Quick Roundup 269

Monday, November 05, 2007

Vote early! Vote often!

Thanks to your generous support, Gus Van Horn leads the polls by a comfortable-looking margin in the 2007 Weblog Awards "Slithering Reptile" size category. However, the nearest competitor, Slow Cooker Recipes, is attempting to subject my blog to the same nefarious techniques of prolonged exposure to low heat levels that its authors seem to employ indiscriminately on everything edible from caviar to peanut butter sandwiches!

Fortunately, there is a way to yank that plug from the wall and lift the lid on this madness: The poll, as some of you have mentioned, allows each user one vote per computer per day. I think you know what to do from here!

To make this simpler, there is now a graphic and hyperlink to the polls in the upper right corner of the blog. That shiny button I want you to push each day is now just one easy mouse click away! Polls close on November 8.

Remember: Vote early! Vote often! It's not just a wisecrack: It's a strategy.

And thank you for your continued support!

Oh yes. One more thing: Until Bubblehead, who nominated me, figures out how to convince his main opponents that, "Rove will hack the voting machines for me", he'd probably appreciate some support as well! He's won this thing before, but he's second as of this writing.

What's Going on in Pakistan?

Stanley Kurtz of National Review attempts to make some sense of what is going on in Pakistan. Most interesting was his analysis of the military there as an institution:

Pakistan's military is an almost totally free-standing institution -- a sort of state within a state. The military largely controls its own appointments, and even has independent sources of revenue which limit its reliance on public taxation -- especially for its generous pensions and benefits system. At first, this amounted to, say, the Pakistani air force operating the nation’s air line industry. But under Musharraf, the military, both directly, and through its retired officers (who often leave service in their 40's), now controls vast sections of Pakistan’s state apparatus and economy -- everything from universities, to the post office, to companies that make cement, soap, and even breakfast cereal.

More than ten million Pakistanis directly or indirectly derive their incomes from this vast military-dominated apparatus. And while retired military officers may not know everything they ought to about running a business, in comparison to widespread civilian corruption and incompetence, Pakistan's military is an efficiently-functioning meritocracy. Military education is extensive, serious, and liberal -- teaching the classics of Western and Islamic philosophy and literature, and nowadays even incorporating classes in economics and business management. As members of the most disciplined, merit-based, and effective sector of society, military men have both esprit de corps and contempt for civilians. And again, in a vicious circle, the military increasingly replaces, and therefore further undercuts, poorly functioning sectors of the state [and the economy --ed], making added military expansion all the more necessary.

In one sense, much as in Turkey, Pakistan's military is an outpost of secular and liberal modernity. Yet who can blame Pakistan's civilian liberals for bemoaning this oddly militarized misfiring of the conventional democratic path? Even so, the army's domination of Pakistan's institutional life means that Musharraf's rationale for imposing an emergency may be something more than smoke and mirrors. [bold added]
Even if Pakistan's military were a somewhat reliable ally, it can provide only a temporary holding action against chaos or an eventual Islamic totalitarian takeover of Pakistan. Pakistan's Islamic culture, whatever its British influences, is a poor foundation on which to build a society that respects individual rights to begin with and we see that the one thing that imposes a modicum of order is actually undercutting the growth of any social institutions that might aid a transition to such a society.

Since no matter how heavily-armed, a military cannot retain power without some other base of support, the military will eventually have to strike a deal with the Islamists to retain power should they continue growing in strength. The military is, ironically, helping them do just that!

President Bush's foreign policy -- which should have been named "'Democracy' by Fiat" -- has been shown to be disastrous whatever the means he has used to superimpose Western-looking institutions on fundamentally anti-Western societies. "Palestine" elected itself into a dictatorship after diplomacy brought about elections there. Iraq has no separation of religion and state and is gradually succumbing to Iranian influence even after we took it over militarily and rebuilt its infrastructure. And now, Pakistan, which we simply declared a Western ally, is looking very bad.

In every case, our foreign policy has been guided by the unrealistic assumption that people already want to be free and that this is alone enough to result in freedom, if given a chance. unfortunately, the ideas of the people in a society guide their actions, and if those ideas are antithetical to Western values, that society will not end up acting like a Western society in any meaningful way. The examples of "Palestine", Iraq, and Pakistan are showing this in spades.

The proper purpose of America's foreign policy is not to save people from the consequences of their own mistaken beliefs. It is to protect the lives of American citizens. I think it's time to abandon "Democracy" by Fiat and try something else.

Can Hillary Win over Evangelicals?

Despite evidence that the religious right is becoming more leftist, here's an article that says that the polling data show that Hillary will not win their votes.
A group of leading conservative Christians is threatening to bolt to a third party if the pro-choice Giuliani gets the Republican nomination, and they are not alone. The entrance of Rudy suddenly makes the predictable much less so.

