I saw the photo of the Baby Bomber on the news last night - I wasn't really surprised that local media would pick it up, it's such an easy distillation of the vast complex conflict into a bite-sized sterotype, easily digestible by the masses. Breandan O'Neill has some commentary on the topic:

The fact is, children in Palestine, and in war zones throughout the world, are often dressed up in military gear and given toy guns to play with. In the 1980s and 90s, liberal commentators in the UK were shocked by photographs of children in Northern Ireland standing in front of pro-IRA graffitti with water pistols and make-believe machine guns - accusing parents of 'feeding hate' to their children. In South Africa, young children were involved in painting pro-violent slogans on township walls and they saw ANC militants as heroes, not criminals.

Is this really so surprising? For Irish nationalist children in West Belfast, Palestinian kids in Jenin, and black children in Soweto, the militants were (or still are) seen as heroes. They are the people who dared to take a stand against their oppressors and to challenge the authorities. Children will always look for heroes, and in societies under siege or at war their heroes will often be their fathers or uncles or brothers who actively fight on a daily basis - just as children in the West idolise GI Joe or Rambo. What's the big deal?

If we don't want these children to become violent when they grow up, then maybe we should remove the causes of the conflict rather than the kids' toy guns and fake suicide belts.

(emphasis mine)


There is yet another article arguing for a change in US policy towards Iran.

There is Iran-E -- the evil conservative clerics, intelligence services and shock troops of the regime, who still have a monopoly on all the tools of coercion and are responsible for Iran's support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and the killing of Iranian intellectuals a few years ago.

Then there is Iran-C -- the rational conservatives among the clerics and bazaari merchants, who backed the Islamic revolution out of a real revulsion for the Shah's secular despotism, but who favor democracy and the rule of law. For now, Iran-C is aligned with Iran-E.

Finally, there is Iran-R, all the reformers -- the economically strapped middle class, the rising student generation and former revolutionaries who are fed up with clerical rule. They want more democracy and less imposed religion, and they are leading the opposition in Parliament but they have the least power.

That's why the key to peaceful change in Iran is a break within the conservative ruling elite. The key is to get Iran-C, the rational conservatives, to break with Iran-E, the dark conservatives, and forge a new alliance with the reformers.

Support of Iran has been recognized as essential by experts on both the left and the right (if you subscribe to UNMEDIA list, you'll have noticed that there have been anumber of Iran subject articles posted from National Review that make much teh same arguments as Friedman does. See at left for the link to the Yahoo group, to browse the public archives if you are interested in more)

UPDATE: click here for a list of articles on Iran that have been posted to UNMEDIA.

The issue of demographics is a central, underlying river beneath the tensions of the middle east conflict. The original Zionist vision of a new homeland founded by wave after wave of Jewish imigration, enshrined racial/religious demographics as a central tenet of identity (compared to say, America, wherethe central tenet is equal representation irrespective of race or religion). That also formed the moral rationalization for driving out the Palestinian occupants in 1948, and the subsequent refusal to discuss right of return, under the straw man argument that it would "destroy the Jewish state".

An article today on Ha'aretz discusses how the subtext of demographics has been brought to the forefront, as Israeili academics on the left and teh right try to reconcile the notion of Israel as a "Jewish" state with the notion that Israel is a "democratic" state. By American standards, Israel is not yet a democracy. The solutions presented to the Israeili public essentially are binary: transfer (from eth right), or separation (from the left). Both are doomed as long as Israel insists on a demographic aspect of its identity, which is essentially the heart of the paradox. :

"Transfer Now," a placard that is now posted on every empty wall throughout the country - is the decisive answer from one side; a binational state is the less popular answer from the other side of the political fence.

"It's frightening when Jews talk about demography," says Dr. Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. "There were those who believed that the ethnic cleansing of 1948 solved the problem. Now they are discovering to their dismay a reality in which the Jews will always be a minority in the Middle East." By "they," Raz-Krakotzkin means the Israeli left. As he sees it, the left's view of the world is based on a demographic principle, just like the worldview of transfer.

"The peace discourse of the Israeli left in fact proposes getting rid of the Arabs, and therefore it sounds exactly like the talk of transfer," he argues. "I share the sense of anxiety among the Jewish public in Israel. It is justified. I am in fact thinking about Jewish existence, but I refuse to think about it in demographic terms. The binational framework is the only one that allows the separation of Jewish existence from the demographic issue. In demography, the Jews are losing. It exposes all the internal contradictions of Zionism. The binational approach is aimed at solving this problem, and there really are Arabs who accuse me of supporting binationalism in order to preserve the Jewish people."

Again, the idea of a binational state neatly circumvents the paradox by disassociating the concept of Jewishness from demographic concerns.

One of the reasons that I think a binational state is the only solution is because it is based on eth American idea, that Identity is something that is shared as a nation, not a religion. I reject the notion that religion is the founding basis for a democracy. Not to say a non-democratic religious state could not work, after all, look at the Mughal period of Indian history or the Fatimid dynasty of Egypt.

