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March 30, 2005

The Hardly Conservative George Bush - Part III

Blog . . 30-March-2005 - - - The hardly conservative George Bush - Part III

Relevant quotes of the day:

“As a nation of free men we live forever, or die by suicide.”
Abraham Lincoln

“If American radical leftists, pacifists and libertarian isolationists prevail in promoting a pacifist political culture in the U.S., then it is only a matter of time before the world is dominated by a military superpower whose leaders have an ethos [of totalitarians].”
Michael Lind

“There is only one guaranteed way you can have peace—and you can have it in the next second--surrender.”
Ronald Reagan

“When you don’t know what you’re talking about it’s hard to know when you’re finished.”
Tommy Smothers

Would you believe that the ostensibly conservative –W- is

• An alleged—and in selected situations the demonstrated--staunch defender of the U.S. who will not secure our borders, indicating that those invading our country are “peaceable people” who come here for employment are just seeking opportunity. (The euphemism “undocumented workers” is substituted here for factually accurate: “illegal immigrants”). For the many, “peaceable people” is likely true, but no nation can remain a sovereign or a free self-determining realm without exercising control over its borders. We can . . . and must! Compromise over such an issue, with Liberals, Democrats, the press and/or the business community, the Hispanic vote and/or the Mexican government, is both untenable and unforgivable. When did being elected become more important than doing what is right when necessary? He overlooks the fact that a huge majority of our nation’s citizens, including a majority of Hispanics, favors border control and oppose illegal immigration. Even liberal Europe is beginning to get the message! Why not “43?” Will it take another 9/11 to get his, and the government’s attention?

• Further, this alleged guardian of our safety and freedom of action, is in favor of the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST), which will give control of the right of movement upon, study and, yes, exploitation of the oceans of the world to a body every bit as corrupt as the U.N., the World Trade Association (WTO), the International Criminal Court (ICC), and the and promulgators of the Kyoto Treaty. Unlike the U.N., however, we will have no veto power. WTO made some sense, perhaps, but Kyoto was voted down by the Senate 95-0 (because it spells economic disaster while avoiding the problem it is assumed to address), and LOST 19-0 in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (because it curtails defense, science, industrial progress, and who knows what else.) Bush, at great political expense, stood and stands against the ICC and Kyoto. Why not against LOST?

I have no problem with compromise. That is the nature of politics. But one must not compromise principal, national security or independence. That represents the death-knell for sovereignty. (Sovereignty remains a subject for a later rant.) It is important to know exactly what is at stake, and “what you’re talking about!”

Political correctness, trolling for European support and behaving as the world opinion believes we should is getting a little old. Yeah, they didn’t like the invasion of Iraq, though some are now having second thoughts; and they didn’t like our pulling out of Kyoto, though it is to be recalled that Clinton signed on (despite the senate vote--and for altogether political reasons) during his last days in office whilst Bush simply signed off in the same fashion.

(Recall that they didn’t like it when Reagan pushed missiles into Europe in contravention of their wishes, but was successful in forcing the USSR to remove theirs as an “even trade.” And they didn’t like Reykjavik, or “star wars,” but Reagan prevailed and won. The Germans were apocalyptic when Reagan delivered his “tear down this wall” speech. Reagan did what was necessary and correct despite flak from all quarters, including more than a little from the “peaceable” (and the pacifists) in the U.S.

So . . . “splain” to me just why any conservative, let alone this “compassionately conservative” President, would hamstring the U.S. by refusing vigorous defense of our borders, and pushing the passage of LOST. The latter is worse than giving our Panama Canal away. Sure, the Liberals will like it, because it will interfere with the world class U.S. Navy, make exploration and exploitation unaffordable and/or impossible (not just difficult). The oceans will belong to “humanity,” whoever in hell that is, and are to be controlled by an agendized committee which will determine who can move where, when and for what purpose, and by whom all subsequent development is permitted, as well as to whom the fruits of such labors will be awarded. That is, we spend the money, we exercise the expertise, then we give the profits to the third world (or whomever the committee decides.)

