Friday, January 21, 2011

Changing Sides

Today, over at Belmont Club, Richard Fernandez (a/k/a Wretchard) discusses the political evolution of Lebanon in directions that the United States and, more immediately, Israel, are going to find increasingly uncomfortable. On Wednesday of last week, the Lebanese government coalition collapsed, when Hezbollah withdrew its support, and directed its ministers to resign from the cabinet. Now, Walid Jumblatt, the most prominent Druze leader and a part of the political opposition -- has changed sides. throwing his political weight behind Hezbollah.  Like those of his father before him (assassinated at Syrian instigation), Mr. Jumblatt's changes of faction have long been a reliable indicator of which way the Lebanese wind is blowing:
When Walid Jumblatt’s father was assassinated by the Syrians, the leader of the Druze threw his political support behind the murderers of his father for reasons of state. Then following the 2005 car-bomb killing of Rafik Hariri, he switched. The reason was simple. The tide had turned against the Syrians and, with US troops poised on the Iraqi border across from Damascus, it seem as if the Assads would not survive. After flirting with the Syrians again, Jumblatt until recently said he would support the Saudi plan that would avert a direct confrontation over the indictments expected from the special tribunal, indictments which are expected to implicate Hezbollah in the murder of Rafik Hariri. Now, he has switched again.
Wretchard condemns Mr. Jumblatt's move as "cynical," which it is of course, and writes that his move is "setting the the stage for. . . [Hezbollah's] political domination of Lebanon." 
I normally agree with Wretchard, but characterizing this move as "cynical" is perhaps a little hard on Walid Jumblatt and the Druze. The stage is long past set -- the play is, in fact, over. Hezbollah's (and by extension Iran's and Syria) domination of Lebanon was virtually assured following the July-August 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War, and certain following Obama's election as US president and his wish to try a more conciliatory tone towards both the Iranians and Palestinians. Paradoxically, the Stuxnet-produced delay in the Iranian nuclear program has made Hezbollah even more secure: unilateral Israeli military action against Hezbollah's Iranian masters is for the moment less likely, and the chances of a general Middle Eastern war thus somewhat lessened.
In this context, Mr. Jumblatt's latest change of side is quite rational and a matter of survival, because life in Lebanon is going to get harder for enemies of Hezbollah. Tergiversators such as Mr. Jumblatt reflect the realty that already exists -- they are lagging indicators, not leading ones. Peace breaking-out means that Hezbollah rules Lebanon for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Confederate Heroes Day

. . . I feel no hostility to you, Senators from the North. I am sure there is not one of you, whatever sharp discussion there may have been between us, to whom I cannot now say, in the presence of my God, I wish you well: and such, I am sure, is the feeling of the people whom I represent towards those whom you represent. I therefore feel that I but express their desire when I say I hope, and they hope, for peaceful relations with you, though we must part...The reverse may bring disaster on every portion of the country; and if you will have it thus, we will invoke the God of our fathers, who delivered them from the power of the lion, to protect us from the ravages of the bear; and thus, putting our trust in God and in our own firm hearts and strong arms, we will vindicate the right as best we may.

