February 23, 2003

CONFIDENCE

One night, I was sitting in a nightclub ' maybe the first or second time I'd ever done so. I was just a puppy ' eighteen, I think, for we could drink in those days. Anyway, it was a strange room: mostly concentric circles of dark tables arranged around a center, but the center wasn't a dance floor ' that was off to the side. The middle of the room was just much better lit ' almost like an auto showroom.

And right there in the center, in a small pool of light, sat a woman in a white dress, all alone. Calling her 'beautiful' is like calling Yosemite 'scenic.' She was stunning. Grace Kelly beautiful. Catherine Deneuve beautiful. Plato wrote about how a chair was really just a dim shadow on the cave wall cast by the ideal of a chair. Well, this woman was the Real Deal. And there she sat, all alone, lighting up that room, maybe ten feet away from where my three buddies and I burrowed behind a dark table, nothing showing but our little red eyes darting back and forth like the terrified little weasels I thought we all were at the time.

I was about to learn a very powerful lesson. Wait, I want to rephrase that: I was about to be given a very powerful lesson. I didn't actually learn it for another ten or fifteen years. But the next ten minutes were nothing if not an education'

As I sat there, nursing my watery Screwdriver, I watched an absolutely endless progression of guys make that walk across that little patch of open space, sidle up next to her, and start talking. They never got past the first sentence. They didn't get shot down. They got nuked. Vaporized. One second they were there, the next there was nothing but a greasy stain on the floor where they had been.

And these guys were real smooth, too. Real Rico Suave. They had the wide lapels and the platform shoes and the qiana shirts (and may 1977 Miami burn in hell forever). These were not bumpkins like myself. These were operators.

Now most of you are old and wise enough to remember how the adolescent mind works, because the more she turned these guys down the more beautiful she became to me. It was like that old Twilight Zone shot where the corridor expands away from you as you run towards the door at the end. Remote. Unattainable. Ahhhhhhhh.

I could just barely hear her, too.

Would you like to Dance?

No, I wouldn't. Please go away, you're bothering me.

Sorry'

'often followed by a mumbled what a bitch as they slinked back in shame to face their friends. I thought, she's just here to break hearts is all. She's not here to dance, or to have fun. She's just here to crush people.

At that moment, I can say with confidence that I would rather have gone over the top at Gallipoli then walk across that ten foot expanse of lighted floor.

But I had a friend who was watching too, and he wasn't getting intimidated. He was getting angry. He was, like me, young, kinda dorky, and dressed, shall we say, more conventionally than the rest of the peacocks in the room. But as my eyes were glazing over in teenage awe, his were narrowing to slits as the Endless Parade of the Doomed walked into the meat grinder.

Finally, he had had enough. How did I divine this? Well, he shot to his feet, and muttered 'That's enough!' through clenched teeth. That was my clue.

He threw down his napkin, took a belt of his drink, and worked his way around our table heading straight for the fluffy wittle bunny wabbit with the Sharp. Pointy. Teeth. I remember I damn near grabbed at his legs, like a wounded Confederate begging a comrade not to advance on the withering fire coming down from Cemetery Ridge. No Jim, don't do it! I was thinking. No one can take that hill. It's death to try!

He walked up behind her, and so help me, he tapped her on the shoulder. I covered my face with my hand. She took a good long moment to turn around, too. She stared at him, the white wine in her hand just about the same color as her hair, and those cold blue eyes slowly looking up from his crappy shoes, past the rumpled pants to the okay shirt and finally right into Jim's eyes. She didn't say a word.

'Would you like to dance?'

Instantly: 'No, I would not like to dance. I would like for you to go away.' She turned back around without another word and took a sip of her wine. I heard a few people chuckle behind me.

Jim started walking, but instead of coming back to the Loser's Circle, he went around to the front of her small cocktail table. No, Jim! Nooooooo! And then he leaned forward, so he was a few inches from her face. And then he said something that burned itself so deep into my addled brain that I never forgot it, and never will. And he said it loud enough so that everyone could hear him, too. He said:

'Listen Princess, I just got off the phone. Turns out Prince Charming's horse just threw a shoe, so he's gonna be a little late tonight. Now why don't you stop showing everyone how miserable you are, put down that drink and come dance with me?'

She stared at him for a moment. And then she smiled. And then that's exactly what she did.

The three of us left about an hour later. Jim and The Vision had strolled out together after about ten minutes on the dance floor. Nothing much to stay for after a show like that.






Next time you look at the moon, challenge yourself to think of something: there are footprints up there. Footprints, and tire tracks. Also three used cars, and one golf ball.

Why are they there? Because we decided to go to the moon, that's why. What a typically arrogant, unilateral, American conceit! But you know what? That footprint ' you know the picture ' will still be there, unchanged, a million years from now. In ten million years, it might begin to soften a little around the edges. But in a billion years ' a thousand million summers from this one ' it will still be there, next to glistening pyramids of gold and aluminum junk decaying under the steady cosmic drizzle of micrometeorite hits.

Eventually, in about five billion years, the sun will run out of hydrogen and start burning helium. When it does, it will begin to swell, consuming Mercury, then Venus as it enters its Red Giant phase. The forests will burn to ash, the oceans boil into steam and then be blown into deep space along with the rest of the atmosphere. Life will have been long gone.

But on the moon, there will remain six scraps of colored cloth. Red and white stripes peeking out from the dull grey lunar soil; perhaps a star or two on a faded blue field as the sun reaches out to reclaim her children. Very likely they will be the last, best preserved monuments to our presence as a species on the face of the third planet now burning to a cinder below.

But eventually, they will burn too. The sun will contract to a white dwarf, the inner solar system nothing but black cinders, the outer planets shrunken and frozen corpses. Perhaps fifteen billion years from now, a time as far in the future as time goes into the past, there will be nothing here except a burnt-out and cold white dwarf.

But somewhere out there, somewhere, there will be four battered, unrecognizable hunks of aluminum and titanium and gold, spinning through deep space, their names recalling the spirit in which they were hurled into the abyss: Pioneer, and Voyager. And the day before the Universe dies, you'll still be able to dimly make out the stripes and star-spangled square, and read the words in the ancient language, from a dead race in the far distant past, when the stars were young and alive: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

There are at least five nations on the earth that had the technical skill, not to mention the money, to do something as grand and noble ' as immortal -- as this. Yet only one has done so. Why us? Why not them?

Confidence. That's why.







We are a strong nation. We'd damn well better be, because we carry the genes and mythologies of the most confident individuals on the planet, people unwilling to endure repression, persecution and enslavement by taking a chance on a place unknown to them, except perhaps in their dreams. We have come from every country in the world, from the free and prosperous to the hellish and horrific. Each individual immigration, from the native Indians crossing the Bering Strait, through Plymouth Rock, Ellis Island and LAX ' each one an act of optimism and hope for something better.

And we are a confident nation. Indeed, the quality that is admired by friend and foe alike, more than any other, is our optimism, our sense of hope for the future. We may be condemned overseas for our many flaws, but it's hard to argue with an optimist who is willing to roll up his sleeves. And when we, as a nation, decide to do something'it gets done. We sometimes fail. We pay the price, fix the failures, and go on.

Footsteps on the moon.

Optimism and confidence colors everything we touch, from our movies and music to our skyscrapers and Space Telescopes. How else to explain the universal appeal of The American Dream, for that dream is indeed universal: freedom, safety, prosperity ' and scores of other adjectives that can be summed up in that jaunty phrase, unheard of in a political document: the Pursuit of Happiness.

It is difficult for we Americans to fully grasp the effect we have on the world's psyche, to understand the depth to which American culture has permeated the globe. We dominate the political, economic, military, scientific and cultural spheres as no nation has done before us. This influence is quite invisible to the average American, because it is simply an extension of the institutions we are familiar with at home. We think nothing of seeing McDonald's or posters for The Matrix in Singapore, or Kiev, or Rio de Janeiro.

But imagine a landscape where, let us say, France had the same cultural impact on our shores: La Baguette restaurants on every corner, long lines around the multiplex to see Jules et Jim 2000, French troop transports idling down Interstate 10 in long convoys, French fighters flying to and from French air bases set out in the middle of former farmland, television filled with dubbed French sitcoms named Mon Dieu! and Les Amis, and everywhere on the news nothing but reports of what the French government was doing and how it was going to affect us.

Okay, stop imagining ' this is like huffing paint; you can feel the brain cells dying. But this is the effect we have, and there are forces at work in the world, forces besides Islamic Terrorism who would like to see nothing so much as a confident, determined United States taken down a peg. Or two. Or twenty.






These are hard times, psychologically, to be a person who loves America. Hard because we do, indeed, wish to be liked by the rest of the world. Hard because we know in our hearts that we are good people, decent people who do not leap for joy at the chance to spill the blood of our own children and spend untold treasure just to have the hateful, pornographic thrill of seeing brown people blown to bits.

Yet we are accused of exactly this, and worse. We hear of polls saying that upwards of 75% of countries like England and France see the United States as the greatest danger to the world, and it knocks the wind out of us. No, that can't be right. Can it? Can they really believe that?

Some do. Many do.

Some of this emotion is genuine, real fear and panic brought on by our unparalleled success, and our past miscalculations and blunders. Some of it is envy, pure and simple. Some is driven by pain, the pain of lost greatness and glory. Some is projection, a sense of how tempting it might be to hold such power, from countries with histories of real empires, real governors, and real subjugation.

And some of it ' much of it ' is intentionally aimed at our decency, our sense of restraint and isolation, our desire to get back to our own happy and safe lives and turn our back on the world lost in the delusion that we long to possess it.

The protestors we have seen recently know this very well. They accuse us of being Nazis. We hear people from Berkeley and Santa Monica railing that they live in a Police State, no better than the one in Iraq. They claim we want nothing but oil, filthy lucre ' and ascribe to our determined action the most base motives they can devise: sheer profit. Diversion from economic woes. Racism. Paternal guilt. Bloodlust. The list goes on and on.

Like the terrorists we also face in these quietly desperate times, these people seek to attack us where we are the most vulnerable, and for the anti-American multitudes that means our confidence. They know as well as we do that if we were the cruel, bloodthirsty and vicious killers they claim us to be that they would all be dead in unmarked graves. Gandhi, after all, succeeded in freeing India because his non-violent strategy was aimed at the British ' another fundamentally decent and humane people. Had he tried this against Hitler or Stalin we would never have heard of him, for he would be yet another of the nameless, faceless millions taken away in the night, never to be seen again.

Knowing we are a moral people, knowing that we want above all else to do the right thing, knowing that the idea of invasion and war is a hateful and desperate last resort for us, they target their message to our conscience and confidence, little decency-seeking missiles like BUSH = HITLER, NO BLOOD FOR OIL and GIVE PEACE A CHANCE. These people know that the only thing capable of stopping a determined America is America herself. That is why our confidence is under attack in so many ways, and from so many sides.

Is it working?

It is.






There are many principled, patriotic Americans who are opposed to the Battle of Iraq. At least, I assume there are, for they are hard to pick out among some of the craven lunatics we have seen in the streets of the world these past few weeks and months.

I really shouldn't be so hard on these people, because many of them clearly mean well. They seem unable ' or perhaps unwilling -- to face the fact that history has passed them by. For today they are on the side of tyrants, rapists, torturers and mass murderers. Apparently, they'd rather be there than change their minds.

But there is a different class of protestor that we have seen recently, and these are not well-meaning people who only seek to avoid bloodshed. They are people like International ANSWER, supported by the Workers World Party, backed by North Korea, and these people are, to use a somewhat overused, even nostalgic phrase, nothing but lousy, stinking Commies.

You'd think I would be ashamed to use such a jingoistic, hackneyed clich' as 'lousy, stinking Commies.' I am not. Here is a philosophy that has killed no less than sixty million people outright, through executions, forced starvation, Gulags and Great Leaps Forward. They have drawn us into the most filthy fights in Asia, Africa and South America, led us to sully and permanently stain our national honor fighting nasty, brutal wars in God knows how many places, and driven us to back local thugs and dictators whose only redeeming value was their promise to stop this disease from spreading.

Like Islamic Fundamentalists, they are deeply deluded people in love with a fantasy ideology that promises them revenge and the spoils of revolution, rewards that they are unwilling to work for and incapable of generating. Claiming the moral cloak of Robin Hood, these people want to rob from the rich ' and keep it.

Those decent Americans who are doing a patriotic duty by protesting what they believe to be an unjust war do themselves and their cause incalculable harm by marching alongside these unreconstructed liars, nitwits and frauds. They are correct when they say that not all of them are anti-American, or Marxists, or both. But perhaps they can forgive us for getting this impression, as any look at these protests will reveal.

Look at the protest signs shreiking WELLSTONE WAS ASSASSINATED! and ONLY SOCIALIST REVOLUTION CAN END IMERIALIST WAR! These people are not protesting the war in Iraq. What they are interested in is crippling the US. They know they cannot confront us directly. They have no military assets now that the Soviet arsenal is rusting back into the ground. They certainly don't seem to have jobs, so they're not exactly an economic force. And everywhere their political views have been put into practice, the result has been spectacular: collapse and ruin in the best of cases, and repression, torture and mass murder in the worst.

These people are political, economic and cultural failures. They are losers. But they have a secret weapon. If they cannot attack us head on, in open daylight, then perhaps they can erode, decay, and rot our moral foundations slowly, imperceptibly. And they are doing this. And it is succeeding.

If large numbers of our own people can equate The President of the United States with Adolf Hitler, if we actually believe the US is the source of all the misery in the world, if we despise ourselves and our history and expect to be praised for it, if strength and morality and sureness of purpose can be openly mocked as ridiculous anachronisms, if our institutions can be spat upon, our flag burned and our ethics slandered ' if all of this can happen, in public, and we simply accept it, then something is indeed very wrong with our foundation and we had better start paying attention to it right quick while we can still save the building.

I'll tell you something. I'm glad they are marching. I'm delighted they are out in the open, on the street, waving signs like 9/11 WAS AN INSIDE JOB. Like the horrible attacks of September 11th, they have opened our eyes to a threat we have chosen to ignore for thirty years.

These people have launched a coordinated, full-frontal assault on our confidence, which is the reactor that powers all of our greatness, strength and success.

We must fight them. Our survival as a nation, as an idea of a nation, turns on this one battle. Because many of these people marching in the streets are simply shocked into silence when confronted with the evidence ' that we did not put Saddam Hussein into power, that liberal college kids like me had bumper stickers saying BUY IRAQI WAR BONDS supporting Saddam in his fight against the Mad Mullahs of Iran, that we do not have a design on Iraqi oil, that we will not enter Baghdad as conquerors, but rather as liberators, and that all of the Chomskyite lies and deceptions and half-truths that they try to string into a paper-Mache worldview do not hold up to fact and history.

We can argue these points until we are blue in the face. But the easiest way to convince these people is to simply have them ask an Iraqi, or a Cuban, or a Pole what it is like living in this vile pit of corruption called America. They may want to ask these questions behind safety glass, for the reaction to this kind of question from people who have known true misery and oppression is usually quite explosive, an outburst of rage and fury at the insult being leveled at them.

Because it is an insult. These people have lost their freedom, their property and their family members to real tyranny, real murderers, and real repression. They have lived in actual Police States. There is nothing rhetorical about the beatings they have endured. And to have a smug, clueless, morally blinded suburban American college student tell them that we live the same way is a mortal insult to their loss and suffering.

I used to wish that these gullible, pampered, anti-American Americans would go and live in a place like Iraq or Cuba or pre-liberation Poland -- and not as visiting American celebrities to be paraded around as Dictatorial propaganda pieces, but as common, nameless citizens. But that would be cruel of me, because likely we'd never see many of these people again. So I have modified my wish. I now only want them to spend a one-on-one evening with people who have risked their lives to escape such brutality, to see the depths of emotion and anger such bland and thoughtless lies engenders in them.

So for you people still against the Liberation of Iraq, you who claim that the People Spoke during the demonstrations, I have a single question for you:

During those protest marches, where were the Iraqis? There are many tens of thousands of these people living here and abroad. Seemingly to a person, they are passionately for intervention to free their countrymen and their relatives. If your theory is correct, they would be the loudest voices calling for peace and American withdrawal.

So I ask you again: Where are the Iraqis?






A year or two after I learned about confidence that night in the bar, I found myself on the stage of the Gainesville Little Theatre. I went to the audition to baby-sit a girlfriend who wanted a part. There were not enough men auditioning, so they asked me to just come up and read opposite the women. Just read from the book.

I got the lead role, she didn't get anything, and that little affair ended a remarkably short time later.

Anyway, there I was, in my one-and-only appearance acting on a stage, playing Tony Kirby in You Can't Take It With You, which, coincidentally, was the first live stage play I ever saw and which is one of the great American comedies of all time.

It was an early evening in November, 1980, during my sophomore year at the University of Florida. As we were getting into costume and make-up, we were making the usual plans to head out for beers after the show, and maybe watch some of the early Presidential election returns.

Just before we went on, a woman burst into the dressing room, sobbing hysterically. I wish I were making this up.

'Reagan's won! He won! My God, we're all going to die! "

'Wait, hold on, that can't be right. The polls just closed a few minutes ago. And that's just the east coast--.'

'He won, I tell you! Carter conceded! Oh my God, there's going to be a nuclear war!'

Even then, even at the height ' sorry ' the depth of my liberal thinking, I thought this was laying it on pretty thick. I didn't like Reagan, though. In fact, I couldn't stand him. I just thought he was old, wrinkled, feeble-minded and way, way out of touch with his retro patriotism and his idiotic smiling all the time.

See, I was twenty. I had it all sussed. We were a whole new generation, baby. The laws of physics do not apply to twenty year olds, let alone the lessons of history.

I knew nothing. What I learned about life under the Soviets I learned from Sociology Professors who had grown up in the same bland comfort and freedom I had. I was an idiot. They were idiots too. But! They should have known better! That's what we were paying them for.

Then, not long after, I met a friend who more than anyone, got me serious about writing. He was a Bulgarian poet and refugee, a man who risked his life sneaking across borders, hiding out in fields, eluding guards with orders to shoot him on sight. And this man was an intellectual, one of their best and brightest. He was a privileged victim, given access to good apartments, better shopping, even allowed access to western books and magazines. And that was their fatal mistake, you see? He knew what life was like in the west. And he risked that life ' the only life he had ' to come here.

That is where I unlearned the doubts and suspicions I had about my country, thoughts placed in my head by my own egotistical sense of rebellion against my parents and by professors with agendas of personal failure and eyes blinded by bitterness and rejection. That is where I learned, second hand, what life in real Police States was like from someone who bore the fear and anger and frustration and contempt on his face every time he talked of home; home being a laboratory of misery where even the smallest human deeds ' traveling, buying food ' were turned into thousands of little lessons in brutality and humiliation.

We fought against that philosophy. Did we win?

Well, the Soviets have gone. And as we learned not long ago, the memories of the nations freed from their shackles have not faded as fast as those of some of our so-called 'allies.' These recently liberated Eastern European nations respect and admire America for standing up to tyranny ' having the memory of tyranny fresh in your mind will do that to you.

On the other hand, those anti-American ideas, and their progenitors, have not gone away. They have prospered and multiplied in our colleges and universities, unbalanced by any effort to even the scales and let these competing ideas duke it out in the marketplace of free and vigorous debate. The tide of self-hatred, lies and slander has risen many, many times higher than I ever experienced in the early 1980s. That battle is still being fought. And we are not winning. In fact, we are in big trouble.

I have also noted that as these radical factions have gained traction in our universities, we have found our vision more and more hobbled, our ambitions more petty, and our hopes less noble and worthy of our effort. Back in the early '60s, during the run-up to the moon landing, NASA scientists were whispering the phrase Saturn by '70! Well, why not? Vision and confidence were the coin of the realm in those days. I remember watching 2001: A Space Odyssey when it came out in 1968, and thinking, Damn! Thirty years and that's all we can do? A 200 man revolving space station, regular Pan Am orbital service, and a single ship to Jupiter?

As an Apollo kid caught up in the head rush of visions coming true, and the most outrageous dreams unfolding on television in living color, I actually thought 2001: A Space Odyssey was way too conservative. Now here we are, a few years after that iconic date. It's been more than thirty years since we set foot on the moon. We have three men in a series of big boilers orbiting the earth. That's pretty much it.

But, we do have acid-washed jeans and reality TV.

What happened to the big dreams? In his famous Moon Message, President Kennedy said, 'We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things; not because they are easy, but because they are hard.'

Because they are hard. What happened to that loud, muscular, confident voice? What happened to that vision, that ability to see at our feet something invisible to others, far beyond the horizon? Where is our faith that a nation unlike any other can do great deeds, weld and rivet together the most daring and audacious dreams, and boldly go where no man has gone before?

Who else will do these things? If we take ourselves out of the vision business, when will we see the likes of the Moon Landing again, and by whom? The Chinese in 2016? Brazilians in 2054? Who? When?

Time sweeps all things back into the onrushing past. And we as a people have a decision to make: do we go forward, write new pages, and continue to swim upstream, or do we stop and dig in to our PlayStations and tailgate parties and 215 channels and let someone else do it? Maybe no one will do it. Maybe no one is confident enough to even try, let alone succeed. Maybe the peak of human ingenuity and vision was reached on July 20th, 1969, and everything after that was the long, slow decline back into tribalism and superstition.

I, for one, refuse to believe it. I am confident that this will not happen. I know in my heart, as you do too, that our native genius is the ability to recreate and renew ourselves. These dangerous times will pass, and then, perhaps, we can afford to beat a few swords into spinning centrifuges and fuel tanks and plasma drives. Saturn by '70 is a lost opportunity. Saturn by '17 is not. And there are many, many other difficult, bold, audacious and magnificent things we can do when our confidence and vision are in full flower.

We can do them all. We can.







The bloom of American flags after September 11th shocked and horrified many of those who fervently wished such sentiments had gone the way of the Apollo program. We learned much on that awful day. I learned that our pride was waiting, just beneath the surface. It had been there the whole time.

Some people reading this were too young to remember what America was like in the late seventies. Moon landing? Been there, done that. We had just come off of a bitter, endless, pointless war. We had seen riots, assassinations, inflation, stagnation, and international impotence. The Office of the President had been tainted by scandal and treachery, lies and cover-ups, and frankly seemed never to recover. We were weak, we were scared, we were worried and we were timid. We were, in fact, much like I had been in that nightclub, immobilized by fear of failure. The idea that we could succeed at something great and noble had the saccharine taste of nostalgia. Our vision had left us. Our confidence was shot to pieces, lying in a rice paddy, below a Book Depository, in the kitchen of an LA hotel, and inside a DC condominium.

