September 12, 2003


A legend has been taken from us. But it's not a tragedy; death will eventually get all of you and me too, one way or the other. And the truth is, Johnny Cash probably lived about two decades longer than anyone should've expected, given the way he spent his youth. But those last two decades were probably the most amazing decades in any entertainer's life, and they followed several amazing decades that had already made him a legend.

Do you want to write the Great American Novel? Just base your main character on Johnny Cash.

Born in the Depression, son of a farmer and one of six kids, Johnny Cash enlisted in the Air Force in the early 50s. On his first duty station, in Germany, he started his first band. He would never be the same, and neither would the musical world.

He knew Elvis before Elvis knew he was Elvis. Even young, Cash had a voice that sounded old, like an aged sage full of grit and vinegar. He looked like a gnarly old man by the time he was 30. Johnny Cash was there for the invention of rock-n-roll, but wasn't a rocker himself for long. He went country before the genre existed.

He was a wild man who loved to live hard at night and boast in the morning. He was an outlaw poet.

And he just kept on. He sang at prisons, penning the ultimate prison anthem, "Fulsom Prison Blues."

His demanding tour schedule in the 50s and 60s made him one of the must successful musicians in America, and a drug addict. It wrecked his marriage, but made him a musical god. He wrote "Don't Take Your Guns to Town," "I Got Stripes," and "Ring of Fire." And he remained an outlaw. Then he met June Carter, who turned him around, married him and civilized him.

But in the 70s and 80s something changed. Cash's roots had always been Gospel. He left Sun in the 50s because he thought that would give him a better shot at recording Gospel songs. Like a whisper that you can't quite hear but can't quite shake, something kept getting under Johnny's skin. Pretty soon the Outlaw returned to his roots, announcing that he was a Christian. He wrote "The Man in Black," which summed up the man and his personna, and his faith, in 1971.

In the 90s the legend continued to grow. Critical acclaim came his way; young up-and-coming musicians cited him among their influences. He recorded a string of riveting work, raw and dark and real.

Johnny Cash's life was long and rich and full of twists and turns, like a great drama made real. Johnny Cash never re-invented himself; we just kept re-discovering him. He will be missed.

Posted by B. Preston at 04:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Or don't. But you'll be missing out on some fine rhetoric in defense of freedom.

And then go look at this.

Posted by B. Preston at 02:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


So InstaPundit is taking grief for posting a photo of a 9-11 jumper yesterday. He's also getting support, but the criticism is interesting.

The photo was real. It depicted the last seconds of a desperate man, falling to his death because some nutbags crashed airplanes into his place of work. It captured the horror of that day two years ago, and reminded us just what that day was really like.

I don't know about you, but it was without a doubt the worst day of my life. It's hard to imagine another day taking its place.

Some people don't like that photo, or to be more accurate, don't like publicizing that photo (no one in their right mind likes that photo). They are no doubt the same people who agitated for peace as early as 9-12-01, who counseled against war, and to this day don't get it. They never will.

As horrible as it is, we need to see that photo once in a while. We need to dust it off, and dust off the layers of time and casual life, and stare that horror in the face. It was our reality that day, and is our reality now. It lurks in the shadows of our minds, always there. Seeing that photo brought it out of the shadows for a while, which is terrible but necessary.

Reality is what the anti-war people don't want to face. They don't want to acknowledge that we have enemies who will not be placated with nice talk. They don't want to acknowledge that our enemies hate us no matter what we do, because in their minds if all this is our fault it's easier to fix. Fix ourselves and the bad guys will break bread with us. They don't want to acknowledge that the world is a nasty, brutish place that occassionally spawns monsters that good men and women must fight. They just don't want to look evil in the eye, fearing that they will quail and give in to it rather than confront and defeat it. And on that last, they have proven themselves right. Having looked evil in the eye on 9-11, they bent knee and wanted us all to sue for peace. They still don't understand why we didn't.

We haven't. We won't. That's reality. Deal with it.