Jefferson Davis, Farewell Address to the U.S. Senate, 21 January 1861. (From The Papers of Jefferson Davis, Vol. 7: 1861, pp. 18-22, LSU Press, 1992).
With all my devotion to the Union, and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home. I have, therefore, resigned my commission in the Army, and save in defense of my native State. . .I hope I may never be called upon to draw my sword. I know you will blame me, but you must think as kindly as you can, and believe that I have endeavored to do what I thought right. . .May God guard and protect your and yours and shower upon you everlasting blessings . . .
Robert E. Lee, to his Unionist sister, Anne Marshall, 20 April 1861. (From The Wartime Papers of Robert E. Lee, pp 9-10, Clifford Dowdey, Ed., Da Capo, 1987).
2011 is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War. There are alternate names, possibly more accurate, but the fact that the generally accepted term for that conflict is "the Civil War" tells us all we need to know about how the South's experiment in secession and self-government worked out.
Today is the 204th anniversary of the birth of Robert E. Lee, General-in-Chief of the Armies of the Confederate States, and the 19th day of January is still recognized here in Texas as “Confederate Heroes Day,” a State holiday. Things being what they are, it is unlikely that the Texas statute book will honor Confederate heroes for very much longer, and like “un-persons” whom the Soviet Communist Party wished to banish from public view, Lee, Jefferson Davis and everything else to do with the Confederate States of America will soon vanish down the memory-hole. Our children, if they are wise, will learn to in public at least, mouth the proper politically correct platitudes and to recite on command the carefully packaged, all-inclusive happy pabulum that passes now for history in our schools.
We are told this is all for the best, but it doesn’t mean some of us have to like it. The names of Lee, Davis and legions of others who gave all they had for Southern independence, whose names would be household words, the Washingtons, Hamiltons and Decaturs of a new country -- had they but won -- are becoming obscure to non-historians, except inasmuch as they serve the purposes of modern politicians and shills for various causes who promote their agendas by damning the memory of the dead. Such excisions from the historial record do nobody any good; as Mark Steyn has truly written: "[w]hen a society loses its memory, it descends inevitably into dementia."
Yes, the war was partly about slavery, and the end of that beastly institution was an unmitigated blessing. Yes, scum have stolen the Southerners' flag for their own purposes and cloaked their racist fantasies in its folds. But that’s not the whole truth about the War for Southern Independence (proper name of the Civil War), any more than the War for American Independence (proper name of the American Revolution) was all about a tax on tea.
The 258,000 southerners who died for the independence of the Confederate States, and their comrades who survived the war to rebuild their broken civilization, are, of course, long beyond caring. Their souls, and those of the people who loved them and daily prayed for their safety and success now rest with God; and our approval or disapproval of the choices life gave them, is ultimately meaningless. As so many said at the time, they believed they were taking up arms for the most worthy cause imaginable -- protection of their homes and firesides, and those of their neighbors, from hostile invasion, and to vindicate the same principle Americans died for in 1776: the idea that government should rest on the consent of the governed.
Americans not connected with the military in some way have largely experienced war a tragedy that happens in other places. Not so the Civil War, which was fought mostly in – and devastated – the American south. Despite the efforts and sacrifices of so many, Confederate soldiers were unable to successfully defend their country. American cities and fields became battlegrounds, and armies moved and camped in what are sometimes literally our backyards. American cities -- mostly in the South -- were sacked and burned, and homes were plundered by soldiers speaking the same language, and often the same dialect, and American women, children and elderly people driven from their homes and turned into penniless refugees by truly unnatural disaster.
When all was over, the dust settled, and the pain and shouting but a memory; America was the better for the end of slavery, but when the Federal Government forced its yoke at gunpoint on those who did not want it, America lost something precious also. Thankfully those days are past, but they are not totally forgotten. We of course remember the victors: Mr. Lincoln has a memorial in Washington, but his real monument is the country and world we now inhabit. But some of us remember others too…Lee, Davis, Micah Jenkins, Johnston Pettigrew, Cleburne, Jackson, the Semmes brothers, Maxcy Gregg, Thomas R.R. Cobb, thousands of others long dead. To borrow Mr. Khrushchev’s memorable phrase, these will not be forgotten, by some of us, until shrimp learn to sing.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Gee Thanks, Nancy. . .

Nancy Pelosi says that her Democrats, now a minority in the House of Representatives, want to work with the majority Republicans.
Trust Madame Pelosi to put things ass-end first. They’ve saddled us with Obama care, looted the Treasury, put us, and our great-grandchildren’s grandkids in debt up to their unborn eyeballs and NOW Nancy and Friends want to work with Republicans? Yeah, I’ll bet they do. If the Republicans take her seriously, more fools they – far from “working” with Pelosi, they’ll find themselves worked.

