Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Patience in Iraq May Yet Prevail

After a week's vacation, we return to the world of current events to find that folks seem to be catching on to the notion that the Iraq situation can just maybe be finished with success. We draw the briefest of attention to the following:

  • House Dem Whip James Clyburn says that a positive report from General Petraeus will likely split Democrats and impede efforts to draw up a "timetable for withdrawal" (a.k.a. self-imposed terms of surrender).
  • The Gray Lady herself yesterday published a piece by two analysts from the left-leaning Brookings Institution arguing that the war is on the right footing now and looks amenable to a decent outcome if the surge is allowed to continue.
  • New British PM Gordon Brown, thought to be more of the anti-Iraq wing of the Labour Party than his esteemed predecessor, nevertheless disappointed opponents of the war by affirming his nation's solidarity with the United States in a long struggle against militant Islam. Brown explicitly affirmed the value of the effort in Iraq in that regard.

Of course, it was only a couple of weeks ago that Harry Reid was saying that we don't need to wait until September because everybody knows that Bush's war is a failure. We think that statement was close enough to "don't confuse me with the facts because my mind is made up" that Reid should make the latter his party's slogan for the 2008 senatorial campaign.

Friday, July 20, 2007

North Guilty, Going to Jail for a Long Time

With a sense of relief we point gentle readers to coverage of the guilty plea entered yesterday by Fernando Lee North, perpetrator of notorious crimes against CCU students.

North's guilty plea accomplishes several things. Most importantly, it spares a lengthy trial that would further victimize the victims. But, per our sources connected to the inside, he was forced to plead guilty to enough stuff that he's very unlikely to be free again until he's extremely elderly.

We note two items in the Enquirer's coverage that might be related.

Item one, describing the victims and their families:

"They are extremely conscientious people," Assistant Prosecutor Megan Shanahan said.

"It was important to them that the message is relayed that people cannot do this and get away with it."

Item two, describing the victimizer:

It's not usually until sentencing that defendants speak, but North spontaneously apologized.

"I'm sorry for any pain and hurt I have caused anybody," he said.

We nominate Item One for Understatement of the Year. These two and their families are among the most conscientious people it has been our experience to know. We say that with no exaggeration.

And so we cannot help but wonder to what degree their dignity, fortitude and grace affected everyone who dealt with this case, eventually finding its way to the perpetrator, for whom it in some respect prompted his apology.

Human justice is always imperfect. But it can be touched by divine mercy.

Reinforcements on Two Fronts

We heartily recommend two recently appearing, blazingly brilliant columns for gentle readers' edification. Both, of course, reinforce our Seldom-Wrong points of view.

On economics, we have repeatedly expressed our lack of patience with concern about whether the rich are getting richer faster than the less rich. Our concern is whether everyone has opportunity, not equality. We therefore cite with approbation yesterday's WSJ column, made available for free by the capitalist American Enterprise Institute (N.B. that the capitalists offer the best freebies) by Arthur Brooks. Brooks notes survey data revealing that even ordinary Americans care less that Bill Gates is rich and more that they themselves have the opportunity to improve their own lot, however humble it might be. We merely add that we find that understanding to be both rational and moral.

On global politics, we affirm again that Charles Krauthammer regularly cuts through the nonsense better than just about anyone. His WaPo column today is no exception: just when the surge is working, both militarily and politically, Americans are losing their nerve in Iraq. So, to be obvious, let's all gather our nerve, and abandon the schedule that says, "Friday: long, twilight strugge against Islamo-facism, followed by lunch, tennis and cocktails at the club."

Someday, all the world will share such enlightened points of view, grim as they are for the fantasies of those who misunderestimate the real human condition.*

*No brownie points for the person who notes the self-contradiction of that sentence.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Not a Joke Set-Up: Islamic Creationist Book Distributed Free in France

We thank gentle reader Scott for alerting us to an article in the Gray Lady about the appearance in France of a lavishly illustrated book about paleontology thoroughly anti-Darwinist in outlook and written by a Muslim.

