Posts tagged ‘Iran’

Leaving America

I got a good laugh today at all the folks, mostly on the left, who were saying that they will leave the country now that Bush is re-elected.

I was a reluctant Bush supporter. As a Libertarian, voting for major-party candidates is seldom a satisfying experience. I am well aware of the baggage Bush carries - he is not a small government libertarian. He is, however, also not a trial lawyer, not promising to balance the budget on my back, and not assuming that terrorists are wronged freedom fighters we should negotiate with.

Anyway, for all the flaws of either candidate, a Bush or Kerry America is still the best place on earth. Period. Those of you who want to leave will quickly find that, for one, America has some of the freest immigration policies in the world - just try to get a green card or a work permit for Canada or France. Good luck finding a job in Germany or France, as the semi-socialist policies that you likely admire there keep unemployment rates in the double digits. And by the way, don't expect any welfare benefits if you perhaps are imagining a slacker paradise, for though we in the US may be generous and argue how many benefits to give immigrants, you aren't getting anything as a new immigrant over there. Oh, and if you find a job, have fun with that first tax bill. And for those who want to go the extra mile and be human shields in the Gaza strip or Fallujah, you will certainly have an interesting time as you discover that that "religious fundamentalist" Bush looks like Madeline Murray O'Hare compared to your new islamo-fascist buddies.


I know the above seems exaggerated. It is not. Go read the comments section at Kos or Wonkette or Atrios. However, for just one example, try No Right Turn which has this:

There's not a fuck of a lot separating Osama bin Laden's Islamo-fascists and Dubya's Christian fundamentalists - they even follow the same god. The only real difference lies in who they want to kill. There's nothing there worth believing in, and nothing to hope for, except maybe that they'll all kill each other so that we members of the reality-based community can get on with our lives in peace

Hard to know where to start. OK, for fun, lets compare Bush to the Islamo-fascists on the three areas that most tick off Bush's detractors. Remember that I am a libertarian, so "Bush detractors" on many of these issues includes me:

Gay Rights: In the US, gays can live many places openly with some but decreasing harassment. Bush does not want them to marry. In some Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, pre-invasion Afghanistan, and Iran, homosexuality is punishable by death. Lets see, can't get married vs. death penalty. Equivalent?

Women's Rights: For some reason, this is defined in our country as being able to have an abortion. I would have thought free speech, ability to vote, right to bear arms, etc. would be women's rights too, but that is not what people seem to be talking about when they say it. So, on abortion. Abortion today in the US is legal, safe, and readily available. Bush has attempted to put some restrictions on it, such as parental consent for teenagers and elimination of certain types of procedures, but has never publicly advocated making it entirely illegal. In most of the Arab world, abortion is illegal. And, if the pregnancy is the result of sex out of wedlock, the woman risks being stoned to death. In addition, women have virtually none of those "other" women's rights we have in the US, like being able to vote, drive, show some skin, have a job outside the home, speak freely, etc. A black man in apartheid South Africa had far more rights and freedoms than a woman in the Arab world. Lets see - restrictions on certain abortion procedures vs. the status of a slave and the likelihood of getting beaten or stoned to death. Equivalent?

"Obscene" or profane speech
In the US, people have an incredible amount of freedom to say about any jackass thing they want to say. People such as Michael Moore who skewer our leaders or like Larry Flint who produce pornography are not only tolerated, but feted and made wealthy. The one exception is that the Bush administration has been more aggressive in enforcing decency standards against broadcast TV and radio, in part because of the anachronistic way these were originally licensed. This has resulted in fines related to Janet Jacksons breast and Howard Stern' language. In the Islamo-fascist world, no dissent is tolerated, nor is pornography, bad language, or anything else unacceptable to the priests. In the US, priests can complain about your low standards, but can't generally make you shut up. In Iran, for example, the priests can have you killed for your speech or form of expression, and they do. Routinely. The Janet Jacksons and Howard Sterns of Iran are probably dead. Let's see - some restrictions on TV and radio stations using the 7 banned words and showing nudity or death. Equivalent?

