Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The President's Speech

The full text of the President's speech on Iraq that he gave today at the Naval Academy can be found here. Commentary on it can be found here and here. Here are just a few of the many highlights:

These terrorists have nothing to offer the Iraqi people. All they have is the capacity and the willingness to kill the innocent and create chaos for the cameras. They are trying to shake our will to achieve their stated objectives. They will fail. America's will is strong. And they will fail because the will to power is no match for the universal desire to live in liberty. (Applause.)

The terrorists in Iraq share the same ideology as the terrorists who struck the United States on September the 11th. Those terrorists share the same ideology with those who blew up commuters in London and Madrid, murdered tourists in Bali, workers in Riyadh, and guests at a wedding in Amman, Jordan. Just last week, they massacred Iraqi children and their parents at a toy give-away outside an Iraqi hospital.

This is an enemy without conscience -- and they cannot be appeased. If we were not fighting and destroying this enemy in Iraq, they would not be idle. They would be plotting and killing Americans across the world and within our own borders. By fighting these terrorists in Iraq, Americans in uniform are defeating a direct threat to the American people. Against this adversary, there is only one effective response: We will never back down. We will never give in. And we will never accept anything less than complete victory. (Applause.)

Some are calling for a deadline for withdrawal. Many advocating an artificial timetable for withdrawing our troops are sincere -- but I believe they're sincerely wrong. Pulling our troops out before they've achieved their purpose is not a plan for victory. As Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman said recently, setting an artificial timetable would "discourage our troops because it seems to be heading for the door. It will encourage the terrorists, it will confuse the Iraqi people."

Senator Lieberman is right. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a message across the world that America is a weak and an unreliable ally. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a signal to our enemies -- that if they wait long enough, America will cut and run and abandon its friends. And setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would vindicate the terrorists' tactics of beheadings and suicide bombings and mass murder -- and invite new attacks on America. To all who wear the uniform, I make you this pledge: America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins so long as I am your Commander-in-Chief. (Applause.)

Our strategy in Iraq has three elements. On the political side, we know that free societies are peaceful societies, so we're helping the Iraqis build a free society with inclusive democratic institutions that will protect the interests of all Iraqis. We're working with the Iraqis to help them engage those who can be persuaded to join the new Iraq -- and to marginalize those who never will.

On the security side, coalition and Iraqi security forces are on the offensive against the enemy, cleaning out areas controlled by the terrorists and Saddam loyalists, leaving Iraqi forces to hold territory taken from the enemy, and following up with targeted reconstruction to help Iraqis rebuild their lives.

As we fight the terrorists, we're working to build capable and effective Iraqi security forces, so they can take the lead in the fight -- and eventually take responsibility for the safety and security of their citizens without major foreign assistance.

And on the economic side, we're helping the Iraqis rebuild their infrastructure, reform their economy, and build the prosperity that will give all Iraqis a stake in a free and peaceful Iraq. In doing all this we have involved the United Nations, other international organizations, our coalition partners, and supportive regional states in helping Iraqis build their future.

There is much, much else that President Bush said in this speech about the particulars of his strategy and the training of Iraqi military and police units as well as other matters of crucial interest to those concerned with our progress in that country. It was perhaps the best speech of his presidency (of interest to those who say he never admits mistakes will be several lines where he does precisely that).

He promised, moreover, that he will elaborate on themes only lightly touched upon today in speeches to come in the days ahead. The nation needs to hear it, and we need to hear it over and over again. The President needs to take control of the discussion and to explain to the American people why the negative analysis being reported by the MSM is only a small part of the whole picture. We wish him well.

The Unknown Designer

Often we hear mentioned the criticism that unless Intelligent Design proponents can specify who the designer of their alleged irreducibly complex biological structures and processes is, their theory is mere speculation and not science. Not only do the critics demand to know who the designer is but also how the designer actually accomplished such wondrous feats of engineering.

This demand to identify the designer is misguided, however. It is certainly possible to conclude that we are observing an intelligently designed phenomenon without knowing anything about who designed it or the process the designer employed.

Bill Dembski makes this point in chapter 32 of his book The Design Revolution. The salient passage is quoted below:

Consider the case of SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. If we were to receive a radio signal from outer space representing a long sequence of prime numbers (as in the movie Contact), we would know we were dealing with an intelligence-indeed, SETI researchers would be dancing in the streets, the New York Times would be trumpeting the discovery, and Nobel Prizes would duly be awarded.

