Monday, November 29, 2004

Conformity in Academia: Part III

Courtesy of Redstate, here's a brilliant article by Mark Bauerlein from the November 12 Chronicle of Higher Education, that was cited by George Will in the piece I commented on earlier. In my view, Bauerlein provides the best overall explanation of the left's dominance over academia, and why all who value free thought, regardless of their political beliefs, should be concerned by it:

The obvious answer, at least in the humanities and social sciences, is that academics shun conservative values and traditions, so their curricula and hiring practices discourage non-leftists from pursuing academic careers. What allows them to do that, while at the same time they deny it, is that the bias takes a subtle form. Although I've met several conservative intellectuals in the last year who would love an academic post but have given up after years of trying, outright blackballing is rare. The disparate outcome emerges through an indirect filtering process that runs from graduate school to tenure and beyond.


Such parochialism and alarm are the outcome of a course of socialization that aligns liberalism with disciplinary standards and collegial mores. Liberal orthodoxy is not just a political outlook; it's a professional one. Rarely is its content discussed. The ordinary evolution of opinion -- expounding your beliefs in conversation, testing them in debate, reading books that confirm or refute them -- is lacking, and what should remain arguable settles into surety. With so many in harmony, and with those who agree joined also in a guild membership, liberal beliefs become academic manners. It's social life in a professional world, and its patterns are worth describing.


The problem is that the simple trappings of deliberation make academics think that they've reached an opinion through reasoned debate -- instead of, in part, through an irrational social dynamic. The opinion takes on the status of a norm. Extreme views appear to be logical extensions of principles that everyone more or less shares, and extremists gain a larger influence than their numbers merit. If participants left the enclave, their beliefs would moderate, and they would be more open to the beliefs of others. But with the conferences, quarterlies, and committee meetings suffused with extreme positions, they're stuck with abiding by the convictions of their most passionate brethren.

As things stand, such behaviors shift in a left direction, but they could just as well move right if conservatives had the extent of control that liberals do now. The phenomenon that I have described is not so much a political matter as a social dynamic; any political position that dominates an institution without dissent deterioriates into smugness, complacency, and blindness. The solution is an intellectual climate in which the worst tendencies of group psychology are neutralized.

The entire essay is well worth your time, and can be found here:

Liberal Groupthink Is Anti-Intellectual

Sunday, November 28, 2004

More on Conformity in Academia

Courtesy of Instapundit, George Will weighs in on the lack of intellectual diversity in academia:

A filtering process, from graduate-school admissions through tenure decisions, tends to exclude conservatives from what Mark Bauerlein calls academia's "sheltered habitat." In a dazzling essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Bauerlein, professor of English at Emory University and director of research at the National Endowment for the Arts, notes that the "first protocol" of academic society is the "common assumption" — that, at professional gatherings, all the strangers in the room are liberals.

I can attest from first hand experience that this is exactly what happens in academia, and in librarianship. Will goes on to eloquently and accurately summarize what this political conformity and ideological ghettoization has led to:

This gives rise to what Bauerlein calls the "false consensus effect": Due to institutional provincialism, "people think that the collective opinion of their own group matches that of the larger population."

There also is what Cass Sunstein of University of Chicago, calls "the law of group polarization." Bauerlein explains: "When like-minded people deliberate as an organized group, the general opinion shifts toward extreme versions of their common beliefs." They become tone-deaf to the way they sound to others outside their closed circle of belief.

When John Kennedy brought to Washington such academics as Arthur Schlesinger Jr., John Kenneth Galbraith, McGeorge and William Bundy and Walt Rostow, it was said that the Charles River was flowing into the Potomac.

Academics, such as the next secretary of state, still decorate Washington, but academia is less listened to than it was. It has marginalized itself, partly by political shrillness and silliness that have something to do with the parochialism produced by what George Orwell called "smelly little orthodoxies."

Many campuses are intellectual versions of one-party nations — except such nations usually have the merit, such as it is, of candor about their ideological monopolies. In contrast, American campuses have more insistently proclaimed their commitment to diversity as they have become more intellectually monochrome.

Mr. Will's assessment, in my view, is dead on.

Iraq Update: 11/28/04

On November 26, several Brookings Institution specialists described the overall situation in Iraq in sobering terms, based on an analysis of the available statistics:

On balance, the data show that security trends in Iraq are generally poor, economic trends are promising but glacial in pace, and political trends are hopeful but fragile.

Go to the Brookings Iraq Index Web site for full data and additional research.

Of course, it is possible that much of what is taking place in Iraq is not adequately conveyed in statistics. This past Monday, Arthur Chrenkoff produced his latest biweekly update on the overlooked progress being made in rebuilding Iraq. Once more, I recommend giving it a read:

Beyond Fallujah

What Chrenkoff's reports show is that, despite all the difficulties, progress continues to be made. As Thomas Friedman noted in a November 21 New York Times column, there are reasons for optimism:

Cultures can change, though. But it takes time. And, be advised, it is going to take years to produce a decent outcome in Iraq. But every time I think this can't work, I come across something that suggests, who knows, maybe this time the play will end differently. The headlines last week were all about Falluja. But maybe the most important story in Iraq was the fact that while Falluja was exploding, 106 Iraqi parties and individuals registered to run in the January election. And maybe the second most important story is the relatively quiet way in which Iraqis, and the Arab world, accepted the U.S. invasion of Falluja. The insurgents there had murdered hundreds of Iraqi Muslims in recent months, and, I think, they lost a lot of sympathy from the Arab street. (But if we don't get the economy going on the Iraqi street, what the rest of the Arab world thinks will be of no help.)

