Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tough Going for Terrorists

According to Strategy Page the war in Pakistan and Afghnaistan is not going well for the terrorists. In Pakistan al Qaeda has had enough of our predator drones and is absconding to Somalia while the Taliban are finding themselves relentlessly hunted down by Pakistani troops and American missiles.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan the troop surge is paying dividends:

The influx of American troops is showing up throughout southern Afghanistan. Areas that had long been dominated by the Taliban, or pro-Taliban tribes, are now being raided by American troops. U.S. intelligence forces arrived before the combat troops, and the increased reconnaissance and electronic monitoring effort produced a more detailed picture of who the Taliban were, where they lived and what they were up to. All that was needed was more troops to work the target list. The Taliban tactics appear to consist of avoiding foreign troops (except for greater use of roadside bombs), and trying to concentrate forces to drive Afghan police and government officials out of the countryside. This would have some chance of success were it not for the foreign troops.

There's more about the conflict in both of these theaters at the links.

Oddly enough, even though the increased American presence and combat activity has caused an increase in American casualties, very little is being said about this in the media. This time last year 40 U.S. troops had died in Afghanistan. So far this year American deaths number 70 - a 40 percent increase. If these deaths were occuring in Iraq, the casualty figures would be a prominent feature of the evening news, but maybe that's because Iraq was Bush's war and people had to be reminded daily what an awful failure it was. Afghanistan is now Obama's war and we must not weaken our resolve or lose sight of our goal by focusing on negatives.

Makes sense to me.


The Silence

President Obama is getting some flak for not speaking out more forcefully on behalf of the Iranian dissidents protesting the results of what was, from all appearances, a fraudulent election. I don't think the criticism is quite fair. There may, for all we know at this point, be good reasons for keeping quiet. The President may have intelligence, for example, that suggests that Ahmadinejad is waiting to use the excuse of American meddling as a pretext for cracking down even harder on the demonstrators. Obama may know that strong words at this juncture will cost innocent lives. If so, he's probably doing the right thing, but, in any event, he deserves the benefit of the doubt. For now.

If, however, the demonstrations persist and the government continues to kill innocent people then Mr. Obama will not be able to postpone stinging denunciations of the tyrants in Tehran. After all, as Steven Hayward at No Left Turns notes, were these protests occurring in apartheid South Africa, and it was blacks being shot in the streets, it's doubtful that Mr. Obama would show such restraint.

As things continue to escalate in Iran Mr. Obama will have to take a stand for democracy. He'll have to show by his response that he's willing to confront fascist tyranny or that he prefers to accommodate it. And tyranny it is:


Atheists Are IDers, Too

One of the claims made by the detractors of Intelligent Design is that it's really a religious position held by a bunch of Christian fundamentalists eager to use it as a Trojan Horse to sneak creationism into public schools. One would think that the fact that there are so many atheists and agnostics sympathetic to ID might give pause to those who subscribe to this allegation, but the critics seem undeterred by the evidence which, nevertheless, continues to mount. Alfred Russel at Uncommon Descent writes, for instance, about the atheistic scientist Fred Hoyle who was an opponent of Darwinism and who believed that an intelligence of some sort was driving the universe. Here's part of Russel's post:

[T]he truth is that Hoyle absolutely disbelieved in Darwinism. He thought that there is intelligence "out there" in the cosmos, and perhaps in past time, that is directing the progress of life on Earth. In The Intelligent Universe, Hoyle meticulously demolishes Darwinism in great detail and with scientific precision. He even goes after Darwin himself, suggesting that Darwin only understood how evolution might work after he received Wallace's letter detailing the role of natural selection. Hoyle returns time and time again to quote Wallace, whom he evidently admired.

What Russel's post on Hoyle shows is that skepticism about Darwinism, atheism, and sympathy for ID are all compatible with each other.

The claim, made by Richard Dawkins and others, that ID logically entails belief in God is simply false. ID is certainly compatible with belief in God, and it may make belief in God easier to accept - the real reason, in my view, why there's so much opposition to it - but it does not require belief in God.

But, skeptics demand, who else could be the designer if not the God of religious belief? Well, there are lots of atheists who, in order to escape the conclusion that this amazingly fine-tuned universe is the product of a Creator, are suggesting that our universe is just one of a near infinite number of worlds and that, given so many worlds, it's not so implausible to believe that one like ours would exist by chance.

If you buy into this "multiverse" argument (I don't) then you have to admit that in one of those worlds there could well be a civilization so advanced that it has the technology to design and create other worlds. Perhaps our world is the product of such a civilization. If so, it would have been intelligently designed but there would be no necessary religious dimension to belief in the designers.

The point is that ID should not be excluded from classrooms or anywhere else on religious grounds. It's no more religious than is the Darwinian view that all of life and the cosmos can be explained in purely natural terms. To exclude intelligence as a legitimate causal explanation while allowing alternative naturalistic explanations demonstrates a materialist bias against any view which makes the existence of a transcendent intelligence more likely.