Ephemerides (April 2003)
April 29, 2003
A few days ago, Senator Rick Santorum (R.-Pa.) said that he hoped that the Supreme Court wouldn't declare state laws against sodomy unconstitutional in the pending case of Lawrence v. Texas. Judging by the frenzied reaction, at least on left-wing editorial pages and within the blogosphere, he might as well have supported the restoration of Saddam Hussein. The kindest word that anyone, including his rare defenders, seems to have for him is "dumb". Yet the point that the Senator actually made was a serious and sensible one. It is the reaction that is void of thoughtfulness.
Contrary to what one might gather from reading the commentary, Senator Santorum did not (a) declare that laws against sodomy are essential to preventing rampant polygamy or (b) condemn homosexuality as akin to incest or (c) announce that the government ought to undertake a vigorous policing of the nation's bedrooms. Rather, he objected to establishing a constitutional principle that the government has no right to interfere with any form of consensual sexual activity:
If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.
All of those things are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family. And that's sort of where we are in today's world, unfortunately. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't exist, in my opinion, in the United States Constitution.
In short, if it is unconstitutional to outlaw homosexual activity, there is, in Senator Santorum's view, no principle that permits government inhibition of practices that "are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family". To that position there are, I think, three possible rejoinders:
1. The constitutional right to privacy can be rationally limited to particular forms of consensual sexual behavior.
2. No form of consensual sex poses a realistic threat to the health or stability of family life.
3. The "healthy, stable, traditional family" is not important enough to override the imperative of unregulated consensual sex.
Few of Senator Santorum's critics advance any of these arguments. They declare, more or less vehemently, that anti-sodomy laws are a bad idea and proceed to vilify their defenders. But the question is not whether the government should peer into homosexuals' bedrooms but why it shouldn't. There are plenty of prudential arguments for decriminalizing same-sex relationships, but disputes about the prudence of government action are supposed to be resolved by legislatures, not courts. What the appellant in Lawrence v. Texas demands is a judicial declaration that the states have no right to weigh the pros and cons of anti-sodomy laws, that every such law is unconstitutional even if the legislature has good reasons to enact it. It is not "dumb" to ask whether, by the same reasoning, legislatures would be denied the right to decide the merits of laws restricting any and all other forms of consensual sexual activity.
There are, so far as I can see, three bases on which the Supreme court might conclude that anti-sodomy laws are constitutionally infirm: first, that there is no conceivable rational basis for outlawing consensual homosexual acts; second, that treating same-sex relationships less favorably than those between members of the opposite sex violates the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection of the laws; third, that the Constitution guarantees a right to engage in private sexual conduct without state interference.
Senator Santorum addressed only the third rationale. That is, however, the one that matters. The right of privacy, found in the penumbras and emanations of the Ninth Amendment (or was it the Seventeenth - no the Eighth - well, it's emanating from somewhere), was the basis of Justice Blackmun's dissent in Hardwick v. Bowers, the 1986 decision that upheld Georgia's sodomy statute. Neither of the other two lines of argument is likely to be adopted by the Court, unless it is prepared to add sexual preference to the short list of "suspect classifications" and to subject laws that treat homosexuals differently from heterosexuals to the same strict scrutiny as those that distinguish on the basis of race or sex. The virtually inevitable corollary to taking that step would be to impose same-sex marriages on the country. While the Justices may not literally "follow the election returns", they are highly unlikely to precipitate an enormously unpopular social revolution. (Datum: In 1998 Hawaii, our most liberal state, voted two-to-one for an anti-same-sex-marriage constitutional amendment.)
Against Justice Blackmun's proposed expansion of privacy rights, Justice Byron White's majority opinion in Hardwick made the same point as Senator Santorum: "[I]t would be difficult, except by fiat, to limit the claimed right to homosexual conduct while leaving exposed to prosecution adultery, incest, and other sexual crimes even though they are committed in the home. We are unwilling to start down that road."
The contention here is not that legalizing sodomy will be the start of a slippery slope down to group marriage and legalized incest, but that judicial recognition of a broad constitutional right to "freedom of sex" will obliterate the hill altogether. No judge with any concern for consistency can say that a group of three or more sexual actors is liable to government regulation while a group of two is protected from scrutiny by constitutional principle.
Since events seldom unroll as fast as they logically should, I don't expect Lawrence v. Texas (assuming that it overturns Hardwick v. Bowers, as almost all commentators predict) to be followed within weeks by the decisions striking down, say, laws barring polygamy or incest between parents and teenage children. ("Old enough to choose an abortion; old enough to choose to sleep with daddy." It isn't a catchy slogan, but it follows Right to Privacy logic.) In fact, the courts could for many years shy away from the natural corollaries of the new decision. It would not be the first case on record of judicial inconsistency.
So, would a "non-dumb" Senator Santorum have said, "Judical creation of a Right to Privacy for consensual sex won't threaten the family, because the courts will ignore that Right when applying it would be unpopular"? Or perhaps, "The Court may create a principle that endangers family life, but I won't criticize it, because I don't want to offend my homosexual friends by suggesting that they take their case to the legislatures instead of the courts"?
One can, of course, argue that the traditional family is unnecessary or, less unreasonably, that deviant sexual practices are the taste of a tiny minority and will never gain purchase in society. An old-style libertarian (of the sort that has been swamped by the moral nihilists who have usurped that movement's name) would contend that government action is this area, as in most others, weakens rather than strengthens virtue, so that the government undermines the family by "protecting" it. (I don't agree with that view, but it has a stronger rational basis than the idea that morality has nothing to do with sex.)
What is truly "dumb" is to erect a wall of Political Correctness around homosexuality and to condemn anyone who differs from the Anointed Gay Answer to any question. Rick Santorum has never been ranked at the top of Congress' intellectual hierarchy, but he has raised an important issue. By refusing to think about it, his detractors counter his "dumb" with their own "dumber".