We won’t be able, with any degree of assurance, to go anywhere in the world on water without checking with someone. No territorial land-mass control by sovereign nation, or territorial waters to honor, despite the fact that many claim 50 miles and others up to 400. If ratified we won’t be able go anywhere without abrogating the Law of the Sea. Gotta’ check with the U.N. or some other NGO to do most anything. It won’t fly and oughtn’t.

We don’t need treaties for that. We just need to surrender. It’s as simple as that!

Posted by respeto at 2:44 PM

Carnage and Culture

Carnage & Culture
Victor Davis Hanson
ISBN – 0-385-72038-6 $16.00 (paperback)

Here, in a brilliant exposition of the inherent superiority of Western armies—and, not incidentally, the superiority of Western culture--you will read one of the best such discussions in print. The book is one which ought to be required reading of anyone interested in understanding survival in this, or any other world. In addition, those on the left might better appreciate our cultural heritage and be more active in protecting it.

Popular mythology has it that cultural--including military--dynamism is dictated by the availability of natural resources, not culture, per se. Were this so, the Aztecs, amongst others, who sat upon an entire subcontinent replete the raw materials of gunpowder, bronze and steel should have explored and conquered the world. It was the lack of a systematic approach to abstract learning and science, not the dearth of ores or minerals that doomed them. The Aztecs, indeed, were even without wheel-based vehicles and tools (except, interestingly, for toys).

Societies have always engaged in activity designed to improve their lives and to enhance warfare, but the Greeks were the first to debate knowledge in the abstract, and to devise ways of adapting theoretical breakthroughs for practical use. In total, these capacities explain the dominance of the West.

While courage on the battlefield is a human characteristic, the ability to craft weapons through mass production to offset such bravery is a cultural phenomenon. Since the Greeks, Western captains have usually annihilated their numerically superior foes, not because their soldiers were necessarily better, but because their traditions of free inquiry, rationalism, and science were. Further, the (cultural) value given the life of every Western soldier since Greece, is unheard of in the non-Western world.

Muslim intellectuals and mullahs did (and do) not see war as innately wrong. There is nothing at all comparable to the Western interest in pacifism or “just war” theory. No Islamic treatise or philosophy suggests that war itself is somehow intrinsically evil and ought to be waged under the narrowest moral circumstances. In a word, Islam is not a religion of peace. It is, and has always been a religion of war and conquest. Despite near constant internecine wars in Europe after the fall of Rome, there was unified Western resistance to Muslim incursions during their attempt at military hegemony.

Likewise, the Samurai traditions of the Japanese rendered them largely unable to wage battles of total annihilation and relentless war. Or even to understand it. They killed thousands on the battlefield and were willing to sacrifice even more of their own, but their ferocity was not the same as the Western ability to wage continual and sustained encounter until one was victorious or annihilated. In Japanese, as in the Islamic way of war, surprise, sudden attack, battlefield calamity and disgrace are presumed to force an opponent to the bargaining table to discuss concessions. (e.g.: the Pearl Harbor attack left America defenseless but they failed to follow thru. After the initial assault they promptly sailed home, leaving American to recover.)

Since Xerxe’s invasion of Greece, it has been the custom of non-Western armies to assume that democracies are timid. They fail to understand that, while slow to anger, the West, when forced into battle, fights wars of total annihilation. (Wiping the Melians off the map of the Aegean, sowing the ground of Carthage with salt, turning Ireland into a wasteland, leveling Jerusalem before reoccupying it, driving an entire culture of Native Americans onto reservations, firebombing Dresden, Berlin and Tokyo, and atomizing Hiroshima and Nagasaki are but a few examples.)

The root cause of Japan’s defeat lay deep in the Japanese national character: its irrationality and impulsiveness. The American faith in individuality rather than group consensus, spontaneity rather than rote, and informality rather than hierarchy provided decisive in Midway and thereafter. For example, after the Yorktown was disabled at Midway Admiral Fletcher transferred to Admiral Spruance key decisions for launching the fleet’s planes--an act of selfless integrity and patriotism in action. By contrast, the exalted warlord Yamamoto drew up his formal plan, ordered his subordinates to follow it, and then in relative isolation and silence cruised out to battle in the huge, ostentations and mostly irrelevant Yamato.

