8.31.2002

We could do it alone, but it appears we won't have to.

If the whole [Jo-burg conference] is such a farce, why does nobody call to shut it down? But here we have to get a bit more sophisticated. What is the WSSD about? It's nothing to do with improving the lives of people in the developing world, that's for sure. It's about giving a platform for the prejudices enjoyed by the well-fed, well-educated, intellectual elites of the Western world - and the gripes and cynicism are as much a part of that as the champagne and bureaucracy.

Jennie Bristow has a marvelous column in the new issue of Spiked Magazine. By confronting the duel specters of absurdity and imbecility that hang over the WSSD Conference, Bristow shows the conference for what it really is: a sham event, staged for the benefit of those too stupid to realize the uselessness of international environmental policy. Those people, Bristow marvels, seems to have an unnatural love for both international environment codes and anti-Americanism. She writes:

The crude anti-Americanism broadcast daily across the UK airwaves has nothing to do with whether President George W Bush attends the Johannesburg summit or not. It is about the kind of vision that Western commentators hold for the future of developing countries, and for the West. And for the perfect child's eye vision of this future, we need look no further than our friend, leading environmental campaigner George 'Small is Beautiful' Monbiot.

Monbiot is, of course, the self-same environementalist whom Lileks so thoroughly put through the wringer. This future that Western (ahem, European) commentators have in mind for Africans is perfectly absurd. Scratch that: the future they have in mind for the developed world is absurd. Costly and ridiculous projects are dancing through their vision like rabid sugarplum fairies. I've heard of "thinking big," but the is preposterous. Naturally, the US' suggestions have been the object of ridicule. The suggestions are:

An investment of $970 million by the U.S. Government, plus another $1.6 billion from the private sector, over three years, in the "Water for the Poor Initiative," to expand access to clean water and sanitation services.

Over $400 million from government and private sources in 2003 to provide "millions of people with new access to energy services and reduce respiratory illness associated with air pollution."

An "Initiative to Cut Hunger in Africa," which will spur technology in agriculture starting next year.

A "Congo Basin Forest Partnership" to support forest management and a network of national parks in central Africa. The U.S. Investment will be backed by contributions from the European Union, the private sector, environmental organizations and host governments.

A commitment to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in developing nations with $1.3 billion from the U.S. Government in 2003.

NGOs are complaining because the US wants to implement these via bilateral and multilateral partnerships, which would damange the agendas of green NGOs. Businesses, they fear, will cash in on providing these services to the populace, allowing the governments to shirk their responsibility. And that's a problem?

If a business wants to "cash in" by providing safe water to people currently suffering because they can't afford to water their crops, let them. Governments should oversee the projects to assure that no community is being swindled or overlooked, but the governments shouldn't be responsible for the small details. They have proven time and time again that they are incapable of doing so; the reason most of the world's citizens are in such a crisis is precisely because their governments fail to deliver safe resources. The complaints of the NGOs is telling; let the third world become developed, but do it exactly how we say it should be done.

This "think big" ideal of EU governments and NGOs is potentially lethal for the residents of the third world. And what is Greenpeace doing about it? Sueing the US government for causing global warming.

8.30.2002


Robert Mugabe is seventy-eight years old, and has repeatedly vowed to stay in power for the rest of his life. In this spirit of relentlessness, he has made it a crime, punishable by six months in jail, for two or more people in Zimbabwe to meet and discuss politics without obtaining a permit from the police at least four days in advance. The permit is just a nicety; the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), which elaborates the offense, allows the police to bar whomever they like from attending even an authorized political discussion, or to break it up at any time without explanation.

All this and more about Mugabe's racist regime.
Yourish has a lovely mini-Fisk of a Jerusalem Post article. One additional point:

The UN envoy acknowledged that easing restrictions could pose new security risks to Israel, but he said failing to do so will fuel the very extremism Israel is trying to quell.

If a member of the United Nation is tacitly admitted that this is, indeed, a cycle of violence, doesn't that say something? Arafat and his goons have the world in a headlock.
Here's why Bush's falling approval rating is a good thing.
Cato the Youngest and I exchanged some thoughts on just how much of an obstacle the Iraqi army is likely to be. Austin Bay seems to have the answer.

The structure of his article is interesting, and he uses the article's structure to repudiate arguments before they even get a chance to be made.
,
...the gutty [North Vietnamese Army] tactic of getting close to U.S. infantry and staying close. U.S. fire support then ran an increased risk of hitting U.S. troops.... Motivated and well-led NVA troops now had better odds and an opportunity to send American soldiers home in body bags -- a key political objective on the part of Hanoi's high command...

However, the Iraqi military and the NVA have little in common, particularly when it comes to the commitment and discipline required to stick to a fight at close quarters.

This is the major issue: how disciplined is the Iraqi army? Not very. And, says Bay, the tactics that worked for Hamas in Jenin will be ineffective for Iraq's army.