The Jewish people don't need to enshrine the state of Israel as a bulwark for Judaism, and tie the fate of their faith into a nationalistic framework. In America, we have a strong Christian dominance of the government yet other religions, like my own, thrive here as they have nowhere else in the world. The conservative right is correct in that the philosophy of this country was influenced (not derived) by religious thought. Islam has likewise formed a basis of influence in successful nations and empires in the past.

The very concept of Separation of Church and State ensures that religion thrives, and that the best aspects of religion are integrated and harnessed as a positive force in society rather than used as a tool for control and oppression (like medieval England or the Taliban). Even if you staunchly oppose the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance (a nonlegal nongovernmental nonbinding document), you have to admit that the debate over the actions of the 9th Circuit court did foster robust and detailed analysis.

That's what Israel needs. To separate out church and state, not from givernment but from the very fabric of Israel's concept of self-identity. Doing so will benefit Judaism and Jews more than any other group.

The idea of reunification is a dificult one. I recognize that there are practical arguments against a binational state - and I do not dismiss them lightly. The point of this blog is principled pragmatism, after all.


Dahlia�Lithwick points out:

As Judge Fernandez puts it, listening quietly while others mumble these two words does not promote any one religion, will not create an evil theocracy in America, and has caused no great harm in over 200 years. Still, I must wonder why Sean Hannity is practically stroking out over this decision on Fox News as we speak and why all the religious groups in the country are going apoplectic. My guess is that the words "under God" do promote monotheism, and of course the effect of that isn't just "de minimus," as they say.

(emphasis mine)

that fits my analysis well - people who are going apopleptic about this are doing it for political and hypocritical reasons. I'm a devoutly religious person, and dropping "under God" doesnt damage my faith the way it seems to damage theirs.

NZ Bear has the single best analysis of the entire Pledge of Allegiance issue:

But it is a big deal, and now more than ever. The man filing on behalf of his daughter shouldn't have dropped the case after 9/11 -- as some has suggested -- he should have pursued it with even more vigor. Because we are at war with religious facism --- a point that the Blogosphere, at least, has become relatively clear about for some time. We are at war with what happens when religious ideology runs amok and becomes all-consuming.

Do I think the phrase "Under God" in the Pledge is the first step towards a Taliban-like government? Of course not. But that's a strawman argument. The real argument is that if we are a secular society --- and I for one hope we are --- then we should damned well act like one. It is a matter of principle.

My own thinking on this issue went through several distinct stages. Like all schoolchildren, I memorized it and recited it blindly in grade school, fidgeting and passing notes and misbehaving like all children do (er, except for YOURS, dear reader, of course). Once I got to junior high, the Pledge didn't really come up much. So, when I heard the news that "under God" was declared to be unconstitutional, these were my thoughts:


the words "under God" are in the Pledge of Allegiance ?

*mumble*I pledge Allegiance to the Flag and the United States of America*mumble*One Nation, under God*mumble*

hey, yeah! so it is!


So what? Isn't there a War on Terror going on?


hey, I'm religious. Maybe I should be upset about this? I want to be under God. God is great.



The overwhelming media characterization has been to scream in breathless hysteric tones, PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL!!! To most of their credit, though, Big Media has taken a pause from scaring people to point out that Congress inserted "under God" back in the 1950s.

I see this as a kind of litmus test. Everyone on the who comes out swinging, accusing people of being antipatriotic, of being depraved, of being too politically correct - these are the partisans. Beware them. These are the ones who truly have enmity for the Constitution, and they seek at every turn to ignore it, as in the case of Jose Padilla, or subvert it. actively subvert it.

What wil happen next? It will be milked for its potential to get the right-wing to show up. The leftists will feel compelled to prove how patriotic they are. And then it will get to the Supreme Court, and the words Under God will be preserved in a 5-4 ruling. Mark my words :) So, to all of you liberals out there, get over it, you lost this battle. Marshal your troops elsewhere and fight on another day. This one's a done deal.

The Principle here is that Separation of Church and State preserves religion, not hinders it. It's the reason that America is the best place in the world to be a religious person, for example for Muslims like myself. Those who are truly offended that "under God" be removed from the Pledge on religious grounds (as opposed to political opportunists), are the ones who are weak in their faith. It's almost blasphemous to think that "under God" needs to be enshrined in the Constitution, because religion is something that transcends the works of Man. Analogously, If you put the Ten Commandments on the wall but don't practice them, you've debased them, not honored them.

some additional related thoughts:

Our currency says, "In God We Trust." That's because the phrase was inserted , just after the Civil War.

And, the Founding Fathers were not devout Christians, nor was the country founded upon Christian principles.


