Posts tagged ‘Israel’

Is Israel Really The Worst Country On Earth?

The American Studies Association has voted to initiate an academic boycott of Israel ostensibly to protest its denial of civil rights to Palestinians in the occupied territories.   Forgetting for a moment Israel's unique security concerns (what would the US do if Mexico routinely lobbed rockets and artillery shells into US border towns), the implication is that the Palestinians in Israels have it worse than any other group in the world, since this is the first and only such boycott the ASA has ever entered into.  Is it really worse to be a Palestinian in Israel than, say, a woman anywhere in the Arab world** or about anyone in North Korea?  Do academics in Cuba have more ability to write honestly than they do in Israel?  I doubt it.

The only statement the ASA makes on the subject that I can find is in their FAQ on the boycott

7) Does the boycott resolution unfairly single out Israel? After all there are many unjust states in the world.

The boycott resolution responds to a request from the Palestinian people, including Palestinian academics and students, to act in solidarity. Because the U.S. contributes materially to the Israeli occupation, through significant financial and military aid - and, as such, is an important ally of the Israeli state - and because the occupation daily confiscates Palestinian land and devastates Palestinian lives, it is urgent to act now.

A couple of thoughts.  First, I am not sure why US material aid is relevant to choosing a boycott target.  I suppose the implication is that this boycott is aimed more at the US than at Israel itself.  But the question still stands as to why countries like Saudi Arabia, which receives a lot of US material aid as well, get a pass.  Second, the fact that Palestinian academics can seek international help tends to disprove that their situation is really the worst in the world.  I don't think the fact that the ASA is not hearing cries for help from liberal-minded academics in North Korea means that there is less of a problem in North Korea.  It means there is more of a problem.

I am not a student of anti-semitism, so I can't comment on how much it may explain this decision.  However, I think it is perfectly possible to explain the ASA's actions without resorting to anti-semitism as an explanation.  As background, remember that it is important for their social standing and prestige for liberal academics to take public positions to help the downtrodden in other countries.  This is fine -- not a bad incentive system to feel social pressure to speak out against injustice.  But the problem is that most sources of injustice are all either a) Leftish regimes the Left hesitates to criticize for ideological reasons or b) Islamic countries that the left hesitates to criticize because they have invested so much in calling conservatives Islamophobic.

So these leftish academics have a need to criticize, but feel constrained to only strongly criticizing center-right or right regimes.  The problem is that most of these are gone.  Allende, the Shah, Franco, South Africa -- all gone or changed.  All that's left is Israel (which is odd because it is actually fairly socialist but for some reason never treated as such by the Left).  So if we consider the universe of appropriate targets -- countries with civil rights and minority rights issues that are not leftish or socialist governments and not Islamic, then the ASA has been perfectly consistent, targeting every single country in that universe.

** To this day I am amazed how little heat the gender apartheid in the Arab world generates in the West in comparison to race apartheid in South Africa.  I am not an expert on either, but from what I have read I believe it is a true statement to say that blacks in apartheid South Africa had more freedom than women have today in Saudi Arabia.  Thoughts?

Update:  I twice emailed the ASA for a list of other countries or groups they have boycotted and twice got a blurb justifying why Israel was selected but with no direct answer to my question.  I guess I will take that as confirmation this is the first and only country they have ever targeted.  They did want to emphasize that the reason Israel was selected (I presume vs. other countries but they did not word it thus) had a lot to do with he fact that Israel was the number one recipient of US aid money (mostly military) and that it was this American connection given they represent American studies professors that made the difference.  Why Pakistan or Afghanistan, who treat their women far worse than Israel treats Palestinians, and which receive a lot of US aid, were not selected or considered or mentioned is not explained.  Basically, I would explain it thus:  "all the cool kids are doing it, and we determined that to remain among the cool kids we needed to do it too".  This is a prestige and signalling exercise, and it makes a lot more sense in that context, because then one can ask about the preferences of those to whom they are signalling, rather than try to figure out why Israel is somehow the worst human rights offender in the world.

