Smart, but Imaginative?

An article in the Atlantic Monthly about G.W. Bush. It holds that he's "focused, quick to make decisions, perservering, a good judge of character, and yes, "smart enough" to be an effective President." Then there is this comparison between Bush and Lincoln:
Does Bush have the imagination to lead a great war? And even if he does, can he communicate it? The day before Abraham Lincoln's first inauguration, in the thick of the secession crisis, William Seward, who was to be the new Secretary of State, observed that 'the President has a curious vein of sentiment running through his thought, which is his most valuable mental attribute.' This is one of the shrewdest remarks ever made about Lincoln. That vein of sentiment changed the logician of the 1860 campaign into the visionary who delivered the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural.
Thanks to S.D., citizen of the USA but resident of the world.

Came across a blog I haven't read before. I was drawn by the name, "Arms and the Man," which is both a traditional translation of the opening of the Iliad and also the name of a play by George B. Shaw about the Balkan wars. The blog turns out to be on corporate profiteering in the Iraq reconstruction. I have to give the lady (Major Barbara?) credit for the thoroughness of her inquiry. Conflicts of interest ought to be made public, and politicians who have them have to be held accountable.

On the other hand, I still think that profiteering off Iraq's reconstruction is a good thing. If conflicts of interest are not at stake, I stand by my Daddy Warbucks analogy:

Today we are not merely acting to defend our country, but to rebuild a shattered land and lift up a miserable people. There is--let us be frank--money to be made doing so. Thank goodness there is. This is how the market lifts our common boats: not, as Adam Smith said, through alutrism, but through the selfish pursual of our own interests. The number of people who would be willing to dedicate a substantial part of their lives to rebuilding Iraq if there were no money to be made is very small--most of them are in the Marines. If we're to draw down the kind of capital and talent it will require over the long term, we need profiteers.
I think it's important to draw this distinction. Capitalistic profiteering off the rebuild in Iraq isn't merely acceptable, it's to be encouraged. That's how we'll get the talent we need to go into a difficult enviornment and risk life and fortune. Yeah, some of them will get rich--good. It's one of the strengths of capitalism that it can be harnessed to the good of the Iraqi people, a people who have suffered long and deeply.
"Is this organic?" "Probably not."

An article on Scottish food. If you haven't had haggis, you ought; if you haven't had it at a regimental dining in of one of the Scottish units, find a way to get an invitation. The Guardian has more, in the cheerily hopeless voice of Jenny Colgan.
Al Qaeda:

Well, our old friends turn up in the oddest places. I began wondering if al Qaeda was behind the Najaf bombing last night, after I saw this report (credited to CNN--I've seen it several places, but can't find it on the CNN website) that Hezbollah and al Qaeda have allied in Iraq. The reason this is interesting in terms of Najaf is this bit:
One of the most wanted terrorists on the FBI's list may have forged an alliance with al Qaeda members against U.S. forces in Iraq, according to U.S. and coalition intelligence officials.

These officials think Imad Mugniyah -- suspected in the Beirut bombings in the early 1980s -- may have joined forces with an al Qaeda suspect, Abu Mussab al Zarqawi, to threaten U.S. troops in Iraq. Both men are believed to be hiding in Iran.

Middle East experts and intelligence officials in several countries say Mugniyah, a Lebanese Shiite Muslim, runs the international terrorist apparatus of Lebanese Hezbollah and that he works as a subcontractor for Iranian intelligence, often using Iran as a safe haven.
The bombing yesterday was highly professional. It was a bomb constructed by someone who knew what kind of explosives he would need to be sure of killing his target; it managed to, most reports suggest, be planted in al-Hakim's own vehicle, or one just by it. Bombs of that sophistication are not the work of ex-Army people. Mugniyah, though, he knows how. The bombing of the US embassy in Beruit was a masterwork of that murderous trade. Master bombers are blessedly hard to find, and Mugniyah's group is among the best in the world.

So now four men have been arrested and, according to reports, have confessed to being with al Qaeda. This may or may not be true, of course: why trust the word of terrorists? Still, it is one more thing to watch in the developing story in Najaf.

