Friday, February 18, 2005

A Natural Ally

Bill Roggio at The Fourth Rail makes a case for cultivating India as an ally in the war on terror. The Russians have demonstrated themselves to be unreliable companions in the fight against Islamism, having foolishly decided to cooperate with Iran in its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and that leaves India as the most logical choice:

Russia has indicated that it will continue with assisting Iran's nuclear program, increasing the likelihood of a nuclear-armed Iran. Between the soft efforts of the European Union 3 (EU-3) to stop the Iranian nuclear program and Russia's encouragement and support, the Mullahs of Iran are sure to continue their quest to become a nuclear power.

The impact of Russia's support of Iran's nuclear program is both far-reaching and short sighted. Russia is indicating that it is separating itself from the West by co-opting the theocratic regime of Iran.

Russia's myopia is clear: they do not recognize the interrelated threat from Islamist states and terrorist groups. The murderers of Beslan ultimately receive support from the Iranians via their tacit support of al Qaeda and Hezbollah. The net of the Islamic terrorist groups is cast far and wide.

In light of Russia's defection, the United States must think long and hard about finding a new and powerful strategic ally in Asia. India is that natural ally.

India is a large, democratic, developing nation strategically positioned in Asia, bordering on Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and close to other nations in Southeast Asia where terrorists operate. Pakistan is a nuclear power that is potentially susceptible to an Islamist takeover. No doubt any operation to secure or destroy Pakistan's nuclear weapons in the event of an Islamist takeover would be conducted in cooperation with India. Bangladesh is becoming a haven for radical Islamists.

India has a longstanding problem with Islamist terrorists, most notably in Kashmir. These Kashmiri terrorists work in close conjunction with al Qaeda and its International Islamist Front. Denying Kashmir as a base of operations for al Qaeda is a strategic goal in Asia.

The Indian people also are supportive of an Indian-American alliance. A recent poll was conducted in India about America, and the results are encouraging. Americans were viewed in a positive light by a large majority of Indians. The main reason cited was terrorism.

The time is right to actively pursue a strategic relationship with India. The loss of Russia as an ally on the war on terror is both disappointing and difficult to offset, but a strong relationship with India can mitigate the damage and improve our odds in fighting against the enemies of civilization.

As terrorists find the room in which they can freely move about shrinking, Pakistan will look increasingly necessary to the Islamists, especially given the prize of access to nuclear weapons. If an American attack on Iran occurs, an Islamist uprising in Pakistan would seem likely as the jihadis seek both refuge and nukes. India would be indispensable in countering such a dangerous move.

The Pirate-ization of Social Security

I just don't get it...or... maybe I do.

President Bush wants to "fix" Social Security by privatizing it, i.e. allowing people to divert a portion of their Social Security contributions into stocks and bonds. If Social Security will be in trouble down the road, such a maneuver would have no impact on the solvency of Social Security whatsoever.

The problem, if it exists, is that the population of the future that will be contributing to Social Security will not be making sufficient contribution to cover the demand of payouts to a retiring baby-boomer generation.

It is a classic bait and switch scam. First, communicate that the plan is in trouble. Then claim that the "fix" is to change the program to guarantee solvency yet the recommended change has absolutely no impact on the problem.

Then we hear from Dr. Alan Greenspan in this article who "embraced President George W. Bush's vision of an "ownership society" on Thursday, saying private accounts could foster feelings of wealth among poor Americans."

Read those words carefully. It's classic Greenspan speak.

How and why does a privatized Social Security account make an "ownership society"? The individual has no more "ownership" of the account than they did of the Social Security account.

Such private plans have already been tried in Britain and Chile among other countries and have resulted in net losses for the participants.

While the plan to privatize Social Security might foster "feelings" of wealth among poor Americans, it won't do anything to actually increase the wealth of poor Americans. The only Americans who's wealth will increase are the fund managers who manage the private accounts and take a cool 1.5% of the total value of the account each year for providing the "service" to those poor Americans for "managing" their private accounts. 1.5% might not seem like much but consider that if the personal account gains 3% for the year, the account managers get 50% of the profit. If the account breaks even or loses money for the year, the account managers still get their percentage. In other words, President Bush's idea of an "ownership society" creates an opportunity for "poor Americans" and every other American (unless you're a congressman who has doesn't have to participate in Social Security because we fund a better retirement plan for them) to pay a previously non-existent load on their retirement account.

In fairness to Dr. Greenspan, the article says:

While he did not specifically endorse Bush's plan and admitted private accounts, in and of themselves, would not improve Social Security's shaky finances.

Yet he goes on about the silly wealth effect:

"These accounts, properly constructed and managed, will create ... a sense of increased wealth on the part of middle and lower-income classes of this society, who have had to struggle with very little capital," Greenspan told the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee.
"While they do have a claim against the Social Security system ... as best I can judge, they don't feel it is personal wealth the way they would with personal accounts," he said as he took questions from the panel.
"It's crucial to our stability that people all have a stake in this system," he said. "I don't perceive that Social Security is conceived that way and I think it is very important to people to have a sense of ownership."

This is cacca doodle. Just ask any AARP member if they don't believe they have ownership of their Social Security benefits and are entitled to them because they've paid into the system all of their working lives.

