The Third Rail

Monday, July 01, 2002

Good for them. I'm suspicious of the granola huggers probably responsible for this, but the Patriot Act is an odious and flawed piece of legislation. It substantially curtails civil liberties and does little to help us. You can go through all the bits of controversy and ask yourself if this would have prevented September 11, and the answer is "no" in every case. We need a reform of the bull headed bureaucracy in Washington, and that's precisely what dubya is failing to do. Pretty soon we'll see him ask Congress for funds to create a clone army.

So what happens if Hamas wins over Arafat's PLO buddies? Conventional wisdom says this is bad as Hamas is more radical than the PLO, but this needs to be examined. How exactly will the war change if Hamas is in charge? Granted my views are based on that Arafat is not willing and unable to broker a true peace with Israel anyway, so if you disagree with that assessment, my argument may not hold weight (but I'd really think hard about your own beliefs first though.)

First, if there's no real chance for peace except for an Israeli victory, the supremacy of Hamas doesn't spell anything different. In fact it could hasten a victory if a mini-civil war erupts between the two thuggish factions.

Two, how will the strategy change for Palestinians if Hamas is in charge? They can't inspire an armed uprising anymore than Arafat can. Such a strategy plays into Israeli strengths, and they'd have a bloodbath. Instead, they'd do more of the same - sucide bombings and other terrorist acts. The recent Israeli assasination of the Hamas bomber known as "Engineer 4" already points that Israel is able to deal with Hamas.

Three, if Hamas reaches the point they are the leaders of the Palestinian movement, they have to provide results. Otherwise they will discredit themselves, and another alternative will be sought. If Hamas refuses to accept responsibility to lead their people because they know they'll fail high expectations, then they likewise forfeit their support. Unless Hamas can offer some sort of victory - and they can't by military means, this is a poisoned chalice.

Fourth, radical groups often become moderates once they achieve power. Also, Hamas has very strong anti-Israel credentials. They could pull a Nixon and make a peace with Israel that Arafat could not. We must remember that Arafat was very unpopular due to his corruption. His only credibility was that he fought Israel. He lost that as he made a temporary peace that enriched only himself. He could gain credibility again by warring against Israel, but he's not strong enough to make peace as his only credibility is as a figure of resistance. It's a catch 22 that Hamas can avoid as they're not tainted with the PLO corruption and their resistance credentials are very strong. Would they be willing to make peace? Maybe not, but they don't have many role models of success of creating an Islamic state. They'd face an armed Israel and a hostile US. My instincts say Hamas would make a lot of noise, but would be willing to accept a deal if it allows them to show a substantial "gain" over the current position.

We got some more. This time in Jordan. Granted we only snag low quality grunts and recruits, but we also get one quality mid-level operative. It's the NCO's who are the backbone of any army, and with these raids we're demolishing the building of real nationwide cells throughout the Middle East. I also think each victory dissuades the masses from popularizing the Bin Laden movement. There will always be malcontents. They rarely drive policy though.

Lots of interesting tidbits. One is that there was a mass protest in Gaza against Arafat's corruption and the loss of 100,000 jobs that palestinians held in Israel before the current intifada. This could lead to something new as the Palestinian situation in Gaza is much different than in the West Bank, and that the PA leader there is considered an acceptable alternative to arafat by both Israel and the us. If the Israelis were smart they'd try to exploit it, perhaps by being willing to negotiate with Gaza separately than the West Bank?

Once the Palestinians accept that they've been defeated, they'll lose stomach for the people who lead them into defeat. If Israel is able to engineer moderate Palestinians who can provide real, tangible benefits to people, you'll see a lot of change in Palestinian attitudes. Maybe a prosperous and peaceful Gaza strip would serve notice to the whackos on the West Bank. Not that this strategy is without risk or even viable. Options should always be explored though.

The article also says that Israel is abandoning illegal settlements, supposedly for the settlers' own safety. While smart by itself, I also think this will put Israel into a better position for political bargaining. For unless the Israel's have some sort of political victory/deal with the Palestinians after the military victory, they've bought themselves only 10 years at the most before a new generation comes about. Even the Palestinians deserve self-determination.

At one point in time, wasn't it only the Supreme Court that could judge whether a law or constitutional or not? Someone should fire these self-important jackasses. A judge's role is to preserve over the court and see that laws are carried out, not push through their own political agenda. That's what a legislature is for. If you want to change a law, run for Congress.

Not to sound callous, but if this is a problem maybe Pashtuns should cease firing off their assault rifles into the air as a celebration. Then maybe tragic mistakes like this can be avoided. For future reference please note: people die in war. That's why it's not good to start one.

One question. When will we see opinion pieces by conservatives that call on reduced demand for arab oil by promoting alternative energy, conservation, and higher fuel standards? Hmm?

Hell to pay. As much as I dislike the phrase "axis of evil" (axis? are we refighting WW2 - why not go against the Kaiser while we're at it?), this is one reason why the war cannot be strictly limited to Al Qaeda. By their very nature as non-state entities, terrorist groups (or actually "unlawful non-state combatants" because this is a prosecution of a war, not a criminal investigation) are amorphous. They can team up with each other, and at least one of their incarnations will be able to obtain funding and support from the Iranian mullahs, Syria, Iraq or elsewhere. The people who fund Hezbollah need to be put on notice immediately and threatened. Then when they don't comply (who really thinks they will?), we pound the hell out of them.

"Palestinian officials said sidelining Mr Arafat would lead to anarchy and violence." As opposed to what exists now? Note to terrorists - after you've been killing people, you can't complain against reactions against it by saying it will lead to violence, as you've already started violence. Do they really think the rest of the world is that stupid? Well, maybe if you're European.

What's really worrisome is the idea that people support the war, but aren't willing to fight for it themselves. In a real war of national survival, they will be required to serve (and when the enemy publicy states it wants to kill up to 4 million Americans, that's what this is.) What happens then? The Vietnam era tells us they will begin protesting the war.

This is the biggest problem i have with the way Bush has been running the war. Living in America at war today is exactly the same as if we were at peace, except we learn to discard vague rumors of another attack. I remember during the Gulf War there was real solidarity, a sense of sacrifice, and yellow ribbons everywhere. Plus there was that damn styx song. What's the comparable now?

I think a bigger threat is the feeling of entitlement. Oh, yes, we support the war and want to be protected, but that doesn't mean we - the college educated elite - should have to serve, that may interrupt my future 401(k) plans. Oh, no, send some working class stiff instead. Who cares if they die?

This attitude is sick and degenerate, but to be expected with our self serving elite. The Democrats are run by a bunch of draft dodgers who did so because they insanely morally equated genocidal tyrannical communism with western democracy (and notice how they opposed nation building in South Vietnam, but support it everywhere now?) The Republicans are run by a bunch of draft dodgers who did so because they thought their own lives were more important than the sons and daughters of working class folks (dubya, Dan Quayle, Phil Gramm, the list goes on). In either case, our new generation of political leaders are draft dodgers who support military action as long as it's not them who serve. At least the Caesars served in the field.

What the Wall Street Journal called suicide porn.

China has more to fear from Falun Gong than we do of Al Qaeda. In a link no longer valid, Stratfor had an article on how Falun Gong hacked into China's broadcasting outlets throughout northeastern China (site of mass labor unrest) simply saying "Falun Gong is good." China will be a superpower, but it has a bad record of warlordism and peasant uprisings. The Communists are right to be scared. I just hope it leads to something good.

But it is their own rot. I feel sorry for the people of Africa who have seen the tyrants and petty dictators ruin their lives, but more aide only enables these thugs. We've given these countries billions of dollars over several decades and they are more poor than ever. Meanwhile, asian economies with little aide have prospered because their leaders have allowed the market to work. Wealth is created by people working in their own self interest, not handouts. These aren't governments, but internationally recognized bandits. Pretending they're functioning states only contributes to their misery.

Madness. Sheer madness. The best thing we can do for these people is realize any aide given t such thugs simply enables them. To hell with sanctions. Just don't give them aide.

Would you let these guys near your wallet? Portugal's just about to let the bureaucracy in Brussels seize control of their economy. Why this would make sense is beyond me. At times like this I thank Providence I live in America.

I'm not too worried about this. I sincerely doubt that a handful of islamic radicals could take down our IT infrastructure, but I hope this does spur the govt to improve its defenses. In a way, the war against Al Qaeda may make America even stronger than it was before 9-11. Al Qaeda's been as dangerous as a toothless boogey man after we hammered them in Afghanistan. Something to use to scare people straight, but not a real danger. Business management theory teaches us that you achieve 80% of the results by concentrating on 20% of your effort. Assuming Bin Laden is dead (and there are good reasons to think that coward may be), and counting the other top operatives we've killed or captured, Al Qaeda might be at that state where 80% of their previous capability is gone. I guess July 4th will be a test to see if they can manage another attack.

Can anyone say Hitler Youth? And remember that Germany had "legitimate grievances" from 1919-1939 as well.

In case you hadn't heard. "Our senior management team is shocked by these discoveries" - How can you not know $3.8 billion is missing over 5 quarters????? Even though this is Andersen again, the rot lies not there. There is massive corporate malfeasance going on, and the government needs to address it. The New Republic makes an interesting, and I think completely valid connection between the interests of senior executives cooking the books and their own obscene "performance" pay. What do we get instead?

"Angered Bush says corporations must be honest." - Oooooh, please don't yell at me, I only stole several billion dollars. Will we ever see "angered Bush says terrorists should kill less people," or "angered Bush says bank robbers should not steal." Thanks for the great leadership example, dubya. Without your bold moral compass where would we be? This right wing pablum offers no solution to an unbelievable amount of corporate fraud and malfeasance. Instead, we're supposed to be content that the corporate apologists of the Republican party are outraged. What do they intend to do about it? Not much. Let's see what controls dubya actually recommends. Maybe if the Republican congress hadn't spent the Nineties gutting the legacy of the New Deal this could have been prevented. But where are the Democrats when you need them? They're completely leaderless and without ideas. That leaves only the looney left, and I'd rather not have their "ideas" (failed socialism or whatever "green" or other fantasy they're calling it now) fill the void. I don't know the solution myself, but we need is some bold thought and new ideas and the party of FDR should be providing them, and they're not.

I'm shocked, shocked that gambling is going on here. - "It would be good if some great man or woman of business in America would rise and speak of that damage, and its meaning, and how to heal it. It would be good if the Securities and Exchange Commission held open hearings in New York on what has been done and why and by whom, and how they got away with it until they didn't anymore." - Can you imagine Republicans using this "logic" when it comes to common criminals? To hold meetings until they talked about it with others and realized they should feel guilty? I don't think so, so why is it their prescription here? It couldn't be because they're more interested in protecting their rich buddies than actually having a free market?

This is how its done folks. Many people in the Middle East may not like us out of envy, bigotry, and spite, but they are not dumb. It takes a lot, a lot, to make someone willing to die in a hopeless cause, and the US is not a threat to Islam or anyone worshipping their God - and they know it. This is politics inspired by someone's interpretation of Islam, not Islam itself, and an interpretation of Islam not shared by most muslims. When offered between a life of misery and death with Osama Bin Laden, or peace and payoffs by the us military, we'll see more of these kind of defections.

A week's worth of entries will commence. Ignore the ones that are blatantly out of date and imagine how fresh and insightful they'd be seven days ago.