Prominent Iraqi Clergy:

The Kansas City Star has a who's who of Iraq's surviving religious leadership. They note that al-Sadr was said to have been behind the killings in the Shrine of Ali over the summer, though he himself denies it.
More on Najaf:

The extent of the destruction at Najaf is far, far worse than originally reported. For Shi'ites in Iraq, this may well be their 9/11, combined with the assassination of their Gandhi. Americans may not understand just how important the Shrine of Ali is to Shi'a Islam, but here is a starting point for you. The Shrine, or Tomb, of Ali is so important that the 101st Airborne, during the Iraq war, refused to return fire directed at them from the Shrine rather than risk damaging it. Najaf itself is a holy city, and the Tomb of Ali is one of the most important places in the world to a Shi'ite, not all that far after Mecca itself.

In spite of that, and US restraint, there has been violence earlier this year inside the Tomb of Ali, where two Muslim clerics were hacked to death by a crowd. But this car bomb was apparently huge, and went beyond killing men and spilling blood: it slew, according to AP reports, 82 Muslims at Friday prayers. (For my non-Muslim readers, i.e. most of you, Friday is the holy day in Islam, as Saturday for the Jews and Sunday for the Christians). The UN has responded: top officials have told the press they want to pull the UN out of Iraq rather than work toward peace and security.

But what will the Shi'ites do? For them, this is an earthquake.

Paganism in Schools:

Have you seen this statue of Athena in a public park in Nashville, TN? The author of the piece pointing out demands that it be torn down and removed, since the Ten Commandments monument was torn down and removed from public property. No favoritism for Pagans, he says!

Well, fine. But where can I find a statue of Woden, on public or private property? This gets back to Jefferson's point, which was that the real roots of our culture are in the pre-Roman North of Europe, not in the Greco-Roman tradition. Jefferson was certainly an admirer of Rome--you can see it in the dome he constructed for his house--but he was also a realist about history. One reason that the tradition exemplified by Leo Strauss has had such difficulty making "ancient liberalism" and modern liberalism come to terms is that there is little common ground between them. Greek ideas about democracy did not survive the Roman empire, whose own ideas about the Republic gave way to imperialism.

The Greco-Roman tradition, if anything, worked against egalitarianism and the old views of virtue. The surviving Roman tradition is what turned elective kingship into Charlemagne, and what turned the early, charismatic Christian church into a hierarchy that hunted heretics and squashed dissent. Whatever good may be said about Catholicism--I believe that there is very much good to say about it--it is undeniably true that the Imperial hierarchy it adopted thanks to the interest of Constantine the Great was a force against free-thinking, eh, "heresy." It was that Imperial Church that survived the Empire, and while it may be said that it held Europe together, it must be noted that it did so by imposing a rigid authority.

Those places in Medieval Europe where we see a vision of freedom like to our own are those that had not yet been involved in the Empire, or which had been swept from its grasp entirely: England, Scotland, Ireland, and among the Vikings, who held as we do that all free men are equal.

I haven't spoken to the Viking notions in a while yet, so I'll post just a couple of links for those of you among my readers less familiar with Viking ethics. Just as the Scottish Declaration of Arbroath, the Viking tradition upheld that a king ruled by right of consent of the goverened, and that he could be removed--even slain--and replaced if he violated the will of the folk. King Olav of Sweden discovered this when he tried to bully the assembly, called the Thing, at Uppsala:

Now it is our will, we bondes [free land-owning farmers], that thou King Olaf [of Sweden] make peace with the Norway king, Olaf the Thick [ON: Digre], and marry thy daughter Ingegerd to him. Wilt thou, however, reconquer the kingdoms in the east countries which thy
relations and forefathers had there, we will all for that purpose follow thee to the war. But if thou wilt not do as we desire, we will now attack thee, and put thee to death; for we will no longer suffer law and peace to be disturbed. So our forefathers went to work when they drowned five kings in a morass at the Mula-thing, and they were filled with the same insupportable pride thou hast shown towards us. Now tell us, in all haste, what resolution thou wilt take.
So it was that the French, who were mired in notions of superiority and inferiority among men even in the Viking Age, got a lesson that must have been stirring and chilling at once. When French knights approached a Viking encampment to demand to know who had come unwanted into their kingdom, they got this answer:
"We are Danes", they replied, "we are from Denmark and we are here to conquer France". "But who is your master?" the knight shouted back, but just to receive the famous answer: "Nobody, we have no master, we are all equal".
It was the coming of the Greco-Roman-Catholic tradition that ended elective kingship and egalitarianism in Europe. Men were supposedly born better or worse than each other, and meant to accept their place, an attitude that has its roots in Rome's patricians and plebians, and slaves who were scorned for rising above their station.