But what exactly would we know about the intelligence responsible for that signal? Suppose all we had was this signal representing a sequence of primes. Would we know anything about the intelligence's purposes and motives for sending the primes? Would we know anything about the technology it employed? Would we know anything about its physical makeup? Would we even know that it was physical? Our evidence for design in this case would be entirely circumstantial. We would be confronted with an effect but be unable to trace back its cause.

Consider a more extreme example still. Imagine a device that outputs 0s and 1s for which our best science tells us that the bits are independent and identically distributed with uniform probability. (The device is therefore an idealized coin tossing machine; note that quantum mechanics offers such a device in the form of photons shot at a polaroid filter whose angle of polarization is 45 degrees in relation to the polarization of the photons-half the photons will go through the filter, counting as a "1"; the others will not, counting as a "0.")

Now, what happens if we control for all possible physical interference with this device, and nevertheless the bit string that this device outputs yields an English text-file in ASCII code that resolves outstanding mathematical problems, explains the cure for cancer, and delineates undreamt of technologies?

The output of this device is therefore not only designed (and obviously so) but also exceeds all current human design. Yet our best science has no way of prescribing a causal account for how this design was imparted. By Hume's logic, we would have to shrug our shoulders and say, "Golly, isn't nature amazing!"

If it were demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that the bacterial flagellum is a mechanism which must have been somehow designed by an intelligent architect of some sort, it would be foolish to refuse to acknowledge the fact in science journals simply because we don't know how it was done or who the designer is.

Indeed, Brian Greene points out in his book The Fabric of the Cosmos that theoretical physicists often posit the existence of entities and phenomena which defy observation and any kind of physical description. Nevertheless, their existence is inferred from the need to satisfy our theories about why the world is the way it is. Some examples of such entities or phenomena are entangled particles, the Higgs field, the inflaton field, other dimensions, branes, and strings.

The demand that ID theorists identify their designer is a red herring which is itself designed to deflect attention from the persistent and uncomfortable fact that biological structures give the appearance of having been exquisitely designed for a purpose. Critics insist on being told who the designer is so as to divert scrutiny from the additional fact that mindless mechanisms are disappointingly inadequate to account for the degree of intricacy that abounds in every cell in our bodies.

A Voice in the Democratic Wilderness

Finally, a voice of reason and sense from the Democratic side of the aisle. Unfortunately, since he is supportive of the Bush policy Senator Joe Lieberman's column won't get nearly as much play in the media as did John Murtha's call for an immediate pullout:

I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood--unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn.

Progress is visible and practical. In the Kurdish North, there is continuing security and growing prosperity. The primarily Shiite South remains largely free of terrorism, receives much more electric power and other public services than it did under Saddam, and is experiencing greater economic activity. The Sunni triangle, geographically defined by Baghdad to the east, Tikrit to the north and Ramadi to the west, is where most of the terrorist enemy attacks occur. And yet here, too, there is progress.

There are many more cars on the streets, satellite television dishes on the roofs, and literally millions more cell phones in Iraqi hands than before. All of that says the Iraqi economy is growing. And Sunni candidates are actively campaigning for seats in the National Assembly. People are working their way toward a functioning society and economy in the midst of a very brutal, inhumane, sustained terrorist war against the civilian population and the Iraqi and American military there to protect it.

It is a war between 27 million and 10,000; 27 million Iraqis who want to live lives of freedom, opportunity and prosperity and roughly 10,000 terrorists who are either Saddam revanchists, Iraqi Islamic extremists or al Qaeda foreign fighters who know their wretched causes will be set back if Iraq becomes free and modern. The terrorists are intent on stopping this by instigating a civil war to produce the chaos that will allow Iraq to replace Afghanistan as the base for their fanatical war-making.

We are fighting on the side of the 27 million because the outcome of this war is critically important to the security and freedom of America. If the terrorists win, they will be emboldened to strike us directly again and to further undermine the growing stability and progress in the Middle East, which has long been a major American national and economic security priority.

Follow the link to read the rest of Lieberman's outstanding article which includes this graph:

Here is an ironic finding I brought back from Iraq. While U.S. public opinion polls show serious declines in support for the war and increasing pessimism about how it will end, polls conducted by Iraqis for Iraqi universities show increasing optimism. Two-thirds say they are better off than they were under Saddam, and a resounding 82% are confident their lives in Iraq will be better a year from now than they are today. What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.

Good stuff.