Friday, January 9, 2009

Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009)

One of America's finest minds and most prodigious writers passed away yesterday morning in his sleep at the age of 72. Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, the founder and long-time editor of First Things, one of the best journals on culture and religion in America today, had been wrestling with cancer for years. It finally overcame him.

Michael Novak writes that "Father Neuhaus was the most consequential Christian intellectual in America since Reinhold Niebuhr. He was the most consequential Catholic since John Courtney Murray, S.J., and Fulton J. Sheen. He was a worthy successor in a long chain of great witnesses."

This video, and others which can be found here, gives a good sense of the man:

For more on Neuhaus go to National Review and scroll down. His name has graced many of the posts on Viewpoint, and his wit and his pen will be greatly missed.


Learning Lessons

One aspect of any modern war that often determines the outcome is how well the Western media can be played by those who oppose Western forces. In the Israeli war against Hezbollah there were a couple of famous cases of how world opinion was turned against Israel by providing the media with footage of staged atrocities.

Israel's enemies also like to exploit funerals of the victims of Israeli attacks to show what savages the Israelis are, but one such attempt to deceive the Western press was foiled by an Israeli surveillance drone which caught the "funeral" on tape. Strategy Page recounts the story:

[The] famous Israeli UAV video, showed mourners approaching, with the deceased on a stretcher, held at shoulder height. Suddenly, one of those carrying the stretcher stumbled, and the "body" tumbled to the ground. The body then got up and laid back down on the stretcher, which was again raised to shoulder height and the funeral procession resumed its sad, but newsworthy, journey to the waiting reporters.

See the link for more on how the media is manipulated by Hezbollah and Hamas.

Strategy Page also has an interesting story on lessons learned by the Israeli Air Force from their experience in Lebanon fighting Hezbollah:

The Israeli Air Force learned its lesson from the 2006 campaign against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Before 2006, the air force had convinced the government that it was on top of Hezbollah military preparations in southern Lebanon, and could take down the terrorist rocket stockpiles with air attacks. Ground troops would not be necessary, or would have little to do if sent in. The Israeli generals were wrong. In the first ten days of the 2006 operations, the air force took out 150 known targets. But it turned out that Hezbollah had a lot more on and under the ground than the air force intelligence knew about. The air force had a hard time finding those additional rocket stockpiles and bunkers full of Hezbollah fighters. The army had to be hastily mobilized and sent into a battle they were not prepared for.

Thirty months later, the Israeli Air Force had cleaned up its act, or so it appears. We won't know for sure until the Gaza operation is over. But in the first ten days of fighting in Gaza, the air force destroyed over 500 targets, using 555 fighter and 125 attack helicopter sorties. More importantly, a new intelligence approach, and new sensors, have made it possible for the air force to keep finding new targets. Part of this was due to the air force forming a tighter link with the other intel organizations (army, Mossad, Shin Bet and foreign nations), and increasing the speed at which intel is collected, processed, and passed back to the combat aircraft in the form of target information.

The Israelis are using more high resolution targeting pods, including some using high rez (SAR) radar for all-weather ground surveillance. This gave them more information, more quickly. This was aided by greater use, than ever before, of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). The Gaza battle areas have been under intense UAV surveillance 24/7 since operations began. This explains how the air force is now able to generate a constant supply of new targets. Hamas is suitably shocked, or so it appears from what Arab language reporters are broadcasting from within Gaza. There's a higher than expected use of faked bomb victim stories, which is largely attributable to the greater precision with which the air force is identifying and hitting targets. Hamas appears to be in disarray, having been hit with a more devastating attack than their Hezbollah advisors had endured. As a result, Hezbollah is getting nervous about what a second round of fighting in southern Lebanon might do to them.

The U.S. has supplied Israel with just about every smart bomb in the American arsenal. Not just to help out an ally, but so that American and Israeli air force planners can compare notes after this is all over.

And most importantly, we should point out, so that Israel can wage a more just war by pinpointing their targets and reducing the harm done to innocent lives and property.


Qualifications Don't Matter

Democrats have a funny relationship with the concept of suitability for public office. You'll recall that Sarah Palin, who was actually a governor of a state and a former mayor, was not deemed fit to run for the one office in government that really requires no particular qualifications, but Barack Obama, who had almost no public record, was deemed eminently prepared to be the leader of the free world.

Now we have Al Franken, whose primary qualification for high office is that he is a comedian and a tax cheat who professes to enjoy pornography with his twelve year-old son, being elected to the U.S. Senate by Democrats in Minnesota, the same people who once elected a man to be their governor whose only preparation was that he was once a professional wrestler.

We also have the spectacle in New York of a woman who can scarcely string together three words without interjecting a "you know," and whose chief claim on public office is that she's a Kennedy, being appointed by the Democratic Governor to fill the vacant Senate seat of another woman whose only qualification for being elected to that seat in the first place was that she is the wife of a former president.

We also have witnessed this week the appointment by our Democrat President-elect of a man to head the CIA whose only apparent qualification for that job is that he's "politically savvy."

During the Clinton years, when the President was fending off criticism for his various peccadillos, we were frequently reminded by Democrats that "character doesn't matter." Now they're telling us that qualifications don't matter. I can't wait to see what doesn't matter next.