Saturday, February 26, 2005

Reflecting on Israel: haven from terror.

Powerline has a fascinating selection of reader's views: some of them echoing my own which I expressed earlier (I really should link them sometime! Basically I have seen Sharon's moves as a military commander's tactic of war which only really looks like a retreat). Krauthammer is a little more downbeat than I am, but I don't disagree in principle. What worries me is agreeing with so many people.

Sadly the threat to Israel is still current. I suppose that completing the wall will reduce is further.

But meanwhile, and I think related, it seems not only that the Sinn Fein village idiots have given themselves away, but that politicians on both sides of the border have decided to help them to destroy themselves- or at least bring them down a peg or two.

Friday, February 25, 2005

For an excellent survey of the subject matter outlined in the below post, the very meaty Eursoc can fill you in.

Key word that unlocks the future

Richard North has it right about Bush when he says there is a 'key word: democracy'. Although he's talking about Bush's words to Putin, I think the reasoning holds for much else too.

This cornerstone of W's philosophy helps decode everything he says (and unlike, say, Justin Webb, I do think that Bush's words need interpreting. The only reason they're not being interpreted is that the idiot Left likes to remain in a patronising, beatific daze, deluded into thinking the Texan has no designs, preoccupied with their own, lesser, designs, and then run screaming to the 'court of international opinion' when he does something to upset their complacent applecart. They think they can stop unpleasant things- unpleasant things as far as they see things- happening just by pretending the possibility doesn't exist. Ironically, Webb makes a comment about the US' desires for Nato assistance over Iraq, and the obvious French insult which was Chirac's response: 'Some of the contributions are very small. France will send one officer to help support the mission from here in Brussels. Luxembourg is making a financial contribution of around a hundred-ninety thousand dollars, but the Americans say it is the symbolism that counts.'. According to Webb it's the US who likes silly symbolism from the Euros.)

Proof that W's words may need decoding comes not only from the ability of the Left to delude themselves he's been successfully neutered, but from the Right's tendancy to launch attacks against what they perceive as his softness. Though I sympathise with the latter, which I found interestingly, and challengingly, expressed by A Tangled Web recently, I don't think that Bush is about to become a softie.

No, what Bush said to Europe was really not that difficult. He praised moves towards 'democratic unity'. Did he mean the EU I wonder? I don't wonder, actually.

To quote from Bush's recent words:

'America supports Europe's democratic unity for the same reason we support the spread of democracy in the Middle East because freedom leads to peace.'

Bush approves of a democratic European unity- ergo he doesn't approve of the Franco-German alliance which seeks through clever Euronods and Eurowinks and Eurotiddlywinks to run the show.

Notice how he linked his approval of European democracy with his pursuit of democracy in the Middle East? It's the same creature, not a different one.

Another bit of controversy seems to have occurred over Mark Steyn' remarkable article which ends so dramatically: 'This week we're toasting the end of an idea: the death of "the West".'

Austin Bay thought he was wrong, but I couldn't understand what Austin was saying- practically speaking.

For my part where I think Steyn is definitely right (never bet against him being right is my advice) is in his assessment of Bush's assessment of Europe, and the kind of figure W. cut while it seemed to him to be over, over here (anyone thinking at this point that I just made a typo needs to read some of Mark's backdated work- or his books). In other words, Bush's trip was token, and everything about it needed to be seen not for what it was on the surface, symbolically, but for what it meant in actuality.

The President's carefully measured trip was designed to do the right thing by his enemies, not to embrace their treachery.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The BBC Muft it

A man after Aunty's own heart is the Mufti of Bosnia- who also merited a mention in my last post but for different reasons.

No, Aunty hadn't heard of him either but he sounds like a jolly nice fellow to entertain the natives with a tale of wholesome multicultiism.

He's such a nice fellow that when he thinks of a hot debate, like 'is Islam secure in Europe?' he doesn't just ram it down your throat, he thinks of a third way-

'"We have two extremes of approach. One says that Muslims are not secure and that Europe is an anti-Islamic environment. The other extreme says Europe is a haven for Islam and Muslims," he says.

"I believe that the truth is somewhere in the middle because we are all in a process of learning."'

