Thursday, October 17, 2002
John Kennedy Bartlett

Last night marked the start of the official government commemoration of Yitzhak Rabin's murder. The government goes by the Hebrew calendar, which still seems weird to the majority of us non-religious types around here who still peg the commemoration to the November 4th date.

The non-cable TV channels broadcast the expected documentaries and round-table discussions about the late Prime Minister and his legacy. The satellite TV channels also got into the act, although they did it by broadcasting whatever JFK movies they could get their hands on. So we had a broadcast of the Oliver Stone classic on one of the movie channels. Another channel broadcast the bad 1983 mini-series Kennedy, starring Martin Sheen in the titular role.

I only caught a bit of it, enough to realize that I didn't buy Sheen in that role at all. He's too short and doesn't sound like Kennedy. I'm also probably just too used to seeing him play that other TV president -- the one whom America loves but who is too short and way too liberal to ever get elected in real life.

The day after

A longish piece in The Atlantic (actually, fairly average-size for The Atlantic) sketching out scenarios for America's postwar presence in Iraq. It's not necessarily the most upbeat topic, but I didn't find anything in it that would serve as an argument against going after Saddam.

Basically, the author envisions a couple of ten thousand US Soldiers stationed indefinitely in Iraq in order to keep the peace and provide basic services at first, then slowly building a government, then trying to keep some kind of territorial integrity, and then maybe bringing Iraq into the brotherhood of civilized countries. Maybe.

I suppose this could be seen as an extension of American imperialism. On the other hand, if you look at what a state Iraq is in, the possibility of making it better (assuming the Bush administration manages to not cock it up) has got to count for something. The effects on the region, if this were to work, would also be salutary enough to justify it.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002
Stupid protester tricks

PETA activists dressed up as cows attempt to protest in front of a grammar school in Scotland. Enraged students pelt them with cartons of milk. The police have to be called in to rescue the activists.

I'm alarmed at my own level of schadenfreude that I find this article so very, very funny.

Friedman on Campus Divestment

Friedman's column this morning takes on the nascent student movement to get universities to divest themselves from Israel. This was in the news a little while ago when Harvard president Lawrence Summers criticized the movement at Harvard and was widely condemned for it by groups on the Left. (This led Alan Dershowitz to challenge one of the movement's sponsors to a debate. The challenge, has yet to be met.)

The Israel Divestment movement is supposed to echo the South Africa divestment campaign of the 1980s. The parallels between 21st century Israel and Apartheid-era South Africa are, of course, obvious provided you happen to be a multiculturally orientated college student and don't bother to look any deeper than the surface.

For the benefit of the rest of us, Friedman highlights the problems with the movement: It's dishonest in that it fails to recognize that the Palestinians started a war; It's hypocritical in that it doesn't call for divestment from Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and all the rest of the regimes in the Middle East which are far worse than Israel from the human rights perspective; and it smacks of anti-Semitism by singling out Israel for this kind of treatment.

(Friedman, of course, includes his standard boilerplate condemning the settlements. I suspect he has his MS Word programmed so that he can spit out two or three paragraphs on the subject by pressing the F9 key).

Besides the anti-Semitism at work here (which really is becoming alarmingly acceptable within Lefty discourse), what we have is yet another example of the so-called progressive attitude towards Third World opression: White opressing Black is unacceptable and must be fought; Black opressing White is understandable and should be accepted if not openly encouraged; Black opressing Black is an internal matter and can be ignored.

The double standard involved is actually a form of condescension. Basically it says that Egyptians and Iraqis are not culturally developed enough to expect them to respect human rights.

And, yes, it pisses me off.

And the results are in from the Iraqi elections...

Congratulations to Saddam, who emerges as the winner with 100% of the vote. Keep up the great work, guy!

Sunday, October 13, 2002
Nobel Peace Prize, 2002

I suppose it was inevitable that Carter would end up winning one day. The decision to award him the prize this year reeks of politics, a big European middle finger extended in the direction of Dubya.

As President, Carter was a complete an almost complete failure. I remember the malaise days of the late '70s. It seemed at the time that America just wasn't working. Say what you will about presidents 40 through 43, but that feeling has gone away.

I'm basically of two minds viz a viz the 39th President. There was a time back in the early '90s when I quite admired him. This was around the time of his first attempted comeback, when he did a lot of work for Habitat for Humanity and put out homespun, folksy books. Also, despite his subsequent foreign policy failures (Iran anyone?), Carter did help facilitate the Egypt-Israel peace agreement. It's not the best agreement in the world (the Egyptian press still screams about Israel being the enemy), but at least no one has died on that border in the last 25 years.

However, Carter has never been satisfied with his domestic good deeds. He seems to have a burning desire to expunge his failures in the Oval Office. In order to do this, he has attempted in the last decade to metamorphasize into a kind of International Paragon of Peaceful Conflict Resolution. In reality, this involves sticking his nose into places where they don't belong. Among other things, Carter tried to torpedo the first Gulf War by operating behind Papa Bush's back. He tried to muck up Clinton's attempts to de-nuclearize North Korea. And now he's working hard behind Bush Junior's back to put the kibosh on Gulf War II.

While there are no laws against an ex-president undermining the foreign policy of a sitting president, it is a bit unseemly.

Carter represents the model of "transnational progressivism," so beloved by the anti-globalism crowd and the bureaucrats at the UN. This model attempts to re-shape the world by focusing on transnational institutions such as the UN and the International Criminal Court over the actions of individual states. On the surface it is a progressive and enlightened model, except for the fact that it doesn't work. The transnational progressives will do anything to resolve conflicts without the use of force. The result of this is a tendency to kowtow to the demands of some of the world's most brutal dictators.

Carter has a soft spot for Communist thugs and Third World "freedom fighters." His admiration for Castro and Arafat is well-documented. As Jonah Goldberg writes, in a fairly critical examination of Carter's activities:

Since Carter has left office, he's been even more of a voluptuary of despots and dictators. He told Haitian dictator Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras he was "ashamed of what my country has done to your country." He's praised the mass-murdering leaders of Syria and Ethiopia. He endorsed Yasser Arafat's sham election and grumbled about the legitimate vote that ousted Sandanista Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.

For the rest of Goldberg's article click here. For an even nastier view, you can find Jay Nordlinger's attack.

The Nobel Peace Prize itself has become a bit of a joke in recent years. Kofi Anan's victory is a dictionary definition of the term "failing upwards." Or how about the one given to the mendacious Rigoberta Menchu? And we should never forget the 1994 co-recipient who went on to initiate a terrorist war, smuggle huge amounts of arms, and fund suicide bombers. This is the company that Carter likes to keep, and so I suppose he deserves to keep it.