Readers regularly ask me when I will throw in the towel on Iraq. I will be guided by the U.S. Army and Marine grunts on the ground. They see Iraq close up. Most of those you talk to are so uncynical - so convinced that we are doing good and doing right, even though they too are unsure it will work. When a majority of those grunts tell us that they are no longer willing to risk their lives to go out and fix the sewers in Sadr City or teach democracy at a local school, then you can stick a fork in this one. But so far, we ain't there yet. The troops are still pretty positive.

Postcards From Iraq

Despite all the problems, things continue to move forward in Iraq, however slowly. As Friedman points out, our troops remain committed to the mission of building a pluralist democratic Iraq. It will not be quick or easy, but we cannot afford to fail. We owe it to our troops, the Iraqi people, and ourselves to see the mission through.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Ideological Orthodoxy in Academia

Further evidence of the left's dominance of academia is provided by this recent survey by Daniel Klein, an Economics professor at Santa Clara University. A November 18 article from the New York Times summarizes Klein's findings:

One of the studies, a national survey of more than 1,000 academics, shows that Democratic professors outnumber Republicans by at least seven to one in the humanities and social sciences. That ratio is more than twice as lopsided as it was three decades ago, and it seems quite likely to keep increasing, because the younger faculty members are more consistently Democratic than the ones nearing retirement, said Daniel Klein, an associate professor of economics at Santa Clara University and a co-author of the study.

In a separate study of voter registration records, Professor Klein found a nine-to-one ratio of Democrats to Republicans on the faculties of Berkeley and Stanford. That study, which included professors from the hard sciences, engineering and professional schools as well as the humanities and social sciences, also found the ratio especially lopsided among the younger professors of assistant or associate rank: 183 Democrats versus 6 Republicans.

While I don't have any numbers, my own experiences and other anecdotal evidence confirm that this imbalance also applies to the library profession, hence my blog title. As Klein's data shows, the left's dominance of academia has become so entrenched that it is now self-sustaining and reinforcing. The problem is that this kind of one-sided political dominance inevitably leads to an environment of intellectual conformity. How can universities fulfill their mission of cultivating free thought when they are increasingly becoming fortresses of left-wing orthodoxy, permeated with contempt for the benighted Red State masses and anyone holding conservative beliefs? The ideological segregation of academia, and librarianship, hurts both colleges and universities and the nation at large.

Of Images and Context

On February 1 1968, at the height of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, AP photographer Eddie Adams took what would become one of the most famous photos of the 20th century. Taken in Saigon, the picture shows an unarmed prisoner being executed by South Vietnamese police commander General Nguyen Ngoc Loan. The photo caused a firestorm of controversy, and became a symbol for many of the brutal nature of the South Vietnamese regime.

In the power of the image captured by Adams, however, the broader context behind the incident was lost. The man executed was a Viet Cong officer believed responsible for the murder of numerous civilians, including the families of policemen. Such conduct was typical of the communist forces during Tet. In the city of Hue, for example, an estimated 3,000 civilians were murdered by the North Vietnamese army. Yet the numerous communist atrocities were lost amid the uproar over the Adams photo. Adams would eventually regret ever taking the picture.

Sadly, a depressingly similar situation has recently occurred in Iraq, with the shooting of a wounded, seemingly unarmed enemy fighter by a young Marine in Fallujah captured on video and replayed around the world. Al-Jazeera, which refuses to show the video of the barbarous murder of Margaret Hassan by terrorists, has replayed the video of the Fallujah incident on a regular basis. Kevin Sites, the journalist who took the film of the shooting, has described and defended his actions on his blog.

Once again, it is the context that is not shown on the video that is truly important:

-Insurgents in Fallujah have employed numerous tactics that violate the laws of war, including pretending to be dead.

-On several occasions, wounded terrorists in Fallujah called for medical assistance from Marines, then detonated explosives as the Americans approached.

This situation is nothing like the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse. In my view, the Marine in question, acting in the heat of battle, did exactly what he felt was necessary to defend himself and his comrades. For people who have no idea what he and his fellow warriors have endured on our nation's behalf to now condemn this young man is disgraceful. War is ugly, especially when engaged in close quarters combat with a vicious adversary. This is a reality that we need to come to terms with.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

An Update

Apologies to my handful of loyal readers for the lack of posts. I've been enjoying the runup to Thanksgiving with family and friends. I had hoped to do some posting over the past week, but one US World Cup qualifier, one Pixies concert, and three hockey games got in the way just a bit. Please forgive my mini-hiatus. Expect normal blogging to resume by this weekend. in the meantime, feel free to browse the newly revised and expanded list of links to the right. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

On the Road Again

Traveling today and tomorrow to my ancestral home for Thanksgiving. Expect blogging to be even more intermittent than usual, if that's possible. In the meantime, amuse yourselves by perusing my blogroll and other assorted links to the right.

Afghanistan Update

Arthur Chrenkoff has provided his invaluable monthly roundup of the progress being made in Afghanistan. Once again, I cannot recommend it highly enough:

The Spark of Democracy

In the wake of last month's remarkably successful election, it is clear that we and the Afghan people are well on the way to defeating al-Qaeda and the Taliban in that country. While much remains to be done, contrary to the critics we are indeed winning in Afghanistan.

