UN can serve humanitarian functions if adequately reformed with the addition of a permanent and independent oversight committee. But the UN Security Council rules make it impossible for any enforcement to take place, as alliances within it almost inevitably lead to stagnation among the members while the peoples or nations in question burn. Only when something so blatantly and universally wrong occurs, like Saddam's invasion of Kuwait can the UN take a united stand (lead, of course, by the US). Too much is at stake to rely on the blue helmets. I am no fan of Bush or the Iraq reconstruction effort, but the purblind, partisan attacks make you look silly, and your presumption that someone highly skeptical of the UN is largely scorned by the American public is demonstrably incorrect.



Robertson, Chavez: Prescience or insanity?

America's favorite televangelist and septuagenarian, Pat Robertson, has given a half-hearted apology for his insistence that the US do what Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez claims it is trying to do--knock him off. Probably not something Jesus would have said, but maybe Robertson could stretch it to a metaphorical throwing out of the money changers. But capitalism isn't something Chavez, a socialist/communist, has an affinity for.

The mainstream media of course loves the idea of a Cromwellian-style leader of the nebulous "religious right." Fine, it obviously was not appropriate for Robertson to insinuate assassination, in direct opposition to President Ford's executive order prohibiting such action by anyone in the US government, especially given the forum. That being said, Chavez is a troubling guy who may have grown from a nuisance to a real threat in the next decade or so. He is virulently anti-American, supports Castro and the FARC in Colombia, and has seen a decrease in Venezuelan oil production. Robertson alluded to plans of a Lutheran hanged in Germany in 1944 for a plot to assassinate Hitler. We're not there yet, but Chavez is not going away anytime soon.



Given the wrangling over the Iraqi Constitution and the putative future of that country hanging in the balance, here's my attempt at prophesy.

It's an imbroglio for sure. Reality is hitting the neocons square in the face. Populations of people are different, cultural memes are different, environments are different, and on. The Millesque policy of changing the world likely cannot work, least of all in the Middle East.

First off, Iraqis have an average estimated IQ of around 87 and a PPP of $2,100 (2004 est). There is no other functioning democracy with such depressing demographic stats.

Consanguineous marriage is an enormous problem. About half of Iraq men are married to their second cousin or closer. Many unions are between first cousins (25% genetic proximity) and some even between uncle and niece (50% genetic proximity). Developmental and cognitive problems aside, this fosters an atmosphere of nepotism that is antithetical to liberal democracy and a free market system. By keeping the extended family tightly knit, economic wealth and power stays within the family itself.

There is of course the macro factionalism as well (in addition to the clan-like infighting). The Shias are biding their time now, letting the US clash with Sunni extremists. When the US withdrawals, however, it is conceivable that the Shia will crack down hard on Sunnis and unite with Iran (which is Shia-dominated). Then again, the Shias may truly be pussies who let themselves be rapaciously dominated by Saddam's minority Baathists for two decades and will do nothing to stop history from repeating itself. The Kurds want their own state and will feel uncomfortable with either Sunni or Shia domination. If the US pulls out, the Kurds may try to unite with their brethren in southeastern Turkey. In any case, I don't think they'll have much loyalty to Iraq as such.

Then there's Islam, the veritable religion of peace. The clashes here with a representative liberal democracy are going to be impossible to overcome. A secular state is the only way to circumvent the problem, and as we've seen that will not come without heavy coercion.

It seems to me we'll either have a far-right theocratic regime that is thoroughly anti-western and especially antisemitic (likely), an outright civil war (possible), a relatively peaceful cutting up of Iraq into a Kurdistan north, Sunni triangle-area state, and an Iraq-Iran Shia state (better than a civil war), or a slow process of secularization aided by Western stabilizers (unlikely the US public will stand for it). If the Kurds form a Kurdistan, the US will likely have to help insure they have open oil routes to the Persian Gulf.

Turkey is the best the Islamic world has to offer, and it has been interrupted several times by military coups while bouncing back and forth between a mildly secular democracy and Islamic fundamentalism. It has other problems: the KGK, debt almost equal to annual GDP, and 10% unemployment, but comparably it is a success as you point out Jared. Keep in mind also that Turks are the descendants of the Ottomans--they didn't dominate the region for hundreds of years because they were morons. They are more closely related to south Europeans than the the arabic middle east, and have greater cognitive ability. If Iraq became like Turkey, it would be a tremendous success, but don't count on it.

All that being said, Bush has a proven track record of pulling off victories when by all logical calculation he should fall on his face. Maybe the deity will give him a hand and make everything work out. We can certainly hope.

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