April 22, 2003
Advocates of tighter restrictions on immigration into our country invariably deny holding any prejudice against people who did not happen to have been born in the United States. Their only ostensible concern is the damaging impact that an unlimited inflow of population will have on America's economy and culture. No doubt most of them mean to be sincere, but a column like today's NRO piece by Mark Krikorian, titled "Green-Card Soldiers"
, makes one wonder.
Mr. Krikorian's subject is non-citizens who enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces, a group that comprises about three percent of our total military manpower. News accounts have called attention to these troops, notably to a young soldier who is to be granted posthumous citizenship after dying in action in Iraq. He was, one might think, an example of a non-citizen who felt a real commitment to America, which is the quality that the anti-immigration forces fear is lacking in recent arrivals to our shores. Surely Mr. Krikorian cannot find him objectionable - or can he? It turns out that he would prefer not to be defended by someone who, lacking the solid American pedigree (how many generations long, I wonder) of the gens Krikorian, holds only a green card. While conceding that exceptions would have to be made "if we again face a huge national emergency like WWII or the Civil War that requires the mobilization of millions of soldiers", he urges that only citizens be permitted to enlist. The practical effect would be to exclude the non-citizen children of resident aliens from the military, as not many 18-year-olds are in a position to qualify for naturalization before they volunteer.
Why, at a time when military recruitment is difficult and our country in the midst of a war, should we turn our backs on a fairly large pool of young men? Mr. Krikorian has a couple of arguments, both of them redolent of nativism.
First of all, as the proportion of non-citizens in the armed forces grows, there is the real possibility that defending America will become "work Americans won't do." After all, it wasn't that long ago that hotel and construction workers were almost all American-born. Over the long term, budget pressures and high-recruitment targets will create strong incentives for the armed services to cut back on pay and benefits and hope that the enlistment shortfalls can be made up by non-citizens seeking the prospect of accelerated citizenship. This would save the Pentagon money but would serve to make military service increasingly unappealing to Americans, i.e., people who already have citizenship.
Not to put too fine a point on it, we should go to any length to avoid developing a kind of mercenary army, made up of foreigners loyal to their units and commanders but not to the Republic. It didn't work out well for the Romans.
Let us pass lightly over Mr. Krikorian's historical illiteracy: The legions of the late Roman Republic, "loyal to their units and commanders" but not to Rome, were made up of Roman citizens, and construction workers used to be "almost all American-born" because union rules turned their jobs into hereditary preserves. It was the breakup of the union monopolies that let in immigrants (and blacks), though it hardly drove out American citizens. Construction remains among the best-remunerated blue collar occupations. Hotel workers are a better example, though I, somewhat older I believe than Mr. Krikorian, do not recall the day when chambermaids, bellboys, desk clerks and waiters did not have a definite foreign tinge.
Given the increasing sophistication of modern soldiering, it scarcely seems likely that the military is going to base its recruiting strategy on attracting the "scum of the Earth" that formed the ranks of, say, the 19th Century British Army. Aliens "seeking the prospect of accelerated citizenship" are still going to have to be intelligent, disciplined and capable of mastering contemporary military skills. And, of course, a man whose objective is to become an American citizen is not inherently likely to throw that chance away by pledging his loyalty to a Caesar. Behind Mr. Krikorian's image lies a scarcely hidden assumption that non-citizens are prone to disloyalty, with an undertone suggesting that "Americans, i.e., people who already have citizenship" will not care to (and should not want to) associate with such riff-raff.
The assumption of disloyalty becomes explicit in the column's second argument:
By limiting military service to those who have already become citizens, we are less likely to face instances of desertion and treason, like the San Patricio Battalion, a group of Irish immigrants in our army who defected to fight for the enemy in the Mexican War. Although Sgt. Asan Akbar, the Muslim convert who killed two of his comrades in a grenade attack in Kuwait, was not an immigrant, the Washington Times reports that U.S. officials fear more attacks from the 4,000-plus Muslims, many of them immigrants, in the armed forces.
So, a native American (né Fidel Kools) commits treason, apparently motivated by Islamic fanaticism (just as the San Patricios were swayed primarily by religious sentiments), and that is a reason to keep Christian or Buddhist or Hindu or secularist immigrants out of the Army! It might be an argument for caution about Moslems, but immigration has nothing to do with it. There hasn't been a breath of disloyalty among Moslem soldiers of Arab, Turkish or other Middle Eastern descent. The potential problem lies with those, overwhelmingly native born, who have converted to strains of Islam that have long preached anti-Americanism and Jew-hatred.
To be fair to Mr. Krikorian, his article is informative in one area. I had not realized that non-citizens cannot serve this country to the same extent as citizens. "You have to be a citizen to become an officer or join certain units, like the Navy SEALs. And, depending on the branch of the service, non-citizens may only be able to serve for one term (Air Force) or for a maximum of eight years (Army)." If those rules had existed during the American Revolution, General Washington would have lost the services of Lafayette, Steuben, Kalb and quite a few other foreigners who came to the fledgling nation's aid. In that case, we wouldn't be having the present argument, and Mr. Krikorian would probably be tending goats near Mount Ararat instead of presenting arguments for preventing others from following in his ancestors' footsteps to the New World.
Letter of comment: Arthur Gane (7/22/04
April 17, 2003
While Saddam Hussein was in power in Baghdad, France and Russia worked sedulously to weaken or eliminate the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq following its invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Evidence now coming to light also suggests that they were none too scrupulous about observing those sanctions. Now the tyrant is gone, and French and Russian attitudes have swung around: Both nations threaten to veto any Security Council resolution that would lift sanctions and allow freed Iraqis to resume lawful commerce with the rest of the world, unless the United States accedes to their demand that the U.N. be given control over the future of Iraq's government.
This attempt to prolong the suffering of the Iraqi people as a means of putting pressure on the U.S. is at the despicable level that one expects from M. Chirac and Comrade Putin. I hope that the White House has the fortitude to ignore it and, if necessary, abolish sanctions unilaterally. Cessat ratio lex, cessat lex. The reason for the sanctions is gone; there can be no justification for continuing to observe them.