The Arafat Legacy: A Final Set of Readings

Here are three excellent articles that help explain why the passing of Yasser Arafat is anything but cause for mourning:

In a November 12 piece for National Review Online, Andrew C. McCarthy offers a detailed biography of the man he accurately calls "(t)he Father of Modern Terrorism":

While Arafat's mantel as the "Father of Palestine" is dubious given that he is singularly responsible for the failure of a Palestinian nation to emerge, his credentials as the "Father of Modern Terrorism" are solid. In the late 1950's, he co-founded Fatah, the "Movement for the National Liberation of Palestine." His métier, and thus Fatah's, was the sneak attack on soft Israeli targets, the better to maximize carnage and fear. The first efforts were ham-handed: failed attempts in 1965 to bomb the national water carrier and the railroad. But the organization soon hit its stride, successfully attacking villages and civilian infrastructure. By 1969, Arafat was the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the umbrella group he never ceased to dominate after merging Fatah into it a year earlier. The PLO had a single purpose: the destruction of Israel.

Actually, make that two purposes. The PLO was also a fabulously profitable criminal enterprise. Though Arafat purported to have made it big in the engineering business in Kuwait, British investigators, as Stephens reported, concluded after a searching probe that his wealth stemmed from sidelines his organization maintained in "extortion, payoffs, illegal arms-dealing, drug trafficking, money laundering and fraud" that yielded billions. Throughout his career, moreover, Arafat proved a master at culling funds — whether from levies on strapped Palestinian workers or gushing subsidies from starry-eyed European and American governments. From these, he skimmed millions and stashed them throughout the world — including in Israeli banks —keeping his wife on a lavish $100,000-per-month allowance in Paris while his people starved, and, of course, blamed Israel for their troubles.

In the November 14 edition of the British Sunday newspaper The Observer, Jason Burke analyzes the extent of the rampant corruption that plagued Arafat's PLO and Palestinian Authority:

Senior Palestinian officials are desperately trying to account for sums that could total hundreds of millions of pounds' worth of investments linked to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) spread out around the world.

They also hope to locate secret bank accounts belonging to hundreds of corrupt low-level officials serving with the Palestinian Authority (PA), the administration set up to run the West bank and Gaza in 1993, who were protected by Yasser Arafat. Arafat, as the PLO chairman, was one of the few individuals who knew the location of many of the organisation's investments - which range from land holdings to shares in major corporations. Senior PLO figures, such as Mahmood Abbas, the secretary general until Arafat's death, and Ahmed Qurei, a key aide of Arafat, have some information but it is incomplete.

Finally, in the November 22 Weekly Standard, Robert Satloff looks at the possibilities presented by the post-Arafat era:

The passing of Arafat will provide that Middle Eastern rarity: a second chance. With Palestinian politics inwardly focused in the immediate aftermath of Arafat's death, promoting an early resumption of high-level Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy is the wrong approach. Instead, this is precisely the moment for the United States to press forward with a three-pronged agenda.

First, Washington should do all it can to assist Israel in implementing its plan to disengage from Gaza and the northern West Bank. More than anything else, the prospect of Israeli withdrawal from these areas will compel moderate, reformist Palestinians to come out of the woodwork and fight for their interests in the internal Palestinian political contest that looms.

Second, the United States should promote a U.S.-Palestinian agenda that emphasizes democracy, transparency, accountability, and the rule of law. Elections that were impossible as long as Arafat had a stranglehold on power are now conceivable. This new American approach cannot by itself ensure that the optimistic scenario will take hold. President Bush's promise last week to work for "lasting democratic political institutions" in a free Palestine is a good start. But without a consistent, concerted push from Washington--the foreign capital that all Palestinians have, for the last decade, cared most about--the prospects are dim indeed.

Third, the Bush administration should challenge Arabs and Europeans to lend material support to both these efforts. Foreign critics of the president's first term who demand "greater American engagement"--while still providing broadcast time to anti-peace jihadists, welshing on their financial commitments, or reveling in producing peace plans unrelated to reality--should have no standing in Washington. But countries that are willing to invest in the success of a post-disengagement Gaza--politically, economically, and morally--should find a willing partner in the White House.

The Palestinian leadership and people now find themselves with a golden opportunity to move away from the corrupt autocracy, savage terrorism, and self-destructive fanaticism that constitute the legacy of Yasser Arafat. I sincerely hope they will find the wisdom to abandon that legacy and instead pursue democratic reform and genuine peace with Israel. The United States should do everything possible to encourage and assist them on this path.

Party Like It's 1999!

Yes, DC United indeed won an unprecedented 4th MLS Cup on Sunday, by the very scoreline I predicted. In many ways the match was a microcosm of United's season. After falling behind early, DC exploded for 3 goals in an 8 minute span, two by Finals MVP Alecko Eskandarian, and an own goal created by the dangerous work of Earnie Stewart. United then looked to be cruising to victory until the 58th minute, when only a Dema Kovalenko handball prevented Kansas City from scoring off a goalmouth scramble. Kovalenko was justifiably sent off, and KC scored anyway on the ensuing penalty kick. Forced to play a man down, United persevered and weathered the storm for the final half-hour.

DC United has overcome a great deal this year: the hype surrounding Freddy Adu, the struggle to adjust to new coach Peter Nowak and his system, and injuries. The biggest blow came when it was announced in late Summer that our Great National Past-Its-Time will be returning to RFK Stadium next year. United and its fans found ourselves treated as an afterthought, that is when our existence was even acknowledged. For a team that has singlehandedly kept RFK in use since the Redskins' departure, averaging about 17,000 fans a game, this was definitely distressing. Hopefully, this will at least expedite the process of getting United its own stadium by 2007, which will be privately funded and cost far less than what has been proposed for the former Expos.

