Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Bush Speaks Out on Abdul Rahman

Some conservative bloggers are dismayed by President Bush's rather pedestrian endorsement of Abdul Rahman's right to embrace whatever religion he wishes:

"We expect them to honor the universal principle of freedom," Bush said. "I'm troubled when I hear, deeply troubled when I hear, the fact that a person who converted away from Islam may be held to account. That's not the universal application of the values that I talked about. I look forward to working with the government of that country to make sure that people are protected in their capacity to worship."

Okay, so it's not Churchillian, exactly, and his use of "held to account" is troublesome, or would be if uttered by someone with greater mastery of the language, but what's most important is what Bush and Condaleeza Rice are doing quietly behind the scenes to impose common sense and civilized norms on Afghan Muslims. We may hope that the Afghans really do want to learn how to live in ways appropriate to the 21st century and that they are being tutored by Ms Rice in the fundamentals of civilized life. We'll see what happens.

Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin has the latest details here.

Historical Perspective

A reader at Andrew Sullivan's blog draws some interesting comparisons between George Bush, Abraham Lincoln, and other war-time presidents:

I believe that if you compare the conduct of the Iraq war by the Bush administration with the record of Lincoln during the Civil War and Roosevelt during World War II, the record will show that Bush is doing a better job than either Lincoln or Roosevelt.

Check out Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson, a history of the Civil War era. Lincoln faced continuous vilification by the Democrats and did not think until late in the campaign that he would win re-election. The Union military during the Civil War lost dozens of major battles and suffered hundreds of thousands of casualties due to incompetence and bad decisions going all the way up the chain of command to Lincoln.

Reading Battle Cry of Freedom, you realize nothing ever changes, and that Bush is doing better than Lincoln when the two are compared. The confederate raiders like Quantrill were as bad or worse than the insurgents operating today, and Lincoln's suddenly changing the reason for going to war, from saving the union to freeing the slaves, was as controversial and criticized as the decisions made by Bush. The critics in 1862-1864 ridiculed the idea that slaves could be made free men, even as critics today ridicule the idea that Arabs can have a modern democratic government.

Ku Klux Klan terrorists were active in the post Civil War south to such a large extent that President Grant, 1869-1877 kept large numbers of federal troops in the South and needed to conduct fairly large military campaigns against the Klan. When President Rutherford Hayes withdrew federal troops from the South as part of his deal with the southern states to win the presidency, the KKK was able to terrorize and keep black Americans deprived of their civil rights until the 1960s. Even though the remnants of the confederacy were still fighting 100 years after the civil war, Lincoln is not regarded as incompetent for failing to prevent the depradations committed by the KKK.

In World War II, the US marine corps suffered major casualties at Iwo Jima and Tarawa because of bad planning and leadership, on even simple matters of sending in reinforcements and pre-landing bombardment. Hundreds of army soldiers drowned in a D-day practice landing because their backpacks were too heavy. The Army suffered heavy casualties at Omaha beach on D-day because it was not scouted properly. The Army was undermanned at the battle of the Ardennes in 1944 because the USA deployed 100 fewer divisions than the planners said was necessary. The lines were stretched so thin because of the shortage of infantry that the Germans successfully broke thru during their 1944 winter offensive, Bradley and Montgomery gambled that the Germans would not attack in the Ardennes sector.

When the Soviet Union occupied Eastern Europe after WW II, Roosevelt (and Truman) were blamed for awhile for not preventing this in the aftermath of the war. In addition, communist governments took over in China, North Vietnam, and North Korea, as a result of the destruction of pre-existing dictatorships in Japan and Germany. Even though Roosevelt failed to plan against the communist takeovers in Eastern Europe, China, Korea, and Vietnam, he is not considered incompetent.

I would argue that by any fair, realistic comparison with past wars, the Bush administration has run the Iraq war with a minimum of American military and Iraq civilian casualties, and has accomplished as much as Lincoln or Roosevelt accomplished in their wars. The news media of the time never complained about America's firebombing of Japanese and German civilian populations.