N.B. that the book, per the always objective and reliable NY Times, suffers from the same problem as a certain institution near the I-275 beltway: impressive modes of presentation that cover for lack of fundamental scientific reasoning. As the book is being sent to schools in France for free, the author apparently has a gift for fundraising not unlike that of the entrepreneurial soul who leads the organization aforementioned.

The Islamic author of this text appears to be unhindered by a need to ascribe a young age to the earth. He just doesn't buy into the notion that species might change and so evolve, apparently.

We find it ironic that in another age, an Islamic scholar articulated what one expert regards as the soundest formulation of the cosmological argument. So we urge gentle readers to realize that the sphere philosophy goes beyond the limits of science to address the questions that we really care about. And we ask again that the debate about such matters in the United States return to a proper notion that the dispute is interdisciplinary and not purely scientific.

P. J. On Adam Smith!

We thank gentle reader Bryan D for pointing us to a lengthy piece from the Times (UK, not NY) on SWNIDish favorite P. J. O'Rourke and his new book digesting Adam Smith's "supertext" The Wealth of Nations.

Those who haven't read O'Rourke should probably start here. Those who have will want to include this book in their reading experience.

Those who regularly buy presents for SWNID on special occasions now have an idea for seasons upcoming.

Gray Lady Breaks Potter Embargo, But Without Spoilers

When you are the New York Times, while you call others to account for even the most debatable of ethical lapses, you are yourself above the law.

Today's Times reviews Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, confessing that the reviewer purchased the book from a New York bookseller before the publisher's legally allowed date and time.

We thank the Uebermenschen at the Gray Lady for not lacing their review with revelations of plot that spoil the reading experience for those of us who are waiting for a legal reading experience. We applaud the law-unto-himself reviewer, Michiko Kakutani for the impressive catalog of Rowling's virtuosity provided by the review.

But we demand that Kakutani and all associated with this egregious violation of ethics be sentenced to time in Azkaban. At the very least, we wonder whether, if brought to the bar in a civil suit by Scholastic, Kakutani and associates would claim a first-amendment privilege not to reveal sources when asked who was the bookseller who violated the contractual obligation not to release copies before 12:01 a.m. on July 21.

So as long as Kakutani lists Rowling's eclectic inspirations, we call out Kakutani's and the Times's one most important influence: Friedrich Nietzsche.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Does Simultaneous Use of Rogaine and Grecian Formula Create Irrational Outbursts of Anger?

We raise this question in light of the disturbing photo at left.

SWNID Interactive: Choose Preferred Parody

We invite gentle readers to indicate via comments their preferred approach to the parodying of last night's media-political event.

1: Democrats Hold "Awesome" Sleepover

The sound of girlish giggles echoed through the halls of the the Capitol Building last night as Democrats held a sleepover.

Led by Senators Boxer and Feinstein of California but joined by such unlikely sleepover participants as Nevada's Harry Reid, the event included senators in fuzzy slippers and cute flannel jammies giving each other facials, hairdos and pedicures. In one corner a wide-screen TV was showing The Notebook on a continuous loop. In another corner, Senators played board games.

"Barbara Mikulski brought her old 'Barbie, Queen of the Prom' game," remarked Indiana's Evan Bayh. "Of course, back in Indiana, people used to refer to me and my wife as 'Ken and Barbie.' But imagine what it was like when Robert Byrd won the game and became Queen of the Prom!"

Republicans largely boycotted the event. Some were seen in the Old Senate Office Building clustered around a TV and X-Box playing "Halo." Most, however, reported using earplugs to block out the sounds of the slumber party and get some actual sleep.

2: Democrats Hold Successful "Senate Telethon"

Taking a page from Jerry Lewis and the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Democrats turned the Senate into an all-night television fundraiser.

"We thank C-SPAN for donating free airtime for this important event," announced telethon emcee Harry Reid. "They've given us the means to prove to our most ideologically driven supporters our symbolic, albeit totally ineffectual, commitment to ending the War in Iraq."

