Saturday, December 14, 2002

very emotional today, right now. on the verge of crying; can feel the emotion compressing my chest, for hours now. stringing lights on the tree, the last one i'll have living under this roof. feel enormously guilty at the hurt i've caused my wife; not for the divorce, we're both glad that is going to occur but for the sorrow, pain and anger i've caused. my "little" boy, now 13, helping us with the lights. 13 prior christmases with my golden-haired golden boy. the last one for me. don't "deserve" to feel such hurt inside since i am not the victim, i'm the perpetrator. still do.

waiting for divorce is a death watch. very much like dad's last few months. it is coming, you know the loved one will be better off but its a sadness unique in our existence, to know that there is no more final finality. the divorce watch.

i don't so much feel conflicting emotions but seperate, different, sometimes contradictory emotions one by one. anger one day, grief another, acceptance, excitement; maybe not excitement but a "looking forward to."

i really think though that next christmas, and those thereafter, will be better.

-benjamin harris

Thursday, December 05, 2002

A MAN AND HIS DOG


the man walked with his dog in the woods that he had known since childhood along an old indian path that long ago had been widened to allow for forest fire fighting vehicles. he had hunted white tail in these woods with his older brother. his brother taught him to look for the green deer eyes at the tree wall, the point in the forest where the arboreal density made it impossible to see beyond. the tree wall was black, a swallowing, impenetrable,depthless black, not so much a color as a condition.

as he walked he saw another out in the woods with his dog. the other sat on a promontory overlooking a small ravine, the same ravine that the man, then a boy, and his younger brother had swung out and over as they hung onto vines.

the other stood up and threw a large, thick stick high over the ravine. his dog, a chocolate labrador retriever locked in on the stick, ran down the slope, looked up to check coordinates and arrived where the stick fell within moments of it's landing.

the man went over to the other, they nodded greetings, and they watched the dog, blue, the other said his name was, grasp the stick in it's jaws and prance over the floor of the ravine with the pedigree's haughtiness, it's head held high, it's tail in the air. the dog bounded up the slope, it's black coat shimmering in the late afternoon sun and went to where the other sat, dropping the stick on the ground by him.

yes the man said he had a dog also. he was black too though not a pedigree, neither large nor small and he had had him for a long time.

throw, chase, retrieve. throw, chase, retrieve. he watched as the other threw the stick and the shining chocolate lab chased after it. down the hill, up the hill.

the man nodded to the other and took his leave and he continued on his walk.

the man had gotten his dog many years back in the year of the great changes. it was in the fall or winter of that year, it had been so long ago he didn't remember, but not in the spring or summer.

almost all the boys he grew up with in the country had dogs so he didn't think much of the dog coming to him in that year. his dog seemed different but much about the world seemed different to him in the year of the great changes.

the dog's eyes were dark, almost black and they communicated intelligence, maybe not intelligence, but a knowing, but no playfulness, no child-like joi de vieve. it displayed none of the affection toward him that makes this interspecies bond unique. when it looked at him it was with familiarity, that knowing, and when he looked at it, it was with familiarity, almost with resignation.

his dog did not bound about nor did it display any territorialness toward strangers. it's only interest was the man. it's coat was black but not the shiny black of the other's dog but the swallowing, impenetrable, depthless black of the tree wall so that when the man looked at the coat he didn't see the contours of the dogs muscle and skeleton, just the blackness.

the man, then a boy, didn't speak of the dog much and noone seemed to notice any difference in the dog and since everyone had a dog he came to accept it even though he didn't much like it and he was not much afraid of it.

and for some years that's how it was. the boy, now a young man, and the dog. he came to view it as a part of him, something that made him who he was, like the bullet fragment he had in the palm of his hand. he knew it was there and so he came to accept it.

when it got cold, the tissue around the fragment would get inflamed and it would swell slightly. he would touch the small bump and roll it around with his thumb and index finger, knowing what it was, wishing he didn't have it but not concerned that it was doing him any harm. he just lived with it. he was amused by it, almost affectionate toward it. like the bullet fragment, the dog would be a significant presence at some times but at others the young man wasn't even aware that the dog was with him.

but one year the relationship between the man and the dog changed and the dog was closer to him than it had ever been before, not in a loving way but as a greater part of him. it did not growl or bite, but the dog became menacing nonetheless, it's closeness oppressive.

the man was in the arena frequently the year the dog became oppressive and he would come home with a fatigue he had not known before. as soon as he got into bed the dog would lay on him and he could feel the oppression and he felt that he couldn't move.

but this was not like harry and the hyena. the man used the dog's presence to help him sleep. he would stare into the dog's depthless black coat and lose himself. he surrendered to the blackness. he felt himself floating in the void. there was a peace that he had never known before. it was not another world, not a dream utopia, but nothingness and the man would awake in the morning and not be rested. "fifteen hours and then i can sleep again," he would tell himself. and throughout the day when he was in the arena and didn't know how he was doing it he would encourage himself. "eight more hours," "three more hours." "i have miles to go before i sleep and miles to go before i sleep."

for many months that's what the man did. the dog would crawl on him, the man would feel almost pushed through the mattress unable to move and he would give himself over to the dog and the void.

but even with the peace that the dog brought, the man knew that the dog was now a problem. maybe lots of people have dogs, but this sleeping with him for months,and pushing his whole body down, this he was sure was a problem. the man had seldom spoken of the dog with others before but now he did and with a little help from his friends he got the dog off his chest and farther away from him than it had ever been before. but the dog was still around and the man remembered the year the dog became oppressive and knew that the dog would always be with him. he would grow older, the man thought, but the dog would not.

it was now dusk and the man began walking back. the other was leaving also and the man waved to him who waved back. the other watched as the man walked away, the fading sunlight overpowering the colors of his clothes, the purple shirt and khaki pants, blending the colors until they were indistinguishable. the other watched until the man became just a silhouette, the black of the silhouette a swallowing, impenetrable, depthless black.

-benjamin harris


Friday, November 15, 2002

Islam In Its Own Words

ISLAM IN ITS OWN WORDS, CONT.

"do not have mercy or compassion toward the jews. their women are yours to take, legitimately. god made them yours." (sheik saad al-buraik; the new york times, november 8, 2002, p. b41.)

these words are from a sermon calling for the enslavement of jewish women by muslim men delivered in a mosque in riyadh, the capital of saudi arabia. the sermon was delivered in april 2002. that same month al-buraik was part of the official saudi delegation that visited president bush at his crawford, texas ranch.

i say the war is with islam. where do you stand?

-benjamin harris

Saturday, October 26, 2002

Paul Wellstone

Paul Wellstone

amongst the many sincere tributes paid to the late senator paul wellstone were interspersed various short clips of his remarks over the years showing his passion and committment to the issues he believed in. in one of those clips he reiterated his intent to stand alone in the senate if voting in the majority meant going against his convictions. in the other he expressed his gratitude to the many of his constituents who he said had come up to him after his nay vote on the iraq resolution to pledge their support for his independence of judgment even as they disagreed with that particular vote.

the image of senator wellstone held here is the one he celebrated in those remarks, that of the, sometimes lone, dissenter speaking on c-span in the senate well, empty except for him and the stenographer. it is an image shared by others as well. platitudinous euolgies aside, it apparently was hard to dislike wellstone, his convictions being so obviously and sincerely held and his personality so generous of spirit. his opponent, former st.paul mayor norm coleman, decided on what here seemed a brilliant, and the only potentially successful, strategy to unseat him. our virtues are our vices and wellstone's principled virtue had the concommitant of ineffectiveness if not irrelevance.

this race, already closely watched for it's effect on control of the senate, shone a spotlight more than most on the politician's existential dilemma, the ancient dialectic in representative politics between voting one's independent judgment and voting one's constituency's desires. these are often short-handed as being "principled" and "pandering" which is why coleman's campaign slogan probably wasn't "to get along, i'll go along," but that view is short-sighted as well as short-handed. there is no formula that tells politicians when to do one and when to do the other.

the case for the "principled" position was most famously laid out by edmund burke in his "speech to the electors of bristol" in 1774 when he was campaiging for a seat in parliament. he offered in himself:

"unbiased opinion, mature judgement, and enlightened conscience. parliament is a DELIBERATIVE
assembly of ONE nation, with ONE interest, that of the whole, where, not local purposes, not
local prejudices ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole."
[emphasis in original]

courageous. wise. principled. would that we had leaders like him today. the electors of bristol could have had him but there weren't enough of wellstone's selfless norwegians about and they decided against it. burke lost, presumably to someone more biased, less mature and less enlightened, but guided more by local prejudices.

the countervailing view is the realpolitik of harold lasswell, the title of his most important work perfectly expressing his view of where the emphasis in politics should be.: "politics, who gets what, when, how." why is this considered a crass view compared to that of burke? if england had wanted a parliament of m.p.'s elected nationally it could have had it. it chose instead to have representatives run from different geographical units. why shouldn't they vote "local prejudices?"

wellstone's minnesota twin, hubert humphrey, had no difficulty explaining his preference for lasswell over burke when he said, contrasting himself with michael dukakis, "dukakis doesn't care if shit come out of the pipes so long as the pipes are nice and shiny. i don't care what the pipes look like so long as the right thing comes out."

but if one only votes one's constituency's desires then another kind of irrelevance is produced, that of the non-thinking scribe who simply records his masters wishes. there's a name for that too, it's called direct democracy and it's mechanism is not the election but the referendum.

our founding fathers had deep misgivings about too much democracy. the electoral college was to be a serious buffer between popular preference and selection of the president. wellstone's senate was to be exclusively appointive, the better to ensure a critical mass of "unbiased opinion, mature judgement and enlightened conscience," or, to provide a sinecure for those who couldn't get elected to the mean house of representatives.

