Notes From the Levant: Last of the Combat Troops Leaving Iraq? – Only in your Dreams
If you imagine that the U.S. invasion of Iraq is coming to an end, read the above article. By the way, the author calls the number of U.S. mercenary troops (i.e., armed soldiers employed by the U.S. government but not wearing U.S. military uniforms and NOT under the oversight of Congress) in Iraq as "unknowable." He's pretty much right, since the Pentagon tries to prevent the number from being known, but the last quoted figure I have seen is "100,000" - one of the world's more impressive armies.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Democracies and dictatorships have distinct preferences. Know the difference, and you can see where your government is headed.
One could…and we should…identify a set of clear distinctions between democratic and authoritarian methods. Today’s news gives an example of one of the most basic such distinctions: democracies aspire to precise legal charges, while authoritarian regimes aspire to the vaguest possible charges. Precise charges are falsifiable (i.e., the guilty get convicted, the innocent set free) and lead to respect for the law. Vague charges make it easy for the dictator to punish his political enemies. Camus called it "une anarchie bureaucratisee." The greatest indictment of vague charges is Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago; for samples see the numerous Solzhenitsyn posts here.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Saturday, August 21, 2010
To defend their freedom, citizens of a democracy need a clear sense of the distinction between acceptable attitudes and behavior in a healthy democracy and signs of authoritarian infection.
When your body is being challenged, you call it being "sick," you check the symptoms and diagnose the cause. For the economy, being sick is called a recession, and the same diagnostic process is undertaken. For the political world, a disease could be discrimination or denial of free speech; the cancer of the political world is war. But where is the rigorous diagnostic process for identifying and curing political disease?
Putting it bluntly, "Is your democracy sick?" The answer will be every bit as complex as asking if you are sick.
Friday, August 20, 2010
The weeds of authoritarianism or outright fascism sprout easily in fertile democratic soil. Authoritarian figures like nothing better than to exploit the civil liberties of democracy in order to kill it. It is not clear that even a perfect democracy would be stable, but certainly no known democratic society--especially one with a population as ignorant and amenable to manipulation by politicians with private agendas as that of the U.S.--can be considered stable. A democratic society is a mountain climber perched on a very slippery slope.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Once again, police overreaction by a repressive and short-sighted regime that assumes without forethought that A) its own position is beyond question and B) that the concerns of a frustrated population merit no consideration is manufacturing a needless crisis.