By the way, by the ASA logic, it should be perfectly reasonable, even necessary, for European academic institutions to boycott US academic institutions because the US government gives aid to such a bad country like Israel.  This seems like it would be unfair to US academics who may even disagree with US policy, but no more unfair than to Israeli academics who are being punished for their government's policies.   I wonder how US academics would feel about being boycotted from European events and scholarship over US government policy?

A Defense of Israel

I can't call myself a defender of Israel per se because they have done a number of illiberal things in their country that tick me off.  However, I can say that for all the problems they may have, their response to a neighboring country dropping rockets on its citizens is FAR more restrained than would be the response of, say, the US.  If Mexico were dropping rockets into El Paso, Mexico would be a smoking hole in the ground.   We still maintain a stricter economic embargo on Cuba, which has never done a thing to us, than Israel does on Gaza.

I pay attention to the Amherst College community since my son enrolled there.  I thought this was a pretty powerful article by an Amherst student who has taken a leave of absence to join the IDF.  Given my understanding of how Eastern liberal arts faculty think about Israel and Palestine, one should think of this as a voice in the wilderness.

There Seems To Be A Predictable Lifecycle Here

Like the rise and fall of empires, or the tendency of revolutions to overshoot into excess, there are recognizable patterns to history.  Along these lines, there seems to be a pattern emerging in 60's and 70's era advocacy groups.  First, Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore turned on the organization he founded, criticizing it for ignoring science and being anti-human.  Now Human Rights Watch founder Robert Bernstein is criticizing the organization he founded:

I must do something that I never anticipated: I must publicly join the group's critics"¦.

When I stepped aside in 1998, Human Rights Watch was active in 70 countries, most of them closed societies. Now the organization, with increasing frequency, casts aside its important distinction between open and closed societies.

Nowhere is this more evident than in its work in the Middle East. The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records. Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region"¦.

Meanwhile, the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350 million people, and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent. The plight of their citizens who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored as Human Rights Watch's Middle East division prepares report after report on Israel.

Something I missed the other day, was this indicator of how far from its principles HRW has drifted:

A delegation from Human Rights Watch was recently in Saudi Arabia. To investigate the mistreatment of women under Saudi Law? To campaign for the rights of homosexuals, subject to the death penalty in Saudi Arabia? To protest the lack of religious freedom in the Saudi Kingdom? To issue a report on Saudi political prisoners?

No, no, no, and no. The delegation arrived to raise money from wealthy Saudis by highlighting HRW's demonization of Israel. An HRW spokesperson, Sarah Leah Whitson, highlighted HRW's battles with "pro-Israel pressure groups in the US, the European Union and the United Nations." (Was Ms. Whitson required to wear a burkha, or are exceptions made for visiting anti-Israel "human rights" activists"? Driving a car, no doubt, was out of the question.)

This reminds me of when the Innocence Project added Janet Reno to its board (though I still think they do good work).

Weird -- Someone Should Develop A Theory on This

Strangely enough, it turns out that increased prices seem to induce market participants to seek out and invest in new sources of supply.   Someone should develop a theory around this.

From a good article in today's New York Times: 2009 is turning out to be a bumper year for new oil discoveries; new oil discoveries always occur, but this year has been unusually fruitful. This quote from the article illustrates the important dynamic intertemporal incentives that price signals provide:

These discoveries, spanning five continents, are the result of hefty investments that began earlier in the decade when oil prices rose, and of new technologies that allow explorers to drill at greater depths and break tougher rocks.

"That's the wonderful thing about price signals in a free market "” it puts people in a better position to take more exploration risk," said James T. Hackett, chairman and chief executive of Anadarko Petroleum.

More than 200 discoveries have been reported so far this year in dozens of countries, including northern Iraq's Kurdish region, Australia, Israel, Iran, Brazil, Norway, Ghana and Russia. They have been made by international giants, like Exxon Mobil, but also by industry minnows, like Tullow Oil.

Does Anyone Have A Feeling For Numbers Anymore?