Western “pacifism”, and doubt about its cultural superiority make us unduly and unwisely sensitive. The great, unsung tragedy of the antiwar movement(s) have been its own lack of credibility and fairness, and a fondness for hyperbole. It impairs credible combat. “No American army in 1944 would have fought the Germans in France without permission to cross the Rhine or to bomb Berlin at will. Japan would have won WWII had the U.S. simply fought in the jungles and occupied towns of the Japanese empire, promising not to bomb Tokyo, mine its harbors, attack its sanctuaries, or invade its native possessions, while journalists and critics visited Tokyo and broadcast to American troops from Japanese radio stations. Neither Truman nor Roosevelt would have offered to negotiate with Hitler or Stalin after the successful Normandy landings or the devastating bombing campaign over Tokyo. GIs in WWII were killed in pursuit of victory, not in order to defeat or to pressure totalitarian governments to discuss armistice.” In war it is insane not to employ the full extent of one’s military power or to guarantee to the enemy that there are sanctuaries for retreat, targets that are off limits, and a willingness to cease operations at any time, even for the pretext of negotiations “to begin.”

“The freedom among citizens to criticize wars and warriors openly and profligately has no pedigree outside the European tradition. . . . Western civilization has given mankind the only economic system that works, a rationalist tradition that alone allows us material and technological progress, the sole political structure that ensures the freedom of the individual, a system of ethics and a religion that brings out the best in humankind—and the most lethal practice of arms conceivable.

“Let us hope that we at last understand this legacy. It is a weighty and sometimes ominous heritage that we must neither deny nor feel ashamed about—but insist that our deadly manner of war serves, rather than buries, our civilization.”

Posted by respeto at 2:22 PM

March 19, 2005

The hardly conservative George Bush - Part II

Blog . . 18-March-2005

Relevant quotes of the day:

“As a nation of free men we live forever, or die by suicide.”

Abraham Lincoln

“A desperate disease requires a dangerous remedy.” Guy Fawkes

“Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.”Benjamin Franklin

“Good intentions are no match for armed and resolute wickedness.”
Winston Churchill

“There is only one guaranteed way you can have peace—and you can have it in the next second--surrender.”
Ronald Reagan

Would you believe that the ostensibly conservative –W- an alleged--and in selected situations the demonstrated--staunch defender of the U.S. who will not secure our borders, indicating that those invading our country are “peaceable people” who come here for employment are just seeking opportunity. (The euphemism “undocumented workers” is substituted here for factually accurate: illegal immigrants, and “peaceable” necessarily implies all of them.) For the many, peaceable people is likely true, but no nation can remain a sovereign or a free self-determining realm without exercising control over its borders, keeping out the peaceable and the unpeaceable. We can . . . and we must! Compromise over such an issue, with Liberals, Democrats, the press, the business community, the Hispanic community and/or the Mexican government, is both untenable and unforgivable. When did being elected become more important than doing what is right when necessary?

In so doing he overlooks the fact that a huge majority of our nation’s citizens, including a majority of Hispanics, favors border control and opposes illegal immigration. Even liberal Europe is beginning to get the message about dangerous, and too numerous immigrants! Why not “43?” Will it take another 9/11 to get his and the government’s attention? One hopes not, but one must enquire into why the “compassion” on this point.

The current status of inspections on container cargo, and other shipping, is said to be no better than on 9/10. Why not? A “suitcase nuke” is only a little larger than a standard airline carry-on. Searching millions of potential sites for such importation is understandably extraordinarily difficult . . . but no better than 9/10? Certainly we can do better than that. At least we could try, and if we trying there would measurable evidence of improvement.