Fortunately these ways survived in the fringes of Europe, such as Scotland, and among those classes, like English yeomanry, who were most devoted to them. Thankfully, they blossomed at the moment that a new continent was available wherein they could take root, and the "Scottish Enlightenment" combined with an Anglo-Saxon ideal of "yeomen farmers," pace Jefferson again. We have our vision of freedom as a consequence. It would be wise to remember the truth about its roots.

Murdering Clerics, II:

Terror bombings are not usually an effective way to fight a war. The bombing this morning in Najaf, though was a bad one. It killed Baqir al-Hakim. Al-Hakim was one of the most important Shi'ites in Iraq, the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, and brother to one of the members of the US-backed Governing Council, Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim.

In form this assassination of a Shi'ite cleric is similar to the Taliban killings of clerics in Afghanistan, as well as the IRA's murder of Lord Mountbatten. This may be more important than the UN bombing before it is over with, and is an event to watch. In any event, Moqtada al-Sadr just became the #1 Shi'ite in Iraq following three attacks on his rivals: Sunday's bombing, Wednesday's gunman attack on the Baghdad offices of the Supreme Council, and now this bombing. Does that make al-Sadr a suspect, or the next target? Mohsen al-Hakim, nephew to Baqir al-Hakim, felt the gunman attack was the work of Ba'athists. I think that's highly likely, but another possibility exists also: that it is the work of forces from Iran, trying to destroy a powerful Shi'ite organization that has been increasingly willing to work with the United States.

Bring them on:

President Bush said this on July 7th. While back-reading for something, I find that I said it on March 29th, in the course of a rejection of Noam Chomsky. If you don't want to revisit the whole thing, what I said was: "Bring them on: we'll clear the world of them."

I was drawing on Moby Dick for that, one of my favorite lines in the whole novel. I don't know where Bush got it--I won't claim he took it from here. I have to say that I feel the same way today. Osama bin Laden called this tune. On 9/11, he and his took us over the edge from the world of order and law into the world of war. We will not, frankly, have peace again until we have met on the battlefield those who think they can destroy the order of the West through violence, not until we have met them and slain them. There is no one we could surrender to if we would. There is not anyone to negotiate with.

I'm an openminded sort of fellow--for example, I support the northern Sudan's call for Sharia law because I understand that their desire is, by removing judicial power from an illegitimate government that came to power by coup, placing that judicial authority instead in the hands of local imams, to restrain the government's authority. Sharia makes perfect sense under the circumstances, and I wish them the best of it.

With the Islamists who want to bring war against us, though, there is no hope. These lads are dead-enders--and matter of fact, so am I. My father's family left Quakerism to fight in the Civil War, because their hatred of slavery overrode their love of pacifism. I have to say we never looked back. My great-great grandfather killed seven men in one night to prevent a lynching. My great-grandfather stood off his father's enemies in a Tennessee gunfight. My grandfather carried a gun until he was nearly eighty, and used it to enforce peace and justice on his nearby surroundings during the Civil Rights troubles of the 1960s. I don't think there's a single bastard who's trained in an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan whose devotion to his cause rivals my father's patriotism. For myself--well, bring it on and see what you get.

