Thursday, October 7, 2004

For the Philosophically Inclined

The philosophically-minded and intellectually curious will want to check out and bookmark, which offers an archive of video clips of interviews of many of the foremost thinkers in the U.S., Britain, and Canada on a wide range of philosophical and scientific subjects. The interviews are conducted by Robert Wright who uses brief clips (two or three minutes) to explore a wide diversity of ideas, and each set of topic includes the thoughts of several prominent thinkers. Topics include Free Will, the Anthropic Principle, Quantum Wierdness, the possiblity of goodness without God, the nature of Consciousness, and many others. Good stuff.

Kicking Against the Goads

A friend passes on an article in Front Page Mag on the political conversion, sort of, of Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens is an erstwhile advocate of all the causes of the far left, but 9/11 was something of a Damascus road experience for him. The scales fell from his eyes and, like a lot of former leftists who have experienced a political epiphany, he suddenly realized that the left-wing criticism of the U.S., though perhaps still valid in some respects, was woefully mistaken in those areas of greatest importance. He also came to see that in many ways the left was phony and unprincipled. One wonders why it took something as dramatic as 9/11 for such an intelligent man to see that, but nevertheless, it did.

Hitchens is very much of a moralist and is also an outspoken atheist. Indeed, he calls to mind the character that Orwell describes as "an embittered atheist, the sort of atheist who does not so much disbelieve in God as personally dislike him." Hitchens even wrote a book the whole point of which was to discredit, of all people, Mother Teresa. He has not moved away from these positions and writes regular essays for militantly atheistic publications like Free Inquiry.

We mention this because it will be interesting to see how comfortable he feels in the company of neo-cons, many of whom are devout. It will also be interesting to see whether he has a second enlightenment and comes to the realization that his strong sense of moral outrage is incompatible with his equally strong belief in the irrelevance of God.

Anyway, the article is an interesting read even if the reader is not familiar with Hitchens, and it's fascinating if he/she is.

The Grand Equivocator

Captain's Quarters has a couple of important pieces. The first goes into some detail about how Saddam had bribed Jacques Chirac to get him to oppose us at the U.N. It's incredible that having suffered the betrayal of our putative allies in the U.N. who chose avarice over loyalty, that Senator Kerry still criticizes President Bush for not letting these people in on Iraqi reconstruction contracts. What's equally difficult to believe, or would be if we hadn't had prior experience of Kerry's ability to simultaneously advance two mutually exclusive criticisms of Bush, is that he condemns the president for "allowing" American business to be outsourced to other countries, while at the same time condemning him for not outsourcing American business in Iraq.

The second is a sad recitation of recent examples of Democrats vandalizing and threatening Republican campaign facilities and workers. This is the party of liberalism, but it's pretty hard to distinguish these tactics from those of the European fascists in the 1930s.

Combine these sordid episodes with the Dems strategy of assuring the public that there will be a draft if Bush is reelected, telling the black community that the Republicans are trying to suppress their vote, and scaring old people about alleged Republican plans to take their social security away from them and it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the Democratic strategy to win in November consists largely of lying, cheating, and thuggery.

Not Enough Troops?

Much has been made of the claim by Paul Bremer and others that we didn't have enough troops in Baghdad to suppress the looting and violence that followed hard upon the liberation of that city. The lack of troops has been seized upon by the president's opponents as evidence that he mishandled the post war and didn't have an effective plan to control the country. For those who want a much more trenchant analysis, however, Wretchard at Belmont Club has a must-read essay.

Wretchard reminds us of two important facts. First, Bremer claimed that there weren't enough troops available at the time he got there shortly after Baghdad fell, but he believes that the number of troops deployed there now is adequate.

Second, the shortfall was not because of poor planning but rather because the troops that had been planned for were rendered unavailable by the last minute decision by Turkey to refuse permission to the 4th Infantry Division to use their soil as a staging area for an invasion of Iraq. This caused a delay in their deployment that seriously hampered attempts to bring the looting under immediate control. Read the details, they're quite interesting.