:: Saturday, December 27, 2003 ::
A good book
:: Wednesday, December 24, 2003 ::
Haven't had much to say recently, so let me recommend a very good book, which I haven't even finished yet: The Wages of Guilt by Ian Buruma. He discusses how the German and Japanese peoples have dealt with WWII memories over the years. It's well-written, and details some really interesting contrasts between how the war is remembered in those two countries.
Terrorism by the numbers
:: Monday, December 22, 2003 ::
In an article from the Ha'aretz weekend section, Amir Oren sums up a point that I agree with. It's pretty disingenuous to compare terror attacks in one country with another country by looking at the proportion of the population:
Avi Dichter, the head of the Shin Bet security service, tripped up this week during his address to the Herzliya Conference. Like many in the top ranks of the political and security establishments, Dichter has recourse to distorted personal accounting, which seeks to place a high numerical value on Israelis only because of the relative size of their country. According to Dichter, who wanted to illustrate the impact of the killing, the 900 Israelis killed in the confrontation with the Palestinians are the equivalent of 40 times as many (50 would be more correct) American victims.
By Dichter's logic, if we continue to follow it until it's stood on its head, only about 60 pretend-Israelis were killed in the Twin Towers attack, and not 3,000 Americans; and, on the other hand, we have to double the number of Palestinians who were killed in order to get the equivalent in terms of their population ratio vis-a-vis Israel.
The numbers are harsh enough without inflating them meaninglessly. A person killed is a person killed is a person killed, and the reaction of a country doesn't depend solely on numbers. Five soldiers were also killed in the first Tze'elim disaster, which occurred during the tenure of chief of staff Dan Shomron, but the public interest was less than in the case of the second Tze'elim disaster during the Barak period.
:: Sunday, December 21, 2003 ::
The latest news certainly seems good. Maybe the Iraq war did have a positive effect in this case, although chalking it up as entirely, or even mostly, due to that requires one to ignore quite a few specifics about the Libya situation. Also, my own post from six months ago about how Iraq should have been about "enforcement" instead of "pre-emption" still speaks to what I think about this. We could have focused the argument for war on the basis of Saddam's long and egregious history of violating UN resolutions regarding his own regime, instead of throwing in a bunch of over-hyped threats that supposedly required a pre-emptive strike. Whatever fear factor might be in play for Qadhafi, or any other bad guys developing WMD, would still be there if they saw that we were willing to enforce the rules, not just that we were willing to make up new rules.
Another point regarding pre-emption: if this really did represent a great victory for the doctrine that's supposedly in place now, wouldn't that mean that a pre-emptive strike against Libya had to have been in the cards at some point, at least theoretically? I'm not saying that there had to be concrete plans for invading Libya on Bush's desk, but one does have to be willing to follow through on a threat in order to make it credible. However, as Josh Marshall recently pointed out, several people who have quoted various neo-con statements about regime change in other countries, including Libya, have been derided as insane crackpots by other neo-cons. So, which is it? Were we willing to pre-empt Qadhafi a la Saddam, or is anyone who even mentions that possibility completely crazy? It doesn't seem like a very effective method of deterrence, declaring your willingness to do something while simultaneously questioning the sanity of anyone who says that you actually want to do it.
Of course, nobody in the administration has ever gone public with plans for invading Libya, so there's little reason to believe that it was ever in the cards. But some people sure as hell sounded like it was, which just reveals, once again, how empty all this rhetoric about pre-emption really is.
There's only one Grond
Back in Kentucky for the end of the year, and there was a lot of fun to be had yesterday with friends. First, there was a group viewing of the Wildcats' 80-41 evisceration of Indiana. It was pretty close at halftime, just a 32-26 UK lead, but the second half saw a stunning display of Hoosier ineptness, combined with very solid play from UK.
Then there was a trip to the movies for Return of the King, which no one else in the group had seen yet (what, people with 9-5 jobs have trouble going to 3 1/2 hour long movies in the middle of the week? Is that how it is? :) ) A great repeat experience, and this time I noticed something pretty cool that I didn't realize before. There's a scene where the bad guys use a gigantic battering ram shaped like the head of some evil warthog, and they're all chanting something as they wheel it into place. On a movies web forum that I read, some people who've read the books said that the battering ram is called Grond, which wasn't explained in the movie. But what happens in the movie, as you can notice if you know what it's called, is that the orcs are chanting its name as they bring it into position in the battle! They're like a huge army of nightmarishly crazed soccer hooligans. Not a group that I'd want to run into in real life, but it's a pretty awesome touch in the movie.