The Boston Globe, in its usual blundering math-challenged media way, blithely published an editorial the other day that included this hilarious "fact"

Since June, Israel has limited its exports to Gaza to nine basic
materials. Out of 9,000 commodities (including foodstuffs) that were
entering Gaza before the siege began two years ago, only 20 commodities
have been permitted entry since. Although Gaza daily requires 680,000
tons of flour to feed its population, Israel had cut this to 90 tons
per day by November 2007, a reduction of 99 percent. Not surprisingly,
there has been a sharp increase in the prices of foodstuffs.

OK, the Gaza has over a million residents, but do these 1.4 million people really require 1.36 million pounds of flour a day??  I find that hard to believe, and amazing that no editor even asked the question, much less checked.

Update:  Did a search.  Found this.  The Palestinian ministry puts consumption around 350 tons per day.  That makes a bit more sense.  Congratulations on missing the number by over 3 orders of magnitude.  You can bet they are doing a lot of quality fact-checking on those global warming estimates too.

Update 2: I agree with the commenter that the number they should have used was something like 680,000 pounds rather than tons.  I would have written it off as a typo, transposing tons for pounds, but the math was based on it being tons, not pounds, so it is not just a typo issue.

The UN Joke Just Continues

The UN remains a caricature of itself.  I hadn't known this, but am not surprised:

In the 17 months since [the UN Human Rights Council's] inception, the body has passed 13 condemnations, 12 of them against Israel.

LOL.  I'm not a huge Israel fan (its socialist to a stupid degree and maintains what are effectively two-tiers of individual rights, for its Jewish and Arab residents) but this is absurd.  Apparently the Council has the same problems as the human rights commission it replaced:

The problems begin with the council's composition. Only 25 of its 47
members are classified as "free democracies," according to Freedom
House's ranking of civil liberties. Nine are classified as "not free."
Four -- China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia -- are ranked as the
"worst of the worst." These nations are responsible for repeated
violations of the U.N.'s own Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet
it is they who dominate the council, leading a powerful bloc of
predominantly Arab and African nations that consistently vote as a unit.

Its predecessor human rights commission played a central role in my guide to "how to spot a dictatorship."

Update: More here

The Perfect Political Bludgeon

I am often asked, "why, if the threat of global warming is really so overstated, does the issue have such legs with politicians, media, and activists?"

Answer:  Because it is the perfect political bludgeon.  One of the reasons I felt like high school debate really was broken (I don't know if it has been fixed since) was because every single debate eventually devolved into which side was more likely to cause a nuclear war.  It didn't matter if you were arguing about energy policy or the presidential primary system, no good debate case stopped short of blaming the other side for nuclear war.

Today, with nuclear weapons mostly forgotten (unfortunately not gone), global warming is the new nuclear war. It doesn't matter what you are arguing about:

There was Clare Short, a member of the British Parliament and Secretary
for International Development under Prime Minister Tony Blair until she
resigned in 2003 over the Iraq war. Claiming that Israel is actually
"much worse than the original apartheid state" and accusing it of
"killing (Palestinian) political leaders," Ms. Short charged the Jewish
state with the ultimate crime: Israel "undermines the international
community's reaction to global warming." According to Ms. Short, the
Middle East conflict distracts the world from the real problem:
man-made climate change. If extreme weather will lead to the "end of
the human race," as Ms. Short warned it could, add this to the list of
the crimes of Israel.

Culver City Adopts Chinese Model of Internet Access

TJIC has a great link to a new law blog called CopyOwner focused no free speech issues.  CopyOwner observes that Culver City, California appears to be emulating the Chinese Internet model, providing access for free, but only if you accept state censoring:

First, they offer Internet access, but you must agree to "limited"
Internet access. And they don't mean limited hours of the day, limited
locations, or a limited amount of time you can be on. No, when they say
"limited," they mean that they will censor access to parts of the
Internet. ("By using this free wireless network you are agreeing and
acknowledging you have read and accepted these terms and conditions of
use, and this wireless network provides only limited access to the
Internet.") In other words, they do not offer Internet access at all....