these then are the politician's scylla and charybdis. for most, there's a "heads i win tails you lose" quality to their approach to the problem. agricultural subsidies for example, are not pandering; they're "preserving the family farm," true if the families involved are named archer, daniels or midland, while the REAL pork is that which exists in other members public works projects.

for some politicians though, predominantly those of the fevered brow on right and left alike, there's "courage" in tilting at windmills and statesmanship in 99-1 votes. that is proof of their burkean independence. what it is also proof of is their subconscious desire to avoid the responsibility of power. take extreme enough positions and you'll never be in a position to make a tough decision, call it what you will.

wellstone was a smart man and a professor of politics. he recognized the collegial if not deliberative nature of the senate early in his first term and toned down his personal criticisms of his political foes, like jesse helms. but coleman's campaign strategy still had traction as the polls say. the point is not that wellstone was right or wrong on all those lopsided votes but whether a senator so out of the maistream can be effective in representing his constituents interests.

how to resolve this conundrum? obviously it can't be resolved and the position advanced here is that there is no disquiet in that realization. everyone is confronted with important decisions in life, to marry, to procreate, to choose a career path. these are vexing moments but their cumulative effect is to sculpt out of an amorphous granite slab of potentiality the individual character of each of us. sometims we regret the decisions we have made but we come to realize that we are the sum of those choices. if we have put sincere effort into making the decisions that is enough. we learn that often there is no one right answer, no one person who is to be our soulmate, no one career. there are many. there are many truths.

most admirable are those who constantly reach higher even if their grasp is sometimes exceeded. politicians do that, as do police officers, judges, proecutors and fire-rescue personel. they put themselves in positions to extend the existential dilemmas that are thrust on them in their personal lives to decisions involving the lives of other people. not many of us have the courage to do that.


-benjamin harris

Friday, October 18, 2002

BODY AND SOUL


what if someone from, say, the 18th century could be transported to the 21st century and see all the technology we have? what if that person were someone like benjamin franklin who would have some understanding of the basic science behind it all? imagine his awe at radio, television, the internet. imagine walking with him down a new york city street and watching his amazement at the cars going by and the jets overhead.

now imagine that you turn a corner on that street and duck into a gold's gym for a quick workout...

what would he think? picture the scene from his perspective: muscular men strenuously lifting, pushing and pulling...something, but to no apparent purpose, not building anything, not moving objects from one place to another. also women running IN PLACE on moving surfaces and climbing contrived stairs. "are these people slaves?" "is it a penal colony?" "an insane asylum?" "is it the sisyphian nightmare come alive?" more importantly, how would we explain it to him?

anthropologically, deconstructing the gym's raison d'etre proves nettlesome. the usual rationales are health benefits and as counterweight to our otherwise sedentary lives.

however, weight-lifting is hardly the ideal form of exercise for either short-term or long-term fitness. it does little for the heart and has some not insignificant risk of injury. it certainly does not compare with, say, swimming in it's ability to make the body slimmer, sleeker and more supple. those of us who lift weights exclusively are likely to be humbled if we take a friend up on an invitation to run a 10k race, for example.

if it's a more aerobic workout we want, why pay the price to join a gym to use a treadmill when there's a street right outside? why use a stairmaster when you could bypass the elevator at home and work and climb, like, real stairs?

further, the muscles built in weight-lifting are utterly useless. they're rather like the shrinking, withering hindlegs of creatures who have evolved from land-dwelling to sea-dwelling beings. there is no plausible retirement scenario that we are preparing ouselves for by lifting weights. we are not going to be spending our golden years in the construction industry nor, hopefully, in slavery or prison.

the counterweight-to-the-desk-job rationale doesn't hold either. the sheer purposelessness of the activity that would confound an 18th century observer is not consistent with that explanation. we could get similar exercise in the above-mentioned construction industry or, more philanthropically, in habitat-for-humanity or similar public service activities. we could volunteer to do menial municipal improvement jobs like picking up trash along the streets or planting trees or painting buildings.

the gym gesellschaft is also predominantly an american phenomenon. there are comparatively very few home-grown gyms in europe, that is, those not affiliated with hotels and other tourist centers. to even call it a phenomenon, implying a fad, is not true. gyms became popular in the early '70's. that's over thirty years, making them more fixture than fad.

their popularity correlates with the entry of the first of the baby-boomers into their thirties. but it is not just a boomer obsession either. generation x'ers and y'ers have followed their elders to the point that working out is de riguer, and even those much older, those in their sixties and over, are a visible presence in any large gym.

none of these factors individually or together accounts for the prevalence of the gym in american life. the position advanced here is that it is a manifestation, perhaps a trite manifestation, of the american soul, one distinct from the european. comparatively, americans are a faster-paced, harder working, more ambitious people than are europeans. any visitor from one place to the other notices the difference. a slovakian yuppie remarked on how the american idea of morning coffee is as likely to be a cup in the car on the way to work while she was accustomed to the more leisurely, "civilized" cafe moment before starting her day.

americans work harder, play harder and more relentlessly pursue their goals which, rightly or wrongly, are wealth and beauty. europeans put a greater emphasis on "quality of life" factors. thus, europeans exercise to stay fit. americans exercise to become beautiful. europeans walk much more than americans do. walking will keep you fit but it will not make you beautiful. bulging biceps and pectorals may be as useful as fins on a cow but they are considered attractive so men strive for them. cellulite on a woman's thighs or buttocks has zero health implications but is considered unslightly so they strive to get rid of it.

plastic surgery is the first cousin of the gym. the vast majority of americans will have some sort of appearance-enhancement procedure done sometime in their lives. orthodontic work is so common now as to be a teenage rite of passage. crooked teeth are simply unacceptable. having perfect white teeth has become a european caricature of americans. a friend told of her flirtatious encounter with a couple of discolored/crooked-toothed european men in a bar. "i bet you brush your teeth every day," one said teasingly. "sometimes twice," replied my friend, in revulsion.

orthodontics, teeth bleaching, liposuction, breast enhancement, hair replacement, face lifts--all of these are part of the american landscape. they certainly make for an edgier, more unforgiving landscape. my wife, like i, firmly ensconsed in middle age, just returned from paris where she reported there was an obviously broader range of that which is considered beautiful. she saw men in their fifties and sixties, well-dressed, well-coiffed, slim, oh, maybe a little belly, but still handsome even to women in their twenties and thirties. it's a valid point. americans, men and women, often hit the panic button at passing one of the markers that indicate removal from that cohort identified as "young adult:" child-birth, the big four-0, balding, graying, the onset of the paunch. that's when you see the desperate lunging back for the accoutrements of youth: a new, sexier car in place of the old one; a new, sexier wife in place of the old one.

nonetheless, the crass behavior mentioned above is just the inevitable frayed edge of an otherwise strong fabric. there is an elan vital in america that is not as prevalent in europe. effort, whether in work or play, is prized more. the goal of beauty, like that of truth, may be a chimera but to strive to make oneself better is not a fool's chase but the best of the human spirit. maybe franklin, france's favorite american, would understand. as he put it in poor richard's almanack, "no gains without pain."

-benjamin harris

Sunday, October 06, 2002

"The Importance of Being Earnest"

"The Importance of Being Earnest"

last night i came upon a recording of the william tell overture on my car radio. the passion and energy of the piece were stirring but, my knowledge of classical music being limited, i didn't know that the composer was giacchino rossini. i remembered back to a lecture i had heard a few years ago by professor robert greenberg, himself a composer.

in his survey course of western music greenberg hardly had an uncharitable word to say about any composer. i know because i listened carefully, trying to get that little bit of discerning knowledge that would allow me to sound educated if the topic ever came up: "oh yes, the canon is delightful listening but pachabel really wrote much better stuff." things like that. greenberg actually said that too but the only other time i can recall him saying anything critical was in his comments on rossini.

rossini was a composer of preternatural talent, obvious to even a novice like myself upon hearing something like the william tell. he composed some of the most memorable operas of his or any other time and achieved fame and fortune in italian society. and then he stopped. just stopped composing altogether and for the rest of his life enjoyed la dolce vita.

greenberg said that most composers feel the need to compose as an essential form of self-expression, the abandonment of which being inconceivable. he said something like, one has to wonder about so talented an artist in so intense and expressive a field who can just give it up for a life of leisure.

this is the dialectic between talent and effort. we all know its manifestations. the person who loses interest in something as soon as he or she achieves a certain level of competence thereby abjuring any possibility of excellence; the student who has the term paper written "in my head" but who avoids putting pen to paper.

this conflict is actually rare in the arts, as far as i know. renoir turned his back on efforts to pursue the intellectual breakthroughs of impressionism for better-paying, pleasing, pastel, ultimately banal portraiture, reproductions of which today grace the offices and apartments of vacous young women desiring the patina of refinement, but the popular image of artists anyway is that of the obsessed, almost mad creative genius working until he can work no more. one thinks of van gogh, hemingway, and the deathbed scenes of beethoven shaking his fist at the thunder outside his window and mozart dictating composition.

perhaps equally rare but more publicized are the instances where the conflict occurs in the sports world. every college football yearbook contains the same coaches praise for the scrubs: "i wish everyone on this team practised as hard as larry lardass." nothing gets more praise than hard work, especially when it doesn't count. that's playing the game "the right way." that's the spirit of devotion to team. that's also the fate of those doomed to play the position of "left out."

talent is the athletic coin-of-the-realm. you're only going to get significant p.t. if you can "shoot the rock" or hit the ball or run a 4.39 40. coaches like to say that that stuff can't be taught, which suggests that those who have it don't have to go to class.