As I've noted before, this season was eerily similar to the inaugural MLS season of 1996, when United likewise came on late in the season to win MLS Cup. That title run set the stage for DC to win three of the first four MLS Cups, the last coming in 1999 (hence the title of this post). It is quite possible that this win will be the start of a similar run. Most of the team should be back next year. Veteran former US international Stewart is leaving for the Netherlands, and he'll be missed, on and off the field. Up to three players will be lost in this Friday's expansion draft, but the front office should be able to find suitable replacements. The main concern is the captain and anchor on defense, Ryan Nelsen. The New Zealand international is now a free agent, and will be tempted to move to Europe, though United intend to make a strong offer to keep him. If they succeed in retaining Nelsen, there is no reason United can't repeat next year.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Previewing MLS Cup

Major League Soccer Cup 2004: DC United v. Kansas City Wizards

When: Sunday, November 14, 3:30 PM EST
Where: Home Depot Center, Carson California

DC United:

DC United makes its fifth MLS Cup appearance, and first since 1999, after beating New England Revolution to win the MLS Eastern Conference. Last Saturday's Eastern final was one of the best matches ever in MLS's 9 year history, a pulsating 3-3 draw that had to be settled by penalty kicks, with United prevailing 4-3. DC finished 2nd in the East, 4th overall, during the regular season, struggling for form most of the year before surging to win 4 of their last 5 matches. United is an entertaining, attacking side led by the brilliance of Bolivian forward Jaime Moreno. Moreno, a finalist for league MVP, can both finish and create, as his 9 goals and 15 assists demonstrate. The Bolivian's strike partner, Alecko Eskandarian, is a solid finisher with 12 goals. Argentinian midfielder Christian Gomez, a late season acquisition, scored 5 times and adds playmaking ability to the midfield. New Zealand international Ryan Nelson anchors a solid but slow defense, while Nick Rimando has been excellent in goal. United's first year coach Peter Nowak, the former 1860 Munich and Chicago Fire midfielder, could become the first man to win MLS Cup as both a player and a coach.

Kansas City Wizards:

Kansas City is in many ways the polar opposite of DC United. The Wizards are a well organized, defensive oriented team that yielded the fewest goals in MLS this year. They finished first in the West, 2nd overall, and have already won this year's US Open Cup competition. Now they will try to make it a "double". Kansas City has been without four of their top players, Preki, Tony Meola, Chris Klein, and Igor Simutenkov, for much of the season, yet coach Bob Gansler has done a terrific job of getting the most out of his team. While the loss of Preki and Klein has hurt the midfield, unheralded rookies Jack Jewsbury and Khari Stephenson have filled in quite well. Jewsbury in particular has shown a knack for pushing forward and scoring big goals. Josh Wolff and Davy Arnaud have formed a quality strike tandem, and fit well into the Wizards' fast counterattacking style. This team's strength, though, is in defense. Jimmy Conrad and Nick Garcia anchor the backline, aided by defensive midfielder Kerry Zavagnin. Journeyman Bo Oshoniyi has been tremendous in goal replacing the veteran Meola. However, Meola is reportedly healthy enough to play, leaving coach Gansler with a dilemma. I was at MLS Cup 2000, when the Wizards won their only previous title. In that game, Tony Meola put on one of the best displays of goalkeeping I have ever seen in a 1-0 victory over Chicago. If he is fit and in form, he is capable of duplicating that performance. In my opinion, Gansler has no choice but to play Meola if healthy.


Cup finals are often dour affairs, but I think this one will be an exception. As a DC fan, I'm admittedly biased, but I think United wins its fourth MLS Cup title, foiling Kansas City's hopes of an MLS Cup/US Open Cup double.

DC United 3, Kansas City 2

Thursday, November 11, 2004

More on Arafat

As the United Nations officially files for moral bankruptcy by flying its flags at half-staff in memory of Yasser Arafat, here are two links that provide more details on the real legacy of the deceased terrorist:

-The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies provides this backgrounder on the Arafat record.

-At National Review Online, Aaron Mannes describes Arafat's legacy of terrorism in the article "Terrorism’s Godfather".

As I noted earlier, my fondest hope is that Arafat's passing will allow the Palestinians to move beyond his legacy of terrorism and hatred, and build a future based on freedom, prosperity and living in peace with Israel.

Honoring Our Veterans

First, please allow me to wish the United States Marine Corps a belated happy 229th birthday. The Marines have been at the forefront in defense of our nation, from the War of Independence to the War on Terror.

Today is Veterans Day. I wish to humbly express my gratitude to all who have served this nation and defended our freedom, and especially to all those currently serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. I encourage everyone reading this blog to browse the "Supporting the Troops" list of links on the right hand side of this page, and make a donation to the organization of your choice.

Finally, we should also note the heroic sacrifices of our allies by recognizing that today is Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada. Thanks to these nations for their long friendship and for standing by our side in the War on Terror.

Arafat and His Legacy

Yasser Arafat is now officially dead. Arafat was, in many ways, the forefather of modern terrorism. Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, summarizes the Arafat record:

With his founding of Fatah in the late 1950's, his rise to the chairmanship of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1969, Arafat made the destruction of the State of Israel the goal of the Palestinian national movement, and terrorism the primary means to achieve this goal. He made the hijackings of planes and ships, hostage-takings of nursery schools, the brutal execution of Olympic athletes, and the senseless killing of ordinary people engaged in everyday activities a regular, deadly and immediate reality around the world.

Tragically, Arafat's use of terrorism worked, at least to an extent. He succeeded in putting the Palestinian cause on the front page of newspapers worldwide, and ultimately in obtaining a partial Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip while becoming the leader and embodiment of the Palestinian cause in the process. In Arafat's case, terrorism did indeed produce results, a lesson he and others never forgot, and for which we and the entire civilized world have paid a price.

