24 December 2009

Uncommon Commentary #93: Keep It Simple and Stupid

People have a penchant for oversimplifying everything, with undesirable consequences.  Seemingly everyone thinks that the only choices we have are between treason and the love-it-or-leave-it attitude, between "tyranny" and what we call democracy, between Fundamentalism and/or fanaticism and skepticism toward religion, between the Islamic world and the secular West, between the Republican and Democratic parties, between bureaucratized medical care and the excessive costs of the present system, and so on.

20 December 2009

Uncommon Commentary #92: Smart Bombs and Short Memories

Ten years ago (not to the day), perhaps trying to prove that, half a century after its founding, it still had a reason to exist, the NATO took the credit for thwarting Serbia's attempt at purging her Kosovo province of ethnic Albanians. In view of this, and of some subsequent opinion pieces that take the NATO claim for granted, a lengthening of the public's infamously short memory would seem to be in order. (I'd like to have written this uncommon commentary a decade ago, but the Doman Domain did not then exist.)
For the first nine weeks of the 78-day NATO aerial attack, all that we heard from the media was how miserably the "smart"-bombing campaign was failing to achieve its objectives; then, Serbian leader Milosevic said that he might be willing to withdraw troops, and the press executed a flip-flop worthy of then-President Clinton. (We were told, for instance, that NATO negotiators were "dictating terms" to Serbia—but if that was true, why were those terms so lenient? The Serbians didn't have to turn anyone over for war-crime trials, pay reparations, or even apologize to the ethnic Albanians whom they had tried to annihilate. Indeed, the peace settlement was actually more generous to Serbia, the infrastructure of which country was shortly reconstructed by the former foreign adversaries, than to the Kosovo Liberation Army or KLA, which was unilaterally required to disarm.) One cannot rely upon the mainstream press for accurate and unbiased reporting of the facts, but even the military leaders, on the eve of Milosevic's announcement that he would be willing to withdraw troops, were not acting at all as though they were on the verge of triumph. The US Army and Air Force were sniping at one another over the non-deployment of helicopters which supposedly had the potential to "turn around" the situation. (If you've ever had any sort of leadership position, you know that one of the hallmarks of a fiasco is finger-pointing by members of your organization.) One general, almost on the eve of Milosevic's reversal, told the US public that they would have to steel themselves for a long and hard campaign!
My theory (although it is only theory) is that Milosevic made his unexpected offer precisely because he hoped that the "peacemakers" would compel Kosovo's real defenders to lay down their weapons, whereafter his army would be able to return and complete its work of "ethnic cleansing," but that he didn't include the possibility of his own ouster in his calculations. There is also a lesson to be learned in that the KLA fought the Serbs to a standstill in old-fashioned ground engagements, but that people attribute the victory to the NATO "air assault" simply because that's all that they heard about. In reality, the most that could justly be said of the NATO intervention is that it added another dimension to the KLA's resistance. The misconception explored in this uncommon commentary may stem from the fact that, ever since the invention of the aeroplane, many moulders of opinion have insisted upon viewing it as a juggernaut, a tool for winning wars without recourse to something so casualty-intensive (and thus politically risky) as placing troops in the field—hence Joe Biden's proposal to micro-manage the Afghan counterinsurgency from a distance; the subject of this last sentence, however, could provide enough material for a separate uncommon commentary.

11 December 2009

Uncommon Commentary #91

With what in most anyone else could be interpreted as evidence of humility, Emperor Nerobama said that he has yet to earn his Nobel Peace Prize. If he sincerely feels that way, why did he accept it?

08 December 2009

Uncommon Commentary #90

The most obvious reason to thwart Iran's pending development of atomic arms is that the "rogue state" might use them versus enemies or perceived enemies, but a less apparent one is that giving his country the power and prestige that come with joining what I call the nuclear family (and with overcoming the related opposition, feeble though it is, of the "international community") could make Ahmadinejad a national hero. If it's difficult for revolution-minded Iranians to oppose his regime now, wait until Western pusillanimity helps to make his triumph complete.

05 December 2009

Uncommon Commentary #89: Rated "R" for (Al) Gore

It has occurred to me that the title of Gore's book and film of ecological pseudo-science, An Inconvenient Truth, aptly sums up the attitude of the "green"-profiteers, as betrayed in the electronic mails of "Climategate" (which should really be called Weathergate, since "weather" is closer to "water") infamy, toward skeptics of the theory of anthropogenic climate-change.
I take exception, though, to the comparison that some thinkers have drawn between this scandal and Galileo Galilei's treatment by the Church. Galileo's ecclesiastic opponents may have misapplied Scripture in suppressing heliocentrism, but they suppressed it for a valid reason, i.e., they were anxious to preserve the integrity of the highest Truth; the global-warming alarmists quash contradictory evidence because they are anxious to deny the truth, the revelation of which would jeopardize their funding. Furthermore, what the inquisitors rejected was then just a theory, whereas Michael Mann, Phil Jones, &c., want to make people think that what's only theory has been established as fact. I recommend reading this Catholic Encyclopedia article, beginning at "It is in the first place…."

01 December 2009

Uncommon Commentary #88: Society, Too, Is Even Worse than You Think

When unemployment was yet under 10%, Mortimer Zuckerman wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal that listed 10 reasons why The Economy Is Even Worse than You Think. The article was illuminating but incomplete, because there's an eleventh reason: the unemployment-imbalance between the sexes. The male jobless rate stands at 11.4%, and women may soon compose the majority of the workforce. (Currently, the figure is 49.9%.) Feministas might approve of the latter statistic (and some of them, even of the former), but the men in a family, at least when they have jobs, still nearly always function as providers. A second paycheck might be valuable for some households, but even a single paycheck is crucial for many more.