Monday, August 28, 2006

No Guilt by Association

Although it has been said in various ways by many different people I think it bears repeating: we must be careful and diligent to remind ourselves, others in our country, and the world that although we are in a conflict with "Islamo fascism," or Islamic radicals who want to destroy the West by force, we are not in a conflict with all Muslims. If our enemies can convince the rest of the world that we are against Islam in general then they will have won support, or at least greater disdain for us, from a large percentage of the world's population. Furthermore, the Muslims in the US need to know that they are not outcasts. We also need to remind those in our country who would seek to harm all Muslims, even other citizens, that we are not a people who desire or tolerate hatred or guilt by association and that, as a nation, we are remorseful for times that we have done so in the past. Muslims and those of Middle Eastern heritage may be under greater suspicion than WASPy types, but they are not guilty just because of their faith or family history. Is it fair that they are under greater suspicion? Maybe not. But I can't think of a better system because, without further investigation, you can't tell an "Islamo fascist" from a peaceful Muslim. If there were a group of white supremacists carrying out terrorist attacks and seeking to destroy our culture I hope that us blond haired blue eyed types would be under greater suspicion than those who are not white at all. But because Muslims are under greater suspicion it is easy to understand why they may feel targeted. And therefore we need to make an extra effort to make sure they know that they are not guilty by association and that we do accept them as countrymen or just as other peace-loving humans. If we allow this sizeable majority in our country to feel isolated and targeted simply by their coincidental association with terrorists then it only becomes more likely that they may one day sympathize with our enemies more than us. And, from a less practical standpoint, we should reach out to those who feel persecuted or outcast because it is harmful for them, as humans, to feel that way. We ought to show compassion and acceptance. Not just for the practical purpose of trying to keep them from becoming resentful, but for the pragmatic purpose of embracing everyone who will be embraced and showing love and compassion to the world. If we do not wholehartedly welcome diversity and allow each person to have their own ideology, as long as it doesn't involve killing us or terrorizing us, then we are worse than our enemies.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Sometimes its Obvious

Iran is continuing to develop its nuclear program. Why do the UN and Europe continue to act surprised? Why do they believe that they can really talk Iran out of it? The President of Iran has quite clearly and frequently stated that he believes his country to be at war with the Western world. Furthermore, he has stated that his goal is to destroy Israel and diminish Western power, especially that of the US, to inferior to that of the "Muslim world," which probably really means Iran. What is it going to take for the West to realize that you can't make a deal with someone whose stated goal is your domination? The UN and Europe have been trying to get Israel to find a diplomatic peace with several groups who have a desire to destroy Israel as one of their purposes for existence. I thought that this stupidity had something to do with their feelings about Israel, but now it appears that perhaps they are genuine. Now they too seek to deal diplomatically with an adversary that says it seeks their destruction. Diplomatic peace means compromise. You cannot compromise with a group that wants to destroy you. If they want something else and are willing to destroy you to get it then you can give them that something else to avoid destruction. But when the goal they set forth is your destruction there is nothing to barter with. I guess maybe Europe believes that there is something else that Iran really wants and that a desire to destroy the West is really born from that other desire. I guess that may be true, but I don't see why they would know what Iran wants more than the President of Iran does. He is saying he wants to destroy the West, and I believe him when he says it. The most I can say for Europe is that at least they aren't hypocrites (on this point, anyway). And while Europe keeps trying to appease Iran, Iran continues to string them along without even a pause in their program.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Path of Least Resistance