Second, in order to gain the right to enjoy
this free, public, non-Internet access, no matter what you read in the
Bill of Rights (and the First Amendment, in particular) you must agree
that the government may abridge your freedom of speech and you further
agree that when it does so (as it promises to do), you will not
exercise your right to sue for the violation of your First Amendment
rights!

I'm not making this up. Here's the fine print:
"Further, [by using it] you are agreeing to waive any claims,
including, but not limited to First Amendment claims, that may arise
from the City and Agency's decision to block access to "¦ matter and
websites [of its choosing] through this free wireless network "¦."

From
a legal standpoint, it is the same as if the Culver City public library
were offering you free access to newspapers, but was first clipping out
the articles it didn't like and making you agree not to sue for
censorship if you wanted to read what was left.

My thought at first was that this was a liability response, but my sense is that the courts have been pretty consistent in protecting ISPs when plaintiff lawyers try to drag them in as deep pockets into lawsuits  (e.g. trying to sue Earthlink because it was the medium for delivering a MySpace page which in turn allegedly facilitated some action someone is suing over).  I am left with the sense that this is just politicians trying to protect themselves from criticism.  I am almost tempted to see how this thing plays out - censorship really gets ugly in a democratic environment.  You end up with a million interest groups all lobbying that they know best what should be censored.  You would have people in the town office arguing for censorship of pornography, religion (both pro and con), evolution (pro and con), nazis, Israel, global warming skepticism.  Whatever.  (By the way, I have seen people arguing in some context for censoring every item in the preceding list)

Congressman Shadegg, What are you Doing?

My Congressman, John Shadegg, is a generally reliable opponent of taxes and expansions of government.  So why is he sponsoring this garbage:

The House last week overwhelmingly approved and sent to the Senate
bipartisan legislation by Congressmen Brad Sherman and John Shadegg to
fund joint research by Americans and Israelis into alternative energy
sources.

"Cutting-edge research by top scientists from the United States and
Israel could reduce our reliance on foreign oil by promoting more
efficient uses of traditional energy sources and by developing energy
alternatives," Sherman said.

The Shadegg-Sherman legislation would establish in the Department of
Energy an International Energy Advisory Board to advise the secretary
on the $20-million-a-year grant program authorized by the bill. The
United States-Israel Energy Cooperation Act would encourage cooperation
on research, development, and commercialization of alternative energy,
improved energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.

Why, why, why?  I understand, but don't accept, the political pressure to increase alternative energy spending (though see here on its effectiveness) but why are we creating yet another program and grant bureaucracy?  And why should the funds not be spent on the most promising research out of the entire superset of possible projects but be narrowly focused on only investing in a portfolio of projects presumably combining US and Israeli citizens?

I Have Government Derangement Syndrome

Alex Tabarrok of Marginal Revolution makes a point I have been trying to communicate for some time now:

It's naive to only blame particular people (Bush, Cheney et al.) and
depressing when people at CT claim that if only "our guys" had been in
power everything would have been ok.  When you see the same behaviour
again and again you ought to look to systematic factors.  And even if
you do believe that it is all due to Bush, Cheney et al. it's not as if
these guys came to power randomly, they won twice.  The worst
get on top for a reason.  As a result, government ought to be designed
(on which see further below) so it works when the knaves are in power and not just when the angels govern.

I made a similar point in this post:

Over the past fifty years, a powerful driving force for statism in this
country has come from technocrats, mainly on the left, who felt that
the country would be better off if a few smart people (ie them) made
the important decisions and imposed them on the public at large, who
were too dumb to make quality decision for themselves.  People aren't
smart enough,they felt, to make medication risk trade-off decision for
themselves, so the FDA was created to tell them what procedures and
compounds they could and could not have access to.  People couldn't be
trusted to teach their kids the right things, so technocrats in the
left defended government-run schools and fought school choice at every
juncture.  People can't be trusted to save for their own retirement,
so  the government takes control with Social Security and the left
fights giving any control back to individuals.  The technocrats told us
what safety equipment our car had to have, what gas mileage it should
get, when we needed to where a helmet, what foods to eat, when we could
smoke, what wages we could and could not accept, what was and was not
acceptable speech on public college campuses, etc. etc....

