December 7, 2001

Andrew Sullivan and armed pederasts

Andrew Sullivan's fuel-injected rise to the top of the heap of personal web punditry has been an inspiration to all of us with similar ambitions to grab the world by the lapels. He's churned out an enormous amount of lively prose ever since he began mainlining testosterone. Injecting the manly molecule, however, doesn't always leave him in the mood for careful thought. Well, that's the most charitable interpretation I can come up with for this:

THE TALIBAN'S DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL: All the rest of NATO may have given up on policing their militaries for homosexuals, but the United States can rest easy knowing that one military that still supports U.S. policy is the Taliban. Any consorting with beardless young men in the army is strictly forbidden. This story from the Daily Telegraph tells of a weird and fastidious obsession. - 12/5/2001 11:17:09 PM

Uh, Andy? Please tell us you didn't realize that "consorting with beardless young men in the army" is a euphemism for military men sexually violating 13-17 year-old boys under their command. It's an old Afghan custom. James Michener's informative 1963 novel Caravans refers to it frequently (Here's an amusing excerpt describing Kabul's butch-femme warrior couples, who are the product of Afghan men seldom seeing what a real woman looks like). Call me "weird and fastidious," but on this one issue, I've got to come down on the same side as the Taliban against the alliance of Andy Sullivan and the armed pederasts. 12-7-01

December 5, 2001

What Russia's Putin wants

What Russia's Putin wants - There has been much speculation about why Vladimir Putin has cozied up to America so dramatically. Here are three of his worries that you haven't heard much about yet:

First, Russia's major long-term major external threat is a Chinese invasion of Siberia. The situation in the East is getting dicier every decade. The Chinese population will expand to about 1.5 billion before stabilizing. The Russian population is 142 million and dropping with no bottom in sight. Illegal immigration from China to Siberia is slowly tipping the balance with Siberia.

The main hope for the Russian economy is discovering more natural resources, but each new oilfield or mine in Siberia is an added inducement for a Kuwait-style invasion by the People's Liberation Army. Putin knows his army is terrible and he doesn't have the money to make it much better. And he wants to cut way back on his nukes to save money, at a time when the Chinese are expanding their nuclear war fighting capabilities. Presumably, he'll keep enough nukes to deter the Chinese, but no head of state sleeps well when the main thing preventing invasion is the presumption that he, personally, will initiate an exchange of ICBMs that will result in the deaths of millions of his own people.

There's got to be a better way.

So, if you are Putin, why not start acting like Russia already has a mutual defense pact with the mighty USA? American has been attacked, so Russia is going to its aid. Putin is hoping to build up the presumption that if Russia is attacked by China, therefore America will go to Russia's aid.

Second, I suspect, Putin wants America favor the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation. His major internal threat is from Muslims inside Russia. The defining problem of the Muscovite state over the last half millennium has been the lack of natural borders on the great Eurasian plain. Whereas mountainous Switzerland can remain both small and independent, in the East, size matters. The barriers to expansion are low, but so are the barriers to dissolution. The Russians were content to let Chechnya have its autonomy after the First Chechen War, but constant kidnapping raids by Chechen gangsters into the Muslim but loyal Russian region of Dagestan outraged the Russian people, making possible Putin's Second Chechen War.

Our 1999 attack on Yugoslavia over Kosovo terrified the Russians. Here was the U.S. violating the national sovereignty of a Slavic, Eastern Orthodox-run state (remind you of anybody?), breaking an internationally recognized country apart, handing a big chunk of its lawful territory over to the control of Muslim gangsters and facilitating their ethnic cleansing of the native Slav population, all because America didn't like the tactics being used by the legal government to put down an internal rebellion. Tactics that were no worse than what Putin shortly thereafter found necessary in Chechnya (or, for that matter, that Turkey found necessary in Kurdistan.) This example that American foreign policy can be driven more by the volatile emotions of elites rather than by our national interest suggests that Russia needs to appeal to America's emotions by coming to its aid now.

Third, we're likely to see the revival of the ancient rivalry between Moscow and Istanbul. Turkey's GNP is about two fifth's as large as Russia's, so it's no longer all that one-sided. Plus, the Turks are much tougher warriors than most Middle Eastern Muslims (remember Gallipoli?).