The controversy over the U.N.'s role in post-Saddam Iraq is not simply a matter the relationship between the American "hyperpower" and other countries. If it were, the U.S. could graciously bow to Kofi Annan's nation-building whims and let his organization undertake what will doubtless be a messy post-war task. Unfortunately, to do that would betray the ordinary people of Iraq. As Stephen Schwartz
has detailed in an astonishing article, the U.N.'s record in Kosovo, where it already plays the part to which it aspires in Iraq, has been worse than incompetent. The U.N. authorities are actively hostile toward freedom and democracy.
Many people seem to misunderstand what the U.N. is. They hear about potential United Nations involvement in Iraq, and believe that the peoples of the world will unite, through their U.N. ambassadors, to make Iraq whole after the war. But this perception is mistaken. The U.N. is not the nations of the world united. It is an enterprise located in a building in New York, with satellite operations around the world, employing a certain cadre of people of many nationalities, most of whom are time-servers and ideologues.
In my six years' experience in postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, I never met a U.N. representative who failed to conform to a certain professional profile. They call themselves "internationals," and are generally young and inexperienced, although the heads of their missions tend to be old and uninterested. They have a strong prejudice against privatization, and too many of those chosen for economic responsibilities hail from Sweden and other countries where statist socialism remains the political religion.
Internationals have a bias against administrative regime change, and many rationalizations as to why areas they control should continue to operate under officials held over from totalitarian regimes. Recalling the socialist past of Tito's Yugoslavia, Surroi dubs the postwar regime in Kosovo "UNMIK socialism." After NATO's intervention, the U.N. did everything possible to maintain or restore the positions of former socialist bureaucrats. Nor was restitution of private property seized under the Nazis, Communists, or the Milosevic regime ever considered. When U.N. and USAID officials cooperated to draft a regulation on privatization, Kosovar experts objected that its principal effect would be to reaffirm state ownership of nationalized property rather than to restore private property rights. The website of the Kosovo Trust Agency, the body overseeing privatization, states, "The KTA has been established to preserve or enhance the value, viability, and corporate governance of socially owned and public enterprises in Kosovo." . . .
The "democracy" imported by the humanitarian mafia is an unattractive product, as well. In Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo alike, foreigners imposed bizarre systems of "weighted" voting, and demanded that, to satisfy their own addiction to political correctness, 30 percent of candidates be women. Media came under the supervision of Europeans who do not believe in the First Amendment conception of freedom, or in libel laws as a remedy for press excesses, but who do believe in censorship and the licensing of journalists.
Worst of all, whole areas of public life are simply ignored. In the Balkans, the internationals were uncomfortable meeting with religious leaders, and almost never did so. They cared nothing about labor reform, or repair of collapsing pension systems, or culture.
Mr. Schwartz concludes by asking,
Is this the fate that awaits the Iraqis? Will they see the statist economy established by the Baath party preserved? Will ordinary people find, if they go into a government office, that the same Baathist bureaucrat who bullied them before "liberation" still sits at his desk? Will Iraqi workers continue to be dragooned into Baathist trade unions, with strikes virtually outlawed, while entrepreneurs find they must operate without secure banking and insurance systems? Will Shia, Kurdish Sufi, and other Iraqi religious leaders, including representatives of the country's significant Christian communities, find the doors of the internationals closed to them?
Will Iraqi journalists discover that "media commissions" have been established to govern their reporting? Will Iraqis vote under rules designed by foreigners who do not speak their language? Will internationals create a dual society, in which they live off the fat of the land while the locals are humiliated? Will a sex industry thrive off foreign patronage? Will Iraqis find, as Kosovars did, their streets patrolled by retired police from Europe and America looking for a job involving little work--or by incompetent police imported from Third World countries, some of whom had never driven a car or fired a sidearm? Will Iraq, like the Balkans under the humanitarian mafia, become at once a playground for restless young careerists and a dumping ground for has-beens?
Experience offers no optimistic answers. There is, moreover, a crucial difference between Kosovo and Iraq. Although the U.N. did not support the liberation of either region, most of the members of the Security Council were at least moderately supportive of the bombing campaign that induced Belgrade to relax its grip on Kosovo. Russia and Red China were the two conspicuous exceptions. On Iraq, those two displayed their consistency by sympathizing with tyranny, and they were joined by France, Germany and Syria. Why should Iraqis trust the fate of their country to a council dominated by nations that were quite content to see it tyrannized? It is as if, after the liberation of Italy in World War II, reconstruction had been committed to a body including Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
More and more, it looks like the United Nations, established for the idealistic purpose of bringing peace and harmony to the world, advances only the harmony of the prison and the peace of the grave.
April 16, 2003
A new left-wing cliché, trotted out as victory in the Iraqi campaign demolished old ones, is that harsh comments about Syria by President Bush, Secretary Powell and Secretary Rumsfeld prove that the U.S. has a predetermined list of countries with which it is determined to go to war regardless of circumstances. France and Germany have gone so far as to warn us not to attack Damascus, and Kofi Annan has likewise chimed in. Bashar al-Assad is rapidly becoming as popular amongst the bien pensants
as Saddam Hussein was just three weeks ago. (Vide
Denis Boyles, "Dialing for Dinars"
If the boy dictator's new friends truly want to reduce his risk of having to fight the United States, they would do well to shut up. Expressions of support can only encourage him to act recklessly in the hope of becoming a hero to the Arab world without endangering his own position. Syria has already given the U.S. more than one justified ground for hostility: by importing oil from Iraq in violation of U.N. sanctions, allowing (probably recruiting) Syrian volunteers to join the Fedayeen Saddam death squads (several have been killed or captured in Iraq), giving top Saddamites refuge within its borders and (very likely) providing a hiding place for a portion of Iraq's chemical and biological arsenal. It also occupies Lebanon, subsidizes terrorist groups and has long had its own stock of chemical weapons. The U.S. response, contrary to what America-hating paranoids would expect, has not been to invade immediately but to issue murky warnings and cut a covert pipeline that formerly carried Iraqi oil to Damascus.