Then along came this man, this former lifeguard, and right off the bat, he had the brazen confidence to say something like this:

'The Democrats say that the United States has had its days in the sun, that our nation has passed its zenith. They expect you to tell your children that the American people no longer have the will to cope with their problems, that the future will be one of sacrifice and few opportunities. My fellow citizens, I utterly reject that view.'

And it was all uphill from there.

'Millions of individuals making their own decisions in the marketplace will always allocate resources better than any centralized government planning process.'

What does that mean? It means that a planning commission in Paris or Washington may think they know more about how to run a gas station than the man who runs the gas station.

But they don't. And this:

'How do you tell a communist? Well, it's someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-communist? It's someone who understands Marx and Lenin.'

Brilliant. I honestly used to think this man was an idiot. If all I wrote in my entire life was a single line that pithy and on-target, I'd be deliriously happy. And this:

'Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because the U.S. was too strong.'

I don't know about you, but I'm speechless.

Shelby Foote, writing in his immortal trilogy, The Civil War, describes Lincoln's power to write and communicate as music, as in, 'And then the Lincoln music began to sound.'

Ronald Reagan had that music. We hear in it again and again, that one pure note of confidence, the belief that what we are doing is right.

'Putting people first has always been America's secret weapon. It's the way we've kept the spirit of our revolution alive '- a spirit that drives us to dream and dare, and take great risks for a greater good.'

I'll fight for that. I'll fight for that idea of humanity. I will, so help me God.

And for anyone who loves this nation and this ideal, what can we say about America that can compare to this image:

'I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here'

'After 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home."

Note to the worried: Our music sings Come here and prosper, not go out and pillage.

I was one of those pilgrims, hurtling through the darkness of my own ignorance, towards this home we share and love so deeply. It's good to be home, at last.

Ronnie, forgive me. I'm sorry. I just had no idea at all.

And if that Lady in White is reading this: Drop me an e-mail. I'll knock you off your feet.

Posted by Proteus at February 23, 2003 11:39 PM







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Comments



Bill,

Great essay...best one so far, IMO. I was going to launch into a bit of commentary here, but I think I'll just wait for the inevitable Chomskyite zombie (Chombie?) to show up here in the comment section and try to "refute" or "disprove" you.

P.S. You're right about Russell at MMM. I check his site every day to see what looniness is happening out there in Cloudcuckoo Land. How he endures it all, I'm not sure, but I'm glad that he does...



Wow, if this is the "weak" essay then the strong one must be beyond anything I can imagine. Once again, your writing has amazed me, motivated me, charged me, and driven me. I feel like crying, laughing, breaking out into a loud rendition of "God Bless America" and running around waving an American Flag all at the same time. Thank you!!



Bill, -

First thoughts on reading...

Three quotes from your essay today: -


“We chose to go to the moon. We chose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things; not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” {- President John F. Kennedy -}

“How do you tell a communist? Well, it's someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-communist? It's someone who understands Marx and Lenin.” {- President Ronald Reagan -}

"I’m not fiercely proud to be an American because of my upbringing, or an accident of birth. I read. I think. I make my own judgments. I feel that way based on the evidence." - {Yourself)

IMO, couched behind the Confidence of America, I see a power jealously guarded in all that America is - that of "Discernment". To measure a thing, turn it, and consider again - and only then to act, trusting with confidence in the spirit of the "social experiment" that is America.

The power to do this is truly unique to America - in all other places it is compromised to some degree, for only in America do "the People" have the primacy of rule. (Or leastways the possibility thereof, should they choose to take up the torch)

What America must face now will not be easy, neither the Battles nor the 'self-examination'. But the promised rewards for all the world's peoples are indeed great, and worth the hard effort - careful learning, studied choices - the exercise of discernment - with confidence.

A "quieter" essay. ....Much food for thought.

Thank you, - Power on!

Tiburon

Postscript: - I see you have taken my (and others!) advice and are setting out your lures for the upcoming book! Rats! :-)



Mr. Whittle,

I think the lack of confidence is taught to American kids at a much younger age than University, it starts in grade school when "self esteem" is valued more than true confidence and achievement. Predetermined outcomes, grade inflation, etc set a lot of people up for a harsh fall later when they are unshielded from reality...maybe making them more ripe for self-hatred later? Confidence comes from believing in yourself, and past accomplishments...if you have neither of those then you will either try harder, or come to hate those that do succeed, or are confident.



Bill, I have often said that Peggy Noonan is the best writer working today.

Well, now I have to revise that. She may be the best writer working for pay, but you have stolen her crown, as far as this humble (but strongly opinionated) critic is concerned.

Of course, when you begin selling books, I'll have to revise my opinion once again - and I cannot wait to do so.

Thanks again for another great essay.



Bill, you have risen above the ranks of us scribblers and metamorphosed into a Force of Nature!

When I see those pro-Saddam protestors on TV, I start thinking, "Never trust a military officer (or critic) who's always prepared for the last war - they can get you killed!!" When I participated in the liberation of Kuwait during Desert Storm, I thought I was working to lift the curse of Vietnam, but if anyone voluntarily chooses to cling to such a curse, there's nothing I can do about that.

Thought for today: For every person who writes in encouraging you to publish your essays, there could be dozens of others who may not send you any letters or e-mails at all, but would purchase your book if it were made available to the public.



Sign me up for a copy. Wow. That was great.



Awesome.



Thank you again for a wonderful essay. I was brought up on a steady diet of "Victory at Sea" and WWII documentaries, so I was brought up to believe in America at the greatest nation on Earth. None of my college poli sci professors (and I went to the ultra-liberal University of Wisconsin) was ever going to change my mind about that. I'll make sure that my future children are instilled with that same confidence about their country. Hell, I would also make sure that their future father feels the same way about America as I do!

While our space program may have fallen by the wayside in recent years, I do think it's a mistake to think that our spirit of exploration is gone, or that we've turned our energies just to Playstation and the like. American confidence and ingenuity have created the Internet. Just think about it. We are so confident as a nation that we allow ANYONE to write whatever they want and allow ANYONE to read whatever they want at the touch of a button. That's not Saturn, but it's still damn amazing.

America does have more of a consumer culture now, but that's not a completely negative thing. Iraq may possess weapons of mass destruction, but the American consumer is a weapon of mass consumption. For example, we've used our consumer power to help change South Africa for the better. We can use it now support countries that are actual allies and punish countries that would oppose us.



Another grand slam. I felt like both crying and laughing out loud at many times throughout that essay. With the proper credits, can I just make copies and hand this out on the streets?

I want to finance publication of essays from you, Mr. Den Beste, Vic Hanson, whoever else resonates, into a book and just mail it out to random people. I also want to start a guerilla substitute teacher program to impart this kind of thinking on young learners. My mind never stops working on how to get the message out en masse.

Don't ever stop writing. Thank you!



Mr. Whittle,

Conversational, persuasive, amazing... God can you write!

Your essay "War" was the catalyst that moved me to fully support our upcoming war against Iraq. This is the most accessible, reasoned and persuasive argument against "Transnational Progressivism" I've read.

Man, you rock. Get that book published. I want a copy.



Can I just interrupt the back-patting club to ping a contrarian note?

Without a doubt, the Reagan lagacy is that of returning confidence to the USA. My problem with the guy is that so much of his quotes were empty lip service.

At the end of his time in office, SS taxes were increased to make up for Reagan's early cuts so that by the time he left office, taxes were higher than when he went in. Spending never decreased...

And then he re-ignited the war on drugs, ensuring the imprisonment of millions of non-violent victimess "criminals". Now, regardless of how you personally feel about drugs and about the war on them, it is decidedly NOT an approach that respects "millions of individuals making their own decisions". It is "putting people first" by rewarding their decision, good or bad, by imprisoning them... and using billions upon billions of centrally-planned federal tax dollars to do so.

Hypocracy? SURE it is -- even if you've gone as far as you can to convince yourself otherwise. A free country respects the decisions of its own people -- even and ESPECIALLY when those decisions are bad ones.

It's equally as hypocritical as those who would fight for the bill of rights while excepting the second amendment. We cannot fight to free millions of people overseas while we fight to restrict the choices of people at home. I LOVE how the current fight has been framed correctly as freedom versus tyranny, but only if that means we continue to be eternally vigilant against tyrannies on the home front, whether they come from our political friends or our political foes.



Mmmuuusssttt bbbuuuyyy bbbooooookkk



Just a brief word, Bill.

Awesome, as usual. Thanks.



I'm running out of adjectives to describe your essays, Bill. Fantastic. Moving. Heartening. Inspiring. Thought-provoking.

Thank you.



Awesome essay, Bill, with two glaring errors, both to do with the protesters, then and now.
You say that the protesters of today sap our confidence. I say that Americans who managed to see the signs these yahoos were carrying (most of them weren't shown on television for some odd reason) were enraged, not frightened or persuaded. The Americans who voted for Mr. bush, for that matter the ones who came to support and respect him post 9/11/01, are quietly and bitterly angry about being equated with Nazis. I suspect that support for an invasion to free Iraq increased since those Stalinist orgies.
The '60s and '70s demonstrations were not right, ask the millions of Vietnames who fled to America. In the afterlife, ask those who were murdered by the Communists or the thousands who died trying to escape in leaky, overloaded boats. Ask the million Cambodians murdered by the Pol Pot regime. Ask the now bald and fat Marines who, like I did, saw the shallow mass graves in Hue.
The demonstrators now, and then, are as wrong as the Flat Earth Society, only more evil. They are not merely wrong, they are actively seeking to keep millions of human beings subject to barbaric regimes that use murder, torture and rape as instruments of social policy. The protesters were despicable then, they are worse now, history has shown the results of their success, bodies stacked upon bodies.
The 'antiwar' will lie and try to say all kinds of pious platitudes, the millions of voiceless dead beg for the refutation of those lies. Dead men do tell tales, the tale they are telling is that resistance to the barbaric regimes and their 'antiwar' apologists is crucial.
The 'antiwar will come on and try to refute this. The proof of their lie is their utter silence when Mr. Clinton was flinging bombs and cruise missiles over half the damned world.
This one gets my full name.
Peter W. Davis, Wills Point, Texas.



Another great essay Bill. I was like you, a cynical, disallusioned, product of the university system. President Reagan's greatest gift to me was his vision of America and the seed of patriotism that grew and bloomed in my heart in September 2001.




Damn, my brother, that was good.

No. That was music.



To all those anti-American, pro-tyranny, anti-freedom marchers, I say "Imagine No America". Then name one way in which humanity and the world would be in better condition.



"Each individual immigration, from the native Indians crossing the Bering Straight, through Plymouth Rock, Staten Island and LAX"

Think you mean "Ellis Island", but that's my only quibble.



Mr. Whittle,

Your Columbia essay made me hang my head in shame. Not for its eloquence, but for the fact that I never served in uniform (ill-health is not a comforting excuse to me). But I loved it just the same.

What I really thank you for, though, is to confess that - like me - you were once a young liberal "idiot" too, who then grew up. It definitely made me feel not alone. Thanks for that. I'm buying your book.



Chinese footprints on the moon - opening day of the Beijing Olympics, summer 2008.

You read it here first.



Hey Undertoad, here's a political history pop quiz:

According to the Constitution, where MUST all spending bills originate?

Which party had control of Congress when Reagan tried to implement his tax cuts?

"Smells like bacon... Oh, hi Senator Byrd!"



Undertoad -

Spending never decreased - with a Democratically controlled congress - that broke every spending agreement they ever made.

Revenues, however, increased markedly.



Some friends of mine live in Nappa. They have a few acres of land with some very good grapes, and make a hundred cases of wine a year, mostly to give away. It's some of the most wonderful stuff I've ever had, but according to them it's no better than OK.

When they have people over to dinner, or go out to someone else's home there's a strange etiquette. It doesn't matter how good the wine is, you never get enthusiastic about it. In an area where the neighbor might have made some of the world's best, being effusive would get old quick. So when you have a sip of the nectar of the Gods, a vintage that can change lives and bring about world peace, you just say "Nice wine. Not bad."

Nice post, Bill.



Another great essay. I grew up in the seventies, and started becoming politically "aware" during the Carter years. Reagan had been President for one year when I started high school. My initial leanings were definately leftward-it was self evident to me that America was in decline. Nixon, Viet Nam, hideous inflation, gas lines, Iran, the military debacle at Desert One. I thought reading anything I could about Che and Castro would make me more authentic.

But at my high school were two students who really stood out. They were Laotion refugees, who could barely speak english and wore Good Will clothes. Paradoxically to me, both these guys aced every subject with ease. One day on a lark I got to talking with one of them, and he told me of his journey to our country; a spellbinding and harrowing tale of hiding in the jungle from soldiers, surviving on insects and whatever else they could scavange, a year at a refugee camp, and finally making it here. It radically altered my perspective, to say the least. Here I was thinking suburbia was hell-how pathetic.

I'm going to let my son, whose know as old as I was then, read some of your essays. I would love to buy him your book.



Bingo! Nice one!

It's very hard for Americans to really grasp just how confident we really are compared to the Europeans. Even little things - like sports stadiums. We argue over the merits of a covered stadum. In France, they don't think it's possible.

I suspect that this, more than anything else, is why we are so detested. Our attitude is, "The difficult we do immediately. The impossible just takes longer." Their attitude is, "The difficult costs too much to do. The impossible is just plain impossible."

But as Caligula said, "Let them hate us. So long as they fear us."



I found the link that brought me here over on InstaPundit. This is the first essay of yours that I've read.

Thank you for writing it.

I grew up with an awareness of and belief in patriotism long before Sept. 11th, have been and continue to be proud of a family history of military service, and have traveled extensively in Europe and elsewhere. I have seen for myself places where things are not quite so comfortable as they are here, and have spoken with those who have lived under unpleasant regimes (e.g. East Germany prior to the Berlin Wall's fall). I have learned to value America highly.

I now live among a community of friends who-- recent events have revealed-- do not share many of these views. It was quite a surprise to find such sentiments here at home, more difficult than I ever expected it to be, and so I very much understand the crisis of confidence to which you refer. I will be sharing your essay with them, and I appreciate reading your thoughts.



Hey whiney, hand-wringing, bleeding heart:

Getcha some of that!



Damn you Bill. I really didn't feel like spending 25 bucks. Now I have to.



Woo-hoo!!!!!!!! Another bulls-eye, Bill. I cannot wait for your book, because I want one for myself and for my dad, who was a history teacher. Capitalism RULES!!! Thanks for making my day (again).



You and deBeste are the top two reasons I will never start a blog. The entire thing would consist of links to you two!



That was amazing.

In fact, I think it even cured my hangover.

Thank you.

Scott, Austin TX



Nice work, Bill. And don't be too discouraged by the rantings of liberal trolls who *can't even spell* (another tribute to the pedantic, pretentious, politicized, and poorly performing public education system).



Another great essay Bill. I almost want to say I wish every American was a clone of you, but that would detract from what makes us unique and free. A contradiction in and of itself, but a compliment nonetheless.

I read this(http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/2684329.stm) article recently and it gave me hopes that our space program might finally make the leap towards the next level of space exploration. I wonder, just how much our economy would benifit, from a rock filled with platinum the size of Texas.



Bill,

Thanks for giving me things to read that make more sense than a barrel of monkeys (which is hard to do... I mean.. they're monkeys).

Keep it up, yadda yadda, can't wait to read the book, yadda yadda, I'm not worthy, yadda yadda. Cheers.



I am constantly astonished by your writing, and I must echo others - if this was the WEAK essay, then I'll buy the book just to read the one you didn't consider weak.

I am so wishing that I hadn't been in a rush on Friday - I was in NYC to do something, and had a VERY tight schedule. On the corner of 8th and 34th (NY'ers know where I'm talking about), there were people handing out fliers as to why we should inspect Iraq into submission. I intentionally picked up one that had the proper treatment (i.e. - I can still see the footprints on it), and read it as I walked. I was SO tempted to go back and tear apart their list to their faces, but my appointment was more important to me.

I'm waiting for the next time I see someone equate Bush with Hitler. I guarantee you I'm gonna tear 'em a new one.



I was a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1998-2000 in a small northeastern village in Romania. I suppose one of my most vivid memories was when an old farmer discovered that I was an American. His face brightened and said "what took you so long?...we have been waiting for you since 1945". Romania's revolution took place in 1989, and even after 10 years under a "democracy", he was still ecstatic to be seated next to an American. That message didn’t really sink in until I discovered what the majority of Romanians went through during the Cold War. Secret police files were being opened for the first time while I was serving. I think we will hear similar quotes from thousands of liberated Iraqis. We will have to explain to the heartbroken that their mother, father, brother or sister could have been saved in the early days of 2003...but their liberators fell victim to the influence of those who forgot history. A war to free the innocent victims in Iraq is needed TODAY. It is time to stop waiting. We need to free the Iraqis, move on to Iran, then Syria, and push down to Saudi.



As the mother of three boys who is trying to raise her children to be strong and free, and to understand that liberty is worth fighting and dying for, thank you for this essay. I'm going to make it mandatory reading for my sons. Keep writing and spreading the word.



Well done! The reader who commented that instruction in American self-hatred begins well before the college years is quite correct. My children (a senior and a sophomore in high school)have, for years, been coming home from school with some truely bizarre versions of world history. Whenever my husband (a history buff) and I have attempted to offer a different assessment of the events in question, my kids have become very uneasy (nervous, actually). What's going on here? I can remember debating and questioning my mother (respectfully)about past and current events, and I never felt nervous about listening to a different opinion. My reaction was - bring it on! - and then I'd happily trot off to school ready to debate (respectfully)the teacher.



Sometimes the best response is a smile and a nod of the head. I'm doing that now.



Wonderful essay.

But I, too, must disagree with you about the protestors hanging around from Vietnam. They were wrong then, and their cowardice led to the deaths of over a million innocent people. They are still protesting the US today because to do otherwise would be to admit they were wrong, and they can't, or won't, do that.

They must hate America, and American power, because otherwise they would have to hate themselves.



Q Max, Bill! I linked over from Glenn's Instapundit, you made my week!



Some of the Vietnam protestors believed than an American victory over the North Vietnamese would be an injustice to the Vietnamese people, who would be made worse off by being deprived of the benefits of a Communist government.

Those protestors were full of shit.

But others simply argued that American involvement in the Vietnam War, and especially the practice of drafting unwilling participants into that war was an injustice to Americans.

They were not full of shit.



I don't think our goal in Vietnam was wrong. I do think that we fought that war as badly as it was possible to do. If we couldn't commit to winning -- and we couldn't -- then it was time to get out.

That's why I think the protestors were right. We threw our best people into that mess with no plan and no goal. I support getting out of a mess like that. If that was how we were going to fight, then we shouldn't have gone at all.

If, on the other hand, we had gone in to WIN...



That was a great essay. I love that you hit on one of the most patriotic feelings of being American: If not us, then who?

Those on the left, who hate our freedoms and our democracy, will never fight to support liberty. They would not lay their lives on the line for their own freedom much less for the people of a faraway third world police state, and they become jaded knowing that others would.

"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it"
Thomas Paine, 1776

We know that the left will not support freedom; therefore it falls on us to do so.



There is something really odd -- not at the core, but on the skin. You wrote a great post, but for some reason you had to dis "the Vietnam protestors". And folks piled on.

Let me get this straight. People got arrested, teargassed, and beat up marching in the streets, because they said the McNamara and LBJ and, later, Nixon and Kissinger lied about the war. And now, 30 and 40 years later it turns out -- they were right. McNamara himself conceded that.

Just how, exactly, were the protestors wrong? Or even unpatriotic? I remember a guy (one of the three organizers of the Moratorium) who got his start during Freedom Summer in Mississippi. After the fall of Saigon, he was one of the first to photo-document the Khmer Rouge genocide.

Stand beside people when you measure their size.

I don't take a back seat to anybody as a patriot. But I don't think ya gotta whitewash America to love it, nor throw mud on honest people to prove you're righteous: do you?



Bill,

Fine piece of writing, sir. Thank you.



What an incredible essay. And this is the weak one?

This should be given to every history and social studies student in the country.

And sign me up for the book, too.



Bill,

Outstanding article - again. I'll echo the post above that you are one of the reasons I won't start a blog. I simply couldn't compete or say things half as well as you.


Orion



Sir,
Reading your essay was an emotional experience. I want to buy your book, and I will make my three kids read this essay. If this is the weak one, I will need a complete cardiac workup and admission to ICU after reading a strong one. You have convinced me to abandon any pretense to writing for pay in the future. If it is any consolation, the muscular confidence your lamented still exhists in the military. Astounding writing, Jim



Bill--

My father was in the US army for 20 years. He fought in WWII and Korea. No one in his right mind would have called my father a liberal, but he was against the Vietnam war for the same reasons you have expressed, that being that if we were not over there to WIN, which means the systematic and total destruction of the enemy, then we shouldn't be over there at all.



That was a classic essay! Thank you, sniff, sniff.



"I ask you again: Where are the Iraqis?"

The same place that social workers were in 1996, during welfare reform. Not for it.

The reason is analogous. War in Iraq will probably be good for the Iraqi people (ignoring the dead and maimed ones). It is bad for the American people. Why? It is costly, for one, but mainly because it exposes us as a hegemonic power; hegemons attract terrorism. We should not be trying to attract terrorism. We should be trying to avoid it. Pushing around the world is not in the interest of America as a whole. It can, of course, be in the interests of American subgroups (oil service companies; the military-industrial complex, to name two). And it can be in the interest of foreigners.

The question, for an Iraqi, is easy enough. Why liberate yourself, at prohibitive cost in money and lives, when you can get a big dumb government to do it for you - all expenses paid? The question for Americans, I think, is not so cut and dried. Charity warfare is not the mission of the US government. The mission of the US government, I should remind people, is to establish justice for Americans, to ensure domestic tranquility among Americans, to provide for the common defense of Americans, to promote the general welfare of Americans, and and secure the blessing of liberty - to Americans. Not to the world.

We should not be invading the world for charity. No matter how bad a foreign state is, we should only be using military force against it if the benefit to Americans is greater than the cost.

The message from the Bush administration to the world is increasingly clear: "get nukes or we'll push you around". North Korea has already answered the call. Iran will within a few years. Perhaps Egypt will be next. These are regimes we want to have nukes? This proliferation makes it increasingly likely that nuclear devices will fall into the hands of terrorists. We should not be encouraging nuclear proliferation; we should be opposing it by the only effective means: peace. War, as a means to prevent proliferation, is foolish. Regimes do not give up weapons when they feel threatened. They get more and better weapons.

Undertaking to invade the world for democracy (or whatever) may be a fine cause. But it should not be funded on my tax dollar, nor with soldiers and weapons which are supposed to be defending me - not riling up foreigners to hate me. The result of such hatred, in a nuclear armed world, is going to be nuclear terrorism. By pushing around the world now, we are increasing the probability that the first nuclear terrorist attack is against New York, or LA, or Washington. This is not wise.

Let those that wish to liberate Iraq do it privately. Set up a charity to collect money. Set up a volunteer army for people to join, or hire some mercenaries. That is, if you have, shall I say, the confidence of your convictions. I suspect, though, that few people (if any) of those reading this would contribute much to a charity army trying to remove Saddam Hussein. Certainly not the many thousands (on average) that you are currently paying in taxes, which goes to the Pentagon. I also suspect that few of you (if any) would volunteer for such duty. That you people are happy to liberate Iraq only with my tax dollar tells me all I need to know about your "confidence".



...(sorry - second post - but...): -

concerning the "high frontier" and towards an "educated imagination" =
The HighLift people have redone their home page graphic with a nice watercolour

They say Ten Billion Dollars ($US) to first payload. Confidence, anyone? (Bill GATES, where are you?!)

http://www.highliftsystems.com/



OH, and to "Leonard", just above. Commies pray every night to their god, (themselves) - for "utopians" like you to prosper.

You just don't get it, do you.

What you have written is morally reprehensible - It was mistakes by the "West", of which undeniably the US is a part, that have led to Iraq, North Korea, et.al., acquiring these weapons. What? Now we just wash our hands and go home???!!!

What you have written is also the height of illogic (or as said above - a pollyanna-ish "utopianism") - Have you the faintest idea of what it is to live under a fascist dictatorial regime? You think all it takes is money and lives to 'rise up'? You remind me of the folks who criticize retroactively the concentration camp inmates, who with bellies well full from the grass they ate last week's meal, were to rise up and rush the electrified wire and machinegun towers. Are you on the same planet as the rest of us, Leonard? Or are you by nature just a cold and cruel (but oh so proud) isolationist - Fortress America and all our problems will just go away.

What you have written is also supremely uneducated. Have you no DISCERNMENT? Your little "essay" is chocker with platitudes, but do you ever really examine anything you write? WHEN, EVER in the entire recorded history (oops, excuse me - history means it was recorded - heh!) of humankind, has a group of people had something, treasure, land, resources - and been able to defend it without being prepared for battle - and by battle I mean GOING TO THE ENEMY WHEN REQUIRED? Or perhaps you would prefer to duke it out in Riverdale. Maybe you would. Good feeling that, just really fulfill your defeatist and guilt-ridden world view, eh? And I reel with vertigo when I hear people like you espouse the view that of all people - Islamic Fundamentalists! - will not come a-knockin' if we just "leave them alone". Have you ever read a single solitary book about Islam, Leonard? (Coles notes and/or the apologist historical revisionist crap that's out there now doesn't cut it - sorry)

Get it, Leonard, now or later. The world HAS gone Global. US is alpha male. As Edmund Burke so aptly explains to those whose ears are not stuffed with wax - peace proceeds out of ORDER. You wanna rewrite the rules? Go up to the hills and build your own community. That's still allowed here in America.

And I feel ridiculous for having to point out the obvious here - but where is it NOT in America's direct interest to have order, and thus peace, at the wellheads of our chief foreign sources? If this results in more Freedom and Opportunity and Safety for several tens of millions of people, people like you are just gonna have to choke on it.

What a waste of bytes this is - It's obvious to me (oh..."IMO"), that Bill's essay just went completely over dear Leonard's head.

Please see my post above, fellow sane commentators - I find it helps to take the taste of defeatism out of my mouth...



Thanks, Bill



Another nice essay, and your still working on the "C"s! (Courage, Confidence). One democrat web-site recently went nuts ranting about the dangers of private space-launch firms landing equipment on the moon, saying it could destabilize the moons orbit and send it crashing into the Earth. Some outlooks produce people who are afraid to do ANYTHING, and will even cling to physically impossible outcomes to justify their fears.

Kind of like Leonard's post above, where he argues can't use the military to do anything that might piss anybody off. I guess they should just guard the Canadian border or something. That's just letting childish fears produce inaction. If we went for his future of privately funded right-wing mercenary armies, does anyone think the left would go along?



Sir,
After reading various articles from pro-war and anti-war perspectives, something becomes clear about the dialogue. It's not a dialogue, but rather just differing groups talking within themselves. The real points of disagreement are never really brought out to the forefront.
For example, few people will argue that America is not a great place to live. Few people will argue that the American public are not generous and well-intentioned. Few people will argue against the American founders' ideas of liberty and government by the people. These are not points of contention.
Disagreements arise on very different matters, but unfortunately, no one seems to write about them.
One of the central issues is the degree to which we can trust our leaders. Many people would trust our leaders when they say that they want to spread democracy. Others do not trust them - and for reasons they claim are historical fact.
Another crucial matter is the possibility that the war may do more harm than good by further tarnishing America's image, by provoking more terrorist attacks, and by decreasing international cooperation. The anti-warriors are guilty of assuming worst-case answers to these questions, just as pro-war writers are guilty of assuming best-case answers.
Everyone would be best served by open-minded discussion of these and other crucial specific issues - because the real disagreements lie within.
The freedom of speech and expression is a characteristically American freedom. It is great to hear everyone using our freedom to discuss and argue important issues. It would be ideal, however, for people to start speaking to others who disagree with them and to start speaking about the particular bones of contention.





I am utterly speechless. That was perfect. I'll buy the book, but you need your own TV show.

I am reminded of a conversation I recently had with an extremely liberal client (the beneficiary of a nice trust) wherein I raised many of the same points (though far less eloquently). When I got to the point about the role of communists in the anti-war movement, her response was, "What's wrong with communists? Why are you so against communists?"

I am filled with doubt with respect to many things; communism isn't one of them. But how sad that somone who had enjoyed AMERICAN freedom and prosperity could even ask that question.

I doubt she ever heard the music.



Bill, the only way I can give your essay the compliments it deserves- for the compliments to make any sense- is to go over it brick by brick:

I can remember the years of being a young, naive, pup: I'm still IN those years. Beauty, a wicked tongue, and a woman who project unimaginable, seductive power across the room? Been there, done that. However the hell your friend worked up the sheer brazen audacity to tear through her there on the dance floor, probably neither of us know. Can people DO that in real life, can newbies move up to women who can be as cruel as pretty, and say the right thing with the right attitude to get her to like you? Forgive me if I seem weak, but I STILL can't fathom that kind of super-sized, awesome confidence, to hang back after a shoot-down and try a shot of my own. Just say "to hell with it" and put out an attack of your own to show someone they aren't invincible? I can immediately tell, this is going to be one hell of a lesson in the value of confidence.

When you talk about the moon, the seeds of the doubt (what doubt? I'll get to that) are planted. America is thiiiiiiiiiiiis big: America can conquer space. Sure, the Soviets paved the way in space, but AMERICA is the one who relentlessly, implacably pushes the boundaries of space exploration. Other people have the ability, so why don't they do off to make these attacks? Confidence? Is THAT the reason Canada's hugest space accomplishment has ben the Canadarm? It would be like us, wouldn't it: incredibly useful and hella reliable, but at the end of the day JUST NOT ENOUGH to satisfy the infinite dreams and infinite possibilites of people who accept ZERO limitations on their own potential.

And so as you go on, talking about how America's strength is created by fulfilling these desires for people to prove how good they are, and find the happiness which has always eluded them. Does a government program need to be created called the Happiness Enabling Act? GOD NO: just ask EVERYONE in your nation who had a friend who helped them out at a critical time. Ask anyone who had the luck of finding someone's attention to tell them about how skilled/ pretty/ brilliant/ hardworking you are, so hire them, dammit! Ask anyone who had that one flash of inspiration to make a product to change lives: or who keeps having flashes of clarity and understanding, which are then transcribed to text on the Internet to change thousands of lives in the last three months. :) America GIVES HAPPINESS JUST LIKE IT IS, no matter how many socialists want to say otherwise. To the point where not merely America's "economic power", but the American dream, gets into the heads of every last person on Earth and offers them all they've ever wanted. People in black defying gravity, cheap food with a nice taste, and POWER OVERWHELMING: power people can't even hope to explain without bringing up "exploitation." Yet when the naysayers look at America's true brilliance, invention, and confidence? What can ANSWER possibly say to that?

I'm thankful that you don't like seeing brown people die. ("Vut about tha Hindus?" has been one of my fave quotes since July 2000, even though I'm Catholic. But I digress.) You quite nicely summarize what the America-loving optimists of the world believe: that America wouldn't oppress Iraq just for the hell of it. Just for a bit of oil, when they have more money than millions more people than themselves combined. Maybe even "more money than God" as my namesake put it. They just wouldn't, it doesn't make SENSE.

But then you talk about the horror of America actually losing in this fight for hearts and minds. Even when people enjoy all the spoils of America, they fear, envy, maybe even HATE its personality. Is this possible? So many of my friends, yes FRIENDS, feel badly about the war, even though it is necessary. Judith, for one, had a little poster on the front of her binder for the "Campaign to Stop the War in Iraq."

(For those who don't know the effect on me: Picture Margaret Thatcher kissing a portrait of Joseph Stalin, or Churchill saying that Hitler was not that bad a bloke. It amounts, on a very personal level, to about the same thing. I've already lost two girls to an INABILITY to convince them of the necessity of my politics- I'll be damned if I lose her affection, too.)

Then you talk about the line, which you carve in STONE, between the honest protestors who feared the evil things we had to do to fight a desperate defensive action in Vietnam, versus the EVIL (and I'm thankful you used the terms you did) Communists who subscribe to an ideology that has scourged the entire planet in even more bloodier and total ways than Hitler did. You don't need to play the Red Alert series to understand: even the mild version of Stalin, where he sexually abuses a female staff officer and strangles a comrade officer to death for failing to note an Allied Radar Dome is chilling- ESPECIALLY when you remember that this is outright tame for Communism. All that suffering... all that death... whatever America has done is NOTHING compared to this. You take the well-deserved shots at the sponsors of these attacks on America, and exhort ALL Americans to consider the source, and consider the track record, of the people who hate what America IS.

You go right on swinging, hitting the EU and their elitist syncophants so hard they fall right to the floor. You move through them without even blinking, and state:

America may not be perfect. But we are the BEST. We will help anyone who earns it- not welfare, but WHAT WE HAVE. Join our cause now!

You tell us about your feelings for Reagan and his ideology- feelings I shared when I was 15, I'm sorry to say- then tell us about someone who TRULY lived under communism? "The best alternative to capitalism," they called it: what did the Hentai Reviewer say? Saying that communism is a good alternative "is sort of like saying that cup of concentrated carbolic acid you just drank was the best cup of concentrated acid you've ever had." And every day, I'm still thankful that I never have to violate my principles by pretending to ignore the arguments against Communism, and support the system that delivers justice and prosperity to ALL who are willing to pay the price.

Don't worry about THIS college student, Mr. Whittle- I'm not giving up. I'm still dreaming big, and I'm still going to do what I KNOW will help people, instead of lending my relatively meagre powers to people who would usher in a Soviet Canada/ America.

Your essay convinced me of something: why live in a society where you're held back? The "laws of physics" and what everyone thinks they know about America JUST CAN'T HOLD AMERICA BACK. You guys are truly AMAZING in a way a country that devotes itself to stability and security cannot.

The seeds of doubt in the smug anti-Americanism, this constant thought that the "barbarians are always at the gate," the smug presence of idiots like Rick Salutin and Heather Mallick representing the government opinion so sit down and listen to your betters CONSTANTLY grates on me. I tried saying that Canadians are Marines with UN cred at my blog. But with a government, with an cultural construct like what we have now, I have to admit something.

I feel AMERICAN. I wanna be like your country. And the restraints of the "system" that will perpetually keep it from flourishing here, resorting to constant attacks every DAY on what simple, helpful, KIND conservatism is, simply aren't cutting it.

You know me: admitting Canada isn't #1 is nothing short of a grievous wound to my book. But I love what America stands for more. If that means I lose the security I've got right now for a culture don't know HOW well I'll perform in:

So be it, eh?



That's how words are supposed to be used.

For what it's worth, I have no intention of letting Apollo be the apex of American achievement. There's a universe full of interesting places out there, and the least we owe each is a personal visit.

Besides, Apollo was kind of prissy. We can't end on that note. This time, let's go to the stars with Athena...and let's stay.



From your "young Padwan," Bill...

WOW. There are no other words. Just, wow.

And Leonard:
We *are* a hegemonic power. And it's not really a secret. We've clealy already attracted terrorism without "doing anything" (and I'm not even going to entertain the argument that it's possible to do something to deserve the deaths of any innocent people).

If we refuse to address the issue of terrorism and the problem with Saddam, then who will? France?

The truth is that if we don't address threats to our security - there is no one who will.

Please give me a good reason why we shouldn't be using American tax money to protect Americans.



Just a reminder to those in favor of "liberating" Iraq:

What is the post-conflict strategy in Iraq? If it isn't aggressively geared toward political and economic development, we are in danger of leaving the Iraqis worse off. UNICEF and WHO have concurred that half a million Iraqis would require medical attention after an invasion. 10,000 Iraqis could die from dislocation-caused exposure to measles. Measles! It's an 80-cent vaccine. Simple to prevent those deaths. But will the US make it part of the post-conflict agenda?

I would agree that regime change could be better for the Iraqis if the example of Afghanistan didn't look so bleak. Have Afghani lives improved? I read a report that the US sent 400,000 textbooks to Afghanistan, but how many schools have we built post-conflict to house students? How many teachers have we trained to instruct them without foisting extremist overtures? How much local governance have we established to ensure that funding for education does just that?

The data doesn't support the idea that the US is "liberating" Afghanistan. In fact, the Bush Administration's budget this year allocated $0--they simply forgot (or we should hope)--for aid to rebuild Afghanistan. And now we're going to "liberate" Iraq too?

I hope I hear you folks itching for war out screaming for funding to rebuild Iraq after the bombs rain down. I hope this talk about liberation isn't just a veiled attempt to legitimize constabulary intervention when other methods are possible to ensure American safety.

We are the greatest state in the world, so long as we act like it. I love this country. I would question protestors too if I was 100% certain the Bush Administration would be there to implement a Marshall Plan-style renovation of Iraq. The data from Afghanistan suggests otherwise.



Micheal: -
I'm uncertain whether this is the forum to discuss these matters - the thread has primarily been dealing with the direct issues that Bill has raised in his essay. I'd request that if he wishes, he act as moderator in this regard.
That said, there are two principal points you make in your essay, the first of which I believe IS centrally addressed in the essay "Confidence".

First: -
"One of the central issues is the degree to which we can trust our leaders. Many people would trust our leaders when they say that they want to spread democracy. Others do not trust them - and for reasons they claim are historical fact."

Bill speaks about the 'corruption' of academia, I'll not go into more detail and presuppose you read his essay closely. What is the answer to your first question, then? Let me turn to Professor Paul Eidelberg, and draw an excerpt from an essay he published today - "A Question of Decency".


"Modern political science, like the social sciences in general, propagates the doctrine of moral relativism. According, political science, like sociology, anthropology, psychology, and criminology, provides no rational foundation for decency. Traceable to Machiavelli, modern political science reduces politics to an egotistical struggle for power. In fact, students in colleges and universities are taught that politicians use such notions as the “common good” or the “public interest” as a façade to advance their own personal interests. Don’t expect higher education to cultivate decency."

"Now, it so happens that any social science that propagates moral relativism removes one moral constraint on the behavior of public officials. Hundreds of federal, state, and local officials in the United States are convicted each year on federal corruption charges. Surely the doctrine of moral relativism, which permeates every level of education in the democratic world, cannot but contribute to this corruption."
[......]
"This dogma, ever trumpeted by the media, is symptomatic of the prevalence of moral relativism in the democratic world. It is precisely because all expressions of opinions about good and bad are morally equal (and must therefore be tolerated in a democracy) that hardly anyone takes opinions seriously."

I believe it would be fair to say, Micheal - and believe it would also prove out in demographic analysis, - that the overwhelming majority of the anti-war protestors are either a direct product of this educational phenomena, or are in fact among it's leading promulgators. As absent a 'moral compass' in political analysis, these individuals are constrained (speaking generally, of course) in their ability to entertain discussion of consequence on this central issue you identify, or many of the other issues that arise out of the present conflict.

Secondly: -
"Another crucial matter is the possibility that the war may do more harm than good by further tarnishing America's image, by provoking more terrorist attacks, and by decreasing international cooperation."

Here, Micheal, I am struggling to understand why you believe this issue would, in a serious debate, even "rise above the radar".

- America's image will be as equally boosted among those who support her now, for demonstrating concerted purpose, and I cannot imagine who you are referring to, whose image of America would be worse following war. Arab totalitarian regimes? France/Germany/Belgium? It seems pretty clear in an objective view of the data, that these groups already view America in the worst possible light.

- "Provocation (of) more terrorist acts" I think all informed folk would agree is likely. America is now on notice, in any case. But is it possible to even realistically contemplate the alternative? With unchecked might in the hands of our sworn enemies, America would indeed become the "paralyzed giant", served up for the 'death of a thousand cuts'. As on March 7th, 1938, when Hitler re-militarized the Rhineland, Saddam Hussein has bespoken his intentions when he ejected the inspection regime in 1998. The consequences of such an act were clearly spelled out in the agreements terminating hostilities following the Gulf War. A response is overdue if all "collective security" is not to be rendered a complete joke internationally.

Which brings us to the last aspect of your curious "major issue" in the war/no war debate:

- "Decreasing international cooperation". WHAT "international cooperation"?

I must agree with you that dialogue on the war is critical. Your first question is of some import - though I can't see any easy answers to it's resolution. Trust in government is a two-way street, it requires education and historical awareness, and vigilance - participation in the political process, and from the inside. Certainly I know it is a very central concern of most 'warbloggers' that America will be seen to follow through after the military engagement, and be prepared to spend the time and resources to bring the Iraqi people into the light. (or better, consistently enable them to do so, themselves) Thus I cannot say I discern much 'blinkered' support for the Administration in this matter, on either side. However, the 'warblogger' side is engaged with the issues, not, forgive me, in some fantasy socialist denial state.
Your second issue, well - I just don't see it as an issue worth a lot of discussion. There is an incredibly difficult job to do now, - sooner to it, sooner done.



Dutch? - I'm getting off this thread now - I've taken enough space and time [:-D] But your statement that the US is giving $0 for rebuilding Afganistan is a terrible falsehood, my friend.
I'll let others give you the links to the TRUE data...{hundreds of millions $}...it was all over the blogs a few days ago...



My young friend Trevalyan first caught my attention when he blasted me for making fun of Canadians. He is a Canadian patriot. I understood him instantly.

I talked a little about the American midnight of the seventies. I suspect Canada is in such an eclipse right now. But eclipses are temporary -- that's what makes them so astounding.

Trev, I have no doubt that people like you will restore that great and good nation which has been the best neighbor anyone could hope for. And when our time again comes for some doubt and confusion, I hope Canada will point us back to our true path, because ultimately, that is what great friends are for.



Wrote yesterday, want five copies. But today I get the impression that the old stuff War, Honor, Empire won't be in it! What! Do we have to print 'em out and keep 'em in a three ring binder? Corse that's what I've done so far, but I was hoping for something she'd let me keep in the living room.



oops! - make that March 7th, 1936 - (the Rhineland)
And Bill - re: - Your comment to Trevalyan.

Thanks.



Looking to get to thirteen essays, Jim. Seven are online. I'll post three more and hold three more. That's the plan, anyway. But every essay you've read here will be in the book.

Actually, come to think of it, maybe I'll get off the essay thing. Maybe the book should be about all the cute things little kitties do...

Yes, I believe I can have that book finished by tomorrow morning. Get out the checkbooks!



What scares me about the current political debate surrounding Iraq is the lack of logic or reason in the arguments against the war. Like you said, “There are many principled, patriotic Americans who are opposed to the Battle of Iraq” but there voices are being drown out by the radical far-left whose arguments degenerate into name calling, twisting around of facts and out-and-out lies in order to support their fanatical stance. In order for us as a nation to be able to determine what the right course of action is we need to have a vigorous internal Socratic debate. But this is not happening because the other side has stepped away from the debate in order to engage in a frenzy of epithets and circular logic to the extent that it is like trying to reason with a schizophrenic.

So that said, I don't mean to splash cold water on the love fest here but despite the chest-thumping, hurray for America feeling I get by reading your essay, I still have serious doubts about how actual events will transpire in Iraq if we do ever get around to invading. Although I believe invading Iraq is the right thing to do I have some serious misgivings about how the current administration is advancing the post-war plan. To a certain extent I almost hope that we eventually cave in to the opposition and continue the litany of broken resolutions and ineffective inspectors. It doesn’t seem as though Bush and his administration is that interested in doing the right thing, in that establishing a democracy is no more than an after thought. I think it is naive if any one were to think that transition to a democracy in Iraq will be swift or easy. The transition will take decades and there are many issues that need to be addressed in the interim. There is the fractional tribal mentality of the region that will make it difficult to maintain Iraq as one nation. America is blessed in that it has such a short history but in regions with longer histories there are deeper divides between peoples. Recent history shows us what can happen when regions formerly chained together under autocratic rule are suddenly loosened from their shackles. Old resentments are not forgotten and quickly resurface despite the long friendships formed under a common bondage. Secondly although the Iraqi people will most likely be initially thrilled with the “liberation” of Iraq there will eventually be internal pressure for us to leave, which I believe will be sooner rather than later. The people will be anxious, and understandably so, to exercise their right of self-governance. Additionally Iraq was once a European colony and the longer we stay the more they will begin to worry whether or not they are implicitly allowing themselves to again becoming a colony of a Western nation. So the difficulty as I see it is that by invading Iraq, in the aftermath we will be stuck between a need for a continued military presence to maintain regional stability but yet minimize our influence in the political arena to allow democracy to work as it should. This is a difficult balancing act as the political body and the military arm are intricately connected and dependent - one of most important functions of government is to maintain law and order and defense. There are so many other important issues and influences that need to be considered that it is hard not to go into all of them; Arab culture, religious differences, terrorism, etc.

It is also hard to believe, without a strong post-war plan being put forward, that we will be committed to doing all the work necessary to do the job right. First (hopefully) there will be the plan put forth as to what we should do. Then the Arab theocrats and monarchies will protest because they are worried about what a democracy in Iraq will mean for the stability of the region’s autocratic rulers. Then when the true cost of helping Iraq is presented to Congress and the American Public, both will protest paying out so much money to a another country when we have so many problems here at home which we could use the money for. In the end I am afraid we will do again what we did in 1991 - go half way and stop. We will make so many compromises that we will lose this great opportunity to truly make a difference in the lives of so many people and most likely make a significant impact in the direction of history. We need to make this an unequivocal example to show ourselves and the world what we are really about. It is my hope that this can really be a starting point for our country to start in a new direction. Or rather re-direction back to when we fulfilled our duty after tearing down dictatorial regimes to help build enlightened constitutional governments in their stead. Otherwise if we leave a vacuum of power we run the risk of just allowing another despot to take the place of the last.

To carry your theme one step further I propose that this is a turning point in history which affords us the opportunity to decide, in Kennedy’s spirit of the word, that we will no longer as a principal tolerate a world with dictators, fascisms, autocracies or repressive regimes of any sort. We can not support them to secure US interests or use them as political pawns in an ideological chess game. It is here that we can draw the line in the sand. But if Bush can not step up to the plate and fulfill this role that history is handing him then I would rather we back down from a military solution because otherwise I think Iraq, although most likely successful militarily, will be another political failure, causing as much harm as good. A political win for democracy is needed in Iraq if only to help heal this infection of American self-doubt and loathing but a political loss will only cause it to spread further. The Bush administration does not seem to have a vision for Iraq or at least one they are willing to share yet with the public. It does not seem to understand what a historical role it is playing right now. But like our decision to go to the moon, and to paraphrase Gladiator, what the Bush administration does here will echo in eternity.



Tiburon,

From my post:

"...the Bush Administration's budget this year allocated $0--they simply forgot (or we should hope)--for aid to rebuild Afghanistan."

Absolutely true. It was Congress that, embarassed by the glaring lack of funding for Afghanistan, corrected the mistake.

That data suggests a lack of interest in post-conflict development by the Administration. How can the use of $38B to bombard a state be justified to remove a regime, but $300M begrudged to develop a new one in the interest of state integrity? Even Karzai questioned that one.

The greatest threat to global stability today is state breakdown. It causes conflict and terrorism (look at USSR, Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia/Eritrea, India/Pakistan). Funding to in the name of preventing state breakdown, and therefore terrorism and conflict, would yield a higher ROI and therefore much more advised than funding to remove hostile regimes. But, should the Administration place a precedent on funding conflict to remove hostile regimes, it should make post-conflict development an absolute priority, which it has not in Afghanistan.



What Brian said.



Since I have a rare moment of free time on my hands, let me say I agree that we need to do more in Afghanistan -- right now. The best money we could spend -- morally, politically and defensively -- would be to make Afghanistan look like suburban Ohio: schools, hospitals, even just the basics like water and power.

We are conservatives. We don't like spending tax dollars. But we're already spending them on defense, and if rebuilding these nations costs us money, it's a drop in the bucket compared to a nuclear 9/11 and all of the wars we will have to keep fighting if we allow things to continue to fall apart.

And I especially and emphatically agree with Brian: this is a golden moment. Much of the hatred directed at us comes from the idea that freedom and democracy is great for Americans, but that we think the rest of the world can go to hell. If we fight and die to liberate an enemy, and then spend our time and attention and money rebuilding that enemy intop a modern, successful state, then the results will be ELECTRIC.

If George Marshall were here today he'd be chomping at the bit. If Munich and Chamberlain were lessons in the failure of appeasement, the Marshall Plan is an equally stark one for the value of reconstruction and rebirth.



I think it's well and good to send aid to Afghanistan, but I think at a certain point you get diminishing return for value (near that point). Remember Afghanistan was essentially still in the middle ages. So, to think we can effect a change over night is too optimistic. It took Japan almost 50 years to make the same journey during the Meiji restoration and they were insanely motivated (not to mention the fact that they only had to get to the 1920s).

I think the right way is being taken by focusing on the capital. Create a safe haven, then work to expand the borders of that safe haven.



I can say only one thing in response to "Confidence":

Welcome home, Bill. Nice here, isn't it?

I wish we all had to take the following oath when we reached the ripe old age of 18—the oath that my husband took when he emigrated to this fine country of ours--and one he would die, endure torture, or any pain or suffering to live up to. It bears printing, so we know what our glorious immigrants commit to us. Here's hoping we are all willing to make the same commitment to them:

The Oath of Allegiance

I hereby declare, an oath,

that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen;

that I will support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic;

that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;

that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law;

that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by law;

that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and

that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose or evasion: So help me God.



Thanks, Bill. I had high hopes for Manning, but who knows? Other players are in the wings...

www.prestonmanning.ca

Trust me, intelligence in this country's not dead. I seriously think he'd make an amazing leader. :) :) :)

Anyways, the other thing- helping Afhganistan? We should be careful about HOW we help people: funding weapons, seeming to "favour" other tribes, developing faster than people can actually use things- if we're not careful, we could end up doing damage. Take care not to rip their society apart as we give them what they need: money always brings strife when there's a lot of it.

Take care! :)



About the Vietnam protestors: yes, some of them did protest our being there if we weren't planning to win. However, most of them were pro-Communist, anti-military, anti-American scumbags who spit on returning GIs and POWs and who shamed the country that bore them by their disgraceful words and actions. The reason we didn't go into Vietnam to win was because of the protestors. The politos were worried about public opinion, so they tied the hands of the military and took the decision-making process away from the generals and into the congressional offices, where it should never, ever be. If our armed forces had been allowed to do what needed to be done, we could have, and would have, won in Vietnam, with much less loss of life and a lot fewer men scarred for life by what they have seen and done. My grandfather saw and did things that he still won't talk about--still can't talk about. If I ever meet someone who says that all Vietnam vets are babykillers, etc., I'm going to force-feed him his teeth.
Some of the protestors were righteous objectors. Most of them were not.



Bill, two things:
First my pathetic little blog has a very short blogroll; you're on it for writing so clearly such honest, common sense like this essay.

Second; I want a copy of your book for a graduation present for my son; this spring. He's signing up in the USCG, but only being 18 he needs a bigger view of the world; like yours.



Very moving. Uplifting stuff.



Damn Bill, that was your best one yet. I can't wait for the book.



Demosthenes - you are right. We are a hegemonic power. But we are in many senses. Our lead in the arts and sciences, and other peaceful sorts of hegemony, we can't give up and still be America. Our political hegemony, though, we can easily give up. Pushing around small and weak countries is not related to what is fundamental about America. America is about liberty. In fact depriving others of their liberty is unAmerican, if it is anything at all. (And no I am not talking about current-day Iraq here, but the many places where the USA has emplaced or supported nasty dictators. Including historical Iraq.)

We have clearly attracted terrorism. But it is not from not "doing anything". It is because certain Arab murderers rank us high on their list of problems. Why is that? Could it be because the USA has supported or even installed nearly every regime in the Middle East at some point? Regimes which give their subjects essentially no liberty at all? Regimes which their subjects hate? The Arabs work under a very simple principle: the friend of their enemy is their enemy.

No, the deaths of innocents are not deserved. But they are real. You should not stick your head in the sand. And that goes for deaths on both sides.

You say we must address threats to our security. Well, yes. But what is the threat? Saddam, it is not. None of the states in the middle east seriously threaten us. There is no state in the world that seriously threatens us. (There are some that could, yes - the nuclear powers with ICBMs. But they don't - because we are at peace with them. And even if we were hostile, MAD works against other states. States are deterrable.) Some of the Arab states are middling threats, yes. They (a) generate and fund terrorists, and (b) may develop WMDs (most specifically nukes) which may then leak out to terrorists. Well, my post above is about proliferation. It seems pretty obvious to me. But let me try again:


  1. it is against the interest of any regime to be overthrown
  2. attacking a regime may lead to its overthrow
  3. therefore it is against the interest of any regime to be attacked, or credibly threatened with attack
  4. until recently, preventative wars were not engaged in or threatened by Western nations (part of just war theory)
  5. starting or threatening preventative wars against any regime threatens all similar regimes
  6. Bush et al are trying to start a preventative war against Iraq, because Iraq is "evil" (has a nasty dictator, may have WMDs, etc etc.)
  7. Therefore any "evil" regimes should feel threatened
  8. nuclear weapons will prevent the USA from attacking or credibly threatening to attack
  9. therefore it is in the interest of "evil" regimes to get nuclear weapons
  10. most "evil" regimes are impoverished, corrupt places with strong black markets
  11. it is easier to get contraband of all types in impoverished, corrupt places with strong black markets
  12. nukes will always be contraband
  13. terrorists will only get nukes as contraband
  14. therefore, the possession of nukes by "evil" regimes increases the risk of terrorists getting them.
  15. terrorists are not deterrable
  16. America cannot prevent a nuclear attack by anyone capable of sailing a small ship into a harbor
  17. terrorists are capable of sailing a small ship into a harbor
  18. terrorists with a nuke could seriously threaten America, if they wanted to
  19. terrorists want to attack states (and citizens thereof) which they have grievances with
  20. installing and supporting dictators generates grievances among the populations they enslave
  21. installing and supporting dictators has, and will, cause terrorists to want to threaten America
  22. therefore, two things are in the interest of America: (a) minimizing the number of nukes in the world, especially those in impoverished, corrupt places with strong black markets (b) trying to make sure that terrorists do not want to attack America
  23. Both (a) and (b) are practical results of peace, and not of war.
  24. Therefore, peace is in the interest of America.
Clear enough?

George - I don't argue that we can't use the military to do anything. I argue that we shouldn't. It is unwise, not impossible. As to whether my fears of terrorists with a nuclear device are "childish" or not - well, I don't think they are. Perhaps you do? If so, then you have not understood me at all. You damn well ought to be thinking seriously about the future, and about future threats to your country.



Jihad of Reason!

Reading here has been like talking with my conscience. As a former young PCorps guy circa 77, stupid and naive in college, then exposed to the world, I can only say that I would write exactly the same things. The true extreme sport of our time is the ability we now have to communicate and share ideas globally without the media in between. Long live the American Millenium!



Brian, I suggest we practice on Cuba first. Why go halfway around the world when we can liberate people from under the yoke of a dictator only 90 miles away?



Tiburon - nice jingoism, buddy. I shan't respond to most of it, but a few points.

First, yes, it was our mistakes that were among the causes of proliferation. And yes, we should wash our hands and go home. Declare victory and demobilize. Yes, you got it. Your suggestion, I realize, is that we don't wash our hands, and don't go home. This leaves you in the position of explaining exactly how you think "we" should disarm North Korea. And when Iran goes nuclear(my prediction: three years), how "we" should disarm them. And oh yes, how "we" should disarm Pakistan.

Go ahead, I am listening. What's your plan? GOING TO THE ENEMY WHEN REQUIRED?

Yes, I am by nature just a cold and cruel (but oh so proud) isolationist - Fortress America and all our problems will just go away. Exactly. I have explained why peace will work. Twice now. By contrast, aggression will (a) impel further and faster proliferation, and (b) continue to involve us in the Arab world, and thus draw fire from terrorists.

As for defending stuff without being prepared for battle, I never said anything about that. You appear to be trying to argue that throughout recorded history all states have always threatened aggressive wars. Yes, there is a lot of aggression in history. But a unique and wonderful aspect of our modern liberal democracies is exactly that they don't aggress. They defend themselves if attacked. The two things are categorically distinct.

Finally, the chance in America to "go up in the hills and build your own community" is, I am afraid, long gone. I would like nothing better, but the IRS has a different way of looking at things. Sorry. You and I are bound up in a web of force; and therefore I will continue to propound what seems wise to me for the resources of mine that are being taken and used unwisely. Yes, you are right; I would rather them not be taken in the first place (and then I would have no complaints). But that ain't the real world, bub.



Set,

Your comment:

"I think the right way is being taken by focusing on the capital [Kabul]. Create a safe haven, then work to expand the borders of that safe haven."

I agree that safe havens must be established. But, as Bill mentioned, the world is watching the development of Afghanistan as a litmus test for US "liberation" of states with oppressive regimes. So far, the record has been poor. The VP of Afghanistan and two ministers have been assassinated in the capital, and multiple attacks on US soldiers have occurred. If a year of US occupation can't secure one city, how long will establishing security in the entire state take? And that's just security--the real "golden opportunity" is to see what a liberated people looks like: will they get cross-gender education, medical care, and human rights improvements from US intervention, or will their situation remain poor? Our reputation is on the line.

Trevalyan:

Your comment:

"Take care not to rip their society apart as we give them what they need: money always brings strife when there's a lot of it."

Data disagrees with you. There is much more conflict in underdeveloped states with poorly distributed economies. Simply note the differences in this hemisphere: where is there more conflict, in the US/Canada, or Latin America? When people have something to defend, they're less likely to resort to terrorism and uprisings. That's why increasing aid to these unstable states would do much to increase their security and ours.

Currently, the US allocates 0.15% of its GDP to development of other countries, the lowest percentage of any industrialized state. Furthermore, 2/3 of US aid goes to Israel and Egypt. We spend 200 times more on defense than development, yet it is underdevelopment that causes terrorism and conflict; that is an irony we can ill afford. We should consider development to be a subsidiary expense of our defense budget.



Take a moment to help debate with the anti-war movement: Help me inform the anti-war crowd.


http://www.wardebate.com/



Leonard--

I'm sorry but the reality of our current situation is far different than how you portray it. Osama Ben Ladin's main justification for 911 was that we had "infidel" troops stationed in holy Saudi Arabia. The fact that they were there at the request of the Saudi government was immaterial. You are ascribing to the Islamicist terrorists motives which fit in to the oppressor/oppressed tautological mindset of the left. This is a great mistake. If anything our policy of "peace" despite an escalating series of attacks by such people which finally culminated in 911 was a hideous error. From the very beginning we should have been identifying these people and adopting a policy of ruthless extermination.

As to nuclear weapons, I submit to you that only a nation state can build them. Despite what you see in the movies, making a functional nuclear bomb is one hell of a problem. Furthermore, nukes require periodic maintenance. If a terrorist group acquires one as "contraband" it is doubtful that the thing would go off at all. In essence, if anyone is going to explode a nuke in the US it will be with the active support of a government of some country that is capable of building them. The solution is not passive "peace," but rather of making graphic examples of the countries that are willing to support or tolerate terrorists in their midst. Iraq will be the first place. After Saddam is taken down I suspect that neighboring countries will be less likely to be tolerant of folks like Al-Queda. To do so might invite very terrible consequences, especially if there are 100,000 or so so US troops in Iraq that could be on your doorstep within hours.

With all due respect, the best way to be nuked is to adopt the policy you advocate. We have been attacked. 3000 civilians died on our own territory. The idea that we should cower in a corner and hope that our enemies ignore us in the future is not a strategy, it is a cowardly surrender that will just encourage our enemies to strike again.

911 was an event that ranks with Pearl Harbor. As I recall the Japanese Admiral in charge of the attack had great misgivings about the attack. I may be mangling the quote, but I believe he said something to the effect that "I fear that we have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve." He was right.

The giant is awake again.



ratbane,

a few comments:

bin laden wants regime change too. he is a shrewder political analiyst than you and most of us with the exception of the bush administration. and possibly the french.

9/11 was not an end result it was like punching you on the nose . it hurt but your still standing, and angry enough to give deadly chase. but its just the beginning of the sting.

bin laden wants the whole arab world regime changed, particularly saudi arabia. it'll take some serious destabilisation to make that happen, and guess who's coming to do all the hard work?

bush is no fool and is using bin laden in return. make no mistake, they are not in collusion, but they serve each other well. bush is gambling on american know how and recource.

bin laden is gambling on a bungled post ivasion strategy by the 'west'. cracks showing already. nato and the un have never had thier existence so threatened.

911 is a hard act to follow and international efforts have succeeded in preventing further terrorist acts so far. but as you say it will take ruthless extermination to stop terrorists or anyone who might be a terrorist, or might become one, or sympathise with one, or appear to sympathise, or dissagree with your opinion...

meanwhile, the invasion of iraq is of no consequence in the war on terrorism but it doesnt mean its not a good idea for us to invade. now is the right time before sadam can go nuclear. then we'd have no chance.

he wont give up his over range missiles because he is about to be invaded anyway and he needs to threaten isreal. its his only defence and possibly his last move. i mean, if you knew the enemy was coming whatever you do, would you give up your only defences?

dont think this is about good and evil tho. thats kindergarted stuff. this is about the future of the world in the hands of those capeable of manipulating it. you, me and bill whittle are not in the game. its our soap opera.

gripping stuff.

i'd like bill to write something on race. now that would be interesting.



Strangely enough, one of the 13 essays definitely in the upcoming book is, indeed, RACE. It was almost my third essay. Events have overtaken me.

Alpha, I think your observations of Bin Laden's plans since December of 2001 are spot-on, marred only by the technical detail of him being dead since then.



Mr. Whittle,

Your words sing.

I cannot think of compliment high enough for you.

Thank you.



So Bill, when are we going to drag you kicking and screaming into running for President?

I can already hear your howls of protest, to which I would reply merely: "Cincinnatus"

:-)



Nice essay, but there is at least one factual inaccuracy. You fall into the same error Steven Den Beste did in translating your French source as saying that "the masses, of course, understand nothing". You are the victims of a poor translation. The original French sentence had the word "y" in it, which serves as "it" (which in context refers to the reason for the proposed invasion of Iraq). So, a closer translation would be "the masses, of course, do not understand it". This isn't anywhere near as contemptuous as you make it out to be, and leaves the argument you build upon it somewhat exposed to criticism of overdoing it. You may wish to make an appropriate revision before republishing in your book.



We were very pleased to see recently the destruction of nasa shuttle Columbia over Texas, because it is yet another nail in the coffin of the Anglo-American lackey's of International Zionism. Many dumb-ass yanks criticize France over it's principled and heroic stance against a zionist genocidal war with Iraq. Its history, stuopid! What these zionists can't stand is Nebucadnezzer's conquet of Israel and carrying them off to Babylon (Iraq), and also the CULTURALY-INFERIOR AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE COMPARED TO 'OLD EUROPE'.



Bill:

Get thee to a publisher! Or what the hell, publish yourself on the web.

I was a sophomore in 1980, but at Purdue rather than Florida. I remember that sitting in the bar thing, myself.

My wife attended Florida starting in 1982, IIRC. My in-laws are rabid, frothing (well, that's a little strong. Let's settle on "devoted".) Gator fans and have held season tickets since...well, since a few years after the Korean War.

Neither here nor there; wonderful job on the essay, though.



reading this essay (and especially reading the comments on this essay) has depressed me beyond measure.

no, not because "my blog will never be as good as yours, bill" (as the late-paragraph twist on every seemingly negative post goes). rather, what depresses me is:

1) that the above essay is widely praised in this comment forum as great writing (i have to wonder if those espousing that view chain-read transcripts of motivational seminars in their leisure time). i'll read a cliche encyclopedia the next time i want writing *that good*

2) that the patriotic american has become such a ridiculous person, so free of perspective and skepticism.

3) that people who love bill's tripe as much as these people seem to *actually exist*. i mean... i am practically nauseated by some of these posts. for example: "This should be given to every history and social studies student in the country." "I am utterly speechless. That was perfect. I'll buy the book, but you need your own TV show." am i really reading this? if i were to restart my computer would you all still exist, or are you the creation of my fevered machine's overheated transistors? i'll find out in a few hours i suppose.

i apologize for not elaborating. i just don't have the drive to do so in the face of a dogpile of misplaced patriotism such as this. but if one must praise bill for something, praise bill for the great volumes of text he produces. that is one area in which he undeniably excels. keep it up bill; one day you'll hit the one millionth-letter-typed milestone and then you'll really have done some good writing (quantity wise).

adam



Nothing I can say will hold a candle to this. So let me just say:

Thanks.



America is a great nation with great people. Thanks for all the good that you have done America.

Thanks for some lovely writing Bill.



Bill, another corker of an essay. Damn it man, I'm a Brit, but your great essays appeal as much to this inhabitant of a damp little island as they do on the other side of the Atlantic. Can't wait for the book.

Leonard - I kind of sympathise with your view that we should not try to provoke folk to attack us, but as several other commenters above have said, how do you deal with the likes of OBL & Co who would and have attacked the West even if it is peaceful? A peaceful, and hence prosperous West is still an affront to these maniacs. It is not the West's military actions that bug them, it's our liberalism, free markets, freedom for women, our secular, pro-technology culture - in short, our modernity.

Bill, please warn us next time an essay comes out - reading them is seriously dragging my productivity!




Bill, as always, it's great.

Adam and Stago...really..grow up...get a clue...learn to spell..



A magnificent essay.

I'm a pentecostal/Charismatic Christian with a deep, profound belief in the existence of the Devil AND in the indwelling power of God that is capable of binding and driving that Devil away. In learning the art and practice of Exorcism, I have learned that, after the Cross, the Devil has no power save his ability to speak to people in order to either tempt them or discourage them from using their power. I learned that the Devil had no power save what he was able to talk out of me and those who oppose him.

Your brilliant essay crystalized for me a thought that I've been long suspecting: How similar the tactics and position of those who oppose America from doing the right thing are to the tactics and position of the dark spiritual forces. Their power lies not within themselves, but within their ability to impede, bully, intimidate, and shame us, those who have the true power.

You may call it confidence. I call it Faith.

Forgive me for bringing up what I see as a spiritual dimension to this struggle. I hope I have not offended. Rather, I see where I can fit myself into the struggle and address the issues in my own way.

God Bless America!



GTK,

I would agree with you that we need to focus closer to home but I don't think we need to liberate every dictatorial regime militarily. We don't have the resources or the political capital to manage it. We currently do not offer any support for Cuba except for humanitarian relief and have been imposing trade sanctions for decades. Iraq is different in that it invaded another country. It's not like out of all the potential dictators we just decided to randomly pick on Saddam. Our military is already there and we have been engaged in a low-level war for 12 years. It is time to put an end to it.

Additionally Castro isn't as brutal as Saddam. Castro just let most of his undesirables leave for Miami. If only the Kurds and Shia had the same option.



Adam,

It is clear that you have an operable "SHIFT" button on your keyboard; you use quotation marks in your post. So, why not capitalize when needed? You heap criticsm upon Bill's writing, but you haven't seemed to master a Kindergarten-level task like capitalizing the first letter in a sentence.

As for me, I like Bill's writing. He has that stream-of-rage quality you only get from pissed-off former liberals (N.B. David Horowitz). In Republican Rome or Imperial Athens, Bill would have been a fine orator. His writing draws much of its strength from *conviction*. I'm just glad he's on the right side in this conflict. A communist, or islamo-radical, Bill Whittle with a big audience would be a real danger. One more thing I like about Bill's stuff: he can CAPITALIZE.



Bill,
A thousand thanks for another superlative essay. It came at a time when I most needed it.
You see, I saw the spittle-flecked, hate twisted face beneath the mask of "liberal intellectual tolerance" last week. I inadvertently got into a dispute with a creature (one of my so-called "colleagues") and it became very clear that he would love to see Sadddam Hussein turn Tel Aviv into a smoking, radioactive crater.
As if this weren't enough, the other three people at the table were busy attacking me from other fronts: America is a Bully and France is the Voice of Reason; we are evil and wrong to give Pakistan $$ but not India; we have to understand the perspective of other people (all cultures are equally valid); evil acts occur because people want money, so rich people (George Soros and Ted Turner excepted, I guess) are all evil.
I am not making this up.
I left the table feeling physically ill; I had never before witnessed first-hand such loathing for America, such hatred for Israel, such willful stupidity on all levels.
I think I need to find a new career outside academia. It's only a matter of time before I lose my temper and let things Get Western (a Montana trait).



>We were very pleased to see recently the
>destruction of nasa shuttle Columbia over Texas, >because it is yet another nail in the coffin of >the Anglo-American lackey's of International >Zionism.

I'd like to know who "we" are. But in any event, if you believe that the shuttle accident is just another nail in a coffin the you truely do not understand Bill's essay or what America is about. True it was a tragic event for our nation but in the long run it is just a bump in the road towards America's and human kind's greater journey - to explore new lands and boldly go where no man has gone before. And it will be Americans who do so - not the French or Germans. The Chinese and Russians might eventually get there but they will just be following in our wake.


>CULTURALY-INFERIOR AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE COMPARED
>TO 'OLD EUROPE'.

The Romans were culturally inferior to Greece but the Roman empire lasted 5,000 years.



Segue:

Brian, I agreed so wholeheartedly with your former post, I had to intervene:

Roman Empire? 5,000 years? I thought the empire started with the fall of the republic in 44 BC and ended in either 476 AD (Germanic invasion of the Western Empire) or 1453 (Ottoman invasion of Eastern Empire). That puts it between 500-1500 years.



Afghanistan's population is approximately 22-23 million people. GNP (pre-liberation) about $800 per capita - the country is among the poorest of nations. Literacy rate about 30%. An aid package of a mere 25 million dollars would seem to be an investment of 1 million dollars for every man, woman, and child in Afghanistan. Hmmm. I found a report that there are at least 700 NGOs (not all of these are American, of course)in Afghanistan. A few years ago, I had an economist neighbor who studied NGOs - he wasn't eager to instruct me on the significance of his findings (probably because he accurately assessed that I was a dolt) but he did state that that the vast majority of even learned individuals did not appreciate the vast sums of money (private and public) that flow through NGOs. I wonder how much money/material aid is going into Afghanistan. There seem to be no Democrat or Republican congressional representative interested in participating in one of those famous "fact-finding missions" - to Afghanistan. What is the "best bang for our buck" in countries like Afghanistan? Is it better to build the school, hospital, etc. or indirectly assist the people of Afghanistan in building these facilities themselves (a considerably cheaper approach)?



Dutch,

Right. I would just like to blame my generation's education system for this one.



Wow Bill!
what a load of crap. All though I managed to get 3/4 of the way through before giving up ( my PB so far!).
"Some of this emotion is genuine, real fear and panic brought on by our unparalleled success, and our past miscalculations and blunders. Some of it is envy, pure and simple" Miscalculations!!!??? what are you referring to here? Propping up Saddam? Overthrowing democratically elected leaders? (Iran, Guatemala, Congo, Dominican Republic ... wow, the list does go on!) were these your miscalculations? (or were they blunders? it's so hard to tell in the complicated world of politics).

This 'envy' you say, envy of what exactly? What freedoms (or priviliges or whatever you like) do you good citizens have that some one from a country "like England and France " does not have?

Just one more thing before I go, some anti war protestors are mindless (some might even argue that some pro-war people are blood thirty knuckledragging scum - not me though) but among my immediate group of friends (all anti-war) and on any of the marches I have been on the sentiment is against your administration (and not just the current one) and not against the good people of the US, I believe that the US is like any other country in the world, the people are mostly good, generous, welcoming but the people do not control the country, money does.



Leonard:
You have some good points. I even agree with you, to an extent, on some of them. I'll also concede that the US would be better off if we could follow a more isolationist approach to the world.

But I don't think we can. As far as the rest of the world is concerned - we're damned if we do and damned if we don't. Don't think so? Look at the issue of AIDS in Africa. Not really our problem, is it? But if we do nothing, then that would make us, to the rest of the world, heartless and selfish. Same goes for humanitarian intervention. If we interfere, then we're attempting to create an American empire - and if we do nothing, well, you know how that song goes.

I would argue with you that we *are* an empire - and I'll also argue that that's not a bad thing. Our power and influence allows us to do what we want, and to persuade other countries to do what we want them to do. Say what you want about that fact, but it does keep some order in the world.

Peace is a great thing. But it is not, as many have pointed out, the mere absence of war. Peace is not attained by the refusal to fight back, or the willingness to appease at any cost. Do you think that it is possible for the US, with our way of life, to appease terrorists *ever*? And if you do think so, then why would that be desirable?

>>But what is the threat? Saddam, it is not. None of the states in the middle east seriously threaten us. There is no state in the world that seriously threatens us.

Saddam may or may not be a direct threat. I couldn't possibly claim to know what goes on inside that demented head. So I have no idea whether he personally would send a nuke our way or not. But he does support terrorism. And any government that does that is a threat, no matter who they are or what they, personally, would do to us. Regimes that support terrorists and provide resources to them are a threat to us, because they make it possible for them to operate.

I would also argue that our existence alone is enough to make Arab terrorists put us at the top of their list of problems. Do you really think we should make any attempt to appease that?



Jane,

Your comments are needed. Where should we focus efforts on developing Afghanistan politically and economically? But it ignores the more pressing question: what would a prosperous post-conflict Afghanistan do for international opinion on US intervention? It certainly would have greased the wheels toward an invasion of Iraq; the Bush Administration COULD have pointed at Afghanistan and said, "look, Iraqis, do you want to live under an authoritarian dictator, or do you want to prosper like these guys?" Notice, the administration isn't using that tactic, because they can't. Afghanistan is no better off post-conflict than before, and I urge data to the contrary to rise forth.

So where should we focus in Iraq? How can we get the most "bang for our buck"? Obviously, security is the first priority: the development of law enforcement and military under civil control. It's not established yet, not even in Kabul, let alone state-wide. Once that's established, political development--warring parties turned into political parties, soldiers reintegrated into civil society. Then, civil society needs to be developed: repatriation of refugees and "peacebuilding": rapprochement between ethnic enemies, schools, sustainable human development. This will take years and years. But the more money that comes in, the faster it will be accomplished. Once that model is established, the international chorus railing against intervention will die down. And this is the rub: progress in Afghanistan simply hasn't been realized to a significant degree. That's why invading Iraq now is politically--if anyone cares about international relations, that is--untenable.



Ratbane - you say that "the solution is not passive 'peace,' but rather of making graphic examples of the countries that are willing to support or tolerate terrorists in their midst. Iraq will be the first place. After Saddam is taken down I suspect that neighboring countries will be less likely to be tolerant of folks like Al-Queda."

Oh it seems likely that the weaker states will kowtow to us. Yes, they already are. But this is not love, it is fear. The populations do not love us, and will be fertile recruiting grounds for terrorists.

Meanwhile, the stronger states - Egypt, Iran, perhaps even Saudi Arabia, have two options. Knuckle under, or get nukes. If they have nukes, then they won't be afraid of us. So what do you do about them? Gonna have another war? And another? Against nuclear powers? Are you crazy?

Well, even if you are crazy and would attack a nuclear-armed state, I doubt very much that anyone that gets into the Whitehouse will. Nor would our congress stand for such a thing. So you are left with a plain fact: America simply is not going to knock over the "axis of evil" by force of arms. So, what's your plan again?

Your warmongering not only breeds terrorists in the places we can easily push into line, it breeds nukes, and terrorists, in the places we can't push around. Real clever. With all due respect, your way will get us nuked. Not mine. Peace, sadly, is unlikely to be tested. But it would have worked.



bill,

thats a throwaway line really, fair enough, heres mine:

obl is dead? he wrote and told you this?

either way we can agree dying is or was not a major part of his plan.

if he is dead however, then his remaining henchmen will pursue his policies. if they are no longer at large oh thats ok we can all go home now.

dissmissing these people as dead, evil or insane is to play into the hands of calculated and necessarily ruthless killers who know exactly what they are doing. we must not loose sight of the bigger picture. 911 was the beginning, not the end of al qaedas plan.

when you make a business plan, you do whats known as a swat analysis followed by a study on possible outcomes. im sure hiding in trenches was not part of plan A. but you have to take a realistic look at the desired outcomes.

yes they were symbolic targets, interntaionally understood, message delivered. yes they got the worlds attention, yes international policy changes have occured. who actually thinks they diddnt expect a reaction? when you do something this big, you expect results.

oh you cad, you bounder. youve been really nasty to our people for years and were jolly well goiing to biff you on the nose. then its back to our place for a jolly well earned cup of tea with scones and lashings of whipped cream. how we'll laugh.

you think thats all its about?

and on a more important note, i made a concious decision not to use the shift button years ago. there are more important things in life and i have no feelings of inadequacy. my eductaion was expensive enough for me to make big decisions like that and not loose any sleep over it. i can even switch tactics and suprise you at will and hey, when my shift button breaks down, no problem!

regime change? sure go ahead why dont you. personification of islam as satan? careful now.

may peace prevail on earth.




Dear Dutch,
I appreciate your comments, but I have my doubts about your assertion that a rapid and large infusion of cash into Afghanistan is going to speed up the process of "democratization". Perfect security is an impossible goal for Afghanistan - given the country's porous borders (ditto for the US). As you correctly point out, stability in Afghanistan will ultimately depend on that vital variable - social capital (aka "habits of the heart"). Social capital is always hard to acquire and always easily lost. No one can give it to you or buy it for you. If I'm reading you correctly (and perhaps I'm not), you seem to have a low opinion of the people of the Middle East.



Tom - there is currency among the right that Al Qaeda attacked us for our liberties. That "it is not the West's military actions that bug them, it's our liberalism, free markets, freedom for women, our secular, pro-technology culture - in short, our modernity." With respect, I suggest to you that this idea is at best weakly supported, and at worst, counterfactual.

It is true, I think, that our culture bugs them. But it is not true that it bugs them more than our military actions (and our support of their rancid dictators). Look at what OBL says here. Does he mention our liberty? Our wealth? No, he is angry about lots of things, all of which can be categorized as forceful meddling the Arab world. "Our nation (the Islamic world) has been tasting this humiliation and this degradation for more than 80 years. Its sons are killed, its blood is shed, its sanctuaries are attacked, and no one hears and no one heeds." He's mad about the kids we have killed in Iraq with our embargo. He's mad about Palestine. He's mad about our armies in Saudi Arabia.

So that's what he says. What does he do? He attacks American targets. Not, say, Swiss targets - the Swiss are peaceful. Not German targets. Not Swedish targets. Yet all of those nations are just as modern as we are, if not quite so libertarian.

The idea that "they hate us for our freedom" does not stand up to even cursory examination. They hate us because we have meddled in what they regard their affairs: we've installed dictators and supported them. We've killed lots of Muslims without much regret.

There's one more thing to point out here. America is a relative novice at the trade of mideast meddling. We've only really been serious about it since WWII - 60 years. Before us, there were the British and the French, and before them the Turks. But consider this: OBL and his ilk don't seem to have much beef with the Brits, French or Turks. This suggests something: peace works. All we need to do is get disinvolved, and in time radical Arabs won't care one way or the other about us.



Nice essay, Bill.

As one who has lived under an authoritarian government in the past, my first reaction to these moral-equivalence types is to want to physically shake them till their tiny brains rattle inside their stuffed heads.

I don't object to disagreement, or protest, in any form. But if you have the gall to carry a sign and demand action, you damn well better be able to defend that demand. And that's where much of the current protesters fall down; they aren't protesting out of conscience, or concern. They are protesting as a fashion statement. I would be amazed if even one percent of those demand "UN action" were even aware of Resolution 1441, much less having read it.

It's not just a matter of them being losers, their self-loathing is self evident. Hate yourself if you must, but don't get any of it on me.

I refuse to surrender my rights to assauge your guilty conscience.

"Where are the Iraqis?"

Oh, they appeared at the rallies, all right. However, they were explicitly forbidden from speaking by the organizers, because criticism of Iraq and Hussien was considered a "distraction", and it might "confuse" the protestors.

The poor little lambs need to have their tender ears sheltered from unpleasant realities, it appears. You know what happens to lambs when the wolves come out, though.



Demosthenes - I don't see any reason why we can't be more isolationist. It's a unilateral policy. We don't even need to get the approval of the U.N.. We just stop meddling. It is simply a matter of recognizing what our self-interest is, and doing it.

As for appearing heartless and cruel, well, I have three responses to that.

First, Americans lead the world in voluntary charitable giving to foreigners. If we retreat into military isolationism, we can slash taxes, and we will have that much more to give as charity.

Second, action and inaction are categorically distinct things. When you act, you get blamed, even for things that are not your fault. When you don't act, people may grumble but they don't blame. People have a strong notion of who is responsible for what. And the left aside, most people don't think we have any responsibility for foreigners.

Third, data please. Do Arabs think that the Swiss, Germans, and Swedes are heartless and cruel? I know of no such information. I suggest that peace and nonintervention are quite reasonable and doable policies.

As for "appeasing" terrorists: I certainly think it is possible, which is what you ask. I don't, in general, think that is a good idea. However, if we are doing something immoral, or which is against the interests of the American people, then we should stop doing it regardless of what terrorists say. Nonintervention in the middle east is like that.

You seem, like Tom, to be under the (IMO) mistaken notion that "they hate us for our freedom". No. They hate us for what we have done to them, their fellow religionists, and/or their countries. We can stop intervening in their affairs quite easily without the slightest effect on our liberties, our wealth, or our culture.



Re: Vietnam War protesters

1: Over a million people were murdered by the Communist government of Cambodia, a government that would not have had power if not for the "anti-war" protestors. If that's "good", I fear to see "evil".

2: Bill, while I sympathize with your argument (and I think that in the early 60's we should have informed the NV government that either they ended the VietCong, or we would conquer them), the fact remains that in 1972 the war was won. The US was essentially out, and when the North Vietnamese invaded, the South Vietnamese Army, with air support from the US, defeated the invasion.

South Vietnam fell because the Democrat scum in Congress cut off all aid to South Vietnam post Watergate.

3: If you want to argue that many of the anti-war protestors were simply self-interested little shits who were willing to see the whole world go to hell rather than put their butts on the line, I won't argue with you. But that doesn't make them right.



Leonard

Just like peace and appeasement worked for Europe during the prelude to WW2? It surely wasnt in France's "best" interested to step in and deter Hilter in his invasion into eastern Europe, but then again remind me...what happened to France? Peace is the answer as Bill said when your dealing with a "rational" enemy not mindless radical dictators brushing their egos. If you can, please tell me of a time when irrational enemies of a state where brought down by peaceful means.

As far as not acting because people blame you for your actions. Doesnt this go against self-interest? If your doing something for the best interest of yourself why the hell do you care about what other people think.

Do Arabs think of Germans unfavorably? Hrm.. well last time I checked German authorities were bringing down terror groups within there borders. They sure do love them Germans. The fact is, radical muslims hate all non-believers. You and I, even the Cheese Shop owner in France thats an atheist.

Peace is a wonderful but it does come with a price that few are willing to pay, you included. Sometimes we are left in situations where action needs to be taken to preserve our way of life, even if it happens 4000 miles away. In these cases I am glad that as a nation we have risen up to the challenges that have faced this country over the past 250 years.



My god a lot of you Americans are in dire need of some geographic and historical perspective. It makes me wonder how many of you have ever left your country on anything other than a military mission or a package holiday?

I won't denigrate the amazing acccomplishments of the USA, the wisdom of your founders or the obvious generosity of most of Americans, but please let's temper this rabid patriotism a bit. That more than anything is what irks those of us in other countries who try to be America's friends, who want to promote her constitutional ideals to others.

All this "Good versus Evil", "US is the BEST" and "My country, right or wrong" ... coming from a nation whose citizens by and large can't find Iraq on a map or tell the difference between Saddam and Osama. I'm sorry but this article and many of the comments that follow are nauseating to this Canadian (who considers himself a supporter of American ideals). What must it seem like to your foes?

Real confidence is not expressed as jingoism.



What segment of "by and large" are you referring to? From my experience most if not all Americans that Ive met can locate Iraq or tell the difference between Osama and Saddam. I think your statement is unfounded and speaks clearly to the elitest, morally high grounded superiorally educated, leftist mentally of many Canadians. Your comments speak well to your "Im better than you" approach towards Americans. Thank you for proving your a hypocrite.

As far as this American goes, Ive left my country to study abroad and Ive had the fortunate opportunity to visit your country. After every trip Ive come back glad to be a citizen of the United States.



Leonard--

I truly doubt that an insane warmonger (your words) such as myself could say anything to change your mind. After all, peace always works. As you say "Peace, sadly, is unlikely to be tested. But it would have worked."

As it did when Iraq originally invaded Kuwait?
As it did for the Czechs when Hitler annexed the Sudtenland?
As it did for Britain when they failed to do anything in the face of early Nazi aggression?
As it did for Tibet when the Chinese annexed it?

Please. The concept of peace as a reaction to aggression has been "tested" on many occasions. I cannot for the life of me recall any examples of where the country who turned the other cheek didn't ultimately have cause to regret it. Perhaps you can give me examples of such happy endings.

You say that it is insane to go to war against a nation that has nuclear weapons. It may have escaped your notice, but for about half a century the US was prepared to do just that very thing if it became necessary. It may also have escaped your notice that one of the primary reasons to eliminate Saddam is to make sure that he DOESN'T get nuclear weapons. Here is a man who has invaded Iran and Kuwait in an attempt to gain control over the oil supply of the Middle East. What do you really think is going to happen if we give peace a chance and allow him to acquire such weapons? The result will be anything BUT peace.

As to your point about the other nations in the region feeling some intrinsic need to obtain nuclear weapons to protect themselves from us, I submit to you that your idea is truly flawed. The main problem here is that many of these nations allow terrorists to circulate freely in their territories. As you say, these countries are for the most part corrupt dictatorships. And what will happen when we ask one of them to extradite certain terrorists that are operating in their jurisdictions? Do you really think they will stand on some "principal" and decide that they need to spend a few billion dollars to get a nuke when all they have to do to make us happy is to deliver the terrorists to us? Count the dollars involved. You can be sure that the dictators will. Which course of action makes more sense?

And then again these very same countries will have been given an example of what happened to one of their own that sought to acquire nuclear weapons. Perhaps this will dissuade them from taking that same path.

Peter Pan could fly because he held a happy thought in his mind, and the idea of peace is a most happy thought. Just make sure that when you try the flying routine at home that the window you jump out of is on the first floor. Happy thoughts and reality often don't mix very well.



Leonard:
"Oh it seems likely that the weaker states will kowtow to us. Yes, they already are. But this is not love, it is fear. "

Niccolo Machiavelli and I would both be quite satisfied by such a result. And remember that, to the US Military, "weaker states" = "everyone except China and maybe India".



> All this "Good versus Evil", "US is the BEST"
> and "My country, right or wrong" ... coming
> from a nation whose citizens by and large can't
> find Iraq on a map or tell the difference
> between Saddam and Osama.

Gosh, how this reads like "The masses, as usual,
understand nothing".

I'm guessing that those gravesites throughout
Europe from either of the two approved-by-all
wars are filled with Americans (or heck, even
Canadians) whose knowledge of geography until
they served consisted of where the county seat
was located.

But you know what? They died just the same liberating Europe.

So you know a few tricks; you can win at Trivial
Pursuit. That means, I gather, that issues like
"good versus evil" are simplistic. Our foes, which
includes both Saddam & Osama, are just as
simplistic.

> I'm sorry but this
> article and many of the comments that follow
> are nauseating to this Canadian (who considers
> himself a supporter of American ideals). What
> must it seem like to your foes?

I hope they find us irritating. It will make it
ever so much easier to hunt them down.



No offense, JoeCanuck, but in all honesty - I really couldn't care less who is offended by our "rabid patriotism." I happen to think this is the best possible place in the world to live. I love this country - and that's my opinion (something we're allowed and encouraged to have here). Does that hurt you in some way?

Leonard:
1. Is it in our self interest to allow the threat of terrorism to dictate what we do?

2. When you say that inaction causes no blame - think once again about the situation in Africa. If we do nothing, how many times will you hear someone say that we bear responsibility because we could have taken action and did not? That there is blood on our hands? The same would probably be said about any humanitarian situation that we ignored.

3. I don't know what Arabs think of the Swiss, Germans, and Swedes. I do know that we are not the only country to have problems with Islamo-terrorism. Also, I have a feeling that saying "Arabs think" is somewhat like saying "Americans think." You *might* get lucky and hit 1/3 of the population. That's if you're lucky.

4. "Immoral" activities in the middle east: that's in the eye of the beholder, isn't it? As far as I can tell, the Muslim sense of morality and American sense of morality are two very, very different things (not to contradict what I said before about saying "Americans think" - but, for example, stoning women for being raped isn't something that's acceptable over here). And back to the "what we've done to them" issue, based on what you said to Tom: >>He's mad about the kids we have killed in Iraq with our embargo. He's mad about Palestine. He's mad about our armies in Saudi Arabia.

Based on your line of reasoning about nuclear weapons, it seems that you would argue that Hitler should have been allowed to develop them, because it would have made the world a safer place.




WOW!Bill, that was amazing. You somed it up so well. Keep up the WONDERFUL writing!



Gibson:

Apparently you were out of the country when the facts I summarized as "by and large" were published. First with respect to geographic knowledge, please check this widely-reported National Geographic survey:

Then, if you've any appetite left, you can read the full article that begins with the following sentences ...

"1,200 US citizens were asked: "To the best of your knowledge, how many of the September 11 hijackers were Iraqi citizens?" Of those surveyed, only 17 percent knew the correct answer: that none of the hijackers were Iraqi. Forty-four percent of Americans believe that most or some of the hijackers were Iraqi; another 6 percent believe that one of the hijackers was a citizen of that most notorious node in the axis of evil."

... here:

I am saddened by your response (which included a lot of unnecessary name calling) to what was intended as a "heads up" from a friend. There is a big difference between patriotism and blind patriotism, but that distinction is seldom discussed in the USA.

On a personal note, your reply actually suggests that Canadians are "superiorally educated", in that we do still learn how to properly use apostrophes (as in "I've", "I'm" and "you're").



I don't think a room full of writers could have come up with a better parody of self-satisfied kneejerk jingoism.

I especially like the way your sense of confidence is so great that you need -- wait, let me count them -- 6,567 words to bolster it.



My apologies for the URLs not showing up in the previous post. That'll teach me for not previewing. Here they are:

National Geographic Survey
news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/11/1126_021120_TVGeoRoperSurvey.html

Osama = Saddam
boingboing.net/2003_02_01_archive.html#90287220



JoeCanuck:
Gibson may or may not have included "a lot" of unnecessary name calling (I'd lean toward the negative on that one, unless 1 or fewer means a lot) - but your implication that Americans are both stupid (in their "blind" patriotism, whatever that means) and geographically challenged (also an implication of stupidity), are not the words of a friend. It isn't even constructive criticism. What it is is mean spirited and insulting.

Just a note about the survey you reference: 1200 Americans isn't really a representative amount. But based on the things you've said, I doubt you'll lose any sleep over lumping the rest of us in with the real morons.



Simply amazing! God Bless America and God Bless the President of the United States give us strength so that we may have the courage to send that tyrant Iraqi dictator to hell.



Came over from LGF.

WOW!

Thanks,
ve



I'll use the proper apostrophes in this thread because God knows you'll jump me about again in all your wisdom.

My post was in response to your comments that American's "by and large" are geographically stupid, yet you use a sample of 1,200 people to support your claims. I guess out of 280 million that isn't bad. Also, it was in response that most American's travel only for leisure or military deployment. How much traveling do you do a year? And out of that, how much is strictly to educate yourself on world issues? Even further, what is the basis for making that comment for only the purpose to slap a "friend" in the back of the head?

And you have the nerve to say that I'm name-calling. What in your post that details how American's are a non-traveling geographically incompetent populous doesn't speak towards name calling Joe?



Demosthenes:

I think being labeled as a "hypocrite", an "elitist", "morally high-grounded" (whatever that is -- it doesn't really sound insulting despite the intention) and of course "leftist" constitutes a fair amount of name calling. But geography, history and political science were my strong subjects, not math, so I'll leave the counting to you.

The point is that I am none of those things. To be sure I wouldn't have to look very far in any country to find people that fit that description, but I am not one of them. I consider myself pretty right wing in fact, but right wing in the sense of free markets, individual liberties, and so on. As I tried to say before my motives were impuned, I cherish the ideals the American union was founded upon and support and promote them daily. I think my own country could learn a lot from the American experience. One aspect I hope we never emulate though is this xenophobic, flag-waving frenzy that breaks out whenever America is forced by events to re-examine its place in the world. We had two world wars in the last century which were supposed to rid the world of that kind of nationalism. Feel free to subsititute nationalism for blind patriotism if you truly don't know what the latter means.

See America is far from the always benevolent superpower depicted in Bill's article and believe it or not, once in a while the US could learn a thing or two from other countries (even France -- gasp!). In a previous post you basically accused me of being a moral relativist (which I'm not) and referred to the practice of stoning female rape victims. That was a nice red herring but perhaps you're honestly unaware of how little attention your own country paid to those smug Europeans, back when they were complaining about your practice of slavery. It's called living in a glass house Demosthenes. Here, have some stones.

If Americans cannot tell the difference between constructive criticism from friends and the acts of madmen, the American empire is doomed to collapse or fade away like all the others before it.

Gibson:

You're absolutely right that 1200 is a small sample and this would be a problem if the survey in question unfortunately did not mirror the results of so many others. How come no one criticized the National Geographic survey, which was actually a more stinging indictment of America's education system AND was based on a statistically relevant sample? And for the record, I've traveled in 43 countries to date (every single one of them for personal development reasons) and I've been in more states probably than the average American (31 so far).

Face it dude, the people reading this blog and participating in this discussion ARE the elite in your country. The average American (or Canadian for that matter) whose intelligence you defend tuned this discussion out long ago.

PS: Since you promised to use the apostrophe correctly, I am duty-bound to point out that it is not needed when pluralizing (as in "American's").



I remember the first time I had a history class that didn't lie to make everything that the US has ever done sound happy and rosy. My first history class where it wasn't about happy pilgrims and happy settlers. It was the first history class that was actually interesting.

Not because I wanted to see the US as being bad, or evil -- but because it showed there was more to this crazy thing called politics than I'd been allowed to see before.

I think some teachers do a good job of bringing up our failures and bad choices -- and we always need to be honest about what did and didn't work, so we can always seek to improve, and not make the same mistakes again.

But I think there are certainly other teachers out there who twist the minds of the young -- far younger than college.



I've never been so proud to be an American. And I'm a Canadian.

Confidence.

Brilliant.



na·tion·al·ism - n.

1. Devotion to the interests or culture of one's nation.
2. The belief that nations will benefit from acting independently rather than collectively, emphasizing national rather than international goals.

3. Aspirations for national independence in a country under foreign domination.

I think you'd be warranted to call our actions against Iraq nationalism if we were acting totally alone. But last time I checked this wasn't the case so your attempts to label people into this definition speak loudly to your unwillingness to see what is really going on. Lets take France, are they backing the resolution for the sake of the "best" interests of the international community or do they have a vested interest in Iraq business and oil. In this case who is acting nationalistically? A country that wants to rid the world of a madman or one that puts it economic interest over the interests of the international community.

"The American empire is doomed to collapse...."

Again, you have the flair for the dramitic. And it's almost as if you predict this will happen soon. Make sure you let me know when that happens. Ask yourself, what would Canada do if we were not around for economic stability, military protection, and diplomatic assistance? And what does your dependence on our geopolitically inept populous say about your superiorally educated culture?

I applaud your willingness to expand your horizons by traveling all over the world but I hope you'll admit your a rare breed. Your passions as you've stated are history, geography, and political science. Could that lend to your resentment that we Americans aren't as well versed as you in international affairs? Do you think everyone is any given country aspire to venture places you have gone? Or are you under the impression that because a poll of American's says we are "ignorant" to world issues that our entire public and more importantly our leadership is under the same guise?



Favorites > Add to Favorites > New Folder "Wow" > OK > OK



Great read.

The Mumiacs, what a joke. Every time Mumia abu-whatshisface has a hearing at the courthouse in Philly, a horde - well, maybe two hundred at the outside - of rabble show up to chant and yell and demand freedom for this cop-killer. Now, the funny thing is, hardly any of them are from Philly. This is the 8th largest city in the US, and is 45% bla - er, African-American. And yet, time after time, the Mumiacs who show up to protest at City Hall are bunch of smelly white hippies, clueless white college kids and two or three seriously wacko black folk. The white folk have very often traveled long distances to attend the protest. So my question to the Mumiacs is, If Mumia is the great symbol of white racist oppression, where is everybody?



So "Magic" is the strong essay to come? If it even approaches the magic you've accomplished thus far then put me on the waiting list!!

The anti-American, anti-liberty "liberals" protest a War of Iraq because they hate American values (which they see Bush and Republicanism as embodying [Attorney General Asscrack excepted]); liberty, self-reliance, limited government, freedom of markets etc. When 3-dollar-Bill Clinton launched operations in Bosnia and Kosovo (among others) the leftists stood quietly--as did the feminists when credible charges of sexual harrassment, molestation and rape downpoured from the dark clouds of karma--because Bubba was their guy. A fellow traveller, an apologist for individualism. For those who ache for the Stalinist Utopia of state planning, the only battle worth fighting for is the battle against is the legitimacy of Federalist democracy itself. In their selective reactionism the evils of Saddam would be worth fighting if the clarion call were sounded by a "liberal", but then opposed if it were called by a conservative liberator. How hollow it echoes now when I hear the phrase "no justice, no peace." Many of their battles are apparently to be engaged for reasons unrelated to the matters at hand. What a shock.



Gibson:

I'd written a thorough (and even dramatic, heh) rebuttal of your last post, but lost it when the (beta) browser I'm using crashed. I don't have the energy to rewrite, but I'll leave you with a final comment on your very last statement. You said:

> "Or are you under the impression that because a poll of American's says we are "ignorant" to world issues that our entire public and more importantly our leadership is under the same guise?"

There is one and only one prerequisite to democracy and that is an educated, informed populace. Without that what is to prevent a regime from lying about its motives while placing the lives of its citizens in peril? A citizen in a democracy has a special responsibility to inform himself (and not merely rely on faith in his leaders) when his nation is taking military action against another (potentially depriving others of their lives or their rights). It is just not good enough that your government or mine tells us they're doing the right thing. That WOULD be ignorance.

G'night and thanks for all the fish :-)



When a communist pilot is shot down, their generals say darn, we've lost a plane.
When an American pilot is shot down, our generals ask "Did the pilot survive? Where is he so we can rescue him?" We can make plenty more planes.



Darn, I'm sorry your browser crashed. I would have enjoyed reading what you had intended.

I agree Joe, an educated populous is the only way to go. Unfortunately because we both live in free societies people have the right to educate (as in your case) or not (as in the case of any ignorant person). This means that theoritically I would like to think that everyone going to the polls is voting because they are passionate about the issues and the candidates but that really isnt the case. Sometimes it's really not a particular person's fault. Their have been factors in your life and in mine that have drawn us to sites such as Bill's, to trek to far off lands (43 that is impressive), and to question authority. However, not everyone is fortunate to experience these things or is even exposed to them. So what do we do? Develop a standardized test for voting? That might work in theory but not in practice. So to conclude, I refuse to believe that a poll taken by NG of 1,200 can lump all American's as being ignorant. I will concede that their are thousands, if not millions, of people not only in the United States but also in Europe, Africa, Asia, etc..that are ignorant of world issues or even issues that directly effect themselves. That is very unfortunate but that is a fact of life and something that I've learned to deal with.



Jane,

You wrote:

"Afghanistan's population is approximately 22-23 million people. GNP (pre-liberation) about $800 per capita - the country is among the poorest of nations. Literacy rate about 30%. An aid package of a mere 25 million dollars would seem to be an investment of 1 million dollars for every man, woman, and child in Afghanistan."

No, an aid package of a mere $25 million dollars, where the population is between 22 and 23 million people, would be more like one dollar and eleven cents per person. Even with one of the lowest GDP in the world, that ain't squat. I would be the equivalent of giving every American two twenties and asking them to rebuild their lives with it.

I just thought I should point this out.

Bill: great essay. I think you should post "teasers" of your "for the book" essays--a few paragraphs of exposition to set the tone, and generate an interest in book sales.



As I sit here and read comment after comment about how great this essay is and how we NEED to go to war against Saddam, and damn anyone who thinks otherwise, I am sickened. I am sickened not because I am anti-American or even anti-war. I fully understand and even agree that sometimes the only way to get someone to listen is to fight. I am sickened that we can sit here, as Americans, and deride our fellow Americans because they believe something that we don't like.

We call those who protest the war unpatriotic, un-American, stupid, naive. Why am I anti-American because I don't want to see thousands of innocent people, my own and those in Iraq, die? Why am I anti-American because I am afraid of what a war will mean for this country and the country we will be attacking? It seems to me that those who are in favor of the war, those who criticize others for not running out and jumping on Bush's "war against terrorism" bandwagon, yet do not uphold my freedom to carry a sign in protest or to have a mind of my own are the anti-American ones.

My speaking out either in favor of or against the war does not mean that I am one bit anti-American, or that I don't support and love everything about my America. How dare any of you claim to know me or my reasons for the decisions I make! How dare anyone claim that what I believe is wrong!

People only criticize what they are threatened by. If war is such a wonderful thing for all those involved, why are the war supporters trying so hard to shut the protestors up? I don't want my government to speak on my behalf. The government is not me. No one will speak in my name about how I feel or what I should or should not support.

Believe what you want to believe, say what you want to say about the war, but don't try to force me into thinking that your way should be my way. No one is going to tell me that I have to love or hate this war. It is MY right as an American to make my own decisions. No one is swaying anyone by battling each other. All we are doing by bickering back and forth is destroying the very ideals we are fighting for other countries to have.



Funny how the ones I find most insulting don't include their email addresses. [shrug] Does anyone else detect a bit of an inferiority complex in them? Penis envy? What?

It's easy to get jealous and hate the fat kid with the cool toys, isn't it? I mean, especially after that kid works hard, loses the weight, becomes a terrific athlete and bangs the prom queen after celebrating his high LSAT scores! "Waaaa! Waaaa!" [Heh, heh, heh.] "I coulda/woulda gone to M.I.T., but I didn't want to c-o-n-d-e-s-c-e-n-d to an education in the USA." Yeah. Un-huh. I used to drive a Saturn because it was 'the smart choice' too.

Those who can, do. And you know what else? Those who can, should. I can hear 'em now..."What about poking yourself in the eye with a stick?!? Jumping off a cliff? Huh? What about THAT?". Hey, you got me. I guess I just don't get it.

So tell me, worldly, well-travelled haters of the USA...where was the plane that hauled your butt out of your allegedly superior country made, and why can't you build your own? Regale me. Show us how it's done! Put up or shut up, buttercup.

Anyway, another great essay Billy Barou! I've often wondered what the world would think if our country, if even for one day, were to "act the barbarian" they accuse us of being. Can you imagine. "You're right, folks! You got us! It's all a charade! The gig is up! My fellow Americans, at my signal...unleash hell!"] Okay, I borrowed the last from Maximus in "Gladiator".

Lastly, I too was very proud to see the flags come out post-9/11. And you know what? I got to feel proud of myself too, because until then all you saw on my street were those flags with pineapples (or bluebirds or sunflowers, etc.), and "I" had been flying Old Glory for 2 years (since I moved in, and it was not replaced until 01/28/02, when I flew my "It's a Girl!" flag). Keep up the good work Bill!
rb



Hey hb, you WROTE this?

"I don't want my government to speak on my behalf. The government is not me. No one will speak in my name about how I feel or what I should or should not support."

[heh, heh, heh...I don't know where to start, so I won't.]



I love how joecanuck describes the Islamic practice of stoning women to death as a red herring; then in the very next breath he talks about slavery in the U.S. Talk about a red herring! It's made all the more ironic since we're going to free the Iraqi people from slavery!

Ah, the children. They do grow up so fast and turn into surly, ungrateful teenagers. Do any 'peaceful' nations spend 'real' money on their own military anymore, I mean besides America? It's easy to stand on the sidelines and carp, when you know big Uncle Sam is always there to bail you out and protect you.



Another great essay - I must admit I am conflicted by the prospect of war myself, and I have been all along, but the "leftists" spouting the Communist idiocies make me sick and ashamed. What, in their view, makes Stalin more justifiable than Hitler? And calling Americans Nazis - you just don't play that card until you're desperate, and the argument is already lost. From the depths of my (still) liberal soul I say to them - shut your pieholes and do something useful for a change!



rb-

You say "How dare anyone claim that what I believe is wrong!" Think. Anyone, absolutely anyone, can claim that what someone else thinks is wrong. Apparently that is exactly what YOU are doing if you are actively engaged in protesting against the War.

Just in case you were wondering its called freedom of speech. You can hold your little ANSWER made signs and demonstrate all you want to. No one is going to come in the dead of night and arrest you for this. But when someone else criticizes YOU in the same manner that you criticize them you melt into a pool of self-pitying jelly and whine that THEY are being unfair because they're hurting your precious little feelings.

Get a mind. Otherwise we know that you would have to rat us out to your Mommy who would really put us in our places for hurting the feelings of her darling baby boy. All of us warmongers would truly hate that.

Grow up.



I'm an American and there's so much I love about America. Bill's words about the footprints on the Moon bring an ache to my heart.

But it's wrong to equate the greatness of that event with the folly and destruction of this upcoming war. In 1961, the Russians put a man in orbit; we looked within ourselves and said, "We can do better." That spirit, the spirit of the men and women who did the things that others said couldn't be done, needs to be harnessed to find the right way to help the people of Iraq. This war is not the right way.

It will not be a "quick and decisive" war, as Bill wrote. Yes, the bombing will be over soon enough, but when the bombing stops, the real war begins, as we begin a process of military governance that will deeply offend millions of Muslims and lure thousands of new recruits to Al Qaeda. Our troops will likely be in Iraq for the next 10 years, perhaps much longer. We still have 37,000 troops in South Korea today, 50 years after the Korean War. How long will we be enmeshed in Iraq? What effects will our military presence in their homeland have on terrorism in the U.S.?

Beyond that is the question of the economic consequences of this war. Estimates of the cost of our war with Iraq range from a mere $200 billion to over $1.9 trillion. Meanwhile, nearly every state in the Union is suffering from massive budget deficits. My own state, Minnesota, is lurching through a $4 billion deficit that our Republican governor called "a disaster... the equivalent of a fiscal tornado, of a fiscal flood." Needed jobs are being eliminated, universities are being defunded, state services are being lost. I know what a $4 billion loss feels like. What will a $200 billion loss feel like? A $1.9 trillion loss?

It's also worth asking how our military will respond to other world situations if we're committed so heavily to Iraq. If conflicts flare in North Korea, if Afghanistan is retaken, will we be able to respond as we need to? Will the nationbuilding in Iraq prove to be a fatal distraction from conducting the War on Terrorism and disrupting Al Qaeda? I believe it may.

I firmly believe there are better ways to accomplish our goals than this wasteful, volatile, world-alienating war. We have the time to find them. I believe in the ingenuity of Americans and our allies to find them. Why don't you?



John, you mention the "economic cosequences" of this war. Have you considered the economic consequences of a smallpox attack in Chicago, or a dirty nuke detonation in Los Angeles? Somtimes unpleasant actions are necessary.



JoeCanuck:

How SHOULD Americans express their love of their country? By sitting home all day talking about how excellent socialized medicine is? By constantly kvetching and sitting on the fence even when their most vital interests and friendships are at stake? Maybe they should reassure themselves that they would be a far less "imperial" power than all the others before them, while they showed perfect readiness to call tanks into the streets after September 11th. For good measure, they would ignore the United Nations conference at which their aboriginals showed their people were wretched and dying thanks to America's poor policies.

Or hang out some flags, yell loudly at patriotic celebrations, and good-naturedly tell people "We're #1!" Honest to G_d, how insane do you think America is, anyways?

Thanks for the faith in the markets: but when you understand that the simple faith Americans have in their country does not lead them to the desire to tyrannize ALL others, then you'll understand what they're truly like. :)



Vern: Yes, I have considered the economic consequences of terrorist attacks. I believe that a U.S. military occupation of Iraq increases the risk of attacks like the kind you describe by increasing the number of terrorists, giving them a cause to fight for, and personalizing their enmity towards the United States.

This war is a badly engineered plan with grave ramifications; we must do better. I believe we can. It's a shame to see so many conservatives saying "We can't."



God bless you Bill! If there were a special award in heaven for articulating the feelings of true American patriots, well, it'd be yours.

Not that any of us are gonna be dying anytime soon mind you. It's those towel-heads that are gonna pay! We have the power we have because Jesus Christ our Lord gave it to us - and we need to use it. 911 was our wakeup call... and it left a trail of smoke all the way back to the devil's agents in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Oh, and all you leftist hippy Berkely antiwar queers can shut the hell up. Someone might take you seriously if you didn't smell so bad. Maybe you do belong in a backward-ass state like Iraq where we have to come save your ass and introduce you to soap.



JoeCanuck said " but please let's temper this rabid patriotism a bit"

not in this lifetime will that happen - not in the next one either - you will just have to get use to our patriotism, for I and the rest of my fellow citizens certianly have

besides folks from Canada are looney at best, and if you came back and try and defend that statement I will just say to you in return " please let's temper this rabid patriotism a bit"



I'm going to go ahead and say I love America for all it's faults. I'm sure glad I live here, kitty on my lap, nestled in Minnesota on a cold winter's night. We have of course done incalculable good in the world with our example of revolution, democracy and freedom. (cue "Pomp and Circumstance" - flashback to graduation for no particular reason) But the American coin is two sided, and who is to say one side of a coin beats out the other? They are inseparable. Life is better in the world because of America *if you live in America*. Yes, we are a fat, selfish, insatiable child among nations. We force the Third World to play by our rules, to serve our economy, which means we siphon their labor and goods while they earn pennies and starve.

Political atrocities, I mean miscalculations, they are so many. America stands for democracy abroad only as a veil. History shows us that America supports dictatorships whenever it serves economic interests and/or Cold War dogma.

I think it's our job to draw attention to the wrongs of America, and want to fix it. Because we want America to be great, and we CAN imagine better ways. More than that, we want humanity and our planet and our souls to be good. In my mind, this is "the new patriotism" - we need to redefine patriotism to be a good thing, to see all sides and simply want to make this a better place. Yes, I said "redefine" patriotism to be good, because many on the left are afraid or ashamed to be associated with flag-waving, jingiostic, blind patriotism that erupted after 9/11.

I think this is a (mostly) good essay and a good conversation, though. We need to be honest with each other, where we're coming from and meet halfway.



Oh... one more thing. Some folks seem to be confused about the political spectrum. Fascism can spring out of either the left or the right. Thus, Stalin on the left and Hitler toward the right. But they are both on TOP in authoritarianism... on the bottom end of that is libertarian, or anarchism. See
http://www.digitalronin.f2s.com/politicalcompass/analysis2.html

Gene Cooper - you've sure got a fire in your belly, old-timer. God Bless ya. :-)



John Plato:
"It will not be a "quick and decisive" war, as Bill wrote. Yes, the bombing will be over soon enough, but when the bombing stops, the real war begins, as we begin a process of military governance ..."

I agree that winning the peace is the hard part. I fully expect it to take longer and cost more than winning the peace in Germany and Japan did.

But you know what? We rebuilt and democratized our dire enemies 60 years ago with no evidence that such a thing was even possible. This time what we're doing isn't totally unprecedented, plus as a people we've learned and grown a lot since then.

So I have the *confidence* that if we set our minds to it, we really can bring freedom, democracy and capitalism to the Arab world.

And in the long run, that's the only way to save both us and them.



Doc Millenium:
"Fascism can spring out of either the left or the right. Thus, Stalin on the left and Hitler toward the right."

Hitler stood toward the right of Stalin maybe, but not to the right of anything else. "Nazi" was an abbreviation: the party's official name was the "National Socialist Worker's Party." Sound's real right-wing, huh? And all the while they were fighting the german Communist party, they were busily recruiting away their mambers too.

The Hitler-Stalin fight wasn't really that much different from the Trotsky-Lenin fight. Both were territorial disputes within the socialist camp.



Your religion of stars and stripes is a false religion. If God exists there's no entity that equals It.
The paths on the moon will all be erased in a couple of hundred years. Pionners will slowly dislocate in the 'not so empty' outerspace.
In a million years the human race will have probably deasapeared from the face of the earth and replaced by a much adapted race(not the american one)
All of your faith and words would have long time been forgotten.
It's sad but that's the way it is.



"..that's the way it is."

Remind JC how that is possible when it hasn't happened yet? You sound like an uneducated bitter foreigner. Get a life.



Thanks Bill. Typical excellence, magical words.

Re: Reagan, you and I are about the same age, 1980 was my first Presidential election, and I too bought into the "Reagan is evil, a fool, just an actor, etc." bullshit the media spouted for years.

I just finished "When Character Was King" - not only is it a great book, but it goes into great detail about Reagan's extensive experience with ideas and writing. The guy was a visionary, and wrote all his own stuff, way back into the 30s and 40s as a young man. He fought communism in Hollywood in the 40s. He delivered hundreds (maybe thousands) of speeches, all written by himself, while in the employ of GE, and most were directed at working class people. He made an impassioned speech supporting Goldwater in 64, which galvanized the support of various conservatives, who then drafted him into politics. First the California governor's race, then the Presidential race in first 76 and then 80. He continued his idealism and love affair with ideas into his presidency. He would have fit in well in 1787, drafting the Constitution, surrounded by Madison and Jefferson. Can we say that about Clinton, or LBJ, or Nixon, or Bush 41, or ... ? No. Reagan still doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves, except from conservatives.



Brilliant Essay, Bill. Thank you. I can see from the vigorous response from the left that you have struck a nerve. The truth hurts.

Remember the O.J. trial? This nation was split on his guilt primarily along racial lines. The overwhelming majority of whites believed him guilty while the blacks were convinced there was a conspiracy afoot to frame him. The blood, the gloves, the cut on his hand, the bronco... it was all ignored by that segment of our population that argued from a desired outcome backwards rather than the facts forward.

This debate is not being waged as "right vs wrong" but rather "right vs left". The hatred coming from the defeated leftists of this world, and this country in particular is palpable. They will not get on board with ANYTHING this president does because they are spiteful little shits, and it's time we ignore them, rather than endlessly present rational arguments which are immediately brushed aside.



Bill,

Forgive me if this has already been covered in the existing comments (they do go on, don't they?), but you didn't go into detail about *how* you made the transformation from college-punk-liberal to a thinking and informed conservative.

This transition fascinates me, because I want to replicate it everywhere I can. Seems to me that you rarely hear of a right-to-left transitions, it's mostly left-to-right. Certainly you've been intelligent all your life - do you feel that you were just ignorant in your youth?




Aren't we all ignorant in our youth?



John Plato, we have many more than the 37,000 troops in Korea in Germany and Japan, nearly 60 years after WWII. We're there because the host countries want us there. These three countries have prospered beyond their wildest dreams because we're doing it wrong, according to you. A divided Germany has been unified because we're doing it wrong.

The first estimate I saw for cost of Gulf War I, Chapter 2, was $30 billion. I doubt if it could cost more than 60 times that original estimate. A good chunk of the cost is $ we'd spend anyway, like military pay. States are running deficits primarily because they spent like marinated mariners when the economy was up. I know there are other factors, like unfunded mandates. It's apples and oranges when you equate your state's deficit with a $200 billion to $1.9 trillion "loss". We're talking about survival here and you don't want to lose state services? What it costs is what it costs. There is no viable alternative.

"Will the nationbuilding in Iraq prove to be a fatal distraction from conducting the War on Terrorism and disrupting Al Qaeda? I believe it may." I'm sorry you can't connect the dots. Elimination of state-sponsored terrorism and spread of self determination are integral parts of the war on terrorism. O B L has said our troops in Saudi piss him off. Let's get them out of Saudi, into Iraq. How about that for a link?

Concern about adequacy of U S forces in a multi-theater war is legitimate. We're still engaged in Afghanistan. We're beefing up East Asian forces. Military personnel has been cut nearly 50% since '91. The meticulous planning required to keep all these balls in the air has exhausted the patience of the hawks who aren't considering these factors.

A "Come on America, let's think of a better way." attitude doesn't cut it. The world has been thinking for 12 years. Time for the nut cutting.

The planet is damned fortunate that if there is a sole super power, it's America.



ralph phelan: "I agree that winning the peace is the hard part. I fully expect it to take longer and cost more than winning the peace in Germany and Japan did. ... I have the *confidence* that if we set our minds to it, we really can bring freedom, democracy and capitalism to the Arab world."

I agree with all of this. The only question is one of tactics. The invasion and occupation of Iraq as currently planned is not only foolish but a disastrous betrayal of conservative values.

Conservatives believe in self-reliance and self-determination, for example. We know that no man will appreciate being given a gift as much as he will appreciate earning what is given to him. We are attempting to give democracy to Iraq; we should be enabling them to earn it for themselves, perhaps by supporting the Kurdish resistance in Iraq. Didn't we learn our lesson in the failed housing projects of the 1960s and 1970s? Beautiful buildings fell into disrepair and chaos because we tried to simply give the American dream to others instead of enabling them to earn it.

The fundamental bedrock of conservatism is the belief in human intelligence. We believe that the economy is not a zero-sum game because man has the ability to create wealth through his intellect. I believe in America, and I believe we are smart enough, intelligent enough, dedicated enough, driven enough, and farsighted enough to use options that are smarter than the ones we've heard so far. That's where my confidence is. That's where yours should be, too.



John, what then ARE we to do? Do you beleive in The U.N.? If so, what are the consequences of failing to enforce over a dozen resolutions? Irrelevence in my mind. What is your opinion?

John, to what degree should we tolerate the financing of terrorism before we are justified, no, *required* to use military force to prevent it? Hussein openly advertises cash awards to anyone willing to strap on a bomb and kill as many Jews as possible. Is it because they are Jews that it doesn't "count" as terrorism in your mind?

"Liberating" Iraq is merely a positive, hopeful side effect of the action required of us for so many reasons that are in our national interest.

Where were these protesters a decade ago when we risked the lives of our youth to prevent Milosovic's treatment of HIS minority population? I'll tell you where: Nowhere, because it wasn't a Republican running the show.

I'll say it again: This is right vs left, not right vs wrong. (Although in my mind, this is merely semantics.)



Larry:

You've put some words in my mouth. I wish I had time to respond to all of them.

But there a certain disingenuousness to the statement, "The world has been thinking for 12 years." Not like this they haven't. You say, "Time for the nut cutting," as if a clock somewhere has struck. It's unequivocal that we have Saddam where we want him now. For once, we actually can say with authority that we do have the time to consider our options.

Here is a link to the $1.9 trillion dollar estimate. It takes into account both foreign and domestic costs of a worst case scenario in our war with Iraq.

"It costs what it costs. There is no viable alternative."

Now you sound like a lefty. :)



You mistake arrogance and ignorance for courage. It's a recurring theme in the US.



purile and unrefined.



pablum and social diatribe will not make any difference in your complete misunderstanding of the generation you claim to be part of.

i mean it.



oooooooooooh. He means it. All GAZE in wonder at their superior intellect. Look at those words. So uncommon. So superior. They must really be intelligent!



The ability to perform rational analysis provides the cognitive basis for confidence in thinking objectively; whereas emotionally derived confidence is the product of subjective thinking.



You know, I never cease to be amazed and impressed by the fact that the people who diagree with me the most emphatically never have the courage, the intellectual rigor, or the simple integrity to SIGN THEIR OWN NAMES to what they write, in terms of an e-mail address.

Well, I suppose this should not suprise me. It is, after all, essentially the same thing as the difference between some anonymous Marxist coward scrawling some hateful slogan on a wall in the dark of night, versus John Hancock and scores of other American Patriots signing their names to a document that would have guaranteed their execution should their cause have failed.

Hancock specifically said that he signed his name with such flair and in such large letters because he heard King George's eyesight was failing and he wanted him to be sure he knew who was rebelling against him. Those are the kind of people that founded this country, not invisible, terrified, cockroaches planning anonymous murder from their dark cellars.

I may indeed be peurile, unrefined, arrogant and jingoistic, but at least I have the guts to sign my name to what I write, which is more than I can say for some of the miserable cowards that I have allowed to use my bandwidth.



Then again, it may simply be that they didn't bother to check that they had taken the right cookies.



John Plato, I apologize for putting words in your mouth. But, "...the spirit of the men and women who did the things that others said couldn't be done, needs to be harnessed to find the right way....." sounds like "We Can Work It Out". You haven't offered an alternative of any kind, let alone a viable one. There is an active Al Qaeda cell in Baghdad. Should we just wait and see if S H gives them some anthrax? How many more women and children do we want S H to kill or torture while we wait? Credibility carries weight with the Islamos. Currently, the U S and The U N have none with them. Other irons in our fire need attention, like N K. Yes, it's time for the nut cutting.

You're right. I should have said the world hasn't been thinking for 12 years.

Regarding $ cost, does it cost more or less to have 150,000 deployed troops wait until we find the "right way"?



Outstanding essay, this is a work of the best sort. This is the type of writing that nourishes the heart and emboldens the soul.

Thank you.



The "weaker" one, hey?

Damn, Bill, you sure do set the bar high - then, you clear it, every time.

I just hope that book isn't going to be too expensive - I've already got one mortgage on the house, don't need to take out a second.



Bill: A superb piece of work which ranks right up there with the best I've ever read. As a Canadian I just shake my head at the rantings of fellow Canucks like Joe. God knows the U.S. isn't perfect, but when I look at the Axis of Weasels and our pathetic excuse for a federal government I can only shake my head in despair.
There will always be jealous and envious people who couldn't carry your jock when it comes to writing and when they're swinging from the left you know that logic won't be high on their agenda.
Anyways, just wanted to salute your efforts. Can hardly wait to have a look at your book. Best wishes and keep on typing.



Yeah baby – you can park your space boots next to mine anytime!
Great write.
Thanks



In response to Ratbane and Mr. Bowen,

I did not vote for Bush, so no, I do not want his government to represent me. I agree with almost none of his basic beliefs on government. I didn't vote for Gore either. I think he's just a big an idiot as Bush. And nowhere did I say I was against this war. It's not as easy for me to dismiss the horror it will cause if we do go to war or the horror it could cause if we don't. I am actually quite torn about which side to join.

My brother is a Marine on active duty and if he were to go to war, I would be the one cheering the loudest and proudest in support of him. I would also be praying for it all to end so he could come home. I was merely stating that I could not believe that people could possibly hate their fellow Americans so much (even the let's save a tree crowd) that they would so cruelly criticize them. Like I said before, don't hate me because I refuse to bow to someone else's beliefs, be they for or against the war.



I love being inspired by American pride. I drink my coffee from an American flag cup. I swell with admiration when I read the wit of Lincoln, the ingenuity of Franklin, the self-assured swagger of Kennedy.

But this impending war in Iraq does not make me proud to be an American.

As I mentioned earlier, and Bill agreed, the situation in Afghanistan makes me furrow my brow and think, "we could do more." We could do a lot more in Afghanistan to further the legacy of the US, of freedom in America. We aren't. And today, Bush was again speaking in his cocky manner about how the freedom and liberty we would bring to Iraq would spread throughout the Middle East. I don't buy it, because of the nature of post-conflict Afghanistan. It's insecure. Their cabinet members are being assassinated. It's not safe in Kabul yet, after over a year of occupation. And that's just one city.

We're better than that.

And we're not afraid. Americans are proud for the legacies that Bill wrote about, because we weren't afraid to show the world what we could accomplish.

Invading Iraq would be quick, sure. Honestly, the casualties don't matter, American or Iraqi. What matters is the legacy we leave in Iraq. And if you all buy what Bush is saying about bringing stability and democracy to the Middle East by bombing Iraq and shooting our way through the streets of Baghdad, I urge you to look at Afghanistan and think of what the situation in that state is doing to Afghans' and Middle Easterners' opinion of America. It's certainly not improving it; I haven't seen anything to be excited about, and believe me, I'm looking. I want to tell everyone how great I think America is, but the state of Afghanistan forces me to hold my tongue.

And I wish I could proclaim to the protestors that they're crazy, that invading Iraq is the best thing for Iraq, by saying "look at Afghanistan--see how they're developing, how much better their lives are?" I wish I could say that, but I can't, because our government is happy to sign off on $38B to bomb them but begrudges $300M to get them back on their feet.

I want to be able to look back on George W Bush's legacy and say "look, here was the man who brought democracy to the Middle East." But looking at the data so far, it appears we will only be able to look back and say, "look, here was the man who bombed the Middle East." It's not a sign of greatness to bomb a country with an authoritarian regime and then display indifference to the people they were oppressing. Greatness means not only kicking the ass of evil, it's instilling pride and inspiration in the least among us too.



Bill - After reading your essay and the comments that followed, I still stand in awe over your achievement(s) and cannot help but feel amused to see the critics sputtering, spinning their wheels, grasping at straws, dragging red herrings while accusing others of the same - I think I've beaten this dead horse enough times already. How many of them can start and maintain a Web site with such a loyal following? If they tried, they will find out it's not easy.



Bill,

Another remarkable essay. TY.

You have dramatically simplified my Christmas shopping this year. Please make sure you have enough copies of your book for Santa!

For those who plead "No War for Oil", I urge you to consider the world impact of Saddam having control of ME oil.

Leonard, you posted a logic sequence that was good, but when we peer into the future, all bets are off.

Consider this one:

1. The US withdraws military forces from the Middle East, finally recognizing the reasoning of the many peace marchers and the budget benefits.

2. Saddam negotiates a deal with N Korea, trading oil and UN supplied food for weapons.

3. After four months of heated discussion, the UN cuts off food shipments to Iraq.

4. Peace prevails for 18 months.

5. Hillary Clinton is elected President.

6. OBL reappears as a senior cleric in Iran.

7. Saddam retakes Kuwait.

8. President Hillary announces that "That is a really bad thing".

9. OBL disagrees with President Hillary.

10. The US coordinates a military coalition and files UN Resolutions.

11. Saddam announces a need to double OPEC oil prices to support his nuclear program.

12. Riyadh voices disapproval, citing no room for more money.

13. Riyadh disappears in a nuclear cloud from an Iraqi test missile gone awry. Saddam cites "Really shi**y N Korean engineering" as the cause of the apparent accident.

14. France protests the increase in crude prices. Prices on brie are doubled to all EU countries.

15. There is no protest from the Saudi Royal family, since they are nuclear dust.

16. In the absence of the Saudi Royal family, Saddam deploys two divisions of Republican Guard armor to protect the Saudi oil fields.

17. Repeat steps 10 through 16, substituting various countries as needed.

18. Saddam's son, Uday, has been watching carefully, and taking notes.

Doug



Honey, all I have to say is "Thanks." My husband's been going overseas to fulfill his duty, too, and I've been damned honored to be the one tying his boots in the process, no matter what my liberal-leaning PMS'ing friends have to say. You just reminded me why military wives grow balls to carry around when their husbands are TDY. I thank you, and I salute you.



Bill,

I just wanted to add my voice to the crowd and say, "Thank you," for a moving and powerful essay. When I got to the part about Reagan's quotes, I actually cried. I remember that time, in the early 1980's, when we shook off the malaise that had gripped us and reached, for a little while, a small fraction of our full potential as a nation. I really regret that he is now a hermit in S. California waiting to die, and that we can't properly thank him for all he did for us.

I am going to pay you the highest compliment I can think of. I am going to give a copy of this essay to my 12-year-old son. Then I will tell him, "when you encounter the naysayers and gloom-and-doomers in your life, you remember these words, and you remember that while those people are entitled to their opinions, they are wrong unless we make them right."

Thank you.



Dutch,

I think you're seriously mistaken about the liberation of Afghanistan. It is a better place now, and the people cheered when liberatd. Check out this article-- from the Wash. Post, no less.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A2374-2003Feb25.html



What you refer to as confidence, many refer to as arrogance. How can you fault much of the world for hating us out of jealousy, when our behavior just oozes with arrogance and much of it seems to have no motive other than inspireing jealousy.

Take for example, our acheivement of greatness in July 1969 that you've referred to several times. That entire campaign was done for the sole purpose of saying we beat the Russians to the moon. Exploration of the Final Fronteer, and the advancement human civilization were the furthest things from our minds. We just wanted rights to say that we're a greater nation. The entire thing was completely impractical and unsafe to say the least. Its this "Us vs Them" attitude that we subscribe to that seperates us from the rest of the world and inspires jealousy. Besides, God made all men equal. We all have the same genetic make-up. So are we really greater because of our geographical location? No, and we know it, but we like to fantasize that it really makes a difference because it makes us feel good to win. Is our feeling "good" worth making our fellow man feel "bad"? Do we even care.

I believe this type of behavior shares a lot of characteristics of war. As long as we retain this type of thinking, there will be no peace on earth. No, we aren't insanely evil and bloodthirsty like the Sadaams of the world, but we are displaying simularly aggressive behavior in our every action.

To us, its confidence, to the rest of the world, its arrogance. Its just a matter of point of view. Many human conflicts can be solved simply with compassion. Looking at a situation from your fellow man's point of view. Actually feel for your fellow man. If you could feel the hurt pride of the world's nations that have to feel inferior to such a young successful country, you wouldn't brag about it so freely. You said yourself that it feels horrible to just imagine another country having the effect on us that we have on the world. We cause pain of a different kind. How can you blame them for hating us when you know its a hurtful position we are putting them in? And on top of it all, we're confident...(cough-cough cocky)

Instead of blaming our enemys maybe we should really look at ourselves with a critical eye first. And you don't have to be Anti-American to be self critical.



Interesting perspective. It is nice to see some alternative viewpoints here. I hope the rest of the readers will agree.

- Joe



Fred your so peace happy you must live in a bubble. Conflicts can be solved with compassion when you’re dealing with rational enemies. I hardly believe that terrorist organizations and the state's that sponsor them are the least bit rational. If we liberate Iraq will we not be showing compassion for the oppressed? War is an ugly thing that should be avoided until it is the only option left. I believe in the case of Iraq it’s the only step left.

It would be nice to "feel" my fellow man and believe that all men are equal in the eyes of God. But there are people out there Fred that doesn’t give a damn about equality or if you or I live. They will stop at nothing to ensure our peril and that is not a comfortable feeling. Your not going to charm these people or love them up and all of the sudden things will be peachy. It's sometimes kill or be killed, as harsh as that may seem. I used to have your optimism about people but I've been proven wrong so many times. I know you may find it hard to believe that some people are evil and that people don't care about equality but that is a fact of life. But for you to say that being self-critical will solve the ills of the modern world is ludicrous. I can't blame Osama for his organization flying fully loaded planes into our tallest buildings killing thousands? Somehow they deserved their fate? It is America's fault those actions happened. That would be like saying it’s the Jews fault for being successful in Europe and so they deserved to be gassed, beaten, and murdered. You know as I write more and more of this thread I’m starting to get sick. Sick because your mind must be very demented to believe that we should not place blame so easily on our enemies, why are they enemies in the first place Fred? HELLO!!!

I would imagine that your either too young to understand what reality is or your bitter about how your situation in this country has turned out, you might call yourself compassionate and "understanding" but I tend to think that you've never been on top, you've never had to deal with being top dog, its a very lonely place full of people such as yourself that point fingers and blame you for everything. So although I admire on the surface a globally compassionate view of the world I feel that it's deep rooted in resentment and unrealistic rhetoric.

On a final note how is America, a country that stabilizes the entire world, doing horrible things to other nations? And why are we scrutinized with a microscope while other nations are passed off as being weak and therefore not responsible for their actions?



Gibson,

You misunderstand my point. Just put your smoking guns down for a few minutes and actually listen to what I have said. Perhaps I live in a bubble, but most of us Americans do. I am still a member of this society with a fully operational brain. I still have the ability to form philosophies of my own about what I believe "correct" human behavior should be. I consider your judgements on my age and social status a low blow based on the fact that my views are not in alignment with your own.

First of all, I never said anything like we deserved 9/11 or the other remarks you made. With all the trigger-happy rhetoric you put on this page, I have to stop and wonder if you are truely compassionate for those unfortunate people who were victims of that whole ordeal. True compassion and aggression cant exist in the same thought. Put the guns away, just for a second, and actually spread some love first. The victims of 9/11 deserve more than a moment of silence, a moment full of anger and resentment, and as soon as that moment is over, we're shouting "LETS GO KNOCK SOME HEADS!". We're filled with rage more-so than compassion. If this is the case with you (if it is you probably wont admit it here, or to yourself), then don't write about 9/11 as if you really feel for them. You want the blood of the perpetrator more than you care about the act itself.