Ownership is not a promise, it is tangible property in hand. It's about directing ones affairs as they see fit.

If their words of an "ownership society" are sincere, then we should be able to allocate our private accounts in a way we choose. The acid test for the rhetoric of President Bush and Dr. Greenspan is simple...can I allocate the contributions to my private Social Security account to the acquisition of gold?

The quick answer is No. Why? Read this link for an explanation from Dr. Greenspan himself.

So much for an "ownership society".

The Moral <i>Sine Qua Non</i>

Dennis Prager has been writing an excellent series of columns on the indispensibility of Judeo-Christian faith as the only realistic ground for a vigorous moral sense in our culture. This link will take you to his archive where you can open each essay starting with the first (There are five).

In Part I of the series Prager examines the current moral confusion in our culture and explains the need for grounding morality in the God of Judeo-Christian belief:

Chesterton was right. The collapse of Christianity in Europe led to the horrors of Nazism and Communism. And to the moral confusions of the present -- such as the moral equation of the free United States with the totalitarian Soviet Union, or of life-loving Israel with its death-loving enemies.

The oft cited charge that religion has led to more wars and evil than anything else is a widely believed lie. Secular successors to Christianity have slaughtered and enslaved more people than all religions in history (though significant elements within a non-Judeo-Christian religion, Islam, slaughter and enslave today, and if not stopped in Sudan and elsewhere could match Nazism or Communism).

In Part II he argues that without God all morality is purely subjective:

If there is no transcendent source of morality (morality is the word I use for the standard of good and evil), "good" and "evil" are subjective opinions, not objective realities.

In other words, if there is no God who says, "Do not murder" ("Do not kill" is a mistranslation of the Hebrew which, like English, has two words for homicide), murder is not wrong. Many people may think it is wrong, but that is their opinion, not objective moral fact. There are no moral "facts" if there is no God; there are only moral opinions.

Part III is a case against relying upon reason to yield moral guidance. Reason, Prager maintains, is a wholly inadequate ground for morality:

Another example of reason's incapacity to lead to moral conclusions: On virtually any vexing moral question, there is no such a thing as a [missing] purely rational viewpoint. What is the purely rational view on the morality of abortion? Of public nudity? Of the value of an animal versus that of a human? Of the war in Iraq? Of capital punishment for murder? On any of these issues, reason alone can argue effectively for almost any position. Therefore, what determines anyone's moral views are, among other things, his values -- and values are beyond reason alone (though one should be able to rationally explain and defend those values). If you value the human fetus, most abortions are immoral; if you only value the woman's view of the value of the fetus, all abortions are moral.

Part IV addresses the dehumanizing consequence of a thoroughly secular ethics. In a Godless cosmos man is nothing but a flesh and bone machine, a herd animal different from others of the kind only in being relatively more intelligent:

The second reason that the breakdown of Judeo-Christian values leads to a diminution of human worth is that if man was not created by God, the human being is mere stellar dust -- and will come to be regarded as such. Moreover, people are merely the products of random chance, no more designed than a sand grain formed by water erosion. That is what the creationism-evolution battle is ultimately about -- human worth. One does not have to agree with creationists or deny all evolutionary evidence to understand that the way evolution is taught, man is rendered a pointless product of random forces -- unworthy of being saved before one's hamster.

Part V looks at what Judaism and Christianity have in common and argues that together they are chiefly responsible for America's greatness:

Both religions are based on the Old Testament, which Judaism and Christianity hold to be divine or divinely inspired. Clearly, then, they will share values -- unless one holds that the New Testament rejects Old Testament values. But that is untenable since, in addition to Christianity believing the Old Testament is God's word, Jesus was a believing and practicing Jew. He would not practice a religion whose values or Bible he rejected.

One way to understand Judeo-Christian values, therefore, is as values that emanate from a Judeo-based Christianity. Christians have always had the choice to reject the Jewish roots of Christianity (which, when done, enabled Christian anti-Semitism), to ignore those roots, or to celebrate and embrace them. American Christians have, more than any other Christian group, opted for the latter.

One point that bears elaboration, perhaps, is that if there is no God then the categories of moral Good and Evil are empty. Unless there is a God to provide us with moral sanction then anything we do, as Nietzsche is at pains to convince us, is neither good nor evil. It just is. A wolf kills a young elk or our cat torments a mouse before thrashing it to death. Neither behavior is evil. There is no crime committed nor any offense against morality. Likewise, if we are just animals, when one man slays another there is no evil in the deed. There are only acts of which we approve and acts of which we disapprove, but our disapproval is no reason why someone should refrain from doing them. Nor does our disapproval make them wrong.

If there is no God then there is no reason why those who have the ability or the power should not impose their will upon the rest. A Godless world is a world of might makes right and there is no escaping it. That we haven't devolved into that hellish circle of the Inferno yet is due only to the fact that there is still a significant Judeo-Christian presence in this country and because those who have embraced secularism simply don't think the moral implications of their convictions through to their logical endpoints. If, as time goes by, secularism continues its advances then this state of affairs will inevitably and gradually deteriorate, and the weak will fall prey to the strong. We will see history reprise the Europe of the twentieth century.

Dennis Prager has given us an outstanding series of articles, and we urge all of our readers to take the time to read his columns with close attention. His message is as important as any message could be.