Thursday, June 22, 2006

Israel's Self Destruction

Louis Rene Beres has written an accurate, depressing assessement of what has been going on in Israel over the last few years. Here's an excerpt:
Israel, this pitiable human being in macrocosm, is now in a final process of becoming this "thing." Called upon repeatedly by our "civilized" world to negotiate with unrepentant terrorists, every prime minister from Yitzhak Rabin to Ariel Sharon has agreed to assorted policies of national defeat. Current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's idea for Middle East peace is simply more of the same. Fortified by an incontestable history of prime ministerial failure, his ironic plan is to arm Fatah against Hamas and to proceed with a new round of existential territorial concessions. Inevitably, of course, Israel will continue to disappear in shameless increments of auto-desecration now named "realignment."
Please read the whole article -- it is well worth it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Tracinski on the Suicide Bomb Morality

An excellent article by Intellectual Activist editor Robert Tracinski appears today in RealClearPolitics.com. Here's an excerpt:
For the great mass of Palestinians this worship of sacrifice is sincere. By rejecting every chance at peace and coexistence with Israel--breaking every truce and turning down every peace offer--they have lost everything and gained nothing. Taking the suicide bomber as their moral model, the Palestinians seek to emulate his fate: in their lust to destroy Israel, they are willing to accept the utter destruction and collapse of their own society.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Zarqawi, Global Terror and Iran

One of the most insightful commentators on the current conflict has been Michael Ledeen, who, while not always advocating the correct means, seems to understand the problem we are facing more clearly than most. In his latest essay he comments:
Zarqawi was a very important man in the terror network. I first noticed him some years ago, reading the German and Italian press. Several terrorist cells in those countries had been rounded up, and court documents showed that in both countries the network had been created from Tehran, by Zarqawi. Thus, years before we went into Iraq, Zarqawi was already a major player in international terrorism, and in recognition of his skills he was sent into Iraq as one of the organizers of the terror war against us and the Iraqi people.
As usual, the connection to Iran is not evident in most reports on this murderer, though perhaps this is because it seems difficult to see how Iran would want to work with such an explicit hater of Shi'ites. Yet, Ledeen points out
Despite his intonations against the Shiites, and his manifest efforts to promote civil war in Iraq, Zarqawi was happy to work with the radical Shiite regime in Tehran, and they were happy to work with him. It is quite wrong to view him as a leader of one faction in a religious war; his promotion of religious conflict was simply a tactic designed to destabilize Iraq and drive out the Coalition. He and his Iranian backers/masters were desperate to promote all manner of internal Iraqi conflict: Kurds against Arabs, Turkamen against Kurds, anything that worked. It’s The Godfather all over again: the terror masters put aside their differences, sat down around the table, and made a war plan in which Sunni and Shia, Syrian and Saudi, Iranian and Iraqi cooperated against their common satanic enemy, the United States.
Although his recent pronouncements against Iran's leader and Hezbollah make me wonder whether the Iranians perhaps decided that he had outlived his usefulness. Nevertheless, before his untimely death he appears to have been quite busy (though fortunately unsuccessful):

Reports from Canada recount contacts between the ‘home-grown’ terrorists arrested by the Mounties and Zarqawi himself (See the Mississauga News,’ June 7: ‘The arrest of 17 suspects...is said to be the latest stage in dismantling a terrorist network that’s linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi...’). Those arrests seem linked to those carried out in Atlanta, Georgia, by the FBI, and to other arrests in Sarajevo, England, and Denmark. It will be surprising if we don’t find Zarqawi’s claw prints in several of those venues, as the Canadians have said. Remember, it was publicly announced a few months ago that Zarqawi was no longer the head of al Qaeda in Iraq, that henceforth the Iraqi Sunni ‘community’ would run the terror war there, and that Zarqawi would devote his efforts to the international jihad. It seems he did just that — and failed.
Michael Ledeen is one of the few analysts who sees through the complexity of the terrorists world and argues that
we should conceive of terrorism as a kind of galaxy, with numerous components — ranging from Hamas and Islamic Jihad to the rump of al Qaeda and, most importantly, Hezbollah — who worked together, organized a division of labor, and were held in their orbits and epicycles by the Iranian intelligence apparatus, from the official ministry to the specialized units in the Revolutionary Guards.
Sadly we are still wasting time treating the Iranians with kid-gloves when open warfare has long been overdue. As the elimination of Zarqawi shows, this war is winnable, these murderers are not invincible, our military is more than capable of destroying them. All that is required is that we commit ourselves to American self-defense.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Various

Bush vs. Kerry
During the September 30, 2004 Presidential debate, Presidential candidate John Kerry said the following:
KERRY: With respect to Iran, the British, French, and Germans were the ones who initiated an effort without the United States, regrettably, to begin to try to move to curb the nuclear possibilities in Iran. I believe we could have done better. I think the United States should have offered the opportunity to provide the nuclear fuel, test them, see whether or not they were actually looking for it for peaceful purposes. If they weren't willing to work a deal, then we could have put sanctions together. The president did nothing. [emphasis added]
Headline today: U.S. to give Iran nuclear technology. From the article:
A package of incentives presented Tuesday to Iran includes a provision for the United States to supply Tehran with some nuclear technology if it stops enriching uranium — a major concession by Washington, diplomats said.
...
The package was agreed on last week by the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia — the five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany, in a bid to resolve the nuclear standoff with Iran.
No comment necessary.

Brian Simpson's Markets Don't Fail!
My review of this useful book is posted at Nick Provenzo's Rule of Reason.