And I have a son, named Beowulf. Yes, Osama called the tune. He wanted a fight for the future of mankind. I welcome it. The Beowulf of old said:

I ask you,
lord of the Danes,
protector of this people,
for only one favor:
that you refuse me not,
fair friend of the people,
do not refuse those who
have come so far the chance
to cleanse Herot.
And so we shall.
From the Texas Mercury:

The Texas Mercury has published some of my poetry in the past, but like the wild El Paso of song, it's a pretty rough and free-for-all place. In spite of that, I'm linking to it because I love their philosophy:
The Texas Mercury is beholden to no interest, genuflects to no god, and endorses no party. We intend to publish every view not now in the useless mainstream press, and publish it without hold or censure. We will be publishing communist, racist, hedonist, and fascistic ideas- anything novel or outside the purview of the staid politics of our day, so long as it be well written and without mercy. As we see it, modern society has all the important ideas of life exactly backwards: we are completely against the belief in sensitivity and tolerance in politics and raffish disregard in private life. The Texas Mercury is founded on the opposite principles- our idea is of tolerance and polite sensitivity in private life and ruthless truth in politics. Be nice to your neighbor. Be hell to his ideas.
I think that's got it about right. Racist and Communist ideas fall under their own weight in a forum that pulls no punches. Therefore, there's no harm in letting their advocates have an honest try.

This week the Texas Mercury has an historical debate of some interest to Southerners, continued from a previous week, as to the degree of Celtic influence in the American South and West. Excerpt from the debate:

As a prelude, I will say that virtually all people who routinely write �south� and �southern� rather than �South� and �Southern� fall into one of four categories: 1) Yankees; 2) New South liberals (who invariably desire the perverting and refashioning of Southern culture into something acceptable to Yankee WASPs: most �conservative� businessmen from the South of the past 60-80 years have been New South liberals, as are most �conservative� Republican politicos from the South); 3) proponents of American Empire; 4) ignorant.
As I said, it's a free-for-all. If you are inclined to slugfests in saloons, head on over. If you are one of my more delicate readers, please take this warning and enjoy the writings through some of the more refined links.

If you read down the sidebar, just below the quote from the Old Lay of Sigurd, you'll see I've begun a links section. My current practice is to link to the sites I most admire, plus people who have linked to me. I am considering expanding the section to include some sites I don't admire, but find useful for one reason or another. If anyone has any suggestions, email me by clicking on any of the links on this page that say "Email me."
Sovay McKnight:

Sovay of the Liberal Conspiracy says that a number of you have dropped by to visit her site, but haven't written her. If you've ever wanted to argue with a Reform Liberal who wouldn't immediately call you "stupid" or "hick" or something similar, but who would instead attempt to defend Liberal policies in an extended argument, here's your chance. You can reach her at this address. Now, mind you, she has told me on occasion that she's not really interested in logic--whenever I mention the fact that she's slipped into a named logical fallacy she tends to shrug--but she does eventually come around. Since I've known her I've managed to convince her that guns aren't evil, and that law-abiding citizens ought to be free to carry guns on their daily business as part of their rights and duties as citizens. So have at her--it's fun, and she's one of the few of her ilk who won't try to hide from a good, stand-up fight.
Afghanistan Update:

Afghanistan remains in the news. I'm told by a friend in France that the newspapers there are playing heavily on Afghanistan, linking it to Iraq in order to suggest that there is a general failure of US foreign policy. I myself think that is rather unfair, though there are certainly difficulties. Still and all, US Central Command seems to be sincere in its efforts to address them.

On that score, today in Afghanistan the Afghan Army, backed by US SOF, captured a key pass in the mountains that link Zabul province with Pakistan. This follows a day or so of fighting with one of these Taliban battalions, who seem to be using the old Napoleonic formula of "split to travel, unite to fight." One of my regular correspondants, currently writing from Oz (greetings, lad), says he's seen an interview with a Talib that confirms my hypothesis on this point.

In any event, they're better at moving undetected than they are at holding ground against US airpower, which is to be expected. All is not rosy in Zabul, however, if the Communists are to be believed. This report is from the People's Republic of China, and details Taliban recovery of portions of Zabul province. The fight goes on, and isn't likely to end in the near future.

