Saturday, February 15, 2003

I suppose today is the "big day" for the antiwar movement. (I'm guessing most of my school associates are at our local one today. It's lonely being a teenaged Righty.)

And aside from the increase of numbers and worldwide participation, it seems to be a mirror image of the recent ANSWER protests. Of course, you wouldn't know that watching the reports on CNN. (You wouldn't know the ANSWER protests from watching CNN either, but that's beside the point.)

Other sources seem to report otherwise.

Sometimes I think about the Internet and the effect its going to have on the politically active as it grows. Clearly, a movement has been started on the blog front (points to self), but I hope one day, participation rises to a point where it becomes a primary location of protest and activity. I hope this for several reasons, more for the "other side" than my own:

1. Loss of unrelated activism. This is wishful thinking here, but in the protests I've attended (never in support of the causes, of course), I am given about 10-20 papers for unrelated causes. This was a primary complaint about the previous protest, as well. On a more-text based "protest", the arguments can be more easily ignored.

2. More in-depth analysis. The age of television may have increased the ability of a four-worded protest sign to hit a striking chord with our reason, but today's media allows us to relay more information, and in turn, more information should be provided for political causes. I'm not going to change my mind because I read a "No Blood For Oil" sign, but if I read a 500-word statement on the situation, I at least have to think before I dismiss it.

3. Us opponents (this goes for both sides) of a protest can't polarize the participants. I think EVERYBODY takes refuge in the appearance of protesters, be they 15-year-old anarchists who dress like they currently live in London circa 1979, or Polo-wearing Protestants. Once a system is created where the image is eliminated and we are left with nothing but the facts and rhetoric, we will have the most efficient forum for discussion.

I was discussing this with a colleague, and he pointed me in the direction of an essay written by none other than the lead singer for a punk band. (Typical.) The thesis of this performer was that Internet activism is flawed, because a person changes political beliefs based upon emotion and not reason, and thus people need to see protests, etc. Also, talking about events on the Internet will lead to people seeing the world in (semi-quote) their “warped view of reality”.

I find this argument to be bogus. The protesting Left (and Right, I suppose), needs to come to the realization that the Vietnam generation is over and protests have lost their ability to work. People don’t see protests as peaceful symbols of opinion and free speech, they think of hippies and dark times. As people, we’ve been hit over the head with pictures and films of protest. It’s become something we see as unremarkable. And given the usual types of protesters, it’s likely to disenchant rather than to inspire.

Equally, this person suggested that emotion other than reason is the basis of people’s decision-making. Maybe I’m too much of a pragmatist, but this sounds like a cop-out to me. It almost sounds as if he would prefer emotion to be paramount in all issues. It’s important, yes, but a reason-based discussion is nothing to eschew, and can be effective.

As for a “warped reality”, I don’t think any forum of discussion has caused this in the past, and regardless of what my parents might tell you, I don’t live on the Internet.

Well, I just said a whole lot of nothing, but I think I got my point across. Cheers.

Friday, February 14, 2003

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Interesting read.

(Note that the article comes from BBC, so brace yourself should you read the comments. Actually, the comments seem balanced in stances, probably due in good part to Andrew Sullivan's linking.)

The following is a butchery/summary:

Iraq is rich enough and developed enough and has the human resources to become a great force for democracy and economic reconstruction in the Arab and Muslim world. But most Arabs are in a state of denial. The gulf that opened up between Iraqis and the rest of the Arab world that began with the 1991 Gulf War has reached a kind of crescendo with the current crisis.
Out of the Iraqi opposition - as difficult and fractious as it may be - could emerge a new kind of Arab politics. One that I believe is far healthier than the politics that dominates the Arab world today.
Since 1967, Arab political culture has largely been dominated by Arab nationalism of one form and another. This has been an obsession to the exclusion of everything else.
And today, the spectrum of what is politically possible to talk about in Arab politics runs from Palestine at one end to Palestine at the other, with no room for the plight of the Iraqi people.
Some commentators warn that a US backed war in Iraq will cause the Arab street to rise up in anger. But this much vaunted 'Arab street' is a fiction - it doesn't exist. It is a creation of nationalist intellectuals of my generation, who lived through war in the Arab world and never learned from the mistakes of the past.
During the Gulf War and, more recently, the Afghan war nothing came of the fears of the Arab world.
All we saw in Afghanistan were people cheering in the streets. I expect Iraqis to do the same - to throw sweets and flowers at the American troops as they enter our towns and cities.
We want to see America involved in Iraq for a very long time but I do not support the idea of an American military government, even for a short time. We Iraqis must take the responsibilities of our future into our own hands.

