Monthly Archives: April 2008

Housekeeping

Standard

The conversations regarding “Tom Paines abroad but Edmund Burkes at Home” at Marko’s, Bob’s, and elsewhere have been generally stimulating, with some exceptions. I plan on posting something soon, perhaps from a more Burkean angle, in the next week or so.

In the meantime…added Z-Word (check out “Jewish Anti-Zionism Unraveled: Questioning Anti-Semitism Part I”) to my blogroll.

I was also deleting some old links on the left side of the page. Most of them are either defunct or have not been updated for an extremely extended period of time. I thought the website for the centrist, secular (some would say anti-religious), market-oriented, Shinui party in Israel would fall into the former category. The party fell apart back in 2006 and the link has been dead for months.

But when I clicked on it this morning they have a nice looking new site. Have a look (all in Hebrew). I’m not sure if they are running any candidates but it is an encouraging sign. Yair Lapid saw the resurgence of Shinui coming. You can read his March op-ed in Y-Net here. In other Israel and housekeeping related news, Kadima Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is upset about the Supreme Court ruling on hametz (unleavened bread) sales during Pesach.

The Anti-Semitism of Reverend Eric Lee

Standard

[H/t to Pajamas Media]

Roger L. Simon has a couple of posts on a troubling anti-Semitic outburst by Reverend Eric Lee, president of the Los Angeles branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The SCLC was started by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bayard Rustin, among others. The event was held on April 4 (the fortieth anniversary of King’s assassination) and organized by Kappa Alpha Psi, a predominately African-American fraternity. Kappa Alpha Psi was giving its Tom Bradley Award to an Israeli-American activist, Daphna Ziman. Ziman, who received the award for her work as chairperson and founder of Children Uniting Nations.

After Ziman received her award, Reverend Lee began his keynote address. Simon reports:

[A]fter praising Malcolm X, he started staring directly at Ziman, according to an email she sent.

Ziman’s email states “[Lee] started talking about the African American children who are suffering because of the Jews that have featured them as rapists and murderers. He spoke of a Jewish Rabbi, and then corrected himself to say ‘What other kind of Rabbis are there, but Jews.’ He told how this Rabbi came to him to say that he would like to bring the AA [African-American] community and the Jewish community together. ‘NO, NO, NO!!!!’ he shouted into the crowd, ‘we are not going to come together. The Jews have made money on us in the music business and we are the entertainers, and they are economically enslaving us.’”

Lee later apologized for the outburst. Here is a bit:

In a very small part of my presentation, I referenced a meeting I had with Rabbi’s and other community leaders. A Rabbi stated in that meeting that the close relationship between the African American and Jewish communities had been disconnected after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. I further referenced in my speech that my response to the Rabbi was that the Black Power Movement emerged after the assassination of Dr. King and it was a direct response to the negative characterizations of African Americans through the silver screen, TV and the music industry, industries that are influenced by many in the Jewish community. I then stated to the Rabbis that the Black Power Movement was our effort to define for ourselves our own identity rather than be defined by anyone else. I then indicated in my presentation that I told the Rabbis’ that before a genuine coalition could be rebuilt between our communities, there would have to be dialogue and efforts made to deal with the negative characterizations of African Americans.”

More of the same sad but predictable “blame the Jews” rhetoric from a so-called “progressive” black preacher. Not only that, the reverend is being historically dishonest. As he must be well aware, Stokely Carmichael gave his “Black Power” speech in 1966 and there were plenty of militant leaders who were critical of King’s willingness to work with white, Jewish and other allies across the color line, particularly in the labor movement, well before King’s assassination. Malcolm X comes to mind here. Turns out Reverend Lee is also a fellow-traveler of International ANSWER, CAIR, and Cynthia McKinney. No surprise there. McKinney’s father blamed the J-E-W-S for her his election defeat in 2006 2002.

You can email SCLC president and CEO, Charles Steele, Jr at:

president@sclcnational.org

Let him know what you think about someone who supposedly is acting in the tradition of Reverend King behaving in this manner. Will it do any good? I don’t know. But if you don’t stand up, who will?

Richard Falk: UN Bureaucrat for 9-11 “Truth”

Standard

[H/t to Contentious Centrist, CAMERA on Campus, and the New York Sun ]

Just when you thought the personnel at the United Nations could not get worse, Eli Lake writes, “a new Human Rights Council official assigned to monitor Israel is calling for an official commission to study the role neoconservatives may have played in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.” Apparently it is not enough to claim that the “neoconservatives” led us into war in Iraq (as opposed to the actions of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, or the decisions of President Bush), now some liberal leftists feel the need join the 9-11 “truth” bandwagon.

