The Therapy Sessions
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Change the channel?
Amir Taheri has an interesting editorial that should be required reading for anyone who thinks our immediate withdrawal from Iraq would be a great thing, helping the cause of world peace:
Hassan Abbasi has a dream--a helicopter doing an arabesque in cloudy skies to avoid being shot at from the ground. On board are the last of the 'fleeing Americans,' forced out of the Dar al-Islam (The Abode of Islam) by 'the Army of Muhammad.' Presented by his friends as 'The Dr. Kissinger of Islam,' Mr. Abbasi is 'professor of strategy' at the Islamic Republic's Revolutionary Guard Corps University and, according to Tehran sources, the principal foreign policy voice in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's new radical administration.
For the past several weeks Mr. Abbasi has been addressing crowds of Guard and Baseej Mustadafin (Mobilization of the Dispossessed) officers in Tehran with a simple theme: The U.S. does not have the stomach for a long conflict and will soon revert to its traditional policy of 'running away,' leaving Afghanistan and Iraq, indeed the whole of the Middle East, to be reshaped by Iran and its regional allies.
To hear Mr. Abbasi tell it the entire recent history of the U.S. could be narrated with the help of the image of 'the last helicopter.' It was that image in Saigon that concluded the Vietnam War under Gerald Ford. Jimmy Carter had five helicopters fleeing from the Iranian desert, leaving behind the charred corpses of eight American soldiers. Under Ronald Reagan the helicopters carried the corpses of 241 Marines murdered in their sleep in a Hezbollah suicide attack. Under the first President Bush, the helicopter flew from Safwan, in southern Iraq, with Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf aboard, leaving behind Saddam Hussein's generals, who could not believe why they had been allowed live to fight their domestic foes, and America, another day. Bill Clinton's helicopter was a Black Hawk, downed in Mogadishu and delivering 16 American soldiers into the hands of a murderous crowd.
According to this theory, President George W. Bush is an "aberration," a leader out of sync with his nation's character and no more than a brief nightmare for those who oppose the creation of an "American Middle East." Messrs. Abbasi and Ahmadinejad have concluded that there will be no helicopter as long as George W. Bush is in the White House. But they believe that whoever succeeds him, Democrat or Republican, will revive the helicopter image to extricate the U.S. from a complex situation that few Americans appear to understand.
That's about the gist of it. Americans seem to be under the impression that we can walk away, change the channel on the Middle East and go back to living in the 90's again.
It ain't gonna happen.
These people want war and we don't.
And if history is any indication, that means we will surely get war - on their terms. If we choose to "stop" fighting this war, we only make the next war inevitable.
And it will make this one look very small by comparison.
In Iraq - over three years - we've lost 2,400 soldiers. It's terrible.
But in the Battle of the Bulge - over one month - the US lost 20,000 soldiers.
A few weeks later, another 7,000 would perish on Iwo Jima. To secure an island taht was never used. And a few weeks after that, another 20,000 would die on Okinawa.
Iraq stinks, but we are trying to avoid a much worse war. The governments that alongside us are elected and legitimate, but they are fragile in the face of fanaticism. They need us.
But we are eager to change the channel. Mainly, because we have forgotten what a large war is like.
Maybe it will take a few sucidal jihadis with nuclear weapons to remind us.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Work = slavery
'They're offering us nothing but slavery,' said Maud Pottier, 17, a student at Jules Verne High School in Sartrouville, north of Paris, who was wrapped in layers of scarves as protection against the chilly, gray day. 'You'll get a job knowing that you've got to do every single thing they ask you to do because otherwise you may get sacked. I'd rather spend more time looking for a job and get a real one.'"
A real job - in France - is apparently a job for life where you don't have to do what your boss wants.
Or so 250,000 French students apparently believe.
I think I speak for most of America when I conclude that the French- the people who once gave birth to the Enlightenment - have gone insane.
How did work - defined in its simplist terms - so quickly become "slavery?"
Doesn't your boss have a right not to pay you for work that isn't getting done?
I would argue that this is natural progression of socialism:
I exist, therefore I am entitled to...
