Thursday, May 25, 2006

Dreams of Lost Arab Glory: Living the "Long War"

The US president Bush has chosen to make a stand in the desert country of Iraq. A curious choice perhaps? Afghanistan made more sense on the surface of things. Disrupting the jihadists' base of operations and training was logical. No more large scale jihadi terror attacks have taken place. The Madrid and London train bombings were much more modest in scale, more local in execution. The world jihad movement appears in disarray, under attack even in Saudi Arabia, the very heartland of jihad.

Iraq sits atop large oil reserves, but the oil production infrastructure is so decrepit in Iraq, that gearing up oil production there may take decades. Do Bush and his neo-con friends actually plan for decades in advance? In that period of time anything at all might happen. It is certainly more likely that their goals are more proximate.

Is Iraq truly part of the global jihad? Before Saddam's Baathist was toppled, what part did Iraq play in the global jihad? Was it truly necessary to invade and disrupt the center of the Arab world, the most powerful arab nation, the flagship nation of arab ambition?

Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya function as jihadist institutions of propaganda. These satellite networks appear to conflate jihadist ambitions with the goals of the arab world. It is as if much of the elite in the arab world have taken sides with the jihadists. When did this happen? Before Saddam's removal? Before September 11, 2001? Before the Gulf War of 1990/1991?

If one looks carefully at the history of the arabs, and the history of jihadist Islam, there appears to be a waxing and waning along parallel paths for the two entities. There is an unhealthy interdependency between arabs as a culture and jihadist Islam as a movement. The September 11 attacks were merely one more group of attacks in a long series of jihadist attacks dating back to the mid 20th century. Before that, there were other clusters of attacks going back millenia in time. A waxing and waning of the jihidast movement, along with arab cultural ambitions.

The glory days of the arabs was during the height of the jihadist wars, before the Mongols and the Turks subdued the arabs. After the Turks, the European colonials divided the arab lands. Arabs have been humiliated for centuries now. The tide appears to be turning, since the newfound oil wealth of the 20th century is finding its way to devout and fanatical believers in the oil rich societies. The wealth is being diverted to those who show an aptitude for indoctrinating the young to jihad, and supplying them with weapons of mass murder. Every nation in the world where a mosque is located is also the cradle of jihadist indoctrination. Infiltration, subterfuge, covert preparation for jihad.

Under the rule of law in developed nations, there is really no way to stop this process. Combining the stealth infiltration of jihadist indoctrination with the cultural decline of the west, and demographic trends of high birthrates among muslim immigrants and low birthrates among indigenous non-muslims, and one can see that Europe's days are rapidly slipping away. Europe is destined to come under Islamic subjugation within decades.

What about the Anglosphere? What about North America and Oceania? What about Japan, Korea, India, Thailand, and Singapore? There will be outposts of free thought, of rational activity, long after Europe surrenders.

The US and the UK have chosen to confront the jihadist in the heartland of Islam. Realizing perhaps that direct experience of war with the jihadist was the only way to toughen their troops enough for the long war ahead, the US and UK chose to take the war to the place that they knew the jihadists could not ignore, the center of the Sunni arab pride.

Some say the purpose was to bring democracy to the arab lands. That may have been a long shot gamble, a side purpose. Others say the purpose was access to oil. But we have seen how far in the future any meaningful oil production in Iraq will be. More likely the purpose was to bring a familiarity with the jihadist tactics to the military commanders, in preparation for the inevitable conflict to come. Europe's leaders had already decided on surrender long before September 11. There was no question of Europe preparing for the long war. The will to fight against oppression had been drained from Europeans half a century ago.

The post-modern concept of war is that all war is immoral. Any justification for war is mere obfuscation, excuses by the ruling classes to shed the blood of the underclasses for their own gain. This is the wisdom of the post-modernist in regard to war. There is no real post-modern wisdom regarding oppression originating from third world entities such as the jihadists. Such a thing is considered unlikely in the extreme and not worth analysing. That is the weakness of the post-modern. Ideological hatred for western civilisation to the point of denying the uniqueness and liberating aspects of western civilisation, while simultaneously denying the barbarism and mindless homicidal tendencies of virtually every other civilisation ever known to history.

Iraq is a target of opportunity. Iraq was invaded because Iraq was there, at a particular time and place and state of being. Iraq was chosen by Bush as a place to make a stand. It was a multitude of gambles thrown together in one large toss of the dice. A monumental disruption to the overall scheme of things, such a challenge as not to be ignored by the jihadist, or the arab supremacists who stand one hundred strong behind every single jihadist.