Posted by B. Preston at 01:04 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


From ShopTalk:

Miss Mosbacher's President

Georgette Mosbacher didn't let "60 Minutes" executive producer Don Hewitt get away with his Bush-bashing Wednesday. At a breakfast event at '21,' Hewitt said, "I'm not anti-Bush, I think Laura is terrific." Hewitt also said, "George Bush speaks too loudly and doesn't carry a big enough stick." But when he referred to Bush as "Miss Mosbacher's president," the flame-haired Republican forced him to admit, "He's my president too." Hewitt also railed against born-again Christians, likening them to recovering alcoholics. (PAGE SIX - NY Post)

Anyone out there care to argue that at least some in the media don't hate Bush for his Christian faith? Anyone care to argue that news execs' personal feelings don't seep into their coverage?

Posted by B. Preston at 09:31 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 11, 2003


It was a replay of last year's 9-11.

I'd had a pleasant day, lots of remembrances and reminders that life goes on even while we must defend our country, our freedom, our homes, our families.

Then I hop in the car for the drive home, and as I get out into the city I'm confronted by the most annoying sight: anti-war protestors line both sides of the streets, holding childish signs with bumper-sticker quality slogans.

"War is not the Answer"

When a bunch of fanatics, sponsored by hostile regimes, want to kill us all, war is most emphatically the answer. It's not even an answer. It's the answer.

"When we all seek an eye for an eye, the world goes blind"

We don't want an eye for an eye. We want to drive these maniacs from their caves and kill them, capice? For every one of us that dies, we're going to kill about a hundred of them. We're going to take over their countries and turn them into democracies. That ain't an eye for an eye. It's survival.

"Stop Bush's War for Empire"

What is this, the Skywalker Ranch? It's not a war for a friggin' empire, it's a war to defend freedom. It's a war to ensure that my kid can grow up more or less the way I did. It's a war to keep the next 9-11 from ending in a big flash and a mushroom cloud. War for empire, my a$$.

"Honk for Peace"

Very little honking at that one. Oh, one or two blasted their horns, but while they did about a hundred cars passed by kept their horns to themselves.

The protestors numbered maybe a couple hundred or so, nearly all of them graying and wrinkling, mostly at big intersections or in front of lefty churches (Episcopalean, Methodist, and in front of the Friends School--Quaker). They've lived their lives, they're collecting their Social Security checks and will soon be getting their free pills from my wallet. What do they care if the next generation's girls have to wear burkhas? What do they care if freedom goes down the toilet, and Western Civilization burns?

Thankfully, there was a glimmer of hope. As I drove past one knot of those who wish to make the world safe for terrorists, I came under a walkway that spanned the street above. It was filled with students from one of the city's universities. Where the old farts had been toting noxious nonsense, the kids held something bright and colorful, that caught the early autumn breeze like a hint of grace: Old Glory. The American flag. No moronic protest signs. And it was clear that the students were counter-demonstrating against the streetside rabble.

The oldsters still don't get it, but the kids do.

Thank God.

MORE: Whaddya think--would this sign sell nowadays?


Posted by B. Preston at 04:51 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack


Don't know quite what to make of this--it's so illogical and idiotic that it's barely worth comment. But we bloggers wade intrepidly into the weeds of nonsense all the time, don't we? Sometimes we even come back out.

Click on this link. Do the right-click, open in new window trick, so you can still read what I'm saying here while you study the graphic.

It's a map of the flight paths the four ill-fated planes took two years ago today. They have added the locations of all military bases in the Northeast, or at least all the ones they could find. The map's caption reads:

In this picture, which is worth even more than a thousand words, MediaLab has merged a map of the 9/11 planes' flightpaths with a map of military bases in those areas. The flights went through some of the most heavily militarized parts of the country, yet nothing could be done to stop them?

How blisteringly, mind-seeringly idiotic is that caption? I think I lost a couple of IQ points just trying to understand it. What are the authors suggesting, that we should have shot down the first plane, or even the second? That we should have our air forces on permanent patrols, ready to blast anything out of the sky the very second it deviates from its known flight path? That sounds like a full-blown police state to me, and a brutal one at that. We'd have our air forces shooting down passenger planes every day if we listened to these morons.

