Sunday, October 31, 2004
The Return of bin Laden
...and just in time for Halloween, too...
In all seriousness, a number of right-of-center / "neocon" bloggers are eating some crow right now, myself among them. I truly believed that Osama was dead, based largely on the slim-to-nil chance that he'd have kept silent since Tora Bora (when he was last heard from).
As Froggy explained in detail, any number of major events -- by Osama's reckoning -- have happened since then. Osama was never a warrior, never any sort of military leader; he was a financier and a cheerleader, always seeking the spotlight so as to rally his "troops". For him to have kept silent for so long was unbelievable.
Well, I guess it's time to believe the unbelievable. (We've had to do that vis-a-vis Osama before, haven't we?)
There's been a lot of speculation about the authenticity of the tape. Personally, I don't think it matters much. Unless the tape is an obvious forgery, people will react to it as if it were of Osama himself. This applies to Americans, Iraqis, terrorists here and there, and so on. So we might as well assume that it's real.
Having stipulated that, what can we expect next? And what can we learn from the tape?
Personally, I tend to agree with what Wretchard has said (follow that link for a transcript of the videotape). In short:
It is important to notice what he has stopped saying in this speech. He has stopped talking about the restoration of the Global Caliphate. There is no more mention of the return of Andalusia. There is no more anticipation that Islam will sweep the world. He is no longer boasting that Americans run at the slightest wounds; that they are more cowardly than the Russians. He is not talking about future operations to swathe the world in fire but dwelling on past glories. He is basically saying if you leave us alone we will leave you alone. Though it is couched in his customary orbicular phraseology he is basically asking for time out.The American answer to Osama's proposal will be given on Election Day.
UPDATE: Here's a more complete (and more authoritative) transcript of the videotape, at least those parts al-Jazeera was willing to show. You might want to check this out as well.
Donald Sensing sees the videotape in the same way, and puts it in the context of Osama's previous public statements. (A lengthy but worthwhile read, especially for fans of The Untouchables, like me.) He concludes:
Al Qaeda is down. It's time to kick, kick hard, and keep on kicking until there is nothing left to kick.Roger Simon agrees; he also isn't concerned with the authenticity of the tape, although for different reasons.
Finally, Froggy has his own take on the whole thing. It gets a bit flip in places, more so than is to my taste. Still, he makes the (rather sobering) point that Osama is sounding more and more like Michael Moore and Terry McAuliffe; this does not reflect well on the Democrats right now! And anyway, how can I object to a post that says:
Despite my fervent hopes, it seems that UBL is alive and kicking and probably registered to vote in Ohio as a Democrat.My hat's off to the Frogman. Now -- let's get back to work, shall we? (And, as part of that work, let's find the evil bastard, now that we know he's out there to find!)
Daniel in Brookline
Friday, October 29, 2004
"The New Soldier": a rare look
Here's something I didn't expect to find...
Check it out. As Mr. Preston points out, it's now a rare book; copies are going on Amazon and Ebay for upwards of $500.
Oh, and check out this comment (by Dr. Weevil) in response... priceless!
UPDATE: as another commenter points out, the text of the book is available online here and here. Take a look.
Daniel in Brookline
This was a big topic of conversation today at lunch, here where I work -- who's going to win the election?
My gut feeling is: Bush will win, and it won't be particularly close. We may see court battles in some states, but they won't determine the outcome of the election. (I might add that, at this point, I'd prefer a clear Kerry victory to another too-close election.)
So. Why do I think that? (It's worth noting that, of the staunch Kerry supporters I spoke to today, not a one thinks Bush has a chance. I have to wonder if they're confusing their predictions with their wishful thinking. Sure, I want Bush to win... but I think I have better arguments to back it up than "nobody I know will be voting for Bush".)
I don't tend to be as partisan as Hugh Hewitt (as I said earlier), so I don't agree with some of his conclusions; but some of his arguments do make sense to me.
For example, he's argued that the locations of the campaigns' last-minute electioneering are quite telling. If Kerry was doing quite well and knew it, he'd be doing his utmost to capture known Bush territory. If he thought he was doing badly, though, he'd have abandoned the battleground states, and he'd be focusing on his base, trying to keep them from defecting to the other side.
And that seems to be exactly what he's doing, and has been doing for the past month. Bush, on the other hand, is campaigning in battleground states and in Kerry-land. (Heck, he sent Dick Cheney to Hawaii today. For all of Hawaii's measly 4 electoral-college votes, and the time needed to get there (five hours or more each way by commercial jet, Los Angeles to Honolulu), he could have covered five other states in the time it'll take him to cover Hawaii. He wouldn't go there unless he was delusional... or unless he had good reason to believe he could afford it.