As I've remarked before, President Bush has been a very cautious strategist throughout the War on Terror. The "rush to war" with Iraq took a year and a half. Any action against Syria is likely to take just as long, unless the Syrian tyrants force a faster pace. Here is why:
1. Despite its official embrace of the doctrine of preemptive war, the Bush Administration has shown no eagerness to preempt in practice. Both the Afghan and Iraqi campaigns have been carried out in accordance with traditional standards of international law. In the former, our armed forces pursued enemies who had directly attacked American soil. In the latter, we punished persistent violations of the terms of the cease fire that ended the Gulf War. While traditional casus belli for action against Syria certainly exist (see above), an immediate attack would edge much closer to true preemption. That is not a step that the President is likely to take without a great deal of reflection and provocation.
2. War against Syria would in some respects be redundant. Assuming that the new government in Baghdad turns out to be firmly anti-Islamofascist, the Iraqi campaign will have succeeded in giving U.S. forces a solid base from which to launch future anti-terrorist strikes and in interrupting the supply line between Iran and its terrorist protege Hezbollah. Perhaps more significantly, the swift, overwhelming American victory refutes the notion - loudly trumpeted by Moslem fundamentalists - that our country is soft, degenerate and easily defeated. As Bernard Lewis summarizes in his latest book, The Crisis of Islam
Bin Laden and his cohorts soon realized that, in the new configuration of world power, if they wished to fight America, they would have to do it themselves. . . . Their task might have seemed daunting to anyone else, but they did not see it that way. In their view, they had already driven the Russians out of Afghanistan, in a defeat so overwhelming that it led directly to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Having overcome the superpower that they had always regarded as more formidable, they felt ready to take on the other; in this they were encouraged by the opinion, often expressed by bin Laden among others, that America was a paper tiger.
Fanatics will remain fast in their conviction that Black Hawk Down is the paradigm of American military power, but they will find it harder to persuade others to throw away their lives in a hopeless cause. Having made that point, we don't need to make it again right away.
3. As exiled Iranian journalist Amir Taheri
points out, Saddam Hussein's regime was unique in its unwillingness or inability to trim its actions to correspond to reality. "One could think of a dozen ways in which Saddam could have prevented this war and saved his regime for at least a few more years. (Thank God he didn't do so.) But the system he had created lacked the flexibility needed to adapt to changing circumstances. There was no way to change his regime's leadership and its policies. It either had to stand as it was or collapse completely." Syria is hardly likely to be so suicidally rigid. In fact, there are definite portents of coming upheavals within the ruling clique. (Vide
Eyal Zisser, "Does Bashar al-Assad Rule Syria?"
) We can afford to wait to see the outcome.
Victory in the War on Terror requires smashing the existing structure of terrorism and instilling the realization that any revival will be extremely dangerous for those who undertake it. Thanks to our success in Iraq, the odds are good that we can win without direct military confrontation with Syria or any other nation. That fact won't, of course, comfort the America-haters.
April 13, 2003
Most of the optimistic predictions about the deposition of Saddam Hussein have come true, or at least as true as such predictions ever do. The Ba'athist regime put up feeble resistance, prolonged chiefly by the allies' extraordinarily humanitarian approach to war. The people of Iraq showed themselves on the whole delighted to be freed. The war took surprisingly few lives and inflicted limited physical damage. Terrorism has declined rather than exploded. The House of Islam, while sullen toward the victors, remains far more inclined to indulge in self-pity than to act. A few of its despotisms have taken baby steps toward liberalization, such as Saudi-controlled Arabia's initiatives to expand the current oligarchy beyond the royal family. Iran and North Korea have sounded (admittedly faint) conciliatory notes. Overall, despite qualifications and setbacks, the Iraqi campaign has produced the kind of positive impact that its advocates hoped for.
There is, however, one conspicuous exception. Optimists took it for granted that, once the war had begun, the Western world would rally behind America and its allies. Among the English-speaking peoples, the expected rally occurred. Anti-war sentiment in the United States is down to a hard core of extreme leftists, irreconcilable Bush haters, paleoconservatives and honest pacifists. In Britain, Australia and English Canada, it has sharply declined.
But elsewhere in the West, it is hard to discern much cause for cheer. While anti-war demonstrations are winding down, they are still of bigger than marginal size, and the tone of the non-English-speaking media remains as hostile as before. Foreign leaders who denounced us before the war have likewise continued on their path, declaring mild approval of the Ba'athist regime's demise while showing no sympathy for the means by which it was brought about.
There have been numerous occasions, of course, when a Great Power's military success has drawn frowns from large segments of civilized opinion. Much of the world disapproved of, for instance, the North's suppression of Southern secession, the British conquest of the Boer Republics, the Soviet hegemony over Eastern Europe and the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Those cases and many others that might be added to the list were not, however, parallel to the present one. In almost all of them, the disapproval stemmed from either the brutal conduct of the victor (as in Tibet and Soviet-occupied Europe) or the attractive features of the vanquished. The Confederates and the Boers, as we tend to forget in this era of Political Correctness, were widely viewed as spunky individualists, their enemies as perpetrators of the March to the Sea and Kitchener's concentration camps.
Saddam Hussein and his Ba'athist comrades have no attractive features. The Anglospheric army waged war against them with amazing restraint and fastidious attention to the welfare of the ordinary population of Iraq. In the normal course of events, one would have expected a consensus to form fairly quickly that, regardless of whether the decision to go to war conformed to legal niceties, it was the right thing to do. That denunciations persist, hardly changed at all from those issued before the fighting began, indicates that unprecedented factors are at work. On the most pessimistic interpretation, the Iraqi campaign may one day be recorded as the opening phase of an intra-Western civil war whose effects will be far graver than any likely to be inflicted by nongovernmental terrorists.