This cold gambit -- human and cultural shields -- was designed to thwart U.S. advantages in long-range fire and create "targeting dilemmas" -- e.g., are these people Iraqi civilians or soldiers? The strategic objective was to buy Saddam more time to affect "world opinion" and portray Washington as a heartless murderer.

Yet the key to making Saddam's spider web work remained loyalty, and that, several analysts argued, he doesn't have.

Bay ends on a sour note, unfortunately. Although Iraq's army will be fairly ineffective on the ground, Saddam does have nuclear and bio-chemical capabilities, which would be his best bet for a win.

His entire strategy will center around these capabilities, Bay says. Which only makes it all the imperative he be overthrown quickly and efficiently.

8.29.2002

This unabashed greed is just sickening. Some people are purely heartless.
Den Beste linked to this analysis by Ralph Peters on the reasons why some nations fail, which got me thinking. And then it got me laughing.

One of Peters' point is that the US, by dint of being such a huge player in the global economy, shapes actions everywhere, whether or not the US is actively aware of its influence.

Then I go on to reading articles on the J-burg Summit. A snippet:

Environmentalists denounced a proposal to bridge a North-South rift on the eve of the Earth Summit in Johannesburg Sunday as a sell-out to rich nations seeking freer trade and corporate globalization.

"It's making a farce of the Earth Summit," Greenpeace political director Remi Parmentier said, accusing the United States and European Union of pushing for corporate globalization without heeding its negative environmental side-effects.

Look at who they're accusing: the United States. Yes, you're shaking your head, wondering what my point is. It's this: we haven't even got a real name, which says quite a lot about us. We're the United States of America. Not France. Not Chad. There's no unique combination of syllables that represents our nation. Even Britain -- aka the United Kingdom -- has a few different names to call its own. We don't.

And just look at our flag. It keeps changing. I don't mean in the way South Africa changed its flag after apartheid ended, I mean that our flag is built in such a way that it was designed to change. I can just imagine what was going through the designer's head:

"Well, this here'll be the symbol of our bold new nation. Better make it easy to change. I'll just put this blue box here and leave 'em some flexibility with the stars."

It says quite a lot, and explains why we're a) so successful and b) so haughty and oblivious. First of all, we adapt. We're not so brittle that we collapse when faced with a challenge. I'm not talking about the checks and balance system; I mean that the mental conception each citizen has of the US doesn't waver when faced with a challenge. Add another state? Sure, just push over those stars and have a seat. Our national consciousness is constantly reforming; 9/11 is now as integral to our view of our homeland as Ben Franklin.

Which, in turn, explains why we infuriate Europe so deeply. Their nations have been around far longer that ours had, and have had time to cultivate their own attitudes. A French citizen is French. A US citizen is "kinda from Ireland, but then some people came over from Lithuanian -- you know, after the war -- and married a Greek, which is where the hair comes from and...". We're constantly the upstart because we refuse to set in stone who we are. We're a bouncing balloon tethered to the Constitution. And most of us are so deeply balloon-like that we haven't a clue why Europe gets so annoyed with us.

Our national consciousness is this: it depends. Some things -- freedom of speech, the idea of democracy -- are unquestioned, but beyond that, we're like an amoeba. Poke us and we'll just surround your finger and try to eat it.

[ed. -- it's 14 days before the one year anniversary of 9/11. Just thought you might want to know.]

8.27.2002

I'm not easily perturbed. This, however, has scared me. Downright horrifying. It's just words, but it's from a site of sample sermon's for Muslim leaders to deliver to the congregations. An excerpt:

The Jews are described in the Book of Allaah as those who distort words and facts and quote them out of context and this is exactly what they and their supporters from the tyrant regimes all over the world are currently doing. They use false terminology to misguide, confuse and deceive. What your brothers are committing in Al-Aqsaa are not acts of mindless violence, but rather it is a blessed uprising to resist and curtail the Jewish oppression and aggression: this is a legal right which all religions, ideologies and international laws recognise. Nobody could deny this fact except the ignorant, arrogant or evildoers.

8.26.2002

Kieran Lyons has some interesting links regarding authoritarianism, sustainable development, and free thinking.

Curious, but not surprising.
The people behind the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) have concocted a poll on the global environment. Theoretically, the creators of the poll claim that the results of the poll will be shared with "worldwide leaders" with the goal of further educating them as to the needs of humanity.

I have more than a few qualms about the poll, both the concept and the execution. Internet polls are notoriously unreliable, and this is no exception. People don't take internet polls seriously; AOL places little disclaimers on all their polls repeating how the poll is "for entertainment purposes only." I see no difference in the execution of this poll and AOL polls. Additionally, the audience for this poll is skewed towards rich, education first-world consumers. How many impoverished Sudanese farmers are going to have this opportunity to share their opinions? Probably none.

Enough of that. Here are some of the more ridiculous questions.

Which of these statements comes closer to your own point of view?
a.Protection of the environment should be given priority, even at the risk of curbing economic growth.
b.Economic growth should be given priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent.

