Monday, January 30, 2006
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Hamas and Fact on the Ground
Before we go on, we need to see the real situation on the ground prior to January 26, 2006. I find headline such as this, “Hamas win heralds new reality” (BBC), ridiculous. It is not a new reality; it is a same old reality. Hamas electoral victory changed nothing, it only makes thing clearer.
Fatah (and the Palestinian Authority controlled by Fatah) was not a negotiation partner – at least not a viable one. I am not questioning their willingness to negotiate or desire to compromise. It is the ability to deliver that is in question. It is delusional to think that Fatah had control of the situation on the ground. It never had any control of the Palestinian territories and it certainly never had any control over the political and military actors within the Palestinian territories – to include it own factions. Therefore the whole peace process involving Fatah was an absurd idea. It is akin to business negotiation, but instead of negotiating with the majority stock holders, one negotiates with the minority stockholders. Fatah lack the ability to deliver peace – so peace with Fatah in charge was wishful thinking.
With Hamas in control, the situation is closer to reality in the Palestinian Territories than it was before. Hamas was the entity that controls the situation on the ground (politically and military) – it is naturally that they should be in charge. Their ascendancy allows for more realistic assessment of political situation and allows the US and Europe to arrive at more realistic foreign policy decisions. This is especially true for Israel. Israel now knows exactly what it is dealing with – clear, concrete, and without ambiguity. So whatever it is that Hamas decide to do, it is easier to counter. If Hamas decides to moderate it position, one can guarantee that it can and will deliver its end of the bargain. If it decides to escalate the conflict, there is an identified address for Israeli Hellfire missiles. The fact that the controller is now in the light and not in the shadow is a good thing.
The last few years, Israel military options were limited. It could not strike the Palestinian Authority after a suicide attack. Since the entity (PA) is not the direct author of those attacks. And when attack PA, such as destroying PA police stations; it was condemned by the world. The only viable military option for Israel was striking Hamas which was illusive. This time, striking PA itself is an option.
Of course, I was merely describing the worst case scenario – not what will likely happen. The reason I am optimistic is because I believe that Hamas entry into politic will limit it severely. Hamas political platform was political governance. Hamas asserts that Fatah was corrupt and incompetent, and that Hamas can govern more effectively. It must now prove it to the electorates or loose the next Legislative Council election. Hamas will soon find out that governing is not an easy task. It is one thing to criticize; it is another thing to actually deliver. Therefore, if Hamas can govern wisely and effectively, it does not matter who is in charge. Hamas leadership did not anticipate their own victory; therefore I doubt that they have a plan to govern the Palestinian territories. So Hamas either has to adjust quickly – which will result in realistic and pragmatic policies; or the problem of Hamas will be a temporary one.
This has an impact on Hamas policy toward Israel. I doubt that Hamas will change its charter and rhetoric – for instance the destruction of Israel. But it will certainly reconsider its military option and weight it more carefully than it did before. Hamas is radical, but not irrational. It would not waste its military resource in a fruitless confrontation with Israel – especially a confrontation that it knows it will loose.
The electoral victory of Hamas will likely cause a split within its rank – between the leadership in exiles and the leadership in the Palestinian territories. Facing with the reality of governing, the leadership in the territories will be more pragmatic. Living in exiles, the leadership in Syria will stay true to its idealistic and radical vision. This split will come as it did within Fatah.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Where Is The Party Of Reagan?
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Leo Strauss on Intelligence Design
According to Strauss, Western culture developed from two points: Athens and Jerusalem. The former is Reason, and the later is Revelation. Strauss said that those two points are distinct from one another. Reason cannot be used to refute or support Revelation and vice versa.
Intelligence Design is an attempt to explain Revelation through Reason – to explain miracle of faith using scientific inquiry. This cannot be done. For many thousand years, men of great intellectual prowess and spiritual strength have tried to prove God existence. And those theologians came from both the Vedic and the Abrahamic tradition. They all fail and gave up.
Intelligence Design post more risk to religion than to science. It will undermine the most central point of religion – that spiritual knowledge is intuitive and not observable by physical sensories.
Monday, January 23, 2006
I am a Pacifist
Saturday, January 21, 2006
1974: The History of Freedom
However, the most important event happened in Stockholm in 1974. It was the 1974 Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. It was the year Friedrich August von Hayek won his Nobel Prize. It was true that Gunnar Mydal, his ideological rival also won the prize – but the event changed the world forever.