When presented late in life with the opportunity to go from terrorist to statesman, Arafat failed to seize the opportunity. Almost the entire world condemned Saddam's Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, yet Arafat chose to openly support the Iraqi tyrant. Arafat ruled the nascent Palestinian Authority as a corrupt autocrat. As today's New York Times notes, he secreted billions of dollars meant for the Palestinian people, using the money to buy arms, offer bribes, and fund terrorism, among other purposes. Under Arafat's leadership, the Palestinian Authority has indoctrinated its people with some of the most vile anti-Semitic and anti-western propaganda seen since the Third Reich. Both MEMRI and the Anti-Defamation League have thoroughly documented this process. The results of this indoctrination can be found in the barbarous cult of suicide murder that has arisen in Palestinian society.

Arafat's final, most disastrous decision came in the Summer of 2000, when he walked away from the incredible offer made by Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton. When the opportunity came to make peace, Arafat simply couldn't bring himself to do it. Instead, he reverted to type. Seeing the unprecedented concessions offered by Israel as a sign of weakness, Arafat returned to the path of terrorism that had worked so well for him in the past. Perhaps the hated Jews could be driven into the sea after all. Arafat therefore seized on the pretext of Ariel Sharon's September 2000 visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to launch a renewed terror war against Israel. This decision cost the lives of 4,000 people, including 3,000 Palestinians, and has led the Palestinian people into a dead end of fanaticism, defeat, and despair.

The legacy of Yasser Arafat is profoundly evil and destructive. He did bring his people to the brink of statehood, but at a horrible price. From the Munich Olympics massacre to the suicide bombers of today, the Palestinian cause is now intimately associated with the practice of terrorism. The Palestinian people live in poverty and despair, defeated in a needless war, and trapped in an officially-sanctioned culture of death-worshipping fanaticism. It is to be hoped that Arafat's successors will pursue a path of genuine peace with Israel, crack down on terror groups such as HAMAS and Islamic Jihad, and implement democracy and prosperity for their own people. Only by abandoning the Arafat legacy can the Palestinians have a decent future.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Why We Fight

Overshadowed by last week's US elections was an act of utter barbarism in the Netherlands that illustrates precisely why the War on Islamist Terror must be fought and won. Last Tuesday, Theo Van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker, was murdered in the streets of Amsterdam by an Islamist fanatic. This BBC report explains why:

Van Gogh, 47, had received death threats after his film Submission was shown on Dutch TV.

It portrayed violence against women in Islamic societies.

The film was made with liberal Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali refugee who fled an arranged marriage.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been under police protection since the film was aired. She has also received death threats and has renounced the Islamic faith.

The November 4 Guardian offers some additional, gruesome details:

On his knees, the eyewitnesses said, Van Gogh twice begged for mercy. But the suspect, described as having a beard and wearing a long jellaba, fired again and then drew two butcher's knives, slitting his victim's throat before driving the blades into his chest. Police found a letter on the body, but have yet to reveal its contents.

The contents of that letter are now public, and the Associated Press has provided some translated excerpts. Anyone who doubts that we are at war with a totalitarian ideology of death should read it:

Ms. Hirsi Ali and the rest of the extremist unbelievers: Islam has withstood many enemies and repressions throughout history. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, you will break yourself to pieces on Islam!

Islam will celebrate victory by the blood of the martyrs. There will be no mercy for the wicked, only the sword will be raised against them. No discussion, no demonstrations, no parades, no petitions, only death will separate truth from lies.

I know definitely that you, Oh America, will go down. I know definitely that you, Oh Europe, will go down. I know definitely that you, Oh Netherlands, will go down. I know definitely that you, Oh Hirsi Ali, will go down.

The invaluable Web site Watch has an excellent collection of article links on the Van Gogh murder and its ramifications.

Osama bin Laden, in his recent nauseating plea to the American people, denied that he and the radical Islamist movement are enemies of freedom:

Security is one of the important pillars of human life, and free men do not take their security lightly, contrary to Bush's claim that we hate freedom. Let him explain why we did not attack Sweden, for example. Clearly, those who hate freedom – unlike the 19, may Allah have mercy on them – have no self-esteem. We have been fighting you because we are free men who do not remain silent in the face of injustice. We want to restore our [Islamic] nation's freedom.

The barbarian who murdered Theo Van Gogh put the lie to this statement. Van Gogh was not murdered as an act of retaliation for the invasion of Iraq, or for anything Israel had done. His life was taken in order to silence a voice that dared to point out the abominable treatment of women in much of the Muslim world. His murder was an act of blood-stained censorship. It was the ultimate attack on freedom.

It is interesting that bin Laden would ask "why we did not attack Sweden". During the May 29, 2004 massacre in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, the terrorists spared the life of an American who happened to be a Muslim, yet brutally slaughtered a Swede, along with Filipinos, a South African, and Indians. Read the gleeful account of one of the surviving terrorists for yourself. Wiping out "infidels" and "polytheists" was the goal, regardless of their country of origin.