the technocrats that built our regulatory state are starting to see the
danger of what they created.  A public school system was great as long
as it was teaching the right things and its indoctrinational excesses were in a leftish direction.
Now, however, we can see the panic.  The left is freaked that some red
state school districts may start teaching creationism or intelligent
design.  And you can hear the lament - how did we let Bush and these
conservative idiots take control of the beautiful machine we built?  My
answer is that you shouldn't have built the machine in the first place
- it always falls into the wrong hands.

I am particularly amazed of late at the popular leftish criticism of Bush that he was too slow after 9/11 (spending 10 extra minutes with the school kids), too slow during Katrina, and too slow entering the diplomatic fray in Lebanon.  I can't remember who, but someone lately was quoted publicly saying that they were frustrated with Bush taking vacations and that they would never vote for someone with a ranch.  Is that really the dual criticisms that people have of Bush?  That 1) he is evil and an idiot and 2) they want him to get involved faster and more aggressively in more types of problems?

Here's something everyone should know, which I have embodied in Coyote's Second Law (here's the first) which states:

Any person elected to government office has their effective IQ cut in half

I don't know if politicians wake up from this fog when they leave office or not.  I can easily imagine Bill Clinton, a man who is supposed to have a high out-of-public-office IQ, slapping his head and saying "did I really go running into Somalia and running right back out after the first casualties?' or maybe even better "jeez, I can't believe I turned down the chance to take Bin Laden into custody -- what was I thinking".  Whichever the case, governments are always stupid, even those made up of people provably of high IQ in their private lives.  Tabarrok has this humorous but depressing observation:

The Pentagon is the Post Office with nuclear weapons

Like Tabarrok, I think the bar has to be pretty high to send our military into battle, and I never thought the situation in Iraq justified the excursion.  However, perhaps differing from Tabarrok, I am sensitive to historic precedent and thus doubt that defense can always just end at our borders.  While I think the Bush administration is overly optimistic to think that Iraq will become a shining beacon of democracy that will help rally the democratic forces in neighboring countries, I also think Bush opponents are overly optimistic when they say that terrorists and Middle Eastern fascists will leave us alone as long as we just keep our distance.  There are too many historical reminders that the latter is not true.  Sometimes you do have to go over there to kick their ass before they come over here.  Afghanistan probably met this criteria, but I don't think Iraq did - Iraq feels more like the Gulf of Tonkin, a war certain people in power wanted to fight and for which they needed a public excuse.

All this means that I think that the number of times we need to go out and fight wars overseas is greater than zero and less than what we actually do.  I'm not smart enough, I guess, to make a clearer policy statement, but I would be really interested to ask all those who think they would have prevented Israel and its neighbors from going to war for the 47th time if only they had been in office what their coherent policy statement would be.

Why Hate Speech is Good

If this post had a subtitle, it would be "give 'em enough rope to hang themselves with."  This week has brought one of those perfect examples of why free speech is important, and why it is especially important to let even stupid and evil people voice their opinions.  In what, incredibly, represents a moderation of the response to the Danish cartoons by Muslims (at least vs. shooting priests):

Iran's best-selling newspaper has launched a competition to find the
best cartoon about the Holocaust in retaliation for the publication in
many European countries of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad....

The
daily paper Hamshahri said the contest was designed to test the
boundaries of free speech -- the reason given by many European
newspapers for publishing the cartoons of the Prophet.

"A serious
question for Muslims ... is this: 'does Western free speech allow
working on issues like America and Israel's crimes or an incident like
the Holocaust or is this freedom of speech only good for insulting the
holy values of divine religions?'" the paper said on Tuesday.