The world prior to 1974 was the world of collectivism. In the East, Karl Marx ruled. In the West, John Maynard Keynes ruled. The world was divided between collectivism-heavy and collectivism-light; nowhere was individual liberty. When Friedrich Hayek wrote his “The Road to Serfdom,” the most important book written in the name of freedom, it was ridiculed by intellectuals and the politicians alike. On September 20, 1944, New York Times daily book reviewer Orville Prescott called it a "sad and angry little book." A year later, the people of Brittain voted Wiston Churchill out of power and elected Clement Atlee with a large majority. Soon after, Britain implemented nationalization of major industries and rationing food – even though the war was over.
In the US, the New Deal was going forward. Two year before the publication of “The Road to Serfdom,” in Wickard V. Filburn, the US Supreme Court took away the individual property right – ushered in an era of judicial activism that ended in Gonzales v. Raich. Incidently, Wickard was used as the precedence for Gonzales. Everywhere else, government interfered in every aspect of people lives. In India, Nehru implemented “The Five Year Plan,” a duplication of the Soviet “Five Year Plan.”
This was the world that Hayek struggled against. It was that he was the minority going against the tide – a light in the sea of darkness. So when the Nobel Committee decided to award the prize to him, they opened the door that could not be closed. The prize gave intellectual legitimacy to the idea that individuals are superior to state in economic matter and other matter. It did not supplant paternal Keynianism, but Freedom was here to stay. Two years later, Milton Friedman won the Nobel Prize in Economic Science. In 1979 Magaret Thatcher came into power and reverse the nationalization process of Clement Atlee. A few years later, Ronald Reagan came into power in the US and the idea of limited government became the mainstream of American political idea.
But as Milton Friedman said on “The Charlie Rose Show.” He won in theory, but not yet in practice. The idea of limited government, free market, and individual liberty is now mainstream in the intellectual world. But in the real world, we are far from victory. In the last year alone, the US Supreme Court decided two cases that severely limit individual freedom (Kelo v. New London, Gonzales v. Raich). The size of US government is increasing at an alarming rate. So freedom is not here to stay, yet. But all things began with an idea. In 1974, an idea came – it was freedom.
Monday, January 16, 2006
Discussing Marxism and Wilayat al-Faqih
Both arguments are weak feeble attempts at escaping reality. Between political idea and implementation, the implementation is never exactly identical to the political blueprint – but there are always enough elements to make the implementation the offspring of the idea. There are enough of Marx’s ideas in the Soviet Union to see that it is very much a Marxist state. The abolishment of private property and the dictatorship of the proletariat are two main aspects of Marxist government.
"Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the evolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat." - Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Program
"The dictatorship of the proletariat, i.e., the organization of the vanguard of the oppressed as the ruling class for the purpose of suppressing the oppressors, cannot result merely in an expansion of democracy. Simultaneously with an immense expansion of democracy, which for the first time becomes democracy for the poor, democracy for the people, and not democracy for the money-bags, the dictatorship of the proletariat imposes a series of restrictions on the freedom of the oppressors, the exploiters, the capitalists. We must suppress them in order to free humanity from wage slavery, their resistance must be crushed by force; it is clear that there is no freedom and no democracy where there is suppression and where there is violence." - Vladinir Lenin, State and Revolution
One further criticism of Marx apologists is the obvious flaw of Marx’s economic determinism. Marx did not say if you do A, B will occur; and if you do not do A, B will not occur. Socialism, according to Marx, is predetermined. It will happen – as sure as the sun will set or that the earth will evolve around the sun. Marx apologists who argue that socialism will come from an industrial society neglect to see that in the West, industrialization had come and gone; and there is still no socialism. In fact we are in a post-industrialization phase.
The influence of Marx went beyond the Soviet Union, Communist countries, and self-described Communist movements. I was surprised to find elements of Marxism in modern Islamism, particularly with the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The term “revolution” in Islamic revolution is most evidenced of Western influence – particularly Marxist. This is of no surprise because Marxist approach and reasoning is very malleable. I am not suggesting that the Ayatollah Khomeini is a Marxist. He despises Marxism and its promotion of atheism. But he used Marxist approach, reasoning, and tactic to achieve an Islamic end.
“Islam and Revolution: Writings and Declaration of Imam Khomeini” is a collection of writing by Khomeini. Reading it, one can find Marxist terminologies and approach to the Islamic Revolution. Khomeini might find Communist atheism objectionable and dangerous. But he has no problem borrowing some of Marxist ideas to further his Islamic end. Khomeini’s idea of an Islamic state is heavily influenced by Marxism. Wilayat al-Faqih (Guardianship of the Clergies) is an Islamic version of dictatorship of the proletariat. The Guardian Council is the Islamic version of the Communist Politburo and the Supreme Leader is the Islamic version of the Communist Secretary General.
