Monday, March 26, 2007

Frum & Perle: Twenty-Three

AETE pg 118, which shows that this parody was even more genius than I'd thought. F & P hint, without any proffered evidence whatsoever, that Hugo Chavez is in league with al-Qaeda:

If al-Qaeda is beginning to make itself at home in remote areas of Venezuela, it is because the government of General Hugo Chavez has invited it in.

Terrorists find sanctuary for almost as many reasons as there are sanctuaries for them to find. Sometimes a government simply is unable to root them out [as in the Philippines].

At the other extreme, governments collude with the terrorists on their soil, as the Taliban did, as the Sudanese have done, as Iraq did, as Syria and Iran now do, and as General Chavez seems tempted to do.

The Anonymous Signatories of PNAC's Manifesto

I've never quite heard it put this way:

No informed observer, whether left or right, doubts that we are seeing a resurgence of "Naked Imperialism" (see my book by that title). Some, however, see it merely as a policy and an aberration, attributable to neoconservatives and militarists. Often there is the suggestion that a junta or a cabal has taken over the U.S. administration. The most famous advocate of this view, which is very popular among liberals, is Gore Vidal. But Michael Mann and many others have argued the same thing. It has emerged as the dominant view among liberal critics of the war. Such an interpretation, however, presumes a very sharp detour in U.S. policy and a split in the ruling class. Neither is the case. A more adequate explanation points to five central facts of our time: (1) economic stagnation, (2) financial globalization, (3) declining U.S. hegemony, (4) the disappearance of the Soviet Union, and (5) a renewed race for resources. This has created a strong imperative for a resurgent imperialism and a thrust by the United States to create a true global hegemony, putting itself in the place of a supranational state. This impulse is supported across the board by the U.S. ruling class (including the dominant elements in both parties) and has transnational support among its allies (most notably Britain). It is bound to fail but in the process is unleashing unprecedented destructive potentials worldwide.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Frum & Perle: Twenty-Two

AETE, pg 113: More hatred of diplomats and, indeed, diplomacy itself:

At bottom, at absolute rock bottom, our diplomats begin all their work with a fundamental institutional prejudice. It is their business to deal with foriegn governments. The question "Should we be dealing with this government?" is simply alien to their whole professional outlook. Except in very rare cases (apartheid South Africa, for example), our diplomats cannot help regarding all the world's governments, no matter how objectionable, as legitimate.

Lemme break in here to point out that the South Africa reference is a sneer. Wingnuts, and especially neocons, supported apartheid South Africa and tried to paint all those in the West opposed to its government as communist-symps.

The American people do not yearn to charge about the world overturning governments. They understand that American power has its limits and that often the United States will reluctantly have to do business with foriegn leaders Americans dislike or even despise. But we suspect that they feel, as we do, that the legitimacy and authority of undemocratic governments are inherently suspect.

Yes, which is why they, unlike neocons, didn't care for Somoza's Nicaragua, The Shah's Iran, Pinochet's Chile, Suharto's Indonesia, etc.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Frum & Perle: Twenty-One

AETE pg 82, where F & P laud the genuinely creepy:

There are new surveillance techniques that make it possible to monitor behavior indicative of terrorism without compromising the privacy of the individuals engaged in the behavior if they should later prove to be innocent. New data assembly techniques can pull together inside a computer an individual's credit history, his recent movements, his immigration status and personal background, his age and sex, and a hundred other pieces of information and present them to the analyst -- without the analyst or any other human being ever knowing the individual's identity. The dossier of data would be assigned a case number, and stringent internal codes and controls would hermetically segregate the dossier's number from the name of the person to whom the dossier referred. Only if the dossier gave probably cause to investigate further would investigators seek a warrant to permit the name and the data to be joined together, and then to authorise further surveillance. This is profiling as it ought to be done: not an excuse for descrimination, but an attempt to concentrate scarce police resources at points of greatest danger.[Emphasis, and either breathtaking naivete or blatant dishonesty in original.]

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Frum & Perle: Twenty

AETE, pps 80-81: Very good and very bad. First, the good:

There has been much debate since 9/11 about the need for "profiling" to catch potential terrorists without forcing law-abiding travelers to stand in long lines. In our view, ethnic profiling -- looking for people with Muslim-sounding names or Middle Eastern facial features -- is a divisive and humiliating waste of time.

But now for the bad, the enemy within:

Just as the communists were once aided by fellow travelers who endorsed their program and condoned their crimes, so Islamic extremists may find fellow travelers in the non-Muslim West. Indeed, they are already finding them. David Frum stood under the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral on Easter Monday 2003 and heard a minister of the Church of England preach a sermon extolling Rachel Corrie as a model of Christian courage and self-sacrifice[.]

