Thursday, August 26, 2004


A little break from politics is in order for this post. This blogger has a five month old daughter. She is beautiful, and vibrant. She wakes in the morning, happy to see her daddy. She can coo in a way that earns her a warm spot in her parents' morning bed, where the smell of freshly brewed coffee wafts about her little nose. She nestles in between the pillow, playing with the folds of the sheets, pausing when she hears the dawn's breeze tingle the wind chimes. She loves life, and doesn't know it.

Raising a small child in this era requires walking a tightrope. One can become morose observing history's pangs, knocking on the door, demanding entry. And yet great joy comes from this little brown-eyed girl who knows how to roll over and suck her toes. A parent needs to believe there is a future---one that holds promise and a place for a daughter. Is that a delusion? Is it mere hope without substance? How are despair with hope balanced?

Soon, her first tooth will emerge. Her first dollop of rice meal will make her eyes grow big and amazed. Stay safe, little daughter. Daddy will hold back the darkness as best he can.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The Last Maginot Line

Australia is acquiring new cruise missiles: Australia says to acquire new "most lethal" cruise missiles
SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia announced plans to acquire long-range cruise missiles that will give its defence force the “most lethal capacity” for air combat in the region.

Defence Minister Robert Hill said Thursday the air-to-surface missiles would have the capacity to destroy air and sea targets up to 400 kilometres (250 miles) away and would enter into service between 2007 and 2009.

The new missiles’ range would be up to four times the range of any missile now available to the air force, The Australian newspaper reported.

The plan comes amid heightened fears about North Korea’s nuclear missile programme and mixed relations with neighbouring Indonesia, widely perceived in Australia as the country’s biggest security threat.

Hill said Australia would pay 350 million to 450 million dollars (248-317 million US) for the missiles, to be used on F/A-18 Hornet fighters and AP-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft.

...“Combined with the new air-to-air missiles and upgraded precision-guided bombs, Australia’s fighter jets will be the region’s most lethal capacity for air combat and strike operations,” he said.
All fine and well. The irony is that the greatest threat to life and liberty in democratic Australia will not be dispensed on the tip of an enhanced No-dong or RX-250 missile. It will be in a suitcase or a small truck. Or it might come in a small glass vile, or perhaps a small boat. While threats from other sovereign nations continue to emerge, warfare of the twenty-first century will not be of the Clauswitzian variety. Modern war will be unfamiliar; we might find ourselves watching the skies for attack planes, when we should be wearing gloves when we open our mail.

The current issue of Policy Review has an essay by Walter Laqueur, who is co-chair of the International Research Council at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Mr. Laqueur's analysis studies the motivations of terrorists---The Terrorism to Come:
Over the past centuries rules and laws of war have developed, and even earlier on there were certain rules that were by and large adhered to.

...Terrorism does not accept laws and rules, whereas governments are bound by them; this, in briefest outline, is asymmetric warfare. If governments were to behave in a similar way, not feeling bound by existing rules and laws such as those against the killing of prisoners, this would be bitterly denounced. When the late Syrian President Hafez Assad faced an insurgency (and an attempted assassination) on the part of the Muslim Brotherhood in the city of Hama in 1980, his soldiers massacred some 20,000 inhabitants. This put an end to all ideas of terrorism and guerrilla warfare.

...The problem will not arise if the terrorist group is small and not very dangerous....[if] the very survival of a society is at stake, it is most unlikely that governments will be impeded in their defense by laws and norms belonging to a bygone (and more humane) age.

...Terrorists want total war — not in the sense that they will (or could) mobilize unlimited resources; in this respect their possibilities are limited. But they want their attacks to be unfettered by laws, norms, regulations, and conventions. In the terrorist conception of warfare there is no room for the Red Cross.
We cling to our principles, because that is who we are. But the terrible, relentless and catastrophic onslaught of a religious cult bent on the destruction of the West will ultimately debase the canons upon which we all rely. What is at stake is our very soul as a culture; we are challenged by the darkest impulses of humanity, where the rules are cast aside.