Most similar events announce incremental progress in resolving the issue for which the funds are being raised, inspiring a degree of hope that spurs donations. This one did the opposite. Despite mounting evidence of military progress in Iraq, emcee Reid introduced Senators whose "acts" were repeated declarations that Iraq is a lost cause. Senator after Senator asserted that there's no reason to wait for a report from General Petraeus in September, as it's clear that the "Bush administration's failed strategy" admits of nothing other than perpetual disaster. "Events may overtake our assessment," said Senator Carl Levin, "but they can never overcome our stubborn rhetoric."

Democrats report that netroots contributors were pleased by the event. Admitting that they made no legislative headway whatsoever, Senator Diane Feinstein declared that the event was all entirely symbolic, to prove Democrats' commitment to ending the war by staying up past their bedtimes.

Then she began tearfully to sing, "You'll Never Walk Alone, Unless You're in the Middle East."

3: Senators Stay Up All Night Talking; Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen Stay Up All Night Catching and Killing Bad Guys

"Nero fiddled while Rome burned," as the saying goes. Last night in Washington, Democrat Senators stayed up to talk while in Iraq, America's servicemen and women stayed up all night subduing the enemy.

While their elected officials were prematurely announcing their defeat, the elite armed forces of the United States managed to knock out yet another al Qaida stronghold. Similarly, military officials announced the recent capture of the man they deem the most senior al Qaida figure in Iraq.

Army Staff Sergeant Dewey Dewourduty, returned from a nighttime raid, details of which are classified, responded wearily to reporters' questions about the Senate's all-nighter. "I hear they've held up defense appropriations for this media circus," he stated flatly. "Maybe they think we can hunt down terrorists with slingshots and spitwads."

"I don't like being here one bit," Sgt. Dewourduty continued. "But what I hate worse than being here is leaving before we finish our job. I wish those Senators would shut up long enough to hear me say that, Jim Webb included."

Postscript: Look here for how rigorous an all-nighter Reid and company actually managed.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Iraqi Government Notes USA's Lack of Progress on Key Political Benchmarks

Evaluating the performance of its ally/patron, the Iraqi Government today issued a report card on the United States' progress on twenty-five critical political benchmarks. In contrast to their own attainment of satisfactory progress on eight of eighteen benchmarks set for them by the Americans, the Iraqis noted no satisfactory progress in any area to which they hold the United States accountable.

"Political and tribal divisions in the United States seem insurmountable," said one Iraqi official. There are schisms between rich and poor, black and white, English-speaking and Spanish-speaking, North and South, coasts and interior, red states and blue states, religious and irreligious, men and women, gay and straight, young and old, tastes-great and less-filling. We see little prospect for improvement until Americans set aside their tribal differences to solve the very real, very serious problems that they've faced for years--in some cases for generations."

Another official noted, "We Iraqis are tired of hearing about how we have to take a brand new democracy and do everything to the liking of the Americans. It seems to us that the American Congress won't even do what the Americans expect. They're even more unpopular than Bush, and no wonder!"

On condition of anonymity, a third remarked, "We've been lectured for years now by Americans about settling our differences without fighting. Iraqis know that about a million Americans died in their civil war, when they had only about 25 million people in the whole country! And from what we see on CNN, some of us think that America is on the brink of civil war again."