Frum & Perle: Nineteen

AETE pg 78: Justifying TIPS specifically and citizen-snooping in general neatly segues into a recounting of the neocon dream: the thorough militarization of society. And this is done with the most hackneyed, blasphemous analogy. All citizens must perform their role in the War of Terror, just as they did back when......:

When we summon to memory the heroes of World War II, we think not only of the fighting men on the front line, but also of the air-raid wardens of the battle of Britain and the good citizens on the home front who donated their aluminum pots and pans to the war effort, went without tires and fresh meat, and invested every spare dollar in war bonds. We have to cast off once and for all the 1970s cynicism that sneered from the back of the classroom at the joiner and the volunteer -- and reacquire our admiration for the citizen who does his or her part.

The 70s reference is quintessential David Frum, but more on that some other time.

Frum & Perle: Eighteen

AETE, pps 74-7: More advocacy on behalf of Big Brother:

[I]t was not a general wariness of obsolescence that caused the PATRIOT Act [to be made with sunset provisions], but a very specific fear that he passions of the moment might stampede us into doing something "hysterical". Two years on, however, it is those fears of hysteria that themselves look hysterical. [...] The right to dissent frourishes unrestrained -- indeed, to judge by the way some of President Bush's wilder opponents carry on, it flourishes unrestrained even by common politeness or basic accuracy.

[I]n our appropriate zeal to preserve and defend the right to speak freely and think differently, there is a real danger that Americans will make th eopposite mistake. We may be so eager to protect the right to dissent that we lose sight of the difference between dissent and subversion; so determined to defend the right of privacy that we refuse to acknowledge even the most blatant warings of danger.

Now it's their turn to extoll the virtues of TIPS, and rationalize its morality and utility in the typical neocon style, which is roughly equal parts chutzpah and batshittery:

In the 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush unvelied an ambitious program that invited American workers to report suspicious activity in public places, especially docks, highways, public transit, and public utilities. These are the sorts of installations that are both the most vulnerable to a destructive act of terrorism and also the most difficult to police. Here's just one scenario: Ten al-Qaeda men lease ordinary-looking white trucks at ten different locations, load them with explosives, drive one into the middle of the Tirborough Bridge, another onto the Golden Gate Bridge, a third to the junction of the Santa Monica and San Diego Freeways, a fouth into the center of the Chicago Loop, and so on, and then, at an appointed hour -- detonate them all simultaneously. How in the world do you prevent something like that? Probably the only way would be a tip from the agent who leased one of the trucks -- or else maybe a report from a keen-eyed trucker who noticed something untoward about the vehicle in the next lane. That reasonable insight was the genesis of the Terrorist Information and Prevention System, or TIPS for short. To the astonishment of the administration, TIPS provoked an out burst of anger and mockery. Critics conjured up the possibility of deliverymen spying on their customers and meter readers peeking through windows. The administration responded by issuing new rules that specifically exempted from the program any postal and utility employees who served or even had access to private houses. The revisions failed to mollify, and the final version of the Homeland Security Act that Bush signed in November 2002 forbade the administration to proceed with the idea.

It's curious: Most of the time we praise the alert citizen who identifies and exposes wrongdoing. The actress Julia Roberts won an Academy Award for a role based on the career of Erin Brockovich, a paralegal who accused a utility company of poisoning a community's water. White House counsel John Dean became a national icon a quarter century ago for blowing the whistle on President Nixon. Federal law affirmatively requires doctors, nurses, teachers, and day care workers to file a report whenever they suspect that a child has been abused. Yet many of the same people who salute the conscientious citizen who informs the authorities that she suspects a corporation may be poisoning the water would condemn her is she informed thm that she suspects her tenant may be plotting to do the same.

This is all wrong. A free society is not an unpolicied society. A free-society is a self-policed society.[...]

Friday, March 09, 2007

Frum & Perle: Seventeen

AETE pps 70-3, a section of the book where Frum & Perle endorse what amounts to a libertarian's nightmare.

[We recommend] a national identity card that registers the bearer's name and biometric data, like fingerprints or retinal scans or DNA, and that indicates whether the bearer is a citizen, a permanent resident, or a temporary resident -- and if temporary, would indicate whether the bearer is permitted to work and the date by which he or she is supposed to leave.