Western civilisation is the cradle of the next level. No other civilisation has approached to a fraction of the enlightenment of the west. All other civilisations have been based on slavery and arbitrary justice, and a far less favorable balance of power between groups and classes, than western civilisation.

Next level humans will be more intelligent. They will live ten times longer. They will balance their emotional brains with their rational brains. They will not fight wars because they will not have to. They will understand the underlying dynamics of power far better than primitive and between-levels humans.

The anti-jihadist wars may be the last wars that enlightened humans will be forced to fight. Forced to fight for the sake of the next civilisation to come. As they say, a war to end war. For that to be true, modern humans must forsake much of their leisure for the sake of learning and growth.

Link to original Al Fin article.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Arabs--Unworthy Guardians of Mecca?

Mecca has always been our locus. Islam was incomplete until Mecca embraced it. Muhammad willed himself to live only as long as Mecca was not his. For forteen hundred years we have gone to Mecca in search of God, in fulfillment of duty. We have assured that the pilgrim's path to Mecca be unimpeded. We have stepped in the footprints of Abraham in Mecca. We have kissed the black stone of Mecca. We have stoned the devil in Mecca. We have killed those like Hallaj who dared to make a Mecca in their backyard. We have told stories about the invincibility of Mecca - how no birds fly directly over the Kaba; how even an army of elephants were rent asunder on the plains outside Mecca; attempted to prove how Mecca is the center of the universe; how Adam first landed in Mecca (and not Sri Lanka); how Mecca is our everything. Source.

You can read here and here, where the Saudis are desecrating holy sites within Mecca and Medina. This problem is well known, and is one of many complaints that devout muslims have against the house of Saud, and its guardianship of the holy cities. It is not merely the house of Saud that is unworthy, however. It is actually the entire group of people known as "arabs."

Islam has outgrown the arabs, and is in need of a more cosmopolitan outlook. Wahabis and terrorists are all that arab muslims seems capable of producing. This gives Islam a bad name to the rest of the world, and induces antaqonism among the masses of unbelievers.

It is unlikely that the Qu'ran was dictated word for word in arabic to Muhammed. The Prophet was illiterate and incapable of writing or reading. It is more likely that over time the Prophet's spoken words were copied by scribes, with frequent transcription errors through the years. Recent German scholarship appears to substantiate this commonsense view.

Given that arabs are laggards of the world, and desecrators of the holy places, is it not better for the torch to be passed to more civilised muslim people? Another language can be chosen as a standard for the Qu'ran, a language spoken by more civilised people than the arabs, by a more successful and enlightened people, such as the Turks.

Turkey was the home of the most recent world caliphate, and as the most modern muslim nation on earth, Turkey is still the logical guardian of the holy places Mecca and Medina. The house of Saud may keep its dwindling oil, such as is left, but what matters is that Islam is in stable and worthy hands.

Furthermore, Mecca and Medina should be guarded by international troops, to establish the global importance of these cities. There will be no more denying of entry to non-muslims to the holy sites. That is the type of bigotry and prejudice which creates antagonism against Islam in the hearts of otherwise peaceful unbelievers.

Arabs have had over a thousand years to prove themselves worthy guardians of holy places. They have failed miserably. It is time for the torch of guardianship to pass.

Friday, May 19, 2006

American Military Supremacy: Can it Last?

For many decades, hecklers have been predicting the end of american economic and military dominance. Several candidates have come forward to take the crown from the US, including the USSR, Japan, the EU, and now China. But the USSR fell apart, Japan is imploding from low birthrates, the EU has no military power to back up its bluster, and only China is still hanging in there--so the jury is still out. It is also true that Russia still has many hundreds of nuclear warheads that could be aimed at North American targets. What are the facts regarding current nuclear strategic balance in the world?

In a very recent issue of Foreign Affairs, Keir Lieber and Daryl Press presented the article "The Rise of US Nuclear Primacy," in which they claim that the US nuclear deterrent is overwhelmingly capable of destroying either China or Russia in an all out exchange, while suffering very little damage to the North American continent.

