Monthly Archives: December 2006

Why They Hate Us

A few interesting facts contained in an article arguing that Israel isn’t the cause of the Middle East’s problems:

Consider some of the important findings in the Arab Human Development Report and related studies:

• The total number of books translated into Arabic in the last 1,000 years is fewer than those translated in Spain in one year.

• Greece, with a population of fewer than 11 million, translates five times as many books from abroad into Greek annually as the 22 Arab countries combined, with a total population of more than 300 million, translate into Arabic.

• According to a 2002 Council on Foreign Relations report, “In the 1950s, per-capita income in Egypt was similar to South Korea, whereas Egypt’s per-capita income today is less than 20 percent of South Korea’s. Saudi Arabia had a higher gross domestic product than Taiwan in the 1950s; today it is about 50 percent of Taiwan’s.”

As Dr. A.B. Zahlan, a Palestinian physicist has noted, “a regressive political culture is at the root of the Arab world’s failure to fund scientific research or to sustain a vibrant, innovative community of scientists.” He further asserted that “Egypt, in 1950, had more engineers than all of China.” That is hardly the case today.

According to the 2005 UN Human Development Report, only two Egyptians per million people were granted patents (and for Syria the figure was zero), compared to 30 in Greece and 35 in Israel.

In the 2005 UN report the adult literacy rate for women aged 15 and older was 43.6 percent in Egypt and 74 percent in Syria, while for the world’s top 20 countries it was nearly 100 percent.

And finally, according to the current Freedom House rankings, the only country in the Middle East that is listed as “free” is Israel. Every Arab country is at best “partly free” or, worse, “not free.”

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Calling Agent Sandypants

That Sandy! What a kidder!

Mark Steyn writes:

Here’s something else nobody’s curious about: Sandy Berger. Consider this passage from the inspector general’s official report on the Sandypants and his destruction of classified materials from the National Archives:

”Mr. Berger exited the Archives on to Pennsylvania Avenue, the north entrance. It was dark. He did not want to run the risk of bringing the documents back in the building risking the possibility [redacted] might notice something unusual. He headed towards a construction area on Ninth Street. Mr. Berger looked up and down the street, up into the windows of the Archives and the DOJ, and did not see anyone. He removed the documents from his pockets, folded the notes in a ‘V’ shape and inserted the documents in the center. He walked inside the construction fence and slid the documents under a trailer.”

Why is this man getting his security clearance back in 2008?

Aw, who cares? The thousands of Americans who drive around with that ”9/11 WAS AN INSIDE JOB” bumper sticker are positively blase when confronted with an actual verified documented instance of a former national security adviser carrying on like a Cold War double agent making a dead drop.

Doing Quite Nicely, Thank You

Despite the war in Lebanon, rocket attacks and the mullahs’ existential threats, Israel seems to be doing quite nicely:

From today’s New York Times:

…despite the political turmoil and spasms of violence, Israel, it seems, has figured out how to keep its economy charging forward.

It was the country’s third straight year of strong growth, with the economy expanding nearly 5 percent. The stock market has been hitting record highs; unemployment is at a 10-year low. Israel’s central bank is lowering interest rates to 4.5 percent on Jan. 1, putting them well below rates in the United States, an almost unprecedented development. The Israeli shekel is trading at 4.2 to the dollar, its strongest level in five years.

Further, Warren E. Buffett, the billionaire investor, paid $4 billion for an Israeli company, and Donald Trump is developing a 70-story luxury residential tower on the outskirts of Tel Aviv.

“Israelis look at the economy, and they’ve essentially been through these disturbances in the past, and they know the economy is pretty robust and it tends to come back,” said Stanley Fischer, the governor of the Bank of Israel. “Things that happen here have a smaller impact on markets than I think they would abroad.”

While the Israeli economy has been thriving, the Palestinian economy has moved in the opposite direction, contracting by an estimated 10 to 15 percent this year, according to the Palestine Monetary Authority.

For Israel, the business that best illustrates the economy’s resilience this year is the company Mr. Buffett bought, Iscar Metalworking Company, a global leader in the manufacture of precision metal-cutting tools.