occasionally that's what happens. occassionally there's the star player who just can't make it to practice or practices in a desultory fashion when he does show. this frequenly leads to extreme coaching angst.

what did larry brown do to deserve allen iverson? was it the powder-blue polyester jumpsuit he used to wear while coaching in the '70's? c'mon. enough already. iverson is a punk-bitch, a narcissistic mamma's boy whose career options aside from basketball were the department of solid waste and selling crack. but he's a punk-bitch with jets, and therein lies brown's existential crisis.

on his induction into the basketball hall of fame brown extolled the virtues of playing the game "the right way." for brown, skipping practice or going through the motions is a blasphemy against the almighty, dean smith. brown's soul is torn, his basketball spirit haunted by the sybarite wearing #3. It may yet cause his resignation from the '76er's or the trading of iverson.

which would be a shame because playing the game of basketball "the right way" ultimately means scoring more points than the other team, nothing else. that's why brown was hired. that's why iverson was drafted. it's the game of life that iverson fails at and that is what brown should rue. but he needs to keep them seperate.

most coaches recognize this distinction, consciously or not. they paper over the personal shortcomings of their players which is why few situations approach the epic tragedy
of the brown-iverson dance of death. at the other extreme is, or was, jimmy johnson. he had disdain for the adage that coaches must treat all players the same, never showing favoritism. emmitt smith could practice or not and never would be heard a discouraging word from the jimmer as long as emmitt performed on sundays. but let larry lardass take a lap in practice and j.j. would see to it that the barcelona dragons had a new addition to their roster.

johnson's soul was not torn by the sometime conflict between talent and effort. if he ever had a soul he probably sold it long ago for one of his three rings. and that is one way of doing one's work in life. win. make the most money. and retire to la dolce vita, or the upper keys.

but for those, like brown, who work and still have souls the conflict is there. one can sympathize with his struggle while still seeing it as unnecessary. the two, the worldly and the spiritual, are seperate. larry brown rightly renders unto ceasar what is ceasar's when he plays allen iverson. he should celebrate iverson's performances and the fame and fortune that they bring him. but he is right also to feel that an athletic ethos and the human spirit are violated by such a man. brown should not disrespect either as johnson did with his indulgence of the talented but insolent. he should show his disdain for iverson the person. the most embarrasing photo of brown is not the one of him in the powder-blue jumpsuit. it's the one of iverson sitting on his lap when he was named mvp. brown should say something like, "allen is the best player in the game and i will play him as long as he performs but we are not soulmates. i hope allen grows but i doubt he will and when he leaves this game he will have his trophies but nothing else." arright, that's not very memorable but something like that.

we are all self-contained spiritual entities. we are fulfilled and honor our place in the grand scheme by effort. there is no god to please or displease, no heaven to strive for nor hell to avoid. the human spirit is about striving. why climb everest? because it is there, george mallory said. in the protestant ethic, work is it's own reward. for the hindus the state of grace is reached by the striving not the attainment. it is this spirit that is violated by rossini and iverson and johnson and renoir.

the western canon would be impoverished without rossini's operas as would basketball without iverson's play, but the human spirit is diminished by them both.

-benjamin harris.

Monday, August 19, 2002

This is "Public Occurrences," a blog dedicated to all bloggers,

and to the original bloggers, the pamphleteers of colonial america, and to the original blog, publick occurrences both forreign and domestick, the first newspaper published in north america, on september 25, 1690, it's first and only issue, with the purposes "to encourage knowledge of affairs abroad and at home, to document memorable providences, and to combat the spirit of lying that prevails amongst us."

Sunday, August 18, 2002

SPIRITS

i take a back seat to noone in expressing disdain for religion but i usually keep my mouth shut out of exasperation at the delusions of fools, er i mean, out of respect for the spiritual life of my fellow man.

but sometimes i am provoked.

today the new york times reviewed a new book on mormonism, a religion i find particularly insulting because, in addition to racism, it keeps tall beautiful blonde girls in the servitude of virginity well beyond the usefual age for that condition, because it prohibits the consumption of spirits, and because it prohibits people from keeping all of their money, an odious practice called "tithing" that nets the "church" 10% of earnings. as a gun-toting, hard-drinking, chain-smoking right winger once said in explaining his hatred of the department of alcohol, tobacco and firearms, "they're against everything i love!"

my derision of mormonism goes back to a famous murder trial years ago that was provoked by the attempted sale of a, regrettably, fake letter supposedly authored by his holiness joseph smith in which joe writ that a white salamander had served as a translator between god and joe wherein god requested that joe hisself establish a new religion. the fact that joe was illiterate was the first sign that something was up with the letter.

but mormonisn don't need no white salamanders to salander it. all religions have goofy-ass beliefs, which should be the first giveaway that they are the vaporings of feverish minds under the spell of what we would call today paranoid schizophrenia but which, before the invention of lithium, was then called insight, and picking on one religion at the expense of those that, e.g. hold as accepted fact that their savior came to us via birth to a virgin????, or that these believers or those believers have been "chosen" by god for special dispensation (chosen for what? one group of chosen never even had their own country till the rest of us gave it to them) and i am equally dismissive of those, but the accumulated nonsense at the genesis of mormonism may be beyond the pale of even those others.

so in the spirit of mean-spiritedness here is the history of mormonism in the detail provided by the times.

saint joseph of sharon vt, was born, says the times, to "drifters" in 1805 and had his first attack, er vision, at 14. at 17 1/2 he had another and this was "the big one." joe said an angel, or something, named "moroni" (pronounced "moron"-ee) told him of a hidden gospel, inscribed on golden tablets that was buried in a hill called cumorah.

now, a momentous discovery has just been made right here in the pages of public occurrences. sometimes, like now, when i'm a little bored and on adderall i can spend hours making anagrams out of words for example dave barry's manipulating the letters in former presidential candidate paul tsongas' name and coming up with (with due regard given for poetic license) "gaseous plant." anyway, right here YOU are the first to know that if you play with the letters in cumorah you can get "much oar", which to you may not mean anything but to guys like me and joe is obviously a "sign." making allowance for what adderal does to my brain and for joe's illiteracy you could understand that to be "much ORE" as in GOLD ore, which would be another clue as to what was buried in that goddamn hill.

so joe got his pa's shovel and dug 'em up. they were in a language called "reformed egyptian" a still unknown dialect and of course joe couldn't read them.

BUT, lucky for us, but unlucky for all those desiring carnal knowledge of joe's tall, blonde female issue, there were two fucking magic stones called urim and thummim (anagramatically "uma thurman") which were set in silver bows. this, fellow goyim, was the BOOK OF MORMON.

so joe was all set. being a red-blooded american male of 17 1/2 he added a footnote to the virginity law that allowed for polygamy, and he set off to find a homeland for his "people." joe's new religion met with less than universal support, or as the times indelicately puts it, "almost from the beginning the book of mormon was met with scorn and disbelief." the mormons were run out of town in ohio and missouri and eventually pitched their tent in illinois but ran afoul of the locals and joe and his brother done got themselves thrown in the hoosegow. one night some of the townspeople busted and offe them.

the remainder of the tribe straggled on westward enduring unspeakable hardship and then crossed some mountain and gazed upon the fairest sight ever that human eyes beheld, a great, blue, shimmering lake. halle-fucking-lujah! this was surely the promised land. their bedraggled asses ran down the mountain as fast as they could and they dipped their canteens into the life-giving liquid and took a thirst-quenching gulp, and.......have you ever noticed how "the chosen" always seem to get a "promised land" with no fresh water?

let us pray.

-benjamin harris

Friday, August 16, 2002

Causes and Effects

CAUSES AND EFFECTS

in science, determining cause and effect is accomplished by controlling for all but one variable. any changes in development can therefore be traced to that variable. the nature versus nurture debate is tested by the study of twins. start with the same genes and any substantial differences can, by elimintion, be attributed to socialization.

in his wednesday column in the new york times thomas l. friedman claimed that he performed this analysis on india and pakistan and found the determining variable.

the subcontinent provides a rare opportunity to apply this analytical method to social and political development. before partition in 1947 it was ruled over by the british raj with it's liberal political philosophy, civil service and legal structures.

first friedman described the conditions of the common genetic starting point: "people have the same basic blood, brains and civilizational heritage" in both countries; before partition there was a "long history of indian muslims and hindus living together in villages and towns, sharing communal institutions and mixing their cultures and faiths."

and then friedman described the wildly differernt trajectories that the countries have taken since they were born. india is a "teeming multiethnic, multireligous, multilingual country...one of the world's great wonders--a miracle..."

pakistan on the other hand is "50 years of failed democracy, military coups. and imposed religosity...[that] churns out pakistani youth who know only the koran and hostility toward non-muslims."

the difference, according to friedman is democracy. india has it and pakistan doesn't. "if islam is ever to undergo a reformation, as chirstianity and judaism did, it's only going to happen in a muslim democracy."

he makes his argument with the passionate use of repetitive rhetorical questions, "is it an accident..." that no indian muslim was a member of al qaeda? "is it an accident..." that indian-pakistani wars have occurred under pakistani military regimes? "is it an accident..." that only in india did muslim women demand equal prayer rights?, etc. all of these differences he says can be attributed to democracy.

this site has long and consistently argued for actions by the u.s.government that would encourage democracy in the islamic world but friedman deliberately blurs cause and effect. democracy is not the root cause of anything. democracy is dependent on and is the product of a particular social and political philosophy. that philosophy is political liberalism--freedom of thought, expression, assembly, press, etc. values that inform meaningful electoral choice.

the different developmental trajectories of india and pakistan can be traced to the differences in heir social and political philosophies.