Of course, if you're sold on war, the only real concerns here are A) Can proper postwar inspections occur without the need for a military rule, and B) Most importantly, can Iraq yield a more democratic government?

I really am in no place to answer A (I'm really not in a place to answer anything, but that's beside the point), but I think that if democracy stands a chance in the middle east, Iraq is a good place to start. Says a 2001 article from Neil Munro:

Iraq's population of 23 million is not fertile ground for the radical Islam of its neighbors in Iran and Saudi Arabia. That's good for modern democracy, for women, education and economic growth, and it can help Iraq become a second secular success — after Turkey — in the heart of Arabia, forever reminding Arabs and immediate neighbors in restive Iran, that freedom and capitalism are far better for the average person than bin Laden's 11th-century Wahhabi theocracy.

Yeah, dated information. (I like the "Baghdad '02" in the subtitle.) But, as he continues, he brings up an important point regarding Iraq's relations:

Then there's Saddam with his weapons, his large and rich Iraqi stronghold, his manipulation of Arab sympathies, and his hatred of us. He undermines our position in the Gulf region by forcing us to maintain troops in Saudi Arabia, by starving his people and them blaming us before a receptive Arab audience, by slowing Iran's move towards democracy, and by maintaining false hopes among Palestinians and their supporters that there is yet hope of a victory against Israel. In comparison to Saddam, Osama, the Saudis, and the Israeli-Palestinian death-grip are minor fronts in this evolving war against terrorism. Yet Saddam is also more vulnerable that Osama or the Saudis. He has little popular support, his country is a flat-desert ideal for U.S. Army's mechanized warfare and the U.S. Air Force's bombers, and his army is weakened by years of sanctions and defeat. The response suggests itself; destroy Saddam first, and the rest of the anti-American structure will collapse, regardless of bin Laden's whereabouts or Saudi politics.

So, in addition that Iraq will probably receive a more liberated society, we have the increased speed of Iran's liberation (Iran's current regime is one to still be wary about, rest assured, but a push in the right direction never hurts and often helps), the strong possibility of lower Palestinian attacks and maybe something happening in Saudi Arabia. A long-term major stabilization of the area with two new fledgling democracies, in my opinion, is a very possible and desirable outcome.

Here's hoping for the best.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

I hate questions like these.

And the following conclusions, as well. I'm certain people under any type of press with any type of president would have a difficult time recalling or remembering the nationality of 17 different men.


I hope there will be a follow-up article. I'm also curious as to how they plan to "shield". 50 people?

I think that a good follow-up to this article can be found here.

Monday, February 10, 2003

It seems to me that somebody is trying to make a Vietnam-esque "legacy music statement".

Of course, that really wouldn't surprise me, since the sentiment seems to be widespread among the more artistic (I'm using the term loosely):

But there's something in the air at this moment--some scent of a long-vanished dawn among the old, some hunger for a heaven they never knew among the young--that lures from political retirement even Richard Wilbur. At a recent march in Colorado, Hunter S. Thompson drew ecstatic cheers with the line: "I've become almost homesick for the smell of tear gas." The fact that they are not actually being tear-gassed only makes the nostalgia easier.

AT LEAST WILBUR was merely signing a manifesto and not issuing poetry. For that, one has to go to "100 Poets Against the War" and "100 Poets Against the War Redux," Internet-published anthologies organized by Todd Swift, a Canadian living in Europe. It's almost unfair to quote any of these extempore effusions. "This kind of effort, regardless of how valuable each poem is on its own, as a collection represents a step forward for the kind of activism that poets need to be part of," a contributor named George Murray told the Toronto Globe and Mail--and that was in defense of the antiwar verse.