However, even if these voters don't go to Rudy in 2008, they will not flee to Hillary -- a trade-off that might be just fine with her.

If values voters stay home on election day -- or go to a third party -- then they will indeed do precisely what Hillary Clinton has hoped all along: Win her the White House.
But then again, she doesn't need their votes.

-- CAV


Paul said...

StrategyPage.com has some interesting (and alarming) analysis about instability in Pakistan and nuclear weapons:


...The big issue in all of this is the fact that Pakistan is a nuclear power, with as many as 95 nuclear warheads. Many of these designs are far more powerful than the first-generation devices the United States used in 1945, killing 140,000 people in two attacks. This is why stability and rationality in the Pakistani government is important. The problem is that stability may not be guaranteed. The in the 1990s, the Afghan Taliban regime was set up with the help of at least some elements of the Pakistani intelligence service. The other problem is Pakistan's history of coups. These can be bad enough due to the uncertainty of where a new government stands. Now, add the fact that nukes are involved.

The U.S. has worked quietly with the Pakistani government, to improve the security of their nuclear weapons. The Pakistanis are not only concerned with Indian agents harming their nukes, but also the rather more remote possibility of criminals flitching components, or entire bombs, for sale on the international arms market. Several Islamic radical groups have standing offers of big bucks for functioning nuclear weapons. Islamic radicals, and most Moslems, consider Pakistan's nuclear weapons to be the "Islamic nukes," since Pakistan is the only Islamic nation to build nuclear weapons so far. Islamic terrorists openly talk about how they would eagerly use a nuclear weapon in a terror attack. Most Moslems realize this could have grave consequences for the Islamic world (as in a nuclear retaliation), so most Pakistanis want their nukes kept secure. But the rampant corruption makes it easier to penetrate any security system. Add to the mix a more volatile political situation, and you have high risk of loose nukes.

The U.S. has few good options here. A commando raid to spirit the nukes out of the country, only works in the movies. An air strike to destroy them would leave highly radioactive wreckage, and make many enemies for the U.S. in Pakistan. A deal to insert U.S. security personnel might work, given the highly mobile American forces just across the border in Afghanistan, and off the coast on amphibious ships. There is serious planning going on, but there is no sure cure for this situation.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for pointing to that article.

Even were we in the process of shifting to a more rational foreign policy, we would have our hands full here. This is very distressing indeed.

Mel McGuire said...

It's Alive!: Claims Of Religious Right's Demise Are Premature
By Rob Boston
at the Talk To Action blog


I note the following quote: "The leaders of this loose movement - Jim Wallis, Rick Warren and Bill Hybels among others - are often referred to in the media as moderates or even liberals. While they may take some moderate views on issues like climate change, Wallis, Warren and Hybels parrot the Religious Right line on social issues. To our knowledge, not one of them has ever voiced support for the wall of separation between church and state."

Not one of them!

Gus Van Horn said...

I never said the religious right is dying as a political force. Only that it is becoming more like the left on the issues that used to have me voting Republican, namely the economy and national defense.

To shrug off -- for just a few examples -- the resounding echoes of "stewardship" (i.e., environmentalism in religious garb) including from the likes of Cal Thomas or the open admiration of FDR by Newt Gingrich as merely "moderate" positions is to shrug off the fact that, as C. S. Lewis has put it himself the more consistent political implementation of Christianity is socialism and that the religious right is moving towards it (right along with the neoconservatives).

And it is less than comforting to me that they want to use the government to make me live in accordance with their religion.

Mel McGuire said...

You're quite correct. If the evangelicals take on these new issues, it looks to me like an expansion of their power and not a diminishment--more turf rather than less.

Gus Van Horn said...

And I'll add just for the sake of completeness that I regard the Republican Party as it is today as basically a Trojan Horse -- by appearance (with help from the nihilistic Left) the party that would defend America's values -- but really a vehicle to smuggle anti-American religious zealots into power.

Inspector said...


The shiny, candy-like button?

Oh, check out Principles in Practice. None other than Craig Biddle is singing your praises!

softwareNerd said...

President Musharraf claims that the Pakistani courts were letting terrorists go, and reprimanding the police who'd hauled them in. The chief justice says that there's not enough evidence in many of these cases. I wonder what the facts are.

On another note, it is interesting how the underlying structures, that succeeded British rule, have endured, even 50 years later and after so many military dictatorships.

Gus Van Horn said...

They don't trump bad ideas, but I do think that British institutions don't just endure, but help safeguard some measure of freedom by providing some measure of the exercise of rationality in government.