the "idea of india" is described by sunil khilnani in his book of the same name: "nehru's idea of india sought to coorrdinate within the form of a modern state a variety of values: democracy, religious tolerance, economic development and cultural pluralism."

syed shahabuddin, an indian muslim quoted by friedman makes the same point that friedman deliberately ignores, "india is a democracy, AND MORE THAN THAT A SECULAR DEMOCRACY...[emphasis added]". "it s precisely because of the 'CONSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK [emphasis added] here' " that muslims in india don't have to resort to violence.

pakistan on the other hand cast off the political and social inheritance it shared with india for an original position characterized by no seperation of church and state, no constitutional framework, no freedom of thought, expression, etc. and CONSEQENTLY no meaningful electoral choice.

the reason is islam. it is not so much a religion as a totalitarian philosophy. it dictates every aspect of life, from what is taught in the schools to the way science is practiced, to social relations, town planning, achitecture, the economy and which way toilets must face (never with the unit or the user facing mecca).

friedman does not miss this elementary point. that it is not democracy that is the original position, but socio-political philosophy.

he deliberately obscures it because to do otherwise woud be to criticize a whole "religion" and thomas friedman cannot bring himself to do that, no matter that islam is unsurpassed among the world's religions in suppresing it's own people, no matter that it is unequaled in demonizing and dehumanizing non-believers, no matter that islam "has bloody borders" in samuel huntington's famous phrase, no matter that this "religion" is in practice fascism with a godhead, no matter what the evidence. this is what he says:

"people say islam is an angry religion. i disagree. it's just that a lot of muslims are angry, because they live under repressive regimes, with no rule of law..."

"is it an accident..." mr. friedman that those muslims who live in, move to, are educated in, or otherwise exposed to western political values are precisely those that dominate membership in al qaeda?

"is it an accident..." mr. friedman that in this "end of history" world, where the debate over democracy is over, that only in the islamic civilization is democracy virtually unheard of?

"is it an accident..." mr. friedman that in the first fully islamic republic in iran democracy is seen to be a "subjective term" so full of "western baggage" that it is to be avoided like the "plague?" 1

"is it an accident... "that no other civilization deliberately targets innocents as part of it's war strategy?

"is it an accident..." that in no other civilization are women kept is such near-servitude?

"is it an accident..." that after one thousand years islam has not gone through a reformation?

friedman's position is not just the conscious but harmless self-delusion of one man. he is an opinion maker on the biggest stage in the west. he would never say that nazism is not an angry philosophy, that it's just that a lot of nazis are angry, but in the face of a philosophy that kills jews--not just israelis--all of over the world as lustily as any brown shirt ever did, in the face of a philosophy that sacrifices it's young people in suicide missions exactly as tghe japanese did their kamikaze fighters, in the face of a philosophy that is as dictatorial as the soviet union, in the face of all this, thomas friedman, because this philosophy calls itself a religion, for the sake of civility and political correctness, deliberately obscures this evil, appeases this ruthless civilization, and minimizes the nature of the theat that the west faces in conflict with that civilization.

democracy is not the root cause of the differences between india and pakistan or islam and the rest of the world. islam is the difference and democracy will never exist in islamic countries until islam changes.

-benjamin harris

Sunday, July 21, 2002

Men Behaving Badly

MEN BEHAVING BADLY

"the soaps: for the sorority of the bored american woman, they are the next best thing to a life."

"...there [is] something absurd and pathetic in having such an exaggerated interest in the outcome of this endless succession of essentially identical encounters and of the people who paricipate in them or, in other words, in being a woman."

those are two sentences you will not see written in a mass circulation magazine. yet substitute "sportscasters" for "soaps" and "man" for "woman" in the above two sentences and you have the cover story of today's new york times magazine.

oh yes there are articles on the banality of life as a middle class american woman but the contempt is missing, as is the equivalent of the cartoon accompanying the times article depicting a bug-eyed chap, caffeinated drink in one hand, remote in the other, watching sports at 3:05 am, the floor scattered with pretzels, beer cans and sports publications.

never mind that the story is written by an alleged male (peter de jonge, french for "my peter is not long." ok that was a defensive sophomoric cheap shot, the kind the guys on sportscenter would utter off the air) it has long been fashionable to trash the habits of contemporary "guys." a legitimate cultural icon like mel kiper, jr is ridiculed for his verbiage and hairdo, his contribution to consciousness raising for an event of no less significance than the NFL DRAFT FOR CHRISSAKES, ignored. he's avant garde and like all great artists he showed the way before the masses were ready for it.

all of us guys have felt the sting of a remark by one of our betters putting down our interest in sports. "people who watch spectator sports are a lower form of life" said a (female, of course) friend, the sting all the more pronounced because it was not said directly to me but overheard. we have felt the panic of being seated next to an attractive woman and trying to make conversation but being stymied by references to books read by her and not even heard of by us ("did you read nietzsche's "the last man"? "no, but i do think he was the greatest middle linebacker of all time.").

there is misunderstanding about the meaning of sports to us. it is not the game that matters so much as it is the post-game commentary. sportscenter, whose debut on sept. 5, 1979 is quietly celebrated by guys as one of the seminal events in american history, is a microcosm of our existential reality. we live in a fast-paced world, we don't have time to watch the whole damn game and so we have to subsist on highlights. the brilliance of sportscenter, grudgingly acknowledged by de jonge in a comment by aaron sorkin that it is "one of the funniest and best-written shows on the air," is that it accompanied the highlights with witty, high-brow commentary that even we got. de jonge pays homage to the current sportscenter team of rich eisen and dan patrick but he apparently missed keith olberman and dan patrick whose repartee and hilarious highlight editing made the 11:30 edition must-see tv.

de jonge is uncertain of the meaning of it all. is it symptomatic of our atomistic existence, our subliminal need to be part of a larger community, even one that convenes in the middle of the night? no, if de jonge knew anything he would realize that it is the american manifestation of the hindu life cycle.

of the five stages of life for the hindu male, those of us who watch sports and the talk shows in particular, are in the "forrest dweller" stage, where the scriptures tell us, a man begins to withdraw from life. the next, last and most exulted state is that of the renouncer, when man comletes his seperation from society and goes off alone to walk the last days of his life contemplating existence. unwittingly, de jonge gives the perfect description of this life in his account of ubermensch john madden: "some might find this womanless nomadic existence a bit lacking if not desolate, but to madden, life on the bus is the finally realized ideal of pure, unfettered freedom."

so there you have it, peter. we have passed through adolescence into honorable manhood, we have contributed the sweat of our brow to labor, we have married and propogated the species, we now begin to withdraw, with sportscenter our metronome, to contemplate the meaning of life, or at least who the jets will take in the second round.

-benjamin harris

Sunday, June 30, 2002

For a Foreign Policy Influenced by Principles of Federalism

FOR A FOREIGN POLICY INFLUENCED BY PRINCIPLES OF FEDERALISM

-OVERVIEW-

to meet the challenges of the post cold war era a new framework for our engagement with the world is needed. george kennan's containment theory was adopted as the doctrine of the cold war. that doctrine dealt with a bi-polar world in which two superpowers had the ability to destroy the other. because of that balance of terror, a hot war was to be avoided at all costs and the conflict between the two played itself out in proxy wars throughout the world where each side attempted to check the expansion and influence of the other. two major alliances, nato and the warsaw pact, dominated world geopolitics.

the current world situation is best described by samuel huntington in his 1993 article, "the clash of civilizations." by contrast with the cold war, the clash of civilizations is a multi-polar world. it is sometimes said that the world is now unipolar with the united states as the unchallenged superpower but huntington's paradigm better captures the subleties and complexities of the world today.

in this view the world is divided into seven or eight civilizational blocks, the west, orthodox-slav, china, japan, latin amerca, islam, hindu, and perhaps africa and huntington predicted that conflict would occur along the fault lines of those civilizations. he argued persuasively that these conflicts would be more intractable than even the ideological conflict between marxism and capitalism because of the stronger identification that people have with their cultures. as he put it, "a communist today can become a capitalist tomorrow but a turk can never become an armenian."

additionally, huntington said that conflict would be more tenacious because of the religious influence in civilizations. to fight for an ideology or even one's country is one thing, to fight for a religion, that claims control over not only this world but the next, is another.

while huntington's paradigm is the one adopted in this analysis it is not a doctrine of enagement as the containment theory was. within his framework however the new doctrine below is proposed.

