Earth to Ivory Tower: Get Real!

A trenchant excerpt:

As close to self-parody as they come, these speeches make clear what motivates those Americans, on campus and off, who remain in a state of moral denial even after getting a Technicolor view of evil: multiculturalism. This ideology goes way beyond preaching the tolerance that is a bedrock virtue of a pluralistic society to insisting that all cultures are equally good–regardless of whether they beat their women, practice slavery or torture political dissidents.

In earlier generations, the schools, the workplace, the entire society, pushed immigrants toward assimilating into the great American “melting pot.” But as multiculturalism took hold, to require immigrant children to learn English, or be taught about the specialness of American history and the greatness of the ideas of the Founding Fathers, or to pledge allegiance to the flag, came to seem a sign of gross cultural insensitivity, even of racism.

It’s a long piece, but well worth the read, particularly for parents with children in college. In fact, in rereading it, I find it impossible for me to recommend it enough.

Overstayed His Welcome?

…conversations on the streets, in the shops and in the markets of this beleaguered capital suggest that a growing number of Afghans – worn out by more than 20 years of war and grinding poverty – wish bin Laden would simply leave.

There is little they can do, however, because few would be willing to challenge the rigidly Islamic regime that rules most of Afghanistan.

There seems to be little anger or bitterness toward the US described in the article–to the degree they are aware of it, they consider the WTC attacks to be very wrong. It would be nice to see a few stories like this reported in Islamabad or Riyad, or the New York Times, for that matter…

The Enemy Of My Enemy?

According to this story from The Telegraph UK the mullahs in Tehran must be getting pretty nervous. Apparently they’re cosying up to the Taliban (who they have heretofore considered enemies, being of a different flavor of Islam) to keep the original Afghani Shah from returning to power (which is one of the options being considered by the anti-Taliban alliance). They probably figure that with a return to monarchy in Afghanistan, and the pro-western unrest in their own streets, a return of a Persian Shah can’t be far behind…

All We Are Saying, Is Give War A Chance

The Academic

(Usually a professor of English, sometimes of political science or government, in his/her mid 50s ? their long questions require a very short answer.)

Q. Like some bull in a china shop, you charge into, as it were, some in fact quite complex issues of culture, race, class, and gender in the Middle East that simply cannot be resolved by brute military force used in a very unsophisticated, unfocused, and I must say frightening way that we saw only too well in Vietnam. We have foolishly spent much of the world’s sympathy accrued after September 11 in just the sort of unnecessary saber-rattling you so recklessly advocate. I have argued at length elsewhere that the United States must take very seriously complaints coming in from almost every corner of the Islamic world regarding its treatment of Muslims, from Palestine to Iraq to Saudi Arabia, and its predictable inability to hear the voices of those who by any reasonable definition are genuinely oppressed.

All too often we offer only the worst of our culture to those in dire need of basic necessities; if we must intervene in the internal affairs of others ? something in itself extremely problematic, and which I remain very troubled by ? it would be far better to craft a second Marshall Plan with no strings attached than to rain down bombs on children. September 11 was an unfortunate event, for which proper criminal and judicial measures ? albeit with special care to prevent the ominous onset of a police state ? must be addressed; but simply lashing out at suspected sympathetic governments will only compound the problem, and leave a legacy of hatred and impoverishment that will last for generations. By your logic we should bomb the havens of Boston or Frankfurt, where in fact terrorists were known to have lived quite safely.

A. Bin Laden would agree with almost everything you have said.


The Ignoramus

(Most often a student activist, and the most interesting of all the questioners, since he reveals instantaneously the erosion of the American educational system during the last three decades ? arrogance coupled with ignorance proving a fatal combination.)

Q. Why don’t you mention that the U.S. killed 2 million babies in Iran last year?

A. Wrong country, wrong number, wrong year ? wrong planet?

Treason Watch

“I’m willing to kill the Americans. I will kill every American that I see in Afghanistan. And I’ll kill every American soldier that I see in Pakistan,” Junaid boasted to British television correspondent, Jon Gilbert, in an interview for the ITN Channel 5 network.

“I do have an American passport. But at the end of the day, I’m a Muslim,” Junaid said last week.