The list of American Political Benchmarks, on all of which the United States receives failing grades, is as follows:
  1. balancing the federal budget
  2. reducing federal taxes
  3. establishing fairness in the federal tax code between rich and poor
  4. elimination of disincentives to savings and investment in the federal tax code
  5. addressing the widening gap in income between rich and poor
  6. resolution of the legacy of racism and slavery
  7. reduction and elimination of the trade deficit
  8. reopening of effective global-free-trade negotiations
  9. resolution of the health insurance crisis
  10. containment of health insurance costs
  11. establishing long-term solvency for Social Security
  12. elimination of agricultural subsidies that underwrite agribusiness conglomerates and discourage free trade with developing countries
  13. development of a workable public transportation plan
  14. establishing an effective energy policy that deals with both supply and demand
  15. provision for adequate student aid for higher education
  16. containment of higher-education costs
  17. resolution of the school-voucher controversy
  18. guaranteeing broadcasters freedom of expression apart from government interference through a re-established "Fairness Doctrine"
  19. guaranteeing freedom of political speech apart from the McCain-Feingold bill
  20. settlement of the abortion controversy
  21. control of the border with Mexico
  22. establishment of clear, enforceable standards for legal immigration
  23. provision for decent, timely service in the issuing of US passports
  24. enforcement of decent standards of integrity and effectiveness at the United Nations
  25. elimination of the Designated-Hitter rule from the American league

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Gentle Readers Ask: What Is SWNID Fiction Club?

That is, we wish they'd ask. But we'll answer before the question is asked.

The SWNID Fiction Club counts as members all conscious beings who have read and found interesting any book listed as a selection for the club.

Oh, and here's the other question that isn't being asked: How does a book become a SWNID Fiction Club selection?

Books are selected because (a) SWNID read them; (b) he found them memorable and recommends that others read them. Our tastes run to what is sometimes termed classic fiction, if it is older, or literary fiction, if it is more recent. Those who can link titles to authors will discern a couple of SWNIDish favorites.

Expect other titles to be added as we say to ourself, "Oh yes, that's another one."

One title is an exception. God: Stories is a recent short-fiction anthology that we have recently discovered and decided to read soon. Gentle readers who have experienced this book are invited to tell us what they think.

Yet another unasked question: How does the club work? Club members, even wannabes who are considering reading one of these books, are free to comment at any time--via any SWNIDish post, relevant or not--on their thoughts regarding any book that is a Club Selection. We pledge to respond to such comments more frequently than we do to some others.

We urge gentle readers not to inquire why one of their favorites is not on the list. There are only three possible answers: (a) SWNID has never read it; (b) SWNID didn't find it as memorable; (c) on reflection, SWNID agrees that it should be included. Because the first two options are about 99% more likely than the third, there's not much use in asking.

WARNING: Some of these books have explicit sexual content, including some with the most challenging and profoundly religious themes. N.B. that we do not endorse such, but as realistic fiction necessarily depicts human behavior in all its sinfulness, worthwhile authors sometimes do that kind of thing. To be a club member, one must be willing to exercise personal judgment and responsibility about what one chooses to read according to honest self-assessment of one's ability to process such narratives.

SWNID on Pope: Go to Pluto

That is, read Akron Beacon Journal sports columnist Terry Pluto, who departs from his usual beat to comment on Pope Benedict's much reported remarks affirming the Roman Catholic Church (translation: "the one universal church that happens to be headquartered in Rome") as the one universal church that happens to be headquartered in Rome.

Pluto notes that Benedict's statement is no surprise and says less than is sometimes imagined. Benedict allowed that the Sovereign Christ has spread his grace through other "ecclesiac communities" after all, so it's not like he condemned all of us non-Catholics to heck or something.

Fair enough. We can work with that. We'd like more acknowledgement that the Vatican has learned a thing or two from Messrs. Luther, Calvin, Simons, Wesley, yea even Stone and Campbell. But that seems to be beside the point, not least when SWNID doesn't recall much public acknowledgment of what his ecclesiac community has learned from recent popes and their associates.

We also note the timing of Benedict's remark. Recently returned from Latin America, we wonder whether he was struck again by the reality that where the Roman Catholic Church is strongest, it is also feeding most vigorously the growth of various Pentecostal and evangelical ecclesiac communities. Like Seymour Krelborn in Little Shop of Horrors, we suspect he grows tired of those churches' constant demand, "Feed me!"

Lugar-Warner Bill Merely Pushes Bush to Plan Next Logical Step

Gentle readers, the time has come to skip the secondary sources and read the primary sources.