Tara Smith's Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist
Last week I completed my reading of this excellent book which covers the Objectivist virtues including rationality, honesty, independence, integrity, justice, productiveness, and pride in detail. Despite the steep price for the hard cover, the book is well worth it since it covers material otherwise only available in far more expensive audio lectures. Among the more interesting topics covered are discussions of temperance, charity, kindness, and generosity, and their relationship to the usual Objectivist virtues, as well as to why the subject of individual rights does not fall under the purview of the virtue of justice (hint -- individual rights are not a matter of desert).

Saturday, June 03, 2006


"A Soaring Achievement"
Such is the title of a fascinating column in today's Wall Street Journal by John Tauranac, author of The Empire State Building: The Making of a Landmark.

The achievement that is the Empire State Building belongs first and foremost to architects Richmond H. Shreve, William F. Lamb, and Arthur Loomis Harmon, names as Tauranac points out that should be as famous as Rembrandt. Announced in September 1929, it was built in 20 (!) months. Tauranac writes:
Shreve, Lamb & Harmon considered themselves modernists. But their notion of modernism was a building that was both erected and operated efficiently. If it looked good, so much the better, and this building did.
From an initial design of 65 stories, the building grew to be 80 stories along with a separate 5 story penthouse as a result of competition with the Chrysler building which was 1,048 feet tall. With its distinctive 200 foot dirigible mooring mast the Empire State Building became the tallest structure in the world at 1,250 feet until the construction of the World Trade Center in 1972.

Tauranac comments on the efficiency of the construction:
The construction operation was an assembly line, only the product was stationary--the workers were on the move. The ironworkers threw steel higher and faster than anybody had ever dreamed, and the other crafts kept abreast of the pace--a record-breaking 4 1/2 floors a week. The American Society of Civil Engineers has declared the building not only "one of the seven greatest engineering achievements in American history," but "one of the top engineering monuments of the Millenium."
I first visited New York in 1979 and I went with my parents to the Empire State Building. I still remember vividly looking up from ground and being simply amazed at the sheer size of it. I still think it is truly inspiring to think that man is capable of such greatness.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Media Bias in the US and Israel

Those among you bemoaning the state of the media in the United States should realize that it could be worse. Caroline Glick writes here latest column one at the Jerusalem Post:
In Israel, as the country's steady economic growth and high placement on just about every significant global economic index shows, the economic liberalization reforms enacted by former prime minister and finance minister Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu have been a complete success. The Israeli economy is the envy of a Europe that suffers from stagnation and decline.

Yet inside of Israel, the country's economic success is a well-kept secret. Most Israelis operate under the impression that the country is on the verge of economic ruin - that poor people are starving, that sick people are going without proper medical care. The reason that most Israelis believe that the country is teetering on the brink of an economic disaster is because the Israeli media have consistently reported an economic narrative that has absolutely no relationship with reality. So, while international investors line up to invest in the Israeli economy, Israeli citizens look to socialist politicians and pundits to save them from their capitalist nightmare of success.
A similar situation exists here in the U.S. where headlines read "Payroll Growth Stalls With 75,000 New Jobs" and "Jobs Report Signals Cooling Economy, " yet the articles state that "the nation's unemployment rate dipped to 4.6 percent, the lowest since the summer of 2001." The security situation is similarly distorted. In Israel

Palestinian terrorists Tuesday morning videotaped Israeli forces in the ruins of the Israeli community of Dugit attacking a Palestinian terror squad as it prepared to launch a Kassam rocket on Ashkelon. On Wednesday the IDF admitted that it has been deploying commandos in Gaza to prevent rocket and missile launches for the past two months. That deployment had been kept secret to prevent the public from learning just how ill-advised last year's retreat was. The need to deploy ground forces in Gaza today proves unequivocally that the only way to defend Ashkelon and the other communities bordering Gaza from attack is by deploying IDF boots on the ground in Gaza.

Just as they distorted their coverage of the Katyusha attacks on northern Israel on Sunday, to prevent the public from absorbing the significance of the IDF ground operations in Gaza, the media concentrated its coverage of the deployment of ground forces in Gaza on irrelevant side issues. All the media turned their attention to the terror propaganda film. That film regaled Israeli TV viewers with footage of poor terrorists dying of their wounds just before they had the opportunity to attack Ashkelon with their rockets.[emphasis added]

I almost pity those, like columnist Charles Krauthammer ("the Israeli abandonment of Gaza ... is both correct and necessary") and classicist and military historian Victor Davis Hanson ("Sharon's withdrawal policy from Gaza...can only help a militarily superior Israel"), who thought the Gaza withdrawal was a good strategy. But they should have known better. Just as in economics, regulations breed further regulations, so in foreign policy, a concession leads to further concessions. I was always skeptical of Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon and doubly so of the Gaza "disengagement". Now Hezbollah sits on Israel's northern border and Hamas and Al Qaeda on Israel's southern. Sometimes I really wonder whether withdrawing from Sinai in return for "peace" from Egypt was such a good idea to begin with...

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Recommendation

I should be finished listening to the unabridged audio recording of Atlas Shrugged today. This particular recording was read by Kate Reading, who has also done a superb rendition of We, the Living (which might be available at your local public library). Reading is able convey the emotional intensity necessary for an Ayn Rand novel. I have to say I prefer Kate Reading's reading skills to those of Christopher Hurt, the other reader of unabridged Ayn Rand fiction, who comes across as sounding somewhat bouncy sounding. While Hurt does great accents -- I particularly liked his Francisco D'Anconia -- he lacks Reading's passion.

If you haven't listened to an unabridged recording of an Ayn Rand novel, I highly recommend it. It is a truly exhilarating experience.