-THE NORMATIVE BASIS OF INTERNATIONAL FEDERALISM-

america stands for many things, democracy, individual liberty, freedom of speech, capitalism, individual responsibility and self-determination, to name a few. sometimes these values come into conflict, as for example freedom of speech and individual responsibility sometimes do.

it is accepted here that the preeminent interest of any nation is security. that interest above all else must be accomplished. that interest also often times comes into conflict with adherence to and promotion of our values and when it does, the view here is that national security must prevail.

in constructing a new doctrine, how it is described, how it is presented to the world, is important. for example, the first bush administration was inconsistent in it's descrption of the reason for our intervention to prevent iraq's takeover of kuwait. at one point secretary of state baker said the fight was over "jobs," a wholly insufficient reason for our action even at home much less for the nations whose support we wanted.

the point is not just a semantic one. as indicated, it can significantly effect the perception of the acceptability of the conflict at home and abroad. it can also effect the conflict itself. it is a truism of politics that he who defines the terms of the debate has a better chance of winning the debate. implicit in this notion however is that each side must accept, tacitly of course, the same description because the point of a doctrine is to manage the conflict so as to avoid war. for instance, a conflict that is seen only in ascriptive terms, that is simply because one side is turkish and the other armenian or one side is arab and the other israeli, is going to be most difficult to channel onto less destructive planes than war since there is no commonality to which appeal can be made.

in the cold war it was "freedom" that was the value used to describe the raison d'etre of the conflict. the world itself was divided up into the "free" world, the communist world and the "third" world. the united states fought in korea and vietnam for "freedom." most importantly it was the appropriate term because it was accepted by the soviets who saw the struggle as about freedom too, just that their freedom was the more authentic one. this convergence in terminology was possible because capitalism and communism were both western inventions. huntington describes russia as a "torn" country, not wholly in one civilization but having the influences of the west and orthodox-slav civilizations, but at least ideologically the soviet union was western. in fact, one commentator cited by huntington even describes the cold war and both world wars as "western civil wars."

not so clear however is what value is appropriate to describe civilizational conflict. "freedom" may still be acceptable but the guess here is that it is not the word that would be used by, for example, islam in describing it's conflict with the west.

this is so first, because freedom is a term still redolent of the cold war paradigm. second, it is closely tied with democracy, a value that decidedly is not accepted by important segments of islam, for example. to select just one example, one islamic commentator writing in a pro-iranian publication stated that "subjective western terms must be avoided like the plague if their western baggage is to be successfully excluded from islamic political thought. democracy is perhaps the most important of these."1 if democracy is "excluded from islamic political thought" it does no good to describe the conflict with that term and that probably excludes "freedom" also as the most appropriate term of description.

third, freedom is just not a bedrock value of theocracies. there is no claim that the people know best. jesus knows best, or mohammad knows best and his laws must be followed, not because the people voted for them but because they are divinely pronounced. if the concept of freedom resonates at all in such a system it would be of the "in-our-slavery-there-is-freedom," type, a description that strips the term of any shared meaning with the west.

finally, freedom is almost a buzzword for islamic rage at the united states because the u.s. is seen as so hypocritical in using it. we say we stand for freedom but then we support undemocratic, positively oppressive regimes like saudi arabia and iran under the shah.

so freedom may not be a common point of departure for a world marked by competing civilizations, at least not one between the west and islam.

it is suggested here that the value that would best serve as a common point of departure is "self-determination," undoubtedly one of the core values of the west and also a concept used by other civilizations to justify their actions. of course, self-determination and freedom, or self-determination and democracy, are really distinctions without differences in the definitional sense but an important component of the doctrinal break proposed is that america change not only it's policies and it's doctrine but also it's discourse with other civilizations.

self-determination is a term that captures many of the strands of thought in other civilizations as well as one of their main objections to the conduct of the united states. china uses it as the rationale to tell the u.s. to get off it's "human rights" agenda. the palestinians claim the right to self-determination, perhaps because they so little value democracy, in their fight for statehood. arab states generally, even friendly ones like jordan, took great umbrage at america's involvement in the iraq-kuwait war, claiming that it was an arab problem, a matter of arab "self-determination" in which the united states, a member of another civilization, should stay out.2 most importantly, self-determination is an important term in civilizational discourse because it is the only way in which a civilization can survive.

self-determination also captures the complaint of so much of the world that american popular culture, from movies to tv to music to corporations like mcdonalds smothers anything different, obliterates any local popular culture. there is the understandable need to be different, not to be dominated by one country in all respects, and to preserve local ways. self-determination is a way of describing these desiderata.

finally, self-determination is the mantra of the nationhood movement, the most dynamic deveopment in the world after world war II. from the subcontinent, to the middle east, to latin america and africa the most desired thing was one's own state, so that a people could exercise "self-determination" once and for all.

simply as a forensic tool also, self-determination is preferable to freedom. as mentioned above, there is a need to come up with a new discourse, and as will be gotten into below in a discussion of implementation of the proposed doctrine, there is going to be a need for america to be adaptable in its strategies, to form new alliances for one purpose, then dissolve them and form others for another purpose, in general to be quick-changing in order to meet the realities of a multi-polar world and also to keep our enemies off-guard. to adopt the language of one's opponent is flummoxing, it is confusing, it signals the scope of the doctrinal change and forces one's opponent to react on the defensive rather than act on the offensive. one example from domestic politics was president clinton's coopting of the republican tax cut proposals in the middle of the 1996 election, an action that robbed senator bob dole of the most important forensic tool he had.

-INTERNATIONAL FEDERALISM-

MILITARY INVOLVEMENT

the doctrine proposed here borrows from concepts of governmental relations embodied in federalism. the differences between international affairs and national government are of course stark so it is only as a philosophy of governmental RELATIONS and as a mneumonic that federalism is used here.

to think of the characteristics of federalism is to think of a central government that maintains exclusive control over national security but in almost all other areas is distinguished from other systems by the degree to which it devolves power to other political units--in taxation, social services, education, religion, etc. in other words in cultural areas federalism is characterized by tolerance for diversity, respect for local conditions and desires, and an underlying faith in the creative value of constituent "laboratories" of social relations. this philosophy also imbues the doctrine of international federalism.

the united states is by far the dominant military power in the world today. paul kennedy has stated that it is the most powerful country the world has had at least since the roman empire. if anything kennedy undervalues america's might. rome may have had the biggest army in the ancient world, it may have defeated all rivals in it's region, but it had no control over other powers in other regions, e.g. china.

american military power by contrast is able to project it's dominance over any other nation, over any other civilization, at any time, anywhere in the world. no nation has ever had that capability.

under international federalism that power would be used unhesitatingly, massively and decisively to vouchafe national security but not to impose a pax americana on the world. where it's national security iss not directly threatened the presumption under international federalism would be against military involvement. this doctrinal shift would require a shift in nomenclature. current policy justifies all manner of intervention when it is in "the national interest." the value of that phrase, but also it's curse, is that it can mean most anything. undoubtedly we had a national interest in friendly relations with the shah, the dictator of an important country. noone an gainsay the national interest we have in friendly relations with the saudi government. but our national security was not threatened by iran nor is it by saudi arabia and yet we intervened in both by supplying the governments with the military hardware that they used to oppress their people.

the result in iran was a popular hatred of america that continues to this day. in time the same will be the result in saudi arabia. we are the globe's only super-power; we are it's dominant ecnomic power, we live in a world the farthest corner of which can be reached in day. in this world there are "national interests" for america everywhere. such a justification for international involvement is worse than meaningless. it sanctions intervention anywhere for anything.

the fact that america has unchallenged power requires that it exercise that power parsimoneously if it is to exercise it wisely. and to do that requires, as a start at least, that it redefine the justification for military intervention from "national interest" to "national security." emphasizing a significant distinction between those two can be scoffed at, but as discussed above words, are important in international relations. "national security" is a more limiting phrase than "national interest," just as "self-determination" is subtly but significantly different than "freedom" and it's "baggage."

with the new premium placed on national security, cases of local conflict, where the facts cry out for outside military intervention, as for example in bosnia-herzogovina and haiti, would be the responsibility of regional bodies and the united nations. a clear rejection of the role of america as world policeman would be made. however well-motivated, military action by the united states not done for national security often leads to local humiliation and resentment especially when that intervention is in another civilization.2

the doctrine proposed here would also diverge from the current in that america would be much more preemptive in it's actions. for example, america must not hesitate to use it's military power to enforce non-proliferatiion of weapons of mass destruction. there is no greater threat to national and world security. america should state clearly to the world that no further proliferation will be tolerated, that all non-possessing countries must to submit to random inspections and that refusal to, or the discovery of such capability will result in military destruction of the suspected sites.

further, those countries in hostile civilizations already possessing wmd capability would be ordered to dismantle such facilities, to submit to inspection for compliance and similarly to have compliance enforced militarily if need be.

america's military alliances would be redone to reflect new realities. as has been argued in this space previously, nato would cease to exist as a military alliance. in it's place would be not a single new alliance but a changing array of alliances depending on situational needs.

for example, in america's military dealings with islam an alliance of the u.s., england, and israel should be fashioned. and here i would diverge from huntington. at least militarily there is no such thing as a "western civilization." whatever shared cultural and historical past there is, the nations of the european union do not share the same security interests in the clash with islam as do the u.s., england, and israel. and the u.s., england and israel would probably not share the same security interests in a conflict with the orthodox-slave civilzation as the european nations would. so it makes no sense to claim there is an alliance with the european countries in the conflict with islam when already there are citizen protests of our post-sept. 11 actions and distancing of us by their governments. conversely, it makes no sense for the u.s. to become involved militarily in a bosnian conflict that is right on europe's doorstep and does not involve american national security.

by way of further illustration, if there were a threat from china to america it would be ludicrous to include israel in an opposing military coalition, just as including korea and japan, obvious partners in a coalition against china, in the conflict with islam would be ludicrous. to make a brief digression on china. as i have argued in previous criticism of nato, perpetuation of a military alliance is not a harmless anachronism. so it is with our self-defense treaty with taiwan. it is a vestige of the cold war and should be ended. just this year president bush belligerently and mindlessly recommitted america to that alliance. if the united states wars with china because of this outdated treaty it would be the biggest folly in military history.

to summarize the military component of international federalism:

I. primacy on national security over any other role for the military.
II. use of preemptive force on non-proliferaton.
III. new alliances.

