Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ridgebacks, Guilt, Iran, and North Korea

Someone asked me what Sage was doing during the event I described in the “Good Samaritan Ridgeback”: I didn’t mention her because she wasn’t doing any anything relative. She was being as insensitive as I was. While Ginger was looking, and pulling back toward the person in trouble. Sage and I were both content to continue on with our walk.

Since the local police haven’t shown up at my door to question me about why I was assisting Rene in his flight, I am tentatively assuming that Rene, if he was fleeing, wasn’t fleeing from anything terribly serious. Furthermore, he didn’t seem as though he were anxious or worried about anything. Even the thought of being stranded in the middle of nowhere while his friend Chris scoured the streets of San Jacinto for him didn’t seem to worry him too terribly much. Perhaps he was confident that if he got into further trouble, God would send another Ginger to rescue him.

Why did I worry? The Policeman was rude and surly; which might imply that he thought I was guilty of something. And, to paraphrase Clint Eastwood from the Unforgiven and Franz Kafka from The Trial, “we are all guilty of something.” Sure, I was following Ginger’s lead, but I didn’t disagree with her. It is good to help people in trouble. But if as the surly cop caused me to think, the person in trouble was fleeing a crime, then I might be guilty of something. I might be forced to prove that I was not complicit in Rene’s crime, and how could I prove that. Following Kafka some more, I didn’t know what the crime was; so how could I prove I wasn’t guilty of it? Yes, I was out walking my Rhodesian Ridgeback girls, but did I have any witnesses? No. No one was watching us as we went out for our walk. No one saw us until we encountered Rene. How was it I knew Rene’s name and the name of his friend Chris if I wasn’t guilty? The guilty flee where no man pursueth, but if we are all guilty . . .

And this caused me to reflect on the nature of our society. It is patterned more after the Leviathan of Hobbes than after the ideas of Rousseau. Hobbes thought men were basically evil and needed to be controlled. Rousseau thought men were basically good and needed to be encouraged. So the policeman as a representative of our Leviathan was right in being surly and rude to me for I was basically evil and needed to be treated with suspicion. I am not in totally sympathy with Hobbes, for after all some people out late at night are just walking their dogs, but I am not in total sympathy with Rousseau either.

We have seen that in France and indeed much of Europe, the Islamists are not treated as an evil group bent upon destroying the European way of life. They are treated as unruly boys that need to, perhaps, be given something constructive to do. The image of Fascists seeing evil wherever they looked is still too fresh in the minds of Europeans. They want to view events through rosy glasses for awhile. Well, as I have argued in several notes, that doesn’t seem a wise course of action. If they were to examine the doctrinal beliefs of the Islamists, they might be a bit more worried about them. Sayyid Qutb, the doctrinal father of Arab Islamism believed that Mohammad’s Jihad, the one that was interrupted by his death and the failure of his followers, should now be continued, by force, until the entire world embraces Islam. To view the Islamists as unruly boys is at least as bad as my imagining myself guilty of some unknown crime – one would think.

And Obama seems to be in the European-Rousseau camp. He is clearly not in sympathy with the Bush-Hobbesian strategy that opposed an “axis of evil.” There is no evil, Obama might say, only poorly educated people, and if people like Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong-il would only sit down with him long enough, he could put them on the right path.

If anyone were to take the trouble of examining this blog for what I (an admitted Conservative) say about Obama, they would have to admit that I have been exceptionally gentle with him. I argued against his being elected, but after he had been, I wished him the best as he engaged in his diplomatic experimentation. I still do. I didn’t think Ahmadinejad was going to listen to him, but perhaps that effort of his, the announced willingness to negotiate with Iran is having some effect. I notice that there are individuals in Iran who oppose Ahmadinejad and would like to receive Obama and listen to his diplomatic arguments. If Ahmadinejad is defeated in the upcoming election and replaced by someone more amenable to diplomacy, then I would count that as an Obama victory and give him credit for it. And, of course, by “diplomacy” I mean the elimination of Iran’s nuclear ambitions through diplomatic means.

I must add, however, that it doesn’t seem likely that any Ahmadinejad successor would abandon Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It would be a great victory if Obama could achieve that, but it doesn’t seem possible. Various intelligence agencies are watching Iran’s nuclear progress with different concerns in mind. Perhaps our CIA is after mere intelligence, intelligence that will merely keep Obama informed, but the information gained by Mossad may be evaluated in terms of some milestone the Israeli government has in mind, e.g., if Iran reaches point X in their nuclear development, we had better go ahead and bomb the heck out of their facilities. Benjamin Netanyahu is no Barack Obama.

I’m sure Obama understands this. His statement to Netanyahu that he wouldn’t remove anything from the table, that he wouldn’t deny Israel the right to defend itself – sort of, implies that he understands this – sort of. At present Israel can have no confidence that Iran won’t bomb Israel once it obtains the capability. Yes, there are people who believe that Iran wouldn’t do that, but can Israel base its national safety on such optimistic thinking? If you were living in Israel would you feel confident if your leaders told you that even though Ahmadinejad has promised to bomb Israel, once he finally gets Atomic weapons, he won’t dare do that? Would you vote for a leader who held such a belief? Or might you favor someone like Netanyahu who would make the decision to bomb Iran if he deemed it necessary?

So Obama may well have set concerns about Iran aside for the present. Ahmadinejad will be reelected or he won’t. Israel will bomb Iran or it won’t. Later on Obama can get back into Iranian issues. In the meantime he is more worried about North Korea. There is no Israel over there near North Korea ready to bomb North Korea’s nuclear facilities if they go too far – and, indeed, they seem already to have gone too far. There could have been an Israeli equivalent if Japan were better armed. Yes, Japan is still mistrusted in the region, but so is Israel in its region.

A Japan that has forsworn war can be tolerated as what it claims to be, but if Japan rearms to protect itself from North Korea, then some will worry that the Samurai of old will be reawakened into a new Japanese military spirit, and if that happens Japan will be much more of a threat than North Korea could ever dream of. I don’t believe that would happen. Japan is a great economic power and wouldn’t sacrifice that for a resurgence of their bad-old-militaristic days. And to have an adequate defense force isn’t the same as a resurgence of militarism.

My inclination, if Japan would cooperate, would be to arm Japan such that it was capable of defeating North Korea on its own. We could justify that as a defensive measure. North Korea’s most notable trait is bellicosity. They belligerently challenge almost everyone (not China so far). Japan has a right to defend itself. Let Japan once again become a major military power and then, after that, let Japan make its own decision about what to do about North Korea. But Obama, likes Rousseau more than he does Hobbes, and he isn’t likely to do that. He will join those in the area waiting for Kim Jon-Il to die. Rumors are that he is ill and may die soon. Of course if Kim Jong-un, Kim Jon-Il’s grandson succeeds him, things may not change much. It is Kim Jon-Il’s hope that they won’t. In which case not only would the North Korean situation not have changed after Kim Jon-Il’s death, it may well have become worse.

As to our Missile Defense programs, it does seem a rather unfortunate political decision for the Obama administration to be cutting those back just as North Korea has made major breakthroughs in its nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile programs. Many issues are too complicated for the average American to understand, but that one seems to fit tidily in a sound bite. If you read a discussion of Gates’ thinking, e.g., It does seem as though the programs being cut might deserve to be, but cutting the Missile Defense Agency Budget by $1.2 does seem to add weight to the idea that Obama is going to shy away from military defense. Do we really need a more warlike president at this stage of world history? We are probably not going to be able to tell that until after the fact. What fact, you might ask? I heard a military expert say that the current North Korean missile would be able to reach Indianapolis – a fact like that.

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