I am sick of these moral equivalencies. As it turns out, I actually disagree with the Bush position on many of the issues above, but I think it is absurd to say that Bush is as bad as the Islamo-fascists. The tone of the piece is to somehow pitch this as a religious war, that it is just about Christians trying to kill Muslims. But go back to September 10, 2001. Not many people in this country spared many thoughts to the Muslim world. It was only after about 3000 non-denominational deaths that people got worked up. By the way, WTC attack 1 occurred long before anyone in the Arab world ever heard of W, and the September 11 attack was planned long before he was in office. I swear that people increasingly are trying to reverse the causality here - it won't be long before I read somewhere that the 9/11 attacks were in revenge for W's invasion of Iraq.

By the way, I can't resist one last quote from this same post:

A recent New Statesman editorial commented that having watched one great beacon of hope - the Soviet Union - collapse into a nightmare, the world could hardly bear it if the other one - the United States - fell as well.

Stalin? Soviet Union? Beacons of hope. Unbelievable. The far left increasingly calls itself the "reality-based" community. Does any of this match your reality? For more, see here. Hat tip to Kiwi Blog for the link


In my original post, I jokingly said that I was taking up a collection to help people by buying them airplane tickets out of the country if they so choose. Though it was a joke, I still took it off. It sounds too much like the old conservative "America, love it or leave it" junk. America is a better place for having the broadest possible range of opinion, and I would be sad to see this end.


This post turns out to be a warm-up for this more complete post on trying to keep some sense of perspective post-election

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’ »

That Awkward Global Test, Part 1

The Duelfer Report has become sort of a political Rorschach test for both opponents and supporters of the war in Iraq. Opponents of the war (examples here and here) will point to the findings that Iraq, at the time of the invasion, did not have WMD's and probably got rid of them soon after sanctions began and that inspections seemed to be working. War supporters (examples here and here) will point to the findings that Saddam was carefully maintaining the capability to produce WMD's in anticipation of restarting the programs when sanctions lifted. Rather than read all these conflicting reports, go to the original - the executive summary of the report is clear and you can get the gist in a page or two.

The point of the post is really not about WMD's, but about other countries and their attitudes about US and the war. As quick background, I supported the war in Afghanistan, because they obviously harbored those who attacked us and I felt it was important to set the example of a strong response to a terrorist act (rather than the weak response to the USS Cole or the first WTC bombing). The fact that Afghanis are having their first election in millennia and tens of millions of people, particularly women, are freed from the shackles of totalitarianism is just gravy. I opposed the war in Iraq, mostly because I did not think it was our job as a country, or my job as a taxpayer, to help clean up the world. I am not dumb -- I get the argument about stopping Hitler in Czechoslovakia, but I was worried that success would be pushing on a balloon - we might push back terrorism and totalitarianism in Iraq, but what about Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Iran, etc?? Hitler was a one-headed monster - Islamic fascism unfortunately seems to be a many headed hydra. I know that President Bush would argue that a free and sortof democratic Iraq could be the seed around which moderation crystallizes in the Arab world. I would dearly love this to be true, but I fear that it is wishful thinking.

However, I will say that I have occasionally wavered in my opposition to the Iraq war. One reason is that I am thrilled to see Saddam gone and the Iraqi's trying to make a go of a free society. I wish them well. I cannot understand nor tolerate people who allow their opposition to the war and/or the president to cause them to root for failure as the Iraqi people try to make a go of it.

Second, as is sometimes the case as a libertarian, I have found myself, in my opposition to the war, uncomfortable with many of my bedfellows.

