Sunday, April 30, 2006

Vanity and Force

In several cities across the nation today thousands rallied "against the genocide in Darfur". This is all well and good as far as it goes. Which is not far at all. As a massive exercise in moral vanity, this was a rousing success. As a serious attempt at ending what is happening in Sudan it doesn't even rise to the level of failure. To fail first you have to try.

What would it mean to try. On Monday Lawrence Kaplan wrote about the planned march in a piece titled "If Iraq Was Wrong, is Darfur Right?"
As in Bosnia before it, the victims of Darfur can be saved by one thing and one thing alone: American power. Unfortunately for the victims of Darfur, too many of their advocates have come to view that power as tainted, marred by self-interest and by its misapplication in Iraq. Hence, the contradiction at the heart of the Darfur debate, which pits the imperative to halt the persecution of innocents (Darfur activists have enshrined as their motto the biblical admonition not to "stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor") against a reflexive opposition to the only power that can actually do so.
This puts most Darfur activists in the position of wishing for a goal but opposing the means to achieve it. A grandiose and rather public display of willful impotence. Kaplan concludes:
So, yes, march on Washington. Comfort your sensibilities. Testify to your virtue and good intentions. Offer assurance that your call to action is not a call for the unilateral or unprovoked exercise of American power. But don't pretend that Darfur will be saved by anything else.
But pretend they do. Some live in a hermetically sealed pretend world. Here is George Clooney's father Nick Clooney: "We didn't stop the Holocaust. We didn't stop Cambodia. And we didn't stop Rwanda. But this one we can stop." Sorry to let facts intrude, Nick old boy, but we did stop the Holocaust. Much too late, no doubt but Allied troops liberated several camps, saving thousands of Jews from certain death. And even though "we" didn't stop the Khmer Rouge killing fields, the Vietnamese Army did by invading Cambodia in late 1978. By January 1979 the Vietnamese captured Phnom Penh and drove the Khmer Rouge into the jungle. (The US gave $100 million to the relief effort between 1979-82.)

What is the theme here? Marches and drum circles don't stop organized mass killing. Military force does.

For all their well-intentioned focus of the crimes of the Sudanese state in Dafur Clooney and the other Darfur activists are overly optimistic about the human condition. They do not see these marches as exercises in futility. They believe that somehow, through their positive vibes or righteous mojo that they can influence the Islamists who rule Sudan. Clooney and the activists fail to appreciate the degree to which sheer evil suffuses human existence. Not mere injustice, or crime, or indifference, but active, willful, determined evil.

How exactly are the atrocities in Darfur different from numerous massacres in Sudan since it achieved "independence" from Britain in 1956? Human slavery, the forced depopulation of tribes in the south, bombing villiages - this has been an ongoing effort for 50 years.

How are the atrocities in Darfur different from life in North Korea? 200,000 people, including children, work in labor camps in the far north. They live (actually they starve) on a few hundred calories a day while working in mines and forests. Malnurished. Beaten. Arbitrarily shot. Forced to stone the corpses of executed prisoners while chanting allegiance to Kin Jong-Il. (Read The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag for a moving account of life in the Yodok camp.)

Forced stavation is rather commonplace. In Zimbabwe, President Mugabe has reduced 700,000 people to homelessness and starvation in an effort to stay in power. Conditions are so bad that mothers abandon their children because they are unable to feed them, or really themselves. In the Congo, 1,200 people die each day from war-related hunger and disease. The death toll since the war began in 1998 is estimated at 4 million.

Cruelty and sadism are endemic. I wish as much as any 'activist' that the Sudanese government would stop killing and raping people in Darfur. But my vision of human nature tells me evil is an active force in the world, that there are no changes of heart, no epiphanies; that they will only stop killing under two conditions. Either a) when they are forced by a stronger military power or b) when there is no one left to kill.
"This is one world and we are all one family," Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of the Washington archdiocese told the crowd. "What happens to the people of Darfur happens to us."
Actually, no. It is precisely because what is happening in Darfur is not happening to us that we have the luxury to march and sing and give speeches. If this was happening to us we would fight back.