You may have seen the interesting WSJ op-ed by a Turkish writer proposing that the U.S. subsidize Turkey in exporting its version of secularism to the Islamic world. What the Turkish writer wanted in return was the U.S. favoring Turkey extending its sphere of influence to the former Soviet but ethnic Turkish states of Central Asia. The U.S. has long seen Turkey as just about the best that you can hope for from a country with an Islamic population. It's not at all inconceivable that we will shift our Middle Eastern aid from such troublesome "allies" as Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Saudi Arabia to the much more satisfactory Turkey. Putin is trying to head this Turkish threat off by making these Russian puppet governments in Central Asia cooperate with the U.S. so that we support Putin's hegemony over these potentially oil-rich countries.

Liberal Creationism versus Darwinism

I think a lot of my readers are turned off by my reliance on Darwinian logic. So, one of these days I'm going to need to write a full-blown article about "liberal creationism" that will put it all in perspective.

In general, the more sophisticated religious creationists admit that the various kinds of Darwinian selection (artificial, natural, and sexual) work. They don't deny that, say, germs are rapidily evolving under the impact of antibiotics. None of them have a problem with believing that artificial selection can create new breeds of dogs or pigs or whatever. They call this "microevolution" and it's okay with them. What they refuse to believe is that new species can emerge (what they call "macroevolution").

Now, I believe that the concept of "species" is vastly overrated in importance (e.g., lions and tigers can get together and make perfectly fertile little ligers and tions, so are lions and tigers different species or just different races? And, ultimately, what difference does it make?) So, the differences between microevolution and macroevolution seem unimportant to me.

Still, since most of my interests and all of what passes for my expertise are in human subjects rather than lions and tigers, I can pretty much live with smart Creationists who accept microevolution. If you tell me that the modern human species was flat out created ex nihilo 100,000 years ago, and that humans have been genetically diversifying ever since according to the processes of selection, we can go a long way together toward understanding things like race. (I can't of course deal with people who think the Earth was created in 4004 BC and Noah's flood killed the dinosaurs and dug the Grand Canyon - although the concept of racial diversification is at least introduced in the Genesis account of the sons of Noah.)

On the other hand, liberal creationism - the assumption that these Darwinian selection systems were zooming along for billions of years, but then instantly ground to a halt 100,000 or so years ago when the first modern humans evolved - is simply an intellectual dead end for my purposes. The Stephen Jay Gould-types assume that species evolve, but not races, breeds, subspecies, extended families or whatever. The system that creates species simply shuts down once one is created until it's time to create a new one. This obviously makes no sense. - 12/5/01

December 4, 2001

Correction about Prince Bandar

correction: Alert reader R.G. Parker suggested there was a mistake in my piece below about Prince Bandar, the Saudi Ambassador. I wrote: "The Prince is the illegitimate daughter of a Saudi prince and a 'servant' girl." That is wrong. The Prince, I have since learned, is actually the legitimate daughter of their common-law marriage. My apologies to the Prince and her parents.

Rich Lowry on "Seize Saudi Arabia before Iraq?"

Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, wrote a nice complimentary column about my "ingenious analysis" of the prerequisites for widening the war in the Middle East in my recent article "Seize Saudi Arabia before Iraq?" But Rich is more gung-ho about starting Wolfowitz's War than I am. So let me emphasize that my article was a challenge to the Big War hawks to either get serious about what extending the war beyond Afghanistan would require, or to calm down.

I wrote on Nov. 7: "Imperialism is a serious business requiring a serious foundation. If these plans to conquer and rebuild Iraq and other rogues states, however, are not to prove wholly quixotic, it may well be that the U.S. would have to first lay the groundwork by seizing control of Saudi Arabia and its oil wealth. If America is not willing to take that step, then it should reassess just how committed it is to broadening the war and afterwards overseeing the region." - 12/4/01

Turkey or Free Kurdistan?