Freethought Mecca has an article “Islam & Communism in Iran” which I offer a illustrative few lines.
In the introduction I described Islam with a rather cruel, if not sophomoric choice of words, and rightly so, as totalitarian mythologies created by tribal nomads (be it Judaism, Christianity, or Islam) should be spared no sort of verbal abuse. Still, such language, when being used to describe Khomeini, does not give credit to the Ayatollah's subtle brilliance and political craftiness. This was not just a backwoods cleric who concentrated on nothing other than his beard length and stories about Muhammad's flying horse; rather this was a man who was able to blend populism, bits of Marxism, and even a small dose of nationalism with Shia Islam in order to create a new ideology.First there is the influence of Marxism on Khomeini's ideology. With polemicists such as Ali Shariati, and groups such as the People's Mojahedin, Marxism was being promoted in various forms throughout Iran during the 1960's and 1970's. The idea of the poor uniting against the rich obviously agreed with Khomeini's ideology. His concept of the mostazafin (oppressed) and the zagheh-neshinha (slum dwellers) going against the mostakberin (oppressors) and the kakh-neshinha (palace dwellers) had obvious Marxist connotations.
Khomeini, at one point, admitted the influence of the Marxists on the clerics. Speaking of the late response of the clerics to the movements against the Shah, Khomeini wrote "[w]e cannot remain silent until college students force us to carry out our duty. " It was also during this time that Khomeini spoke poorly of sarmayehdaran ("the capitalists"). Khomeini was even quoted as using the famous phrase "oppressed of the world, unite! "
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Betrayal and Sacrifice
The Bush administration does not intend to seek any new funds for Iraq reconstruction in the budget request going before Congress in February, officials say. The decision signals the winding down of an $18.4 billion U.S. rebuilding effort in which roughly half of the money was eaten away by the insurgency, a buildup of Iraq's criminal justice system and the investigation and trial of Saddam Hussein.
Just under 20 percent of the reconstruction package remains unallocated. When the last of the $18.4 billion is spent, U.S. officials in Baghdad have made clear, other foreign donors and the fledgling Iraqi government will have to take up what authorities say is tens of billions of dollars of work yet to be done merely to bring reliable electricity, water and other services to Iraq's 26 million people.
It is my wishes and dream that years from now, the very spots that American blood dropped in the sand, a new Iraq rose – proud, prosperous, and free. The President owe me and my comrades that much. The President needs to get serious about rebuilding Iraq.
Friday, January 06, 2006
“Munich” – Multiple Perspectives
Dingo defends Spielberg:
This is how Spielberg does such a good job of delineating good from evil. The main Jewish characters show both remorse and confliction for what they are doing. This is the line between good and evil when evil is committed. Four men are sent to do a job. That job is an evil task. It was a justified task, but none-the-less, an evil one. Killing, no matter how justified or necessary, is never "good." An eye for an eye is a justification, not a furtherance of good.
An evil job is easily done by an evil person.
An evil job is never done easily by a good person.
Thus lies the difference between good and evil when the task at hand is evil itself. Even when the good are forced to commit justified evil, the good will question. The evil will just do. In the movie, the Palistinians justified their actions as a desire for a homeland, but the means are never questioned.
That is not the criticism of “Munich” by most people I read either. People generally understand that the act of killing is unpleasant and emotional disturbing. And not only does an assassination unpleasant. Any killing, even killing in self-defense against an imminent threat is unpleasant. That is not the point of criticism.
Spielberg went beyond showing the psychological pain result from killing another human being. Spielberg repeats the Hollywood mantra that violence in all circumstance is futile. The main character did not merely fought the inner emotional/psychological battle result from his action. Avner toward the second half of the movie asked point blank what is the point of killing those terrorists since more violence men will just replace them. And I was shocked beyond word to hear the main character (a Mossad agent) said something so ridiculous that only a Hollywood elite would have thought of. He requested that instead of assassination, those terrorists should have been brought to trial in Israel. I was shocked but not surprise. Peaceniks have argued the same thing prior to the War in Afghanistan.
Bruce Thorton offers the best criticism of “Munich.” Go read the whole thing.
This popular take on the Arab-Israeli conflict is encapsulated in the phrase “cycle of violence.” The assumptions behind this phrase comprise a catalogue of modern moral pathologies. Most important is the therapeutic psychology that sees force not in moral terms — that is, as the instrument of a righteous or unrighteous choice and aim — but as a reflexive reaction to grievances and wounds to self-esteem. People who have been insulted, wronged, or denied various aspirations “lash out” in anger, provoking a similar reaction in those whom they attack. Thus the “cycle of violence,” a vicious circle that can be broken only by abandoning force and addressing the grievances that started the cycle in the first place.There is a clear distinction between the internal struggle to maintain one’s humanity when facing an inhumane enemy and the surrendering to the same enemy because it does not feel good to fight him. The former is bitter medicine, the later is sugarcoated poison. Spielberg simple does not know the difference.