This kind of argument is so ill-informed, so childish, that no serious political group or organization should promote it, yet one is. sent it out today in its email newsletter. Yes, the same that has re-dubbed itself "The Patriotic Progressives" (they used to call themselves "The Aggressive Progressives," which always struck me as rather brown-shirted, hammer-and-sickled), that consults for Democrat candidates around the country and boasts a Clinton White House veteran among its founders. The same bunch you'll never hear criticized by the likes of Josh Marshall.

On 9-11-03 they're wondering why President Bush didn't order four passenger planes blown out of the sky on 9-11-01 before a single one had met its deadly fate, as if presidents are omniscient, masters of time, space and dimension.


Posted by B. Preston at 01:17 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack


On 9-11 it's appropriate to take stock, re-think, re-examine and look forward.

Applying all of that to our relationship with South Korea, I'm moving toward one inescapable conclusion--it's time to cut them loose.

DAEGU, South Korea -- The 300 statuesque beauties of the North Korean cheerleading squad bounded up the stairs of a soccer stadium here, prompting ecstatic applause from the South Korean crowd. Wearing outfits that were part Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, part Red Army, the women, who were handpicked and rigorously trained under the auspices of the North Korean government, strode to their places and flashed matching smiles.

Ignoring the field, where a North Korean soccer team was busy crushing Taiwan, the South Korean news media kept all cameras trained on the cheers. "What do we want?" the women, whose Stalinist homeland was separated from the South more than half a century ago, barked to the crowd. "Unification!" the South Korean fans shouted back with gusto.

That understandable desire for unification is blinding the current generation in South Korea: only 9 percent of them view Kim Jong-Il's nuclear ambitions as a threat. You'll get higher readings on that question just about anywhere else in the world. Sixty-one percent favor continuing the sunshine policy--the one that makes us the bad guys for shedding blood and spending treasure to protect them from their northern menace.

Then consider the following: I've mentioned the creation of something called the Proliferation Security Initiative before. It's an 11-state alliance aimed at interdicting North Korean ships on the high seas to stop them from moving WMD merchandise. Why this isn't a bigger story around the blogosphere is a mystery to me. The US plus ten other states, many of which are nowhere near North Korea, view the prospect of Kim having the Bomb with such trepidation that they've joined us, outside the UN, to make life hard for North Korea's merchant marine. Those states are, besides the US, Japan, Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, and Spain. Who's not on that list?

South Korea.

Not having a blue-water navy is no excuse. Last time I checked, Japan has the ability but not the fact of a true blue-water navy. Its participation in the PSI will most likely be in the form of offering ports of call for allied ships and intelligence from its new satellites watching Pyongyang's every move. But Japan takes the threat, and its US relationship, seriously and is game for the hunt. So does Bulgaria, a tiny state thousands of miles from the eastern edge of Asia.

But not South Korea.

So let's pull out, the sooner the better. Let's build our wall of ships around Kim, let's forward deploy our stealth bombers in Guam and Diego Garcia and Japan, let's reprogram a few ICBMs for coordinates north of the DMZ and let the South Koreans follow Dr. Evil's debutantes to a Stalinist hell if that's what they want.

I'm tired of people who cast the US in the role of villain when we send our boys to fight and die for them. It's time such children learned to grow up.

Posted by B. Preston at 12:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


The more we find out about MEChA, the worse it sounds. The very name means "fuse," according to one of my astute readers. It borrows its memes from Castro, and sports a violent logo with terroristic overtones. These folks may be fine college tutors and all, but they have a nasty legacy in there that needs addressing. To the extent that Cruz Bustamante won't disassociate himself from all that, and to the extent that numberous "liberals" continue to defend him and MEChA, is the extent to which I now dismiss everything they have ever said regarding race relations. They're either blind or they're liars, or both.

So if I lived in California, and thank God I don't, there's no way I could in good conscience cast a vote for Bustamante or his party.

