Wednesday, December 8, 2004

More Troops, Please

Gregory Djerejian at The Belgravia Dispatch argues that we just don't have enough troops in Iraq to do the job we have to do as effectively as we could be doing it. Part of his argument is this:

Yes, we are busier reacting to the insurgents then proactively stamping them out via overwhelming force. Because we don't have enough resources on the ground to do so. Kerry would have, in all likelihood, drawn-down our force posture in Iraq. Bush, at least, has increased it. But extending tours is devastating to morale. And relying so heavily on relatively inexperienced Guard and Reserve units is far from ideal. Taking Fallujah but allowing insurgents to flee to parts south of Baghdad (because we didn't have enough troops to blanket both areas simultaneously) is evocative of what McCain is getting at when he says we are in something of a "reactive" posture.

We took the fight to the enemy in Fallujah, yes. But not having enough troops to keep the bad guys who escaped from getting to new sanctuaries has mitigated the success of the Fallujah offensive. It was an important victory, to be sure. But not an overwhelming one. Put differently, it's not that we are losing so much as we aren't decisively winning. If such a situation is allowed to fester for too long, of course, there will be a tipping point. We aren't there yet. But it's clear that, going into a period of heightened violence with elections looming, it wouldn't hurt (to say the least) if we could have more non-Guard, non-Reserve troops on the ground. Grown-ups like Chuck Hagel, Richard Lugar, and John McCain get this. We must hope the President does too.

But I'm concerned. The lack of accountability at the Pentagon is a somewhat worrisome sign. But the Kerry alternative was even bleaker. So here we are. Who will have the courage to say what is so obvious and act on it? Our military is too small for the tasks it currently confronts. We are simply too stretched.

The mystery to us is why there is so much resistance in the White House to sending more troops to Iraq. The opinion that there are too few seems almost universal. Everyone seems to share it except Don Rumsfeld and George Bush, the only two who matter. Why can't the troops stationed in Germany, or South Korea, or Okinawa, or wherever be sent to Iraq? We never seem to get any answer to this question except a vague demurral that they're not needed. Isn't it better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them?

American Natalism

David Brooks offers a fascinating account of natalism in the U.S.A. By this he means the trend among many families to actually wish to produce and cherish children. It is, to be sure, an odd sociological development in our narcissistic times, but evidently there are substantial numbers of folk out there, mostly in red states, who actually embrace this way of life. Here's how Brooks describes them:

They are having three, four or more kids. Their personal identity is defined by parenthood. They are more spiritually, emotionally and physically invested in their homes than in any other sphere of life, having concluded that parenthood is the most enriching and elevating thing they can do. Very often they have sacrificed pleasures like sophisticated movies, restaurant dining and foreign travel, let alone competitive careers and disposable income, for the sake of their parental calling.

You can see surprising political correlations. As Steve Sailer pointed out in The American Conservative, George Bush carried the 19 states with the highest white fertility rates, and 25 of the top 26. John Kerry won the 16 states with the lowest rates.

In The New Republic Online, Joel Kotkin and William Frey observe, "Democrats swept the largely childless cities - true blue locales like San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Boston and Manhattan have the lowest percentages of children in the nation - but generally had poor showings in those places where families are settling down, notably the Sun Belt cities, exurbs and outer suburbs of older metropolitan areas."

Natalists are associated with red America, but they're not launching a jihad. The differences between them and people on the other side of the cultural or political divide are differences of degree, not kind. Like most Americans, but perhaps more anxiously, they try to shepherd their kids through supermarket checkouts lined with screaming Cosmo or Maxim cover lines. Like most Americans, but maybe more so, they suspect that we won't solve our social problems or see improvements in our schools as long as many kids are growing up in barely functioning families.

Like most Americans, and maybe more so because they tend to marry earlier, they find themselves confronting the consequences of divorce. Like most Americans, they wonder how we can be tolerant of diverse lifestyles while still preserving the family institutions that are under threat.

What they cherish, like most Americans, is the self-sacrificial love shown by parents. People who have enough kids for a basketball team are too busy to fight a culture war.

There's much more about this strange and exotic species of American in Brooks' essay. Although Brooks doesn't mention it, there is implicit in his column a real danger that if this trend catches on, all of the good work of the radical feminists over the last thirty years in persuading women that children are an encumbrance will unravel. Perhaps it is time to send out the call to once again, uh, man the barricades.

Imposing Our Values

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has catalogued reaction by Arabs throughout the Middle East to the Global Antisemitism Review Act of 2004 signed by President Bush in October. Under this act, the U.S. will "continue to strongly support efforts to combat antisemitism worldwide through bilateral relationships and interaction with international organizations such as the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Union, and the United Nations." In addition, the State Department is directed to appoint a special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism around the world.

MEMRI notes that the preface to the law states that it has been observed that "acts of antisemitism in countries throughout the world, including some of the world's strongest democracies, have increased significantly in frequency and scope over the last several years, and the sharp rise in antisemitic violence has caused international organizations ... to elevate and bring renewed focus to the issue." So the act is not singling out Arab nations for censure.

The MEMRI summary goes on to explain that:

According to the act, by mid-November 2004 a one-time report on acts of antisemitism around the world, and on the actions taken by the respective governments to counter these acts, is to be submitted to the Senate and to the House of Representatives. Further, a section on antisemitism is henceforth to be added to the annual U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and annual reports on International Religious Freedom; this section is to include "a description of the nature and extent of acts of antisemitism and antisemitic incitement that occurred during the preceding year, including descriptions of a) acts of physical violence against or acts of harassment against Jewish people, and acts of violence against or vandalism of Jewish community institutions, including schools, synagogues, and cemeteries; b) instances of propaganda in government and non-government media that attempt to justify or promote racial hatred or incite acts of violence against Jewish people; c) the actions, if any, taken by the government of the country to respond to such violence and attacks or to eliminate such propaganda or incitement; d) the actions taken by such government to enact and enforce laws relating to the protection of the right to religious freedom of Jewish people; and e) the efforts of such government to promote anti-bias and tolerance education."

As expected Arab reaction was largely, but not entirely, unfavorable. Typical of the critics is Egyptian journalist Hassan Abu Taleb, editor of the Arab Strategic Report, who criticized the act in the Saudi daily Al-Watan, claiming that the U.S. is trying to force its values upon the world:

"This is not the first time that the American legislative authority has set itself up as the legislative authority of the entire world. It is forcing its patronage on the world, and showing particular perceptions that stem from the distinct American experience, which it is trying to force on the rest of the countries....It is acting to oblige national governments to accept [these perceptions] as if national sovereignty were meaningless, and treats these national governments as if they are only local governments in an American state."

"We have seen this behavior in the past, in the American law on religious freedom in the world. This law assumes that the situation of religions across the world is like the American model, where anyone can establish a religion as he pleases...without addressing the fact that there are sacred monotheistic religions that must not be harmed in any way, and anyone who is not a member of them and does not believe in them is forbidden from expressing an opinion on them...."

There you have it. America passes a law that calls for monitoring and publicizing acts of antisemitic violence and hatred, and some Muslims interpret this as an assault on Islam. Islam, the esteemed editor of the Arab Strategic Report suggests, should be immune from criticism when it announces its fatwahs and imprecations upon the Jews, when it proclaims that the Jews must be killed wherever they are found, and that they must ultimately be driven out of Palestine.

Abu Taleb complains that America is seeking to force its values upon the rest of the world. Let's hope he's right.