Eye on the Watcher’s Council

As you may know the members of the Watcher’s Council each nominate one of his or her own posts and one non-Council post for consideration by the whole Council. The complete list of this week’s Council nominations is here.

A position has opened up on the Watcher’s Council. If you have a blog take a look at the current rules and requirements and consider applying for the position. Warning: Dymphna’s shoes will be very hard to fill.

The Colossus of Rhodey, “Robot Rights”

Rhodey surveys the treatment of robots in science fiction literature and motion pictures.  I’d suggest he read Lester Del Rey’s “Helen O’Loy” (the first breakout humanized robot story) and Eando Binder’s fabulous “Adam Link” stories (one of which was dramatized on the old Outer Limits TV show and which almost certainly inspired Star Trek TNG’s “The Measure of a Man” episode.

American Future, “The Coming of Neo-Multilateralism”

Marc considers the prospects for American foreign policy after the Bush Administration and speculates that a form of isolationism is likely to take hold masquerading as multilateralism.  I agree that the Bush Doctrine, the spreading of democracy by force, is dead (I’ve been saying so since 2003), that the absence of a robust foreign policy regardless of the benignity of the motives and process is de facto isolationism, and that’s the likely near future for U. S. foreign policy.  Absent a major attack on the U. S. (which I believe would provoke from us the disproportionate response that we’ve already been unfairly tarred with) the isolationist posture we’ll take will be characterized as “fair trade” and multilateralism.

Rhymes With Right, “NY Times to Terrorists: Bomb the Tunnels! Bomb the Tunnels!”

I disagree with Greg’s outrage at the NYT’s article on the vulnerability of the various tunnels linking New York City to the surrounding areas.  First of all, it’s obvious and certainly not news to prospective terrorists.  Second, there are two fundamentally different approaches towards improving what used to be called civil defense and is now, apparently, being called homeland security:  the “secret plan” method and the “open source” method.  IMO in a free society the only approach with a chance of success is the open source method.  The city of Chicago has taken the “secret plan” approach and the most we can hope for from it is the best guess of those who had a role in its preparation.  If you know Chicago, you’ll recognize how feeble that probably is.  The DHS recommends the open source approach which is open to public scrutiny and benefits from the contribution of hundreds or thousands of citizens.

Soccer Dad, “Two Red Herrings Out of Three Ain’t Bad”

Soccer Dad comments on a Washington Post editorial on Israeli-Palestinian peace.

The Glittering Eye, “Negotiating With Iran”

In my rather phlegmatic submission this week I commented on the editorial-within-an-editorial incident at the New York Times last week, electing to comment on the substance of the original editorial rather than the Bush Administration’s rather silly desire to redact the durned thing.

Right Wing Nut House, “The Dark Side of ‘Traditional Values’”

Rick uses a post of Debbie Schussel’s as a point of departure for a post criticizing the misguided comments of Virginia congressman Virgil Goode on Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison’s (the first Muslim member of the U. S. Congress) decision to take his oath of office on the Qur’an.  I don’t know whether the hardening of positions in the Right Blogosphere reflect a comparable hardening of positions in the nation as a whole but I see an increasingly bitter split between conservatives like Rick who recognize that we’re not going to close our borders or expel the Muslims from our midst or go to war on Islam and those who believe with all their hearts that Islam itself is the enemy and the sooner we realize that the sooner the whole sorry mess we’re in now will be resolved.

The Education Wonks, “Is a Teacher’s ‘Classroom Coming Out’ Protected Speech?”

EdWonk asks the right question:  what was the context for the ‘coming out’?  I think that there are any number of bases on which to criticize the teacher’s conduct:  workplace appropriateness, classroom appropriateness, relevance to the class content.  The primary purpose of the First Amendment is the protection of political speech.  It’s my understanding that repeated cases have found that a public school teacher is quite limited in his or her right to discuss politics in the context of a classroom.  Is it appropriate for a teacher to discuss his or her sexuality in the context of, say, homeroom?  For a teacher to announce his or her conversion to Islam?  To Catholicism?  Attendance at a prayer service?  What are the limits?