In May, Mr. Buffet bought 80 percent of the company, which has its headquarters on an isolated hilltop in northern Israel that offers a panoramic view of the nearby border with Lebanon.

Barely two months later, a cross-border raid by Hezbollah guerrillas ignited 34 days of fighting that pushed Israeli troops into Lebanon and drew heavy rocket barrages against northern Israel.

One rocket slammed into the Tefen Industrial Park, where Iscar is situated, causing minor damage to a building belonging to another company. Many more rockets crashed nearby during the weeks of war.

Many Iscar workers moved their families away from the border region, but the company maintained production, with only occasional slowdowns.

“It took us a brief time to adjust, but we didn’t miss a single shipment,” said Eitan Wertheimer, Iscar’s chairman. “For our customers around the world, there was no war.”

The northern city of Haifa came under almost daily rocket attacks, and ships stopped entering Haifa’s port, the country’s largest. Some exporters shipped their goods by air at much higher expense in order to meet deadlines.

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, which has been setting records throughout the year, seemingly shrugged off the war; it was slightly higher at the end of the conflict in August than before it started in July.

At the beginning of the year, Israel’s economy was forecast to grow at around 5.5 percent, and will come in at about 4.8 percent, according to Mr. Fischer, who attributed the dip to the war.

The Palestinian economy, meanwhile, has been devastated. During the peace talks of the 1990s, the Israelis and Palestinians increased cooperation, and by 2000, both sides were growing rapidly and nearly 150,000 Palestinians entered Israel daily. Most were workers who accounted for a large slice of the Palestinian economy.

…The Palestinian per capita gross domestic product, which was about $1,800 annually at the beginning of the uprising, plummeted to $1,200 last year and continues to fall.

For Israelis, per capita gross domestic product has risen over the last six years from a little over $15,000 a year to around $18,000, according to government figures.

And how are they doing in Hezbollahstan?

Kick Ass First

Why isn’t Ralph Peters running the war in Iraq?

He writes:

…Radical surgery on our approach is the patient’s only hope – but the policy doctors in D.C. just want to up the medication.

Washington may be the unofficial capital of the world, but it’s a town that thinks small. The real-and-present danger is that a desperate administration and a nervous new Congress won’t imagine genuine alternatives to losing slowly or leaving.

Is Iraq hopeless? No. But the path to a positive outcome doesn’t follow the traditional wisdom about what’s “doable.” We must think clearly and boldly, without regard to vested interests.

One thing’s clear: If we can’t enforce security, nothing else matters. So the wisest course of action seems obvious – except to the Washington establishment: Return to a wartime footing.

Focus exclusively on security. Concentrate on doing one thing well. Freeze all reconstruction and aid projects. Halt every program and close every office that doesn’t contribute directly to pacifying Iraq.

Empty the Green Zone. Pack off the contractors. Reduce the military’s overhead to those elements essential to support combat operations. Make it clear to “our” Iraqis that it’s sink-or-swim time. Remove our advisers from any Iraqi unit that can operate marginally without them (and let the Iraqis do security their way without interference).

… By attempting to do far too much, we diffused our capabilities. Program after program faltered. We need to return to the principle of concentration of effort.

We tried to refashion a country and rebuild its infrastructure before we made it secure. The result has been the waste of American lives, four years and billions of taxpayer dollars.

…We need an exclusive focus on the defeat of the foreign terrorists, uncooperative Sunni Arabs and Muqtada al-Sadr’s Shia thugs. Our enemies control Iraq with fear. We need to make them fear us more than the population fears them.

And we must stop reciting insupportable platitudes about every element of government playing a role and the supreme power of negotiations. That’s just nonsense. Contrary to pundit blustering, the overwhelming majority of insurgencies over the past 3,000 years have been defeated – by uncompromising military responses.

…As for negotiations offering the only way forward, where in the Middle East have negotiations ever produced enduring peace? All the media drooling over an expected American retreat has left all of Iraq’s opposing factions calculating how they can win after we’re gone.

You can’t hold successful negotiations with irreconcilable, unbroken factions who have no incentive to compromise. And even when you cajole promises from one group or another in the Middle East, no party feels bound to honor its commitments.

You can only drive negotiations from a position of uncontested strength – which we threw away.