The actual record of jihadist atrocities exposes bin Laden's plea for the disgusting deceit that it is. Yes the Islamists hate what we do, because they hate us and therefore view our actions accordingly. Attempting to satisfy or mitigate their grievances by changing our policies will only lead them to find new grievances to justify their atrocities. Nothing short of complete submission to their demands will satisfy the jihadists. As the murder of Theo Van Gogh demonstrates, this would inevitably involve surrendering our freedom as well as our foreign policy. We cannot have peace with this enemy except by abandoning every value we claim to hold dear. Victory is the only option.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Iraq Reconstruction Update

As I type, the initial stages of the much anticipated assault on the terrorist stronghold of Fallujah have already occurred. This difficult and potentially horrific battle will dominate the week's news from Iraq. I pray for the safety and success of our forces and their Iraqi allies, and for the safety of any innocent civilians still in the city. Crushing the enemy in Fallujah is a necessity if we are to succeed in Iraq.

With most of the media attention focused on Fallujah, and on this past weekend's wave of terrorist atrocities, it is easy to forget that the reconstruction of Iraq's economy and society continues. Fortunately, Arthur Chrenkoff has published another of his biweekly updates:

Black and White and Red All Over?

I realize that rebuilding schools, hospitals, and electrical infrastructure might seem irrelevant in the midst of suicide bombings and urban combat. It is important to realize, however, that such reconstruction efforts are an essential part of the campaign against the insurgency. As the New York Times reported on October 31:

Senior military officers say they are under no illusion that military might alone will resolve Iraq's problems. At best, using force to retake rebel-held cities will help establish an environment secure enough to allow political and economic programs that will ultimately defeat the insurgency, they say.

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top American commander in Iraq, compares the priorities in Iraq to two giant locomotive engines, one generating new Iraqi security forces, the other producing reconstruction gains, aides say. The two are intended to generate "irreversible momentum" that demonstrates to Iraqis and to the American public that steady progress, even if sometimes halting is being made.

Each morning General Casey's command briefing includes a slide called "Drumbeat," a detailed compilation of progress made in security, governance and the economy. No accomplishment is too minor for mention, from the opening of a new hospital to the signing of contracts for water projects. General Casey presses his commanders to show that reconstruction projects are under way and "turning dirt," and not just on the books. Right now there are about 700 such projects, with 1,800 scheduled to be under way by year's end, officers said.


The broader context, senior officers and embassy officials say, is for the United States to stay the course and be patient, with the aim of restoring local control to Iraqis and helping to rebuild the security forces and the economy.

Every bit of progress towards building a new Iraq brings the Islamists and Baathists that much closer to defeat, which explains their increasingly vicious campaign of terrorism designed to halt the reconstruction process. They seek to create the sense among the American people that Iraq is in a state of hopeless chaos, and that withdrawal is the only option. We must not allow ourselves to be stampeded. America is the most powerful nation in world history. If we simply show the patience and resolve necessary to apply our military and economic power in an effective manner, the Baathists and Islamists will be defeated and America and the world will be better off for it.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Election Wrapup

I've been away for a few days, so please forgive the lack of posting. Here are my final reflections on the 2004 election:

-George W. Bush's victory was not a "landslide", but was certainly decisive. His 59.5 million votes was the most ever received by a presidential candidate. With 51.5% of the popular vote, Bush became the first president to be elected with a majority of the popular vote since 1988, and the first president reelected with a majority since Ronald Reagan in 1984. His 286-252 victory in the Electoral College was not overwhelming, but was an improvement on 2000.

-I applaud John Kerry for making the wise and gracious decision to concede Wednesday, after it became obvious that he had no real chance of winning Ohio. By avoiding a lengthy, bitter post-election battle, he showed a willingness to put the nation's interests above those of himself and his party. I hope he will use his remaining time in the Senate to be a constructive and responsible critic of the administration.

-My thoughts and prayers are with Elizabeth and John Edwards. I hope Mrs. Edwards makes a full recovery from breast cancer.

-As I noted in June, the Democratic Party needs to decide if it wants to be the party of responsible centrists such as Joe Lieberman or Evan Bayh, or the party of the Michael Moore left. During this election season, the party tried to be both, and voters saw through the contradiction. For the sake of the nation, I very much hope that the Democrats choose to follow the Lieberman/Bayh path.

-In terms of why Bush was reelected, the idea has been floated that President Bush's victory was due to Gay Marriage and other "values" issues. Some on the left have already seized on this as proof of their superiority to the benighted Red state masses. The Democrats would be well advised to avoid this temptation. As numerous others have noted, "vote for us you ignorant, Bible-thumping bigots" is unlikely to be a successful electoral strategy.

-Instapundit has a good roundup of links debunking the importance of the "values voter" thesis. As David Brooks noted in the New York Times, the War on Islamist Terror was the decisive issue of this election:

The reality is that this was a broad victory for the president. Bush did better this year than he did in 2000 in 45 out of the 50 states. He did better in New York, Connecticut and, amazingly, Massachusetts. That's hardly the Bible Belt. Bush, on the other hand, did not gain significantly in the 11 states with gay marriage referendums.

He won because 53 percent of voters approved of his performance as president. Fifty-eight percent of them trust Bush to fight terrorism. They had roughly equal confidence in Bush and Kerry to handle the economy. Most approved of the decision to go to war in Iraq. Most see it as part of the war on terror.

The fact is that if you think we are safer now, you probably voted for Bush. If you think we are less safe, you probably voted for Kerry. That's policy, not fundamentalism. The upsurge in voters was an upsurge of people with conservative policy views, whether they are religious or not.

-Much work remains for the Bush Administration. The Islamist/Baathist insurgency in Iraq must be defeated, and a stable, representative, pluralist democratic state created in that troubled country. A difficult task, but it can be done if we have the will to see it through. Also, Iran must be prevented from bringing its nuclear weapons program to fruition, by whatever means necessary. North Korea must be firmly contained and prevented from exporting nuclear technology. Finally, the broader war against the jihadists must continue to be prosecuted with unrelenting vigor. Osama bin Laden and the remaining pre-9/11 al-Qaeda leadership must be eliminated, and new leaders prevented from arising. George W. Bush's decisive reelection victory will give him a stronger hand in dealing with all of these issues.

