Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Liberalism's Intellectual Vacuum

Scott Johnson of Powerline waxes eloquent in his praise of the Claremont Institute:
Everything I think I know about American politics I have learned from studying the works of Professor Harry V. Jaffa and his students at the Claremont Institute. In general, we believe that America took a wrong turn with the advent of the Progressive era and the Progressive attack on the Constitution in the name of -- what else? -- progress. It is the audacious project of of the Claremont Institute to restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life.

Key to the success of the project is the intellectual reclamation undertaken by the institute's flagship publication, the Claremont Review of Books (subscribe here). The magazine is to play the same role in inspiring the rollback of the Progressive undoing of the Constitution as the New Republic served in paving the way for the abrogation of limited constitutional government.

He links to a powerful essay by William Voegeli, "The Endless Party," which examines the fundamental weakness of American liberalism. A sample:

Liberals have a practical reason why they won't say what they ultimately want, and a theoretical reason why they can't say it. The practical reason is that any usably clear statement of what the welfare state should be would define not only a goal but a limit. Conceding that an outer limit exists, and stipulating a location for it, strengthens the hand of conservatives—with liberals having admitted, finally, that the welfare state can and should do only so much, the argument now, the conservatives will say, is over just how much that is.

Keeping open, permanently, the option for the growth of the welfare state reflects the belief that the roster of human needs and aspirations to which the government should minister is endless. Any attempt to curtail it would be arbitrary and wrong. (In his concession speech after losing to Ronald Reagan in 1984, Walter Mondale listed the groups he had devoted his political career to assisting: "the poor, the unemployed, the elderly, the handicapped, the helpless, and the sad" [emphasis added].)

This gets us to the theoretical reason why liberalism cannot incorporate a limiting principle or embrace an ultimate destination. Given humankind's long history of sorrows, most people would consider securing "abundance and liberty for all," ending poverty and achieving racial justice, a pretty good day's work. For LBJ it was, astoundingly, "just the beginning."

It's well worth reading the whole thing.

Calling all Feminists!

Given the whining that NOW has been up to lately (do read Myrna Blyth's suggestion that they change their acronym to THEN), it's amazing that America's foremost "feminists" have been largely silent about the liberation of millions of Afghani and Iraqi women who had suffered under abusive regimes. Well, maybe not, because it would mean saying something good about a Republican administration and its war efforts.

However, there's at least one feminist scholar who is aware of the inherent misogyny of Iran's Islamic fundamentalists. Professor Donna M. Hughes, who holds the Carlson Endowed Chair in Women’s Studies at the University of Rhode Island, wrote a piece in Front Page Magazine entitled, "Defeating the Woman-Haters" (Hat tip to Chrenkoff):

Twenty-six years ago in Iran, Islamic fundamentalists captured their first state. They turned it into a theocratic dictatorship and used its resources to fund terror abroad and pursue weapons of mass destruction. Since then, violence, expansionism, and terror against civilians have become hallmarks of Islamic fundamentalism. If the Iranian regime obtains nuclear weapons, it will use them to maintain control of Iran, intimidate countries within missile range, and expand their influence abroad.

To defeat the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, one must understand what keeps them it power. Insight into the role of misogyny ‑ hatred of women ‑ in the tyranny's ideology and its tactics of social control is the key to ending the reign of terror.
Professor Hughes concludes her case by suggesting a number of tactics governments, the UN, and NGOs should undertake in their dealings with Iran to subvert the misogyny and hence the mullahs' power. I doubt that her rather PC prescription is as strong a lever as she posits, but it's an interesting line of attack. Go read the article, and then imagine the impact of Secretary Rice making a state visit to Iran.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Scott Ritter rides again

Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter is making dire statements about the futility of the US ballistic missile defense program:
On Christmas Eve 2004, the Russian Strategic Missile Force test fired an advanced SS-27 Topol-M road-mobile intercontinental ballistic Missile (ICBM). This test probably invalidated the entire premise and technology used in the National Missile Defense (NMD) system currently being developed and deployed by the Bush administration, and at the same time called into question the validity of the administration's entire approach to arms control and disarmament. [...]

The NMD system being fielded to counter the SS-25, and any similar or less sophisticated threats that may emerge from China, Iran, North Korea, and elsewhere, will probably have cumulative costs between $800 billion and $1.2 trillion by the time it reaches completion in 2015.

However, the Bush administration's dream of a viable NMD has been rendered fantasy by the Russian test of the SS-27 Topol-M. According to the Russians, the Topol-M has high-speed solid-fuel boosters that rapidly lift the missile into the atmosphere, making boost-phase interception impossible unless one is located practically next door to the launcher. The SS-27 has been hardened against laser weapons and has a highly maneuverable post-boost vehicle that can defeat any intercept capability as it dispenses up to three warheads and four sophisticated decoys.

To counter the SS-27 threat, the US will need to start from scratch. And even if a viable defense could be mustered, by that time the Russians may have fielded an even more sophisticated missile, remaining one step ahead of any US countermeasures. The US cannot afford to spend billions of dollars on a missile-defense system that will never achieve the level of defense envisioned. The Bush administration's embrace of technology, and rejection of diplomacy, when it comes to arms control has failed.

Ritter seems to be stuck in a Cold War reality, conveniently ignoring the fact that the Russians aren't the most pressing threat for the US right now: rather, the North Koreans and Iranians are much more likely to shoot first. And Russia is in much closer proximity to those two nations than the US is. You can read more about the SS-27 here.

Even if the US decides that it needs to be able to counter the SS-27, that hardly means that the efforts to date to counter the "less sophisticated threats" are worthless. Check out the MDA homepage for recent press releases and background reading on the US National Missile Defense program.