So, if clapping and buying bumber stickers won't help these poor people, what will? Force. Power. Men with weapons. Clearly we are not going to bomb or invade Sudan. But are we unwilling to provide the people of Darfur the means to defend themselves? Are our values so inverted that we view violence in self-defense as worse than being killed, becoming refugees? Would the thousands marching today give money to buy the villages in Darufr weapons to fight against the Janjaweed? Or would they rather buy a "Save Darfur" t-shirt, thereby saving no one, but proving how much they care?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Asymmetry

We often hear the war against the Enemy described as asymmetrical warfare. By this we usually mean that jihadists do not have the capability to fight what we consider a conventional battle. But there is another way of looking at symmetry. The jihadists fight us on several fronts:

State-to-State: Iran is the chief example of a state enemy. There are others. Still more are potential Enemy states. Many are only a coup or an assassination away from falling into the Enemy.

Non-state actors: Al-Qaeda is the most famous but there are many others all around the globe. You know who they are, from the Philippines to London, from Sweden to South Africa. Some like Hamas are in the process of taking over something that is Not-Quite-a-State. Thus one Enemy front becomes another.

Leaderless Cells / Lone Wolves: From the London bombers to the guy who shot the El Al counter at LAX to that student in North Carolina. They're always described by neighbors after the attack as "nice chaps" and "quiet boys" who were normal, liked football, studied hard. The Enemy is among us, waiting.

Demography: the Enemy grows. In the West and in other "infidel" lands and in its homelands, the Enemy fight with her womb. Each generation more than the one before. The Enemy threatens us with its numbers.

Each of these fronts feeds into another. The Enemy States fund and supply the Non-State Actors who generate the methods and ideology for the Leaderless Cells which get their manpower from the growing Enemy demographics. The Enemy fights us with at least four interlocking, self-reinforcing fronts.

Ask yourself how we fight against all this and you will probably come up with only one answer: the State. The West uses only State-based resources to combat the Enemy, from the military and security services to financial embargoes and diplomatic "pressure". The West does not threaten Islam with its high birth rate. The West doesn't unleash waves of terrorists or fund underground militant groups.

All we have is the State. We treat the Enemy as a military force to be defeated, as an underground terror group to be hunted down, as leaderless cells or lone wolves to be punished after the fact. As a rising demographic group to be co-opted, appeased or ignored.

But no matter how you look at it, the West still only has one front against the Enemy - the State. This is asymmetry. The West does not have terror groups training militants to bomb and kill. The West doesn't have leaderless cells of Christians or Libertarians or cartoonists in Tehran plotting to kill the president or ordinary people. Multiculturalists are not doubling their numbers every two generations, expanding into other lands, demanding accommodation and assistance, changing the societies they enter. The West doesn't even send missionaries in any real numbers. The West sends diplomats and businessmen, not all of whom are on our side.

Can we continue to fight like this? Can the State, with all its limitations and restrictions fight against an Enemy that comes at us from so many different directions, at so many different speeds, with so many different weapons? What can a Stealth Fighter do against terror cells in Hamburg? How can diplomats fight assassins in Virginia? How can we expect spies to combat demography?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Comedy Central Pussed Out!

I just watched the much anticipated second episode of South Park's "Cartoon Wars." Last week at the end of the first episode South Park promised/threatened to show a cartoon image of Muhammad.

Long story short, Comedy Central caved in, lost its balls and censored South Park. When Cartoon Muhammed was supposed to walk on "camera" the screen went black with white words to the effect that Comedy Central refused to allow an image of Muhammad to be broadcast on its network. I have seen nearly every episode and this is the first time to my knowledge that Comedy Central has censored South Park.

What a freaking disgrace! What a spineless crowd of pussies! Network executives with the fortitude of a leaky bag of wet shit! Dhimmitude Central is more appropriate. I am disgusted.

Comedy Central allows shows mocking every conceivable belief in humanity. Have you seen Drawn Together. It's slop but it's offensive slop. But Muhammad, precious, delicate, ever-so-fragile Muhammad can never be shown because it might hurt some tighthead's feelings. Since when did Comedy Central give a turd about people's feelings?

Maybe I'm wrong. Perhaps it's all part of the episode. Perhaps there was no censorship. Perhaps my ass. We've been screwed by a comedy network. I expect as much from the New York Times and NBC but Comedy Freaking Central!? How craven! Where is the limit? Is there no gutter our business elites will wallow in? No threat they won't cave to?

If anyone can find the name of the executive(s) who authorized this ugliness please post it or email me. The worm(s) needs a good ass-kicking. An actual, physical beating with fists and boots. It shouldn't be hard to pummel someone so cowardly.