Why would anyone want to stop them from doing this?  It will be thoroughly educational to see who steps up and declares their position on this.  Whenever people want to ban hate speech, I always try to point out that Hitler was telling everyone in the 1920's just what he wanted to accomplish, if only anyone really listened.  Hateful screwed-up people need to be put on the record with their most egregious work.  Censoring them only tends to moderate the public view of them and disguise the true dangers they may pose.  In fact,it is sometimes the case that when the media refuses to publish the most hateful or violent of speech, they are actually doing so because they have sympathy for the speaker, whose public image they are concerned about tarnishing, rather than just protecting the sensitivities of the speaker's targeted victims.

Update on Iraq

Here is my update on Iraq:  We are still there, and will be there for a while.  And we are still spending nearly every available financial and human resource, not to mention all of our national attention and available goodwill, on the effort to make Iraq a prosperous and successful free and independent nation, to the exclusion of being able to bring much change about anywhere else in the world.

I can't tell you whether the effort in Iraq is going well or poorly.  Certainly if I pay attention to the major media alone I would assume it's a disaster, but we all know the media has a bias toward negativity that trumps any political biases it might have (after all, your local news station learned long ago that "your kids are happy and healthy, story at 11" is not a very good way to tease the evening news).  Being familiar with alternate sources on the Internet, I know that there are successes as well as failures on the ground.  In fact, you can even sort of deduce the successes from the major media coverage.  When the NY Times stops writing about blackouts in Iraq, you know that the electrical system is fixed.  When the WaPo stops writing stories about shortfalls in re-enlistment rates, you can infer that the rates are back up.

But to me, all this back and forth over success and failure in Iraq is only peripheral to my main problem with the war.  Let's for the sake of argument posit that things are going swimmingly, and we are able to start removing assets and support from Iraq next year.  That will mean that for four or five years, the entire attention and resources of the only country in the world that is able to substantially influence the behavior of other countries will be focused on just one country. 

During the Iraq war and occupation, we have not had the "bandwidth", either in attention or moral authority or resources, to help stave off Sudanese genocide, to steer Zimbabwe off its destructive path, to influence the course of events in Iran or North Korea, to change the behavior of terrorist sponsors like Saudi Arabia, or even to head off Russia's apparent slide back toward totalitarianism. 

Now, one could easily argue that its not our job to fix these things.  And I go through phases of agreeing with this.  However, our invasion of Iraq is predicated on the assumption that it should be our foreign policy to try to fix the worst of these problems.  And if it is, does it really make sense to invest everything we have and more on one country for four or five years (or more?)  From the first days of the war, I have called this my "cleaning of the Augean stables argument".  There are just too many messes in the world to head them all off by military invasion.  Afghanistan probably justified such a military effort, given its direct connections to 9/11, but I am still confused as to why Iraq justified this attention more than 20 or so other nations I could name.  Afghanistan  convinced the world that the US was ready to use the military if it had to, and helped to reverse the perception of weakness left by Carter's response to the Iranian hostage takers, Reagan's bailing out of Lebanon, and Clinton's running form Somalia and refusing to respond to the Cole attacks.  9/11, for all its horors, gave us a certain moral authority in the world to try to clean things up.  This credibility and authority could have given new life to non-military efforts, but we chose not to use them.

Now that we are there in Iraq, I tend to be in the stay the course camp.  There are too many recent examples, such as those cited above, where bailing out has created a perception of weakness that have encouraged our enemies to more boldness.  The situation we are in with the Iraqi people is much like the obligation the police have to a mafia informant that the police have convinced to turn state's evidence with the promise of protection against retribution.  If you suddenly throw the guy back out on the street to be killed publicly, its going to be really hard to get anyone else to trust you in the future.

I will confess that there are two things that from time to time cause me to have some doubts about my  stance.

The first was the seeming cascade of good news from surrounding countries in the middle east last January, as a successful Iraqi election emboldened opposition forces in a number of countries, including Lebanon, Egypt, and Iran.  If the neocons are right, and successful democracy in Iraq leads to a cascade effect in the surrounding nations, then my argument about spending too much time and effort on one country loses some of its power.