“W” has done so well in so many parameters of foreign consideration, errors and miscalculations notwithstanding, that it is difficult to comprehend why he has not acted in these and other related matters. Surely Europe, Canada and Mexico--never mind the Middle East dictatorships--shouldn’t get a voice in domestic U.S. affairs. Why do they seem to? Giving these folks a veto, or even compromising a rational position, is irrational. Maybe they don’t mind getting attacked (they certainly don’t mind it when we get attacked), or like the Spanish they may still feel that the terrorist can be bought off by compromise. I don’t. Collectively we don’t, and clearly Bush doesn’t, so why is he reluctant to do what is necessary. Politically correct is one thing, intolerable and unacceptable as it is. Surrender, and possible suicide, is quite another, and altogether unacceptable.

Effective politics is the essence of compromise. But one must not compromise principal, national security or independence. That represents the death-knell for sovereignty. (Sovereignty remains a subject for a later rant, and a book review.)

Political correctness, trolling for European support and behaving as the world opinion believes we should is getting tiresome. So they didn’t like the invasion of Iraq. Too bad. (And many of them are now having second thoughts about Iraq, however reluctantly.) They didn’t like it when Reagan pushed missiles into Europe in contravention of their wishes either, but he was successful in forcing the USSR to remove their missiles as an “even trade.” The Germans were apocalyptic when he delivered his “tear down this wall” speech. They didn’t like Reykjavik, or “star wars,” but Reagan prevailed and won.

But Reagan did what was necessary and correct despite flak from all quarters, including more than a little from the “peaceable” in the world, including the U.S. “There they go again” was his peaceable rejoinder.

So . . . “splain” to me just why any American President, let alone a conservative, would hamstring the U.S. by refusing vigorous defense of our borders? We don’t need foreign power agreement, nor do we need accolades from them. We just need to surrender. It’s as simple as that! Frightening, too.

Posted by respeto at 12:03 PM

March 10, 2005

The hardly conservative George W. Bush

Relevant quotes:
“We could give it all back to you (the tax surplus) and hope you spend it right.” Bill Clinton

“This is the man who prints the money. I spend it.” (This was a comment made when introducing then Secretary of the Treasury, Wm Simon, demonstrating the liberal ignorance in the field of economics)
(Senator-MN) H .H. Humphrey

“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.” (Senator-NY) Daniel Patrick Moynihan

“Lest we forget, civilization emerged not from the grand documents and noble philosophies of men, but from an arbitrary little voice in the female head saying: ‘that’s not nice.’”
Florence King

It is central to understanding Moynihan’s quote that both are correct whilst not fully so. Arguing “nature” against “nurture” is to deny that both are relevant. Can anyone with an I.Q. in double digits argue that only one applies? The civil rights activities of the 60’s demonstrate that politics is indeed relevant, and the righteous anger of our citizens over the unleashing of dogs on the demonstrators exemplifies the importance of basic cultural values (as in: “that’s not nice!”) Bill Clinton and Hubert Humphrey, as always, speak for liberals, however moderate/immoderate: there’s no such thing as a bad tax, or too many taxes and it’s always possible to spend more than you have, just borrow the difference or print more money (which is a major cause of inflation—thru devaluation of the currency.)

Would you believe that the ostensibly conservative “W,” an alleged tax cutter, is unwilling to rule out surreptitiously and disingenuously raising taxes by increasing the base upon which Social Security Taxes are collected. He emphasizes that he will not increase the rate of taxation. Be attentive here, this is doublespeak. Bush-41 overtly broke his promise about “no new taxes,” was honest about it, and paid dearly. Bush-43 is becoming a little sleazy here, not to go so far as to say lying, and dissembles reality like a typical politician. He “hasn’t ruled out” anything . . . meaning that he is willing to discuss this misrepresented travesty. He reiterates his willingness to “expend political capital” over his cherished endeavors . . . but is hypocrisy to be the cause and the fashion in which he does so?

Keep in mind that with the taxable base increased anyone earning over $90,000 will be compelled to pay 12.4% in tax on the additional amount, while “qualifying” for no new or increased “benefit.” Ostensibly, this taxpayer is (maybe—and it is a maybe!) to be granted permanency of the previously temporary tax relief. Said reduction of tax represents a trifling few percent overall, whilst W is “considering” a compromise with the Liberals to permit raising the base upon which the laughably labeled “Federal Income for the Aged (FICA) tax, not insurance premium, is paid. And it is paid on all income, not adjusted gross income.

