Saturday, October 20, 2001

Yankees Suck

Mark Starr of Newsweek posted this last week, but I think it's no less relevant today. In the aftermath of September 11, there was an outpouring of support for New York and New Yorkers in general, extending so far as to see Boston Red Sox fans serenade their arch-rivals with "New York, New York" at a ballgame in late September. Well, it's time to set the record straight, and Starr does a good job of that. Speaking as a loyal Boston fan, I don't love New York, and I never will. I don't like the town, I don't particularly like the people, and I sure as hell don't like the Yankees. Bad enough Oakland rolled over for New York in the division series, Seattle now needs to pull themselves together and end this abysmal dynasty. New Yorkers don't need pity, nor false tears--my sympathies went out to the victims of the attacks, and still do, and I confess I was impressed by how New Yorkers rallied around each other at such a difficult time. But now it's time to try and get back to normal, and in Boston there's nothing more normal than that hallowed chant: Yankees suck!

Go Seattle.
Is Israel the Issue?

Uri Avnery, an Israeli peace activist, posits the key to American success against terrorism is for us to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, therefore eliminating the hatred felt for the US in much of the Muslim world. This strikes me as a questionable argument at best. First, the Palestinians got a great peace offer a year ago, and Arafat turned it down and triggered the second Initifada. The Palestinians don't appear willing to accept anything less than the destruction of Israel, so further negotiation seems a futile measure. Too, do we really want to demonstrate to the world we'll address your causes if you only kill enough Americans? Until we've uprooted and devastated the al Qaeda network, and preferably as many other terrorist networks we can find, perhaps we can turn our attention to helping to resolve the Palestinian issue. But right now, when bin Laden is still justifying his murders with that issue, and the Palestinian street is cheering him on, the US should not be rewarding his terror with any hint of movement in his direction.
Using Bin Laden

An editorial in today's Boston Globe discusses coalition building, and focuses on what the US should and should not do in assembling and maintaining our coalition against terrorism. They rightly point out that the US does not really need western allies in this fight, because the west generally recognizes our right to defend ourselves. What we need are some strong Muslim allies, something we don't really have now, and may never get. As part of that pursuit, however, they recommend we might do well to keep bin Laden alive as we wipe out his network. It's a very good idea, as by keeping bin Laden alive, we have a powerful symbol of terrorism to focus the coalition on, so we can continue to eliminate al Qaeda wherever we find them.

Friday, October 19, 2001

Hyphen-Americans

I had hoped that the attacks of September 11 would have silenced the proponents of balkanization here in the United States, but it appears we just can't help ourselves. Jay Nordlinger of National Review Online notes a complaint by the "National Italian American Foundation" about criticism he made of the Italian government. Nordlinger properly asks, why should any American care if someone is critical of the government of a country he or she is linked to only through ancestry? First of all, we all certainly feel free, as we should, to criticize our own government. There should be nothing wrong with criticizing others, as long as they are constructive criticisms. But why do some Americans seem to feel they're more Italian/Arab/German/etc. than they are American? Every adult in this country has made the decision to either come here or stay here; therefore, we're Americans. If you want to be Italian/German/Arab/etc., then buy yourself a plane ticket and go for it. For the rest of us, let's continue to pull together as Americans and throw the hyphens in the trash.
National Identification Redux

Virginia Postrel links to an old article about national identification cards. Although this piece discusses national ID cards in the context of illegal immigration, the issues are just as relevant in today's discussions regarding protecting the country from terrorists. The bottom line is simple: all a national ID card will do is provide jobs for people willing to forge them, and create a false sense of security for the rest of us. Totalitarian states ask people for their papers--let's keep America free of such foolishness.
Why We Fight

Mickey Kaus posts an excellent counter to the terrible piece by Mark Danner in Wednesday's New York Times. Danner's point, if I understand him correctly, is that our position in the current war is predicated on our need for oil, and that bin Laden and his acolytes have a game plan to accomplish their clear objective of driving us out of the Gulf. This is a flimsy reed on which to build an argument, as bin Laden's brand of nihilism is unlikely to be appeased with a simple withdrawal of American forces from the Gulf. And Kaus clearly and correctly points out that out rationale for this war goes well beyond the tired old saw regarding oil (although oil is a factor). We are at war with an enemy who has already killed 5,000 of us, and he has promised to kill many more. We are in a war for national survival; granted, it is almost inconceivable bin Laden could succeed in wiping us out, but he will certainly not let this fact keep him from trying. The first duty of any government is to keep its citizens safe, and as long as bin Laden and his ilk remain alive, American citizens are at risk. This is why we're fighting, and why this war will not end until we have destroyed those who wish to destroy us. No declaration of victory on our part will suffice--only when the terrorists are all dead or fleeing can we truly consider our war a success.
Air Power and War

