Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cry Racism!

If anybody acted stupidly in this ridiculous affair it was the man who on national television labeled a police officer "stupid" while admitting that he didn't know the facts of the case.

A police officer gets a call from a neighbor that two men are trying to break into a nearby home. The officer responds and is yelled at by one of the men who turns out to be the homeowner. Because of the abusive reaction the man is placed under arrest for disorderly conduct. Now the officer is being called a racist not only by the homeowner but also implicitly by the president of the United States. That is simply inexcusable.

Evidently, it's racist in the minds of some to try to protect a man's home from a possible intruder if that intruder is a black man.

The homeowner, a prominent Harvard professor named Henry Louis Gates, is demanding an apology from the officer. The officer says he followed procedure, has nothing to apologize for, and none will be forthcoming. The ABC report linked to above certainly bears this out. If the report is accurate he shouldn't apologize, but Barack Obama surely owes an apology to the officer.

Fat chance that'll happen.


Adapting to the Rules

A recent article in Strategy Page explains how the Marines are adapting to the new rules of engagement in Afghanistan designed to limit civilian casualties:

The U.S. Marine advance into Helmand province is being slowed down by the new Rules Of Engagement (ROE), which forbid the use of bombs or missiles in any situation where there might be civilians. The Taliban will typically spend the night, or longer, in a village or walled compound, and that's where U.S. troops will typically trap them. But bombs and missiles cannot be used on these places, so U.S. troops have to besiege the place, or just move on, leaving the Taliban alone.

Some marines get creative, like having the jet fighters or bombs make a high speed pass over the Taliban held buildings. The fearsome noise will sometimes unnerve the Taliban and cause a surrender, but not as much as it used to. Another favorite tactic is having the fighter (usually an F-16 or F-18) come in low and use its 20mm cannon. But these air craft only carry a few seconds worth of ammunition. Moreover, having these jets fly that low makes them liable to crashing (this has happened, at least once) or being brought down by enemy fire (has not happened yet). But the cannon fire sometimes induces the Taliban to give up, or try to flee.

The other option, when you have the Taliban cornered, and using human shields, is to go in and fight them room-to-room. That gets more Americans killed, as well as putting the Afghan civilians in danger. This room-to-room tactic has not been used much, as commanders don't want to take the heat for losing troops in that kind of fighting.

If there is a lot more of this house to house fighting, and civilians get killed, the ROE may be changed again to forbid any kind of combat if civilians are present. This reduces the anger of locals from civilian deaths involving U.S. forces, but makes it much more difficult to hunt down and destroy the Taliban gunmen. The Taliban are still vulnerable, as they have to move in order to operate, and the Afghan Army or police can often negotiate a surrender, or go in and root them out by force. But the best troops available for chasing down the Taliban gunmen are the U.S. and NATO forces.

The rules are appropriate. Curtailing civilian deaths is not only the moral thing to do it will also pay off in the long run by diminishing resentments among the people whose hearts we must win if we're to have any permanent success.

Even so, coalition casualties are rising, partly due to the new rules and partly due to the increased tempo of operations in Helmand Province. One sign that the media has recovered from the swoon it suffered at the thought of an Obama presidency will be when they start reminding us every day how many Americans have died in Afghanistan since Mr. Obama was inaugurated.


Mediocre Pick

At the end of a post on Judge Sonia Sotomayor the other day I wondered if Democrats had forgotten the questiion that was on all of their lips when Clarence Thomas was nominated fro the Supreme Court, to wit "Is this the best qualified pick President George H. W. Bush could have made?"

Well, Richard Cohen, a liberal writer at the Washington Post, asks virtually that same question and comes up with an interesting answer. She's qualified, but hardly the best pick Obama could have made:

She is fully qualified. She is smart and learned and experienced and, in case you have not heard, a Hispanic, female nominee, of whom there have not been any since the dawn of our fair republic. But she has no cause, unless it is not to make a mistake, and has no passion, unless it is not to show any, and lacks intellectual brilliance, unless it is disguised under a veil of soporific competence until she takes her seat on the court. We shall see.

In the meantime, Sotomayor will do, and will do very nicely, as a personification of what ails the American left. She is, as everyone has pointed out, in the mainstream of American liberalism, a stream both intellectually shallow and preoccupied with the past.

Cohen laments that President Obama declined to find a liberal to equal in quality of mind Antonin Scalia or several of the other conservatives on the Court:

Where in all of Sotomayor's opinions, speeches and now testimony is there anything approaching Scalia's dissent in Morrison v. Olson, in which, alone, he not only found fault with the law creating special prosecutors but warned about how it would someday be abused? "Frequently an issue of this sort will come before the court clad, so to speak, in sheep's clothing," he wrote. "But this wolf comes as a wolf."

My admiration for Scalia is constrained by the fact that I frequently believe him to be wrong. But his thinking is often fresh, his writing is often bracing; and, more to my point, he has no counterpart on the left. His liberal and moderate brethren wallow in bromides; they can sometimes outvote him, but they cannot outthink him.

This is the sad state of both liberalism and American politics. First-class legal brains are not even nominated lest some senator break into hives at the prospect of encountering a genuinely new idea.

In other words, in his attempt to play ethnic and gender politics President Obama has squandered an opportunity to appoint an exceptional jurist. Of course, it may simply be that there are no exceptional jurists to be found on the left, I don't know, but it says something about Obama's own frame of mind that intellectual excellence is to him secondary to political appeasement.

Parenthetically, I was amazed by a paragraph in Cohen's column in which he takes Sotomayor to task for her reluctance to condemn capital punishment. The surprise is not that he finds capital punishment an abomination, the surprise comes in the last line:

She was similarly disappointing on capital punishment. She seems to support it. Yet it is an abomination....It is always an abuse of power, always an exercise in arrogance -- it admits no possibility of a mistake -- and totally without efficacy. It is not a deterrent, and it endorses the mentality of the killer: Human life is not inviolate.

This last sentence is a bit of a stunner coming from a man who has in the past claimed to be resolutely pro-choice on abortion.


Progressive Racism and Double Standards

Last week I mentioned that contemporary progressives still have a certain nostalgia for the eugenic impulses of their 20th century forebears but are usually careful to keep their sympathies to themselves. Occasionally, though, someone says something, like Justice Ginsburg did the other day (see link), that causes eyebrows to rise.

I've been admonished for concluding too much from one person's slip, but it's not just one person who affords us glimpses into the progressive mindset.

Recently, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Houston to receive Planned Parenthood's highest honor, the Margaret Sanger Award. Here's what First Things (subscription required) says about the event:

In her acceptance speech, Mrs. Clinton took time to laud the organization's founder: "I admire Margaret Sanger enormously, her courage, her tenacity, her vision ....I am really in awe of her."

Now Margaret Sanger was both a eugenicist and a racist, a woman who saw abortion as a means of limiting the growth of the black population. That was a large part of the vision, perhaps the dominant part, that Mrs. Clinton so deeply admires.

I know some might be saying that just because Mrs. Clinton praised Sanger it doesn't follow that she embraces all of Ms. Sanger's dreams and hopes. Perhaps not, but given that this was the main force motivating Sanger's founding of Planned Parenthood it makes it a little difficult to think that Clinton did not have this in mind.

Moreover, some readers might recall that the left went into high dudgeon a few years back when on the occasion of Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday Senator Trent Lott praised him by saying he would have made a good president had he been elected when he ran for the office way back in 1948. Lott was just being kind, but since Thurmond was, in his early years, a segregationist the left demanded and got Lott's resignation as Senate Majority Leader. Praising a superannuated former segregationist, we were told, said something unsavory about Lott and, indeed, about Republicans in general.

Obviously, the same standard doesn't apply to Democrats like Ms Clinton who is "in awe" of a racist eugenicist. No one has called for her resignation, and hardly anyone has noted that her praise of Sanger's "vision" was arguably worse than Lott's compliment to an old man who had been in the Senate since before most Americans were born.