The actual text of H.R. 1585, Amendment 2208, which runs to a mere 18 pages of double-spaced, wide-margined text, is available as a PDF here, where one can even view the penned-in corrections and revisions. Of this much balleyhooed Republican "defection" on Iraq, we note that it in fact does a couple of very straightforward and sensible things.

One is to acknowledge that whatever the security situation within Iraq, a political solution is also necessary. It thoughtfully avoids the false choice rhetoric, decrying only a "merely military solution." Hence, it in effect looks beyond the effect, whatever they prove to be, of Petraeus's "surge" to what must happen next. And that "next" is a focus on training Iraqi Security Forces, protecting borders and trade routes like the Persian Gulf, and squishing nascent terrorist camps, all the while demonstrating a permanent commitment of US forces to the security of the Middle East. It is not the redeployment of all US Forces to their stateside bases.

Another is to leave with the President the responsibility to present a plan for reducing American forces and enabling the Iraqi Security Forces to assume their proper role. In doing so, it explicitly acknowledges that the plan should assess the likelihood that American forces will be necessary to shore up deficiencies in the ISF for some time to come. Along the way, the bill acknowledges that any draw-down of American forces from Iraq will require many months to implement.

In effect, Lugar-Warner allows the President and the Joint Chiefs to decide when the "surge" is over, but to do so with a measure of public discussion that amplifies the light at the end of the tunnel. Not bad.

We opined earlier that Dick Lugar was driven by the concern that the Pelosi-Murtha surrender lobby will at some point garner enough political support to force a precipitous, disastrous withdrawal. We think that the actual text of this amendment, versus reports about it that seem to come from reporters who haven't read it, supports that notion. Lugar wants the next step made clear enough and announced (not necessarily implemented) soon enough to defang the this-is-no-fun-so-let's-quit movement.

We think that the President has pretty close to what he needs in this bill. We think that's why Harry Reid was so quick to dismiss it. Lugar-Warner is not the leave-now-and-forget-the-consequences routine that is Democrat dogma, looking to establish a permanent political majority based on blame for a military debacle.

If Bush can play this cool, and if a few Ds from purple states can find their way clear to vote for it, the bill can pass, leaving the Ds with months to wait before they can beat their favorite drum again. More importantly, it can buy the time needed to keep working on this peace-and-freedom thing that matters so much.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Hitch v. Hitch

We thank gentle reader MattC for pointing us to the Daily Mail's column featuring a sort of book review of Christopher Hitchens's God Is Not Great by, of all people, his brother Peter, a faithful Anglican.

We largely affirm the perspective of the less-well-known Hitchens, save for what we see as his failure to grasp the grim moral imperative of just war and his use of the common and grossly imprecise epithet "literal" to describe some approaches biblical interpretation with which he differs. We note that razor-sharp wit seems to be a quality generally shared in the Hitchens family.

We also note respect in which Peter differs from Chris besides their takes on theism and the Iraq War: Peter's sentences are short and crisp.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Those Who Criticized Pre-War Intel and the War Plan Shouldn't Paint Rosy Pictures for Withdrawal

Today's Iraq musing is an accusation against those who say that by withdrawing troops, the United States will provoke the much vaunted "political solution" to Iraq's violence.*

The story, as offered by Democrats, RINOs like Olympia Snow, and members of the media like Thomas Friedman (link requires paid subscription, so don't give a dime to the NY Times unless you just have to) is that (a) our current level of military activity is allowing the feckless Iraqi parliament to dither about important decisions; (b) therefore, we can provoke the needed political compromise by withdrawing; (c) so there's a happy coincidence between our quitting the fight and the end of all hostilities.

We say that this is a bigger fantasy than the notion that the war was going to be quick and easy (reminder: the invasion and ending of Saddam's regime were amazingly quick and easy; it's the nation-building that's tough).

