Sunday, January 20, 2002

A Cheesehead is Me

Go Pack!

A Cunning Warrior

An old friend of mine wrote something quite remarkable. Perhaps he should get his own weblog...

I've been asked by several people just what exactly my political affiliation is. Liberal? Moderate? Conservative? Democrat? Republican? Libertarian?

To paraphrase my Dog Tags, I'm "American: Non-Denominational"
Liliputians of the Cosmos

Steven den Beste writes this over at his weblog:
And then the earth bestirs itself and shows us who is really boss. Then we discover that we're passengers on a rock, an unimportant part of a thin layer of slime on the surface of a pebble floating in space, circling a third-rate star. We are nothing. If we are wiped out, the universe won't even notice that we are gone.
Oh, I don't know about that. Yes, scientists like to point out that because of their work, man has gone from being the center of the Universe to being a mere component of it, but I think they go too far in their assessment of our unimportance.

At the very least, we are the Universe made aware of itself. That's not something to take lightly and our extinction would be a very sad loss indeed.
Woodrow Wilson, Scourge of Europe

Perry de Havilland from Team Samizdata critiques Steven den Beste's exemplary analysis of why American's dismiss European Advice. So, let me critique the critique, if I may.
As for Britain and France dictating its own terms, what about Woodrow Wilson's role in dismembering the Austro-Hungarian Empire and trashing all vestiges of the potentially stabilising old order?
"Stabilising old order"? You'll have to explain to me how a "stable" Empire could engulf the whole of the European continent in a horrific conflagration because a single archduke was assassinated. If that represented the old stable order, then I don't blame Wilson for trying something else. I refer you to his Fourteen Points, almost all of which reflected American principles that were seemingly incompatible with European thinking, and as a result were doomed from the start due to the efforts of the various Prime Ministers and their advisors during the peace talks. Wilson, as head of state, outranked the Prime Ministers and as a result could dictate the terms of peace in public, but the Europeans worked behind his back in private to make their own deals and sabotage his "naive" efforts in direct violation of Point I:
Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.
You need not look any further than all the private deals and backstabbing that went on between Britain and France over the Middle East. If they were carrying on behind Wilson's back in that matter, then it is logical to conclude that they did the same when it came to Europe.

Wilson was also a strong proponent of self-determination. He thought that the people themselves should decide what they wanted as outlined in Points V and X:
V. A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined.

X.The peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity to autonomous development.
These two points, along with questions dealing with the Poles and the Balkans, stemmed from Wilson's abhorrence of Empire and Colonialism. The Austro-Hungarian Empire, the former Russian Empire and Germany all held together various peoples of different ethnic origins. Wilson believed that if these various ethnic peoples were freed from what he viewed as "foreign occupiers" and given the chance to govern themselves as they saw fit, Europe would be the better for it. Was it not a Serbian nationalist, advocating a separate Serbian state, that had assassinated the archduke and started the whole mess in the first place? Perhaps Wilson believed that by removing the European sickness of colonialism and empire that had caused the war in the first place (from his point of view), another catastrophe could be averted.

Now, to continue with the rest of your statement:
America shares some of the blame for the instability in Europe in the 1920's and 1930's.
America's share of the blame is meager compared to that of the European Powers. From my understanding, the War itself was unpopular with many people, most notably the Socialists. Russia fell to the Communists, and Germany nearly so. The war destroyed monarchies and governments everywhere. I may be mistaken, but I think that there was no government that started the war that survived the war. Also, I'm sure you are more aware than I of the huge social, political, and philosophical upheavals caused by the war that persisted well after its end. America left Europe to its own devices after the disastrous Versailles Treaty (which I believe the Senate never ratified). If there is any blame for the instability left in the war's aftermath, then the vast majority of it is shouldered by the Europeans.
And the 'second time' was better for who? I don't think too many Poles, Czechs and Hungarians would agree with Steven as they ended up with nearly half a century of communist rule.
1. There wouldn't be any Poles, Chechs and Hungarians were it not for Wilson's supposed, "trashing all vestiges of the potentially stabilising old order."

2. You seem distraught that these peoples lived under 50 years of Communist rule; yet having them live under the rule of a foreign Hereditary Monarchal Empire is just fine with you because it would bring stabilization. Yet the Communists, for all the wrongs they committed, did stabilize Eastern Europe. All those Eastern Europeans were for all intents and purposes under the domination and influence of a non-democratic foreign power. So what, I ask, is the difference between Communist foreign domination and Monarchal foreign domination that makes the latter more pleasing to you and the former an abomination?

3. The Second Time was definitely better for Western Europeans, and by extension Eastern Europeans, because there was never another catastrophic war on the European continent. I think that many British, French, Germans, Italians, Belgians, Netherlanders, and Danes would agree that the Second Time around was much better. Then again, I tend to see the glass half-full in this matter.
Does Steven think Yalta was America's finest hour?
Yalta was making the best out of a bad situation. Unless you share Patton's opinion that we should've just kept on going to the gates of Moscow, Yalta was the best compromise we could reach given the circumstances of the time. Europe lay in ruins, hundreds of thousands were displaced, and we were in no position to halt a Soviet advance should Stalin have ordered it. I would also hazard a guess that the people of that generation were sick of war and would have risen up should the war had been continued to be prosecuted against the Soviets.

Given that the Western Powers were in no shape to fight the Russians, they had to allay Stalin's paranoia through concessions in an effort to contain him. Also, the Soviet Union had suffered extensive losses at the hands of the Germans, so one could make the argument that as one of the victorious Allied Powers, it was entitled to its share of the spoils. It was not a perfect solution, but it was one that prevented the potential domination of Europe by the Communists by buying time for the West. The fact that a Third World War was not fought on the European continent is a testament to the success of Yalta.
Switching gears back to WWI:
All of which may never have happened if the US had stayed out of the Great War and a negotiated settlement had been reached in 1917 or early 1918. [In response to den Beste's point about the drastic reparations loaded onto Germany by France and Britain]
This is the first I've ever heard of this. From every book and paper I've ever read on WWI, I gathered that the war would continue unabated into 1919 and beyond. In fact, the Allies were preparing for another campaign in the Spring of 1919 when the Germans suddenly surrendered. From my reading of history, it seemed that the Allies were always exasperated by American neutrality and when America did enter the war, were always complaining bitterly that we weren't coming over fast enough. If America hadn't entered the War, for what reason would Germany have to surrender? Russia was out, leaving the whole of the German army to fight on the Western Front. It could have prosecuted the war well past 1918 and could conceivably have captured more French real estate before negotiating an armistice on its own terms. If that would've happened, what in Europe would've changed? All the old Empires save the Russian and most likely the Ottoman would have remained intact with no significant change of their borders. All of the old rivalries and animosities would've remained and it would've only been a matter of time before they were at it again. The French and British reparations were a complete dismissal of Wilson's 3rd and 4th points:
III. The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance.

IV. Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.
The French and British completely ignored Point III and cynically applied a malevolent interpretation of Point IV on the Germans. It's no wonder the American people considered our involvement in WWI to have been a colossal mistake and remained adamant in their opposition to entering WWII. The Europeans took Wilson's 14 Points and ripped them to shreds in their exuberance for acquiring more colonies and making sure Germany would forever be in poverty.

You say that it was Wilson and American involvement in WWI that led to a great deal of Europe's troubles in the Inter-War years. I respectfully disagree. Had the Europeans applied Wilson's 14 Points (and the principles implied by them) in good faith, I believe that the chances of a Second World War occurring would've been quite low. I also believe that the colonial peoples around the world who were under the domination of the Europeans would've been better off had the principle of self-determination been faithfully applied, but that's another discussion.
More Dumb Headlines

Compare and Contrast. Here's the headline from the New York Times:
Volcano's Lava Engulfs a Congo Town, Killing Up to 40
Now, the headline from Reuters:
Congo Volcano Eruption Will Hurt Wildlife - Experts
Snow Day

Got some snow around here today. It started early in the morning around 9:00 AM and continued on through most of the day and afternoon. It turned to freezing rain later on, which amazingly enough melted alot of the snow on the trees and the ground around here before it all turned to ice. If the weatherman's right, all this stuff will be gone by Monday when it hits 50 degrees.

I have to give some credit to the drivers around here. Normally they're complete jackasses when it come to snow and rain, but the group I fell in with today while driving back from the hospital on base displayed patience, skillfull driving, and an awareness of safety that is usually missing from the MD-NoVa-DC region. Maybe they were from out of state.
Bomb Goes Off Outside Kabul Embassy

A bomb went off outside the walls of the U.S. embassy in Kabul last Monday. I haven't seen anything elsewhere in the media about this except in the Stripes.
A homemade firebomb exploded about 40 yards outside the walls of the U.S. Embassy on Monday, and military officials suspect it was a test to see how troops stationed there and elsewhere would react.
Nobody was injured, so I guess that accounts for the total non-reporting of the event.
Sullivan said that in addition to studying how the Marines and others reacted to the explosion, those responsible for placing the bomb may have been attempting to discourage U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell from visiting the embassy.

He visited there Thursday.
You've gotta love Stripes reporters. Their knack for deadpan understatement is unmatched.
Smart People Say the Dumbest Things

Buried at the bottom of this Washington Post piece:
"There is no question that terrorism is the flavor of the month and that explaining something as an anti-terrorist action is the quickest way to get the United States on board," said Ralph Tagern, a researcher for the Institute on Middle Eastern Policy.
Replace the word "terrorism" with say, oh "fascism" and you see how stupid this guy sounds. After letting out enough rope, slinging it over the gallows and fashioning a rather nice slipknot, Mr. Tagern slipped his head into the noose, cinched it up, and said,
"But in truth, many of these struggles are not about terrorism. They are about long-standing fights for independence and other matters."
"One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." You know Mr. Tagern, if you'd had perhaps used a trap door, your feet wouldn't be kicking around so much.
Odd Quotes

From a Town Hall meeting by Senator Bill Nelson in the Polk County Democrat:
"I have had the great privilege of being an elected public servant for most of my adult life," Nelson said.

Does anybody else find this statement disturbing? It's like a 50 year old taking pride in having never moved out of his parent's house.
Give Us Your Money, but Leave Us Alone

It only took a week for the Phillipine government to start up their crap again.
A political firestorm has erupted in the Philippines over the impending arrival of about 650 U.S. soldiers who are to be dispatched to help battle an Islamic insurgency. A few senators here are demanding the impeachment of the president just a year after she took office, and her vice president has said he feels uneasy about the policy.
Let me get this straight. Your military and politicians are absolutely impotent in the face of what is essentially a small time bandit outfit, but that's okay. A few hundred advisors come over to show you how to effectively deal with these bums, and you call for the impeachment of your president? Tell me again why you're still the ass end of the Far East? The Phillipine people deserve a hell of a lot better than you.
Influencing the debate is the experience a century ago of U.S. soldiers conducting bloody counterinsurgency campaigns to consolidate control over the Philippines, a former Spanish colony.
Not influencing the debate is the experience half a century ago of U.S. soldiers conducting bloody campaigns to liberate the Phillipines, an occupied country of Japan.
"Our military aren't just puppets of U.S. officials," said Rigoberto Tiglao, the presidential spokesman. "It is very clear that all U.S. personnel are under the strict command and supervision of Philippine officers."
I'll give everyone a moment to quit laughing.

Okay. Man, can you imagine what it would be like if that were true? Take the stunning succes in Afghanistan and imagine the exact opposite.
One recent public opinion poll, by Social Weather Station, a leading private group, found that 81 percent of respondents supported the idea of U.S. aid to the Philippines' fight against the Abu Sayyaf hostage takers.
This proves once again that Filipinos are great people at the mercy of a mediocre and corrupt government that keeps fighting off insurgency after insurgency.
Don't Spit into the Wind

The 101st is getting lessons in Afghan etiquette prior to shoving off. Among some of the rules:
Avoid wild dogs. Stay away from churches and mosques. Keep pictures of wives or girlfriends hidden. And absolutely no pornography.
Stock stuff, especially for people who've done some time in Saudi. Although the wild dogs thing is new.
"We want to respect the sensitivities of our host nation," said Maj. Paul Fitzpatrick. "It's important that we have an understanding of their ways of life. It makes for a better relationship with our friends and allies."
Exhibit A: The Saudis. Of course, we should give the Afghans a chance. They might actually be reasonable people, unlike our Saudi Masters whose asses we bend over backwards to kiss as their people blow us up.

In any event, once the situation is stabilized over there, I'm sure we'll start finding ways around the rules just like we do in Saudi. You can't take free Americans and expect them to bow down to bullshit in the name of "sensitivity" forever.