Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 20, 2006
BLOG: Quick Links 9/20/06

Yeah, another bunch of links and quick hits, heavy on politics and war.

*First of all, for my own purposes I should note here that as of this week I have been at my law firm for 10 years. A milestone, of a sort.

*This putatively hostile profile of Mitch McConnell makes him sound like the ideal leader for a legislative majority - a guy who's a brilliant master of parliamentary rules and techniques, a workhorse rather than a showhorse who has a keen understanding of how to hold his caucus together and has been an instrumental player in some of Bill Frist's biggest successes. The authors criticize him for not writing "landmark legislation" or taking to the airwaves, but they have to concede that McConnell has done, in his fight against campaign finance regulation, the very thing the Framers most hoped a a Senator would do - wage an unpopular one-man battle against landmark legislation that is simultaneously self-interested (by protecting incumbents) and hostile to our constitutional guarantees of free speech. And as for his partisanship, (1) the authors don't really even pretend that Tom Daschle wasn't an arch-partisan and (2) "bipartisan" legislation is usually a warning to watch your wallet anyway.

*While I share David Frum's frustration that Bush didn't spend more of his UN speech pressing the case against Iran, I thought this passage in the speech was one of the best articulations yet of why the battle against tyranny in the region is so important to the battle against terrorism - as Bush's predecessor would say to himself, "it's the propaganda, stupid":

Imagine what it's like to be a young person living in a country that is not moving toward reform. You're 21 years old, and while your peers in other parts of the world are casting their ballots for the first time, you are powerless to change the course of your government. While your peers in other parts of the world have received educations that prepare them for the opportunities of a global economy, you have been fed propaganda and conspiracy theories that blame others for your country's shortcomings. And everywhere you turn, you hear extremists who tell you that you can escape your misery and regain your dignity through violence and terror and martyrdom. For many across the broader Middle East, this is the dismal choice presented every day.

This is, by the way, a signal difference from the Cold War - the Communist bloc may have fed its citizens propaganda, but at least they were literate and educated, and thus easier to reach with a contrary message. Illiteracy is a particular problem in Egypt and one of the reasons why Egyptian society presents a greater danger than, say, Iraq or Iran of the populace embracing Islamist nutcases if given the vote.

*Links on the continuing saga of the threats of violence against the Pope for implying that Islam preaches violence: was Pope Benedict trying to build pressure for Christians to receive the treatment in Muslim lands that Muslims receive in Christian lands?; the archbishop of Sydney isn't backing down; David Warren on the BBC; and Fr. Neuhaus at First Things has some reflections. More detail on the violence and threats of violence here, here, here and here. Josh Trevino offers trenchant analysis, especially this parallel:

There's an illuminating historical incident from the tenth century that deserves wider dissemination, and that the Pope might have used in lieu of Manuel II Paleologue's quote. That Emperor was the last to enjoy a full reign in a free Empire; but nearly four hundred years before, the Empire was enjoying a resurgence. Manuel II Paleologue ruled barely more than Constantinople itself - but Nikephoros II Fokas ruled from Italy to the Caucasus, and from Bulgaria to Syria. He was a longtime foe of the Muslim Caliphate, and he observed that a signal advantage of the Muslims was their jihad doctrine. The Orthodox Church then - as now - regarded war as a regrettable necessity, with emphasis on the regrettable part, and soldiers returning from war would be made to perform some manner of penance before again receiving communion. By contrast, Nikephoros II Fokas observed that the Muslims who went to war were directly fulfilling the commandments of their faith, and were accordingly more motivated, violent, and relentless. The Emperor decided that the Christians needed a similar spiritual edge, and so he asked the Patriarch Polyeuktos in Constantinople to declare that any Christian who fell in battle was automatically a martyr. In effect, he requested a Christian version of jihad. The Patriarch and the entire Church hierarchy, so often in that era mere tools of Imperial policy, refused. The Emperor was forced to back down, and within a few short centuries, the Empire was overrun by the Muslims.