The central theme of this looming conflict is not economics or ideology or tribalism, though it has elements of all of those that may grow more distinct in the future. Rather, its mainspring is superstition and fear. A large portion of "world opinion", including segments in advanced and enlightened nations, has become convinced that the United States government is a gang of conspirators espousing alien values and plotting to establish a worldwide empire that will deprive all other nations of their ability to manage their own affairs. At the heart of that plot, rendering it yet more sinister, is a cabal of Jews and evangelical Christians, whose aim is to use the American imperium to impose their bigoted and reactionary cultural norms.
A casual survey of the anti-American screeds occasioned by the Iraqi War shows these irrational convictions at work and helps explain why nothing that Saddam Hussein did was regarded as adequate justification for American action; fundamentally, the U.S. is no better morally than the Ba'ath Party and, being much stronger, is far more dangerous to the world. Those who accept the premise of American imperialism and fundamentalism are rational in their conclusion that bridling this monster is the first priority of the world order. By only a slight extension of the same logic, forces that weaken America, however unsavory in other respects, promote the greater international good.
Modern America-hatred bears a strong resemblance to old-fashioned Jew-hatred. It is no surprise that both bigotries are increasingly voiced by the same individuals. To Americans, like Jews, are imputed boundless desire for control over others, illimitable greed, rank dishonesty, continuous secret scheming, and repulsive personal habits and beliefs.
Like antisemitism, Americanophobia comes in varying degrees of virulence, and it is often coupled with a lurking admiration for the objects of its scorn. Admiration, unfortunately, tends to aggravate fear. America's brilliant economic and military achievements, like the financial genius of the House of Rothschild, confirm the apprehension that the alien conspiracy has a good shot at attaining its supposed objectives: all the more reason to redouble one's vigilance.
Americans are accustomed to snobbish disdain for American culture and sneers at our lack of Old World sophistication. We have not hitherto had to face widespread anti-American paranoia and would like to shrug off the venom that comes our way. We assume that committed anti-Americans are an insignificant minority and that most anti-American rhetoric is a smoke screen for more "rational" motives, e. g., that M. Chirac is carrying oil for ELF or that Herr Schröder is striving to divert attention from his domestic political failures by contriving an external threat (a real-life counterpart to the tactic that his erstwhile Justice Minister falsely attributed to President Bush). Because we know how utterly uninterested our fellow citizens are in telling the rest of the world what to do, save when our own interests are in serious jeopardy, and how little the self-contradictory stereotype of materialistic, fundamentalist zealotry fits any real segment of our society, we cannot wholly grasp that Americanophobia is sincere, a belief system held deeply and unshakably by tens of thousands of intellectuals and tens of millions of ordinary people.
In normal times, being the object of paranoid hatred would be unpleasant but not grounds for alarm. By standard measures of political, economic and military power, America's enemies are feeble. What makes their enmity worrisome is the existence of widespread terrorist networks that showed on 9/11 that they can injure us severely. They will be able to do worse when and if they gain access to biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. The task of rooting out the terrorists would be relatively easy if they received no aid from governmental and semi-governmental sources. America-hatred is their shield and supply line.
Iraq is a case in point. Let us grant for the moment that the French and German governments sincerely believed that immediate military action to remove Saddam Hussein from power was not vital to the War on Terror. Reasonable men could dispute the merits of President Bush's case for forcible regime change. But France and Germany went beyond reasonable debate. The premise underlying their pre-war actions was the Mr. Bush was dishonest, that he did not regard Ba'athist Iraq as a genuine threat but acted from ulterior motives: oil or vengeance or the influence of a Jewish cabal or desire to conquer a preordained list of Moslem countries or something else equally sinister. Had Presidents Chirac and Schröder accepted the idea that the American President was acting in accordance with the best information that he had, interpreted in good faith, they might still have thought him wrong, but they would not have worked so strenuously to frustrate a long-time ally for the sake of entrenching a loathsome dictator.
France has certainly been the beneficiary of an American presumption of French good faith. Almost annually, French troops intervene in African civil wars (37 times in the last 40-odd years). Often the U.S. doubts the wisdom of those interventions, which rarely seem aimed at promoting the cause of liberty, but we have never done anything to stop them, because we have given a traditionally friendly government the benefit of the doubt. Now we find that our respect for France's good intentions is not reciprocated. Quite the contrary, Messrs. Chirac and Villepin have made it clear that the presumption of American bad faith lies at the heart of their foreign policy. That is a shocking change in the relationship that America has had with France for over two centuries.
The effects of Franco-German paranoia about American intentions are already palpable: They made the Iraqi campaign at least slightly longer and bloodier than necessary. Their anti-war lobbying has disrupted America's alliance with Turkey. (Vide
Michael Ledeen, "How France Blocked U.S. in Ankara"
.) They have all but extended security guarantees to Syria and Iran, thus alleviating the pressure that those governments might feel to end their active sponsorship of terrorist groups. They have complicated the process of setting up a transitional government in Iraq and have increased the risk that the new regime will be anti-Western or unstable. Given time, they can doubtless do worse.
In the face of irrational hostility, against which facts are helpless, there are two natural reactions. One is equal and opposite hostility, to return evil for evil. If Americans were at all like the America-haters' picture, that is what we would do. In reality, the hostility has so far been markedly asymmetrical: France endangers American lives by browbeating Turkish politicians into denying us a northern front in the war; we respond by - calling "French" fries by a different name and telling "cheese-eating surrender monkey" jokes. A Wall Street Journal
article observed last month that "France Sees Little Cost in Veto". As I noted at the time
, French politicians' confidence that the U.S. would do nothing to punish their treachery contradicted their assumption that America is a rogue power in need of restraint. But bigots are rarely fazed by contradiction.