Another apt comparison, perhaps, is with George Washington (See David McCullough's 1776) who as Commander of the Continental Army was vilified, abandoned, under-supported and unable to gain a victory over the British until the Battle of Trenton. Yet he has gone down in history as one of America's greatest wartime leaders.

The Skeptical Evolutionist

You might think that the following passage appeared in a creationist text like Of Pandas and People. It's certainly very much the same thing that creationists like Duane Gish and the late Henry Morris have been saying for decades:

We agree that very few potential offspring ever survive to reproduce and that populations do change through time, and that therefore natural selection is of critical importance to the evolutionary process. But this Darwinian claim to explain all of evolution is a popular half-truth whose lack of explicative power is compensated for only by the religious ferocity of its rhetoric.

Although random mutations influenced the course of evolution, their influence was mainly by loss, alteration, and refinement. One mutation confers resistance to malaria but also makes happy blood cells into the deficient oxygen carriers of sickle cell anemics. Another converts a gorgeous newborn into a cystic fibrosis patient or a victim of early onset diabetes. One mutation causes a flighty red-eyed fruit fly to fail to take wing. Never, however, did that one mutation make a wing, a fruit, a woody stem, or a claw appear.

Mutations, in summary, tend to induce sickness, death, or deficiencies. No evidence in the vast literature of heredity changes shows unambiguous evidence that random mutation itself, even with geographical isolation of populations, leads to speciation. Then how do new species come into being? How do cauliflowers descend from tiny, wild Mediterranean cabbagelike plants, or pigs from wild boars?

This is not, however, the superstitious ravings of one of those benighted folk at the Institute for Creation Research. This was written by committed evolutionists Lyn Margulis and Dorian Sagan in 2003 (Acquiring Genomes: A Theory of the Origins of the Species, pg. 29, Basic Books, 2003)

In other words, the classical mechanisms of the neo-Darwinian synthesis, genetic mutation and natural selection, in the minds of these writers, just aren't credible as primary engines of evolutionary change.

Evolutionists disagree on the rate of evolution and the mechanisms responsible for it. The only thing they agree on is that it happened, and, even though they don't know how it happened, they're convinced that no non-physical causes were involved. This is very odd. Given the degree of uncertainty about the major elements of the theory, why are evolution's proponents so adamant that naturalistic processes are solely responsible for it? Obviously a metaphysical bias for materialism or physicalism is driving their science, but, if so, on what grounds is pure physicalism preferable as an explanation to a partial physicalism that leaves room for intelligent agency?

Cobra II

A friend passes along a link to a fascinating interview at Democracy Now with the authors of Cobra II, a book on the lead-up to the war in Iraq written by General Bernard Trainor and journalist Michael Gordon. At one point in the interview General Trainor says:

Well, I think you have to step back and look at the situation as it existed. The international community, all the intelligence agencies were all convinced that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. And this administration saw that as a threat that required preemptive action, because -- not that Saddam Hussein was going to pop a nuclear weapon or chemical weapon here in the United States -- but he saw that after 9/11, the threat of amorphous terrorism, with terrorists getting chemical, biological weapons and ultimately nuclear weapons without any national fingerprint on it. And how do you deal with something like that?

So the policy was, we have legitimate right to defend the United States. We have the responsibility to defend the United States. And in this instance, we have to preempt the Iraqis from providing the wherewithal to terrorists. And so, that convinced a lot of people. It convinced the Congress. And it convinced the average man on the street that this was something that should be done. Obviously, there were certain people that did not agree. But the fact is, the Congress supported the whole thing.

The Secretary of State's position wasn't quite as crude as you describe it, as waiting for a second election. He wanted to give diplomacy a chance. It wasn't that he was opposed to going into Iraq. It was a matter of timing. And that's what he was insisting on. See if we can't build up a coalition, whereas the troika (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld)felt that they could pretty much act independently and a coalition would follow after the defeat of Saddam Hussein.

The whole interview is interesting because Gordon and Trainor, though not trying to defend the administration, really absolve it of the charge that they deliberately mislead this country into war.