Someone is actually reading my blog! Aside from my mom. Well, probably not even my mom. But, I did get a very nice letter from Mr Cecil Turner, Major, USMC (Ret.) who raised a critique of my recent alarmed post about Israel's nuclear submarines. Before I get into it though, I'd like to thank Major Turner (and all military personnel, by proxy) for their service to this country. I have a personal philosophy of pacifism, but I recognize with admiration that my right to express that worldview is safeguarded by people like Major Turner. The sacrifices of our military servicemen and women is not something I take for granted. It's also a source of much frustration for me when I see self-sacrifice on such noble scale abused by the powers in charge. I'll write more on this later, but I think our military has been used as an instrument of political and economic convenience instead of a force for freedom in this world, consistently by each president dating back to Nixon, with the possible exception of Carter. End rant. Begin Letter:

Hey Aziz,
Good blog--especially the political analysis of the Palestinian poll. Also, I would be
very interested if you could expand on the cycle of violence feeding terrorist support,
especially if there is some polling or similar data to support the conclusions.
You missed the boat on one of your statements, however--I had missed the nuclear
missiles on submarines story, and was envisioning an SSBN from your: "However, nuclear
submarines are not regional-defensive, they are globally-offensive." The link pointed out
they were talking about diesel submarines with cruise missiles. A diesel submarine has a
limited range (and no ability to travel stealthily, as snorkeling is the equivalent of
hanging a "shoot me" sign among submarines), and sub-launched cruise missiles are very
short-ranged, especially if they have to be launched from standard torpedo tubes (I rather
doubt the 900 mile range quoted in the story). There is no way to characterize this
combination as a global threat--in fact, it will probably have to relocate to ensure
complete coverage of the different countries in the MidEast. Strategically, this weapon
makes good sense as a hedge against Israel's nuclear forces being overrun or taken out in
a first strike, and is a stabilizing regional force.
Cecil Turner
Major, USMC (Ret)

get it? I missed the boat? :)

Please note that I am mechanically illiterate. The Ha'aretz article did explicitly say that these were DIESEL submarines. Implying a combustion engine. Implying a need for oxygen. Implying a need for AIR. As Major Turner points out, this requires a snorkel, and the sub is basically limited to surface operations most of the time. So my initial alarm at Israel having stealth submarine capability is cimpletely unfounded. To that end, I have to retract my concerns.

To be absolutely clear in my own thinking, let me resummarize what I have learned here - a submarine that can launch nuclear missiles is not a nuclear submarine. A nuclear submarine is a submarine powered by nuclear fission. Any submarine can theoretically launch nuclear missiles (assuming you actually have them which Israel does). But stealth mode - ie, nuclear powered so you can survive under water for extremely long periods of time - is an offensive ability, not a defensive one. Just ask the poor Federation redshirts on the receiving end of a cloaked Warbird's plasma device. A diesel submarine - armed with nuclear missiles, sticks and stone, whatever - is just a floating weapons platform.

However, I am still nervous. Israel now has ICBM capability. Let me rephrase my question then - why exactly does Israel need the capability to launch a nuclear weapon to any place on the face of the earth?

to avenge themelves on the French, perhaps?

I am not a regular reader of Andrew Sullivan, mainly because I find him to be too Paul Begala-ish. I would have analogized him to Rush Limbaugh, but Rush is (self-admittedly) an entertainer. Sullivan has a powerful mind, however, and a incisively insightful pen, but far too often that wonderful horsepower is wasted on rationalizing and apologizing for Bush, who is completely above critique in his worldview. It's only when Sullivan has something to say on other topics, like blogging, or gay rights, that he rises above his partisan instincts.

This is why the recent attack piece on Sullivan at warbloggerwatch interested me. It illustrates the limitations of blind ideology, using Sullivan as an example.

The main point is that after 9/11, Sullivan was quick to do his part to forestall and stifle legitimate critique of the Administration, by broadly labeling the "Blue States" (ie California, and other Gore-eaning states) as a potential source of a Fifth Column:

"The middle part of the country - the great red zone that voted for Bush - is clearly ready for war. The decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead - and may well mount what amounts to a fifth column."

(sorry - no online link available, i cut and pasted from notes. Please inform me if I misquoted)

Contrast this with his findings from his survey of visitors to his blog:

"I was also struck by the fact that California is our biggest state; and that we're very blue-state heavy. I guess the site attracts blue-state dissidents or simple skeptics, or it reflects the often ignored fact that large numbers of people in the blue states are not knee-jerk liberals."

Sullivan's expressed surprise is not just disingenous, but almost insulting. Hello, ever heard of Los Angeles? It suited Sullivan's political goals to label the "decadent coast" as a traitorous mass and now he is shocked, simply shocked! to find enclaves of hardscrabble True Americans living there as well?

I live in Texas - a red state - in which it was so useless to vote for anyone other than Bush that I decided to swap my vote. But to simply paint the state as a monolithic political entity ignores the fact that a Democratic candidate may win the givernor's mansion. In fact its purely the result that we have winner-take-all in the electoral system that we have such broad strokes being applied - and Sullivan is surely intelligent enough to know that.

Salon has posted a great article further analyzing Sullivan's jingoistic tendencies, some time ago, which is well worth reading. And Spinsanity has a great analysis of how this trend to label the dissent "traitorous" served to embolden Ashcroft in his famous remarks that "those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty" are aiding terrorists.