We point gentle readers to two sources for alternative interpretation of the realities of the current occupation and the consequences of precipitous withdrawal. One is the sage opinion page of the Wall Street Journal, which points yet again (doing this is necessarily a daily exercise of counterinsurgency) to the reality of military progress and significant pacification in the surge's short tenure. The new note is sounded with reference to the observations of Ryan Crocker, US Ambassador in Iraq and no Republican or Bush Administration lackey, that the so-called benchmarks of political progress in Iraq are hardly good measures of political progress, especially in the short time frame so far allowed. As the advocates of withdrawal seem ready to concede military progress but insist on withdrawal because of the lack of political progress, Crocker's point is most salient.

Crocker's view is seconded by, of all people, his opposite number: Iraq's Ambassador to the United States, Samir Sumaidaie, who in an interview with NPR today offered the opposite prognostication to that of withdrawal optimists. To wit: talk about withdrawal in the absence of meeting "benchmarks" simply encourages terrorist elements to work against the achievement of benchmarks and to wait for what looks like an imminent end to military pressure on them.

We continue to point with dismay to the absence of statesmanlike leadership among Iraqi politicians. But we doubt very much that an American withdrawal would engender the selflessness and courage necessary to pull together a functioning Iraqi Republic. We expect instead the full force of tribal bloodletting followed by the intervention of sinister Iran, Syria and somewhat less sinister Saudi Arabia to extend their influence, wealth and power. The outcome is bad for Iraqis in the short term and bad for Americans in the long term.

In place of short term benchmarks, we urge an adjustment to the pace of social and political action in the ancient culture of Iraq. If Iraq had a TV program called 24, it would be about centuries, not hours.

Those who now decry the rhetoric of easy victory that preceded the war, if indeed such rhetoric actually existed, look hypocritical at best when they offer military withdrawal as a cheap solution to Iraq's troubles. We continue to offer the judgment that at best war is always heck, but given the awful state of human affairs and human nature, it is sometimes the grim necessity that confronts people who strive for justice and peace. Once started, it must be seen through to its conclusion, or greater heck will ensue.

*Boo to all who have adopted the silly false choice that repeats the sound bite, "Iraq needs a political solution, not a military solution." War is the extension of politics, n'est se qua?

Real Archaeology Yields Impressive Biblical Finding

We thank gentle reader Bryan D for linking us to the breaking news of a significant archaeological discovery in that most important of archaeological sites, the British Museum's basement.

To wit: a sixth-century B.C. Babylonian cuneiform tablet, one of thousands that for years has lain in storage untranscribed and untranslated at the storied museum, has been deciphered to reveal the name "Nebo-Sarsekim."

Big deal, right? Well, yes. Nebo-Sareskim is a name that appears in Jeremiah 39:3. Gentle readers are forgiven if they did not recall the appearance of this name in the prophet's book.

In the words of the popular press, the finding on the tablet "proves" the historical accuracy of the Jeremiah text. Indeed, it does indicate that it is extremely likely that a Babylonian official of such a name existed at the very time named by Jeremiah. If we allow that such is the nature of historical proof, and more especially if we affirm that biblical texts are not assumed to be historically false in the absence of such evidence from other ancient texts, we find such statements to be reasonable. So three cheers for that.