Jonathan Pollard

The Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, has asked President Obama to release Jonathan Pollard, a former US naval intelligence analyst now serving a life sentence for spying on behalf of Israel.
Mr. Pollard, a civilian, was formerly employed by the Naval Investigative Service. The CIA had declined to hire him (too many red flags in his background check). He wound up at the Navy; and, sometime during his employment, came in contact with an Israeli Air Force colonel studying in the United States. In 1984, Mr. Pollard began passing classified information to the colonel for cash and diamonds. Mr. Pollard’s spying was discovered in 1985, and upon apprehension Mr. Pollard cooperated to some degree with investigators, entering into a plea agreement in exchange for leniency for his wife. In subsequent public statements, Mr. Pollard and wife were both unrepentant.
Mr. Pollard ultimately pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to deliver national defense information to a foreign government, and was sentenced to life in prison. Due to the lunacy of US sentencing practices, the “life in prison” sentence means that Mr. Pollard will probably be eligible for parole in November of 2015.
Pollard’s initial Israeli controller got out of the country before apprehension, and the Israelis naturally declined to extradite him. Now the Israeli Prime Minister wants to drag the status of Mr. Pollard into restarting Israeli/Palestinian peace talks. This would win him points politically in Israel. Since the Obama administration has been offering to give Israeli virtually everything in the arsenal that’s not nailed down over some miserable huts on the West Bank, perhaps Mr. Netanyahu’s rather public request is not as unreasonable as it appears.
I don’t blame the Israelis for recruiting Mr. Pollard. Spying is a routine matter for governments, even among mostly friendly ones. I don’t even blame his recruiter – the Israeli colonel was a serving officer, who saw an opportunity for his country, and took it. He was doing his duty. Finally, it speaks well of the Israeli Prime Minister, as a man, that he would seek to ameliorate the personal circumstances of a spy who has done his country significant service. However, Mr. Netanyahu demeans his position and the honor of his state by making this request in public.
But Mr. Pollard? He’s another matter – an American citizen born in Galveston, Texas, who sold American secrets to a foreign government for money. Oh, he’s got Israeli citizenship now, but Israel gave him that after he was in the slammer, and if he’d wanted to be an Israeli, he could have emigrated rather than spied.
Maybe it’s just that I don’t like spies much. A personal failing of mine. They’re about on a level with child-rapists with me. This applies to our spies too. No, I don't mean CIA employees working (sometimes at great personal risk) to ferret-out things we need to know; or Russian Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki (SVR) guys, or British MI6 people, or Israeli Mossad or whoever, doing the same things for their countries. Those people are patriots. Sometimes they are enemies of ours, but that doesn't necessarily make them evil. I’m talking about the other end of the food-chain -- the inside operators, the turncoats, the people stealing the documents -- people inside our camp, or inside somebody else's who are selling out their own country for money, ideology or whatever.
I know spies are a necessary evil and often useful, but to me they’re not quite cricket. Two days before the Battle of Ligny, on 14 June 1815, a French general named Bourmont, a royalist, defected from the French army to the Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher’s Prussian army, betraying Napoleon’s plans to the enemy. The old Prussian general turned the pestiferous traitor over to his staff, who learned what they needed to know, but Blucher refused to be in the same room with the traitor, acknowledge him, or shake his hand: saying something to the effect of “A dog is always a dog, no matter whose damn flag he waves.” Blucher hated Napoleon’s guts, but he knew a scumbag traitor for what he was when he saw one.
I find it outrageous that Jonathan Pollard could actually see daylight again. At the least, “life” ought to bloody well mean life, at least in this case and it will be criminal if Obama trades him in exchange for some striped-pants diplomat deigning to shake hands with another one. As for me, if I had my druthers, Mr. Pollard would dance on the end of a rope, or get the cigarette and blindfold.