Despite all this flannel, we do get to find out what he thinks about the Jews-

'at first outsiders, they later became part of the fabric of society but have defended their identity and world view. In turn, that world view influences decisions of the state and international relations.'

Indeed- but of course they don't 'control the world'.

Dangerous Brew

Chrenkoff has an interesting post on Eastern Europe and its impact on the EU, amongst other things (via Instapundit). It tallies with the BBC article I noted yesterday.

What Chrenkoff envisions is a shift of wealth from West to East in Europe. In principle I would welcome this, except that of course I would prefer not a shift sideways but a levelling up, which looks unlikely.

However, Chrenkoff begins by pointing out the rise in Russian espionage, which seems all of a piece with stealing Yukos, suppressing dissent and 'coordinating' elections.

Meanwhile we have a declining, increasingly authoritarian Western Europe intent on centralising powers in an unelected politbureau.

So, we have an ascendant Eastern Europe (yes, that may be a little premature, but I think it's inexorable as they learn some tricks of capitalism), but without, I would argue, either properly shrunken authorities or an evolving tradition of individual rights (this I have witnessed first hand), and we have a Russia that is still so far behind that it sees its future, as Chrenkoff says, in modernisation rather than liberalistion. I guess Russians are pretty sore at the sudden loss of Empire, too.

To acknowledge another twist that history is insisting on, to that we must add the rise of Islam in Western Europe, the concomitant rise in anti-Jewishness, and the confused stance of people like Prince Charles on Europe's 'historic Muslim presence', and we have a pretty dangerous brew (Incidentally, at the link the BBC ask what surely must rank as most farcically inverted question of the week, nay, era, 'Is Islam secure in Europe?'.)

It's not that I think the coming century will be the century of Europe, any more than I think it will be the century of China (less, actually). It's just that I think that the powers being stirred in Europe are increasingly potent, and dangerous. It doesn't have to be 'your' century for you to ruin it for everyone else, as both the Germans and the Russians jointly proved last time round.

On the theme of Europe's sleepwalk Richard North gives yet another graphic illustration, explainnig part of the divide that exists between the US and Europe in terms of philosophy and direction. I think a resounding rejection of the EU Constitution would be of great assistance in Europe's awakening.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Sharon: Still on Track

Just restating my views about Ariel Sharon. Nicholas Vance has another excellent post critical of the BBC's James Reynolds for saying things like '"It's very simple, today's been all about Israel deciding which bits of occupied land to give up, and which to hold on to."

I agree with Nicholas' arguments about the lack of balance here (eg. 'occupied land' with its catch-all moral pejorative), but as is sometimes the case, BBC journalists are at their most peevish when they can see their little castles in the air disintegrating. Sharon really has the initiative, so much so that Mahmouud Abbas can't keep up. Israel lets go of the prisoners it wants (ie. 'non-bloody' ones), lets go the land it wants, reroutes the barrier as its own courts dictate, and retains the vast majority of the West Bank settlement, all the time with Abbas in tow. Not saying it's easy or pleasant to make concessions to a potentially barely concealed enemy of the state, but I think that Sharon is in charge, and he knows what he's doing. I've always thought that, but recent days (and a little forthright Sky coverage) have help revive that belief. Contrary opinions will be welcomed in comments, as none of my views on this are set in stone, if you feel like having a go at contrariety.

On the other hand (see Steyn below), strong growth from new EU members would create the temptation for the UK to burn its boats with the US and commit to EUtopia in a truly serious relationship (well, knowingly serious, anyway). Of course the BBC do tend to favour such a scenario, so who knows whether the report is reasonable or just puff.

I think Steyn's main concern is not the growth, but the demographics behind it- and what that means for Europe's historic values, more atrophied daily.

Laugh out loud truth, from Steyn:

'in the broader sense vis-à-vis Europe, the administration is changing the tone precisely because it understands there can be no substance. And, if there's no substance that can be changed, what's to quarrel about? International relations are like ex-girlfriends: if you're still deluding yourself you can get her back, every encounter will perforce be fraught and turbulent; once you realise that's never gonna happen, you can meet for a quick decaf latte every six – make that 10 – months and do the whole hey-isn't-it-terrific-the-way-we're-able-to-be-such-great-friends routine because you couldn't care less. You can even make a few pleasant noises about her new romance (the so-called European Constitution) secure in the knowledge he's a total loser.'