The NY Sun article continues:

Mr. Falk’s selection to the post of rapporteur has already prompted the government of Israel formally to request that Mr. Falk is not sent to the country. The Israeli press has reported that he may even be barred from entering the country…One reason the Israelis are concerned about his appointment is that Mr. Falk has compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinian Arabs to the Nazi treatment of Jews in the holocaust.

In a review of the factually deprived documentary, “Occupation 101,” CAMERA on Campus (Vol. 18, No. 1. Spring 2008 ) reports:

Richard Falk, who makes appearances throughout the film, is an emeritus professor at Princeton University with a long record of backing the wrong causes. In February [16] 1979, he published a piece in the New York Times titled “Trusting Khomeini,” extolling Ayatollah Khomeini, and ridiculing the notion that the Ayatollah was a religious reactionary.

I had a difficult time finding a copy of the article on the web. It is referenced in quite a few places but there are no links to the text. You can read Falk’s NYT article here but you’ll need a subscription.

Labor Activist Mahmoud Salehi Released from Iranian Prison

Standard

[H/t Labourstart]

The International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran reports:

April 6, 2008- According to the Committee in Defense of Mahmoud Salehi, Mahmoud Salehi, a well known and one of the most courageous labour leaders in Iran, was finally released today, Sunday, April 6, 2008 at 3:00 PM from the City of Sanandaj‘s central prison, where he had finished one-year jail term for his labour activities on March 23, 2008 but the authorities had refused to release him until today.

Congratulation and many thanks to all labour, progressive and human rights’ organizations and activists who have supported Salehi and called for his freedom and that of other jailed labour activists.

Political Alignment and Identity: Pro-Western Versus Anti-Western Now More Important than Left Versus Right?

Standard

[Political Diagram by Marko Attila Hoare. Click for larger, legible, viewing.]

Thanks to Contentious Centrist and Bob for pointing me to this Ignoblus post which is commenting on a post by Marko Attila Hoare. To summarize, Hoare provided a diagram of contemporary political alignments (above). These alignments have less to do with left versus right (a dated but not entirely irrelevant paradigm) then pro-Western versus anti-Western.

Hoare writes:

The triumph of the centrist political model has led to one section of the Left and one section of the Right breaking away from their respective comrades and joining up in opposition to this model: this ultimately takes the form of a Red-Brown coalition. Conversely, a second section of the Left and a second section of the Right have likewise broken away from the first sections and come together in support of extending this model globally. This, then, is the principal ideological division in global politics today: pro-Western vs anti-Western; globalist vs anti-globalist; the democratic centre vs the Red-Brown coalition.

The essence of the division is that the pro-Westerners support the extension of the liberal-democratic order across the globe, through the politics of human rights, promotion of democracy, universal values and interventionism (not necessarily always military). The anti-Westerners oppose the liberal-democratic model, at least as a universal model; they admire or support movements or regimes that stand in opposition to the Western alliance or to Western values – all of which uphold religious fundamentalism or nativist nationalism, sometimes combined with a ’socialist’ veneer, as an alternative to liberal democracy.

Ignoblus’ post focuses on cultural codes and anti-Zionism. is on to something in connecting anti-Western sentiment and anti-Zionism. Anti-Zionism is a huge part of the contemporary radical left’s political identity, But this anti-Zionism should be examined within the context of a broader “anti-imperialism.” Hoare advocated a similar perspective in his review of Buruma and Margalit’s Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of its Enemies for Democratiya. Here is an excerpt:

In simplest terms, ‘imperialism’ can be defined as a state’s pursuit of empire or the expansion of its power, through acquiring territory from, or power over, other states or peoples. No reasonable person would not oppose this, but ‘anti-imperialism’ today means something other than opposition to imperialism. ‘Imperialism’, in the eyes of the average ‘anti-imperialist’, is coterminous with ‘the West’, i.e. with the US and its West European and Israeli allies. As such, it is used to refer to the bloc of states that dominates the world today, and there is undoubtedly something emotionally appealing to the individual ‘radical’ in apparently fighting that which is all-powerful. As an eighteen-year old Trotskyist and ‘anti-imperialist’ at the time of the 1991 Gulf War, I can testify to the empowering sense of self-righteousness I felt as I demonstrated against the US and its allies, in the course of which my views became increasingly extreme: I fervently believed that the US-led intervention was by far a greater evil than Saddam’s occupation of Kuwait; that it would be a blessing for humanity if the US and its allies were defeated; that such a defeat would trigger revolutionary outbreaks across the Middle East and even in the West.