Since the Cold War's end, the U.S. nuclear arsenal has significantly improved. The United States has replaced the ballistic missiles on its submarines with the substantially more accurate Trident II D-5 missiles, many of which carry new, larger-yield warheads. The U.S. Navy has shifted a greater proportion of its SSBNs to the Pacific so that they can patrol near the Chinese coast or in the blind spot of Russia's early warning radar network. The U.S. Air Force has finished equipping its B-52 bombers with nuclear-armed cruise missiles, which are probably invisible to Russian and Chinese air-defense radar. And the air force has also enhanced the avionics on its B-2 stealth bombers to permit them to fly at extremely low altitudes in order to avoid even the most sophisticated radar. Finally, although the air force finished dismantling its highly lethal MX missiles in 2005 to comply with arms control agreements, it is significantly improving its remaining ICBMs by installing the MX's high-yield warheads and advanced reentry vehicles on Minuteman ICBMs, and it has upgraded the Minuteman's guidance systems to match the MX's accuracy.

...Even as the United States' nuclear forces have grown stronger since the end of the Cold War, Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal has sharply deteriorated. Russia has 39 percent fewer long-range bombers, 58 percent fewer ICBMs, and 80 percent fewer SSBNs than the Soviet Union fielded during its last days. The true extent of the Russian arsenal's decay, however, is much greater than these cuts suggest. What nuclear forces Russia retains are hardly ready for use. Russia's strategic bombers, now located at only two bases and thus vulnerable to a surprise attack, rarely conduct training exercises, and their warheads are stored off-base. Over 80 percent of Russia's silo-based ICBMs have exceeded their original service lives, and plans to replace them with new missiles have been stymied by failed tests and low rates of production. Russia's mobile ICBMs rarely patrol, and although they could fire their missiles from inside their bases if given sufficient warning of an attack, it appears unlikely that they would have the time to do so.

The third leg of Russia's nuclear triad has weakened the most. Since 2000, Russia's SSBNs have conducted approximately two patrols per year, down from 60 in 1990. (By contrast, the U.S. SSBN patrol rate today is about 40 per year.) Most of the time, all nine of Russia's ballistic missile submarines are sitting in port, where they make easy targets. Moreover, submarines require well-trained crews to be effective. Operating a ballistic missile submarine -- and silently coordinating its operations with surface ships and attack submarines to evade an enemy's forces -- is not simple. Without frequent patrols, the skills of Russian submariners, like the submarines themselves, are decaying. Revealingly, a 2004 test (attended by President Vladimir Putin) of several submarine-launched ballistic missiles was a total fiasco: all either failed to launch or veered off course. The fact that there were similar failures in the summer and fall of 2005 completes this unflattering picture of Russia's nuclear forces.

Compounding these problems, Russia's early warning system is a mess. Neither Soviet nor Russian satellites have ever been capable of reliably detecting missiles launched from U.S. submarines. (In a recent public statement, a top Russian general described his country's early warning satellite constellation as "hopelessly outdated.") Russian commanders instead rely on ground-based radar systems to detect incoming warheads from submarine-launched missiles. But the radar network has a gaping hole in its coverage that lies to the east of the country, toward the Pacific Ocean. If U.S. submarines were to fire missiles from areas in the Pacific, Russian leaders probably would not know of the attack until the warheads detonated. Russia's radar coverage of some areas in the North Atlantic is also spotty, providing only a few minutes of warning before the impact of submarine-launched warheads.

Moscow could try to reduce its vulnerability by finding the money to keep its submarines and mobile missiles dispersed. But that would be only a short-term fix. Russia has already extended the service life of its aging mobile ICBMs, something that it cannot do indefinitely, and its efforts to deploy new strategic weapons continue to flounder. The Russian navy's plan to launch a new class of ballistic missile submarines has fallen far behind schedule. It is now highly likely that not a single new submarine will be operational before 2008, and it is likely that none will be deployed until later.

Even as Russia's nuclear forces deteriorate, the United States is improving its ability to track submarines and mobile missiles, further eroding Russian military leaders' confidence in Russia's nuclear deterrent. (As early as 1998, these leaders publicly expressed doubts about the ability of Russia's ballistic missile submarines to evade U.S. detection.) Moreover, Moscow has announced plans to reduce its land-based ICBM force by another 35 percent by 2010; outside experts predict that the actual cuts will slice 50 to 75 percent off the current force, possibly leaving Russia with as few as 150 ICBMs by the end of the decade, down from its 1990 level of almost 1,300 missiles. The more Russia's nuclear arsenal shrinks, the easier it will become for the United States to carry out a first strike.