For example, many folks who oppose the war seem to feel that they actually have to go overboard and defend Saddam and pre-war Iraq. An extreme example is Michael Moore's ridiculous Fahrenheit 9/11, which tried to paint a happy picture of Saddam dominated Iraq. I find that position indefensible. Saddam sucked, and Iraq under Saddam sucked. The lighter version of this position is the Kerry campaign's position that we have substituted one bad thing (Saddam) for another (chaos and violence), with the implication that the Iraqi people are (or should be) unhappy with the trade. This is ridiculously disingenuous. Absolutely no one taking this position, that chaos is worse than dictatorship, would take this position for their own country. The proof? When faced with the choice of adopting a more statist security system in this country (Patriot Act, detentions, etc.) to avoid chaos and violence (e.g. future terrorist attacks) the anti-war crowd opposed these measures. And I promise, for all the talk of Bushitler, etc, these measures are trivial compared to what was done to keep "order" in Saddam's Iraq. So it strikes me as tremendously hypocritical to advocate for the Iraqi's a course no one would consider here in the US.

The other issue on which I disagree with my anti-war brethren is this notion of not building up a sufficient alliance or getting enough global approval. This is actually the point I have been trying to get to in this post. For months, I have suspected that this discussion was both naive and misdirected. Naive, because all along I was pretty sure that France and Russia were Saddam's allies, and no more likely to join a coalition against him than Mussolini was going to join the allies against Germany. Misdirected, because if we are going to wage a war with Islamo-fascists, help from countries like Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia is probably far more important than getting a few hundred MP's from France or Germany. Recent reports, including the Duelfer report and investigations of the ongoing UN oil-for-food program scandal, have begun to put factual flesh on the bones of my suspicions.

Since this post is going long already, I will continue in part 2.


I had a couple of emails already on Iraq. Let me clarify. I do not outright oppose the use of the military, even unilaterally, as a foreign policy tool. Also, I am not one of those idiots that somehow want to believe that terrorists are only attacking us because they have some valid complaints, and if we would just peacefully resolve their valid complaints, they would go away. Most terrorists and the nations that support them are bullies that hate our entire way of life, and who respond to nothing other than force. I have no problem agreeing that fighting terrorism will require military action against sponsoring nations, not just police work.

However, the attack on Iraq and its timing never quite made sense to me. I think of Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, et al as a bunch of teenage boys who have been raising hell in the neighborhood for over a decade. After years of ignoring their crimes or at worst giving them a stern talking to, we suddenly take one aside (and not necessarily even the one most culpable) and shoot him. This made some sense with Afghanistan, since we could draw a direct line of culpability between the Taliban and the 9/11 attacks. But was it time to shoot Iraq? And while there certainly were links between Iraq and terrorists, were they really worse than Syria's or Iran's or Saudi Arabia's. Certainly shooting Iraq got the group's attention, that we can hopefully mine diplomatically over the coming years, but shooting Afghanistan should have had a similar effect, and we never really tried to leverage that before we moved on to Iraq.


By the way, leaving now in Iraq and giving up and/or giving in would be a disaster. Reagan's retreat from Lebanon and Clinton's retreat from Somalia were disasters to US Foreign Policy. Our best weapon is to give the opposition no hope of victory. Once you demonstrate there is a point at which you back down, you will always be driven to that point by the opposition. I disagreed with the decision to invade Iraq, but now that we are there, there is no turning back the clock. Our presence is a fact and we must make it a success or it will really be a waste. . Relevant quote:

However, there is an element of truth in Roberts's remark. For a time, the humiliatingly rapid defeat of Iraq's military (with the tacit consent of many Iraqi soldiers, it's important to add) will cause angry young men in the Muslim world to enlist in greater numbers in the effort to wipe out that stain on Muslim honor.

But it is not an infinitely expanding cycle. There is not an endless supply of young Muslim men willing to kill -- or die -- to inflict painful but strategically meaningless attacks on a grimly determined America.

But if America is not grimly determined, then that changes everything. Instead of recognizing the futility of giving their lives to kill Americans, these Muslim young men will be filled with hope that their sacrifice might yield results.