[read it all here]

I agree that it useful to analyze contemporary conlficts as between the forces supporting economic and political liberalization and those opposed to this opening. However, like Ignoblus, I am rather uncomfortable being lumped in with president George W. Bush. My political opponents on the radical left have often reduced my nuanced centrist position to that of neo-conservatism but there is no need for Hoare to fall into the same trap. After all, part of the appeal of the Euston Manifesto among self-described leftists was it provided an opportunity to be robustly anti-totalitarian (i.e. “decent”) without being right-wing or conservative. Hoare also ignores the existence of ultra-leftists, anarchists, and other self-styled revolutionaries who advocate a third perspective that is classically “anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist” while also critical of Jihadist terrorism. I’m refering here to Three Way Fight, World War 4 Report, etc.

All in all, I find much affinity with what Hoare is writing on these issues and this diagram is a good first attempt at describing political alignments in the post September 11, 2001 era. I’m very interested in seeing Hoare and others develop these ideas further. For example, if muscular liberals are lumped in with neo-conservatives into some sort of political coalition, where does Hoare see the potential for political cleavages developing between these two groups?

New Upgrades to U.S. Air Force AC-130 Gunship

Standard

ac130-gunship2.jpg

[H/t Zerohostel]

The US Military has conducted ongoing efforts that improve the performance and increase the lethality of the AC-130 gunships operated by US Air Force Special Operations Command. The work could also provide these and other C-130 Hercules models with greatly expanded capabilities generally referred to as ‘Killer Herc’. Late in the 1980’s, the Air Force decided that it needed to upgrade the capacities of the AC-130, and the AC-130U project was begun. The weapons were changed somewhat, with the twin 20mm vulcan cannons being dropped in favor of a GAU-12 25mm rotating cannon.

However, the biggest change to the AC-130 airframe was in it’s electronics and avionics. AN AN/APG-180 radar (derived from the same ground and air radar that the Air Forces F-15E uses) was added to allow tracking of targets and rounds for adjustment as was an ALLTV (All Light Level TV) for operations at night or daytime, when the crew wants to keep their radars off to avoid alerting enemy forces or giving anti-radar missiles a target to home in on.

With these systems, the AC-130U can operate at night and in bad weather, engaging multiple targets simultaneously. The AN/APG radar allows the targeting crew in the control booth to follow rounds all the way to the ground and make live corrections without having to wait for ground troops to spot and report back. The larger 25mm gun has a longer range and more power, allowing the AC-130U to stay higher and farther away from ground threats, and its 1,800 rounds per minute firing rate can decimate anything from enemy formations to light armored vehicles. All of the weapons are now fixed on hydraulically actuated, computer trainable mounts, so that the new AC-130U can attack two targets over half a mile apart at the same time.

[read it all here]

[This video shows an A-130 on the job in Afghanistan. Notice how the gunner consciously avoids hitting the mosque.]

Thoughts on Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War

Standard

This post was prompted by a post at The Contentious Centrist which in turn was prompted by discussion at Bob from Brockley, But I am a Liberal! and elsewhere. Thanks to all of you. Times like these make me really glad we have the Internet. We should all thank Al Gore for that I suppose.

What follows is something I wrote regarding Thucydides’ understanding of politics, specifically the role of fear. Fear is a central motif in the writings of Thucydides, a motivating factor in the behavior of the Athenians and Spartans in the Peloponnesian War (All citations are from The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War (New York: Free Press, 1996).

In describing the causes of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides notes Athens had shifted from a largely insular polis to a sea-based empire after the defeat of Persia in 480-79 BCE. The Athenians adopted the Persian system of empire to develop democracy at home while oppressing those abroad (1.89.1-1.117.3). As mentioned in “Pericles’ Funeral Oration,” the Athenian system of government was dominated by freedom in political and personal affairs and Athenian society provided ample opportunity for pursuit of pleasure and recreation (2.37-2.38). This was a society that enjoyed leisure and the arts.

At first Athens ruled through general congresses with allies who, while not completely independent, were largely autonomous (1.97). Over time, these political allies functioned as tributary polities, with the central state of Athens requiring ever growing monetary contributions to the alliance (1.99).