Can't help wondering whether it's laughter that's appropriate, or tears.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Other Side.

It's traditional, I believe, for BBC journalists from time to time to write saccharine little tributes to the country they have insulted so solidly for several happy years. Still, this from Rob Watson (helpfully offered by Marc of USS Neverdock fame) is unusually friendly, and not wholly empty. There's the usual post-modernist dash, designed to express the writer's a) lack of bias or b) humility when faced by grand issues, but some things he says are nearly true.

However, I can't help but feel that though he makes a good point about US nationalism not being of the dangerous kind (to be honest it's depressing that people here need to be told about this), his expression lays the US open to charges of mindlessness, which the BBC in other contexts exploits fully.

'It is not the unhealthy nationalism of "our country is better than your country", after all most Americans have never stepped outside the place, but rather an expression of "life here is good, whoopee".'

'Life is good, whoopee' is a short step from Voltaire's Pangloss, but a long way from the grit which underlies the US' real character- as demonstrated by their outstanding response to 9/11. I also notice the sideswipe made at insular Americans, yet do BBC correspondents ever consider that many a European has never stepped outside his/her own country (eg.Slovakia, Poland, probably France too) above a couple of times at best?

This, however, is better:

'As a European, what I found most refreshing here was the remarkable lack of envy in American society.

When Americans see someone doing well, they do not grumble about it being all right for some, instead they say, one day that could be me.'

If someone thinks I should here be pointing out the BBC's pro-US, anti-Europe bias, I would say that envy is what I would call a natural human condition. The US is an exception to this and Watson rightly points it out. That's not disparaging Europe but noticing what's there, what's notable.

Oh, but last among the post-modern touches I'll note is this example:

'It may all go back to Thomas Jefferson's claim in the Declaration of Independence in 1776 that the pursuit of happiness is among life's unalienable rights.

Whether it is or not, I have no idea, but certainly most of the Americans I know are in hot pursuit of the happiness thing.'

Now did we really need that bit about Watson's non-plussed reception of the principle of the pursuit of happiness? Do we really care what he thinks about it? Would we be happy to hear if Watson said 'I don't know what I think about the right to freedom from torture'. If he'd read his dystopian North American novelists as BBC US correspondents are supposed to have, he'd have recalled what Margaret Attwood wrote in the Handmaids Tale (notable for its depiction of a society succumbing to very European-like birth rates) about there being two kinds of freedom: freedom from and freedom to. The US chose the latter and that's as rational a thing to do as to choose the former, yet not to BBC/European minds.

I think, as the old Crusader said to Indiana Jones at the end of the trilogy, the US has 'chosen wisely', and, by observing at least some of the consequences of that choice made by the Founders of the USA, Watson is halfway to knowing it.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Ian Duncan Smith: true to form

Actually, despite what you may be thinking (apart from Ian Duncan Smith- who he?), I mean this to be complimentary. I felt fairly lonely in my opinion that IDS had both principles and vision. Worldly wisdom, no. Charm, not really. But the rest was admirable, and I can honestly say I was sad the Conservatives got rid of him in what was a effectively a sneaky little putsch.

So it's a pleasure to be able to recommend IDS writing, of all places, in the Guardian (actually, where else?). The fall guy of the Conservatives' doldrums is saying that the Internet, and humble bloggers, may provide a way of salvation for the British Right. I think he overstates the case, although his article is impeccable both in its understanding of the phenomenon in the US and in its logic. He's surely right that there will be surprises for the establishment coming from the emergent sphere of Britblogos. Unfortunately I think that blogging of the kind of quality we've seen in the US (as opposed to flashes in the pan) relies on a disciplined and knowledgeable community with some coherent shared values- perhaps even a quality of friendship- which I think will be hard to come by in the case of UK Conservatives (small or big c), on or off-line. (via Instapundit)

Somewhat related, the BBC quotes a lot of people on the blogging phenomenon, in an article with a balanced feel but a whiff or two of establishment defensiveness (for example I'm sure they blur the Eason Jordan issue).

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