The principle here is that politics, like religion, is a spectrum, and those who insist on occupying a single end and solidly refuse to be budged are going to have a distorted view of reality. The danger of this with respect to pundits - and Administrations - is that their worldview is then foisted on the rest of us to our detriment. As David Talbot pointed out in Salon (long before it became unreadable ;), open and vigorous debate is the cornerstone of our strength as a society.


Steven Den Beste is easily my favorite blogger. I probably agree with about 10% of what he says about Israel-Palestine, but the value of a powerful thinker to challenge your beliefs is immeasurably beneficial in clarifying one's own thinking.

As he mentions in today's entry on his blog, in private discussions I proposed a solution to the Middle East conflict that I initially came across elsewhere and which has really seized my imagination as a truly innovative approach.

The idea is a re-unification of Israel and Palestine, as a representative democracy. Currently Israel is not a democracy in the same sense as America, because citizenship is tied directly to ethnic and religious affiliation. There are Arab Israeilis but they are treated as second-class citizens, and the settlers and religious orthodox are in control of the domestic agenda.

An integrated state will have peace dividends down the road that the current cycle cannot. If anything, it's the carrot approach - restarting good faith negoitiations from where they left off at Taba, and ditching Sharafat - that is the only solution with any hope to offer the people
of Israel and Palestine. What Sharon is offerring instead is to create two sets of concentration camps - an angry one labeled "Palestine" with guns pointed inward, and a fearful one labeled "Israel" with guns pointed outward.

We shouldn't be thinking about "Israeilis" and "Palestinians" anymore. They are one set of scared people, living on random sides of a binary fence, whose rights to fredom and democracy are being subverted by their leaders and subjugated by the outmoded policies and notions of statehood that should have died with the Ottoman and British Empires. It's the year 2002 and there's only one game that has been proven to win, and that's OUR game - representative, equal democracy.

Steven misquoted me when he said:

... the true solution to this is not two states, but one which encompasses Israel as it now exists plus the West Bank plus Gaza, and within which all adults currently living there would become citizens and voters.

There are two things wrong with this. Aziz thinks this would end the violence by giving the Palestinians what they want. I don't believe it.

actually, I don't think that this would "end the violence". The pragmatic truth is, that the terrorists can never be pacified.

The truth is that the cycle of violence has been feeding the terrorists - as Steven points out in his excellent essay on terrorism. Violence only strengthens them - and Sharon has been god's gift to Hamas because his policies have ensured that they have a steady stream of recruits. That pool of recruits is non-zero, but finite.

If incentives are offerred to the Palestinian populace, then that pool size becomes static, because the fanatics will simply be unable to increase their recruitment. Then given their tendency to martyr themselves, the net number of fanatics becomes a monotonically *decreasing* function, towards zero.

The bottom line is that the militants are a fuse that has to burn out. It's in their best interest to derail peace, because conflict gives them power. But the peace can be brought about despite their efforts, if there is courage amongst the Israeili and Palestinian leadership.

the other thing wrong with reunification according to Steven is:

That's where we have to take the political reality of the Palestinians into account. Right now, a majority of them want to return to "1948 borders". In other words, they think that the struggle should end only when Israel ceases to exist. And the number of Palestinians professing that opinion is rising rapidly.

Steven also invokes Zimbabwe as an example of an oppressed majority driving out the former ruling minority in revenge. But what hapenned in Zimbabwe was because one man, Robert Mugabe, dominated politics in Zimbabwe ever since "independence". We are allowed to learn from history - it's clear that the one man who dominates Palestinian politics would need to be neutralized in order to prevent a replay. And there are many other leaders of Palestinian society who are willing to risk the anger of the extremists and provide moral leadership.

and what about the increased radicalization of the Palestinian people? The poll that Steven cites does indeed suggest broadly that Palestinians support suicide bombings against civilians. In their view, they certainly have been collectively punished by the IDF. But look more closely at the poll results, especially Q.11:

Q.11 What is your feeling towards suicide bombing operations against Israeli civilians, do you support it or oppose it?
 Total West Bank Gaza
 N=1179 N=739 N=440
Strongly support 38.8 35.6 44.3
Somewhat support 29.3 30.9 26.6
Strongly oppose 16.2 16.8 15.2
Somewhat oppose 9.8 9.2 10.7
I Don�t Know/ No opinion 5.2 6.8 2.5
No answer 0.7 0.8 0.7

The actual number of Palestinians in this poll who "strongly support" suicide attacks against civilians specifically is less than the majority. If you factor in those who "somewhat support" it, then that does rise to a majority.