In many parts of the U.S., 90K is not a huge salary. Not modest, but not huge. If, say, one earns 120 K, the increase in FICA tax will be almost $4,000, offset by a reduction of income tax of less than $1,000! Further, the increase in FICA won’t address, let alone resolve, the looming deficits in this socialist program. We don’t yet know if “43” is prepared to compromise over personal accounts as well, which you will recall was the reason touted for entering the discussion in the first place. Great conservative, he!

I am increasingly unable to differentiate between his version of compassionate conservatism (an oxymoron of sorts) and the supposed alternative: liberal democratic socialism (another oxymoron, inasmuch as there is nothing especially democratic, and certainly nothing liberal in the classic sense, about socialism.) His spending on programs such as No Child Left Behind, and Free Drugs for the Greatest Generation (of thieves*), has placed him second on the list of all time biggest spenders . . . the first having been F.D.R. Please recall that Roosevelt was in the middle of a war which was orders of a magnitude more expensive than the current Gulf War/War on Terror. Again, great conservative, he! (Which he? Clearly F.D.R was more conservative than either Bush, and J.F.K was significantly more conservative than any of them. **)

*By way of disclosure, let me identify myself as almost (at 68 y.o.) one of that generation, as I indemnify myself by abhorring the AARP, oppose free drugs for seniors—especially Levitra. I argue constantly against programs such as Social Security. I am, or was, one of those who paid infinitely more into S.S. than I will ever get in return, and strongly support a totally privatized retirement program, albeit required by the government. It works in Chile, why not here? Further, one has to be apprised that even F.D.R., the author/sponsor of Social Security, inaugurated it as a temporary system, to be replaced by a permanently self-sustaining private system once the depression was over, and (if I recall the quote properly) “surely within no more than 30 years.” So why do the Democrats argue for the permanence of this government program, and why do the Republicans agree with them? We know the answer to the first half of the question: modern liberals favor huge and oppressive government, since they truly believe they can run our lives better than we can. It is the latter half of the question which is puzzling to me, and ought to be to you.

**I voted for Nixon--or, rather, against Kennedy because he was too liberal.

Posted by respeto at 1:50 PM

March 8, 2005

The debate over evolution.

Relevant quote of the day:

“Proteins are what you get when you string amino acids together. . . [and] there may be as many as a million types of protein in the human body . . . To make them you need to assemble [some or many] amino acids in a particular order, in much the same way that you assemble letters in a particular order to spell a word. To spell collagen, the name of a common type of protein, you need to arrange eight letters in the right order. But to make collagen you need to arrange 1,055 amino acids in precisely the right sequence. But—and here’s an obvious but crucial point—you don’t make it. It makes itself, spontaneously, without direction, and this is where the unlikelihoods come in. The chances of a 1,055 sequence molecule spontaneously self-assembling are [mathematically] nil.” (Visualize a Las Vegas slot machine large enough to accommodate 1,055 little wheels with 20 symbols on each wheel. How long do you suppose you’d have to pull the handle for those symbols to come up in the right order? E.g., if you reduce the spinning wheels to 200, the odds against all 200 coming up in the right sequence is 1 in 10 with 260 zeroes behind it—itself larger than the number of all atoms in the universe. And that’s for 200, not 1,055)
Bill Bryson (from A Short History of Nearly Everything.)

One ought consider the fact that a single, microscopic living cell carries more data than all of the volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica!

Or that there is nothing in the record--biochemical, anatomical, genetic, or archaeological--to substantiate evolution. The entire human collection of ostensibly proto-human bones in the world’s museums wouldn’t fill a decent sized box, yet we are expected to accept these, and the testimony of an ever decreasing handful of “experts,” that they confirm the theory. Right !! And we can prove that the moon is made of green cheese, based upon similar “science.”

Things are heating up. The Scopes Monkey trial is again being discussed as if it proved Darwinism. It didn’t. It proved that courts are ill-equipped to handle such a complex question.