What are you entitled to that you do not earn?
A job for life? A free house? Free health care? A car?
This attitude - held by large numbers of people - can doom a continent, and that is precisely what it is doing to Europe right now.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
The attack of Eurogoogle
WE MUST take the offensive and muster a massive effort, said Jacques Chirac, the president of France, who went on to warn of the dangers of losing the battle for the power of tomorrow in a speech made last April.
What is Jacques Chirac worried about?
Is worried that Europeans should do more to explore space or science? Is he contemplating the possibilty of an Iranian nuclear weapon? Is he fretting that French Muslim immigrants are reproducing at a rate three times higher than the native French?
Nope: he is worried about Google.
Before Google, he - and much of France - was worried about Microsoft. Or then it was Yahoo. Or Hollywood. Yes, France plowed tons of government money into a failed effort to wean the French off foreign (read: American) films. Now Chirac is proposing that the French government spend lots of money to create a search engine that will compete with Google.
Chirac goes on, sounding more omninous:
"We must staunchly defend the world's cultural diversity against the looming threat of uniformity."
Google - like Yahoo - is a search engine. It scours websites all over the world for keywords, hints to what people - from all over the world, from any culture - are writing about. It doesn't give you uniformity; it gives you the opposite - if anything, too much diversity.
What will the French government's approved "culturally diverse" search engine look like? Who decides? At the heart of his argument is the idea that free markets shouldn't dictate the direction that the internet will take.
But if free markets shouldn't decide, who should? Governments? Unfree markets?
This reasoning ignores the fact that if it wasn't for free enterprise, the internet would be little more than a few linked government computers (like Minitel - the early "internet" the French government wasted millions on before it was overtaken by the World Wide Web). Almost all internet activity takes places on private websites.
If governments had decided that internet innovation should have been the provence of government bureaucracies in 1992, there wouldn't be an internet today.
But forget France. This could be the government of a large US city. For example, Philadelphia wants to use its legendary management skills to run a city wide WiFi hotspot that would give everyone cheap high speed internet.
Is it a good idea for governments to take on the jobs that are being done by the private sector?
Keep in mind that a government venture like the one Chirac proposes will consume public funds - public funds that might better be spent on education, health, security or transportation.
In contrast, a private company like Google generates government funds by employing people who go on to pay taxes.
And when the government gets involved, it crowds out the little guys with big ideas, who might eventually take on a Google, a Yahoo or a Microsoft.These companies didn't start out as corporate giants. Their ideas took them there, mainly because their ideas gave ideas to millions of Americans, ideas about doing things they once thought impossible.
But my thoughts against government owned business are more heartfelt.
In West Africa, governments "own" all of the agricultural produce in the country. That means that they set the price at which produce will be sold.
Wonderful socialism in practice! But it also means that farmers that refuse to sell at the government price are breaking the law.
Imagine if your boss could have you thrown in jail? Welcome to the life of a West African farmer. Is it any wonder that this is the poorest region on the planet?
My argument against government-business ventures is that they concentrate power.
People who defy the businessman are defying the will of the state, and thus, the people.
This leans toward absolute power. Absolute power corrupts...it is said...absolutely.
So when someone tells me that the government will clean up housing, or car insurance, or that nationalized health care will clean up health care....
I don't see a white horse riding to the rescue.
I see a government concentrating power in its own hands. At first, as a way of giving something to everybody. That sounds nice. But of course, you can't give something to everybody unless you first steal it, or at least compel people to provide it - at your price.
Power is fun. You can steal. Legally.
And eventually, you'll be deciding who will get medicine and who will not. Perhaps old people are onsuming too many resources in futile efforts to keep themselves alive. Maybe rich people are using their money to buy care that is better than what the government provides. At any rate, people close to you - your friends, people who see things your way, your voters - will be well served.
And people who aren't close...well, they might want to figure out a way to change that, shouldn't they?
Absolute power. Doing what it does best.
People who were outraged at the price Google paid for doing business in China - it was forced to reveal information on searches to the Chinese government - should by horried at the prospect at a government running a search engine.