On the other hand, the more we find out about Ahnuld the worse he sounds too. I'm not talking about Oui-gate or even the allegations that he gropes female reporters who interview him. If the country really cared about that kind of stuff, Bill Clinton would've been bounced out of office in 1999. No, Ahnuld simply doesn't articulate conservative or even vaguely Republican ideas very well. He doesn't seem to have a plan to right California's sinking ship. I'm less sure of his leadership skills than I once was, though I can't explain why. He seems to be all personality and no substance.

So if I lived in California, and thank God I don't, I don't think I could cast a vote for Ahnuld in good conscience. I wanted to early on, but he's losing me.

Leaving Gray-out in office isn't an option, after he all but unilaterally granted citizenship to illegal aliens. Why not just go ahead and declare that everyone in the entire world is now a US citizen and be done with it?

What to do, what to do...?

I like McClintock. I don't think he will win, but it's possible. He's turning me around to his way of thinking, and if I lived in California--thank God I don't--I could cast a vote for him.

Posted by B. Preston at 11:57 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


September, mourn.

Two years to the day. Here we are. At war.

We were at war before 9-11-01, we just didn't know it.

I wrote a chronology of that day last year, which is here. I don't see the need to write another one.

I also don't see the need to commemorate 9-11. If you don't think about it in some way every day, why set aside one day to commemorate? If it isn't in your consciousness often, why bring it up now?

9-11 was terrible, awful, horrific--yet unifying. We all watched firefighters and cops rush into a disaster that everyone else would run away from. We saw the buildings fall on them. We saw them die.

Two years later, the welders who rushed to the scene that day to cut metal trapping the victims are still finding more of the dead. Two years later.

The fire burned for months, a thick column of black smoke visible from space, carrying lost work, lost architecture, lost life. And lost innocence.

The unity of 9-11 didn't last. Within a week or two, cruel people began committing their first acts of memory-theft. They tried to blame the disaster on us. It was America's fault, you see. We brought it on ourselves. How their hearts, if they have hearts, must have secretly leaped as one victim after another hit the pavement.

The Palestinians cheered. They danced in the streets.

Never forget.

We're at war now. We lost 3,000 in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania--to my north, south, and back north. But to put the day in numbers is to diminish it. If we just count bodies, 3,000 among 300,000,000 isn't so bad; three buildings and a few airplanes among thousands is survivable. But it was not that day's body count that made the events so horrendous. It was the truth behind it--if we don't strike back and defeat the people who did this, there will be another 9-11, and another, and pretty soon 9-11 will just be one terrible date among many.

We can't live like that.

How long must we fight?

Until the end.

Posted by B. Preston at 07:45 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 10, 2003


We may think we have the most vile, spineless or irritating politicians in the free world...but our pols don't often praise bomb threats against their rivals.

Posted by B. Preston at 03:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


MEChA, a separatist group preaching a reconquista or "liberation" of the American Southwest, whose ideology most closely resembles Communism (according to some old-hand MEChistas), borrows its singular, most offensive phrase from Fidel Castro.

And the very liberal who dug this up thinks it's no big deal. In fact, he excuses it:

In 1969, the true nature of Castro's attitude toward artists and intellectuals would certainly not have been known to the Chicano organizers whose documents were used in the founding of MEChA, and given this clear context, I think we can now assume that the slogan in question was meant to be a revolutionary unity statement. The fact that it was ripped from a now-infamous speech by a now-disgraced dictator is historically unfortunate, but it's meaning should at least now be clear.

Why would MEChA's organizers know of the offending phrase and its call to "revolutionary unity," yet not know of Castro's brutality? Isn't it just as likely that they not only knew what Castro did, but that they also approved of it? They were Chicano militants, after all, as Linse admits. In Castro perhaps they found a fellow traveller, an ideological leader, and that's why they borrowed his phrase. No?

Look, Ain't No Bad Dude, Communism is bad, dude. It actually eclipsed Nazism for sheer meanness, accounting for about 20 million dead in the old USSR, several million dead in China, a couple million dead in Cambodia and countless other millions dead in little Commie hell-holes around the world. It's nasty stuff. I'm sure you know all this; I'm just providing a bit of context.