The authors similarly argue that China's nuclear forces are hopelessly outclassed by the US, and will remain so for "the next decade."

No doubt the authors stand in awe of that phrase "the next decade", although I doubt that Pentagon planners are at all reassured. In fact, as serious as the threat from North Korea, Islamic terror, and Iranian insanity may be, without the spectre of China in the background, the muslim and North Korean problems would be manageable for decades. If you toss China into the mix, nothing is certain.

The authors are correct that US nuclear (and conventional) technology is currently superior enough to that of US large power rivals, that for now they can not seriously consider a direct challenge to US peacekeeping anywhere in the world. That may not continue to be the case with US presidents of a different type than Bush.

We saw during the 1990s that the US allowed China very wide latitude in accessibility to advanced nuclear technology--which allowed China to make up decades of research in only a few years. With a new president possessing similarly soft attitudes toward China, and with at least another decade of the huge trade surpluses that China has maintained, and China could easily put itself into a position to challenge US hegemony--at least in East Asia. The true test of the new hegemony would be the conquest of Taiwan.

As impressive as the Lieber/Press article may be, it fails to address the true reality of the situation, given a change in political power in the US. It is only the energy and determination of the current US administration that has allowed the US to maintain the current technological gap in nucear weapons with China. When that gap is allowed to close by less vigilant administrations, the world will return to MAD--mutually assured destruction--and the nightmares of the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Inequality, Communism, and Civilisation

Historian Will Durant addressed the origin of communism back in the dawn of human time. Communism was one of the original organising principles of human societies. From ancient North America to Peru to India to Borneo and the South Seas, primitive people held land and property in common, except for items of personal use. As long as living was precarious, and wealth scarce, communism proved a viable system for small and relatively isolated groups.

When trade between groupings and geographic regions became more prevalent, shock waves rushed through these placid islands of communist complacency. Trade brought currency and profit, emphasizing the concept of private belongings and properties. The natural inequality between people asserted itself in this new and uneasy economic environment. Some people and clans fell more easily into the role of trader and merchant. Thus the hated bourgeoise was born, and class warfare began. Agriculture likewise introduced the concept of surplus and profit, and different families and clans proved more efficient in the use of land than others--more illustration of natural inequality.

Before trade and agriculture, there was nothing that could be called civilisation. With trade, cities formed, and people specialised into different trades and professions. Priesthoods and nobility arose from questionable foundations, as did the warfare class. Artists and proto-scientists and mathematicians began to fill inevitable needs introduced by trade, and to create new needs. Surplus and profit among one group will breed envy and greed in other groups. Generals and kings wanted to skim the profit to wage wars of conquest or defense. Priests wanted their share for "the gods." Bureaucrats and functionaries of the state needed money to feed their families. Finally, those not blessed with good position, trade skills, merchant skills, and farming skills, resented the growing inequality of wealth between themselves and the rulers, priests, merchants, and tradesmen.

If inequality grew too great, and the deprived peoples grew too large, there was rebellion, or revolution. Rulers promising a more equitable division of resources gained a following, and gained power where they could. The new rulers would attempt to placate the people however they could, but if the society was to survive and not be overrun by more prosperous and ambitious neighbor clans/tribes/societies, even the new populist rulers were eventually forced to allow private property for farmers, merchants, and tradesmen. At that point, natural inequality between people once again asserted itself, and wealth inequality once again grew as large as ever, if not greater.

This cycle has repeated itself many times over the millenia--it did not originate with Marx and Lenin. It will not end with fools such as Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales. It is a natural cycle, like the seasons, like the climate.

Wiser people who are not power grabbers will look into the deeper undercurrents of human action, as proven by history, and anticipate the actions of the opportunistic power grabbers such as Castro, Kim, Chavez and the like. Knowing that these greedy but crowd-flattering idiots only sow the seeds of future, greater hardship, sometimes wiser persons will be able to head off the more foolish of the masses. But this is sadly rare.

Communism and equality are compatible with each other, but not with civilisation. This is something the people of Eastern Europe discovered, as did enough of the people of Russia. The rulers of China were intelligent enough to open the doors to trade, allowing civilisation in China to return after the bloody cultural revolution. Their long range intentions are by no means understood by the outside, however.

If you want communism and equality, you had best find an isolated island without very much wealth, and outlaw trade. Your people may starve in bad years, as in politically oppressed regions of Africa, but that is the price to be paid for ideology, n'est pas?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Schools vs. Juvenile Detention: Is There a Difference?