“Scholars” are now railing against Intelligent Design. Overlooked, amongst other things, is the fact that even Darwin considered his concept a theory. (You’ve heard of the “theory of evolution,” I’m sure.)

Truth be known, Godlessness is in trouble. Many of today’s most thoughtful scientists, philosophers, intellectuals and doubtful clerics are coming to the (to me, obvious) conclusion that belief in Darwin’s theory requires more “blind faith” than a belief in some sort of omniscient, omnipotent power--call it God, or whatever you choose. As with the legal concept of res ipsa loquitur: “the facts speak for themselves.” At least they do for those paying attention, and willing to listen and consider them.

Darwinism and Atheism have as many frauds, psychopaths and careerists as do their antitheses: creationism and religion. And the latter group is now being joined by these legions of the best informed, most knowledgeable people on the planet, who are concluding—some reluctantly—that there is no way around the facts.

Read The Blind Watchmaker, or other such ostensibly factually informative texts, and you might be tempted to believe—at least until such time as you reflect upon what is offered, not for consideration, but as fact. Dawkins and Diamond have written numerous such tomes, all of which skirt the actual issues in debate. One prototypic of such books is The Beak of the Finch, which details how the beak evolved. Overlooked is that showing how the beak adapted to ensure survival within a given species is an incredible remove from the theory of a single paramecium becoming a man, and by pure accident at that. (After all, the paramecium didn’t have to become a monkey, or a man, to survive . . . now did it?

No one informed by the facts argues with intra-species evolution. Actually, few argue over inter-species evolution. Rather, they argue that design requires more than luck or good fortune, and they prove it with statistics. Just as (the Scottish economist) Adam Smith identified “the invisible hand,” so too does evolution require such a hand. Perhaps, as well, what we might broadly consider “a mind” intent on creation and evolution to some particular end . . . or, maybe, just a challenge to a force with such a capacity? It certainly exceeds my pay grade, not to mention my (relatively) feeble mind.

Read, additionally, How Blind is the Watchmaker, by Broom & Dembski, or the devastating Not by Chance, by Spetner (the “most rational attack on evolution that I have ever read.”-E. Simon: Biology Dep’t at Purdue University). And, do not to overlook Darwin’s Black Box, by Behe (“No one can propose to defend Darwin without meeting the challenges set out in this superbly written and compelling book.” - D. Berlinski.)

Generally we find ourselves amidst the perpetual struggle to explain, rather than sanctify, varietal theories as realities which fall within the construct of scientific revolutions. Once the world was flat. (Indeed, more than once.) Once the universe was centered about the earth, till later when we “discovered” heliocentricity. Now we recognize that within the cosmos we are but the tiniest of backwaters in a miniscule solar system which is part of a proportionally only slightly larger galaxy. We are honest enough to admit to this so what is the problem with dissecting the original “theory of evolution.” After all, old Nick (Copernicus, 1473-1543) labored long and hard over his theory, which took centuries to reach anything like consensus. Galileo was “housebound” because the clergy wasn’t quite up to believing what he had to hypothecate, and now, several centuries later there are still things yet to be proven about Einstein’s theories, themselves nearly 100 years old.

So why must we accept Darwinism, hypothecated in the 19th century, without challenge or debate? Even Darwin wasn’t sure that what he observed had anything like universal application, and there are (literally) tons of books arguing of the issue. Barnes and Noble list 11,364 entries.

If you have an informed opinion feel free to comment. But, as a reminder, avoid being “the unarmed man.” (see top of this page:)

Posted by respeto at 1:24 AM

The Bookseller of Kabul

Asne Seierstad – ISBN 0-316159417

The author is an experienced Norwegian war correspondent who spent months living with a successful bookseller in Kabul following the recent Afghan war against the Taliban. She took up this life, suffocating bhurka included, living with Sultan Khan and his extended family.

She describes in riveting detail the many features of daily life in “free” Afghanistan. The difficulties are enormous, overcoming decades of repression before and after the Russian war, and following the ultimate victory of the Taliban. Though now free to do more nearly what they wish, the women are still subjugated in an intensely chauvinistic, patriarchal society beholden to centuries of Islamic doctrine and belief. Life is still cruel in this divisive tribal culture. The recent wars have totally destroyed the physical, repressed the cultural, and altered the literary and metaphysical basis of this society. It has a long, long way to go to reassert itself as it was during the reign of its last monarch, who was a tolerant and benevolent man, and further still to enter the world community of the 20th century, never mind the 21st.