…. The Israeli agents tracking down the murderers of Israeli athletes in Munich are defined for the most part by their agonizing moral doubts and ambiguities, incessantly reprising the mantra of “violence begets violence.” The Israeli bomb-maker makes a speech about how killing terrorists somehow compromises Jewish “righteousness,” which suggests that Jews can be righteous and worthy of our sympathy only as long as they remain passive victims, as they are in Schindler’s List.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Obvious Solution to Corruption
Somehow, everyone seems to ignore the obvious solution to an obvious problem – money. I am not talking about the amount of political contribution or lobbying fee. I am talking about government coffer. The reason that there is corruption in government is because there is money in the government. The more revenue being appropriated by the government, the more incentive is there for misappropriating fund. The amount of corruption is directly correlated to the amount of money available. It would not matter if Republican, Democrat, or the Franciscan Order is in power. Scoundrels will follow the scent of money and corruption will enviably follow regardless of who are in charge. And no additional laws, regulations, or procedures will make a different. Scoundrels are not known to obey laws.
And I do not see the problem of corruption getting any better as long as government spending is a large part of our gross domestic product – estimate at 30 to 40 percent of GDP. And as our federal budget continue to grow in the coming years. I predict that there will be more corruption in our government.
The problem is money and the solution is money. More money available to government leads to more corruption. Less money available to the government leads to less corruption. The only long term solution to corruption in government is limited government. We must reduce the source of corruption by reduce the amount of money available to the government.
Who would bother to lobbying the government if the government has no money to hands out? Who would contribute to political campaign if there is no money to which politicians can appropriate? Who would buy influence if there is no influence to be bought?
Monday, January 02, 2006
Hope and Prediction for 2006
For 2006, I hope that the situation in Iraq will continue to improve. I am not expecting a miracle, but slow progress. There will be continued violence throughout 2006 and beyond. But we can be certain that the current Iraqi government will not collapse under pressure of terrorism. It is my hope that we can reduce military operation in four governorates: Diyala, Wasit, At-Tammin, and Niwana. The Iraqi security forces (ISF) should be taken the lead in those four governorates. Most of the South has been turned over to the Iraqi security forces. We will still be taking the lead in Al-Anbar and Salah Ad-Din where the insurgency is strongest. The training and maturing of the ISF will continue to improve. I predict that they will be fully matured in 2008. And then they can take on the insurgency by themselves.
I hope that Iraq economy will continue to grow, but I doubt they will grow at the same rate. The phenomenon growth rate in the last two years (50+% in 2004 and 26% in 2006) has more to do with the low starting base. If the economy can grow at 6 percents, I would be happy. It is important that we do much more to help. Iraqi financial institutions are in a primitive state. We need to help them reform their financial institutions; bringing them to at least 20th century standard and capability. A person should at least be able to deposit money into one branch and withdraw them at a different branch which is not currently possible in Iraqi banks.
On the home front, we need shore up support for the war. The loss of support for the war is due to two reasons: the normal isolationist tendency of the US public and the failure of the administration to explain the war. There is not much we can do about the isolationist tendency among our people in the short run. The US public has always been isolationist. We always have two oceans to insulate us from the danger of the world beyond. September 11th shocked us into the truth that the world beyond is a dangerous place and its impact directly on us. But many still find comfort in isolationism – that the problem of others is their problem alone. It is comforting thought but dangerous. The consequence for loosing in Iraq is immense. This is the most important war we fought since the Great War and we must convince the public of that reality. In the short run, the administration needs to do a much better job of explaining the war. We should not sugarcoat the fact that the war is a difficult enterprise entailing serious sacrifice in blood and treasure. But it is absolutely winnable and it must be won. In the long run, we should improve our education system so that our children are learning more about things beyond our border and how things far away impacting our lives.
Another domestic issue is government spending. It is my deepest hope that we can cut back on federal spending and curb the budget deficit. 2005 was a year of shame for the Republican Congress and the Republican White House. We increased spending on entitlements, we increased pork barrels spending, and we even increased regulatory spending. It is my hope that the Republican Party realizes how unhappy many of loyal Republicans are with the Party. It is time we return to the Party of Limited Government. The first thing to do is to severely cut back on pork barrel spending. I am realistic enough to not expect a reverse in our spending trend, I am happy enough if we can significantly slow down the growth rate in federal spending.