MEChA's borrowing words from Castro doesn't mean that California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante is either a Castro-ite nor a Communist, but it doesn't automatically let him off the hook either. If Trent Lott were tied to some little known group that had some tenuous ideological tie to Nazism, you guys would be all over him like a cheap polyester suit in mid-August. Wouldn't you? You know you would. You folks try to tie GOPers to racism, and the more irritable amoung you constantly try and tie us to the Nazis, whenever you need a fix for some old time liberal religion.

Ever seen the "Bush=Hitler" signs? Ever run across the term "Bush Reich?" The latter was until recently a frequent fixture on, as I have demonstrated countless times, isn't fringe. One of its founders worked in the Clinton White House. It gets Josh Marshall's stamp of approval, or, Bustamante-like, he refused to criticize it when I confronted him in an email exchange a while back. In fact, he objected when I dubbed them "radical."

So you can't in good faith deny that your side would climb up one side and down the other of any Republican that you could possibly, however weakly, tie to the Nazis. You folks do it all the time.

Yet Bustamante is tied to a group that borrows the words of Castro, refuses repeatedly to renounce it, and you excuse it. Pardon me while I search for the last ash of your credibility and stamp it out.

Fact is, in Bustamante you folks have a very big problem. Bustamante is your great hope in CA. He has a murky past with a fringe, possibly terroristic, organization--one that borrows at least the germ of its ideology from Fidel Castro. If you and Bustamante don't renounce MEChA pronto, you're de facto accepting it as a legitimate part of your ideological coalition.

That's bad, dude.

MORE: It turns out that the "until recently" clause regarding's "Bush Reich" and its variants is too generous. They're still calling the Bush administration either "Bush Reich," or the "Fourth Reich." Just go to their site, run a search on "reich" and you'll see what I mean. You'll also see that they call the Bush admin the "Busheviks." Intellectual consistency isn't their strong suit, obviously.

Posted by B. Preston at 09:11 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack


The House last night passed a bill that would allow a pilot voucher program in Washington, DC.

Sometimes it seems the Congressional Republicans are made of equal parts spinelessness and stupidity. Last night's vote suggests otherwise, though. House leadership scheduled the vote to coincide with the Democrat presidential candidates' debate in Baltimore, virtually guaranteeing that Reps. Gephardt and Kucinich wouldn't be on hand to vote.

The measure passed 209-208.

Of course, there's a good chance Gephardt wouldn't have been present to vote regardless of scheduling. He misses as many votes as he makes, in spite of it being his job to attend and vote.

Posted by B. Preston at 08:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 09, 2003


Most spam offers to extend, enlarge or enhance something. Not always. Just got this one:

First, check out our new blow-out special of the month, the Deluxe Arm Chopper, which normally sells for $75.00 and is being blown out at $45.00.

Deluxe Arm Chopper?


Posted by B. Preston at 09:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 08, 2003


The Proliferation Security Initiative is a done deal. The blockade of North Korea has begun. It's only a stop-gap, and doesn't address the fact that that lunatic actually has his hands on nuclear weapons and will likely test one soon, but does begin construction of a cage around him.

Predictably, the Chinese aren't happy. Not so predictably, the French are, and they're actually on board (or perhaps they're just participating for some backstabbing purpose down the road--time will tell). The navies of the United States, Japan, Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, and Spain will work together to interdict ships on the open seas that are suspected of trafficking in WMDs or component parts. Meaning, they'll be stopping virtually all North Korean ships, since Pyongyang has used its merchant marine navy as a front for weapons traffic for decades. Expect lots of noise from North Korea, and maybe some small-scale naval battles once this plan takes shape. Rather than accept boarding, Pyongyang will probably order its ships to fire on allied ships. We'll be sending some North Korean sailors to Davey Jones' locker shortly.