With the election and its partisan passions over, I hope to be able to focus mostly on the War on Islamist Terror, and to do longer analytical pieces as opposed to quick takes on specific events. Posting will probably be more intermittent. I hope those of you who've chosen to visit will continue to come back.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

John Kerry: The September 10th Candidate

When I asked Kerry how Sept. 11 had changed him, either personally or politically, he seemed to freeze for a moment.

''It accelerated -- '' He paused. ''I mean, it didn't change me much at all. It just sort of accelerated, confirmed in me, the urgency of doing the things I thought we needed to be doing. I mean, to me, it wasn't as transformational as it was a kind of anger, a frustration and an urgency that we weren't doing the kinds of things necessary to prevent it and to deal with it.''

Source: Matt Bai, "Kerry's Undeclared War", The New York Times Magazine, October 10, 2004

The War on Islamist Terror is the central issue in this campaign, and we have two candidates with fundamentally different perspectives on how to wage (or not wage) it. I support George W. Bush because I believe that he truly understands the nature of the conflict and of our enemy, and is willing to do what is necessary to defeat the jihadists and the states that support them. I believe that while the administration has made some tactical and operational mistakes, its overall strategy, including the liberation of Iraq, has been correct.

I must confess that in regards to John Kerry, I have myself been guilty of waffling. In analyzing the Senator's record on the War on Islamist Terror, Iraq, and foreign policy in general, I have had trouble deciding whether John Kerry is an opportunist who sways with the political winds or a McGovernite trying to appeal to the center. In other words, are Kerry's "flip flops" the result of an attempt to hide his core beliefs, or do they merely reflect his lack of such beliefs?

In light of Senator Kerry's frequently contradictory statements and efforts to simultaneously appeal to both centrists committed to fighting the jihadists and to the Michael Moore wing of his own party, there is plenty of evidence for either thesis.

1. John Kerry on Iraq

As early as November 2001, John Kerry was calling for the War on Terror to be extended to Saddam Hussein. As he told John McLaughlin in a November 16, 2001 interview:

I have no doubt, I've never had any doubt--and I've said this publicly--about our ability to be successful in Afghanistan. We are and we will be. The larger issue, John, is what happens afterwards. How do we now turn attention ultimately to Saddam Hussein? How do we deal with the larger Muslim world? What is our foreign policy going to be to drain the swamp of terrorism on a global basis?

Source: "The Mother Of All Flip-Flops", The Weekly Standard, October 26, 2004.

Kerry, of course, went on to vote in October 2002 to authorize the use of force against Saddam. After taking an increasingly anti-war line throughout the fall of 2003, he then turned hawkish again upon the capture of Saddam Hussein.

Those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein, and those who believe that we are not safer with his capture, don't have the judgment to be president or the credibility to be elected president.
(December 16, 2003)

By September 6 of this year, Kerry was saying that "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Source: "Taking Flip-Flops Seriously", The Weekly Standard, September 20, 2004.

Kerry's rhetoric on Iraq has become so confused that he even contradicted himself during the debates. In the first debate, Senator Kerry said that the "president made a mistake in invading Iraq", but when asked immediately thereafter if our troops were dying for a mistake said no. In the second debate, Kerry said that "I do believe Saddam Hussein was a threat", then just a few minutes later stated that "the president has been preoccupied with Iraq, where there wasn't a threat."

Senator Kerry states that he wants to succeed in Iraq, yet he has hinted that he will begin pulling out our forces regardless of conditions on the ground. When asked if Saddam would still be in power if he had been president, Kerry's response is "(h)e might be gone".

Finally, Senator Kerry speaks of the situation in Iraq in dire terms, and speaks of how he would do "almost everything differently" from the Bush Administration. Yet, his much vaunted plan for Iraq is itself "more of the same", offering little more than what the administration is already doing along with vague assurances that a Kerry Administration would do them better.

Kerry's record on Iraq is stunning in its incoherence and effort to be all things to all people. Nevertheless, a close study of Senator Kerry's broader public record and pronouncements, reveals that he does indeed have beliefs about America's role in the World.

2. John Kerry's Record on National Security

If you look beyond the events of the last several years, and examine the full breadth of John Kerry's record in public life, it is clear that the Senator has for most of his career been a committed member of his party's McGovernite wing. Upon coming home from Vietnam, Kerry joined the "anti-war" movement and advocated complete, unilateral American disengagement from Southeast Asia. Kerry's view prevailed, and the result was the imposition of Stalinist despotism over South Vietnam, with tens of thousands summarily executed, and possibly 1,000,000 others sent to "reeducation camps"; the nightmare of the Cambodian killing fields; half a decade of unchecked Soviet expansionism in the Third World; and an America afflicted with weakness and self-doubt.

John Kerry has invoked the name of Ronald Reagan on several occasions, which is ironic because he opposed Reagan at every turn upon being elected to the Senate in 1984. He fought
against the Reagan defense buildup that brought the Soviet Union to its knees, and against Reagan's efforts to combat Soviet expansion in Central America and elsewhere. If John Kerry's view had prevailed in the 1980's, there would probably still be a Soviet Union.