More on Communists:

Over at InstaPundit.
More on a Pious Fraud:

Having argued, with Jefferson, that the Ten Commandments are not properly described as the foundation of our Republic (see the weekend postings), I must now also note John Derbyshire's take on the subject:
One hundred and forty years ago, one of the giants of British politics was the social reformer and big-L Liberal William Ewart Gladstone. The mathematician Augustus De Morgan caused some mild hilarity in London by pointing out that the great man's name was an anagram of "WILT TEAR DOWN ALL IMAGES?" Is that � tearing down all images � actually the program of modern American liberalism? Does it not occur to you liberals, not even for a passing instant, that by purging all sacred images, references, and words from our public life, you are leaving us with nothing but a cold temple presided over by the Goddess of Reason � that counterfeit deity who, as history has proved time and time and time again, inspires no affection, retains no loyalties, soothes no grief, justifies no sacrifice, gives no comfort, extends no charity, displays no pity, and offers no hope, except to the tiny cliques of fanatical ideologues who tend her cold blue flame.
Well said. Much of the rest of the piece is also thought provoking. This page is fortunate enough to have Christian readers, as well as Pagan, Heathen, Jewish, and Muslim readers (if we have others--well, write me and I'll include you next time). I would gladly sit and talk to any of them on points of faith, and I have no problem at all with them tempering reason with their faith when it comes to the execution of their duties as a citizen--including jury duty, military service (conscientious objectors, for example), and so forth. Should they be elected to public office, I would hope that they would have been open and honest about their faith during the campaign, as no one can really set aside their religion when they stand to serve.

"Roy's Rock" is just what Jefferson called it--a pious fraud--but Justice Roy Moore himself is far from a madman, and here is his ipse dixit to prove it. His argument is principled, reasoned and reasonable, and grounded in an understanding of the Founders and the Founding, as well as the traditions and constitution of his state:

We must acknowledge God in the public sector because the state constitution explicitly requires us to do so. The Alabama Constitution specifically invokes "the favor and guidance of Almighty God" as the basis for our laws and justice system. As the chief justice of the state's supreme court I am entrusted with the sacred duty to uphold the state's constitution. I have taken an oath before God and man to do such, and I will not waver from that commitment. . . .

My decision to disregard the unlawful order of the federal judge was not civil disobedience, but the lawful response of the highest judicial officer of the state to his oath of office. Had the judge declared the 13th Amendment prohibition on involuntary slavery to be illegal, or ordered the churches of my state burned to the ground, there would be little question in the minds of the people of Alabama and the U.S. that such actions should be ignored as unconstitutional and beyond the legitimate scope of a judge's authority. Judge Thompson's decision to unilaterally void the duties of elected officials under the state constitution and to prohibit judges from acknowledging God is equally unlawful.

For half a century the fanciful tailors of revisionist jurisprudence have been working to strip the public sector naked of every vestige of God and morality. They have done so based on fake readings and inconsistent applications of the First Amendment. They have said it is all right for the U.S. Supreme Court to publicly place the Ten Commandments on its walls, for Congress to open in prayer and for state capitols to have chaplains--as long as the words and ideas communicated by such do not really mean what they purport to communicate. They have trotted out before the public using words never mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, like "separation of church and state," to advocate, not the legitimate jurisdictional separation between the church and state, but the illegitimate separation of God and state.

The First Amendment says that "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." It does not take a constitutional scholar to recognize that I am not Congress, and no law has been passed. Nevertheless, Judge Thompson's order states that the acknowledgment of God crosses the line between the permissible and the impermissible and that to acknowledge God is to violate the Constitution.

Not only does Judge Thompson put himself above the law, but above God, as well. I say enough is enough. We must "dare defend our rights" as Alabama's state motto declares. No judge or man can dictate what we believe or in whom we believe. The Ninth and 10th Amendments are not a part of the Constitution simply to make the Bill of Rights a round number. The Ninth Amendment secured our right as a people. The 10th guaranteed our right as a sovereign state. Those are the rules of law.

It is not for no reason Jefferson wrote the letter I cited below: he wrote it because Justice Moore had direct intellectual ancestors living in Jefferson's own day, making the same argument with the same force. It is not proper now to suggest that Justice Moore is somehow outside of the rightful American tradition. He is a modern incarnation of a part of the American tradition that has been with us since the Founding.

He is still wrong. He is wrong for the reasons Jefferson laid bare, not the ones brought against him today. His opinion has a respectable pedigree, as old and as honest as any in the Republic. I respect any man who stands on old and honest principles, though I may disagree with him. I feel Justice Moore deserves the respect due a valiant and honorable foe, even as we ready lances to war against him.