The real concern is question 7:

Q.7 In your opinion, what should be the end result of the current
Intifada, is it improving the negotiation conditions for Palestinians,
ending occupation based on UN Resolution 242 and the establishment of the
Palestinian state or liberating all of historic Palestine?
  Total West Bank Gaza
  N=1179 N=739 N=440
Improve negotiation conditions for Palestinians 3.5 2.6 5.0
Ending occupation on basis of UN Resolution 242 and establishing the Palestinian state 42.8 40.7 46.4
Liberating all of historic Palestine 51.1 54.1 45.9
Other 0.6 0.7 0.5
I don�t know 1.6 1.5 1.8
No answer 0.4 0.4 0.5

which suggests that half of Palestinians want to "liberate" all of historic Palestine. The other half is willing to see UN Resolution 242 as an endpoint. While alarming, it's clear that there the entire society simply does not want to commit genocide against the Israeilis, if you consider the entire poll context.

The Palestinian population has been radicalized, especially by Operation Defensive Shield (as the poll itself points out in Q.15). But that hardly means that this is a permanent state of affairs, especially if they were to be offerred some carrots instead of Sharon's heavy hand. There are stories of hope. If the average Palestinian saw the peace process bringing actual progress instead of empty promises, the hostile fractions ion the poll could indeed be reconciled. And there are still a large fraction of the Palestinians who are not virulently opposed.


Why is Israel
selling arms to China
? And why does Israel need nuclear missile-equipped submarines ?

Israel must have the ability to defend itself regionally. It's obvious Israel has nukes, though they have never admitted it. It's simply deterrence. However, nuclear submarines are not regional-defensive, they are globally-offensive. If Israel had military enemies on a global scale or was facing an arms race against a foe on the other side of the world, then subs make sense.

How far do Sharon's ambitions go?

An essay on NRO makes the case that American Jews owe loyalty to the GOP and shoudl renounce the Democratic party, out of gratitude towards the Christian Right's support of Israel. The author even unsubtly mentions the root word for friend, chaver, as having connotations of obligation. It's an amiable argument with steel at the end:

But could there be a limit to Christian patience? That is a question to which, for the sake of Israel, a nation dependent on American favor, let's hope we never have to find out the answer.

Of course, Christian conservatives are also in collusion with Islamic governments:

UNITED NATIONS -- Conservative U.S. Christian organizations have joined forces with Islamic governments to halt the expansion of sexual and political protections and rights for gays, women and children at United Nations conferences.
The alliance of conservative Islamic states and Christian organizations has placed the Bush administration in the awkward position of siding with some of its most reviled adversaries -- including Iraq and Iran -- in a cultural skirmish against its closest European allies, which broadly support expanding sexual and political rights.

as this WaPo article points out later though, this isn't hypocrisy, it's actually recognition that all (three) major monotheistic faiths do share a common cultural framework. There are plenty of ironies to go around of course :)

Still, the trend here as pursued by the Christian Right, is to conflate culture and religion as a matter of law. The operating pragmatic principle should be, morality has no value if it is legislated.


A common justification of those who advocate cruel and harsh retaliation directly targeted against the Palestinian civilian populace, is that the average Palestinian "supports" terror attacks. That is a misconception based on a half-truth. The truth is that most Palestinians do indeed support attacks on Israeili military targets and on the Jewish "settlers" in the occupied territories. After all, the occupation is in direct violation of Israel's promises under UN Resolution 242, which was a condition of Israel's joining. The military and the settlers are as legitimate a target as the German occupiers in France by the Maquis.

But is there truly support for targeting civilians within Israel proper? Which is clearly immoral by any standard. To that effect, prominent Palestinians have called for halting terror attacks inside Israel in response to yesterday's horrific bus bombing:

"We urge those behind military attacks against civilians inside Israel to reconsider their positions and to stop pushing our youth to carry out these attacks, which only result in deepening hatred between the two peoples," said the group in the East Jerusalem daily.
"We see that these attacks do not achieve progress towards achieving our...freedom and independence," said the signatories.
"They give this aggressive government headed by (Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon justification to pursue its harsh and aggressive war against our people and against our cities and villages," they said in the advertisement.

As Den Beste points out, the solution to the mideast conflict will not be violent response, but rather some kind of appeasement. This "general theory of terrorism" contradicts his own "solution" linked above, interestingly.


Even as far back as 1967, some saw the refugees as the key to peace, like
the deputy regional development minister at the time, Aryeh (Lova) Eliav
. His resigned from his post and toured the territories and refugee camps, in order to better understand the Arabs whose future he believed to eb inexorably tied to that of Israel itself. He wanted a personal understanding of these people whom Amos Elion had said, were the "victims of our independence".

There is an historical paradox, Eliav wrote, "that Zionism was the reason for the creation of the Palestinian nation, but the Palestinian nation must be seen as a fait accompli." He revealed the ironic side of the Six-Day War. Israel went to war against neighboring countries that tried to attack it, but "the problem of our ties with the Palestinian Arabs now takes precedence in the complex of our ties with the Arab world. It is more important than the problem of our ties with the Arab world and therein lies the key to solving our problems with the countries of the region."

It is common for armchair analysts in America to oversimplify and make grand statements like "Arafat could have gotten everything he wanted except the right of return if he had accepted the Barak proposal" - totally false. The Barak proposal was essentially surrenderring the freedom of the Palestinian people to Israel forever as a subjugated nation, not unlike the American Indians. But right of return would not be the demographic nightmare scenario or doomsday, and no one on the Palestinian side even advocates it to be implemented in full, as the scaremongering would have you believe.