Our enemies don’t believe we have the guts to pacify Iraq. They may be right.

It would be obscene to deploy more troops and further strain our military unless we’re serious about winning. And all half-measures will fail.

The paradox is that beleaguered Iraqis would welcome a harsh security crackdown – our toughest obstacle would be a global media alliance already patting itself on the back for our defeat.

Of course, if we make security our sole focus, the Daddy Warbucks profiteers will howl to the congressmen they’ve bought; our self-adoring diplomats will spew more of their poisonous jealousy into the Potomac – and those military commanders who’ve lost focus will argue that bribing Iraqis with reconstruction efforts is essential to pacification.

…we may be certain of this: Democracy can’t exist without security. All of our other ambitions for Iraq are hopeless if men and women can’t walk the streets without fear. Whether or not we still can win, merely tweaking our policy promises failure.

It’s time to strip for action – and fight to win.

Rational Self-Absorption

Mark Steyn on who’s being “rational” when it comes to religion:

Christmas is a good time not just for Christians to ponder the central proposition of their faith — the baby in the manger — but for post-Christian secularists to ponder the central proposition of theirs: that religion is a lot of goofy voodoo nonsense and that any truly rational person will give it the bum’s rush. The problem with this view is that “rationalism” is looking less and less rational with each passing year. Here are three headlines from the last couple of weeks:

• • “Mohammed Overtakes George In List Of Most Popular Names” (Daily Telegraph, London)

• • “Japan’s Population ‘Set To Plummet’ ” (BBC News)

• • “Islam Thrives As Russia’s Population Falls” (Toronto Star)

By comparison with America, those three societies are very secular. Indeed, Russia spent three-quarters of a century under the most militantly secularist regime of all: Under Communism, the state was itself a religion, but, alas, only an ersatz one, a present-tense chimera. As a result, Russians more or less gave up begetting: Slavs are in steep population decline, and, on present trends, Russia will be majority Muslim by 2050. And the Russian army will be majority Muslim by 2015. In western Europe, societal suicide isn’t quite so advanced, but the symbolism is still poignant: “George” isn’t just the name of America’s reviled cowboy president, but of England’s patron saint; the national flag is the Cross of St. George, under which Englishmen sallied forth to smite the Mohammedans in those long-ago Crusades. Now the Mohammedans have managed to smite the Georgians big time, not by conquest but simply by outbreeding. Mohammed is also the most popular boy’s name in Brussels, Amsterdam and other Continental cities.

But forget Islam: In Europe, they’re inheriting by default. There are no Muslims or any other significant group of immigrants in Japan and yet the Japanese are engaging in a remorseless auto-genocide. Already in net population decline and the most geriatric society on earth, their descent down the death spiral is only going to accelerate. As the BBC reported, “The imbalance is threatening future economic growth and raising fears over whether the government will be able to fund pensions. But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said: ‘It’s impossible for the pension system to collapse due to the declining birth rate because we will adjust the amount of money put into it.’ ”

Oh, OK then. But, just as a matter of interest, when you “adjust” the amount of money you put into the pension system, whose pockets are you going to “adjust” it out of? Japanese and European societies are trying to secure the future on upside-down family trees in which four grandparents have one grandchild. No matter how frantically you “adjust,” that’s unsustainable.

Compassionate Liberals?

A new book Who Really Cares by Arthur C. Brooks looks into the idea that liberals are more compassionate than conservatives and finds some startling facts.

Wilfred M. McClay writes in today’s Wall Street Journal:

By consulting a wide range of metrics, ranging from rates of charitable giving to hours of volunteer work donated, Mr. Brooks concludes that four distinct forces appear to have primary responsibility for making people behave charitably: religion, skepticism about the government’s role in economic life, strong families and personal entrepreneurship. Those Americans who have all four, or at least three, are much more likely to behave charitably than those who do not.

The correlations are strong and unmistakable. For example, people who attend houses of worship regularly are 25% more likely to give and 23% more likely to volunteer, and the religious give away four times the amounts of money that the secular do. Working families without welfare support give three times as much to charity as do welfare families with the same total income. Conservative households give 30% more to charity than liberal households. Redistributionist liberals give about a fourth of what redistributionist skeptics give. And perhaps most interesting of all, in states in which George W. Bush got more than 60% of the 2004 vote, charitable giving averaged 3.5% of income, as compared with states in which Mr. Bush got less than 40% of the vote, in which the giving averaged a mere 1.9% of income.