We should be mindful that the waves emanating from 9/11 were initiated with box cutters, not fancy military hardware. Expensive missile systems are a contemporary Maginot Line, easily routed and dismissed. We prepare for traditional threats while the emerging threats of our time elude cognitive debate. Free people should recognize their conundrum: to apply laws and rules to the enemies of civilization opens the door to our own demise, as those laws are leveraged against our system. Yet, to put aside our canons in order to effectively fight the Beast will betray who we are.

No attack from China, Korea or Indonesia carries the seeds of our own self-destruction; box cutters are all that is needed to shake the foundation of our civilization.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

The Belmont Club makes the case that the Democratic Party is sailing under a false flag:

John Kerry's troubles have largely been forced on him by the Democratic Party platform. He has been given the unenviable task of presenting it as the War Party when in fact it is not, nor does it want to be. The Democrats could have chosen to become a real anti-war party, in which case it would have nominated Howard Dean or it could have elected to become a genuine war party and chosen Joseph Lieberman. Instead it chose to become the worst of all combinations, an anti-war party masquerading as the war party.

...If any proof were needed that the Sixties were dead, the subterfuge of the Democratic Party would be Exhibit A. Instead of running under their own colors, or barring that, changing them, they have decided to sail beneath a false flag, as if under a cloud of shame. That in itself is tacit admission that they can no longer walk in their own guise; and what is worse that they cannot look themselves in the face, nor go into battle daring to win nor willing to lose in their own name, as is the mark of men.
It is true that the Democratic Party has lost its political and moral bearings. However, a broader argument can be made about the American political system as a whole. This country has a president who wages war without asking citizens to sacrifice, save those in the military. Americans are asked to simply stay calm yet alert and continue shopping and driving gas gormandizing vehicles that are on average, the largest in history. We are entitled to tax cuts while we play musical military bases to fill the vacuums created on a changing international chess board. Either the Bush Administration or our entire socioeconomic system disallows total war---the complete mobilization of society, not just its military---to achieve victory.

If the Sixties are dead, then surely the Eighties are not far behind in the funerary procession. The Reagan years ensconced in the American psyche the notion that we can be strong on defense while frolicking on the beach at home. In Reagan’s time, this was a reasonable expectation with the Cold War as a backdrop. As a society, we were partially mobilized to fight the Soviets; our military was largely transparent. It was the era of parity with our enemy, brought about by mutual nuclear blackmail---Pax Nuclea. And so the 1980s supposition that America can be militarized without being mobilized has added to our false sense of security in dealing with today’s dark threats.

By this measure, the Republicans also sail beneath a false flag. Their tacit admission is that we are in the fight of our lives against our mortal nemesis; but we must play patsy to our puppets in Iraq and evade golden mosques brimming with the enemies of our very soul. Republicans are comfortable with defense, but much less comfortable with offense and the waging of a crusade—yes, a crusade---of democratic ideals against a dark, dark foe. The Republican soul looks inward and feels like a verdant farm protected by good fences. The Democratic soul used to feel like a lighthouse---a beacon cutting through the fog, looking outward by pushing the envelope of ideals---but that flame has been snuffed out by 30-plus years of radical leftist realignment.

This war, to date, is Sitzkrieg. The real battle has yet to be joined. Both parties of our political system equally tow the line that we can go on living exactly as we are accustomed to. And yet the briefest study of past wars always reveals huge sociopolitical and cultural transformations that equally overtake opposing sides regardless of who the victor and vanquished are. We have yet to admit that we are on the threshold to an unknown destiny. We live as though it were the 20th Century, because we still can, not because it is.

Turning and turning
Within the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer
Things fall apart
The center cannot hold
And a blood dimmed tide
Is loosed upon the world

Nothing is sacred
The ceremony sinks
Innocence is drowned
In anarchy
The best lack conviction
Given some time to think
And the worst are full of passion
Without mercy

Surely some revelation is at hand
Surely it's the second coming
And the wrath has finally taken form
For what is this rough beast
Its hour come at last
Slouching towards Bethlehem to be born
Slouching towards Bethlehem to be born

---Joni Mitchell and W. B. Yeats