What she learned about middle-class life was that, after all, at all levels--even those of a relatively enlightened and successful bookseller--the repression was still stunning and omnipresent. Sultan is an autocratic and often vicious man to his core, and is, sadly, representative of the vast majority of men within that civilizational sphere. On the other hand he is also a brave and heroic figure who has endured persecution, imprisonment and threats of death because of his crusade to bring books into his country. History, art, poetry and the like have been prohibited for two decades, and he saw his store and its contents burned on several occasions during the Taliban rule.

Seierstad explores varietal subjects from shopping to weddings, education to religion, in chapter length discussions of the way things function—and are--in the Afghanistan of 2003: a snapshot of a country in flux, longing for peace, divided beyond western understanding, under pressure to resurrect itself and its traditions whilst modernizing and “democratizing” to the extent possible.

And she discusses the amazing beauty of what once was Afghanistan, and could be again, given the cooperation and conciliation of the varietal Afghani factions and the rest of the world.

It is a quick and engrossing read, and quite helpful if you wish to understand the Middle East a little better: especially so the plight of its women. For those of you Westerners who feel that it’s none of our business, you might just want to re-think that attitude after reading this--especially those who believe in the liberation of the female half of humanity, or that females are oppressed in America.

For those on the left it raises the not altogether unreasonable question of whether or not a Middle-Eastern culture can be “democratized.” For those on the right, it leaves no question that some effort must be made. For all, even those without an agenda—if such there be—it addresses the difficulties in a cultural milieu that is steeped in overbearing paternalism and underscores the need for this portion of the globe to consider and address “Western Values” . . . and, more, to adopt those proven to be worthy and successful.

Posted by respeto at 1:21 AM

The Man Who Would Be King

(the first American in Afghanistan)

Ben Macintyre – ISBN 0-374201781

This fascinating book is the result of inquiry by an experienced journalist/historian who delved into the almost legendary Josiah Harlan, who undertook to follow his hero, Alexander of Macedon, into and over the Hindu Kush to become ruler of a foreign principality. . . and actually did it. For those aware of this man it was never believed that he had done so, presuming that his stories were fabrication. Though he was the model personage for Rudyard Kipling’s book of the same title no one really thought that Harlan’s claim to have been anointed an Afghani Prince was true. The inquisitive and tenacious Macintyre, however, discovered a chest of Harlan’s memoirs tucked away in an obscure little museum in Pennsylvania, and in it the document which proved his claim.

Harlan’s life is traced from his Quaker origins, thru the documentable actualities of his quest as medicalist/physician, military commander, conquistador, counselor to sheiks, shahs and kings, to the lofty “Prince of Ghor [and] Paramount Chief of the Hazarajat.”

Throughout the book one is treated to detailed discussions of his adventures—the man kept extensive notes—and the outcomes of myriad encounters with the unknown and often the savage. It is interesting to read his discussions of his journey/quest thru India and the Sikh/Indus kingdom. As well, there is an extensive and captivating exposition of the physical beauty of Afghanistan, the lushness of the royal gardens—even the countryside--and the magnificence of its mud brick forts and dwellings. I, for one, had no idea that Afghanistan was ever a place one would wish to live . . . never mind conquer . . . but found mesmerizing his descriptions of this remote and unique place on earth.

This remarkable book is “colorful, exotic, and highly entertaining [from the book jacket].” I agree. It is also informative of the nature of Afghanistan, past and present, since the tribal society is little changed since the early 19th century and the time of Harlan’s “visit.” It is a cautionary tale, as well, and worthy of consideration of the ingrained nature of cultures and invaders . . . especially so Afghanistan.

Read it. You’ll like it. And be informed by it. Well worth the time, or I wouldn’t recommend (or read) it!

Posted by respeto at 1:18 AM