Thursday, August 31, 2006

Who Do You Trust?

The Israelis don't need many more reasons not to trust the U.N. to do the job they're supposed to do in Lebanon, but if they did need a reason maybe this would be it:

During the recent month-long war between Hezbollah and Israel, U.N. "peacekeeping" forces made a startling contribution: They openly published daily real-time intelligence, of obvious usefulness to Hezbollah, on the location, equipment, and force structure of Israeli troops in Lebanon.

UNIFIL--the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, a nearly 2,000-man blue-helmet contingent that has been present on the Lebanon-Israel border since 1978--is officially neutral. Yet, throughout the recent war, it posted on its website for all to see precise information about the movements of Israeli Defense Forces soldiers and the nature of their weaponry and materiel, even specifying the placement of IDF safety structures within hours of their construction. New information was sometimes only 30 minutes old when it was posted, and never more than 24 hours old.

Meanwhile, UNIFIL posted not a single item of specific intelligence regarding Hezbollah forces. Statements on the order of Hezbollah "fired rockets in large numbers from various locations" and Hezbollah's rockets "were fired in significantly larger numbers from various locations" are as precise as its coverage of the other side ever got.

So much for Kofi's Kids as disinterested peace-keepers.

War Between Iran and Israel

The American Thinker informs us of an article in the Washington Times that suggests that Israel is moving closer to war with Iran:

In what must be an officially approved leak, the London Telegraph reports that Israel has appointed a top general to oversee a war against Iran, prompting speculation that it is preparing for possible military action against Tehran's nuclear program. ... Maj. Gen. Elyezer Shkedy, Israel's air force chief, will be overall commander for the "Iran front," military sources told the London Sunday Telegraph.

This must be a signal to the Iranians - and to the rest of the world, especially Europe and America: If you don't stop the Khomeiniacs, we will. The Telegraph is often used by British intelligence, and it is friendlier to Israel than other European media. It is read in the United States.

Go to the link for the rest of the story. Israel apparently believes it has one year to decide either to accept a nuclear Iran or to do what it can to prevent it.

Where the Left's Hatred is Taking Us

The "entertainment" left has plumbed new depths in their forthcoming televison docudrama based on the hypothetical assassination of President Bush. I can't imagine a similar series being produced during the tenure of President Clinton. If one were to be aired the outrage from the Democrats would have been incandescent, and rightly so. The more used to the idea of killing a specific human being we become, the more likely someone will take it into his/her head to attempt it.

There was a time when people thought that murdering a president was a topic that decent folk simply would not dream of talking about out of a respect for the value of human life and prevailing standards of taste, and also so as not to incite the crazies. But that time is past. The present-day secular left, never known to be constrained by taste or consideration for the well-being of political figures they despise, or, for that matter, the Biblical mandate to love one's neighbor, seems instead to be positively obsessed with the idea of killing George Bush.

Michelle Malkin offers the documentation here. It's pretty revolting, actually, but the idea behind the new docudrama will doubtless be boffo with the gentle folk at the Daily Kos and Democratic Underground.

Russell Shaw's Terrible Argument

A friend directed me to this article at the very liberal Huffington Post. I hasten to point out that the writer, Russell Shaw, is not endorsing a terror attack on the United States and is at pains to express his own revulsion at such a thought. Nevertheless, his speculations and reasoning seem to draw him, against his will, in the direction of hoping for one and they demand some critical examination. Mr. Shaw writes:

What if another terror attack just before this fall's elections could save many thousand-times the lives lost? I start from the premise that there is already a substantial portion of the electorate that tends to vote GOP because they feel that Bush has "kept us safe," and that the Republicans do a better job combating terrorism.

If an attack occurred just before the elections, I have to think that at least a few of the voters who persist in this "Bush has kept us safe" thinking would realize the fallacy they have been under. If 5% of the "he's kept us safe" revise their thinking enough to vote Democrat, well, then, the Dems could recapture the House and the Senate and be in a position to:

Block the next Supreme Court appointment, one which would surely result in the overturning of Roe and the death of hundreds if not thousands of women from abortion-prohibiting states at the hands of back-alley abortionists;

Mr. Shaw is an example of a man so blinded by ideology that he can't see the fallacies in his own argument even though they're as obvious as the noon-day sun.

How does he know, for instance, that a terrorist attack would not have the opposite effect of driving more people toward the GOP? He doesn't. And what makes him put scare quotes around "he's kept us safe" as if he thinks this is an absurd notion? What makes him think that the current administration hasn't kept us safe from terrorist attacks? Have there been any such attacks in the U.S. since 9/11? And where does he get the idea that overturning Roe would result in the deaths of thousands of women? What statistics is he relying on for this conjecture? Further, could it not be just as plausibly argued that overturning Roe would save the lives of millions of babies?