There are only two camps of people who will truly determine the stability of any peace ion the middle east. That is the settlers, and the refugees.

Eric Raymond has written the ten reasons he isn't a conservative or a left-liberal.

I disagree with some of it (like, doesn't complaining about Clinton's sexual habits contradict his sexual freedom beliefs? Unless you want to argue that poor Monica was a victim, which contradicts his anti-sexism beliefs in making her just a poor helpless waif). But the central point is robust - that poltical debate in this country have been dominated by two camps for so long that all debate is projected along that single left-right axis. Principled and rational thinkers are left out in the cold. Den Beste has a few things to say about it as well and even coins a new political philosophy, "Engineerism" which he describes as:

Engineerists are socially liberal, economically conservative and politically libertarian. Note the use of lower case letters on all of those words; I'm "socially liberal" but damned well not "Socially Liberal".

Though he is also trying to break loose of the rigid confines of the prevailing political system, I note that he does claim his party affiliation as Republican. I personally don't understand why someone yearning to be free of the constraining liberal-conservative filter of politics would willingly embrace a party that is actively committed to propagating the dominance of that axis across the American political landscape. Personally I will never have any party affiliation, because it seems that I have lost some measure of control. WHat does it really serve?

There is a new way however to define your political beliefs outside of the one-dimensional model. Den bEste hints at it by invoking LIbertarianism, this goes a bit further: The World's Smallest Political Quiz.

Instead of a single axis of "liberal" and conservative", this political
model divides it into four areas, a "left liberal / right conservative" axis
and a perpendicular axis of "libertarian / authoritative". Of course there
is also a "centrist" region.

The brilliance of this model is that it can plots fascism at the
intersection of liberal and authoritarian, and communism at the intersection
of conservative and authoritarian. I'm not sure who came up with it but it's
a far better way of thinking about political belief because it clarifies
things instead of projecting them onto a single axis.

Your score is actually represented as coordinates, I tend to fall into the
centrist border between left liberal and libertarian, myself. The quiz that
theyt present is a very low-resolution mapping onto this political space,
but a more fine grained quiz could easily be written to help narrow it down.

I'm going to see if maybe I can write a longer quiz for this political model. The questions shoudl be statements of principle, however, like the ones I have been trying to think about on this blog. Instea of Y, M, N, the choices should be "ideal", "compromise" , and "pragmatic".

All I can say for sure is that if this model prevailed over the simplistic left-right axis, we might have a flowering of political debate quite unlike the current Us vs Them mentality.


Arianna Huffington points out that the Drug War has been
distracting the FBI

Even after last week's highly touted reorganization, which included the reassignment of 400 narcotics agents to counterterrorism, there will still be 2,100 agents spending their invaluable time and energy fighting a fruitless drug war. This despite the fact that combating drugs didn't even make Director Mueller's official Top Ten list of priorities.

Which raises the question: if the drug war is suddenly lower on the FBI pecking order than combating white collar crime (#7), protecting civil rights (#5), and taking on public corruption at all levels (#4 with a bullet!), then how come 1 out of 6 agents will still be working that beat? The numbers just don't add up.

According to high-ranking FBI officials, Mueller originally intended to pull the plug on his agency's involvement in the drug war, shifting every one of his counternarcotics agents to counterterrorism activities, but was talked out of it by drug war generals who can't admit defeat.


I'm getting REALLY ANGRY.

TIME magazine's account of how the Rowley memo was ignored is fascinating, disturbing, and infuriating reading.

I just have to reprint the excerpt from time.com. boldface is my emphasis. original link here.

"We Could Have Gotten Lucky"
In the day or two following September 11th, you, Director Mueller, made the statement to the effect that if the FBI had only had any advance warning of the attacks, we (meaning the FBI), may have been able to take some action to prevent the tragedy. Fearing that this statement could easily come back to haunt the FBI upon revelation of the information that had been developed pre-September 11th about Moussaoui, I and others in the Minneapolis Office, immediately sought to reach your office through an assortment of higher level FBIHQ contacts, in order to quickly make you aware of the background of the Moussaoui investigation and forewarn you so that your public statements could be accordingly modified. When such statements from you and other FBI officials continued, we thought that somehow you had not received the message and we made further efforts. Finally, when similar comments were made weeks later, in Assistant Director Caruso's congressional testimony in response to the first public leaks about Moussaoui, we faced the sad realization that the remarks indicated someone, possibly with your approval, had decided to circle the wagons at FBIHQ in an apparent effort to protect the FBI from embarrassment and the relevant FBI officials from scrutiny. Everything I have seen and heard about the FBI's official stance and the FBI's internal preparations in anticipation of further congressional inquiry, has, unfortunately, confirmed my worst suspicions in this regard. After the details began to emerge concerning the pre-September 11th investigation of Moussaoui, and subsequently with the recent release of the information about the Phoenix [memo], your statement has changed...the official statement is now to the effect that even if the FBI had followed up on the Phoenix lead to conduct checks of flight schools and the Minneapolis request to search Moussaoui's personal effects and laptop, nothing would have changed and such actions certainly could not have prevented the terrorist attacks and resulting loss of life. With all due respect, this statement is as bad as the first! It is also quite at odds with the earlier statement (which I'm surprised has not already been pointed out by those in the media!) I don't know how you or anyone at FBI Headquarters, no matter how much genius or prescience you may possess, could so blithely make this affirmation without anything to back the opinion up [other] than your stature as FBI Director. The truth is, as with most predictions...no one will ever know what impact, if any, the FBI's following up on those requests, would have had. Although I agree that it's very doubtful that the full scope of the tragedy could have been prevented, it's at least possible we could have gotten lucky and uncovered one or two more of the terrorists in flight training prior to September 11th, just as Moussaoui was discovered...