UN can't buy respect anymore

While there have always been critics of the UN, the gross malfeasance of the bureaucracy is becoming obvious even to the casual observer. The ludicrous posturings by Kofi Annan and assorted co-dependent bureaucrats in the wake of the tsunami disaster are just the most recent insults.

Back before Christmas, Kenneth L. Cain, a former UN human-rights officer, wrote in the Wall Street Journal:
A debate currently rages about whether Kofi Annan enjoys the moral authority to lead the United Nations because the Oil for Food scandal happened under his command. That debate is 10 years too late and addresses the wrong subject. The salient indictment of Mr. Annan's leadership is lethal cowardice, not corruption; the evidence is genocide, not oil. [...]

Liberal multilateralists on the left, like me, are often skittish about offering too pungent a critique of Mr. Annan, because it offers aid and comfort to the "enemy" on the conservative unilateralist right. But if anyone's values have been betrayed at the U.N. over the past decade it is those of us who believe most deeply in the organization's ideals. Just ask the men and women of Rwanda and Srebrenica.

Claudia Rosett, who has written reams about the Oil-for-Food scandal, calls for regime change at the UN:
...The Secretariat has had a year of gagging contractors, threatening the jobs of whistle-blowers, and pounding out letters to the editor explaining that the Secretariat should not be blamed for anything because it is in fact responsible for nothing--though somehow more money, especially from the U.S., is always wanted. A few senior officials are now due to depart. Several thick reports on various fronts are due to be filed, and perhaps here or there a head will roll.

But to suppose that the United Nations will reform itself from within is to miss the eerie unreality of the place. It is not simply changes in some of the staffing that are needed, or U.N. commissioned reports recommending that the U.N. "reform" by way of doing even more of whatever it does already. What's needed is something that among sovereign states we have come to call regime change--the basic alteration of a system that in its privileges, immunities and practices resembles rather too closely some of the dictatorships that still pack its ranks.

Over at, Joe Katzman explains the origins of the term "Toyota Taliban" referring to UN and NGO (non-governmental organization) aid workers living in luxury in Afghanistan. He also links to other articles on the topic, such as these from Roger L. Simon, Diplomad, and Instapundit.

Actually, you should check out The Diplomad blog regularly to keep up with the on-going UN relief farce. From today's post:
Day 9 of the tsunami crisis.

I know I had promised to lay off the UN for a bit . . . but I can't. As one reader commented on a previous Diplomad posting on the UN, "it's like watching a train wreck" -- you know it's horrible, but you've just got to look at it.

In this part of the tsunami-wrecked Far Abroad, the UN is still nowhere to be seen where it counts, i.e., feeding and helping victims. The relief effort continues to be a US-Australia effort, with Singapore now in and coordinating closely with the US and Australia. Other countries are also signing up to be part of the US-Australia effort. Nobody wants to be "coordinated" by the UN. The local UN reps are getting desperate. They're calling for yet another meeting this afternoon; they've flown in more UN big shots to lecture us all on "coordination" and the need to work together, i.e., let the UN take credit. With Kofi about to arrive for a big conference, the UNocrats are scrambling to show something, anything as a UN accomplishment. Don't be surprised if they claim that the USS Abraham Lincoln is under UN control and that President Lincoln was a strong supporter of the UN.

Maybe watching the UN flounder is not like watching a train wreck; perhaps it's more akin to watching an Ed Wood movie or reading Maureen Dowd or Margo Kingston -- so horrible, so pathetic, that it transforms into a thing of perverse beauty. The only problem, of course, is that real people are dying.
Speaking of the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), the US Navy has a photo gallery online of relief efforts. (Hat tip Instapundit.)

Mark Steyn provides a wry commentary:

But the waters recede and the familiar contours of the political landscape re-emerge - in this case, the need to fit everything to the Great Universal Theory of the age, that whatever happens, the real issue is the rottenness of America. [...] But even Telegraph readers subscribe to the Great Universal Theory. On our Letters Page, Robert Eddison dismissed the "paltry $15 million from Washington" as "worse than stingy. The offer - since shamefacedly upped to $35 million - equates to what? Three oil tycoons' combined annual salary?"

Mr Eddison concluded with a stirring plea to the wicked Americans to mend their ways: "If Washington is to lay any claim to the moral, as distinct from the military, high ground, let it emulate Ireland and Norway's prompt and proportionate attempts to plug South-East Asia's gaping gap of need and help avert a further 80,000 deaths from infection and untreated wounds."

If America were to emulate Ireland and Norway, there'd be a lot more dead Indonesians and Sri Lankans. Mr Eddison may not have noticed, but the actual relief effort going on right now is being done by the Yanks: it's the USAF and a couple of diverted naval groups shuttling in food and medicine, with solid help from the Aussies, Singapore and a couple of others. The Irish can't fly in relief supplies, because they don't have any C-130s. All they can do is wait for the UN to swing by and pick up their cheque.

Meanwhile, Belmont Club reflects about why the UN keeps insisting that it should be in charge (also see here and here).
In the matter of providing relief for tsunami victims, the UN cannot afford to assume any other attitude than a reluctant willingness to stoop to command the national contingents. For the United Nations to abandon its claim to primacy in the tsunami relief effort is the equivalent of renouncing its scepter as the 'sole source of legitimacy' and the only fount of 'moral authority'. For no danger is so great to international organizations and Kings as the peril of being proved unnecessary. Though almost almost none of the food, supplies and logistical systems to provide relief have so far have come from the World Body, it appears existentially important to it that what has arrived wear the livery of the United Nations.