Trevino also points out something else. While the founder of Christianity was martyred by the State and the Church endured three centuries of persecution from its founding, Islam began as, and has for most of its existence been, the religion of power and the powerful, united with the State. There are examples of Muslims living under both the culturally light yoke of colonialism (in British India and the brief Western mandates over the former Ottoman territories from 1918 until just after WW2) and Communist opression (mainly in Kazakhstan and the other southern republics that left Russia at the collapse of the Soviet Union), but Islam for the most part does not share the heritage of other faiths in surviving separate from and in opposition to the State. None of this suggests that Islam is necessarily or by nature bad or dangerous, but it does underline why Islamic doctrines have been such potent and hard-to-defuse weapons in the hands of actual and would-be tyrants.

*I had hoped to get to the issue of the Senate Intelligence Committee reports on pre-Iraq-War intelligence sooner and in more detail, but I have only thus far had the chance to read parts of the reports. Critics of the reports have been out in full force on the Right - Stephen Hayes says the report glosses over Saddam's history with jihadist extremists, as does Deroy Murdock, Byron York looks at the fact that Chuck Hagel, a Republican on the committee, had a former Kerry campaign staffer on the committee staff, Wizbang has a link here to a piece that appears to rehash some of Hayes' reporting, and here to a CNN report from 1999 (quoted by Hayes in his book) claiming that Saddam offered asylum to bin Laden. Read and judge for yourself - like I said, I haven't had time to digest all of this yet.

*From the National Law Journal on the Supreme Court's new term:

"There are some stand-out cases and each of them will test whether this is a 'restrained' Court," said constitutional law scholar Douglas Kmiec of Pepperdine University School of Law, referring to the abortion, affirmative action and punitive damages challenges.

+++

Kmiec concedes that it is "very difficult at first blush" to see why a conservative, restrained court would take the [partial-birth] abortion challenges, since there is no circuit split and there is a recent precedent.

"Maybe the answer is: It's not a fully restrained court, especially in this case where Justice Kennedy has been waiting to prevail, and justices [Clarence] Thomas and [Antonin] Scalia have not fully signed on yet to the Roberts-Alito method of decision-making," said Kmiec.

Um, the Executive Branch has asked the Court to reverse lower court rulings that struck down an Act of Congress. I don't care what your judicial philosophy is in deciding a case like that, the Court is almost always going to take a case in those circumstances; it would be a serious dereliction of its institutional role not to.

*A female Supreme Court justice in Yemen? Baby steps.

*Lawrence of India: funny how this statute didn't get mentioned in Justice Kennedy's discussion of international precedents in Lawrence v Texas. Remember, foreign law only counts if it helps one side.

*Jane Galt has more on the illnesses of Ground Zero workers.

*Correction: Hekmyatar wasn't actually captured.

*Ricky West on Keith Olbermann's guest list.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:15 AM | Blog 2006-13 • | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2006 • | Religion • | War 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Re: The excerpt from the President's speech yesterday.

I agree with the President: getting inside the heads of young people in the Middle East is exactly what we need to be doing.

But like the rest of GWB's Middle East policy, it makes for a nice sound bite, but it stops a little short of reality.

He needs to think it through a little more thoroughly. Millions of young people live under autocratic/theocratic rule in the Middle East.

A portion of them in every country over there yearn for freedom - for Jeffersonian democracy. Reformers are active in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt. We need to help make this group's case.

Reformers compete with two groups: religious fanatics and government loyalists. Some overlap exists between these last two groups, but they also can be at odds with each other. Remember Osama is the House of Saud's worst nightmare.

So how do we aid the reformers, but not alienate the loyalists so much that that we can't work together against the religiouis fanatics?

Its a puzzle and the solution requires nuance and subtlety - two characteristics painfully lacking in this administration.

Posted by: patrick at September 20, 2006 11:31 AM

I think the best thing to do with Iran now is learn from history: our history. We interfered with an election to get the Shah in power, which eventually boomeranged into the Ayotollahs, with much help from Jimmy Carter. So now, let's learn and leave it alone. Eventually, and I think within 5-8 years, the regime will crumble. It's built from an economically poor base. They subsidize far too much in the way of energy costs and other staples and necessities. When you have to buy off the population that way, you know you are on a foundation of quicksand. However, unite them with a threat, and you will find out that they will have the backing of the people, which they are beginning to lose.

BTW, I agree, an excellent passage by Bush. On the minus side, the traffic has been awful the last couple of days.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at September 20, 2006 12:11 PM
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