Robert A. Pape discusses the limitations of air power in today's Washington Post. He correctly points out that air power alone cannot win this war, but it can make our task more difficult. As we continue to ramp up our air campaign, more and more Afghans take to the hills, increasing an already desperate refugee situation for which America will be blamed on the Muslim street. But the Taliban needs only to go to ground to survive, because until we have a credible ground force ready to seize control of the country, our air power is only a nuisance to them. T. R. Fehrenbach said it best in his excellent history of the Korean War, This Kind of War; "Americans in 1950 rediscovered something that since Hiroshima they had forgotten: you may fly over a land forever, you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it, and wipe it clean of life - but if you desire to defend it, protect it, and keep it fit for civilization, you must do this on the ground the way the Romans did, by putting your young men into the mud." If we're to win our war on terrorism, it's time to start putting our young men into the mud.
Howard Kurtz takes on the question of whether or not the House leadership are wimps today. I stand with the New York Post and Washington Times on this--they're wimps, and unworthy of representing us. While almost all Americans continue to go about their daily business despite the anthrax threat, (although that threat is far lower than its media coverage would indicate), the people who are supposed to be leading us are running scared. Although my opinion of Tom Dachle isn't particularly high, kudos to him and the Senate for sticking around despite a real threat.
Despite claims to the contrary, the deployment of Special Forces to Afghanistan does not represent a turning point in the war, as claimed in today's Washington Post. Special Forces have almost certainly been on the ground since the war started, helping to designate targets and perhaps aiding Northern Alliance troops with limited training. Only when American forces directly engage Taliban troops on the ground will there be a turning point in this war, and I believe that action will be necessary to topple the Taliban regime and set the conditions for the next step in the war.
A good op-ed in today's New York Times discussing the role of women in Afghanistan. The authors correctly point out that women werre being persecuted in Afghanistan before the Taliban took power, and that many of the groups fighting for power in Afghanistan use the oppression of women to assist their own seizure of power. They call for the rights of women to be raised as a key issue in whatever government is installed after the Taliban. This seems to be the best way to ensure the new government of Afghanistan has a good chance of success, as countries that allow equal rights for women do far better economically than those that do not. And economic success is generally key to the success of any government, as well as the best way to dissuade people from becoming terrorists. Yes, I know that most of the hijackers from September 11 were from affluent families, but the poverty and squalor of Afghanistan provide them with the cover they need to perform such operations. The better off the average Muslim is economically, the less likely he or she will have any desire to cheer on terrorists, or to aid them in their warped causes.
Great editorial today by Thomas Friedman, noting his being turned back by airport security because he had a pair of tweezers in his carryon luggage. This is the perfect illustration of how ridiculous most of the new FAA rules regarding airplane security are, keeping plastic knives and nail clippers off planes while ignoring far more dangerous questions like suicide bombers willing to place a bomb in their checked baggage. Friedman also rightly takes the House to task for their cowardly flight from Washington when the Senate had an anthrax scare. Remember what your representative did in next year's elections.
Derrick Z. Jackson demonstrates his racial views again in today's Boston Globe with an article criticizing state educators for celebrating improvements in test scores. According to Jackson, celebrating the improvements now is just a "white frat party," because the results are not in for minorities. Now it's certainly true that educators all over the country need to find ways to close the gaps in test scores between whites and minorities, but I find it fascinating that Jackson considers any celebration of improvements to be racist if we're not certain minorities have gained as well. Whatever the racial breakdown tells us about test scores, it will be incredibly valuable data to help continue the improvements into the future. If all the improvements are among white students, or, as is more likely, focused in certain regions, then studying those students or areas should provide the information needed to improve all test scores. This is not an uncommon complaint for Mr. Jackson, however, who is convinced we're still living in the post-Reconstruction South circa 1880. There can be no news so good Jackson can't find a racist aspect to them. Of course, most of the racism he uncovers is, in fact, his own.