Most of the neo-conservative punditariat now seems favor the Northern Route to attack Iraq. Some want to do it in alliance with the neighboring Turks, some with the Iraqi Kurds. Few seem to notice that the Turks and the Kurds probably hate each other even more than they hate Saddam. The last thing Turkey wants is an oil-rich Kurdish nation-state in arms upset over the Turks stomping on their Kurdish cousins in southeastern Turkey. So, which one do we choose? And what do we do with other? - 12/4/01

Saudi Arabia's surprising failure to collapse morally

I want to shift gears and discuss something positive (or at least surprisingly non-negative) about Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Granted, they haven't done much of note with the money they won in the oil lottery, but they also haven't let it destroy their personal and family lives yet either. Their general populations, which were almost completely pre-modern, have not collapsed into debauchery, the way so many hunter-gatherer peoples in Canada and Australia have. Perhaps, they did even better than African-Americans did after AFDC was boosted. Sure, plenty of princes live lives of debauchery when away from Arabia, but they usually spend part of the year in Arabia drying out. And the general populous seldom leaves. I think the strictness of Islam has been a big help in preventing moral collapse - especially the prohibition on alcohol, which has destroyed so many other peoples suddenly brought into the modern world. - 12/4/01

More self-contrarianism about the Saudis

More self-contrarianism about the Saudis - Having recently raised the question of whether we should conquer Saudi Arabia and steal its oil, I want to point out something else positive about that country and Islam in general - a higher degree of racial tolerance than one would expect from such a benighted part of the world.

Not being invited to too many parties on Embassy Row, I only recently got my first look at Prince Bandar, the notoriously genial Saudi ambassador to the U.S., probably the most successful ambassador of his era. (I did, however, once talk to the guys who installed the James Bond-style security system for his 55,000 sq. ft. mansion above Aspen. In case you're planning to truckbomb his ski house, one word of advice: Don't. You'd be dead before you got 50 feet up the driveway.)

A recent Newsweek ran a photo of Bandar and Colin Powell. They could well be brothers. Since Powell has some Jewish ancestors, he has some Semitic in him too.

Prince Bandar would almost certainly be considered "black" if he was an America (he's at least as black as, say, rapper Ice-T.) The Prince is the illegitimate daughter of a Saudi prince and a "servant" girl. (Since black slavery wasn't outlawed in Arabia until 1962, I'd presume she may have been a slave girl.) I always thought it was ridiculous that when Malcolm X made a pilgrimage to Mecca only two years after the abolition of Saudi slavery, he came back with a vision of racial harmony.

Yet ... Malcolm was on to something. Much of the strength of Islam stems from its universalism. In an ancient part of the world that seems permanently subdivided into hostile clans, it offers a higher philosophy than ethnic nepotism. That was part of the early appeal of the Taliban - the belief that Koranic students would raise Afghanistan above warlordism. Sadly, it turned out there were even worse things than warlordism. - 12/4/01

Multiculturalism vs. geography education:

Multiculturalism vs. geography education: The war has revealed that Americans know terribly little about much of the peoples of the world. This is in part because geography went out of fashion as a school subject decades ago. The multi-culti folks definitely don't want more classes about other foreign peoples that boys would find interesting. For example, my son's enormously heavy math book is full of pictures of things like Kenyans playing soccer and a caption that says "Kenyans like playing soccer." Obviously, the point is that Kenyans are just like middle class American kids - they like soccer! But that's borrrring. That's like saying: "Kenyans like to eat food!" Ho hum. Information consists of contrasts, as in the 0's and 1's of digital data. We learn very little by hearing how other people are just like us, and our brains certainly can't use that to put together a distinct picture of them.

Now, if you had a picture of the Masai draining blood from the neck of a cow and a caption saying that the Masai live on milk and cow's blood, boys would be interested in that. And if you had a picture of Masai girl on her wedding day and a caption that said that this bride was bought from her father for 40 cows, girls would be interested in that.

Similarly, the Pathan (Pashtun) culture of Afghanistan is strangely fascinating to Western males - Churchill, Kipling, and other Victorians were partly horrified, partly entranced by it. James Michener said that Afghanistan is the one country he would most like to revisit. But everything that's interesting about Pathan life is horribly non-PC, so it's best just to ignore them completely.

Schools can't teach about what other cultures are actually all about, because what they typically are interested in - war, distinct sex roles, patriarchy, sexual jealousy and control of female reproduction, hunting, religion, vengeance, aristocracy, ethnocentrism, etc. - are all things that kids are being taught are what makes the West uniquely bad compared to these very PC other cultures that are being oppressed by the west. I absolutely loved geography in grade school and look how evil I turned out to be.

From the PC perspective, it's much safer to teach abstract mathematics than geography, which is why schools are pretty good at math these days (at least when teaching kids who are genetically capable) and terrible at geography. - 12/4/01