I recently learned about a growing trend in western schools: attacks on teachers, called "happy slapping."

A female teacher from a high school in Porcheville was attacked by one of her students, while another one was recording the scene with the cam on his cell phone.

Suddenly, with no reasons, a "jeune" (= young man = criminal, usually with extra-european origins, not necessarily young - copyright political correctness) throws himself on the teacher, and attacks her violently. Another student doesn’t miss anything of the scene, and records it with his cell phone’s camera.

The video was instantly spread in the neighborhood’s cité (France’s Islam’s colonies) Val-Fourré, and caused an unhealthy excitation.

Recently, French teachers working in high immigration suburbs went on strike due to rising rates of attacks against teachers by immigrant children. The article is interesting, pointing to teacher's union complicity in maintaining an atmosphere conducive to attacks on teachers.

Violence against teachers is ongoing in the UK, the US, and even in Canada.

Government schools are less and less places of education, and more and more places for babysitting overgrown children with no useful skills or knowledge, or more explicitly--juvenile detention centers. Busy working parents need a place to plant their children while they work and commute, and if they feel they cannot afford to send them to a school to be educated, they "place" them in a government school, for "safekeeping". In the short term, this saves them money.

A family, like a society, gets back what they put in. In a world where North American graduates must compete with increasingly sophisticated graduates from India, China, Eastern Europe, and other countries, allowing the schools to continue on their present dysfunctional course does not seem wise. Realistically, though, the education system is completely entrenched--it cannot be reformed. The system is standing in the way of progress and will not be moved.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Dead Poets Society--School as Suicide Pact

One of the most stimulating and enlightening books on education is freely available online--"The Underground History of American Education." It has been praised by persons from almost every conceivable ideological viewpoint. It is uncomfortable to read, sometimes painful. Similar to childbirth, in a way.

Soon after I began teaching Moby Dick I realized the school edition wasn’t a real book but a kind of disguised indoctrination providing all the questions, a scientific addition to the original text designed to make the book teacher-proof and student-proof. If you even read those questions (let alone answered them) there would be no chance ever again for a private exchange between you and Melville; the invisible editor would have preempted it.

The editors of the school edition provided a package of prefabricated questions and more than a hundred chapter-by-chapter abstracts and interpretations of their own. Many teachers consider this a gift—it does the thinking for them. If I didn’t assign these questions, kids wanted to know why not. Their parents wanted to know why not. Unless everyone duly parroted the party line set down by the book editor, children used to getting high marks became scared and angry.

The school text of Moby Dick had been subtly denatured; worse than useless, it was actually dangerous. So I pitched it out and bought a set of undoctored books with my own money. The school edition of Moby Dick asked all the right questions, so I had to throw it away. Real books don’t do that. Real books demand people actively participate by asking their own questions.

Those lines are similar to scenes from "Dead Poets Society," with the same rejection of standardisation and manipulation to conformity.

Part of the book is history of education--going back millenia--and part is autobiography of a rebellious teacher. Gatto displays the people who built the educational establishment into its present monument to fossilized conformist mediocrity, displays them in their own words.

If you have ever looked at the dysfunctionality and counterproductivity of schools and wondered, "why?", you should take a good look at this history of education.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Too Stupid to Know . . .

. . . when people are trying to kill you, part III.

The recently released movie "United 93" highlights the difference between people who know their lives are being threatened, and people who cling to denial all the way to their deaths. The passengers of United 93 were no more intelligent or courageous than the passengers of the other three doomed flights. But because their flight was delayed a half hour waiting for takeoff clearance, the passengers on United 93 were able to learn about the earlier suicide flights into the two WTC towers and the Pentagon.

Even so, there were apparently passengers on United 93 that wanted to prevent the other passengers from taking action to try to stop the hijackers. Those were the passengers too stupid to know someone was trying to kill them. They remind me of a lot of people I know, who turn a blind eye to dangerous trends in society, focused only on their own minor, narrow, myopic concerns.

United 93 is one of the best films I have ever seen. A lot of people are too blase to see it. They may consider what happened on 9/11 to have been a freak of nature, less important or relevant than a tsunami or a hurricane. Past history to them, it apparently has no significance to their present or future in their eyes. You can even find people so deeply into denial who do not even believe 9/11 happened at all, but was instead a US government plot. In other words, they are too stupid to know . . .