Um, what ever happened to the theory that economic growth will lead to a safe environment? Bjorn Lomborg has an excellent op-ed in today's NY Times in which he examines this hypothesis. The link between economic development and a cleaner environment should be fairly obvious. The brown cloud over Asia at the moment is largely attributed to "inefficient cookers, where fuels such as cow dung and kerosene are used to cook food in many parts of Asia." If Asia were richer, those cookers could be replaced by cleaner gas or electric stoves. I realize that's a small example, but the point is clear. The way the answers to this question are phrased falsely implies that the choice between protecting the environment and developing the economy is an either/or situation.

Which of these statements do you think is most true?
a. National governments will most often do what they think is best for their own country regardless of international environmental treaties and agreements.
b. Even if they are not always perfect, international agreements and treaties are the only way to effective deal with global environmental problems.

Stop me if I'm wrong, but aren't those answers both saying essentially the same thing? I see no difference between the two statements; they're looking at the same opinion, and merely stating it in two different ways. One could even combine them into a single sentence: "Although national governments frequently disregard international treaties in favor of national interest, such international treaties are the most effective way of dealing with environmental issues." God, this just reeks of transnational progressivism.

What is your religion?
Muslim
Christian
Hindu
Buddhist
Other

Oy vey. Just in case I forgot this was a UN poll...

(this poll is conducted by region, and I check on the Middle East region's poll, and it's the same, despite the fact that there's this little thing there known as the "Jewish state")
Maybe we shouldn't be listening to these former leaders because we decided that we'd had enough of the governments they helped lead. Or, to be more specific, maybe people aren't listening to Baker and Scowcroft because they were Bush I Men. Just a thought. And maybe we shouldn't be taking advice on Iraq from the people who couldn't succeed there in the first place and maybe our government wants to separate itself from the last war on Iraq.

8.25.2002

There's a debate going on at the moment -- started by Andrew Stuttaford -- as to whether or not those who have been in the military have more "moral authority" when it comes to sending our boys into Iraq. Glenn Reynolds gets some good comments in as well (make sure to check out all the links in his post).

However, people are missing something critically important. "Moral authority" is a nice buzzword, right up there with "sustainable development". Morality isn't the issue at hand here; the issue is experience. Look at who is opposing: retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, former Secretary of StateJames Baker, former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft. These peope weren't puny infantymen; they were the leaders. And if these leaders are now saying something, wouldn't you want to listen? These are the cream of the crop when it comes to expert opinion, and the fact that they're being unilaterally ignored says something about the unrestrained eagerness of those pushing us towards war. As they say, "You can't handle the truth!"
Now I get the motivation behind the actions of our former Saudi ambassadors. It's not that they're saying "Saudi Arabia is a great place," it's that they're saying "Oh, please, please don't make us pay $60 a barrel."

Keeping this in mind, I'm moved to take back earlier comments regarding our need to distance ourselves from the Sauds before we move against Iraq. By the logic in the Times' article, building a new nation in Iraq would weaken the House of Saud by loosening their monopoly on oil production. Two birds with one stone, so to speak. Of course, this is all highly hypothetical, and is forcing us to assume that the new government in Iraq would a) be US friendly and b) be highly efficient at producing oil. A look at Iran (and, increasingly, Afghanistan) shows that nation building doesn't always go as planned. The question then remains: do we allow ourselves to support the House of Saud now in the interest of taking out Hussein, knowing that there is a possibility the Saud's hold on their nation will weaken, or do we take a more proactive stance, placing the progressives in power, thus garnering both a true ally as well as control of their oil fields?
I believe the Singaporian government is saying how to HAVE dates, not how to FIND them. There's an implicit difference. You'd think that with all your command of the English language, you'd get it.

The government of Singapore is handing out advice booklets for singles, telling them how to have dates. "We aim to empower singles by helping them with basic courtship skills, showing them that it's really a natural process," said Tan-Huang Shuo Mei, director of the government's Social Development Unit.

Joe Bob Briggs reports this in his UPI Week in Review column. Am I the only one who wonders what those booklets say? And, ahem, where can I get a copy? That being said, the fact that Singapore has a "Social Development Unit" is kind of freaky; it sounds like something straight from Brave New World.

But, theoretically, sustainability flies in the face of reality. From anthropology via physics to zoology, the world does not function in equilibrium, but rather on chaotic, non-equilibrium principles, whether in the stock market or with climate change. Sustainability is intrinsically an equilibrium idea seeking equilibrium solutions. It is easily employed to soften the fact of change and, in doing so, it undermines human dynamism and adaptability.

I not familiar with enough environmental science to comment on most of the article, but it's extremely interesting. Basically, the author's arguing that "sustainable development" is just another UN buzzword, and that the conference in Johannesburg is, scientifically, a sham. Based on past UN behavior, I can easily see how the entire UN community has invested everything into an imaginary concept rather than work on the nitty-gritty details of reality. But hey, if it makes the "international community" happy, who am I to complain?