And The Winner Is…

Jimmy Carter wins this year’s Hokum Award:

The Academy of World Political Humor Arts and Letters (AWPHAL) today awarded comedian Jimmy (James Earl) Carter the 2006 Hokum as the year’s finest political comedian. Carter’s record shattering fifth Hokum came against stiff competition from a highly regarded group of nominees.

In a statement accompanying the announcement of the award, Edith Steingehirn, President of the Academy, said, “what Jimmy Carter has accomplished with his book Palestine, Peace not Apartheid, was both comically brilliant and extraordinarily difficult. It has been an axiom of the Academy that present-day Islamic-Jihadist culture is quite beyond parody. After all, a society that teaches its children to kill with explosives strapped to their little bodies, which executes women because they have been raped and which promises young men a brothel in heaven if they commit suicide in a certain way has gone far past the most sublime exaggeration. Attempting to caricature such a culture has generally been thought to be both pointless and impossible.”

…Steingehirn continued: “Carter’s particular comic insight in Palestine, Peace not Apartheid, was to deliberately reverse the moral standing of the characters. Israel, the only functioning, free democracy in the region becomes, in Carter’s hilarious upside-down worldview, the pariah state. The societies that practice genuine sexual, religious and ethnic apartheid – not to mention corruption and terrorism on an unimaginable scale – are characterized by Carter as victims! This is comic genius of a very high order.”

Carter’s comic career is a story of almost continuous success since he burst on the political scene in the mid-1970s playing a clownish U.S. President while actually holding the office. These sustained performances earned him four consecutive Hokum awards. This unprecedented record has stood the test of time. No other individual comic has been awarded more than two Hokums during an entire career (though an organization, the United Nations, through its various committees and “peacekeeping” efforts has won seventeen Hokums). The only two-time individual winners include Richard Nixon, Herbert Hoover, Joe McCarthy, Neville Chamberlain, Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan and Jacques Chirac.

More recently, Carter has enjoyed success in his long-running, one-man variety show “Jimmy Carter, a Farce to be Reckoned With,” in which he plays a completely flummoxed, self-aggrandizing, tyrant-supporting busy-body whose foundation takes money from – and acts as a shill for – a bevy of Middle Eastern and Latin American dictators.

Thanks to Allan Caplan.

The Only Plausible Answer

Charles Krauthammer describes the challenge facing us:

…What is becoming clear is that the overall international strategic situation in which we had unchallenged hegemony for the first decade and half the unipolar moment is now over. We are seeing on the horizon the rise of something that is always expected in any unipolar era, which is an alliance of others who oppose us.

Historically, whenever one country has arisen above all the others in power, anti-hegemonic alliances immediately formed against them. The classic example is the alliance against Napoleon in the early nineteenth century, and of course the alliances against Germany from World War I to World War II, particularly in the 1930s, where you had the rise of an aggressive, hegemonic Germany in the heart of Europe. What is interesting about our unipolar era is that whereas we had achieved unprecedented hegemony in the first decade and a half, there were no alliances against us. What I think we are beginning to see now is Iran positioning itself at the center of a regional alliance against us, again with the–Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria, Sadr–looking to overawe the entire region with the acquisition of nuclear weapons, which would make it the regional superpower. And Iran is receiving tacit backing for its regional and anti-American ambitions from two great powers: Russia and China. That, I think, is the structure of the adversary that we will be looking at for the decades to come.

As the Bush Doctrine has come under attack, there are those in America who have welcomed its apparent setbacks and defeats as a vindication of their criticism of the policy. But the problem is that that kind of vindication leaves America in a position where there are no good alternatives. The reason that there is general despair now is because if it proves to be true that the Bush Doctrine has proclaimed an idea of democratizing the Arab/Islamic world that is unattainable and undoable, then there are no remaining answers to how to counter ultimately the threat of Islamic radicalism.

It remains the only plausible answer–changing the culture of that area, no matter how slow and how difficult the process. It starts in Iraq and Lebanon, and must be allowed to proceed and not precipitate an early and premature surrender. That idea remains the only conceivable one for ultimately prevailing over the Arab Islamic radicalism that exploded upon us 9/11. Every other is a policy of retreat and defeat that would ultimately bring ruin not only on the U.S. but on the very idea of freedom.

Israel and the West Must Be Responsible

More wisdom from Canadian David Warren:

To the Western, “liberal” mindset, Israel must be responsible … just as President Bush is responsible for the teething problems of democracy in Iraq. For the West is always responsible for everything. If, as President Ahmadinejad of Iran has argued, both Israel and America were wiped from the face of this earth — as he promises both soon will be — then our problems are over, and we’ll be one big happy Muslim family (presumably Shia, if Ahmadinejad prevails).

Distorted in the official Iranian view, and scarcely hidden beneath the “liberal” one — as I discovered repeatedly when I was myself among the media in Israel and the West Bank — is the profound racism of diminished expectation. They do not hold Palestinians to the same standards, to which Israelis are held without further thought. Specifically, they will not hold Palestinians responsible for behaviour that would be spontaneously condemned, with unconcealed outrage, only a few miles away across the Green Line.

This is systematic, and goes beyond condemnations of violence. No Jew is allowed to live in territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority; nor could a Jew expect to live out the day were he left unguarded there. Well over a million Muslims enjoy full citizenship in Israel, and the robust protection of law, even as they grow more radical. Yet Israel is uniquely condemned for denying the Palestinian “right of return”, to Israeli territory.

I could go on almost indefinitely juxtaposing such things — none of the points being subtle; each as obvious as the couple I have made.

But it’s not that people don’t know. It’s that they will not acknowledge what they know, lest the rest of their worldview come tumbling down with the big lie, of moral relativism.

What, pray, is the big truth corresponding? That all men are held to the same moral standards. That nothing excuses hatred and murder. That what is bad in a Christian is bad in a Jew and bad in a Muslim. One heavenly size fits all.

The Road to Tehran and After

How “progressives” are making Jew hatred respectable.

Brett Stephens writes in the Wall Street Journal:

…There are more than six million Israelis who presumably wish to live in a sovereign country called Israel. Are their wishes irrelevant? Are their national rights conditional on their behavior–or rather, perceptions of their behavior–and if so, should such conditionality apply to all countries? It also should be obvious that simply because opposition to Zionism does not automatically make one guilty of anti-Semitism, neither does it automatically acquit one of it.

Such nuances, however, seem to go unnoticed by some of Israel’s more elevated critics. Michel Rocard said in 2004 that the creation of the Jewish state was a historic mistake, and that Israel was “an entity that continues to pose a threat to its neighbors until today.” Mr. Rocard is the former Prime Minister of France, an “entity” that itself posed a threat to its neighbors for the better part of its history.

Alternatively, Professors Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, whose paper on “The Israel Lobby” is now being turned into a book, have complained that “anyone who criticises Israel’s actions or argues that pro-Israel groups have significant influence over US Middle Eastern policy . . . stands a good chance of being labeled an anti-semite.” Maybe. But earlier this week, former Klansman David Duke took the opportunity to tell CNN that he does not hate Jews but merely opposes Israel and Israel’s influence in U.S. politics. He even cited Messrs. Walt and Mearsheimer in his defense. Would they exonerate him of being an anti-Semite?

In fact, anti-Zionism has become for many anti-Semites a cloak of political convenience. But anti-Zionism has also become an ideological vehicle for an anti-Semitism that increasingly feels no need for disguise. In January 2002, the New Statesman magazine had a cover story on “The Kosher Conspiracy.” For art, they had a gold Star of David pointed like a blade at the Union Jack. This wasn’t anti-Zionism. It was anti-Zionism matured into unflinching anti-Semitism. And it was featured on the cover of Britain’s premiere magazine of “progressive” thought.

The scholar Gregory Stanton has observed that genocides happen in eight stages, beginning with classification, symbolization and dehumanization, and ending in extermination and denial. What has happened in Tehran–denial–may seem to have turned that order on its head. It hasn’t. The road to Tehran is a well-traveled one, and among those who denounce it now are some who have already walked some part of it.