The second and perhaps more powerful input that sometimes causes me to rethink my opposition to the Iraq war is the insanity that tends to emerge from others who are anti-war, and with whom I do not want to be associated.  Take Cindy Sheehan and her beliefs, since she seems to have been adopted as a spokesperson and mascot by much of the vocal anti-war left. (I promised myself I would never mention Cindy Sheehan in this blog, but if she can meet with the president once and later claim that the president won't meet with her, then I guess I can write about her once and then claim I won't ever mention her).

Ms Sheehan has stated, as have many others in the anti-war movement including Michael Moore, at least five reasons for their being anti-war that drive me nuts:

Insurgents are Freedom Fighters:  Sorry, but no.  Most of the insurgents are ex-Baathists or Muslim extremists who want to reinstate a fascist state in the mold either of Saddam's more secular version or Iran's more fundamentalist version.  The insurgency is the equivalent of what Germany would have been like had the SS followed through on its promise to continue fighting a guerrilla war from the Bavarian Alps.  The world is a better place without the Baathists in power, and the insurgents do not have good aims for the Iraqi people.  Period.

Its all a Jewish plot:  Everything old is new again, and this particular brand of anti-Semitism, seeing Jewish cabals everywhere pulling strings of the government, seems to be back in vogue.  However, is there any particular reason Israel would want to shake the tree in Iraq?  After all, the last and only time they were attacked by Iraq directly was the last time the US went to war with Saddam.  Israel is still surrounded by enemies, with or without Saddam in power in Iraq.  In fact, one could argue that what Israel should really want is for Iraq and Iran go back to beating the crap out of each other in war after war.

It was all for oil:  How?  People always say this, but they can never explain to me the mechanism.  If it was to put US companies into ownership positions over Iraqi oil, we did a damn bad job since the Iraqi's seem to still own all their own oil (though we did head off the French from grabbing the oil).

War is never justified:  I don't think war was justified in this case, but never?  If you make this statement, then it means you have to be willing to live with anything, from genocide to totalitarianism, up to and including in your home country.  As long as there are people who only know how to live by force and wish to rule me, war always has to be an option.

Iraqis were better off under fascism when they had security:  I am not an Iraqi, so I won't try to make this trade-off for them.  However, I would like to point out a huge irony about the folks, mainly on the left, who make this argument.  The very same folks who make this argument for the Iraqis have been faced with the same choice themselves over the last few years:  Would you rather an increased risk of domestic terrorist attack, or greater security at the cost of reduced freedoms via the Patriot Act, more random searches, profiling, surveillance, etc. etc.  Most on the anti-war left have shouted that they will take the extra risk of violent attack in order to retain their individual liberties.  I agree with them.  The difference is that I don't project exactly the opposite choice onto the Iraqi people.

Update:  Professor Bainbridge seems to be in roughly the same boat.

Before We Argue - Lets See If We Are Living In The Same Universe

Back some years (decades, eek!) ago when I was in college, I used to really burn hot in political arguments. I could not let any statement go from anyone without an argument. And, being a libertarian, I could always find something to disagree with someone about. Since then I have mellowed a lot, and can let a lot of things pass.

Today, its hard to resist arguing about the war in Iraq, but I often find myself in the odd position of opposing the war in Iraq but disagreeing with most of the premises and assumptions of other people I meet who are opposed to the war. Though I oppose the war, I find myself sharing assumptions about the world that are more prevalent among proponents of the war. This might have made me uncomfortable at one point of my life, but as a small-government individual-rights libertarian you get used to this kind of thing, after seeing everyone argue if the government should be in the boardroom (Democrats and increasingly Republicans) or the bedroom (Republicans and some Democrats) or both (Pat Buchanan).

Over time, I have devised a couple of tests to get at these conflicting assumptions. These tests have evolved over time but they seem to retain their power to sort out people who are operating in an alternate reality.

Here are the two tests, in their current form (though longer for this print edition). In each case, choose either A or B, based on which seems more correct to you. Elements of both A and B will have been true from time to time and in isolated incidents. Try to choose which represents the fundamental truth to you.

Continue reading ‘Before We Argue - Lets See If We Are Living In The Same Universe’ »