In many ways, the defining vote of Senator Kerry's career came in 1991, with the First Gulf War. Saddam Hussein had engaged in a blatant act of aggression with his annexation of Kuwait, and almost the entire world community was united behind the American effort to remove him. Yet, even under these circumstances, Kerry voted against using force to drive Saddam from Kuwait. Had Kerry's view prevailed in 1991, a nuclear-armed Saddam would still be in control of both Iraq and Kuwait. If these circumstances weren't sufficient to persuade Senator Kerry to support the use of force, it's hard to imagine anything short of a direct attack on our homeland that would.

3. John Kerry's Strategy for the War on Islamist Terror: Manage and Contain

Finally, we come to the question of how John Kerry would manage the War on Terror as president. While Kerry has talked tough during the campaign about hunting down terrorists, the overall signs are not encouraging.

In the NYT Magazine interview cited at the very beginning of this essay, Kerry admits that 9/11 "didn't change me much at all". Reading the article makes clear that Kerry sees the terrorist enemy not as a global Islamist movement bent on our destruction, but rather as a transnational criminal threat similar to organized crime or drug cartels. As Times author Matt Bai describes the Kerry view, "the enemy this time -- an entirely new kind of ''non-state actor'' known as Al Qaeda -- more closely resembles an especially murderous drug cartel than it does the vaunted Red Army."

In the words of Kerry foreign policy advisor Richard Holbrooke, "The war on terror is like saying 'the war on poverty.' It's just a metaphor." Or, as Kerry told an audience at Boston University on December 2, 2003:

"The war on terrorism is primarily an intelligence-gathering and law enforcement operation and we need a president who understands that," he said. "This president doesn't have the experience to be commander in chief

Kerry's definition of success in his metaphorical "war on terror" is quoted by Bai as follows:

''We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance,'' Kerry said. ''As a former law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life.''

(emphasis added-DD)

That any American politician could utter such words after 9/11 is startling. Kerry's statement that "We have to get back to the place we were" can only be interpreted as a desire to reduce the terrorist threat to its pre 9/11 "nuisance" level. It was thinking of terrorism as a mere "nuisance" that helped pave the way for 9/11. For Senator Kerry, jihadist terror is not an enemy to be defeated, but simply a threatening transnational phenomenon to be contained and managed to a suitable level. Meanwhile, hiding behind a 21st century homeland security Maginot Line, America will be free to return to September 10th business as usual.

Al-Qaeda and the Islamist terror movement are not drug dealers or crime lords. They are fanatics determined to drive the United States from the Islamic world, destroy all "apostate" regimes, and unite all the world's Muslims under the banner of the "Caliphate". The jihadist threat cannot be managed or contained to an acceptable level. It is a product of deeply rooted historical developments in the Arab world, and fueled by a political culture of dictatorship, propaganda, and fanaticism. As long as these conditions are allowed to persist in the Middle East, there will be a jihadist movement. Sooner or later, al-Qaeda, one of its allies, or a successor organization, will inflict an attack on this country that makes 9/11 pale by comparison. No amount of spending on homeland defense can provide 100% security. The jihadists must be taken seriously as an adversary, they must be defeated, and the political culture that sustains their movement must be transformed. This is a difficult and arduous task, that has already proven costly in both money and, far more importantly, lives. Unfortunately, the costs of inaction or half-measures would be far greater.

I believe that John Kerry is a patriotic American who will act in what he perceives as the best interests of this country. Sadly, though, his judgment on issues of national security is abysmal. John Kerry was wrong on Ronald Reagan and the Cold War in the 1980's. He was wrong about the First Gulf War in the 1990's. His position on the overthrow of Saddam is riddled with inconsistency and self-contradiction. Finally, he is badly wrong on the nature of the War on Islamist Terror. The consequences of a Kerry Presidency at this point in time for our country could well be disastrous.

Monday, November 01, 2004

More on the Bin Laden Tape

The more that comes out about Friday's bin Laden tape, the creepier it sounds.

Yigal Carmon of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), an invaluable source for translations of Arab and Islamist materials, has the following update posted at National Review Online:

The tape of Osama bin Laden that was aired on al-Jazeera on Friday, October 29 included a specific threat to "each U.S. state," designed to influence the outcome of the upcoming election against George W. Bush. The U.S. media in general mistranslated the words "ay wilaya" (which means "each U.S. state") to mean a "country" or "nation" other than the U.S., while in fact the threat was directed specifically at each individual U.S. state. This suggests some knowledge by bin Laden of the U.S. electoral-college system. In a section of his speech in which he harshly criticized George W. Bush, bin Laden stated: "Any U.S. state that does not toy with our security automatically guarantees its own security."

The Islamist website Al-Qal'a explained what this sentence meant: "This message was a warning to every U.S. state separately. When he [Osama Bin Laden] said, 'Every state will be determining its own security, and will be responsible for its choice,' it means that any U.S. state that will choose to vote for the white thug Bush as president has chosen to fight us, and we will consider it our enemy, and any state that will vote against Bush has chosen to make peace with us, and we will not characterize it as an enemy. By this characterization, Sheikh Osama wants to drive a wedge in the American body, to weaken it, and he wants to divide the American people itself between enemies of Islam and the Muslims, and those who fight for us, so that he doesn't treat all American people as if they're the same. This letter will have great implications inside the American society, part of which are connected to the American elections, and part of which are connected to what will come after the elections."

In other words, bin Laden is threatening to confine future al-Qaeda terror attacks to Red States. Unbelievable. Hmm, I wonder where he could have gotten that idea...

Many families have been devastated tonight. This just is not right. They did not deserve to die. If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID NOT VOTE for him! Boston, New York, DC, and the planes' destination of California--these were places that voted AGAINST Bush!

Michael Moore, September 12, 2001

(emphasis added-DD)