This episode yields many lessons that SWNID is too happy to draw:
  • People who want to do archaeology but also want to stay indoors and sleep every night in a comfortable bed should learn the ancient Mesopotamian languages and get to work transcribing and translating cuneiform tablets at the British Museum. There are several lifetimes of work still in crates at that august institution. We add that the ability to write successful grant applications would help as well, as there isn't a lot of money lying around to support this kind of work.
  • Real archaeological findings are seldom as spectacular as the archo-porn (e.g. the Jesus Tomb) that lately dominates the mainstream media near the dates of the major Christian holidays. Nevertheless, unspectacular finds related to the Bible are still pretty cool. They also tend to get announced at times unrelated to Christian holidays.
  • The Bible need not be suspected as a historically reliable source because of its religious message. Neither should nonbiblical ancient texts be trusted historically because they no longer seem religiously, politically or socially relevant. Every text has a message, and every message reflects a bias, but biases aren't the same as falsehood. We generally don't read texts of any kind with a powerful hermeneutic (translation: method of interpretation) of suspicion, i.e., with the assumption that apart from corroborative evidence, the text is assumed to be false. The Bible shouldn't be read that way either. Most of the Bible has not been and will never be found to intersect with other ancient texts. That should not surprise, and it shouldn't count againt the Bible. That's the nature of ancient texts.
  • Despite all the attention to atheism in the media these days, Christianity remains a subject of deep and wide interest, far more interesting to people of all human cultures than any other subject, including even the non-Christian religions that some of them practice. There would be less attention to these heaps of tablets than there is if the tablets did not hold out some promise of yielding findings like this one. And other findings will never get the publicity given those that connect in any way, even one as obscure as this one, to the Christian Scriptures.
  • Those who check the reference to Jeremiah will find that various versions have differently divided up the list of names in this verse. Such happens in the translation of ancient texts that didn't employ spaces between the words. It's worth noting that the absence of spaces creates real problems in translation mostly in texts with lots of obscure proper names. Otherwise, the divisions are clear from the context. But expect for translations from now on to list Nebo-Sarsekim, not "Samgar-nebo" and then "Sarsekim." We're sure that the families of these gentlemen will appreciate seeing their names reproduced properly.
  • We continue to wait in vain for even the first archaeological discovery that relates even remotely to the Book of Mormon. Actually, we don't wait. We have given that up. Books that purport to have been delivered by angels and read with magic spectacles aren't in the same category as books that purport to have been written in ancient times and continuously handed down through generations.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Retreat from Iraq? Just When We're Winning!

Talk in the Senate about forcing a withdrawal from Iraq is obscuring a potent reality: Petraeus's "surge" tactics are working. Military scholar Kimberly Kagan offers details on the indispensable opinion page of the Wall Street Journal, which column the WSJ wisely offers today to a wider public for free.

We note that the calls for withdrawal now are based on the lack of political progress in the Iraqi Parliament, not on the allegedly dire military situation in which we find ourselves. We agree that the feckless politicos of liberated Iraq continue to disappoint most egregiously, and we wish that our earlier remarks about the lack of indigenous leadership in Iraq were not so constantly true. However, we doubt very much that an American withdrawal will have any effect in speeding political decisions. We suspect that increased infighting for a bigger share of the spoils is all the more likely.

Some analysts have offered that political progress in Iraq is moving at a culturally appropriate pace for its setting, that people of an ancient Middle Eastern culture will simply not move at a pace that suits speedy Americans. Perhaps. We again defer to the patient British, whose long occupation of Northern Ireland through its troubles seems finally to be coming to a satisfactory and peaceful conclusion.

Kagan sums up the military situation and its political corollary: "To say that the surge is failing is absurd. Instead Congress should be asking this question: Can the current progress continue?" The answer to the latter is that it can, as long as the American public is willing to pay the price for its own safety in the future.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Houghton on Genesis and Jesus

From among the many and varied internet resources on the reading of Genesis that are actually helpful, we point to one from, of all places PBS and Bill Moyers: an interview with scientist and Christian Sir John Houghton.

We wish that we were as good at science as Houghton is at exegesis. And please, gentle readers, don't ignore him because he's a Christian environmentalist who works to combat the potential human causes of climate change. Such intemperate conclusions are incompatible with the wisdom you seek by reading this blog.

Thanks to gentle and thoughtful reader Mike for directing us to this one.

Local Rumors: Creation Museum Cutbacks?

Our extensive network of sometimes-reliable, anonymous sources spreads to us the unconfirmed rumor that AIG's Creation Museum is reducing the hours of some of its employees. We infer that attendance is dropping from the initial flood of attendance.

Will the Creation Museum's initial flood of attendance prove to be global or merely local? Will the museum prove fit enough to survive? How far does Noah's curse on Ham extend? Time will tell.