The other natural reaction is acquiescence. If people hate us, it must be for good reason, and we should appease their hatred by shedding our peculiarities. Thus we are entreated to substitute others' judgment of our national interests for our own and to employ our power only if a broad consensus of foreign governments concurs. As an example, Senator John Kerry, in the same speech
in which he echoed the Stalinist Left's call for "regime change in the United States", argued that President Bush should be defeated for reelection because foreign
leaders supposedly don't trust him. Senator Kerry did not claim that the President is in fact untrustworthy or that the foreign attitude has any basis in reality. No, he essentially argued that Americans ought not to select their own President if other parts of world object to him. Why, one wonders, are we so bold as to let Americans vote in our elections? Why not an all-Belgian electorate?
Accommodation to bigotry will do the United States no more good than it did assimilationist Jews in Nazi Germany. Should Senator Kerry ever rise to higher office, he will find that he is "trusted" by our country's ill-wishers only so long as he unhesitatingly does their bidding. Notice how swiftly they turned against Colin Powell and how they revile Tony Blair, not so long ago the exemplar of the "third way".
I wish that I had a clever scheme to draw the poison from America-hatred, but it is a condition that we shall probably just have to endure. Merely doing good deeds will please ourselves but will not solve the problem. Convinced bigots are no more likely to be swayed by American words or behavior than antisemites by the actual conduct of Jews. In our wars, most recently and markedly in Iraq, American soldiers operate under stringent rules of engagement that put their own lives at risk for the sake of minimizing civilian casualties, yet they are excoriated as if they were Tilly's mercenaries sacking Magdeburg. In time, there is a danger that the world's negative reinforcement of civilized conduct will lead Americans to wonder whether it is worth the price. Thus the America-haters may eventually create the monster that they fear. I neither want nor expect to see America transformed into an old-fashioned empire marching under the banner of Oderint dum metuant, but it would be a natural development and is one that we should diligently guard against - for our own sake, if not for the rest of the world's.
April 12, 2003
War has its unavoidable tragedies but also those that could be prevented with adequate foresight and determination. The looting of Baghdad, particularly the reported plundering of the archeological treasures of the Baghdad Museum, falls, I fear, into the avoidable category. Unhappily, the failure of our military to protect the museum and other targets is the negative side of one of its virtues: It has been so concerned about the welfare of Iraqi civilians, and so afraid of offending them, that it apparently didn't know what to do when civilians got out of hand and needed to be brought firmly under control.
Back in the days when Western imperialism was a real phenomenon rather than just an editorialist's canard, soldiers unhesitatingly shot rioters and vandals. Lord Roberts of Kandahar
would have hanged the first 50 men found with stolen goods in their possession, and there would then have been a marked dropoff in thefts. But Lord Roberts did not think that his duties included befriending the natives. American soldiers and their commanders have a different philosophy, one that is vastly more humane but sometimes sadly ineffective.
The men on the spot obviously faced great difficulties. Baghdad has four million inhabitants; America has perhaps 10,000 troops actually inside the city limits, very few of them trained in police procedures and almost none able to speak Arabic. There is no local government. The police force, drawn from Ba'ath loyalists, cannot be trusted. Armed gangs loyal to Saddam Hussein's ghost are still at large. Tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles are not ideal instruments of crowd control. It is often impossible to tell looters from their victims and to know on which side to intervene.
Nonetheless, it is a blot on the liberation of Iraq that we did not take what steps were possible: a stringent curfew, conspicuous cordons of guards at sites like the museum, summary justice meted out to a few ringleaders of mobs. In this respect our pre-war planning seems to have been inadequate, though it was readily foreseeable that a portion of a populace brutally suppressed for 45 years would erupt into excess when their chains were suddenly struck off.
Nothing can now be done to restore the past, but we can try to atone for our negligence. Most of the museum looters acted in hopes of making a profit. It goes against the grain to reward them, but I see no alternative. We should offer to buy back stolen goods at a moderate price, warning at the same time that exemplary punishment will be meted out to anyone in whose possession they are discovered after a limited period of grace. Perhaps we can in that way recover a fraction of what will otherwise be lost to history.
This sad episode does not vindicate the opponents of the war. Every day that Saddam Hussein remained in power spawned a myriad of tragedies that broke human beings, not ancient ceramics. Freeing the children held in Saddam's prisons was, by itself, worth the price of all the artifacts in Mesopotamia, but we need to remember that the world has paid a price for Iraq's freedom and that the price has been higher than it should have been.
Or have we been conned? Blogger Robert Schwartz
[Blogspot permalinks don't work, of course, so scroll to 4/14/03] has pointed out oddities in the accepted scenario. To summarize: The National Museum has for years been closed to the public. There is no third party verification of what it contained at the time of the looting. It would be no great surprise if the kleptocratic Ba'athist regime had abstracted artifacts to adorn the boudoirs of its leadership. In any event, the museum staff knew when the war broke out that Baghdad was going to be bombed and, unless it was utterly incompetent, would at the very least have moved as much material as possible into the building's underground vaults, which are described as having steel doors and should not have been easily breached by a mob. If Iraqi looters are at all like their American counterparts, they go for easy pickings. All of these facts suggest that the massive theft may have been a collaborative effort between government insiders and museum employees.
Careful reading of the Associated Press
and New York Times
stories raises further grounds for suspicion. The accounts of the actual looting come, so far as I can discover, entirely from museum officials. No independent witnesses appear to have seen it happening. News organizations photographed looters making off with booty from other sites. No one seems to have known about this one, despite the fact that the curators were, by their own account, making strenuous efforts to alert the authorities to the danger to which the museum was exposed.
Very curious is the corroborative detail furnished to the Times:
An Iraqi archaeologist who has taken part in the excavation of some of the country's 10,000 sites, Raid Abdul Ridhar Muhammad, said he went into the street in the Karkh district, a short distance from the eastern bank of the Tigris, about 1 p.m. on Thursday to find American troops to quell the looting. By that time, he and other museum officials said, the several acres of museum grounds were overrun by thousands of men, women and children, many of them armed with rifles, pistols, axes, knives and clubs, as well as pieces of metal torn from the suspensions of wrecked cars. The crowd was storming out of the complex carrying antiquities on hand carts, bicycles and wheelbarrows and in boxes. Looters stuffed their pockets with smaller items.
Mr. Muhammad said that he had found an American Abrams tank in Museum Square, about 300 yards away, and that five marines had followed him back into the museum and opened fire above the looters' heads. That drove several thousand of the marauders out of the museum complex in minutes, he said, but when the tank crewmen left about 30 minutes later, the looters returned.
An armed mob several thousand strong, spread over several acres, many of them inside a massive building complex - and they are driven away in no time at all by five marines firing over their heads! Picture the situation for yourself, and ask how many of those thousands would have seen the Americans or heard their shots and how long it would take thousands of men weighed down by plunder to evacuate the grounds. Either the crowd was much smaller and quieter than the witness wants us to believe, or his story is fabricated in whole or major part.
There is also chronological vagueness. The incident described above took place on Thursday, yet the museum's deputy curator claims that he visited U.S. commanders at the Palestine Hotel on Saturday afternoon to ask "that American troops be placed in the museum to protect the building and items left by the looters in the vaults". The Times implies, though it does not state clearly, that a second round of looting took place after that visit, but there are no details of time or circumstances.
Finally, and most intriguingly, The Daily Telegraph
reports that stolen items are already turning up on the Paris black market. That's awfully quick work if they were in the museum as recently as Thursday or Saturday afternoon. The story notes that a University of Chicago professor "has been told that the National Museum was professionally robbed before it was looted by ordinary citizens".
Based on the information in the news reports, one can easily construct an alternative scenario in which the bulk of the museum's collection was either spirited away before the war for the enrichment of Ba'ath Party bigwigs or stolen by museum employees shortly after the fighting began. In either case, the theft was covered up by encouraging a mob (perhaps consisting mostly of the thieves themselves) to pillage a few leftover trinkets and create a plausible degree of havoc.
I won't claim that this hypothesis is more than speculation. Things usually are more or less like what they seem, and the gaps and inconsistencies in the news stories are most likely the fault of insufficiently inquisitive reporters. Nonetheless, there is more to be learned here than we have been told so far.
Update, 4/17/03: The Wall Street Journal
[link for subscribers only] adds further information that makes the museum looting look less and less like a spontaneous outbreak of vandalism:
An aside, apparently resting on the authority of a high official of the Iraq Antiquities Department, informs us that, during the years when "secrecy . . . enveloped the museum", "part of the collection had been siphoned off by Saddam Hussein's family and sold abroad". How large a part, one wonders.
We learn U.S. Army attempted to secure the museum grounds last week and was prevented by Iraqi soldiers, who manned a trench in front of the building. Fearing that a firefight would damage the structure, the Americans fell back. It thus appears that the looting took place under the protection of pro-Saddam military forces. Our troops later found a large cache of Iraqi army uniforms inside the museum.
On a happier note, the thefts were less extensive than initial reports indicated. According to the Journal
. . . thanks to Iraqi preparations before the war, it seems the worst has been avoided. Donny George, the director-general of restoration at the Iraqi Antiquities Department, Wednesday said his staff had preserved the museum's most important treasures, including the kings' graves of Ur and the Assyrian bulls. These objects were hidden in vaults that haven't been violated by looters.
"Most of the things were removed. We knew a war was coming, so it was our duty to protect everything," Mr. George said. "We thought there would be some sort of bombing at the museum. We never thought it could be looted."
Information is still too sketchy to make it possible to state with confidence what really happened, but it seems fairly clear that random looting was not the primary cause of the disappearance of artifacts and that the U.S. military's negligence has been overstated.
The latest reports from the Baghdad Museum (from The Chicago Tribune
, for example) make it look like the looting story was essentially a hoax.
The vast majority of antiquities feared stolen or broken have been found inside the National Museum in Baghdad, according to American investigators who compiled an inventory over the weekend of the ransacked galleries.
A total of 38 pieces, not tens of thousands, are now believed to be missing. Among them is a display of Babylonian cuneiform tablets that accounts for nine missing items.
There were, nonetheless, a handful of thefts of extraordinarily valuable items, such as "the Vase of Warka, a white limestone bowl dating from 3000 B.C." Since casual looters usually aren't first rate judges of archeological rarity, my earlier suspicions are reinforced: It seems clear that Ba'athist officials or museum employees spirited off a few treasures, then covered up their crime by concocting a tale of out-of-control mobs. In fact, the only major damage was to administrative offices, on which newly freed Iraqis vented their fury at decades of dictatorship, as they have done in other government edifices.
The Tribune report also confirms that the Saddam regime, quite insouciant about risks to priceless artifacts, set up military positions inside the museum.
In one storage area on the second floor, [the investigators] discovered evidence of a gunner's nest. From debris left behind, investigators concluded that a gunner was armed with an assault rifle and rocket-propelled grenades.
About a foot from the gunner's lookout was a hole punched through the wall by a 25 mm shell. Investigators surmised that the gunman fled after that single volley from allied forces.
So Mesopotamian archeology has suffered only a minor flesh wound, not a tragic amputation. Of course, the Loony Left will continue to blame the United States for failing to stop looting that never happened.
Meanwhile, in pro-Saddam France, the world's oldest known paintings, in the caves of Lascaux, dated 12,000 years before the Vase of Warka, are in danger of destruction as the result of government ineptitude. (Vide
Benjamin Ivry, "Prehistoric Images Threatened by Fungi"
.) A further reason why it is vital to liberate Paris as well as Baghdad!
Blogger Jim Miller has a roundup
of press reports on the Incredible Shrinking Loot.