William Safire points out:

Why did F.B.I. Director Robert Mueller desperately stamp "classified" on last week's memo to him from the Minneapolis agent and counsel Coleen Rowley?
Answer: Because he is protecting the bureau's crats who ignored warnings from the field before Sept. 11, and because he is trying to cover his own posterior for misleading the public and failing to inform the president in the eight months since.

Mueller shoudl be fired for LYING to Congress and the People. and what about accountability for Louis Freeh? Most of the terrorist infiltration and activity happenned under his watch- Mueller only took office September 4th.

In addition to the FBI lying and failure to protect us, we have the CIA actually TRACKING Al-Qaeda operatives to Malaysia, watching them discuss terrorist plans, and followed them back to the USA, and still did NOTHING.:

A few days after the Kuala Lumpur meeting, NEWSWEEK has learned, the CIA tracked one of the terrorists, Nawaf Alhazmi, as he flew from the meeting to Los Angeles. Agents discovered that another of the men, Khalid Almihdhar, had already obtained a multiple-entry visa that allowed him to enter and leave the United States as he pleased. (They later learned that he had in fact arrived in the United States on the same flight as Alhazmi.)

Yet astonishingly, the CIA did nothing with this information. Agency officials didn�t tell the INS, which could have turned them away at the border, nor did they notify the FBI, which could have covertly tracked them to find out their mission. Instead, during the year and nine months after the CIA identified them as terrorists, Alhazmi and Almihdhar lived openly in the United States, using their real names, obtaining driver�s licenses, opening bank accounts and enrolling in flight schools�until the morning of September 11, when they walked aboard American Airlines Flight 77 and crashed it into the Pentagon.

It gets worse. Even the military failed us:

Condoleeza Rice, the U.S. president�s national security advisor, in a magazine interview with Oprah Winfrey was asked what she did right after the second plane hit the World Trade Center. Dr. Rice replied that it was then that she realized this was a terrorist attack.

So, my question to Dr. Rice would be why wasn�t Andrews Air Force Base alerted and F-16�s put into the air to protect the Pentagon as soon as that realization set in? Why didn�t F-16�s intercept or bring down Flight 77?

The second attack occurred at 9:03 a.m. Then at 9:43 a.m., the Pentagon was hit. It occurred to me instantly: How can the Pentagon, the core of our military command structure, get hit 40 minutes after the WTC attacks? Where was its protection? Forty minutes is a very long time.

Here are some of the facts:

Andrews Air Force Base is a huge military installation just 10 miles from the Pentagon. On the day of the attacks there were two entire squadrons of combat-ready jets at Andrews. Their job is to protect the District of Columbia, the heart of our government. That would include the Pentagon. Despite a terrorist attack in progress, not a single Andrews jet tried to protect the city.

The military, along with the FAA, has cooperative procedures which automatically intercept commercial airplanes under emergency conditions. These procedures weren�t followed. Why not?

Pentagon officials say that they were simply not aware. How come? The whole country was aware. The New York Police broadcasted at 9:06 a.m.: "This was a terrorist attack. Notify the Pentagon."

In Dr. Rice�s interview she says after she realized it was a terrorist act she began to gather the National Security Council principals for a meeting; and she turned to see a television report of a plane hitting the Pentagon.

What was she doing from 9:03 to 9:43 a.m.? Why isn�t she alerting Andrews Air Force Base at 9:04 a.m.? She�s the National Security Advisor!

NORAD failed us:

The NORAD home page declares its mission to include "the detection,
validation, and warning of attack against North America whether by aircraft, missiles, or space vehicles."

According to NORAD's official 9/11 time line, the FAA notified NORAD at 8:40 a.m. Eastern time that there was something peculiar going on with American Flight 11. But NORAD didn't issue an order for fighters to scramble until 8:46 a.m., the time when American Flight 11 hit the first WTC tower. Six minutes later, at 8:52 a.m., two F-15 fighters responded to the order by launching from a base 153 miles from New York City. They still were not on the scene at 9:02 a.m. when the second airliner, United Flight 175, hit the second WTC tower. They wouldn't get there for another eight minutes, at 9:10 a.m. A NORAD senior officer, Major Gen. Larry Arnold, told NBC that when the fighters took off, they were flying straight to New York City. He also said that they were going "about 1.5 Mach, which is, you know, somewhere-11- or 1,200 miles an hour." But note that the F-15 fighters took 18 minutes to cover those 153 miles, which comes out to more like 510 mph. Yet, according to the Air Force, the F-15 has a top speed of 1,875 mph. So, you have to wonder, why were they flying at less than a third of what they're capable of?