An increasingly sea-focused empire provided the freedom and capital to wage war both imaginatively and continuously (2.39.2-2.39.3) meaning the past limiting protocols of the polis did not apply to an increasingly restive Athens (1.80.3-1.81.6; 1.142.1-1.144.3). As Victor Davis Hanson notes, “the polis was, after all, an egalitarian but closed and static institution that could not adapt well to the military, economic, and political challenges of the wider Mediterranean world, changes initiated by the Persian invasion but dramatically and tragically elaborated by the virulent war between its more distinctive representatives, Athens and Sparta” (xx).

In contrast to Athens, Sparta was not typified by independent yeomen farmers. Instead, the enslavement of nearly 250,000 people, known as Helots, excused an armed elite from working their own plots. An ever growing underclass was kept under routine surveillance for fear of uprising and rebellion, particularly after Helot revolts (the Messenian Wars) in 640 BCE and 665 BCE. Sparta represented the rise of the first true militaristic culture of the West: mandatory military training for all males from age seven up, the rise of a professional army (1.18.2; 4.40.2; 5.66.2-5.72.4), able to put down local insurrection (4.80.2-4.80.4), or to absorb territory in the Peloponnesus (1.91.1; 1.76.1). This was a land-centered autocracy dominated by the Dorian gentry which was conservative and isolationist.

While the political culture of the Spartans was dominated by insularity that of Athens was characterized by liberalism and Ionian commerce. As the influence and military might of Athens increased in the Hellenes the fear, “which this inspired in Sparta, made war inevitable (1.23.6).” For Thucydides the greatest danger to Athens was not Spartan invasion but the sheer recklessness of its own government (1.143.4-1.143.5; 2.13.3-2.13.8; 1.144.1). In a democratic system of government, “a simple majority of the citizenry, urged on an incensed by clever demagogues, might capriciously send out military forces in unnecessary and exhausting adventures (2.65.11-2.65.12; 6.31.1-6.31.5).”

Sparta could invade Athens but a terrestrial army was unable to bring a maritime power like Athens to complete defeat (1.143.4-1.144.3; 2.65.11-2.65.13). A Spartan victory required a thorough change in the Spartan’s political and military culture (1.69.4-1.70.8; 1.81.1-1.81.6; 1.84.1-1.84.4) including acquiring their own navy, cutting off the Athenian tribute system, and spreading insurrection among Athenian allies (1.121.2-1.121.5; 1.142.2-1.143.3). The two combatants pursued increasingly harsh policies and abandoned past restrictions on Greek war-making including salting arable farmland. This lead to a military conflict with no clear victorious party and the destruction of the Greek city-state system.

In addition to military assaults and defeats, the Athenians also experienced a devastating plague during the War. As increasing populations fled the Spartan onslaught, refugees moved into already crowded and deteriorating conditions. This facilitated the growth of an epidemic. Traditional burial rites were upset due the magnitude of victims (2.52). In this chaotic and tragic moment, riots ensued, mobs ran rampant, and Athens experienced a breakdown of morality and social norms (2.53). As fear among the population increased, the Athenians began to lose faith in Pericles as he implored them to put the needs of the State before private concerns (2.59-2.60).

Pericles encouraged the Athenians to stand firm. After all, strategically everything was going according to plan besides the unpredicted plague (2.64). The Athenians were a strong maritime empire who had little to fear from the closed society of the Spartans. Pericles implored the Athenians to not give in to their fears and place trust in his leadership abilities. The ability to bear arms, courage in the face of the enemy, and dying honorably were all-important at this crucial moment. In short, the Funeral Oration was an ideological justification for continuing the war and a willingness for societal sacrifice. Why would a free and democratic people be willing to make this sacrifice? Because the establishment of the Athenian empire had made the Athenian standard of living, their leisure, their culture, their enjoyment of the arts, possible. More than a rationale for war, the Funeral Oration was a justification for the Athenian way of life.

The true danger in this situation was the fickleness of the voters. In politically fearful conditions like wars and plagues, there was a need for a strong and authoritative leader or else the government would succumb to demagogues. For Thucydides, by not giving in to the fears of the multitude, Pericles exhibited true leadership (2.65). Pericles’ successors, the demagogues, failed in this regard (2.65.10). Subsequently, Athens was assaulted continuously (2.75-2.79). In short, Athens lost the war by not following Pericles’ advice and succumbing to the fear of the demos. It’s an ancient story that has relevance today because the long-term result was the collapse of the Greek city-state system i.e. “the West.”

More:

Thucydides Bibliography by Lowell Edmunds

The History of the Peloponnesian War