A Leftwing Conspiracy:

Yesterday's post about the damned Communists has produced concerns that this page supports a certain psychotic woman. Well, we do, but it's not her--it's our very own psychotic woman, Sovay McKnight, head of the Liberal Conspiracy. Now, Sovay is a Modern, or Reform, Liberal, not a good Classical Liberal like your correspondant. Still, she's clever and well informed, and it's worth taking the time to refute her arguments because you always learn something in the process of shooting her down. Plus, unlike a certain popular Liberal, she doesn't substitute words like "Moron" or "Troll" for an argument, which is one tendency on which Ms. Coulter is correct.

Welcome, Sovay. Now--en garde!

Taliban in Zabul:

The Asia Times finds the Taliban in Zabul province, Afghanistan:
The significant increase in the number and nature of attacks on US targets, as well as on the Afghan administration, provides indisputable evidence that the Taliban are back with a vengeance, especially in the south of the country. It is now as clear as broad daylight that neither an indigenous force nor a foreign force (not even one with massive bombers ruling the skies) can control the resistance movement.
On the face of it, the Taliban are the most isolated guerrilla fighters in the world, with no moral or material help from outside the country. However, there is an intriguing world within Afghanistan and Pakistan that supports and facilitates the struggle against foreign troops.
Across a broad swath of Afghanistan in the south and southeast Taliban-led guerrilla operations are the order of the day. Their attacks initially targeted US bases and convoys, but now the Afghan administration is in the firing line. The reason for this is to frighten as many local Afghans as possible into laying down their weapons, thereby leaving the battlefield clear for Taliban militia to take on US-led forces in the rugged mountainous terrain of the region.
This target has already very much been achieved in the southern Afghan provinces bordering Pakistan, including Zabul and Hilmand, beside Urugzan, which is nearing the point where the US-backed Afghan administration will be forced to flee.
There is a great deal more, and it's worth reading. This space has been covering the Taliban's reconquista of Zabul and the other border regions for some time. It will come as no surprise to any of you to find out that the Taliban are moving in irregular light battallions through Zabul, attacking symbols of authority, destroying caravans, and assassinating clerics and governmental figures.

However! Our fighting men are not idle. Today one of those irregular battallions was located in Zabul province, and has come under fire from US warplanes and hundreds of Afghan soldiers, backed by US forces. The fight is still ongoing at this hour. Give 'em hell, lads.

UPDATE: Reuters is now reporting up to 50 Taliban killed in this engagement.

UPDATE: The New York Times is reporting a lowball figure on casualties, but says coalition forces captured a Taliban staging base in the mountains. Perhaps we'll get some intel out of it. Meanwhile, Radio Australia has a report that puts the figures between 40 and 50.

Staying Power:

So we've been hearing for a while from very many sources, including no less a correspondant than Osama bin Laden, that the United States has no staying power. Certainly it is true that some well meaning family members of US soldiers deployed in Iraq are trying to prove Osama right, to the great delight of Communists and Islamists everywhere (Sure, you say, Islamists like al Jazeera, but Communists? Damn right, Communists, who are rooting for American failure in a big way. See for example The Socialist Worker, or the Guerrilla News Network, or InfoShop, or Mother Jones, or Green Left Australia).

But who is it that has proven not to have the staying power for nation building? It's not the United States, which is increasing its troop presence and shifting intelligence and special operations forces to Iraq. No, it's the U.N. that's flying as fast as it can, all the while promising to stay the course. Them, and the other multinational "aid groups" who feel they are better qualified for leadership than America, like the Red Cross.

It's going to need more courage than this to set that part of the world to rights. I think an honest case has been made now that we can no longer afford to let these places fester in tyranny and oppression--that the grim work of repairing these broken citadels, even in the teeth of those who would kill us and drive us out, is still better than the consequences of leaving them feral in an age that rushes toward nuclear and biological terrorism. It may be that only America, the UK, and Australia still have the staying power needed. In any event, I think we can now ask people to kindly shut up about US frailty. It is the US that is bearing its chest to the punishing wind from the Sunni triangle. All the others rush away.

Southern Appeal:

I've just found Southern Appeal, which claims to be "the random musings of a Southern Federalist." I have a sense that this may be an ally, and in any event, I refer those of my readers interested in Southern matters to his site as well as my own.