According to NORAD, the FAA notified it at 9:24 a.m. that there was
something suspicious with American Flight 77. Two F-16 fighters were
immediately ordered launched, and they got airborne at 9:30 a.m. The New York Times reports that at first, they were headed to New York at "top speed" reaching "600 mph within two minutes," before vectoring toward Washington instead. These planes didn't arrive in the vicinity of the Pentagon until 9:49 a.m., 12 minutes after American Flight 77 hit it. (They then stayed in the skies above Washington to protect against the fourth errant airliner, United Flight 93, with orders to shoot it down if
necessary, a command mooted by an apparent passenger insurrection that caused that plane to crash in a Pennsylvania field.) The F-16s covered the 130 miles of their journey in 19 minutes, which would be an average speed of about 410 mph. Now, that's artificially low because these fighters spent several minutes flying toward New York, but even allowing for this, you don't come up with anything like what the Air Force (which may know better than the New York Times) says is the plane's top speed of 1,500 mph. So, again, why didn't NORAD feel the need for speed?

There were even indications that Something Big was Going down in the MASS MEDIA!

The CIA, the FBI, the military all failed us. Bush professes ignorance. The GOP becomes a pack of whining apologists - reminds me of the Democrats in July of 1998.

It's a farce. and it's infuriating. And the silence of the warbloggers is insulting.

Guess who said this?

The price of empire is terror. The price of occupation is terror. The price of interventionism is terror. As Barry Goldwater used to say, it is as simple as that. When Israel departed Lebanon, Hezbollah's attacks fell off almost to nothing. But as long as Israelis occupy the West Bank, which Prime Minister Barak conceded belongs at least 95 percent to the Palestinians, Israel will be hit by terror attacks.
Either Israel gets out, or it pays the price of staying in: terrorism.

The author is Pat Buchanan . It's logical and consistent with his isolationist agenda. He has identified a central principle - that People will Fight for Freedom - and that if the occupier invokes the "Ends Justify the Means" to occupy, then the defender will invoke teh same in their cause for freedom. That's how freedom fighters become terrorists. And extremists.

Buchanan of course will run with this and likely argue for an isolationaist pose. He is well documented as being against immigration, etc. But that's an opinion derived from central fact. He has his own set of principles which differ from mine on those issues, but that doesn't mean that the central facts which provide grist for our principled stands is inaccurate.


An article over on The New Republic discusses the hypocrisy of the new calls for "reform" by Israel and the US, despite the fact that the corruption and repression of the Palestinians by the PA was largely supported by our two countries in the first place:

while Israelis now call democratization a precondition for a new peace process, many Palestinians believe it was the Israelis themselves, during years of peacemaking, who encouraged the very repression they're now condemning.

Arafat's Security Courts are widely loathed among Palestinians. The Palestinian Bar Association, along with many local human rights lawyers, boycotts them. And with good reason. Israel and the United States pushed the courts because they provided a way for the Palestinian Authority to jail Hamas militants quickly, without much real evidence or due process. But Arafat quickly expanded their jurisdiction, allowing them to prosecute drug dealers, white-collar criminals, and, most ironically of all, suspected collaborators with Israel.

The essence of this article is the following insight:

, it has often been right-wing Israelis who have voiced uneasiness with this type of justice. Natan Sharansky, Israeli housing minister and erstwhile Russian dissident, warned throughout the Oslo years that it was a mistake to encourage Arafat to suppress basic rights, even if the aim--destroying Hamas--was legitimate. "There was a feeling that if Israel helped make Arafat into a strong leader--a dictator, really--that he could deliver on peace and security," Sharansky says now. "I said from the start that it would backfire." Sharansky's theories on peace and democracy are rooted in the misery of his Soviet experience: A democratic Palestinian leader, he insists, will try to deliver peace in order to win the support of his people. A dictator, by contrast, will make Israel its perennial enemy to deflect attention from his own corruption. "Dictators need enemies to rally their people. That was always the case in the Soviet Union.

had the Palestinians been given a chance to create a democratic system, things moight today be very different. But Arafat and the PA were created in response to Israel's short-term security goals (as are the current "peace plans" being floated by Likud today). This nearsightedness is in the end detrimental to Israel' security in the long term.

Democracies don't fight each other. Thats the central Principle here. The pragmatic solution is therefore to actually implement our rhetoric and cultivate democracy everywhere - in Iran, in Palestine, even in Israel, which is not a democracy with equal rights for all its citizens. The result will be stability and propserity and (pragmatically) national security for us.