Michael Yon and probably others have been saying it for awhile, and now it seems that most of our political leaders and generals are jumping on board, too: there is a civil war brewing or under way in Iraq. There are clearly three sides in the war, the Kurds, the Shi'ites, and the Sunnis. These three groups have been at odds since the British lumped them blindly into one country and called it Iraq. Each of these groups has their own culture and belief system and each wants to run their own country with nothing to do with the others. So my questions is, why not let them? Its clear that right now they don't want to exist in a country together, but most of them do want a free independent country (not a dictatorship or theocracy). Why would we see it as a loss to allow them to each have their own country? Right now we have to exert a large amount of military force to try to keep them from ripping each other to shreds -- and we're still not doing that great a job of it. These are three groups that want independence that were forced to be governed together first by colonialism and then by an oppressive dictatorship. Why does it not make sense that part of toppling that dictatorship is to set each of these groups free to govern themselves? It seems to me like we have three choices at this point:
  1. Maintain a vast military presence in Iraq so that the civil war that will be fought will look more like individual acts of aggression by rouge forces. When they eventually learn to get along years, maybe decades from now, then we'll be able to leave.
  2. Maintain current troop levels or decrease them in any amount and watch the country fall into full fledged civil war that either ends in separate countries being made or one or more of the factions being dominated by another.
  3. Set up three separate countries today, maintain our military presence to enforce the borders for some period of time, and call it a victory for everyone.
Now, I know things aren't that simple, but I think that there is going to be conflict between these groups for a long time if they aren't allowed to be autonomous. It seems fully in line with the mission of setting up democracy in the Middle East to allow these groups of people to govern themselves as they wish. Ethnic diversity has "worked" in the U.S. historically because before any significant new ethnic group arrives there is already a stifling majority of nationals who consider themselves "Americans" (meaning citizens of the U.S.). In Iraq you have these three groups trying to coexist with none having a clear majority and all having a different vision. So, let them have three countries. If the unite into one again some day, so much the better. But if we try to keep them as one now, I believe that odds are that they will eventually split anyway. It won't be that much extra government building because each group already has their politicians and some political infrastructure, and at least two of the groups already have trained militaries: the Kurdish militias are probably the best native fighting force in Iraq, and the Shi'ites mostly own the Iraqi Army. In the end I think this is the path we are going to have to go down. Why not go there voluntarily, when we can legitimately claim that it is still victory, rather than waiting for the thousands of lost lives and costly years, in terms of dollars and politics, and what will only look like failure, for the same result? If we make a united Iraq our goal there is no way we can claim victory when it splits, and at this point it looks like an inevitability to me. So it makes sense to split Iraq in terms of lives lost, money spent, and political gain, both at home and internationally.

Monday, August 07, 2006


It seems to me that the ideal purpose of a politician in a democracy is to represent the people in the piece of the country that they are elected from, whether that be an entire state or a single county or city. That means that whether you are Republican or Democrat, if your district is split 49-51%, your voting should reflect more middle of the road trends. If your district is 90% your party, then you should vote with your party almost all of the time.

But that is not what happens in the US today because we have, as a nation, consistently valued party over people. I'm not sure when it happened, maybe its always been that way. However, this leads to massive misrepresentation, in my opinion. Today if your district is split 49-51% then nearly half of the people in your district are misrepresented because most politicians vote party line on most issues.

Now, the argument for the way a party system like this works is that you vote for the party that most represents your views. Then the party that has the majority of the votes in a district will be the party that most accurately represents the people and therefore maximum representation is achieved. But there are only two parties today, and most people do not fall solidly within a given party on every vote. It is my opinion that most people would vote in a range across the middle of the political spectrum if they could vote on every issue. Instead we mostly get votes polarized on both ends of the spectrum and there is never a middle of the road victory.

The motivation behind electing a candidate and not a party is that a candidate from a given district will know the people of that district and be able to accurately represent them. If a politician is only going to vote party line then there is no reason to have him around at all. We need only to establish the bounds of what a party stands for and the vote for the party that will represent your district. Apparently this was not the intent when our system was created because we do, in fact, vote for candidates.

When a great deal of districts in recent elections have been split by less than 10% but most votes by politicians fall squarely along party lines, accurate representation is not happening. It is my opinion that this was not the intent of those creating the system when it was set up, and it is not the ideal situation. If it were a better system I would be willing to forgo the "founders" intent for one that we have found to be better. However, I do not believe that this misrepresentation is better. Rather I believe that it will be beneficial and right for us to encourage a move within our system so that politicians vote to represent their whole district, not just the small majority who elected them, if that is the case. I'm not sure what practical steps we can take, but I know that one thing that will help is getting more people informed and interested during the primaries, because if more people vote in the primary then a more representative candidate will emerge as a contender in the general election. I'd like to hear any practical ways we can move towards more accurate representation in our government today, or any reasons why we ought not to.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


What if this is the truth about the Israeli campaign in Lebanon? Can we really have any idea of knowing who is right and wrong right now? Will we ever know? I've found that on many high profile issues, especially regarding recent military activities, its hard to know what to believe or who to trust. The two sides usually contradict on major points, and both make claims about the other side that are impossible to substantiate but equally impossible to prove false. And both sides have something to gain by lying if what the other says is true. I am left with a lot of "facts" and assertions and no way of knowing who is telling the truth. I suspect that the truth is often somewhere in between the two perspectives.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

An Israeli Perspective

I found this article at that talks about the double edged sword that Hezbollah represents to Israel. The basic point goes like this: Hezbollah attacks Israeli civilians seeking to maximize non-military damage. At the same time they hide their military positions among heavily populated areas so when Israel attacks them they kill civilians. No matter what Israel does it loses, either in its civilian casualties or by inflicting them on Lebanon. The author claims that Israel goes so far as to drop leaflets ahead of their bombing missions to allow civilians time to leave, where Hezbollah intentionally targets civilians. Yet Israel is seen by most of the world as the war criminal. Is this piece propaganda or a repetition of propaganda? Maybe. But it may have some shred of truth in it and it is important to consider amongst some international calls for war crimes charges to be leveled at Israel.