This organization--the Proliferation Security Initiative--has been set up to do what the UN has been unable or unwilling to do, which is confront rogue regimes pursuing and selling WMDs. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, plays the moral equivalency game, all but equating terro-cracies with democracies. Hailing from a "moderate" Islamic state himself, it's only natural that he would, but his stances show just how useless anything attached to the despot-heavy UN really is. All participants in the PSI are democracies, and include three of the world's best navies (ours, the British and the Australians). It includes the world's top six economies, ourselves, Japan, Germany, France, the UK, Italy and eight of the top ten if you include Canada and Spain (stats here). It's a formidable group. If we can get India and Israel on board (well, Israel is probably already on board behind the scenes), we might have the beginnings of a Council of Democracies on our hands.

Posted by B. Preston at 09:41 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


They're connected, according to Italian intelligence.

Posted by B. Preston at 09:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Here's a bit of idle speculation. The US approach to the UN for post-war help in Iraq may not be the tail-turn that most of the blogosphere seems to think it is.

Here's why. We have roughly 130,000 troops on the ground in Iraq right now, which is something like half to two-thirds of our actual combat-ready ground force. Much of the remaining combat-ready force is tied up in the Balkans and other peace-keeping ventures, or still in Afghanistan taking down the Taliban, or recovering from deployments or covering Taiwan and the Korean DMZ from South Korea, Japan and so forth. The monetary expense of keeping the troops in place in Iraq is huge, but not overwhelming. The President wants $87 billion to keep things going, but with a government that puts out a couple billion for science satellites and spends upward of a couple trillion per year, $87 billion isn't a backbreaker. But the number of US troops in Iraq limits what we can do next to meet ongoing threats. The fact is, we need troops from other countries to enter Iraq and placehold while our own troops get ready for a couple of likely conflicts or force demonstrations with North Korea and Iran. Short of a military build-up, which would take years and which W hasn't asked for, the Iraq operation hinders our freedom of motion against the two largest remaining Axis powers (unless you count France as a de facto Axis partner).

News reports from India and a few other states (Turkey, Japan) indicate a desire on the part of their governments to put troops into Iraq to get back on our good side (in the case of Turkey and India), but without some sort of UN mandate their people would oppose such a move. Politicians are, above all else, interested in keeping their jobs and don't want to buck their respective national moods. Japan is looking at inserting troops in November even without UN backing, and that has become controversial for all sorts of reasons. Not least of those is the fact that combat is ongoing and Japanese troops haven't been exposed to combat since 1945. To say that pacifist Japan is casualty averse is an understatement. Secondarily, many Japanese people continue to see the Iraq war as a unilateral US move of aggression. Putting the UN stamp on the post-war effort would go a great distance to getting rid of that notion. Japan and India both want to help out for good reasons (I'm a bit suspicious of Turkey, frankly); obtaining UN imprimatur may help them help us, putting us in a better position to deal with Kim Jong-Il and the mullahs in Tehran.

I'm not engaging in any sort of pro-Bush spin here. Fact is I detest the UN, as any long-time reader is aware, but if getting some show of hands there gets the Indians and the Japanese and maybe even the Turks and others to put some troops into Iraq, it may be worth it. On the downside, France will obviously try to exact some price for cooperating, and Bush would be a fool to pay it.

MORE: Den Beste agrees. I think. His post on the subject is roughly 3.4 million words long, and I only had time to get through the first couple hundred thousand, so there's plenty of room for him to change his mind and I'd never see it. Rather like an atheist who is honest enough to admit how little he actually knows in the grand scheme of things, yet clings to his belief that there absolutely can't be a God out there anyway, I believe that Steven hasn't contradicted himself somewhere in all those words. But I could be wrong. The atheist in my illustration certainly is.

I will back him on Spirited Away. Great film. Actually, Ghibli Studios simply doesn't make bad movies. We have many of their films in our family collection, and they're all works of art.

Posted by B. Preston at 04:07 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


Two years, nearly to the day, since the war began in earnest. Or rather, re-began in earnest.