Kerry is fighting a losing battle, in other words, and Bush is fighting a winning one. That's not definitive, but it sure is convincing, at least to me.
What else? Well, both sides are saying that the other is getting increasingly desperate and shrill in its attacks. I'd certainly say that Kerry is sounding shrill to me -- he's still pushing the now-debunked story of 377 tons of missing explosives in the appropriately-named "al Qaqaa" site... and he's pinning the blame squarely on U.S. troops! (No, he didn't blame the 3rd Infantry Division by name... but it'll certainly be interpreted that way, by the troops and their families.)
Mr. Hewitt's comment was that Kerry is ending his political career as he began it, by trashing American troops and their reputations. I'm not sure why he's doing that, but it sure isn't going to win him sympathy or votes.
In short, I'm expecting Kerry to go down. I'll be disappointed if I'm wrong, but I've certainly lived with disappointment before. But I don't expect to be wrong.
Daniel in Brookline
Some Last-Minute Pre-Election Thoughts
Courtesy of Dean Esmay, a link to an essay by John Weidner.
By historical standards this has been a war with astonishingly few mistakes.
[but] the real issue is that things that are called "mistakes" are only mistakes in relation to a particular goal that they move us away from. If you assume we have a different goal, the same thing may not be a mistake.And the critics won't say what their goal is! Or what they think America's goal should be. That's sneaky.
I couldn't agree more. As The Professor says, read the whole thing.
UPDATE: One more link, with thanks to The Mudville Gazette, on the subject of Kerry's last-minute feelings about the War in Iraq. Had he been President, would we have gone to war or would we not have? Follow the link; Kerry will put all your doubts to rest.
The link is also notable for this unforgettable photo:
Yes, that's Saddam's throne... one of them. Yes, the painting behind it conveys his future intentions, or what he wanted his visitors to believe his future intentions would be; take your choice.
And yes, the throne is empty. Thank God.
UPDATE 2: Here's another relevant link, with the crucial question:
Who was it who really lied about stockpiles of WMD?Please do read it all.
Fisking Can Be Fun
No, I'm not going to give someone a well-deserved and long-overdue fisking here. (it's not my style, and I'm not particularly good at it.) But that doesn't mean I can't enjoy the results when someone else does it...
I read this a while back, not long after it was published. It made me scratch my head -- why should I care, particularly, who novelists are voting for? Novelists don't have any specific claim to wisdom. About all I can say for them is that, whatever thoughts they are thinking, moronic or otherwise, those thoughts are likely to be expressed well.
Or so I thought. Along comes Sofia, with the above-mentioned well-deserved and long-overdue fisking. Check it out!
(Courtesy of Roger L. Simon. His blog is always good reading; I really ought to read more of his published works one of these days.)
Thursday, October 28, 2004
Is Arafat Dying?
Well, I certainly hope so!!
Many people have written well and at length about his status (and what it means for the rest of us). Check out Meryl Yourish (who has been waiting for Arafat to die for quite some time); or Belmont Club; or even Lileks (who, as usual, says more and says it better in one paragraph than most of the rest of us do in ten pages. To wit: "All you need to know about Arafat was that he insisted on wearing a pistol when he addressed the UN General Assembly. And all you need to know about the UN, I suppose, is that they let him.")
There are numerous, conflicting reports on Arafat's status, as you'd expect; he won't relinquish control until he absolutely has to (i.e. upon his death). As with other tyrants in history, it's not about "his people"; it's all about him, always.
Personally, I think Yasser Arafat stands as a damn good counterexample to a famous epigram of Lincoln's. Arafat has managed to fool nearly all the people, nearly all the time, for the past thirty years. He fooled Israel into believing he could be tamed, just long enough to give him a foothold when the grounds were shifting under him. He's fooled various American presidents over the years, off and on, and cajoled them into giving him money and supplies; as always, the money that wasn't used to kill people went right into his pockets. He's fooled the Europeans, continuously, into believing he was a "rational politician" they could deal with; they continue to be dazzled by him today. And always, he has fooled the eternally gullible United Nations.
It's easy to discount this ancient fraud, this man who was never what he claimed to be and never did anything for those he claimed to be fighting for. Just remember that he's held the reins of power since 1968. He's outlasted eight U.S. Presidents; he's outlived every national ruler in the Mideast, bar none. He's a survivor, who never cared how many bodies he needed to climb, so long as he remained on top.
And never forget the blood on his hands. The many, many deaths caused by terrorist organizations he ran, or lent support to. Since his return to Ramallah in 1994, he is directly responsible for torturing and killing a great many of his own people.
(He's also robbed them blind. Meryl is on it.)
Do not discount this man, no matter how clownish his ugly face or his semi-illiterate public ravings. He has survived, by stealth and cunning and deceit and casual murder, and effectively kept an entire people -- his people! -- enslaved by a culture of hate. He has built a vast wasteland of political chaos, barely held together by his grip, making civil war all but inevitable when he dies.
Nonetheless, I'll raise a toast when he does. This man has been a waste of breathing air for far too long.
Daniel in Brookline
UPDATE: Looks like he's going to Paris. (Gee, just when his wife Suha left Paris to be with him in Ramallah... those two must live extremely complicated lives.)
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
What? Two Posts On The Same Day?
Please take a moment to read why a British historian believes Bush must be reelected, and Kerry defeated.
A few choice excerpts:
The great issue in the 2004 election it seems to me as an Englishman is, How seriously does the United States take its role as a world leader, and how far will it make sacrifices, and risk unpopularity, to discharge this duty with success and honor? In short, this is an election of the greatest significance, for Americans and all the rest of us. It will redefine what kind of a country the United States is, and how far the rest of the world can rely upon her to preserve the general safety and protect our civilization.
There is nothing glamorous about the Bush presidency and nothing exhilarating. It is all hard pounding, as Wellington said of Waterloo, adding: "Let us see who can pound the hardest.” Mastering terrorism fired by a religious fanaticism straight from the Dark Ages requires hard pounding of the dullest, most repetitious kind, in which spectacular victories are not to be looked for, and all we can expect are "blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” However, something persuades me that Bush with his grimness and doggedness, his lack of sparkle but his enviable concentration on the central issue is the president America needs at this difficult time.
There's a lot more. Please go read it all. (Hat tip: Blackfive.)
Daniel in Brookline
More Worthwhile Reading
Time to add another blog to my daily-reading list...
I'm not sure why I haven't frequented Froggy Ruminations before now, but I certainly will from now on. He's not always on-target, but when he is, he's good. These two particular posts caught my eye:
Osama bin Laden is dead, and why Bush hasn't said so
Kerry Fundamentally Misunderstands The Role of Commander-in-Chief
I've edited his titles a bit, in the hopes that you'll go and read them. Both make powerfully important points, and make them quite well.
Oh, and now's as good a time as any to mark a minor landmark: my first visitor comment. Thanks!
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Worth The Fighting For
On Citizen Smash's wonderful site, a commenter suggested, regarding America's current war in Iraq, that "If you truly think that the UN, NATO or each individual country in the world, doesn't have an inherit interest when Country A invades Country B then you are seriously out of touch with reality."
My reply read as follows:
I once had occasion to think, at great length, about an interesting dichotomy in the way people think.
Simply this: some people, when it comes down to the crunch, favor their own against others. They will defend their family against invaders, for example; or they will take up arms to defend their country against another.
Some people, on the other hand, believe staunchly that all people are equal; that all nations are equal; and thus cannot distinguish between the invader and the invaded, between the murderer and the murdered.
This can take the form of simple cluelessness, or a refusal to see "the big picture". As I read recently in a great new blog, such people might argue that "Pushing an old lady into the path of a bus to kill her, and pushing an old lady out of the way of the bus to save her life, are equally wrong because you shouldn’t push old ladies."
Or sometimes it can take the form of a refusal to understand that, when one's survival is at stake, some niceties must be sacrificed. If your only way to repel a midnight invader is to let loose with a shotgun, you don't stop to ask your neighbors if they mind loud noises late at night. You do what has to be done, and deal with the consequences of your actions later.
Does "each individual country in the world" have an "inherent interest" when "Country A invades Country B"? Of course; I haven't heard anyone seriously argue otherwise.
But we aren't "Country A", and we aren't every country in the world; we're the one that lost 3,000 citizens and residents on a single, terrible morning, as the unmistakable sign of an undeclared war. Our inherent interest is not to secure oil revenues, or to protect sales of nuclear centrifuges to rogue regimes; our interest is to make sure that 9/11 damn well doesn't happen again.
I might add: our interest, narrowly defined, is to make sure that 9/11 doesn't happen again HERE. We have chosen to pursue a policy that makes it less likely in the rest of the world, too.
Does that make me sound like an American, who places American interests above the interests of other countries? Damn straight. And that tells you, with respect to the dichotomy mentioned above, where I stand.
Daniel in Brookline
Thursday, October 07, 2004
Non-PC in Latte Land is one of those; The Smallest Minority is another. And The Shape Of Days is fun and thought-provoking, in a mixture that continues to surprise me.
Finally, if you haven't read Bill Whittle's latest yet (Part I and Part II), go ahead -- it'll take some time, but it's definitely worth your while. (As Fred Allen is reputed to have said: he writes so well, he makes me want to stick my quill back in my goose.)
How Crazy Is This?
Perhaps not. First there was this -- Kerry's not supposed to bring anything into his debate with Bush, yet he does, and his campaign laughs it off. (Okay, it's a technical rule violation -- I'd be more perturbed about him bringing in, say, Cliff Notes, which Bush could certainly have used if the rules allowed it. But I am perturbed about Kerry's campaign in cover-deny-and-obfuscate mode on this.)
And now there's this -- DNC disregards rules within hours of debate.
Keep in mind -- this is the small stuff. This is like a child cheating during a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. If they're willing to play fast and loose with these rules, which big issues don't we know about yet?
I have to say, I didn't like Hugh Hewitt's semi-paranoid thesis for his new book: "If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat" -- I don't want to believe that Democrats in 2004 will do anything to win this election. But I'm beginning to wonder.
Monday, October 04, 2004
Flags & Ribbons
Even here in the Boston area (acknowledged by most to be a Democratic stronghold), I see plenty of cars and trucks with American flags, yellow-ribbon emblems in support of the troops, 9/11 "We Will Never Forget" decals, and so on.
But here's the thing -- with one technical exception, I have not yet seen any such decorations on a vehicle that also sported a "Kerry-Edwards" bumper sticker. (The exception is the Kerry bumper-sticker that itself incorporates a flag; I've seen those, certainly. But cars that have those don't have additional flag emblems either.)
Coincidence? Possibly, but I doubt it. After 9/11, I heard lots of sentiment (among my left-of-center friends, with whom I started to disagree more and more from that point on) about the American flag. People were reluctant to display it, for fear of being mistaken for, as they put it, those loud-mouthed "my country right or wrong" rednecks. (Some even resented their own self-censorship, saying things like "how dare those yahoos hijack the American flag! -- It's my flag too".
To which I can only respond: it certainly is your flag too... so show it, and make it mean what it means to you! Fly the Stars & Stripes from your house, for example, but also show a big Kerry/Edwards yard sign. Show the flag and a "NO to War in Iraq" bumper-sticker, side by side.
But strangely, I don't see anyone doing this. It's a pity -- the flag really does represent all Americans, and all Americans have a right to be proud of it and of what it represents. (And if some people are disappointed or ashamed of what the Bush Administration has done, so what? Presumably the flag had meaning for them before the 2000 Presidential election, didn't it?)
Of course, it's possible that some people have always harbored mild distaste for the flag, and are willing to put up with it now only when it's surgically attached to Kerry's name. I can certainly imagine people feeling that way... but I'm reluctant to ascribe such feelings to a broad group of people. Surely some Democrats will vote for Kerry with passion and fervor, and wave the flag with equal passion. Won't they?
Judging by the decorations of my fellow commuters, it doesn't seem so.
Friday, October 01, 2004
No, I Didn't Watch The Debate
It's all anyone can talk about here at work today, though. I'm taken by how *many* of my co-workers are convinced that John Kerry won the debate easily. It's interesting; the reports I've been reading online are mixed.
The comment that made the most sense to me, however, was Dean Esmay's -- if you want to know who won the debate, wait a few days. Or perhaps a few weeks. Sometimes the "killer quote" isn't apparent until long after; the immediate reaction has little to no bearing on the long-term effect.
So let's wait and see.
(The other comment that made sense to me -- read on VodkaPundit, among other places -- was that Bush is ahead in the polls right now. He merely needed to hold his own in the debate, which I believe he did. Kerry, on the other hand, needed to knock it out of the park, which he didn't do. We'll see what the polls say next week.)
Oh, and Stephen Green got off my favorite zinger so far: '7:45pm. Here's what we have so far. Kerry is an impressive attack machine. Bush impressively refuses to budge. If I had to guess, the question most viewers will ask is, "In time of war, do I want the debate team captain, or the guy he can't move?"'
My personal take, based on what I heard and what I've read? Kerry befuddles me. I find myself asking, again and again, how someone of his background and experience can believe some of the things he claims to believe. We're not multilateral enough for him in Iraq, yet we're too multilateral for him in North Korea? We spent $200 billion on an "unnecessary" war, that could have been spent instead on health care? (To my way of thinking, health-care is not the top priority for a nation under attack.)
The alternative, of course, is that perhaps Kerry doesn't believe any of it; maybe he's just saying what he thinks will get him elected. Many people are arguing just that, of course. (Hell, many people are saying that about Bush too.)
Personally, I prefer to give them both the benefit of the doubt. But I find it a lot easier to do with Bush than with Kerry.