Done With Mirrors, “Follow Your Surges”

Callimachus discusses the political disconnects in today’s America using the discussion of Frederick Kagan’s proposed “surge” strategy as a point of departure.

Joshuapundit, “IRANIAN Military Seized in Raid on Iraqi Insurgents—(and the New York Times Deplores It)”

Freedom Fighter fisks a New York times news article on the capture of several Iranian military officials in Iraq.  This isn’t actually news:  there have been reports of direct and indirect participation of the Iranian military with Shi’ite militia in Iraq since 2004.

Andrew Olmsted, “Why Facts Don’t Matter”

Andrew takes hilzoy of Obsidian Wings to task in her analysis of federal deficits and bemoans the degree to which beliefs have become more important than facts.  One of the reasons for this, I think, is the enormous amount of information with which we’re constantly deluged.  There’s an overwhelming amount of data and an equally overwhelming number of axes to grind with very, very few with either the tools, background, or good will enough to separate the signal from the noise and analyze what remains.

The Sundries Shack, “Islamists on the Run!”

Jimmie Bise notes that the way to deal with radical Islamists is to fight them, as the Ethiopians are doing with respect to the Somalis.  I suppose it would be weak-livered of me to express concern at what may rapidly be developing into Africa’s equivalent of World War II?

Well, I’ve decided which posts I’ll vote for this week.  Which would get your votes?

9 comments… add one
  • Hi Dave,

    Y’know, I manage to keep up with things pretty well.

    Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army and the Shiite Badr Force, the two main militias, have publicly made no secret of the fact that they are funded, trained and armed by Iran. It’s also no secret that plenty of IEDs and munitions used against our troops have been found clearly marked as coming from Iran.

    THAT’s not news to me and I’ve written about this on my site a number of times.

    This, however, is the first time we’ve actually acknowledged holding active Iranian military as POW’s who were directly involved in attacking.

    The REAL story of course is the NYT and the Iraqi government’s reaction to this.

    And, as you know if you read the article, I propose a solution to this problem.

    Best Regards,


  • I hope you didn’t take my little squib on your post as critical of it or you. It wasn’t intended that way. It was directed at those who’ve been writing lately about the Bush Administration or the Right Blogosphere or just those who actually pay attention to what’s going on trying to foment a war against Iran. I was actually trying to back you up: from time to time I’ve seen pictures of Iranian military ID taken off the bodies of people killed in Iraq (that was long enough ago that I can’t put my hands on the link).

    My position on Iran is quite simple. We don’t need to drum up reasons to go to war with Iran: they’ve been giving us reasons for nearly thirty years. We’ve been extremely temperate in not doing so. There’s no real near-term prospect of peaceful regime change in Iran: the regime is willing and able to put down any opposition forcibly. We don’t have the forces to occupy Iran and, in the absence of occupation, no activity short of exterminatory bombing would have the effects we’re looking for and I’m opposed to that.

    Basically, I think we should be doing much as we’re doing: trying to drum up world opinion against the Iranians, isolating them, and embarrassing their allies. I also think we should be doing to them what they’re doing do us in Iraq: supporting any militant opposition there is in their southwestern provinces and, possibly, using special forces to disrupt their oil production.

    On the subject of Iraqi Kurdistan, frankly, I’m skeptical of getting too cozy with the Kurds.  I suspect that Kurdish liberal democracy and Kurdish gratitude have been oversold. My suspicion is that Kurdish nationalism is likely to overwhelm both.

    Further, I’m concerned about pushing Turkey towards the Islamists.  I think that a major U. S. troop presence in Iraqi Kurdistan in the absence of crackdowns by the Kurds on the PKK will have that effect.

  • Hey, sorry if I seemed a little salty!

    All good points, Dave.