I didn't suggest that we should try to be Mother Theresa with Iraq and the nuclear weapon situation that is going on over there. I think it is necisary that we do everything possible to defend our way of life. I actually admire our government's attempts at doing these things with as little bloodshed as possible. I think we are taking tremendous steps in the right direction. However, you can see in this essay how we Americans flaunt our brilliant democracy and the principles there-in. The way we are handling this Iraq thing is against everything that this country stands for. How can we say we're the land of the free with a straight face?

And don't pull the compassion card with "liberating Iraq". How long has Iraq been under these conditions? Why haven't we done anything about it until we found out Sadaam is making nukes? Because we didn't care! Now we're going go tear their political system apart, and say we're liberating their people so we can keep a clear concience. Yes, those people deserve the help that we are going to give them, but don't say its compassion because if it was, we would have done this a long time ago. This makes us look like hypocrits to the world. This makes new terrorists. No, we didn't deserve 9/11 but our actions indirectly summon it.

Please don't read that as if I think terrorism is justified. I think it is a side effect of the sickness of our species. They were driven to do that because of the life situation that unfolded on them. We humans are gentically the same, give or take a few 0.000001% from person to person. You could have very easily been that person highjacking those planes on 9/11 if your life situation were different. The same sickness in those terrorists is in all of us. And as long as we refuse to look at ourselves as scared egomaniacs, this sickness will persist.

The whole world needs a change, not just us. We are in a position to set the example for the world. Western culture is spreading throughout our civilization because of our psychological influence on the world. How do we use this power? By racing an economically inferior collegue to the moon, and touting "We're the Best!". Oh yea? Lets go to the moon again. We can't? Hmmm.




Fred,

While you clearly have a warm and gentle heart, the fact that you say it is impossible to feel great love and overwhelming hatred at the exact same time convinces me that you've never truly seen injustice hurt the people you love.

I've seen injustice perpetrated by men as cruel as they are stupid, against people so kind and sweet I could probably never bring myself to speak harshly to them. If you don't have this ability, you are either a saint or woefully unequipped for the battles that lie ahead of you.



Dear Fred,
If memory serves, none of the 9/ll terrorists had particularly difficult childhoods. For the most part, they were educated men from middle class families. Their real issues were with the governments of the countries of their births - Egypt and Saudi Arabia and with modernism. Spare me the twisted logic of "root causes". Like Hitler, Stalin, Timothy McVey, and many others, Mohammad Atta was a sociopath - pure and simple.



There / Their

Your / You're

Its / It's

American's / Americans

These are, in fact, different words though they sound the same. Come on, people. You've posted some intelligent thoughts, but it's just bad form not to know and use simple third grade grammar properly. Get with it. :)



Trevalyan,

Why do you think that anger is mandatory equipment for the battles that lie ahead of me? The outcome of anger is always ugly, no matter how you slice it. You can argue that Hiroshima was justified revenge for Pearl Harbor until the cows come home, but the fact remains that what we did was human behavior at its ugliest.

Jane,

The scumbags of our society, mainly criminals always cry "I had a difficult childhood". Because we hear this overused quote so much, I can see how you would assume that that is what I meant. However, I never said anything that suggested the highjackers of 9/11 had troubled childhoods. I simply stated that their life situation led them to do what they did. Low income people aren't the only ones capable of being led to perform sub-humane actions. The chain of events that is your life leads you to whatever state of mind you are in at this moment. Think of it like this. A white person who lived in the 1700's, with nothing different about them as a person, except the time they had lived in, would have had an extremely high likelyhood of having some sort of negative racist views. Whether it be pro slavery, or just hate in general. Today most white Americans are ashamed of that history. It really has nothing to do with whether they had a troubled childhood or not...its just that their life unfolded a certian way and created the person they are.

Scott,

How did I know someone would do this? Even with my errors can I get a little more credit than third grade? Lets stick to the topics at hand please. :D I'm actually new to blogging, and I like the idea that I can post my thoughts here and have them challenged by people who wont censor their disagreement, but correcting mistakes that you *know* were just typos seems childish. I'm sure if you look harder you can find some better mistakes that the for you listed.

Somehow, I think that if I had said, "yes gode artkle lez wave sum red wite n bloo", you would not have said anything to me.
[end sarcasm]



Heads up. LA Baguette - it's a feminine word.



For the sheer joy of nauseating liberals everywhere let me add my praise:

This should be given to every history and social studies student in the country!

I am utterly speechless. That was perfect.

I'll buy the book, but you need your own TV show!

Thanks Mr. Whittle


For Fred and any 'compasionate' Saddamites reading this: I know you may not be an actual Saddamite, Fred, but since you are so very concerned with compassion, I have a question for you. Is it more compassionate to leave Saddam in control? Considering that there will probably be more Iraqi citizens who die fighting against Saddam's forces in event of a war than will die from our own munitions accidentally, where is the justification for saying that war is less compassionate than appeasing Saddam? Jordan is concerned not that a war will occur, but that America will not carry through and get rid of Saddam. An Iraqi recently interviewed in Syria says that Iraqi citizens will LEAD American soldiers in the fighting to take Bagdad.
(http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/news/world/5266354.htm)

In a letter published by Tony Blair, an Iraqi asked, "Saddam has murdered more than a million Iraqis over the past 30 years, are you willing to allow him to kill another million Iraqis?"

(http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/2768747.stm)

Is it more compassionate to just let them be?

- Jay



Jaycephus,

You have hit the single issue I have be waiting for! I have been struggling with this question for a long time, and I decided that if my body had a disease that could be cured with medication, I would be taking doses of that medication by the barrel. Although the organism inside my body is just trying to survive, this life is a game of survival and if its my life or yours, basic instinct tells me that if I have to tools to kill you, bye bye.

Saddam is a disease on this planet and we need to be cured of him. Although we, and the rest of the world have a lot of work to do before we are truely peaceful people, Saddam is an extremist who cannot be rationalized with, and will set mankind and our civilization back 500 years if not dealt with. I believe the Hitlers of the world should be removed from power; any means nessicary.

That said, I think there are very few cases in human history where violence is justified.



So Fred - "their lives unfolded in a certain way" - sounds like you are suggesting that the terrorists were hapless victims. Personally, I'm not ashamed of any of my ancestors; I'm in awe of them, in particular, my parents. I wouldn't know if any of my greats, and great-greats, etc. were racists or not, but the available evidence (a maternal great-grandfather was a Bible-thumping abolitionist who enlisted in the Union Army at age 40 and was subsequently wounded and permanently disabled, 2 paternal great-great uncles-Union Army-killed in battle, a paternal great-great uncle married the daughter of the Rev. G.P. Riley -aka the "Fighting Chaplain", a conductor on the Underground Railroad in SW Ohio)) suggests they were not. (BTW, racism is not unique to the white race.) I'm a descendant of French Huguenots who fled to Ireland and then to the colonies and German Protestants who were also fleeing religious persecution. So it's safe to say that some of my ancestors harbored anti-Catholic sentiments. But hey, I'm married to a Catholic.



Jane,

I didn't mean to be offensive in what I said but I didn't really mean "ancestors". I was trying to convey that many "Americans" are ashamed of that part of their "American History", as they should be. It was an ugly time for us and contradicts everything we stand for today.

And am I suggesting that the terrorists were victims? If you ask them if they are victims, I believe they will say yes. And if that is their answer, it is our duty as their fellow man to find it in our hearts to show them some compassion. Remember, their lives are as real to them as ours are to us. I'm not saying you should aggree with them, but I'm saying that you should just take a second to really try to see things from their point of view. Its hard, and it takes courage, but this is the Home of the Brave. This should be a walk in the park for us.

How would you feel if you were the only person in the world who strongly felt that 9/11 was wrong, and nobody showed you any compassion. What if you were hunted down and killed because you were the only one. You would feel deeply wronged, but the world would feel justified. My guess is this is how the terrorists feel (I am guessing because I live in a bubble and don't really know for sure). And no matter how wrong you see them, their views are as correct to them as yours are to you.

I hope by now that everyone understands that I do not, I repeat, DO NOT endorse what terrorists did to us on 9/11 or to anyone else on any other date. What I do believe is that we have a responsiblity that we are not fulfilling.

We are getting off on a tangent here, but I'd like to remind everyone that the purpose I started writing in this thread was that I disagreed with the core premise of the original writer of the essay: Confidence. I just wanted to challenge Americans to stop looking at ourselves in the lime light, and just consider for a second that others may percieve this "confidence" as arrogance.

Earler in this thread, I skimmed someone saying something to the effect of, "We are the greatest country in the world an I don't care what anyone else thinks". This is hurtful to other people. It may be true, but saying it out loud like this, and not caring about other people's thoughts is arrogance. The way we act toward each other, we are really breeding psychopaths. Its just a matter of time before another Hitler rises. When he arrives, we want to paint a picture that he's a monster and we're the victims.

The fact is, there are many many Hitlers in the world. Fortunatly, they are just not lucky enough, or clever enough to end up in a position of power. They just end up as a normal Joe like you and me. They probably end up doing things we consider "innocent" like personally attacking people on the internet who don't aggree with them. Believe it or not, this behavior is the root to all aggression, whether you're Adolph Hitler trying to wipe out a race, or Joe Schmoe on the internet flaming people because they disagree with you. You're both using the full extent of your power to hurt people who are different. That is ugly, no matter what the scale of the action.



Fred: Confidence is defined as: firm trust; a feeling of certainty; boldness; a sense of self-reliance, whereas arrogance is defined as an exaggerated sense of superiority. So I guess you can feel superior and not be arrogant as long as your sense of superiority is rooted in reality. Bill Whittle was writing about American confidence - that "can do" attitude.
Personally, I'm not particularly interested in "feelings", but I am concerned about "actions". I don't care how my neighbor across the street feels, but I do care that he perpetually leaves his garbage cans at the curb. And I'm not interested in "thought crimes" either. Radical Islam can teach that the US is the "great Satan" and I can live with that, but when radical Islamists advocate killing US citizens, I say, smoke the bastards.



As with Joe you have the flair for the dramatic Fred. By your estimation I must be a "cyber" Hilter grazing the internet to suppress your view. Next thing you know I'll be burning down your block, killing your family and taking your silverware. God damn that's funny. You sound like a victim, do you need a tissue? If you believe in what you stand for Fred then you shouldn't care what other people think but then again you suffer from a CONFIDENCE problem. Either that or you under the belief that free speech only applies to those who are "understanding" of everyone else's views. This is America, I'm allowed to have convictions just as you but in the same breathe others are allowed to challenge and disagree with them. For the third time, the world is not a happy field of bunnies patting each other on the back for there cultural differences. This isn't Disneyland.

You probably will be offended by this response but I don’t give a damn if a terrorist feels he is a victim of his particular circumstance. That doesn't excuse him for the actions in NYC, DC and PA or on the U.S.S. Cole etc. Their are people everyday that struggle with depression, doubt, financial instability, horrendous living conditions, etc. etc. But they aren't flying airplanes into buildings or stoning women in the middle of football stadiums.

This global understanding philosophy that you express so adamantly doesn't have any legs to stand on because it isn't realistic. Human conflict will always be around because we live in a world with conflicting cultures. I think your trying to take a very difficult issue and rationalize it into something simplistic, it isn't.

"And am I suggesting that the terrorists were victims? If you ask them if they are victims, I believe they will say yes. And if that is their answer, it is our duty as their fellow man to find it in our hearts to show them some compassion. Remember, their lives are as real to them as ours are to us. I'm not saying you should aggree with them, but I'm saying that you should just take a second to really try to see things from their point of view. Its hard, and it takes courage, but this is the Home of the Brave. This should be a walk in the park for us.

How would you feel if you were the only person in the world who strongly felt that 9/11 was wrong, and nobody showed you any compassion. What if you were hunted down and killed because you were the only one. You would feel deeply wronged, but the world would feel justified. My guess is this is how the terrorists feel (I am guessing because I live in a bubble and don't really know for sure). And no matter how wrong you see them, their views are as correct to them as yours are to you."

Your leaving out one thing here Fred. I'm not going to get up tomorrow and strap a nuke on my back and walk into Paris because I disagree with their foreign policy and I was beaten as a child. Nor would I expect people to rationalize, as you do so often in your posts, why I did it and somehow come to a collective "understanding". That is nonsense. These people are hunted down and killed because they are developing plans to destroy the United States. They aren't randomly being dragged out of there homes and shot because they forgot to pay a parking ticket. Additionally, I doesn't take courage to come to understand a mass murderers motives. Nor should we ever come to a point in time to try and justify there actions. Do I really care about the motives of Osama or Hitler? By doing that is it going to stop him from wrecking havoc on our culture? No and no.

One more thing, thank you for admitting that you live in a bubble. Let me know when you want a pin to pop it.

Good day.



Fred--

Should anyone cater to jealousy and envy? It seems to me that your notion of arrogance is engaging in conduct that someone else might be offended by for the very reason that THEY can't do it. You use as an example the Apollo program that put men on the moon. Are you saying that we shouldn't have done it because it hurt the feelings of people who were incapable of doing it? Are you saying that we should not take pride in having accomplished this because it hurts someone's feelings?

Take it farther. Should we refrain from coming up with a treatment for cancer because the medical establishment of (insert the name of your favorite third world country here) knows that they couldn't have done this and it therefore would tend to make them feel inferior? Human progress comes from success, not from holding back out of concern that someone else will feel envious of your accomplishments.

I'm sorry. My feelings are not hurt because the quarterback of a pro team can pass a football a hell of a lot better than I ever could. My feelings are not hurt when I encounter someone who makes a lot more money than I do. Are yours? If so, what does this say about you?

Jealousy is a vile thing. Compassion is a good thing. Unfortunately too many people, especially but not exclusively on the left, use the guise of compassion as a vehicle to vent their hatred which arises from jealousy of others. It is a method by which they can express their malice and envy in the name of good.

I do not mean to imply that you do not mean well, but ponder your words very carefully. If you tolerate and make excuses for the darker aspects of the human soul out of some sense of compassion you will find that this will bear some truly ugly fruit. Just go down to the site of Ground Zero in New York. You'll see the results there.



"The idea that truth always triumphs over persecution is one of those pleasant falsehoods, which most experience refutes. History is teeming with instances of truth put down by persecution. If not put down forever, it may be set back for centuries."
--John Stuart Mill 1806-1873



TELL YOUR FRIENDS ABOUT BILL WHITTLE
I would like, at one time, to be the first to comment on one of Bill Whittle's "essays", because I would ask that each one of us who reads it notify six to ten friends to go to his Blog and read it as well. We also need to print them out, and make a few copies to share with friends, friends who do not own a computer, friends who have children in school and college, so that they can share them as well.

Bill, look for a Public Access station locally, and try for a program. I did. I've done 27 TV shows so far, a half an hour at a time, and at age 77 to 78 as well. The Cable companies MUST have Public Access programs, by law. YOU'RE needed on the air! We need people other than these pusillanimous TV hosts who are continuously taking swipes at the President, at the Government, at War, at our Servicemen and Servicewomen, and our Military Leaders!

Ever noticed how every Hollywood film that has anything about the military in it always comes up with an General or Admiral with inane habits, etc. That anti-military stance by the Hollywood community, America is wrong, everyone else is right. Yes, one of those South Vietnamese officers who spent 12 years in a prison camp spelled it all out for me, and he was lucky. When he finally got out (due to friends in America) there were already 50,000 of those men who fought alongside us dead from overwork and starvation, etc.

By the way, with all the comments, this Blog is now up to 80 pages if anyone tries to print it all out. You've generated a huge audience!

And, you're right about commies. Who has anyone ever heard of hordes of people dying to emigrate to a Communist nation, a Workers' Paradise, instead of the hundreds of thousands who have died trying to escape, and the millions who tried and made it? Yes, Berkeley, take note. Form an enclave there, turn it all into a commie island, and the only ones left will be the real Pinkos and the pigeons.

You're right, Bill: We have the confidence that we can do the job in Iraq, and we will. We have a leader who has the confidence to lead us, and he will.



Bill, Have to say I lost interest about half-way through. It's just too long - the middle ramble was what did it (from the BUSH = HITLER to ONLY SOCIALIST REVOLUTION CAN END IMPERIALIST WAR!).

May be worth you (re?)writing a couple of articles with, say, and 2500 word limit - just to see if you can get as much impact as it's currently taking with 6500.

Andy (Short Little Span of Attention)



Ratbane,

[quote]
You use as an example the Apollo program that put men on the moon. Are you saying that we shouldn't have done it because it hurt the feelings of people who were incapable of doing it? Are you saying that we should not take pride in having accomplished this because it hurts someone's feelings?
[end quote]

Yes! This is exactly what I am saying!

[quote]
Take it farther. Should we refrain from coming up with a treatment for cancer because the medical establishment of (insert the name of your favorite third world country here) knows that they couldn't have done this and it therefore would tend to make them feel inferior? Human progress comes from success, not from holding back out of concern that someone else will feel envious of your accomplishments.
[end quote]

No, this is exaclty the opposite of what I am saying.

The Apollo mission, and cancer research have two completely opposite motivations. Cancer research is fueled only by a desire to cure the ill and unfortunate. A cure for cancer can be considered a milestone in our dramatic, albeit blood-stained, history. The Apollo mission, on the other hand, was simply America's attempt at topping to Russians for being the first in space.

The Russians were killing us in space exploration. The were orbiting the earth with a manned vessel long before we could even break the atmosphere. Nothing we built was even remotly considered safe for a man to get in. We were embarrased. We dumpped endless amounts of money in to NASA to do whatever it took to beat the Russians. That is why we went to the moon. As I said before, "Exploration of the Final Frontier and the advancement of our civilization were the furthest things from our minds". It was all about showing up our fellow man, and that is adolescent behavior at best.

While going to the moon is a huge accomplishment for mankind (and I discount nothing from the actual feat itself), it saddens me that one of the greatest acts in human history was done out of aggression toward other humans. Keep in mind we are all humans and we represent each other. These acts dont disappear with us; they happened and they cannot be undone. Many years after we are all gone, we may be looked upon as savages in much the same way as we look at the generations before our time.

Yes we went to the moon in 1969, but we all quietly wonder, why has space exploration slammed on the breaks? Its because these days, space exploration is exactly what the title suggests. We are pacing ourselves and learning all the prerequesites before risking so much on a suicide mission again. Hopefully, no other country will out-do us in the near future so we don't have to try a stunt like that again.

[quote]
I'm sorry. My feelings are not hurt because the quarterback of a pro team can pass a football a hell of a lot better than I ever could. My feelings are not hurt when I encounter someone who makes a lot more money than I do. Are yours? If so, what does this say about you?
[/quote]

You are out of context again. If you were in the business of throwing footballs, and Joe Montana was saying right in your face, that he's the best quarterback that ever lived and nobody can touch him, you would think that he's a dick! What if he actually was as good as good could get, and upshowing him was impossible and you knew it, it might actually piss you off.

The same goes for someone making more money than you. Living in a capitolist country, we all are in the business of making money. If your neighber had a driveway full of mercedes, hummers, and jaguars, and was telling you that he's the alpha male around here and you can take your 9 to 5 working behind around back and shovel his snow, you might think twice about flatening his tires. And if it wasn't against the law to do such things, I seriously doubt most people could restrain themselves given an opportunity like that.


And finally, I tried to use subtle disclaimers, but they're obviously not getting through. I am not making excuses for the darker aspects of the human soul. I'm merely attempting to point out that although on a smaller scale, we are guilty of having the same dark spots. Usually they are kept under control by fear...Fear of being disciplined and shuned by society. But every once in a while, a person like Adolph Hitler or Saddam Husein ends up in a position of power and doesn't have to cope with such restraints.

And while we "normal citizens" have learned to keep these dark spots under control, a little of it seeps out of us in environments where we don't have to worry about conciquences. Still it is the same behavior, and if you are capable of showing it, you have absolutly no right to judge anyone else who shows it, even when they do so on a catastrophic scale.



Fred: I've given up reading your posts. They either showcase a great ignoarance or a desire to revise history to make political points. The space program was all about outdoing the Soviets??? So the Soviets paid us money for pieces of moon rock for what purpose? Once we got to the moon first, we went back again for the fun of it? If you're a Luddite, maybe you think going to the moon was simply a propaganda ploy. For those who understand what science is all about, the reason's are obvious.

- Jay



I've also given up on the globalist. It seems that his bubble is to thick to pop.



Great essay, but one small observation from across the pond. Decent, non-commie (!), perfectly nice people do worry about American power and belligerence, not because of the many great Americans we know personally, but because we don't always see those qualities in your political leaders. A true friend won't be afraid to be critical; a true friend will take criticism in the right spirit.



Bill Whittle,
Love your style, love your humor,was laughing even as I disagreedwith what youwere saying.How can someone as smart and erudite as youcontinue to believethat invading Iraqmade sense?

(Afraid your Comments isn't functioning)



Thank you! I'm not the only one who sees the Communists who have been hiding under all our beds since the 1960s!



Geez...I cannot read anything on your damn site without getting teary-eyed with pride, love, sadness, etc...and just that; the EMOTIONS I get to experience are so rare as to feel like a gift. Thank you for it!
[/end drama]



its either black or white isn`t. america is a corrupt blood thirsty empire or the last light shining in a world full of commies and moral degenerates. you guys are full of shit. the ideals your country was founded on although not perfect even then (how could they be) have been perverted and confused. your population is poorly educated, and this is by design. your media is misleading, and this is by design. your poilitical system offers no choice. your leaders have misled you an its a matter of fact. your foriegn policy is responsible for as much misery as any other nations and its a matter of fact.
its unfortunate that the writer, a man who`s high inteligence is obvious, has decided to make a decision based on emotion rather than taking a sobering look at the history of united states policy. the spirit of america is not summarized by a night out boozing and womanizing, your founding fathers would role over in their graves hearing this.
its not about right and wrong BOYS it about power! and that is what us left wing duche bag chomkies resent. not that we pretend to live in a world where 'our' interest need not be protected, but that the realities of foriegn and domestic policy are hidden and confused. your government knows for certian what its people can never know. the more messed up it gets the more the right and the left dig their heals in and MISS TEH POINT!!!!! and we get no where and your leaders know this. its about power not patriotism, morality, or anything else.