April 1, 2003
My old friend William Hawkins, a forceful advocate of land power (vide
article "What Not to Learn from Aghanistan"
), disagrees with my positive view of our military's war plan in Iraq. Here are his comments:
I've been warning a number of people on the right that we should not have a knee-jerk reaction to the attempt by some critics to make this a partisan issue (esp. critics who didn't want to send anyone at all). If we are to learn lessons from this war to apply to the next, we need to be objective in our analysis. Rumsfeld did make a mistake by interrupting what had been the planned deployment of extra armored divisions, and is now scrambling to get them into the theater. We have also diverted at least one MEU, which was going home after a 7 month overseas deployment, to the battle because it is recognized throughout the command that we need more troops in Iraq.
The 173rd Airborne Brigade was also deployed to make up for the failure to persuade the Turks to let the 4th Inf. Div, land - a debacle that deprived the invasion force of one of only two heavy divisions slated for the first wave.
The American people support the war, expect larger battles and more casualties. What they will not accept are lame excuses and cover ups; Bush cannot risk the credibility of the war effort just to soothe Rumsfeld's ego.
I attended innumerable briefings and discussions over the last year concerning the debate between Rumsfeld's whiz kids and the JCS planners about force size. It looked like the JCS had won when the 1st Armored and 1st Cav. divisions were alerted to deploy - only they did not deploy.
The problem is less about misperceived Iraqi resistance than the inherent difficulty in capturing an entire country with a capital city of 5 million people. We did hope that the Iraqi regular army would not fight, and we did fear terrorism and sniping by irregulars. But the idea was that a fast drive on Baghdad behind a "shock and awe" aerial bombardment would collapse Iraq from the head down. We could bypass pockets of resistance because once Baghdad fell, nothing else would matter. The problem is we do not have the forces needed to take a Baghdad that is still well defended.
Though the Pentagon is at pains to claim that there has been no pause in the offensive, we are only conducting raids and "attacks for limited objectives" - which is what an army does between major pushes in order to keep the initiative while forces are rested and reinforced.
Rumsfeld made the same mistake that has haunted American strategists since WW II - an over reliance on airpower as a magic weapon that will break the enemy's morale, making messy ground offensives unnecessary. The infantry will just mop up after the bombers have destroyed everything. But real wars, particularly one meant to conquer a country and replace its government, don't play out that way.
Indeed, the psychological effect of air strikes has been diminished by our use of such tactics as a substitute for decisive warfare rather than as part of it. Saddam has been bombed before and survived. Indeed, from Vietnam and Kosovo to Iraq and Afghanistan in the 1990s, bombing was used as an alternative to invasion.
Saddam (if he is still alive) and his loyalists only fear a ground offensive, as it is the only thing that can produce regime change. A small force gives them the belief that they can still bog us down in urban warfare and create a humanitarian crisis which will trigger international demands for a cease-fire.
I think Bush has his dander up and will push on until Saddam is gone and not give the UN another opening either during the war or after. But the task will prove easier when reinforcements arrive - troops which should have been sent to the theater from the start.
I certainly agree with the principle that wars are won on the ground. Flukes like Kosovo occur, but air power generally only weakens an enemy; it cannot administer the coup de grace. Having said that, I see no evidence that the war against Saddam was planned on Kosovo-like lines. Relative to enemy manpower, our force on the ground is somewhat larger than in the Gulf War, and it so far has given the appearance of being adequate to the tasks that it has to undertake. If there is a manpower problem, it is primarily owing to the late arrival of the Fourth Division, which was supposed to fight on the northern front. In retrospect, delaying that division's redeployment in hopes of a Turkish change of heart was a mistake, but the failure to gauge Ankara's attitude correctly doesn't lie with Secretary Rumsfeld or the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
As I see it, our troops are not now "between major pushes". They are waiting for the finish of the preliminary bombardment prior to launching a ground attack, just as we waited (for a far longer time) before the commencement of the ground phase of the Gulf War. If we had another couple of divisions at hand, we might attack a day or two sooner, but there is no pressing need to charge against prepared positions before they are well softened up.
As for Baghdad, the major obstacle to a successful assault is not a shortage of men but our praiseworthy desire to minimize civilian casualties. If we end up having to fight house-to-house under rules of engagement that prohibit shooting at houses or anybody in them, 50 divisions won't be enough.
Obviously, having a bigger force in the theater would yield some benefit. The question that Mr. Rumsfeld has had to face is whether those benefits are worth the cost. Among the questions for those who doubt the Secretary's judgement, three stand out:
1. How much longer would it have taken to deploy a larger force to Iraq? The campaign began very late in the best season for fighting. Would it have been to our advantage to delay it into the summer for the sake of an incremental increase in an already formidable margin of superiority?
2. How badly would a larger deployment have overstretched our forces elsewhere? At this moment in the larger war against terrorism and the Axis of Evil, can we afford to divert essentially our whole Army to a single theater?
3. How much more would a bigger force for Iraq cost? Money ought to mean nothing in time of war, but Congressional budget makers often are too short-sighted to see it that way.
We will learn over the new few weeks whether Rumsfeld & Co. struck a proper balance between the Iraqi front and other needs. It would be better, of course, if we had a 20 division, rather than a ten division Army, in which case the balancing act would provoke considerably less anxiety.
Update, 4/2/03: The pixels of the preceding post hadn't even had a chance to dry before news came that the three U.S. divisions south of Baghdad - the 3rd Infantry, 1st Marine and 101st Airborne - were advancing again. Initial reports indicate that they are not finding the Ba'athist regime's "elite" troops especially challenging, and there is no sign yet that lack of manpower is a problem. Our three divisions, which have suffered only minimal casualties and have had a few days to rest and resupply, are assaulting two badly bloodied Republican Guard divisions. Two other RG divisions have sent reinforcements, but they apparently have left their tanks behind, because it is suicidal to try to move armored formations along the Iraqi road network. At this point, then, it is the enemy, not our side, that desperately needs more men in the line!