NON-MILITARY CONDUCT

obviously the point of a foreign policy doctrine is to avoid war. war occurs when the doctrine is flawed and fails. the military component of a foreign policy doctrine focuses on managing hostilities so that they will not escalate into war. but engaging in a military exchange is a second-best alternative and only second-best because the other is war. it is not possible to avoid hostilities everywhere, all the time. but the non-military component of a doctrine seeks to minimize those occasions when force will be used. and it is in this area that i believe the greatest change must be made in american foreign policy.

as stated earlier in this post america stands for many things, democracy, freedom, self-determination, free speech, etc. for much, perhaps most, of the world, america remains the "shining city on the hill."

there is envy of the shining city of course, of our success, our prosperity, of our goodness and that criticism we can ignor. but for important parts of the world, even among our allies, there is hatred because the america they experience stands for corporate economics and an cultural gresham's law. a foreign policy based on federalist principles would change that, for one of federalism's key components is tolerance and encouragement of local diversity.

america has always been blessed by it's geographic isolation. it was less tempted by folly because of impracticality. but as the world has gotten smaller and america stronger america has involved itself in misadventures that are a direct consequence of lack of attention to the non-military component of a foreign policy doctrine. our support for the corrupt and unpopular south vietnames government led to a war that cost 50,000 lives. our support of the shah of iran led to the emeritic islamic republic of iran. we have helped overthrow popularly elected governments. we have ignored or opposed indigenous, legitimate populist revolutions. for half a century we have too often let our foreign policy be influenced by the interests of corporations-oil companies in the middle east, sugar companies in cuba, copper companies in chile-and all the while we have claimed that what america stands for is freedom.

of course none of the above is new analysis. but there has been no change in doctrine or actions. indeed there has never been a doctrine that has addressed this aspect of our foreign policy. the concentration has always been on the military.

america should preach self-determination. our foreign policy has almost without exception been based on government-to-government relations. the result has been that we have given support to "friendly" governments that horribly oppress their people. the previously mentioned shah of iran, the current saudi government, countless examples all over the globe. predictably, we have thus been midwives to generations of people who hate us, who hate what we stand for in reality and who hate our hypocrisy.

international federalism would replace this janus face with one less hypocritical. it would appeal to the people, not the governments. america does this sometimes now, but rarely and hypocritically. we appeal to the people of cuba for example. but we do not appeal to the people of saudi arabia because their government is "friendly", to our government, but not to its own people. american foreign policy, and the american president should speak directly to the people of the world.

president kennedy did this in his dramatic address to the people of germany in his trip to west berlin in 1962. he concluded a soaring, almost taunting speech on the differnces between the west and russia by declaring that "as a free man, i am proud to say "ich bin ein berliner." america is a free country but it was not freedom that fueled the american revolution. england was certainly a free country. rather, america was acountry born of the struggle for self-determination and an american president should be as proud also to say "i am a tibetan," or "i am a kurd." it is this kind of populist appeal that would be a feature international federalism.

of course there still would be seen hypocrisy in this. we would appeal to the people of saudi arabia and urge greater self-determination for them but we would continue to deal with the monarchy at the governmental level. that is the nature of realpolitik. we would make clear, we should say so explicitly, that we will not overthrow that or any government that doesn't directly threaten our national security but we should appeal to the masses and then use the philosophy of "constructive engagement" that we use with, e.g. china, with "friendly" regimes also.

this is not a matter of being morally penny-wise and strategically pound-foolish. america will reap what it sows in other civilizations and we will limit the likelihood of conflict with the seeding of self-determination in the peoples of the world.

the respect for diversity in local conditions that is at the heart of federalism plays itself out on our domestic front in the eternal conflict between majority rule and minority rights. there are no bright lines that can be drawn between the two. all that can be done is to be sensitive that one man's democracy not become another man's oppression.

this same concern would apply in a foreign policy based on federalism. the world trade organization and it's predecessor the general agreement on tarrifs and trade have done more than anything else to fuel the unprecedented expansion of the world economy. the uniform lowering of trade barriers has opened up markets all over the industrialized world and has given consumers greater freedom of choice than ever before.

but freedom, whether of speech or association or of the press, has always been limited in the american democracy. one cannot yell "fire" in a crowded theater, one can not form an american branch of al qaeda and one cannot publish pornography. the argument here is that america should self-impose minor limits on its corporations penetration of foreign markets.

a wry french saying has it that french law is perfectly fair, it prohibits panhandling by rich and poor alike. free trade is good for people worldwide but it is better for some than for others. it is best for american corporations, the most highly evolved at production and marketing. free competition in the fast food industry between mcdonalds and le grand mac may be free but it's not really competitive. in the vast majority of free trade cases se la vie. but when america restricts freedom from becoming oppression at home we must do the same abroad.

three concerns with regard to corporate conduct abroad come to mind. the first is the dominance of american popular culture. the second is the treatment of workers in other countries and the third is the support of regimes that oppress their people because we want to exploit their natural resources.













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(1)iqhal siddiqui, crescet international. june 16-30 2000.

(2) borrowing from krauthammer, some of the considerations would be, what is the national interest at stake; is there a moral issue at stake; what is the objective; can the objective be accomplished by non-military means; can the objective be accomplished by military means at an acceptable cost level in lives and money; is there support at home for the action; is there support abroad. note this is a list of considerations only. there is nothing formulaic, e.g. if you have 4 of the seven then you intervene. in some cases the national interest will be so compelling that it will subsume all the others. in other cases there may be both a security and moral interest involved but the cost i too high.

(3) huntington related that during the gulf war even erstwhile ally king hussein of jordan complained that the war was not "the world versus iraq" but "the west versus islam."

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Under God

UNDER GOD

those words were added to the pledge of allegiance by congress in 1954 at the height of mccarthyism, with the intent that it distinguish us from "godless communism."

you don't hear this point being referred to very often in the "debate" over the ninth circuit court of appeals ruling yesterday holding that the pledge, with the reference to god violated the constitution's establishment clause. i say "debate" because seldom are we ever going to hear less dissent on an issue than on this one. the senate voted unanimously to condemn it. democratic leader tom daschle called the decision "nuts." from every end of the political spectrum, in this case all the way from gray to black, comes the rhetorical question "are they going to outlaw 'god bless america' next?"

no, and they wouldn't have struck down the pledge but for congress' overt act in establishing that this is a monotheistic nation, by adding the wods "under god."

examples like "god bless america" are inapposite because there was no state action involved. the lyrics were written by a private citizen. here, the state deliberately changed the wording of a private citizen's work to include the religious reference and did it, not blind to intent or consequences,but for precisely the reason the constitutin forbids.

previous supreme court decisions on the phrase "in god we trust" that appears on our currency have upheld the reference holding that over long usage the offending phrase had lost it's religious significance and become a part of common parlance. and that undoubtedly will be the rationale of the court in this case. even now one can just hear the sarcasm in justice scalia's opinion.

but "in go we trust" has been around for hundreds of years and was not used by the government with the same specific intent with which congress acted not 50 years ago when it added "under god" to the pledge. that precedent should not apply and the decision of the ninth circuit should be affirmed. but anybody who believes it will can obtain honorary membership in the "benjamin harris society for the advancement of lost causes."

-benjamin harris

Sunday, June 23, 2002

To The Future

TO THE FUTURE


one of the principals that informs the policies of this page is to be forward-looking. the search for "root causes" is often an excuse for inaction. the strands of history become ropes that bind the timid and guilt-ridden from acting.

in contrast, it matters not to me the source of islamic rage against the united states when the issue is what do we do NOW that 3,000 of our civilians have been murdered. islam has declared war on the united states and we should prosecute this conflict as such.

nor does it matter to me the source of islamic rage directed towards israel. islam, as a practical matter today, is anti-jewish, not just anti-"zionist" as it sometimes likes to say. as an ally and fellow westerner, as the inheritor of a joint religious history, as the homeland of a people who from time immemorial have been vulnerable and stateless, as the incarnation of the object of genocide that so many in this country died to defeat, israel would not be allowed to fall if the policies of this page were adopted.

having said that is not to say however that history is meaningless. it is instructive, though never determinative. for example the united states is the midwife of the eremitic islamic republic of iran. our support for the shah, one of the most ruthless, undemocratic rulers in the world, helped deliver the monster we and the west have been made to suffer for a quarter of a century.

for half a century the arab-israeli conflict has not been resolved. why? because the original u.n. mandate, which was supported by the united states, calling for the creation of a "palestinian" (whatever that is) state alongside israel has not been implemented.

to be forward-looking is to be not bound by the past, but to be action-oriented, to break the mold, and to be proactive. i have not been timid in proposing what needs to be done and predicting that it will need to be done in the future, to meet the islamic war on the united states, even as i acknowledge, because of the timidity and intellectual vacuity of present u.s. foreign policy, that it has no chance of ever being done at the present because the american public, bereft of leadership on the issue, is not ready for it.

in that spirit of clear thinking and plain talking i say this. the united states will reap a bitter harvest for it's support, for the most mercenary of reasons, of saudi arabia, one of the most dictatorial regimes on earth, just a it reaped what it sowed in iran 25 years ago. and for too long the u.s., the ultimate protector of israel, has been timid in not exercising it's influence, it's power, to ENFORCE the creation of a palestinian state. however we wage the war against islam, these are two policies that must be changed.

saudi arabia controls a massive amount of oil which it sells to the united states. because of that, and because, as a monarchy, it is a "conservative" government, one that is "reasonable," one we can "work with," we have supported it's harsh oppression of it's people.

this is one of the factors that causes rage in the islamic world against the united states. our support of saudi arabia belies our committment to democracy and human rights worldwide. it is convincing evidence that the only thing that motivates our foreign policy is money and this is particularly galling to a people whose religion is so culturally dissimilar that it considers even loan interest to be immoral, not to mention the cruder products of a free society like sexual license.

it is easy to see why, in this context, it would appear to muslims that the united states is engaged in cultural imperialism. support for a regime like saudi arabia prevents not only the exercise of individual freedoms that are the mark of our civilization but also encourages the oppressed to see our civilization as their oppresser. therefore it is not only inimical to our values but also contrary to our strategic interests to support such a government for when the house of saud falls, as it will, it will be bad enough if it is replaced with an iran-like fundementalist government. it will be worse if that government supports attacks on the american people. and that's just what happened in iran as a consequence of our support of a similar "conservative", "reasonable" dictatorship by the pavlevi family.

