Sunday, February 25, 2007

Council Winners

[posted by Callimachus]

The most recent round of Watchers Council winners has been posted.

First place within the council went to A Rock, a Hard Place, and the Deep Blue Sea by Right Wing Nut House, which was an excellent look at the bewildering problem of America's relationship to Pakistan in the war against al Qaida.

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to that one. This is an odd kind of war where peoples and national governments that as easily could be counted our enemies are held up as our strongest allies -- the Saudis and the Pakistanis are two examples.

Pakistan is a failed state; like Iraq, it is a legacy of the British pell mell retreat from colonial control. The division of the Raj was made for reasons of short-term political expedience, with the result that millions have died, once-viable regions were rendered economically incoherent, and a new nation was formed that was unable to exert its authority over a third of its land area. The whole story is a sad example of the consequences of taking up an authority over another land -- rightfully or not -- and then running off when you get tired of doing the job.

Rick's post started me down another train of thought, unrelated to Pakistan per se. At the end of his post, Rick goes off to find the predictable left-side blogger who has written recently about the Pakistan problem as something entirely Bush's fault. It's not necessarily germane to his better points about Pakistan to do this, but it's useful once in a while to remind people who think this way that, however bad George W. Bush is, there's a world full of ugly problems he didn't create, and they still will be here even after he's gone. And would be here even if he never had existed.

As an example of this, he happened to light on a post at The Impolitic, which is one of the Democratic/left-ward sites we added to the blogroll here recently during the Great Diversification Movement. Libby -- the Impolitic is female -- puts up her response here.

The Impolitic and DWM ended up on one another's blogrolls through a courteous willingness to acknowledge one another as people worth listening to, even in strenuous disagreement -- at least this is what I take blogrolling to mean. I sometimes wonder why she would choose us, since Reader and I seem to often fit into her lowest circle of Hell:

What I'd like to see is some serious secret rendition on every mealy mouthed stay at home war supporter and see them all wake up on the front lines of the conflict they so blithely support.

But there it is; we're one of a handful of not-overtly-left sites on her roll, and she's one of a small number of aggressively and selfe-definingly left sites on ours. And I find you feel a certain responsibility to or for people when you've put them up on your list. Like, I want to say here that Libby's response, in part (if I read it right), is that the post Rick jumped on is one she doesn't necessarily want to be measured by or go down in history for. And to point out to both that there's a lot of habitable ground between "Terrorism, shmerrorism; it's all Bush's fault" (a reaction of a fellow newspaper editor to 9/11) and "Bush is immaterial."

I wouldn't feel that way without the minimal brush of contact and connection involved in a mutual blogroll. But maybe there's something to this, if we really want to cut into the nastiness of the blog world (that's a big if ... "snark" seems to be a highly valued commodity in one half of it). What if every serious conservative or Republican or pro-Iraq War or pro-administration took into its blogroll a handful of reasonable, but strongly opposed blogs from across the aisle? And vice versa. Not a Malkin or a Kos, but something your own size.

That way, when these periodic stupid blow-ups come along, where one of us little folk gets singled out and hoisted high for a quote out of context or a poorly worded passage, someone within the pack would have the ability to stand up and say, "No, it's not like that at all," and maybe stop the gank in process. Not that that's what I think happened in the specific case above, but it set me thinking down that path.

At any rate, back to the winners. Also getting votes was I'm Tired of ‘Supporting the Troops’ by Joshuapundit; a great and balanced attack on the way the current war has unraveled in the public mind, by "Freedom Fighter" who has been visiting this theme frequently.

To me, supporting the troops is neither saluting a bunch of graves, or using it as a catchphrase to camouflage genuinely anti-military feelings. In a very real sense, it means supporting the country and ourselves as a free people.

It means supporting victory, and giving our troops the tools and the leadership to achieve it. It means putting our nation first, and supporting the men who defend it in prosecuting this war until we face a defeated, humiliated enemy, with the creed of jihad and Islamic fascism totally discredited so that its resurgence is as unlikely as the resurgence of fascism in Germany or Japan.

That's what this war is really about, and that's what victory in this war is going to look like. I and many of my fellow Americans realized it a long time ago, even if our commander in chief doesn't seem to like the idea.

The `Decider' and his advisers might want to take a look at that when they're trying to figure out why the president's poll numbers are plummeting south.

Votes also went to The Impossibility of Victory by The Glittering Eye, which looked at the recent much-touted Washington Post op-ed by retired Lt. Gen. William Odom on the Iraq situation.

My own position on the invasion of Iraq isn’t terribly far from Gen. Odom’s: I believed then and believe now that establishing a stable, democratic Iraq friendly to the U. S. is unachievable using means and within a timeframe that’s politically acceptable in the U. S. As to the other objectives for invading Iraq (eliminating Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and removing Saddam Hussein) I believed that containing Saddam was working and maintaining that containment was politically more possible in the United States than establishing a stable democratic Iraq friendly to the U. S. would be.

In spite of the agreement, however, Dave finds Odom's arguments lacking in substance and realistic expectations.

Also getting votes were Best (And Worst) TV Show "Replacements" by The Colossus of Rhodey; Fallen Angels by Eternity Road; and Global Warming -- What Can We Do? (Part I) an interesting offering from The Sundries Shack.

Outside the council, the winner was Islamist Historiography at Cross-Currents, an account of a speech by Bernard Lewis.

Lewis noted, for instance, that classical anti-Semitism, in the sense of attributing cosmic evil to Jews, has no historical antecedents in the Muslim world. The Ottoman sultans were adamant in rejecting the blood libel. European anti-Semitism is a late import into Islam, fostered by the close association of the Nazis with the Mufti of Jerusalem and Ba’athist groups in Iraq and Syria.

ONE OF the most important points made by Lewis concerned the historiography of the Islamists. Most in the West view the fall of the Soviet Union as a consequence of the Reagan administration’s decision to confront it and engage it in an arms race that proved ruinous to the Soviet economy, but that is not how the Islamists see things. In their view, the Soviet Union was destroyed by mujahideen in Afghanistan, who drove the mighty Soviet army from the country. And that view, says Lewis, is not entirely implausible.

Osama bin Laden wrote at the time that Muslims had defeated the more dangerous of their two main enemies, and that defeating the effeminate Americans would prove easier.

One of the essential tasks, if you're going to fight an enemy, is to be able to see the world as he sees it, and to look at history through the version of it he tells himself.

“Iran is a mortal threat,” says Lewis. And he does not believe Ahmadinejad will be deterred from using nuclear weapons by the fear of retaliation. Mutual assured destruction does not work – indeed it may even be an incentive – to those who view a nuclear conflagration as hastening the advent of the hidden 12th imam. If they martyr their own people in the process, Lewis commented, they have only done them a favor by providing them a quick pass to the great brothel in the sky.

The irony is, the whole idea of "mutually assured destruction" was a classic example of American leadership failing to do just this thing -- see world history through the eyes of their adversaries. M.A.D. only existed on this side of the Atlantic. The Soviet generals and political leaders felt no fear of it: they were determined to fight -- and win -- in a nuclear war. The threshhold of "destruction" they found perfectly acceptable was astronomical, but understandable in a government that began its career with the deliberate death by starvation of tens of millions of its own citizens, then saw tens of millions more consumed in a war.

Also getting votes were No Blogger Is an Island, a timeless defense of principled political ethics by Wizbang; Convergence at Harry's Place; Five Years Went By Fast by Captain's Quarters; Why Global Warming Is a Crock by Alpha Patriot; and On Assumptions by Andrew Olmsted.

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