This war we're in isn't new. Its roots go back to Berlin, to a willful man with a funny mustache who murdered millions. We need reminding, two years past 9-11, of that. The Ba'athists, al Qaeda, Arafat--our present enemies--draw much of their inspiration from our old enemies, the Nazis. As Robert Wistrich writes:

The dream of [Mohammed] Atta and many other Islamists was to create a Muslim theocracy from the Nile to the Euphrates, "liberated" from any Jewish presence. To achieve this goal, the Al-Qaida fanatics based in Hamburg struck at New York City, the "center of world Jewry" and the "Jewish-controlled" international financial system. In this ideological sense, they showed themselves to be direct heirs of Hitler and his genocidal mind-set. The failure of so many people, including Americans, Jews and Israelis, to grasp this crucial fact about the motivations for 9/11 is a stunning example of how little has been learned from history.

Yasser Arafat claims the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem as his chief mentor and teacher. The Grand Mufti was Hitler's tool throughout the war. The Ba'ath Parties of Saddam and Assad are the last of the viable Nazi offshoots, formed with Vichy French assistance as a bulwark against Allied moves in the Middle East. They survived the war that killed their mentors; if they survive this one, we may not. Those are the stakes in this war.

I watched the President speak to the nation last night. It's a pity he can't bring a live studio audience into the White House Cabinet Room. He connects with people when he shares the same space with them, but often fails to connect if his only immediate audience is a studio camera. On substance the speech was fine, a long overdue reminder that Iraq is in fact the locus of the war on terror, a long overdue statement that he has learned the lessons of Beirut, Somalia and years of nonresistance to terrorism, and a call therefore to keep up the fight. All fine and necessary, in fact we need to hear it more often. But I thought the connection lagged.

Disappointments? He never mentioned the ongoing hazards in Iran, in Syria, in North Korea. He still hasn't spelled out a remedy for the Saudi regime that continues to pour money into Wahhabi efforts to spread terror around the world. He never connected 9-11's economic impact to the just-passed recession. He never mentioned just how unhelpful the domestic opposition is in prosecuting the war, never took on their assaults to his legitimacy as President, never really marshalled the bully pulpit.

Supposing we succeed in this war, it may go down as a reversal of a long historic trend. From the mid-19th Century through the 20th, the concept of total war reigned. Prior to the onset of total war, armies engaged one another on the field of battle but rarely attacked civilians as part of the path to victory. Total war changed that thinking, bringing civilians into war as part of an overall strategy to break an enemy's will. It reached its height in World War II, when the Germans lobbed missiles at London, the allies firebombed Dresden, the Japanese raped Nanking and enslaved Korea, and the US nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Total war was driven only in part by the need to break the enemy's will though--it was also driven by technology. With long range bombers and aircraft carriers and stealthy submarines, war fighters could strike on a near global basis, but the technology was still crude in terms of targeting and in the damage it inflicted. There were no smart bombs--even the Nazi V2 rocket, which flew from bases in Germany to the British Isles, had only elementary flight control.

Now our bombs are smart, and we need only target the armies we fight once again. We can spare civilians, and we go to every length to do so. We no longer destroy villages in order to save them. In fact, we see civilian deaths as entirely counterproductive. We hope to rob the enemy of his support by stealing his people's hearts away from him; killing them indiscriminately makes that impossible. If we win, this war may be seen as the last gasp of total war--the losing side targeting both civilians and military targets, while the winning side targets only the enemy's field combatants, winning over the enemy's civilian populace through post-war charity. If that turns out to be the case, the better angels of our nature, and improved technology, will have won.

Posted by B. Preston at 11:59 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


National Review goes digital. Count me in--my PDA becomes an electronic oasis of fact, reason and sound logic. Woo-hoo!

But...PDF or HTML only? I'd prefer a translation to Microsoft Reader, as it flows to fit PDA screens better than the hoary old Acrobat format. Fact is, I do about half of my book reading on my Pocket PC nowadays. It's more convenient than a book, works in all lighting situations, bookmarks never fall out, and I can carry dozens of works around at a time. On my last trip to Japan, I carried a library of a couple dozen books (most courtesy the Project Gutenberg) that I had translated into Reader format from text files. Worked perfectly, and I was never at a loss for a good book.

I may be able to do that with the HTML version though. We'll see...

Posted by B. Preston at 10:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack