Monday, December 13, 2010

War of Attrition

Bill Roggio at The Fourth Rail reports on what's happening in the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. To the extent that Afghanistan makes the news the reports are usually about whether and when we're going to pull out and how bad things are going there. Thus it's good to get the insight of people like Roggio who follow the day to day grind of the conflict. Here's his summary:
Coalition and Afghan special operations teams have hit hard at the Taliban and allied groups' leadership and rank and file during more than 7,000 raids throughout Afghanistan over the past six months.

Approximately 7,100 special operations counterterrorism missions have been conducted between May 30 and Dec. 2 of this year, the International Security Assistance Force told The Long War Journal. More than 600 insurgent leaders were killed or captured. In addition, more than 2,000 enemy fighters have been killed, and over 4,100 fighters have been captured.

The enemy commanders and fighters killed or captured are from various jihadist groups battling Coalition and Afghan forces, including the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Hizb-i-Islami, al Qaeda, and the Islamic Jihad Group.

The numbers of insurgents killed or captured include only those targeted in special operations raids, ISAF stated. These numbers do not include Taliban and allied fighters killed or captured during conventional counterinsurgency operations, or during massed Taliban assaults on Coalition and Afghan bases.

Within the same time frame, special operations troops also completed more than 2,500 humanitarian operations, including the provision of medical and educational assistance.
This is not to say that things there are rosy, but it does look as if we have the upper hand and that being an insurgent, particularly one eager to climb the leadership ladder, is a very dicey career choice.

Creation Myth for Atheists

Joe Carter at First Things does materialists a great favor by bestowing upon them their very own creation myth. Here's how it starts:
In the beginning was Nothing, and Nothing created Everything. When Nothing decided to create Everything, she filled a tiny dot with Time, Chance, and Everything and had it expand. The expansion spread Everything into Everywhere carrying Time and Chance with it to keep it company. The three stretched out together leaving bits of themselves wherever they went. One of those places was the planet Earth.

For no particular Reason—for Reason is rarely particular—Time and Chance took a liking to this little, wet, blue rock and decided to stick around to see what adventures they might have. While the pair found the Earth to be intriguing and pretty, they also found it a bit too quiet, too static. They fixed upon an idea to change Everything (just a little) by creating a special Something. Time and Chance roamed the planet, splashing through the oceans and sloshing through the mud, in search of materials. But though they looked Everywhere, there was a missing ingredient that they needed in order to make a Something that could create more of the same Somethings.

They called to their friend Everything to help. Since Everything had been Everywhere she would no doubt be able to find the missing ingredient. And indeed she did. Hidden away in a small alcove called Somewhere, Everything found what Time and Chance had needed all along: Information. Everything put Information on a piece of ice and rock that happened to be passing by the former planet Pluto and sent it back to her friends on Earth.
I assume this is original with Carter, but at any rate it's very clever, and the rest of it can be read at the link. As one commenter wrote: "Somewhere there's an atheist saying, 'Hey, that could be true.' "


In response to the two part post titled An Ideological Primer, I recently received a very well written clarification of the Libertarian position on social issues by a reader named Micah. It's very helpful, and I want to share it with the rest of our readership. Micah writes:
Mr. Cleary has already established where the Libertarian lies in the left/right economic spectrum. Now it is time to examine social issues. But when it comes to social issues, the Libertarian position is much harder to fit into a linear spectrum. This article explains how the Left, the Right, and the Libertarian view various social issues at the state and federal levels.

For argument's and simplicity's sake, I will deal herein with the social issues brought forth in the Ideological Primer, Part II. As a quick review, the Left/Liberals favor gay marriage, abortion, open borders, and gun control, while opposing capital punishment and public religion. The Right/Conservatives take positions opposite those of the Left/Liberals. Both the Left and the Right are so firmly convinced in the absolute correctness of their positions, that they have taken the federal government by storm in order to impose their views on the populace as a whole. But what about the Libertarian?

As an individual, a Libertarian may be either on the Left, the Right, or somewhere between the two extremes when it comes to social issues. The Libertarian is not characterized as much by their social stances as they are by the proper political sphere within which those stances are to be expressed. Since the United States Constitution is the “supreme Law of the Land,” we must turn to this document and its Amendments to ascertain the correct political sphere within which social issues are to be addressed. Recall, also, that the 10th Amendment clarifies and confirms the original understanding of the Constitution. Any power not specifically granted to the federal government has been reserved to the states and the people.

With this Constitutional foundation in place, it is time to search for the mention of social issues in the Constitution. Neither marriage nor abortion has been explicitly dealt with in the Constitution. These two issues, then, are rightfully delegated to the people and the states. This is the Libertarian position. Of course, the Libertarian puts these issues rather more with the people and less with the States. Notice that the Libertarian does not grant federal government influence over or interference in issues it has not been specifically tasked to be involved with.

Naturalization is the process by which citizenship is granted/acquired by a non-citizen of a nation-state. Congress is specifically delegated the power to establish a “uniform Rule of Naturalization,” meaning there is one standard for becoming a naturalized United States citizen. This is as close as the Constitution comes to mentioning border control, or lack thereof. Libertarians, while acknowledging the Constitutional need for a uniform standard, desire a reasonable and fair standard to be applied across the board with a minimal government bureaucracy supporting it.

Gun control is clear cut. The Second Amendment plainly states that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Being that the Constitution and its Amendments are federal documents, this amendment plainly prohibits federal action when it comes to guns and their ownership. This, too, is an issue that is meant to be dealt with by individuals, local government, or by state government.

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury.” This is the extent to which the Constitution deals with capital punishment, via the Fifth Amendment. It only specifies the circumstances and procedure through which capital charges can be brought against a person. While grand juries operate without many of the constraints of the judicial system, they are still bound by the Constitution.

The matter of capital punishment is somewhat complicated by the prohibition of inflicting “cruel and unusual punishments” in the Tenth Amendment. Properly interpreted, the federal government is entitled to determine whether a punishment for a crime, including capital crime, is cruel and/or unusual. Take note that while the Constitution acknowledges the acceptability of capital punishment, it does not decree that such a punishment ever need be used, only that it may be used. As viewed by the Libertarian, capital punishment is an issue that government at all levels is able to weigh-in upon, provided each government does not overstep the bounds set forth in its founding documents.

Religion tends to be a particularly tender point in the land of politics. And yet, Congress has been prohibited from establishing a national religion and from interfering with an individual's free expression of their religious beliefs. Separation of religion and state was intended to prevent a religion from running the state and the state from running a religion. Both these ideas are equally valid, though their application in recent history has been toward the end of banning all religious activity, and removing all religious references, from public places and spaces. The Libertarian agrees with the individual freedoms granted by the lack of a national religion and the separation between religion and the state, provided such distinctions are not perverted by government.

The Left and the Right, while ideologically isolated from each other on social issues, nevertheless agree in practice that the federal government is the proper sphere for the dictation and enforcement of social norms, practices, and issues. Libertarians, on a personal level, may be on the Left, Right, or somewhere in between when it comes to social issues. In politics, the Libertarian believes that the Constitution should be followed, and that unless specifically mentioned otherwise, social issues were and are intended to be left up to the people and the states. This is in following with the Libertarian core belief of individual liberty, the free exercise thereof, and the avoidance of interfering with the individual liberties of others.