    As far as Iran goes, I think we’ve been in a war with them since 1979. You may have seen the item I covered about a federal judge ruling that the Iranian government was culpable for the Khobar Towers bombing and thus could be sued by the victims’ families.

    It used to be that murdering our servicemen was causus belli.

    I totally agree with you that occupying Iran and engaging in another gambit of `nation building’ is real stoooopid, especially given the current administration. However, I do think we need to do a great deal more than simply relying on the `international community’.

    Iran is going nuclear, and they have ample contacts with al Qaeda as well as Hezbollah cells here in America. While occupying them is undesireable (and unnecessary, actually), we need to pull their teeth and destroy their ability to harm us or anyone else. That’s what will ultimately isolate them, not `sanctions’.

    I have a post planned later (now that I’ve gotten responses from a couple of professionals) that will address this. You’re on the right track I think, BTW.

    As far as the Kurds go, I think it’s a win-win situation. They need us to establish an independent Kurdistan and we need a strategic base in the region. And if we’re REALLY looking for an Islamic democracy as a model – which was the rationale behind the billions we’ve put into Iraq-Kurdistan is as close as it gets. They bring oil, a strong military that doubles our combat strength and a strategic location to the table. Plus, an independent Kurdistan would help destabilize Iran and Syria, both of whom have oppressed Kurdish minorities. As for gratitude, I can only rely on what their leadership tells us..as well as their self-interest.

    As far as Turkey goes, I think the Erdogan government is pretty far over to the Islamist side as it is. However, I think that some guarantees to them on our part as well as well as a quid pro quo re: the PKK by the Kurdish government would alleviate any problems.

    Like I said, the Saudis are agin’ it, so it’s unlikely that the present administration will take the Kurds up on their offer. Pity.

    All best,


  • There are plenty of Muslim democracies. What’s needed is an Arab democracy and Iraqi Kurdistan doesn’t fill that bill.

  • I agree that the Kurds aren’t Arabs. But it would be a Muslim democracy in the heart of the Arab world.

    And, BTW, maybe I’m not thinking but I can’t really think of much in the way of Muslim democracies ANYWHERE except (perhaps) for Turkey,which was an accident of history and is now reverting to its non-democratic Islamist roots under Erdogan.

    Perhaps you’ve picked up on one that I’m unaware of…

  • See here for a quick reference on Muslim democracies, FF. Notable are Indonesia, Senegal, Mali, Turkey.

    In my view the problem is that there aren’t any Arab democracies.

  • The Kurds are not going to be a “Muslim democracy” – my God you people are gullible.

    Kurdistan is divided between two tribal overlords who put on democratic trappings for foreigners on occasion – for the gullible like Freedom Fighter, who evidently is a gullible dupe.

  • Yes, that’s what I meant by “oversold”, Lounsbury. It’s essentially what the English language Kurdish bloggers were saying before they all went dark.

    I can’t really blame FF and others who’d like to think that Iraqi Kurdistan is a robust democracy.  We’re not getting a great deal of information from journalists, diplomats, scholars, or others who are really knowledgeable.  Most of what we’re been getting lately is from tourists.

  • I can bloody well blame them, it should be bloody obvious from reading real journalism (see e.g. UK Times, Independent, Financial Times, Economist) rather than American Bolshevik Right delusionalism that Kurdistan, while a vastly better place than Iraq at large, is no shining democracy project.

    The two Kurdish clan/tribal leaders are good about packaging of course, why not a year ago I worked on an analysis for some American entity of a supposed affordable housing blah blah investment for Kirkuk.

    Might have won funding had they not forgotten to take out the final paragraphs about the housing actually being reserved for members of the security forces of the two parties. Buried at the end in the Arabic language supporting materials, but it was there.

    Packaging and spin, to sell to gullible fools like your Watcher’s Council sitting on their asses in America thinking they have even a clue – informed wrote FF…. Deluded, and willfully so.

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