Individually, the poems show all the elements you might expect. Jay Parini, who accepted the White House invitation "because I thought I could have said something about the war directly to Mrs. Bush," told the New York Times that poets are important now "because our language is pure." That's not quite the impression one gets from the antiwar poems. There's the definition of Republicans as famous for rewriting history in the style of evil dictators Stalin and Hitler. There's the sloganeering: "How Many Lives per Gallon? / Go Solar Not Ballistic / Draft SUV Drivers Now", argues one poet. "War is gud 4 bizniz", adds another.

Mirage: The Worst (Yet Oddly Appropriate) Name Ever

I suppose the big news of this weekend was the unveiling of the Franco-German plan (yes, I'm aware that the French foreign minister denied it, but I'm sure that given the stances France and Germany have displayed, that such a plan has been talked about or widely considered, if not selected). You can read about it here. The plan, referred to as "Mirage", is summed up by Andrew Suttaford: "the idea seems to be that ‘thousands’ of UN troops would take control of the entire country for years in order to guarantee a "durable disarmament regime." The US troops already in the region would remain there as guarantors of the UN incursion. According to the magazine, Iraq would become for all practical purposes a protectorate of the UN, with Saddam remaining as only the formal head of state. If the Saddam regime were to collapse as a result, that would be “acceptable”, but that’s not the primary purpose of the exercise. "

Some have dismissed the policy as being less than worrisome, yet others don't seem to be too sure:

If the government of Iraq cooperates fully, 100%, then this might well actually work. But if there's anything which is clear now, it's that Saddam has no intention of actually getting rid of his WMDs. If he was actually willing to cooperate, he'd have done so a long time ago. So inevitably the time would come when the inspectors would, with their accompanying UN guards, try to enter some facility or home or something, and would run into armed men who refused to let them in. Maybe the Iraqis resisting them point their AK-47's directly at the inspectors. Maybe they fire over their heads. (Both happened during the previous round of inspections which ended in 1998.) Would the UN troops actually be willing to attack in such a case, to force their way in? Would they be willing to call in air strikes to obliterate any building they were not allowed to enter (say, a hospital or grade school or mosque)? Not a chance. The record on that kind of thing internationally is extremely poor; these kinds of forces are most successful when deployed to places where the people themselves actually support the international troops. When there's substantial local resistance, or a local force which refuses to go along, the result is usually catastrophe.

Thus it was that international peacekeepers in Bosnia could not prevent slaughter of Bosnian Muslims, and thus it was that international peacekeepers in Rwanda did not act to prevent the genocide. They wore their blue berets, and carried the UN flag, but when it actually came time to either fight or withdraw, they nearly always withdraw...

...Logical arguments against the plan (such as presented above) will have no important effect. Expect war-opponents all over the world to rally to this idea and begin pushing it. And when advocates of war try to argue that it has little chance of success, they will respond, "But it might work and if so we could avoid the infinite catastrophe of war; we have to at least give it a try before you invade!" And then they will lay out a litany of the expected carnage, with hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians dead after the US inevitably carpet-bombs every Iraqi city, and millions of starvation victims when the flow of supplies breaks down in the chaos after the war and you've heard it all before, not to mention all the Iraqis who would die when we bombed the places where Iraq is storing the chemical weapons it doesn't have and cause those chemicals to be released to drift over the nearby orphanages and retirement homes. "Isn't it worth giving this a try to avoid all that? How can you be so heartless as to want to cause such great amounts of death and destruction?" Rational argument (e.g. "The war isn't actually going to cause that kind of carnage; we don't carpet bomb cities any longer.") has no effect, because those making these arguments aren't really interested in anything except opposing war.

I agree wholeheartedly. I am especially worried that such a plan would meet little resistance (of course, such a plan would probably lead to "unilateral" US action one way or another), because a good deal of the international community seems to have grown wary of Saddam, yet remains wary of war. I feel that a good deal of the war opposition will be all too quick to support a quick solution that isn't necessarily "wholesale war".