Again I ask, what is the legal situation here? Are we or are we not at war? Is this or is this not treason? If by some miracle, he doesn’t get his sorry butt killed over there, and tries to come back, is there any reason that we shouldn’t simply confiscate his “American passport” (on which he apparently places so little value anyway) upon attempted return, and be told to go somewhere else (if not actually arrested and tried)? If, that is, at the end of the war, there is anyone else who would take him…

The New New World Order

What happened on September 11 was, to Americans, much worse than Pearl Harbor, and most people understand that the stakes may be much greater, because of the new kinds of weapons available to our adversaries.

This will not be a Marquise of Queensberry war, except insofar as we perceive it to (temporarily) be in our strategic interest to make it so. While we aren’t officially tipping our hand now, Afghanistan is surely just a beginning, and when it is over, the Middle East will have a much different landscape, both geographically and politically. We may restore the Hashemite Kingdom to the Saudi Peninsula, we may restore the Ottoman Empire, or come up with some entirely new order there, but the current way of life there was doomed by bin Laden two months ago. For this, the people of that region may ultimately be grateful, but the outcome will not be the one that he desires.

We will suffer casualties, perhaps greater than any war in our history, both military and civilian, and we understand and accept that, but we will endure, and ultimately, we will prevail.

Looking for ET

I have no problem with looking for ET–I just object to making it the holy grail of the agency, while ignoring more practical goals that could make it fasterbettercheaper to not only look for ET, but to actually go out and sing Kumbaya with him, or use a disintegrator ray on him–and to figure out quickly which was appropriate to the circumstances.

More Airline Insecurity

Allow travelers to acquire, from their local federal building, an “Airline Security Test Baton.” This would be a smallish, coded, metal object in a variety of different shapes. If the traveler can smuggle this small object onto an airliner, and gets into the air, he publicly presents it to the nearest flight attendant and claims his prize:

Twenty million dollars.

Within a week, I guarantee you that airlines will become appropriately desperate about effectively conducting searches which will turn up these batons – and any other thingy that passengers might be interested in smuggling aboard.”

This sounds good at first hearing, but I think that it has some problems that would quickly show up if you do a gaming sim. Imagine the incentive to bribe airline security and ground personnel in such a scenario–it would become a lottery for them as well. They’d balance the chances of getting caught against a large share of the reward. The rewards and, ahem, disincentives, would have to be structured very carefully.

And even if they did get it right, and achieve their zero-defect goal, I’m afraid that if airlines did what was necessary to avoid having to pay out the twenty megabucks, their procedures would become so onerous that I personally would drive everywhere, even cross country, rather than endure them. Many others would follow suit, with devastating results to the economy. It would probably revive passenger ship travel to Europe and Asia to levels not seen since the advent of passenger jets.

My other concern is that, like the Congressional bickering over “how,” not “whether” to better disarm us in aircraft, it misses the real point of how to deter/prevent airplane hijackings (or school shootings). It presumes that tighter aircraft security (like gun control) is a feature, rather than a bug, and that doing even more of what has been shown to be a failed strategy will somehow result in future success.

Rather than catering to the Nervous Nellies who won’t “feel” safe until postal-worker-like civil servants are going through their body cavities, I’d rather see an intelligent public-education campaign–I think that we now have fertile ground for it. We have to separate the perception from the reality.

Prior to 911, the perception was that flying was safe from hijacking (due to all these “security” measures), whereas the reality, as 911 showed, was that we were very vulnerable, because we had been lulled into complacency by those same security measures. Since 911, the perception is that we are in flying danger, when in fact the chances of another hijacking are now very low, because we are more wary when we fly, and we are mad as hell, and aren’t going to take it any more (as demonstrated on the Pennsylvania flight that, due to cell phones, switched paradigms in real time that day). I feel quite safe, but also quite put upon, when I fly now, and I am deterred from traveling by air not by fear, but by extreme annoyance and inconvenience.

What we really need is for Tom Ridge, or better yet, the President, to explain this, and make a speech like that one United pilot did shortly after 911 (reportedly, to passenger cheers).

“We are at war now. We are all in the army now. Get to know your seat partner. Work out a plan pre-flight. If anyone attempts to harm anyone else, or take over the aircraft, attack them, with whatever you have handy. Defend yourselves and your loved ones. Defend the flight crew. Defend the aircraft.

Defend your country.”

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!