the saudi government is not a "friend" in any meaningful sense. they are dictators where we are democrats, they support us at the governmental level because we pay them handsomely for it. we give them the military resources to oppress their people, who, to take pressure off the government's hold on power, are then allowed to vent their rage at the united states and israel in the most vicious way, all sanctioned by the state that is our "friend."

the united states should end this hypocrisy and strategic mistake and announce that we want free elections in saudi arabia NOW and that we will end the sale of military hardware to the government. of course, free elections will not be held in saudi arabia now or anytime soon, but we should state clearly what we stand for.

it has been argued here previously that in our war with islam we should exploit the muslim male's particular fear of humiliation and physical pain by inflicting just those on osama bin laden and the rest of our muslim enemies.

that would be effective in war. in waging peace, we should be no less cognizant of cultural idiosyncracies. muslims also put more importance than even we do on acknowledgment of prior wrongdoing. and so, we should accompany these new policy pronouncements by an apology, as secretary albright made a start in doing to the iranian people in 1999, and to the saudi people, for our past policies. and we should assure that those mistakes will not be repeated.

but consistent with what was expressed at the beginning of this post, we should make clear that no amount of our past bad conduct will permit the establishment of a hostile state in place of the saudi monarchy. perhaps the saudi people will choose a constitutional democracy with a bill of rights, a free press, liberation of women, and seperation of church and state. and perhaps tomorrow pigs will fly.

practically, we can expect a hostile government but it need not be worst-case. the electoral process itself isn't always, but can be, a moderating influence in and of itself. our role in bringing elections about will not hurt our image and we should improve it by holding out the carrot of economic aid to a non-hostile successor government. but we will also have to influence events by the stick. we should state unequivocally that no iranian-like psychotic bastard-child state will be tolerated, that there will be no preachings of america as the great satan or that jews are pigs and there will be no shut off of the oil spigot, and if such were to occur we would occupy the oil fields and enforce a demilitarized nation, one with seperation of church and state, much as we instanty liberalized japan after wwII.

on the palestinian issue, we have always faced a difficult choice. on the one hand is our interest in carrying out our pledge for creation of a palestinian state which would also be consistent with our value of self-determination. on the other hand, we have good reasons to believe that such a state not only would be hostile to our values but to our security and that of israel also.

the difficulty of the choice however should not prevent us from acting. one may disagree with president bush's policy pronouncements on the issue this week but at least he has acted and if a palestinian state is the answer he has established some conditions to encourage a happy result. first, he called for free elections to help instill our values in the proposed state and in response the palestinian authority has said that it will hold free elections in 2003. second, he has stated that the palestinian people must choose new leadership. edward said has recently called for the same thing and urges that the leaders of palestinian civil society, the doctors, lawyers, and businessmen form a reconstituted palestinian authority. it is to the people, the people said mentioned, the people of saudi arabia, that a new american mid-east foreign policy should be aimed. third, as was suggested above in a new policy toward the saudi people, he offered economic assistance to a freely-chosen government.

what went unstated, but had better be clearly understood is that such a state will never be allowed to pose a threat to the security of the united states and israel. such a state will either be friendly by choice or demilitarized by fiat. and there will be no anti-american or anti-jewish teachings.

which brings us to israel. england and israel are america's two great allies in this war with islam and really are the only two nations in the west besides the united states that can be counted on to carry this fight. we have a "special relationship" with both and it is inconceivable that an attack on any one would not bring down the full wrath of the others on the aggressor but to implement the president's policy will require sacrifice by and risk for israel which we should take all steps to ameliorate.

first, a palestinian state on the west bank will require the dismantlement of most if not all of the israeli settlements there. the practicalities of this must be recognized. there are 250,000 israelis living on the west bank. 250,000! the logistics and cost of such a population transfer are daunting enough. but the political cost will be even greater. it must be acknowledged that in the present climate no israeli government could effectuate such a transfer. there would be civil war. this is the price of american inaction for 50 years and of israeli irredentism in allowing and encouraging the settlements.

if the bush plan for a palestinian state is to work, the conditions for israel must be carefully laid. obviously the israeli public must be prepared for it. but more will have to be done. america should hold out the carrot of economic assistance in meeting the costs but we cannot be put in a position of accomplishing the transfer. that will be up to israel, a sovereign state after all. the bush administration will also have to weild a stick. if it is committed to this result then it must force israel to effectuate the tranfer on pain of losing some american financial assistance. there is no other way.

i believe the creation of a palestinian state as outlined above is in the best interests of the united states and israel and is consistent with the values that we both share but it is not a no-brainer and to succeed it will require a greater measure of political fortitude than has ever been shown before, a willingness to act, and some luck.

-benjamin harris

Jews Are Pigs and Snakes

JEWS ARE PIGS AND SNAKES

That was the answer to the question "What do you think of Jews" given by a 3 1/2 year old arab girl to an interviewer on mainstream Arab television. The interview was re-broadcast on a Brit Hume-hosted show on Fox a couple of weeks ago.

the interview began with the adorable little girl being asked if she liked jews. "no," she said. after giving the above answer to "what do you think of jews," the interviewer then asked her, "where did you learn that?" "in the koran," replied the girl.

this is islam in it's own words, without any "spin" or "bias" from the american media.

a quick search of islamic websites on google turned up one called "musalman top 100-sites." included were muslim dating services, muslim business websites and the like. all very tame stuff. i looked for one with a political theme and came across, #39 on the list, "muslimedia international." this is also islam in it's own words:

"[osama bin laden] has undoubtedly shown by his example and spirit of sacrifice that he cares for the ummah...his anti-american stance has enhanced his reputation. for all his brave talk and undoubted sacrifices, osama is not a threat to the u.s." zafar bangash, director of the institute of contemporary islami thougt. published in crescent international, june 16-30 2001 issue

"in short, two global civilizations, both claiming to be in accordance with the primordial state of nature, are now engaged in a titanic struggle." benjamin harris ad nauseum? no. samuel huntington, 1993? no. dr. kalim siddqui in 1992. reprinted in crescent international's april 16-30 2001 issue.

"islam, however remains the only non-western belief-system and world-view that the west has failed to destroy and that retains the potential to challenge the west." editorial, crescent international oct 1-15, 2001.

"subjective western terms must be avoided like the plaque if their western baggage is to be successfully excluded from islamic political thought. democracy is perhaps the most important of these." from "dangers of democratising islam and muslim political discourse, by iqhal siddiqui, crescent international june 16-30 2000.

"for years islam has been charged with the injustices that have been suffered by muslim women, yet the truth is becoming increasingly apparent: these injustices have resulted from the imposition of colonialist laws and from the inadequacies and deficiencies of other faiths and cultures." anisa abdel fattah, crescent international, october 16-31 2000.

"democracy: an unholy cow ripe for the slaughter." title of an editorial in crescent international, june 16-30, 2001.

this is also the voice of islam, in this case from a poll conducted from dec 19-24 2001 by the palestinian center for policy and survey research, as reported on the pcpsr website:

94% of palestinians opposed u.s. action against osama bin laden.

91%-98% view all israeli acts of violence as terrorism.

81%-87% do not think palestinian violence against israel is terrorism.

59% do not consider the sept. 11 attacks to be terrorism.

59% want a palestinian state to be politically like other arab states rather than like the united states, europe or israel. This is Public Occurrences.

Friday, June 21, 2002

Purel Drivel

PURE DRIVEL

in the book by the same name, steve martin has a chapter entitled "hissy fit." he imagines a world in which the laws of nature don't apply, where "two plus two no longer equals four. if a mathematician were suddenly transported and dropped into this unthinkable place, it is very likely that he would throw a hissy fit."

steven wolfram's book "a new kind of science" puts mathematics in a far less exalted place than it currently occupies. and although the professional reviews have been favorable, the great unwashed in academia are throwing a hissy fit.

for those who toil for years in deserved obscurity hoping to be able to convince one last class of coeds that they are so brilliant that they should let them in their pants, a book that is both scientifically important and a great commercial success is parrticularly galling. authors of such books are heaped with the most personal of scorn and invective. carl sagan got it. douglas hofstadter got it. and now steven wolfram, an easy target because of his undeniable megolmania, is getting it. the following are reader reviews of the book from amazon's web site:

"so what if wolfram is a genius or an ex-child prodigy." no professional jealousy there, certainly.

one reviewer claims a young assistant, not wolfram, made a key discovery "but was prevented from publishing his work by wolfram's lawyers for years while the Master (sic) was finishing his Books (sic)." well Pardon me while i go Stand in the corner and Hold my breath in a Hissy fit.

"paid bogus reviews"..."a chronic liar"..."a pathological liar"... wolfram apparently has some good lawyers. sure hope this reviewer does too.

"not new."

"pure speculation." uh, aren't those contradictory?

"as a viral immunologist, i can assure you..."

"i am a trained theoretical mathematician..." who has not had sex in sixteen months and will never get tenure.

but the best, and to avoid the charge of use of material without attribution that wolfram gets, i will mention him by name, comes from a reviewer named riley jackson:

"it is not how long your program is (was a little concerned where riley was going there) or what it is about (??), existence and meaning don't really exits (sic) outside of your head (????), but the relationships of this to that and this again." (??????????)

give that man a phd!