Nevertheless, Mr. Shaw, having demonstrated that he's not interested in something so inconvenient as competing facts, is just starting to gather his rhetorical momentum:

[This would place the Democrats] in a position to elevate the party's chances for a regime change in 2008. A regime change that would:

Save hundreds of thousands of American lives by enacting universal health care;

How does he know that granting universal health care would result in "hundreds of thousands of lives" saved? Where does he get that figure? How does he know that the decline in medical effectiveness that has accompanied state-run systems elsewhere around the world wouldn't also occur here with the result that we experience long-term increase in the number of people who die earlier than they otherwise would have?

Save untold numbers of lives by pushing for cleaner air standards that would greatly reduce heart and lung diseases;

It could be argued that the expenses incurred by forcing compliance with tougher emissions standards would result in companies laying off thousands of employees and thus thrusting these workers into a poverty which would shorten their lives and that of their children. Mr. Shaw offers no reason for thinking this would be unlikely.

More enthusiastically address the need for mass transit, the greater availability of which would surely cut highway deaths;

Democrats were in control of the White House throughout the nineties and never made mass transit a priority. Democrats also control the governorships and or legislatures of many states. Do these states have a better and more effective system of mass transit than states controlled by Republicans? It's not clear that Democrats would be any more effective at implementing mass transit systems than would Republicans.

Enact meaningful gun control legislation that would reduce crime and cut fatalities by thousands a year;

Gun control legislation actually has the opposite effect wherever it is tried (see John Lott's More Guns, Less Crime). The only way to eliminate gun crime is to deny criminals access to guns and the only way to do that is to eliminate guns from the face of the planet. That, of course, will never happen. Moreover, neither of the last two Democratic candidates for president supported gun control, why does Mr. Shaw think the next one will?

Fund stem cell research that could result in cures saving millions of lives;

Mr. Shaw has no evidence to support the claim that stem cell research could save "millions" of lives. Moreover, there's no law prohibiting private funding of stem cell research now, nor is there a prohibition against federal funding of adult stem cell research. This statement is pure flummery reminiscent of John Edwards' assertion in the last election campaign that if John Kerry is elected president Christopher Reeve would get out of his wheel chair and walk.

Boost the minimum wage, helping to cut down on poverty which helps spawn violent crime and the deaths that spring from those acts;

Where are the statistics that support his claim that a higher minimum wage cuts down on poverty? Is it not likely that at some point raising the minimum wage will increase unemployment because employers will no longer be able to afford to hire the marginal worker. The higher an employer's costs the fewer employees he will take on and the more expensive his product will be for consumers. Raising costs (wages)is not without it's downside, but Mr. Shaw seems blissfully unaware of the fact.

Be less inclined to launch foolish wars, absence of which would save thousands of soldiers' lives- and quite likely moderate the likelihood of further terror acts.

The most foolish war in our history, Vietnam, was launched by two Democratic presidents, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Shaw's implication that the war in Iraq has increased terrorism is simply not supported by the evidence. We went to war in 2001 in Afghanistan and since then there has been no terrorist attack on our soil. That doesn't mean there won't be in the future, but it certainly lends greater support to the belief that what moderates terror attacks is fighting terrorists in their house rather than ours.

I am not proud of myself for even considering the notion that another terror attack that costs even one American life could ever be considered anything else but evil and hurtful. And I know that when I weigh the possibility that such an attack- that might, say, kill 100- would prevent hundreds of thousands of Americans from dying who otherwise would- I am exhibiting a calculating cold heart diametrically opposed to everything I stand for as a human being. A human being, who, just so you know, is opposed to most wars and to capital punishment.

Of course it's possible that a terrorist attack would drive voters to the Democrats, as Mr. Shaw predicts, and it's possible that a Democratic administration would do the things Shaw assumes they would, but then anything is possible. No serious thinker would base an ethical question of this magnitude on mere possibility. It's possible, after all, that if someone burned down Mr. Shaw's house the whole nation would experience rapturous paroxysms of profound joy, but the bare possibility is certainly no justification for the arson.

But in light of the very real potential of the next two American elections to solidify our growing American persona as a warlike, polluter-friendly nation with repressive domestic tendencies and inadequate health care for so many tens of millions, let me ask you this. Even if only from the standpoint of a purely intellectual exercise in alternative future history:

If you knew us getting hit again would launch a chain of transformative, cascading events that would enable a better nation where millions who would have died will live longer, would such a calculus have any moral validity?

This question is to "intellectual exercise" what raising a donut to one's mouth is to physical exercise. Nor does his argument rise to the level of a "calculus". It's based entirely upon ungrounded speculation and suppositions. It boils down to this: If the deaths of a hundred innocent citizens could conceivably, maybe, if everything went right and counter to all of our experience, bring about the longer lives of tens of thousands, even millions, of others, it would be moral to allow, or hope for, the hundred to be murdered.

Perhaps the most succinct refutation of this bizarre piece of moral analysis is this: Keeping in mind that the benefits are only possible, and not even close to being demonstrably probable, Mr. Shaw might be asked whether he would be willing to volunteer one of his own children to be one of the terrorists' victims. If, as I would be willing to wager, he would not be at all agreeable to such a sacrifice, even though there may be a slim chance that it might secure a very great good for others, then what makes him think that his suggestion of sacrificing other peoples' children has any "moral validity" at all?