Americans are fighting to defend their liberty. None of us wants to live in a country where authorities snoop on the people. But on those occasions when individuals can lawfully be asked to identify themselves -- when they are stopped for a moving violation or some other infraction -- the identification should establish that we genuinely are who we claim to be. Law-abiding citizens value privacy. Terrorists require invisibility. The two are not the same, and they should not be confused.

Riiight. But anyway, let's get to the thought-crime section:

As Americans intensify their vigilance inside the borders, they also need to expand the definition of those activities that cause them to be suspicious at the border. Right now, American law bars the admission of aliens suspected of terrorist activity -- but not of terrorist sympathies. In general, it is forbidden to deny admission to a would-be visitor to the United States for expressing political or religious views that would be protected under the First Amendment if he or she were an American citizen. [...] While it remains theoretically possible to deny a visa to a prospective visitor with extremist views, the decision to exclude must be made by the secretary of state personally and must be reported to Congress. Paperwork deters: As a practical matter, terrorist sympathizers are almost never excluded.

It should be obvious thta the people most likely to engage in Islamic terrorism are those who believe what Islamic terrorists believe. Yet so anxious are we to avoid repeating the errors of the McCarthy period [...] that we now hesitate to take protective measures against even the most egregiously menacing people.

Frum & Perle: Sixteen

AETE pps 53-4. Since their object is the demonisation of Arabs, any argument will suit them, even ordinarily liberal ones that the authors would and do deplore when aimed at Americans:

[After the first oil embargo] money flooded into the oil-producing states, although oil revenues were hardly shared equitably. [...] But the hopes of the 1970s soon proved illusory. The petropowers had not gained power, only wealth, and unearned wealth at that. [My Emphasis.]

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Frum & Perle: Fifteen

AETE, pps 50-52:

After the war, the United States pressed Britain and France to grant independence to their Arab colonies. In the Suez crisis of 1956, President Eisenhower broke with our French and British allies to side with Egypt. President John F. Kennedy, in his turn, forcefully supported the Algerian insurrection against France. But American anticolonialism did the United States little good with Arab opinion.

First, those U.S. decisions were done for many reasons, mostly of the realpolitik kind, and not at all for something so high-minded as anticolonalism. Second, Frum and Perle don't mention U.S. intervention in Iran against Mossadegh and in support of British interests. Third, note the characteristic self-pity in the final sentence: 'we try so hard, but they just aren't reasonable!'

Anyway, remember this because Frum and Perle don't:

Americans might repudiate the heavy-handed methods of the British and the French, but American power only too obviously supported the political order the British and French had created. [...] [F]rom the point of view of the people of the Middle East, the United States looked like the colonialists' successor.

Considering the source, this is almost generous. But don't worry, the rest of the book proceeds as if this point were never conceded.

Frum & Perle: Fourteen

AETE pg 49. This is where we get into their history lesson. Apparently the Arab world was a monolith of Nazi sympathy. They give a laundry list of Arab people and parties, but, you might have guessed, left one important group of Nazi-lovers off the list:

The United States first arrived in the Middle East as a major power during World War II. It was not a propitious introduction. We were allies of the British and Free French; local opinion had strongly backed the Germans. The Nazis had promised to liberate the Arab world from Anglo-French colonial rule, and Nazi views on the Jewish question were widely approved in the region. In 1941, a pro-Nazi regime seized power in Baghdad and had to be ejected by a British military intervention -- but only after the regime had incited an anti-Jewish pogrom that killed two hundred people and terrorized and impoverished one of the oldest Jewish communities in the Arab world. The defeat of the Baghdad coup deterred overt pro-German militancy for the remainder of the war, but there could be no doubt which side had won the battle for Arab hearts and minds. The religious leader of the Palestinian Arabs, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj-Amin al-Husseini, took refuge in Germany in 1941, met Hitler, and made propaganda broadcasts on the Germans' behalf. In 1947, two nationalistic young Syrians, one Christian and one Muslim, founded the Baath ("Renaissance") Party in Damascus, to promote Arab awakening based on fascist ideals and ideology. Throughout the Arab world, idealistic young officers -- including future peacemaker Anwar Saddat -- plotted how they might sabotage the British and French and help the German armies.

Wow! See? Palestinians and the Baath are Nazis. Hell, all Arabs are Nazis; why even (or they might mean to emphasize, especially) the peacemakers like Sadat are Nazis, too! Sabotage, plotting, Nazi-puppetry: these are all awful things, it's true, and we must re-appraise leaders who did such things in their youth.

Which is why, unlike the tribalist hacks above who like to pretend it's only an Arab issue, I will mention the Stern Gang, Irgun, Yitzhak Shamir, and Monachem Begin.