-benjamin harris

Truth and Consequences

TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCES

i have proposed general war with islam. the logic of it to me is clear, the altenatives lacking. and although i have previously acknowledged that the consequences obviously would be dire i think it is important morally to spell them out in detail. writing is slower than thinking, it encourages contemplation and one should not propose something like this without being made to think about, to truly contemplate, the consequences.

to summarize my proposal. first we would tell the governments of egypt, saudi arabia and pakistan that they had some discrete time frame to kill the terrorists in their countries or we would. at the end of that period we would bomb iraq, iran, syria, libya, lebanon, and egypt, saudi arabia and pakistan if the latter three had not accomplished the task. the aim of this bombing would not be to wound or punish but to destroy and rebuild. after the military action was over we would rebuild these countries as we did japan and germany after world war II, including reform of their political systems.

the first and foremost consequence to consider of course is the loss of life. i believe in the quick use of overwhelming military force, first to minimize loss of life, second, because, as in japan, such a strike has an important stun effect that can shorten the hostilities, third to maximize the effectiveness of the operation, fourth to blunt the firestorm of protest at home and abroad that would ensue.

obviously the most effective way of doing all of the above is with nuclear weapons. but to cross the nuclear threshhold is a very dangerous step. as a civilian i do not know what conventional alternatives we have available. the "daisy cutters" used in the afghan conflict were, by all accounts devestating, but in the end in my view they were ineffective. our mission was to kill osama bin laden and al queda. we have certainly not done the latter. they have simply moved across the border into pakistan, with or without bin laden which has greatly complicated our mission. ever mindful of the horror of nuclear weapons it must still be said that our enemy would not have escaped a nuclear attack. i would want to use conventional weapons but off the experience of the afghan and gulf wars i believe nuclear weapons would in the end have to be used.

our nuclear capability today is infinitely more powerful than it was in wwII but it can also be more precise. my goal would be to bring down the governments, take out the military installations, destroy the transportation and communication networks--railroads, bridges, airports, telephone and television capabilities, secure the oil fields where applicable, in short to make the countries safe for occupation by american troops, all the while trying to minimize the loss of life. how many would be killed? hundreds of thousands died in the attacks on japan. simply to arrive at some number let's assume 100,000 per country. that's 700,000 without counting pakistan. the entire 500,000 people in the lawless western region would be killed, plus say another 100,000 for the attack on islamabad. that's 1,300,000 immediate casualties conservatively. how many others would die of radiation sickness, starvation and disease? double it maybe. 2,600,000. make it a rough 3,00,000. three million men, women and children dead. sickening.

besides the casualties, what would happen in the immediate aftermath. i propose such an attack, without warning, for maximum psychological effect on the enemy. but the psychological effect would be as great at home and among our allies. the president would be thought to have gone mad. impeachment proceedings would be begun. the country is completely unprepared for this. sneakiness goes against the american psyche. hitting first is what every school child is taught not to do. if the military end of the operation were to end quickly as i plan then the protests would not interfere with the operation. it would be over before any serious opposition could be massed. i think violence at home would be minimized.

our allies would not be so lucky though. there would be massive protests, perhaps threatening to bring down governments, say of france. our embassies would be attacked and some deaths would ensue. every european country has a sizable muslim population. these populations would revolt in the most violent way.

there might be breaks in diplomatic relations as the governments react. the u.n. would condemn us. the president might be indicted by the war crimes tribunal. perhaps there would be trade sanctions by the e.u. but in the end those would all be over a fait accompli. it would be time to move on, with helping out in the rebuilding, etc. and our explanation would be heard. it would incite some, placate others but in the end the world would get back to living.

a perhaps permanent casualty would be our moral standing in the world. we would not be seen as liberators as we were after wwII. we would be seen as murderers, perhaps forever. our position as honest brokers for the world would be ended. we would be isolated. we would be seen as a country whose policy is "might makes right," of establishing a pax americana over the world. and to some extent that would be right. we should never allow a hostile gov't or people to acquire wmd after this.

how sneaky could we be in carrying out this entire operation. granted we have the resources to do the bombing right now. but what of the occupation of the countries. it is estimated that 250,000 troops would be needed for an invasion of iraq. would it be less after a nuclear attack. our role would presumably be more as policemen than an invading army but to police an entire country would require lots of people. and we would be doing this for 8 countries. again, just to come up with a number, take 250,000 per country. that's 2 million troops. we used 500,000 in the gulf war. we would need to reinstitute the draft and there would be dodging and rioting. for that reason alone i might not get done.

Not MAD

NOT MAD

the doctrine of mutual assured destruction, or "mad" was the unseen hand of stability during the arms race with the soviet union. the doctrine held that if each superpower had more nuclear weapons than could be destroyed in a first strike then neither would be tempted to launch first, thus avoiding nuclear war. it has been proposed by one observer, col. david hackworth of the website millitary.com, that the mad doctrine be applied to the conflict with islam. he would announce to the countries of "lebanon, libya, iran, iraq, pakistan, saudi arabia, syria and north korea" that if we get hit with a weapon of mass destruction we would retaliate in kind. he does not say if he means we would retaliate against all or just against the country/ies of origin of the bombers.

first, let's get rid of this north korea nonsense once and for all. goofy as they are, they are not going to hit the united states with a wmd. second, they are in no way affiliated with the islamic threat. their inclusion in the president's "axis of evil" was nothing more than political correctness to veil the truth that we are at war with islam. and so third, hackworth can not mean that if we get hit with a wmd from north korea that he would retaliate against, inter alia, riyadh.

also egypt must be added to hackworth's list. the military.com website lists a dozen or so of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world and a couple are headquartered in egypt, and as we know some of the sept 11 hijackers were from egypt. so we take out north korea and add egypt.

to properly assess hackworth's proposal we need to examine the mad doctrine. mad was premised on an important assumption, that the leaders of the united states and the soviet union were in the end rational, that despite their ideological differences neither wanted his country destroyed.

already one can see the problem here. our enemy is not rational. martyrdom is encouraged. now hackworth knows this. at the end of his article he says things like "if we're lucky" mad will work, and "hopefully...even these misguided monsters will get the word." but let's follow his proposal through.

let's say we communicate the new mad doctrine to that list of governments. what would be the likely responses? iraq is already building wmd despite having had a war with us so there would be no effect there. pakistan has nuclear weapons but the present government would not use them against us. and when the musharraf government is taken over by islamic radicals they will not be deterred by the mad doctrine. iran may or may not have wmd, and although they are implaccable foes of the u.s., the government is not going to hit us with a wmd. col. qudaffi is crazy enough to do anything but there is no evidence he has or is trying to acquire wmd. the saudi and egyptian governments are our "friends" in the war on terrorism so we have nothing to fear from them. syria's government is not going to attack us directly even though, like saudi arabia and egypt, they harbor terrorist groups.

so it appears reasonably clear that none of the governments would be changed from their present course by an announcement of the adoption of the mad doctrine and consequently mad would not work. but obviously that does not mean that there is no threat of the u.s. being hit with a wmd. and that is because the present conflict presents an entirely different face than any previous enemy has. it is not so much the governments that are the threat it is the PEOPLE. and it is not so much the governments that are not susceptible to a rational cost-benefit analysis it is the people.

could mad work to get these governments to crack down on their people. well, first consider the nature of hackworth's proposal. he is saying we will retaliate with wmd if we get hit with one. but there is no evidence that any of the terrorist groups has wmd so does that mean these governments can go on supporting and giving safe harbor to terrorists as long as they don't hit us with wmd? hackworth doesn't have a proposal to deal with another conventional attack, far the more likely of the two, so his proposal actualy amounts to saying, for example, to a child who gets into fights at school, "listen do NOT take a high-powered rifle and go to the top of a building and start shooting people." it almost ENCOURAGES behavior short of that.

but the other problem with the proposal is it's credibility. mad worked during the cold war because each side knew the other would retaliate with nuclear weapons if struck first. if one crazed egyptian national with a dirty bomb in his brief case explodes it in manhattan, does hackworth really intend that all of the countries on his list be atttacked with nuclear weapons or even that just egypt be? i intend that and i say so explicitly but i really doubt that hackworth does so the threat is not credible.

thus as demonstrated above mad would have no effect on the governments if it was limited to requiring them to root out terrorist groups that may have wmd capability. although hackworth doesn't deal with it, would the governments be able to crack down on groups that just had conventional capability? this is one of the paradoxes of our relationships with the arab countries. governments like egypt and saudi arabia are supportive of us but they maintain their hold on power by giving vent to the most radical segments of their population so that the anger is not directed at them. so it is no surprise that egypt and saudi arabia had a large majority of the sept 11 hijackers and that nationals of those countries continue to be prominent in al queda and other of the most dangerous groups. i tuly believe that both these governments would want to crack down on dangerous groups in their countries but to do so would threaten their regimes. once again, unfortunately, it is the people of islam that we are at war with, not just the governments.

which brings us to another "friend," pakistan. since al queda is currently based in western pakistan that is the most likely source for the next attack. if anyone has shown courage in this war it is general musharaff but it is clear that his government has neither the means nor willingness to control the estimated 500,000 fighters in it's lawless western region. we would be asking a gov't to do what we know it cannot do. so again, mad would be meaningless as applied here.

now in the more expansive version of hackworth's proposal, an attack from one of these countries would be considered an attack by all and i think that is the proper way of looking at it since in my view we are at war with islam, and so when the next attack comes, which everyone seems to agree on, and if it is with a wmd then properly in my view the expansive version calls for retaliation on all. i think such a doctrine would have wide support in the administration and in the country and to that extent is preferable to mine, for which there is no support.

but popularity aside, and this is not to diminish the importance of popularity, what the hackworth proposal in either it's expansive or limited version amounts to is, " we do not have the political will at the present time to strike those who we know we must strike. we will wait until they strike us a second time." that, to me, is just unacceptable. we have already been struck once and it doesn't matter to me that it was not with a wmd, nor would it to me in another strike. we must end this threat and win this war and the hackworth mad doctrine will not do it.

-benjamin harris